7o degree weather usually acts as a cue for the warmest clothing and least amount of cares. In Rome, however, you find locals in slightly lighter winter coats, patiently awaiting the scorching summers. Pairing my skirt with a sweater and tights, I continued my efforts to be mistaken as a Roman.
Whether it’s the way we dress, the news we read or the explanations we BS, it’s common to love being in the know. This makes it difficult to release our egos, and unashamedly say I don’t know.
This translates to travel as well, and not just with most people’s reluctance to ask for directions.
While traveling to Istanbul, Emily and I realized we knew next to nothing about the country we had worked so hard to enter. Luckily, we had a wonderful host awaiting us, who was able to bring us to the best hole-in-the-wall’s and explore the world’s second largest city with directional confidence. Or at least feeling no responsibility for the lack thereof.
This past weekend, I visited Barcelona with friends, a trip that came with a very different mindset than Istanbul. Having travelled to Barcelona with my family the year before, I attempted to resist thinking that I had seen it all. Once again, a temporary local pulled through. A friend of a friend, who studies there, showed us all a Barcelona worth revisiting.
Touring and dining in neighborhoods I hadn’t realized existed made me quickly realize I had not seen it all. Traveling on foot rather than opting for taxis, creating a multitude of ridiculous stories, and comparing paella prices also showcased the differences of traveling with friends versus family.
I realized this was a wonderful opportunity to see Barcelona a way most won’t. Saving time not revisiting some monuments, I decided to break away from the group to take a bike tour around the city and refused to let the Picasso museum go unseen. And I’m glad I did.
Seeing the city via bicycle turned out to be a completely different experience. Even though most of the monuments weren’t new to me, many of the historical explanations were. Last year, I recall being told Casa Batllo is meant to look like a fish, while this year, I learned there’s a tale of St. George who fought off an indestructible dragon to save the city’s princess that inspired the building. The sculpture described as the face of Barcelona was actually done by the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein in 1992, when earlier in the day I said I vaguely remembered Picasso being the artist. Wrong for so many reasons.
It’s a beautiful process- learning to let go of one’s ego and admit how much more you have to learn. These opportunities are all around us, not just granted with one’s passport. We need to not only realize how many lessons we have to learn, but also realize how many teachers surround us. Whether it’s our peers, strangers, or our parents (usually the most difficult), we must recognize that everyone has an individual perspective, and something to share.
As I walk back from class, starting to glisten from my winter-ready outfit, I realized sometimes it pays to not fit in. I pass tourists wandering away from the ruins in search of more monuments, only to find themselves on Via Baccina, the street I call home. They turn around discouraged, thinking there’s nothing more to be explored or discovered.
Little do they know, there’s a popular neighborhood filled with restaurants, cafes and boutiques right at their footsteps. More so, there are Monti residents walking back from the grocery store to their posh apartments, who know the in’s and out’s of the city. One apartment to speak of is even filled with five girls studying abroad, who would love nothing more than to be asked can you tell me what’s over here? However, that’s a question only answered when we simply aren’t afraid to ask.