“Mambo Italiano” by Dean Martin is the soundtrack to this post.
The power of dreams and desire. Even better yet, to put it in a less woo-woo new agey way, let us say the power of intent. See long before I went to Italy, about a year before my family moved there or even knew they’d move there, I had started taking an interest in Italy. I started casually studying the language, as well as reading up on tour guides and about the countries history and putting up visual representations of things related to Italy. Those of you that have been to my place will know that on the fridge I had (and still do) have pictures of Italy. Via Antica, Amalfi Coast, the Italian flag, etc. …..and with the exception of Amalfi (which will happen in the future) I visited all. Not only have I visited Italy, I have now gone twice. Guys, whatever in life you want to do or accomplish, visualize it and plan it. It will happen one way or another, I’ve noticed that the universe has a funny way of “coincidentally” manifesting happenings that align with what you want…what you really want, even subconsciously. That’s a blog post for another day, but for purposes of this post I wont’ get to deep into that I just want to continue with the INSANE FUN I had with my new wife, my family, relatives and my friends from the USA in la citta eterna.
The trip was memorable, one for the ages, just in case I have not said so enough 🙂 The journey from Washington, D.C. to Europe was sort of a reality shock in that I felt a little disorienteted once I was at Dulles. It is not that I was physically ill or anything, just that I was experiencing a simmering cauldron of emotions – mild anticipation, reflection….slight uncertainty, etc. Like at the airport at Charles De Gaulle in Paris transferring I was like a fish out of water. It’s not like it was my first time traveling, but really this demonstrates how much one gets into a comfort zone in their enviroment and just coasts. Like just the fact that you’re in an environment where people are not speaking English can be a shock, you do a doubletake like, “oh yeahhhh, English is NOT the language here”. Speaking on the journey to Rome itself, it’d be incomplete without talking about the Air France trip to Europe. As I boarded the Air France, I experienced my first serendipity of the trip. Get this – I flew first class~! Somehow through the grapevine, one of the ladies that worked on that flight had found out I was getting married, and had graciously prepared to set me up in first class, pending the Captains permission. So I flew across the atlantic in first class. It had a bed, a world class rated chef preparing the meals, etc. I actually felt rested and refreshed after the trip. The lesson I learned from flying first class was 1. Be nice to people. I so much appreciated the gesture, it just set the stage for the whole trip. That one kind act by the lady was much appreciated. Never tire in doing kind deeds no matter how seemingly mundane. This seems like obvious generic advice but how many people actually go out of their way to be nice to people rather than either just being plain disagreeable or snappy, or being neutral – barely acknowledging that others exist? 2. The finer things of life are there for all of us to experience. A lot of times we rationalize limiting ourselves to the normal or average. Now it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that….but there’s nothing wrong with the best or the fine things either. You are worthy, I’m worthy. I have promised myself that one way or another Stella will fly first class one day, and I hope anyone reading this will too.
Fast-forwarding to the day after the wedding and move on to overall thoughts of the trip and city. On Saturday evening, my brother arranged a pub crawl for most of the traveling party – we were about fifteen of us. Now this was actually my first pub crawl (called BAR crawl in the USA I’d never really had an interest in doing one and I still wont’ wouldn’t be the same in DC outside of the novelty of Rome) but good thing I experienced it in Rome. We met up at the Colosseum, which glowers like a burning coal at night. Rome needs to be seen twice to be fully appreciated, see it at daytime and see it again at night. Well, so the plan was to hit 3 bars and end at a club, in a pub crawl you walk from one destination to the next as a group, a big group like 50 or more. It’s very fun, the camaraderie and all of that. Free drinks at the first club, and free shots on entry at the rest. We missed the first club so we joined in at the second bar. I’m not going to write up about the actual partying itself as it wasn’t necessarily different from what one would do anyway, but what made the night was the people I was with, and the fact that we were walking in the streets of Roma. In between one of the bars, some of us branched of to grab some authentic pizza – real pizza doesn’t have tomato sauce, it’s square and it’s thin crust and often has potatoes – that’s how they roll in Italia, and some ice cream, called gelato there, which was impossibly fresh. The last club a place called Mood was the climax of the crawl. My brother knows the owner there, and even designed the logo, he’s a great graphic designer. It was underground and what a majestic setting. There were no plain corridors, in that there was seating along the corridors, but enclosed in a way that they were inside the wall, like a booth, but the seats were plush white. Other than the dance area, it didn’t seem like rooms, it was like chambers. The lighting was neon blue, red, and a greenish hue deepening on the area of the club that you were. Oh we danced. and danced. and danced. and sweated. We mingled with people, some of my friends were camera happy and getting very friendly with ladies from Italy, but there was also some ladies from Brazil and Australia who were partying themselves too. For sure that was a night that ended too soon and we had to part our ways. I wasn’t back at the house yet, I was to stay at the suite at the Marriot Park for the second night which was in the suburb, but we walked a group that was going back to our residence in Rome to the taxi. That was after walking in the streets, imagine having the streets of Rome to yourself. Fifteen or so of us, after a night of dance, song and drink, merrilly reminiscing and kidding with each other relaxing in the Piazza – the central Piazza to where most of us were located as well as the club was Piazza Novona. We even had an impromptu 3a.m. tour courtesy of my brother haha. There was lots of picture taking and bonding for about an hour before everyone went their way. One of our party wasn’t even going to sleep, as he had to go to India the next day at 6 am and it was already like 4 am. My best man and I walked him to the bridge, then went with my best man to his hotel. If you live in a big city which has any appreciable architecture or you’d consider it intimate, pencil in a day to walk through it’s streets in its downtown between 3am and 5 am.
I wanted to talk about the pub crawl as it was truly a peak experience. Overall in regards of the trip, being back what I’ll ask myself is what about Italy is great? It’s diversity for one (geographical and living diversity, not population diversity). From the urban fashion centre of Milan, to skiiing in the Alps, to the nostalgic hills and vineyards of Tuscany, to the cliff anchored beaches of Amalfi, to the island of Sicily, to the novelty of Venice, to the pristine Florence. And mind you that is all without mentioning Rome, which is where I was as I didn’t go to any of those other places. From my stay in Rome I grew very attached to some random things and also the way of life. Red Orange Juice. Villas. Incredibly laid back and slow paced manner of people there. Even while working people seem like they’re on holiday. Buses that are plentiful and go everywhere. Pebble roads. The cities intimacy think narrow streets, outdoor restaurants and piazzs. Architecture on a few fronts, first of all it’s history. Will anything that’s being built today last 2,000 years? By the way, it’s not just the colloseum that has history, though it’s the most famous. There is the Roman Forum, and also there are random ruins abound. Also some of the wall of ancient Rome still exists. While speaking of ancient Rome, I have to mention that I visited Ostia Antica with Stella. Ostia Antica is an ancient harbor city of Rome, it’s actually older than Rome itself, and it’s ruins exist today. The full ruins, meaning the entire actual town. Like you walk through the streets, go the market square, see houses, main streets, etc. I’d say it’s a lesser known Pompeii if you will, but if transport or time is a problem and you’re in Rome, it’s definitely worth a look to get your “ruined city” fix. A second aspect of the architecture is just how epic it is. Buildings that evoke power and status, the kind that you behold and your mental reaction is wowed. Lastly on the architecture there is the divine. Think Michael Angelo. Sistine chapel. Il Vaticano.
In conclusion I have to say that travel is a must. I’d say it really is not an option if you truly want to maximize your life. It’s like a ctrl-alt-delete on yourself. See when a computer is on after a while, it accumulates high usage of RAM (memory) or in a web browser, it starts storing too many cookies or spyware and it gets sluggish and slow. People are like that too. Naturally, after a while one gets infected with spyware (BS from others), accumulates too much RAM (stress and worry) and starts getting numb and going through the motions. Travel is like doing ctrl-alt-delete on the computer or clearing your cookies. It refreshes one and injects some passion via a new experience in them. I mean after seeing the Sistine chapel, you find the idea of living your life vicariously through reality TV or engaging in gossip just ridiculous, like while you’re there or as soon as you get back, you’d react to such stuff like how you’d view 4 year olds bragging over who can swing higher. Reading experiences of others such as that of my former roommate or from reading Tim Ferris, I realize that one big limiting belief about travel is that one needs to be rich or have endless time to travel. That’s been something that’s held me back. It’s not true. Mexico is $250 flight. Miami is $150. One can go to Europe for $300-500 if they get a deal off season. I’ll have to be creative.
I want to share with you some of the destinations I WILL visit in my lifetime outside of my resident and home countries, USA and Kenya. Please share yours with me in your comments as well, I’m very much interested in where you want to go as well. If you live or know anyone or anything about these spots, please give me a shout These are just the major marked places. No doubt I’ll have some minor destinations as well, some local travel in the USA, short weekend getaways etc, it’s not about limiting myself…but these that I’ll share with you are a must for me. We can start with Norway, as I want to sail through the fjords, and I want to see the Northern lights with my own eyes – which resemble a curtain of emeralds, reflecting the moons light and lastly for Norway I also want to visit the northern most inhabited city on earth. Then there is Brazil, where I want to experience mother earth through the amazon river and forest, and yes I also want to see what the sexy and sensous hype of that culture is all about. I will go to Thailand to visit buddhist ruins. I will go to England, to see the birthplace of the beatles and to watch Liverpool FC at Anfield in Liverpool, England. I will visit Scotland and Ireland for the cliffs, highlands and endless green – have you guys seen Braveheart? Yeah, I want to go to those fields and cliffs. Hong Kong for the ultimate in urban living, forget New York man. One day, as my mortality wanes I want to have lived a great and productive life and to be able to tell my great-great grandchild (I plan on living to be over 100) who will seat at my feet , with conviction of the things I’ve seen and experienced in my years.
NOTE: IF anyone reading this lives in or has experience with Italy, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brazil, Norway/Scandinavia or the UK please e-mail me would love to know the insider details.