The reasons for leaving your home and going other places vary greatly from traveler to traveler. But for most it’s an attempt to shift or refresh one’s attitude towards their lives. Because I’ve been involved in a nearly daily reexamination of my everyday life for many years now, travel to other places has usually felt like unnecessary overkill. I have little curiosity about other places and very little urge for adventure. Almost all the trips I’ve taken outside Chicago over past twenty years have been to visit my parents or the parents of my (rarely-occurring) significant others. Whether these journeys can properly be called vacations is probably debatable, but the idea of just leaving town for the hell of it has hardly ever crossed my mind, so these family rendezvouses must serve in the absence of any alternatives.
On this visit to Italy, I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel as we’ve taken day trips to various towns within an hour or two of Florence. I’ve also spent a good amount of time at the place my parents rented in Fiesole. The idea of renting an apartment in another country for an extended stay, as they have, is an interesting one because the goal is to transcend tourism and to actually live in a foreign place for a time. However, a weeklong visit like mine cannot reach that state, no matter how homey the setting.
On a daylong trip to Venice with my brother Max, we indulged in the unavoidable tourism which is the lifeblood of that city. Between repeated gelatos, we wandered all about, taking care to dodge other aimless wanderers who seemed completely oblivious to others’ presence in their path. We met my other brother Boris and his wife Blakeney and walked about some more, after a meal at a waterfront restaurant. Venice seems like a toy train-set town, an idea of an old city rather than an actual lived place. Still, any direction you look is a postcard-come-to-life and the absence of cars makes for a far less stressful experience in unfamiliar surroundings.
On the high-speed train back to Florence, I sketched Max as he slept. This felt like one of the more normal moments of the entire trip.
Were I on a CTA train in Chicago, I’d be doing much the same thing. Is there any difference because this happened some five thousand miles away? I couldn’t say. But after nine days it’s good to be going home. Was there any value to this trek other than spending time with family? I truly can’t say. The feeling of foreignness comes naturally to me and shows itself in places I know like the back of my hand. Some people say you leave in order to appreciate your own place. Time will tell whether there has been any shift in perspective. My parents will think they could have done something differently. But they were perfect hosts and did all they could to present a place they love in its best light. It’s not their fault that travel feels like voluntary exile to me.
Now back to the routine: wake up, read, eat, paint, watch movies, write, serve drinks, bus tables, wash beer glasses, sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
—Remember that brand-new sketchbook I wrote about a few weeks back? I somehow managed to lose it at the creepy suburban-style movie theater on Roosevelt before a press screening of a silly rah-rah America agitprop thriller called The Purge: Election Year.