A funny thing happens the minute I walk into an airport. I become someone else. There is something … magical after four or six or eight or more hours on an airplane. It’s like re-booting a computer. I become someone — not different — but more. I become a better version of myself. Suddenly I’m more confident and witty and capable and worldly. Some people love to gamble. They like to believe that some strategy or skill or bit of good luck allows them to beat the system. Well, that’s how I feel about travel. Most people consider travel just a means to an end: that fabulous vacation spot perhaps. I might be weird, but I like the actual travel itself.
From the moment I walk in, the game begins. I compare every airport and their personnel. Print my boarding pass from my computer before I leave home? You bet. Check in curbside or at a kiosk? Yup. Buy a better bag so I’m hands free going through boarding or in the bathroom? Done. Read every article about how to make your flight go better? Yes, indeed. To travel comfortably you have to suspend your sense of control over what happens next. It’s going to be what it’s going to be and you have to learn to roll with it. My niece calls that “getting your Zen on”. I just like being released from having to be in charge. I’m kind of a control freak, but I also think I’m pretty smart. I embrace the slip on shoes, wireless bra, no belt, three ounce liquids in a clear plastic bag and carry-on size rules. I’m glad those people are serious about airport security even if they feel around on my body. I take my own blanket in the form of a wrap and have the best damned travel pillow ever. I’ve got the apps and the frequent flyer program. I drink the Airborne laced water, I use the disinfectant wipes on my seat and tray. I even clean up in the bathroom and brag about it to the flight attendants. I judge every person I come in contact with from the TSA agents to the waitresses in the bars. I have favorite airports and ones I’d rather never have to be in again. Often it’s the bathroom attendant or the grumpy looking customs agent who will make my day better. I’m at the ready with a smile and friendly greeting. And even though I like to pretend I know things about travel that no one else does, I know it’s basically playing the odds. Do it often enough and not only will you enjoy the vouchers and the discount prices and the occasional free upgrade, but you’ll also get your share of crap. It’s always the people who make the experience better and once I’m calm and friendly they will be too. You get what you give in an airport and mastery over one’s frustration is the best start — because there will most assuredly one day be frustration.
Now I haven’t been everywhere I’d like to be, but I’ve been a few places. My next adventure is taking me back to Italy. I’ve been to the Amalfi coast and enjoyed the sweet little sea side town of Sorrento, a fabulous trip that will be recounted on another blog entry one day. Yes, I’m headed back to Italy, in eighteen days. I’m going alone and leaving on my 54th birthday to Florence and then to Sienna and if I can successfully navigate, I’ll be visiting the tiny little town of Montepulciano — a name you may recognize from a wine bottle or two. This Corkscrew Adventure is taking me to the heart of Tuscany, people!
I’ve been studying Italian through Rosetta Stone so I might be able to order a salad (insalata) rather than soup (minestra) and talk to the locals about vintages and various dishes (pietanze). I know from past excursions in foreign languages that the most important phrase you can use is, “Please speak slowly” (parle lentemente per favore). I also think it’s respectful to be able to say “please” and “thank you” (grazie) in the native language. If you follow along with me here, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Obviously, before you can go on a trip, you’ve got to PLAN a trip and this is where your inner control freak can rule! I’ve studied maps and researched train tickets and museum passes and booked my Delta flight and my rooms. But this is when my first stupid travel stunt occurred. I used Booking.com but I did it late at night after a hard work week and got sloppy. I booked everything at once because, as you know if you’ve ever been on one of those sites, all the rooms are “filling up fast … one left at this price”, without making sure I was getting refundable rooms. Most of them you can cancel and change right up until the day before, but you have to be careful and book a refundable room. When I went back to research a little more I found a more reasonably priced room, but I had purchased one nonrefundable one. I could have saved myself a couple hundred dollars. Lesson learned! Don’t panic.
I’m increasing my language lessons and restraining my excitement, but I’ll be making regular entries for this trip and I hope you’ll join me. Perhaps next we’ll explore a little history. So, ciao, la mia amiche, I’ll be in touch.