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When a trip is just the beginning of a journey.
Back in April, after exactly one month of learning Italian via Duolingo, we bought two plane tickets to Italy. (A language learning app isn’t directly responsible for my first international vacation in 15 years, but it sure sounds nice.) The trip, which took place earlier this month, was meant to mark many things: my 40th birthday, my husband’s graduation from PA school and new job, our 10th wedding anniversary and 20 years together.
That’s a lot, but there’s more! As I entered a new decade and a new stage of life, I wanted to do something big. Something different. Something that would signify the shift I felt, and also allow me to eat a nearly incomprehensible amount of pasta. Italy was the obvious choice, but it took me a while to accept it.
Growing up, my family never went on vacations or extravagant trips. I was 20 years old the first time I ever got on a plane, and that was to study abroad in Ireland. (I like to go all in.) Somewhere along the way, I decided I simply wasn’t the kind of person who traveled much. And that was fine—there was plenty right here to keep me busy, to make me happy.
As my 40th birthday approached, and I began to realize the stories I’d been telling myself weren’t necessarily true. I love being home, but I also wanted to see more of the world. Thanks to years of disciplined budgeting, we could finally afford it. The only thing holding me back was me.
It was time to change the narrative. In my head, Italy became the part of the book where the plot twists and a character changes. Where the reader goes, “Huh. I didn’t expect that.” Where things start to get interesting.
And okay, sure, maybe I’m turning a vacation to Italy into something bigger than it is. Maybe this metaphor is a little too on the nose, a little too Eat, Pray, Love. But this is what writers do! We take a moment or an experience, and use it to express something otherwise ineffable. It’s a plane ticket, but it’s also a path to a new kind of life. It’s a plate of pasta, but it’s also a lesson in reimagining myself.
Back in the olden days of this newsletter, I used to offer up tiny challenges, little to-dos inspired by each issue. That feature fell off because life was busy enough, and I didn’t want to hand out even more assignments. Today, I’m bringing it back.
This week, ask yourself: what feels impossible? What have you told yourself isn’t worth the effort, won’t make that big of a difference, doesn’t belong to you? Even if that was true once, it may not be true now. Circumstances change. Opportunities arrive. You can change at any time, and you don’t have to wait for a milestone birthday, or for the first day of the month, or for anyone else to be ready.
This week, buy the ticket. Write the first sentence. Tell that person how you really feel. Shut one door and open a new one. Say hello to whatever’s waiting on the other side.
We ate so many good things in Italy. Every kind of pasta imaginable! Truffles on everything! Gelato on every corner! New-to-us things we picked up during a thrilling trip to a large Italian supermarket! But one of the most memorable dishes (and, to be honest, the best photo) was this pistachio cheesecake, consumed while sitting at a table on the street outside a pizzeria in Lucca, and the main reason I want to go back ASAP. 💚
“It may be the case that many personal infirmities can only be fully repaired in a repaired world, but this does not obviate the need to pull ourselves together as best we can in this broken one. Any serious attempt to topple capitalism would require more discipline, more courage, more endurance, more capability, not less.” I really, really, really loved this piece. Read the whole thing!
I’m all for voting to create positive environmental change on a global scale, but also individual action matters too! I mean, why save a world just to treat it like shit? Anyway, as someone who is slowly transforming her front yard into an urban farm (follow our new Instagram!) this was a delightful little read.
Y’all know I love my budgeting app (use my referral link for a free month!). I’ve only been using YNAB for 6 years, but I really appreciated this look back on a decade of budgeting. I also loved this insight: “It’s not so much about the money as what you do with it.” We never would’ve been able to afford Italy (or PA school, or our house, or our public radio sustaining membership, or or or) without YNAB. As we enter a new phase of life (TWO INCOMES!) I’m excited to see what good we can do with our money in the years ahead.
Thank you to Bobbie R. for the generous support, which I absolutely spent in Italy.
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