One of the views from our hike to the castle ruins in Sora

I had been toying with a yoga retreat for several months so when I decided to leave my comfortable government job to venture back to the private sector, I figured there was no time like the present!  I was really looking to get out of my head, spend some time alone, in nature, experience a different culture, reflect and refocus.  I was hoping to ground myself and to explore me as a person in a different Country without the comfort of routine, the safety of home, the familiarity of my language, friends and family.   I wanted to deepen my yoga practice and augment my knowledge of Reiki – spend some time balancing the chakras that were blocked and reconnecting with my purpose and my passions.

Although originally my intention was to travel somewhere in Indonesia, by the time I factored in the flight it would take an extra four days and two thousand dollars so – Italy it was!  Off I went to stay on a farm between Sora and Pescosolido which are hill towns in the southern region of Italy.  It was an 8 hour flight to Rome, a half hour train ride to Termini, a 45 minute subway journey to Anangnina then a 2 hour bus ride to Sora.  I managed to navigate the transfers with little difficulty despite a little bit of track confusion at the bus station and arrived – a little car sick and tired, but alive and in the beautiful countryside hills of Italy.

Lesson One – Accept the things you cannot change 

As I was waiting for the bus in Anangnina, I checked in with Antonello, the owner of the farm.  He was making arrangements to have me picked up in Sora.  He told me that the farm had a large group of students there so when I arrived tonight, I would be staying elsewhere at his friend – Anna’s.  Having traveled for over 14 hours by the time I would get to the property, I was really hoping to get settled rather than staying elsewhere for one night, not being able to unpack and having to worry about the uncertainty of how or when I would get to begin my farm stay the following day.  That said, I learned a long time ago that there is no point in getting frustrated or filling yourself with negative emotions over things you have no control over, so Anna’s it was and I reminded myself to be grateful that I had a roof over my head and that roof was in the mountains of Italy! 

In the end, this was the best diversion from the “scheduled” plan since I met the 2 other women who were staying at Anna’s and we instantly became friends.   As it turned out, when I arrived at the farm the following day, I was the only guest for that week (although there were lots of volunteers) so had I not spent my first night at Anna’s I wouldn’t have found my hiking and horseback riding partners in crime. We spent a few days (and several kilometers) trekking the glorious mountains of Sora and Pescosolido together.

Lesson Two – When one door closes, another one opens

One of the main reasons I booked Italy Farm Retreat was because it offered both yoga and Reiki.  I started studying Reiki a few months ago.  I have completed levels one and two online.  I experienced a Reiki session earlier this year and have practiced on myself however have not had any formal, in person training.  I was really hoping to deepen my knowledge of the practice and experience it hands on (metaphorically of course because Reiki is about the energy, not the hands!)  Well as it turned out, the Reiki Healer was not at the farm the week I was there so Reiki sessions appeared to be off the table which deeply saddened me.  Understanding that Reiki was one of the key things I was hoping to experience during my farm stay, Antonello got to work and set me up with a Reiki Healer on the outskirts of town mid-week.  He even made arrangements to get me there.  I spent one of the most magical hours of my life with Aletheia.   I could feel every bit of energy flow within me – the negative energy leaving my body, the cleansing of my aura and the replenishment of healing energy shooting through me like fireworks in the sky.  Following the session, I felt as though I had been through a car wash for the soul.  I felt lighter, uninhibited, more grounded and centered.  Aletheia shared with me that it was the most wonderful experience for her as well.  She explained that often people have negative or dark energy and that it is exhausting to treat them.  She went on to tell me that my energy invigorated her, gave her more energy, elevated and uplifted her.  She said she could feel the purity of my soul and the goodness within me.  I have never received more sincere, heartwarming compliments in my life. 

Perhaps the Farm Reiki Healer would have been just as amazing but I believe I was meant to be with Aletheia that day and if the “scheduled” healer was available, I would have missed out on this life changing experience.

Lesson Three – Experiences don’t need luggage

The farm I stayed at is run by volunteers.  Volunteers cook, clean, harvest and teach yoga at various places in the village. Most of the volunteers range in age from early twenties to mid-thirties.  I practiced with 3 different yoga instructors during my stay, one from Mexico, one from the US and one from Scandinavia.  All of them have been traveling for years, individually.  Each of them have studied yoga in Indonesia then spent a few months in various cities around the world teaching at different retreats. They have few possessions and travel with a backpack and a yoga mat.  The volunteers have a similar story, minus the yoga and a little less of a nomad style since most have a home base.  They spend time volunteering at different farms or summer camps during the summer months so they can experience the world, then they go home as the cooler weather approaches.  I met people from Argentina, Germany, France, England, Holland, Norway and the United States.  Even the 2 guests I met at Anna’s traveled with only a backpack and a smile.  I admired all of them for their strength, courage and so many other reasons.

As I hauled my medium sized luggage with wheels (wheels which served no purpose as I lugged it up and down the train station stairs) off the farm to start my journey home, it occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t have traveled with a simple carry on.  I consider myself an “experience” over “things” person, so why did I feel the need to bring so many things with me?  In the end, these things just weighed me down, physically and metaphorically!  I’ve come to believe that when we allow ourselves to let go of our things, the lighter we feel and the more in tune we are with our purpose, the more present we are during our journey, and the more enlightened we become through our experiences.

I thoroughly enjoyed my mini sabbatical in the hill towns of Italy.  I learned many other lessons about myself, my survival skills and who I am as a person.  Although I have traveled alone in the past, this experience was unique and I would definitely recommend this or something similar to anyone who is looking to reconnect with themselves or to simply infuse themselves with self-love and care, free from judgement, inhibitions and limitations.