Today I was cruising around different pages on the web when I stumbled upon my alma mater’s page for the Italian program. I took Italian for all four years of my undergraduate career. I minored in it, tutored and studied aboard for summer a small group of people I had never met.
As I perused the Facebook page, looking at the pictures taken during the most recent trips, I was struck by several different feelings and realizations all at once. I mean, I took that trip 11 years ago and yet it seems like it was maybe 2-3 years.
What made that trip significant was the fact that I was traveling alone for the first time. Now obviously I was in a group of people, but none of those people were members of my family. In fact, other than my professors, I didn’t know any of them from Eve. It’s a big thing, you know. Going to a country where you aren’t fluent, with different customs and different ways of life.
We stayed in a beautiful seaside town in Northern Italy called Chiavari, where very few people spoke English. The English they did speak was limited, and after I came back I felt so much more comfortable speaking in another language. Because despite the fact that my mother immigrated here from Italy, I didn’t begin learning Italian until I was in college, and then I was embarrassed to speak in front of my family.
But back on track, during that time I really fell in love with Italy. I loved the lifestyle of being in a small, seaside town. It was simple, but so fulfilling. We went hiking all around Liguria on afternoons and weekends, made friends in the town, went out to different bars and clubs and beach parties, explored neighboring areas and regions. It was weird, but I felt at home.
That was when my thirst for travel really kicked into high gear. Every day I long to experience a new place and explore new cities and towns. Maybe I am secretly a gypsy or maybe I am trying to recreate that feeling again. While several other areas have come close (mainly the Bay area and north in California), Italy will always be my favorite destination.