People already try to sneak into the most-coveted picture shots, including us. Then, for whatever reason, I stop. I breathe. I look around.
Do you ever randomly realize that everyone is living a life as vivid as your own, that within each skull there is a brain that experiences an entire life with all its gritty, unattractive complexity; that they exist even when not there. This is called “sonder.” And, in this newsletter, I want to write about how tourism gives us the opportunity for sonder - for the realization that despite nationality, religion, sex, gender, race, language, or anything, everyone wants that gorgeous photo in front of the Trevi Fountain.
David Foster Wallace’s iconic commencement speech “This is Water” explains why this is so difficult:
“Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.” You can find the entire speech here.
To be honest, I rarely consider the reality of people I do not know. I cook and clean and watch movies and talk to friends and live out my own life but I do not often stop to look at a guy smoking a cigarette at a bar scrolling on his phone and wonder about what kind of issues he’s grappling with. I don’t see a woman driving by with purple hair and wonder if she likes orange juice or wonder if she has a twin brother in rehab who she often thinks about and at eight years old they would put on Sumo-suits and battle it out on the lawn.
Yet, as a cheesy tourist, many crowded places that might be bad because of the people can often become great spots to be sondery (sonderous?) Maybe it’s the fatigue of travel days or the insane amount of diverse people who want to see the world's most famous destinations, but I’ve noticed that I tap into sonder more when I’m in the hot and dry crowds of our fellow tourists. I wonder what languages people speak, if they got here by train, plane or bus, or maybe they live in that yellow building on the edge of the town square and are just passing through on their way to work. My whole point here is to suggest that, although the cultural immersion of talking and interacting with locals is a fantastic way to learn about others and ourselves, maybe tourism is underrated for being a good catalyst for sonder - for meaningful moments of realizing that, although it may feel like we are the center of the universe sometimes, there are actually dozens of universes sitting on top of shoulders around us almost every minute of the day.
Anyway… If you stuck with me through that, maybe you want to continue a bit more as I tell you about our Italian City experiences.
Colorful city that has far more than just a tower. We were impressed by the architecture, food, language, and culture here and it made us want to live in Italy long term.
The David Statue is so detailed that you can even see his knee indents! Reyka was blown away by the precision of his feet and we ended up staring up at it for almost 30 minutes in awe. The city skyline was beautiful too and we really enjoyed trying the gelato in the place where it was invented! Here’s our video exploring it that came out today:
When in Rome! Rome wasn’t built in a day! Do as the Romans do! There are so many Roman cliches out there it’s ridiculous. And there is so much beauty in Rome that that’s also ridiculous! So much ridiculousness! In all seriousness though we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. We ate lots of pasta and saw all the classic Rome sights: the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Vatican City, and, of course, the Trevi Fountain. A bit crazy in comparison to Florence.
It felt like a mix of Mexican traffic and litter with Puerto Rico beaches and Italian food. Naples is the birthplace of pizza and we had our fill. I do not want pizza for a year having spent time there.
It was far more intense than I imagined, but when you see the curled up plaster casts of Romans struggling to breathe, it cements and clarifies the truth that thousands died there. The ruins that were protected from Vesuvius’s ash are not just a fun touristy site but actually a burial ground of a hustling and bustling city.
This was our toe-dip into the Amalfi Coast and now we want more. The Amalfi Coast is a 34 mile long string of Italian towns lining a half cliff/half beach coast. Sorrento is the closest to Naples and, we must say, the Italian architecture backdrop of a sunny summer vacation town made us want to stay and not catch our return train.
To learn more about all these places, you can email us back and we’re happy to tell you more. Or, you can stay tuned to Youtube as we’ll have extensive videos charting the adventures at each place.
If you enjoyed this email, forward it to someone you think will like it!
Wyatt and Reyka