After a long discussion with my cousin about WWOOF (see “WWOOF Italia: The Beginning), I went home and immediately signed up. A year membership cost me $25 and I was provided with “The List.”
What is “The List”? WWOOF Italia sends a word document that lists hundreds of farms to choose from. I was overwhelmed at first, but I had a clear vision as to where I would begin. Naples. More on that later.
To summarize my backstory, I had three eventful days in Naples in 2009 at the end of a month-long backpacking trip. The goal was to not only learn about the city, but also to find the church where my ancestors were married in the late 1800s before they immigrated to the United States.
Nobody wanted me to visit Naples, Italy – not even my Italian friends. So I had to go, of course. On the second to last day of my trip, I stood at the top of Mount Vesuvius and visited the ruins of Pompeii, which had an enormous impact on me. By the next morning, I knew exactly where I needed go, and the location was the land of my ancestors forty miles east of Naples: Avellino and Solofra.
For years I had learned about the history of my great-grandma Philomena, who arrived in the United States in 1905 as a young child. As I grew up in the mid-80s, my Dad would take the family to Las Vegas once a year to visit our enormous family and “Grandma Mamie” (Philomena) who eventually passed away in 1994.
When I boarded the train in Naples, Italy on October 30th, 2009, I had no idea what would happen, but had a clear idea of what I wanted to happen. The night before, my great-aunt Sharon (daughter of Philomena) cleared up some information regarding the church and the location. Until that moment, the town of Avellino was my target, however Sharon re-directed me to a village nearby called Solofra. You can read my account of the final day on my personal blog HERE.
I had a clear goal in mind by returning to Italy: it was personal. The term “free spirit” is thrown around a lot by people who don’t like to think outside their comfort zone, and they are usually the same people who would only see WWOOF as a way for a person to escape and have fun. No…no. I had a mission. I wanted to immerse myself in local culture, see new parts of Italy and ultimately return to correct the situation I encountered in the village of my ancestors. When one takes big risks, there are big rewards, and that’s what I seek. However, when hard times hit while traveling, they happen quick and can easily turn into a nightmare if you’re not careful. The best part of traveling is the unexpected, and what you can take with you in life from those experiences.
Inspiration comes to people in various ways, and for me it comes through travel. I knew the WWOOF experience would be important to me as a person, and also my future. It wasn’t about having fun, it was about inspiration and unfinished business.
At the end of the day, my personal circumstances allowed me to take a risk and deal with the consequences. I could live with that because I never doubted myself. I just said “fuck it,” and it was on.
To be continued…
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