September 29, 2015
A few years ago, I talked my friend Dot into going to Italy with me. I was so afraid to travel alone. My unidentified fears were trumped by my definite desire to experience Italy once again.
Dot and I traveled to London, Greece and Italy together for an entire month. We attended the same Italian language school in Florence, Instituto Italiano, but Dot returned to the US after 2 weeks of classes. Now I had to face my fears.
Viaggiare da sola, to travel alone, a woman travelling alone… What’s the big deal about that? What was I afraid of, anyway?
Professionally, I was assertive, strong, and very secure. I travelled for business alone. I managed others. I was a success.
As an Italian-American daughter, I was more conciliatory, maybe even submissive. I was taught to respect my elders, do what I was told, and do it “because I said so.” That was the way it was done.
No one in my Italian-American family was EVER alone! We were always together. We did things in groups, groups of chatty, animated Italians. If anything went wrong for one of us, ALL of us would take care of it so it never happened again. It felt safe from the outside world. Why would anyone want to be out there alone?
What happens when you are alone and there is no noise, no food in front of you, no laughter, no one else in the room? Whoaaaaa! This was going to be different, even scary.
Da sola, alone, a woman alone. What happens if things go wrong? Well I found out immediately after Dot left for home.
I left Dot in Venice where she caught her flight and I returned to our apartment in Florence to find a horrid smell permeating the entire appartamento. I opened every finestra, (window) and cleaned it thoroughly. I was missing my friend and exhausted as I fell asleep.
I awakened with a screaming headache and the smell was worse. My movements were awkward as I dressed and walked to school. There, I talked to the receptionist and asked for help. She scheduled a maintenance person for that afternoon and a doctor appointment for me.
The maintenance man said I had some toxic gas in the apartment and could not stay there. I had to move immediately. I just wanted to cry. How was I going to do that? Where would I go?
I texted another student who helped organize a group of people. We found a place I could move into immediately and they helped me relocate all belongings and foodstuffs.
For me it was amazing. For these people I hardly knew it was simple kindness. Kids in their 20s and 30s from all over the world carried my clean and not clean clothing, bags of books I had purchased along with school books and all that food. We paraded through Florence for about 10 blocks and then I was home once again. It was wonderful.
What is that expression about the kindness of strangers? Well I experienced it that day and many times thereafter.
We are all alone always. No one else is in our skin. We gather together and feel like we are a part of something. That is what makes most of us feel safe, feel whole.
Growing up there were times I wanted to be alone, away from the clamoring hordes of Italians. I wanted to be quiet, serene. But somehow it felt odd.
Now I was alone and nervous about what would happen in that silence. What I discovered that day in Florence changed my view of life itself.
Ciao for now!
Ciao for now!
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