One of the things that I’ve always found jarring while travelling is aligning myself to the fact that the place I’m in is exotic to me; not to the people I meet there.
It was always odd to me that people can actually have regular jobs in Goa. Somehow, it seemed inconceivable to me that one could work at all, knowing the sun, the sand and a cocktail are walking distance away. It just didn’t make sense to look up at the grandeur of the Andes mountains and realise that I was watching it in the middle of traffic in Bogotà city, as buses took children to school, cabs ran about their daily business and women in suits made their way to work.
Rome was especially bizarre in this context. There were so many sights in this city that I felt I’d seen already: the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the grand pillars of the Pantheon, the hopeful crowds around the Fontana di Trevi; they all looked exactly like in the pictures.
I walked the streets of Rome in a strange kind of daze… there was always music playing in the background – a couple of acoustic guitars or a violin. I was dreamily looking out a cab window when the Colosseum came into view and took my breath away. The (literally) colossal structure appeared, and I was stunned as this familiar picture from my readings about ancient Rome was suddenly right there, in front of me.
And then my little daydream was unceremoniously broken when our host told the driver in a rushed, matter-of-fact voice: “Go around the Colosseum and take the first left.”
Right. Exotic only for those of us who didn’t pass it on our way to work every day!
We passed the Colosseum several times during my week in Italy and each time, I found it incredible that it was just standing there while people carried on their usual daily routine. It made me wonder what I was overlooking in my own neighbourhood. Or city. Or state. Or my own country.
Remember the old man in Mary Poppins who couldn’t see past the end of his nose? Don’t become him. Look up, around, anywhere, because who knows what you might pick out of the ordinary?
Rome, Italy, November 2016