So, this is going to be last entry into this blog, so thanks to anyone who read any of it. It has been a great way of keeping in contact with people and also hearing from some people I hadn’t spoken to in a while.
Now that I am back in the much more modest climate of Northern Ireland I would like to reflect on some of the things I may have learnt (like how mentioning sex in your headline is a great way to give a piece a SEO boost).
To give this some structure (and to save on time and effort) I am going to be balancing my experience against those of Chris Ellis who wrote this article called: ‘20 Unforgettable Lessons You Can Learn From Travelling the World’.
I feel this falls within the parameters of fair use, but if I anyone knows anything to the contrary please let me know.
Even though I haven’t really been travelling, I am going to go through the first 10 and see how many of them apply to me. All the bits from the original article are in bold type and my comments are in italics below.
1. You learn a lot about life.
There is nothing like diving out of your comfort zone to make you realize that you are a newbie in life no matter what your age. There are so many things to learn such as how to get a meal in an Italian restaurant when the menus are in Italian and you don’t speak Italian. (Hint: Go to Duolingo.com and learn some of the basic menu items from where you are going. They also have lots of fun language learning games.)
– Fair enough. But you also learn a lot about life from having a job. Or doing your taxes. Or having to organise funeral proceedings for a dead pet. Not having a go, just saying.
2. You are never alone.
You can make friends anywhere. Be the first to smile. Make an effort to join in their celebrations or simply ask them questions about their lives. This is all it takes.
– I’m not sure I agree with this. One of the nice things about knowing people for a long time is that you build subtext and understanding. Having to sit crosslegged in a circle with a bunch of people wearing harem pants listening to sitar music can be a tall order when you just want to talk about the weather.
3. You meet unforgettable people.
Several years ago, I purchased a small apt in Southern Italy. It has been magical.
One of my most treasured friendships is the one I found with the lady who owns the little grocery store in Santa Domenica Talao. Her name is Nunzia and we loved each other from the moment we met.
We still struggle with the language a bit but that doesn’t seem to matter. Every time I arrive, kisses rain down on me, spontaneous hugs erupt out of nowhere and I have been pulled into the bosom of the village through her acceptance and love.
In the morning I go to her shop for coffee. I love to watch as the villagers come in for their produce (buying or selling) and an update on whatever is happening in the village or surrounding area. And every day Nunzia saves the freshest eggs for me behind her counter.
She is an amazing lady whom I adore. Who knew I would find her tending a little store, in a medieval village in Southern Italy?
– I agree with this point here, I do think you meet unforgettable people. Bully to this person for making a buddy for life in Nunzia and getting all those lovely eggs.
Once again, as a cynical adjunct, I would like to say that I am opposed to anyone ever being treated as window dressing in stories about how down with the locals a person might wish to appear. Although this person seems pretty sincere and I don’t think that is what is happening here.
4. You learn to enjoy transient relationships
On a recent trip, I ended up taking the slow train from Cremona in the North to my place down South. I spent 13 hours in a train that stopped at every station. Happily I shared a compartment with a group of people from Naples.
If you have not met folks from Naples, I can tell you that they are so much fun! The train barely started when questions were asked about me, where I was from, where I was going, and what I was interested in. Food was opened and passed around. discussions were had. The young girl next to me asked me to translate every word she could think of into English so she could wow her friends. We had a great time!
At the end, no numbers were exchanged, just simply the promise to look for them when I visit Naples and the idea that Naples will be a perfect destination for my next trip.
– Yeah, pretty happy to go along with this as well. My main focus was trying to learn the language while I was in Colombia so meeting people who I could talk to was pretty agradable.
5. You have to try new things.
Whether you are staring at a menu realizing you have no idea what the items are, or jumping on a bus that you hope will get you somewhere familiar, travel is exciting. You have to do new things. It is all about getting yourself into situations and turning them into amazing experiences.
– That’s fair enough, isn’t it? I also like doing old things though, I have to say. And to my timid mind, getting on a bus “that you hope will get you somewhere familiar” strikes me as the wild idiosyncrasy of someone who has spent the morning huffing gloss paint.
6. There are no “mistakes”
Ok, maybe one or two. Don’t eat anything you would not step on in your bare feet (one of my important life rules) and if the water is not good, don’t drink it or eat anything that has not been cooked.
Other than that, go and have some fun. Read up in the culture before you go and when something goes off plan, turn it into an exciting experience.
Oh and make sure you have an emergency packet of tissues as you never know about train station bathrooms!
– Yeah, this is nice. Don’t be too hard on yourself and see where things take you. Can’t knock that.
7. You find the value in getting lost.
Really! Get lost in a city then wander around. The great thing is there are taxis all over the place and you can always dive into one when you get tired.
There is nothing like being lost in Rome where every street corner has another spectacular sculpture; or being lost in Brussels where every neighborhood has a cluster of bistros or bakeries.
There is so much to see and experience that is not in the guide books. Go off plan and get lost!
– This wisdom definitely applies to the places the writer is talking about in Europe but should come with a health warning elsewhere. I got mugged and pickpocketed while I was away.
If I had been more on the ball I probably could have avoided both of those incidents – and knowing exactly where I was and what to expect probably would have helped.
8. You get out of your environment
Every time I travel, I find that that I can view my life from the outside and find solutions or changes that I never would have seen if I had not gotten away from it all.
As we live our lives, we keep our heads down and we keep going. Any problems we have, we are in them. When you travel, you get outside of them and can solve them.
We always seem to have solutions for other people’s problems but struggle with our own. That is because we are IN our problems and it is difficult to find solutions to something you are inside of.
– While I think I got some perspective from being away, I do instinctively draw back from this.
The reason being is that it purports that people who have been to other countries – especially weird countries – hold a special cache of life experience that isn’t available to those who decided to stay at home.
Plane tickets cost a lot of money and you can probably make yourself a better person by taking up bridge or something like that.
9. You learn to forget the plan.
When I travel, I make an outline but not a rigid plan. There are always things I want to see and do, but the last thing I want is to be a slave to a schedule. Make your trip elastic. See what you want to see but leave lots of time to drift.
Visit the church you stumbled on, on your way to the Vatican or just go out and bob in the sea until dinner time.
I am usually a type A personality but one of my favorite pastimes in Southern Italy is getting my little air mattress and bobbing in the sea. I look at the sky, watch the kids play in the water, think about dinner… I relax. The monuments will be there next time. Don’t deny yourself this luxury!
– I like this. It has a positive message. Relax. Take it easy. It’s like that song Watermelon Man by Herbie Hancock.
10. You learn to talk to people
There is nothing like struggling with another language to get you looking at people as they are. Hilarious grammar errors are made and laughs are shared. It is a golden opportunity to fall in love with people. That is one of my favourite pastimes too!
– Yeah, also agree with this. Trying to bridge the language divide does bring people together.
(So that’s it. Thanks again for reading it. Also – without looking back over what I’ve said – I can be a unnecessarily cynical at times so if I have said anything that annoyed or offended anyone at any point I apologise for that and would like to say that it wasn’t intended. I am thinking about buying an domain and starting a website about the post-fame life of the Duracell bunny so I’ll keep youse posted.)