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

Why Study Italian?


La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

Let’s just get this out in the open right from the start: Italian is not considered a particularly useful language.

Don’t gasp. Don’t cry. Don’t be surprised to hear this coming from me. I may love Italy and all things Italian, but I know the score.

In the grand scheme of the world, not that many people speak Italian. The big discussions between political leaders don’t happen in Italian, and not many people (other than those living in Italy) are forced to learn Italian at school. You don’t need to understand Italian to read Dante any more, and you don’t need to speak Italian to get a job unless you live in Italy. You don’t need it in order to travel around Italy because a ton of people there speak at least some English, and you don’t need it for immediate access to pop culture anywhere outside of Italy.

In today’s world of immediate gratification and propelled by the widespread need to do things for the main purpose  of “getting ahead”, why push yourself to eke out a bit of time from your jam-packed schedule to learn a language that isn’t going to help you in pretty much any tangible way? (At least, that’s what you think).

English is the language of the world, and any of us with it as our Mother Tongue should count ourselves lucky. English is it. Italian (and every other language) is out. Isn’t that the general consensus? 

pizza

I’m here to tell you that contrary to popular belief, Italian is useful.

It’s useful, it’s helpful, and it’s a language that, through its nature and the nature of its speakers, lends itself to being fun.

Knowing a second language in general is a good thing. It’s like gymnastics for your brain when you switch back and forth between the two. They say that people who know and use a second language, ward off alzheimer’s disease longer than their monolingual counterparts. Who doesn’t want that?

Also, if you tell me that Italian hasn’t been useful in my job hunts, I’ll eat my hat. I have had four, count them, FOUR jobs that knowing Italian has helped me get: my job working for a tour operator in Tuscany, a group leader for summer abroad students in Italy, writer for an Italian-Canadian magazine, and Italian instructor at a university. In a couple cases, my knowing Italian was the deal maker/breaker in my getting those job offers. Now tell me that it hasn’t been useful. And tell me that those jobs aren’t at least somewhat cool. Tell me!

You can’t do it. Because the jobs are cool, the experiences were/are amazing, and Italian has proved itself useful for helping to feed my salvadanaio (piggybank).

Then there’s the more “Italian” side to this argument, the touchy-feely side.

Think of how many more people you can talk to if you know a second language. And think about the people who speak Italian. There are a lot of real personaggi (characters) on that peninsula, and by knowing Italian, you get to talk to them. You get to get to know them. You get to read Dante in all his original 13th century splendour, and you get to listen to songs like “We No Speak Americano” and understand all the words.

205508_1020473484037_1591181602_51463_2526_n

We don’t study Italian because we need to, like everyone who studies English does. We don’t have that pressure. Our jobs, (well, most of them), our livelihoods, our families don’t depend on our knowledge of la bella lingua. But maybe that’s just it, the beautiful part of it all. We study Italian because we want to, not because we need to. Because the music of the language moves us to learn it, to engage in this “impracticality”, to throw some of our precious time to the wind and do something simple for the pleasure of being able to pronounce words like piacere.

dizionario

And if I wasn’t convinced of the merits of knowing Italian before, a conversation with the owner of a language school in Rome this summer really tipped the scales for me.

Sarah,” he said, cigarette in hand, leaning casually on the railing of one of the school’s small balconies. “In this Italian school, we used to also share the space with an English school. Our two sets of students were completely different. The English ones, well, they didn’t want to come to class, they walked around with their heads down, all grey, you know,” he shrugged.

“But the ones who were studying Italian,” his eyes lit up and his voice took on a breathy quality.

“Sarah, the ones who were studying Italian were just more…” he waved his hand casually as he searched for the word. It didn’t take him long before he plucked it out of the Roman sunshine and gave it to me through a slow smile.

“… Beautiful.”

Canzoni Recenti Italian Playlist


Ciao tutti!

Just a quick note to let you know to check out a new page under the Italian Playlists Menu entitled Canzoni Recenti. The page is full of – you guessed it!- recent Italian song suggestions for your listening pleasure. The mix might be a little eclectic, but they’re songs I like and which I think you might as well. As always, I’ve linked the song titles to YouTube for easy access.

Buon ascolto,

Sarah