10 Interesting People I Met While Backpacking

A big part of travel is the people you meet. And it’s not just the locals. Travelers in general seem to be a really interesting group. There are so many different types of travelers all with different styles of backpacking and reasons for their journeys. The people I met while traveling definitely colored my trip. They were windows into different worlds while also being individuals that I typically connected to very easily because they share the same passion for travel as I do. Each is unique in their own way and they certainly give lessons to reflect on. Here are ten instances of interesting individuals I met on my backpacking trip in 2014. Spoiler alert: there was only one that was a bad experience. What does this mean? Travelers are awesome the vast majority of the time. In my opinion at least.

That Guy from Tennessee – This guy was a real treat. He used to be a carpenter and sold the house that he bought pre-recession and fixed up. He’s probably in his mid-twenties. He bought a second house and then his girlfriend broke up with him…. which spurred his trip. His friends currently rent his second house while he travels the world. Matt and I met him after he woke up from a long night of drinking in Brussels (he went to Delirium). While tipsy, he decided to climb a construction crane and take pictures of the city. This guy left town pretty quickly as he prefers hiking to the cities. According to him, all cities smell like piss.

That Guy from South Africa – Matt and I also met this guy while we were in Brussels. He hung around the hostel for about as long as we did (probably longer). This guy was most likely in his mid-thirties. I won’t forget him for a long time because of the way he reacted when I asked him what he did for work. (Just so we’re clear, he was drinking a bit at the time so his emotions were probably running differently.) He told me that he works in the printing industry. The he got really sad and quiet. He said he hated his job but he was taking a ten week vacation from it. I just remembered how sad it was that he hadn’t found what he wanted to do yet and I hoped I wouldn’t find myself in that situation.

That Ballet Dancer – This kid was cool. I met him in Brussels as well. He moved to Paris for a month to start his dancing career but he couldn’t find an affordable apartment so he decided to move to Brussels with his boyfriend. This guy says he has to dance to keep from getting depressed. He also started a study abroad program for dancers from his old university to go to Argentina. His program allows students to dance fifty hours a week while they usually only get to do twenty at their home university.

That Yoga Instructor – This lady was traveling around Europe for twelve days and was exhausted. I met her in Amsterdam while I was at a laundromat. She said she was on a quick vacation but would return home to a white water rafting trip and yoga instructor workshop. She sure was busy!

That Guy from New Zealand – I met this guy in Amsterdam. He matched the age of Matt and I. He was also traveling with his girlfriend… and his fishing rod. This guy fishes whenever he can. When he came up to the room to get his fishing gear, it was later at night. He was going to fish on the canal. I was impressed with his dedication to what he loved no matter how far from home he was.

That Cute Kid on the Bus – On my way from Munich to Berlin, I had a nine-hour hellish bus ride plagued by motion sickness and constant overheating. This kid made all the difference though. Let me paint a picture for you: four year old boy, moppy brown hair, red t-shirt that says “Single and Lovin’ It.” And he counted all the buses we saw from the moment we left Berlin. Maybe that would annoy some people but I couldn’t help but smile. My favorite of the day: “Double Decker Flix Bus” (in excited kids voice with German accent). The kid just found so much joy in counting buses and detailing all their important aspects. Talk about appreciating the little things.

The Old Guy Who Lives in a Krakow Hostel – I don’t know the circumstances that brought this man to live in the hostel for the past two years but he seems to be enjoying his life. He reads and walks around a lot. This guy is also the guardian of the hostel. He put a dad in his place for leaving his young daughter alone in one of the dorm rooms. And he protected our breakfast from getting eaten by a pesky newcomer who hadn’t checked in yet (sometimes he is overprotective). You could always hear this guy’s voice when he told stories so I didn’t even have to actually meet the guy to get to know him. And he also played really awesome music, really loud at dinner time which I enjoyed.

That Douche- On our way back to Krakow from the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Matt and I happened to sit in front of this guy who was talking to a few people he had just met. I love when you get to know somebody by eavesdropping. Especially when they are trying to look really cool but they just come off as a douche. The group was talking about Auschwitz. My ears perked up because Matt and I planned to go in a couple of days. The Douche informed the group that he was disappointed with his visit because it was so “repetitive” compared to the two other concentration camps he visited previously. Really?! REALLY?! Genocide is just too repetitive? Auschwitz wasn’t impressive enough? Thank goodness one of the guys he was talking to gently put that guy in his place. It was ridiculous.

That Brazilian Guy- This guy goes on multiple trips each year. If you live in the USA, you probably aren’t aware of the fact that people around the world actually have vacation time. I’m not talking one or two weeks. I’m talking up to six weeks! Amazing, right?! Now why can’t we get on board with that? But I digress. This guy knew so much about so many places because his vacation time is always spent traveling. He was basically a walking compendium of travel knowledge. It was great to have an actual person to ask if we should stay in a certain place for a certain amount of time or what have you. He held his travel books with such a gentle hand and stooped over them like a reverant scholar. He loved travel and only wished he could do it more.

Those Marathon Runners- I give props to these guys. While Matt and I stayed in Athens, we happened upon the Athens Marathon. Two of the runners were staying in our room. Staying in a hostel can be rough. But staying in a hostel and then having to run in a marathon the next day can potentially be hellacious. Fortunately everyone in our room was quite quiet for them. One of the runners had been training for a while. The other hadn’t done much physical activity for a month. They both finished with good times and then we watched them hobble around for the next day.

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6 Things I Learned While Backpacking

Minimalism: You don’t need as much stuff as you think you need. Backpacking teaches you that. I had everything I needed but nothing extra. It’s a really liberating experience because you aren’t weighed down literally or metaphorically by extra stuff. It has inspired me to minimize that amount of material things that I have in my non-traveling life. Admittedly, it has been a bit hard to cut back on items that I have but everyday I am closer to letting go of things that I don’t really need. I believe it will bring me closer to how I felt when I traveled. I’ll be more focused on living and have more money for experiences rather than items.

Give Yourself a Rest:I believe that in the USA people are extremely focused on working. This, in my opinion, can lead to people not caring for themselves on lots of levels: physically, spiritually, intellectually. And I get that because that’s what I did. It’s very easy to get caught up in work and sometimes you need to (thanks college debt). It’s also very important to make sure that you take time for yourself. Going on this trip I took time for myself and I was the happiest and healthiest I have ever been emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The world just felt so much better.

The Person You’re With Impacts Your Journey: I’m very much a go-it-alone type of person. So this was a lesson that I needed to be reinforced. If you have a great friend by your side, you’re good to go. Matt was a great travel buddy and he’s a great person to have with me in normal life too. Life is just one big journey. This trip really taught me that who you surround yourself with has a direct impact on how pleasant and fulfilling that journey is. It’s important to nurture good relationships in life.

People are Good: It’s pretty easy to be cynical. Overall on this trip, the good enormously outweighed the bad. I saw so many amazing creations, ate awesome food, met interesting people, and visited cities all with their own unique people and cultures. You’ve got to love the human race and what it’s capable of. So when something bad happens in this world, I try to think of all the positives. It makes life feel better and less hopeless.

You Can Be Who You Want: This trip allowed me to really figure out who I am, who I want to be, and how I hope to grow. I feel like I really want to work towards these goals because truly being who I am on an everyday basis and focusing more on my goals makes me happier. Part of that means letting go of others’ expectations for me and also making sure that I stay on track to achieving my goals when I am so easily distracted by unnecessary things. Like TV. Or Facebook. They have place but they shouldn’t consume as much of my time as they normally do. And the reward for cutting down on that instant gratification will allow for me to build a more profound and extended happiness upon the goals of who I truly am and want to be.

Exuberant Contentedness Is Possible: I can’t tell you how happy I felt on this trip. At some point everyday I would have an overwhelming feeling of joy. And everyday I had a consistent feeling of complete contentedness. Knowing that a feeling of being truly content actually exists makes me want to work towards continuing whatever it was that brought me to that state. I’d never felt anything like that before, at least not for an extended period of time. Well, except for when I studied abroad in Ireland. But it was even more profound than before. Maybe because I found myself where I wanted to be completely on my own terms rather than placed there by certain circumstances. It’s so nice to know that being completely content is a thing that can actually happen. I’d lost hope until I took this trip.

Be Good: Going Through Airport Security as a Woman

Airports usually aren’t that horrible. Typically, I go through a moderate amount of stress packing and getting to the airport but then it is smooth sailing. Cruising through check-in and security, I mainly think about whether or not there will be good food and lattes on the other side of the line. Rarely do I have experiences that are even remotely bad but they occasionally happen. Over the course of backpacking through Europe, I didn’t really reflect on my interactions with security until my final border crossing in Dublin. They have a great system set up where you can go through customs before boarding a plane to the US. This allows you to walk off the plane in the US and not have to wait in any lines. You just grab your bag and go home. It’s genius really considering so many people show up at airports early anyway. It maximizes time and I appreciate that. Needless to say, I was pumped about using the system. Until I walked up to the man who examined my documents and questioned me. Matt and I typically go through passport control together as we travel in tandem. You can’t go through customs together unless you live in the same household and we didn’t at the time. I walked up to the man with a smile on my face, documents in perfect order, and my hope that if I was positive with this man, he would be positive with me. This is my general strategy when interacting with literally anyone in my life. No such luck this time.

 

(Here’s an approximation of our conversation with some commentary. I really wish I had written it down immediately after it happened. I left out stuff that I couldn’t remember perfectly because I didn’t want there to be any embellishment.)

Security: “Are you traveling alone?”

Me: “No. I’m with my boyfriend.”

Security: “Did you check a bag?”

Me: “Yes.”

Security: (Accusingly) “It doesn’t look like you did. I guess he checked it for you.” (Pulls up picture of our bags.) “Which one is yours?”

Me: (I didn’t lie so don’t act like an asshole to me.) “The burnt orange.”

Security: “Do you have any [list of long things like produce and food] with you?”

Me: (Happily.) “No. Unless you count the sandwich I bought after the first security line.”

Security: (Look of annoyance with equally annoyed tone following.) “Just put it in your bag.”

Me: (At this point I’m wondering if he wanted me to lie or something.)

Security: “I guess I’ll clear you. Go stand at that corner and wait for your boyfriend. (And here’s the kicker, folks.) Be good.”

 

Sure, mister! Let me just skip over there in my school girl outfit and braids carrying my brown paper bag filled with lunch.  I promise I’ll be really good. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for my boyfriend. Then he’ll walk me to our gate and buckle me into my seat because I can’t figure out where to go or what to do without him. Now pat me on my head and send me on my way.


I’m sure you can read the sarcasm in the above paragraph but just in case you can’t, I was being sarcastic. You best believe I walked over to that friggin corner. And then I pushed that frowny face survey button immediately and with indignation. What I really wanted to say to that man was, “How dare you tell me to “be good”? I have given you zero reasons to believe that I’ve caused trouble abroad or will cause problems in the USA. I am a grown-ass woman who takes care of herself. Sure, I travel with my boyfriend but I am perfectly capable on my own. And for the record, I don’t appreciate you being unnecessarily abrasive towards me when I’m being kind to you and answering your questions honestly. Now put a smile on your face and treat me properly as I’m sure you would want to be treated.” But really I think, “I’m sorry I don’t have a penis,” might have been more effective. I say this because the only time I ended up being treated poorly by security during this trip was when I didn’t have Matt standing by my side. But I’ll give this man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe it was just a coincidence that this man treated me poorly when the other male security officers treated me properly. Maybe the person in front of me gave him a hard time.  But I ultimately finished the process feeling that he said those things to me because I’m a woman. I didn’t like the juxtaposition of being told to wait for my boyfriend and to be good. Once again, maybe it was just an unfortunate coincidence but the whole exchange didn’t make it feel that way. After all, you should treat people (all people) like you would want to be treated. Maybe I should have told him to be good.

The Magic & Struggles of Venice

Venice is a magical place. Before I traveled to this location I saw plenty of pictures which inspired me to make the trip to the city in the first place. Matt and I arrive in Venice in the dark. Taking the train into the city, we know there is water on either side of the tracks but we can’t see it. Snatching up our backpacks, we struggle to hoist the oversized luggage upon our backs before we exit the train station. Leaving the terminal, we see a huge canal in front of us but we can’t really see everything. It’s dark and threatening rain so we focus on getting to our hostel. We take a side street and walk away from the canal to an enclosed square with no water in sight. In our room we are in a closed off world; the window opens to the view of a brick wall of the next building over. I stick my head out the window and crane my neck to the right to catch a glimpse of the square we just scurried across. I get ready for sleep and crawl into bed, thankful for reaching our destination and briefly noting the run Matt and I planned for tomorrow.

A Small Bridge in Venice

A Small Bridge in Venice

 

The Beautiful Day

 

A long, restful night behind me, I wake up with sleepy eyes and brush my teeth in front of the mirror while I assess my hair and wonder what I’ll need to do to make it cooperate. It’s a normal day. After I get into my workout clothes, Matt and I descend into the square to begin our run. We come out of a small street and are immediately confronted with the Grand Canal. Running along the water and over small bridges, I keep exclaiming to Matt, “This is so cool!” which mainly resulted in me running out of breath as I don’t usually talk when I doing cardio. In Venice the water laps up against the edge of the canal. In some places it is almost level with the street. If someone wasn’t aware, they potentially could attempt to walk out onto it thinking that it might be a continuation of the streets. The water is a beautiful blue, a hue that is pale yet deep all at once. It’s practically indescribable. And I certainly have never seen its like before in my life. Venice is one with the water. It feels as if the island could be flooded at any second, lost to nature’s wrath. The city instilled in me a sense of wonder and magic that something so splendid and surreal could actually exist on this earth. When I’m near the water I feel at home; Venice felt like the most extreme and unique version of that feeling. It brings me back to memories of my childhood and trips with my family. As I run along I wish I could have my family with me and show them this unbelievable sight before it disappears as sea levels rise, a thought that makes me feel sad. I am so thankful to have seen the city in person.

Temporary Walkways to Traverse Flooding in St. Marco's Square, Venice

Temporary Walkways to Traverse Flooding in St. Marco’s Square, Venice

After a quick shower and a breakfast, Matt and I decide to spend the day wandering Venice. It’s one of those places where you can go to just see the city, kind of like Rome. We make our way over to St. Marco’s Square. We find a small alley and pop out on to a slightly elevated portion of the square, looking out over a system of temporary walkways that have been set up due to the flooding at the location which is one of the lowest points in Venice. I practically squeal with delight. It is such an amusing and novel sight. Some people walk through the water in boots. Other eagerly spend the ten euros on a pair of cheap booties to place over their own shoes so they can frolic through the water. Matt and I patiently cross the crowded walkways to access the basilica of which the entrance is also flooding. The basilica boast a glittering, opulent interior due to gold on every surface. The floor hosts marbles of all shades arranged in varying patterns. The wealth of this location becomes immediately clear upon stepping into the building. It is so ostentatious, extreme, and beautiful, a description that easily matches the city itself. Matt and I spend the rest of the day wandering Venice and taking in whatever sights we happen upon.

Marble Floor in St. Marco's Basilica, Venice

Marble Floor in St. Marco’s Basilica, Venice

Golden Ceiling in St. Marco's Basilica, Venice

Golden Ceiling in St. Marco’s Basilica, Venice

The Not So Good Day

 

The next day in Venice was much less glamorous than the first. Matt wakes up sick so we decide a run isn’t the best idea. The heavy rain deters us as well. Matt and I purchased tickets for a secret tour of the Doge’s Palace in which we could see the regular parts of the building but also all of the back administrative rooms, prison, archive, and torture chamber. Matt and I set out early in case we got lost along the way. The rain fails to subside by the time we reach breakfast so our pants are already soaked through; this event is only five minutes in to our day. We forge on over bridges, through the rain, over temporary walkways. We make a stop to place my bag within Matt’s for fear that my camera will be destroyed by the rain that begins to soak through my bag. At this point it looks like we took a shower in our pants. Thankfully the rain jackets prevent our upper bodies from being soaked as well. By the time we are in St. Marco’s Square, our boots soak through, boots which never had water reach their interior before this particular inondation. That’s how much rain there is. Upon arriving at the Doge’s Palace, the pants exposed to the rain are so saturated that the water is starting to creep up the fabric under our rain jackets. We begin the tour feeling much like drowned rats and hoping that Matt won’t get even sicker. The tour is lovely and interesting even if we shiver from the cold of our clothing which doesn’t dry. After the tour we decide to continue to the hostel. The rain has let up a bit so we take the opportunity to stop in souvenir shops along the way. Upon entering the first shop, heat washes over us. We spend more time than necessary in the shop so that our clothing can dry, which it does completely with the help of standing under the heating vents. After that fortunate occurrence, we decide to stay out, get some lunch, and enjoy the rest of our last day. Unfortunately the rain only subsided briefly. After our meal, we go back out into a downpour and return to our hostel just as soaked as when we arrived at the Doge’s Palace.

Ceiling in the Doge's Palace, Venice

Ceiling in the Doge’s Palace, Venice

Venice is an unbelievable location. We had both a beautiful and rainy day. Both days are something that Matt and I will never forget. It was a positive experience overall in Venice because the place is just magic. Even if you’re soaked to the bone, you can’t help but feel awed and happy to be there. It feels as if you are living on the water rather than near the water. As Matt and I departed from Venice, we looked back at the city across the water. It looks like a floating city rather than a simple island; it’s a grand illusion that you want to get lost on and in.

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10 Things I’m Thankful For As I Travel

I’m quite used to missing Thanksgiving due to schooling or work. I always find my own way to celebrate Thanksgiving while I’m gone. Usually my celebration involves a large box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese because I can. This year I thought I would honor the holiday a bit more thoughtfully by creating a list of things that I’ve been thankful for during my trip. This list ranges from the material objects to the intangible but it’s all something that I’ve found myself being grateful for while I’ve been backpacking. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

A Nice Hostel: Choosing a hostel always feels like a crap shoot. No matter how  much research you do, you still feel like you might end up with bad lodging. Matt and I take the risk of not staying at perfect hostels in order for our trip to be more affordable. We’re thankful every time we end up with a good, safe place to rest our heads.

Support of Loved Ones: Matt and I have incredibly supportive family and friends. It would be hard to do this trip without knowing we have people back home to help us out if we got stuck and, at the simplest level, accept that we’ve decided to take this journey. This is a dream fulfilled for me. I am so thankful that those important people in my life understand why I wanted to do this and are happy for me. It gives me something to come home to because I know those people understand me as a person and accept who I am rather than scold me for taking a risk and following my dreams.

Cheap Food: Finding good cheap food can sometimes be difficult. Occasionally eating pasta is the only way to keep costs down. From time to time we’ll find ourselves in a country where good, cheap, quality food is the norm. That’s always a happy location that we’re grateful to have stumbled upon. It means not having to compromise the healthfulness of our meal for keeping money in our pockets.

Freedom of Travel: Backpacking around Europe has revealed to Matt and I how lucky we are to be able to travel. Matt and I were able to get on a plane and just go because of the good relationship between the US and EU. No visas required. No hassles. It has been a freeing experience that not everyone we met were able to say they also enjoyed so we’re thankful for the freedom we’ve experience.

Quiet, Nice, Friendly Roommates: Part of staying in a hostel is sharing close quarters with strangers. My best experiences have always been with friendly, respectful roommates. They keep their space clean and are quiet so everyone can sleep. You don’t always get good roommates as a backpacker so it’s a relief every time you learn that you’ve lucked out and the hostel gods have answered your prayers. It makes the journey that much better.

First Hand Experience with Other Cultures: It’s a great opportunity to be in another culture and experience it first hand. You can read books but it’s not quite the same. I recognize that not everyone is in a situation that would allow them to have this experience. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn about other cultures in this way.

Inexpensive Flights at Reasonable Times: Very early morning flights are doable but they are rough. Matt and I have had our share of experiences in which we must catch a 7am flight in order to be able to even afford it at all. A 7am flight often means a 3am wake up. Those days can be tough and test your sanity. When we can find a cheap flight at a reasonable hour, we are so thankful.

An Awesome Travel Buddy: When I’m down, he reminds me of the good parts of our day. When I’m sick, he makes sure that I get everything I need to feel better. By coming on this trip with me, Matt has helped me fulfill one of my dreams. While I could have done this without him, I wouldn’t have ever wanted to. Matt’s made my experience infinitely more fun and multi-faceted. He makes me think of things in ways I never have or suggests experiences I never would have considered. I’m thankful that my boyfriend and awesome travel buddy helped me create positive memories that will last a lifetime.

Good Weather: The sun doesn’t always shine but it also doesn’t always rain. We hope for sunny days. When we’ve had a few days where the rains is so bad that it soaks through our clothes while we visit the city, we are infinitely more grateful for the sun.

The Kindness of Humanity: Traveling has restored my faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I see some sad, horrible things when I travel. There’s still plenty that humans need to work on. But for the most part, people are good. To be honest, Matt and I haven’t had one bad experience with people while we’ve traveled. Everyone has been helpful, courteous, and, the vast majority of the time, friendly. The world can be a scary place; it is easy to become cynical and disappointed when you hear about all the things that are happening, especially when you feel like you can’t do anything about it. But I try to remind myself of all the good people I meet. I’m thankful that I’ve been given the enlightenment that humans are generally good. It’s something I might have to work to remember from time to time but it is something worth not forgetting. It makes the world seem a bit brighter.

The Story of Two Greek Restaurant Hosts

The Background: Traveling around Europe has taught me how to avoid people selling items. Matt and I have honed our skills so well that we rarely have to deal with anything. Steel faced and determined, we walk past seating hostesses, souvenir sellers, and people who give out items for “free.” Beware of people who like to tie “free” bracelets on your wrists or those who give you a rose “just because you’re beautiful.” They want money either from you or your significant other; how could a guy say no to paying for a rose after their girlfriend is so happy that someone gave her a flower just because she’s pretty? We started to learn about four years ago when one of those guys kept pushing a rose on me no matter how much I would nicely refuse. He kept assuring me it was for free. I eventually took the flower. Unfortunately for him, I saw him ask for money by rubbing his fingers together in the direction of Matt. I hate it when people lie to me. I turned to him and forcefully stated, “I told you no.” Then threw the rose back at his chest. I was not impressed with that annoying tactic. You have to be strong willed. I’ve developed that over time. I can easily feel bad about turning people down so I’ve learned how to avoid it and/or stand strong. I go into situations with intention.


The Story:
Athens was a completely different restaurant culture than I had experienced up to this point in Europe. You still have the hosts and hostesses attempting to get you to come to their restaurant but it is very laid back and not pushy at all. If you refuse, they’ll hand you a card and tell you to check them out on Tripadvisor. I think it works to their advantage by making visitors comfortable in Athens. I want to go back to Greece anyway but I definitely want to visit Athens again during my trip. The people were warm and welcoming. Matt and I had a number of discussions with shop owners and restaurant workers. Granted, they are doing their jobs by talking with us but I hadn’t experienced this level of friendliness before during my trip through Europe. One of my best memories of this trip has been two Greek restaurant hosts that we talked to. It was a quick exchange but it made me laugh and puts a smile on my face whenever I think about it. Matt and I had just finished shopping; I needed new pants because I managed to wear holes in mine from all the walking we have done. As we hurried back to our hostel to drop our purchases off before heading over to the Acropolis, Matt and I were stopped by a host for a restaurant that was somewhere in the labyrinth of side streets. He asked us if we wanted to stop for lunch. We told him that we had already eaten. He said, “Here’s my card. Check us out on Tripadvisor.” He then asked us where we were from. Matt has taken to saying Boston to make things easier for us to explain; no one seems to known where New Hampshire is. The owner said, “Really? Where in Boston?” He immediately knew he caught us in a white lie so I told him we were really from New Hampshire. He happened to work in a Greek restaurant in Boston in the past and wanted to know if we ever had heard of it. Unfortunately we hadn’t. We told him we had to get going so he said, “You should come back for dinner. We have traditional Greek food and wine.” He turns to Matt and says in an even more charismatic voice, “Bring your baby back tonight. You can buy her some wine.” I started laughing. It was just a funny sale. It was genuine, humorous, and effective all at once. As we start to walk away, the restaurant host from across the street comes running over to us. He starts quickly and jovially saying, “Don’t listen to him. Take my card. Come back here for dinner. That other place is no good. You can even check on Tripadvisor. Our rating is much better.” Then I started laughing even harder. You could tell that the two were good friends simply competing with each other. Although Matt and I never ended up going back to those restaurants as we often cook our own food, I will never forget that exchange. It was so much more effective and refreshing than our other experiences which felt like they bordered on harassment. At the end of that experience, I immediately said to Matt, “Greeks are awesome people.” They’re just cool. And that makes me want to visit their country again. No one should ever underestimate the power of being kind, friendly, and funny even if it is just for a moment to some random person on the street.

Rome in Scaffolding

As Matt and I have been traveling around, we only occasionally find ourselves going to see a city itself. Of course we are always interested to see what the city looks like, the type of architecture it hosts, what the culture is like, etc. but we more often than not find ourselves visiting museums. When Matt and I visited Rome, we were visiting the city itself. It was a pretty cool experience because we specifically visited sites that gave us an even better concept of what Rome was like in the past. You go through layers of history in a way that isn’t so evident in some cities. The ruins of thousands of years past are all around you. Public art is centuries old. Plazas were once stadiums. It’s this odd juxtaposition that I’m not quite used to. Coming from the United States, everything is young there. When you’re in New Hampshire, you go up to the mountains to see something really old in the sense of how long ago the ranges were formed. In Rome, you can visit ruins from civilization of the BC era. There’s something magical about being able to visit a place where people lived so long ago and left such clear marks of their lives. Even better, people still live in the city. Rome isn’t deserted or out in the middle of nowhere. Humanity has managed to take root so solidly in that area that you can’t help but marvel at the history laid out before you.

Trevi Fountain in Scaffolding

Trevi Fountain in Scaffolding

 

It’s important for us to never take our ability to see the ancient history of Rome for granted. This became clear to me as I saw so many areas of Rome under restoration. A good chunk of the Colosseum’s exterior is being cleaned of dirt and is covered in a structure to make that possible. The Trevi Fountain is near impossible to see with all the scaffolding covering the fountain. It seems that a lot of Rome was being repaired or restored. As Matt and I arrived in Italy, we asked the staff at the hostel where in the season we were. Matt and I arrived in the first weekend of off season. Perhaps the time of the year dictates the work that is being done on so many places in Rome. Being in the museum field, I can appreciate that restoration work and preventative measures need to be taken in order to prolong the life of objects. It was easy to accept the Colosseum being worked on; over half of the exterior was still visible and now with the original color of the marble exposed. When I got to the Trevi Fountain, I was irritated. This massive structure that I so desperately wanted to see was completely obscured by scaffolding. I knew I shouldn’t be upset because the work that is being done is necessary and good but I really wanted to see that fountain. I told myself that I would just have to come back another year as I looked forlornly through the plexiglass barrier that separated me from the construction. The city erected a walkway through the scaffolding so that the public could still get up close to the fountain. At first I was so annoyed that I didn’t even want to go up to the fountain. Then I realized that not many people can say that they’ve seen the Trevi Fountain in scaffolding and even fewer can say that they’ve had the opportunity to get so close to the sculptural elements, even if some of them were partially wrapped in plastic. So I went on the walkway and I enjoyed it. I’m excited to see what the fountain looks like without all of the scaffolding but I can appreciate that I saw the area at a special, different time.

Trevi Fountain in Scaffol

Trevi Fountain in Scaffolding

Sometimes when you go to see a city, you can’t see all of it. Things are under construction and restoration. That’s life. People live in the city and maintenance needs to be done on the beautiful historical pieces or they will come to ruins much quicker than we would like. Rome helped me to realize that even if there’s scaffolding all over everything, I can still have a unique and special experience with the city that was well worth my time. And it is good to see an effort being put into protecting the world’s cultural treasures.

Detail of Trevi Fountain

Detail of Trevi Fountain