Everyone knows the feeling when their holiday is just around the corner (vacation for you lovely americanos). We have all had those weeks where we have to go out and buy a new bikini, a fancy new shirt or a new pair of shoes.
We all have a trim of the old hair or a complete restyle because it is the only time of year where we can leave our troubles behind and feel that we can do what the hell we want! Let the adventure begin!
Everybody knows how slow those weeks running up to the event go and especially the sleepless nights just before because there is the tickle of excitement in your belly. Then, the closer you get to the time you find yourself humming ‘We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday’ and right before the day, you can’t hold back anymore! You are a one-man band singing, stamping and clapping! “WE’RE ALL GOING ON A SUUUUUMMER HOLIDAAAY! MAYBE FOR A WEEK OR TWOOOO”
I have always loved that feeling and, in hindsight, it was one of my favourite parts! Full of positivity, shopping for useless things and spending time dreaming of what's to come!
The feeling I had this time was different. I hadn’t experienced this feeling before. We were about to set off to the south of Italy, to a part that I had never seen. But it wasn’t a holiday. I was going there to visit, work and live the local life for a while because now I could!
The run-up to the day we left was full of anticipation and nerves. Location Independence was something I had dreamt of for years and I could now do it. The nights were sleepless but that wasn’t through pure excitement, it was because I was going over the list of things I needed before I left.
My head was full with, have I got all the chargers I need? The right amount of underwear and socks? Are my clothes packed for the right climate? Have I gotten rid of those things that aren’t necessary?
All these things ran through my head because we weren’t going on holiday. This wasn’t about to end in two weeks and then off back to ‘reality’ we go. We were off to begin the first trip which we hope to span over two years minimum.
We decided to play a little safe with Italy at first because this would be our first time working and experiencing new places. Our new ‘Digital Nomad’ lives were just beginning, so we thought it would be good to take a few baby steps. I was still in training for my new position and Giuseppe was building up his relationships with his new clients.
We decided to head on out to Campania, in Italy. This region is famous for places such as Napoli, Mount Vesuvio, Pompei. I had never seen any of these places and now, we can work and visit after we finished and on our days off! Awesome!
We decided to stay in a small city called Salerno. We didn’t know much about the city, but the position of it looked great to allow us to access all the cities and towns nearby.
We spent quite a few hours on the train arriving and we looked liked we were sponsored by Osprey! (I wish). Osprey, if you are reading, feel free to sponsor us, we would not say no! I really swear by this brand for when it comes to bags, they are so comfortable, great quality, really lightweight and they look cool too! (and they didn’t even have to pay me to say that)
Giuseppe was in charge of accommodation this time around and he found us a lovely location at the top of a hill, not too far from the centre. The cool thing was that there were steps down into the centre, which was really helpful and the Italians think of everything!
There was an escalator in the hill to come back up! But, as all good things have a downside, that escalator closed at 10 pm! So, we had to opt for early nights or climb hundred of steps in 30+ degrees. At least if the steps were closed there were benches all the way up for pit stops.
He also found a good deal on the price of our stay, but the only awkward thing is that with good prices, they come with a few uncomfortable things.
We were living with a family, now don’t get me wrong here the family was lovely! Very kind and welcoming, but we soon came to realise that we seem to be getting in the way of their family life. They would never admit that I am sure, but when they were having their family meal, our bathroom was through the kitchen, so every time I needed a pee (which is a lot, sure I have problems and those that know me are now nodding) both parties felt the need to say hello or some sort of greeting every time I passed through.
You can just imagine me. “Ciao tutti!”
5 minutes later .. “Ciao”
10 minutes (trying to mix it up a bit) “Hei!”
30 minutes - Just go for a head nod this time
And so on, until they finish and I can head on over to the toilet with no stress, take my time to walk leisurely through the kitchen, glorious!
When they were cooking we would then have to note, that we will have to cook around 2 hours later or sitting in the living room, if we wanted to go in there, we would walk in and the kids (not sure if they had been told to do so) would put down their toys, turn off their games and leave the room immediately. This made us feel bad because it looked like we kicked them out!
It was just little things that when you live with a family as opposed to a roommate. The flexibility wasn’t there and with small kids there, coming home drunk or being a bit rowdy wasn’t an option. So, good as gold I was.
Once the kids were kicked out (Cough) I mean once they took it upon themselves to leave the living room, I would work with the most beautiful view. It was from there I realised that my life had become what I wanted it to be!
I could take my laptop anywhere! Look over the beautiful sea view, hear the life of Salerno below, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy every moment in the warm sun! It doesn’t matter how boring the email is that you are sending, views like this take that all way!
One of the beauties of all of this, was once I was bored with a place I could move on, no ties.
A Few Things Learnt
Everywhere you go in the world, you will learn something new. I have learnt more about the UK and England from being outside the UK. Other countries teach the history of the UK much more in-depth.
People outside the UK know so much more about Old England, the wars and invasions we suffered before and even down the terrible things we did too!
All I learnt in schools was world war two wasn’t very nice, you had to have a book to get food, then you sat in air raid shelters sometimes. Also, that Vikings wearing horn helmets (which isn’t true either well-done school) and Saxons fought a lot, oh and 1066 the battle of Hastings happened. That is about it!
If you want to learn, get yourself out there.
But, there are light-hearted things to learn too! I learnt a few things that aren’t so serious, but always good to know and I thought I might just share them with you!
First of all, pubs and shops around the UK serve a beer called Peroni Nastro Azzuro and I have been saying for years that even though it says Made in Italy, they don’t drink that in Italy. It’s like a weird hybrid. It is supposed to have been made as a premium version of the two orginal beers, but they don’t drink it in it's home country, huh? Strange.
Over in Italy, you won’t find that drink anywhere, but your will find them in their original forms, which are completely separate drinks. I have asked around for the mixed one we have and every one just looks at me thinking ‘Oh tourists, bless them’
I managed to get you a picture of the separate drinks for your own reference, you are welcome.
Another little thing I learnt for you is the Baskets from the balconies. Some of you who have visited this country may have seen this or already know, but for those who don’t, I’ll tell you!
Most of Italy's cities, specifically in the old cities, people live in apartments with small balconies. The building in the centre might be two or three stories high and most certainly don’t have a lift (elevator for my Americans out there). Now, when you are a young whippersnapper you can come home with your shopping and you can be up those stairs as quick as a flash.
Now, the oldies need a bit of assistance and those stairs, after walking all the way back home with the heavy shopping and seeing the climb ahead, does not encourage inspiration to even take the first step! But, the Italians have, for many years, utilised a very simple technology. Which, to this day, hasn’t changed or received an upgrade because there is no need.
Sometimes, for those who cannot get out to do this shopping, a friend or a family member may nip to the shops for them and instead of having their little helper take on the stairs, they simply cast down baskets on a rope and hoist it up!
Those who are still agile, but don’t fancy carting bags upstairs will cast the basket before they set off and let it hang there. Once they are back, they pop their shopping in and off upstairs they go. Once up on the balcony, they will hoist it up and there you go, simple and very effective!
Campania is much more touristic than Puglia and I could see the difference immediately. When, in Puglia, if I speak in Italian in shops and bars, there is no issue, they continue with their business and will serve me as normal.
I found out very quickly that in Salerno they saw me as a tourist, which ok technically I am, but that shouldn’t change the way I am treated. When I spoke to them in Italian, fluently, they would alway respond to me in English. Even as simple as:
Me “Mi scusi, dove il bagno?” (excuse me where is the bathroom)
Mr Waiter “Yes, It is straight ahead on the left”
Me “Ah ok, grazie!” (Ah ok, Thank you!)
Mr Waiter “Yes, but it is occupied madam” (Erm, madam? only my mum calls me that when I've been naughty)
Me “Scusami, non ti ho sentito, potresti ripetere?” (Excuse me, I didn’t hear you could you repeat?)
Mr Bloody Waiter “It is currently occupied”
Me Smile/eye roll - Walks off.
The most annoying thing being pale skinned, light green eyes with blonde hair, I am basically wearing a sign which says “I AM A TOURIST” And if you have a similar look, or in any way quite different to an Italian, then prepare for those tourist prices!
Walking into a shop in hope to buy a small hair grip, just get my hair out of the way because it was too hot. I asked the lady and she was like ‘OOO we have just the thing’ and showed me the options. I took a fancy to one that was €2.50, quite small, cheap enough and would do the job I required of it.
I took it and kindly told her this is the one. As she double checked my skin tone and colour, she took a sample of my Italian accent and made a quick calculation in her head, as she turned quickly to snip off the price (which I had already seen and also was currently witnessing her chop it off in her not so stealthy ways) whipped back around confidently, with a practised smile, and said that will be €5,80 please!
Beware, oh weary travellers, Beware!
Ok, she did shoot and she DID score ok? What? I can feel your judgement casting down upon me. I was oh so very weary, I had travelled to many shops, I was overheating by the minute in the scorching sun and I was in desperate need...
...I PAID IT OK? Don't you judge me! I make mistakes so you can learn. I did this for you! YOU ARE WELCOME!
We decided the main strip was always going to treat me unfairly and thus I spent the rest of the time there stood behind Giuseppe’s 'Italianess' and only let him speak, from there it got a lot cheaper.
Our Little Find
We had lots of time to explore now we have the ability to work much less than we did before and I will get more into visiting Campania at a later date! But, we did find a little spot which, became like our local!
We got to know the great Aldo and Loredana, who worked in Barroom, and made sure that our nights were well fed and watered with Lupini and outrageously tasty wines from all over Italy!
Aldo really knows his stuff! Every wine I tried was just amazing! If you are heading over to Salerno, you have to go over and enjoy a great evening with them and taste some of best wines Italy has to offer for great prices! Not bloody tourist prices! (give the photo a little click if you want to check out were to find Barroom)
With our experience of Campania being just over 2 weeks, we realised this is a good amount of time to get to know a place, find out where the locals go and get some tips from them for moving around.
We visited Napoli, Amalfi, Vesuvio, Pompei, Vietri Sul Mare, Cetara and Majori, not forgetting Salerno of course. We had a great time being able to explore and knowing that this isn’t a holiday, that it is just the very beginning of a life we have always wanted to lead is an amazing feeling.
See you need time for a bit of an insight into the cities and towns we visited!