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Chapter 33

It’s been almost 3 months since I’ve been on the road, out of a job, doing my sabbatical or gap year, travelling, enjoying life … free.

There are many ways to describe what I’ve been doing. And many ways I can find to talk about it so that the average working person would understand and/or identify with it. But really, even I’m not sure how to identify with it. And there are many days where freedom feels like anxiety, uncertainty, money worries, undeserving, and even unnatural.

But there are many, many more, where it feels wonderful to wake up when I want and decide in those first few moments what I will spend my next moments doing. It feels good to change my mind whenever I want. To be able to act upon whatever whims come. To say yes or no as I please.

I left Cayman on July 2 with a vague idea of what my next steps would be, and where I’d end up. I’ve managed to follow that plan so far, and I think I’ve done alright with the lack of certainty and the changing nature of things as life continues onward. I spent a month in Florida, trying to fit in anyone and everyone who showed interest and effort in seeing me while I was there—even managing to rekindle 2 friendships that had kind of faded away over the years.

Then I went off to the UK to spend time in London with Jo. I was very excited for this bit because of the ease of getting around and the ability to be semi-independent (but also totally dependent). I met his family and friends and I think I made a good impression. I also got to acro to my heart’s content and attend Nottinghill Carnival for the first time. We went to a few shows and we did lots of touring and walking and sightseeing. I was very happy to start on my weightloss/fitness journey after being largely stationary and out of practice with my nonstop working life in Cayman. As much as it felt bad to realise I’d gone so far the other way, it also felt good to know that at least I was starting again.

The next step from our time in London was to head to Italy. We had 2 weddings a few days apart, and he had several people to visit after many years away from home.

Italy at first was not what I remembered. My partner is from Bologna, which is basically in the centre of the northern part of the country. It’s in a valley with no access to the sea and lots of buildings and stone streets. It was my introduction to the concept of medieval cities with walls that separated different sections of it. And while I find that pretty cool to see, I wasn’t a lover of the city. Still, I enjoyed seeing where he grew up and meeting his long time friends and we had some fun adventures on the rental bicycles and in the old school Panda van that we got to borrow for the first wedding. The reception was at a beautiful house on top of a hill about 1.5 hours away from the city.

My first experience of an Italian wedding wasn’t as crazy and loud as I imagined. In fact it was quite calm and tame. That being said, I did not get used to the late night eating by the time that first wedding came around, so we barely made it to dessert before we called it a night. We missed the cake-cutting and dancing and music and basically all the fun. But we were both exhausted and had to make the drive back safely, unlike some of the guests who opted to camp there like the bride and groom.

We got some great photos out of it though.

Next up was a trip to Sicilia (Sicily), an island off the south of the main land. We’d end up spending more time here than expected after my numerous pleas to him to slow down because I can’t keep up with the pace. This was more of what I had in mind when thinking of Italy. We rented a car and drove from south east to northwest, where we ended up staying an extra 2 days. I saw more green space and mountains and ocean and it made me feel more at ease. (I realised from back when I was in Colorado that wide open spaces with no end in sight are difficult places for me to live. I like to see the end of land. It makes me feel less small). We had a great time doubling up on rental scooters once we returned our rental car and we stayed in quite a nice last-minute flat.

The second wedding was a beach wedding, which was also nice and quite tame. They played basically just reggae covers in the beginning part and had a really good violinist who played the instrumental for the song to which the bride walked down the isle (Sam Smith).  But once again we barely made it through the fourth course before the exhaustion started to catch me and we called it quits. I wanted to be determined to make it further this time, but I’m not used to seven course meals, especially after sunset. We were still being served food at midnight. Plus, we had an 11-hour train ride to Rome ahead of us.

Turns out you can take a train onto a ferry. Who knew?

It was a short ride, but the train went across from Sicily to the mainland on a 30-minute ferry ride before attaching itself to a fast train for the quicker journey up the coast toward Roma. We got there within enough time to see all the major sights by night and by scooter, and also to have an excellent vegan gelato. The next day we saw the colosseum again but with much more crowd, and with not much time before we had to take another train (which we missed twice) and a bus to a small town called Farnese. This is where we’d spend the next 2 weeks at a workaway.

That’s where I write to you from right now—on the eve of my birthday, lying in the back of a camper van next to the outdoor kitchen that’s been out of water since yesterday. We’ve been rationing water here since we arrived for showers, cooking, drinking, and dishes, and we’ve been cooking with minimal ingredients. All the while helping a family to build a compost toilet next to a yurt that gets very hot by midday, but is meant to be used for events and classes. We’ve been showering under a tree once a day with a hose, digging holes for using the toilet, doing yoga in an unfinished yurt, getting phone service here and there, and building bonds with other people who have, for whatever reason, found themselves here just like we have.

It’s been a rudimentary and humbling experience of the best kind, knowing we are at the mercy both of strangers and Mother Nature. On Sunday we showered in a volcanic lake. Today we hunted down a nearby river. We eat whatever they bring for us and do the tasks we’re asked to do in the meanwhile, and when I look up at night, I can actually see the Milky Way.

We have another week left and we have no solid plans for what we will do after our time here is up.

This is how I will bring in 33. And, aside from having friends and family around me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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