“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~Henry Miller
Be it the shady alleys I walked through in Genoa, the life-changing pizza, or the multiple attempts to be “introduced” to same aged single daughters, I had an interesting time in Italy.
“Your life is about to change” is what everyone told me. But I’ve found that travel doesn’t always affect you in the ways you might expect. It is a difficult thing to do alone, and is something I am proud to say I accomplished. I had moments of hardship, but equally strong were those of triumph.
Tracing my adventure, I started in Milan, and from there headed to Genoa with a new friend also doing the same teaching program. We went to San Remo for our orientation, and I was placed in Salo for the duration of my stay. I was also able to take side trips to Venice, Sirmione, and a number of historical sites around Salo.
The food and architecture truly was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
San Marco Basilica in Venice left me in awe of such historical beauty, and the view from the neighboring tower was equally impressive. I ate the most incredible spaghetti with local clams. It was divine.
The inner growth had been a gradual one, made obvious in various settings. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in Venice, as I thought I would. Why would I be? After going into the middle of an utter mob of Italians at a rock concert in Genoa, Venice was a piece of cake. And if I could handle the danger I nearly faced during the night in Genoa, walking through shady alleys in the bad part of town taking B-roll with both cameras, then the daytime waves of tourists couldn’t be so bad.
Milan Central Station? Enormously chaotic the first time, like walking into the middle of a circus with your eyes closed. When I first arrived I thought I had stumbled into a beehive there was so much activity. When I finally found myself on the right train (after having run after the one I missed), I, in all honesty, breathed a sigh of relief at leaving such a place.
The orientation in San Remo was tough but incredibly fun. Going out to dinner by the beachside each night was awesome, though the days were long as we learned how to teach italian students. I found myself wondering whether I had made the right decision in coming, something that would be validated later and when I least expected.
Salo, an area in northern Italy, sits right next to Lake Garda. The lake is huge and surprisingly clean, though an avid tourist destination. One night in particular was amazing, as a large thunderstorm illuminated the lake with bright flashes of lightning. It was exciting, beautiful, and powerful. As each flash showed me something new, I began to find that I had changed as well.
My host family, the Bellots, were incredibly gracious, though those 2 weeks felt like one giant game of charades. I spoke as best of italian as I could, and they practiced their english. It took an hour to figure out that “Nee-a-gara Cascade” was Niagara Falls. I’m sorry, did you say there’s “mice” in my food? No, “maize”, as in corn. I can’t begin to say how accommodating they were, or how grateful I am to them.
One month passed and suddenly I found myself on a return flight home. Like a dream, my trip had come to an end. I stayed overnight at Milan airport until my flight early next morning, and the multiple flights home were exhausting. By some divine intervention, on the final 6 hour trip to PDX, I found myself at a window seat with noone next to me, and an increase in leg room. I arrived in Portland mentally numb, and was literally tackled out of nowhere by my friends at Gradient. And that’s when I realized, regardless of where the journey takes you, nothing beats home.
But I came back having been bitten by the travel bug. And already I begin to wonder where the road will take me next.