Well, 27 essays and a trip to Italy later, I am inspired. It's now my goal to be published among the pages in one of their next editions. A year ago, I would have thought this notion too lofty, but after taking the writing course in magical mountain world and having some of my own personal essay writing critiqued, this is one dream that seems attainable. Sometimes, you can touch a cloud without it eluding your grasp.
I also discovered that I have a penchant for a bizarre German phrase called "wanderlust." Elisabeth Eaves, one of the writers featured in the book, describes wanderlust as "the irresistible impulse to travel," and often by yourself. And I get it, but many people don't. I can't tell you how many times I've seen eyebrows raised in both bewilderment and judgement when acquaintances, friends, and even family learned I made the journey to Italy alone.
Marisa Handler, another "crazy traveler" featured in the book, answers those that don't understand her wanderlust with a question:
How to explain the wanderlust that draws me, time and again, to the solo journey? That I'm forced by circumstance to be totally open? That there is no refuge from sheer experience? That every day is a new adventure, every chance meeting a wee blessing?By traveling alone, I traveled without distraction. I met people I wouldn't otherwise meet, held meaningful conversations that would've never been spoken, and had experiences that were selfishly all mine to keep as my beautiful secret. And although I did spend a week in Abruzzo with nine other women, I made efforts to get away by myself, to see the world sharply through my solo lenses.
On one particular afternoon in Santo Stefano, I took a walk down our magic mountain to the base for lunch at a charming family-owned restaurant. Two of the women taking the same writing course invited me to join them for lunch at their table. I declined and dined alone, ordering my meal using only Italian for the first time that week. I was feeling accomplished and very worldly as I relished the home-made pasta while tapping away at my laptop with writing ideas. I sipped my vino bianco slowly and measured the room. The couple dining next to me didn't look local, but they did look interesting. Eventually, their British accents gave them away and gave me permission to slip from a wannabe Italian back to an American woman.
Their names were John and Shirley. They lived outside London, England most of their life and on a whim, decided they wanted to retire to the countryside in Italy. At 60-something years a piece, they bought over a 100 acres of land (or was it 10,000?) complete with an olive orchard. The land and the orchard demands much attention, and they spend most days and nights working it, just the two of them, exhausted, with not a bit of farming experience between them. Their fixer-upper house came without a kitchen and because this is Italy, it took over a year for it to be installed. The first kitchen they ordered was lost with not much concern from those responsible for its misplacement. If this is the retired life, I want nothing to do with it, but John and Shirley laugh and shrug it away. They can't afford to hire help and I ask how long they think they'll be able to keep this up. "Well, until we pop our clocks, I suppose," Shirley says without blinking. I have never heard this expression for dying used before and find it totally amusing and worth adding to the tap-tapping in my notes.
I will never forget those unassuming adventurers as long as I live, and I probably never would have met them had a traveling buddy demanded my attention and conversation. Thanks to Travelers' Tales and my otherworldly 12-day Italian experience, it will be tough to convince me to travel the world again through a buddy system, or to ever apologize again for having the experience of a lifetime, would you believe it, all by myself.
"To have imagination is to inevitably be dissatisfied with where you live...in our wanderlust we are lovers looking for consummation." ~Anatole Broyard