How To Be a Winter Wanderer

This morning, I was fully committed to getting to work. I am aware that most of the time when people tell you that a huuuuge storm is coming, it probably isn’t.

I woke up on time, took a shower, put on my carefully planned outfit, and walked outside ten minutes early so that I could warm up my car and shovel off some snow. This plan was all going accordingly until I abruptly fell off my own porch because I couldn’t see the steps under the piles of snow. Well the effort was there.

Regardless of the fact that I get to work in my pajamas today, it is imperative that travelers of all shapes and sizes, including commuters and cross-country wanderers, complete the basic necessities to make it through when there is an actual blizzard outside.


This is Norway… in September

1. What to Pack – I’m a neat freak and my car is always pretty empty, besides a few basic necessities. In your car, make sure you always have:

  • A small first-aid kit
  • Tissues
  • An extra pair of pants, shirt, underwear, socks, boots, and sweatshirt (never know where you’ll be sleeping tonight)
  • Ice scraper (duh)
  • Collapsable snow shovel (these are awesome)
  • A water bottle
  • A couple granola bars
  • Bag of kitty litter
  • Jumper cables

2. What to Clean – Trust me, I want to get out the door too. But now that I have a beautiful gem of a vehicle, I now am very strict about cleaning off all of my car before driving after a snowstorm. This means making sure there aren’t snow and ice chunks waiting to fall off the roof of your car and the headlights and taillights are cleared well. Don’t be lazy!

3. How to Drive – SLOW. Once again, I’m probably just as late as you are. However, when you lose control of your car on what looks like a clean road, you’re going to wish you had some more space between the car in front of you and yourself.

4. How to Maneuver – When people lose control of their vehicles on black ice, their first instinct is to pound on the breaks and veer the other direction. However, this is the worst thing you can do. Think about it – you have the least amount of control of your car when you’re braking. Instead, turn the wheel in the direction that your wheels are turning to regain control.

5. How to Stay Alive – If you get stuck, put on your emergency lights (even though they look dumb), park in a reasonable spot that is visible but not obstructing a busy road, and stay in your car. You may be tempted to get out and try to find help, but a cop or someone will come by eventually and you probably have a cell phone anyway. There are some crazies out there.

So is Culture Shock What They Call It Now?

Upon our university orientation to our semester in Italy, a few very misinformed school employees told us about a phenomenon known as “culture shock,” which basically are feeling of sadness, frustration, and anxiety as one attempts to assimilate into life into their host country. Being that Florence is basically America, I feel that “culture shock” didn’t really exist for us. Maybe if one of us spoiled New Jerseyans was studying abroad in Gambia, but we’re not. It’s Florence, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

However, “reverse culture shock” is another story entirely. While we all fit in quite nicely, albeit for a few small frustrations and discrepancies, into our new pseudo-Italian lives, getting back into our lives as over-indulgent Americans was a little more of a struggle.

When I first got back home, I was excited! Overwhelmed! Joyful! at finally being back at my nice quiet home, where I could eat buffalo wings and donuts for a buck and ride in a warm car to get somewhere. However, this joy was short-lived… which wasn’t surprising since it mostly revolved around American bacon. Soon enough, I was looking around every aspect of my old life, which was now my new life, and wondering… Why?

Bacon Flowchart

Exhibit A: Yesterday I drove from a Kohl’s to Target, probably about a mile from one another, although on a busy road. As I got back in my car and didn’t even turn on music for the ride, I thought to myself… if I was in Florence right now, I would be walking. And that would be okay. I wouldn’t be releasing poisonous fumes into the air or wasting gasoline, but I would be getting a bit of fresh air (although cold) and that would just be life.

Exhibit B: Once at Target, as I tried to buy some food for my mother, I literally felt so overwhelmed I almost had to leave and I was enormously thankful my mother also showed up around the same time. With my little hand carriage sitting beside me, I was wondering why I didn’t get a cart. What size milk I should get. Why there were so many goddamn brands of bacon. How do people do this? If I was in Florence, I would have walked into a store the size of my room, got everything I needed, and I would have been able to fit it into my backpack. Probably would have made a few friends, too.

Me, Food Shopping

Exhibit C: Yesterday, I drove in my car about 30 minutes to get to the mall. If I was in Florence, there would be nothing that I needed that would have been more than 30 seconds away. Yet here, everything is so incessantly spread out, probably so some rich CEOs in their mansions can have some breathing room.

I could honestly go on about these instances forever, and I could even limit them to my experiences on that boring Friday that was yesterday, but I’m guessing you would be pretty bored by then. Now that I am back home, I look around at this disease of over-indulgence and I just wonder…why? What are we getting out of this? I don’t want to get too political here because that’s just not my point, but this country is in 16 trillion dollars of debt, 28 percent of people are obese (which is the second highest rate, behind Mexico, then all other countries), and we take up five percent of the world’s population but we use 20 percent of the world’s energy. I think it’s pretty obvious something is wrong here.

That’s not “reverse culture shock,” people. It’s more like having your eyes open, for the very first time.