A Traveler’s Afflictions


Readers, it’s time I reveal to you a couple of serious medical afflictions that I have which heavily impact my daily life. It’s been a little while coming with the diagnoses, but I think I’ve finally got everything nailed down. I realize I suffer from the following things:

Itchy Feet & Restless Legs

I suffer from the inability to stay in one place for too long, both literally and figuratively.

Some of my happiest times are when I’m in motion – on a train, on a bus, walking (that’s a big one), progressing through, well, just about anything. Airports have long been one of my favourite places; it’s all excitement. People are coming and going, and at any moment you’re in the same spot as people from all over the world. You’re gearing up for a time that you’ll probably be relying on only what you’ve been able to pack in your bag. I find it thrilling. I also find it thrilling to be in a new place. To get to know a place on foot. To “make it through” a series of travel connections to get to where you’re going.

itchy feet

Due to both economic circumstances and my personal preferences, I’ve spent the last little while with my thumb in many different pies, so to speak, and my feet in a few different places. I teach. I write. I travel. I work with Air Cadets. I take off, then I come home. I come home for awhile, then I take off again. I measure amounts of money by the number of plane tickets (usually to Italy) it can buy.

I have begun to plan work around my desire to travel. I only look for contract jobs with firm end dates, at which point I can reevaluate everything. At times I despise this, but I really can’t bring myself to work any other way at this point, because I hate to feel stuck, to feel stagnate. Talking with friends, I realize that part of this is just a being-in-your-20s thing, and maybe part of it is being a Gemini thing, and maybe part of it is just being Sarah. But since I don’t want to end up like this guy, I follow my restless legs and itchy feel when they tell me it’s time to get a move on.

restless leg

 

 

What they don’t tell you though, is along with itchy feet and restless legs comes the torment of the conflicted head and heart.

Conflicted Head, Conflicted Hearttravel-heart

To travel is a compulsion for me.

We’ve established that. And while my feet and legs are always gleefully, thoughtlessly happy when they’re moving, my head and my heart are not. Once all the excitement of the coming and going, packing and unpacking, taking off and landing has subsided, I often start to get a little niggling, nagging feeling somewhere north of my belly and south of my neck. This feeling then manifests itself in thoughts and questions, making my inner conversation, which usually happens on the plane, go something like this:

What if this plane crashes and you never see your family again?  You are not afraid of flying. (I’m actually not.) You know that statistically air travel is safer than car travel. Ask the flight attendant for a drink and go to sleep.

What if something happens to someone you love while you’re away? You staying at home is not going to ensure that nothing terrible happens to your loved ones. If something happens you fly home and deal with it. Something could just as easily happen while you’re sitting on the couch in Canada, miserable. Seriously, have a drink.

But if something does happen to someone, you’ve missed out on precious time because of your terrible compulsion to move around.  You know in the long run this will make you happier than sitting at home, sucking your thumb, waiting for something terrible to befall you or someone you love. Knock it off. Where’s that drink?

Then, the kicker.

Why do you have to be like this? What’s so wrong with home, with Canada, with your family, your friends, your life? Don’t you appreciate all that you have? What about a permanent job, your career, a house? You’ll never have these things if you keep jumping around.  Now look at you, alone in an airplane with all your questions and worries. Not the joy you expected,is it? Why must you leave all the time?

And after a few minutes of quiet reflection, something fierce inside me replies:

Because I can. Because I’m not hurting anybody by doing what I want, maybe only by not doing what I want. Because I’m brave enough to actually listen to my heart and do what it tells me, not what society or other people think I should do. Because I know myself. I know that opportunities to be in the wind become fewer and fewer as I get older. Because I know I’ll regret not going when I had the chance. Because I don’t want to wait for other people to be ready to join me. They may never be ready. I don’t want to wait forever. I’m ok on my own.

And although there’s no place like home, home isn’t always where you’re meant to be. I will always have a home to go home to, because my family loves me. And they will still love me even if I’m not physically with them. They love me so much that all they want is my happiness, and if my happiness takes me elsewhere, then so be it. (Family, please correct me if I’m wrong!)

Because the world is there to be discovered, to be experienced, to be “lived”. Because I can push these worries out of my head and live my life in spite of them. Not because they become lessened, but because life will never be without worry.

So go, and be at peace with it, I tell myself.

travelling heart

For the Love of Siena…


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"Ahhh, Siena. It’s the place I’ve come to think of as my Italian hometown, even though my actual Italian roots come from a little farther south in a town called Sora. It’s the place where I’ve spent the most time in Italy. The place I worked, the place I lived, the place where I really embraced being Italian. It’s the place that inspired the logo for this blog. It’s the place I make sure I set foot in at least once a year. Plus, it’s beautiful, the food is great, and while you’re there you can’t help but feel as if you’ve got one foot in the Middle Ages and the other in the present.

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While tourists would argue that Siena doesn’t have a ton to “do”, I counter with the argument that it’s an amazing place to simply “be”, and it truly is. But even I can see that, while I’m crazy about Siena as it is, it has the potential to be so much more, which brings me to the point of this post:

In 2011, Siena entered itself into the competition to be Europe’s Capital of Culture for the year 2019. Back then, a friend of mine had a wonderful idea: to create a cultural association which might help Siena to achieve the Culture Capital goal for 2019 and to organize and promote cultural activities within the city for both residents and visitors. It’s been two years in the making, (chi va piano va sano e lontano/slow and steady wins the race) but a group of residents of Siena (a couple of my friends included) have created such a group and have called it SIENA SIENA.

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Yours truly, all the way from Canada, will be the Canadian Ambassador for Siena within the SIENA SIENA association! What does that mean for me? Well, we’re still working out the fine details, but it’ll probably involve some writing, some translating, and hopefully some more time in Siena. What does that mean for you, readers? Probably that I’ll be keeping you more up-to-date with the goings on in my beloved city. The website isn’t up yet, but when it launches you can bet I’ll be the first to let you know the details, and invite you to join our association.

Viva Siena! 

 

Where Sundays are Still Sundays


Dinner DisastersAhh, Sunday.

A day of rest. A day of relaxation.

The day of the traditional pranzo della domenica (Sunday lunch) in Italy.

It used to be that I dreaded Sundays in Italy. Nothing is open, beaches are crowded, church bells over-exercise their right to chime and you can feel the marked change of pace in a place, especially smaller cities and towns. The whole country downshifts into a lower gear for a day, and it was an odd feeling for me, coming from a city in Canada where Sundays feel the same as pretty much every other day of the week. I’d find myself at loose ends, an outsider watching families gather in the piazza and pranzare (have lunch) together. I didn’t have family in Siena, and because many things are closed on Sundays, I didn’t have a lot to do.

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When I started working, I drew the lucky straw that had me in the office, without fail, every Sunday morning at 8am. Sunday being Sunday and Italy being Italy, public transportation didn’t run out to the little hamlet where my office was situated, so I’d have to rely on the kindness of my coworkers to get me to work. Bleary-eyed, I’d be up walking through the streets to meet my ride before the rest of the town had begun to stir, getting a glimpse of Siena behind-the-scenes. Slowly, I started to appreciate that little window of time.

Then we’d be in the office, cursing the fact that we had to be there but happy to be getting one of our weekly shifts done on a day less hectic than the other six. Our boss wouldn’t come in until later or not at all, and by the time 2:30 rolled around and it was time to leave, the trains had started running and I could get back home on my own.

As I started making more friends, Sundays weren’t so bad. In fact, some of my happiest, most peaceful memories of Italy are of Sunday lunches that went on for hours, a little table spread out in the piazza, the calcio (soccer) being broadcast on the radio in the background, and friends gathered together enjoying one another’s company. Even this year, on a quick visit to Siena, I had the pleasure of indulging in a beautiful Sunday lunch with a new friend out in the Chianti countryside. If you had seen me then,  eating from a tagliere di salumi (sliced cured meats), enjoying some insalata di farro (spelt salad), and washing it all down with sips of smooth Chianti,  you would have found me the perfect picture of contentment.

I don’t know what it is about Sunday lunch as opposed to Sunday dinner, but somehow, I like it better. Maybe it’s because Sunday lunch affords you more time; If you start at 2pm, you can sit at the table for 3 hours without worrying about anything. If you sit down at 6pm though, by the time 9 rolls around you’re worried about the things you have to prepare for Monday, thinking about how much sleep you’ll get before the alarm goes off and all the dirty dishes that are separating you from your bed.

Call me sentimental, (or maybe I’m just getting old) but I’ve come to love, look forward to, and even crave the feeling of slow Italian Sundays. My experiences in Italy (and recently, in France) have reminded me of what Sundays should feel like: calm, a day of rest, of reconnection with family and friends topped off with some good food for good measure.

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It warms my heart to know that there are still places in the Western world that cling to the idea that Sundays are and should be different from the other days of the week. I experience an often-missed feeling of contentment when I’m in a place where Sundays are still Sundays.

Buona domenica & happy Sunday!