Sharing the Wealth

Travel is a funny thing. Like a dashing book or an eloquent play, it is rarely the entire story that gets you; the combination of the drama and the passion, or the comedy strewn in with the intricately woven characters. Instead, it’s often a single line that found its way inside you and has no plans of abandonment.

Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like kind of an idiot when people say, “How did you like Italy?” or “Where was your favorite place to go?” and I can only sputter as I try to string together an answer that can somehow sum up the endless amount of thoughts churning in my head. I feel like I talk so much that people just want me to shut up- which is a rare feat considering I’m talking about- subjectively- one of the most breathtaking countries in the world. 

However, once in a while some of my words actually hit a chord, undetected from me until I’m told. I can’t see it in their face and I can’t hear it in their voice, but sometimes, a person will say to me, I went there because of you. And, in turn, this hits a chord of mine more than seeing any photograph or reading any blog post ever would.

Today, my 50-or-so mousy and giddy mother called me to tell me that in November, she will be going to Italy. While there, she will visit the Amalfi Coast (and within it in particular, Sorrento and Capri), Naples (Pompeii), and Rome. Her old college is planning a trip for alumni for an unreasonably good price for a nine-day-trip.

Let me clarify here- my mother doesn’t have a passport. She doesn’t even drive at night. Living alone at her house in the forest, she locks her bedroom door at night, as well as exterior doors. But she told me that when she got the email offer for the trip, she could only think I have to. I have to see what Jenna saw. 

It is words like this that makes me believe that all of my ranting, my photographs, and my endless blog posts are all worth it. If one person out there listens, even it’s just my own mother, it becomes so unbelievably worth it that it feels like a steal.

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Il Dolce Far Niente

I remember my final days in Florence. I remember how as the weeks added up, how I missed more and more having responsibilities, jobs, basically just being accountable for more than just getting on a plane on time. I missed being important to someone, to something.

Well now, here I am. It’s 4:45 on a Tuesday and I have been up since 7:30 am, and after this too-short hour I have off, I will work until 9:00 pm (then I’ll probably go to the bar, which is besides the point).

I miss the days when if I felt like it, I could linger in a cafe for an hour. I miss when I could walk into a museum, just because. I miss when I could meet a stranger and just chat with them for a little, not trying to occupy my mind with what else I had to do that day. At the time, I missed serving a purpose. Now here I am, trying to fit in when the hell I can possibly eat breakfast (which usually ends up being a piece of fruit I eat while I’m sitting at the traffic light on Ocean Ave).

What the hell was I thinking? Yes, having things to do is great. I’m not saying I want to be unemployed, or the worst sin of them all, bored. But with more longing than I have ever felt for any person, I miss being able to be. I miss thinking about the taste of the food that I am eating and thinking about the conversation I am having. I miss the sweetness of doing nothing. Il dolce far niente. 

In America, we hustle, hustle, hustle. We work three jobs and we try to get the kids to soccer, lacrosse, and track and we get to the gym at 6:30 am and we eat lunch at the drive-thru and we take long hours because we really need the money but what is it for, really? What are we working for, honestly? When is the payoff going to come?

You let me know when you find out. In the meantime, I’ll be looking up one-way flights back to Italy.

Nothing.

La Famiglia e Tutto

Today I had a meeting to go to (shocker). And as with most of my meetings, I didn’t really feel like going, mostly because I would just rather be in my room pinning things on Pinterest. However, also with most of my meetings, I still showed up.

However this one was a little bit different- a study abroad luncheon for my Italy group, in the exact same room that we all sat in about six months ago, when we were complete strangers. I remember trying to be a brave and sitting at a table with the girls, none of whom I had ever seen before or even knew what to say to them. I sat there and quietly ate my free sandwich (I did show up, didn’t I?) and got out as soon as I could. Thinking of my upcoming semester in Italy, I never felt so scared and unsure in my life. Looking back now, I’ve never been so confident and proud of any other decision I have ever made.

Funny how this time when I walked into the room, I was greeted by smiling faces of all ages and from all different backgrounds, all of whom I had only ever known within my ancient city of Florence. Odd how things change. To see all of us out of our elements, struggling to fit into what feels like this new culture, was scary yet comforting, knowing that once again, we weren’t alone.

And just like now, we weren’t alone the first time we set off to meet a new culture in a new country, either– we had each other. To think we will always be as close as we once were is pretty ridiculous, but I don’t think that really matters. No matter how much time goes by and how long we stay best friends with our childhood neighbors, our kindergarten playmates, our college roommates, our high school boyfriends– they will never have what we all had together. Strangers who, in relying on one another as family, friends, and comrades, became a little globe-trotting family.

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Let’s Always Be Friends.

Since winter break kicked in and Italy booted me out back in December, my world traveling has unfortunately hit a standstill. For quite some time, there will be no European cities to conquer, no wild beasts to tame, and no languages to grasp. This is kind of depressing. But at the same time, I have realized that sometimes, here in the Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey, you can still have… fun?

The other night, I went bowling with my friends from high school, having connived my dear friend Paul to drive me the thirty minutes in exchange for a box of Christmas chocolate. We drove throughout the tiny back roads before we got to the bowling alley, where we drank White Russians (The Big Lebowsky), made fun of Dan’s dilapidated bowling stance, mercilessly harassed the other team, and scored less than 70s.

Is this hiking the towns of Cinque Terre, hovering on the edge of cliffs? No. Is this exploring the dark ruins of Pompeii? No. Is this running around Paris as it snows with a beret on your head? No.

But you know what? It’s not half bad, either. Can you have fun traveling alone? Yes, of course you can. But doing ordinary things with extraordinary people makes you remember that you don’t need a plane ticket to have an adventure. Go to trivia night. Go to the lame bowling alley. Show up for half price apps, even if all you order is a water because you’re still just as cheap as you were in high school. You don’t need a suitcase or a ridiculous budget or really anything else, for that matter. You just need a couple of friends. And this is what makes you richer than any world traveler.

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