Place Dropper? Guilty.

I love the World Hum blog. (And I’m not just saying that because I hope to one day be featured on their award winning site.) The pieces speak to real, gritty, Therouxian travelers – the kind of globetrotter I hope to be one day. Earlier I came across a brilliant and hysterical piece by Spud Hilton, discussing the “fine art” of place dropping. It’s like name dropping but instead of making yourself cool by association to a person, you subtly (or not so subtly) make yourself cool by association to far off places. For instance (from my “place dropper” archives):

“What a fantastic necklace!”
“Thanks! I got it from a silversmith in Lamu who collected the ancient pottery on the beach from 15th century ship wrecks.”
“Where did you get that scar?”
“Yeah, it’s a little souvenir from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.”
“You’re so tan!”
“Oh I know! I guess I should have reapplied the SPF when I was in Dahab, but I just couldn’t pull myself away from the Blue Hole.”

It scares me how naturally I recognize an opportunity to place drop. Even while working a shift at Borders tonight I saw the window and went for it without missing a beat. I came across a girl about my age in the travel section (OBVIOUSLY my FAVORITE section of the ENTIRE store) surrounded by books on Italy, specifically Rome. I just couldn’t help myself.

“Are you planning a trip?”
“Yeah, well sort of… a friend and I are thinking of heading to Italy for a couple of weeks.”
“It’s a beautiful place, you’ll love it. And springtime in Rome is so exciting. Each year they put closed azaleas all over the Spanish Steps and let them bloom in the sun.”
“Have you been?”
“Yeah, I lived in Rome for a couple of months a few years back.” (Note: saying you lived somewhere exciting is much cooler than saying that you studied there for a semester.)
“Oh wow! How exciting! What was your favorite part of living there? Tell me everything, you’re officially the coolest bookseller I’ve ever met. I will hang on your every word.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
I know, I know. I’m pathetic. I’ve had a handful of interesting travel experiences and have been fortunate enough to visit some amazing places and suddenly I think I’m Samantha Brown – with far less class, of course.
So why do I do it? It’s certainly not the reason I travel, it’s just a mode that is easy to fall into back at home. I guess when someone’s passionate about something, they want to share it with others. Or maybe I just miss that feeling – that rush – of being in an unfamiliar place when something ironic or memorable or life altering happens. Maybe I place drop because it means that those experiences actually took place, however distant they seem at the time. Perhaps being in dreary Chicago on a foggy March night, I need to remind myself of those experiences and places and people who have done so much to shape my life.
But there must be a less obnoxious way of holding onto those moments and I’m on a mission to find it. But until I do, beware of this place dropper. She’s sure to strike again.
My apologies in advance.
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