Summer holidays in Italy, sounds dreamy doesn’t it? Well it absolutely is, but in a completely different way than you would expect. After going to school for all of June and July, (I don’t know how people do it, it was torture and I love school), we were given the month of August for holiday. Interesting that August was picked right? I mean why not July, smack dab in the middle and the hottest month in Italy? But apparently it’s because the entire country goes on holiday in August.
I am not the least bit kidding. Most go to the seaside or the south of Italy, or a few on other larger holidays. But literally everyone is gone. Starting about a week ago, the city has gotten quieter and quieter. Now it seems as if every day is a Sunday siesta, few people walk the streets. Even nighttime where I am used to wanting to yell at the kids screaming through the streets, I am offset a bit by the odd quietness.
Because all the citizens of the town are gone, shops just close. I walked through a street yesterday on my way to the grocery store that is normally bustling with its ten or so busy shops. Only one is still open, every other has a sign saying “gone on holiday” with a return date falling in the last week of the month. I have never experienced something like this. We thought everything being closed on Sundays and for siesta was odd, this is a whole new level.
As my friends all booked their travels for the month, international students off on adventures around Europe and Italians to the seaside with their family and friends, I found my own adventure. I knew I couldn’t afford to go travel around the continent, not with my internship in London in the spring looming. But yet, I didn’t want to stay in Bra because I knew it would become a whole month of Netflix with none of my friends around. A friend suggested Work Away to cheaply travel somewhere, fill my time, and most importantly, improve my Italian.
Work Away (similar to Wwoofing) is an online portal that connects workers and hosts. The idea is for someone to come work (volunteer) 4-5 days a week for a host in exchange for room and board. The work can be anything, childcare, language tutoring, yardwork, housework, etc. Created as a method of helping people travel cheaper and be more connected with where they were traveling, Work Away is an amazing system.
I saw Work Away as a way to go spend a few weeks somewhere in Italy, and not spend a lot of money. However, the main reason was a way to put myself into a non-English speaking environment to work on my Italian conversation skills. I love Bra and the university, but because my program is in English I am not forced to speak Italian everyday. I can weasel my way out of it with my Italian friends when we are around other non-Italian speakers. Additionally, I am hovering on the crest of learning a language when you know you can speak and understand, but just need practice in a place that isn’t necessarily comfortable. That’s how I choose my Work Away.
I will be doing yardwork and housework for a lady who lives about 5 kilometers out of Lecce, Italy. Lecce is in the region of Puglia, located in the heel of the boot of Italy. When looking through hundreds of hosts (literally 2200+ just in Italy), her’s caught my eye. She is a 60 year old woman who only speaks Italian, After reading a few reviews from other WorkAwayers that have stayed with her, I knew she was my best bet. I am a little nervous, but excited for the new adventure and look into another form of budget-minded travel.
The game plan is to use this time to use this time to disconnect and recenter a bit before school restarts. Looking back at the last four months, I am noticing that adjusting to living abroad instead of living as if I am on vacation, has been harder than I thought.
When I was living in Boise, I was up at 5:30am and off to the gym for a morning workout. Then home to get ready and head off to work for the day, with my healthy lunch packed and dinner ready to be made in the fridge. After work I went to attend daily mass at the church then home to make dinner and write or some other project, or spend time with friends. I was burning the candle at both ends. I was busy but budgeted, and somehow doing it all. I had my exercise, food, work, social, financial and spiritual all under control. Then I moved.
I moved to Italy and it all got jostled around. Like moving to any new place (plus a new language, currency, and culture) you have to find new everything, gym, church, grocery stores, etc. But I was in Italy so it felt more like I was on a vacation. I let my workouts slip, my food was no longer a serious conscious choices, everything just fell into place without rhyme or reason. Then a couple weeks ago it hit me, if I am serious about living abroad for the next chunk of my life I have to figure this out.
So I am going to attempt to “do it all again” and am using this month of holidays to do so. As was the original intent, I will predominantly be speaking Italian for the next month, so gaining confidence and practice there. I am using the new environment and limited internet access to read, and write. I am planning an independent Bible study to bring that back into perspective and its rightful place. Not to mention, I will be doing physical labor for 5 days a week, so I will also be using this time as an excuse to workout and get back in shape. Time to put all the pieces back together.
The past four months have been figuring out how to make my life abroad, and that I expected. What I didn’t expect was having to figure out how to live and thrive abroad. Last spring those meant the same thing, but now I see they aren’t. I can’t keep living like one day I will be going back to Boise, Idaho and my life will fall back into the routine it was. No one is going to monitor your choices but yourself. So its time to get back with it.
And so off I go, onto the latest and greatest adventure, and a personal holiday. I have no idea what the internet situation will look like in Puglia (I don’t think a ton), but I will be writing the whole time and doing my best to get content up for you all. And you know, with a lady who only speaks italian I will be learning a lot and eating well.
Until next time, stay hungry friends.
-The Very Hungry Traveler