Have you ever read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’?
If not let me explain briefly. It’s a true story about a woman who goes through a lot of shit, a messy divorce mainly but several other things. She then decides to go on a journey to the 3 ‘I’s’. She goes to Italy to eat, India to pray while living in an Ashram and finds peace and love in Indonesia. If you haven’t read it, read it and if you’re not one for reading watch the movie.
I have read this book several times, taking something each time from reading her story. I wasn’t going through a divorce during this obsessive time of reading this book, but I was going through a lot of my own shit.
My life had fell apart in the last few months. I moved back home, I dropped out of college for the second time, my boyfriend and I broke up, I lost my job and I was back living with my parents. And I was angry and was blaming my Asperger’s for ruining everything.
And with that came accepting and processing that I in fact had Asperger’s Syndrome, 4 years after been diagnosed.
After seven months of processing everything that had happened and learning more about my Asperger’s, I finally was ready to get back to the world after spending most of them seven months sitting at home. I knew I needed answers and to figure out where I was going now in life and I knew I wasn’t going to find these types of answers sitting in my room.
So, I decided to do my own ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ but on a budget, in one country, Italy. Looking for my own answers to life and where I was heading to next.
I decided to start in Naples. After booking everything a few days before I was about to leave the doubts and worries creeped in. And then I decided I wasn’t going. And so, I didn’t pack.
The flight was an early flight and the night before I still wasn’t going but was in a panic because I felt I had to go because I had put so much time and expectations into this. I finally calmed myself down long enough to pack a backpack and set an alarm clock. And was so grateful in the end I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
The flight to Naples was an easy one and the airport was like a ghost town making it easy to nativage and get out of there. Next problem was getting a taxi to where I was staying.
I was told by someone once that Naples is chaotic. I thought he was exaggerating but he really wasn’t. Between the airport and going where I was staying in the taxi, I survived three almost car crashes. The way they drive in Naples makes me never want to attempt driving in Naples, its literally the definition of chaotic.
Once I got to where I was staying it was late, and couldn’t find anywhere to get food once I checked in to my place. I did however find a little shop on wheels, hoping to just find some water. Through miscommunication he handed me two bottles of small wine and honestly who I was to argue with, with this offer?
The first morning I woke up in Naples, I began with a search for food. Being a coeliac I thought I was in for a hard time eating while being in Italy, which turned out not to be true. So, I retreated to where I know it was safe, McDonalds. McDonalds is completely different in Italy and some are so posh!
My first day in Naples I just wandered so much, soaking up the chaotic place. It was loud and busy and for someone with Asperger’s you think sensory overload would happen, but it didn’t as I was just so excited to be there.
My first day in Naples I stumbled across a market, which gave me my first real taste for Naples.
Day two in Naples I was determined to go to the one place I really wanted to go, Naples underground. Naples’s underground is where Naples was born and contains over 2,400 years of history.
I decided to go on a tour of this, which was quite cheap at only €10. As I was waiting in the queue for the tour, I made a new friend. We went through the tour together which consisted of walking underground of Naples. We went through some very narrow tunnels where you had to turn sideways to just shimmy through.
There was a part of the tour where there were air raids from WW2. Here there where still toys and belongings of people including gas masks.
We went down to a part where there was water flowing into a small pool and vases still in the water. There was also a small garden where they were able to grow flowers, so far below underground.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour was when we came out from underground and visited a typical Neapolitan house. The tour guide told us how a family used to live here until some of the plastering came off in the house and revealed underneath it was architecture from ancient Rome times. When they called someone in to check it out, it turns out the wine cellar they had been using in their house was actually the dressing room of Emperor Nero for his shows. The rest of their house was part of the Roman Theater. None the less they were asked to move out to preserve this important part of ancient history!
After the tour my new friend and I went on to explore more of Naples including visiting the “New Castle, Civic Museum”. Here there was several war pieces and art. The most amazing part of this castle was the view at the top overlooking the port.
After parting ways with my new friend, we never even asked each other names, I went searching for proper Italian food!
I finally found this small restaurant which made me gluten free ravioli and fresh gluten free bread out of the oven. My love for Italy became concrete in that meal!
The next day I decided to go down to Rome and booked a train ticket online. However, getting to that train station meant I needed to get a taxi or the metro . I packed my bag and headed towards where I thought the metro was.
An hour later I was completely lost and my train to Rome was in an hour. I decided to just get a taxi at this stage and had found proper directions online to get there. Just when I was about to cross the road, I felt like someone was looking at my phone, where I was googling the name of the train station I needed to get to, to show the taxi driver.
The man behind me said loudly my girlfriend and I are going to Rome at that train station come on the metro with us. So, I followed them, thinking the whole time I got to stop talking to everyone who speaks in English to me!
However, we got the metro to the train station and the train to Rome together. They had just arrived from India and had been travelling solo for years till they met each other on the road and had been together for three years. They were heading to her families so he could meet them.
We talked for hours on the train eventually falling asleep on top of each other. When we arrived in Rome, we parted ways. Still to this day I am deeply inspired by the convosation I had with this couple and the things they told I could do to constantly travel the world.
I didn’t have much time to think about it at that time because I was in Rome! I had only spent two days in Naples but already had developed a fear of roads and cars. When crossing the road in Rome I felt seriously relieved to have normal road crossing rules back. In Naples’s its very you either own the road or the car does, so walk with confidence on the road!
But let me just mention something, In Eat, Pray, Love she described Italy beautifully and in such a fairytale way that you would think it’s exaggerated how good it is. But once you get there, you realise no words could describe The Eternal City. Everywhere you go there is something new to see or experience.
I was very lucky to being staying near Termini Station. If you can ever get a place to stay near there I would recommend it. It has all the connecting transport you need including the metro. I spent hours trying to figure out the metro when I first got to Rome, constantly ending up back where I started.
I finally got help from a very old Italian man, who must of seen how flustered I was. He was on the metro with me and started pointing to the map trying to figure out where I was going. I pointed for him and he just nodded his head trying to explain further the map for me. When we reached the stop, he grabbed my arm and led me off the metro and pointed to me where to get out of the station. This was the sweetest gesture I thought.
Besides learning to read the metro maps, another tip for the metro is never put a wet ticket in the metro machine. At one stage being in Rome I got caught in the worst rain I have ever seen, it was like buckets of water were being thrown on top of me. My metro ticket got soaked but I still tried to put it in the machine causing the machine to shred it up, the paper to get caught in and the whole machine to break. That day I really learnt that its not just a stereotype that Italians speak with their hands. As I ended up in an argument with two men working at the metro over this machine breaking and losing my ticket. Trying to argue in hand gestures is harder then it sounds!
The three things I had wanted to experience in Italy was visit Naples underground, visit the Trevi fountain in Rome and get real Italian pizza gluten free! I had one ticked off just two more things.
The second night in Rome I achieved the two. Near the Trevi fountain I founded a small pizza place with a big sign on the outside stating they did gluten free food. I finally got my pizza and it was everything I hoped for!
Next, I went down to the trevi fountain. This place was packed at around 11 o’clock at night but was exciting and interesting to people watch here. Seriously I went to look for a bit and by 1am I was still there on my second tub of ice cream still people watching.
However one of the biggest highlights of my travelling in Italy was sitting on a hill beside the colosseum watching the sunset while some couple got married beside it.
Another thing I did while wondering Rome was dropping into every church I saw and visiting the Phantom and Spanish Steps.
When I returned home from Italy, I realised I had experienced the ‘Eat,Pray,Love’ I wanted and had found my answers through the places I saw, the people I met and things I experienced.
I left all my problems all in Italy and had fallen in love with life again. From talking to the couple, I realised I wanted to always be travelling and came home with a purpose. I was no longer just the Asperger’s girl I thought I was, but I was also a traveller. And my purpose was to find a way to get myself on the road and stay on it.
This led to me discovering the digital nomad lifestyle, which is working while travelling. So, I started to train to become an English teacher and currently getting my TEFL qualification. I also went back to college to do Digital Marketing which is one of the biggest digital nomad jobs out there. My course is three years and in this three years is my time to prepare to travel for the following years to come.