Shortly after Christmas, I was still acclimating to my new surroundings while running some errands with a friend. He was asking questions about Italy which inspired me to reflect on the past year of my life. In doing that, I realized something that I hadn't previously thought of. There wasn't anything in the world that I would trade for the adventures I'd experienced. The memories and moments that have shaped me over the past year can never be taken away. There are instances in which you wish you did things different, or wonder how things would've turned out if you followed another path. There are accomplishments and successes in life that can never be taken away from you, and those that can. Maybe I could have had good a job, been in love and settled down on the heavily trodden path. I wouldn't want my last year to have been anything different than it was. No one will ever be able to take anything I did or felt away from me. One year in my life has never had such an effect on me in every possible aspect. I am changed forever, and I have new friends throughout the world that will last forever. This blog doesn't cover even a fraction of the crazy experiences I've had. The wild times and emotional rides will forever be a part of me. That is what I realized when recounting stories with my friend, and I made sure he knew that I wouldn't trade it for the world.
|Look at the face on that fish|
Living abroad has changed me in more ways that I could have ever expected, and maybe even more than I even realize. Family and friends insist that I'm a very different person. I put it down to the newly inspired understanding of fashion that comes with the territory of living in Italy, and I have been fortunate to be complimented on that often. Others describe a different aura of maturity, confidence and charm. I feel different, but the change was gradual for me. For everyone else it was sudden. It wasn't the numerous shoes or scarves accessorizing my European inspired dress. It was an understanding of where I am in life, and what I want out of it. I can't claim to know myself or my path perfectly because I realize that I may never reach that point. The difference is that I realize the constant growth happening in, and around me. I remember very well the day I picked up and left the country. I had no idea what I was getting into nor was I prepared for it. Being thrown into the fire put me back to square one to relearn life and living. My friends and family were no longer there for anything, and it provided me an opportunity to escape to recreate myself. This wasn't a vacation to Italy or even your typical study abroad. There was no support structure to help nor was there a guide to follow. My perspective of life has been significantly altered from immersing myself in a culture where life is not all that similar to what I knew. And the more I traveled, the more I realized how little I know about the world we live in.
|Italian Communist Party flags outside their office in a Palazzo I lived in|
|Sunset on the Cattedrale di Ss. Donato e Pietro (the duomo) in Arezzo|
In terms of spontaneity, you must also remember that you are reading the blog of a man who spent half his time living in Italy without a place to call home. There is a different perspective of reality when you've got off a train at midnight in a foreign country without a place to sleep. I almost had to beg on the street in order to buy a train ticket from Milan to Bologna. Then I had to find a place to stay once I arrived. These are some of the experiences that I cherish the most. Living life in constant uncertainty is largely responsible for my personal growth. Spending a night in a medieval piazza wouldn't have bothered me even slightly. My issues with commitment and stability are a direct result of this nomadic lifestyle. I was scared to book a hostel for my trip to Belgium because I didn't want to be stuck with a set itinerary. There were too many options of places to go for me to settle on any in advance. It turned out for the best too because I missed my flight and wasn't forced to pay for hostels that I didn't use.
|Love and Lights in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna|
A teacher, more of an old friend, from my high school years at Salisbury told me I'd be changed by the experience I embarked on but I never truly realized to what extent. My personal growth far exceeded anything I could imagine but I've simultaneously rediscovered a youthful to desire to never grow up. I NEED to be free and spontaneous. Nine lives may be needed to satisfy my curiosity to learn and experience. Oddly enough, I still encounter the occasional moment of culture shock from my constantly transitioning environment. Immersion into another culture and language has been significantly rewarding. I still find myself leaning in when I hear groups walking by speaking English because I subconsciously don't know whether to expect English or Italian. Every time words of a foreign language are within earshot I hope that it's Italian. When it is, an air of excitement comes over me followed by homesickness and nostalgia. Strangely, I've never really been homesick despite leaving home at age sixteen, but now a small reminder of a country where I spent nearly a year wrenches at something deep within me.
|Youth in Cinque Terre|
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
-Words of Wisdom, Chief Tecumseh