I’ve been trying to learn Italian for a few years. My first trip, after I’d got a graduate job and felt entitled to start seeing the world (in style), was to Rome. I went with a work friend and we picked Rome because at the time we were obsessed with Dan Brown books and Angels and Demons had just been released. We wanted to see all the places that were mentioned in the book plus who doesn’t love Italy? I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food, the ambience, the weather (in March), and most of all the language. I don’t think I made any serious efforts to learn how to speak though until 2009 when I met my kick-ass friend FL who I girl-crushed on and wanted to impress with my language skills.
Over the years I’ve made varying levels of effort – language exchanges with FL’s mum whose English was marginally better than my Italian and so gave me the confidence to speak, studying (and listening to the accompanying CD of) Complete Italian, using Duo Lingo and trying out Rosetta Stone. I know how to say the basics, I can order food and ask for directions to the bank, I can flirt and talk about my day but I do much better at listening and understanding than speaking and can’t move on from beginner stuff mainly because I’m an immersive learner, at least as far as languages are concerned. Ideally I would need to go to a part of Italy where people don’t speak too much English and thus I would be forced to practice everyday and hopefully improve rapidly.
Every year I think longingly about how it would be nice to pull an Eat, Pray, Love and move to Italy and live a life of total pleasure and simplicity and every year I’m hindered by my debt, my fear that I wouldn’t be able to find a job that paid for my standard of living, my fear that if I left the UK I would struggle to find a job when I got back…basically a fear borne of financial insecurity. Yesterday I discovered the frugal vagabond‘s awesome travel tool the earth awaits. It lets you input some figures and choose some parameters then lets you know your required monthly spend if you upped and went to one of several hundred cities in the world. I’m sure that you can guess my first search. Yes, Italian cities.
It pleased me to find that I could live an average/modest (as opposed to the currently frugal one I live now in London) life in Italy for about £1 130 (approximately $1 500 at today’s rates). WOW! Oh my days! I could get 3 months in Italy with the amount of money I’m currently earning monthly. The sums were running through my head. If I’d been saving half my income religiously since I got said graduate job nearly 10 years ago, I could have lived for 12 years in Bologna without needing to earn an income. I could have been packing up my bags today (or perhaps in 3 months when I’d have seen out my notice period at work) and starting my dream life in my dream location. Alas, this is not the case because I have been stupid.
It’s not too late. Phew! Dreamer that I am, I’ve already started thinking about things that I could do if I paid down my debt and saved aggressively for the next 5-12 years*
- Move to Tuscany. Write the book I’ve been working on for years. Learn Italian. Work in a vineyard. Or run a bar by the beach.
- Inter-rail through Europe couch surfing, camping or staying in hostels for as long as it takes to see the hundred cities or so that I’m desperate to visit. The other alternative for this would be to get a camper van.
- Buy a car and do a North American road trip. Start off from Vancouver and drive as far south as possible then through the middle and up the East coast, winding up in Toronto.
- Live in my favourite temperatures (14 – 20 degrees) throughout the year. “Summers” in the UK. Spring in cities like Rome and Madrid. Winter in Marrakech maybe.
- Spend a year following the Tennis tournaments. Start off at the Australian Grand slam in Melbourne, clay court season in Europe culminating at Roland Garros, the UK for grass court season including Wimbledon, the US for hard courts and Flushing Meadows and then off to the far East for the end-of season masters.
Maybe the next time that I’m tempted to get a round of drinks, it won’t be as difficult to resist because I now know that these dreams can become reality.