From my travel journal: Barcelona, 2017

To kill a little more time, we walked to the Mercat de la Concepció for a light lunch. We found a decent food market with a cute little corner stall with a little counter, again run by a sweet little older couple. We had beer + wine, with some potato tortilla & albondigas (meatballs) – absolutely phenomenal food! I’ll take those cute little lunch counters over a fancy restaurant any day. And it was a local market, no tourists = even better!

It’s that time again…. ✈️

4 months.
17 weeks.
120 days.

23 flights.
25+ trains.
5 road trips.
1 ferry.
15 countries.
50 cities, towns & national parks.
Approximate distance of 75,000km to be covered.

No matter how you spin the numbers, it’s gonna be big. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to start writing this post, only to be completely overwhelmed by figures and logistics and emotions, delete everything, and promise myself I’d come back to it later. Only, now, there is no later; we leave tomorrow.

This trip has been in the works for what feels like forever. We started talking (dreaming) about doing something like this when we first met thirteen years ago. I started to genuinely contemplate it in 2013 after we’d gone on a four week trip to Egypt and Europe, which I’d previously thought of as an impossible feat. I let that simmer for a few years and finally decided without a shadow of a doubt that it was going to happen in January 2015, at the end of our 6 week trip around America.

When I take a step back and look at what we’re doing, I know that it’s not that big, in a lot of ways. People pack up and leave for a lot longer than four months. People pack up and leave without having booked any flights or accommodation, they leave with just a passport and a one way ticket and a vague idea of that the next step will be; I’m not so disillusioned to believe that our “little” four month trip around the world is even making a scratch on the glass ceilings in that regard.

But for me, personally, it is smashing those ceilings. I’ve written about this feeling before, about the odd feeling of discontent that came to me in Egypt when I realised I’d finally managed to get everything I was meant to get – a university degree, a job, a home of my own, a wonderful marriage – and I still felt kinda empty, unfulfilled. For some people, they’re complete once they have their dream career, their children, their perfect house; travel undeniably  fills that void for me.

I come from a pretty traditional Italian family. I’ve followed the steps of their game so far. Uni degree. Job. Home. Husband. After that, I was meant to “settle down” and have kids, in the footsteps of the path set by generations of women before me. So this little four month time out from the real world isn’t just a vacation or even a “travel experience”; it’s my middle finger to the traditional world, my way of saying “you know what, I actually don’t have to follow the path.” This is me finally following my heart.

From my travel journal: Tokyo, 2015

Because it’s Friday, and I’m over working for the week, and my mind is on travel because we just booked an Airbnb for our time in Tokyo and I cannot wait to get back to that incredible city…

 

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“First up, walked to Yoyogi Park, which was really, really green and very beautiful. I wandered around for a while & eventually made my way to the Meiji-Jingu Shrine/Temple area – swarming with people, construction going on, still breath-taking. On our walking tour, Mika showed us a Shinto tradition at their shrines – you toss a coin into the receiving tray, bow twice, clap twice, make your prayer, then bow once more. I had the opportunity to do this again there alone, which was really nice…”

From my travel journal: New Orleans, 2015

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“Funerary and burial rites and traditions are a little different here, which allows many, many generations of a family to be entombed together. For a start, the tombs are all built above the ground, in order for them to stay buried; before this, floods frequently dislodged the dead and saw their caskets float on down the street. One year and one day after death, it is customary to retrieve the remains if the body – teeth and bones – place them in a bag, and toss that bag back into a deep pit below the family tomb. With temperatures scorching in summer, the bones are generally turned to dust within another year, allowing the bags of bones to pile up almost indefinitely. “Wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole” – that’s what’s used to retrieve the remains, or so we overheard from a tour guide in one of the cemeteries we visited.”

From my travel journal: Hanoi, 2014

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“There were a lot of rice fields, and we started to notice a lot of burial sites in the rice fields. Cuong told us that tradition allows for bodies to be buried in rice fields, on anyone’s land, so long as permission has been asked & granted. They are then buried under a modest mound of dirt, only to be dug up 3 years later. The bones are collected & cleaned in rice wine, then placed in a beautiful burial urn for a second and final burial. If the family has had bad luck over the past 3 years, it is believed the relative is unhappy with their final resting place, allowing the family to chose a new location for the second burial.”