David Brooks on Travel and the Haimish Line
Travel Blog • Jim Benning • 08.30.11 | 4:32 PM ET
The New York Times columnist recently took his family on safari to Kenya and Tanzania. They stayed in simple camps where they got to know people and more luxurious camps where they did not.
The more elegant camps felt colder. At one, each family had its own dinner table, so we didn’t get to know the other guests. The tents were spread farther apart. We also didn’t get to know the staff, who served us mostly as waiters, the way they would at a nice hotel.
I know only one word to describe what the simpler camps had and the more luxurious camps lacked: haimish. It’s a Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality.
It occurred to me that when we moved from a simple camp to a more luxurious camp, we crossed an invisible Haimish Line. The simpler camps had it, the more comfortable ones did not.
Brooks goes on to extrapolate larger lessons about how we live. It’s a well-worn theme in travel—see Rick Steves and a thousand other sources. But the message never gets old, undoubtedly because most advertising continues to insist we’ll be happier if we just spend more money.