36 Days in Italy–The Feeling Part

2015-06-28 11.05.48We are drawn to things in life without explanation.

But my trip to Italy was rational, not emotional. I had a leftover one-way ticket from a prior flight that I felt like I should use. Why not? I hadn’t been to Florence or Venice in over 20 years. I was a college kid last time I visited, so it would be interesting to see these two cities with new eyes. (Or older ones, I should say…)

I booked my first 4 nights and the rest, I would wing. I’m always anxious before a big trip, and this was no different. The solo travel is both freeing and wearing. I’d be working part-time, so there was that. But would I feel isolated? Would I feel safe? Would it be too long, too short? Was it right to put my life on hold?

There is no right or wrong in anything, only different.

And 36 days of wandering around northern Italy was just life. I had my good days, and my bad days and every shade of emotion in between. After the first two weeks, I was tired and wanted to go home. After the second two weeks, I was scrambling to see if I could stay longer. You can put yourself in a new place, a new situation, a new time zone, even. And, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I have a pendant I wear often with this saying. I find it so innocently true. I travel because I’m drawn to it. It’s not an “adventure” as people who sort of know me like to say. It’s just who I am. My life is just different from theirs. They have families. I have places. Maybe because I find places more honest, more reliable than people. Warmer, more interesting and more soothing to surround myself with. Is that sad? Or just different.2015-06-24 06.33.57

36 Days in Italy was both a lot and too little.

I put myself in an in-between state–not really on vacation, not really living–a little microcosm of the real me. Always in motion, aiming to get there with no real concept of where “there” is. Untethered. Like usual. Because that’s me–the life I was born into, the story that was written, the one that I recite by heart like a Greek tragedy. My fate is to wander until I find my way home. The joke is. I’ll never have one. And the soonest I can accept the punchline, maybe I’ll actually have a laugh.

I’ve always said the great thing about travel is

that it shows you how quickly possibilities can become reality. You can live another life. Step off a plane, and there you are in a whole new set of routines. Or anti-routines. Either way, you’ve flipped a switch and changed your life channel. Temporarily, if you wish. This trip could’ve been 36 Days in Westport or Seattle or South of France. The scenery didn’t matter. I spent my time there like I do here–gravitating to the quiet, relishing nature, having just enough company to keep me sane and seeing in the reflections of others what it means to be alone. “Are you staying alone?” “Table for one?” “Are you here by yourself?” Yes. Yes. Yes. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t always so pronounced. But this outside observation punctuated my time just enough that I started to wonder just how alien is it to be on one’s own?

Italy is a country centered around the family.

Grown men staying adoringly close to Mamma. Brothers and sisters and uncles and cousins living just down the street, working in the same family business, sitting around the same long farm table at the end of a workday. In Italy, you are your family. Your identity, your future, your way of life is forever (and proudly) tied to family. It’s very old-world traditional in that regard. And as I wandered around, an adult orphan, I thought to myself, ” We are drawn to things in life without explanation.” At least, it’s not always apparent.2015-05-31 18.13.06


Day 5: A New Perspective

I just got off the phone with a friend I’ve known for 16 years. She’s getting married in two months, and we talked about her process of getting to this decision and facing the fear of making the wrong one.

She said she could’ve focused on all the little holes in the fabric or look at the swath and its beautiful design. And she just decided that the bigger picture was the better one. Less stressful, more workable, more attractive even. It was a practical approach. I didn’t hear any passion in her voice. But I could understand why it worked for her.

Screen shot 2015-03-05 at 11.20.30 PM

We talked about how her analogy could apply to so many things. This idea of focusing on the fine detail versus appreciating the whole of something. To see the good qualities and let the imperfections go. Not in an “I’ve settled” way but in a “to know is to love” way.

What do I make of this in my own life? I’ve lived in my neighborhood for nearly 18 years and I still have a hard time thinking it’s home. Not because anything is wrong but because of all the little what ifs. For more than 20 years, I’ve pushed myself to what I thought was the next rung in my career. My MO has been to keep going–wherever there’s room to go, to explore, to become. And as I kept moving, I never put a solid professional stake in the ground. I abandoned three long-term relationships, for many complicated reasons, or maybe a simple one–that I only saw all the holes.

Tonight I question… would my life be better, would I feel more settled, if I just decided to sit with the bigger picture. To look at the fabric as a finished blanket, not a mesh of woven threads.  To feel fine knowing there’s a different design, a different texture, a different fit, perhaps. But decide that fixating on those things is just that–different, not better.

I realize it’s not a perfect analogy. And that it might apply to some things, not all. But it gives me pause and comes back to what I’m doing with this time off. Understanding that perspective matters. And that changing yours can sometimes be the only thing you need to do to find what you’re looking for.