ITALY – a Land to Love and Linger In

Who doesn’t love Italy? It is among the top 5 most visited countries in the world. Even those who haven’t been there love Italian food, Italian wine, Italian cars, authors, designers and opera singers. 

I just felt so happy, it was like the sun came out of the clouds for me.
I love Italy. 
Bruce Sterling

We have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in Italy and are happy to be back again this May 2017. This is the 3rd year we have leased a car to spend months traveling around Europe. If you are to be there for any length of time, leasing is much more economical and practical. You get a brand new car, fully insured with GPS, standard or automatic. Check it out at europebycar.com.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

In the past, we have sailed along the Italian coast on various cruise ships, and taken excellent land tours of both northern and southern Italy. Consequently, we have visited most of the great cities in Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, Assisi, Naples, Perugia – and many of the historical sites. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country.

Now we seek places off the beaten path. We cruise to Europe in the spring and return to Florida via cruise ship in the fall on repositioning voyages. It is the equivalent of flying business class but includes 2 weeks of room, food and entertainment. I choose the ship based on the dates and ports of departure. This year we sailed Celebrity Reflection out of Miami to Civitavecchia, Italy. Cruise lines now charge $75 per person from Civitavecchia to Rome city or airport and vice versa. There are other options: A train if you are not overburdened with luggage, a taxi or a shuttle. I arranged a shuttle with NCC Plus for $70 for the two of us. They were fantastic. 

I will write about our time in Italy in my next blog.  In the meantime, some things you may not know about this beautiful country…

Rome was founded in 753 B.C. and gave birth to the Roman Empire. At its height in 117 A.D. the Empire was 2/3 the size of the United States. It reached from Portugal in the east to Syria in the west, from Britain in the north to the northern deserts of Africa.

Today the Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana) is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. It has 7,600 km or 4,720 miles of coastline. 

Two countries – Vatican City and San Marino – are nestled within its borders. 

Famous authors include Dante, Petracrch and Boccaccio. Pinocchio (meaning pine nut) was also penned by an Italian.

Famous designers: Valentino, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and Prada.

Famous car makers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. 

Italy produced the first operas and claims Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, and Pavarotti as native sons.

You may have the universe if I may have Italy. Giuseppe Verdi

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy proudly boasts of achievements in poetry, painting and architecture by many famous artists: Raphael, Michelangelo,  Donatello, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Famous scientists and mathematicians: Da Vinci, Galilei, Volta, and Fibonacci.

As of 2016, Italy was the world’s top wine producing country.

It is the largest exporter of olive oil. (While Spain is the la
rgest producer, Italy blends olive oil imported from other countries making it the largest importer and exporter.)

The home of pizza, pasta, risotto gelato and espresso.

Italians created many delicious cheeses including parmigiano-reggiano, gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella, asiago and provolone.

There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world. Matteo Renzi

Italy has some problems

Italy lives with the threat of three active volcanoes – Etna, Vesuvius, and Stromboli – and devastating earthquakes. They suffered several this past year.

High unemployment, high aging population and low birth rate (lowest in Europe).

Nevertheless, there is so much to love about Italy and the warm-hearted Italian people. It’s good to be back.

I was offered a free villa in Hollywood, but I said no thank you, I prefer to live in Italy. Ennio Morricone

Lessons Learned from a Nomadic Lifestyle

We tend to think of our physical journeys and our soul’s journey as two separate things, but they are the same. The urges of our soul motivate our choices and the things we do impact our souls.  They are intricately entwined. 

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. Miriam Beard

Physical travel has literally been a big part of my life’s journey.  My husband had recently retired when we married in 1995. He yearned to travel. At the time, I was more of a home-body.  The perfect answer: a motorhome. For the next 6 years, we lived and traveled full-time all over the United States and Canada. Then it was time to see the rest of the world. We took countless small cruises, sailed around the world twice, spent extended periods of time in China and India, and toured all over Europe and the U.S.  

So much of who we are is where we have been. William Langewiesche

When we sold our last motorhome, we automatically assumed we needed a home and bought a condo in Boca Raton, Florida. We rarely used it so we sold the condo on 1/11/11, and officially became nomads. It has been 6 and 1/2 years now; a journey of the soul as much as the body. 

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within. 
Lillian Smith

A nomadic lifestyle teaches you…

The Simplicity of Life 

You Don’t Need a Lot of Clothes  

It is amazing how little we actually need and use in day to day living. Outside of clothing required for work, we tend to wear the same clothes over and over. Take a look in your closet and notice how many items you don’t wear often, don’t really like, don’t fit anymore. Clothes and shoes that are just taking up space. 

You Don’t Need a Lot of Food 

Occasionally we rent an apt. for a week or a month and make our own meals. On the road, we choose hotels that serve breakfast. In Europe, we often opt for half board – breakfast and dinner are included. Otherwise, we generally have a late lunch, and at night we snack on the cheese, crackers and fruit we usually carry with us. 

You Don’t Need a Lot of Things 

We do carry a laptop, phone, and 2 Ipads. In the States, we can find pretty much whatever else we need at the Dollar Store – such as nice wine glasses and mugs. 

The Gifts of Travel

Humility  

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. Gustave Flaubert

Travel is humbling because you realize how little you know. And what you do know might, just might, be wrong. Perhaps my country, my culture, my religion isn’t the best one or the one that is right for everyone. 

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
Aldous Huxley

Awareness

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted. Bill Bryson

The brain loves novelty. It is more alert and alive when presented with new experiences. 

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. W.B. Yeats

Acceptance

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. Maya Angelou

When you can’t communicate with everyone around you because you don’t speak their language, you learn to reach out in other ways, with a touch with a smile. And then people reciprocate in kind. We have found that natives usually go out of their way to welcome and help a visitor.

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. James Michener

Courage

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. Andre Gide.

Entering unknown territory can be fearful or exciting. Physiologically, those two sensations are the same within the body. Depending on what you label that feeling, you will be open or close down. Fear rejects and closes the energy field. Courage vitalizes and opens the energy field. 

Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown. Gaby Basora

Growth

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust

New experiences change us. A life without change tends to become static and close-minded. This is where the merging of the soul’s journey and the physical journey can be most easily seen. We are larger people, more aware, more accepting, more adventurous for having stepped into a new experience.

Furthermore, travel offers an opportunity to recreate yourself. 

When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
William Least Heat Moon

People will see you as you are when you encounter them. Travel teaches us not only who we are but who we can be. It forces us to break through self-imposed boundaries and extend ourselves.

Even those life journeys that do not turn out well have gifts for us. We learn through mistakes. We grow through trials. 

Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.
Henry David Thoreau

In all things, we find what we are looking for. We get what we give. Nowhere is this more evident than in our travel experiences.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. Ralph Waldo Emerson

PLEASE NOTE: We sail back to Europe on April 22, 2017. Future blogs will be about the 6 months we are spending overseas. You can subscribe and follow on www.gerioneill.com

Life Lessons from the Panama Canal

We recently completed a cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Los Angeles, California via the Panama Canal. Though we have transited the canal many times, I looked at it differently on this journey. I saw it as a metaphor for life. 

1. BE PATIENT. Great ideas take time to manifest.

The idea of cutting a pathway across central America to connect the Atlantic and Pacific was first conceived in 1513 when Balboa spied the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal did not open until
1914. Before that, ships had to circumvent South America.  

Everything starts with a thought. Contemplation, imagination, and daydreaming lay the foundation.

2.  SET YOUR GOAL. Where are you going and why?

The goal of the canal was clear: construct an opening between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans thereby creating a new shipping route that saved thousands of miles* and avoided the treacherous passage around Cape Horn. 

What do you want to do and why?

*14,000 miles from New York to San Francisco around the Cape versus 6,000 miles through the Panama Canal.

3.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Study the landscape. 

The French attempted construction of a canal at sea level in 1881. They did not take into account the rainy season, climate, and changing elevations.  After millions of dollars were spent and over 20,000 lives lost, the project was abandoned. 

Know what you are getting into.

4.  EXPERIMENT. TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  

In 1903, engineers from the United States undertook the project with an entirely different method. They adapted to the rising and falling topography by incorporating locks to raise and lower ships.

If one method doesn’t work, try another.

5.  CUT A NEW PATH. EXPECT TO STRUGGLE. 

The building of the canal required years of extensive clear cutting, dredging and drilling through jungle, mountains and rock cliffs.

There is always a way – over, under, around or through. Finding your way takes time and effort.

6.  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Have resources in place that will nourish and energize you. 

A dam was built to create Gatun Lake, a manmade reservoir that supplies the water that fills the locks.

 Take time to rest and refuel.

7.  SEEK GUIDANCE. No one succeeds totally ALONE.

Train tracks run along each side of the canal. Little silver cars have cables attached to the ship that guide it through the canal.

Listen. Learn. Accept help and guidance from others.

8.  LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Be prepared to expand.

The ever-growing size of cruise ships and freighters necessitated the building of a third set of locks that opened in May 2016.

Ongoing success requires ongoing growth.

9. ANTICIPATE COMPETITION. Success attracts attention and competition.

Over 14,000 ships a year pass through the canal bringing jobs and millions of dollars into Panama. Consequently, the thought of building another canal through Nicaragua has attracted interest and investors.  

Be prepared to continually prove yourself and demonstrate your value. Always be the best you can be and do the best you can do.

Are you in a relationship? Working? Building a business? Are you an artist? Volunteer? Going to school? Raising children? In one way or another, we are all building canals – moving from Point A to Point B. We can learn valuable lessons from the greatest canal of all. In summary…

Everything starts with a thought.
What do you want to do and why?
 

Know what you are getting into.

If one method doesn’t work, try another.

Finding your way takes time and effort.

Take time to rest and refuel.

Accept help and guidance from others.

Ongoing success requires ongoing growth.

Always be the best you can be and do the best you can do.