I have been neglecting a self-imposed responsibility to take my experiences across Italy this summer and turn them into personal essays. I’ve been home from Italy for over a week now, and I haven’t been bothered to touch a keyboard while recalling my foreign adventures. Perhaps that break is justified considering I have over 125 handwritten pages, which I wrote between the day before I arrived in Rome (July 23rd) and the day I arrived back in Chicago (August 9th). And you read that right: 125 pages, written by hand. Hemingway has Pulitzer Prize-winning novellas shorter than that.
Like with my trip to Australia, I am interested in the challenge of writing about my traveling experiences in my own voice. Unlike my trip to Australia, very little went wrong, seemingly leaving me little to write about that doesn’t make me sound like a pretentious braggart–one who only discusses the beautiful landmarks he saw and the beautiful wine he drank.
This personal project is not about trying to prove myself as a fascinating and insightful world traveler. I couldn’t care less and I probably couldn’t trick you into thinking that anyway. This personal project is to practice my story-telling abilities, as that is a skill I want to continue to cultivate. And hopefully I’ll be occasionally funny, too.
So, thank you in advance for reading. Thank you for even reading this far.
This series may take me a couple weeks to knock out, and I hope to hook some of you until the homeward end. Here are a few things you can expect from these articles.
- I’ll be telling my stories in pretty-much chronological order. I don’t know how many blogs each city will get yet.
- Just like with Australia, there’s gonna be a lot of Hemingway references, I expect. Originally the plan was for me to visit Spain instead of Italy. In preparation for this potential trip I read through The Sun Also Rises (as its setting is predominantly Spain). When plans shifted to Italy, I started reading A Farewell to Arms (as its setting is predominantly Italy), which was my primary reading material for the duration of the adventure. These and other Hemingway works, like The Old Man and the Sea and A Movable Feast, have very much influenced me as a writer and as an explorer. None of these forthcoming allusions should feel too forced, hopefully, because I certainly didn’t try to recreate any events out of obsessive desperation. For example, at no point in Italy did I plan on running away from the military and getting my traveling companion pregnant. For a lot of reasons, that did not happen.
- I’ll be referencing my lovely friend Kay throughout these articles, as she was the organizer of this whole trip and my co-adventurer the whole time. I wouldn’t have been able to even take this trip if not for her invitation and organization skills. I met Kay in Australia last year through improv, and we’d stayed in touch, and somehow a year later I wound up meeting up with her in Rome. Kay is very smart, culturally minded, and funny. She’s half Japanese and half English, but is “very Australian,” to put it in her own words.
I can already feel my friends and family raising their eyebrows, so let me clarify now: Nothing romantic was going on between Kay and I. We made better traveling companions than anything else, and we understood that. It just made things simpler. Also, Italy was SIZZLING the whole trip, with heat that was ever-present and oppressive. We weren’t just walking through Italy while it was hot outside, but heat seemed to physically press itself against us, like we were being baked in open air. Existing as a tanner and stickier version of my normal self, I had a consistent layer of perspiration coating my skin, and I had no interest in being physically affectionate with anyone at any point. Even church camp-y “sidehugs” were gross in this mugginess, regardless of whom it was with–I didn’t care how pretty or half Japanese they might be.
According to a biography I’d been reading before the trip, back when Hemingway was more of a journalist than a novelist, he was sent to Europe to deliver “lively, entertaining dispatches, intimate and subjective.”
I’m going to try to do the same. The first city will be Rome. Hopefully I’ll write it soon.