“She realised she had this one. This big, bold and beautiful life. And she realised she didn’t want to live it chasing and crying and apologising. Starving and fearing and regretting. She realised she wanted to live it proudly and freely and creatively. Lovingly and fully and sweetly. She realised she could choose. And so, she chose.” Unknown.
The guide leads the ride out of town, yelling in his heavy Italian accent and broken English, “holes”, “this way”, and my favorite, “bumpy.” His arms are flying to communicate signals of where to go. I have no problem understanding given the terrific hand show.
I laugh and shout to him, “I love listening to your accent.” Immediately, he is somewhat alarmed, and moves to my side to question me, “you say you love me?” Oops. I have to try and explain myself, talk my way out of it.
I finally reach a point of maybe him understanding but that’s when another rider, an Australian troublemaker, yells out from the back, “that’s not what you said before.” Great. Now I just look like an awestruck Aussie girl and it is all wrong.
I remind myself you should never use the word love with an Italian unless it is actually love.
His turn now, he asks if we would like to go to taste the ashes of the bean. We all look perplexed. Another Australian translates the meaning. He wants to stop at a cafe where they roast their own coffee beans. What a relief. I’m for all things coffee except possibly the burnt taste.
The conversation and banter is absolutely entertaining. Just like being in the bunch back home but with more room for misinterpretation.
As I said, I love the Italians, but with this disclaimer, no one in particular.
On another ride, we are steadily on a climb. The day is getting hotter as we reach midday and every part of me in drenched in sweat. The guide stops to take photos and as I ride past I puff, “so much for the Italian flat.” He lets out a mighty shriek of laughter, “this no Italian flat, this is fuckin bastaard climb.” My turn to giggle, seriously, what can you say to that!
Yet another day, my feet were burning from hours of heat and ill-fitting inner soles. The Italian solution, shoes off and feet under the cool of the water fountain. I was a little shy at this suggestion, I mean it is Italy and all about style, but I was assured it would be instant pain relief. Turns out it is true.
With that said, the Italians have got both decorum and practicality. I mean my cycling kit was pretty stylish, and pink, even if I was barefoot in the fountain with my companions chuckling at me.
These are the moments you remember and look back upon.
I’ve become a seasoned solo traveler, and yet with each trip it increasingly becomes about connection. I continue to meet amazing people living incredible lives, opening up my mind and heart to possibilities.
I long to live in Italy, even just for a portion of the year, and I have been haunted by this for some time now. My past three overseas adventures have landed me there, for part, or the whole trip. The fact my great nona was Sicilian might explain a few things!
Although I never knew her, my father’s recollection of how she explained the Italian Mafia when he was a young boy made me instantly love her. Rather succinctly she stated, “they’re only there to shoot the pigeons son.” I cannot look at those birds now without thinking of her.
If only my great nona didn’t donate everything, land included, to the church to immigrate. I’m sure there is an avenue to obtain an Italian passport in there somewhere. I just cannot imagine the paperwork involved, nor the navigation required to do so. Tourist it is.
I do wonder how this will unfold. My life always seems far from boring. I have four teenage children happily settled where we live with a few years of high school left. Sometimes I just feel divided. I have been mothering for eighteen years now, and whilst it is an absolute honor and joy, there is a part of me who is edging beyond the everyday responsibilities of child rearing.
I don’t know the answer…yet. I am curious. I trust the opening in me.
In the meantime, as I explore and look out into the world, beyond mothering, I am continually connected with people who live a little differently, I guess outside the norm. And what is normal anyway? People keep turning up linking me to my next directed step, which allows me to trust a bit more in what is developing.
Speaking of trust, there are many skills to learn as a cyclist, and one of my favorites at the moment is sitting on a wheel. This means you ride close to the wheel in front of you, just centimetres apart. You have to know the rider in front is reliable, consistent and safe. I choose carefully.
Back to Italy, I was always going back there, as I sat on both Italian and Australian wheel of some incredible cyclists, I contemplated often how much you have to trust the rider and the process. Although it is a team effort, I have found it is about surrendering control to the leader for the ride, otherwise it just will not work.
Sometimes you cannot see past them in front, and yet you have to believe they have got you. As I sat on the back of one wheel, pushing 45kms per hour, the fastest I have ever ridden on the flat for a good period of time, I felt this again. Just doing my part, pedaling, judging distance and speed, then letting go and trusting that it will all work.
With that arrives the pure enjoyment of the ride unfolding as it needs to, with speed and ease. Very much like my longing to be on the move and living in Italy, I have my part to do for sure but there is a point at which I hand over what it might look like, and even how it will materialize. As I have always said about cycling, I just turn up, and extraordinary events and connections have transpired.
Remarkably, I also have that same trust in life. Bellissimo.