Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dritto! Dritto! Dritto! (Avventura Italiana Parte Uno)

More than a year ago, I began a very specific journey. I write a lot about my spiritual journey in this blog, but this was literal travel, a vacation to Italy to be exact.

In 2013, Jason and I began dreaming of traveling to Italy. We had just returned from a trip to San Diego where we spent two nights at hotel near the marina and woke up to the charm of sailboats and seabirds outside our windows. This experience put me in mind of the Amalfi Coast — a place I had only read about or seen on TV travel shows. The intense blue of the Mediterranean, the food, the warmth of the Italian culture, the centuries-old art and architecture all captured my imagination. Jason had always wanted to travel to Italy, too. We began saving our money. It was as if Italy invited and we accepted.

In 2015, plans took shape after the first of the year. With six months until our travel date we spent hours researching flights, accommodations and activities. We studied maps and airfares. Should we go to Florence? Rome? The island of Ischia became a destination, while Rome, Naples and Florence dropped off our list. Honestly, we didn't know much about the places we were going. We simply followed our instincts and a handful of friendly recommendations.

I don't know how many hours Jason and I logged planning our 14 day vacation, googling various Italian cities, train schedules, ferry routes, hotels, restaurants ...  It became my hobby and my part-time occupation. I vowed to learn as much as possible about the nuances of travel in Italy so that — once we were there — I could relax. And that is exactly what happened.

Our journey of 10,000 miles (round trip) began long before we boarded our flight. Indeed, this journey began long before I even heard of the Amalfi Coast or Buffalo mozzarella. This journey began on the day I was born and I've been moving ever so slowly towards this point, to this very instant in time when the world opened up me and provided this opportunity. This is not the same as"destiny." No. I don't believe in destiny or pre-destiny. I have made myriad choices along the way each one of which has delivered me to this exact spot on the map at this juncture in time.

Philosopher Eckhert Tolle says we create the experience we are having. I think this is true on several levels. First, to get to the point in my life where I can take two weeks off to travel to Italy with my honey and my son, a lot of creating had to occur. I worked my ass off towards this goal, to be exact.

But once I am having an experience —any experience — it is up to me to interpret it in a way that is healthy and beneficial to me or no matter where I go or what I do, I will miserable. Even in a vacation paradise, I can choose to be satisfied or disgruntled with my circumstances.

At one point on our trip, we were driving through the Tuscan countryside returning from an overnight excursion to the Cinque Terre. We followed the driving instructions we were given by our Tuscan host, but somehow we failed to see (and turn at) the sign to Piancaldoli and we drove instead through mountainous twists and turns to Firenzoula.

Upon reaching the town, we stopped at a tobaccoria for directions. The owner, who spoke little English, understood our problem and knew our destination. With great inflection she instructed us to turn left at the grocery store and then go "dritto! dritto! dritto!" She motioned straight ahead. (Dritto means "straight" in Italian.)

And so we proceeded at the turn to drive "dritto" up the curving hills and down the dipping, winding valleys always traveling dritto! dritto! dritto! although a compass would have argued the straightness of our trajectory.

Faithful to the shop owner's instruction, after miles of driving "dritto" we were about to give up hope of finding our home in Piancaldoli when the promised signage appeared. Relieved, we began to laugh. If you have to be lost any place in the world, being lost in the mountains between Florence and Bologna is about as good a place as any. In fact, we were never really lost. We just didn't know where we were.

And so it is with any journey. Sometimes we don't recognize the landmarks, or feel we've encountered unfamiliar turf, but in fact, we are right where we are supposed to be. We aren't lost, we just don't know where we are. And if we continue "dritto! dritto! dritto!" we will get home — eventually.

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