I Had to Travel Farther to Get Closer to Myself

I was walking along the edge of the sea making my way through the afternoon crowds of Monterroso al Mare, the empty beach chairs and glittering water to my right, the crowded cafés and shops to my left. As my eyes swept over the scene attempting to take it all in, I noticed a spot in an outdoor café where one could enjoy an aperitif while the orange sun slowly set.

My husband and teenage daughter were trailing behind me and as I stopped to wait for them, I heard a trio of voices sing, “Kara! Hi Kara!!” I looked towards the café and three ladies from our small sunset cruise the night before were sitting on the cozy patio. “Hi!!!!” I shouted across the street and waved back with the excitement of seeing long lost friends. The look of shock on my husband’s face at hearing my name shouted in a small town in the Italian Riviera made my waving even more enthusiastic.

I made friends everywhere in Italy—

Salvo, my devilishly handsome hair stylist in Rome. Cara, the young teacher on the train who moved so we could sit and talk for hours. Gigi, the Italian movie star who put his personal email in my phone for Rome restaurant recommendations. And my three retired friends from our sunset boat trip in Cinque Terre. You are now part of my story.

Before our trip, I had been struggling with questions about the place I was in my own life, and who I really am today. Wonderful friends, wonderful family, many blessings, and a ton of gratitude was the store that I had built up, but personally my spirit felt lost, yes it did.

The gift that traveling gave me was not friendships, or food, or things I couldn't find here, but it gave me confidence that I was right about myself; that something was missing and I found it. I found my ability to connect, to find my way, to trust my instincts, and the divine path that God tends patiently for all of us… I found that path right there in front of me.

As my daughter is so clearly growing up, and my priority has unequivocally been “being there” which I hold to fast and true as the most important thing I can be, it still has been challenging to carve time away from taxi driving, endless laundry, grocery shopping, and attempting to cook meals for other pursuits. I love being a mom and wife, but unlike Lady Gaga, I wasn’t born that way. There is much more to me. I am talented and passionate and smart. And I don’t need for anyone to see it anymore. I just needed to see it.

In Italy, I saw it all very clearly. I will make friends anywhere, and I will love life everywhere. I will not be afraid of being lost when I know I can always be found in the hilltops of the Riviera, the glittering sea, and the breeze that carries the echoes of my friends from near and far. But mostly, I can be found here in my kitchen writing about it all.

Until my spirit calls me back.