There are enough international markets scattered around Columbus that you can spend entire days taking in the sights, sounds and smells of other countries.

WILL SHILLING PHOTO

Summer's hurtling to an end, and chances are if you don't already have your plane tickets in hand, 2008 is not going to be the year you take that backpacking trip through Asia you've always dreamed of, not to mention that Italian biking tour.

But with a tank of gas and a lot of imagination, you can pretend like you did. There are enough international markets scattered around Columbus that you can spend entire days taking in the sights, sounds and smells of other countries. You can make believe you're strolling through an European flea market or a poking around a bustling Mexican plaza.

We're focusing mostly on shopping options here, but there are ways to round out the experience and approximate a true weekend abroad. At most of these stores, you'll find a selection of CDs or, more likely, cassette tapes of music from the homeland. Buy a couple and use them as your soundtrack as you drive around from store to store. Stop for lunch at an ethnic restaurant, then buy frozen or prepared dinners from one of the stores - or ingredients to make your own ethnic meal.

And, of course, you'll want to keep an eye out for postcards and souvenirs. How else are you going to convince your boss you used those vacation days for an actual vacation?

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