Written by jackreiser December 28, 2022
I ought to summarize my three-month furlough with sappy how to lists or what I notice the absence of after my return to the United States with long eloquence. But people who use big words only use them to sound smart. Instead, I quote the late Anthony Bourdain: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
The reflection of the sunrise on the face of Monte Grappa greeted me each morning. Bells sounded from campanili over the rooftops of each visited city. Whirrs and whizzes sounded from espresso machines behind the bars in the pasteccerias while I ordered in my elementary Italian. Wafts of expended grape skins floated over the hills of Tuscany as my friends and I tasted their sweet fermented remnants. My legs shook with exhaustion as I descended the 1,200 steps to the cool waves crashing onto the pebble beaches of Positano. The joy of travel comes from each of these senses, and they will remain happily in my mind for life.
Despite these pleasant perceptions, unintelligible speakers rang out unclear directions on train stations and in airports. Difficult communication exasperated me while trying to find directions or help after drawn out train rides. Unidentifiable funk soured the smell of streets in larger cities. Hopes of mouthwatering cuisine died each time I was refused a table because I lacked a reservation or there wasn’t a free table. Disorganized train schedules led to stressful departures and incomplete treks to cities I may never see again. Dealing with these inconveniences and frustrations carved new marks of patience into my life.
The CIMBA program truly expanded my perspective on the world and my place in it. The newfound pride of learning a few basic phrases prevented the shame of staring locals from taking hold. New confidence allows me to walk differently. Giving presentations no longer causes feelings of uncertainty because I have the baseline of similar language to communicate, and I know how to create the narrative. I have learned to appreciate the companionship of others because I know the feeling of traveling alone. Each of these and more are fruits of wisdom ripe for the picking in Paderno del Grappa.
Yes, you cannot always witness the foamy crashes of royal blue sea on limestone in Malta. You cannot always sample artisanal creations at a fromagerie with your professor. To have these experiences you must ride cramped, unpleasant trains. You must put yourself out there and risk to have memories that last. I challenge you do to the same.