To be completely honest, I have never been interested in taking a road trip.
I have dreamed of traveling to exotic foreign locations like New Zealand, Brazil, and Turkey, but the thought of being a “tourist” in my own country never sounded so fabulous. I wasn’t interested, and for years I traipsed through Europe and hung out down in South America. It wasn’t until I was teaching English in Brazil that I started to wonder if I was missing out on something.
I recently read a few pages from the book Art of Traveling by Alain de Botton. He describes how we view our worlds when we are traveling versus when we are “at home” or in a routine. I started thinking about how my own perspective on life differs when I’m traveling and when I’m in a routine.To me, traveling is one of the most exciting activities because I am acutely aware of what is going on around me.
The sky is gray as I step out of my hotel, but I am noticing unusual amounts of cheery red and white outfits on the street. More and more red and white is passing by until the street bursts into a surge of santas….in Starbucks lines, at crosswalks, and in the street enthusiastically handing out chocolates and candies as they prance towards Union Square.
Sometimes I wonder how I am world traveler yet still get myself into naive culturally embarrassing situations. I guess I know on some level that I’m asking for trouble, but I choose to ignore it.
“I have the taxi parked over there,” the local man in a striped shirt and baseball cap says pointing to a construction site several hundred yards away, “Just follow me.” My friends bob along behind him like ducks in a row on the sandy road while I attempt to squelch my uneasiness. It’s a hot sunny day, and we have just debarked from the cruise ship–our sanitized floating Europe–to explore the desert terrain of mysterious Tunisia.
Little Italy light posts, photo by -luz-/Flickr Creative Commons License.
Walking in San Francisco is a underestimated task. These hills are not for the fainthearted. This is a workout where your legs are burning and you are panting a little at the top of each hill. “Maybe we should turn around?” my mom suggests.
We have been walking, more like hiking, for seven blocks and nothing is looking remotely Italiano. “I can’t come all the way to San Francisco and not see Little Italy! One more hill? And then we can turn back,” I bargain with my mom.
One hill turns into 3 rather steep hills, but I am starting to see Italian flags on the light posts and I just cannot give up now.
Living in the favela is a sort of bad-ass status symbol for foreigners–a sign that you are not just a passing “gringo” that is viewing Brazilian culture from behind glass, but really getting into the meat of the situation.
I am this kind of traveler. I want to push the limits, get to know people, and feel what it’s really like to live in the country I’m visiting.