11am: So this morning was fairly uneventful…since the girls went shopping and I slept in. I was supposed to go night shooting over the past 3 nights in Firenze, but the weather has been so dismal and miserable at night, I preferred to sleep in. In addition, I don’t know if I will be staying on here or not, if I can find a reasonable ticket change for the right price i.e. something under 200CDN, I will stay on till the end of the week and make the best use of my Europass, since I have 4 days more to use on it…and I think I will couchsurf it, if I know I can. This way I can make Portofino and maybe even tag in something cheap to Athens or Santorini or Istanbul. That would be an amazing end to this trip.
12.38pm: So we get to the train station expecting the train from Firenze to Venezia, but the train is completely booked up and the girls don’t want to risk getting booted out at Bologna (the site of horrible food except Risotto), so we decided to head to the supermarket and get some groceries. It is much cheaper to go to the grocery and make your own sandwiches rather than buy them in the cafes, (one would think this is not any big secret and it isn’t but finding supermarkets in a big city can be rather difficult in some ways). I had the deli butcher make me an awesome panini of cooked proscuitto with spicy salami on olive foccacia, it was a sick sandwich. European bread is just so much better than the rubbish we have in North America. One can get great artisan bread over here, but you have to search it out, rather than find it readily available in any grocery.
So since the train was booked up, we had to end up going on the 2.38pm train. This would get us into Venezia at 5.50pm, and have to find a hotel while we are there.
4.10pm: Normally the only discomfort we have had on our train rides was just the 20 euro supplement for the Eurostar trains. Well this afternoon, that discomfort went to whole a new level, since we hadn’t filled out the box for the Eurail pass to indicate that we were traveling on the 31st. The fine for doing is 50 euros each, and of course when the conductor told us, we were livid, but the girls had the pleading under control and I smartly shut up and let them plead our case. In the end, we got away with a warning about filling out the box and a disaster was averted. This shows the disparity of the interpretation of Eurail rules across the countries. In Switzerland, Holland, France, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic, the conductors would calmly use their date puncher and insert the date for you. In Italy, the responsibility is yours to insert the date accurately else they can levy this 50 euro fine on you. It is in the fine print of the pass, so we had no case in contesting this, but when conductor behavior differs across countries, it create a differential expectation, which always leads to problems and assumptions on the part of the traveler. In 5 times using the Eurail pass, the Italian job has proved to be the most troublesome using the pass, and overall, the savings in using the pass has been negligible.
Thoughts on our trip so far: Observations, Successes and Areas for improvement
Overall, this trip has been a resounding success so far. Beth, Amanda and I are still friends and in good spirits through the trials of traveling together with the different personalities on the trip. I know I prefer traveling alone in most cases, since I have the freedom to do as I please, but traveling alone is a highly selfish experience in many ways, since you don’t normally get to share your experiences and the recap of the day with your friends. Having a travelogue online though really does ease this in many ways, since the family and friends can keep track of your journeys, thoughts and feelings along the way with you.
Traveling on trips like this is definitely a test of any friendship, and more times than not, friendships are broken or damaged during trips like this, since other people see the worst sides of you. They see how you handle stress, how you treat people, how your moods can sway, whether you buckle under pressure or adapt on the fly to changing situations. Personally, I love the interactions and challenges of traveling together, even though sometimes, my worst petulant, demanding and miserable sides will come out. This is where it is important to have people that know your personality and will allow you the slack to just be in a shitty mood for a little.
Friends will ask, “How do you know, if you can travel with someone?” My answer will encompass traits like patience, positive disposition, resilience under pressure, and most importantly, the ability to forget what happened yesterday. The last quality is more important than any other trait in my opinion, since traveling with people, is like being under a microscope and in a pressure cooker all at the same time. Every little mistake and nuance is analyzed especially, if the parties involved handle things differently. This is where a delegation of duties helps tremendously. A person who is forward and unafraid of confrontation and confident should always do the asking. When communicating in different languages, it is not as important to know the language as it is to understand and translate meta-communication. If you are unsure of what you are asking, the other person will surely be unsure of what you are asking also. Simple, precise and concise questions do wonders for traveling. Too many times, a person will try to explain their predicament, rather than reduce the situation to the most basic of questions. This has happened a couple times on this trip, where I should have taken the lead in a communicative situation, rather than defer to Amanda, especially when the result was not the optimal one, or I had to find out more information after the fact. The converse of this is that it was important that someone else do this, so that they gain this knowledge and learn this skill, my frustration did come out at times when this happened and I should be more patient with this type of situation.
As an experienced traveler going through the gamut of situations, from getting lost in the jungle to losing my wallet and having no money and going to a work engagement, there is nothing in this world that will teach you how to be resourceful in these contexts than the life experience itself. It would be beneficial to always keep this in mind.
From a personal accomplishment perspective, I am quite happy with the progress and the flexibility I catered for in the trip schedule was a good thing. I did not know I would stay in Amalfi for three nights or Florence for three nights, but the beauty of the Eurail pass was that it did allow the flexibility to travel. The terrible thing about the pass however was the fact that the additional one way supplements did add up to a significant amount of money and I am going to write a very strongly worded letter to the Eurail people and definitely spread the word that the Italian Eurail Country pass is definitely much not as good as having the Eurail pass through other countries in the EU.
A couple things that surprised me on this trip
- The stunning beauty of the Amalfi Coast and the little islands around it, as well as the small little mountain towns. Truly something wondrous and different from anyone who has traveled the Caribbean. For all the beauty of the Caribbean Islands, seeing the Amalfi Coast, just like seeing Thailand and the small islands in Asia or Central America makes me constantly reevaluate my idea of preternatural beauty. This is one of the best things about exploring and traveling the world as best as I can.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Unlike seeing other icons, like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Westminster Abbey, Versailles, etc… for some reason seeing the Tower really moved me inside, maybe because when you see it in person, it is actually much prettier than the previous icons.
- The overall manner of Italian people – we hear about the warmth of Italians and I for one truly believe that they are warm people but the service industry as a whole is poor and does not cater to tourists. This was my overall impression now from three different times in Italy, of course this being the longest.
Amanda Di Loreto’s tips to traveling with me:
After reading this last blog, I feel as though I just read a Users Manual on how to travel. I appreciate you “giving me a shout out” in the above paragraph regarding communication. I would like to remind your readers that I, Amanda Di Loreto, am a first time traveler, and therefore, I am not yet wise to the ways of traveling as our DEAR friend Rishi Ray. For those of you who know Rishi well, you know he has somewhat of a strong personality and enjoys doing things in a certain way, at a certain time and with a certain goal in mind. So, as Rishi has provided us with sound advice on how to travel, I will now go ahead and do the same. Below you will find several tips on what to expect when traveling with Rishi Sankar.
- Rishi thinks he is a big deal because he has big arms. Many Europeans have been fascinated by his arms, which has increased the size of Rishi’s HEAD since leaving Canada several days ago.
- If Rishi is eating at a restaurant that does not provide him with “pepperoncino,” the restaurant then becomes sub par, thus causing him to become cranky while he goes through his “spicy” withdrawal (Similar to when a crack head cannot find his supplier)
- Rishi has become accustomed to a particular lifestyle, and when he is not able to maintain this particular lifestyle, he again, can become quite cranky. At this time, it is best to let him be and let him have his “moment.” This can be cured by finding Rishi a good gelato stand, at a reasonable price of course!
- Unlike many of us, Rishi lacks a certain filter in his brain that allows him to determine whether or not what he is about to say is appropriate. If something Rishi says offend you in some way, it is best to simply smile and nod, as you should know better than to tell Rishi what you REALLY think of his comment.
- Rishi snores. He is aware of this. He does not care if it bothers you. Learn to deal with it!!!
- Be prepared to look at the same building/monument from 900 different angles several times throughout the day, afternoon, evening and night. Rishi does not care if it is 3am and your feet are sore. All he wants is a great photo where his arms look big!
- If you are American, do not talk to Rishi.
- If you are stupid, do not talk to Rishi.
- If you smell bad, do not talk to Rishi. (By the way, Beth and I DID NOT smell bad!)
- If you are planning on staying in a hotel where Rishi cannot be connected, be prepared for the world to end! If Rishi is not connected, he goes through several stages of withdrawal and they are as follows:
- Anger: Rishi will be DISGUSTED that he is staying in a hotel that does not have internet access
- Denial: Rishi cannot BELIEVE that a hotel would not have internet access in 2008
- Determination: Rishi will become so determined that he can find a hotel where he can connect even if he has to use all his points to get it!
- Acceptance: You will convince Rishi that he is over-reacting, In order to calm him down you will buy him gelato (NO MILK!!)
Personally, I love Rishi like a brother. OK, an obnoxious brother, with a funny accent and over sized arms, but still, a brother. We have done a lot of great things on this trip (Blue Grotto, eating at Bruno’s, picnic in Amalfi, checking out Italian girls…etc) and I am glad that I was able to come along on this trip with him. I have learned a lot about Rishi and I am sure he can say the same about me. I think the most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, you have to be able to laugh things off! I have refused to let any little things get to me throughout this trip. Make sure you have the ability to brush things off!!
I have yet to understand how or why people take traveling so seriously. However, I respect what Rishi does and how he does it. It is what he likes to do, and I can appreciate that. Will I travel with Rishi again? HELL NO!! But, I still love the big armed Trini!!
Rishi’s addendum to A. Di Loreto’s comments:
Her not traveling with me again, has nothing to do with me personally, but rather the way I travel. She is more of a relaxed person in terms of traveling, whereas I have certain goals on each trip and certain things to see. This leads to a certain pace, sometimes hellishly hectic, sometimes not. I recognize that the way I travel is tougher on some than others. My two cents on this opinion piece, but it is valuable feedback!