A few weeks ago, I came across a couple of postcards that I had bought at The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) exhibit, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit. That year, we were visiting family in East Lansing, so when I heard that this exhibit was showing at the same time, I immediately included it in our itinerary. We were going to visit on “x” day of our trip, leave East Lansing at “y” time, get there when they opened, so that we could see the exhibit, and then leave before the crowds swelled to unmanageable proportions. I had it all carefully planned. I bought our tickets months in advance, anxious that the exhibit would sell out.
We were visiting over a Columbus Day weekend, and as a seasoned Chicagoan who has tried to do anything on a holiday weekend, I reserve everything possible ahead of time and buy tickets in advance. That’s how it’s done…everywhere period. Except it’s not.
When we arrived on the second floor of the entrance hall at the DIA, and I looked down on the atrium where the ticket counter was located, nobody was there! I was in shock. What was going on? Where were the lines of people 4 wide and 20 deep, snaking out the door? I turned to My JD with a look of amazed inquiry on my face. In his typical laid back fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Detroit isn’t Chicago.” And, he of course was right.
We enjoyed ourselves tremendously at the exhibit and got the answer to the burning question, “How did Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo wind up in Detroit?” We wondered why they didn’t stop somewhere warmer, like Texas. They came, in 1932, at the invitation of Wilhelm Valentiner, who was Director of the DIA at time; he commissioned Rivera to do the Detroit Industry Panel murals, which are now on display in the Rivera Court of the DIA. In spite of himself, Rivera, the Communist, was enamored with Motor City Detroit, the City of industry, and it is apparent in his murals. I can’t wait to visit this museum again.
The following summer I enrolled in an intense travel writing course as part of my Master’s program. Although we analyzed texts, and discussed our own travel experiences, I still didn’t think that I did “it”, you know; carry preconceived notions about a new destination. I thought I was open-minded. It didn’t occur to me that I carried my expectations of home with me when I traveled, even when I was only six hours away.
In retrospect, I found myself in this same trap, less than a year later when I was in Columbus. Our first stop was Schmidt’s in the German Village. This time we were in Ohio, but again, it was a holiday weekend, and again I was anticipating crowds and a long wait. However, as we got closer to Schmidt’s, I thought we were in the wrong place. As we drove slowly down the beautiful tree-lined streets of German Village, it was peaceful, and quiet, and only a few people could be seen walking their dogs. We found a parking place within a block of the restaurant.
Things were looking good. We strolled to the front doors and there wasn’t a wait! We were seated immediately and the service was friendly. As I looked around the restaurant, I saw a mix of clientele and felt an easier pace that put me into a frame of mind to start what would be a relaxing weekend in Hocking Hills and Columbus.
It wasn’t until I thought about these three things together; that visit to the DIA, the travel writing class, and my frantic work worry that we wouldn’t get a table at Schmidt’s that I realized that I carried expectations with me when I traveled, that I unconsciously compared a destination to home.
Maybe in the back of my mind, because my new destinations were in the USA, I didn’t think it worthy of consideration whether I had preconceived notion about them or not. I told myself that I was planning ahead, making sure we had a good time so that our vacation wouldn’t be derailed by long lines and crowds.
It is natural to have preconceived notions and expectations when heading to a new destination; it is part of who we are. However, I hope that travel, no matter how far I am away from home, continues to defy mine.