Sunday, March 16, 2008

Travels with the emotionally erratic

It's the end of my second full day in Rome. I'd forgotten how exhausting traveling is--by which I mean emotionally more than physically, although there's always plenty of the latter (I think I hiked up and down every one of those seven hills today, and have the shin splints to prove it).

There are lots of little vexations to traveling, it's true, but I'm not even talking about those: missed plane connections or getting lost or not speaking much of the language. No. For me, there's something about traveling--maybe a sense of being geographically and temporally unmoored--that brings out a bit of the crazy: I find myself bursting into tears or skipping around and singing, either full of manic energy or suddenly unable to unroot myself from my hotel room. Last summer I had to bolt from the British Library manuscript reading room twice because I started crying.

And so it was today. I woke up to Palm Sunday churchbells ringing all over the neighborhood, lept out of bed with a full list of things to do and places to see. . . but by the time I was dressed I was almost in tears and had a hard time getting myself to the train station and out to the Vatican. Being in Saint Peter's, though--and later the Pantheon, which I just turned a corner and found staring me down--provoked such insane euphoria that I couldn't bear to get back on the Metro and so charged up and down several more hills and to every remotely proximate historical site on the long route back home.*

I'm not like this normally. It's overstimulation, maybe, or being cast completely out of normal life, or just being alone for too long. Starting tomorrow, though, I'll be joined by an unexpected travel companion, so we'll see if I settle down then. If not, said companion may be in for an unpleasant surprise.


*Flavia is minorly obsessed with the Jesuits--and has been, since she was a child--so of course one of the stops she had to make was at Gesù church, home of the order. Not only does it have the tomb of my boy Ignatius of Loyola, and a Bernini bust of Cardinal Bellermine, but in one of the transepts is this awesome statue of religion overthrowing heresy. Damn. I love me some implacable nun-like women with whips.


Susan said...

I think the bit about traveling that is so emotionally exhausting is that there is nothing you can do on automatic pilot -- everything requires thinking & planning. (In that way it's like having a house remodeled). We make it through most of life because we know how we roll out of bed and get breakfast, and we don't have to think....

But sounds like you are having a great time in Rome, and I hope unexpected travel companion (Gentleman friend from previous post?) makes life a little calmer.

Sisyphus said...

Damn. I love me some implacable nun-like women with whips.

A-Ha!!!! Suddenly everything about Flavia becomes clear. ;)

Renaissance Girl said...

I ALWAYS cry the first day or two of overseas travel. I chalk it up to exhaustion--emotional and otherwise.

Keep posting photos of the cool stuff you see. I'm enjoying my vicarious vacation.

And re: religious whips: when you get home, check this out:

Anonymous said...

ooh, Rome, I am so jealous!! and i know what you mean about feeling more emotional when you travel, similar happens to me... enjoy the rest of your time!

Dr. Virago said...

Damn, why is everyone in Rome??? OK, not everyone, but at least you and the Cranky Professor, and I'm jealous of you both.

If it makes you feel better, here's a story of crying while traveling: I once tripped and fell and cut open my chin in Paris when I was 19. I had to go to the hospital to get stitches, and a nice man and his son walked me there and helped me check in because in all the trauma, the French I had once known went straight out of my. Through all of this I was as stoic as stoic can be, but once the nice man and his son left and I was surround by strangers in a hospital waiting room, I burst into terrific sobs. And it wasn't because I was in a hospital per se -- it was just a tiny gash and it had even stopped bleeding -- but because I was just so damn exhausted and it was only my first day, and I had 4 1/2 more weeks ahead of me of traveling alone. (It was Christmas break from Cambridge, where I was studying abroad.) And I sobbed so much that this couple who'd been yelling at each other started yelling at the intake nurse. I cleared my head enough to listen and realized they were yelling for someone to see "this poor American girl, all alone, and crying so pitifully she must be in terrible pain."

Nope, just a big baby who wanted to go hoooooooooome.

Happy ending to the story: I got my stitches put in by *5* interns and med students, 3 of them cute guys, who all wanted to practice their English. And I didn't buy the first ticket back to the US -- or even to Cambridge, but stuck it out and had an adventure.

I got my stitches taken out in Munich, btw.

Jack said...

Yes, I once was so travel-disoriented that after waiting for a half hour or so in a hotel lobby in Amsterdam and finally being asked by the concierge to, "Follow Me," I proceeded to follow him right behind the reception desk at which point he began to literally beg me to leave him alone. I guess technically that's a story about making someone else cry but the point remains: no doubt, traveling makes one weird.

phd me said...

Another "yep" on the traveling makes me slightly crazy front. I absolutely love to get up and go but, once I get there, I usually have some sort of meltdown in the first week. Once that's out of my system, it's all good!

Hope you're having a fantastic time!

Belle said...

There's a fabulous little gelato shop on the right, just in front of the Pantheon. Have one for me!

My first day ever in Paris I got locked into one of the phone booths over by Invalides. Literally, the door jammed and nobody could get it open. Tears? Damned near. Saved by a passer-by who broke down the door (probably because they recognized the near-tear face).

Flavia said...

Aw, you guys are the best. I don't know if this makes me normal, but at least I'll consider myself to be in good company!