The “worst travel article ever” isn’t as bad as they say

A summer in Florence left a decidedly indifferent American student: Getty

An NYU student has gone viral for all the wrong reasons. Stacia Datskovska this week came under fire for her article titled: “I am an NYU student who studied abroad in Florence. I hated every aspect of my semester abroad.

In the article, published on, Datskovska complains about her semester spent in Italy.

“I imagined fun potluck dinners with my flatmates, summer flings with people calling me ‘pretty,’ ice cream dribbling on my fingers in the heat, and natural wine that paired effortlessly with good conversation and better ham,” he wrote. . Safe to say, her fantasies didn’t come true.

She writes of how she got tired of the beauties of Florence and found the locals “unfriendly” and “inconsiderate”. While her seven roommates enjoyed traveling to Europe, she felt increasingly lonely and as if she was missing out on work experience opportunities in New York.

These kinds of anger-inducing first-person features are posted on the internet every day, so there was a good chance this one would slip under the radar. But after Amanda Knox tweeted the article, Twitter dutifully bared its teeth.

“Well, we don’t want you here,” wrote one Italian Twitter user. “BREAKING: Citizens of the United States of America realize the world is not theirs,” wrote another. And Twitter’s #BeKind faction did its part, too, arguing that its editor should never have published the article knowing full well the onslaught of abuse it might receive. Thankfully, Datskovska appears to be tough on the matter, writing in the Independent that she “laughed” at her comments as they kept coming.

But everyone seems to be missing something here. While Stacia Datskovska is at the beginning of her career as a journalist, she has grasped a principle of travel writing that separates the good from the eternal. Candor. Particularly on the fact that, sometimes, the places we visit are not what we hoped for.

In Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote of Chicago: “I began to despise places, hate people, and couldn’t wait to get home.”

Only John Steinbeck didn’t write it. This is what Stacia Datskovska wrote about Florence, but you probably believed me, didn’t you? When she comes out of the mouth of one of America’s greatest authors, she contains a kind of cigarette-stained, whiskey-sipped gravitas. When it comes from a Gen Z NYU student, he seems attention-grabbing and vapid.

All the best literary travel writers speak with an openness that doesn’t necessarily seek to inspire (which is, of course, a craft in itself), but rather to convey and speak about the human experience in a way that resonates. Good or bad.

Paul Theroux, one of the most respected travel writers of all time, wrote how much he hated vacations (all real quotes from now on): “I hate vacations. I hate them. I don’t have fun with them. I can’t do anything. People sit and relax, but I don’t want to relax. I want to see something.

Travel writer Paul Theroux - Clara Molden

Travel writer Paul Theroux – Clara Molden

Irish travel writing legend Dervla Murphy confounded the billions who live in cities: “To me, city-dwellers are the underprivileged, unfortunate who have been stripped of every creature’s right to territory.” Bruce Chatwin belittled tourism in general, saying, “Walking is a virtue, tourism is a mortal sin.” I’m currently reading David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, which contains bruises, warts, and all the accounts of the cities he’s visited over the years. It’s a brilliant read.

Eight centuries ago, even the original world chronicler Marco Polo pulled no punches: “Here the people were once honest: now they are all bad; they have kept one good thing: that they are the biggest drunkards,” he said of one of the civilizations he met during his travels.

I’m joking, of course. Stacia Datskovska does not belong to the same breath as the great travel writers listed above. Her article is reductive and devoid of substance, and certainly of any self-awareness. Sometimes she’s downright obnoxious: “I started protesting by presenting myself to the public in a way I knew they would hate,” she wrote, describing how she wore baggy “American athleisure” clothing just to dismiss the locals. Or perhaps we, the reader, are the ones who are deliberately ended up here.

Whatever its motivations, the piece is the antithesis of the fawning, oversaturated influencer content branding we tend to associate with this generation. And it is important that those who are forced to travel, and write, speak of destinations openly and without fear. Because travel doesn’t always go according to plan. We’ve all had nightmares abroad. Indeed, the most difficult elements of the journey – the misadventures, the misadventures, the misunderstandings – are universal, and often these are the experiences we end up remembering most fondly, having lived to tell.

As a travel writer, people often ask me about my experiences abroad, and my mind turns to my overnight escape from the police in Cuba, the tropical hookworm that got into my buttocks in Malaysia, my two weeks stranded in Melbourne during the Icelandic ash cloud crisis. Nobody wants to know about the delicious set of macarons I found upon arrival in my Shangri-La hotel room.

Traveling abroad can be challenging and destinations may not meet expectations, but that’s the truth and telling the truth is interesting. That, if nothing else, is something Stacia Datskovska can take home from her otherwise disappointing semester in Florence.

Have you ever traveled to a destination that didn’t live up to expectations? Please comment below to join the conversation.

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