Lost and Found

Ah, Lovers… what once was lost is now found… and I’m not talking about my fourth water bottle since leaving the US, my 90# Olympic snatch or my ability to control myself around a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon.  Instead what I’ve stumbled upon serves all of us… you see my Lovers, I was ready to hang it up, pack it in, starting my next Love Letter with “Its not you, its me…” – the disappearance of not one, but two lengthy posts detailing the Italian Adventure had me distraught, frustrated, defeated-  but a recent reset of some laptop setting and voila! they reappeared – coupled with some unexpected encouraging words, and turns out it really was me…. but just temporary insanity.  So without further adieu, I present you with the continuation of my traipse across my family homeland.

Sunday, September 23rd
Ciao I Mei amanti. I’m sitting outside the train station in Lamezia Terme, Italy, in the Calabria region, disgustingly early for my train that is already running 35 minutes behind. With my newfound time, I have posted up at a cafe across the street from the tiny station and ordered a beer while I await my chariot to Sicily, a detour I had not pondered until DL told me I had to go. Why not, though… its only a 6 hour train ride away – rolls eyes. Despite my current state, I’m excited to return to a bigger city, as small town Italy is well…. challenging.

I recently received a text from a good friend and fellow traveler that simply read “Why are blog posts do hard to write?” I had to laugh, because I’ve had that thought so may times myself, and I’m pretty sure that as I sat in my hotel room, crippled with fever and lethargy from going non-stop for the past three weeks I had pondered the same thought, staring blankly at my laptop and choosing to Google “What is Fortnight” instead of regaling the tales of the last two weeks. When I was on my US stint, my friend, confidant and hairdresser of nearly 20 years admitted she loved reading about my adventures, but was curious as to why the writing had tapered off, and the answer is that there are a myriad of reasons that I don’t compose my Love Letters, everything from work to adventures, to a sheer lack of desire to put the words down to paper(computer). Those of us who do blog our adventures encourage each other to keep it up, while excusing each other from the responsibility of documenting every moment in a fashion that forced and not enjoyable for anyone, including the writer.
That said, I “owe” you two weeks of the Italian Adventure, my solo endeavor into the country of my ancestry, and its not a task I’m lamenting, rather one I have been sad to not devote the time to, so, now that it seems I have a free two hours, let’s dive into the week of Venzia and Trieste.
I believe when we left off I was exhausted and frustrated from the debacle that was the death of my electronics from a faulty water bottle and an admittedly not so smart decision about its proximity to the tech that allows this life to be possible. Mostly recovered from the emotional stress that was the replacement of these items, I woke up Saturday and engaged in my usual ramble about the town, grabbing lunch along one of the main canals across from a lovely journalism student who had just graduated university and was about to start her first gig in Rome after this trip. As I wrapped up lunch, I got a text from a Birmingham friend who was in town with his wife, so I began the absurdly long trek from where I was to where they were. Google maps once again was less than forthcoming with the correct path and time estimate. That aside, the walk through the narrow allies and over the canals of Venice made it easy to not get frustrated, even when I almost got on a ferry going the wrong way. note, learn more Italian.
I make it to their SWANKITY SWANK hotel, and we wander to a local bar where the Italian version of happy hour is supposed to be amazing, find it wanting and make our way back to the luxury that is their hotel bar where we sip martinis and catch up on the last 18 months. They have a company dinner, so I started to wind my way back to my side of town, quickly realizing that the martinis are not helping my sense of direction. I talk myself onto a gondola that gets me closer, but once dropped off, my phone decides to call it quits on the day, overworked from all the twists and turns that Venice provides. It’s getting dark, but I compose myself as best I can… after all, this isn’t a Peruvian jungle, and I found my way outta that jam. I know if I can find my way to the train station, I can get back to the basement studio I’m calling home for the weekend. After 20 minutes, I throw in the independent woman towel, approaching a dashing young man to play the {lost} damsel in distress. Chivalry is not dead in Venice, and the super sweet Italian architect holds out his arm and leads me back to the canal side by the train stations where we take off our shoes, dangle our feet in the water and talk into the night. I found it a rather enjoyable evening, despite the temporary state of displacement, but as I recently recounted this story to my good friend Aaron, who knows me well, he posed a good point: “I wonder how he tells that story….” Thanks Aaron. I’ll still take my version

 

The next morning I am over the crowded, touristic nature of Venice, so I hop the first train into the land side of Venzia and try to decide if I’m hitting Verona before heading to Trieste, the home of grandmother. Seeing that I would have to come back to this exact station in order to get to Trieste, I decide to scrap Verona and get the bus to Trieste instead. My pad for the next few days is only a 15 minute walk, but Northern Italy is still brutally hot despite the time of year – considers I should have checked this out before coming- and my gear gets heavy after about 10 minutes of walking, which is almost perfect timing though, because that’s about the time that the walk opens up the Mediterranean on my left and the gold etched architecture of Trieste on my right. I’m too busy staring in awe at the buildings to pay attention to the sweat dripping or the weight of the pack on my back, and before I know it, I’m at my apartment, and as an added bonus, I’m able to check in early.

I’ve been staying budget conscious for the majority of this trip so far, and in places like Venice that means dank, musty, studio apartments with pull out couches, in Modena it was a hotel far outside the center with no AC, tiny showers with very little hot water (hey, it is Europe) but I’m beyond pleased when I open the door to a fully renovated apartment that’s fresh, bright, and has working AC, which I spend a good 45 minutes just enjoying. After sufficiently cooling, I head to the pier for a dockside dinner, catch up with 4 friend in 3 countries, hit Eataly for some groceries and then take it in for the evening.
I spend the next few days exploring Trieste by morning and grinding by night. The buildings in this seaside town are grandiose and ornate, sparkling in the sun as much as the sea. A morning scooter ride with a local kite surfer reveals even more hidden gems, and I’m quickly falling in love with the city by the sea that my grandmother spent her childhood in. One morning after a seaside run, I wander up the hill to find the church she was baptized in, stumbling across a war memorial and castle before reaching her neighborhood, and if you recall from Sintra in 4 hours (or less) I do so love to play in a castle. My inner child satiated, I continue to what I can only surmise is my grandmother’s neighborhood, as back then I don’t imagine they wandered too far from home. I found her childhood church, grabbing a coffee and sitting in the piazza that lay in the shadow of the steeple. Afterwards I made my way around the streets, imagining her upbringing in this place.
That evening, between meetings and in the 10 minute breaks as prescribed by my Pomodoro timer, I’m taking the picture from my grandparent’s wedding and comparing it to pictures of Trieste churches, trying to find the exact one where they said their vows, even enlisting the help of a friend who photographs churches and has been to Trieste. A clutch message from my dad comes through on my last night in Trieste, and he’s found the name of the church, so I get up earlier that my hotel checkout, and grab a cab up the hill.
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Riding up to the church, a knot started to form in my stomach… maybe knot isn’t the right word, as it may imply dread… this was more of an excitement, and anxiety, an unknown I knew I was about to face. First, I have always be uneasy as religion as tourism… as my Earhart travel mates can tell you, I would rarely go into temples, churches, mosques, etc… its a personal feeling, and I’m just not comfortable with it. But this was different. So though I initially paused at the front door, I pushed through my fears, anxiety, and perceived respect level and entered the church.
It was dead quiet, but as soon as I entered, the light from the large windows seemed to envelope me. The butterflies in my stomach ceased, the jitters in my nerves calmed, and my blood calmed to a dull roar that echoed in my ears amidst the silence. I absentmindedly dipped my fingers in the marble tub of holy water to the right, hit a knee and signed the cross before taking the nearest seat in the back pew to my left. I sat there for a long time… if I had to guess, about 20 minutes or so, but in the aura of the moment, it could have been 5 or 60. I stared at the alter, pondering the fact that an event had taken place there over 60 years ago that determined my mere existence in this moment. Wrapping my head around that was a deeply spiritual moment, and I knew once I walked out of that church, I would have a different outlook on several things, including but not limited to the familial relationships I had neglected over the years. I rose from the pew and made my way to the front to light a candle for my grandmother before leaving.
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I went from that moment into a state of vagrancy, checking out of my hotel at 11am Thursday morning and not having another home until Friday evening when I would arrive in the Amalfi coast, and no place for my bags until my 11pm overnight bus. I made the most of the day between cafes and coffee shops, and even managed to catch a Trieste sunset from the pier while catching up with Meilz about life post RY, solo travel and the power of introspection.
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Spending as much time as I did in Trieste meant that I missed out on Verona and Milan, but for me it was what I needed at this point of the trip, this part of my journey, and this time in my life. My existence as a human, spawned from so much history in that town, where it is told that my grandfather returned to win over the woman who wanted nothing to do with him, where he persisted, and they were married, the city by the sea will always hold a piece of my heart, and that church in particularly will always be where I remember my soul shifting, my perspective changing, and new lights being considered. And that’s all beside the amazing food, stunning architecture, friendly people, and easy lifestyle. I don’t know exactly how long this lifestyle of mine will continue, but I’d like to return to Trieste at some point and spend some more time exploring my roots.
Arevadderchi Lovers.
Specifically yours,
SR
Pictorial Evidence of the beauty of Trieste

I’ll Do it My Way

Ciao Lovers! This Love Letter comes to you as I glide along the Northern Italian countryside on my way from Florence to Modena. I’m out in the world again, and this time around, I’m doing it my way.  I’ll dip in and out of solo travel, backpack 10 cities in 30 days, stay put for 3 months, learn to snowboard, scuba dive, drive a motorcycle, and who knows what else.  I’m out here for me, and I’m living this life, my way (which will inevitably include some bumps and bruises).

Before we start in the Italian adventure, let’s acknowledge the fact that I am cheating you out of the last two months.  Recall Imma Li-ma Heart Here…, when we established that I was doing neither of us favors by rushing through an account of event that happened months ago, a slave to a perceived timeline, bound to recount every second of the adventure.  I won’t do that to you again my Lovers, I care for you (and my literary integrity) too much.

So, what will you miss by the omission of Spain and Bulgaria?  Quite a lot I’m afraid… there was street art and new friends, music festivals, missed trains, road trips, not one, but two traffic tickets in Spain (and stupid hot Spanish cops), the French baker (sorry DL), paella dates, horchata, paddle boarding, the Italian paddle board instructor, architecture, markets, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, to Bulgaria for mountains, lakes, bungee jumping, sail boats, mountain biking, more road tripping, Serbia, Belgrade, Kanyini, Mokrin, archery, the Serbian star gazer,  Nation House, Romania, Timisora, castles, churches, waterfalls and more.  But don’t worry, you can see all the pictures here.

Now, after that horribly lacking forward, let’s dive into the next chapter fuck it, let’s start a new book on this wonderfully random adventure I call life.

Italy is somewhere I have ALWAYS wanted to go.  My patriarchal side of the family hails from the country, and, I mean, do you really need a reason to want to go to Italy?  Tired of waiting for someone to take me, invite me, or even just go with me, I decided to take the month between Sofia and Cape Town and just take my damn self. I’m actually checking two bucket list boxes here, as while I will assume that I’ll still prefer having a community around me, solo travel is something I want to be able to say I’ve done.  I took short trips sans amigos nearly each month during Earhart, but this would be 4 solid weeks of just me – figuring out trains, busses, sorting my accoms, finding a workspace, seeing sights, eating all the foods and drinking all the wines.  Ask my fellow Earharts though, and they’ll tell you I was made for this – side trip planner extraordinaire, BNB game strong, the only part that worries me is my social creatureness crashing head on with my social awkwardness.

A week before leaving Sofia (after the debacle that was cancelling Turkey for work), I booked a ticket into Rome with a general plan to snake my way first north then south.  A fellow Remote was living in Siena for a few months, so I was headed to crash with her in the Tuscan Valley for a couple of days, but not before doing when in Rome things with my first Kairos roomie who was in Rome for a night before her homeward departure.  We dropped our stuff at the hotel and juiced up our devices before heading out to hit the highlights – the Spanish Steps (pretty), Trevi Fountain (crowded) and the Pantheon (mind-boggling). As we passed through the massive concrete columns into the Pantheon, my jaw crept closer to the floor as I marveled at the architecture, this massive stone structure, constructed nearly 1,900 (that’s one THOUSAND, nine HUNDRED) years ago, still standing, still awe-inspiring.

 

We wound our way back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner, stopping at piazzas and churches along the way, surmising what their importance may be, slightly embracing and certainly making fun of our own lack of knowledge for what we were looking at.  I’m fully aware I can be a bad tourist when it comes to the education of the history of the cities I’m in, but my brand of tourism is to walk out of my accoms, turn left or right, and see what I can stumble across.  Don’t judge me.  Also remember that this is life and not vacation for me, so as a Remote recently said in an RY article, “Im living everyday life, just with better scenery”.

After a quick change of clothes and me watching Erica try to whittle her bag down to the acceptable 23kgs she had to fly back to NYC, we headed out to Trastevere for some dinner.  After wandering a bit and being turned away for not having a reservation, we stumbled across Dar Sol Olimpio al Drago where we had a great bottle of local red, truffle pasta, Carbonaro, and meatballs that knock mine/my dad’s outta the park.  We rounded out the meal with tiramisu for both and a grappa for me before hitting the waterside for a nightcap.

 

The next morning my bus departure is rather early, and of course I overslept.  I’m throwing myself in a cab and praying Rome traffic at 7am isn’t a thing.  Thankfully it’s not and I even get to the bus station with enough time to grab a pastry and some postcards.  I board the bus and immediately realize that springing for the panoramic seat was a waste of funds as I plan to use this transport time (like most of my in transit hours) to catch up on the lack of sleep that accompanies this lifestyle. Sleep when you can, where you can, however you can.  Luckily the oversized Kairos hoodie I’ve buried myself in along with my sunglasses on and headphones in convey to the chatty Kathy next to me that I’m not in the mood, and I catch a good siesta en route.

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Katherine has already procured us a sweet whip, so she scoops me up at the bus station and we head into the hills to a winery known for its architectural structure being built into the hillside it sits upon.  When I say Tuscan Valley, your heart swoons, doesn’t it?  Even if you’ve never been, or seen pictures, somehow you just know in your bones that it will be breathtaking right?  Well, obvi, it does not disappoint.  Lush, green, rolling hills expand for miles and we stare out over the rows of grapes as sip our flights, Chianti for me and white for Katherine. After lunch we hit the switchbacks for sweeping views, Tuscan towns, and another winery set in a castle.  This second winery is a fan favorite, not just for its quaint little courtyard where we sample their offerings, but there’s a chardonnay we both love (even though neither of us are chardonnay fans), a gin that is rosemary heavy and oh so smooth, and a Chianti reserva that blows my mind.  Needless to say we left spirit heavy, both in the figurative and literal senses.

 

We round out our day in San Gimignano,  a walled city with narrow stone alleys set atop on my the many Tuscan mountains.  We do some exploring, popping in and out of tiny stone doorways catching glimpses of the valleys below before trying to find a spot for dinner.  We’re tired and hungry, neither of us really in the mood to pick, so we waffle bit before settling on Osteri Enoteca Quattro Gatti, a fabulous find with a back patio courtyard showcasing a valley sunset view. Its pici (the regional pasta speciality, a thick spaghetti like noodle) cacio e Pepe for me as we chat with couple from Boston there for their anniversary (whose travels mirror my own plans closely).  Satiated and saturated (mostly me, mostly with Chianti), we head back to her beyond cute villa and settle in with the previously procured gin and a Maggie Gyllenhaal movie that’s as funny as it is predictable.

 

The next day, after hearing about Katherine’s decadent spa day at a local mineral bath spa, we decide to make it a day of relaxation.  The previous night Katherine had done some research on spas near the small towns we planned to visit, so that morning I picked one and we headed out.  Our arrival was promising, and we each booked a massage and a facial with entrance to the thermal pools.  The waters are warm and a bright aqua blue, and it only takes a moment to get used to the squishy sediment that settles at the bottom of the pools.  We take advantage of having a companion (er, photographer) and snap some new Tinder profile pics before heading to the spa.

 

The first thing I notice about this spa is the temperature.  Its chilly to say the least, and we’ve just come from thermal pools, so we are in wet bathing suits, and having not been given towels to this point, we are relying on thin paper-esque robes (also wet) to keep us “warm” in this environment.  After waiting nearly 20 minutes past our facial appointments, I ask the front desk when we are going back (mainly to get under the covers on that heated bed).  They had indeed forgotten about us, and asked if we wouldn’t mind getting our facials after our massages.  Whatevs, but at this point I’m hungry and would have used the additional time to grab a snack had I know this would be the case.  My hangriness is exacerbated when we get to our couples massage room and I see beds with no covers.  And this room isn’t any warmer than the last.  We giggle at the predicament (because what else can you do), undress and hop on our respective tables, open and exposed to the frigid air with nothing but a paper thong to contain our dignity.  As massages go, this one left a lot to be desired. Or maybe I was just too focused on that fact that my nipples could have cut glass to enjoy it.  After our massages, we’re hustled into separate rooms for our facials, which are also found wanting.  Not to mention I got to undress and lay on another table, freezing my ass off. 

I left trying to keep good spirits, and we immediately hit the sauna to thaw out from our “luxurious” spa treatments.  In an attempt to right my mind-frame back into a pattern of grateful and positive thinking, I wandered out to the edge of the resort to take in the Tuscan valley views under the (thankfully) warm sun.  That and a sandwich had me back smiling, so we rinsed off and hit the road.

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Next up was Montepulciano, another small, walled town a top a mountain of switchbacks.  Montepulciano is even cuter and quainter than San Gimignano, with an epic sunset view.  We hear the sound of opera and piano, so we wander toward the sound, which we find is spilling out of a random window,  Though we couldn’t reach the source, across the street was an antique book store, a dusty old shop with 50,000 books dating back to the 1800s.  We rifled the shelves and pages, still in hearing distance of the melodic sonata and velvet voice from across the street.  I’ll honest, it was a little surreal.  Dinner at Ristorante Ai Quattro Venti in front of the Duomo and we head back for another movie night where I once again, pass out mid-film.

 

After a magnificent couple of days full of soul warming conversations, it was off to Firenze, only this time I didn’t bother with the panoramic upgrade on my bus and just took the $5 seat instead for the hour long ride. I hopped the tram into town and hiked the 20 minutes to my Florentine neighborhood. Another early morning bus meant my apartment wasn’t quite ready yet, but I found Hemingway’s, a quaint little coffee bar just across the street and got a caffe latte while I perused train schedules and booking.com in anticipation of my next move. I was a little nervous about my apartment – it was on the cheaper side for Firenze, and had gotten some bad reviews, but I’m ballin’ on a budget for now and this place was a stones throw from a Coworking space, so I rolled the dice. There was a stone stair case leading up to the 1br apartment, steep and narrow, but at the top I found the cutest simple apartment, complete with little green shutters that opened to the plaza streets below, a chandelier and TWO big ass fluffy towels (this is worth noting – I’ve been in plenty of BNBs that give one threadbare piece of shit that wouldn’t dry crocodile tears). I dropped my bags and took off to explore.

 

In this case, I took a right out of my apartment and headed across the river where I began to wind myself through the streets, left here, right there, chasing bell towers in the skyline. I had not one, not two, but THREE people ask me if I knew where the Duomo was.. which I suppose means it looks like I knew what I was doing, even though the only difference between them and I was that I had no specific destination in mind. I did happen to stumble upon the Duomo though, and my goodness, what a sight to behold! I caught a glimpse of it while walking parallel a block away, redirected my course and exited the alley to see the glory of the structure. Little did I know this wonderment and architectural would continue for several “blocks” revealing a dome, a tower a cathedral front, the beauty just never ended. I’m pretty sure I circled it twice, mesmerized by the enormity of it, the detail in the facade, the sheer SIZE of it. I’d give you some history…. but you know I don’t know any.

 

It was getting close to la hora de trabajo (I realize that’s Spanish, but I keep mixing them up on the streets here, so its only fair I do the same with you), so I zigzagged back to my area to scope out the workspace to prevent finding myself in a subpar, 2up 1down situation. The thing that strikes me about Florence is that in between the historic piazzas, the classic cathedrals, the streets are dotted with Gucci, Fendi, Salvatore Ferrigamo, and yes, even an Apple store. I can shake my head at the juxtaposition, but it doesn’t stop me from dropping into the Fruit to (FINALLY) get an iPencil. Handwritten notes incoming. After my obligatory $100+ drop on tech, I verify that the workspace is indeed fitting (and fancy AF to boot), so I grab my laptop and get to the grind for the day alongside a fellow Remote and staffer that’s living here for the month.

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Cowork got swagga

After a day of back to back calls (managed even with a 7pm kick out from the workspace) and an hour long CPE on sales tax (thanks Wayfair), my aforementioned counter part Brad invites me to his fav spot for some dinner. Why am I entrusting this man with my nourishment? Well, he lived here for 3 years, and it shows when we round almost every corner to a familiar face and enthusiastic hello. Of course dinner is on point, and we finish the night with Negronis and chats about Remote life. I use my walk home as an opportunity to catch up with my favorite yogi Taryn before dropping like a rock into bed.

The next day my go go go style (and the negronis) seem to have caught up with me, so I work from my adorable apartment while ordering delivery McDonalds to curb the hangover. I’m a bit concerned, as we didn’t drink that much (I mean, I have certainly drank more on occasion), but I listen to my body and take it easy for the day. I pop out for a bit to Hemingway’s, look into a trip to Mauritius, and get back to the grind until after midnight. Luckily my AM train isn’t until nearly 11, so I can sleep in a bit before shlepping myself to the train station that’s 20 minutes away. All my bags in tow comes in at about 15 kgs, which isn’t unmanageable, but I’m starting to regret some of my packing decisions. Sadly I packed all my favorites for the month, so nothing will be sacrificed, and I will suck it up. We cruise to Bologna where I switch lines (btduz, that station is MASSIVE) before rolling into Modena, a renowned food town in the hills of Reggio and home to the best restaurant in the world, Massimo Bottura’s (of Chef’s Table) fame Osteria Francescana. This is where things go sideways a bit.

First, I don’t even want to talk about the fact that I was a sweaty mess with my greasy hair piled on top of my head when an adorably cute boy plopped down next to me on the train. Italian meet-cute properly sabotaged by my inability to make myself presentable during travel, I let him off the train ahead of me and still manage to fluster with my bags (great, 35 years and I still haven’t figured out how to behave like a normal human). In my state of frustration, I have failed to properly seal my water bottle… which proceeds to empty itself into my bag. Guess who points this out to me? Kill me now

I recover from Watergate to find my way to the bus that takes me close to my hotel. Clearly defeated from my previous display, I’m not paying attention and fail to press the button for my stop request and end up two stops too far from my hotel, an extra 20 minute walk. I’ve confused my check in time and can’t get a room for another 2 hours. There’s no WiFi in the lobby. At this point, I take a temporary time out to walk into town and walk off these minor inconveniences.

Modena is a gorgeous little town (are there any towns in Italy that aren’t a 1000 on the WOW scale?) lined with pastel colored buildings and the required cathedrals and bell towers. After dropping into Osteria Francescana and dropping my best southern sickly sweet request (I had fixed my hair) to be put on the wait list, I took my usual zig zag route to my lunch destination, stumbling upon churches and plazas and well, you get the picture by now – if not, they’re posted below. I grab lunch a da Danali, order the tortellini suggested by the only English speaking waiter (I’m trying my Italian, but I’m not even close) with a glass of Lambrusco – very Modena. Post lunch, I wander back in a different zig zag pattern on my way to work.

 

Here comes the second set of challenges for the day. I’m elated at the prospect of getting to my room and stripping out of my now sweat soaked clothes. For September, its still quite warm during the day here in Northern Italy. I specifically (and not randomly) booked this hotel for the AC, but a sign in the elevator had alerted me to the fact that the AC was not available. Ugh, but not the end of the world. I get to my room and empty the aforementioned soaked bag and hang everything to dry while I set up for work. The WiFi is, well, hotel WiFi, and this is why I have Project Fi, so I hotspot my phone and go to plug my converter in because it drains the battery on both my phone and computer. POP. SNAP. Sparks fly, and the room fills with that acrid burnt electrical smell. Great. Now I have to call the front desk. Only I can’t figure out how. The instructions on the phone are clearly outdated. Fuck, now I have to put on pants. Maintenance checks out the outlets in my room and in the only words (gestures) that I understand, move me to a new room. Good news: this room has a balcony. Bad news: my converter is fried. Good thing I have two. Thankfully the excitement for the day seems to be over, so I settle for the grind before taking myself to dinner where I once again eat whatever the waitress recommends, although this time no one speaks English, so I have no idea what I ate. Pumpkin tortellini, I think… and something that if I understand her gesture correctly is pork calves.. do pigs have calves? Who cares.. They are playing Moon River and I have Lambrusco in front of me.

The next day I take myself out for another Modena stroll, and after my breakfast plans are thwarted by a closed shop, I park at a nearby coffee shop to catch up on some writing and do some work.  Im transferring myself from coffee shop to lunch before my train to Venice when…

fuck

not again….

My dress is suddenly soaked as the ENTIRE CONTENTS of my water bottle have emptied into my computer bag… this time with all of my electronics in it. I was literally on the sidewalk in Modena, my dress saturated, with the entire contents of my computer bag splayed out on the ground screaming “fuck fuck fuck!” when a super sweet pharmacist came out and gave me napkins and a bag to put my stuff back in.  By the time I reach a table where I can assess the damage, my iPad refuses to acknowledge the power button usage, and my laptop is just flashing a big circle with a line through it at me.  My stomach sinks as I realize that I have reduced myself to my phone for tech, and the closest Apple Store is a 3 hour train ride away.  With no other options, I pack away the useless hunks of junk and head to the hotel to grab my bags and catch my train.

I arrive in Venice, immediately drop my bags and head back off the island to the Apple store, a solid 45 minutes of public transit away.  Upon my arrival I do indeed get the stomach gnarling news that my tech is in fact deceased, and I’m so upset I’m nearly in tears, which earned me 10% off my replacement laptop from the Apple employee that felt bad for me.  New laptop in hand (and now iPad-less, glad I bought that iPencil), its closing time and there are no cabs in sight, Uber is not a thing, and there is only one bus left to the train station, but the kiosk to buy tickets is closed, so after nearly breaking down again, the bus driver is sweet enough to let me ride fare free.  The universe is throwing me curves, and I may not be knocking them outta the park, but I’m at least fouling them off and avoiding a strike out.

After a sketchy walk to the train station and getting back onto the island, its all I have left in me to boot and set up my new laptop (with a European keyboard, which has taken some gettin used to), answer pressing Slack messages and emails, and turn in my expense report for the Euros I just dropped on the new work MacBook Air.

7 days in Italy and this is what I have to report.  The highs have been high and the lows have been manageable, and there are three weeks left on this solo adventure.  Stay tuned Lovers. Its gonna be my way, and its gonna be good.

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Randomly yours,

SR

You Can Never Go “Home” Again

Hello my Lovers of Random. I hope at this point I have satiated your needs for updates on the adventure that was Remote Year Earhart. Even though I’ve closed the chapter of that particular adventure, I am in no way done. There will be sequels, both in the form of adventures with new ‘Krews’ as well as reunions with Earhart past. As I write this post, I’m 10,000ft in the air on my way to Denver to see Marky, my first Earhart neck to hug since my tearful goodbye with the ever so beautiful Mel at the Cancun Airport. But before I land and begin the second chapter of my nomad life, let’s touch base about life in the US post RY.

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photo cred Ryan Nelson

I have to tell you that I truly didn’t know what to expect upon landing on native soil after a year abroad. I landed in Houston with time to make an earlier flight to Memphis and hopped terminals to see if I could secure a seat. With the help of the friendliest United gate agent I ever met, I made it onto the flight, only to be delayed, deplaned for maintenance, and reboarded 10 minutes after my original flight took off. I was rewarded with a seat in 1a, which I was grateful for as I found myself succumb to the emotions that had been hiding the past few weeks. Silent tears slid down my cheeks nearly the entire flight, and I’m thankful for the flight attendant, who handed me tissues and a Jack on the rocks with no questions asked.

I landed at Memphis and after a snafu with my car rental caught a 45 minute Uber to my parent’s house in BFE Tennessee. I hadn’t clued them in to my early arrival, so when I rang the doorbell, there was a round of surprise and hugs, and an off comment or two about my red and puffy eyes. My unsuspecting nephew rounded the corner straight from the shower and his face lit up at the sight of his Aunt Krystal. Before I knew it, he was on me, and I wrapped him up in a bear hug and spun him around a few times. If that doesn’t cure the blues, idk what does.

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I spent a couple of days rummaging through the boxes left behind in my parent’s attic. It was almost reminiscent of being a kid and playing in my attic with my grandmother’s old clothes. Resurrecting #formerlifePino was surreal – although I did enjoy the full breadth of my shoe collection.

A couple of days in I was boarding a plane to Atlanta for Xerocon and an in person meeting with the HPC crew. The week was a whirlwind of co workers, new colleagues, fantastic speakers, and, as any good conference has, too much whiskey. Xerocon didn’t take enough out of me to not meet up with some ATL Citizens at the end of the week though, including the lovely Jess, my definite partner in crime had I been a Meraki. We had dinner, drinks, and talked about how the world didn’t’ get us as we watched the ATL night ride.

The next morning I was headed back to the fam for a chill week in good ol’ Oakland, TN. The week before I had dropped in on Crossfit Penance, a box not far from the ‘rents, so I got back into the routine of throwing weight around between hours of settling into my new role of Head of Client Experience at HPC. All in all, a welcome uneventful week.

Friday had me taking off for Birmingham with a quick stop in T-Town for a catch up and hair rescue with my stylist of 17 years. As soon as she touched my hair, he faced revealed everything I already knew… it was time to say goodbye to the golden locks, the lion’s mane mop of curls I had been torturing all year. Within the hour she had me fixed up, a brunette beauty again with layers and depth, free of split ends. The woman is a hair goddess and I am lucky to have her.

Birmingham kicked off with a mini class reunion of a few of us that crewed the night shift at UAB’s accounting program. We caught up over pork loin and beer before I hightailed it to catch up with the most consistent friend I’d had all year. She offered me refuge on night one, and we drank local craft brews while catching up on all the gossip.

The next morning was Saturday, which in my mind, means a couple things in BHM. 1) Pepper Place Market, with a guaranteed stop to see the Salsa Guy (who remembered me after a year abroad) and 2) Brunch at El Barrio, complete with a Palmoa for Two (but really just for me) and the Cuban Madam. After getting my fix of both of the above with Aaron and a guest appearance from the #PIC, I headed to the ‘burbs t meet up with some old bar patrons and friends at a memorial to honor our fallen comrades (oh, you thought I meant old as in time… no.. they’re old as in age. JK guys, love you all). After a lot of hugs and too many stories, I headed back downtown to join the “family” for dinner at my FAVORITE spot, Highland’s Bar and Grill. As per usual, I was over served, over fed and welcomed back like I’d never been gone.

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Sundays in Birmingham are for brunch at Dyron’s, so I rustled up the other half of the ACs and we joined Sloan to chat over Titos and grapefruits (fresh pressed, of course) while munching on beignets, crab claws, and chicken and biscuits. I left brunch in hope of catching a Baron’s game, but an Alabama summer thunderstorm had other ideas, so beers at Good People with Sarah, the #PIC, Oliver and his fam was the play. Once the rain settled, the boys took off on their one wheels and Sarah and I headed to Jinsei for the best sushi in town. Once again, there was no love lost as I was welcomed back by Abe, still managing the place, and Patrick, still slinging the best Hot Kiss this side of the Prime Meridian.

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A slammed packed week of catching up with friends was promptly derailed once I saw my Gracie baby and realized she was sick. A trip to the vet confirmed she had leukemia and was struggling to breathe. Sarah and I made the decision to put he down, and I cried… for days. Despite my guilt and grief, I was able to muster the energy to make a few engagements, have a bowl of pasta at Gianmarco with Jake still nailing my wine tastes, compete in a competition at Wheelhouse and podium, hit the community pool with my Ella bug, and grab a Spicy Hawaiian from Slice with the ACs and the Ex and his new Boo.

Exhausted and spent, I hit the road back to the fam to spend a few more days with them before jetting off again. Between dinner at home with the ‘rents and dinner dates with my nephew, I met up with another Citizen and SS Shitshow crew member for some pizza and peanut butter pie with a mutual friend of ours. Is anyone catching a theme here yet? Food. It’s all about the food.

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My bags are once again packed, and I’m toting 60lbs of my life off to Denver before hitting the world again. First up Europe, then South Africa for an extended stay. While it was good to see faces, hug necks, and eat and drink my way through my former life, it didn’t quite fit anymore. There was an uncomfortableness to the comfortability of it, and I found myself anxious to get on the road again. I got a hitch in my stomach every time someone asked how it was to be “home”, and I quickly realized that for me, Birmingham would never be “home” again. As amazing as it is, and although it holds some of my favorite souls, I have outgrown it, at least for now. So, the only reality I see is to keep going, onto the next home, on and on until I find that one place that captures my eye, heart and attention for the long term. Here goes nothing,

 

Stay Tuned Lovers.

Randomly Yours,

SR