You might have wondered where have I disappeared for the past month and why I didn’t really update the blog in a while. And I have to be honest with you. The truth is that I have been struggling with a burned out feeling for quite some time now, I felt that I couldn’t concentrate anymore and that my mind became empty. I have tried to find answers to this problem, I have tried to ignore it at first and hope that it will go away by itself. I have spent weekends in bed, doing nothing but watching movies, I have been active by going to the gym every day, I have tried to eat healthy, but nothing seemed to help. I had given up with hobbies and my camera became dusty on the shelf, abandoned. Every day I would wake up with the same empty feeling wondering what the day would bring. I was becoming impatient, clumsy, and the smallest things irritated me, even made me feel angry. I was becoming a person that I didn’t like, and I was started to hate myself for it. I was closed in this circle with concrete walls that I couldn’t break, there was no hammer anywhere. Something had to change.
So I decided that I needed a break. I needed to start feeling again and I needed my creativity back. I needed to find myself again, the curious traveller, the passionate photographer, the helping hand. I needed to start smiling again.
On the 1st of October I boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Pisa. I didn’t know what was waiting for me there, but I knew I had to do something to break the routine. And, as always, traveling was my way out, my saviour.
I rented a room in a house on top of a hill, in a village in Tuscany. I rented a moped, even if I have never driven before. I wanted my own eat, pray and love month, I was hoping that my month away in Italy will have the same effect on me that it did on Elizabeth Gilbert. A cliché? Maybe, but in my current state of mind I felt all I had all I had was hope.
When I stepped out of the plane and touched the ground at Pisa Airport I felt a moment of release, of peace. I smiled. I almost felt like I had to fall down and kiss the tarmac. I’ve made my way through customs (which lasted 30 seconds, compared to the UK when I get questioned every single time I enter the country), took the train and headed towards Empoli, where my host would pick me up from the station and take me to what was supposed to be my new home for the next month. During the first night I slept like a baby, something that didn’t happen to me in a while. I woke up at 10, surrounded only by the sounds of the birds chirping at my window. And above all, there was even a cat which loved me from the first second we met.
I will write detailed posts about my Italian experience during the following months, because oh, there is so much to tell. I’ve managed to learn how to drive a motorbike, 3 days after I swore not to get back on it because I fell on my first lesson. And during the last weekend in Italy I drove it 120 km in a return trip to San Gimigniano, all by myself.
I’ve learned how to communicate in Italian and make myself understood, in a village in which nobody would really speak English. I have made friends at the local café and I cried when we’ve said good-bye. “Will you come back?”, they asked me. I’ve discovered a different Florence than the one I’ve seen 10 years ago. Back then I didn’t like it. Getting to know it with a local made such a difference! I’ve even trespassed inside a posh hotel’s garden so that I can admire Ponte Vecchio from a privileged spot. I ate gelato for dinner.
I’ve learned how to cook Italian food and learned about the different techniques that the Italian mammas use. And I ate like there was no tomorrow. I’ve had the best gelato in my life. I drank wine, a lot of wine, bought directly from the little winery next to the house. I took part in the picking of the olives, with my adopted family, and I even received a small jar of new olive oil back (damn you 100 ml rule for hand luggage).
I’ve seen the entire valley underneath the house turn golden every evening, at sunset. I fell in love again at Cinque Terre. I’ve been to the theatre, I’ve attended a film festival, I went to a concert and I even took part in a meditation class held in Italian. I’ve been to an open mic night. I tried to say yes to every opportunity that arose. I walked through vineyards and olive trees gardens, I drove through the colourful village roads of Tuscany.
I tried to take it easy and to enjoy every moment, every sunset, every sunny day, every slice of pizza and every bite of pasta, every glass of wine, every stroke of the cat, and every drive on the motorbike.
It’s the 3rd of November and I’m writing this while on the plane, from Pisa back to Gatwick. I already miss my life in Italy, but I also feel that my creativity is back, and that I am a changed person. I am becoming me again. I always go back to Italy when I am not feeling myself and Italy has always received me with open arms, like a loving mother receives their long-lost child.