My wife I just got back from Italy.
Now that is, of course, insane. While I’ve settled on how I’m going to make money for the forseeable future, it’s not exactly like I’m making a ton of it at the moment. So, a jaunt across the pond for 10 days in the historical, beautiful country of Italy seems like a terrible idea.
I know it seems like a terrible idea because pretty much everyone who we told about our trip beforehand reacted pretty much the same way: total silence followed by… “Oh.”
Recognizing their discomfort, I’d try to explain why we were going despite everything else going on. At that point they’d usually back off and say something like “Hey, you don’t have to explain yourselves to ANYBODY. You guys have had a rough year. You deserve it. Bring me back a gelato.”
After explaining that an ice chest is not my carry-on of choice, I had to admit that–you know what?–we have had a rough year. But I still didn’t think that would be reason enough to take a vacation to Italy. It just seemed so indulgent. “Deserve” is not a word I ever find easy to associate with what fortunes and good blessings I may have.
Once we got there, Erin and I didn’t hide what we were doing at all. We posted on Facebook at the end of each day, sharing with our friends and family the trips we took to Verona, Vicenza, Vinci, Luca, Florence, Pisa, Venice,Rome, and more. When Erin and I danced in the streets of Venice, we showed off our moves in video form. We were public about it all. We just never shared why we were there.
So, naturally, the question we got when we got back from this amazing European vacation was “So, how’d you swing that?”
Now, only a few people dared ask this, but I take those people as representative of a rather large population who were privately screaming “HOW’D THEY SWING THAT?!??!?”
It’s a great question, and one most of you have probably figured out by now: it turns out my wife is a previously unknown descendant of William Randolph Hearst and she just this year received her time-released inheritance on the occasion of her 34th birthday.
No, in fact we paid for the vacation before we lost our jobs. In further fact, it was just two weeks before we lost our jobs that we bought the tickets. How’s that for an extra sticky stab in our fragile, unemployed hearts?
Like most big decisions we make (and we consider leaving the country to be a VERY big decision), Erin and I bought the tickets after prayerfully considering the matter. Nine months is a long time between purchase and use. Anything could happen in nine months and a little plea to He for whom the past, present and future are all one doesn’t hurt.
And, of course, it did. Happen. Something happened two weeks later that left Erin and I looking askance up at God and saying, “Really?”
The timing seemed horrible. And the timing was crucial as we knew Pete and Lisa were moving to Belgium the following Summer. No offense, Belguim, but I don’t really know much about you. But Italy? I’ve wanted to go to the Colosseum since I was in the sixth grade and built a replica out of cardboard as part of a school project. Setting my feet on that previously quite bloody ground was never going to be so cheap again. Ever.
I’m not going to pretend we didn’t buy trip insurance because we did. We could have gotten refunds for the tickets due to our job loss, but we simply didn’t do that. We kept the tickets and the jar of extra cash we’d saved for spending money while abroad (though we did dip into that now and again when things got rough). We kept it because, after all, we prayed about this trip. We got the green light. It wasn’t like God didn’t know we were going to lose our jobs.
So, at the end of March, we left for foreign shores and spent 10 days galavanting through Italy.
So, how did we swing that? Well, first of all and most obviously, it helps to have paid for tickets months and months in advance–and you have no idea how cheap a trip to Italy can be when you fly a Russian airline with an 8-hour layover in Moscow.
Second of all–and this was always the plan anyway–we stayed and traveled with our friends Pete and Lisa who have been living in Pisa, Italy for the past three years. The expenses that little jar of cash was supposed to cover were less than half what they would have been otherwise. You eliminate hotels almost entirely and most of the food budget (Lisa was kind enough to cook for us every day) and things get easier.
So, there were some real, practical, spiritual, and timing reasons to go to Italy right now. Great reasons. But the real reason we went?
We friggin’ needed a vacation.
Our friends were right to some extent–we needed to take a break because of everything that’s happened. Yes, things are looking up for us now, but the stress of unemployment and not knowing where the next paycheck will come from ever looms and are not set aside so easily. Selfishly, Erin and I wanted a recharge. We felt like we kind of needed one.
And we got one. When we set foot back on American soil we got just a huge rush. We were excited to take on the new life ahead of us and get to work. That is, duh, why we go on vacation. But I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the necessity in fun like I do now. The necessity of relaxation. The need to step away, see anew, and experience a perspective shift that can only come with removing yourself entirely to another place and then coming back.
You see things differently. You see how small even the biggest concerns can be when viewed from far away. It’s nice to know they can shrink like that. And that Italian pizza is the best pizza.
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In other news… I know I don’t update too often anymore. I hope that trend can stop, but I have to tell you… I been busy. Doing projects. Settin’ meetings for those projects, etc. This is a period of great creativity for me and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
More on that in another update coming soon.