A romantic homecoming
It took me 5 years to get back to Rome but nothing has changed and I am still head over heels in love with the eternal city. It's a strange feeling you get when you return to places that had such an impact on you; places where you've left a little piece of your heart. Strolling through the streets, twisting and turning down memory lane feeling like I'd finally returned home. After a month and a half of traveling in Europe, I suddenly felt a weight lift off of me. Like I could finally slow down and actually be in the moment. Taking a deep breath, sipping my espresso, and soaking up the sun's rays, I smiled to myself. This is the feeling I've been searching for. This is why I travel. To feel like time is standing still, like I have nothing I need to do and nowhere I need to be.
Unfortunately the 24 hours that followed that blissful feeling were anything but. We had tickets for an overnight train from Rome to Palermo, Sicily. The train left Rome at 10:25pm and arrived in Sicily at 10:35 the following morning. Without us on it. We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to spare, waiting until our platform was announced and after reading 'Binari 17' from the screen we boarded the train. The train destined for Frosinone that is. We both were confused boarding the train that neither the car nor the seats were marked and our tickets had specific seat numbers but we shrugged it off. I also noted how I could have sworn we were on a sleeper train and this car had seats that didn't even recline. But we just giggled and made jokes and talked excitedly about Sicily. I started to get a strange feeling once the train took off and decided I'd better double check with someone so I got up and asked the kid a few rows back where the final destination of the train was. When I announced that we were meant to be going to Palermo a look of sheer shock and panic crossed his face and suddenly other passengers were yelling to eachother "Palermo!" "Sicilia!". Only one word came to my mind, "FUCK!!!" So long story short after the gracious help of other passengers we remained on this train destined for Frosinone, a small town whose claim to fame is that it is the home of famed TV actress Fran Drescher. You know, from The Nanny. The Frosinone train station at 1am is not somewhere I'd ever like to be again. After spending an hour there we got on a train to another miscellaneous town where we had to wait 2 hours for a train to Naples. We got a nice taste for what it's like to be homeless as we huddled together on the cold cement floor surrounded by all of our bags. 2 hours felt like 2 days but finally we got on a train to Naples where we would wait 4 hours for a train that finally would bring us to Sicily. After being woken up by a police officer from my bench slumber I felt like a real degenerate. Only 9 more hours on the train until we reached Palermo!
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and although it may seem shitty at the time, there's got to be a good reason for it all. I kept racking my brain trying to figure out what the reason was for this. And then I realized how grateful I'd become over the last 24 hours. Getting a taste firsthand of what it is like to be homeless, to be lost, to be physically and mentally exhausted and at points want to cry and give up. My life is often times way too easy and although I have so much gratitude for it, there are times when I get caught up in the petty bullshit that consumes our everyday. And I forget to be thankful for everything I have been blessed with. As I sat on the cold floor of the Naples train station fighting to stay awake for fear of both myself and my belongings, I thought to myself, "I am so god damn lucky". There are people who would kill to switch places with me, whose troubles are far more than I can even fathom. And so in short, I think the life lesson of this travel mishap was to change my perspective.
The rusty train rolled to a halt on board the ferry across the Mediterranean Sea destined for the island of Sicily. Finally we could exit the train and breathe some fresh air. Sunshine on my face and ocean on the horizon, I knew everything was going to be just fine. A couple hours later, after the train of course temporarily broke down, I gazed out the window and saw the most magnificent sunset over the mountains to my left and the waves of the Mediterranean crashing on shore to my right. Two things that always ground me, the sea and the sunset.
After a short walk and getting lost only once, we made it to our sweet little apartment where we'd rented a room for the night. We showered, washed our clothes, ate a pizza, and fell sound asleep for 12 hours. And after the nightmare of the day before we decided we really needed to relax and deserved a getaway. And so if it weren't for all of the hassle of missing our train, we would never have come to this beautiful apartment on the ocean in Mondello. But here we are, with a beautiful view of the beach, getting ready to walk into the sparkling town on the horizon for a delicious and fresh seafood dinner. Like I said, everything happens for a reason.