Red flowers stand out in an otherwise neutral alleyway in Rome, Italy.
When I hobbled off the plane with my carry-on in hand, I became overwhelmed with pedestrians. Two signs read “baggage.” Both signs pointed in opposite directions. I sent a quick text to the group that was already settled in Rome, “Um, Where am I?” The directions did not help. After an hour of frantic searching and going through customs twice, I found my bag and made my way out of the airport.
My body filled with excitement. What adventures await me in Rome? Would I taste the best food known to man? Would I find my Fabio? This excitement carried me through about eight days on the trip. The overwhelming landmarks and sculptures that encompassed every corner were exquisite. The ability to escape the crowds of tourists by turning down an alleyway was sensational. I delighted in the ability to walk down the middle of the street and I craved the gelato on every block.
But then it hit. I was homesick. I’ve heard people talking about this phenomenon but I never believed it would happen to me. How could you crave your mundane daily routine when you’re living down the street from where Julius Caesar was killed? I still had four days to go. I didn’t know how I would make it through the trip when a creeping darkness overwhelmed me. When traveling abroad, it is easy to get in this mindset. The grass is always greener.
Changing my mindset about the trip is what saved me. Focusing on the food, the new friends and the laughs reminded me that this trip is once in a lifetime. Sure, I could book another flight to Rome one day but would it be with people that shared the same passion for writing and photography that I have? Probably not. Finding little pieces of home in a city that is so foreign to me put my homesickness at bay.
Interacting with the Roman locals and navigating my way in a country that doesn’t speak in my first tongue was a rollercoaster. From getting lost in Trastevere on the first day in to shedding a tear from consuming the best regional Italian cheese. I found the best ravioli in a small hole in the wall that I wouldn’t have found had we made the “right” turn. The waitress didn’t speak a bit of English and we used Google translate to communicate. We all laughed at our inability to have a fluent conversation.
These are the moments that I will carry with me as I grab my carry-on and enter the Fiumicino airport for hopefully not the last time. Recognizing that experiences abroad will change your mindset and push your limits is a good enough reason to buy the plane ticket, leave your comfort behind and roam.
Fiumicino airport is where I begin and end my journey in Rome, Italy.