“There gets to be a point,” said the somewhat smelly British traveler as he packed his backpack to move out of the hostel, “where you become so sick of famous waterfalls that you can’t bear to see another one.”
I was on a short vacation in Brazil with my best friend four years ago when we met this Around the World traveler in a Rio hostel. The man and his wife were on their eighth month of the journey.
“How can they stand to travel for so long?” my friend gasped, shaking her head. I nodded in awe.
Now, that long-traveling freak has become… me. And now I begin to see what that sweaty man meant. After eight months of a new city each week, there are only so many tourist attractions you can take in!
With time and continued travel, you begin to ache for the attractions of such things as — I kid you not– washing dishes. The thrilling “new attraction” of sightseeing becomes everyday, and the “mundane chores” of life at home become a rare treat.
And thus, when I found myself along for the ride for the Saturday errands of a childhood friend of a coworker of my Mother’s in Madrid, Spain (yes, that is a miraculous chain of hospitality, I know!), it was an absolute joy.
“I hope this is not boring you,” said my host apologetically.
“Are you kidding?” I laughed, “This is the best kind of tourism there is! Tourism with heart: right to the center of things.”
“I suppose I understand,” said my host. “When we visited the U.S. we loved to look around your big, shiny supermarkets. And when you are here, you Americans love to see our small, personal way of shopping.”
Absolutely! I watched in awe as my host greeted every salesperson by name, and each inquired about the other’s family. Then they had a detailed discussion of the freshest and most delicious meat, cheese, fish, and produce to buy, calculating the amount needed for the specific meals and events on the horizon. Nearly all the food was fresh from Spain’s plains and shores.
At least twice, I heard a salesperson utter the phrase: “Los negocios son importantes, pero lo que es mas importante es la amistad.” Business is important, but friendship is much more so. Impersonal, plastic America, this was not! I liked it.
We returned home laden with delicious goods, jolly from connecting with our fellow humans. Grocery shopping tourism: Yum!