Why you should go to Rome

My last (and first!) post, I asked the collective you: If you could move anywhere in the world, where would you go? I’m pretty sure our answer to this question — Hawaii obv — is closely related to another question we asked ourselves just last year, which right now seems like days of yore.

We had a little windfall. We asked ourselves (OK, I asked myself — I was driving that train): We can go anywhere in the world. Where will we go?

And after about three seconds, I answered myself: Italy.

None of us had been off this continent, and none of us even had a passport. Well, Josh had one for a trip to China he never took, and he needed a new one anyway. We remedied the passport situation:

Image may contain: 4 people

These aren’t bad passport pics. We’d gone to RiteAid first. They gave us photos that were not the required head shots. They could have been fashion “DON’TS.” It appeared the photog took the pics all the way from the pharmacy area because our entire outfits were in the frame. We were, unsurprisingly, turned away in the probate office and prodded toward a real photo outfit. Thank you, In and Out Photography.

But here are some bigger lessons we learned that I mean to keep in mind not just with this move, but in our future travels:

Go to Rome

Or, the “Rome” wherever you’re going. The scary place. The sacred place. The overwhelming place you feel seriously cowed about, feeling you’d be safer skipping it and just reading about it instead.

At first I was terrified of going to the real Rome. Why, I’m not sure — I live in Atlanta, for heaven’s sake. I was afraid of everything I read: Rome is brutal; Rome is full of pickpockets; Rome is hard to get around; Rome is rude. “If you get on a bus there, be prepared for someone to cause a scene and divert your attention so they can slash your bag straight off your shoulder.”

Such was my fear of Rome that at first we planned to huddle in our hotel room until we could make Rome go away, i.e. flee to our Tuscan agriturismo, the bucolic centerpiece of our trip. The “real” Italy we’d come to see.

How glad I am we ventured out into Rome. We discovered so many important things:

Your children might dance on ancient ruins.
Your children might dance on ancient ruins on a glorious spring day.


The history of a great civilization is shocking, and everyone should know about it.


Rome is walkable. From one end to the other. You’ll want to see everything in between, so you might as well hoof it.


Getting lost really is no big deal.
Getting lost really is no big deal. I think we’re just looking for the gelato place Federica, our Colosseum guide, told us about.


Your children can have their own private history lesson gazing into the . Does it get better than this? Correct answer: no.
Your children can have their own private history lesson gazing into the grand pit of the Colosseum itself. Does it get better than this? Answer: No.


The majesty of this place -- this is on Palatine Hill -- is unparalleled.
The majesty of this place — here’s Palatine Hill — takes your breath away.


I’m not suggesting people not heed safety precautions. I mean, do prepare. Maybe that’s what allowed us to be so carefree. We’re glad we bought the money belts and the anti-theft day bag, though we really didn’t need it.


  • Rome isn’t brutal. Not in my opinion. Rome is beautiful, and friendly, and it changed my life. I have a growing library about Rome. I have a gmail address called RomeGirl.
  • You can avoid crowds — and avoid completely missing the point of your destination — by booking good Through Eternity tours. And now I’m a tour aficionado. Tours sound boring. But they can make the difference between wandering around in futility, and having an engaging time that’ll stay with you and your crowd.
  • Walk. You don’t need too many buses, cabs and private cars.
  • If you’re polite, and try to learn a little of the language — even just a few words — the locals will appreciate it and respond in helpful ways.

So. When we go to Hawaii, we’ll get ready. We’ll follow these very same rules, perhaps especially the last — respect the culture because the success and the quality of our stay will depend on it. And,, first off, we’ll take all the locals-led tours. Locals love to show you their treasures, and they know a hell a lot more about it than we do.

Meanwhile, we’ll banish fear:

  • Fear of haole-haters
  • Fear of electric bills that will drive us off the grid (maybe off the grid using solar power isn’t a bad thing?)
  • Fear we can’t find jobs because corporate people report having a rough time doing so. I feel for them, but we’re just not corporate people.
  • We’ll get island fever. I grew up on an island. Why should I get island fever?

So — just like with Rome. I’ve been fearing other people’s fears.

One more: Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and not close to anything else. I know we covered that. But OK, this remains really scary. Deep breaths.

I could go on and on. Instead I’ll stop and ask: Do you want to see our Italy vacation slides?

Where have you gone or what have you done that changed your whole outlook?


Weaning off milk

We’re moving to Hawaii. Big Island, green side we think (the one where it rains every day — but oh so lush). From metro Atlanta. The minute our house sells. Or the school year ends. My husband Josh and I have a gentle battle brewing over this.

I’ve never been to Hawaii, or west of Missouri. A few people have said, “Shouldn’t you go there and visit and take a look first?” And I say, “Yes, this is what I’m doing. I just happen to be selling my house and uprooting my family first.” This way, it’s just the one one-way ticket. Duh.

(Plus, don’t you kind of have to visit for longer than a two-week lei-and-luau vacay to get to the heart of the place anyway? So “visiting” — great idea in theory, but if you don’t dig deep into the day-to-day, what’s the point?)

As a newspaper reporter, I lived to “go where the job was.” In fact, it was kind of a status symbol, moving someplace you’d never been to cover news in a strange place. All of us wanted to “go where the job was.” It made us feel important, like serious journalists. Usually we got dumped in Podunk Wherever on a minuscule salary that also required the dogged use of our cars and weird second-shift beats. As long as the place had one watering hole — usually a restaurant that let us hang out as long as we wanted — we were happy. We lived on our bylines.

I’ve moved sight unseen to cover cop beats in primitive Bible belts where the lurid arrest of bare-chested women’s college coeds at the First Topless Bar the Place Had Ever Seen (or Not Seen, as it were) on obscenity charges — straight off the dance floor! — was big news. It was certainly sensational. My editor sent me with a male coworker along with a brown bag of beer — it was bring-your-own — to cover the story. I was covering it. Why I  needed the male escort puzzles me now. Were they afraid I’d lose my wits and get up on the stage and join the heathen dance?

There was another forlorn little county where if you turned your car around at the tiny county jail where you went to collect police reports, you risked backing into a ditch. You’d have to sheepishly go back in and ask the jailer if he could unlock some inmates to pull you out. Not that I ever did that.

These days, I’m a freelance writer and my by-lines are virtual. I write about safe — or is it? — topics like bacon and social smoking. I can do that from the beach. I don’t care if that beach requires a precious, precious piece of real estate to go with it. Considering where I’ve been, it really does sound safer.

The main employment lure for us, however, is Josh’s doing rehab work on promising homes, which seem in large supply in a place where many people seem to move, buy a house, decide rather soon that they want to leave, give up on selling, move on, and try to forget they ever owned a chunk of heaven. Aside from his work for himself, Josh plans to try to find island work doing Anything, to establish some street cred and maybe some credit references. Here he is destroying renovating our kitchen, which we’re redoing for our home sale.


Spray painting cabinets. Our friend Ricky, a professional finisher, is glazing them.


We also have Limited Knowledge (ignore the picture above). Everyone who wants to tell us how much the milk is/bad the schools are/insanely expensive the place is, please read this first:

Stuff We Know

  • The Argument: Milk costs $9 a gallon. Rebuttal: We just won’t drink the milk, OK? Or choose Jif. No precious imports unless necessary. None of us is under 8, so I think we can do that. We’ll start weaning now.
  • It’s hard to find a place to stay, or a house. Rebuttal: No, it’s not.
  • It’s hard to find a place to stay, or a house you can afford. Rebuttal: OK, your point. The weather’s good. We can live under a tarp while we renovate. These yurts look pretty cool, too:

Seriously — HOW cool is this? Southern Family McQueen, right?

We also know:

  • Some native Hawaiians aren’t keen on Caucasians — aka haoles — moving into their space and acting like they own the place. This I get. We’re pretty polite. I don’t particularly feel like apologizing for my existence or my presence everywhere we go for ever and ever, but I will if I have to. For a while. Next.
  • Taking a pet is a pain in the butt. We have two ancient little dogs we hope to preserve through the plane trip by stopping midway to go to Disneyland. We’re trying to absorb the quarantine rules so we can avoid, er, quarantine in Honolulu. We anticipate trouble.
  • It’s going to cost a fortune to move your stuff! What we don’t sell and what was left to us in someone’s will or something, we’re putting in pod storage so we can send for it. Or, we can turn around and flee, and there it’ll be in storage waiting for us.
  • We’ll regret selling our house. No, we won’t. More on that later.

Then there’s the stuff people presume we know, but some of us really didn’t:

Stuff I Learned Looking at an Atlas

Hawaii is not just a little southeast of California, as it looks on the map. It’s in the middle of the freaking Pacific Ocean, and it’s as isolated as you can possibly get. Did you know that? OK, this scared me when I looked at the map and then I realized it’s not a hop-skip from Cali, it’s a freaking 6-hour plane ride. And it’s nearly as close to Japan as it is the continental U.S., which I still find terrifying and intriguing at once. Then the 2016 Presidential Election happened and these concerns mostly evaporated.

It’s still the U.S., though. Pretty clever, eh? Moving to a place that seems like a foreign country — but it isn’t? We don’t need passports. We just need to score some work, not drink the milk and make it.


If you could move anywhere in the world, where would you go?