Due Settimana in Italia
An Apolitical Travelogue
by Eric S. Piotrowski
Afterword: Trip Like I Do
I think two weeks is a decent length for a vacation. That's how long I was in East Timor, and it balances being able to see sufficient parts of the country with getting home in a reasonable time.
I should say right off the back that my feelings on tourism and travel are reflected well in Jamaica Kincaid's landmark book A Small Place. In it, she writes:
. . . you are thinking of the hard and cold and dark and long days you spent working in North America (or worse, Europe), earning some money so that you could stay in this place (Antigua) where the sun always shines and where the climate is deliciously hot and dry for the four to ten days you are going to be staying there; and since you are on your holiday, since you are a tourist, the tought of what it might be like for someone who had to live day in, day out in a place that suffers constantly from drought, and so has to watch carefully every drop of fresh water used (while at the same time surrounded by a sea and an ocean the Caribbean Sea on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other), must never cross your mind.
Actually, I experience the reverse of this scenario: When traveling, I think constantly of what life might be like for the folks who live in the places through which I'm passing. Every detail sends me on a reverie about local life: Does this graffiti signal a deep yearning for individual recognition, or is it just the idle artwork of bored teenagers? Do folks hang clothes out to dry because they can't afford a dryer, or because they prefer sun-dried clothes? And always, always: I wonder what they think of me?
I'm very aware of the geographical baggage I carry outside these borders, and I'm always eager to reassure people in other lands that not all folks from the US are arrogant, obnoxious, and selfish. At the same time, I often wish I could indicate that I agree with their prejudice, since many US citizens are these things. (Of course, it's often weird for me to say so to people in other countries, so I hold off until conversation allows.)
By and large, I've found that most people I meet in other countries are open-minded and willing to take me as an individual, rather than as a representative of the USA. (It may be that this whole mindset I'm discussing is itself a US-centric construction.)
They say that travel is good for the mind and the soul; I certainly agree. While I'm a total homebody (and pretty nervous on a plane), I do like getting away once in a while. I think getting out of the US is especially important for people here, who are so very quick to have opinions about places they've never been even as the US government and corporate world have a tremendous impact on what happens overseas.
Our trip to Italy was memorable for many reasons, but of course I will think of it most fondly as a time of tenderness and pleasure with my fantastic new wife. May the gods continue to bless us with happiness and good health.
Special thanks go out to Diane (of course) and to you, the reader. I hope you've enjoyed my words and pictures and links to wacky websites. (I think the "Why the iPod Sucks" video is my favorite, although I also really liked finding the Spanish-language Mmm Compilation.) I'd also like to specially thank Soma FM, whose excellent station Groove Salad sustained me through much of my work here.
Finally: I really like getting email. If you've enjoyed this thing, please drop me a line and say hello.