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.