When hosting becomes traveling: the story of Federica

 

We kick off our blog with a story of travels, departures, returns, bonds and choices. It is the story of Federica,

who shares with us her experience living among the Apulian olive trees, in the south of Italy, where she “travels”

through encounters and chats under the sun, hosting bicycle travellers from all over the world.

 

 

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In my life, it happened to me very often to live, even for a few months, in different places. That was my favourite way of traveling: taking advantage of a scholarship, projects, small jobs to live in a new city or town without becoming just a tourist, but tasting the lifestyle and local peculiarities. Thus, I got to know from the inside the soul of countries like France, Belgium, different regions - almost opposite hemispheres -  like north, south and central Italy. Then England, Scotland and Tunisia, always feeling at home without difficulty, trying to seize every moment and enjoying all I could.

 

One day I realized that this life - precarious and hardly economically sustainable – had stopped. This realisation came with the help of a certain tiredness and the latest disillusion (related to both love and work spheres). It certainly forecasts a return home, after twelve years of uninterrupted independence away from family.

 

 

Yet that return became day by day not just a physical necessity but a choice,

or the awareness of wanting to go back to a

simpler life, more respectful of my current feelings.

 

 

A perception which took shape gradually after being “burned” by the London experience, described in my travel blog with opposing feelings of love-hate.

 

After London there was Tunisia and it was like coming home: the serenity of that life, perhaps due to the proximity of the sea as well as the warmth and simplicity of the people. It all made me think that I did love traveling but I did not love anymore the competitiveness and the hard life of the “North”, forced to work for a piece of bread and a bed in flats to be shared with an undefined number of people.

 

I realized I wanted to enjoy my life deeply, and that became no longer the chaos of the city and the marathon of events and meetings, but the silence, the good food, the birds singing in the morning, the smell of the sea with its unforgettable and touching paintings at dawn and evening, on the harbour, staring at the full moon.

 

 

 

 

Besides the expectations of family and friends – always high and pressing and traditional – what mostly overturned my life was the inability to travel for a while. Perhaps I had no energy or desire to travel after the big load of experiences accumulated and still there to be digested. So I drew from my endless resources, and it occurred to me one of the most important lessons of my experience in Tunisia:

 

 

if you cannot travel you can compensate by hosting travellers from the world, it will be like traveling!

 

 

 In Sousse, in fact, I met a group of young Tunisians wishful to know the world but limited by visa restrictions. Their solution was to always go out, exchange stories and experiences with foreigners. Although we not moving away from Sousse, this exchange made us feel we were always somewhere else.

 

I took inspiration from them and I started too, the first time after a while that I moved back home. My mother was a bit skeptical, especially when hearing locals and relatives’ comments, so shocked by the idea of us hosting strangers. She resisted a few months, against her will. Initially, I hosted some friends which I already knew, all of them foreigners, and then I decided to subscribe a network of bike travellers called Warm Showers, still not commercial as the classic Couchsurfing.

 

 

I had the chance to host people who would cycle through continents on long journeys. The idea of learning travellers’ stories and show them my little town in the south of Italy, excited me a lot and would mitigate my travel nostalgia.

 

 

Many requests started coming, thanks to the fact that southwards from Rome only a few hosts were available on the website, and my town happened to be precisely one day of travel from or to the port of Bari, where ferries take to Balkans. During that time I hosted only three bike travellers, before my mum got tired and stressed with her maniacal cleanliness and performance anxiety on meals, although I had reassured her that she should not feel pressed because bike travellers do not pretend to eat elaborate dishes and do not see the daily dust, they just need a warm dish and a bed after having spent nights sleeping in a tent.

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could have hosted more people beyond Amelie (French), Julien and Marc-Antoine (Canadians) and my foreign friends. This became the reason I reconsidered living with my family, and an encouragement to go away as often as possible, even only for weekends, elsewhere in Puglia.

 

Nevertheless, that experience stuck with me as an always valid teaching and I promise I will pursue it anytime there will be the chance or I will feel the need: the fact that traveling is not only leaving but a way of exchanging stories, and this is possible even simply staying at home.

 

 

A possible, authentic and exciting way which allows not to lose

the contact with a world going richer, colourful and

faster than our single and routine lives.

 

 

This is a reminder coming from the pictures of those beautiful travellers who were bringing with them the tiredness of cycling and the desire to enjoy life. It is a reminder coming from Amelie’s blog, describing her journey from Bordeaux to Istanbul and back, a journey she conducted on her own but at the same time with thousand friends, done without any sportswear or training.  In a few hours, I discovered a rare synchronicity with this amazing “stranger” and her journey is the confirmation that everything we want is possible and we have the duty to live fully the life we want, not the one others want for us.

 

Today, after yet another working adventure – perhaps the worst - I am writing again, this time from my Apulia. I am writing from a stunning place in my beloved land, full of colours, still singing birds, the sun, and the mistral wind, surrounded by ancient olive trees with the view of the sea just a few kilometres away. Fourteen years ago, when I first left my home with a migrant suitcase for Turin, full of aspirations and wishes, later on, lost in the streets of the capitalistic world,

 

 

I would have never thought that one day

I would have (re)considered all this asthe true richness, blessing, and beauty.

 Photos by Federica Di Lascio. All rights reserved.

 

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