Leaving Florence was always going to be hard. I never had any doubt about that.
I had put far too much of myself into that place for it ever be any different.
Certainly, the attraction had always been there. Like a seductress, from the very first instant, those cobblestone roads and terracotta roofs cast an everlasting spell on my mind and body alike. But more than that, beyond the physical attraction, there has always been something more. A spark. A connection to something within myself that had long been missing. But Florence connected the dots. Rewired me, so to speak.
And with this, I began to build a life there. A family, even. One I love with the entirety of my soul and that loves me back in equal measure. And the more time I spent, gloriously existing with them, the more that love grew and grew.
So when the time came for me to adventure onwards, I was fully aware that it would divide my heart in two. I’d leave half of it with them and take the other half with me. But regardless of this, the time was bound to come anyway. Restlessness has always been in my nature.
A few months ago, that restlessness took hold. I recognized that, as moments in time will always do, mine in Florence was coming to a close. I felt an itch for new inspiration. I needed something to throw me off balance. A new vantage point that would forever shift my world view. So I planned a trip to Thailand.
For weeks I prepared myself to say goodbye to the city and the people I loved, to my best friends, to a boy who, in no time at all, stole my heart and showed me a level of connection and understanding I only dreamed existed before he showed up. A part of me was more than ready to go and the other, I knew, would never be. So I decided to stop thinking and leap. I booked a flight and boarded it just twelve days later.
The nights before I left, my friends showered me with love. Surprise dinners and sweet notes. Declarations of forever friendships and promises of “see you later” that I know we will keep. The morning I left, my best friend and that sweet boy walked me to the train station at dawn and stood there on the platform, smiling at me until the train rolled away.
It was hard leave. Of course, I told you it would be. But to my surprise, I didn’t really cry. (I’m a crier.) It wasn’t until the pilot announced that we were touching down in Bangkok that the reality set in. For the first time, I realized that, from now on, I would have a totally different life than the one I had spent the last year and a half building. And while a part of me knows I can always go back to it, and that those friendships will continue to be a beautiful part of my day to day existence, it’s hard to accept that your favorite chapter (so far) is over. I cried until I got off the plane.
The doors opened and I put on my backpack. I wiped my wet face on my sleeve, stepped onto the pavement and breathed in the unfamiliar balmy air of Bangkok. As if their was something in it, a healing power, there was a sudden shift. Through the empty spaces where I was feeling the loss of my Florentine life, rushed a wave of empowerment. I recognized then that it would have been easier to stay in Florence. And that nearly all of me would have been perfectly happy to do so. But instead, I chose adventure. I recognized that I had a dream, of Southeast Asia, of solo travel, of finding myself in a thousand little nooks and crannies all over the planet, and I decided to make it a reality. No one helped me and I let nothing stop me. And I felt sort of…proud.
It’s going to be beautiful and strange and exciting and sometimes hard. I’m still adjusting to being alone. It’s still awkward. Over the past few days I’ve found myself talking out loud to no one and suddenly wishing I were sipping drinks with all my friends or giggling and eating sushi with that sweet boy. But more than anything else, I still feel the empowerment. The readiness for whatever this chapter throws at me and the growth that’ll comes with it.
So for now, it’s a presto Florence, สวัสดี Thailand!