I’m sitting at my kitchen table.
Typing out words has always been my happy place. I started Italian Fix doing just that — typing out words about Italy. On a borrowed computer. At a kitchen table that I scored for free on Craigslist. I was a 30-something mom. Just moved back from Italy. Dreaming of creating, of being, of relating, and of helping with something I knew a lot about at this point… traveling Italy.
I still sit down to write, like I have done for 10 years. I just start by typing words. I see where things go.
I’m never sure how the words will turn out and I never know if the thoughts and ideas will “land.” But I keep going. Because becoming more of who you are is about allowing yourself to just be, in the middle of all that. In the mess of that. In the sadness and beauty and moodiness of all of that.
Back to that kitchen table… it’s not always the same one.
I’ve written these newsletters from my hometown, on an island in Canada (called Nanaimo), from my husband’s hometown, a seaside city in Italy (called La Spezia), from the breakfast table of many Italian villages and metropolises I’ve stayed in. Either on tours with clients, on my own, scouting new locations, or with my family on one of our road trips from Liguria to Sicily to Puglia and back. Then there have been the times when I’ve been on holiday, and when I “should not” be working, but I am working. Because ideas don’t know it’s Chritsmas or the weekend or your birthday — they just come. And I’m an ideas person.
I probably get my best ideas in bathtubs, during a massage, or when I should be sleeping. My brain fires on all cylinders most hours of the day, so in 2020 I started meditating regularly in order to be able to a) handle myself, and b) cope with owning a travel company during a pandemic.
Speaking of 2020, I almost lost Italian Fix that year. I scraped through by a chin hair. Italian Fix is still here for a couple of reasons. I didn’t follow the financial advice of smart people who know things (bankers, lawyers) when they told me to “restructure” the company — restructure is a word corporations like to use when they file bankruptcy so they can squeak out of debt with a clean slate. Instead, I went “grassroots” and asked my customers to hold on, to not ask for refunds, to wait until we could travel again. That seemed more fair to my clients and to my 10 years of building. And I discovered that most people are decent and want to help, and they did hold on. After two years of collecting zero revenue (we are a travel company, after all), I think we are officially out of the weeds. When we opened 2022 bookings, we had record requests for trips and we added more dates to meet the demand. Phew.
So, back to the kitchen table. I have a new one. I rent it.
I moved countries last year — Alessandro and Flora and I left Canada with seven suitcases and one dog and relocated to Costa Rica for a year. Rented out our house, sold our cars and put everything else in storage. That was in August. For some backstory, when my daughter was born, I knew the “stay in one town” life wasn’t for me. I always knew that I wanted her to go to an international school, and to be more worldly and all that jazz. But that dream was just sitting around collecting dust on the dreamboard for 10 years while I was busy raising a family, a company and myself. When she turned into a tween, I said to Alessandro, it’s now or never — are we going to do this? I had three countries as “maybes” in my mind: Italy, Portugal, and Costa Rica. We settled on Costa Rica because I found a great school, and living in the tropics just felt good when I thought about it. We had never been here before, not even on holiday.
Shocker of all shocks: we love it here! Really-love-it-and-don’t-want-to-go-home kinda love it. Well, my husband and I do. My daughter is less thrilled about being here. But she’s 13 so… that comes with the territory. (I once saw someone on Twitter post: “I have a question about teenagers. And it’s… what the f**k?”)
Where we live in Costa Rica, it’s eternal summer. It’s full of energy and entrepreneurs and hustlers and artists and hippies and chill locals and surf and papayas and neverending blue skies and warm water. I’m happy with all those things.
I think the theme of the last few years has been “be brave.” When things feel impossible (like when my travel company is in the shitt*r). Be brave. When things need to change (like, move to a different country). Be brave. I’m looking forward to more eagle-soar-above energy and less phoenix-rise-up energy though — I’m sort of tired of those ashes. I know you are too.
There’s a collective exhaustion in the air. I can feel it. A little less on the beach down here, but I live on the internet all day so I can feel it through the pixels. It’s hard just trying to be normal right now.
I know the world feels confusing and maddening. But be brave. Do things that you really want to do. Do something you’ve been putting off. Do something you are called to. Start those dance lessons, go on that trip, start that business, get a puppy (or horse). We do all sorts of things because of the way we think it’s going to make us feel. What will make you feel more alive? More yourself? Do that. Put that on your dang dreamboard and don’t ask for anyone else’s opinion. Except for the expert on the matter: yourself. Ask yourself some good questions and I bet you’ll come up with some good answers.
Whatever you need in 2022, I hope you get more of it. I’m cheering for you.
I’ll be over here eating papaya in my bathing suit. That’s what I needed right now. (I might need a horse too.)
Leaving you with a few photos. These were taken just before we moved to Costa Rica and stopped wearing clothes.
From my family to yours — may 2022 bring you just what you need.
With love + papaya,
Images: Dirk Heydemann Photography