Buongiorno di Italia!
The last time we caught up I was debating taking a trip to Italy with my aunt. I waffled back and forth for months about whether I’d join or not, and, probably surprising no one, here I am in Italy. Today I’m sharing some trip details and some other thoughts: About traveling way outside your comfort zone and the age-old dilemma of YOLO vs. responsibility.
Read on for more. Andiamo!
Our trip itinerary will be ten days total and look something like this:
2 nights in Rome
- Tours of the Colosseum & Ancient Ruins
- Four course group dinner
- Tour of the Vatican
(This will be a bit different for me, more on that later)
2 nights in Grottaminarda, a small town in Avellino province
- Family reunion with long lost relatives.
4 nights in Sorrento
- Tours of Almafi, Ravello, & Positano
- Private boat tour to Capri
- Buffalo Mozzerella farm & Limoncello factory tour
The last night will be spent in Rome, for easy access to the airport.
Scenes from Roma
To Go or Not To Go…
I didn’t think I’d be able to come on this Italy trip because of the boring but very real issue of finances. I’m working my tail off to bring my savings back up, pay off some debt, and basically start fresh in my money life. I have a new financial advisor, a brand new cash-flow system to track, keep, and spend my money, and this felt like the exact wrong time to say yes to a 10-day vacation in Italy.
I took the days off from work, just in case—I’m not completely out of touch. But I told myself I may not be able to go, and that I definitely couldn’t do the full 10 days.
“I’ll meet you in Sorrento for a few days,” I told my aunt two weeks ago. I intended to fly over and meet up, to stay by myself and be unbound by a travel itinerary, guilt-free about my quicker, cheaper trip. We could meet for dinner, we could go to the beach, five days would be enough. But they were to be touring Pompeii—a must see, according to friends—on the same day they’d arrive in Grottaminarda for the international family reunion. And how was I supposed to miss either of these things?
So, my dates were pushed forward. Instead of the 19, I’d fly over and met them on the 17. I’d be there for Pompeii, and Grottaminarda, and Sorrento. Perfecto!
But the more I thought about it… Going on the 17th instead of the 14th meant I’d really only be missing two days of the trip—the days in Rome. And at that point, how much am I really saving?
This, folks, is how we justify.
Fuck it, I thought. I’m going to Rome, too. If you want to get wet, go swimming, and if you’re splashing out on a trip to Italy when you maybe shouldn’t be, then you’d better to make it count. I confirmed I wanted to come on the trip, and the next day I sent a big, fat payment to their travel agent.
To go or not to go... that is the question.
YOLO vs. Responsibility
This trip will be the quintessential example of that meme—the one about flight attendants vacationing in Europe with $5 in their bank accounts.
And this theme is one that comes up a lot for flight attendants.
There is just always something cool to do—always a new, exciting place to go—and always, if you want it, someone to go with. Besides this, our job literally feels more worth doing when we travel. It is soooo easy to get burnt out in aviation, especially in the summer months and around the holidays. Doing this job and not taking advantage of the benefits is like being the world’s best house cleaner but living in filth. Like being a five-star chef and never eating your own food. What even is the point?
When I travel, I get to feel palpably how much I love my job and why. I get to remember the incredible opportunities it’s afforded me, a non-rich person who still gets to experience the finer, and farther, and more adventurous things. Who still gets to live a little rich.
Obviously, there’s a counter to this point. Just like spending your entire paycheck at the retail store where you work won’t set you up for success, neither will traveling ALL your money away. It can be easy to get sucked into saying Yes to everything. Every trip, every weekend away, every destination wedding and bachelorette party. I’m the one that flies, after all. It’s easier for me to get to them than the other way around. Overdoing it like this can take a major hit to our bank accounts and can leave us feeling a different kind of burnout: Burnt out from giving our time for other people’s things. Having to choose to work trips we don’t want because we needed so many days off. Longing for the quiet of a normal routine while living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time.
We can dig ourselves into a hole, screaming “YOLO!” as we head for our city hotel on yet another vacation. The fall back to reality when the bills come due, when the working hours don’t add up, when all our time at home is spent working to make up for our time away, can be really freaking hard. Mostly it’s worth it. But is it always?
It’s a hard balance to strike. We must enjoy our lives, and without unlimited resources, we must, on occasion, tell ourselves ‘No’.
This is where I was for weeks before finally committing to come on this trip. Just back and forth, guilty over going, sad over missing out. Wanting to stay on track with my financial goals and wanting to stroll through the streets of Rome and see the Almafi Coast, and plunge into the waters off Capri.
This back and forth between YOLO and Responsibility, “Living your best life” and laying foundations for a good, solid life, can feel exhausting. Like whichever you pick will be the wrong choice. For most flight attendants, it comes with the territory. It’s not spoken about as a ‘part of the job’, but it is so intrinsic to our lifestyle that it really should be.
You already know which side won. And it often does. Thus far, I’ve never felt regretful over a trip I’ve taken. So, in all likelihood, I won’t regret this one either.
Not the worst place to ponder life's big questions.
A different kind of travel
This is by far the most planned vacation I’ve ever taken. I tend to do whirlwind, barely-planned trips, choosing my activities a-la cart along the way. THIS is a 10-day, travel-agent planned trip that includes hotel stays, transportation, and tours each day. We are doing a boat tour of Capri, a family dinner with long-lost relatives, a buffalo mozzarella tour, to name a few. We weren’t able to get me a ticket to the Vatican, as I was a last-minute add-on and it is holiday time in Rome, but maybe one will appear last minute. Who knows, stranger things have happened.
This much planning would have given me a headache, but I am so excited to just pay a fee and be given an itinerary. For the next ten days, I don’t have to think AT ALL. Just buckle up and enjoy the gelato—I mean, ride. It’s exciting to do a different kind of trip and to step out of my comfort zone in this way. Going with the (very well planned) flow.
But the detailed, pre-planned itinerary is not the only thing out of my comfort zone…
Ready for the tour?
We will be traveling for ten days as a group of 12. Yes, a full dozen of us. As someone who frequently travels as a party of one, this is a MAJOR change up to the travel experience. It’s one of the reasons I was hesitant to get on board with coming originally. It’s a lot of people! And a lot of people I don’t know. We’ll be making group decisions, taking long car rides together, sitting around very long dinner tables together. What if we don’t jive? What if paying the bill at a restaurant is a hassle every day? What if we all have reallllly different travel styles or ideas of fun? What if, what if, what if, what if.
This isn’t about the specific people going on the trip—the thought of going out to dinner with 12 of my best friends gives me a spike of anxiety. (No sarcasm at all, big groups make me squeamish.)
But listen, no advancement was ever made by staying comfortable, doing the things that have always been done. So I’ll try it: A big group trip. A trip of compromise, consensus, and getting along with others. A trip full of sights I might not have picked, but am so happy to see. And, with any luck, a trip full of familial bonding.
Which is a whole other comfort zone wrecking ball.
Un tavolo per dodici, per favore.
A Family(?) Affair
This Italy trip will take me to Grottominarda to meet at least two distant family members living in Italy. I’m traveling with 11 other family members—all but one of whom I met for the very first time in the airport before our flight to Rome. A scenario fit for reality TV—”My Big Fat New Italian Family,” or “Family at First Sight.”
Let’s face it, things are going to be a bit awkward at times. But this awkward ‘long lost family’ stuff is also one of the reasons I felt I couldn’t miss out.
If not now, when?
I grew up in a small family of 3, with our extended family so fractured and disjointed that we basically went without. Our cousins were much younger, or lived far away, or we weren’t close with that side of the family. I was envious of my friends in school who talked about the fun adventures they had with their cousins. Built-in friends, how nice would that be? Later, I’d envy my friends whose families got together with loud, raucous parties, who seemed to always be hanging out.
I’ve made peace with the size of my family by now, and miraculously, it’s come together in a much tighter ring in the last couple decades. My parents and siblings, and my not-so-little nieces and nephews make me feel over the moon with luck in that department. I’m close with my grandmother, and I’ve reconnected with some cousins and other relations that feel more like friends than what they actually are. In other words, happily, I’m no longer envious of anyone’s family.
But wouldn’t it be something? At the ripe age of 37, to find myself amongst a gaggle of cousins and aunts, great uncles, and other vague relations, all finding common ground over, if not the language, then definitely the sights and the food.
I think often about how younger Toni, me as a child, could have never imagined this life I’m living.
And this family reunion is yet another example—along with the hopping a plane last minute for a ten-day jaunt in Italy—of how that little girl would be wide-eyed impressed, ecstatic, gobsmacked to see what happens.
Just getting to know the family
Salutations from Roma
I wrote most of this post on the plane ride over to Rome, when the cousins were new people, strangers I’d just met in the airport. But at the time of posting, it’s day three of our Italy trip.
The days in Rome have been good but not without their hiccups. The weather is scorching in a way that somehow feels like the sun itself is trying to harm us. After a miscommunication between the travel agency and our Italian tour guide, plus some ridiculously strict employees on-site, I was not allowed to enter the Colosseum for our tour. I also was not able to secure a ticket to The Vatican, due to it being holiday season in Rome and me deciding just a minute ago to come on this trip. You all know me, no time was wasted. There are a million things to do in Rome. Any of them left undone will just be excuses to come back someday.
Today it’s off to Avellino and then to Sorrento, to carry out the rest of our trip. We’re looking forward to pools and ocean breezes, family reunions and a glorious free day within our packed itinerary. It hasn’t all gone according to plan, but there are no regrets here.
Traveling in a pack of 12 is definitely an adjustment—how these restaurants are accommodating us without reservations, I can’t begin to imagine. But overall, it’s been really nice. By day two I’ve created what feel like good solid bonds, or the start to them. This is mostly with an 11-year old, to be fair, but she is a very cool eleven year old, so that’s fine by me. I am slowly making the rounds, getting to know everybody; an individual conversation here, a two-person (very sweaty) walk to the Pantheon there, and sometimes even an intentional ice breaker, when it’s needed.
Facing what could be awkward feels good. Feeling, by night 2 of a 10-day trip, that I’m not the odd man out is great. Getting to do this trip, to a place I’ve always wanted to visit, with family I always wanted but never knew I had? Well, that’s just magical.
Take the leap. Do the awkward thing. YOLO, but not all the time. Step out of your comfort zone and live it up, preferably in Italy.
Just maybe don’t do it in August.
Arrivederci, y’all. Until next time.