Food-For-Thought-Keep-the-People-You-Love-Close-to-YouLiving in Italy for the past 6 years has taught me many things, but the most important lesson I’ve learned from living abroad is: the importance of family and friends. Throughout my life I had been surrounded by family and friends and enjoyed both their company and love, as well as their support when I needed advice or a shoulder to cry on. I didn’t realize how important this network of people was until I uprooted myself and found myself alone in Italy without family, friends or even the capacity to speak the language.

Leaving was my choice.  At 25 years old, I desired complete and utter isolation. I wanted to learn the Italian language, I wanted to write a novel and I wanted to prove to myself that I could survive on my own.

Looking back now, I realize how smart and stupid I was. On the first flight of my 10 month around the world trip, I watched the film Into The Wild, based on the true story of Christopher McCandless. On the first page of my travel journal I wrote down my favorite quote from the film:

“Happiness is only real, when shared.”

 I continued to write, “There are so many benefits of being self-sufficient and independent as that makes you a stronger and a more confident person. But, at the end of the day, it is truly about love. Love is what life is worth living for.”

I knew the secret of happiness from the beginning of my adventure, but chose to ignore it, almost challenge it, as I strove for isolation. This lead to a period of unhappiness that I probably could have avoided had I listened to my own advice.

That’s the irony of being human, I suppose. We often know what is good for us, but we still don’t do it. We know we should eat healthy, exercise and get fresh air every day; otherwise, we will pay the consequences. Yet, even if we know there will be  consequences, it is not enough. We want to try, experiment and take risks. We want to explore the unexplored.

We are hungry to discover something new, but we are thirsty for love.

Love from others allows us to taste the unknown. Love takes away any bitter taste left in our mouth as well as helps wash down any bite too big without the risk of choking. The people that we love are the water and wine of our lives.

We know that in order to maintain a relationships with these people, it requires daily work; otherwise, they will fall apart. I encourage myself as well as all of you, to be mindful today of the people that are most important in your life. Drop by their house, write them a message or give them a call. Do something to show that you are thinking of them and that they are important in your life.

Continue to risk, continue to explore, cultivate your passions and never satiate your hunger. But, do it with others.

This is why I say: love, hunger, passion.

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cindy swain NYC

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