Now that I am older, I know that there are many experiences in life which cannot be lived at any other time in your life other than the time it was meant for. Last April, I had a pocket of time to enjoy one of the many perks of the freelance life - taking months-long sabbaticals in exotic European destinations because I felt like it and because it was the right moment in my life. These were the moments to savour rich, strong espressos while taking in endless indigo seas, to wake up to the sound of the ocean waves.
I spent my days walking on cobblestone in markets, shopping for leather goods in Florence, tasting the gelati of each city or town, always the same flavours, pistachio, almond, chocolate or hazelnut - to compare fairly. Reading my book in the sun while lying on a rock on the Ligurian coast. Taking my time while the tourists rushed from place to place.
Mornings started with boiling of water for hot tea, then running down to one of the three small bakeries in town, buying loaves of bread for the day, running back up the four flights of stairs to the apartment and making breakfast. When noontime came around, Fabio, the Italian originally from Genova, a city an hour away, would cook pasta for everyone.
There were new and exciting pastas I had never seen before, cooked in new and exciting ways. I clinked glasses of local sweet wines with people who were strangers just days before, on afternoons in small towns no one outside of Italy had heard of. There was that one time my friend Ruth and I took an entire day to hike the Sentiero Azzurro, or the Blue Path, along the coastline of the Cinque Terre and I found the best tiramisu cannoli in Vernazza. There were many stories. Like lying on a lazy beach and laughing at cheesy Italian pick-up lines (Scusami, mi ero perso nei tuoi occhi or Sorry, I got lost in your eyes), and trying to figure out what to do with the Italian boys who delivered these lines (we ran, it was bad).
Then came the evenings. If there was a sunset, tourists would gather around the marina and the large rocks and the beach and we would all watch for a few magical moments where the golden light hit each part of the small village made of stone. Suddenly it made sense why the Italians would move from big cities to work hospitality jobs in a small humble town full of old-world charm.
Afterwards, when I left to travel Southern Italy, many afternoons were spent basking in the Italian riviera, going on long drives along the Sicilian countryside and falling in love with the country but in the back of my mind, knowing my place is not there. And so I left, happy in the knowledge that the Italian people will still be there, living out their lives, enjoying their happinesses, changing and evolving until the moment I get back.
After a brief tour through Malta and Croatia, when I came back to Toronto in early Summer, for the first time since I started travelling, I found I had a longing to nest. I was weary from travelling the world for so long and emotionally tired from seeing so many new things. I needed routine again. I've decided to live in Toronto because this is where I have the most chance to make something of my work. I have connections and friends and family who can support and motivate me when I need help. I know more about how the freelance creative industry works. I am starting to make a dent in my career and getting bigger and bigger gigs. For me, the greatest loss is unrealized potential. At some point in my year of travelling, I realized I needed to stay put long enough to see something come of my efforts. To my friends around the world, if you need me, I'll be in Toronto, working to be the biggest I can be. Come visit.