After my initial reaction, though, I realized that while the tone of the question wasn’t to my liking, the underlying assumptions were, in part, true. I do in fact travel to Italy to fill spaces that my amazing life here in the States does not fill, and while many would call it a lack of gratitude or humility, or that I need to get a grip on reality, the fact is that in order to be whole I need what Italy is and offers. And I’m not ashamed of that, or embarrassed by it, nor do I feel it’s something that detracts from what I have at home. Let me see if I can explain it.
I’ve always been restless. From the time I ran away from my mother in the department store and was five aisles away before she found me, to the explorations of the forest surrounding my house when I was 7, 8, and 9 that landed me a number of times in bedroom-jail for not being home by dark, to the number times I ran away from home at ages 15, 17, and finally 18 for good… and my realization at about age 15 that settling down on any level wasn’t going to be easy, if possible at all, I’ve known that finding one thing, place, person, or life that would keep me happy was going to be impossible.
So I adapted. I started traveling, and I found that the farther from home I went and the more I experienced, the more beauty I surrounded myself with, and the more smells and textures and tastes and sensations I indulged in, the happier I became.
Because it is true, what the above question implied: traveling, especially to Italy but really anywhere, fills the spaces that are left empty even in the moments I am feeling closest to another person. Even in the moments I am wrapped in warm blankets on the couch at home, dogs and husband close by. Even in the moments I am surrounded by friends and family. In those moments, I am still always yearning for more.
Because when I am surrounded by voices that speak a language I barely understand, when the sun heats my body from a different angle, when I take my first sip of wine at the restaurant with a view, when my terrace overlooking the valley all the way to Assisi spreads out below me and the sound of dogs barking drifts up from an unseen farm, when the sun sets behind the hills and lights everything on fire and I stand on that edge… in those moments I am whole.
It is in traveling that I have learned how to stay in one place.