Whew! I have just completed my essay for the 2012 World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship. Writing comes so naturally to me, and I did not anticipate that this would be any difficult. What I didn’t expect to be hard, however, was the character count.
I misspoke earlier in the week when I said the essay had to be 2000 words. It was actually 2000 characters, including spaces. I was half-way through my manifesto when I realized this, and so attempted to chop and truncate it into a choppily written essay with a good idea. Realizing my failure, I started from scratch and it went easier, but still wasn’t right. I finally combined the two and somehow that worked out the best.
I checked out the painfully long comments page on the World Nomads website which helped fill in the gaps, and others had questions on whether the essay could be posted to your blog. Turns out it can! Here is the final product of my labour, along with the personal essay on how cool I am and why I should win. Enjoy, and wish me luck!
Pasta, Wine, and Old Women
Tucked along an Italian cobblestoned piazza in Florence, Trattoria Massacio was a small and unassuming restaurant. Inside, a dark waiter sat me at a long wooden table with paper placemats typical of the family-style, casual atmosphere of a traditional Italian eatery. With his long hair and handsome features I wanted to call the waiter Fabio, but his name was Simone. I ordered spaghetti pomodoro: a simple pasta with tomato sauce.
Simone brought me bread and red wine in a charming bottle that was set in a basket which emphasized that I was in Italy. More basket-bottles were hanging from the ceiling. A pair of old women in the corner were tucking into their first course: roast chicken. While eating, they sipped on white wine that they had mixed with aqua frizzante to make a spritzer.
A little later, Simone returned with my spaghetti pomodoro. It was a simple meal but was cooked to perfection. The wholesome starch of the pasta and the tangy sauce of tomatoes with zesty herbs was savory and delicious. I dipped the bread into a plate of olive oil and red wine vinegar and tasted the mellow, warm oil combined with the sharp acidity of vinegar soaked into crusty bread. The combination of flavors were both comforting and invigorating. Drinking the wine was like consuming a part of Italy itself. It was pungent, fruity, and passionate.
Food and wine, and the enjoyment of both, are central to Italian culture, and it crossed my mind that the fullness of the flavors reflected that of the Italian people. The love that goes into wine making and cooking is the same love that causes a pair of old women to spend hours over a several-course lunch, quietly chirping away all the while.
By the time I bid Simone “ciao” and “gratzi,” the old women were only on their third course, a crisp salad. I went back into the streets of Florence feeling full, satisfied, and deliriously happy.
As a dabbling travel writer, this opportunity is huge. I have long been an avid traveler and writer, but it wasn’t until recently that I thought to combine the two. While traveling, I’ve written detailed diaries and emails. The response from these was overwhelming, with many people including my father, a professional journalist, telling me to consider this as a career path. Recently I started a travel blog to hone my skills and feel out a response to my writing.
One of my ambitions is to write my own guidebook. Author Rick Steeves’ guidebook to Europe has been a huge influence on myself as a traveler. I would like to combine his back door philosophy and cultural knowledge with a younger, hipper perspective. Winning this scholarship will bring me closer to realizing this dream.
Good Luck and Happy Travels!