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I’m having some second thoughts about our trip around the world.

It started innocently enough. Gabe, flipping through one of our photo albums from our year in Italy, sighed, “Italy is so amazing.”

It is, isn’t it?

So I reminded him of the idea we’d once flirted with—we could, instead of taking a month in each of 12 different countries, take a month in each of 12 different regions of Italy. Imagine. Of course a month in our beloved Spello, and a month in Sicily, a month in Puglia, a month in Abruzzo, a month in the Venice, a month in Emilia-Romagna, a month in Sardinia, a month in Le Marche, a month in Trieste, a month in Liguria, a month in Calabria… you get the idea. Italy has 20 regions, we could conceivably spend dedicated time in 12 and see the final 8 in transitioning from one place to another.


Gabe got a faraway look in his eye and the said, “No. The around the world thing is better.”

Is it though?

The thing is, I’m not sure.

There’s a line in EM Forster’s Howard’s End that occurs to me: "ten square miles are not ten times as wonderful as one square mile, that a thousand square miles are not practically the same as heaven.” Is covering more ground better, really? Yes, we’d see more cultures. We’d explore more foodways, see different kinds of places of worship, learn how people breakfast around the globe.

But there are advantages to keeping it small.

  • We would deepen our understanding of one place, rather than getting a more surface understanding of a lot of places.

  • I’ve been regretting my eroding Italian knowledge. Using it for another year would be a great way to increase our language skills.

  • There are places in Italy that we really want to spend significant time. I know Siena wants us all to spend an extended visit to Arezzo. The family wants a month of skiing in the Dolomiti though, to be fair, that’s in our around-the-world plan. A month in Sicily doesn’t feel like it would even be a enough to dig into a region we all fell in love with. I’ve heard phenomenal things about Puglia. And we all want enough time in Spello that we can unfold into the fabric of the community again.

  • Let’s be honest. Italian food rocks. I have this image of taking a cooking class in each region and really adapting my hands and nose and tastebuds to Italian culinary traditions.

  • Less expensive. Keith and I just started hammering the numbers. In order to make this trip work, we need to not travel at all until we leave in 2020 (with the exception of my sister’s wedding next month, for which we are flying to Nogales), and then be incredibly judicious about the efficacy of our airline tickets during the year. Tickets will be the most expensive part of the trip, at least those tickets that take us from one part of the world to another. And those tickets add up.

That last point may well be the reason the whole quagmire is coming up for me. I’ve been missing Italy like crazy, and no travel means no travel. Even if where we’re going feels like home. I think in a corner of my mind, I’d realized we’re getting a chunk of money for renting our house for UVa’s graduation weekend, we have a week when the kids’ summer plans overlap and Keith and are on our own. I’d flirted with this idea of taking a quick jaunt to the Boot.

But again, no travel means no travel. So I’ve been grieving Italy, and how long it will be until we’re there again.

Which may be the entire reason the idea of floating from Italian region to Italian region is so compelling. Just to soak up those Italian rhythms for a whole year.

Part of me wants to wave off the idea of revamping our trip like I’d wave a lovely butterfly away from my Aperol spritz. We have a great plan, why monkey?

But I think we need to consider it. We need to be clear on why we’re doing what we’re doing and that we’re doing it for the right reasons. Reasons that make sense to us now, not reasons that might be outgrown.

I floated the question to Siena on the way to school, and surprisingly, she said she’d be good either way. She said that going around the world would be about exploration and going around Italy would be about being happy. She frowned and added, not that the global trip wouldn’t make us happy or that we wouldn’t explore in Italy, but…

I get it, it’s a different vibe.

Italy would be easier, so—easier to picture feeling free and happy. I’m not convinced that easier is always better, growth requires challenge. There are pros and cons to ease, just like there are pros and cons to each factor.

Looks like a family meeting is in our future. I’ll keep you posted.

How would you spend a gap year? Let us know in the comments below and as always, please do share this post with your friends by clicking on the buttons below!