by Janice Nigro
Good question. I too wonder how my travel story ended up in the LA Times. It did and one thing for sure, it’s easier for me to say, “I am a writer” when people ask. There it is, the proof in print.
But with visibility like that comes comments like that (although as you can see the comment got four thumbs down and no likes). Most comments have been positive. One person told me she had felt similarly about travel but was never able to articulate her feelings quite like me or the woman from Colombia. Even on the LA Times website, people who I assume for the most part do not know me, have been positive.
There have also been negative comments (see image above). To me, it’s surprising that anyone would bother to comment on my story (unless you know me). Why someone would go to the trouble of writing a negative comment is even more mind boggling.
They did. One person even doubted my story, which is funny. This story seems “incredible” the person commented. Really? The story was about meeting a woman in a coffee shop in Munich. Not on the top of Mt. Everest or on an alien planet after building a rocket ship with milk cartons to get there.
My little adventure into “reporting” provided some big insight into how media works (and our behavior on the internet). As a reporter or anyone writing non-fiction, we choose the facts we want to include in print. While our facts might be accurate, we report them without the original context. A situation can easily sound much worse than it really is. Or like paradise when it really isn’t.
So here I am to set the record straight on the barbershop incident.
Many readers were focused on the fact that the barbershop did not allow me to stay because I was a woman. At the time, I too thought the rule was absurd for the obvious reason, but mostly because it was just so cold outside.
I thought seriously, you are going to send me back out there? I had just arrived after making several U-Bahn transfers and walking through several open plazas to reach that place.
I didn’t honestly think so long about it. It was a reasonable request out of courtesy to the male clients not to have unfamiliar women just lurking about. Women were allowed in the shop, one was even a shop attendant, just not female visitors.
It was just that shop’s gimmick. Many Germans were as surprised as my German host and I were, but at the time, I had already moved onto the next part of the adventure – to find the flower shop café. OK, not on anyone’s top 10 list of things to do in Munich, but I was curious to find it.
The first thing to know is that they were polite about it. I am sure if I said, “I’m not leaving because I am afraid to be alone in a new city on the first day,” I could have stayed.
The second thing to know is even though the barbershop did send me out on the street, they sent me specifically to that café, a super lovely spot.
It wasn’t so bad after all I thought. The flower shop café was beautiful and cozy and not like any cafés that we have here in the States.
The final thing to know is the barbershop gave me a card for a complimentary drink at the café. I didn’t understand that the card was for a complimentary drink until I arrived at the café. It was only after I casually mentioned that the barbershop had sent me over that I found out. Then the owner of the flower shop café said, “Oh, you do not have to pay.”
I will admit we all laughed about the “men only” incident over the weekend in Munich, but that wasn’t the focus point of my story in the LA Times. I mentioned it not to point out the differences between our cultures, people should have been more interested in the atmosphere of the flower shop café, but to emphasize how several seemingly random events led up to the moment of my meeting that woman there. In this little unknown shop in an out of the way part of Munich, that’s where it happened.
The conversation with this woman was a revelation to me about how travel has impacted my life. I knew it, but her simple statement, probably because of her limited English, was so profound in less than 10 words. Yet, it would have been so easy for the incident to have never happened.
I could have just as easily stayed in bed.
It was through several events that I ended up in that café overseas to have such a conversation. That really blew my mind. That’s partly what I was writing about.
And mostly, that the real adventure is not always what you plan. It’s not necessarily the diving or the mountain climbing, it’s the unexpected connections you make with other people. Or self-revelations. Like an experiment, sometimes the results are not what you planned, but something greater. To me, this is the essence of travel.
I can’t plan that kind of adventure.
So, that’s why the story was published.
©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com