Yesterday morning, eating breakfast under our living room window, I picked up the now worn Rick Steves Rome book sitting on the coffee table. Since I had nothing staring me in the face on the day’s agenda, I thought, “I wonder how much of this I’ve done/seen.” Rick would be so proud – Now in Rome almost 3 months, I’ve hit pretty much everything in his book. I can count the things that I haven’t on one hand. I’m feeling pretty educated in the city. I’m not pro. No way, but maybe amateur status, maybe in the farm system, or the minor leagues. The disabled list. Something, anything.
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
I’m in accord with G.K. Chesterton.
I’m not saying that I’ve done all Rome has to offer. I’m not saying I’m over it. I’m not saying that at all. Never! I merely no longer have the pressure of “sight-seeing” on my shoulders (although, everyday here brings “sight-seeing”). Feeling so leaves more time for aimless, non-telos-driven wandering. Exhibit A, yesterday afternoon, ambling north of the Vatican into a residential area.
Doing the big things allows attention for the little things. Again, making sure to note that the little things here, the less “must do!” things, still led me face to face with several Caravaggios, El Grecos, Rafaellos, Berninis, and a monumental ceiling fresco at pope’s palace (Palazzo Barbarini, windows pictured above) on Friday. There are no dull days here. I challenge you to try for one. Actually no, don’t, that would be disgusting.
Another thing difficult to wrap my head around is that fact that we are about to leave for Spring Break at the end of this week. They’re giving us a break? Wait, why? The idea that we have a vacation in the midst of all this gives pause. The life I’m living right now, even with it’s day-to-day accidents and sometimes frustrations is bliss. A vacation? I mean I’ll take it… all the way to Greece.
Friends studying in London came last week for their break. They took their vacation here. Where I live. Again, what is this life I am lucky to be living? Perspective is so blown wide open.
Achieving some normalcy here, amidst the exceptional, ticking things in the guide book, grounds me. Seeing the city, learning the city, doing the “big things” creates space and gives bearing. Now, we can do things off the beaten path. Like eat Ethiopian food. Yes. Like on Friday night, in the middle of nowhere a bus and tram ride away, in a refurbished garage. That was not in Rick’s book. But, the pastes and dips served family style on clothlike, spongy bread that you eat with your hand is in my Rome book. Now it is. And the more time that I spend here, the remoter and more specialized and detailed that book becomes. It’s enriched by the more weird, more local, more you-and-me experiences. The bliss becomes less of a vacation, more of a life, written by the rookie self instead of the tried professional.
That’s exciting. That’s exploration. Let’s rename “vacation” to “life” and keep traveling.
“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
― Tennessee Williams, Camino Real