Posts Tagged ‘travel’


Tourists in Fountain, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

After seven months I still flick the middle switch in the hallway and realize it turns on nothing, and that the one on the left turns on the bathroom light.
After seven months I still stand in the shower for the first two minutes either tense from the cold water or from avoiding the scalding hot as I adjust the handle to 7 o’clock and pull it halfway out.
I should know this by now, but for some reason it has taken my brain this long to adjust to a new place.
Every new hotel I visit or friend’s house I intrude on, I stumble in the dark to find a light switch and panic from the half-asleep feeling of being blind and lost.

cultural cross


Lake House with a View , Lake Como, Italy © Jim Korpi

“Food and art are the only two things that make me proud to be Italian,” an acquaintance admitted over a beer at an American-style bar with its menu in English. The bar sits outside the ring road of a small agricultural town in Italy.
“I like to travel to places where people appreciate what they have,” he continued. “Even something as simple as a rock. They build a monument around it, admire it, and are proud of it.”
Years ago I sat in a crowd of Dutch at a cultural event in the Netherlands where the music hired for the event was a Johnny Cash cover band. Those around me sang along in English to Folsom Prison Blues. Did they know they were singing, with their children present, about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die? Do they know where Reno is?
Recently, in the courtyard of an Italian villa, I listened to an outdoor concert. The band played only eighties rock in English. The crowd sat in white plastic chairs, still and seemingly confused.
My conversation at the bar, combined with the setting, reminded me of a story told by Thomas Friedman in one of his books on globalization. The story goes something like this:
A Chinese woman and her young daughter board a plane in Beijing bound for Los Angeles.
After the plane lands in LA, and they go through the processes of arrival, they pass a food court area where the daughter sees the familiar logo of McDonald’s. “Mom!” the daughter says as she tugs on her mother’s shirt. “They have McDonald’s in America too?”

The Beaten Path


Ice Cream in Desert, Bahrain © Jim Korpi

The first place they stopped was the first place their Lonely Planet guide suggested they eat with their budget. Simon searched his smart phone for a walking map to the restaurant while Barb read the address from the book.
They wanted authentic food, something off the beaten path. They had travelled all over the world and used their guidebooks to get to where they needed to sleep, eat, and to all the places they needed to see.
The street was lined with vendors selling souvenirs closely related to the geography, but often not. There were soccer jerseys for teams throughout Europe and colorful postcards of landscapes far from this street.
At the restaurant they recognized three couples from the hostel where they were staying. Their guidebook suggested a hostel it considered “clean and cheap.”
During dinner Simon and Barb planned their itinerary for the next day. Their hope was to see something different, something off the beaten path.
The gondola ride they took to the top of the mountain was something the guidebook said could not be missed. If they got there during lunch hours they were told they would avoid the long lines.
They had their tickets after waiting 15 minutes in a line. While boarding the back of the crowded gondola they recognized the same three couples from the restaurant the night before.