A journey of 10,000 miles has to begin somewhere

March 22, 2019

“It may look as if I am seeking something; but I am seeking nothing.”

–Pio Baroja

My brother from another mother?

Someone asked Carol and I recently whether we met any interesting people on our travels. Carol found the question amusing, as it had been addressed to me as well as her. Carol has observed that about the only other entities I go more out of my way to avoid besides museums, ruins of any kind and churches are people. It begs the question then, as to how I get any enjoyment out of travel, but I do. It’s a mystery.

This one managed to perfectly block out the famous Florence cathedral dome

Carol enjoys asking total strangers to take our picture. Since neither of us has a clue (apparently) of how to set up a selfie, she asks many strangers and quite frequently, I might add, to take a photo of us together. Since for me, talking to a stranger feels like watching a bullfight, I can’t bear to watch her request unfold. I usually turn away as Carol cheerfully approaches, say, an Estonian who speaks only Estonian who cheerfully nods his or her approval. Somehow I manage to conceal my cringing retreat from the encounter with a believable smile pasted just long enough on my face to produce an acceptable photo. I offer the Estonian my heartfelt thanks, not for the picture, but that the human exchange is thankfully over.

We just made it into the frame!

It goes without saying that I don’t routinely ask for directions, even when totally lost and Carol really has to pee. It’s not only because I’m a male, which is certainly part of it, but that it’s primarily to avoid the social interaction. To purchase train reservations, I prefer to hand the agent a prepared note, and when registering for our room, I rely on my instincts to figure out how the keys work. Carol will say I exaggerate here, but then she will admit that it’s not by much. (In Pisa I took a principled stand on not asking anyone where the tower was. We found it on our own, thanks to the fact that it is the only structure in Pisa that quite noticeably leans.)

She made sure she got our sneakers, too!

Back to self photos for a moment. There are exceptions to my “no contact” rule. In one of the Cinque Terre towns, I was intrigued by the owner of a little seaside pizzeria. Something about his Einstein hair and round, red rimmed glasses suggested someone I might have looked like had I been able to keep my hair and have been outgoing enough to want to own a restaurant. Carol knew I wanted a picture with the guy, and also knew I would never ask him myself. So while I went to the WC, she arranged everything on my behalf.

At one point in our travels, I peppered a couple we were visiting in Tuscania about residency requirements and buying property in Italy. When Carol asked, I explained I hadn’t completely given up the idea of living in italy.

“But why would you ever want to live here?” she asked.

“I like the places and the people,” I answered without hesitation.

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