A spring in my (traveler’s) step

4 min readNov 2, 2023

Remaining entranced with the novelty of travel

A large group of tourists, back to the camera, listening to their tour guide in St. Mark’s Square in Venice
St. Mark’s Square, Venice — Photo by Anna-Philine on Unsplash

It’s day two in of my European getaway, and as usual on an international vacation, I’m enjoying the people-watching.

Enjoying lunch at one of the ubiquitous open air cafes, we have a ringside seat to the endless flow of pedestrian traffic. The ethnic and cultural mix is heady: all sizes and colours, a cacophony of languages, it really does seem like the world is going by.

Everyone has a smartphone, and many are “talking to themselves” into earbuds. It’s become an international norm!

Still, I can tell the Italians from the rest of the crowd, because they’re talking with extra-animated hands.

And the footwear of choice is the sneaker. Even in the 29C heat, running shoes rule. Children, adults, seniors — they’re all wearing sneakers.

The exceptions stand out — particularly the well-dressed Italian professionals on their lunch breaks, sporting proper leather dress shoes.

The men in their shiny formal shoes stride by confidently, usually gesturing and shouting into a mobile phone. The women seem to be initiates of a special sorority where they master the art of walking in 3” heels on cobblestones without breaking your neck.

And then there are the groups.

You notice the leaders first — usually a smartly turned out Italian, carrying an incongruous accessory in a bright colour, hoisted high above her or his head. Umbrellas, balloons, sparkly batons, or a paddle with a big number on it. Then comes the throng of sneaker-clad followers.

Palermo Opera House in the background, with a tour guide and a group of tourists (their backs to the camera) in the foreground.
Palermo Opera House (photo by author)

Often they have a small listening device slung on a lanyard around their necks, and an earpiece that allows them to hear the guide without anyone having to shout.

Most of them walk briskly, keeping up the guide’s pace, taking it all in, listening intently.

But at the end of the group — trailing every group that goes by — are the stragglers, the hot and tired minority, dragging their feet. Doing the “tourist trudge” — one sneaker-clad foot after another…




Recreational writer, collector of antique corkscrews, urban gardener and retired management consultant to social profit organizations. Proudly Canadian.