Heading to Sorrento, Italy alone to live there from January to May, had me in a mass of emotions. However, the overarching emotion for me had always been excitement.
Now it is April 18th, of 2017, I am more than halfway done with my time in Italy and I can still say with certainty, that emotion is still greatly evident within each day I am here. Excitement has never left me, and I don’t think it ever will. There is something so fulfilling about being here. What seemed at first as a place in the middle of nowhere, has somehow evolved into being home.
This is mainly because of the people I have met.
But also because of the places I have been: Sorrento, Naples, Capri, Rome, Amsterdam, Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Milan, Paris, and soon to be Germany and Sicily.
Each and every one of these amazing experiences have taught me predominantly about relationships. Relationships with people, with myself, and with beautiful places.
Relationships with people:
Studying abroad at a small school in southern Italy, I have had the opportunity to connect on a personal level to around 35 other students that I see every day. I have met students from all across the United States, coming from all different backgrounds with all sorts of personalities. Studying everything from architecture, to woman’s gender studies. I can honestly say, I get along with each and every person. I think to come to Italy for 4 months, and take such a risk puts us all in a similar personality bubble. The fact that we are open, we are willing to take risks, we all want to discover something new, makes us all very much alike in those ways, but different in others. I have learned how to deal with different people as some may be more secure, some more confident, some more open, and some more confined. From this practice, I feel I could start a conversation with any person and relate them to someone I’ve met. Whether it be someone I met through this school, or through visiting different cities, and staying at different hostels. My main point is, I feel like I’ve met every kind of person out there that I can relate to. Because of this, I have gained a skill in feeling comfortable around people, and what an important skill that is.
I met one young man about my age in my hostel in Venice, Italy. The hostel was called The Generator, a chain of hostels marketed toward younger travelers.
My friend Emma and I sat on a couch in the dining area and this young man came right up to us. He asked where we were from, he was from Brazil. He was traveling alone as he said he had done often. “You don’t get scared?” I had asked him. “No”, he replied with a laugh, “what is there to be scared of?” He had even said he used a website “Couch Surfers” to find strangers in the area willing to give up their couch for a traveler in the area to stay the night in their home, free of charge. I thought how this was something I could never do. But I envied him as he said he has met amazing people from doing this couch surfing. He has these connections all over Europe, of people he can contact whenever he is in the area, and whenever they are near Brazil they will contact him. How nice that is I thought, to have someone from afar to connect with. We then talked about the benefits of traveling alone. He said he likes not having a schedule, not having distractions. Worst comes to worst, he said you just ask people questions to get answers. I told him I could never really see myself traveling alone. “Why!?” he said, “I’m too scared” I replied. “You have too many fears” he stated.
Little did I know, within about 3 weeks of this, I would be planning a trip to Paris for the weekend, alone as I would ever be.
Relationship with myself:
Fear has always been a problem for me. Growing up, my mother would never let me go to the park alone, walk alone from school, or even go to a friend’s house without knowing their parents were home. There were thieves out there in the world, there were stalkers, there were rapist; I had heard it all. My mind had been so consumed in so much antagonism, all this danger, danger, danger, that I would never have the thought to go up and talk to a stranger, go to a foreign place, or do anything on my own. But what an awful way to live, in constant fear. Why are so many children raised in America this way? Caution to a certain extent is necessary, but never should it stop someone from living their life. I had never realized the effect this had on me, until I came to Europe, where people trust one another and trust themselves on a different level. I am independent, confident, creative, and extremely open-minded. Last year, this is not something I could have ever stated about myself. I lacked confidence because I had fear. Not just of the “thieves, rapist, murderers” I had been warned about, but about people in general. Now a days, I feel so proud of myself for surviving this and for making so many changes. I am proud of myself for making so many friends, and seeing so many wonderful things. I thank myself every day for it.
I hit a huge milestone when I decided to travel alone for the first time ever to a new city. This idea that came over me like a tidal wave, was thanks to a short talk with a stranger I met at my hostel in Venice, who had inspired me to not live in fear of everything. This solo trip was scary, really scary, but I did it anyway. “Does your mom know you’re going to Paris alone?”, my roommate had asked… “No she won’t mind”, I had lied. I also told my other friend Chloe about my upcoming trip, her reaction: “Well I mean that’s very Eat Pray Love of you, but I don’t want you to go alone”. These remarks were not too reassuring for me, as I was already a nervous wreck thinking about all the possibilities of things that could go wrong. A big, vibrant, ranting city, where my nerves could run free. I would figure it out, I thought, I can do this. I’ve done it with friends, I can do it alone. I still to this day, don’t know how I did it. I booked my flight from home (Naples, Italy) to Paris, my hostel in Paris, and my flight from Paris back to Naples. I then filled my 2 days with things to do, booking in advance: a tour of the Eiffel tower, a ticket to the Louvre museum, a ticket for an hour canal ride, and a ticket to a live orchestra performance at a beautiful church in Paris: L’eglise de la Madeleine. If I had things to do, and had places to be, maybe I would spend less time being nervous. Or, so I thought.
Maybe everything didn’t go exceptionally perfect on my trip to Paris. To start, my train broke down on the way to my hostel and the announcement made in French over the loud-speaker, gave me no insight as to if I would be making it to my hostel that night. I read my book and tried not to think about it or the fact that I didn’t bother to learn any French before the trip. I had made it to where I needed to be finally, a little later than I had planned. I checked into my hostel, that went well. I had a slight panic attack trying to find my hostel room. The floor was dark and there were door numbers lit in every direction. I couldn’t find my number “132” and wandered around in circles until it was hard to breathe and everything was spinning. “132, 132, 132”. I took some deep breaths and imagined everything was in slow motion. I finally found my room, where it was slightly hidden in one of the corners of the hall. I made it to my room I thought, if I just wanted to stay here for the rest of the day or even the rest of the weekend I could let myself, it was going to be okay. I entered my hostel room filled with 8 bunk beds of complete stranger of whom I would spend the next 2 nights with. I said hello to the young man across from me. Wearing glasses and covered with tattoos, maybe I was quick to judge him. I unpacked and settled in without saying much. But after just about 5 minutes of talking to him, I got a sense of his personality and I liked him. He was goofy, whimsical, and no one I should be afraid of. I already knew I could be myself around him and everything would be just fine. It turned out he had never traveled alone either, so it was both our first times and he had traveled a much longer way, from San Francisco. Little did we know, our third roommate entered, a young girl quiet and sweet wearing a bright smile, around our same age. We both said hello right away and got talking. It was her first trip alone as well. I immediately felt a huge wave of relief as the three of us went from nervous wrecks to acquaintances. We went to the rooftop bar at our hostel and shared a glass of wine with one another. We quickly shifted from acquaintances to friends after talking a little bit about our lives. We got dinner and drinks together that night at a close-by restaurant and talked about a list of what we had wanted to see and do in Paris. The young man even treated us to our drinks and snail, saying we were in a new city, we had to try new things! We returned to our hostel together that night. I felt safe.
After a long and adventurous day roaming around Paris Saturday, I woke up early Sunday to catch my flight back to Naples. I gave my new friend a huge hug. The other one was asleep so I figured I wouldn’t wake him up. It had only hit me then that I hadn’t gotten either of their phone numbers and would never see them again. How can that be? How can you feel so close to someone with in just one day, and then realize you will never see them again? A part of me felt so sad as I closed our room door behind me, closing the relationship I had with the two, forever. They had been so kind to me. We had talked about maybe meeting up in San Francisco, but I knew in that moment it would never be possible because we had no way of contacting one another. Still to this day, I feel a bit regretful to not have just asked for their phone number or Facebook page so we could keep in touch. At the same time, I figured it was meant to be, this is life. Some people we are meant to meet but not to know. There is something special about just cherishing the time we had and being grateful to have had someone to feel safe around and just leave it in the past. Knowing that there is nothing in the future that could destroy those memories in Paris, or our friendship was a feeling I had never felt before. But just like memories, they will drift away and I know I will never hear from them again. These friends I met, ended up teaching me a lot about myself. They taught me how to react to others and to friendships. They taught me how to not hold on too tight, but just to cherish the moments. I can’t count how many friends in high school I had that were my “Best friends forever”, that I haven’t talked to in years and probably never will. But this was different, because I could cherish the fact that we had happened to be in the right place at the right time in a world so huge. I consider my trip to Paris, my favorite trip of them all.
Relationship with places
Before travelling to Italy, I had talked to my friend Jen that had also spent 4 months in southern Italy, Sorrento. She told me I would love it, that it was amazing, charming, and comforting. She said she had left her heart in Sorrento, Italy and that I would be leaving mine there too after a long 4 months. I figured she would be right, but I didn’t understand fully what she had meant or how it would feel to leave your heart somewhere you are not. But now 3 months later, I have come to understand more of what she meant by this. All of the places I have visited that I have been so inspired by, I have left my heart in. What I mean by this is, these places have a piece of me, not just my heart and love, but my mind, my thoughts, my creativity, my memories, even my very own footprints. These cities have inspired me to live life in different ways and to know that there is always something more. There is always something beyond where I may be in a particular stage in my life and it so comforting to live with that thought. The idea that you are never trapped, you are never stuck because there is so much more in other places.
Yet even now, looking back so soon on my memories, I know a picture on my phone will never be able to capture the feelings I had sitting on a curb side in Paris alone, enjoying the view, trying to seize the moment. Or: sitting on a gondola in Venice passing through narrow alley ways, wondering the small village of Burano, smoking my first legal joint in Amsterdam while walking the Red Light District, climbing the cement stairs of the cathedral in Milan, riding a horse through the hills of Tuscany, hearing a live orchestra perform Vivaldi 4 seasons in Paris, entering the Blue Grotto in Capri, or, eating my first slice of Napoleon pizza in Naples. These are experiences that who knows if I will ever have again, and if I did have them again they would never be the same. I have come to realize the important thing, is that I have had them. I have been there I have done that, I have lived through them. I have pieces of my heart all over. All over.
And come May 14th my journey will be all over. All over
COPYRIGHT: CARLY RISTUCCIA
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