“What made you think to do that?” someone asks after I tell them my upcoming travel plans.
I am rolling clothes into a small backpack. I am running around Washington, D.C., getting vaccinations, copying my documentation papers, selling my bike, and giving my container petunia away to a green-thumbed friend.
Ever since 2009 – when I studied abroad in the small Tuscan town of Siena, Italy – I have wanted to return to Italy. But not just for a vacation.
Living in Italy broaden my perspective in many ways. I remember being annoyed and frustrated for a few moments during my first few weeks of classes. Why was the store closed in the middle of the day when I was out of my morning class? I needed to get groceries right now!
“Riposo, of course,” one of my professors explained. Riposo is the Italian equivalent of “siesta” in Spain. It’s a time during the day where one can go home and enjoy a nice homemade meal instead of frantically scarfing food down while working at an office desk through your lunch hour. It gives people, and their families, a chance to relax and spend time together.
Being an American and having not yet been outside of North America, I first thought this Italian custom very inconvenient. I needed to grocery shop, I need to get a coffee. As you can see my thinking was very “ME” based. Although one of the best and well-known attributes of Americans is our self-reliance, I learned that in Italy it’s not always about YOU.
What about the local shop owner? She was entitled to her lunch hour too. What fun was life if you were working all the time, not stopping to “smell the roses” so to speak, go home and enjoy the silence of a peaceful afternoon. What joy could be experience in consciously taking the time to read a book, truly eat and taste your food … slowly … savoring it instead of quickly swallowing it down.
Italy taught me the importance and pleasure of slowing down. There are simple pleasures that make even the most mundane life magnificent. By living in the now we are able to consciously appreciate simple pleasures.
When I knew life could be lived this way; with an emphasis on food, family, and hedonism I was forever tied to Italy. Flying out of Rome I cried on the plane. I was so sad to be leaving somewhere I had truly fallen in love with.
Years past. I moved out of Michigan, attended Grad school in Austin, Texas, and became a librarian in Washington, D.C. But I hadn’t forgotten my love, Italy, who continued to send post cards from abroad, ensuring they were a past lover I wasn’t going to so easily forget.
In 2015 I decided I would begin saving money to move back to Italy and live there once again. Life is short and why not live in the place you feel most in love with as often as you can?
And then I met Paul …
Our first date was at a Michigan/Chicago themed bar in Shaw, a neighborhood in DC. Having been a seasoned veteran of the DC dating scene and having only kissed frogs for the past few years, I did not have many expectations while walking up the dive bar stairs to meet Paul. But I was interested enough in Paul to look pretty and decide Paul was worth my time.
I bounced into the bar stool seat and we soon began asking each other about our interests, where we were from, what we liked to do in our free time.
“Well, what are some of your goals?” I asked. Without hesitation Paul looked earnestly back, and unflinchingly said, “I want to bike across Europe for three months. I want to films things, meet new people, see all the art the world has to offer and soak every experience in.”
“Really?” I replied with excitement, “I want to do the exact same thing! Well, not the exact same thing but I’d love to live in Italy for longer than a vacation, soak in all the art and culture, and focus on my creative projects.”
As we fell deeper in Love over the course of the next year, we realized two things:
- Life is short
- Traveling with your lover is even better than traveling alone
We saw the opportunity and took it. We began planning out and budgeting for our trip.
I got a job that paid a higher salary and I moved into a house that had lower rent. I began telling my friends of my plans. I had no idea when it would be possible to fulfill this dream, but I knew I had to begin working towards it.
What was once a dream shared by two strangers at a bar had become our goal. We were going to travel the world for six months, living longer than a month in each country we visited. We would stay just long enough to soak in the culture, savor the time, and slow down enough to live in the now.
The journey begins this Sunday … join me for the ride, won’t you?
PS – That’s Italian for “Let’s Go!”