I used to go to Las Vegas every year. But I was in my 20’s and those kinds of things were acceptable. Now, I only return to get my occasional dose of neon tinted heat, $15 drinks and general revelry.
The novelty and flash has dimmed a bit, and visits now leave me feeling unsettled. There’s always been a tarnished silver lining to the world I see in Las Vegas. It’s as if this over-the-top city is at the expense of someone or something else. Part melancholy, part mania, all covered with a thick veneer of glitter and excitement.
I know other people have a different view of this city. It’s about fun or removing your inhibitions, so we’re told. But isn’t that what makes us who we are? Our real lives, inhibitions and all, get us from one day to the next, and it seems disingenuous to toss that aside, for however long we are there, to be something we are not.
Las Vegas seems particularly adept and asking you to leave part of yourself at home before you visit, so it can be replaced by a louder, brighter, more exciting version. And that is where I think I see sadness – that some have accepted the notion they must leave themselves behind if they are to really enjoy all the city has to offer.
I don’t know of one person who doesn’t have a “crazy Vegas story,” myself included. No one has a “crazy Cleveland story,” or a “crazy San Juan islands story.” What is it about the city that asks us to leave all that we know to be reasonable and acceptable, in trade for experiences we would never consider anywhere else? And anyway, isn’t travel about leaving behind the everyday in exchange for something grander, if only for a little while? No, I tend to believe we take all of us with us when we travel. I cannot leave behind my inherent shyness, but the anonymity of travel makes it bit easier to overcome.
This isn’t to say Las Vegas isn’t worthy of a vacation for vacation’s sake. It’s a great hopping-off point for some mind blowing natural and man-made wonders. Even on The Strip, the garish glitz and seediness can be avoided at finer hotels with gardens, art galleries, and shows. And as a Seattleite, I can appreciate the heat of a 75 degree day in February. But I can no longer idealize a Las Vegas trip as a way to “lose myself,” or somehow get away from who I am. Next time I go, I’m taking all of me along – from the inner cynic to the shy observer. We travel well together, and in fact, have become inseparable.