Barcelona was refreshing and quite charming. Athens was challenging and (retrospectively) rewarding. Oakland was fun and welcoming. New York was familiar and confirming. Rome and Capri were simply lovely. Amsterdam has begun to feel like home. And I’m just plain exhausted.
I love to travel. Perhaps that’s obvious. And last year I regretted the careful and conservative approach I took to planning trips – by not planning them. Allowing my depleting bank account to become a state of mind rather than simply a state of inconvenience, I rejected the notion that I could afford even the shortest getaways. And even if the money was there, who had the time? I certainly didn’t think I did. With all the studying I was doing (mostly in my mind, granted), finding time to spend away from Marx and Durkheim felt nearly impossible.
Crazy talk. By the start of a new semester in the fall, I was ready to abandon my oppressive reigns. Having convinced myself that travel was too costly, both in money and time, I was being ridiculous, confining myself as if I was still working full-time, not living just hops, skips, and jumps away from a bunch of places I’d like to visit. That life of an oppressed, working person sucked. And it was time to appreciate the new circumstances. So I started saying yes more often.
I started here in November. It was a long weekend with a couple of friends. We walked, we ate, we biked. I stayed an extra night and walked and ate some more. I loved it. Though the staring of Spaniards reached a level of note-worthy, and though it’s not an ideal location for a vegetarian, I would be happy to spend more time there. It’s a beautiful city.
I pretty much stayed put from Thanksgiving through the new year. Studying and things of that nature took priority. In fact, I was working harder than most, preparing to be away for most of January, completing a course on African migration to Europe – in Athens. I jumped at the opportunity to apply, and (let’s just say) happily worked my ass off to create the time to complete the additional class.
Shortly after the holiday, my time in Greece began in Komotini, staying with a friend/classmate and her family. A lovely, charming city in the country’s northeast. I could have stayed there the entire time, eating her mother’s yummy, and generously provided, food.
But I had to head toward Athens. In the midst of a heated and quite visible economic crisis, the city felt tense and unhappy. My course focused on the cruel – essentially criminal – treatment of African people living in Greece. Coping with political invisibility and extreme sentiments of nationalism and xenophobia, African people shared horror stories of denied freedom, a lack of human rights, and uncertain futures. The city’s tensions and frigidity were palpable.
I frequently was greeted with rude treatment and dirty looks, if eye contact was made at all. I wasn’t happy or comfortable there. Matters were not helped when I was chased wildly by a bloodthirsty dog when riding a bike in Nafplio on one of my last day’s in the country. I can’t prove the dog chase was race-related. But at that point in my Greece adventures, it sure felt like it.
I wrote this after returning to Amsterdam: Confronting inequality in Greece. The beauty parts aside, I don’t see a return visit to Athens in the near future.
Back to the U.S.
All visits to the U.S. are welcome and appreciated. But they’re difficult and tiring. Wanting to see a lot of people, in a short period of time, over a range of cities, on a limited budget, and with limited access to a phone. It’s just too much. So I never get to every city or person I wish I could see. But this year my visits were to Oakland/San Francisco and NY/NJ. Perhaps my next visit can be longer. It’s never enough (well, actually, let’s not get crazy…).
After playing host to a number of visitors in April, a friend/house guest and I took a plane to Rome. I embraced the trip as a vacation (from what? you may ask – to which I would have no reply). And it was easy to enjoy. A beautiful and historically exciting city, combined with yummy, veggie-friendly food (especially if you’re into the cheese game), and free-flowing wine. Yeah, that was a good time.
And Rome was only defeated by Sorrento, and then again by Capri. But those weren’t really fair contests. I’m attracted to water and mountains. So…ya know.
Okay, but now I’m back. To Amsterdam and reality. Travel is fun. Absolutely. But perhaps it loses its appeal when it’s not balanced with a little work every now and again. Don’t get me wrong: I haven’t reached that point yet. But I expect to at some point, I guess…that it might be likely…maybe.
If you care for more photos…