Planning the Trip of a Lifetime
When I turned forty-five, I watch an interview that discussed taking an extended vacation and being able to afford it. The interviewee was talking about a sabbatical from work for one year. Her main point was to plan for this, five years in advance. Some places of work will take 20% from your paycheck for four years and then pay out the following year from the accumulated funds. The focus was on university staff.
I worked for a university at the time but not in the same capacity as the subjects. However, I decided to implement her ideas on my own.
My father was born in Calabria in a small village in the mountainous region of southern Italy. I had never been there. My father had died some nine years before but I felt a need to visit his birthplace. I had been told that my looks were of a classic Calabrese woman.
You need time to plan where and what it is you are going to do on your vacation. It is difficult to plan all that you want if you just pack up and go. There is a place for that type of holiday, but this was not it.
I used that five-year plan. You don’t need that long but my plan was to go to a foreign country where I did not know the language. I needed to do the research on what to do there and what my husband wanted to do. All of this takes time and it is interesting that as time went on we learned more about where we wanted to go. We changed our minds a lot! A five-year timeline allowed us time to decide what we really wanted to do.
Our trip was planned for three weeks. I including airfare, car rental, accommodation, food, wine and entrances to museums, etc. The cost was significant. We used a savings plan that took $75 per paycheck and automatically put this into a separate savings account before anything else came out. It was small enough that we didn’t notice but large enough to add up quickly.
We bought our airline tickets and car rental the year before we went. That made the trip seem all that more real.
I took courses in Italian at the university that I worked for. In the beginning, the courses were once a week but I soon found that it was not enough to speak the language. I ended up for two summers before we left taking an all-day, full week of immersion. This really helped. The month before we left, I worked two weeks of afternoon shifts so I could take another two weeks of all-day immersion.
One thing I learned about Italy is that they speak almost exclusively Italian. In Rome, there was some English spoken but most of the towns or even the smaller cities there was very little English. By the last week of our trip, I could speak well enough to get by without my translation book!
I think we were well received because I attempted to speak their language, despite how I fractured it.
I contacted some relatives in Canada before we left. I had only heard of them and never spoken to them. It took time to contact and develop a relationship. Once that was done. I had the names of people and their relationships with my father with their contact numbers. This helped enormously. We also had them call and talk to the relatives and explain who was coming and who I was related to.
The family here made sure that the person that would meet us was the one that could speak the most English. Through these family members, I was able to see the house where my father was born.
Finding family was incredible. First of all, when my brother found out about our plan he wanted to come with his wife as well.
We landed in Milan and had decided to go down the west coast of Italy and spend a lot of time in Tuscany. Then we carried on down past the Amalfi coast and into Calabria. When we went to the small town where my father was born, my brother and I looked at each other and he said: “Oh my God, they look like us!” It was so cool to see my maiden name on stores and streets. Here in Vancouver, there was only one other family with the name Guarascio. With my muddled Italian and their fractured English, we managed quite well. My brother and I would be saying someone looks just like Uncle John and they would be nodding at me and saying she looks just like Auntie Mary.
Food and Wine
The food was unbelievable! Everyplace we went to was another celebration of the specialties of the region. The one constant was the pasta. Never the same but always fresh and homemade. In Italy, the pasta is not just a starch that goes on your plate. It is usually the primi piatti. This means the first plate and is the start of the meal. I really could have pasta every day as some Italians do but then I would need to run every day, not just three times a week.
I know how to make my own pasta at home for just my husband and myself now. The wine, well I am not going to stomp on any grapes, so the liquor store still has my business!
Our time in Italy was fantastic and we do plan to go back someday. The one thing all of us enjoyed was the hospitality of the people. The food and the wine they shared with us was “Essere la ciliegina sulla Torta” or the cherry on the cake
Ciao for now.