If you’ve ever been to Rome and fell in love with it, if you were there but for some reason you were kind of disappointed, if you’ve lived there for half a lifetime and you think there are still new things you can discover, if you plan on going there anytime soon or have dreamt of visiting the Eternal City one day in your life, no matter in which category you fit, take 5 minutes and go check my article (if you wish), you might find a few spots you didn’t know about or just take a walk down memory lane: A walk on Rome’s Aventine Hill
After what I considered to be an act of great bravery, that being the act of publishing something I wrote, I got quite a lot of comments from people saying that they could feel that there was a lot of passion in what I wrote. That was deeply rewarding since I truly believe in every word I say or write and if at least one person got this feeling, then I reached my goal because that’s exactly what I aim to, for people to feel in reading exactly what I felt in writing those words.
So since this is supposed to be a blog about things I’m passionate about, I find it only appropriate to write something about passion itself before moving on.
So in case you didn’t know it, the word passion comes from the Latin passio which means to suffer. Doesn’t promise anything good when you put it like this, right? Well, luckily there’s more to it than just that. But I’m not here for a lesson on the etymology of the word. What I do want to focus on is the fact that this word has been commonly associated with a frantic, hectic and frenzied feeling. It’s usually tied to something burning wild, energetic and often violent.
I do agree with it being somehow wild as in impossible to control because I strongly believe it’s something you can’t fake. If it’s not there, you can try as hard as you want to pretend there is but there’s just no way you can genuinely feel it. It’s like those fake picture smiles, it’s on your lips but it doesn’t reach your eyes. You can’t fake it till you make it on this one. At the same time, when you feel it, it shows and you can’t hide it, at least not for long. And there should be no reason to hide it.
As for passion being a violent and frantic feeling, I truly believe it’s not always the case.
Picture one of those moments when you start doing something and you’re so into it that nothing else around you matters and there’s just you and the thing you are doing. That right there for me is feeling the passion. It’s when you’re doing something that normally requires focus and maybe a quiet environment yet you manage to be in a crowded, noisy place and still be completely into it, like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist. When you’re reading a book that you really like and you are actually inside those pages, not in the real world surrounding you. There’s nothing violent about that, all the opposite. Yet I think that’s when you’re really passionate about what you’re doing.
It’s like when you listen to a song that you really like – you know, like one of those songs that has something tragic and melancholic about it and something sweet at the same time and you feel like just closing your eyes and listening not only with your ears but with your heart; it’s one of those moments when you’re fully in the present but at the same time you’re nowhere precise. Like everything is on pause and you just want to stay like that for a while, suspended between reality and some kind of daydream. I think everybody should have one of these songs. I have many.
And it’s like when you’re in some place where for a few minutes you find some kind of inner peace. For me, that’s the passion of simply feeling alive, in the perfect place, at the perfect time, in perfect harmony.
See I think passion has many shapes. I’m not talking about a lover’s passion, obviously, that’s an entirely different story. I’m talking about that kind of passion that makes you think you’re doing the right thing, that you’re on the right path. The kind of passion you have when you’re doing something just because you want to, not because you have to. When you’re doing something you could spend forever doing, without getting paid or getting evaluated or all those things that make you question yourself and ask if you’re doing a good job, if you’re good enough, if it’ll get you a good grade or that bonus or that promotion. Passion is what drives you when you’re alone and nobody is there to check on you but you’re still getting the job done. But it’s also something that is clearly visible to the outer world; it’s the sweaty satisfied face at the end of a long run, the tears after a big laugh, the sparkling heart-shaped eyes when you’re in love, the look of accomplishment on your face when you finally reach your goal, that comment on an article you poured your heart into that says exactly what you wanted to hear.
Do you feel that passion? Do you spend at least one hour a day doing what truly makes you feel like you’re on the right path to experiencing a life filled with passion? Do you at least feel it for five minutes a day? If not, I think there’s something wrong.
That’s something many people wrote about, right? We’ve all read articles about the importance of traveling, about the benefits, how it makes you grow and widen your perspective about the world.
What I want to write about is what traveling means to me, why I keep traveling whenever I get the chance and how it constantly affects my life. Maybe some of these things will resonate with you.
Many of the people I know keep telling me I’m always wandering, changing cities and countries, always on the move, never being able to just stay still in one place for too long. And usually they start with that same sentence: “Lucky you that you get to travel…” with a subtitle that seems to say “because you can afford to do this…” Afford it? As in having the time and money? Oh no, if I could really afford traveling I would be doing it full time. Unfortunately, I haven’t reached that freedom yet. But I’m working on it.
A lot of people seem to think that to travel you mainly need two things: time and money. Those two things all human beings seem to complain about never having enough. The truth is I have exactly the same amount of time that all of you have and probably less money than many of you. So here is the shocking truth: it’s not the amount of money or time that allows me to travel and wander around. It’s the hunger. Steve Jobs said it right. “Be hungry, be foolish!” Well, I am.
I’m hungry for new experiences, new sights, new places and views and people; food and cultures, streets and rivers, bridges, mountains, oceans, and fields. I’m hungry to take it all in, to experience new things, to fill my eyes with new sights, my ears with new music and my lungs with new, fresh air. To open myself to new perspectives, to change my mind about beliefs I used to have, to throw myself at whatever life puts in front of me, to make mistakes; to meet people that have the power to change my life, people that will hurt me and people that will be a blessing; people that will be a part of my life for a few hours and people that will be in my life forever, be it next to me or in some far distance country; to get lost and discover places I would never have laid eyes upon otherwise; to miss trains and buses or run as fast as I can to catch one; to fall in love with someone new and to learn how to love myself a little more; to create memories, to have a story to tell – an embarrassing one, a funny one, a crazy one; to be able to say “I’ve been there too” and “I saw that as well and it was amazing”.
I do all this so that one day if I’ll ever get to be old and unable to do this anymore, I’ll still have these memories to feed on. And I’ll be able to read what I wrote, look at the pictures I took and go back there because I’ve already been there once before.
So my point is, if you’re afraid of finding yourself in a place where you don’t know the language, of being alone, with nobody there you can rely on other than yourself and the thousands of people around you that you don’t know yet; if you worry about starting anew or just getting lost in a new city, about not knowing which train to catch or how to ask for directions because your phone is dead; if you’re afraid of freezing your ass out because you were stupid enough to travel to a cold country without proper winter clothes or of finding yourself at nighttime in the middle of a forest in Australia, not being able to find your way out, with no light and no phone and spiders hanging from the trees (yes this happened to me); to sum it up, if you’re afraid of the unknown, don’t go. Stay there, at home, where it’s cozy and warm and familiar; where you already know it all, where the biggest unknown is what to cook for dinner or where to go out with your friends. Don’t go anywhere, it’s not for you.
But if in spite of all this, the idea of learning something new, of meeting new people, seeing the sunrise from a different angle or finding yourself in the middle of the desert with thousand of stars shining bright above you, of walking down a street and finding yourself amazed at a new view, of falling in love with every little thing, every day of your life, if all this feeds your soul and fills your heart with joy and puts a big stupid smile on your lips, then don’t wait, don’t hesitate. Make some time and find the money. Those are just means, they’re not an end.
We’re lucky enough to live in an era where we have low-cost flights and cheap accommodation and the world within reach. And you don’t have to necessarily fly to the other side of the world. Amazing new things could be just a train or bus ride or a couple hours flight away.
Bottom line, I do all this to create memories worth remembering, to feed my soul, my heart and my mind. I do it because there’s nothing that makes me feel more alive than getting off a train or a bus, a whole new place to discover in front of me. I do it because I want to be constantly amazed, and the most amazing sights are the ones I don’t expect and I’ve never seen before. I do it because I cannot find one single reason not to.
I was about seven years old the first time I felt the impulse to just go and wander around. I was living in what seemed like a really big city at the time: Brasov, in Romania. I had a friend who lived next door, one year younger than me, and we used to spend a lot of time together. By that time my parents used to let me stay alone at home for a few hours in the afternoon so my friend Karola and I used to play in the surroundings of the building. At some point, we had the idea to go for a walk in the city center, which was quite far away from where we were living. So we started walking, took the bus, got off at some point and just kept wandering around. I don’t remember all the places we’ve been to, except that I showed Karola the kindergarten I used to go to (until just one year before or so) but what I do remember is the feelings I felt that day: I was so happy and excited about our little trip, so curious to get to see more places, so enthusiastic about being able to walk around on my own. Everything seemed so big, there was so much to discover, so many unknown streets. Today I think about that old me with the tenderness one would look at a little puppy that’s still unstable on his paws but nevertheless tries to run around. I really think I knew back then that I wanted to explore the world. That city, which now seems so small to me, was my world then. That evening, when we went back home – it was already nighttime- our parents were worried crazy because none of them had any idea where we were -no cell phones yet! I can very clearly remember how my mom shouted at me that I should never ever do that again, ever! And even though I was mortified and sorry about having my parents worried, a part of me was still excited about my first time out in the city. As I grew up, every now and then, usually on weekends, I used to go with one or two of my friends and just walk around and discover new parts of the city. I so much looked forward to those days, and they were for me like tiny little holidays, which I used to plan in advance, save money for and enjoy greatly. When I moved to Italy, at the age of fourteen, I embraced the change with excitement, even if it was not that easy in the beginning. But there was for me a whole new world to discover, and thanks to this big change in my life, I had so many opportunities to travel that I probably wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in Romania. But one thing that never changed is the urge, every now and then, anywhere I am in the world, to just go out and discover new places even when I already know the place I’m living quite well. That is of course when I can’t give into the urge of buying a plane ticket for anyplace else.