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How Travel can change your life by Regina Tingle

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

“The journey is my home.” – Muriel Rukeyser

Back in 2000, the first few months I studied abroad in Italy, Mad Cow Disease was spreading rapidly. Beef, something that anchored my every meal back home in Texas, was suddenly dangerous. I'd been studying at the local language school, but while I was starting to understand Italian, I hadn't yet dared to speak. I was afraid of sounding ridiculous. Then one day I got hungry for something other than pasta. Because 'hanger' trumps my fear of sounding ridiculous, I went to my local grocery store and shyly approached the butcher counter. Four men in white coats, white paper hats and lots of knives greeted me politely and asked if I needed help. Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. I just didn't know how to say it.

What I did know how to say was, "Today I would like to eat meat, please." As soon as I said it I laughed, waiting for them to burst into hysterics but they didn't. They smiled kindly and showed me what was available: pork, chicken, liver and all kinds of things I didn't really know how to translate. I chose 'pollo' and felt proud. But my pride only lasted a fleeting moment, disappearing again when they asked quanto? How much? Numbers, weight, much less in metric, eluded me. Still, I did my best and that night I had chicken for dinner. A welcome reprieve to all the pasta I'd been eating. The next time I went to the butcher it was easier. They knew me, l'americana, and I knew more or less what to say. All because I'd taken the first step: I'd gotten over myself.