While I have definitive traveling dreams, about which I have written these past few weeks, I must confess that my dreams are perhaps a bit different from others who claim wanderlust tendencies. For now, anyway, my dreams are not to see the world at large, but live intimately in a few small corners.
I have wondered about this narrow focus … why I do not dream bigger, larger, more global. And I think the reason is because I first fell in love with language before I fell in love with travel.
I began French lessons in second grade; it was not until fourth grade that I ventured out of state – and sixth grade that I took my first plane ride. Family vacations consisted of traveling about 200 miles from home to visit distant relatives, hardly a cultural change.
But at the age of eight I fell in love with the French language. I adored the lilt in the voice as my teacher taught us the most basic phrases; I relished practicing the rolled “R” until I could sound like a native. I dreamed of speaking with the French before I dreamed of visiting the Eiffel Tower.
When I went to college my initial plan was to double major in French and Spanish and become an international fight attendant (although “stewardess” was still the acceptable title in the late 70s). But the similarity in the languages proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. I am sure if I had persevered, my brain would have made the distinction, but as a young sophomore I was quite frustrated. I could only remember the French word when in Spanish class, and for some odd reason, I could only recall Spanish while in French class. I abandoned that plan and instead added Political Science as a second major.
As I contemplate this retirement dream of living several months at at time in New York City, London, Paris, and Italy … I must confess that I am as excited to refresh my French and learn Italian, as I am to visit those countries.
I am hooked on watching House Hunters International and I drool at the episodes which feature Tuscan villages that appear to have changed little in the past two hundred years. I imagine walking to market every day, conversing with the merchants, asking for menu suggestions which showcase the available produce. Or finding a neighborhood trattoria, becoming friendly with the staff, and spending the afternoon sipping an espresso reading the local paper.
Perhaps the more I travel, the greater my dream will widen, but for now, I want to limit my experience to a few select places where I can speak the native language, immerse myself in the culture, and truly experience another way of life.