I have no idea where I am, or what there is to do, I thought. I didn’t even think to bring a guidebook.
It was a funny feeling. I suppose my adrenaline had been pumping since I’d landed, tasked nervously as I was with navigating myself from airport to B&B. It’d had been wonderfully simple, though, hopping from plane to bus to street, following the directions I’d laid out for myself via Googlemap.
I’d gotten to the B&B early, laughing and joking in unsure Italian – I’m convinced I sound like a caveman – the owner noting my Marco Polo-like adventuring. The obvious truth only later whacked me full pelt in the face: Laura! You’re communicating in Italian! She understands you! YOU UNDERSTAND HER! GET. IT. GURL.
In fact, I haven’t spoken a single English word out loud since I got to Sardinia, and I’m talking all the time. I’ve missed those sounds on my tongue, the sing-song melody of words that become poetry with the rolling r’s and trilling vowels. I’ve resolved to chat with everyone I can so that I’m able to practice, and most of the time – almost always – I understand exactly what’s going on. The rest of the time I smile and nod. Smile, and nod.
And anyway, speaking Italian is not the point of this post, the point of this post is to say: wow. I’ve absolutely no-one and nothing to answer to, and here, on this island, this week, feels like the first time in a long time that I’ve not had a schedule, an agenda. There are no objectives. It’s dizzying.
I spent the first day feeling inexplicably guilty about it. I rose early to go running, showered, ate a big breakfast and pocketed an apple for later. I stabbed at a map and picked a place to visit, asking locals where I might find the bus and buying a ticket in the nearest bar and YES! I thought. I AM TOTALLY MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY SECOND!!!!!!!!!
Except, I felt kind of… angsty. Jittery.
I’d an hour-long bus journey to stare out of the window at the hills and sea, heading to a beach armed with cherries and fizzy water where I sat on the pashmina that has travelled the world with me for the past ten years (!), crossed legged and sleepy, looking out at the view under the guise of sunbathing and sucking the fruit from the stalk one by one, staying very still for what – an hour? Two?
It was only when I did fuck all that I noted, with some amusement, that I am utterly unpractised at it.
I do not know how to do nothing.
Since I figured that much out, it has become almost a game to me. How much can I not do? I’ve walked, aimlessly and without point, to churches and gelatarias and large bodies of water. I sat in a bar for an entire morning, sipping at a drink slowly until the ice had melted away completely, writing, because I wanted to write. Oh, to write and keep writing! I ran a bath, once, too, laced with baby oil and jasmin, and for seven minutes sweated in the tub before pulling the plug and declaring, out loud, actually, THAT IS NOT WHAT I WANT.
It’s utterly hilarious to me that by doing less, I feel like… more.
One lunchtime, as I was busy doing fuck all and exactly what I chose with equal measure, I stumbled upon a sign offering free wifi and a “worker’s lunch” for €12, and so me, myself, and I had an internal conference wherein we decided that yes, a three-course meal with wine and coffee was exactly what we wanted to spend two hours in the middle of the day doing.
The man behind the bar read me the menu from where it had been scrawled on a post-it, and I told him I’d have whatever he thought was good. I asked him about how to get online, and he laughed and said there was no Internet - to just eat my food and not be an asshole.
Which was a fair point, really.
So that’s what I did. Watched people come and go, at my salmon penne pasta and grilled vegetables and whole fresh-that-morning fish, accompanied by red wine and black coffee and a tiramisu to finish.
I did absolutely nothing but focus on the delicious, incredible process of fork-to-mouth, and I mean yeah, I might’ve been a little drunk by this point but I swear to God before I left my eyes started to well up a little – I got legitimately choked up – because it felt like the tiniest glimpse into something I can’t wait to find out more about.
This, I thought to myself. This is what it feels like to live well. This is what it feels like not to plan.