15 Days at Sea

Sailing the Mediterranean on a 1979 Huisman

Actual names of the crew members and boat have been changed, but the story is a nonfiction account of my experience. The original plan consisted of sailing from Sicily, Italy, to Mykonos, Greece, starting June 1, 2019, and arriving June 15, 2019.

Day 1 – Saturday

I arrived late in the morning after a 12-hour-turned-15-hour ferry from Sardinia got me to Palermo, Sicily. There was a medical emergency on board with one of the passengers that caused us to turn around. Not such a great start to the trip, huh? It depends how you look at it.

First, I wasn’t the one with the emergency medical situation. What a relief! Second, there was now more time to sleep (albeit on the floor in a sleeping bag). And third, I was used to setbacks by now.

I just finished three weeks living out of a car and kitesurfing around Italy, mainly in the northern part of the mainland and then onto the large island of Sardinia. Some thieves broke into my car in Porto Pollo one night and stole my kites, MacBook Pro, drone, and portable stove. Arguably the most annoying part of this was having no French press coffee in the morning!

When this happened, I said, “Well that sucks,” but it wasn’t about to ruin my trip. I let it ruminate in my mind for a bit, getting out all the anger. I performed all the necessary tasks like filing a police report and calling insurance, and prepared myself to get re-stoked for the adventure. Honestly, this simply meant I had less stuff to carry… in a way I should have been thanking the thieves! They made my traveling that much lighter.

Once I arrived, I grabbed my 50 liter backpack and newly acquired gear bag (with wheels!) and started my way down the street. Thirty minutes later and drenched in sweat, I arrived to the marina where the boat was docked. Of course, I stopped for a quick yet filling vegetarian meal and purchased some journals, not knowing when my next hearty meal would come. After all, I was completely new to this sailing, living-on-a-boat way of life. Extra food wouldn’t hurt.

Around 3 PM, I met the skipper, a 56-year-old Italian named Giacomo, and Morgan, a New Zealand woman who I guessed to be around the same age. Giacomo welcomed me to his boat, the Ilivas, as we got on board by walking across a yellow painted plank of wood resting precariously between the floating dock and stern of the boat. “Stern” is fancy boating vocabulary for the back of the boat. It was a shaky first entrance, but it was bound to get easier… or at least I hoped.

Excited to start sailing immediately, reality quickly crushed my expectations as Giacomo spoke of the forecasted wind for the next few days: none. To sail without using the motor, Ilivas needed at least 10 knots of wind. When there is no wind but the crew needs to get moving, the motor could be used to get about 4 to 5 knots max, depending on the current. This was not a great option for two reasons: diesel is expensive and 5 knots is extremely slow. Unfortunately, this sounded like our only option.

We set tentative plans to leave Monday for the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily to wait for more wind there, so that we could eventually make the passage to Greece. Suddenly, I had picked up a lot of free time in a port city. I don’t like cities. I just spent weeks traveling solo through small beaches, by cabins in the Alps, and in lakeside towns with populations of less than 50 people. Nature is my jam, not crowded cities.

The others must have felt a similar way because already personalities started to clash. Even over our first dinner and a drink together, differences emerged. Giacomo was particular when it came to food and wine. He liked to do things his way and on his time. He would ask for your opinion, but he’s going to choose what he wants, so you might as well have told him to make the decision from the start.

For example, Giacomo had us walking around aimlessly for 45 minutes, asking what Morgan and I wanted to eat. We said we were open to anything, but that wasn’t good enough. When I finally told him I wanted a pizza and directed him to a specific place to get one, he then declared that we couldn’t go there. He picked the place and we sat down. Little did I realize that this would become how he did everything on the boat.

Morgan was very efficient. She liked a properly maintained ship: tidy, clean, organized, ready to sail. Giacomo’s boat operated more as an unorganized bachelor pad with little concern for hygiene.

I liked them both, their energies were contradictory but restored balance. As a relative newbie, it was comforting to have these checks and balances on the boat in regards to lifestyles and safety. It was likely that they would tell me two completely different ways to do the same thing, but that sounded pretty fun. I would have to think a lot and learn which methods were better than others.

But first, back to the hygiene point.

Exhibit A: the bathroom. Dear God! I’m no diva, but we had to fix this issue fast. The smell was horrendous, to which Giacomo just mentioned that “there was a minor problem with the pipes.” No no, there was a major problem with your cleaning standards, I wanted to reply. Throughout the rest of the boat, junk was scattered around, not tucked away or sea-ready by any means. The cabin has a typical “single man dirtiness” to it, especially the kitchen area and tables. Giacomo was definitely a creative type.

Personally, I believe that small living spaces demand efficiency and cleanliness, especially if you’re sharing it with others. Morgan agreed and was noticeably upset by this. Negativity was creeping in like a leaky faucet, and the “how things should be done” talks were brewing.

I stepped back, smiled, laughed at how wild is it that people can have so many different thoughts, feelings, and styles of life and that no one way is ever the right one. It just is. Time for this adventure to unveil itself slowly. I decided to take it with a grain of salt and a curiosity to understand the whyof all decisions made while sailing. After all, I was on this adventure to learn all I could about international sailing. It was bound to be an interesting ride.

Giacomo was a wine connoisseur, baked his own bread on board, and was a stickler for quality olive oil. Morgan had been sailing yachts since she was 19 as a way to backpack around the world cheaply. She only wanted to see the “beautiful” places on our planet now, and Palermo was not on that list.There was no faking from either of them in the ways they communicated or carried themselves. They were authentically themselves, and there was something magical in that… even if it created some tense situations.

Three people from three very different cultures and places of the globe, strangers uniting to live together on a 37-foot sailboat for 15 days. Why would anyone voluntarily do this? What in the world was I thinking? Oh, how excited I was!

Day 2 – Sunday

This was our free day… at least our skipper told us that this would be a free day. Because of this, I woke up slow, ate a banana, and meditated on the deck. I was just about to make some coffee and eggs, but Giacomo decided that we would be working, and working now.

This boat had two sails, a jib and a mainsail. The jib is the sail up front, and today’s first task would be to swap the current jib out for a different one. We did this, and Morgan taught me how to tie some knots and went over safety procedures. Radios, smoke canisters, how to deploy the safety raft. I even got my own life jacket!

Thinking of these potentially life threatening situations at sea had me thinking about one specific recurring childhood nightmare. In this dream, I am on a sailboat that somehow exploded. I always end up on one piece of wood, floating in the middle of the ocean with no hope of rescue. For some reason, I have goggles on (dreams don’t always make sense) and I decide to look down into the water. Underneath me a giant great white shark appears with its mouth wide open, swimming towards the surface ready to eat me. The moment the shark is about to bite into me with its endless supply of sharp teeth, I always wake up. Thus, my irrational fear of sharks was born.

I ended up telling Morgan about this dream and how I was excited to crush this dumb nightmare with a dose of reality… our conversation got a bit philosophical. She spoke about all the interpersonal challenges to overcome on a boat (tight spaces and people), personal challenges, and overcoming newness to boats, learning how they work and how the ocean works. Moby Dick quickly popped into the forefront of my mind… but we weren’t going on that kind of journey, at least I hoped not. Let’s definitely stay away from whales. Whales and sharks.

Later that afternoon, I went for a sunset run and saw the wealth divide of Palermo. It was really tangible… another city destroyed by tourism, poor infrastructure, lack of laws protecting the environment, and ridden with situations at every corner and street cafe of people screaming something towards one another, pissed off and complaining. Maybe that’s just the normal southern Italian way… seems crazy to look at from the perspective of a North American who has worked in the service industry, but Italians are very vocal and animated when speaking. They’re working, they probably won’t care if you like something or not. Come and get a coffee or don’t. It won’t bother them either way. You aren’t doing them a favor by bringing your business there, so throw that culturally ingrained idea out of the window.

Of course, not all places and people are like this. I’m just playing up a stereotype. That being said, even after a couple months of being in Italy, I still have trouble discerning when people are arguing or having friendly conversations. Really. Every single day. I guess that says more about me and how I need to work on my Italian than anything else!

Too much thinking… Anyhow, I made some phone calls before losing future service in the ocean and called it a night.

Day 3 – Monday

When I woke up this morning, Morgan was making poached eggs with red vinegar because we didn’t have any white vinegar. It was a slow morning, but there was no wind… so no rush. Around noon, we filled up with 110 liters of diesel and started moving out of the harbor.

This sailboat was equipped with autopilot. You simply set the degrees and the wheel automatically adjusted so that you would stay on course. With only the click of a button, it was possible to adjust one or ten degrees in either direction. Pretty fancy!

As we were rounding a corner of the harbor with lots of rocks, Giacomo thought he had turned autopilot on so that he could leave the wheel and raise the sail (in case wind were to come). With both of them occupied hoisting the sail, Ilivas turned straight towards the rocks. Autopilot was not on. Thankfully, I was looking out and alerted us to the danger, corrected the boat, and a tragedy was avoided. I was a little shaken up. Our first maneuver on the water, not even five minutes into the journey, and we almost crashed. Seriously? What was our skipper doing? Has he actually sailed alone before?

As if this wasn’t enough to have me questioning his skill level, there were countless problems setting up the sail. Lots of ropes attached to tangled pulley systems that were in the way and preventing us from raising the sail. The bickering began between the adults, egos at play. Giacomo said this was the first time something like this had ever happened. I didn’t believe him.

Once the sail was up, we got out of Palermo and out into the sea. The city looked so much prettier from afar. Morgan kept saying that she considered Italy a third world country, one that was reverting back in time. Her mood noticeably improved as we separated ourselves from the land and became just another tiny boat in an expansive sea.

As the coast of Sicily faded into the horizon, a group of dolphins started jumping around the boat and playing in our wake. There were tons of them! Two were really going crazy and showing up with some high jumps and big splashes. Giacomo and Morgan seemed unaffected by this marvelous show from nature. I guess they were used to such things, but for me it was incredible. My positive mood started to return and I became hopeful that this trip would work out after all.

On the water, I asked Giacomo a lot of questions. Our boat had three different symbols regarding places, and I was curious as to why. On the stern, the city “Lisboa” was written under the name of the boat. Towards the back, there was also a Belgian flag. Towards the front, an Italian flag.

Giacomo explained that the port city written under the boat’s name is what you consider to be your “home” port. This has no significance other than the significance you decide to give it. While no laws govern this decision, the flag on the back of the boat is very important. This is the country that your boat is legally registered in, and this flag must fly at all times. Why did Giacomo choose Belgium for Ilivas? After all, he was Italian. He had lived in Germany, but never Belgium. Apparently it’s easy for citizens of EU countries to register their boats anywhere they like in the EU, and Belgium has significantly less taxes and fees than Italy.

Towards the front, it is common courtesy to fly the flag of whatever country you are in. Since we were still in Italian waters and heading to Italian islands, we kept the flag of Italy flying high and proud. Once we arrived in Greek waters, we would swap that one out.

Because we were only moving at 4 knots due to no wind, it was going to take us around 14 hours to get to Salina, the third most western island of the Aeolian Islands. That meant a night shift would be necessary. I received the 2 AM-5 AM watch shift, which mainly meant that I would be responsible for making sure Ilivas didn’t crash into any other boats and stayed on course for 3 hours during the night while the rest of the crew slept. Quite a big responsibility for the first day of “sailing,” but this was why I was here… for exciting adventures such as this one.

We ate an amazing rice and fresh vegetable dinner, then watched the sun go down. Wow – what a sunset. The oranges and reds. Apparently a red sky is a good thing and means the following day will provide good weather. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” That’s how the phrase goes. Sounded like a myth to me, but who was I to argue with nature?

Before going to sleep, I took my first poop on the boat. Yes, we are talking about poop now. What an experience! The toilet is simply a tiny bowl with a manual pump system for taking in salt water and flushing it out to sea. If you were wondering where all of that stuff went on boats, it goes right into the ocean. Lovely! When you are a certain distance from sea, legally it is permitted, as the sea is supposed to filter it out and wear it down before it reaches any land. Or so we hope!

When I went to sleep, I finally experienced the rocking of the boat. The waves were practically knocking me out of my cot, sending me rolling to the floor… and these were good-weather, storm-free Mediterranean waters! Looking above through the open hatch in the ceiling, I watched the stars race back and forth as the current rocked the boat from side to side.

At 1:49 AM, Morgan woke me up for my shift. I got ready with some warm clothes and a headlamp and made my way outside. The stars and the Milky Way were plenty. I witnessed three shooting stars. There wasn’t so much action on the sea, which was good. Less things to worry about. There were, however, a few boats sailing that I had to measure the angle of (from our position to theirs) and see if the angle changed or remained the same after five or so minutes. They always changed, which meant that we weren’t on a collision course. If we were to have been, I would have simply adjusted the auto-pilot to turn 10 degrees, “port-passing-port” if possible. This just means that the left sides of both of the boats would have passed each other. Apparently that’s the universally agreed upon way to do things when possible.

More boat vocabulary: “starboard” and “port.” Starboard is the right side of the boat, with port being the left side. Easy enough!

It was nice to be alone and just think, bobbing up and down in the darkness with only a soft red glow from my headlamp.

I got to thinking. A lot. Sometimes I feel that thinking doesn’t count unless it’s written down. My brains moves at approximately 1 million miles an hour… I think a ton of things and then they are lost into the oblivion like a shooting star. But it was good. Three hours to do nothing but think (and maintain the safety of the boat and crew of course).

I thought of many things. I already forgot most, but one thing I remember pondering on for at least a few minutes was how people feel so insignificant and meaningless in the grand scheme of the world when they look out at the billions of stars. They feel small. But why do so many people tie meaning or significance to size? For something to have meaning, or someone, it is totally arbitrary… it’s all in our heads, different in each person’s mind, meanwhile reality remains the same.

Meaning: a funny thing. Been thinking about it a lot lately. What’s meaningful to me? Beauty and experiencing many different things, adventuring in nature… definitely those, but definitely more things too. But even then I have to define beauty and further define my sense of the word meaning. It’s really fun when you see life as this thing that’s designable, shapeable… but some people get so caught up in it all and forget. Most people. I know I do, more in the past than now, but it still happens. Almost everyone wants to live a long life, but why? Because it’s our purpose as a species? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (the book I have been reading lately) responds to this question with, “Only the madman asks why.” If you live five more days or 500 more years… will you fulfill your definition of a meaningful life?

Also, I thought a lot about giant sharks being potentially right next to me in the water, and how I would have no idea if they were.

Late night boat thoughts. Too many thoughts.

A lighthouse in the distance flashed each second for 6 seconds on an 11 second cycle, different than the 6/15 pattern designated on the printed map Giacomo had below. This kept me entertained. You would be surprised what is entertaining between 2 AM and 5 AM alone in the middle of the ocean.

Who’s been plotting our position every two hours to make sure we are on course? Giacomo, I hope.

I kept the boat positioned around 67 degrees all night, but we needed to head to the northern side of the island. My current projection was sending us straight for the middle of the island. Just before my shift was done, Giacomo woke up and informed me of this, so I overcompensated for the lost distance and readjusted the angle to 63 degrees. Easy enough.

As soon as Giacomo started his shift and I finished mine, I passed out.

Day 4 – Tuesday

Two hours after my shift, Morgan woke me up. Angry to be woken up so early before breakfast was to be served (by me) at 8 AM, I groggily got out of bed. I stretched, took a deep breath, and acknowledged the tight space and shared quarters of boat life. This is how it was. This is what I signed up for. Here we go!

Looking around, I noticed islands all around us. There were simple but elegant hillside houses on the volcanic island of Salina. We dropped anchor, and I went to prepare breakfast. Just as I was about to start cooking for everyone, the others vocalized their desires for this morning’s meal. They were all over the place, not one person content with the other’s decision for breakfast. Everyone ended up making their own meal. I make a damn good breakfast, but oh well! Less work for me.

Giacomo took the inflatable dinghy to the shore using its two oars to row. He had to use the restroom, but we were too close to land to use the boat’s toilet for #2 now.

Morgan and I packed our bags as we waited for Giacomo’s return. Once he got back, it would be our turn to go on land. Morgan commented how she thought it was funny we could all coordinate brushing our teeth at the same time with the same sink, but not breakfast. It irked me a little because of her consistent negativity and because of the fact that I could have made a good breakfast for everyone, but they chose not to let me. I probably just needed more sleep… or coffee.

She told me that she had plans to leave the boat, wanting to find opportunities more in line with her standards. When Giacomo returned, she talked to him about it. He said that he was okay with her staying on board. He made sure that she knew that he cared more about harmony and sailing slowly than having things work 100%. Morgan was more about perfection, so this would be a big compromise. He then acknowledged that she knew more than him about sailing, and it seemed that she needed to hear that. Her mood changed for the better, and she was ready to stay on board again.

I was sure the bickering would continue, but it was nice to have her on the boat, especially for safety issues. When she wasn’t complaining, she was very interesting to talk to as well. She believed that Giacomo spoke rudely, but I thought that it was more of a language barrier and direct translations from Italian not having the same connotations in English. We discussed that for a bit, and she seemed less bothered by him.

Morgan had only been on four sailing trips longer than one week. That shocked me. I definitely thought the number was larger. Giacomo has had people on board ten times. They were both capable sailors, but they operated extremely differently. It was good to have them both on board. Maybe the talking would become less hostile. Morgan derogatively referred to Giacomo sailing as “Barry goes sailing” to make a joke when he wasn’t around. Condescending, but not totally off-kilter. She seemed to need the humor, and I wasn’t against it.

She thanked me for my positivity, not realizing how it depleted faster around her than around Giacomo. Giacomo and I actually had some good, albeit short, conversations about art, writing, and beauty. That sort of subject. I appreciated that. I could tell he was more of a romantic type, while Morgan was more of a classical type. Both needed, both beautiful, and both ugly in their own ways. A good balance. A yin and a yang, if you will.

I was now genuinely excited to see how this would play out. When it would inevitably become uncomfortable, I would pretend that I’m watching a movie… that I’m part of the scene but more of an observer, an extra. This proved to be quite a good counter to getting too involved in one side or using energy on things that didn’t require it and would tire me out.

Day 5 – Wednesday

We made it to the island of Vulcano this morning after first going ashore to get a gas canister in Salina. One would think that a skipper would always have a backup gas canister, especially if he has been living on board for a year. Well, Giacomo didn’t. Just one of the many signs of his unpreparedness. I often think that it’s good people are like this, because that means they are more go-with-the-flow kind of people. However, Giacomo is extremely particular about some things and usually in ill-timed moments.

For example, yesterday Morgan and I arrived back to the boat at 5 PM, as agreed upon. Giacomo already looked upset. It took him only five minutes to start venting and letting out whatever was making him angry. All of this venting was directed towards me for some reason. Maybe he was tired of fighting with Morgan and wanted to yell at someone who wouldn’t erupt so easily. I took it as a compliment.

For several minutes, I calmly listened to him tell me how from now on we would have safety briefings every day, how this trip wasn’t a vacation, and how I wasn’t paying 100 euros a day because of it, so that I needed to work immediately when he said to do something. Whoa now! Let’s back up.

For starters, when agreeing to this position, Giacomo told me that it was fine either way if I did or did not want to help sail so much, learn everything, etc. More or less I would just be someone to sail with and split expenses. Now he was saying that I “had” to work, implying that I already wasn’t. Although I told him from the beginning I wanted to work a lot, mainly to learn as much as possible about sailing and life on a sailboat, he was now getting mad about something I had not done. In addition to this, he was changing what we agreed upon. He was clearly not a very good manager of people.

Giacomo was also frustrated that I didn’t answer his WhatsApp message to get back to the boat an hour earlier at 4 PM. I never received a message because I never turned my phone on. He never asked us to take our phones or check-in, or to buy a service plan… just to be back at the boat at 5 PM. To get mad at someone for an expectation you have in your head and haven’t verbalized or come to an agreement with someone is childish.

But this was the theme that was slowly becoming apparent. A child in a grown man’s body with a big ego and unstable temper.

After this talk (even though he was on the boat the entire day doing nothing), he decided to fix a low quality floor repair job he completed a few days ago. He delayed dinner on purpose. He was trying to prove a point. He had me doing ineffective work, using a wet sponge to scrub off melted rubber into the wood. Probably just to spite me… not sure what came over him but it definitely had me less excited about sailing.

Like a child with temper tantrums. That’s Giacomo! All the meals Morgan and I cooked were usually not good enough. They were missing things or not prepared “how he liked.” Whine, whine, whine.

Earlier today, Morgan told him that he was sailing incorrectly as he took the boat from a stable 10 knots into a windless area. She was right. He was in a bad mood ever since, unable to take criticism. Talking with him was no longer enjoyable, but I was enjoying a growing bond with Morgan as we toughed out his toddler-like tendencies (and hygiene) with laughs, sarcasm, and storytelling.

Let’s get to Greece fast! That way we can head our separate ways sooner.

I was excited for more shifts to start. That meant I would get to be alone and not have to deal with him.

I now felt a lot of dislike towards Giacomo that came in waves. I tried not to dislike him. Everyone is different, and it’s an amazing thing. If everyone were the same, life would be so boring. But when people lie to me and vent their anger about other things onto me, I would prefer to not be around them. It’s simple. Unfortunately, we were on a small boat with no escape. This had the tendency to magnify situations and make them seemingly worse than they are. This I learned in just the first few days.

At least today’s view at anchor was breathtaking. Rock stacks from the past volcano eruptions, yellow flowers decorating the hills, crystal clear water. The wind kept changing directions, which slowly rotated the boat from the anchor point, giving me an almost 360 degree view of the surrounding area as I sat on the boat, writing on the outside table. Pretty spectacular.

I swam a couple times. Life was good. I needed to remember that this day.

Day 6 – Thursday

We woke up early and left towards mainland Italy. The plan was to pass through the Strait of Messina before the tide turned the opposite direction against us. We would then stop in a marina after rounding the southern tip of Italy. From there, it would be a straight shot to the first Greek island.

At 6 AM, we were off. Giacomo was in a weird mood as he said goodbye to Sicily for the indefinite future. Of course, he didn’t verbalize anything. He was the quiet type, as I had come to discover and embrace. It was smooth motoring until the strait. There wasn’t any wind until right before we entered, when it picked up immensely, providing me the first real sailing sensation on a sailboat of this size. The boat keeled over as we pulled in the sails to catch the oncoming wind. Because the wind came from the starboard side, we sailed with everything pulled in tight in order to keep the sails full of wind, thus moving the boat faster. At one point, it was too much for the jib we had set up. It was the improper sail for this wind, but the forecast had said there wouldn’t be any wind. We furled (rolled up) the jib and the boat became more manageable.

It felt good! Finally, some wind in our faces! Smiles started to appear, but they didn’t last long. After we rounded the initial bend and made our first turn into the Strait of Messina, all hell broke loose.

Giacomo didn’t know how to sail upwind. To sail upwind, you have to tack, which simply means turn, over and over again at an angle to the wind. It’s important to do this to maintain speed. If you get impatient and try to sail too close into the wind, the sails can’t catch the wind and the boat slows. Although you would be going more towards your intended target, it would take longer. I knew this from my many summers of sailing as a kid on the river in Virginia. I knew enough to know that Giacomo was doing it wrong. Good grief! This was basic sailing 101 material!

Between this and an accidental tack – causing the boom to dangerously swing to the other side – I knew things were going to erupt shortly. There was a palpable tension. Morgan was criticizing his sailing, but nothing too crazy so far… just the normal bickering. Also, Giacomo almost sailed right into a small fishing boat… he wasn’t so aware of things while sailing, an activity you need to be extra aware in while doing.

I overheard a phone call he had last night with a man named Pablo. It seemed that his wine import business was failing. It now made much more sense that the only reason Morgan and I were here was to help him financially get to Greece. He didn’t want our input or companionship or help, just our money to split expenses.

After these incidences, Morgan exploded. She finally had had enough and snapped, criticizing his sailing, his hygiene, how he talked to me, everything. She demanded through various screams that he drop her off at the next port immediately.

She stepped down the three wooden stairs to the cabin and packed her two bags. Pulling out a map, she located the next port, and we made our way towards land.

Giacomo then asked me if I’d like to stay or get off, but to let him now that very instant so that he could figure out the finances and what each person owed. We had been splitting costs thus far, each paying for this and that as they came, with plans to even it out with cash at the end in Mykonos.

Before joining the crew, he guaranteed me that it would be no more than 20€ per person per day if three people were splitting food, diesel, and marina fees. This was already looking more like 25€ per person per day.

With this being his only concern, seeing how he actually sailed when there was wind, and witnessing his carefree attitude toward safety, I decided to hop off whileI could. 15 days of sailing turned into a quick six days of mostly motoring and sitting in marinas, with about two hours of real “sailing.”

The boat pulled up to the harbor. We got off, said our thank you’s and be safe’s, and that was that. It was a strange feeling going from witnessing two grown adults yelling at each other not even 20 minutes ago to saying “thank you” like everything was normal. Pleasantries and courtesy… strange concepts for sure. It baffles me how and when people choose to employ them and place value on them.

Well. What was done was done. Welcome to Reggio Calabria.

This place looked like a serious shithole. 4 PM, four bags between us, and no plans or place to stay. We headed to a cafe to sit down and book a room, but nobody seemed to have wifi in this city. We found a bar after checking three more places and ordered some beers.

Just what I needed. God, they tasted good! I could have had a few more, but thankfully we secured an Airbnb quite quickly and had to leave our beloved bar to go check-in.

I felt lost… what now? Where do I go?

Too exhausted to think or plan, we ordered a pizza, went up to the terrace of our flat, and ate in silence. A purple sunset awaited and engulfed us.

Halfway between where I started my journey and where I planned to end, life dropped me off at a small town in the south of Italy. As we got out of the port, the city transformed into this beautiful, hilly, coastal town with simple buildings, an old castle, and a church with loud bells.

Perhaps I wasn’t meant to leave Italy yet. I was placed here, stuck between two places.

I woke up the next morning, went for a jog, but felt utterly exhausted and mentally cloudy. I stopped at a fruteria to get some local produce to make lunch. I ended up talking with the store owner for half an hour in the little Italian that I’ve come to learn. I could tell they didn’t receive many foreigners or tourists here.

Suddenly, I found myself excited to be in this place with its own raw energy and ways of life. Maybe it was time to give myself over to Italy, to Reggio Calabria, and just be here.

My sense of worry to make a rushed decision to move on to the next place doing the next thing slowly decreased and was replaced with an increasingly larger appreciation of my experiences that led me here.

I had been dropped off here. I was going to explore why.

Reggio Calabria, Italy. The next journey began.

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