Although I can’t say that 2013 was a bad year for us – in fact during the year we have achieved many of the things we’d wished for – when I look back I’m still reluctant to call it a good year. As we began living a semi-nomadic lifestyle, we certainly enjoyed many rewards, but a number of challenges also awaited us along the way. Some of these challenges were so intense that I wasn’t always able to handle them, and in more than one occasion I let myself slip into a negative state of mind. I won’t go into detail, but the good thing is I (we) became stronger and learned some important lessons too.
But I’d rather leave 2013 behind and look ahead. So, here’s a little list of things I want to focus on in the next year, and I hope I can look back at the list one year from now and happily count my achievements 🙂 Read More
A few years ago, not too long after we met, Emanuele and I wrote together a list of things we wanted to achieve in life. Working remotely was on this list. Actually we wrote something like ‘having a location-independent job or business that allows us to travel often and spend time with our family’. We were getting tired of the Dublin daily routine: commuting to work in the cold and rainy Irish weather, sitting in a grey office all day long, having uninspiring canteen lunches. We were also growing frustrated with the limited amount of annual leave we were entitled to, and – consequently – the limited amount of time we could devote to visiting our families in Italy and Portugal, and to traveling for our leisure.
As we quit our jobs and traveled around the world, we met a bunch of people who were already working remotely and living a location-independent lifestyle. Meeting these folks and talking to them gave us a certain confidence that we could achieve location independence too – we just had to find a way. Read More
When we were in Asia, as part of our round the world trip, we tried to learn as much as we could about the diverse and fascinating cultures we came across.
One thing that we loved doing was reading both fiction and non-fiction books about the countries we were visiting. Even though there’s no replacement for being there in person and feeling, smelling and seeing things for yourself, a good book will entertain you and, at the same time, enhance your understanding of a place.
Books can tell you things that local people may not be willing to talk about openly. They can also answer questions about behaviours and customs that may otherwise be left unexplained – how many times did we ask locals about how a certain tradition may have originated, or what was the meaning of some rituals, just to find out they didn’t have a clue? 🙂
Below is a list with some of our favorite reading while we were travelling in Asia:
Romana says: I left Dublin with this 920 pages book on my backpack. I started reading Shantaram in Dublin before our trip and I finished it at the end of a troubled trip to Mumbai, as our train approached Mumbai’s chaotic and overcrowded slums.
This book tells the seemingly semi-true story of a convicted Australian heroin addict and bank robber who escaped prison and fled to Mumbai, India, where he got involved in organized crime and other nasty business. In the first half of the book, which I found the most interesting and entertaining, Gregory David Roberts, author and main character, tells about his daily life in the slums of Mumbai.
Not only did I smile and cry alongside with the characters of the book, but I also got an invaluable amount of insights on the Indian national psyche. The second half of the book was in my opinion a bit less interesting and even a tad boring at some stage. However this is still one of the most entertaining books I’ve read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good reading.
Also, because many people travelling in India are still reading this book, reading Shantaram will provide you with one or two good conversation-starting lines if you’re travelling solo 🙂
Emanuele says: Far away from a cliché-image of India as a colourful and exotic destination, Aravind Adiga‘s fictional story brings you into the dark side of the subcontinent south of the Himalayas. A great story that delves into the gap between the filthy-rich and the animal-like poor, the corruption and the other underlying mechanisms of the Indian society.
Romana says: No other book (or movie) made me shed so many tears as First They Killed My Father. I still remember being on an old bus somewhere in Cambodia and having to stop reading the book because some people started to look at me wondering if I was feeling well as they could ear me crying.
Loung Ung, Cambodia-born author and human-rights activist, tells the story of her family and herself as a child, under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, between 1975 and 1979. I believe this book is a MUST read if you want to learn more about Cambodia‘s recent, tragic history.
Romana says:Lucky Child is a sort of sequel of First They Killed My Father and I read it because I wanted to follow the story of Loung and her older brother after they fled Cambodia to live as refugees in the USA. In Lucky Child Loung also tells the story of the other three siblings they left behind in Cambodia and all the difficulties they went through in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s regime.
Romana says: Do you remember the most famous picture of the Vietnam war? A young girl, naked, runs out of a smoke cloud with her arms open and a terrified expression on her face, after having been hit by a napalm bomb.
Even though the Vietnam war ended a few years before I was born I remembered that picture very well, so when I saw it on the cover of a book in a shop in Vietnam I almost immediately knew I wanted to buy and read that book.
The author narrates the story of this little girl called Kim Phuc and how the Napalm attack changed her life forever, turning her into Vietnam’s most famous casualty. As you go through Kim Phuc’s life, a rich historical context emerges, which makes you learn more about the war, the communist regime and its propaganda, as well as the local traditions and the culture of Southern Vietnamese people.
Romana says: Even though it’s always been at the top of the list of the countries I want to visit, I didn’t go to China yet – and I read this book at home, so for consistency’s sake Wild Swans shouldn’t be in this list 🙂 Still, I loved Wild Swans so much that I had to share it here too. Wild Swans is such an absorbing story that once you start it becomes hard to put the book down. Emanuele bought this book years ago for himself but I managed to put my hands on it first and once I read the first page I just couldn’t let it go. I told him so much of the story that in the end he never ready it 🙂
Jung Chang, the author of the book, tells here the story of three generations of her family: her grandmother, her mother and herself.
An extraordinary reading at the end of which you’ll learn so much about China, the communism, Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese culture in general.
My final verdict: A MUST READ even if China is not in your travel plans 🙂
Emanuele says: Another book which shouldn’t be on the list: I read this book a couple of years before the round the world journey. But my wanderlust levels increased dramatically ever since, so I had to share it here 🙂 Italian travellers already know journalist Tiziano Terzani‘s powerful and compelling narrative, but I believe not many international travellers have read this author – so this may be a chance for you, non-Italian reader, to widen your literary horizons and discover new exciting reading material.
In 1976 a Hong-Kong fortune-teller warns Tiziano Terzani that he shouldn’t fly in 1993 or he’ll risk his life. Despite the demands of a life as a correspondent covering Asia for European newspapers, Terzani decides to take the warning seriously and, in 1993, he spends a whole year travelling overland (including a 13,000 miles train journey to Florence!) Terzani will spend one of the most extraordinary years of his life, while keeping his commitments as a journalist, meeting many fortune-tellers (and their prophecies) along the way and witnessing the constant tension between tradition and modernity in the Asian societies.
What about you? Have you ever read a book about a country you were visiting, during your trip? Were they fiction or non-fiction books? Any book you particularly liked? Do you have a recommendation for us? Share your thoughts with us – we love your feedback 🙂
When Emanuele wrote on his Facebook wall about our plan to move to Sicily he received an avalanche of comments from his (Italian) friends. Almost everyone said things like: “you guys are crazy to come to Sicily” or “you won’t last long there.”
Well, I can understand where they come from. There are many good reasons why many Sicilians (especially the younger generations) leave this island and move elsewhere (mostly abroad). Here are a just a few to start with:
1. In Sicily it can be hard to find a job if you don’t have the right connections (i.e. family and friends, or friends of friends, etc.). Even if you finally find a job you will likely be treated as a slave and if you complain to your boss, chances are he or she will tell you “if you don’t like it, there are hundreds of people ready to take this job.”
2. Italy scores high on corruption rates and let’s say it honestly: SicilianMafia is still a reality. Corruption damages the economy of the country and hinders the development of capable people. Of course the majority of Sicilians are honest people and they hate corruption and criminality. However, even those who are honest tend to exchange their rights for favors (it’s a kind of cultural thing), ending up in all sorts of compromises and indirectly supporting unfair and sometimes unlawful mechanisms.
3. The economic crisis is starting to hit Italy hard and Berlusconi’s right-wing government instead of pursuing high-income tax-evaders and cutting the politicians’ salaries and benefits, is taking austerity measures which will mainly affect the middle and the lower classes.
4. There is a lot of negativity, so even if you are an optimistic spirit full of ideas, it’s easy to get crushed by the pessimism that comes from everyone.
5. Bureaucracy can drive you nuts. To sort out my medical card in order to get access to the national health care system, it took me a week, lots of paperwork, stamps and signatures and a visit to 3 different offices.
6. If you are an environmentally-minded person you’ll cringe seeing pieces of rubbish lying here and there on theroad sides outside the town, you’ll feel frustrated seeing people making unnecessary use of plastic (i.e. plates, cups and cutlery), and finally you’ll be perplexed to find about the high taxes you have to pay to support a nonexistent waste management system.
The list could go on as this land is full of problems and contradictions, and by now you too are probably saying: “you guys are crazy to come to Sicily”. So why Sicily? Why Siracusa?
1. Siracusa is for me a special place – I fell in love with this city over 4 years ago when I set my foot on it for the first time. In Siracusa you breathe and feel history at every corner, just like you could in Rome (just so you know, the two cities were founded more or less at the same time). The island of Ortygia, historical and cultural centre of Siracusa, is an extremely atmospheric place made of narrow lanes, picturesque courtyards, baroque buildings and breathtaking views on the Siracusa harbor bay.
2. There’s sun almost all year round (which we desperately needed after long years in the rain of Ireland) and even in winter it never gets too cold down here.
3. Siracusa’s sea is simply amazing. Some beaches around here have crystal-clear waters that remind me of Fiji, but unlike Fiji, the food here is delicious… hmm, no, let me correct this: the food is sublime!
4. Siracusa is agood place to live as an aspiring digital nomad. I know our friends are concerned with how we are going to survive here considering it’s so difficult to find a job, as I said above. The fact is we’re not looking to work locally, but to consider global, virtual jobs and work on a couple of personal projects that may become a source of income in the near future.
5. Being close to our family felt like the right thing to do at this stage of our lives (especially considering there’s a baby on the way). Sure, we will never be able to be close to both families as we are from different countries, but we are happy to be close to at least one.
6. We love thesimple pleasures that we can enjoy here – walking to the street market under the warm morning sun, eating fresh fish and vegetables, taking a swim in beautiful blue waters, meeting nice and friendly characters, go for a walk at sunset close to the sea or among the narrow streets of Ortygia…
Well, I guess our round the world trip and our on-the-way-baby changed our priorities. We know Sicily is not perfect and many things frustrate us, but the good things easily outweigh the bad ones. And then again, is there such thing as perfection in any country in the world? Sometimes, having a so called “great job” (meaning earning good money or having a high position), living in a country where everything seems to work perfectly, doesn’t necessarily mean having a great life or being happy. Somehow, this became obvious to us while we traveled in Asia – if you ever get a chance, watch a documentary called Happy, as I believe it clearly illustrates this concept .
We decided to be happy too and work hard to create the lifestyle we dreamed of while travelling. We knew that we would not find this happiness in the life we left behind. However, despite my enthusiasm, some people still look at me as if I’m crazy, and I must admit that every now and again, even if for a split second, I wonder whether I’m doing the right thing or not. But then I become aware of how this negativity affects me and I see things clearly again: I know this is the way to go!
What about you? Do you ever wonder if you are doing the right thing? Have you ever been in a situation where people advised you against doing what you wanted to do so badly? Were there ever any situations in your life when your choices didn’t make sense to people around you? How did you react? Please leave a comment below if you fancy sharing your experiences with us!
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