The truth about traveling

I’m re-reading Eat, Pray, Love right now, remembering that I adored it the first time. Plus the “Eat” portion takes place in Rome and the author is simply smitten with our new town, reminding me of all the beautiful things to see and of course eat. I particularly loved this passage both then and now…

Truthfully I’m not the best traveler in the world.

I know this because I’ve met people who are great at it. Real naturals. I’ve met travelers who are so physically sturdy they could drink a shoebox of water from a Calcutta gutter and never get sick. People who can pick up new languages where others of us might only pick up infectious diseases. People who are the right height and complexion that they kind of look halfway normal wherever they go–in Turkey they just might be Turks, in Mexico they are suddenly Mexican, in Spain they could be mistaken for a Basque, in Northern Africa they can sometimes pass for Arab…

I don’t have these qualities. First off, I don’t blend. Tall and blond (CC: make that short and reddish) and pink-complexioned, I am less a chameleon than a flamingo.

I’m bad (or, rather, lazy) at researching a place before I travel, tending to just show up and see what happens. When you travel this way, what typically “happens” is that you end up spending a lot of time standing in the middle of the train station feeling confused or dropping way too much money on hotels because you don’t know better. My shaky sense of direction and geography means I have explored six continents in my life with only the vaguest idea of where I am at any given time. Aside from my cockeyed internal compass, I also have a shortage of personal coolness, which can be a liability in travel. I have never learned how to arrange my face into that blank expression of competent invisibility that is so useful when traveling in dangerous, foreign places. You know–that super-relaxed, totally-in-charge expression which makes you look like you belong there, anywhere, everywhere, even in the middle of a riot in Jakarta. Oh, no. When I don’t know what I’m doing, I look like I don’t know what I am doing. When I am excited or nervous, I look excited or nervous. And when I am lost, which is frequently, I look lost. My face is a transparent transmitter of my every thought. As David once put it, “You have the opposite of poker face. You have, like…miniature golf face.”

This is why I like Paul.


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