Previous to 1966, I’d only been on one vacation which wasn’t a mad dash to Texas from wherever my Dad had been transferred. Those desperate treks to see family weren’t very conducive to a love of travel, but Puerto Rican Rum ads assured me there was more to travel than I’d experienced so far. Unfortunately most of what I learned from the ads was quite misleading.
Rum-Influenced Travel Misconceptions
• Traveling Two by Two – The ads always portrayed a heterosexual couple, usually sharing a moment of affection or at least having a good time. To begin with, procuring a travel-mate of the opposite sex is a little trickier than I dreamed it would be as I gazed starry-eyed at the rum ads. Then getting him out on the road turned out to be a whole ‘nother challenge. Even when I finally managed to drag said traveling companion out on the road on a remarkable trip, there were very few White Puerto Rican Run Moments.
• Negotiating the Logistics – Look at that couple on horseback. No sign of parking lots, surly horse handlers or canned trail rides in the ruts of previous riders. In my imagination, this couple stepped out of their luxury hotel room and strolled along the beach to a spot where a smiling native held two gorgeous horses by the reins. The couple climbed on the horses with ease, trotted along for a moment or two, until they topped a hill and arrived at this idyllic spot. That’s not the way it works in real life, is it? For one thing, me climbing onto a horse is not a pretty sight. Me staying on that horse would be a miracle.
• The Price of Admission – Let’s assume for a moment that my imaginary couple had arranged for horses to be delivered to a spot near their hotel and the hotel was not in the middle of some metropolitan traffic jam. Just imagine how much that would cost! And exactly who would have provided the refreshing beverage? Not to mention the chances of finding a convenient fence rail you could actually set a drink on. With fantasies like this on the pages of magazines, it’s not hard to understand why people think the reality of traveling is such a hassle.
• Travel Togs – In every one of these ads, the people wore white clothes in natural fabrics: cotton, linen, silk and wool. So what’s the one thing you try not to pack? Light-colored clothing that will wrinkle and show dirt. Let’s just say I found the perfect traveling companion and we were on these horses. What are the chances we’d have on perfectly pressed white outfits in natural fabrics. In all my scrapbooks of photographs you won’t find a single one where my companion and I are wearing the appropriate White Puerto Rican Rum outfits.
• Tropical Destinations – Though Puerto Rico would occasionally throw in a snow ad or offer a landscape that might be in my backyard, the overwhelming number of ads portrayed a tropical destination. Let me be honest. I’m not that crazy about tropical destinations, but the ads never warned me of the possible disappointments. They didn’t warn me that the second I got greased down from head to toe for sunbathing the wind would pick up and I’d be covered in grainy sand. Nothing was mentioned about three digit temperatures with double digit humidity. Undertow, crowds, bugs, sweat, aggressive beggars and swindlers! The list goes on!
San Juan, Puerto Rico – The Ultimate Betrayal
Travel hopes spring eternal. Finally, one day, I had a pair of airline tickets for San Juan, Puerto Rico. What’s more, my handsome husband and I were embarking on a week-long cruise which included exotic sounding places like Barbados and Antigua.
I was older and wiser by then. The whole Puerto Rican Rum ad campaign was a thing of the past and I’d learned a lot about travel from hard-earned experience. But like a song about clouds, it was travel’s illusions I recalled, I really didn’t know Puerto Rico at all.
Even with decades of travel disappointments under my money belt, the San Juan “tour” (read that ride from the airport to the cruise boat dock) was a let down. Some remnant of the advertising campaign must have clung to my expectations, but in reality, pretty much everything was either dirty or dilapidated. The bus driver kept telling me it was due to a hurricane, but when I asked him which hurricane, I found out it had been over a decade before.
None of those White Puerto Rican Run ads had been shot in the San Juan I saw. Still, it’s travel’s illusions I prefer, so hand me that travel brochure on the coffee table next to you. I think I may want to go there.
I hope you’ll come back next week and travel down the memory lane of travel with me.