My Mediterranean Summer Adventure: A Prelude

July 24, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

“Why do the wrong people travel, travel, travel

When the right people stay at home?

What peculiar obsessions

Inspire those processions

Of families from Houston, Tex,

With all those cameras around their necks?

They will take a train

Or an aeroplane

For an hour on the Costa Brava,

And they’ll see Pompeii

On the only day

That it’s up to its ass in molten lava!

Millions of tourists are churning up the gravel

While they gaze at St. Peter’s Dome,

But why oh WHY do the wrong people travel

When the right people stay at home.”

- Noel Coward, “Why Do They Wrong People Travel?”

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I am high right now and not on life or illegal substances but on something I hadn’t considered particularly euphoric in the past and that’s travel. Oh yes, my friends, travel has flipped my worldview on its head and made me appreciate life in a new way. I went to bed last night at 9 pm and woke up this morning at 6 completely invigorated. At my daily coffee shop, my urge to order a latte was nearly trumped by a new desire for an espresso. (The latte, I must say, won. But there was a real battle, I tell you, a real battle.) Mostly, though, I’m just kind of buzzed: I’m sitting here right now and I feel worldly-wise. Or just worldly. It’s a great feeling.

There is so much I want to tell you and I keep stalling and stalling because I don’t know where to begin. In the past two and a half weeks I chased pigeons in St. Mark’s square, climbed the walls of Dubrovnik, survived the rough seas of Sardinia and won a battle with pink eye using expired eye drops my mom had with her. There were celebrity encounters (how could there not be?!), fabulous lavish meals and wonderful quiet moments in places I never dreamt of before. (Santorini, I’ll say right now, is one of my new favorite places.)

Cruising is not my ideal or recommended way of seeing the world. My parents like it because of the convenience—it’s a floating hotel and each and every port brings the promise of a familiar bed and no unpacking. For my taste, I prefer to really plant my feet in a city and experience it in every way possible: the language, the customs, the hotel bedding, what kind of cereal they serve at breakfast. Immersion would be my preference but, then again, I wasn’t paying. And with this cruise (we were on the Crystal Serenity, a beautiful ship albeit an expensive one!) we went to many places that I can honestly say I’d probably never have gone to were it not on our itinerary (Rhodes, Dubrovnik, Santorini, Sardinia.) I think of cruising now as a tasting menu for life’s four-star restaurant (hey it may be cheesy but it’s apt!): you try a little of everything, a little Croatia on a piece of toast, and you see what you like and what you don’t and you’ll know what to order next time you go.

I started this post with the lyrics from that Noel Coward song because (a) the lyrics are brilliant and (b) he has a really good point. Why DO they wrong people travel? As I made my way around the world, the throngs of gum-smacking American tourists yelling for McDonalds (and I’m not making that up: in St. Mark’s square I heard several people excitedly tell their friends that they found a McDonalds) had me gasping at how much is wasted on the typical American tourist. These people are in Venice and they’re eating fried kangaroo* meat! What gives! (*NOTE: my friend Derek once told me that McDonald’s uses kangaroo meat in its burgers. We were in 7th grade and I think this was meant to gross me out but it merely had me wondering why McDonald’s bothered to kill kangaroos when cows are much more readily available in America.)

The truth is, though, that eight years ago I was in Venice with my high school gifted program (yes, I was gifted—or, to use the correct term, “special.” I rode a “special” bus.) and I was the kid who yelled gleefully to my friends: “Hey friends! I found a McDonalds!” And yes we ate burgers and fries with great enthusiasm in Venice. The idea of it now doesn’t horrify me or make me gasp with elitist contempt. It actually makes me smile to see how far I’ve come. It’s not about class or education or entitlement as much as its about openness. That’s who the “right people” are when it comes to travel: those who are open to new experience, new ideas, new customs and new flavors.

“It’s hard to make them accept a steak that isn’t served rare and smeared with ketchup,” writes Coward in his song. He’s probably describing my dad who, it often seems, would gladly subsist on a diet of steak, Fritos and ice cream. Yet dad sat through a meal I forced upon him Dubrovnik at a small family-run restaurant even though he had a look of sheer terror on his face. By the end of the trip, he, my brother and I hiked down a busy highway in Sardinia to eat at an obscure restaurant populated completely by locals. Dad loved it. Well he liked it. He told my mom: “it was very good.” Miracles can happen abroad.

All this is to say that before we get started on the journey (and there are over 200 pictures to share!) I want to inspire you as much as I can to get out of the country and see the world. I don’t know your economic situation, your familial responsibilities, how demanding your boss is. All I know is that if you can find a way to go abroad you really must. If you’ve read this far, Noel Coward would agree: you’re the right people. Go travel. Now on with the show!

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  • HeatherG

    You are so right, AG. In every sense. I, too, ate McDonalds with glee while abroad – Paris, no less. But a year later, I was very happily eating in places (Ios? Naxos? Paros?) where the proprietor took you back to the kitchen and asked you to point at what you wanted to eat – and you chose from four or five bubbling pots and pans of ???? all tended with care by an elderly old woman who was probably his grandmother… you didn’t know what it was but you didn’t care because it was delicious….

    Oh, and AG: I HAVE eaten kangaroo. And it wasn’t in a McDonalds. It was really tasty.

  • http://bigapplediningguide.com Michael Mahle

    they look like razor clams to me, but I’m not 100% on that.

    Sounds and looks like a great trip.

    MM

  • Jackie

    Better yet, live abroad. I studied abroad in Florence and London while I was at NYU. Now I work in Hong Kong and I’m Sydney for 2 month for work. It does get lonely in the begining but you get great experience out of it.

  • Jean

    Adam, I escorted a group of Canadian tourists through France last month and McDos was always their first “restaurant” choice. Just wondering how you knew they were all Americans? LOL,quite possible there were a few Canadians in the bunch.

  • Ki

    I ate those in Jesolo about a mile up from Venice. My g/f ordered and she told me the Italian name, which of course, I forgot. But they taste pretty good. If you can overlook the worm look to them and the sand when cooked.