Exploring the Rich Potential of Spaciousness

Spaciousness, Folegandros

A Sea of Possibilities © 2017 Jed Smith

I was ready for some spaciousness…or so I thought.

Our long-awaited trip to the tranquil island of Folegandros, Greece, finally had arrived. This would be easy. A quick (and inexpensive) Volotea flight from Venice to Santorini, and then an hour by fast boat to Folegandros. We’d arrive, unplug, and fall into complete bliss while staring out into the vast expanse of the Aegean.

Yep, I had it all planned out. And then, like a drug addict who couldn’t really own up to his addictions, I was hit with the pain of withdrawal from constant doing and thinking. Talk about feeling slapped sideways.

A valuable wake-up call.

Consequently, during our first full day in this glorious island paradise, I was about to jump out of my skin. My personal throttle was stuck in high gear. And my mind was tackling a mess of thoughts at a velocity and ferocity that would leave Pac Man in the dust.

And then it hit me…I’d been filling up my life and distracting myself with constant busyness. When it came time to sit still, I didn’t know how. Well, not at the level being offered to me on this breathtaking island.

“Wherever You Go, There You Are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Crap, I was busted. What was I to do? Jump into planning or doing something to distract myself? Run from being still and avoid inviting the uncertainty of spaciousness into my life?

Then I remembered something

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The Life of a Gondolier

Gondolier, Italysie

Fueling Up © 2017 Jed Smith

When many people come to Venice and negotiate their first gondola ride, they think they’re shelling out a small fortune while the gondolier is making easy money.

Think again.

Becoming a gondolier is no easy feat.

I used to think the whole thing about a taxi driver in NYC having to pay a hefty sum to buy a yellow cab medallion was ridiculous. I believe a wannabe gondolier has more of an uphill climb.

Used to be that a gondolier license had to pass from father to son.

Or to another male family member IF there was no son. Yep, all-in-the-family was the name of the game.

Now the process is even harder.

These days you have to belong to a 1000-year-old Gondolier’s Guild. And that comes only after 400 hours of training under the sponsorship and tutelage

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Big Life Changes and the Shifts of the Soul

Life changes

What will be your guiding light as you embark upon major life changes?

When you decide to up-end your life completely and plop yourself down in a completely different culture like Italy, you might want to be prepared for your soul to start asking some questions. At the very least, it’s going to start poking at the status quo. 

First, I offer the following disclosure: What I share is my experience, and I don’t claim that my particular situation is universal. I share my perspective in case any pearls of wisdom emerge to help you along if you are considering similar monumental life changes.

Where “are” you, as you live your life?

My soul has been asking me this question, a lot. The answer? With a foot planted in each of two worlds: the worlds of thinking and being. And I’m learning that putting most of my weight in the realm of thinking leaves me feeling unsatisfied, small, and with limited options.

Yes,  I’ve favored the world of thinking. It has been my default stance in life for far too long. Somewhere along the way, I decided that if I could intellectually deconstruct any situation and then analyze the hell out of it, I could control it. In many ways, this has served me well. But there’s been a price to pay because, rather than reserving it for good ol’ logistical problem solving, too often it’s taken over the rest of my life. I realize this now and I’m asking the universe to show me how to live without trying to figure out and control everything in advance.

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The Appeal of a Quiet Mind

quiet mind

Stillness ©2017 Jed Smith, oil on canvas

I’ve just completed my latest painting. It’s a big one (39.5″ x 60″) Painting this subject has been immensely gratifying. While the intricate play of shadows was anything but simple, the subject was incredibly soothing to render. More and more I’m letting my heart and intuition guide me as to what to paint. And often it’s only in retrospect that I understand my choice of subjects.

This painting represents, for me, stepping into a quiet mind.

This scene comes from one of my favorite places on earth, the island of Folegandros in Greece. Living in Italy makes hopping over to Greece pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. If you don’t know Folegandros, it is a blissfully serene island with cliffs and views that can stun a person into silence. Its remote location and the absence of an airport help keep this island free from being overrun by tourists.

Sp. when I sat before the blank canvas and considered what I wanted to paint,

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Arm-in-Arm is part of the Italian Culture

arm-in-arm, Italywise

Walking arm-in-arm is part of the Italian culture ©2017 Jed Smith

Italians are passionate and affectionate

I think I can safely draw this conclusion after living in Italy for several years and observing the interactions amongst Italians. The photo above prompts me to pause and pay tribute to the visible bonds communicated by walking arm-in-arm. I’d also be remiss in not speaking to the greeting (and parting) of the kiss on both cheeks.

This photo makes me smile. There’s no question of the sisterhood of this fine ladies. And if you think this is only a sweet custom between women, and older people, think again. You’ll see people of all genders and ages walking arm-in-arm – families and friends alike.

Americans sometimes are a little put off by this.

Clarification of the above statement – not put off by observing this custom, but finding themselves in situations with new Italian friends and not knowing exactly what to do.

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Bolzano – A Dramatic Change in Scenery and Culture

Bolzano

Bolzano is a city rich in pastels

We decided on a day trip to Bolzano to cool off if the protective embrace of the Dolomites

The three-plus hour journey from Treviso was well worth it. But let me assure you, on this particular August day the heat almost did us in. When we arrived in Bolzano it was around 100 degrees. The heat wave in Europe has been such a scorcher it appropriately has been called ‘Lucifer’. Upon returning home, it took me a full day to recover and bring my body back to a normal temperature.

We enjoyed a lovely day there however, thanks to a strategy of drinking lots of water, chasing shaded areas, and ducking into to shops with robust air conditioning.

Okay, with the heat factor out of the way, let me share what I’ve learned and experienced (thus far) about Bolzano.

A fusion of Italian and Austrian cultures

Bolzano is part of the autonomous Trentino province of Italy. It’s in the area called the Alto Adige, meaning “above the Adige river”.

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Walk On By

Jed Smith

Walk on By © 2017 Jed Smith

This week I share an image I recently captured in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. As I was finally going through the batch of images taken on a hot July afternoon, this leapt out at me and its power took me by surprise.

In Venice a common theme is beggars in supplication to people passing by.

I call this “passive begging” and the streets of Venice are populated with people such as the man above. I’ve also seen numerous women prostrating themselves on their knees and elbows. Their heads are bowed and a small cup is in their hands. They don’t move. Rarely do I take photos of these people. I feel more comfortable taking photos of the street performers. After all, they’re actually doing something to earn money, right? That’s what I tell myself. But looking at this particular image I say, “Jed Smith you don’t know this man’s story, do you?”

Hmmm, that gives me pause.

People are adept at looking away, and avoiding what makes them uncomfortable.

And this is what stands out to me as the central theme of this photo. This man is patiently and humbly looking with expectation

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My Italy Move, Several Years Later

Italy Move, Italywise

My enduring metaphor for life…

Here I am, several years after pulling the trigger on my Italy move. And I’m damn glad I made the decision, even though it didn’t turn out exactly as I envisioned. It turned out even better than I’d imagined. In the process I’ve realized one over-arching piece of wisdom:

You’d best get out of your head, and your pre-conceived ideas about how things are supposed to be.

I didn’t realize just how imprisoned in my head I was when I landed in Italy. My left brain was hungrily involved in a mass of thinking and problem solving – so much, in fact, I mourn the fact that I wasn’t fully present for my first days as a resident in this extraordinary country.

I share this in hopes of preparing you, if you’re about to embark on a life as an expat in Italy, for the shifts in your being that have the potential to be of seismic proportions. It’s easy to be lost in the romantic notions of the beautiful life awaiting you after your Italy move. But, the reality is, if you’re anything like me, 

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An Unexpected Journey to Brighton

Brighton

Brighton Pavillion ©2017 Jed Smith

I’m just returning home, after an unexpected adventure. Mind you, initially I wanted to thrown an internal hissy fit, having been catapulted off the course of my well-laid plans and expectations. But, somehow (don’t ask how) something in me relaxed, and I ended up with a very nice, one-day diversion. And, I seized the opportunity as an unplanned photo assignment.

Here’s how my unexpected trip to Brighton unfolded…

Simone and I had been in London for a three-day mini vacation. What’s so awesome about living in northern Italy is the ease and economy of being able to hop around to other countries. My easyJet round trip ticket was less,than $100, and the flight a mere one-hour-forty-five minutes. London was great, especially the annual 2017 BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (my favorite museum in the world) and a jaw-dropping presentation of An American in Paris.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon when Simone headed off to two days of business while I took the train to Gatwick. I’ll try to make this short and as pain-free as possible. The skinny is there had been a runway “incident” involving an exploding tire. Tons of flights were cancelled, including mine. Here’s the fork in the road. Do I throw an adult temper tantrum (like many of my fellow passengers) or go with the flow?

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Becoming an Expat in Italy? The Devil is in the Details.

expat in Italy

Your documents are plentiful. Make sure they all match!

When you take the steps to becoming an expat in Italy you’ll soon learn that there is a good bit of bureaucracy, which requires standing in line, quite often, and developing advanced skills in patience. Italians take their paperwork and processes seriously, and if you’re American, like me, you may be scratching your head in wonderment at all involved in the simplest of tasks. You may find yourself just wanting to “get it done”, but I encourage you to slow down and make sure, when you are getting things like your permesso di soggiorno, your carta d’identità, your driver’s license, etc., all your personal information lines up. If not, your journey to becoming an expat in Italy may be a bit painful.

I’m writing this post to spare you, hopefully, some of the difficulty I’m now encountering

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