Wow. One week in Rome and it's hard to find the words to describe everything that I've felt already. For starters, it's a beautiful city full of beautiful people but I will rewind back to the beginning.
Leaving the US was a bit of a blur because I basically had to go right from my summer job to the airport. Flying alone doesn't make me nervous but what curse do I have on me that I always end up sitting next to THE WORST PERSON ON THE PLANE. One of them was questionable (possibly a mob boss) and he ate a three pound bag of gummy bears and wouldn't let me sleep because he wanted to play solitaire. The second one on my ten hour flight to Rome was a very mean lawyer who was on the phone all night yelling at people to pay him and purchased three out of the four seats in our row so that he could lie down. What is the curse and how to I remove it?
Arriving in Rome was interesting to say the least. The airport is crazy but the streets outside of it are crazier. Thank the lord I hired a private driver, which I would highly recommend, to take me to my apartment because there is no way I could have figured it out myself at that point of my exhaustion.
My apartment is full of other students who are studying and they are quite adorable because we can have fancy design talks together and get excited about all things design related together. So yay, for people that care just as much about Baroque architecture as me and can name all of the different types of moldings.
So enough about me arriving, here are my initial tips for Survival (and fun) in Italy:
1. You will encounter crazy Italian driving everywhere. THERE IS NO ESCAPE. We are talking like Fast and Furious/ Mario Kart style stuff. I have witnessed three people now get knocked off their Vespas by angry car drivers. I'm surprised I'm still alive because Italians are the craziest and most unforgiving drivers in the entire world. When I said in my last post that I was excited to live somewhere where I can't reliably cross the street... I take that statement back. Never have I ever encountered a city where you have to give yourself a mini motivational speech in order to work up the courage to cross at every crosswalk. Please send positive thoughts my way for all of my street crossings the rest of my stay.
2. THE WATER AND THE BREAD ARE NOT FREE. You think that someone would have warned me about this, but here I am much poorer and a few pounds heavier because of bread baskets I thought were complimentary/ bottomless. When you go to a restaurant and food and drinks are already set up on the table for you, you pay for all of it if you touch it. Doubtful that I will learn from my mistakes though because I love and get excited about carbs more than the average person.
3. Take a walk, you'll get lost but it is okay. The first night Kara and I decided to explore our neighborhood. Around every corner in this city is something beautiful to see. There are random archeological digs every few blocks where you can see temples being unearthed that are centuries old. There are churches with the most extraordinary frescoes, and fountains in every Piazza. Walk around and I guarantee you will be filled with so much happiness from everything the city has to offer. You will get lost because signage in Italy is rather nonexistent, but it is so lovely and the people are very kind and willing to help you with your questions.
4. Public transportation is wonderfully terrifying. Let's start out by saying the first train I saw it Italy was late because it was literally on fire. LITERALLY ON FIRE PEOPLE and everyone was super casual about it because I guess it happens a lot. They also have busses, trams, and the trains to different cities that all run on the same ticket which is good for 100 minutes. There is also no signage to help with with the routes or schedules, and the times are unreliable anyway. However, it all seems to be part of the fun and the lifestyle. It is so fun to hop on a tram and let it take you wherever it may be. I have found many cool places by simply hopping on the wrong bus. Italians also do not care about being late. They like to sit and enjoy things and are very mindful in their lives. They sort of have the "get there when they get there" mindset and always live in the current moment. It's quite lovely, so I guess a train fire every now and then does not phase them and they go about their day.
5. Again, take a walk IN THE ODD HOURS OF THE NIGHT. The main tourist areas are incredible, but they are more incredible at 2 AM. Clearly you need a walking buddy to be safe, but stay up a while longer and go for your walk then. The tourist places are completely empty and the lighting and views are magnificent. You won't regret it
I supposed thats all I have for now, but this weekend I will be traveling to Florence and Cinque Terre so stay tuned for some lovely photos of the sea and some good stories.
Time and time again, studies show that we twenty-somethings are the most unhappy stage of our lives. At least twice a day I declare that I am having a quarter-life crisis because I am trapped in this weird, pretend adulthood. Some days I wake up and say, "Wow, look at you, Liz, you young business professional." Then other days I wake up at one in the afternoon, never brush my hair, eat a twenty inch pizza by myself, and watch HGTV until some ungodly hour of the night. We twenty-somethings are unhappy because we are afraid and full of questions. How many times a day do you think about what happens when you graduate and have to enter the real world? Where you will go, if you will get a job, will you be happy are all ridiculously tough questions we ask ourselves excessively throughout our day.
For me, I think the answer to all of those questions was to stop asking them and buy a plane ticket. When I heard about the Rome study abroad program for the interior design students, I convinced myself that I was adventurous and signed up as soon as I could. The more I thought about it though, my twenty-year-old thoughts kicked in and I became apprehensive about the situation. I was so stuck in my love of familiarity, and all of the same questions flooded my thoughts for months while planning the trip. It would just be so much easier to stay here and go on with my same routine. However, In a weird turn of events, I started to think about who I was before I morphed myself into what was easy to be. I got angry with myself and these new habits and decided to ask myself some different questions. When is the last time I did something for the first time? When did I decide I was going to live the same year over and over and call it a life? To quote Maya Angelou, "No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dream."
Back to the title- "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there," was always my favorite Lewis Carroll quote and I think I finally realized it was time to start living that. I don't know where I'm going so I might as well stop relentlessly trying to figure it out. It was time to stop asking for directions and take the scenic route. We had travelled often when I was younger, and I missed that childlike feeling of the excitement of a new place. I want to study abroad because I can't think of anything more wonderful than somewhere where I am ignorant to almost everything. Somewhere where you can't read signs or reliably cross a street and you only have the most basic sense of how things work. I want my life to be full of that series of interesting guesses again. This trip is about finding all of the things I never knew I was looking for and reminding myself what a tiny spot I occupy in this big, beautiful world. There is something so powerful about saying, "to heck with it," and just wandering, living creatively, tasting, enjoying, all while stopping here and there. I am traveling purposefully towards a vague destination in love with every minute of my live.
So the next time someone brings up grad school or marriage at the Thanksgiving table, I will gladly send my grandma into cardiac arrest my admitting that I have no idea and I don't care to have one any day soon. And that brings me to now, two days from departure trying to throw everything together last minute as all good twenty-somethings would do. I am full of fear and excitement for this journey, but I'm ready to combat that fear with an open mind, a European airline regulation sized carry-on, and some clothes that don't wrinkle.
Only packing the essentials
I'm Liz Bixenman, an interior design student living in Rome for the semester. When I'm not doing schoolwork, you can find me wearing a cat shirt, reading a book, and most likely eating more carbs than I'm proud of.