Travel Destination Ignorance

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Madeira cake from France and Tenerife in Bulgaria

The other day, I was sitting at my favourite restaurant when I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

First Person: “I think I am going to have a slice of Madeira cake”

Her Friend: “That’s a good idea, I’ll join you. Not that I’ve got a clue why they call it Madeira cake, have you?”

First Person: “I think it’s named after some place in France.”

I am not sure why that sort of ignorance about places makes me feel so frustrated. After all, why should everyone be as fascinated by travel and far away places as I am? Whatever the reason, I just could not help myself interrupting the two women as soon as they had ordered their cake to inform them that Madeira is a Portuguese island about four hundred miles off of the north African coast in the Atlantic ocean. I added that it makes a fabulous holiday destination but did bother to tell them that it is actually not one island but an archipelago and actually an autonomous region of Portugal.

Just as well – their expressions told me that I had already said more than they were interested in knowing.

This attitude of having little or no interest in travel destinations is actually very common and it is not confined to people who are generally under educated. Frequent examples can be seen on television quiz shows when contestants who are obviously well educated stumble on simple questions like;

Which of the following is not a Caribbean island

(A) Jamaica

(B) Cuba

(C) Majorca

(D) Barbados

Even more incredible are the people you sometimes overhear in a travel agent, booking holidays to resorts without having any interest as their location as long as its warm and sunny with cheap booze available.

Travel destination ignorance is not just a British thing. An air stewardess once told me a story about an American couple visiting their parents country of origin, Bulgaria, one February. They had used a travel agent in New York to plan their journey and book the two flights that were involved. The first flight took them to London where they boarded the ongoing flight to complete their journey. When this flight landed at Reina Sofia airport the couple looked a little flustered and hesitated at the top of the flight steps, turning to the stewardess to ask why everywhere looked so sub tropical and sunny, and adding that their parents had always told them that Bulgaria was cold in February. At first, the stewardess was at a loss to think of anything that could possibly explain how someone trying to get to Bulgaria in Eastern Europe could end up on a flight to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Then she realized that the name of Bulgarias capital city is Sofia. She asked the couple whether they thought they had boarded a flight to Sofia, Bulgaria. The answer was yes and it turned out that their travel agent had probably just typed Sofia Flights into her computer and accepted the results that the query gave without questioning any further!