|Lisa Rosen||Feb 7|
Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.
Where We Are: Still in Montevideo, Uruguay, where it’s back-to-school season, and the mall is full of parents buying three-ring binders and #2 pencils. We leave on Wednesday, for Nicaragua.
I spent last week with a really welcoming and fascinating group of knitters, from all over the US and Canada. There were 27 of us, in full-tilt group tour mode. It was a great experience, for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that, at every meal, if the second course was slow to arrive, everyone at the table whipped out their knitting. No one even blinked; the conversation never faltered. I have found my people, y’all.
The only other group travel we’ve done (other than cruises, which are same-same-but-different) was in the Galapagos, and that was a sort of tour/cruise hybrid. This, though, was a typical ‘group tour.’ Lee and I encounter/interact with tour groups all over the world, and we are consistently fascinated by the whole concept. My conclusion, after years of observation, is that ‘tour groups’ are, like humans, an organism with an infinite range of variations.
It was particularly interesting to jump into a tour in a city where I’d already been for 12 days, and where I had 12 more to go after they left. It gave me a layer of appreciation, both for the benefits of the group, and for my own more laid-back life. Both are good. I learned all kinds of tidbits from our guide that I wouldn’t necessarily have bothered to ferret out for myself, all of which have enhanced my subsequent time here.
At the same time, the pace was exhausting, and I’m not used to having no control over my days. I like a nice long breakfast, with 47 cups of tea and a bit of scribbling. Then maybe we go for coffee, and do a bit more work. Then lunch, and a nice long walk. That’s pretty much always my schedule. Tour groups don’t operate that way. Also, I was reminded (as if I needed confirmation, lol) that I am way better at choosing restaurants. Full stop.
For some of the women in the group (and it was an all-female group; I was a tiny bit surprised no husbands had tagged along—and Lee was a tiny bit disappointed, I think) this was the trip of a lifetime. For others, it was a social event that included a particularly excellent yarn shopping opportunity. We were diverse in age, in life history, in travel experience, in knitting experience.
We did some things I probably couldn’t/wouldn’t have arranged on my own, which is why I wanted to join to begin with. We hung out with the demonstration flock of Malabrigo, my FAVORITE yarn company. We got to dye our own yarn at their creative workshop. (I can’t tell you how much fun that was. Yes, fun is in the eye of the funster.) AND we got to buy all the yarn we wanted, at an insane discount. Pre-releases, one-offs, limited production colors: all of a yarn geek’s fondest secret fantasies. There are some very real benefits to being part of a group—even those of us who are limited to only 4 small skeins because of our pitiful little miniature suitcase. Woe is me.
It was, as all tours are, made up of humans with all the foibles and personalities you’d expect. It was, as I suppose all group tours must be, a psychology experiment in action. The introvert in me had some moments of wanting to crawl under a rock and stay there for a while. I was frustrated with the challenges of moving that many people at once. I was moderately disappointed by the food, but I understand that a group of that size is limited in its choices.
Lee and I are booked on a group tour in October, to Iran. Americans can’t travel to Iran independently, so it’s the only way we can go, and I’ve always wanted to explore Persian culture and food. When I figured out that there are food-specific tours, the decision was easy. Now that I’ve had this tiny taste of what it’s like to be in one of those groups, I have a better sense of why that will be a good choice for us, and how best to brace myself for the experience.
I guess the tl;dr is this: there’s a tour for everyone.
But the very best thing about last week? Now I feel like I have friends in cities where I’ve never had friends before, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
From my writer’s notebook:
Yet another reason, in addition to pizza (duh—as if we needed another reason), to love Italy: the Italian Carabinieri (domestic police) has an ‘art squad’ of nearly 300 officers, who work around the world to protect and recover the cultural heritage of all humanity.
The FBI, by contrast, has 20 agents.
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