The Politics of Making Travel Plans
People often ask me why I like to travel alone, and I tell them the truth: I often have different interests than those of my friends, and besides, I can talk to them any day, but when I travel, I have the opportunity to strike up one-on-one conversations with people from foreign lands. It’s more of a survivalist approach: when left to my own devices, to whom can I turn? Locals. And it turns out, they are as interested in me simply because I’m an American, as I in them because they are not. Beyond that, additional people change the dynamic, as people converse differently in groups than as individuals. And, admittedly, I like to be the center of attention; someone else will need to be accommodated.
Then there's the matter of deciding what do you do once you get there. Where do you spend your money and time? Are they not valuable to you and equally valuable to others? I’m not the kind that goes along with the crowd; I’m more apt to say, “Go on ahead without me, I’ll meet up with you later (maybe, but I really hope not).” And that is met with resistance. Suddenly, others feel obligated, not obliged, to hang around with me, and shortly thereafter, other people’s feelings start to sour.
None of this, however, compares to the predicament I find myself in right now. It always begins with the simple, seemingly innocuous question: “So, when do you want to go?” Let me give you some back story to my current sitch.
Last Spring I had a fortuitous opportunity to flee the country for a week. Torn between my favorite place in the world, Paris, and the land of my ancestry, Italy, I came up with a wonderful compromise. I Googled “the most French city in Italy,” or something to that sort. Being very southern Italian, Calabrese to be exact, The Google spit out a city that I certainly would not otherwise have considered, Turin. Turin? As in the Shroud of Turin? Aside from the shroud, the only thing I knew about Turin was that it had hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. But the more I read up on Turin—it’s buildings are modeled on the Baroque and classical style of Versailles, it had been annexed by France for a little more than a decade until the fall of Napoleon in 1814, and it was Italy’s first capital and home to it’s royal family, the House of Savoy—the more of a natural fit it seemed. Booked! Right before I departed, my cousin called and chided me for not inviting her. I told her, “Sorry, but it was, like, a last minute thing, and I only had these specific days free. Hopefully, next year we can take a trip together.” Fast forward to today: that’s looking very unlikely at the moment.
We both grew up in California, but she now resides in Manhattan and I’m in Chicago. She calls me last week to ask if I’d like to go to California with her in mid-April, to which I replied“Maybe.” I should have known at that moment danger was lurking right around the corner. A few days later, I sent her a cryptic text: “No Cali. Think Italy.” So she called me the other day to discuss. “When were you thinking of going to Italy?” she asked. “Late May or the first week of June.” I like to break my year up into thirds: Spring in Europe for a week, Fall in New York week during the US Open, and California for the holidays. That’s how homey rolls.
“May? Really? May is too soon,” she said. (Too soon for whom? Certainly not me.) “I’ll be in Cali in the middle of April and I won’t be able to get time off that soon.” So I asked, “When were you thinking?” “September,” she replied.
Predictable. What was I thinking..?