05/26/2015 07:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Chores on the Italian Road

I've been on the road for nearly two months now, and I'm in a great work groove. Even the little chores are fun.

Tour guides know that when you're in Europe surrounded by tourists binging on chocolate, cakes, and gelato, you learn extreme portion control. While I rarely indulge in an entire ice cream cone, I do sample gelaterie in every town as part of my research responsibilities. And I'm getting pretty good at taking selfies -- even while enjoying a little spoonful.

For me, one of the small delights of travel is getting a haircut. While it used to stress me out because of the language barrier, now I keep an eye out for a place that feels right (away from the tourist zone, and with a successful but not too trendy vibe) and trust the stylist. It's easy to drop in, make a reservation that works conveniently into your sightseeing, and then come back later for your haircut. It's also a fun way to meet a local. Do you have any good or bad experiences at the barbershop or beauty salon while on the road?

Part of travel is doing the laundry. While I've been relying on elbow grease and hotel room sinks for six weeks, soon or later it becomes fragrantly clear that a good, thorough wash is needed. All over Europe, self-service launderettes have smart machines with clear English instructions. This place in Lucca cost me €5 for the wash (detergent was automatically included) and €5 to dry. Suddenly I find people sit with me on the train.

When I'm updating restaurants for my guidebook, I love having a local friend to help out and give their insights. But it can backfire when the local tells the chef I'm writing a guidebook, and they decide to get all trendy. In these cases, I wind up eating goofy gourmet off-menu morsels like this concoction... and learn nothing about what typical travelers eat when they sit down here.