In the small town of Luino, on the crystal clear waters of Lake Maggiore, we bring our time in Italy to a close. We have been here for 7 weeks. We’ve seen the romantic Tuscan hills, the Olde World architecture and charm of Proceno, the bustling city streets of Rome and Florence, and the very lake swam in by my Great Grandmother. This country is beautiful, and not unlike the landscape of my home state of Colorado, with it’s mountains and lakes, and an amusing mix of the flora and fauna of Gabe’s home state of Arkansas where Magnolia trees also abound. This is a country that feels like home.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in our time here. The things I own are the things strapped to my back. I carry my possessions with me and because I carry their literal weight I have had to take a hard look at what matters and what does not. Remember, we don’t have a car so we are hoofin’ it the majority of the time between trains.
Last week, we were on our way to the train station from our apartment in Florence – it is about a 20 minute walk. I had my backpack on my back and my duffle bag strapped to my front. All together they probably weight between 45-50 lbs. It was around 7am, overcast but humid, and with the sweat trickling down my back and my cheeks red with the effort while trying to breathe through a mask, I was doing a mental inventory of all I carried. Any sentimentality was ruthlessly stripped away as I decided what could go once we got to Luino.
If you’ve known me for 10 minutes or 10 years, you’ll know I’m a reader. A book lover to the Nth degree. I carried 4 books with me from home in Colorado. I’m down to none. As I’ve finished them, they stay behind for someone else to enjoy, because I just can’t. I depart this week from a book I’ve had on my shelf for 10 years, a thick tome of 360 pages, about horses and how they impact us emotionally and spiritually. This was a book I felt I couldn’t leave behind when we packed our bags to begin our adventure back in December. I say goodbye to it today with no feeling except relief. A solid pound of weight left behind. I hope someone else finds enjoyment in it.
Clothing has been pared down even further than when we started, I no longer have jeans, no shirts I only kind of like. I have jewelry that was gifted to me from various friends and family that I carry with no regret. I carry a smart photo frame that houses pictures of our beloved bulldog, Buddha, who passed in 2021. This item is large and heavy but to me, it’s worth carrying “his weight”, if you will.
I carry a blanket that is large and in charge, but it was a gift from my best friend , so I carry “her weight” with me too, and when I wrap up in it in houses that are colder than I’m used too, I think of her with a grateful heart. These, my camera, my laptop, plus a few “essentials” make up the contents of my life. They travel with me on my back. It’s amazing how little we need, how much less I actually want.
I’ve learned that I don’t need or like a lot of living space. Florence was our biggest AirBnB with a big bedroom, huge living and dining room, bathroom, and large kitchen with a sunroom, but I found myself missing the coziness of our 400 sq. ft. house in Proceno. The place in Luino is equally small and I love it, I can make dinner in the kitchen and Gabe is close at hand. I like the nearness, the togetherness.
Kitchen items are still essential to me. I carry a handful of spices, yeast, vanilla extract, measuring cups and spoons, with me from place to place, hoping the places we stay have the rest, most do. I love a place with a food processor, but not all homes have them, so I adjust my cooking accordingly. The kitchen has been my favorite space in each house we’ve stayed in so far. I’m sure that’s a surprise to you all. *wink wink*
I’ve learned that we must be near three things to be content; a grocery store, the train station, and nature. I can’t express the lift to my spirit I felt on the train from Florence, when we came out of a tunnel and the sparkling lake and towering mountains flooded our view. This is the secret sauce for feeling the most content in our visit. A good shower and mattress don’t hurt either.
My love of cooking, reading, and writing, have all been able to flourish in the down time. I do a little of all three each day. I thought maybe I’d find space for new hobbies and interests, but so far this has not been the case, instead I dive deeper into the things I already love.
This includes crafting my coaching business into exactly what I want it to be. I have the time, space, and freedom to make the vision come to life. It’s been enriching to breathe new life into ASE, and dial even deeper into helping women overcome toxic relationships and codependency.
Another really important change for me is I’ve been able to break a bad habit since I’ve been here. At home in the US, I was stuck in a loop of having noise/distraction always on when I was doing anything – cooking, cleaning, napping, driving, I had to have the TV or a Podcast on in the background.
I haven’t really dug into the why of this, I’m sure it’s something that would be beneficial to examine, but I’m more content with the outcome, which has been breaking the habit. Here in Italy I’ve gotten used to doing things without the background noise, which makes the tasks I’m doing more present based. I lose myself in the details of cooking, I brainstorm ideas while handwashing the dishes. On walks (since there is no driving) Gabe and I have discussions about every manner of topic, which brings us closer together. This lack of distraction, this healthier habit forming, is perhaps my best takeaway from our time here.
I thank Italy for all that it’s given to us since our arrival. This was such an ideal place to dip our toe in the travel waters, Italia and it’s people have given us the grace of patience and time to get our feet under us.
I’m a little nervous for our next move to Switzerland, I must confess.. Travel days are always a little higher stress, with trains to catch and a schedule to keep, but I also look forward to the experience of the day and the days ahead. We will be moving at a more rapid pace for the month of February, with several countries on our travel plan. I’m eager and sometimes anxious. I think the unknowns of life give most of us a little anxiety, maybe a lot of anxiety for some of us. I’ve found that acknowledging the feelings and holding space for them, while also putting one foot in front of the other, staying present, has been helpful to me in moving forward, staying away from depression or overwhelm.
Little by little, one travels far.J.R.R Tolkien
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