The more we travel, the more we are reminded that the world is not a postcard. And that more often than not, that perfect image you see is just as phony as Kim Kardashian’s waist line. That’s why as we travel, we try a little approach called “managing expectations”.
For me it began during my first trip abroad, in Rome, Italy. As soon as we checked into our sketchy hostel I was out the door ready to run to the Colosseum. Walking out of the metro station, camera in hand, I was ready to be blown away by the grandeur of it all. The stonework, the archways, the carvings. As I walked out of the tunnel and into the sun, I looked up at this massive, ancient structure, and my jaw dropped.
Scaffolding. Everywhere. What the hell internet! This wasn’t on Instagram! None of the Trip Advisor articles mentioned scaffolding! This is going to make a terrible profile picture!
As it turns out, massively popular and ancient attractions require routine maintenance, too. Oh, and you wanted to go inside? Yeah, you’ll need a ticket for that. And the next tour isn’t until 4:00pm. Actually, we’re sold out. Come back tomorrow.
For you all this might seem like common sense. But for a rookie traveler with a crisp passport, it was devastating. Somehow along the way, through the perversion of Hollywood, television, and plain ignorance on my own part, I had fooled myself into thinking that I would be walking, alone, across the sands of the Colosseum floor, or through the tunnels where gladiators waited to fight. I wasn’t ready for the ticket lines, the elbow to elbow crowds, and enough selfie sticks to block out the sun. Hello modern world.
At the end of the day, it was an incredible experience. Once I got over my naivety and realized that I was walking through the archways of one of the most recognizable structures in the world, built by the mighty Roman Empire, none of the minor details mattered.
As I imagined what it would have been like to attend as a spectator, or a participant, or a worker, the scaffolding became an afterthought. Sure the construction, the large crowds, and the ticket prices may have been unanticipated. But I understood that it all plays a part in ensuring that places like the Colosseum remain intact and accessible, so the history of this incredible world is preserved for many generations yet to come.
Our next “Scaffolding Ahead” moment came right at the beginning of our year-long trip. During our time in Madrid, we decided to head out of the city for a day-trip to beautiful Segovia. The night prior we did some quick internet research on sites to see and came across the Alcazar, or “Castle”. Once a palace, then a prison, a military academy, and finally a museum, this site was listed as one of the inspirations for one of the most famous pop culture icons of our childhood. The Disney Castle! Complete with white alabaster walls and bright blue crenellations.
Well, you guessed it…SCAFFOLDING!
It took Stephanie and I less than a second to recall our Colosseum experience, share a laugh, and head inside, barely taking time to snap a picture. The good news is that, with a little determination, and a good traveling partner, there were still good views to be seen after a quick hike down (and back up) the mountainside.
While traveling doesn’t always meet our high expectations, you can be sure to find the silver lining. Yes, there is sometimes construction. But theses renovations are needed to preserve these amazing buildings from ruin. As a tourist, remember that you play a part in their wearing-down, but also their building-up. Always make time to see the places you want to see, because they will be worth it even with all the scaffolding.