Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When in Rome...do what I usually do

I could have written the Control Freak's Guide to European Travel.  I was brought up to travel like the "anti Ugly American."  That is to say, to do everything to be respectful of the local culture, make a solid attempt to speak the language, try all the foods, speak in hushed voices, blend in as much as possible.  Needless to say, this opportunity alone was highly privileged.  It meant that I traveled a lot from a young age (I spent the first 2 1/2 years of my life in Greece and a half a year in Paris at the age of 14).

This basis, coupled with some control freak tendencies, caused to me to sharply condemn other approaches to travel along the way.  Some 35 years ago I can remember sending a friend packing back to London from Paris because he wanted to eat at McDonald's and wouldn't attempt to speak French.  About 20 years ago I ruined the better part of a day in Montreal because I was so upset that my travel companions ordered modest pasta dishes in a French restaurant (rather than what I judged to be French food).

Both times I knew that I was in the right and they were wrong.  It was as simple as that.  They ruined my time, not the other way around.  And it certainly wasn't me who ruined my own time.  I also always kept up a punishing schedule on travel.  Every day, get up go to a morning sight, then an afternoon sight, then an evening sight.  None of this lallygagging around.

Today, as I visit Europe at 53, I find that I am a different kind of traveler and need a different guide book than the one I brought myself up with--maybe The Spoiled Brat Guide to Europe?  Not sure what to call it.  These days, I am less concerned with what locals think of me.  I try to be respectful, but I also work harder at getting my needs met.  Italian food, much as I'd like to eat it, just does not work for me.  I really don't seem to be able to stay healthy and eat dairy, wheat, sugar or meat.  (Try getting a low carbohydrate vegan entree with any protein at one of these places and you could be waiting a long time for your meal)

Also, I need a lot more down time.  Because I've had the extreme luxury of traveling to Europe several times in my life, I am free from the "this is the only time I'll be here" stress.  If I need to skip seeing a world class museum to write a silly blogpost like this, I am free to do that.  I meditate and I check-in with myself and I see what rhythm is right for me.   Sometimes my happiest time traveling is to go to the exact same cafe every day with a notebook and sit and people watch, rather than running around the city chasing Michelangelo (who can be very hard to catch).

And, thank God, I don't care as much, or barely at all what the people I'm traveling with do.  If they want a frantic pace, let them have it.  If they want to eat in McDonald's--fine!  I can let them be the way they want to be, and skip swearing at the them in the streets.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are enjoying a new way to travel Sara. I often think about our lunch in Montreal, but my take-away is different. Your reaction so surprised me that I now more consiously decide whether to order what I'm in the mood for or consider something that is unique to the place I'm visiting. Thank you for that. I still might get the pasta, but who knows... Let's have do-overs in Montreal sometime. Love to you and the family

Mark Stell said...

Wow, your blog does bring back memories, dear Sara ... especially that last line about "skipping the swearing in the street". But who knows? Maybe all your friends romanticize about being "the" friend you shared that infamous glory with?

At this moment I'm sitting in bed, drinking a cup of coffee and relishing the fact that I don't have to go to work. I'm reading your blog with my partner and we're talking about how we want to travel the world with your example to guide us. Maybe it's a natural part of being 50 something to want to skip the stress of travel and enjoy the quality?

So here's to lollygagging in the present, all around the world :-)

Sara S. Nichols said...

How gratifying that both of you recognized yourselves in my post! it means, first of all, that someone is reading it! and how wonderful that it should be you too. Mark, I have often thought of you and our trip together with your mom over 30 years ago. I keep pretending like I've been in these cities before, but the truth is it was so long ago that it was like a dream.
As my husband's grandfather used to say though, at the end of your life, it's the rough spots and vicissitudes that you most remember. So what do I remember of that trip? being roused by gendarmes in Nice when we tried to sleep in front of the train station or in that park because a certain person was shall we say unrealistic about the cost of staying in the french rivieria in high season--and swearing in the streets of Rome!

Sara S. Nichols said...

And Shelley, what a hoot that you changed your ordering style after my tantrum--that's too funny! Love to do Montreal again with you sometime!

Sara S. Nichols said...

And Shelley, what a hoot that you changed your ordering style after my tantrum--that's too funny! Love to do Montreal again with you sometime!