Monday, April 16, 2012

Daydreaming of Cinque Terre

Is there a place that haunts you?

Before I met Ethan, most, if not all, of my travel was done alone.  While I was in serious relationships for most of my 20s, I was never paired with a traveler.  When I was 21, one boyfriend gave me an ultimatum - go to Europe for the summer and we break up.  I said my goodbye, told him I'd send him a postcard from Italy, and expressed my hope that he would be at Los Angeles International Airport upon my return.  He was. But we did not last.

The other, more substantial, relationship was with a man who didn't stop my need to travel.  He acknowledged it.  However, he also did not share my love for it.  Alone, I traveled to Europe again and parts of Asia and would come home with stories and gifts.  But very little was shared.   And broken-heartedly, I realized that was not enough for this life.

To be honest, I really loved traveling alone. But really what choice did I have?  None of my friends, at the time, shared this need to explore to the same degree - and I was simply unwilling to wait.  I  discovered very quickly that I thrived with this kind of independence.  I loved picking a destination and making my way, step-by-step, city-by-city, to that place where I would board a plane back to the United States.   For Europe, I would book a round-trip ticket to Heathrow Airport.  From London, I would then dip into mainland Europe and make my way back to London in time for my flight.  Very little was planned more than a few days ahead of time.  Train travel was usually involved. And this entire process of movement was profoundly beautiful to me.

I remember the first time I realized I was in love with travel.  I was sitting at the train stop in  Manarola village in Cinque Terre, Italy.  While waiting for my train, I was writing postcards frantically, one to Cherlou, one of my oldest and dearest friends today.  I must have been drunk from the scenery and the days before: my hikes in the mountains, my breakfasts spent on the shores, my attempted swim in the Mediterranean Sea,  my visit to the secluded nude beach (ha!), the food (oh my god, the food!), the wine, and above all else, the  realization, slowly settling on me, that I could explore the world, just like this. That first trip to Europe, only 5-6 weeks in length and my first time traveling alone, shifted my perspective.  It also changed my expectations of life.  Two years later, I visited Cinque Terre for a few nights en route from France, just to see if I would love it as much - and it was still so magical (though more laden with tourists and more expensive). 

A decade after that first trip, I still get warm and fuzzy when I think of Cinque Terre and of travels in Italy, in general.  I would love to revisit these places with Ethan. 

We are daydreaming of a trip to Paris and Istanbul next year.  We both love Paris.  And, well, wouldn't Italy practically be on the way?


  1. I've never been to Italy but it's high on my list. I wouldn't even know where to start- there's so many cities and regions to cover there!

  2. hi there
    I am planning to go to Cinque terre 3 weeks later,is it really must see?should be very hot in july-aug?expensive? diffucult to park?any nice beach ?
    sorry for too many questions,but if you answer we'd love to guide you in our lovely city Istanbul in return:)
    thank you so much

    1. Hi, It erased my last comment! The first time I went was over 10 years ago and in the summer. It was warm, but not uncomfortable, and I took a small boat trip and there was a nude beach, I recall. There's a small beach in one or two of the towns, but I don't remember it being so great as far as beaches. I took the milk train there and did not need to park. Streets were small and I expect parking would have been more difficult.

      But the last time I went was over 9 years ago and a lot can change in that time.

      If you are in the area, I would suggest stopping by. But again, there are so many wonderful destinations in Italy. You could find other things to do - like rent a car and explore Tuscany, which was also one of my favorite memories. I hope that helps!


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