For years I’ve said that my craziest ideas have been some of my best ideas.
Studying for a semester in Peterborough, Canada when I was sixteen; moving to Brisbane, Australia before my eighteenth birthday to study journalism… and then transferring to creative writing after only two semesters; moving to Sri Lanka on a whim and applying for a job at an online English-language newspaper in Maldives—then living there for a year; starting my own travel agency in Colombia’s Caribbean coast and then dropping everything to go wander around Brasil for a year and a half; chasing love across the Atlantic and spending two months in Paris, then seeking peace on a rural mountaintop in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
These all seemed like crazy ideas at first but they lead me to discover amazing new places, meet wonderful new people, get to know myself better, and experience things I wouldn’t have otherwise, things that wouldn’t have been possible if I had let my fear, apprehensions, or other people’s opinions sway me from chasing my dreams.
After a very long quarantine in Colombia, I now find myself in the midst of another journey dictated by yet another crazy idea—probably the craziest one yet; one that I wasn’t sure would even be possible but I knew I had to try: buying a cheap house in Italy.
You’ve heard about the €1 houses being sold off in small Italian villages: it’s been all over the news. The idea of moving to a quaint town somewhere in the most remote corners of Italy has made thousands—if not millions—of people around the world swoon before they snap out of their daydream and get back to their jobs. Thing is, I’m not one of those people who can just let go of crazy ideas or will myself to wake up from my fantasies just because they seem unfeasible. So, once borders started opening again in the late boreal summer, I left Colombia for the US and from there, I flew to Spain, all with the intention of coming to Italy to hopefully find a place to call home.
I know, it’s crazy, trust me; I gave up on this endeavour multiple times during the past few months but never stopped moving towards my goal, as if it was pulling me by a magnetic inertia beyond my control, because I couldn’t give up—not without seeing these houses first-hand. So after several days of complete uncertainty in Rome, where I occupied my time with work, friends, food and wine, and of course, sight-seeing, I finally bought a train ticket south to a small town in Puglia thanks to the encouragement of my loved ones.
I packed my bags—for the millionth time in two months—and hopped on another train, leaving Rome on a Tuesday morning. Just a few hours later, I was in Foggia, from where I took a regional train to Lucera. The area around the train station did not look too promising and all I could think was… WHERE THE F* AM I? I couldn’t help but laugh at myself—how did end up here? I followed Google Maps through dusty narrow paths and finally crossed the Porta Troia, the ancient gate to the historic centre, which led me to a traditionally Italian town with cobblestone streets, cute balconies, ample piazzas, large stone churches, and even the ruins of a medieval castle just a short walk from the centre.
Though the historic centre is beautiful, I must admit I wasn’t entirely charmed by Lucera, and again started to doubt my endeavour. But from my first visit to Biccari, an even smaller town about 20 minutes away by bus, I fell in love. A quaint Italian village, Biccari has everything you’d expect: colourful houses with large wooden doors and little balconies, cobble-stone streets and ancient ruins, clothes hanging beneath windows, and cheerful people smiling, ciao! I felt at home hanging out on the piazza with the locals, grateful every time I got a free cappuccino or a cheap beer, hopeful when I thought about the hikes I would take through the forest, the snow that would come in winter, the nonnas gossiping on the streets in summer. I saw my life there and I loved it.
But dreams don’t always come true, even if you chase them halfway around the world.
For reasons beyond my control (aka bureaucracy and capitalism), I won’t be able to get my house just yet. In a matter of minutes, my dream was shattered by reality, the bitch, and I was forced, once again, to reassess and readjust. Where would I go next? What would I do now? With COVID restrictions still raging in Asia and my stubborn unwillingness to return to Colombia, I have few options. But I must go on, at least I have options.
I was prepared for disappointment but the reality of it felt so much worse than the idea. So I returned to Rome, empty-handed but satisfied that I made it all the way to Biccari, my bags weighing me down as I scrambled for a Plan B. But as some wise friends have told me, things are usually more complicated in our minds than in reality and these things have a way of working themselves out if we’re patient and trust ourselves to have made enough good decisions that will lead to new possibilities.
Who knows, maybe I’m just destined (or doomed?) to travel the globe aimlessly, forever, never finding a place to call home. Or maybe, just maybe, my forever home is somewhere else, waiting for me to discover it.
Follow along on my blog and social media @LauraRepoOrtega and keep me company on this new journey, wherever you might be and wherever I may end up.
All photos shot on iPhone