Growing Up Italian: The Travel Bug
Italians abroad are everywhere, seems like. Loud, stylish, insubordinate, rule-breakers-tourists. Then, there are the travelers. Respectful, conscientious,curious and educated.
I like to think I always belonged to the second category. Just like when growing up, at our condo at the coast, Mom would always tell me to walk silently, so that the noise would not bother the people downstairs during the quiet hours.
To travel is a privilege, and I was fortunate enough to take full advantage of it at a fairly young age, when I got myself a job in a travel agency. Can I say “great perks”?!
The downside is that, decades later, I realize how unprepared I was and how much of it I missed during my experiences abroad. All and all, being exposed to so many cultures has made me a more tolerant person for sure. Extensive travels helped me get a better prospective on life, and a mellower attitude.
It didn’t happen overnight, though. It started in the early days of Summer 1974, when I went on a field trip to Rome. The two hour journey from my hometown Perugia to the Old Roman Forum helped shape my life forever.
I still remember the checkered white and red dress I wore that day, tied in the back with a girly bow. I also wore white cotton socks and black shoes with a little chevron pattern on the front. I was in company of my classmates. The Roman Forum was our playground for the day. I’m sure we had knowledge of the history of the place. However, exploring the ancient ruins, climbing the giant Roman pieces of white marble like they were common boulders, was exhilarating.
(one can’t do that anymore)
Touching something that had stood there for centuries, observing the majestic constructions, was such an eye opener for me. Right then and there, I felt the urge to know more, to want to see more. What else, in the eyes of an 8 year old girl, could it be so fascinating? I wanted an answer.
In high school I got to go to France. During that trip, I also discovered the even our taste buds giggle when they have something to be excited for. I discovered that trying new flavors is fun! And so my young persona got shaped: I got the irresistible curiosity to see, and taste more of the world. In Montmartre I had a young gorgeous African French woman draw my portrait. I always wondered, over the years, if she ever became the famous artist she wanted to be in 1985.
My serious travels begin in the early 90s. Back then it was fun to fly. No one asked you to remove your shoes or your jacket. Nobody cared how much Listerine you carried with you.
Even in economy class, passengers were treated better than today. I remember receiving goodie bags with warm socks, a sleeping mask, toothpaste and toothbrush…not to mention a paper menu with our food choices, and REAL silverware!
Another thing I remember is that, upon landing, especially on long intercontinental flights, passengers applauded the crew to celebrate the journey, and as a way to thank them for the safe flight. Nowadays, we barely pay attention to the safety reminders before take off, and upon landing we hurry like cattle through a cattle-shoot. We have lost the sense of appreciation in favor of the one of urgency. Too bad.
Italians also travel in groups. In packs like wolves, not out of insecurity, but as another occasion to spend time with the loved ones, and increase exponentially the fun factor.
There is always a clown in the party, always one who’s super-organized, someone who knows all the best places to eat….an Italian traveling group doesn’t need Google 🙂
My destinations of choice would include a beach, of course. Possibly pristine and off the beaten path.
Oahu, Hawaii 1994
And then, of course, there is always something new to try in the food department!
Who can resist a fresh pineapple? Hawaii 1994
One cannot have a favorite place until one has seen them all. This is my motto.
So, when in doubt, travel! Now, I don’t have an unlimited budget. I work hard and travel cheap. I don’t plan ahead. I found out that “winging it” is the best way to get to know the real world, avoiding the tourist traps. The best experiences,the most memorable just happened to me by chance.
Valley of Queens, Egypt. 1995
When I travel, I often have to give up with the fact that my hair won’t always be perfect. Actually, BAD HAIR DAYS are an EVERYDAY occurrence. Especially for a naturally dry-curly-hair girl.
The other thing I don’t worry about when I travel, is my look. Frumpy is ok. Oversized means comfortable. Color coordination? Seriously? No, thanks, not a priority. Then, there are always those times when your suitcase doesn’t make it. If there is any chance of that happening on a trip, you can be sure that the only suitcase that doesn’t make it to its final destination…is MINE!!
At times, I had to wear men’s shirts or pants. Or a long dressy skirt to go into the forest, or a fancy suit to go horseback riding…..To make matter worst there seemed to be someone ready with a camera to capture the moment as a constant reminder of the WARDROBE-MAJOR-FAIL-DAY, and a good inspiration for a big laughter afterwards.
Despite all of these clothing-adversities, I never missed a bit. In reality, I think that when one puts the desire to learn and to explore over his/her personal wants, that is when one becomes really a traveler.
In conclusion, when I look back at my life so far, I think “I can’t believe I got to do that!” and I smile. That distant day in the summer of 1974, when I got the travel bug, I promised myself to always keep this sense of wonder. The thirst for exploration comes always with the utmost respect for the place I visit. I want to tip-toe through the world, leaving minimum traces, and if possible, my wish is to leave it a better one for others to ejoy.
For my first 50 years, I think I’ve done a good job. Let’s see what the rest of my life brings! Work hard, play hard, and remember:
No matter how far I go, “Home sweet home” comes to mind every time I return. Sleeping in my own bed is priceless, and much appreciated. A good cup of coffee in the morning, and the ability to return to my kitchen are also treasured possessions.
In every place I visited, from Honk Kong to Zanzibar to Hawaii, I have been able to find an Italian staple: PIZZA.
Not that I would eat Italian when I travel, but upon returning home, a good Pizza is what I want. Mom’s dough recipe is easy, quick and tasty. As for the toppings, I typically choose a simple one of tomatoes, olive oil, oregano and capers. Cheese optional.
My travel days now are few and far between. However, pretty often,I remind myself that I’m living in another Country after all. Then I look at things with gratitude, and differently, like if I were a traveler again. Sometimes we take for granted the beauty we see everyday. Wherever you are, may your sense of wonder and curiosity never leave you. Even if you just explore your neighborhood.
This, is really a wonderful world!
Mangia! Enjoy!!Advertise your business on Eugene Daily News!