Traveling from the US to any other continent is different. Continents with older civilizations hold an anthropological charm, and a cry to learn from History. Setting foot in the first city on our Italian holiday, Rome, I could palpably feel everything we have heard about Rome ringing in my years.
All roads lead to Rome
When in Rome, be a Roman
Rome was not built in a day
The Great Roman empire, Remus and Romulus fed by a wolf. An Italian Sojourn was unfolding, and I was filled with the milk of human kindness as we made our way to the first place of stay.
Rattling along in the taxi from Rome airport to our place of stay nearer to the tourist spots, our driver was helpful. He gave us tips on places to see, and warned us about staying away from the railway stations at night. “Many people gather there, poor people, people from other countries, it can sometimes be , eh, dangerous for tourists.” he said in his thick Italian accent. I grew to love the tune with which Italians spoke English. “Italy now, there are no jobs enough for Italians, where will these other people find jobs? But they have no place to go, no work to do also.” he said sadly.
It was a sentiment that is commonly heard across Europe these days. Across Italy and Ireland, I heard variants of the same thing: The human heart that wants to share and welcome has to work hard to find the resources to aid all. It is easier for people to take to cynicism, nationalism and protectionism. The refugee crises has peaked because of religious tensions, economic collapse, tyrannical governments – Rohingya, Syria. Millions are being displaced (Source UNHCR) without any shot at livelihood, and this will have consequences to a planet already stretched to its limits.
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves is a good book to read in this context. It is a book of short essays based on his travels to the countries of turmoil. Israel-Palestine border, Serbia-Herzegovina, Syria, Iran, Honduras.
You can watch the video here
Traveling makes me think of Mark Twain’s quote:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
A broad, wholesome, charitable view of men is all well when things are going well, and when one as a traveler or tourist is sublimely soaking in another culture, being helped by strangers and so on. I have to admit though, that I had difficulty summoning up charitable views of men when I had my purse stolen a few days later. I was sore at the end of a weeklong journey, and I swore at the pickpocket who stole my purse. Charitable view forsooth!
But, it too taught me something. I had ignored the pater’s teaching about splitting your assets and had stupidly taken all my credit cards together. That learning came with a cold lesson( a painful 6 hour wait in the whipping winds outside the DMV.) Another post for another day.