During the space in time while contemplating swinging a solo trip to Europe, sleep didn’t come easy. I lacked confidence in myself to transform this idea into reality.
But, once I pushed my intentions outside of my mind and into the universe, the first pieces of my adventure puzzle began to match up — like laying down the edges.
A few weeks before I left, I called my sister to catch up and tell her about my upcoming journey. I felt her excitement through the speaker as she informed me she’d be staying in Milan with her boyfriend Nick, around the same time.
Voilà, my next destination. And for the record, this wasn’t planned.
I left Paris to catch a midnight bus to Italy with a heart full of experiences, and eagerness to continue putting puzzle pieces in their place.
Twelve hours later, I arrived in Milan. I embraced the comforts of home by greeting my sister — I wanted nothing more. An unforgettable experience was upon us because of our Italian roots, exploring our grandfather’s homeland side by side.
But, I can’t deny a travel hangover kicked in even though I was still traveling.
I’d been spoiled in Paris — always surrounded by multiple people who knew their way around and could assist me in simply ordering food.
We didn’t know the language. We didn’t know our way around the city. We were on our own. But nonetheless, a memory worth a lifetime.
The day before she left stirred up unfamiliar emotions inside me. I began processing facts I couldn’t deny — I’d be alone soon. Where will I stay? What will I do?
Nightmares danced through my mind that night, and the next day, she left before the sun said good morning.
That was the moment it all hit me. I missed her, my mom, my best friends, my dog, my experience in Paris, and the sense of security only one can feel in a familiar environment.
But strangely enough, within my ocean of sadness, came waves of calmness — senses of feeling light and free.
I strolled into a park to settle my currents of pain — the closest I could get to our Mother. I knew I couldn’t give up on the dream I believed so deeply in.
“There’s so much for me here,” I told myself. “Even what I’m experiencing in this moment, what I’ve experienced up until this point, and what is to come.”
I found myself craving someone — a lover, maybe. Simply a person I could lean on who’d tell me it’d be okay. But all I had was myself, and I had to accept it. Embrace it.
Mid-tear shed, a short middled aged man named Alejandro approached me and asked if I’d take a photo of him. He showered me with praise about how much he loved “my country” and how he’d just moved to Milan from Brazil. I informed him afterward I wasn’t from there.
Then, he asked where I was from and about my purpose for being there, and I briefly described the intentions of my journey. His eyes said he could sense my pain.
He told me he’d gone on a similar journey when he was younger and eventually made a life for himself as a traveling photojournalist.
“Traveling is the best way to discover your dreams my dear,” he said. “It’s not always the easiest path, but I don’t doubt you will find your way.”
He hugged me tightly, feeding me warmth and sweet energy, and went on his way.
The universe reassured my decision through a stranger. Or was he?
Another act of reassurance followed when my friend Gabby said her friend John, had a friend, Leonardo, who lived in Milan. I didn’t hesitate to ask for his contact information and through proper timing, Leonardo agreed to meet me that afternoon.
After a brief introduction on his corner, he ushered me into his home to relieve me of my bags. He introduced me to his family, bought me lunch and insisted I stay that evening.
Leonardo works in Rome Monday through Friday and stays with his family on the weekends. He consults business firms to modify their work habits in favor of the environment. For example, he encourages employees to use email vs. paper mail.
It became clear this type of work drains him, like any other 9-5 majority of Americans trap themselves in. But his care for our Mother shines through the cracks of his fatigue. Something I can appreciate.
He has two sisters, Viola and Sara. Sara lives in Amsterdam and is studying to obtain her master’s degree. Viola is 19 leading the life as any teenager should — freely.
Leo’s mother, Ina, is an artist. The walls of her home are swept with mixed, pastel colors and decorated in a lifetime of her artwork — paintings and mosaic masterpieces. She recently picked up crocheting, too. She’s made figurines of her family and was working on John Lydon during my stay.
She cooked authentic Italian food only an authentic Italian mother could prepare. And she, too, reassured me of my journey. She embarked on a similar one to California as a young adult.
When we come into contact with other humans, there’s an undeniable, energetic connection. Some connections feel more natural, like you’ve known the person for some time, while others may feel forced, or strange.
There’s this theory — when we come into contact with another and immediately feel a mutual connection, we may have known each other in a past life — if you’re into that belief.
It’s up to interpretation, obviously, but after reflecting on my connection with this family, my feelings could potentially support this theory. I can’t describe what I felt here — simply home away from home, and yet again, reassurance that I’m on the right path.