It’s been several months now that I’ve been living in a heaven-like small town in Marche, Italy, a week since I finally launched my new branding agency, The Light Studio, and I thought it was probably time for a life update and to try to get this journal, an honest account of what's going on in my nomadic/semi-nomadic life, back up and running. Do people even read blogs anymore? I do, so I hope you do too.
For years now I kind of knew, and myriad doctors, psychics, astrologers, energy workers had been telling me, that my body was exhausted and that my always-travelling lifestyle was running me into the ground. They all told me I needed to slow down or things would continue to get worse and worse until I would be forced to pay attention. Like most human beings, I didn’t take them that seriously because it wasn't that bad.
Maybe at first I would hear them, then their advice would fall away as other exciting opportunities presented themselves. I felt exhausted and overwhelmed darting between countries, always acclimatising and digesting new situations and people. The stress of visa applications and meetings, setting up a business and administration in a foreign, non-English speaking country had all worn me down to a very tired version of myself. But when it’s your reality and it’s what you’re used to, it’s hard to remember you ever felt any different. You experience the whole world through distorted lenses.
About a year ago, in summer 2018, something big started to change for me though. It all started when I suddenly and unexpectedly had nowhere to live in Paris from August to November. Whilst my things could live at my best friend’s place in Paris and I would move in with her later in the year, they were renovating the apartment and the works were unexpectedly going to take a lot longer than predicted, three months longer. Three months of not having a home was suddenly upon me, or three months of having no rent or location commitments, depending on how you look at it.
Urbino, in the Marche
So I decided to spend the month in rural Marche in an apartment my family share with a bunch of Australians that happened to be empty in August. It was there and then that I started to fall in love with a place and a person, two things that would slowly allow me to start seeing my life and the world in a completely different way.
Over the next eight months I wrestled back and forth with the dream of Paris and the life I had fought to build there, versus giving up the fight and melting into this new idea that had slowly presented itself to me as a not-altogether-ridiculous option. Could I really disappear into the Italian countryside, giving up the stability, close relationships and excitement of Paris to actually do what everything in my body was telling me to do – lay down (literally and figuratively) and spend my days in stillness, nature, small-town community, love and life on a smaller-scale?
I started to really come around to the idea of spending the summer living here in rural Marche (that was about as specific as my plan got) during a month-long stint there in March spent living with my Mum in the family apartment. The healing effect of the place on my mind, body, soul was undeniable and I didn’t want it to end, it felt like a teaser and I wanted and needed more.
March in Marche, Italy
I went on to spend April in India, half of this time at an Ayurvedic ashram and retreat in Northern Kerala (which I promise to do a full write-up on soon as I know there were a few people interested in hearing more) to hopefully help cure a few of the minor health problems I was experiencing and quieten down my anxiety. The retreat was a wake-up call for me. I’d developed problems sleeping over the last two months and even at this tranquil retreat, where my days were spent with therapeutic massages, doing yoga and meditation, reading, resting, eating Ayurvedic, healthy food, I found myself so anxious, my mind so accustomed to racing, that I couldn’t even sleep there in that perfect peaceful place.
Kerala, India, at the Ayurvedic ashram
The Ayurvedic doctors told me the only health problem I had was myself – my emotions and my lifestyle more specifically – and this was causing all of the physical health problems I was experiencing. Basically, they told me ‘you need to calm down’.
South Goa, on the West coast of India in April
The next few weeks in India in their hot, hot summer along the beaches of the West coast helped me relax a little more into a slow, sticky state of mind, but I knew I needed a huge dose of nothingness to slowly keep chipping away at this anxiety.
I also know that life gives us clues as to which direction we should go in to find more and more happiness and fulfillment. And sometimes those clues come in the form of showing us what not to do, and if we don’t listen to those small nudges or signs at first, they can manifest into bigger un-ignorable things, like health and emotional problems, until we sit up and pay attention. I saw these problems as a big wake-up call that I needed to go in a different direction.
When I first started to really come around to the idea, in India, of spending as much time as I wanted in rural Marche, Italy, I had no idea how I’d make it happen. But as a wise friend told me, ‘It’s not up to you to make it happen. Make the decision, start making moves towards this idea and it will fall into place. Don’t waste your time worrying or trying to logically control a living situation, a town, a house, into being, it will present itself when the time is right.’ And it did.
In April, my boyfriend suggested that he could help me to find a little house in his town, Fratte Rosa, in Marche for the summer – a town I’d always loved, not so far from the place my family had their apartment-share, a town built on top of a hill with just under 1,000 inhabitants and 360 degree open skies around it.
Open skies around Fratte Rosa, Marche, Italy
Every step of the way on making this change, my mind would step in first to authoritatively tell me all the reasons why it couldn’t work, why this was a crazy idea. I’d talk that voice down every time though until all that was left was the feeling of how good it would actually feel to do this. So I kept on choosing to trust that feeling.
June rolled around and I moved in to a little two-story house/apartment inside the old medieval walls of this tiny town. When I was asked if I had any requirements for the place I wanted to live in I was kind of taken aback with what to say. Having lived for years ‘taking whatever I could get’ putting up with the quirks and antiquities of Paris apartments, I could only summon two requests, ‘I’d like a place to put my yoga mat, I guess, and an oven.” The place we found has a whole mezzanine platform for my yoga mat actually, I call my ‘yoga platform’. I set up an altar here too with all my moon photos and dried flowers, candles and crystals, and made room for a little desk where I type this blog post from now. And an oven we do have, I cook on it almost every single day and have fallen deeply in love with cooking and food again.
The view from my bedroom window, sunsets like this most days
Little by little, the routine, the stillness, the nourishment of this place, this house, my life here has healed me so much. Where I felt a rising amount of anxiety before, that feeling is almost completely gone, I can’t remember what it felt like in my body anymore.
Whenever people used to ask me how I was, I could only ever say ‘tired’ if I was answering honestly. I don’t feel like that anymore. I can see clearly the results of this change in myself showing up in the world around me. I’m able to be more present and loving in my interactions with people. I’m finally getting things done in my work and creative life that I’ve been dreaming of finishing for years. The quality of my work has improved. I’m happier and I’m embodying who I am really am more and more.
I don’t know if this place feels so good to me because I needed to slow down so much or if it’s more that this place and the life I’ve created here suits my true nature to the core. All I know is that I’ve found and built another home in the world outside of the one I was born in.
I’m planning on taking off again in December for a month or two to somewhere warmer with a trip home to Australia for Christmas. We’ll leave this paradise just for now, and leave this house for good, put our things in storage. As always, it feels like if I’m going with the flow of things I’m just not ready to know what 2020 has in store, but I’ll see what it brings and follow what feels good for all the gifts that attitude always brings.
I've just managed to develop and scan rolls and rolls of film from my this summer in this place so I'll have another few posts about spending a summer in a tiny town in Italy very soon here. (Read the posts here: part I and part II.)
With love ❤
p.s. This song is my theme song right now (I surrender, I surrender, kinda makes sense) (this is a 'lost song' from OMD's 1993 album by the same name, only released recently btw) ❤ and on the topic of surrender, have you read The Surrender Experiment? Read this first a few years ago and immediately started reading it again upon finishing, picked it up again last week!