Trials and Tribulations of Traveling

[ traveling  ]

In 2017, how many weeks did you travel?

My boyfriend and I travelled for 5 weeks: we went to conferences together to maximize our travel time!


Where did we visit?

Portland

It was my first time traveling on the company’s dollar. I tried to save the company money by booking at a hostel. Big mistake: the bed was old, creaky, and uncomfortable. But that was not what kept us up all night.


Next door was a washroom. It had a green wall. There’s a scene in the horror movie: “The Shining”, that featured a green bathroom: a rotting woman crawled out of the bathtub and chased Jack Nicholson’s character and tried to strangle him. We slept with one eye open, half expecting a similar fate. In the morning we fled to a four star hotel close to the conference, where none of the problems re-appread.


Hawaii

Leave it to the Americans to profit from tragedy: we spent two weeks in Oahu due to a conference, and visited the Pearl Harbr Memorial. The tribulation was that we had to wait two hours to get into the Memorial, due to the limited ferry capacity and a high tourist demand.


The Memorial commemorates the 2,000+ fallen crew who died in the Japanese bombing on December 7th, 1941. Battleships such as USS Arizona, which cost $16 million to build, was split in half after a bomb landed on the magazine, instantly killing 1,177 people. Crew members in other ships fared no better: some were trapped in overturned ships. According to witnesses, victims trapped inside tapped the metal hull to signal that they needed rescuing. Alas, the tapping slowed over time as too few were rescued. Eventually the waters became eerily silent.


The Americans managed to profit from this tragedy: instead of properly buring the dead, the living decided to build an elegant white Memorial on top of the watery grave. The site became one of Oahu’s must see tourist attractions. Each year the Memorial hands out 1.6 million tickets, many of which are paid. The accidental investment yields great returns for the local tourism industry.


Rome

Famous sites such as the Colliseum, the Trevi fountain, and St. Peter’s Basilica are extremely crowded during daylight hours. But the worst was the Vatican Art Museum: we waited in line for 90 minutes! The musem was a treasure trove of art from around the world: in addition to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the art ranged from German Expressionism paintings to Indigenous statues to Egyptian sarcophaguses. There were even exhibition of the Pope’s method of transportation, ranging from horse-drawn carriages to bullet-proof Jeeps. We were peeved about being herded like sheep: there was art here, there, and everywhere, but we could not stop to take it all in. When we came outside, the waiting line outside is even longer than when we entered!


Venice

What’s to complain about the lovely island of Venice? Every day, hundreds of travelers swarm the island like termites. They pound the cobbled streets, since no cars are allowed on the island. Sore feet, intersections which look all the same, and a tiny bridge around every corner make for a confusing and painful experience. It is difficult to visualize the elegantly decaying city as the former naval, commericial, and the art center of the Venetian Renaissance. Of my self-imposed gallery tour, Brugel and Hieronymous Bosch paintings were the highlights. Even more rewarding is the tiny island of Lazzaro, which we found out on the last day in Venice.


San Lazarro

On the last day of our stay in Venice I frantically googled: “what to do near Venice”. There were reviews of the tiny island of San Lazarro, known for the monastery which harborerd the famous poet George Byron. We caught the weekly ferry just in time.


The monks were out; nevertheless we were given a two hour tour covering the plight of the Armenian genocide. This was my first exposure to the horrid tale of Armenians being slaughtered, or sent on a Death March without food or water. Some estimates say during 1915 to 1917, about 1.5 million Armenians died from the plight.


Simliar to how the Vatican Art Museum housed artifacts belonging to the Catholic Church, the monastery housed artifacts from Armenians. Highlights include a real Egyptian mummy, carved Asian ivory, and manually translated texts that are not available on Amazon. As for the famous English poet George Byron, we were shown where he translated the Armenian texts, where he walked in the garden, and where he stripped down and swam. I pictured the young and tortured poet swimming in the rippling waters as the moon waxed and waned.


After the double-dose of realism and romanticism, we promptly had to catch the last ferry back to Venice. We felt like hobbits, my boyfriend and I, at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, standing on green grass, under a pink sunset, about to step on a ship to take us across the vast sea. The monastery tour, though hectic and densely packed with information, was the highlight of our Italian trip.


Overall, our biggest complaints include being creeped out by a green bathroom, waiting in line for hours, and sore feet. We were saved by a sprinkle of serendipity: the monastery tour was a great cultural learning experience. We learned that traveilng is more than just checking off checklists; the best way is to book the tickets, go travel, and your experience will overshoot your wildest dreams.

Written on March 24, 2018