Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Enduring Allure of Exotic Locations

Though many thousands of generations have passed since stone tools and the wearing of animal skins allowed our ancestors to colonize the Earth's colder regions, where there was less human competition for scarce resources, their pale-skinned, northern-adapted descendants have not stopped craving more tropical climes.

This craving becomes particularly acute in the winter, but it never really leaves us. There may be many practical reasons why we do not actually live in the tropics, but it remains a persistent romantic dream. Destination weddings and honeymoons tend to be in places like Hawaii or the Caribbean rather than Aspen, Colorado. There is something about seeing lush vegetation and low-hanging fruit that brings out our primal urge to mate.

The Mediterranean has long held a fascination for me. As a child, I became interested in Greek mythology via Wonder Woman comic books. In college, I took elective courses in both the history and literature of ancient Greece. I also read a great many Harlequin (contemporary) romances that featured a Greek tycoon hero and lush island location. I combined my love of history with my love of a good romantic novel when I devoured Dorothy Dunnett's epic Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolo series. Her books made me wish to visit Venice, Cyprus and Malta. I did finally make it to Venice and a couple of Greek islands. Cyprus and Malta are still on my bucket list.

For many mainland Americans, Hawaii is synonymous with paradise. This is partly due to the rise of airline tourism after World War II. The new state was marketed as paradise on Earth. There is an undeniably Eden-like quality to the islands, perhaps because they are relatively young in geological terms. It is easy to imagine oneself shedding the trappings of civilization to live in a little grass shack. Seeing toned and bronzed young men with Polynesian tattoos on the beach is a definite bonus. I remember reading (back in the 1980s) an old-school historical romance set in Hawaii (the author and title both elude me, but the heroine's name or nickname was Jasmine/Pikake) that was obviously influenced by James Michener's Hawaii.

For the time being, I will have to comfort myself with vicarious travel and Hawaiian coffee. Only a couple more months until Spring. If I'm lucky, the snow will melt by then.

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