During one of my favorite episodes of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw talks about secret single behavior or SSB. It is defined in Urban Dictionary (4th definition down) as an action or habit that one indulges in only when alone. This refers especially to behavior that, hidden from one’s significant other, could be potentially embarrassing or disastrous if discovered. In the show, Carrie liked to stand in her kitchen reading fashion magazines while eating saltines and grape jelly. I think that there is also such a thing as secret travel behavior. Those things you do when you travel to parts unknown that you would not do in your own home town.
For instance, as a New Yorker, I would never ride in a horse-drawn carriage through central park. Now, I might do this in another city but in my own town, never. It is just tacky. I would also never pose under the balls of the Wall Street Bull in the financial district yet I see tourists doing it all the time. Ditto for riding a segway.
In Manhattan, I never allow my child to pose with the random dudes dressed as celebrities, like Robert Pattison or Spiderman, who hang out in the theatre district. Yet in both L.A. and Colorado I let my daughter pose with random people dressed up as characters and not very good ones at that—see the pirates! My husband also falls prey to this behavior and sports big white plastic sunglasses when he goes on a snowboarding trip.
I (who wear gloves on the subway in warm weather) have put my hands in the germy imprints of Marilyn Monroe to pose in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I have been known to strike a pose beside a Greek statue and pretend to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa. In New York, I am so cool I barely glance twice at resident celebrities (ok maybe I glance at the really famous ones) but send me across the ocean and I am wearing big hats. I never wear large hats.
What is it about travel that sets us free and allows us to engage in goofy behavior that we would not otherwise do? Maybe it’s because we think no one we know will see us but I think it is also because travel takes us out of our comfort zone and allows us to be who we really are.