As I sat down to write this evening I poured myself a glass of wine. I proceeded to stand in the middle of kitchen motionless, holding the cork in my hand. Simply looking at the cork transported me back to a train in Central Italy with my friend Mark. And just like that, the post I planned to write flew out the door. Tonight, I would write about a train ride to Serra San Quirico.
I find myself flooded with emotion simply sitting down to write this post. When I first conceived Empowered Wanderer I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for Mark and the adventures he inspired that I reached out to him to thank him. So, Mark if you’re reading, thank you again for lighting a fire in my soul, pushing me to hike billy-goat trails, scurry over cliff sides supported only by metal chains, eat prosciutto and cheese atop mountains, and proceed boldly without plans!
It clearly goes without saying, I have an arsenal of stories from this portion of my international wandering and they are some of my favorites. No doubt, they will be bubbling with emotion, awe and, oh yes, magic (we were in search of it and we found it)!
So now, we will jump into the first of many stories. I invite you to come back to Italy with me.
“Serra San Quirico!” Mark exclaimed.
Knowing only the town’s name Mark was sure, it was the magic we were in search of. And so we went. We purchased a one way ticket. Hopped aboard a train. No plan. Multiple transfers ahead of us. And absolutely no idea what we would find on the final platform.
Near the end of our final train ride my stomach grumbled and my slightly hangry mind raced - I didn’t have a plan, and by this point you all know that shit is scary for me! Longing for some comfort food to calm my nerves my eyes crept across the aisle to an Italian man surrounded by coolers and bags of fresh bread.
I timidly turned away, knowing I shouldn’t stare. But the smell of bread eventually got the better of me...once again. When I turned back I saw his hand extended into the aisle holding a loaf of bread. I shook by head in earnest. But his hand remained outstretched.
I said thank you in Italian - one of the five words I knew. And that was it, that’s all the communication we could manage, but I like to think my absolute disbelief and gratitude surpassed our language barrier.
Apparently it did. It seems my gratitude was felt around the train, because as soon as I took a bite of the delicious bread I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“We have some wine that would go with your bread” a voice said.
As the three travelers behind us handed us a half finished bottle of wine to contribute to our little picnic and my my eyes began to burn. It was something I had never experienced. There I was, woefully under-prepared, wandering without a plan, and I was met with so much love and selflessness from complete strangers.
Mark and I sat in a half-full train car with tears in our eyes and dumbstruck smiles plastered on our faces; and we enjoyed truly the best wine I have ever tasted, gifted to us by a Scottish, Irish and Italian man, and feasted on bread baked in Italian man’s kitchen.
As I write I am overwhelmed by this memory and feel that there is no way to truly do it justice, but I hope you can begin to see the wonder of these unexpected and magical gifts.
I still have the cork from the bottle of wine, it sits among my momentos until I can find a way to pay it tribute - and perhaps this post is a start.
I reflect on this train ride with awe and immense gratitude. In fact, I just pulled out my journal to read what I wrote about this transformative moment. So although I did my best with words of the present, I’d also like to share the words of the past - they are much for concise:
14/11/2016 (November 14th 2016)
My train ride to Serra San Quirico taught me that:
Love attracts love
Strangers are good
And stepping outside the city invites hospitality, selflessness and humanity
So tonight, with a new wine cork in hand, I was filled with gratitude for the strangers on that train. For our shared feast. And for unexpected gifts.
Those four men reassured me of the most important lesson I have learned to date:
When I am called somewhere, I must listen. I must go and pursue the magic without question, and sometimes even without a plan. For, the universe and the people within it, will always provide!
May you all listen to the magic calling you, may you feast with strangers and may you proceed boldly into the unknown!