20 September 2016

The Spirit of Travel

There is perhaps no place more suitably named in all of Disney’s Animal Kingdom than the recently opened Nomad Lounge. Nomads by their very nature roam from one place to another, moving across borders both natural and manmade, and quite possibly through dramatically different landscapes and environments in the process. They can move about as hunter-gatherers, herders, or even artisans. Is it any wonder then that we could see ourselves, inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as a new breed of nomads, adding to our stories as we make our way from Africa to Asia, Diggs County, FL, and even Pandora one day soon?

With that roaming nature we also create and absorb new stories, which is the second critical component to the Nomad Lounge. Within its walls guests are invited to share a bit of their story via hanging tags. Each one asks a different question of the guest. What do you always do when you travel? Why do you travel? Where will you go next? What was the most memorable food? What was your most unexpected discovery? How has travel changed you? The questions go on and on, but require you to reveal a part of yourself during the experience. You can choose to keep the tag for yourself (each costs $1, and 85% of the proceeds go to the Disney Conservation Fund), or you can choose to become a part of the lounge and the nomads that pass through. Each tag is hung on a rack on the wall, When the wall is completed, it is then hung above the bar.

Stories and travel. Getting to where you are going is often times more the story to tell than the actual destination. And this is something that the Nomad Lounge has considered in great detail. In fact, compasses are inherent in the logo and doorways throughout the lounge. Beyond that, however, are a great many details that likely get over looked. The most obvious sign of travel, or form of travel, represented at Nomad Lounge are these ornate horse carvings that sit above the patio. They are not, however, the only representation of nomadic travel.

The beams leading up to each horse carving are trails unto themselves. They include various ways in which people have traveled from place to place. There are footprints, hooveprints, and even truck tire tracks. All of these could have been pulled directly out of the soft mud that would make up a passageway.

It seems as if we’ve worked our way from the inside back out to the entrance of the Nomad Lounge. It is here where the people, places, and creatures of Disney’s Animal Kingdom truly intersect in all of their nomadic glory. Along the short walkway between the porch and the rest of the park, you will find prints from birds, elephants, several small mammals, livestock, starfish, and boots. Everyone has come through the Nomad Lounge at some point, and it appears that all are welcome there.

The menu at the Nomad Lounge is filled with stories. Even the cocktails themselves are sometimes filled with stories if you know who to ask. Much of the artwork within the menu is from Joe Rohde or his team that explored the globe to bring authenticity to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I consider the menu required reading as there are many tales from their travels tucked within its pages (and if anyone at Nomad Lounge would like to pass along a copy of the menu to me for my collection, I would greatly appreciate it!). From tiny circular boats across treacherous rivers, dry and rainy seasons, and even tents that were frozen shut, these are stories that most of us have never heard, but that definitely beg to be told.

No matter how your story brings you to Nomad Lounge, take time to explore the rich details presented throughout. There are other travelers’ stories from both near and far, a distinct pattern of travel present in every corner, and even a bit of yourself if you’re so inclined. There is a lot to love at Nomad Lounge, and that’s before we even get to food and beverages! But that’s a story for another day.

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