I boarded my flight to Italy and was surprisingly anxious to leave Turkey. I had a great time being swept off my feet but I found myself ready to embark on my trip to Italy. Emil was nothing short of amazing. Yet despite the romantic whirlwind, I desperately wanted alone time. It was only a few short days ago I had been laid off from a job I moved across the country for. I left my life in Cincinnati, Ohio only to be thrown out of a job like old trash.
I had never been to Italy. My older brother lives in a Northern small town that boarders Austria however I decided to stop in the South first then fly to meet up with him. I bought an Italy traveler’s guidebook and a pack of journals. I was ready for some intense soul therapy and serious pizza induced food coma.
The cab driver dropped me off on a busy street and casually waved his hand towards what was supposed to be my hotel. I couldn’t tell the difference between the buildings because every building resembled the other. Since I couldn’t read Italian, I was further confused. You would think an obvious sign, “hotel” would be a dead giveaway. Not in Naples, Italy.
On the third attempt, I finally discovered my hotel. The bellman and I spoke to each other in facial expressions and hand gestures. My room was simple and cozy, about the size of my walk-in closet in Los Angeles. The air in my room was extremely heavy so I turned on the air conditioning, which made the air power so strong, it pushed off the front panel of the unit and nailed me right in between my eyes.
So far, my idea of an extravagant Italian getaway was not going as I envisioned.
No big deal, just a minor setback. Nothing a hot shower and a nap can’t fix before my guided tour adventure starts the next morning. I had a full day of sightseeing in the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Positano and Pompeii.
The busy streets of Naples woke me before my alarm clock. Eager not to miss the tour bus, I hurriedly got ready and rushed downstairs to meet the group. Not yet able to read or understand basic Italian, I did not notice there were two sets of tour groups waiting in the lobby. When did I realize I was on the wrong bus tour, you might ask? It wasn’t when I walked on the bus and noticed I was the only non-couple. Nor was it two hours into the tour when the guide got on the PA system and used the word, “lesbica”. So you can imagine my surprise when I realized every participant in this group was female and were coupled up. Except for me. I went on the wrong tour. I allowed myself two minutes to simmer in my frustration.
I’m used to never getting lost. My internal geographic intuition was usually on point. What’s the worst that could happen being on the wrong tour? During the hour lunch break we could roam the area before proceeding on the tour. I stood in front of an abandoned brick building wanting to get lost in the enchantment. The gazing felt like seconds but lasted longer. I got my journal out and began to write feverishly. I felt the inspiration from the ruins to write. In that fleet of creativity, the group ascended the bus and left me. Alone.
I didn’t understand the language. I had no idea about the local customs and I did not know how to read a map, especially in Italian. I could have cried into my metro card and stuffed my face with Kinder Bueno bars. But being lost was good for me. I sat down on the dusty road and continued to write. I wrote a third of my novel on that random street in Positano.
“Buena sera!” An old man greeted me with a warm smile.
“Si!” I bashfully answered.
“Come! Join us to eat,” He motioned for me to follow him into his house.
But being lost was good for me.
The picturesque cliffside village, with a population of small, would light up with word of a newcomer showing up in town and it would be headline news the next morning. Being Egyptian, I can relate to the grand affair every meal has to offer, especially when a guest arrives, whether intentionally invited or not. Even in Italy, eating is a social event. Peter, my new friend, sat at the head of the table holding a pair of tongs, and my fate, in his hands. He served me a generous helping of spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and just like very Egyptian mother, he did not take your refusal at seconds.
I noticed something throughout the day. I was in the most romantic country in the world, accidentally on a romantic tour guide and spent the last few hours alone wondering the city. Not once did I think of Emil. Nor did I think of my love life. Shocker, I know. I was at peace with the present and only wanted to experience this trip with myself.
It truly is amazing that you can be lost and, at the same time, know exactly where you are.
Stay tuned for next week!