Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Knowing when to stay and when to go.....

I leave Italy one week from today.   

Three months ago, I departed my known world with these lyrics from David Byrne’s “Glass and Concrete and Stone” in mind:
Looking at happiness
Keeping my flavor fresh
Nobody knows, I guess
How far I go, I know

And so I started this adventure with open bookends...

and with more David Byrne (Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime”) lyrics:
And you may find yourself in another part of the world...

I have not rushed to see every famous thing, here in the old world. I did not come to sightsee. Mostly I have been in place…
Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down

And I have found much to love in my quiet wanderings.
Here are some random samples of European flavors to savor:


Things to love about Italy:

women in skirts on Vespas
men in pink pants
the song of cicadas
angels on bridges
Aperol Spritz with free appetizers

Things to love about France:

multi-language Scrabble at night in the café on the square
being able to speak the language
the stranger with the kindest face I’ve ever seen

Things to love about Germany:

girls on bicycles
women in braids
tall, good-looking men who drink beer for breakfast
windows that both tilt and open – hello America!
efficiency and cleanliness in every corner

And yet, 
despite all the new experiences and new friends to love, 
I am ready to come home.

Travel can be both exhilarating and isolating... 

It is like being invited to a party, 
but watching it through the window from the sidewalk.

And you may tell yourself,
This is not my beautiful house
This is not my beautiful wife…

That said, people here have been extremely friendly. Indeed, I have had to ask for assistance a number of times and have only experienced helpfulness and generosity (sometimes in words I couldn’t understand but, still, the kindness is decipherable).

Of course, when traveling, one has to be prepared to be humbled by the inevitable mistakes that happen. Traveling alone, in particular, can be very educating. 

Here are six handy travel tips I can share with you: 

  1.       Do NOT get involved in an emotional text message while waiting for the train. If you do, you will find yourself, ten minutes later, sitting on the slow rumbler that stops at every god-forsaken little station, examining your expensive ticket for the high-speed trip, as your sleek, modern train whizzes by. The Hey, that’s my train moment…… 
  2.      Do NOT agree to rub ointment onto the aching back of an Italian man. When he goes to the hospital in an ambulance, it is not your fault. The fact that he phones a dozen people to discuss the situation, saying things like “L’Americana” and “massaggio” will remind you to never do this again. In fact, the Italian Parliament is probably drafting a law, even now, to ensure that you, personally, never again perform “massaggio” in Italy.
  3.      Do NOT let the owner of the lovely restaurant on the outskirts of Sienna ply you with free Limoncellos, no matter how nice he is, or how sweet and yummy they are. If you get lost finding your way back to the hostel that night, it is your own fault
  4.       Do NOT bring luggage to Corniglia, in the Cinque Terre. Just don’t. If the sun is relentless and the bus is done for the day, it is just you and 400, yes 400, stairs to climb from the train station to the village. Trust me, it’s better to wear the same sundress for three days....
  5.       Do NOT sit on the Altstadt in Dusseldorf, at night, in a pretty dress. Known as “the longest bar in the world,” this is not a place I’d recommend wandering alone. The men are not shy…...
  6.       Do NOT try to drive like the Italians. When they roar up on your tail and park there, 2cm away, set aside your driving bravado and just pull over. Let them rush past you. Let them rip down double roads the width of a horsecart. Let them pass the ubiquitous bicyclist on a blind corner. In this case, when in Rome, do NOT do like the Romans….
These may (or may not) be valuable lessons. Some of them may (or may not) end up in the book on which I am feverishly working, day and night (well, that may be a small exaggeration, but it is coming along). Fresh inspiration is a beautiful thing. As is the call of one’s home.

And so, in a week, I return with several mementos (the snakeskin I found, a few feathers, the rosaries blessed by the pope – one for me, one for my mom), a few lessons, a couple new friendships, and one open heart..............

and more David Byrne singing in my head -
I’m wakin’ at the crack of dawn…
Gonna be on my way…
And my head is fifty feet high…
Let my body and soul be my guide.

I hope to see you all soon!

xox, Cate

1 comment:

  1. Good post Cate! I will definitely heed your travel trips when traveling there and in some cases I'm sure they are applicable all over the world. I am looking forward to getting together when you get back to our lovely corner of the world. Call me :)


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