I am a travel junkie. I am also a craft beverage fanatic. My heart rate spikes when the airplane touches down in a new travel destination and I feel giddy anticipation upon ordering a newly tapped microbrew. As you might expect, these two loves pair well. Traveling, I gravitate to the most hidden, hole-in-the-wall bars and cafés, brimming with locals, where I’m the only tourist. I sip the day’s special or the tender’s pick and relish in the culture of the place.
There’s no lack of commentary about the benefits of travel and cultural immersion. Travel can boost creativity, shift perspective, and increase interconnectedness. For me, travel delineates distinct periods in my life. Recalling each trip, I remember how I felt, what I drank, and how the adventure shaped my life journey.
I define years past with remarks like “when I quit my job, put everything in storage, and went to Argentina for two months to eat steak, drink Malbec, and dance the tango.” Or, “that birthday I spent on the coral reef of St. John dodging spiky sea urchins and drinking dark rum cocktails.” When it comes to exploring the world and quenching my thirst, full immersion is key.
I got drunk for the first time in Germany when I was seventeen. I was on a school-organized, humanities-focused trip and, under a cloak of jet lag one evening, our small group headed to a massive beer hall. The waitress promptly delivered our larger-than-life steins of Hefeweizen, but dinner took FOR-EV-ER to arrive. As it turned out, the food was delicious, but it was less memorable than the foreign landscape and my belly full of beer.
In Buenos Aires, as a mid-twenty-something, my partner and I whiled away entire afternoons over big, cheap bottles of Quilmes lager. The neighborhood bartenders refilled our complimentary bowls of salty snacks, and they didn’t bring our check until we asked for it—a novel custom that felt much friendlier than the fast-paced rush of our California lives back home.
Each morning on Maui, in the midst of a midlife career crisis, I jammed the picnic cooler with as much Bikini Blonde as would fit. My travel companion and I would set out to find a temporary oasis on a white or red or black sand beach—armed with a boatload of sunscreen and escapist novels. We’d spend the day swimming, savoring fresh papaya and mango, journaling, and contemplating our life goals.
Now, in my current home city of Seattle, I’ve come to adore my neighborhood craft breweries. Outfitted in a cozy flannel, beanie, and scarf, I find that the local beer community offers a warm respite from the plunging wintertime temperatures. I know which taproom serves the best rye IPA, Belgian-style Witbier, and smoked porter, and I can tell you where to go for live music, trivia, and free popcorn. My travel adventures are far from over, but I’m currently happy to savor Seattle’s quirks, sub-cultures, and hideaways as I continue my beer education and get to know my local beer makers.
Any suggestions for my next field trip?