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

Guest Post: Top 5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Siena


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

It’s pretty impossible for anyone to have a less-than-awesome study abroad experience in Italy. The food alone is reason enough to pick Italia as your abroad destination of choice — after all, this is the birthplace of pizza and spaghetti that we’re talking about here! And Siena is, by far, one of the coolest cities in the whole country. There are tons of reasons to study abroad in Siena – somehow, I’ve managed to narrow it down to five. Check ‘em out (and try to refrain from drooling over your keyboard!):

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1. The aforementioned food. I could really go on and on about the merits of authentic Italian cuisine. Once you take your first bite of pappardelle alla lepre (it’s pasta; that’s all you need to know!), there’s just no turning back. And Italian food in the Tuscany region? It’s simply the best in the world. Best of all, Siena is located smack dab in the middle of Tuscany, where the highest-quality olive oil runs as freely as the Tiber River. Be prepared to try the freshest and most mouth-watering bruschettas and antipastos that you’ve ever had in your life.

Tuscan Pici

Tuscan Pici

2. Gelato. Okay, so this could technically go in the food category, but the truth is that Italian gelato is so good that it deserves a category of its own. Gelato is just the Italian version of ice cream, but it somehow surpasses the deliciousness of any ice cream you’ve ever had (this is probably because of the butterfat content, I admit). You’ll wander the cobblestone streets of Siena, gelato dripping from your chin — and you won’t even care, because it’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been.

3. The Palio di Siena. This medieval-era horse race is one of the biggest and most historic events in all of Italy — and it happens twice a year in Siena! Basically, it involves ten jockeys racing bareback around the city’s main piazza, but the scale of it is roughly akin to the Macy’s Day Parade. If you’re lucky enough to study abroad during the Palio festivities, get ready to witness one of the coolest cultural events you’ve ever seen.

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4. The Tuscan countryside. We’ve all seen the requisite pictures of Tuscan olive groves and green countryside. But, the truth is that until you’ve seen those rolling hills and gorgeous vineyards for yourself, you really won’t understand. Experiencing the Tuscan countryside should be on everyone’s bucket list — the sheer beauty of it is just that amazing. Get ready to experience some of the loveliest villages and mountainous views that you’ve ever seen when you decide to study in Siena.

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5. It’s not as touristy as other major Italian cities. Though it’s close to some of the bigger tourist hot spots in Italy, Siena itself just isn’t as touristy in comparison. This makes for an excellent cultural opportunity for students — in Siena, you’ll get a much more authentic feel for Italian life than you would if you studied abroad in Rome, or even Florence. You’ll also get more of a chance to be fully immersed in the Italian language — meaning, you’ll be speaking Italiano in no time (which, trust me, will make you feel like something of a linguistic rock star!).

 

About the Author: Justine Harrington is an admissions advisor for SPI Study Abroad, a provider of language immersion and global leadership programs for high school students. She studied abroad in the south of France – it was no Siena, but it wasn’t too shabby. Justine adores languages and travel, dreams of adopting at least five dogs, and has never met a bowl of pasta that didn’t instantly become her best friend.

 

Why I’m “Too Tall To Be Tuscan”


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"When I first started this blog, I wrote under the pseudonym “Too Tall To Be Tuscan”. You couldn’t find my real name or my face anywhere. Over the past (nearly) 3 years of blogging, I’ve put my name and my face out there, yet every post I write still gets posted by this person called “Too Tall To Be Tuscan”. Have you ever wondered why?

Coming in somewhere just north of 5’9″ (175 cm), or closer to 5’10″ depending on the type of hair day I’m having, there’s no mistaking that I’m tall.  But I’m not an amazon. Not by anyone’s standards.

Except for maybe Italy’s.

I’ll never forget the looks I would get from my coworkers who saw me standing up for the first time (I was usually sitting in front of a computer). “Sarah, you’re so tall for a girl!” “Sarah, amazza sei alta!” Yes, it’s true that I tower over many Italian women and men, but I couldn’t believe all the comments I got (and continue to get) regarding my height.

I know Italians are in tune with footwear, both women and men, but I feel as if I get a disproportionate amount of looks at my feet in Italy. Sure, people just might be checking out the shoes I’m wearing, but I think they’re also looking to see if I’m really as tall as I am, or if my height has been helped by heels.

But the best height-related anecdote happened in the Questura, when I was being fingerprinted for my Permesso di Soggiorno. (I recounted the whole experience here.) The guy asked me how tall I was, and not being used to telling my height in centimetres, I checked my driver’s license and said “centosettantacinque” (175) with gusto.

Non può esse! It can’t be!” the police officer who was helping me cried and bounded to his feet, where he came eye to eye with this Canadian girl who is surely Too Tall to be Tuscan.

tallsarah