A reminder: by Erica

My dearest Rome,

 

I have lived within you for about 6 months now. You’ve seen my first love letter to you way back in August 2018 https://seekingericafarandnear.com/2018/08/16/the-journey-begins/ , so I want to pontificate (pun intended and all the Vatican stuff) on your other virtues and vices.

Thank you.

Thank you for being unapologetically yourself.

I don’t love all of your garbage and trash that needs to be picked up. I don’t love your endless lines in Coin or even Simply for groceries (there are 3 other people working besides the one cashier, can’t they also help check out?). I don’t love when I give the supermarket cashier a 20 and he/she asks me for more exact change (no I don’t have 2 euros, and even if I did, I want to “break” my 20!).

But I do love you, Roma.

Thanks for the days when I can do this (picture) and rest my hand on all the imperfections of the colosseum and say to myself, “You did this, so can I.”

Love,

Erica

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Istanbul: Coming Soon…

Hello!

Happy New Year and Buon Anno! I’m having trouble downloading all of my Istanbul pictures to my computer, so for now, here are a few of my favorites I’ve been able to download so far.

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  1. I get excited when I get new stamps on my passport. It’s not as “fun” in Europe anymore when you don’t get stamps when you’re anywhere in the EU.

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2. Europe (our left), and Asia (our right)

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3. Not a great picture, but the inside of the Hagia Sophia. It was the place I wanted to see the most in Istanbul because it used to be a church built at “Constantinople” in the 6th century (532–537) under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Istanbul in 1453 under “Mehmed the Conqueror” they converted it into a mosque (in 3 days!) – not really 3 days, but more to come. They covered the Christian mosaics with plaster (or something – I’m not good with materials). Muslims don’t believe in depictions of Mohammed, God, or holy people, so their mosques are decorated mostly with Arabic script and floral or geometric patterns.
It was changed into a museum in 1935 under Mustafa Atatürk, the founder of the current Turkish republic. He wanted it to be a more secular representation of the country.

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4. One of the mosaics that hasn’t been fully restored.

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5. The Blue Mosque from a window in the Hagia Sophia

That’s all for now. More to come!

Erica

P.S. For those readers who talk to my dad, he has pledged to come (to Europe) in the spring now that he has so much time as a retired person. 🙂 He came to Europe a few years ago when I was living in the south of Italy, and we had a great time in Germany together. Let’s put “pressure” on him to come again!

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Part II

I feel like a broken record saying I have no idea how and what to say in these posts. I often don’t know how to start my writing (exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, etc.: my graduate school essay that still languishes 75% done but with no beginning or unifying theme), but clearly this is in no way the same. So I’ll again preface this: I cannot hope to come close to what has been written about this place, but I will do my best to share what I saw on that cold Polish November day.

So I obviously left off listing some of the “exhibits” towards the first part of the tour. Sobering and horrifying do the “displays” no justice. They don’t just speak for themselves, they shout in anguish. They scream, as if each pair of shoes, each stolen piece of luggage was determined to tell the story of their owner who never got the chance to. Never in a place of hushed horror have I heard such terrified, yet determined echoes. Really.

In one of the barracks, with its recreated conditions (more about this later), the hallway is lined with photos and “information” about people who never got to leave Auschwitz.

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This hit me hard, to say the least. The faces are like mug shots for “crimes” they committed like being Jewish or an “intellectual.” They wear the uniform “striped pajamas” as a novelist once coined the attire. The eyes. Not one of these people left Auschwitz alive. Not one of these people got to ever experience freedom again outside of the barbed wire fences. (Note: There were just as many pictures of females, I just happened to capture the men).

Sorry for the glare (you can see pictures of women in the “background”), but here are two examples: the first I took because (selfishly) like me and my dad, this man’s “crime” was the audacity of being a lawyer (an “intellectual”).

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This second person doesn’t even need a profession to be a “criminal” – he is a Jew. The black eye he has goes without saying.

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You can’t see it in the picture above, but all Jews had their Star of David stitched into their clothes above their prison number (below).

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The audacity of being born a Jew. How dare they.

Because there is too much for me to begin to write about, I will conclude this post with a sign outside this particular barracks. Only at Auschwitz would this be reduced to a mere sign. I took a picture of both the English and the Hebrew on purpose.

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Erica

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Part I

As I wrote in my pre-visit post, I have visited this place so many times in my head through books and survivor accounts, documentaries and movies, that I both knew what to expect as in what I would see, but no idea what to expect about how I’d feel seeing it.

Of course, this is and was never about me and my feelings except that I was able to proverbially “bear witness.” This post will be about me, though, in that I can only write through my eyes, education, experiences, and biases. And honesty.

When we arrived at Auschwitz, I got off the mini-bus with 6 or 7 other people. We walked a little way before taking a left and beholding… throngs of people in lines guided by those dividers they have at the airport and Disney World. More on this later. I checked my bag into storage because it was too big according to the guidelines, passed through a metal detector, and was directed back and forth among employees who eventually gave me a headset (but no sticker – I went back to inquire why I didn’t get a sticker) and told me to wait outside for the English tour. I saw people with various colored stickers depending on the language of their tour: Polish, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, etc., and after about 10 minutes the English tour guide arrived. I had to find her amid a sea of groups forming in different languages with color-coded stickers.

In many ways, I think this is good. The more people that see and are educated by this place, the better. I recently got an update on my phone from CNN that read, “A CNN poll finds anti-Semitic stereotypes are alive and well in Europe, while 1 in 3 people surveyed know “little or nothing” about the Holocaust.” …Impossible for me to believe… except that … it’s real.

I want to stop and say that this is NOT what the majority of my Auschwitz-Birkenau posts will be about, but the atmosphere was something I felt was – I don’t know the word (s) – inauthentic, inappropriate, too much like an “exhibit.” I knew that this was not the “experience” for me, so at times that became more and more frequent throughout the tour, I separated myself from the group and walked alone with my thoughts. More on this later.

Before I begin, the most startling fact that I learned at Auschwitz-Birkenau was that the camp was largely created for the annihilation of Hungarian Jews. For all my reading, watching, and learning, I never knew that Hungarian Jews were specifically targeted. I have never visited Hungary (I hope to soon!), but for certain reasons, Hungarian Jews are always in my mind.

Our tour started outside the visitor’s center, and I saw it immediately: the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the camp’s entrance, with the stark brick buildings in the background on one side, and the black and white mechanical arm posted in front of the entrance. (Note, The “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “work will set you free” false propaganda/hope originally came from Dachau outside Munich in Germany. My dad and I went there a few years ago and saw the “original.”)

In what would become a familiar “feeling” – I was both buried in the emotions of screeching injustice, horror, and awe at finally standing “here,” and yet I also felt an utter lack of anything except a hollowness, a heaviness, and a hopelessness. There it was. I was here. It wasn’t a movie set or footage from a documentary or pictures from survivors’ accounts.

We walked down the path to the still-surviving barracks. I had “been” there before.

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I knew much of what to expect from the “exhibits” from my lifelong interest bordering on obsession, but as much as I knew, I was in no way prepared. We went through room after room of old barracks that now housed tens of thousands of shoes, family pottery, luggage, and everything else that could be stripped from the Jews and other prisoners when the arrived at the camp.

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There was a room where photographs were forbidden that was filled entirely with hair shorn off of Jews when the entered the camp and then used to insulate Nazi uniforms.

There were original documents kept by the ever-meticulous Germans documenting their plans and intentions.

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There is so much more to say, and I have only begun to scratch the surface. In fact, I’m quite dissatisfied with this post because I feel as if it is a very clinical overview of the first exhibits in the camp, and I don’t want my posts to be like that. In posts to come, I hope I can convey in some way the impact actually seeing this had on me and my reflections. However, I felt I had to in some way “set the stage,” so I guess that’s what I hope this post accomplishes. For now, I will leave you with this:

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Erica

Oggi sono grato per…

Today I am thankful for 31 things (plus many other things like family, friends, health, etc.)…

  1. Rome
  2. Being from a country that can have 4 former presidents from different parties come together to celebrate the passing of one of them
  3. My (American) passport
  4. Airplanes
  5. International travel
  6. The color red
  7. My iPad
  8. Being able to switch SIM cards from America to Italia and still keep the same phone
  9. How amazing I find it that Italians invented an entire language where basically 99% of words end in an a, e, i, or o
  10. Days starting to get longer on December 22
  11. Cobblestone roads
  12. When I get an end seat on the Metro
  13. Hair clips
  14. Having brown eyes
  15. Amazon Prime
  16. Fruit popsicles
  17. The Colosseum
  18. Podcasts
  19. Piazza del Popolo
  20. “Red days” in Italy*
  21. Living near the San Giovanni Metro stop on the A line
  22. Earphones
  23. How Hannah’s newsletter’s “word” today – athenaeum – was the same as my dictionary.com “word of the day” email (definition: a library or reading room)
  24. Spelling my name Erica with a “c” instead of a “k”
  25. Pearl earrings
  26. The Italian word for “witch,” which is “strega”
  27. English grammar, specifically relative clauses
  28. Did I mention Rome?
  29. The Christmas decorations/nativity scene at the Vatican
  30. Every time I see “SPQR” around Rome
  31. The Christmas lights decorating the street outside the school where I teach (see picture)

* “Red days” are what I call (i.e. only Erica Eve Beinlich, this is not what they are known as in Italy) Italian holidays (no work or school) because the day/date on all Italian calendars is in red. Thus, it is easy to spot no work/school holidays in Italy because the dates are universally (or nationally) colored in red, no matter the color scheme of the rest of the calendar. Every Sunday (Domenica) is a “red day,” and then all national holidays, many of which are religious due to the Catholic history of the country. For example, this Saturday is a “red day” for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception/L’Immacolata. It’s a Saturday this year, so most people already don’t have work or school, but if it was on a weekday, work and school would be closed.

Erica

Before Auschwitz

So. I’m writing this before on the ride there because I know I won’t have the words after – writing or speaking about this in a way that has not been said more truly or “elegantly” – and by that I mean horrifyingly – by hundreds of others.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the German name for the Polish town Oświęcim, so that’s where I’m headed.

I’m searching for what to say, about how and why I got here, on this bus, at this time. I can reach back to the age of 7 or 8 when I first read the book Number the Stars in one night. I vividly remember going to the bathroom to wash my hands for dinner while reading the book, and laying down on the bathroom floor because I couldn’t put the book down. Or the countless hours spent at the public library in Green Bay searching subject categories for World War II biographies or Holocaust. Or the dog-eared pages of my parents’ World Book Encyclopedia volumes of “H” for “Holocaust” or “I” for Israel or “J” for Jew, and so on. Or how so many of the “choose your own topic” school projects or book reports were about this time, this place. Or when I went to NYC with my mom and my grandparents at age 10 and the Broadway show I chose to see was “The Diary of Anne Frank” (with Natalie Portman as Anne, I later realized).

I don’t know why I’ve been drawn to it for so long – since 7 or 8. It goes without saying that it isn’t a topic most kids younger than 10 are interested in. But I was, and I am.

I have been to two concentration camps before, Sachsenhausen and Dachau, but this, of course, is the “big” one, the one that seems to encompass all others. It seems to be the most horrifying, the most unbelievable.

I have “been” to Auschwitz in my mind hundreds of times through books and documentaries and movies. Even before I get there, I can see it in my mind’s eye, especially the entrance.

I could go on forever about it, and it doesn’t seem real that I’m finally going. Will it be so surreal it feels like a “movie set,” will I feel the 1 million lives that were silenced and ended there, deep in my bones like cement that weighs me down and makes not just my soul but my body feel heavy and stuck in nothing short of blinding horror? I don’t know.

All I can do is hope that by going there, by coming here, that I see it as clearly as is possible in the context of the decades of history I’ve basically studied this place, preparing for a place that no one is ever fully prepared to see. I hope that I can proverbially “bear witness” to this place that must never ever be forgotten, downplayed, minimized or even treated as a tourist attraction. It isn’t. It never will be. And I don’t come as a garrulous tourist to only gape at the horror, to see it without really seeing it. I hope I come here and do what little I can to honor and remember what happened here, not for myself, but for the people who came here and never left, and for the families they never got to meet or never got to have.

To those who are reading this whom I speak directly to, and you know who, I wish I had more eloquent words.

We’re getting close now. The sun is coming out from behind the clouds. How unfair that a place like this should ever see sunshine again.

Erica

Sciopero

For the second Friday in three weeks, Roman public transportation (called ATAC, or Azienda per i Trasporti Autoferrotranviari del Comune di Roma) – metro, buses, trams – are going on “sciopero” or, basically, strike. The above flyer provides that it is a 24-hour strike, but that there will be service from the time the transit system usually opens in the morning (maybe 5 or 5:30) until 8:30 and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., presumably so all the people who aren’t on strike can get to work and school.

I’ve asked people if sciopero ever actually works, that is, do the employees ever get concessions from the government such as higher pay or whatever is the goal of their strike? The best answer I’ve gotten is “sometimes.” I’ve yet to hear of anything concrete, but I guess it’s a nice extra day off for them. 😉

But it’s not just public transit that goes on sciopero. I have been physically chased down by one of the employees at a neighborhood grocery store at 7:41 p.m. (they usually close at 9:30). The employees were not letting new customers in, were yelling “sciopero!” and were hastily making sure people were checked out as fast as possible. And let me tell you, the employees at this grocery store, to a person, could not be less concerned with efficiency or getting customers checked out at even a leisurely pace.

So, I was familiar with this female employee who was following my determinedly brisk clip into the store. I had my earphones in, and I could hear her on my heels yelling, “Signora! Signora! Sciopero!” I admit I pretended I could not hear her, or alternatively, that I didn’t understand what “sciopero” meant even though I did. Finally, she was so loud I turned around RIGHT when I was about to pass the check out lines and break free into the store. She kept emphatically yelling the same thing and directing me out. I was so close! And other people were still trying to get in! I have never seen that particular employee move anywhere close to that fast. I frequent the grocery store about every day because I buy smaller amounts of food on a more regular basis than we usually do in the U.S. Because of this, I am familiar with the “usual characters” that make up the grocery employees. Suffice it to say, I have never seen any employee in the entire store move as fast as they all were that night. 😃😉

Anyway, happy sciopero to the Roman transit/ATAC employees on Friday (tomorrow)!

Erica

On collecting paintings & my “relationship” with the Colosseum

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From inside the Colosseum, 2010.

I have a travel tradition of buying an original painting from an artist in the foreign city I’m visiting. I try to match the painting with the feeling the city evokes in me – my Sagrada Familia painting from Barcelona is made with the bright primary colors with which Antoni Gaudi painted the city itself. My picture from Prague (actually an original photograph) is of the city’s landmark Charles Bridge in mostly dark greens, black, and some faint golden light. My painting from Florence is in golds and rusty oranges like the color of the city’s duomo and Tuscany’s reddish-orange roofs. I don’t have a formula for picking the art I buy or the feeling I get from it, I just get whatever emotions the city calls up in me. And I don’t have one from every single foreign city I’ve visited because I have a rule for myself that I’ll only get an image if it shouts my perception of the ambiance of the city I’m in or feel I have to get it. Then I take it to get professionally framed (when I have the money or, recently, as Christmas presents to me from my parents). They then take up residence in my parents’ house to sit humbly in their basement until I (someday) (hopefully) have a place of my own to hang them. Sometimes, when I was living at home (the most recent stretch ended less than a month ago), on sleepless nights or nights when I felt particularly helpless, rudderless, and lost, I’d tiptoe into “my area” of the basement and look at those pictures. It’s as if I had to say to myself, “See? Here is proof there was once a time where you felt happy and alive (and not always just when you’re across an ocean!) with a future you had the privilege to choose.” Isn’t that one of the reasons we take pictures and buy souvenirs anyway?

But I don’t have one from Rome. Why, Erica? That makes no sense! You love Rome, and you’ve been here 7 million times! (My dad will tell you I can be prone to exaggeration, which might be true, especially here).

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The Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum behind it, 2010.

Rome has always been so sacred to me, so brilliantly magnificent and flawed at the same time, that I have never been able to decide what I want my Rome painting to be or depict. The Vatican? The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, or the Spanish Steps? Palatine Hill? The Colosseum? Oh, but the Colosseum is so cliche. It is a symbol of one of the biggest travel cliches (for very good reason, I would argue!) along with the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids (and yes, Egypt, I’m hoping to meet you soon) or the Statue of Liberty.

But how I love the Colosseum. My laptop must have an upwards of 200 pictures I’ve taken of it through the years. I’ve said it before, but it’s true that it still sends a shiver down my spine when I first glimpse it walking around Rome.

I am well aware of its bloody past; the exotic animals fighting slaves and gladiators from all stretches of the Roman empire. I know about the mobs that called for more and more human sacrifice for sport and their viewing pleasure. I have stood before it and tried to imagine the sheer number of lives lost here in pursuit of entertainment.

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From inside the Colosseum, 2008.

And yet I still love it. I love it as a symbol of Rome as a city that is still standing after thousands of years. To me, it is ruins of a once-great empire that is more beautiful than any gleaming new skyscraper in a burgeoning cosmopolitan city. The Colosseum and Rome itself are so comfortable in the seeming loss of their grandeur, in the beauty of their crumbling remains, that the world no longer regards these “tattered” structures as relics of failures and long-ago promise. The very wreckage that is a constant reminder of Rome’s fall(s) are also a testament to its staying power and ability to overcome. To overcome barbarians, to overcome wars, to overcome time, and even the ability to overcome the highest hurdle of them all – the flaws in itself.

I get that. In so many ways. And that’s what the Colosseum means to me.

I’ve finally decided what I want my Rome painting to be. I want a picture of the Colosseum with the ruins of the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill stretching out proudly in front of it.

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Ruins of the Roman forum with the Colosseum in the background, 2016.

Years from now people may see my precious painting of Rome’s Colosseum and ruins and dismiss it as a cliched representation of one of the world’s most magnificent cities. Let them. I know it means so much more. I understand, the Colosseum understands, and Rome understands. That’s good enough for me.

Erica

From Aaron Hernandez to Rome

I’m a podcast addict – news, politics, true crime, international events, etc. So today I was listening to the first episode of a new podcast called “Gladiator,” which is about former Patriot Aaron Hernandez who was convicted of murder and then killed himself in his prison cell last year. In an autopsy, they found evidence of substantial damage to his brain from CTE, which is the condition that is so widely discussed today regarding the NFL and concussions.

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But this post isn’t about Aaron Hernandez or the Shakespeare-esque tragedy that became of his life. Instead, towards the end of the episode, the narrator says, “In Ancient Rome, gladiators would put on their helmets and armor to compete for the public’s entertainment and amusement. Some of these men, and sometimes women, would die in their first contest in the arena.” Like anything else about Rome, that made me stop and immediately rewind the podcast so I could listen to that part again. It made me think of the 10-minute walk it would take me to get to the most famous of ancient arenas, the Colosseum. 10 minutes.

I am ever trying to solve the mystery of what draws me to Rome besides the obvious. My love affair with the city of Rome – with all its victories as well as its defeats and blemishes – is magnetic and everlasting and pure.

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My dirty foot outside the Colosseum after a day of solo walking around Rome in July of 2015. (I have a weird habit of taking pictures of my feet after days exploring ancient cities including Beirut, Rome, Amman, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem). I am stepping on the famous “SPQR” initials found throughout Rome. SPQR are the initials of the Latin phrase, “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus,” which means “The Senate and the People of Rome.” The phrase originally stood for the idea that ancient Romans believed that all authority of the Senate came from the people. There’s a lot more history to it, but that’s it in a nutshell. Today, it is used in the municipal symbol of Rome.

But those lines in the podcast reminded me how large of a role Rome and its history still play as cultural touchstones to this day. After all, the narrator of the podcast didn’t have to go into a lengthy (or short) history lesson to illustrate the mental picture he was trying to paint. Our minds’ eyes automatically call up an image of gladiators in the Colosseum of Ancient Rome, the jeering crowds, and caesar overseeing the melee. To me, and I admit my bias, so much of Rome’s past seems like a larger shared past of the whole Western world. Ancient Rome gives us many of our cultural touchstones – the Colosseum, gladiators, Brutus betraying Caesar, the phrase “All roads lead to Rome,” and “Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” the barbarian military general of Carthage, Hannibal, the image of the once-great Roman Empire being sacked by barbarians, and so on. It is why the title of the podcast, “Gladiator,” needs no explanation to evoke the fighters of Ancient Rome. And I live here. It still gives me goosebumps.

Is this a selfish way to look at the world? That I feel privileged that I live in this Eternal City (while still being a citizen of precious America), as if my living here is the most important thing in the world? Probably. Does it give me any insight into the world around me or the self within me? Not really, except that some Roman culture still echoes today.

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The Colosseum at night, summer of 2015.

So at 8:52 a.m., on October 17, 2018, in Rome, Italy, I am selfishly grateful that I get to live here, in a city that literally gives me shivers every day and that I love for reasons I cannot fully articulate. “Just for today,” I will be happy and grateful no matter what the day brings simply because I am here in this place of ceaseless inspiration to me.

With gratitude and love from the Eternal City,

Erica

P.S. This post is dedicated to my dad, who will understand why.

P.P.S. It really bothers me that my autocorrect kept capitalizing the “a” in “Ancient Rome,” but there must be some reason the adjective is part of the proper noun. 🤔

Confessions of an Imperfect Traveler

First, an update or a “Rome Report.” Cross my fingers I might have found a room within my budget close to where I live now. It’s with two girls, students, and it is simple, but that is all I need! I say “might” because the owner has guaranteed that I can sign the contract and live in the room starting November 1, but you never know here until it’s completely signed and done.

On to my confessions: I’m getting back into a routine of living abroad, which reminds me that for as much as I love and adore traveling, and for as deep as my devotion to it is, I am far from a perfect traveler. There is no avoiding the fact that I am a flawed wanderer, and for the sake of transparency, I’m going to confess my travel sins here.

I want to start out by saying that as silly as this sounds, these travel “flaws” have bothered me in the past. I have truly tried to be interested in or enjoy these topics and aspects of travel and culture, but try as I might, I still inevitably skip over these chapters in travel books and find myself avoiding these topics or ways of travel.

In many ways, the past 10 years since I graduated from college have been an extended study into myself – my strengths, my weaknesses, my aptitudes, and my inaptitudes. This may sound like a luxury, and some people in my family close to me still view these times as selfish, unnecessarily self-indulgent, and privileged, frivolous wastes of time, and I don’t expect them to change their minds anytime soon.

I know that these vague references may not make sense to everyone, and I’m sure there will come a time when I begin to blog about those years of my life, but suffice it to say, for now, that I would much rather have spent these months and years establishing myself in a career I was interested in, or taking steps to at least find out what I want to do, or if nothing else making money so I could be independent and travel.

But that’s not how my life played out. And often I was dragged kicking and screaming into these prolonged journeys of self-introspection I had no desire to embark on, but to have avoided going through these times would have meant a far darker future for me.  It meant confronting demons within myself that I have always had and will live with for the rest of my life. But like I said, a deeper and more painstaking examination of these times is for future blogs.

My original point in all this was to say that I have come to accept these travel “flaws” in myself because in the grand scheme of life, they matter little. Accepting these, like accepting other more consequential demons in myself, has guided me in what I have come to think of as my “travelosophy,” or my philosophy of travel that works for me, Erica Eve. (Look for an upcoming blog on my detailed “travelosophy.”)

Knowing what’s important to me when and where I travel has allowed me to skimp on the things I’m “just not that into,” and let go of the “guilt” of not being the perfect traveler (yes, I really had some guilt about that). So enough preamble, here laid bare are my travel flaws:

Food: I’m not a foodie. At all. I will almost always try a new food or dish, but very rarely do I enjoy it. I do not find foreign cuisines exciting or an enriching part of the travel experience, and I don’t say this to disrespect or undermine the importance I know that food plays in culture. It’s just not my “thing” or an interest. I eat too much or too little, but always very simple, familiar foods. I don’t even like lettuce. Lettuce, in fact, and to my dismay, may be my least favorite food. I don’t like the texture, and I don’t like the taste. Growing up, I was assured I’d grow out of it, but I haven’t. And let me tell you, that greatly limits many healthy options for one’s diet. So exotic food as a way to understand a foreign culture is not my forte.

Foreign languages: I don’t have “an ear” for foreign languages. It took me 2.5 tries to pass the first level of Italian when I lived in Reggio Calabria, when the course is designed to obviously be passed on the first try. My parents will say that I’ve “convinced myself” that I can’t learn other languages, but I really do try. Even in high school and college, foreign language was one of my weakest subjects along with science and math. This along with the food thing is perhaps my biggest regret in travel, because I do believe when I read and hear that to speak the language of a different place is to even better understand the culture, and culture is one of the things that most fascinates me about travel.

Camping/outdoors/wildlife: I am not an outdoors person who is going to love visiting wildlife reserves or frequent national parks. I am by no means someone who needs to be pampered with the most luxurious showers and products, but I prefer electricity, at least a cot instead of the floor of a tent, and as little contact with wild animals as possible. And don’t get me started on bugs or rats or anything of the sort. (Exception: I would like to go on an African safari in Tanzania or somewhere similiar). Oh, and I LOVE the beach.

Travel delays: I am not a patient person when waiting for inevitable travel delays. I have become much better, and I handle them better when I am traveling alone, but no one will ever accuse me of being too “zen” in any area of my life. If there is going to be a 3-hour delay on a flight, for example, I can handle that, but don’t keep returning to the intercom extending the delay. If the delay is going to be 4 hours, I’d rather be told it’s going to be 5 and be pleasantly surprised that the delay has lasted less time than I expected rather than the other way around. And pointless delays or delays that could have been avoided with better planning or because people are inefficient… let’s not go there.

My sense of direction: It’s not great. It’s a little better than my dad’s at least (sorry, Dad) but it’s not good. Even with GPS when I’m walking around a new city, I get lost. I have to stare at my phone at times and turn around in circles to make sure that I’m facing the correct direction to walk. I can only imagine I look like a crazy person turning in circles staring at my phone. No matter where I am, I don’t know which way is north, south, east, or west, so to tell me to “walk south on Via Appia” gives me little more guidance than just saying to pick any direction and walk.

So those are my biggest travel imperfections. Soon I’ll do a post on the most perfect parts of travel, of which there are many more, and dare I say compose the love of my life.

Erica