How should I start writing about “The Beautiful Country”? No words seem to be apt to describe Italy. Visiting Italy was a dream came true; I was finally able to pay my crush a visit 😀 Yes, I have crushes on few countries so what! Don’t you have one?! I guess that’s a normal side effect of the travel bug which caused me an Italian fever.
Ever since my visit last June, I keep on thinking about when I will be visiting again or how different will my plan be. I imagine how my Tuscany tour will be put together, I think about the best time to go hiking over the Dolomites for breathtaking landscape, and I keep on hoping that the Cinque Terre tracks won’t be closed the next time I pass by. I wonder how it would feel catching the Siena Jazz Festival or even attend a Bocelli concert (wouldn’t that be grand).
There is so much to see and do in a country like Italy. Every corner has something to offer, be it a nice view of a town’s alley, a beautiful old building with flowers dangling from the windows, a village’s terrace overlooking mesmerizing landscape, the perfect small gelato shop, or even amazing street art of different forms. It’s endless!
I knew I loved Italy way before I had the chance to visit; I fell in love with it even more when I did. It seems like I can’t have enough of that country. I considered writing about the places I have been to and the top things to do and such stuff but I thought to myself there is more to traveling than just seeing places so why not write about that. And I was left wondering what made that trip so different or special than any other trip I have been on. Maybe it was the fact that I was waiting patiently till the right time comes to fly there or it might have been my obsession with Cinque Terre ever since I first read about it.
I’m not the kind who travels solo though I have been wanting to go through such an experience for a long time now. In this trip however I had to spend some time and do things on my own; it was my first time to get a glimpse of the feeling of traveling solo and I actually liked it. It gave me the opportunity to get to know other people; complete strangers who are travelaholics as well; whether it was in the waiting line of the Uffizi Gallery, on the train heading to Lucca, on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo, or even by the beach in Vernazza. Every encounter was different in a way; talking with persons of different nationalities, backgrounds, religion, and personality can broaden your perception of things and life. It gives you a rear view, that blind spot that you keep on missing. It can encourage you to change, to make a difference, to finally take that long procrastinated step towards something you have always wanted. I have to admit that such an experience did that to me. I was finally able to take that postponed decision of starting my PhD; I felt it was time to start somewhere even if it wasn’t the start I desired. A good opportunity won’t just waltz into my life; I had to earn it and I won’t be able to get there unless I started working hard on reaching my destination.
Some of the people I met wondered how a veiled, Muslim female could travel on her own and I found myself conversing with them about religion and politics concerning where I came from. I especially like such encounters because they give me a chance to correct some of the stereotypes that goes hand in hand with Muslims and Islam. Those encounters are great in showing some of those people the true face of Islam, how Muslims are not those extremist they see on TV, and that we can be as civilized as they are. And the most important thing about them is that I end up making new friends. How cool is it to have friends all over the globe.
During that trip I felt the depth of how Muslims are connected to one another through the simple greeting of “As-Salamu Alaykum” or “Peace be upon you”. That greeting is universal, we simply wish that peace be bestowed upon you and that shows that Islam is a religion of peace and not the violence promoted by fanatics through the media. I came to realize that we don’t really differ than Italians or the people of any other nation. Yeah we look different and we speak a gigantic bunch of languages which not everyone understands but at the end of the day we are all humans sharing the same fears, doubts, and emotions. Imagine the thought of being united under a single notion of “peace”. If only we give each other the chance to talk and find out that regardless of our differences we are actually the same.
What I loved the most about the trip was the part I got to know my Italian friends more. Those newly made friends who were very helpful to me in planning my trip and giving me advice about what to do and how to do it; those friends who hosted me at their places, made me feel at home and showed me a great deal of hospitality; the friends who introduced me to their culture, cuisine, and their daily life. The friends who showed me around, received me with a big “مرحبا” sign, and saw me off at the train station. I was able to see Italy differently, not like tourists did but rather like locals do thanks to them and that was by far the greatest scoop of my short visit to Italy.
I found something in Italy that I didn’t find in other counties that I visited, I can’t pin point that thing is exactly but I know I’m thankful for it. I’m grateful for all I was able to see and do, for the beauty I have seen in many different forms, and for the new friendships and relations I acquired. Travel is not only about a check list of places to go, things to do, or food to try, it’s far richer than that. It’s about the people who will cross your path, the situations you go through, and the ability to see what’s beyond touristic sights. Travel with an eye wide opened, eager to receive everything that passes it by. Be unfolded to what the culture send your way; make new friends and learn from the people around you. Make every trip count; here is to traveling and value added through every journey you take 🙂