This was our 7th long trip – trips of 6 weeks or more – since my official transition from full-time work and my discovery of a passion for travel of this nature. With each of the previous 6 trips, I felt there was a deep, important learning related to the travel process – the kind of travel we wanted to do, the experiences that really nourished our soul and those that didn’t, the realizations of the restrictions our aged bodies and minds were going to impose on us, the realistic amount of time we should be gone, how to manage our home and remaining business, how best to deal with transitioning over many time zones with the least ill effect, how to transition from our living at home state to our travel state and back, etc.
I feel this trip was much more a harvesting of that learning rather than the exposition of some deep new learning. We successfully integrated the learning from the trip last spring to Asia. Even though we were predominately in one country, we moved frequently and covered a number of different, very different regions. The addition of Albania was a welcome diversion into the vast, non-wealthy world that we get so much out of. We mixed our modes of transportation so no one got on our nerves. The length seemed just right; long enough for the real travel experience feeling but not so long that you felt you wish you were home with weeks to go. We still pushed ourselves hard but seemed to have enough restraint that it did not seem to be over the top or more than we could handle.
Yet to say that there was no learning on this trip would be totally wrong. I would say that the learning was more in the positive vein. More of “Oh yes, this is good and we should plan to do more of this.” Or “That wasn’t as great as it could be but if we changed it thus, it could really be good.”
So let’s run down some of the general impressions of the trip and then get into the overall analysis.(Impressions in no specific order of occurrence or importance)
· We’ve traveled enough in Italy that there was little in the way of adjustment when we arrived which was actually a bit of a weird feeling.
· Italian food is so good it is hard to get a bad meal. You almost have to work at it. I mean even when we were in Rome and were in the most touristy sections, we kept having excellent food. The first couple of weeks, I had posts focusing just on food. By the end of our time, good eating was so normal that I just fit them into the daily posts.
· And on the subject of food in Italy, can I just say there may be nothing more sublime than the pasta there. While on the same note, with one exception, I was not that impressed with the pizza – think there is plenty of good pizza at home and that we ourselves make pretty damn good pizza.
· Even though we’ve been to Italy, this was the first time we really focused on art and the churches. I was quite taken by just how different the churches are from styles one sees in the rest of Western Europe with their extensive internal art work, baptisteries, etc.
· And really, do you think there is some final upper limit on the number of churches, cathedrals, basilicas, mosques, temples that Wife and I are willing to visit? All evidence points to there being none.
· The whole ‘learning’ aspect of our travel is becoming more and more important. By that I mean all types of things we are learning. On this trip I had a major breakthrough in my appreciation of art and a similar one on the use of my camera and the photographs I was taking. Also learning all about Albania and the Salento was very expanding.
· My breakthrough with photography has put my interests more in line with Wife’s and led to Wife and I starting to really look forward to our times when we can just wander a place looking for things photographable.
· Can anyone tell me why so many Renaissance paintings have a woman with a single breast exposed?
· I continue to be amazed by Wife’s ability to communicate with people of other languages even though she speaks not a word of their language. There were three occasions – buying crackers at a store, laundry detergent at another, and getting the laundromat to work – where with no inhibition whatsoever she began talking with women – she in English, they in Italian – and somehow whatever needed to be figured out was figured out. Amazing!
· Favorites of the trip? It is so hard but I think I would say Ravenna (OMG!) Parma Duomo, Siena Duomo, and the little church in the Salento with the Byzantine paintings.
· Finally experiences, those small moments where you meet people and have these incredible interactions. My favorites from this trip are:
o The Japanese woman from Yokohama who wanted me to take her picture and we chatted about the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
o The lawyer in Bologna who got us into the yard of the famous poet
o The bar owner in Albania with the brother in New York
o The miracle of the local boys smiles lighting up at our guide’s home town in Albania
o Our interaction with the good looking host at a Firenze bar who was Albanian and all excited about our trip to Albania
o The long conversation we had with our Firenze photo workshop guide and our fellow participant who was from Canada and seeing another side to Canada
o Meeting the three women in Burtrint who came from the Salento and were astonished that we had been there just the week before.
Sigh, so many cool little things that spice up the travel experience.So there you have it. Less cosmic revelations, more organic growing into our command and appreciation of our travel experience.