“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir
Some trips are meant to be taken less for what you will see and more for what you will learn. I booked my REI Adventures trip to Italy and the Amalfi Coast to see and hike a live volcano, and to be up close and personal with Positano and Pompeii and to walk on a black sand beach and to venture into Sicily and Capri. I hoped for villages, people speaking the loveliest of languages and seeing old women walking down the street with ankle socks tucked into their loafers and house dresses to their knees while walking with attitude. I wanted to see the green, the blue, the red, and every hue another country could toss at me and know that I had now been to Europe. I wanted to feel alive.
And I suspect my trip will include all of this. But there is more. Much more. This trip is perhaps even more important for me to just know I can. I can venture out of my comfort zone in terms of language and unfamiliarity with territory and lack of Italian culture and understanding and I might not love every second of this push outside what I know, but I do appreciate what I am learning and remembering about me. I can do things that scare me and survive. And yes, this journey does scare me; a little.
When you are alone in an unfamiliar country, you don’t have a partner to help fill in the blanks with the language or to laugh with you when your no-quality-sleep on the plane brain totally fucks up, like when you say, “I no speako Italiano,” instead of “Non parlo Italian.” And you have no one to commiserate with when you discover they didn’t stamp your passport on arrival or your stomach is growling with intense hunger, but it’s only 6:45 p.m. and no one eats dinner this early in Italy. You absolutely must wait until at least 8. You have no one to ask, “how early should we get to the train station tomorrow?” or to help you carry your luggage.
You are alone.
And yet sometimes this is the very thing you revel in. Sometimes you just want to remember that though you are alone in a strange, though incredibly beautiful place, you can manage whatever is tossed your way. It’s what you need to remember to not forget, after all.
It can be a tad scary to be alone in such strangeness, but you do it anyway.
You do it so you remember you can.
I love the alleyways, and I love the old stone and the way the sun sets and dances on cobblestone streets, and the well worn Spanish Steps, and the sounds of prego, ciao, gracie and especially buona sera. I love wine in the afternoon, and the way the sun hurts my eyes as it winds through the ancient streets, so bright I can’t see where I am going. I love the smell of leather, chicken baking in garlic somewhere, coffee mingled with cigarette smoke. I smile at the background music of Frank Sinatra in a wine bar though the silent television is turned to MTV and I love the sound of motorcycles, scooters, church bells and birds outside my open window in the morning.
And I especially loved arriving in Italy. I woke and looked out the plane window to a red fingerling ski as the sun rose, and I began to cry. I began to cry, not for the beauty of sunrise, but for the woman who still cries, still dreams and who is beautifully free. I cried for the chance to cross one more item off my bucket list, and smiled at how very important that list has become.
I cried because I can and because I am here and most of all because this matters to me.