I can’t recall exactly how old I was when I went on my first and only trip to Las Vegas. I do remember that I was a teenager who was too young and too caught up in being surly to appreciate the beauty of the desert. I was reluctantly along for the ride on a family road trip through the Southwest in the middle of the summer heat.
After hitting up various national parks in Arizona and Utah, Las Vegas was our final stop. I still remember my initial view of the city. Miles of dust and nothingness behind us, a Strip of chaos suddenly emerged through the desert haze. “WTF?!” I thought as I realized it was not a mirage.
Over two or three days in Vegas, we saw a fake Eiffel Tower, walked by an indoor fake gondola ride complete with seatbelts, wandered around a fake New York City and went to see a variety show with performances by fake celebrities. It was all pretty incomprehensible. I mean, why pour all sorts of money into cheesy shows and gambling at fake cities when you could save those funds for authentic experiences at the authentic versions of those places?
Several years later, and beyond the age that allows one to take full advantage of Las Vegas, I have yet to go back. While the idea of exploring the desert has become more appealing, returning to Vegas has not. I’ve never sought the young adult Las Vegas experience. But it found me.
When my friend asked me to be in her wedding, I felt honored and agreed to be a bridesmaid. She has been a great friend over the years and is easy going, so I knew she wouldn’t turn into the type of bride who terrorizes the Oxygen network. And she certainly hasn’t.
But she began to make a quiet request that made me nervous. At first, I would pretend I didn’t hear it or I would quickly change the subject. But as time went on, the request became a little louder and more concrete. “I want to go to Vegas for my bachelorette party!” followed by an excited smile. I caved.
Now I know there is more to Vegas than the image it tends to project. But it is a bachelorette party, and as far as I can see, it will follow the typical bachelorette-in-Vegas itinerary: a large group, what I like to refer to as “clubby-clubs”, coordinated outfits for a night out, a Chippendale’s Show (!) and likely a ton of posing for pictures.
Before booking a flight, I spent some time examining a couple of the main reasons why I am not into having that sort of Vegas experience: (1) Vegas epitomizes a vast collection of ideas that make me gag. (2) It very much goes against the way I like travel and the way I see myself as a traveler.
Number one is not likely to change, but I had to think about number two a little more. A huge part of my love of travel has been the anthropological aspect of it; a desire to experience other cultures firsthand. Over time, I’ve accepted that there are many micro-cultures in the United States. So why would I refuse to look at Vegas as one of them?
As the trip approaches, I am nervous, but have been attempting to develop a “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” mantra. Maybe it could be like some of the strange foods I’ve tried on my travels— it looks unappealing, but turns out to surprisingly tasty. Or at least tolerable. If nothing else, it will be a weekend of celebration with friends and a peek into yet another culture I might never fully understand.