Long holidays are something of a rarity for many of us. The chance to spend extended time touring another country is a special opportunity that I certainly appreciate and it has been a life changing experience for me.
I had always longed to spend quality time in Italy, rambling the country and packing in as much of the countryside and the sights, sounds and colours of this enchanting place. Integral to all of this has been the chance to meet and spend time with the local people, most of whom I can say have been as engaging and enjoyable as the country itself. The warmth and genuine kindness I have experienced from the people I have met along the way will stay with me for years to come. For example, my fractured attempts at speaking Italian have been met with a range of responses ranging from sympathetic nods and rounds of applause and “brava’s” to gales of laughter as I mispronouce words and get the meaning very wrong.
With a long trip such as this, I have found that the energy has flagged on a few occasions. The arrival of my friend from Australia to join me in my travels did help to spur me on and give me some extra energy. However, when you add a long time away with some long days driving and some not so great choices of locations, there have been a few days, 6 weeks in, that I have woken up thinking “yeah not really into it today!”
That said, I have decided to take a deep breath and treat these last 2 stages as completely new holidays. So it is with a genuine smile and joy in my heart that I find myself in Sicily; very much a part of Italy but completely different in so many ways. Arriving here has been like getting my second wind (or maybe that should be my third or fourth wind at this stage!) It’s truly like stepping into another world and the sights and sounds are as colourful and uplifting as any I’ve experienced in the last weeks.
Yet despite the excitement and joys of this trip of a lifetime, the call of home is becoming a steady drum in my heart. I had often thought I might like to live overseas for a while and this trip has been a slight litmus test for that thought with some interesting and surprising results. To a person, everyone I have met here on my travels has greeted my confirmation that this woeful Italian accent is the result of being Australian with a similar response: “oh Australia – you’re so lucky. I/we would love to live there! It’s so amazing.”
And you know what – they’re right. True, there are lots of other amazing places to visit in this great world of ours and I hope to continue to tick off a few more of them in the next few decades. But as I see more of these places, it is becoming clear to me that Dorothy was right – there’s no place like home. It truly is one of my favourite four letter words, right along with love, family and friends. Ok, I know those last 2 are technically more than four letters but they fit with the story so forgive me that writers’ artistic licence!
For now, I am making the most of this extra burst of energy and enjoying these last couple of weeks in this truly special part of the world, safe in the knowledge that, whilst I love our Italian cousins and their dolce vita, there are some extra special people and places that I look forward to seeing in a very short while.