One thing we do a lot less of these days, is research for our vacations. For our last few trips we didn’t even crack open a guide book until we were on the plane. For this trip, we purchased a Rick Steve’s Italy book, for my kindle, the night before we left! So our itinerary is often undecided before the wheels actually hit the runway of our destination, which is fine…I like spontaneity. Plus, we are trying more and more to let the kids help in the decision making. But when our oldest daughter said she really wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I might have slightly rolled my eyes and let out a little whimper, “really?”. Someone at school had told her that she must see the Leaning Tower because it is “soooo cool”!
“Have you seen it mom?” she asked me. “Yes…twice” was my reply. Sensing my lack of enthusiasm, she was perplexed. “Well, isn’t it cool? It’s a tower and it looks like it’s going to fall over, but it doesn’t!” I went on to explain that it’s not that I don’t find it interesting, it’s just that it’s very touristy. So we had a conversation about what that meant…about travel being an opportunity to learn about the authentic characteristics of a place, to see how people live in other parts of the world…about not feeling like you always have to see what everyone else sees, but how beauty can be found in the less discovered areas. I also described a tourist as: often wearing inappropriate clothing (e.g. shorts when it’s cold); taking lots of pictures; wearing comfortable shoes; and often reading a guidebook or map. “But, we do some of those things” she said. “Yes, exactly, we are tourists. It’s okay to be a tourists…you just don’t want to be around them all the time (this caused a look of confusion) and you want to try to blend in if you can”. This part, she seemed to take to heart, because during the trip, she enjoyed pointing out all the tourists to me.
Granted, a trip to Italy may not have been the most appropriate time to discuss the advantages of traveling off-the-beaten-path. Yes, my dear, Italy is crawling with tourists, but for good reason. It is a country full of history, beautiful art and according to a 7-year-old, “really cool things to see”. So, I guess sometimes if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! So off to Pisa we went! Yet, not without a stop in Lucca first – a town we had never been to before. What a beautiful surprise Lucca was! I love when my expectations are exceeded! And by the way, how is it that we tend to find carrousels everywhere we go?
So when we arrived in Pisa, not only was the ‘Field of Miracles’ swarming with tourists…just as expected; but the girls asked me why everyone was standing like this:
If you’ve ever been to Pisa, you know why. Because you can’t leave Pisa without a picture that depicts the illusion that you are supporting the tower from falling. Obviously this was intriguing to the girls, so here you have it: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
Although the girls would have liked to climb the tower, we were able to convince them that we shouldn’t…because really, it could fall over at any moment, right? At the time, I wasn’t aware that they don’t let kids under 8 climb the tower, which really would have been a much better, less terrifying, excuse. Oh well, it worked and we were able to skip the lines and head into town for a drink.
(View from kid’s side of the table.)