We are towards the end of our three week stay in the picturesque hills of the Italian state of Calabria. Our home and workplace is a small eco-village near Catanzaro, the state capital. After waking up, we hear nothing but the calming sounds of nature, and we fully enjoy this as a break from our adventures in Athens, Varna, Budapest, and Vienna.
Why don’t you let your imagination play for a second and picture how an Italian eco-village surrounded by hills, vineyards and coastline might look like: What about buildings with Mediterranean walls, a wooden roof, rustic furniture, and a big fireplace that radiates gentle warmth all day long? Maybe cats, dogs, horses, chicken, goose, and bees? Also oranges, mandarins, olives, lemons, and figs fresh off the trees (some of them even in winter)? Amazing local people who offer you home-made soap, olive oil, honey, and pasta sauce as well as eggs and vegetables? Could you imagine an ancient stone arch marking the entrance to a Roman amphitheatre? Or even a pirate ship for children to play on?
Yes, we get to enjoy all of the above, and we feel truly accommodated. When used in ophthalmology (the science of an eye’s sight and anatomy), the word “accommodation” refers to your eyes’ capacity to adapt your focal point (where you see clearly) to the distance of the thing or person you look at. Hence, when your eyes accommodate to a new distance, your sight becomes crystal clear. In the same way, our understanding – our image – of traveling, ourselves, and our ambitions became a lot clearer to us while living and working in the eco-village.
We grew mentally not only because of the wonderful things described above, but also because of the challenges we faced. For one, we experienced the famous language barrier right from the first day, as we did not speak Italian and our hosts did not speak English. So we communicated in French, albeit on a basic conversational level. But we would not be language geeks, if we didn’t have a way to lift that language barrier, and after one and a half weeks we understood basic Italian. (To find out how we did this, and – more importantly – how you can do it as well, check out our language learning strategies at www.LanguageFeeling.com! No grammar and vocabs – I promise!)
Another challenge came with the fact that southern European countries prepare differently for cold weather than do northern European countries. The former experience hot weather for most of the time of the year, and do almost never get a “really cold” winter. Thus, the installed heating system in our house was completely incapable of keeping the place warm so that we slept surrounded by an average temperature of 13°C. After a week, both of us resorted to creative strategies to solve this issue: One morning, I woke up to find Gratsi’s face covered by a woollen hat and a sleeve. I later discovered that she had also worn her thick socks. The next night, I also put on a sleeve and socks and even left on my underwear before going to bed. Since it is not going to get any warmer soon, we will keep these provisions in place until the end of our stay.
If you have ever seen the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” you may remember that the American protagonist discovers at one point during her stay in Italy that Italians use their whole body instead of just their mouths when they talk. They know how to drive home their point by synchronizing intonation, gestures, facial expression, and feeling. The same occurred to us, and it gave us a completely new vision of how we human beings are capable of expressing ourselves.
Think of all the body language and rhetoric seminars that teach people how to get their message across to an audience. I propose that you instead spend a week or two in Italy where you will get to enjoy not just the feeling for a language in general but also the good food, drinks, people and scenery. You may discover that your body language – or its absence – contributes more to your aura than you may have believed so far. (Think of the Dalai Lama – his overwhelmingly gentle aura captures everyone around him even when he doesn’t talk). And if you can’t go to Italy immediately, visit our LanguageFeeling platform to get the feeling for the language that has been at the top of your wish list for so long.
Happy Changes and Merry Christmas Holidays,
P.S.: Check out our route map to see where we are!