Things I Learned From: Traveling

I went to Florence and Rome over the holidays this year.  People were very excited for me, as good friends ought to be, but immediately I found myself exhausted by everyone asking me if I was excited and TELLING me how much fun I would have, as if staying home to watch all of the West Wing and try every Thai delivery place within 5 miles wouldn’t have been equally as exciting.  You HAVE to go to this gelato/pizza/pasta place.  You HAVE to!  Pretty sure I don’t have to do a goddamn thing it’s my vacation and I will sit and complain about the bad Wifi in my hotel room ALL WEEK LONG if I want to!  I also travel a lot for work so the mix of work travel and pleasure travel has led me to a few conclusions about how I function when traveling.

1.  I am not a tourist.  Ok, obviously I was a tourist when I was abroad.  What I mean is that I don’t really want to go see the Trevi fountain (pause for GASP), I’d rather go sit in the corner of a coffee shop and watch the locals come and go all day.  I did see the Colliseum/Leaning tower/Trevi but my favorite thing was after Christmas dinner when my best friend and I wandered into one of the few bars that was open on Christmas that had a cover band playing a mix of 70s American hits and Italian music.  Everyone assumed we were Italian and didn’t get how we knew ALL the words to American Girl.  It was my favorite moment in a very long time, vodka tonics nonwithstanding.  I’d rather feel like I am a part of a place than be able agree that yes, the Coliseum is very old. 

2.  There is a huge difference between traveling and taking a vacation.  I travel to some cool cities for work.  I live in Houston for two and a half weeks, Austin and San Antonio for a week and then drive down the central coast of California for a week.  It doesn’t suck.  At the same time, it is not a vacation where I go out until 2am on a Saturday or lay by the pool on a casual Wednesday afternoon.  The work is repetitive and tiring, I’m all over the place in a suit and car that isn’t mine and I am all by myself.  This means that at 3pm when I am done with work I don’t want to hear myself talk let alone have anyone talk to me for at least 4 hours at which point I will go to a restaurant as a party of one and force them to give me a table because people want to TALK to you at the bar before going back to my hotel room to watch Netflix and get up at 6am again.  Yes, I go to some great restaurants and do some impressive outlet shopping.  But I’m there to do a job, not explore the night life.  When I travel for work I see movies, I go to Whole Foods, I try to make my day to day as close to my real life as possible.  On a vacation, all I do is sit by a body of water and move only to get more coffee/wine/french fries.  Don’t get the two twisted.  

3.  Sometimes, I do like other people.  In my office, we all discuss how being on the road does things to you.  Things you would never do in your real life.  For some, it’s getting clean towels every day.  Others order 3 appetizers just to try them because #perdiem.  Most of us all get to a point where we just start talking to strangers.  I’m an introvert and yet when I am on the road I make friends.  I have educated people about my iPad.  I have given unsolicited movie advice.  I have had a philosophical conversation with a man in an airport about why I collect airline rewards points if I don’t know where I want to go with them.  There are all different kinds of people out there and contrary to some people’s belief, some are genuinely nice and interesting.  I believe there is value to be found in every interaction you have–I just need 30 minutes of alone time afterward.  

4.  Just because you travel doesn’t mean you are interesting.  It’s no secret that I am on a few online dating sites.  One of the most common things I see in profiles is someones love of travel.  I love to explore!  I always have my passport handy!  I get antsy if I haven’t been out of the country in 3 months!  ADVENTURE!   You know what makes me antsy?  Running late.  Not being able to find a parking spot.  TSA lines.  Meals with more than 4 people.  I am lucky that I have had the opportunity to travel in my life but if you polled my friends I bet <25% would know I was a Spanish major and have studied abroad twice.  Why?  Most of the anecdotes people enjoy about me have occurred in my day to day life because sometimes simply living the life I’ve worked hard to build is adventure enough.  Just because you have been to Peru doesn’t mean you are an interesting person.  Boring people get passports every day.  Besides, the best adventures are unplanned.