Never Been, But I saw “Hawaii Five-O” One Time (Vámonos Vol. 16)

Do your homework!

I was once a sixth grade math teacher, so I am used to telling people to do things that aren’t fun. I tried to do as little of that as possible when I was a teacher and I try to do the same as the columnist for Vámanos but I want to tell you again that you should do your homework before a trip and it will be more fun.

Generally, I have suggested looking for people to talk about the place you’re going to, reading a guidebook or doing some online research. Basically, finding out as much as you can about the place you go before you get there. I stand by those suggestions (they are fun, not only in themselves but also because they make you more excited about the trip you are about to go on. I should never have called them homework). But there is also something to be said for reading and watching fiction.

I remember when I saw Michigan Avenue in “The Fugitive” as a kid and feeling a great connection to the movie whose plot was beyond my 7-year-old understanding (up to that point, I was just scared of Tommy Lee Jones). I had a similar feeling reading “American Gods” and following the hero all around the Midwest or thinking about rural Nebraska and a trip I took to the Black Hills while paging through Jason Aaron’s, “Scalped.”

If you absolutely refuse to read, you can often get a sense of the place you’re going to visit on the screen. I recently spoke with a friend who said that he watched Hawaii Five-O, for the sole reason that he loved Maui and Kawai. But watch out: screens can be deceiving. For instance, you may find yourself imagining Woodstock in Ground Hog’s Day, which is supposed to take place in Punxsutawney, Pa. or Cadiz in one of the Pierce Brosnon Bond movies, which is supposed to be Havana. There is something about film that is immersive and powerful.

Watching movies is not the same as reading a guide. They won’t give you a tip on where to get cheap booze or give you the phrases you’ll need if you get stuck in the hospital. But screens have the potential to do something the guide can’t. Fiction can wrap you up in a story, a tale can immerse you, and it might be in reruns on cable.

This article was originally published by Extra and is also en Español and English on their website.