I don’t hate home but…

“I don’t hate home. I hate how I feel when I’m back there.” 

That’s a message that I sent a couple of hours ago to my boyfriend. We were talking, I had my first BarreAmped class and when I read the text those words came out without too much thinking. On the other hand, my last days had been full of thoughts. I’m 5 months away from going back home and basically, everyone with whom I have a pretty deep conversation knows how bad this makes me feel.

It’s a couple of days that I’ve been living with this terrible heaviness on my chest. Even crying didn’t help to relieve the anxiety. I’ve never struggled with those kinds of things. I’ve always been a pretty relaxed person. On exam days, it was normal to be nervous but I’ve never experienced such a feeling. Only after that sentence, all the heaviness went away and I started to breathe again.

For almost two years I lived in this bubble that’s the au pair program: I had my own car, my room, my independence and a job. If you find a good host family all those things come pretty easily and I’ve been really lucky. I’ve traveled, I had fun. Now, looking at my future and seeing my move back to Italy come closer I panicked.

At home, I’m still the Elena that people knew before I left. They don’t know that I practice yoga. They don’t know what I’ve been thru in this year. They don’t know that I changed, I grew a lot and I realized a lot of things. Now I can argue with you, I don’t hide afraid of what people may think of my opinion. I’ve learned to admit if I’m wrong. I’ve learned how to use my brain in a situation in which before I would have just given up, most of all when it comes to math. I go out. I have fun. I talk with strangers and I’m not shy anymore. I’m aware of myself. I think speaking another language, putting myself in another environment pushed me so much further that now I don’t want to go back. And I know it may sound crazy thinking that just going back may bring the old me out but it’s that what scares me the most.

When I think how I felt back in Italy I can only see dark and a word comes to my mind: STUCK. I was stuck and that’s what I hate about going back home. This feeling back in me. Here I feel unstoppable, capable of doing everything. I feel my future brighter. I know it’s going to be harder about the visa but even that doesn’t stop me. It scares me the most go back to Italy than working my ass off to find a way to stay here. I know, a lot of people may think it’s just crazy. If you go back home you have your family, your friends, your country. I love my family and I love my friends but what you love it doesn’t always mean it is right for you. And I truly wished I was the girl who missed home so much she just wanted to go back, but it’s not me, not now.

I know it’s going to be hard, going back home. But after days of being anxious and negative, I now feel like I can achieve everything. I just have to keep reminding myself that yeah, I can go back to Italy for a period of time, but I can never go back to the Elena that I was before. I’m not going to allow it.

NAMASTE.                                                                                                                         

 

Advertisements

Overcome fear: front row in yoga class

When I go to yoga class I tend to arrive pretty early for several reasons. I like to just lay on the mat and relax, let my thoughts wonder. It helps my body to get adjusted to the heat in a hot yoga class and, lastly, it gives me the opportunity to find a spot in the last row, away from the mirrors and the other yogi’s eyes. I know, as much as yoga boosted my self-esteem I still have a long path to walk to just love myself completely.

On Tuesday I had class at 7 pm. Since I live just 5 minutes away from the studio I decided to leave as always a half an hour or 25 minutes before the class. It was my first time and I forgot that traffic can be really mean at that hour. I got stuck in the traffic for fifteen minutes and once I’ve arrived at the studio the last row was full. I don’t know which kind of face I did but inside I felt like I was trapped. The second row was full too. The only spots available were in the first row. PANIC.

Since I had no choice, still panicking, I rolled my mat in front of the mirrors. I grabbed my block and a strap and then I sat down. I didn’t even look at myself in the mirror, I laid down and started to try to stop the anxiety moment and focusing on my upcoming practice.

The class started and surprisingly, I started to create a good connection with the mirror, with the image reflected. It wasn’t perfect but the mirror, the one that I thought was my enemy, helped me correcting those poses that I was doing wrong. I aligned my hips better, I tried to make my pose look like the teacher’s one. The time was passing by and I gained so much confidence that in mountain pose, instead of looking at a distant point, I was looking at myself, in my eyes. I felt so fierce. I was so focused. The mirror that I was so afraid of started to become my friend throughout the practice. At the end, while I was sipping my water, I was actually smiling at my reflection.

What did I learn from Tuesday practice? I learned that what I fear the most may be good for me at the point that next practice I’ll just put myself in the front row, no matter if there are spots available in the last row. Because I overcame a fear and now I don’t want to put myself in the back row anymore. I want to stay in the front and focus just to be better in my practice, focusing just on my gaze I kept tree pose twice, a thing that never happened before. I’ve learned that overcome fears can be a turning point in your life, not just in the yoga practice.

NAMASTE.

A crazy road trip to Yellowstone.

Road trips are always a great idea, this last one was probably my best one so far: Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t think I was going to do it for real until it happened. I live in Madison, WI, and to Wyoming, where the park is, it’s a 16 hours drive minimum, without stopping once. A little crazy, I know, but I have to say proudly that we made it.

We left June 30th, a Friday night around 6 pm to our first stop: Minneapolis, MN. We drove 4 hours and 12 minutes. Just those hours made me realize I had found the right people to travel with. We started singing, laughing, making fun of each other in a good way and take pictures of an amazing sunset.

IMG_2954

IMG_2970

The next day, July 1st, we started our 12 hours drive till Billings, Montana, the closest and most of all cheapest place before entering Yellowstone Park. The drive was long, at one point it felt like endless. Being four made the drive shifts pretty easy. We didn’t plan any kind of stop on the way but when we saw from the highway the Painted Canyon of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we could not pull over into the overlook.

IMG_2986

IMG_3031

Around 8 pm we arrived in Billings, Montana, at a Motel 6. We relaxed our tired bones in the pool and then we fell asleep after a nice shower.

On July 2nd, we left Billings to the North Eastern Entrance of the Yellowstone Park. When we saw the Rocky Mountains we all got super excited because we all come from mountains places while Wisconsin, on the other hand, has nothing but flat lands.

IMG_3113

On the way to the entrance, we stopped a couple of times. First, at an overlook point where we admired the mountains all around us. The second stop was at a beautiful waterfall. The landscape was amazing, I felt like in a western movie.

IMG_3130IMG_3182

Finally, around noon, we arrived at the entrance. Obviously, we had to take a picture with the sign just to prove ourselves that we really made it!

IMG_3225.jpg

The entrance fee is 30$ per car for 7 days. After we paid we drove thru the park and we started to see the first Bisons and deer. Our first stop was at the Mammoth Hot Springs.

IMG_3261IMG_3409

After walking around the springs, we stopped to hit the restrooms and look around in the souvenir shop. Our second stop, for the day, was the Canyon of the Yellowstone with the Lower Waterfall.

IMG_3336IMG_3337

IMG_3327.jpg

Since it was already 5 pm, we decided to drive to Cameron, Montana, where we booked our room for the night. From the West Entrance of the park, it was only one hour drive and we passed thru Idaho too. Every mile closer to Cameron we started to become a little worried. There was nothing around. No towns, no houses, just beautiful hills and some ranches with horses and cows. We discovered that the Blue Moon Saloon, where our cabin was, was basically the main attraction of Cameron. The people there were really nice, we had dinner at the saloon and then, after watching the sunset we decided to head to bed.

IMG_3373

Island Park, Idaho

IMG_3388IMG_3399

IMG_3404

On July 3rd, the third and second to last day, we drove back to Yellowstone. We stopped a couple of times on the way to the Grand Prismatic just to take pictures and enjoy the nature.

IMG_3425IMG_3441

At the Grand Prismatic, there was a lot of people but the place was extraterrestrial. The bacterias inside the water create those amazing colors and when the sun started to reflect on the water everything was so bright and beautiful that we stopped taking pictures and we just admired.

IMG_3532IMG_3544IMG_3576

Our second stop for the day was the Old Faithful. Let’s say it, I’m not patient, at all. Waiting for a geyser to erupt was the longest and most stressful thing that I’ve ever done. We were under the 1 pm sun, it was hot and people kept lying to us about the time. As soon as we arrived an old man told us that the geyser was going to erupt in 15 minutes. We sat in a good position on one of the benches along the border. About 10 minutes later another man behind us said it was going to erupt at 1:20 pm. Our patience slowly went out of control when it was 1: 30 pm and the Old Faithful was becoming the Old Unfaithful to us. Around 1:35 pm it started to bubble a little bit but never as much as it should. Just ten minutes later, finally, the geyser erupted and we enjoyed the three minutes show.

IMG_3615.jpg

After the Old Faithful erupted we decided to continue our road trip to the Yellowstone Lake. Going away from the Old Faithful parking lot was a nightmare because everybody left at the same time. Plus, the Old Faithful Lodge got evacuated in that moment because of a “fire”. It took us 20 minutes to free ourselves from the traffic and hit the road till the lake.

IMG_3651

We stopped at a gift store and then we hit the road thru the mountains. After the mountains there were just endless roads so we decided to stop, trying not to be hit by cars, to take those pictures that you always see but you never had the chance to take. It was one of the funniest things that I’ve ever done and it was totally worth it.

IMG_3678IMG_3718IMG_3759IMG_3792IMG_3802

After all the excitement for the amazing pictures, we decided to stop in Greybull, WY, to do gas. Why do I remember so well a place in which we should have stopped just to do gas? Well, the thing is from that moment things got a little bit complicated. The car started to do weird noises as soon as we slowed down. Having a person that knows about cars in a road trip is always helpful and Franzi, our technician, understood that something was going on with the brakes. It was the evening of the 3rd of July, we all knew that we weren’t in a good situation. Nobody is open in a little town in the middle of nowhere right on the 4th of July. Luckily, we found help in Brenda, a receptionist in a hotel in Greybull, that with Jonh, her boyfriend, told us that going to Gillette with those breaks wasn’t a good idea. We would have hit the mountains again and braking, even if it is just the rear brakes, can be dangerous. We decided to take their advice: drive back to Billings, Montana, on the highway and try to find somebody open that night or the day after. Slowly and carefully we drove two hours till Billings. On the drive we called as many car repair shops possible, we were hopeless at one point till we found a place that was going to open the day after at 9 am and it had all the pieces we needed. We were so relieved that we start joking again.

The day after we brought the car to the car repair. The couple was lovely and helped us as much as they could. The car wasn’t in good conditions but, they told us, it would have made its way back to Wisconsin. At 12 pm we left Billings, ready to hit the road for the last time till Madison, WI. We needed to do one last stop. On the way to Madison, passing thru South Dakota, we decided to visit Mount Rushmore. Truth to be told: it was a little bit of a delusion. In movies, it looks so huge and majestic. In real life, well, it’s ok.

IMG_3882IMG_3891

We left Mount Rushmore around 7 pm. We arrived in Madison, WI, at 8 a.m. the next day. In the meanwhile? A lot of driving, a couple of stops to do gas and stretch ourselves, a beautiful sunset, an amazing sunrise, deep conversations in the middle of the night just to keep us awake. We arrived home tired, we barely kept ourselves awake the last hour. It was a tough drive but we arrived home in time to work right away. Yeah, we needed to be home by the 5th morning because we all had to work, that’s why the crazy drive-thru Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin to arrive home in time.

This road trip has been amazing. I’m so thankful to Giusy, Franzi, and Andrea that decided to hit the road with me on this crazy road trip. I’m thankful for all the miles we drove, all the songs we sang, all the jokes we made, all the smile we shared and all the amazing sceneries that we saw. I’m so happy I’ve seen such a good part of the United States on the Independence Day weekend. We never had a fight, even when things went wrong we supported each other and we kept smiling because we were so lucky to see all that beauty that the rear brakes broke weren’t the worst thing that could have happened to us. We bonded and we created amazing memories that I’m never going to forget. This road trip taught us a lot about ourselves, America and how cars work. Just in 4 days, we drove thru Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and South Dakota. I added to my list 5 States and I can’t wait to add even more on my next road trip on the West Coast in August. For now, thank you again to my fellow companions for the amazing and unforgettable experience and thank you America, once again, to be my second home.

IMG_3464.jpg

NAMASTE.

Why I love the summer in Madison

No matter who you are going to talk with, if you come to Madison, Wisconsin, during the winter people are going to tell you to stay strong because “the summer here is worth every single snowflake.” I grew up in Italy, I know what summer means, how amazing it can be, so I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning. I must say that they were right: Madison in the summer is amazing. Everything brightens up, people are always outside doing every kind of activity and the city is full of events. You can’t get bored here if you like being outdoors and enjoy the warmth of the sun. After a winter like the ones in Wisconsin, believe me, you are going to love every single ray of sun.

THE TERRACE AT MEMORIAL UNION

If you come to Madison in the summer this is the place to go. No matter what, hands down, this is home for thousands of people during the days and nights from May to September. Colorful chairs and tables are set in front of Lake Mendota that always gifts with amazing sunsets. I traveled a lot, I saw amazing places but the sunsets that Madison has, I’ve seen nowhere. I love to spend time here with friends, just chit chatting in front of a pitcher of beer to share. The Union is part of the UW Campus and has been recently renewed. It has a lot of varieties of food provided. You definitely should try the Orange Custard Chocolate Chip ice cream. It’s a must to do at the Terrace. During the evenings, something is always going on: movie night, open mic or live bands playing.

IMG_0631

Sunset from the Terrace.

IMG_1640

STATE STREET

State Street is a “pedestrian mall” that links the Capitol Square to the University of Wisconsin Campus. It’s a good place where to find amazing and unique pieces in the interesting stores all along the street. If you like arts and crafts you have for sure stop in one of the many independent shops. Here you can find the Overture Center for the Arts, the Orpheum Theater, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. There’s plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. During the night State Street becomes Madison’s main attraction. People love to pub crawl from the top to the bottom of State Street. Everything closes at 2:30 am. For a foreigner like me, still pretty early.

I had the best and the worst times of my life on this street with people from all over the world. State Street is not only a summer place, it’s all year-around but with the warm weather is definitely easier to walk around without risking to freeze. Go to Tiki Bar if you want cheap alcohol, at the Piano Bar if you want good music, Whiskey Jacks if you want to dance and Mondays if you want totally get wasted.

IMG_0210

State Street.

PADDLEBOARDING OR KAYAKING ON THE LAKES

Before coming here I had never kayak or paddle board. After one year and a half, I can easily say I can’t imagine my life without those two activities. Madison has three major lakes: Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, and Lake Wingra. On all the three lakes there’s plenty of places where to rent boats, paddleboard or kayak. I personally have a membership at Wingra Boats, on Lake Wingra, a wake-free lake surrounded by the UW Arboretum. I love this place. Paddleboarding or kayaking in it truly relaxes me. I think Lake Wingra’ seaweed situation is slightly better than in the other two lakes. During weekdays there’s a boat that cleans the lake from the majority of seaweeds.

IMG_0396

Lake Wingra

PARKS

Madison is full of parks and beaches where to relax, do some yoga and take a walk in nature:

  • James Madison Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Mendota;
  • Tenney Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Mendota;
  • Olin Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Monona that has an amazing view of the Madison skyline;
  • The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum is a teaching and research facility of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the site of historic research in ecological restoration. 1,260 acres (5 km2) in Madison, Wisconsin. Beautiful place where to walk in nature;
  • Picnic Point is a nearly mile-long peninsula along Lake Mendota’s south shore.
IMG_1400

View from Olin Park.

IMG_1104.jpg

View from Picnic Point

FARMER’S MARKET

Madison and its suburbs are full of farmer’s markets during the spring and summer time. The most known is the one held on every Saturday morning on the Capitol Square. The Market encircles the Square. farmers market

DEVIL’S LAKE – BARABOO

If you want to drive 45 minutes up north you should totally visit Devil’s Lake. It’s a great place where to hike, swim, relax at the beach, have a picnic, paddleboard or kayak. It’s a State Park so the entrance with the car costs 8$ if you have a Wisconsin License Plate. There’s a concession over there where to buy souvenirs and food. The internet signal is weak but surrounded by so much beauty it’s definitely not something you are going to complain about. The water is clear, no seaweeds.

IMG_1652.jpg

At the end, I think it’s pretty clear, I love Madison in the summer. There are so many things to do, places where to go and hike, swim, paddleboard, kayak or simply relax. It’s a perfect place to discover your inner outdoorsy personality. I have to thank Madison because it’s here that I figured out I didn’t want to be a lazy person anymore and I dragged myself outdoor discovering how amazing it is just to be in the sun and do things surrounded by nature.

 

NAMASTE.

 

A letter to 20-years-old me.

I’m about to turn 25. A big step. A milestone. A quarter of a century I’ve been alive and today, in one of my last days as 24 years old, I can’t be happier with how my life is turning out. The other day I was thinking of my 20-years-old version and I smiled. I guess that Elena just enrolled as a freshman at University would be pretty impressed with how her life turned out to be. I remembered how hard I tried to plan my life throughout college, trying to find a place in the world, always changing my mind about what I would have liked to do with my life, over and over again. Easy to say that except the part in which I moved to the States everything else faded away.

I see my 20-years-old me trapped in a world that wasn’t hers. I see her dealing with exams she wasn’t interested in, handling people who didn’t make her happy, a life that she wasn’t dreaming for herself. I see that period as pitch black, so I want to give my past me some advice.

First of all, it’s not going to be easy moving abroad. You are going to love it, but some moments are going to be hard even for a positive soul like you. Luckily, you are going to meet amazing people from all over the world. Those people are going to become your friends, they are going to be an important part of your life. It doesn’t matter how long have you meet them and how far they are going to live from you. Meanwhile, keep close those few friends from home, they are going to be there for you even an ocean apart. Among those amazing people, you are going to meet people who are going to break your heart. Don’t be too sad, those people weren’t meant to be part of your life. You’ll find someone who is going to fix you in a moment in which you are expecting nothing.

Stop keeping your problems for yourself because you are afraid to hurt somebody. Speak up, talk with that person. I know, it’s going to be damn hard but you are going to be so relieved at the end. Cry your tears out, don’t hold anything in, stop it. You are going to be alone in hard times, crying is the only thing that won’t make you explode. No matter what, your family is always going to come first and be there for you. No matter what’s going on.

Travel, as much as you can. You are going to see amazing places, you won’t be disappointed. Your crave for traveling will be truly and deeply satisfied.

Keep your mind wide open, always. Stop judging people, it’s not nice. Go to that yoga class, it’s going to change your life.

In the end, everything is going to be alright, stop worrying about the future, start living the present. You have so many things to be grateful for.

IMG_0223.jpg

NAMASTE.

What I’ve learned in 30 days of hot yoga

I know, it may seem that with all these travels I’ve been shirker about yoga. It’s absolutely not true. I fell in love with yoga even more after every class that I took in a local studio, Dragonfly Hot Yoga.

I’ve bought a 40 $ intro offer that allowed me to take unlimited classes at the four locations for one month. I’ve started May, 15th and I just finished my last class with the intro offer. On Monday, I’m about to start my membership at the yoga studio. It’s quite expensive, 99$ per month. When you are an au pair is not easy stuff, but I’ve decided that yoga is something I don’t want to give up because I’m an au poor. 

Since I’ve started hot yoga, three times a week, I’ve seen progress in my body. It doesn’t mean that I’ve lost thousands of pounds, it means that I fell in love with my body in a way I’ve never fallen before. I feel stronger, I feel prouder, I fell like I’m totally ok with who I am. Growing up I’ve always struggled with my body weight, even in periods in which my body was ok. I’ve never suffered bulimia or anorexia, but in my mind, my body was never enough, not even when I had people telling me it was, that there was nothing wrong. It is something in your mind. If it doesn’t click you are not free of your own judgment. It’s been almost 5 months that I’ve started practicing yoga and I’ve never felt so in love with my body. No matter the pounds, no matter the chubby tummy, no matter the huge thighs, nothing matter because it clicked, in my brain: my body is perfect as it is. Finally, after almost 25 years, I’m ok with my body and I have to thank yoga.

I realized it while I was practicing at the studio. I was in the downward facing dog, I looked at the mirror to my left and I liked what I saw. I was surprised. The line wasn’t perfect, I still have to work on it, but I liked it, the shape of my body. I looked at the mirror surprised it was me. Since that class, I tried to free myself from my own judgment because that was the one that stopped me so many times to go to a yoga class. I was so afraid to not be good enough that I didn’t sign up at any yoga studio for months before the beginning class that I took. I was so scared to see other people judging me. But now, when I’m in class I only see myself.

I practice at a hot yoga studio. I found out that I love to sweat. It may sound disgusting but I love to sweat out from every single pore of my body. I love to end the class tired but happy. Because that is the thing that really surprised me: I was happy even after at one point in the class I wanted to die.

I was happy. I’m happy every time I finish a class. I’m happy and that’s the main reason that I want to keep practicing, no matter the price. I found an amazing studio, with a really welcoming staff and a really friendly environment. I feel at home even since it’s only one month that I’m practicing there.

So, my yoga practice is going really good. I have a membership at a yoga studio. I’m practicing three times a week, even more, if I can figure it out with the work schedule. I still can’t do a lot of poses but I’m working on it. I feel so proud and happy for myself, it’s a feeling that I’ve never felt before and I’m starting to really like it.

NAMASTE.

Niagara Falls

The main reason why I went to Toronto was to kill two birds with one stone: visit Canada and see the Niagara Falls. If Toronto didn’t steal my heart like I wrote in my last post, the Niagara Falls did. I was a little afraid that because I pictured them with such optimistic thoughts they were going to disappoint me. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.

We took a Greyhound bus from Toronto at 9 am. One hour and a half later we were at the bus station in downtown Niagara Falls. We walked 40 minutes and then we arrived at the eccentric part of the town, the part that reminded me of Las Vegas with casinos and a lot of tourists attractions.

But as soon as we saw the falls we forgot everything. We just focused on the falls and it was all worthy.

IMG_2514IMG_2519

We wanted to get closer so we decided to take the Hornblower Niagara Cruise. It was 25$ CAD and, in my modest opinion, it was worth every single penny. We had fun, we took really good pictures, we definitely got wet and we saw those amazing natural wonders so close that it was outstanding. I vividly suggest to do it to anyone eager to go to the Niagara Falls, no matter which side, American or Canadian, because it gives you the experience of a lifetime.

IMG_2572IMG_2577IMG_2586IMG_2592IMG_2628IMG_2634

After having lunch at the Great Canadian Burger, we decided that it was time to head back to Toronto. We saw what we wanted and we didn’t care about all the tourists’ attractions nearby the falls. Our feet were done walking, so we decided to take the bus but, apparently, you can’t buy a single ticket. The bus system works with a 7$ daily ticket. So, trying not to think how destroyed our feet were, we decided to walk back. We took the Greyhound bus to Toronto around 3 PM. In about 5 hours we saw what we wanted to see in Niagara Falls.

We definitely loved it, we liked it more than Toronto itself because it didn’t disappoint our ideas and, with a really good weather, we had the opportunity to experience it at its fullest.

NAMASTE.