When it comes to travel, I'm a huge fan of Rick Steves. Not of his politics, but if you avoid his more informal, off-the-cuff broadcasts, such as the ones you'll find on Facebook, you can mostly avoid that; his shows and guidebooks have the advantage of better editing. We've found his products enormously helpful in planning a visit to an unfamiliar city, from finding hotels to organizing our days to learning about the sites and sights we are seeing.
That said, we differ from Rick on sightseeing almost as much as on politics. If he says a museum visit will take an hour, we know to count on three. And we are simply not the least interested in the nighlife of a city, which he finds vital and stimulating. Neither his television show nor his guidebook mentions our great discovery about visiting Rome: Do as much as you can in the morning. (More on that in another post.)
Then there's people-watching. Apparently that's one of Rick Steves' favorite activities, as he frequently mentions it as a highlight of a trip. I've never seen the attraction, so I made a point one night, while enjoying gelato in the little shop down the street from our hotel, to try the exercise.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't remain focussed.
I'd start out taking notice of the people around me: the man carrying his crying child, no doubt exhaused from a day of sightseeing; the fashionably-dressed women accompanied by scruffy men; the customers who thought a single cigar worth the €20 price tag. I noticed with appreciation a woman whose grey purse exactly matched her grey suit—I've never in my life bought a purse to match an outfit. Then I noticed another woman whose bright orange purse exactly matched her bright orange outfit ... and my mind was off down a rabbit hole.
That purse can't be useful with very many colors. Does the woman wear nothing but orange? Does she have a purse for every dress she owns? I can barely handle three: something I need is inevitably back home in another bag. And I cringe at the cost every time I need to replace a worn-out purse; I can't imagine spending money on one that is useful solely for one outfit. She doesn't look wealthy. Then again, what does "wealthy" look like; how can I presume to judge her financial situation? How, for that matter, can I presume to judge her spending priorities? Why am I staring at her anyway? Seems downright rude to me.
Reluctantly, I hauled myself back to the nightlife around me, but soon my internal voice (a.k.a. Li'l Writer Guy) took over again. After about twenty minutes of such struggles, I gave up on people-watching.
Perhaps it's a sport for extroverts, who apparently do not engage in this constant internal dialogue. (I can't imagine that, but I'm told it's true.) At any rate, I found the exercise moderately interesting, but nearly as exhausting as a three-hour museum experience.