Welcome! Benvenuto! Bienvenue! Bienvenida! Willkommen!
I've decided to document my trip to Europe not only to keep everyone updated on what I am doing, where I am, and what I see, but to also record a period of time for me that is going to be life changing. I am anticipating a great learning experience but I have a strong feeling that I havent realized just how significant it will really be. I am about to submerge myself into something so unknown and so incredibly necessary for my growth as a cook and as a person.
I depart LAX on January 4th at 7:12am and land in Hamburg, Germany on January 5th at 7:30am (10:30pm L.A. time). From there, I don't know what happens. Who knows what will happen?? Thats the best part, not knowing. I have roughly planned a tentative schedule, hitting Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Dublin, Barcelona, Paris, Venice, and Rome, but I am really just going where and when based on what feels right. I have one deadline during this whole trip and that is to be at the Bologna airport on February 12th to be taken to my place of work in San Marino. Thats it.
But can I just start by saying it is really wierd how things work out??
I hadnt seen my friend Ashleigh in over 7 years and we casually decided to finally meet for lunch one day to catch up. She mentioned she was trying to go to Europe in January to audition into a dance company (she is a phenomenal dancer, by the way ;D) and that I should come with her. And thats when the beast emerged. I call it a beast because anyone that has known me has known that I've wanted to go to Europe for a long time, especially Italy, and it is almost an obsession. When I got to thinking of seriously traveling there, it was all I talked about, thought about and dreamt about, but it usually fell short because I would find SOME reason why it wouldn't work. However, from the second Ashleigh said Europe, my brain started racing and my heart pounding. It was different this time and I knew that after all my attempts of trying to figure out a way to travel there, this was the one that was going to work. This was it. She re-lit the spark in my eye and she is to blame for unleashing my beast. =) love you, ash!
So we started planning and it seemed daunting at first because there was a lot of detail we didnt think about: travelers/health insurance, means on communication to home, booking hostels, etc. I started to get a little stressed out and doubtful that our plan of backpacking through Europe wasn't going to work. Someone told me that I had to just buy my ticket and everything would work itself out. So I went for it. With no real plan, I made a decision, bought the ticket and put it out to the universe that I would be going... and life has been wierd ever since.
I told Nancy Silverton, the owner of Mozza (where I work) and the chef that I have an enormous amount of respect for, about my plans. Nancy was very supportive and had a keen eye on what I should change to make my trip better. Instead of trying to stage all over Europe(stage= a cook's audition, essentially), I should travel all over Europe first to "get it out of my system", and then pick one location to stay in and find work there. She told me, "Oh, the girl that is replacing you on the grill station, Debbie, has worked in Italy! You should talk to her." Having mixed emotions about being too friendly with the girl that is replacing me (I love Mozza and it is breaking my heart to leave), I talked to her and found more than just a source of information.
Debbie is more than words. From the second I met her, I instantly knew that this girl understood me. I had to train her on grill, the station I would be leaving, and she was telling me all I needed to know about traveling, working, and living in Italy. Her passion for Italy was infectious; even though I was already excited about going, she opened my eyes to discover a whole new level of excitement about the unknown. Debbie is a seriously dedicated cook and literally lives, breathes and I'm sure dreams about food. She used to work for Chef Gino Angelini here in LA, who I am told is a God both here and in Italy. She said she would talk to him and I would have a job, no problem. The next day, I met with Chef Gino... and apparently it wasnt a problem. A few days later, Debbie talked with Gino, Gino gave her an Italian phone number to call, we called and just like that I had a job, a place to stay, and a ride from the Bologna airport to San Marino, where I would be living. Done.
It's just really wierd to me how things work out. It started as a distant idea and around the same time, Ashleigh walked back in to my life. Without the help of her and her mother, who are both way more experienced travelers than myself, the logistics of this trip would have never come together. Then I bought my plane ticket and gave my notice to work which introduced me to Debbie. Without Debbie, there would not be a restaurant for me to work at or place for me to stay. I also realized, through researching the restaurant(Righi la Taverna), that one of my friend's chefs, who is really successful, used to work there a few years back. And Gino Angelini had sent him there. Small world. Oh and my dad found a pocket translator in the gutter a few weeks ago. How often does that happen?! Things start to fall in to place after you make up your mind.
So after all this, I am still nervous as hell and scared I'll get lost. I dont speak any other language other than English and some kitchen Spanish. I took a quarter of German in college. I am really good at talking with my hands... which may get me by. I dont have an exact plan or itinerary to go by. I also realize that I am an LA native and I dont know what cold weather is; I bought Hunter rainboots and a down jacket that look so foreign to me. I wont have gps or my cell phone: I am reliant on maps and skyping for communication. Needless to say, I will have removed myself completely out of my comfort zone. And I'm scared. And there is nothing I want to do more.
I'm so ready for this journey. I feel done here for now. After the last few weeks of emotional ups and downs, being sick, having jury duty, leaving a job that I love dearly, and meeting/reconnecting with the best kinds of people, I am ready. Bring it on. This is a true test of my ability to be independent and to have fun. I told someone the other day this exact story and they responded with "it sounds like this is the universe's way of telling you that you are headed in the right direction."
I think so too! And I'm here with open arms.