A travel journalist recently asked me for an interview on international living. I perused the books she’s written on various cities across Europe, eager to discover what kind of insight she offers. I used to dream of being a travel writer. Moving around to different places all the time just to tell people where the best eats are, the cheapest places to stay, and the fastest ways to get there.
But while I admire what she does, I felt myself recoil. ‘Fast’ is not the way I like seeing a place. The main tourist attractions couldn’t be farther from my mind.
She asked me one stellar question: Do the locals get offended by anything tourists do in particular? Easy answer: Talking about their own country, and how they do things back at home. Ask, look, listen, engage. Don’t compare. Let them immerse you. Be immersed. Be quiet.
A colleague and I spent 15 minutes in a local Venetian bar listening to slang, laughing at their light-hearted jest, grateful to be allowed to be a temporary part of their particular kind of magic. I carried the moment away with me, 15 minutes of real Venice, and left none of myself there with the exception of a smile and my own gratitude.