Rientrata a Firenze and it feels …

After nearly moving to Madrid never to be seen in Florence again, I am indeed back and extremely happy to return to some semblance of normalcy and routine. We are, after all, creatures of habit (for better or worse) and while I can travel bohemian style with the best of them, a month is almost too long.

El tapeo se acabó

Summer is still going strong in Firenze. The weather is hot and the tourists are here in full force. The season won’t really end until mid-November, but for those of us that live here, the end of August is usually a very rude awakening. The Italians call it the sindrome del rientro and it is very real. I’m back to work at the University, while at the same time trying to study as much as possible (ahem, FOCUS) for when I choose my next adventure.

I spent some time at the Uva Nera yesterday — a super cute wine bar with reliable wifi — great for working remotely. Located on Borgo Ognissanti, it is situated just past the Polimoda fashion school, walking from school towards the center of town, so they receive a lot of student traffic. Since I was behind the bar when some students came in, we got to talking, and I was able to share some of my experience living in Florence with them. They were really disappointed to learn I was American and speak perfect English!

Both when speaking to Lisa May and in my experience working with students traveling abroad for the first time, many people wonder how to become integrated in their adopted community: how do I get the locals not to speak to me in English? How do you make friends? How do you get your barista to finally say hello?

Needless to say the conversation got me thinking about the advice I’ve given students over the years: CONSISTENCY IS KEY. I believe that if you just do what you love, wherever you are, you will naturally make friends without stressing yourself out about doing it the “right” way. I love running and having a cheap drink at aperitivo, so lo and behold no matter where in the world I go, I tend to meet runners and revelers! And if you find a trail, park, basketball court, museum, bookstore, cafe, whatever it is that you love, and a habit of dedicating some time consistently to that space or activity, you will undoubtedly notice that the locals become curious about you.

For me it’s back to work but for so many students it’s their first time here, so best of luck this semester or year abroad. Fearlessly refuse to speak English and you will leave Florence with an enhanced Italian vocabulary for sure.

How do you like to get the feel for a place? What’s the first thing you do when you go somewhere new?

Back Home

 

Follow Your Passion… or Find Stability?

Follow Your Passion… or Find Stability?

I have been sitting inside at my friend’s home in Madrid on my second to last day of vacation. I am feeling the anxiety that comes with vacation’s end (it’s very real) and trying to get my thoughts and projects in order as I prepare for what is promising to be a whirlwind of a rientro. I recently spent a week in Valencia doing “research” and have been struggling to put all the information I received into useful blog posts for people wanting to visit the city. So instead I’ll just write.

Sweating in Valencia

I just got off of an interview with Lisa May, owner and producer of ExPat Real TV, a channel that she started to share stories of Americans living “alternatively” around the world. We chatted about our experiences — she moved to Bali and is now living in a small town in Portugal — and she gave me some challenging questions that I really had to think about.

What would I tell my 23 year old self before moving to Florence? What is the hardest thing about living abroad?

Super tough questions. To start with, Florence wasn’t my first nor would it ever be my final destination. Maybe my continuous returns to Spain and the land of sol y playa have always been an effort on my part to maintain some sense of stability and order in an otherwise chaotic, unstable situation.

So what is the hardest thing? For me it has been fighting my internal desire for change and adventure coupled with the need for family and stability. More adventurous than many, I feel proud of the life I’ve been able to make for myself (together with the help of many, many people!) not just far from home, but in a completely different country, where many odds were stacked against me. I’ve managed to navigate international bureaucracies, mother hundreds of not-my-children (I love all my students!) and learn to create spaces where I genuinely do feel at home with friends who have become like family. And just when it seemed like everything was clicking into place, I’m the one who wants a change.

What would you do? Do you want security or adventure? What is the right balance? How much freedom would you give up for constant stability?

As I ran this morning through the Sierra de Guadarrama (12km,1200 altitude!), surrounded by cows and horses and old campesinos on their morning hikes, I reflected. Am I doing the right thing? Am I crazy to give up the stability of a 9-5, in another country, no less? I’ll keep you posted as my adventure unfolds, but comment below and let me know your thoughts!!

Following the wind