People travel for many reasons but I believe they travel mainly to experience new things – try new foods, meet new people, do something they’ve never done before. It is curious then to encounter people, mainly Americans, that seem to expect everything to be exactly the same as it is at home while they are traveling to new places.
I’ve just returned from a tour of Italy where I encountered quite a few other Americans. Most meetings were pleasant and people shared my enthusiasm for exploring new destinations, but a few caused me to cringe and try to disassociate myself with the situation. For instance, I was staying in a lovely boutique hotel in Lucca. It is a beautiful historic town with a large 16th Century stone ramparts built around it. It is this wall that kept Lucca quite independent and from being ruled by many of the larger Italian powers that came and went over the centuries and has secured its unique culture and cuisine.
At the hotel, they offered a nice breakfast spread that included hard boiled eggs, deli meat, cheese, pastries, and, of course, your choice of espresso, cappuccino, or even café americano. One morning, I was having a pleasant exchange with the hotel staff while ordering my morning cappuccino when an American couple came in and sat down at the table next to me. They began by complaining to each other about the breakfast selection and that the café americano didn’t taste like Starbucks back home. I tried to ignore the comments and enjoy my breakfast but had to stifle a chuckle when they then asked the hotel staff if they had an English-speaking television because theirs was only in Italian. Not only did they not seem to understand how television programming works (clearly it is not the TV that is controlling if it in English or Italian) but they were certainly not ready to embrace the Italian culture and cuisine.
For some people, instead of experiencing new things they keep their blinders on. They try to keep their same daily routines but in a different setting. How will you know if you prefer the taste of a true Italian espresso the way the locals drink it better than how you drink coffee at home? Or find a new favorite pasta dish if you continue to only order spaghetti with tomato sauce? If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, and try new things you’ll leave Italy, a country known for its world-class cuisine, unimpressed and maybe even a little hungry.
And this, of course, applies to more than just trying new foods. If you only do the same things you would at home, what was the point in traveling to a new destination in the first place? Clearly, you won’t love everything that you try but you can at least have a definitive opinion and maybe even an interesting story to tell when you get home.
I encourage you, wherever your next trip takes you, to take your blinders off, branch out a little, try new things, and learn a little more about yourself in the process.