Ever since working in the travel industry, I’ve had a theory about travel.
Today, a friend invited me on an impromptu drive up toward Santa Fe. It was a bright, sunny day, perfect for a nearby jaunt.
She asked about my French class. Last week, the teacher had told me that I was “courageous.” Apparently, I’m in a class meant for more advanced French students. Considering that I knew nothing more than “Bon jour”, “Merci,” and “Au revoir” when I started, I’m not doing too badly.
I still can’t converse at all, but I find that I can understand a lot of what the teacher says. I figure it out mostly by context or by its similarity to English or Spanish. She always repeats it in English, but I often get the gist of it in French. I remember, from my beginning days of learning Spanish, that understanding comes before speaking, so I consider this a good sign.
I’m fluent in Spanish now. Not perfect, but fluent. I’m still struggling with rolling my “R’s” in Spanish, and now in French, I have to learn to swallow them. At least, that’s what it sounds like to me.
My friend is taking an Italian course. She attempted it once before, but the class wasn’t a good fit. We have no textbook in my French class, but in my friend’s Italian class, the teacher had chosen a book about Marco Polo as the text.
“I didn’t give a hoopty-hoo about Marco Polo,” she told me. “How’s he going to help me order a Tiramisu in Rome?”
I thought of my trip to Rome a couple of years ago when another friend and I were supposed to be back on the tour bus at 4pm, and we couldn’t find our way back. We went up a hill, thinking that the street our bus was parked on was just on the other side, but when we got to top of the hill, it was a walled-off courtyard.
At twenty minutes to four, we were running back down. Near the bottom of the hill was a group of policemen. Neither of us spoke Italian, but we approached them and I babbled to them in Spanish about the bus.
One of them responded to me in Italian. He had understood me perfectly and pointed to the left, where our bus sat waiting, about 100 yards away.
What if we couldn’t have run down the hill? What if my Spanish hadn’t been understood? What if we’d been left behind on the streets of Rome?
My friend today was talking about cutting down on more distant, “exotic” travel as she gets older. When I worked in tourism, my agency’s clientele were senior citizens. I noticed how hard it was for some of them to travel. Long hours, lost luggage, language barriers, physical exertion, and foreign customs can make travel difficult as you get older.
As I watched our elderly clients struggle with travel, I developed my theory of concentric circles. Get a large wall map of the earth. Draw a circle around where you live. Then draw larger and larger concentric circles on the map until you’ve covered the surface.
When you travel, start with the outer circles first. The farthest destinations, the most challenging itineraries, do the most difficult stuff first, when you’re younger and healthier.
Then, as you age, the travel circles can get closer and closer to “home,” like today’s expedition. Still adventures, just less demanding.
Do you have a travel theory? What would be in your concentric circles?