What Am I Doing Here?

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

20120731-073646.jpg

I’ve been back in Toronto for a few days now, and I have to admit that I’m struggling a bit. Being back here, back to the old routine is difficult. Yesterday was really hard for me, for Saturday and Sunday were days spent trying to get adjusted to this time zone and with family activities. Yesterday was my first full day back to my routine. And it sucked.

I can honestly say that I think I was majorly depressed yesterday as all I wanted to do is stay in bed. Being summer and having a little six year old in tow sure didn’t allow for that to happen, so the level of crankiness and depression just increased as the day went on and until I was able to shake the feeling.

I couldn’t understand why I was affected like this. I’ve travelled pleanty of times in the past for both work and leisure, but what made this time different? And then it hit me. This time I felt like I escaped reality as I totally threw myself into this vacation and I made sure that I experienced everything I possibly could. I was swallowed up my the culture, the food, the scenery. I totally let myself go made sure to let go of my old life, just for a while. Well this had consequences, let me tell you. It made coming home that much more difficult, to the point of crying.

I’m sure that by now you can guess that this vacation was awesome. The Amalfi Coast I find has regenerating qualities. Why else would Liz from Eat, Pray, Love and the women from Enchanted April go there to heal and discover themselves? I felt that I healed and a lot of my wounds are almost gone. I ate. Boy did I ever eat. And I rested. There is something about the combination of sea and mountains at the same place which is comforting. Despite the steep roads and neverending stairs, there is a relaxing, soothing atmosphere about this place. Life is precious here, and the locals know this.

20120731-073234.jpg

Then the couple of days in Rome brought me to the busy metropolitan way of life, like back home. It was difficult to get used to business but I made sure to concentrate on what was in front of me. It was beautiful, but Paris won my heart. The contrast to the way of life in Rome was extremely noticeable. Paris….what can I say about Paris. There are no words to describe Paris. It is a city of beauty, love and enchantment. I finally understand why people have fallen in love with Paris. Even though it’s a major city, it has a small town feel to it. Like Amalfi, I found that it wasn’t hectic. All I can say is that Paris just felt right.

I had the opportunity to see family at the end of my trip, and it made for a nice finally. I haven’t seen them in over ten years. I find it fascinating how so much time can go by, yet it can also feel like no time has passed as well.

Sorry if this post was a bit of a downer, but at this time, I’m still struggling to recover from this amazing time. I question why life is the way it is, and how I can provide for more opportunities like this for my daughter and me.

Paris anyone?

20120731-073832.jpg

Cliffs and Driving

“Frances: Do traffic lights mean anything around here?
Marcello: Sure. Green light – avanti, avanti. Yellow light –
decoration.
Frances: What about red light?
Marcello: Just a suggestion.” ~ Under the Tuscan Sun

Italy is such a beautifully gorgeous place. It’s full of history, and the mixture of new and old is mind blowing. I can honestly say that this trip and the experiences I have had have been life changing.

I am intoxicated with the beauty, the people, the culture, the food (omg, the food!) and yes, the driving. The driving has been particularly fun. I have always been confident in my driving abilities despite being directionally challenged, but I must admit I was a bit nervous at the idea of driving in Italy. I’ve been here a few times before when I was younger but I never had to drive. There was always someone else to do it. As I don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, I had to hunt down an automatic car which would hold three adults, a child and all the accompanying luggage.

And so I was able to rent a Nissan Micra. The rental company stated that it would hold two large luggages and three medium ones. I thought it would be plenty of room, since we would be carrying with us two large and two medium which meant room for back packs in the trunk. Little did I know the car would be as small as a Yaris, and the symbol which I understood to be for the medium luggage was actually for bags. We had to place a luggage in the back seat with my mom and daughter. This would make for an interesting trip, that’s for sure.

20120715-165611.jpg

The size of the car ended up being a blessing! Most of the 280 km trek from Rome to Amalfi was mostly uneventful – sure some of the drivers didn’t seem to know how to stay in one lane and would straddle two but I knew this already. The scenery was gorgeous, but being the person that was driving, I didn’t get to appreciate it as much as I would have liked to. But when we got onto Strada Statale Amalfitana – the road that takes you to the coastal towns of Amalfi, oh boy was I ever in for a surprise…

I saw a sign that warned of winding roads ahead but I didn’t expect the curves to be on average between thirty and fifty degrees! And I certainly wasn’t prepared for it to last for at least twenty km until we arrived in Amalfi.

20120715-171451.jpg

The drive was intense. I was white knuckled the entire time. I was driving on a very narrow road which barely had enough room for two cars – me and opposing traffic, let alone room for the cars which would park on each side. To my right I had the mountain and to my left I had a steep decline to the sea. I felt like I was driving on a cliff.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Shortly into driving the winding roads, I turn a steep corner around the mountain, and I encounter this:

20120715-172212.jpg

Head on.

A big honkin’ bus was coming head on towards my little Micra. And it really was honking – for me to get out of the way! I slam on the brakes and think, now what do I do? Where the heck do i go? There is nowhere to go! I don’t know if sweating buckets because of fear, but I think I wet myself a bit then. And all the while I tried to remain calm because of my passengers with me, to keep them calm. Lord help me!

Luckily, a man walking along the road – and yes, I had to be careful for pedestrians too (crazy people) helped me reverse to let the bus through. I thought for sure I was going to end up reversing off the cliff.

After that experience, and driving nineteen km more to get to the hotel, I felt like an expert. No longer was I afraid to squeeze in close next to the other cars. Even to the point that a hair could get caught between us. Five days later, driving back to Rome was easy. The encounter with another bus was a piece of cake.

As the saying goes….when in Rome……