How Italy changed me
A story of homesickness, tackling grief and learning to finally love who I am, all while being alone and 15,000 kms from home!
Oh Italy, you changed me! This one is a little emotional……
At the time of visiting Italy, I was quite homesick and just felt this weird sense of unease.
Don’t get me wrong. I did have a fabulous time. Italy was all and more of what I expected. All that fabulous food and wine, the people, the history, the art. All of it so special. So amazing. But there was just something that didn’t sit right for me.
I knew it wasn’t Italy. I knew it wasn’t being on holiday (um the alternative was being back at work – hell no). But I just knew that I was off. Something wasn’t right and I couldn’t figure it out. For a moment there I was worried that I was over doing all this travel thing. Ah of all the dumb things that came to my mind.
It wasn’t until a very close friend from home called me when I was in Florence (she was concerned about my lacklustre replies to her check in messages) that we nutted out my problem.
I missed my mum.
My Italian adventure happened to be my first European trip since my darling mum passed away 15 months prior. Sure, I had gone on other holidays since she passed, but this was my first one to Europe. Usually when I go to Europe, I would check in with her every day. Often calling or FaceTime’ing each other so I could hear her news and tell her about all the exciting things I had seen or done over the last day or so.
Mum was always super interested and keen to know everything I was up to. She would be entertained by my mishaps, interested in my adventures, wanted to know all about the local food and wine and in general, how I was getting along. Almost every call she’d giggle and then ask if I’d met any ‘nice men’. I think she was always far more interested in my adventures than anyone else I know.
Mum had never travelled overseas and thought I was a little crazy having this need to travel every six months. She was often worried about me travelling by myself, but trusted me enough to know I would take care of myself. I like to think by doing so she got to see a little bit of the world through my eyes. Looking at it that way, I have taken her to Indonesia, Norway, Denmark, France, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland, UK and Thailand. She was mostly impressed by Paris!
I missed out on all of that this trip and it just did not sit well with me. I felt like I was a pressure cooker ready to explode. Worst though was that I found myself not enjoying my time in Italy as much as I thought I would and then became quite annoyed with myself for doing so. Ahhhh what a mess!
Luckily, that all changed when I could identify what this nagging feeling was (thanks Danielle!). And by doing so I gave myself the chance to work through it. Finally after months of denying myself the chance to feel my grief. I was alone, I didn’t have to hide it from anyone. I could let it all out. And Boy did I let it out! I won’t lie, it was bloody tough. Let me tell you there is nothing like having an emotional breakdown when you’re in a foreign country and SUPPOSED to be having the time of your life to really make you question where you are at in life! What a mess.
But you know what, I somehow I managed to make some clarity of it all and the heart heaviness I was feeling was just a little bit less. I knew I had to make the best this situation so on I went out onto the busy streets of Florence and Rome and enjoyed what time I had left in Italy with the appreciation of being strong enough to have worked through some pretty tough shit. Knowing that mum was always happiest when her children were happy gave me a choice of either choosing the path of letting grief beat me down or carrying on with her love and happiness in my heart.
The sadness of losing my mum will always be there. I am forever a changed woman without having her presence in my life. I am just learning to deal with the grief a little better and know that I need to keep living my best life. For her. For me.
So, for me Italy was a trip of growth (not just the pasta fuelled waistline kind of growth), learning, actually dealing with my grief (instead of hiding or not acknowledging it) and becoming so much stronger and resilient than I ever thought I could be. A chip off the old block really (Aussie slang for meaning that a child is just like one of their parents in character or behaviour). The fire and passion was back in my belly and i’ll be damed if this 40 something year old independent woman wasn’t going to continue to go out and experience the best of life.
What I also took from my trip to Italy was just how much I love the freedom of travel. How much I love getting on a plane and experiencing new places. That I am fortunate enough to be able to have these experiences is never lost on me. I learnt that I really do love throwing myself in the deep end when it comes to travel and feeling, seeing, doing as much as I can. I relearned how much I love being an independent woman with choices. But (and it is a huge BUT) most importantly, after 42 long years, I FINALLY learnt that I am pretty comfortable with who I am and that I love being me.
In the end Italy really grew on me. So much so that I actually found myself not wanting to go home. I will be forever grateful to such a fabulous country for giving me the time and space to let myself have those moments for I feel like I have changed and am better for having had the experience.
I am also really grateful for all the pasta. And the Wine. And the Pizza and gelato and…….
So, thank you Italy. I didn’t know I needed you as much as I did. You’re like a wise old Nona, dishing out the hard love and life experiences, while at the same time loving, nurturing, caring and shoving good food in the faces of those who need your love.
Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto xx
It is the two year anniversary of my mother’s passing from Ovarian Cancer today (19th February). Ovarian Cancer is one of those cancers with a high death rate cancers and limited funding for research. A matter VERY close to mine and my family’s hearts is making donations for research into early detection tests and lifting the survival rate. If you would like to donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) you can do so here.
To find out more about my experience at Kata Tjuta and my connection to my mum, read: ‘Finding peace and connection in the middle of Australia’
Ah, my heart hurts for you! I am so sorry for your loss of your mother.
You are spot on that travel gives us time alone and time outside our normal routines to really bring up loss and hurt and doubt and anger in a way that few other things can. It’s one of the aspects of travel (sometimes more than the places visited!) that make travel transformational, just as you said in your post. And often the most transformative experiences are the most challenging in so many ways.
Sending warm thoughts–
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