One of my favorite souvenirs from traveling is my toiletries bag. The bag itself is stupid, but the contents remind me of so much. There’s the toothpaste I bought in Madrid, my Polish shampoo, the Slovenian mouthwash, the Hungarian dental floss, Austrian lotion, the French sunscreen. My wardrobe has also been collected from around Europe, but all those bottles in foreign languages really make me realize how far I’ve gone.
I was in Interlaken, Switzerland about a week ago, talking to some girls in the hostel. One of them said they’d been to Slovenia, and when I asked where she said the capitol city but she couldn’t pronounce the name. I was somewhat disgusted that she had spent 3 days in Ljulbljana and couldn’t even say the name. Way to make an effort to experience the culture. Well, the other girl told her it’s “lube-lee-on-yah.” I rolled my eyes but kept silent, until she elaborated that “J” is pronounced as a “Y” in German. German?! It was hard for me not to shout when I informed her that the 2 million inhabitants of that country speak Slovenian. It doesn’t much surprise me that these two modern day Margaret Meads were both American. If anyone ever wonders why Americans sometimes have bad reputations as ethnocentric ignorant travelers and citizens of the world, I feel like I have found a clue.
Americans really are invading Europe… MY Europe! I earned Europe. There were large portions of my time here that were not fun at all. They were cold, dark, and lonely. They were tight budgets and bad food. They were showing up in a new city at night and not knowing where I was going to sleep. But it was never a problem, because the hostels were almost never full. But now, I have to make reservations for weeks in advance! I don’t like knowing where I’m going to be in three weeks. I am not a tourist, I am a traveler, and there is an important distinction.