Sunday, June 17, 2012

Of Foreign Lands and Places

Traveling to a place you've never been is both lovely and exhausting--lovely because of the food, architecture, and immersion in the past, and exhausting because you have to figure out every single thing, from street directions to how to get train tickets to how to work the faucets, from scratch. What's wonderful, though, is how every tiny thing you manage to do becomes an "aha! success!" moment. Walking down the street and realizing that you actually know where it leads after getting lost a number of times becomes as much a pleasure as figuring out new places.

It's a ridiculously low bar for success, but here's a little context: My family didn't travel, mostly, and when we were growing up we were strongly discouraged from travel because any trips beyond a 200-mile radius from home would surely result in our being eaten by wolves [country version] or killed by muggers and stuffed in a trash can [city version].  I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea: I've traveled a lot since then, but I'm still a naive, not sophisticated, traveler.

This trip was especially exciting because I'd been reading about these places and seeing pictures of the art and architecture since high school. It's a cliche to say that the U. S. is a young country, but when you get money from an ATM that reminds you that the bank was established 700 years ago, it really hits home. Looking down some narrow, empty streets, I kept picturing youths like Botticelli's Young Man with a Red Cap walking around with swords and looking for a fight, a vision inspired equally by history and Shakespeare and Hollywood movies.

To round out this post with one more cliche: it was great to be there, and it is good to be home.


Z said...

This is why I love to work abroad - I am never bored, and the whole thing is an excuse for another adventure.

undine said...

Z--I agree, though I haven't worked abroad in as many fascinating countries as you have.