If you could go anywhere, right now, no limitations, no consequences, traveling at the speed of light, where would you go?
I would go to Italy, specifically Verona and/or Venice. I first traveled to Verona, Florence, and Venice when I was a sophomore in high school and participating in an exchange program. This was the first time I travelled out of the country without my parents. A group of students and one, maybe two, teachers travelled from Virginia to Verona with a few connections along the way to places I’d like to see more of than just their airports.
I remember we stopped in Germany I think. I don’t remember much from the travel days. Most things were definitely in a different language, I know that much. I was already a little tired at that point because we’d been on a non-stop flight across some time zones and the Atlantic Ocean. Next, I remember taking a very small plane, most likely with propellers, over a beautiful mountain range. Forgive my geography but they may have been a set of Alps. I’m not sure, but I can remember bumping along in the air with some of my closest HS friends staring down at these breathtaking mountains. They were covered in snow, with a clear blue sky behind them. It was so amazing. I stared out of the window the whole time just in awe of this huge mountain range.
When we arrived in Verona and we parted ways to meet our host families. My family was so nice. They immediately sat me down to feed me. I was starving. I ate as much as I could, but barely made a dent in this wonderful bowl of pasta and sauce. The young high school girl of the family was the only one that spoke English. She was so friendly and so excited for me to be there. She showed me to my room and said I had time for a nap if I wanted. I remember laying down and must have been a sleep for a few hours. I felt a little guilty thinking they’d been so excited to meet me and the first thing I do is sleep. Luckily when I woke up, I was good as new. Jetlag erased! It was magical.
The rest of that week was a fun combination of sightseeing and taste-testing. I remember going to school with my host. I was in awe of the fact that students there all were expected to learn multiple languages. I think my host was learning French, Spanish, and English. English was the newest language for her but she spoke very well. I remember not two days after being there, I was starting to speak English with an Italian accent. I have a way with accents and pick it up quite easily. I’m always afraid people will think I’m poking fun or mocking them if I’m not careful to explain why I’m starting to talk like them. But anyway, we took a couple of local field trips with the class that included our host family members. It was fun to experience school in a different place. But I always loved school so of course I thought it was cool. Haha.
My favorite things about the places I visited in Italy were the open markets and the common spaces, almost like a town square. Everywhere we went felt like a pedestrian friendly area covered in cobblestones, with fountains, and century-old churches, and statues that you’d only find in an art history book. I don’t want to romanticize the experience, but I think as someone coming from a suburb, this was my first time really experiencing a “city”, it just also happened to be in a historic, foreign country. 😃 I loved the architecture and the history and everyone seemed so happy and relaxed. I just keep thinking my 16-year-old self just thought everything was cool. One of the reasons I need to go back is because I need some adult explanations of this placed I think is cool.
Of course I fell in love with gelato and real cannoli, but the very best thing I found were these little brown crackers. They were thin like bagel chips but just had this flavor that was so subtle. You could eat them with cheese or spread them with Nutella (which I also only had for the first time while there). They were perfect. I wasn’t as obsessed with the pasta and clearly not the wine like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. But again, I was 16 and I fell in love with desserts. So another great opportunity to explore: the wine.
Needless to say, I loved that trip. I can’t wait for the day I can go back.
Until then, I will continue my random domestic road trips. I’ll keep adding states and countries to my list of places to go. Perhaps that’ll be a new page. My travel bucket list. I know I’m going to Seattle this summer for a conference and then there’s ACPA Convention in Montreal next year (shameless plug).
I wonder where else this year will take me.