There’s a difference between vacationing and traveling that most people don’t understand until they’ve been submerged in the two. When someone goes on a vacation even though they may be in a new time zone they never leave the comforts of home behind, and there is nothing wrong with this. It’s actually really nice, you stay with your routines, and enjoy things within your comfort zone and stay content the entire time. Traveling on the other hand is a whole other experience, and I don’t mean traveling in the sense of getting from one place to another, but actually allowing yourself to experience the differences on a foreign place; food, language, customs, sights, etc. you try to become one of the locals, blend in with your surroundings. You open up your mind, body and soul to this new place, in exchange for learning something new about yourself.
I’ve seen some absolutely breathtaking sights since I’ve been here. Italy is full of gorgeous architecture and history. It displays how skilled the human race has been in art and engineering for centuries, the capabilities we have had for hundreds, even thousands, of years is often unappreciated or not realized until it’s right in front of you. The dedication, effort and pride it took to create such masterpieces is astounding, and leaves you feeling so small in comparison to something so impressive. Families live in homes that hold stories of multiple generations, having a green thumb is taken seriously and is shown throughout the entire country with vineyards and gardens, even in the cities. The abundance of history that pours out of every corner can be overwhelming to take in, and although impossible, you try to catch it all. These characteristics are just a few that make Italy unique, beautiful and a place sought by so many to experience.
During this trip to Europe, I discovered the difference in “vacationing” and “traveling” in ways I never have thought before. At one point on the trip John said, “I’m happy that your trip hasn’t been all sunshine and glitter and you’ve been able to experience how Italy really is.” The humidity was miserable and with temperature reaching the high 90s it made it that much worse, the cities are crowded and personal space is practically nonexistent. Change for €20 was hard to come by, along with more than three ice cubes for your drink. The comfort of air conditioning is lost due to the age of the buildings, leaving a window and a stroke of luck for a breeze your best bet. I’ve taken every form of transportation since I’ve been here; train, bus, taxi, boat, and plane, even all in the same day to get to our destination. I’ve been tired, grumpy, overheated, and in pain all at the same time. I haven’t styled my hair once, my feet have blisters and I’ve been sunburnt. All these factors have tested us all individually and as a group, but remembering being uncomfortable is temporary got us through.
People tend to forget that beyond the pictures we find on the Internet that showcase images of beautiful sunsets, astounding architecture and mouthwatering cuisine, that Italy is a real place. We don’t take into consideration aspects of life that are unpleasant, such as a busy street, food that isn’t what we expected, or an unfriendly stranger. However, you have to take it for what it is and find the beauty anyways, because it’s always to be found. If I’m being honest, there were moments of my trip I was wishing it was over and I was back home, but then we would see a painting, ruins, scenery, even this little girl on her bike, that would turn my mood around, reminding me how thankful and blessed I am to be here. It’s ok to miss the comforts of home, that’s normal. I’m just happy I didn’t let this get the best of me, because in the end everything we went through was all worth it.
Italy, you are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for letting me see your sights, and experience your culture. I’m able to go home with new insights, and a broadened worldview, which is priceless. I’ll end with this quote by Anthony Bourdain: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts; it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave behind something good.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.