Saturday, January 09, 2016

All You Hear Is Time Stand Still In Travel

(Signed up for Xirkl yet? Do so! It's free and you'll get early-adopter credit! If you haven't read it yet, here is the story of how my daughter created it.)  

“So, Quinn, you’ve known you were going on a three-week long trip Italy for…how long now?”

“Four months.”

“And since you didn’t speak a word of Italian, I’m assuming you’ve spent that time with a tutor, rushing to get up to speed with the language.”


“A quick immersion class through a local community college?”

“You’d think.”

Rosetta Stone?”

“Excellent program. However, one I did not use.”

“Quick immersion? Flash cards? Did you even so much as glance at Sophia Loren?”


I’m disconcerted how often in my life someone watching my behavior begins a sentence with “What normal person…”

Yes, a normal person with discretionary income and a certain amount of free time upon being told they were going to Italy would probably make an attempt at the Italian language.  And sure, many people would never take the plastic wrapper off their ITALIAN FOR AMERICANS  (“The Secret To Yelling Slowly and In English”) workbook/DVD but, darn it, they’d spend the money. I’ve certainly bought things that had less immediate relevance (looking at you, tennis racket). So why did I completely fail at even pretending I was going to learn Italian?

Because I was completely appalled I was going to Italy and this was my tiny self-immolating rebellion.

Say it along with me now:

“What normal person doesn’t want to go to Italy?”

First of all, I never said I was normal; my ex-boyfriend once threw out the excellent theory I was a beta-test of human they didn’t end up going forward with.  Second, here’s what it looks like from my beta-test perspective.  I am a nearly prototypical introvert about to spend twenty-five days with many strangers. “But,” you extroverts protest, “You’ll become friends with those people!”

Possibly. Or, they are nearly all between 19 and 22 years old, except the ones who are taking this trip as part of their retirement adventure, and I’m virtually incapable of small talk, let alone small talk for twenty five days at stretch with people at very different stages of life. Add to this that I don’t want to mortify the kid by being any weirder than I absolutely have to be and I suspect I’ll be known as “God, what was her name? The mute one.”

Speaking of 19 year olds, the housing in Rome -- where we will be based – is two people per bedroom, couples housed together. You are currently thinking I’m with my daughter, which would make sense, except that my daughter is staying in the room next door with three very sweet girls who are friends of hers and I am sharing a bedroom with a 19 year-old who is not related to me. The good news is that if she strews her clothing all over the place, I will feel nothing more than “Huh. So they all do this,” as opposed to the stroke-inducing rage I feel when my own teen does it. But the fact remains; I’m spending the better part of a month sharing a dorm room. She seems like a terrific kid but let me remind you, I’m an introvert. My sharing a bedroom with this girl seems only slightly less intimate than sharing a toothbrush.

And then just when I start to make my peace with “Quinn who shares a bedroom with a stranger,” we move to Florence, then Venice, then back to Rome, then Bologna, then back to Rome. “Oh, the art! The food! The CULTURE!” you are justifiably crowing and you may call me ungracious at any time. But if you have a cat, imagine your cat on this trip. Like a housecat, I like predictable patterns, I like a certain illusion of control and I have been known the vomit when moved against my will.  I am most certainly not wired to gallivant.

The final reason I don’t want to go, the biggest reason I don’t want to go, is that when I was nine years old, my father suddenly died here in Los Angeles when my mother and I were in New York. TRAVEL = LOSS is part of my DNA. And yes, it just happened the once but it happened when my brain was still setting up like a Jell-O mold and no amount of reasoning or cajoling is going to coax it out.  When I travel not only do I experience the regular kind of homesickness, where you realize how far you are from your familiar routines, I experience what I think of as timesickness, where out of nowhere I’m flooded with how long it’s been since I saw my father, how many days it has been since my world blew apart. Because even though I grew up to be functional in a “Beta-test they didn’t go with” way, the day my father died every single thing I knew, understood and believed also died. I built a fairly good replacement model of a life, of me, but timesickness feel like the first day after he died all over again, if only for a few minutes or hours. Skype can ease homesickness; I have yet to find a cure for timesickness. I’d cheerfully spend the rest of my life avoiding places that made me feel that way.

In sum, this Italy adventure is the trip of a lifetime; it’s just not the trip of my lifetime. But the trip of my lifetime would involve never doing anything I haven’t done a thousand times before. Candidly, at this moment, that sounds unbelievably good but I can’t lock my kid in the human Habitrail I built for myself. When she was tiny I looked at her and thought, “You will be miles better and braver than your mother.” And she will be.

Tomorrow morning, we leave for Italy.

Wish me bon voyage.

And please tell me how to say that in Italian.


Blogger Judy said...

But you ARE doing it! Bravo!

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

Sending you lots of positive thoughts for your journey. Empathy hugs on the "timesickness"...So perfectly stated and what a spot-on way to describe the horror. When my dad died when I was 10, I was in the same house, but the same thing happened in a different way...It doesn't seem to ease over time, does it? I try to avoid things that recreate that feeling in me, and I truly hope this trip somehow doesn't do that to you.

I hope your trip ends up being joyful and fulfilling and all kinds of fun. Praying that you and your daughter have many lovely experiences in Italy!

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Viaggio securo! I hope it won't be as bad as you fear, and want you to give yourself a huge pat on the back for going through with it! She IS braver than you, and that is a testament to the parenting you received, and passed on. Meanwhile, as you mentioned, you get new blog posts out of it (or even a book?).

5:24 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

First, your mention of timesickness hit me like a full body blow. I know all about it. I'm an only child, and lost my father when I was 8. So, pretty much with you there. It does grab you at unexpected (AND expected) times, shakes you like a rag doll - but it finally lets you go. So, hold on.

Second - remember you are not alone. You are with your gregarious daughter who I am sure is wise and kind enough not to leave you alone too much.She will be enthusiastic about cramming as much Italian into her brain as she possibly can. All you have to do is stick close, let her talk for you and, if necessary by using hand signals, imply that you are not speaking because you want your daughter to learn for herself. Look at it as an acting challenge.

Third. The food really is good, and there will be lots of vegetarian options. If you make it to the Jewish section in the "oldest" part of Rome, there is supposed to be a restaurant inside an ancient building/wine cellar that makes incredible fried artichokes. In fact, that whole section is redolent of the techniques and dishes beloved by Yotam Ottolenghi, and a fabulous mixture of Roman/middle eastern/Hebrew vegetarian cuisine.

Fourth. Think art. Think history. Think museums where you are EXPECTED to be quiet! Think of walking in the streets of ancient cities where people had to flee to the hills due to PLAGUE - it's almost a dream come true. There has NEVER been a plague in LA, if you don't count the movie industry (remember, I used to work in it, too!)

Fifth. It is only 25 days. You can make 25 days. It's less than a month.

Finally. This, too, shall pass. And your lovely, adventuresome daughter will have had the trip of her lifetime (so far!)


Maggie-beth Rees Rasor

5:36 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I'm that kind of person who can be totally outgoing, the life of the party, but then I need a LOT of alone time. I will travel as much as I can, for as long as I can. But I vacillate between needing my very own room for at least a couple of days and wanting to stay in a 12 bed female dorm. I prefer either of these things to sharing a room with one stranger, no matter how nice she is, so you have my complete sympathy.

I spent several weeks traveling through Italy with my sister this past Spring and neither of us spoke Italian. Download a few language apps to your phone and get a local sim card. All of that is cheap and is good for when you absolutely need to make yourself understood. But I will say that, in several weeks, I only used them a few times.

I would still get an Italian sim card, though.

My nephew lived for a year in Spain and Italy, going to school abroad. When he traveled, it was with a group of friends, and he just never seemed to miss being connected when he was out and about. The only internet he had was in his apartment and at school. Since you are traveling with a group, you probably won't need it either.

But my sister was dying while she waited for me to get her phone unlocked when we got to Europe. I got all of my family's phones unlocked before they joined me in the summer and got them all sim cards that worked in all the countries we visited. It was great to be able to connect with each other when we wanted to go our different ways, and look up whatever we needed. And what we needed most was maps.

I'm sure you'll have a great time, and I wish you the best.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I did the same thing many years ago. I didnt even take an English/Italian dictionary. I guess I assumed my smattering of German and restaurant French would tide me over. WRONG! I ate a lot of risotto. I was only there a few days so managed - barely.

At least you are going with people who do speak Italian. I am sure it will be fine! Bon Voyage!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Viaggio sicuro, according to google translate. You can do this. You will rock this. I look forward to your return and updates.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Queendivakat said...

Please try to enjoy yourself. Wish I were going. BTW . . . viaggio sicuro

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Cora said...

Hi Quinn,
as a fellow introvert, I can point you to a few quiet places in Rome, if you'd like, to just sit, and take in the view, and not interact with people (I know places like 'hardly any people, and the chance they will try and talk to you is minimal' and 'those sisters have taken a vow of silence, bless their hearts').
Buon viaggio!

1:04 AM  
Blogger Kirby Carespodi said...

I feel the same way...introverted sometimes to the point of fetal. (Am I born yet? No? Good. Then these people won't even see me, so I won't be forced into small talk.) But you are so right in encouraging the girl to have adventures. Mine left our sleepy town in NC to attend college in Philly and now lives and works in Manhattan, and despite the fact that I have seen Law and Order:SVU a jillion times and I know all about the kidnappers and rapists and murderers, she is thriving. So (after all that) have as much fun as you can and feel free to try to communicate through interpretive dance.

4:02 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

I feel you. I wish I had words to say that could make it better, but let's be honest, it's probably gonna suck no matter what anyone says. But I'll bet there will be at least a few good times when you'll actually be enjoying yourself and forget... just for that moment... about feeling sad or sick or miserable. Try to focus on those.

I'll be thinking happy thoughts for you. Ciao.

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Autumn said...

Nowadays you need only put in some headphones, stare at your phone, and everyone will leave you alone.

Except for the really dedicated extroverts. But you'll be in Italy, where garlic is not in short supply.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Karen Edmisten said...

Deep and introverted sympathy to you. And yet I know it's somehow going to turn out to be great. In an "even though I'm an introvert" sort of way.

And I've got my Xirkl user name, so all is right with the world. :)

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Gary and Adrienne said...

Good luck Quinn .... I have a feeling that the 19 kids are gonna keep you so busy getting in trouble that you won't have time to worry about your problems ! Let us know if you need any help along the way from the rest of us introverts.
Your friends Gary and Adrienne

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Cora said...

I somehow forgot to mention that Rome has a forum famous for its cats (Largo di Torre Argentina, not far from the Pantheon and Campo de'Fiori). Enjoy!

10:49 PM  

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