It's wild how we create imagery inside of cities we've never been to, based on the internet and its representation of culture. I always wonder what traveling was like before this age of endless research. Venice, in my mind, was somehow a lot more neon-colorful than it truly was, and a lot less crumbling and falling apart (something I enjoyed). The canals were spectacular, to be sure, but the overwhelming sensation I felt during our very short stay was the narrow streets closing in on us. At times it was comforting & romantic, and other times it was darker at night than anywhere I've been, and claustrophobic. (Mostly amazing, though ;) And, I had no idea that the canals almost disappear at night without sufficient streetlight, and so do the rainbow of pastels. The city felt like two cities in one to me.
The top right photograph was from Burano, a much more colorful & smaller version of the main island. (I didn't know Venice was a TON of islands together. Obvious now, but it was kind of cool to find out that the mainland is just the beginning... haha.)
If you noticed, these photographs contain hardly any people. That's true to life. It felt like a ghost town. It was quite fascinating to be arrested by so many vibrant colors while feeling a crushing sense of emptiness in the city. We later found out it's because the locals often don't come out to see the tourists.
Shout out to my mom who sacrificed her fear of elevators and small spaces to get to the top of this church tower. And for being the best travel buddy ever. That's really what made this trip beautiful. Sharing happiness with her is one of life's greatest joys.
Although the above photograph doesn't contain any water, it feels the most "Venice" to me (tied with the water photos). Because it's all walkable, the city feels instantly like a snug home. It's also nearly impossible to follow directions exactly with all the tiny, winding streets. I have to give a shout out to the gorgeous stencil font in which the street names were all CLEARLY depicted, though (if only I had understood more Italian!).
One thing on both of our minds (I traveled with my mother, since her family is from Germany originally and we took a detour home this year) was the idea of tourism and respectful participation in culture. Venice is known for a history of rich tourists forcing poorer locals out of their homes, which is so sad. Living in a touristy city like NYC I feel 10x more mortified when I commit a tourist/cultural mistake, so I tend to try to blend in as much as possible, perhaps too much so. (Plus being American right now isn't the best thing for trying to show openness to other cultures...) Half of me nostalgically wonders, though, if there is a way we can participate and appreciate local culture in today's climate. I think of the times tourists asked for directions here and it was a delight to see them enjoy the so-called "touristy" parts of NYC, even if they didn't yet understand the American social cues. There's grace for that. Living and traveling unhindered and free of concern is its own form of joy.
How can we embody this, though, alongside grieving a history of colonialism and appropriation? Is it best to visit countries where you have a local friend or speak the language already? How can we communicate an interest and respect for another's beliefs and language without completely hiding or quitting altogether? My grandpa was a prime example of simply trying his best, even if he made a fool of himself — he tried a few phrases, and his genuine, hilarious, charming body language and winning smile usually covered over any of his "mishaps" in America. I don't have all the answers, but I hope to continue to grow in this, as being part of a trickle-down culture my whole life. And, one of my bucket list items is to WorkAway (google it!) for a time period, one of the best forms of cultural exchange I see today, besides the PeaceCorps. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well!