If you’re exploring your options for a new travel adventure, I have to say that I am excited for you. Where will you go? How will you choose your path?
Maybe you studied French and are inspired to go to France to chat with some ‘amies‘ or friends in a cafe. Or, if you have a passion for dance, why not learn the tango in Argentina? Cooking authentic Thai food with a family in Thailand could be your kind of excitement.
Or, maybe you will be like me and your path will choose you.
I have always been overly curious about my European ancestors and the origins of our family traditions. My father is Italian and Sicilian, and my mother is French and Irish. Both parents were raised speaking their native languages and were raised in ethnic neighborhoods. Consequently, my siblings and I were surrounded by multiple languages, a LOT of great food (and amazing cooks), and the warmth of our large extended families.
Most memorable from my childhood were Sundays at Grandma Rose’s house in an Italian neighbor near Cleveland, Ohio. Her kitchen always smelled of licorice from freshly pressed pizzelles, and a big pot on the stove simmered with her homemade tomato sauce. The basement walls were lined from floor to ceiling with large jars of peppers, tomatoes and peaches prepared each year with the help of many local relatives.
We played endless games of tag with cousins and bocce ball with Grandpa and our great uncles in the backyard. If I was lucky (and not acting like a little ‘diablo’ or devil), the uncles would even let me sit on their lap during their nickel poker games.
Beautiful memories and influences from our families started a fire in my heart to learn more about our history. I hoped, one day, to explore the countries of my great-grandparents and research our genealogy first hand. Now in my 50’s with a busy career, having the time and means for such an adventure didn’t seem realistic. But, I never stopped dreaming.
One evening last year while I was ‘dreaming’, I Googled ,“Ways to travel the world on a budget.” This is when I came across the Greenheart Travel website.
The simplicity, affordability, and security of the Teach in a Homestay program was very straightforward. Also, they had programs in all of the countries I wanted to visit. I immediately contacted them for details. It didn’t take long to confirm that I qualified for their program, and for me to vet Greenheart Travel as a legitimate progressive organization.
Soon after my exchange with Greenheart, a change came over me. I became giddy with random thoughts of making French desserts with a family, hanging out in a plaza in Italy with a newly discovered second-cousin, or sipping wine with lost relatives in Argentina.
I, seriously, became so restless and unfocused that one co-worker said, ‘FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS OR …. STOP TALKING ABOUT.” Put up or shut up, and he was right. I needed to decide if I would follow this path and the tradeoffs involved..
I did a reality check before making my decision. I was no spring chicken and financial stability was a concern. But, I was in good health and had some rainy day savings. Also, my three adult children were busy building their own lives and needed less of ‘mom’. On the work side of things, my global career would benefit from learning new languages and becoming more engaged with social media and blogging. And I was fascinated at the prospect of exploring an import business.
With some creative planning and a skinny budget, I put my career on-hold and took the “leap” to follow my heart and embrace immersion travel for two years. My Greenheart Travel adventure started last fall when I spent three months in France with a beautiful young family. It was simply life changing and exceeded my expectations in every way. (My blog, www.spokesailsmiles.com, shares slices of my adventures there.)
I’m just starting my next trip where I live in Rome with a wonderful family for two months on a homestay program in Italy. Given my amazing experiences in France, I am giddy again. I can’t wait to share our cultures, family stories and day-to-day living. I will also be researching, contacting and visiting distant relatives in Italy and Sicily on this trip.
Persistence and a little gumption can go a long way if you really want something in life. I’m blessed and humbled to be living my dream right now. It’s unreal and just awesome! To be able to teach in a homestay has been one of the best gifts of my life.
Whatever your motivation, I encourage you to follow your heart and curiosity when choosing your path and country. With some planning and courage, I believe your time abroad can be uniquely fulfilling and rewarding for your soul.