Archive for September, 2012

I haven’t blogged in many weeks because I hit a wall and had serious traveller’s fatigue. During my first 25 days in Europe, I visited eight cities in Spain and France, stayed in nine hotels/apartments and took ten trains. I am grateful for visiting friends, eating delicious meals, and seeing amazing sights; but had to slow down and take a serious break. I needed a vacation from my vacation!

In Milano, I stay with a friend from high school who has been living in Italy for many years. Coincidentally, her family from New York is also visiting and I am welcomed into their family for a few days, relishing the comfortable, easy banter and intimacy. After her family departs, my friend and I drive down the Adriatic coast and stay in a beach town for eight divine days, doing absolutely nothing but lounging on the beach, eating delicious food, and making friends with the vendors. The beach vendors are from India and Africa, and we are the rare tourists that actually speak with them. Mostly middle-aged men that have left their families to make a better lives for themselves in Italy by sending money home. Each day we are warmly greeted with a “Ciao bella!” and they stop trying to sell us anything.

After my luxurious beach vacation, I hug my friend goodbye and head to Venice. And I suddenly realize it’s the first time I’ve been alone for eight weeks. After one obligatory day sightseeing in Venice, I retire to my room for two solid days, holing up to read, sleep, bike and practice yoga.

I emerge from my respite and travel to Florence to meet a friend from Seattle. Florence completely restores my love for travelling with it’s charming streets and people. We talk to every shopkeeper and learn about the price of apartments, growing conditions of the current fig season, and where to buy good street food. And I eat gelato twice a day, my favorite flavors are dark chocolate with orange, and mango – YUM!

Next up is Naples for the United Nations World Urban Forum. A friend from Seattle is speaking at the conference and I crash in her room and attend the Indigenous People’s Forum. For the second time in a week, it’s sweet to see folks from Seattle, and I’m wrapped in the instant community of the Northwest.

The stars line up and I attend a week-long singing workshop outside Siena, organized by a friend from Bali. I’m so happy to be reunited with my Balinese community and the first time I enter the bus to meet everyone, I’m jumping up and down with joy. Twenty of us are gathered to sing, cook and practice yoga in the stunning setting of the rolling Tuscan hills. Most of the participants are in choirs and because I’m such a ham, my tone-deaf self winds up in center stage for every song. Okay, I absolutely LOVE to sing, but after being told to lip sync during recitals as a child, I relegated myself to singing loud and proud by myself in my car, or in large groups of friends at karaoke. I’m overwhelmed by sheer heaven when our group sits on the steps for the Duomo (Cathedral) in Siena and sings, gathering a crowd and much applause. I don’t get much sleep at the workshop from all the activities and socializing, and look forward to a lot of rest at my next stop, a meditation center in Curasci, Italy.

I briefly met Sabine and Francesco at Gaia Oasis, my favorite yoga retreat center in North Bali. They told me about their new center for awakening, Buona Vita, nestled at 3,000 feet in the mountains of Umbria. Based on very little information, I plan on spending a week there, and it isn’t until I’m on the train to my destination that I realize I may be the only guest. In fact, I am their first official guest participating in the full schedule, the other visitors being friends and family. Our day starts with 6 am meditation and I quickly abandon my hopes on catching up on sleep. Every day is jam-packed with joy, and I’m amazed by my good fortune to be with them. The schedule never stops and our mornings are filled with meditation, yoga, Buddhist teachings and breakfast on a sun-drenched porch. We work for many hours in their abundant garden. It’s been many years since I gardened in my first house, and I fondly recall many hours with my grandmother as a child and my ex-girlfriend gardening. We harvest zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, basil, chard, parsley for our huge meals. And in true Italian fashion, we take many cappuccino breaks. Sabine is also a trained psychologist and in between gardening, cooking, cleaning, eating and meditation, I work on forgiveness and my heart cracks wide open. I feel lighter, and the quiet stillness of the Umbrian hills is reflected in the stillness of my mind.











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