Sarah Jordan Oliver: Summer Program in Tuscany 2019
I used to get asked all the time to close my eyes and envision myself in my “happy place.” Usually this was during times of stress or sadness, and all I could come up with was a day and the beach, or in a hammock with a book in my hand, or on a drive with the windows down listening to Harry Styles. But, now that I have dipped my toes in the wonder of travel, I realize all these answers were so cliché and I could do much better.
It’s mid-May and I am in the middle of an eight-hour flight. In between my roommate and myself is Andrea, an exchange student from Milan. That’s where we’re headed, Milan. His English was broken, but incredibly impressive. We asked him about his adventures in America along with any tips he could give us, and then next thing I knew, the seatbelt signal was on and we were getting ready to descend. The next few hours were a blur. We got our passports stamped, retrieved our luggage, bought a shuttle ticket to the Milan train station, hailed a taxi to our hotel, and finally stepped out into Milan headed for some sort of caffeine. We stayed in Milan for two days learning how to maneuver the Italian lifestyle and communication. On day 3 we had another blurry travel day. We went from our hotel to the train station, took a three-hour train to the train station in Florence, and took a shuttle to the Florence airport to meet the rest of the Auburn students, and finally the bus to Lucca. The bus dropped us off right outside the walls of Lucca and we trekked in the rain with our luggage, and by the time we reached our fourth floor apartment, exhaustion hung over us like a cloud. But all we needed was a good night’s sleep.
The next month was unbelievable bliss. Learning the Italian culture with old and new friends was indescribable. Authentic Italian food 24/7, beach afternoons in Viareggio, evening picnics, and of course the gelato. Some of my favorite memories are the excursions and field trips. With our class we traveled to an Italian cuisine school, Frescobaldi vineyard, and toured the Carrara marble caves. On weekends my roommates and I enjoyed a Colosseum tour in Rome, gondola ride in Venice, and a boat tour in Cinque Terre. As we all departed after four amazing weeks, my heart broke a little, but I was already on another plane readying for my next visit: London
So, what is my “happy place,” you ask. It isn’t a location as much as it is an activity; traveling. Learning how to be most comfortable on an airplane, the best tips for never being late to a train ride, hitting all the best local spots in town. The rush and adrenaline of traveling is something I can’t find anywhere else, and that sense of adventure overcomes me. So, now when people tell me to close my eyes and picture myself in my happy place, all I see is the Google Flights website.