I am back from 17 days away from this island.
After only having been here for a few hours and despite not having slept more than 2 hours last night, I went for my favourite round with my dog. I needed that- nature. It’s that thing I miss the most when I go away.
I’ve been in nature also now that I’ve been away, but here, it seems so close, and so real, and so untouched, so raw, so cute… Just look at these few pictures I snapped casually on my phone while walking.
This island is humid, and the humidity makes everything seem so alive, like a warm, cozy embrace. Everything is so green and lush. And these fruits that are just hanging freely everywhere… It’s just unique. Un-manicured and barely touched by the hands of man. In an almost innocent way, things look like they've always looked. Like modernity and machines never really arrived on this bubble of an island.
I also love the rainy, dark days here as opposed to Sweden, where I hate them.
I spent 8 days in Italy, travelling by car with my two boys, 1 and 3 years old.
We spent the two first days in Rome, which I so much had been looking forward to. I always think that I miss the city and want to live in the city, and every time I get there, I get exhausted. It's so complicated with two kids who are not really old enough to walk by themselves. I was stuck. Couldn't move. I had one foldable stroller and one BabyBjörn carrier, and most of the time I was actually carrying the little one (not so little, 11 kg's) plus pushing the bigger one in the stroller.
I always have this picture of how it'll look when I'm travelling, and when I pictured me and my sons in Rome, I imagined them sitting on the ground at the Colosseum or at the Pantheon, smiling at the old ruins, laughing with each other, maybe possibly run around a little tiny bit, while I sit close by, admiring the eternal city.
In reality it was nothing like that at all; it was more like a struggling single mother trying to get through the day.
Not even late at night, once they were asleep, could I live out my dream of sitting in the kitchen in the charming Airbnb apartment in the classical neighbourhood Testaccio, and drink my amazing red wine while looking down at the street and writing something poetic in my diary about being in that forever city.
Reality was more like either so crazy exhausted that I fell asleep with them without taking off my mascara, or if I sat in the kitchen, I was mostly just scrolling on Instagram and keeping my ears very alert in case they'd wake up, which kids tend to do when they're not in their normal place.
Once I'd been through the hell of taking myself, kids, suitcase and stroller to the car rental company at Fiumicino, and after having installed the crazy advanced car seats, having asked about thirteen stupid questions to the irritated and perfume-smelling Italian staff (where is the AC, why does this light not go off etc etc) I actually managed to get us out of the airport area and onto the right direction, and once we'd really hit the road, it was all much better.
The landscape opened up, the space around us. We had space. Freedom, in our own vehicle. The kids tied to a chair each, me not having to carry or push them with my own strength.
My initial plan for our Italy-holiday was to spend a weekend in Rome and then going south, to Tropea, for a beach bum holiday. But then I met this wonderful woman called Nana, a wonderful mix of Venezuelan, Croatian and born in Germany, with a sweet daughter, 6 years old, called Ava.
Nana and Ava were spending about 5 months travelling around Europe, and fortunately for me, Ibiza was one of their stops.
She had recently been with her own car through Italy with Ava, and told me that driving in Tuscany is both beautiful and easy, and that there are many (too many!) nice places to stay, and she really helped me look around for places for me to go.
So I started thinking in that direction, and I'm so grateful I did. We drove up to Tuscany along the coast and then stayed a week in the beautiful Bolgheri-area. Close to this stunning village with the Viale de Bolgheri which is pure poetry, all the great restaurants in the village, and yet close to the beach... Where the kids could run free and wild and not be annoying to anyone.
Annoying to people, yes... that's something we had to experience quite a lot. Apparently, most people in this world seem to think that children should be hushed, silenced, stopped, restricted.
I don't think so.
So people get annoyed with me. Them too, but I think mostly me. "Why doesn't she control her kids?" is probably the question most asked when people are around me.
Well, the truth is that I was overly controlled and restricted as a child, and it affected me very badly. I ended up restricting myself to please everyone and fit in, and never really expressed myself truly. That's why I then had to trot around the globe to try and find myself somewhere in between tropical waters, Buddha temples and overnight trains. (Never did find myself in any of those places, in case you're wondering)
Well, if anyone would bother to ask me, that would be the answer. I don't believe that small humans should be taught that they need to restrain themselves or that this world, this life, is limited. Because it is not. It is full of possibilities, and it is wide open, and we are wild and free souls, unfortunately more or less restricted and conditioned by parents and society.
I don't want my children to grow up and think that they are not allowed anything. I want them to taste, smell, hear and feel life as fully as only children can do.
That's why I also think it is really important to travel with them so young.
They've both been on long journeys in Asia, and I will continue to travel with them as long as they don't have any obligations to school systems. I see how it makes them take huge leaps in their development, and I love seeing how they so don't judge anything, because nothing is strange!! When you've seen it all; all kinds of peoples, places, foods and cultures, you stop making divisions and borders between yourself and the other, because it's all normal.
So obviously we do encounter problems wherever we go. In Italy people are quite proper, places are very beautiful, very clean, organised. My kids kind of ruin that image.
So the beach was really a welcome break, and also having the car to transport us around to different places, rather than walking and taking taxis and having to drag along crying and tired children.
When we left Italy, we were all happy, excited, in tune.
And then we landed in Sweden, my "home" country.
Which was COLD and DARK and RAINY and STORMY. And every time you want to (have to) leave the house, you need to dress the poor kids in a thousand different things which they're all questioning, wondering why on earth I need to restrict their movements like that. And as we come outside, they say "I'm cold! Let's go home!"
Sweden is so great, so forward-thinking, such a socially aware society, equal rights for all, so incredible for children. I feel so much more connected there, to society, to how things work, to the songs, to the games, to the books... But as soon as you need to exit the house, library, shopping mall etc, you're just SUFFERING.
The playgrounds were absolutely incredible, I've never seen anything like it. The colours of the leaves in the autumn, stunning. The fresh air. The space. The organisation of society. The integration of everyone.
I feel depressed almost immediately when I'm there, I lose the will to take us all out the door, and just wanna stay at home, where it's warm and cozy, there's so many things on TV, the internet works perfectly.
And still, I don't feel part of it, I don't feel fully welcome.
I've spent too much time abroad. I'm a stranger.
We flew back to Spain yesterday, I bought a ticket last minute on Saturday due to bad planning plus unfortunate circumstances, I felt that we left in a rush. We escaped, like I always did. I had wanted to stay longer, to see all my friends, but in that cold, stormy weather, I just got so passive... And my past caught up with me.
So we left.
And we had a hellish journey, landed late, had to pick up the luggage and drag that plus stroller plus children plus two other bags to the transit bus, changing terminals, terminals miles apart, highways apart. Entered new terminal, gate closed 30 seconds after we arrived, children not cooperating, mother sweating and flushing, checked in, went through security, flight showed as delayed, thank god I thought, we can eat, waited for ages for the flight, the gate was 30 mins walk from the security check, we were one of the last passengers to go to the gate, they tell me "you're on Ryanair's flight", I tell them YES, what's up, I start to suspect my stress has caused this, they tell me they're another airline with the same departure time for Ibiza, I realise I'd walked all of us to a completely different part of the airport than the one we were supposed to go to, I run with all my powers to my gate, I arrive, I see the airplane taxi out, I start CRYING.
Once I finished crying, I actually felt the calmest I've felt in weeks. Or even months. there was no other thing to do than to just accept the situation and find a solution. During my walk back again through all the thousands of gates to the exit, both kids fell asleep. One in the stroller and the other one in the Babybjörn. As soon as they both relaxed, so did I. Big part of the stress was to see them tired, hungry and fed up with this incredibly long day.
I was told there was a hotel at gate 4. That's where we had landed hours ago. The journey back there was much easier, as my heavy suitcase had already sailed off to Ibiza- or at least, so I thought.
The lady at the information desk at gate 4 must have been a mother. She took one look at me and just was so nice. She arranged a room and a driver to come to pick me up. I didn't have to move an inch. He came, he took me to the place, he took some money, and I was installed into what must go down as the ugliest hostal I've ever stayed in in my life- and believe me, I've stayed in MANY. The main room had stuffed animals all over the walls and the ceiling, and the rooms had the ugliest, cheapest furniture you can imagine. But the kids were alright, they slept almost all the hours (about 5) that we had to spend in that horrid place. I didn't sleep more than about 3 minutes at a time before waking up sweating, afraid that we'd miss the next flight to Ibiza.
At 5 in the morning, we were in the transfer-minibus back to the airport, and there was no chance I'd miss this flight.
I had a coffee onboard, and the kids had a hot chocolate and a croissant. I have to compliment Ryanair here; I think it was the very best airplane coffee I've ever had. It was a filter coffee, made with Lavazza beans, and it was such a delicious surprise amidst all the usual Ryanair-anger and stress. And the staff was amazing; so friendly.
We made it to Ibiza airport, our familiar home-base landing spot, and we strolled up to the Ryanair desk and demanded our suitcase that we believed would have arrived the evening before. The girl at the desk told me there's no way in the world that it would have travelled alone, all suitcases are taken off the plane if the passenger doesn't get onboard, and for security reasons, there will be absolutely no chance that the bag will be flown alone to Ibiza. I'd have to go to Madrid to pick it up, she told me.
I didn't cry.
I just called the Madrid lost and found, and I again assume that the woman on the other end was also a mother, because once I'd told her the whole story, she told me she'd have to ask permission from the airline and security, and I'd have to call back the next morning to confirm if it would be possible at all.
Well, all I know, is that the next morning they called me from Ibiza airport, Ryanair desk, to tell me that my bag was there.
Mothers everywhere, unite. We all know what it's like.
A few more days into our Ibiza-life, and I am so grateful to live here, where the sun shines, where the nature is stunning, where no one discusses racism and integration problems, where your kids can run in and out of the house barefoot. Life here is easy.