Vagando por Tacos:
Chynna and Ryan Do Europe
A meandering adventure in pursuit of tacos
After seven months of travel abroad we have finally purchased our tickets home. It’s been a long time since we have set foot on American soil (unless you count the American Cemetary at Omaha Beach, Normandy, which is technically American territory as it was gifted to the United States by France). We are a little apprehensive about how we will fit in once we get back home. We’re already preparing ourselves for the occasional, “Oh, ever since you went to Europe you act so…(insert generalized European idea here)” or, even worse, “just because you went to Europe doesn’t mean you actually know that, you always act so much better than us now.” Not that in any way we want to act holier than thou when we return – in fact, that’s exactly what we don’t want to do. The main thing we learned on our trip is humility. It is an incredibly humbling experience to open yourself up to the good graces of random people in foreign countries who constantly amaze us with their hospitality. It’s humbling to meet hundreds of people who speak at least two languages, many of them three, four, or even seven different languages, when you can barely speak four phrases of Spanish comfortably after studying it for nearly six years. For two people who consider themselves relatively intelligent and polite, nothing is more shattering to your ego than struggling to order a coffee every morning or finally ordering a slice of veggie pizza that you’ve been eyeing for several minutes only to discover that there is tuna (yes, tuna is a pizza topping in Europe) under all that cheese. The last thing we want to do is in any way sound pretentious after spending months of discovering how little we really know about the world.
“Oh, now you’re writing a travel blog, how original.” Don’t get me wrong, we held out on writing a travel blog for a long time. We made fun of other people who blog about everything they do while traveling. We scoffed at the idea of Instagram travel accounts; while also being a little jealous of those people for getting paid to travel the world just to take pictures. Friends and family suggested we blog about our adventures long before we left. At that time though, we genuinely felt that we had nothing worthwhile to say. At that time it simply would have been a diary of things we saw, a checklist of sights, with no actual worthwhile substance. Instead, we stuck with just sharing our pictures on Facebook and Instagram. For a few months, that was fine. However, after months of travelling and discussing what we’ve seen, done, felt, and thought, we wanted to have an actual discussion with our friends about our adventures, something that simply posting photos on social media couldn’t do.
This blog is about our experience with food, languages, accents, cultures, history, and dealing with stereotypes – especially American stereotypes – while backpacking and volunteering throughout Europe. It is about dealing with American preconceptions abroad and how we, as young twenty-somethings, both fit into and break that mold.
John Steinbeck, in his novel Travels with Charley, a book that was incredibly influential for us as we went along, talks about the idea of travelling for the simple sake of travelling. In the book, he says:
“In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counter word in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.”
Beautiful, right? This amazing idea of travelling for the sake of travel. To go out on a whim, knowing that you want to end up somewhere or with something, but taking more pleasure in the pursuit than in the actual obtaining of that goal. Turns out, though, Steinbeck’s Spanish was a bit off. The Spanish term vacilando, at least within popular usage in Mexico and Spain, is “to make fun of, to joke; or, to fool around.” If you were to say estamos vacilando in Spain people will more likely think that you are fooling around with each other than enjoying travel for the sake of travel.
And that is what this blog is about. It is about being lost in translation, about the funny within the beautiful, being able to laugh at yourself, and, most importantly, about being able to let go. Travelling means you are constantly outside of your safe zone. You sleep in a different bed three or four times a week. You never really know what you are eating (like tuna-veggie pizza), and you rarely ever know what you are saying, especially in foreign languages. You may not even know where you are going next, nor how you are getting there. What becomes important is not the goal, but learning to enjoy the ride.
So what’s with the name? We took Steinbeck’s idea, but used a more appropriate word vagar, which means to wander or to roam. As two Coloradans, we miss a lot about home. We come from a beautiful state. We miss the mountains, we miss the rivers, we miss the people, and we miss our families. But when we left, we could only bring each other and what would fit within our backpacks. We found that although we couldn’t bring our families or Colorado with us, the one thing that constantly gave us a little taste of home while abroad was proper, homemade Mexican food. We perfected our taco game and have made tacos from scratch for families all over Europe. We’re not ashamed to admit that when we finally found a Chipotle in Paris after seven months that we ran across traffic and thanked them profusely. We know that Coloradoans will understand, though, as that is our most liked picture on Facebook. Finding a taco in Paris got us more likes than graduating college. So, please join us, in the wandering pursuit of tacos.
¡Estamos Vagando por Tacos!