I’m one week in to my Italian adventure and I’m learning so much about myself already. When I embarked on this adventure, I knew I loved Italy but I didn’t know the answer to the question “why here” and I still don’t. What I do know is, I’m not here for the love of pasta or as inspired by Aziz Ansari to live out my sabbatical days making tortellini. It’s a lot deeper that I ever thought it was going to be.
The first thing is my host family. I didn’t go to college, so I never had the traditional “study abroad” experience. Before I got here, I had about 10 friends warn me that I could be getting set up to be trafficked. That’s ten too many friends who have let their Liam Neeson fantasy get the best of them. I found my host family on a cultural exchange website and we Skyped several times before I got here. I was nervous, but I knew it was divine intervention when the only legitimate reply on this website I got came from a family in the first Italian town I ever visited, on a 10 hour layover. I believe that I was sincerely called back to Bergamo and I’m slowly putting together the puzzle pieces about why. Now back to my host family. To keep it sweet, they are simply wonderful. My host mom is a bold, stylish, independent woman who teaches high school English. My host dad is a kind hearted executive who travels a lot for work, but still makes time to snuggle his boys. And the boys are my favorite part. The oldest is a hip, music and theatre loving teenager who joins me in my yoga practice from time to time. The youngest a sweet faced kiddo who competes with me nightly in bouts of Just Dance and is always asking how I am. Both are so well mannered and mature for their ages, which speaks to the wonder of their parents. Each nightly dinner forces me to listen to Italian and I am slowly (“piano” in Italian...but like I mean turtle speed) starting to decipher words and phrases. I’ve been told by my family that I will get to see Italy as a traveller, not a tourist and that experience is priceless. I find myself almost daily imagining May when I leave for my next adventure. I think I will cry, for their hospitality and generosity, but also for the friendship that I know will grow from here. I wonder what our relationship looks like after I leave and I truly hope that they stay in my life forever.
Then, there’s the dancing. I found a studio here in Bergamo before I even left SF. Ah, the wonders of Instagram. As a studio owner, I pride myself on having built a genuine and safe space for all people to dance. Coming from a professional dance background, I know that often times isn’t the case. Needless to say I was nervous about where I would take class. I walked into B.Music School a new dancer & resident of Bergamo. I left my first class having been told that I was welcome and that this was my new family. They clap and yell for each other while learning and while performing. They film at the end, but it’s not excessive. All I could think was that I felt like I was staring at a mirrored image of what I had worked so hard to give SF in a space that is 6,000 miles a way. I didn’t know that I came to Bergamo to fall back in love with training and dancing. Hell, I didn’t know that I had fallen out of love with dancing at all. But, when your passion becomes your work it is easy for you to lose the spark that drove you to that passion in the first place. I’ve treated myself to a new pair of heels and I can’t wait to break them in. My soul is a glow thinking about dancing and that to me is worth this journey in and of itself.
The last thing is my independence. Do you know how much we take our ease of communication for granted? I rode around on the bus, lost, for an hour the other night because I can’t roll my R’s and asking the driver “does this bus go to Monterosso” was going to sound so bad I just turned on my GPS and wished for the best. It didn’t go well and I still had to ask anyway. Italy is forcing me outside of my comfort zone. Most people here only speak Italian, which is in essence is English to Americans - only so much more beautiful. I walk around here by myself and I smile at the locals and I try my best. If I get lost, I plug in how to ask for help. If I want a coffee, I plug that in too. The people here are so patient and understanding. But, I’m giving myself credit for being brave enough to say it out loud. This trip is forcing me to humble myself and to let go of the comforts being at home has brought me for so long. It’s challenging me to figure it out and bump my head along the way. To Italy I will forever be grateful for that.
All in all, I’m only 7 days in. I’m sure so much more will come to light about why else I’m here. But in 7 days I’ve gotten three distinct answers: friendship, love, and freedom. For now, I’m okay with that.
Love, light, and lion vibes,
Hey, again. It's Shonna.
I'm one part dance diva, one part sunbeam, and one part lioness. This blog is a highlight reel of my favorite moments, my travels, my dance classes, and my spiritual journey. It is a place for me to express, share, and heal. Through my journey, I hope to inspire, create, and spread happiness. I truly enjoy making others feel good - about themselves, about their circumstances, about life in general. With any dash of hope, maybe you can feel that way too.