Monday, July 9, 2012

La Dolce Vita

"But if a person has had the sense of the Call – the feeling that there’s an adventure for one – and if one doesn’t follow that, but remains in the society because it is safe and secure then life dries up."-- Joseph Campbell

I am a shy traveler. That may surprise some people who know me as an extroverted, talk all the time type of guy but when I get on an airplane or walk through a new city I usually keep to my self. I do smile at virtually everyone I meet but in most places, including Rome, most of my smiles fall on blank faces.

On this trip I am trying to not be quite so shy. It's hard, especially when one doesn't speak the language, but I'm trying. On Saturday I began my morning with the Eating Italy Food Tour. It was a wonderful four hour walk tasting some of the most well known and delicious taste treats in the city.

The tour was wonderful and delicious but one of the biggest joys was getting to meet Luna our Syrian/Australian tour guide and hearing her story. Luna was raised in Australia and worked for the telecommunications company there getting an MBA in the process. She was successful at her work but about ten years ago she knew in her heart she had to move to Rome even though she'd never been here. At an early age - I was too shy or too smart - to ask her how old she is, she took an early "retirement" package, left the company and moved to Rome. She spent 18 months traveling and learning Italian. She had expected her severance to last many years but it was gone before she knew it so she got a job as a tour guide at A Taste of Rome.

She is a wonderful guide whose passion and exuberance for food and Rome is contagious. She isn't sure how long she will be a tour guide or what will come next in her life but she seems ready for whatever that is.

I suppose that I enjoyed Luna's story so much because it compares a bit to mine. In 1994 after my wife got breast cancer for the first time I took an early retirement package from the telecommunications company in California where I worked. Although I was only 35 I knew I had to leave so I could be with my family as Kathleen recovered from cancer. I convinced her that we should use most of my severance package to buy a used RV and see the country with our two children who were 12 and 6 at the time (and our nephew as well.) As first she thought I was crazy - she had cancer, I had no job and it wasn't the most "secure" thing to do. But her friends convinced her it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

We traveled for almost three months, traveling 10,000 miles and making memories that have never left us. My wife healed. I visited a seminary for the first time and starting thinking about one day becoming a minister. Our money only lasted about eight months so when we got back home we decided to move to Pacific Grove, California where I got a new job, found Unitarian Universalism and entered seminary within two years.

I read Joseph Campbell's words when I was in my 20's. Safety and security have their place in life but if we have heard the whispers or shouts of a call, of something we know in our hearts we must do, safety and security will never take its place. Thank God for people like Luna who radiate joy and remind us that life must be rich and full of passion. Like much of the food one finds in Roma. La Dolce Vita - to the sweet life, a life of good food, lots of love and work that feeds our spirits every day!

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