What is it about the magic of travel, meeting new people, learning a few vital words of the local language, exploring diverse cultures, and tasting indigenous meals and wine? Separated from our daily routines and customs, a sense of liberation from the familiar patterns which define us. Despite my sometimes-intense travel schedule, I relish the Journey and after I return, the sweet memories and experiences begin to crystallize. I always ask my clients to learn at least 20 words of a local language, to show respect and deepen their cultural experience, learn at least please and thank you.
My recent cooking class with NY Times writer David Tanis at the Anna Tasca Lanza School in Sicily added many new Italian food words to my limited vocabulary. We especially clung to acciuga, properly pronounced, it sounds like a sneeze, it means anchovy; it became a favorite word every day along with puma, passaporta, gelo di Mellone, lampo (lightening), va bene, quasi tutto and of course, the greetings which change depending on the hour of the day – it was challenging to remember when Buon Giorno should change to Buena Serra and later to Buena Notte. We enthusiastically murmured Ciao and remembered it should be Arrivederci, so we said both!
Taking the wrong train back to Milano from Lake Como due to a ticket dispenser saying get on the next traina resulted in enjoying the countryside at a slow pace and a station stop every few minutes with locals hopping on and off – it added 30 minutes to our trip sans air conditioning; but we knew we had our passaporta’s, thus if we ended up in another country, we would be va bene! Even the smirk of the conductor when I asked Dove sede 55 & 56, was worth the mistake – he looked at us like we were Lucy & Ethel – you are on the wronga traina, its nota my faulta! He didn’t fine us for having incorrect tickets and eventually asked if we could make change for 20 Euro, of coursa, va bene, we replied. We made another new acquaintance, viewed the regional countryside, explored a modern Milano train station. The slight inconvenience has added priceless laughter in describing the goof to friends and family, an experience to treasure. When I saw the graffiti, I hoped the luxury coach we took to Lake Como might be further back on the train!
The interactions, the getting lost (in my case, this was often)…I discovered that my friend was just as gps challenged as I, after her trust me declarations resulted in an extra distance from our destination, further lost, I took my phone out with us, goggle maps does work, even in a village of winding cobblestone streets. We made every attempt to decipher an Italian dinner menu our first night in Milano. Lack of language actually endeared us to many and our genuine attempts at practicing our developing vocabulary created new friends- with our guide, our movie actor room ambassador, in restaurants, taxi cabs, and olive oil farms. We received a note from our handsome movie actor Ambassador: Gwendolyn, where are you today? I miss your American vibe! Raffaello.
Even our guide eventually adapted my phrase endlessly uttered to me by an Italian man in Milano many years ago, Pay Attencione – which was a caution that I was going to be run over – however, he repeated it so often, it began to sound like an order…on narrow streets with Italian drivers, it’s an important phrase.
Making an effort at embracing life, traveling despite the world chaos, choosing exploration rather than fear, this is important at home and out in the enormous glorious world.