I returned to you older, wiser, more alone, more loved, more hurt and more healed than I was before.
You are my first. My first European adventure all those years ago. The first place I thought of to come back to years later. My first solo adventure. My first bicycle tour. My first Couchsurf. My first taste of real wine. My first taste of other worldly food. My first time being touched in the heart outside the country I call home.
You took me in when I arrived. With open arms you showed me a people that could love and provide and help because that’s what people want to do. Because that makes us all feel good. Because that’s the way it should be.
As I pedal my last kilometer inside your borders, 1600 wonderful kilometers in total, I reflect on what the past month has been and what it has meant to me.
I think of the people that have touched me and my eyes get washed away in chain reactions.
You saw me alone. You showed me your family and your home. You were the first to show me what it means to be Italian. I am grateful. I will only drink Lavazza.
You let me into your eccentric life to see what ideas of this fond world we could exchange. You made me feel at home and helped me to move into my adventure.
You shared your music and your smile and your home with me. And when I felt alone and disconnected you gave me a home to come back to. A place to look forward to. A place to let my heart and soul rest and feel at peace. When I was so far from home, I felt home. What a gift indeed.
You let me meet your dog and took me on a nighttime bicycle ride of your town. SOLO CA! SOLO CA! SOLO CALORIEEEEEE! I won’t forget that. Or the oranges for breakfast. My new favorite.
You took me to try the traditional food of your people. You introduced me to the cyclists in your area. You and they seemed to connect with my journey. I hope to hear that you all hit the road. Please. Hit the road my friends.
You showed me the traditions of your people. In your apartment with your family we played and sang and in the countryside we saw the traditions of the area. I will never forget it.
You both helped me even though you didn’t have to. You allowed me to be weak and to be vulnerable and to trust you. You let me tell you about the hard times and you told me about yours. You let me in. You trusted me too.
You showed me your life, your friends, your family. You showed me how they rage al Italia style. Wow. You gave me a place to focus on the music I love so much. A quiet respite devoid of any outside contact. Something I need to embrace more I’m sure.
As I prepare to depart I am grateful. I am sad and I am happy too. I have learned a lot about letting go on this journey. I have found my confidence as a traveler and I have found my way to be humble but present. Strong but inviting. Happy and encouraged.
Italia my love, you helped me feel comfortable as a stranger in a strange land. You helped me learn. You helped me remember to believe in the goodness of people. You showed me beauty that no picture can capture, that no line can express, that no sentence can replicate.
What is this life but a means to connect with each other. I will move foreword and remember that I want to connect. I want to invite and I want to help. I want to let others in and I want to share my traditions and my way of living. I want to make others feel welcome. I want to love people and be loved by people. We all have so much to give. I want to make sure that I am always giving, and feeling honored to do so.
And so with a grateful, heavy yet bursting heart,
Grazie Mille, Italia
You are my first and I will always love you,
Eduardo, Eddie, Ed, Edward
Andiamo. Andiamo indeed.