Summer vacation: To hell with Europe!

Recently, the New York Daily News ran an article about saving money on international travel. It suggested that travelers to Europe should cut down on expenses by packing their own meals, avoiding shopping, and buying package deals from tour operators. On one level, this is really good advice: by minimizing contact with Europe's economy, travelers could save a great deal of money. If one must visit the old world right now, then this is probably the way to go.

On the other hand, though, it seems like this sort of vacation misses the whole point of international travel. Maybe I'm alone here, but when I shell out huge amounts of money to go overseas, I do so with the intention of experiencing a totally different culture. This means that I want to buy all sorts of weird, exotic foods, talk to strangers, and pick up various bizarre gewgaws. I don't want to fly all the way to Paris just to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while gawking at the Eiffel tower with my tour group. Given a choice, I think I'll save my money for a time when I can afford to do Europe properly.