130 days ~ thoughts

130 days passed on my Italy trip. With solo travelling, au pairing, working on a farm, hiking, attending a flute masterclass, and making new friends, my mind has been expanded more than ever.

Before I set off on this adventure I began to get overly excited to be at the end of the travels and see what type of person I would become, how all my experiences would shape me. Now at the end I have realised that you can never have a true overhaul of yourself, it’s impossible. Rather, you see yourself in new perspectives, new situations, and enhance your strengths and try to cultivate the person from within that makes you happy, while shedding away the unnecessary. It is comparable to packing. You start with your whole closet, all your big toiletry bottles and a few extra things ‘just in case’. By the end you have usually stripped it down to half, taken smaller bottles and only have your necessities and clothes you will actually use and love with confidence. (And even now I look at my suitcase and see I could have taken out a few more ‘necessities’).

Being by yourself a lot you are forced to develop an inner confidence. The confidence that will fire up your courage to say hello to the person sitting next to you, to speak in a new language or to sit for hours just thinking. With no one to rely on or talk to, complaining becomes futile. You are rather searching for the good in the situation or the solution. This made me more grateful for the small things in life, finding joy and appreciating the moment for what it is.

Funding this trip by myself, I have truly learnt the value of money, as well as you get what you pay for. Budgeting and counting my coins has brought a new awareness to me and I believe will prepare me for my future finances.

From pulling (and sometimes dragging) my bags through railway stations, up and down stairs, and along cobbled streets I have become more humbled by my strength and health. With all the negativity of body image taking over social networks, I found my self-love in just having a few glimpses into the capabilities, and not limits, of my body. (Although I did have to dish out a few 1 euros for my weak bladder, but I’m working on it…)

I have had moments when I have felt homesick, moments when I don’t know what to do or how to carry on. These are the moments that tested me and pushed me to a new point of strength. Finding many new and exciting blogs everyday on Bloglovin’, one article stood out for me, reminding me why I took this trip and giving me the courage to push through: The Case for Traveling Alone.

There are many things I have learnt, developed, and become without even knowing. I have come out of this trip feeling confident about who I am, courageous with life, and with a new understanding into many aspects of myself and the lives of others. This trip has been life-changing. Not because I have ‘become a new person’ but because I have seen new perspectives, cultures, lives and situations and I have become increasingly more grateful for who I am and the life I have. 

 

 

carefree ~ Monaco

Throughout my travels I have relied on Google maps to find my way around and map out my touring routes. Arriving in Monaco, my cellular data crashed leaving me with nothing but my own sense of direction to walk me through the day. I grasped this opportunity to just get totally lost, becoming encapsulated by the city and find new paths. This sense of utter freedom made this one of my favorite days from my whole trip.

I started at the Jardin Exotique, marveling at the Port de Fontvieille and Port Hercules below and just wondering how I was to get there. Walking down many steps between buildings, not quite knowing if it was the right way I was taken aback by the sheer cliff of Le Rocher de Monaco punctuated by yacht sails. It was so picturesque that I probably stood there for 20 minutes just taking in the scene (and not quite grasping why I couldn’t steal someone’s yacht and sail out).

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Following the flocks of tourists up Le Rocher de Monaco I took in the moment and was totally mindful that I was in Monaco, MONACO. The grand Oceanographic Museum hanging off the cliff was my highlight. Encapsulating both nature and architectural beauty the pillars and rocks kept a smile on my face that still beams in remembrance. I lit a candle at the reverence of it all in the Monaco Cathedral, just after delving into the Saint Martin Park.

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Peering into shop windows in Monaco-Ville I found Port Hercules. Walking around to have the sea on my left and the Port on my right a gust of wind soaked me in fresh salt water. Living in the moment, laughing at the weirdness of only one side of my body being wet I dried off in the sun.

The Casino with Maseratis lining the street, elegant Monegasque’s lounged at Café de Paris drinking Martinis I felt as if I had transcended into a different world. Hearing music in the distance I walked through the gardens of the Buddha Bar and came across a Starbucks in the prime spot on the sea. Thrilled I had found a place I could afford to eat lunch, I sat amongst the locals working on their laptops, with music enhancing the atmosphere whilst the sea soothed the view for a perfect lunch.

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Strolling back through the Metropole Shopping Centre the shops were closed, I gazed in through the windows, my jaw dropping in the opulent splendor of the displays. Needing to rest my legs, I reflected on the day in the quaint Saint Devoté Chapel.

Completely carefree in Monaco, with no map holding me to routes or keeping me from getting truly lost, I felt I experienced so much more by just being in the moment. Feeling my feet connect with the earth, extending my sight to see past buildings and down little roads and feeling whimsical, Monaco made me radiate with happiness.

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colours ~ Nice, France

Venturing over the Italian border I tantalized my palate in Nice. After being in Italy for over 4 months, the smooth language, and foreign culture drew me in.

I arrived just as the famous Nice flower market was packing up. Strolling through the emptying stalls I marveled at the contrasting colors of the flowers with the luscious fruits and vegetables. My tummy grumbled at the smell of fresh lunch wafting through the streets drawing me into the Vieux Nice, with its narrow streets, boutique shops, fresh crepes and life unfolding behind every corner. The quaint apartments towered above showing off the vibrant reds and muted pinks, as vibrant as the the French and their gorgeous accents. With attention to the smaller details I was surrounded by effortless chic and taste renowned by the French.

Seeing Nice from all angles I watched the locals indulging in a lazy Sunday from Montée du Chateaux. Through the Promenade du Paillon, people of all ages pirouetted through the tinkling fountains, lounged at restaurants and licked the crème glacée (ice-cream) while the sun gently beamed down on all of us. Wanting to join in the whimsical atmosphere, I delighted in a chilli chocolate ice cream and giggled at the irony as I began tourist watching as they climbed the #ILoveNice sign like a jungle gym, taking endless photographs.

Following the music, I came across a vibrant red piano in the centre of Place Massena. People crowded around to come view the pianist in action, the jazz seeped into every corner of the square. I kept feeling the sudden urge to swing along the black and white squares.

serendipity ~ Cinque Terre, Italy

After being surrounded by buildings, culture, and statues for the past few weeks, Cinque Terre stole my heart.

Surrounded by mountains, brightly coloured fisherman houses are stacked on top of each other contrasted against the serene Mediterranean water. With colourful umbrellas lining the beach and the smell of fresh pesto emerging from quaint restaurants, I felt I had landed in heaven.

Taking a boat tour to see Cinque Terre from the sea perspective was breathtaking. Stopping to dip into the buoyant ever changing aqua sea to cool off, we were starving by lunchtime. Lunch consisted of bruschetta (with pesto famously cultivated in the Cinque Terre) and a glass of white wine at Nessun Dorma overlooking the beautiful Manarola.

Making friends with a wonderful, young, American couple we spent a day hiking to Vernazza together. Starting early, we arrived before the mass of tourists overwhelmed the beach. We dived into the pristine sea, sunbathed on rocks over looking the harbour and claimed the territory as our own. Hiking on to less crowded Corniglia we ate a delicious salmon gnocchi and sipped our lemon granitas while overlooking the cliffs and terraces of Cinque Terre.

Heading back to Monterosso al Mare we ended the day swimming again on the historic side, before the mandatory aperitif, which is such a civilised way to end the day. The evening was spent indulging in a range of pasta with seafood and pesto sauces with my new found friends.

Cinque Terre should be added to your bucket list!

exploring ~ Florence, Italy

With the drought affecting Tuscany and the temperature sitting on the 40 degree celsius mark, there was less for me to do on the farm while Wwoofing. Water was scarce and plants shrivelled and died. My days were spent mending fences to keep wild life out, chopping wood, and carrying water. Thus, I inadvertedly had more free time to explore Florence. Florence is a delight for artists, craftsmen and curious minds.

Officina Profumo Farmacetica in Santa Maria Novella is an absolute delight. Being the oldest pharmacy and cosmetic shop (which still utilises its rituals from 1612), scents of rose, pot pourie, and lavender filtered out. Scuola del Cuio (School of Leather) was filled with luxurious comforting leather odors, reminiscent of an expensive artisanal handbag. Wandering past Il Papiro, I witnessed the true craftsmanship of handmade paper. Each texture and mottled piece of paper becoming a unique masterpiece.
Of course one cannot miss the sun rising over Santa Maria Cathedral, walking over Ponte Vecchio and up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Ending the day tourist watching on the steps of Basilica of Santa Croce with a creamy gelato from Venchi made the heat almost bearable. Relaxing for a moment, but wishing for more time and energy to explore with pockets of beauty to be found down every narrow street. I fought an urge to never leave this beautiful city.

What is your most memporble experience in Florence?

introspection ~ thoughts

Life is like flute practice. One day you think that you have found your strength and clarity of sound and the next day you feel as though you have jumped 10 steps backwards. From solo traveling I am now starting to believe that this strength actually transfers itself to your soul in order for you to pass further obstacles to reach your potential, your purpose.

From sitting on trains, waiting for trains, waiting for the next adventure, this time inquires your boredom and gives you the space to reflect. My introspection led to the question, “What are you going to do with your time on earth? What are you going to do to fulfil your soul?” A question frequently asked but rarely answered.

The past two weeks I have been volunteering on a self-sustainable farm near Florence (wwoofing). With less work to do, due to the drought that has struck Tuscany, I had more time by myself which became the hardest part of my travels. I have been traveling for 8 weeks by myself and only now have I reached a state of true contemplation and self revelation.

With the change in cultures, my mind has felt challenged. Never farming before, my body has felt pushed. Chopping wood, carrying water, and mending fences, I reached a state of true contemplation and self revelation. Previously I found my mind was usually clear, not seeming to have any thoughts. Now having time, I started to focus on the task at hand, noticing every fleeting emotion, the sound of wood breaking and the stillness of Florence in the distance. Being present and mindful, I discovered a new aspect of myself.

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” Gautama Buddha

Although I have not found my purpose yet, my mindset has led me one step closer, everyday finding pockets of utter joy and happiness, some purpose. Reflecting on my life and many adventures I now see the patterns they create, influencing and moulding me. This is the time to be grateful for these pockets of ‘boredom’ and build up the reserve to take on my future.

I will leave you with a thought to contemplate:

“Only the shallow know themselves” Oscar Wilde.

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with love from Tuscany

 

 

crazy days ~ Lago Maggiore, Italy

Maestro Trevisani told us that Toscanini (a famous Italian conductor) had lived on Isola Madre (an island on Lago Maggiore) when he dropped us off in Verbania. Being musicians, we were obviously very curious and Myles and I decided to continue walking to Pallanza and explore Lago Maggiore further. Paddling from the jetty all the way to the island and back (equivalent to one hour of paddling, about 4km), we explored the little private beaches and thrived off the glimpses of Toscanini’s house, with only ducks as our companions.


Seizing the opportunity to enjoy an aperitif, a wonderful Italian tradition, we sat in a picturesque cafe overlooking the lake, with the sun baking on our shoulders. Of course this lead to a running start before cannon-balling into the aqua water from an empty jetty. The water was soft on our skin as we swam around.

On leaving, a haze overtook the lake, and before we knew it we seemed to be in a midst of a mini tornado. The wind wiped our cloths and the clouds threatened to dump their load onto us. We caught the bus just in time, as the streets were washed clean with the torrential rain.

Thank you Myles for a crazy but unforgettable day!

love ~ Verona, Italy

Walking the endless streets overflowing with flowers and muted rainbow colours, Romeo and Juiliet’s love seep into this beautiful city. Every moment of Verona has been incredible, from finding new quaint restaurants, hidden streets, and fabulous architecture.

Treating myself, I went to watch the opera in the Arena di Verona twice. This open air opera festival has always been on the top of my bucket list and did not disappoint. The first night I watched Madama Butterfly with elaborate Japanese costumes that were in a colourful contrast with the background scenery. A truly heartbreaking story, the emotions of the singers floated through the air. My favourite part of the opera was at the end of Act 1. The lights were dimmed and the ensemble of singers entered in camouflage outfits, humming. With little to look at, the sound of humming was accentuated as we were all lulled into the beauty of Puccini’s orchestration.

The second opera I watched was Aida, a dramatic juxtaposition from the sensuous and beautiful Madama Butterfly. Walking in, the crowd was expecting the grand spectacle of the stage scenery only to find nothing. Someone said “Isn’t it a bit worrying that they haven’t set up yet?” I had a chuckle to myself as Aida is known for its grandness. Yet, instead of props building up the set, this production used the power of people and the effect of light. With acrobats making shadows on lit up balls and dancers wading in the river as crocodiles, the sheer expanse of people built up this wonderful production.

After all these incredible experiences and bucket list checks I decided to gain a greater sense of the atmosphere of this city filled with love. Taking a stroll along the Adige River I watched birds fly over and families out for a walk. I sat in the park opposite the Arena eating pizza to admire the sheer curiosity and awe of the tourists. To end this magical trip I had an aperitif at Terrazza al Ponte Pietra (highly recommended!). This terrace bar is cosily situated right on the river and has a view of the Teatro Romano and the Ponte Pietra. In this magical setting I made friends with another solo traveller called Julia who made my last night truly memorable, filled with laughter and good conversation.

Have you ever travelled to Verona?

 

masterclass ~ Premeno, Italy

There is nothing better than a flute masterclass to uplift my soul’s need to play music and remind me why I keep practising.


This past week I had a masterclass with Maestro Raffaele Trevisani and I gained a new love for Italian culture, where the focus is on sound, clarity, and quality, which allowed my phrases to come naturally. I found myself playing Bach Partita in a minor differently, even my parents commented on this from a video I sent to them. My personality and phrasing became my main focus, allowing for new and interesting tone colours. I found myself speaking through my pieces.


Approaching my playing in new ways, I reflected on the last month in Italy, and the new musician friends I have made. Watching the Maestro’s eyes light up as he picked up his flute, the musicians tirelessly practising, repeating and re-practising their runs, culminated into a fantastic final concert. The reverence for music, apparent in audience and musicians alike, made me realise that music is an ingrained part of my life. Music fills my soul, mind and body. Without music I would not be inspired to push myself to reach my potential.


Thank you Maestro Trevisani for a week I will never forget.

relaxation ~ Biella, Italy

The grumble of thunder and the sound of pouring rain was my introduction to Biella.

Biella is in the northern region of Piemonte and is on the border of the Valle d’Aosta. With streets cobbled and intimate, this picturesque village is filled with charming old buildings, narrow walkways, and religious sites to spark your spirituality (one being the Santuario di Oropa).

Being alone was a sudden contrast from my previous weeks of aupairing. A few days in this quaint town, at the foot of the Alps, brought a calm to my life and soul. Once I entered Via Italia I knew I would fall in love with Biella. Pedestrians fill the streets as families indulge in ice cream or chat in cafes, people shop in the beautifully decorated boutiques, and a few cyclists pass by. To compliment the relaxed atmosphere, birds sing their tunes while circling the Cattedrale di Santo Stefano. Every 15 mins the bells chime from the surrounding Cathedrals. Showing off the acoustics of this valley, the bells become harmonious echoes, rendering overlapping sounds. Continuously changing, silence takes over as people retreat for their siesta to prepare for the bustle of aperitifs and saying cheers to a wonderful day.

Sitting on the balcony, I let this symphony take over. As I am writing this, a distant accordion is providing the melody of today’s symphony. This village is a perfect sound experience. I spent the rest of my days walking around the town, and visiting a few sites. Enticing my senses and opening my awareness, relaxation has prepared me for the adventures to come.

Where do you relax most?