Well, of course I'm freaking out at the same time I'm excited. It's not an easy thing to leave home for three months. I haven't been away from home for so long in 35 years. The logistics of arranging everything is complicated and at times, frustrating. But I've been slowly working towards this goal over the past four years, so it's a manageable process, for the most part. After reading blogs by people who have moved to Italy in a shorter amount of time, my progress seems puny in comparison.
I'm thankful my son will be at home to take care of the house and yard. After 4 years in Japan, he's content to be in Lawrence for awhile. Last week he had an adventure of his own: riding his bike more than 600 miles around Missouri and Kansas by himself, camping in parks along the way. He's also in training for the Kansas City marathon on October 16. (I won't be here to see his first marathon, sob!) In between his adventures, he's trying to find a suitable job.
If it weren't for Jesse being at home, I'm not sure I would have felt free to leave my house and yard for so long. So grazie mille, mio figlio, for helping me to make this happen! It will help me to realize my long- held dream of living in another culture.
Jesse and his bike, ready to ride, Lawrence, 2010
Unfortunately, I tend to be obsessive - compulsive at times, especially when planning a trip. So one can imagine the lists I keep, making sure nothing is overlooked or forgotten. I also get anxious and fearful at times....after all, I'm only human! But I know it's worth dealing with the fears, and learning to manage them, in order to get on the other side of fear, where MAGIC happens. In the end, once I start to go with the flow, everything works out.
When I've come across big obstacles while traveling, someone (often strangers that I never see again) always turns up to help me through it. Lucky? I don't believe in luck. But I often feel fortunate, even blessed, and "taken care of" when I need it most. I must be doing something right.....
I'm heading out soon for Rome, and I'm not sure when I'll have time to post again, so will share some of my upcoming activities while I have a minute.
I fly out of Kansas City Sunday afternoon, with one stopover in Detroit. I will arrive in Rome at 10:30 on Monday morning. My friend Lidia has offered to meet me at Fiumicino airport and I hope to spend the afternoon celebrating her birthday, albeit a week late. I stayed with Lidia and her husband Carlo last year, and they were very generous hosts.
Lidia, me and Carlo, 2009
This time I'll be staying downtown at a B&B, as I want to be in the center of things, where I can walk around Rome as I like. Lidia and Carlo live in the suburban EUR district, an area renowned for its modern, Mussolini - inspired architecture, but its about 30 minutes by car, bus or metro from the city center. I'm eager to get up early on Tuesday and walk around Rome before the streets get too crowded. I'm most interested in going to Gianicolo park, where it is said the painter Rafael met Margherita, his lover and the subject of many of his paintings, including La Fornarina.
On Tuesday, I've arranged to meet with Deborah, who lives in nearby Zagarolo. She's British, but has lived in Italy for 25 years. I connected with Deborah last year through an online housesitting site. Deborah has a sweet little house in the countryside outside Zagarolo, and needs a housesitter for months at a time to care for her cats while she travels. I had considered housesitting for her this year, but decided I preferred to be in the center of things in Florence instead of being alone in a house in the country. But Deborah and I have struck up a friendship, and I'm sure I'll housesit for her before long. She offered to meet me in Rome for lunch, and I'm looking forward to it.
Deborah, Zagarolo, 2009
One of the great things about her house is that it's across the road from a vineyard that makes a famous local wine, Tufaio, and if I were to be there in the fall, I could help with the wine harvest. Zagarolo is also famous for its hazelnut trees, and the locals join in for that harvest season as well. Maybe next year!
On Wednesday, I will take the train to Florence to claim my apartment and get settled. I'll have final essays to grade next week for an online class I teach, so I'll be eager to get that out of the way. (I'm an adjunct prof for an online university). Fortunately, it's a job I can do on my computer, and I hope to do some of it on the long flight to Rome.
On Thursday, I'll go to my first meeting of FLOW, the Florence Writers group that another friend, Melinda, has invited me to be part of during my stay. I met Melinda several years ago through her blog, where she writes about her life in Florence.
We met in person two years ago and have maintained a correspondence. Recently, she helped me out when I was looking for lodging in Florence, and we ended up talking about writing, which led to her invitation. In addition to her blog, Melinda writes for the Florentine, an English-language newspaper published in Florence, and is working on a book. I've been inspired by her column about expats and the reasons they choose to live in Florence.
After the FLOW meeting, I'll be meeting my friend Domenico on Skype, as we have done most Thursdays for the past 3 years. Domenico lives in Grottammare, in Le Marche, along the Adriatic coast, and I've had several wonderful visits to his town and family over the past few years. He's one of the language exchange partners that I meet with every week, for an hour at a time, to develop our language skills. I've met many of my Italian friends through a language exchange website, and you'll be hearing more about them as time goes on. Because of this, I usually manage to meet and speak with my Italian friends for 2-6 hours a week, which has helped me considerably in my study of Italian. I'll have the chance to see many of them while I'm in Italy.
Domenico with his mom and sister, 2008
One of the families I'll miss seeing in Italy this year are the Ruggeris, of Rieti. I've visited them twice and have immensely enjoyed their friendship. I initially met them when they lived in Kansas City for two years where Andrea was transferred for his job at a pharmaceutical company. Monica, Andrea and their three children, Virginia, Camilla, and Tommaso, gave me a special tour of their region (Lazio and nearby Umbria) last year. They recently moved to Paris when Andrea was promoted in his company, and I've been invited to visit them there, too. If I can manage to go to Paris while I'm in Italy, I'll do it! Perché non? (Why not?)
Monica, Andrea and Tommaso Ruggeri, Cascata delle Marmore, 2009
That's a glimpse of what I'll be up to next week. But now I need to pack my bags!
I leave for Rome on Sunday, only six days from now. It's been somewhat stressful planning for a 3-month stay, making sure things are taken care of at home and figuring out how to handle things in Italy. But planning ahead and doing it well allows me more freedom to enjoy my stay. Once I head for the airport, I enter a "magic zone," and the trappings of my everyday life fade away.
A friend of mine recently shared an article that states there is "definitive, incontrovertible proof" that travel makes us smarter (Leher, J. 2010, Panorama Magazine). I know this to be true from my own travel experiences, but it's great to hear that there is now scientific proof to back it up. Once I let go of my daily habits at home, my mind is free to make more creative and liberating connections. And each time I travel, I experience a kind of magic that stays with me for months after I return home. It's this "magic" that motivates me to plan the next trip, to challenge myself more each time, and to trust that I will be able to manage the inevitable fears and hassles that go along with the journey.
I have several friends to visit in Rome as soon as I arrive next Monday, and I'll attend my first meeting of FLOW, the FLOrence Writers Group the day after I arrive in Florence. After I get settled in my apartment, I've planned to meet a friend from home (who will be traveling in Tuscany), to show her around Lucca and le Cinque Terre, a route I followed on my first trip to Italy in 2006. Non vedo l'ora! (I can't wait!)
In the meantime, I have many, many chores to attend to, so I'd best get busy.
a view of Rome from Palazzo Barberini, taken in 2009
"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world… And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again— to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." - Pico Iyer