Tag Archives: italy

Here Yet So Far Away: Dreaming of Distances

I vacillate. Often. Back and forth, back and forth.
“Why wait?” I ask. “Why stay? Why keep banging my head on this wall?”
A part of me wants to cut and run tomorrow. Today. Now. Zippity-doo-dah, gone like the wind.
But the pragmatic part of me clears her throat and says no, we stay. We see the summer through. Turn 42. Celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole family together. Vote out Stephen Harper. Leave two days later, either in victory or defeat. That’s the ideal situation. See another shoulder season, enjoy another summer. Ensure I’ve laid solid freelance ground beneath my feet before I plunge.
Then, poof, off to Europe and chase the dream.

Prague's celebrated St. Charles Bridge, by Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

By Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

The Nutshell

Five years abroad. 89 days or less per country. Working my way through — keeping my job, my writing, all of it. Writing books. Photographing. Plodding the land, meeting the folk, noshing the foods. Write it from a first-person living-the-dream perspective. A literary treatment given with my voice.
The world through my eyes. Not travel guides, not tips. You want that shit, go read Lonely Planet. My journey will read as a mashup of Elizabeth Gilbert and Anthony Bourdain — a weird lovechild / hybrid of edgy, insightful writing set in the here-and-now of someone trying to figure out where in the world she belongs.


When I go to bed, I don’t know where to dream of. Should I dream of two weeks on the hills in Tuscany, a writing/reading/eating retreat, growing fat(ter) on cheese and wine as I trudge the verdant slopes?
Maybe I should dream of working on a new ebook in a seaside port on a lesser-seen part of Portugal’s coast, where fishermen persuade me to get over my fear of seafood and eat fresh-from-the-sea local specialties, laughing at my timid ways and shoving wine at me to wash it down with?
Perhaps I should instead fall asleep imagining a bucket-list check-off of shooting Prague’s St. Charles Bridge in early autumn morning fog as steam rises from the river below, hatching a plan for eggs in some underground cellar joint for breakfast as warmth returns to my chilled photographer’s fingers?
Tonight, it’ll likely be dreaming of dining on Croatia’s Pag Island, drinking local wine to accompany the famous island cheese made from the milk of sheep who spend their lives roaming seaside cliffs eating salt-dusted wild herbs daily.
I’ll do all of these things, and many more. Someday. One day in the next six years, I will.
My dreams, they’re not outlandish. No five-star hotels or crazy excess. Not my style, never has been. My dreams are like people I favour — a good way to spend a little time. Filled with intrigue and wonder, appreciation and simplicity, lively and fun. That’s how I roll.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question…

Waiting for these times ahead, so hard. Especially knowing I can do this lifestyle less than I pay now. I can improve my quality of life while living my dream, and yet it’s on ice ten more months. The idea of the wait is killing me already. I’m not sure I’ll last that long.
Just weeks ago I asked myself: Can I be this person? Am I cut out to spend five years abroad? Am I willing to just up and sell my belongings to do this? Have I got the guts?
At that time, I had to convince myself. The part that said I can wasn’t as loud as the part that scoffed at the notion.
Now, it’s not about if I can do it — it’s that I have to do it. I have to take this chance. I need to sell everything. I need to get the fuck out, live the dream. I need to know I tried. And one country isn’t enough. Five countries isn’t enough. Five years, that may be enough.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The Little Traveller Who Could

When I took this apartment, I increased my monthly rent by 25% in one jump. It was a risk. Only a year before, I sold my bike just to buy groceries. Could I hack the increased expenditure? Was I capable of working that hard, seeking out opportunity? Could I up my game? Could I commit?
I decided I could. Sure, I doubted myself and had a lot of fear, but I decided I wanted to make it work. So I would do just that.
I’ve done better than I hoped. I’ve really led the good life in this apartment. My standard of living is better, my dreams are bigger, my confidence higher, my focus sharper. A year ago, I didn’t have the guts to tell folks about this travel dream of mine. Now I can’t shut the hell up.
That’s not to say I’m fearless with this adventure. I have a lot of fear. Lots. And I should. There’s so much unknown. There’s new cultures, places, risks, threats, adventures, mistakes — all just sitting there, waiting for me. I know that.
But I also know of what I’ve toughed out — all the misadventure and adversity of my thirties. And I kicked its ass.
I don’t know what gauntlets await me, what struggles might come. I just know they’re there. They’re always there. But so is the knowledge that whatever else I might be, I’m a survivor. I make it through, and I come out better. And sometimes I have fun during the mindfuck of it all. Because that’s who I am.
So, yes. Just weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this. If I had it in me. Now I know I do. The more I learn about the places, the more I know I can hack it. Besides that, I’m smart enough, savvy enough, and I’m good with strangers. I have rarely-fallible intuition on folks that will serve me well.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

To Dream a Vivid Dream

I may not know what specifically to dream about when I lay myself down, but I’ve inklings of experiences I want. I want this craving I have right now, coupled with the heart-exploding anticipation of being amidst the travel zeitgeist. The brighter-than-bright saturation of moving fast or slow through worlds previously unknown to me. The kaleidoscope of color, places, and people swirling together around me. The feeling one gets from stopping to just be of a moment, in some strange great place. “I’ll never be here, like this, again.” And knowing it.
I dream of being confused by things like trying to buy vitamins and toothpaste in local shops, never knowing the same bed for longer than two months, shaking my head in confusion at foreign-language street directions, wheezing from running to catch planes/buses/trains, and always finding a new spot to see a sunset.
I long for the day when the boredom and routine of me being a hermit in my character apartment here/now seems like a great and distant fantasy. I think of the people I might meet who’ll indulge just a moment, or maybe for a stolen hour over coffees, to teach me their language.
I don’t need to dream of specifics. I dream of moments. Tiny moments I’ll remember for a lifetime. These vague and fleeting seconds will fuel me. I don’t want planned travels, just organic and whimsical detours. Dreamlike and surreal. Fed by impulse.
And with that, I have some wine that needs some drinking, and more travel shows to get lost in, as I tab through AirBNB listings and cost-of-living comparisons. Because this is what I do, these days. Haphazardly living in the present while stuck in the future.
I’ll be writing ebooks about these journeys. Sign up for my mailing list. I won’t be spamming you.

The Death of Culture

Yesterday, I watched Oprah speaking with The Director Who Walked Away From Hollywood, Tom Shadyac, about the new doc he has coming out, I AM, in which he sort of explores the wrongness of “the cult of celebrity,” and how humans are the only thing in nature that takes more than what it needs, because of some ridiculous concept of entitlement.
The conversation took the point of how we celebrate people for nothingness. Oh, look, Paris Hilton goes to a party. OMG, how does she do it? Party queen!

Cartoon is by @meganmything, on http://mycartoonthing.com

Yeah, let’s talk about that. That’s important.
Are you kidding me?
There’s great art, great music, great film, great thinkers, great catastrophe, great urgency, great change coming — all of these things, everywhere around us.
AND YET these are the people we choose to discuss and obsess over? Lame actors and actresses who are simply doing their jobs, or celebrity debutantes who are do nothing but party and endorse brands?
I’ve shat all over gossip columns for years in blogging, and I’ve never written speculative posts that cut down people — famous or otherwise. I don’t believe in it, never have.
And I sure as hell won’t celebrate dumb-ass debutantes who contribute jack to the world. Sorry, walk on, bub. That might be on ANOTHER blog, but not here, baby.
Still, I do follow these things a little, because I think it says important things to us about our society and what we value, and why that means we’re in trouble when the world is in crisis and needs serious solutions.
So, when today, I hear that Jersey Shore is shooting in Florence, Italy, my jaw drops. Admittedly, I’m behind on this news, but…
Florence, bitches. FLORENCE.
My whole LIFE I’ve wanted to go to Florence. The following passage from Wikipedia sure as hell doesn’t suggest it’s a great shooting location for the most vapid cast of reality TV ever.

Florence is arguably the last preserved Renaissance city in the world[11] and is regarded by many as the art capital of Italy. It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical figures, such as:

I bet Snooki’s over there mouth-breathing, chewing Hubba-Bubba goin’, “I’m packin’ for Eye-taly! We’re visiting a lady named Florence! She has nice food at her house, the guy said. And LOTS OF WINE.”
I used to be this bleeding-heart type who thought Eugenics sounded like a horrible thing, but then this cult-of-celebrity shit happened and now I want to sterilize Snooki, The Situation, Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, and a lot of other people.
Let’s sterilize them. Let’s end this now. Let’s save the future of civilization.
Or, you know, you could up your standards on filmed entertainment, America. “No more vapidity!” should be our clarion rallying cry.
Seriously. Wake up. Look at the mediocrity we celebrate. You don’t THINK this is hurting our soul?
But no. SEASON FOUR. IT’S NEVER GOING TO END. I’ll need a supply of Tylenol just for all the facepalming this will incite.
Snooki is a millionaire. If Snooki becoming a millionaire while espousing the advice “Study hard but party harder” in a two-hour Rutgers University speech/appearance for $32,000, more than the average person earns IN A YEAR, doesn’t suggest AMERICA IS BROKEN, then I don’t know what will.
Now, instead of keeping this lame series where it belongs, in JERSEY, it’s crossing the Atlantic to a place where, as a WORLD, we are lucky that time hasn’t erased, and we’re subjecting that hallowed Renaissance city to this horror that is the lowest of the cultural low that America has to offer?
So wrong. On so many levels.
Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe I’m jaded. People have often suggested this to me: “Steff, you’re such a cynic.”
Yep, heard THAT before.
So, that said, lemme reach here — lemme open up to the gods of possibility and offer that maybe, JUST MAYBE, this is the season Jersey Shore at long last has a character arc in which the vapidest of guidos and guidettes finally grow and learn that there’s more to life than beer bongs and g-strings.
Maybe Snooki grows a much-anticipated soul and learns to breathe through her nose and think at the same time.
Maybe “THE Situation” finally realises the world is bigger than he is, he’s just a cog on its wheel, and thusly he changes his name to the less obnoxious “A Situation.”
Maybe THIS is that season.
But I be it’s not. Growth and redemption apparently don’t sell in America anymore. Mediocrity, however, rakes it in.
I fear for Florence. I fear Italians will get a load of this crew and think “If we knew their descendants would’ve turned out like this, we never would’ve let the emigrants set sail. Had we known…”
But here we are. Season four. Let the wheels of exalted mediocrity spin yet once again.
I keep hoping America, and everyone else, is gonna wise up to this “Hah-hah, they’re so funny when they drink, let’s make them famous!” idiocy, but it might just be that my expectations are too high.
Come on, prove me wrong. Stop watching. Demand more.