I’m not sure that I am now, either, but that’s how I scored a free trip to Portugal on Viking Cruises. All I did was say, “I’m a food writer?” a few times in the mirror, then sent an email saying, “Yes, I’m a food writer” to Viking’s media representatives. It felt nice to be the one doing the scamming for a change. I only had a couple bylines at the time I billed myself as an accomplished writer/reviewer, and every day I get to look like a dumbass when somebody tells me what bagoong or naengmyeon is. Chengu is recognized by UNSECO as the epicenter of Sichuan gastronomy? Yes yes, of course I knew that. Friend, I wasn’t born in rural Pennsylvania. I didn’t go to a high school with zero people of color and a designated holiday to celebrate tractors. I didn’t just eat 20 candy bars last week to make $200 freelancing. I’m a foodie, you bitch. I know everything.
Over the last 7 months, I started to become confident in my ignorance. That’s been a big part of realizing who I am and what my philosophies are. I fucking hate when people think they know everything. Just admit you’re unqualified. Admit that anybody could do this. While I don’t actually think I’m certified to write about the food in Portugal or traveling abroad, I also don’t think anybody is. If there’s one thing food writing has made me realize, it’s this: Everybody is a fraud, so join the fray.
Viking paid for my entire trip to Portugal (about $12,000) and currently the only writing I have planned is this travel blog. Most of the other pitches I suggested got denied, which is a lot of what freelancing is. Eater told me they don’t want people parachuting in to a foreign place to write about the experience (dumb, close-minded) and they’d rather have locals do it (that’s fetishizing). I pitched some things to Delta Skyline and Vice, and neither bit, although I got a very refreshing “no thanks!” from Vice after 2 business days, which felt like an expedited rejection. The Takeout is one of the only sites that really lets me be myself, but unfortunately they don’t do travel pieces. So here I am, blogging for 12 people that I probably already know (Hi, Mom). I do know this, though: This trip is happening regardless. I leave tomorrow, and technically I can write about anything I want. I could do nothing but eat chocolate and play Nintendo Switch, then review the food in Portugal with, “Good, but not great. Everything tastes like chocolate?”
Let’s take a step back, though, because I do intend to do some actual writing. My goal in this blog is to communicate my experience, yes a charmed one, while hopefully getting to the bottom of what a fucking cruise is like. Who are the people that get on these things? What’s their story? What’s it like to experience a country through a floating country club? Are people really going to use the putting green on the top deck? You’re in fucking Portugal, man. Whenever I enter a situation like this, my initial thought is to subvert the entire experience. My second thought is to reserve judgement. These days, I’m trying my best to reverse the order of those thoughts. I want to be open-minded, and there are questions that I’m dying to know the answers to: Is there such a thing as a truly genuine way to visit another another country? Is this cruise ship any less real than backpacking through Europe or staying in a hostel? Is this shit worth $12,000? I intend to think long and hard about these things, which is crazy now that I type that. I do an awful lot of thinking for an idiot.