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Back to basics in Sicily

· Iris

For the month of August, Joey and I decided to go our separate ways to reconnect with ourselves. Whilst Joey is backpacking in Romania, I decided to spend the entire month in Sicily, Italy. One of the things that I wanted to get out of from this 'unexpected nomads' journey is to explore other ways of living - different countries, different lifestyles. I didn't just want to travel and sightsee (in fact, I got a little bit tired of just sightseeing in Cuba), so I got myself a 'working holiday' at a boutique guest house in exchange for lodging and food. 

View of the guest house as on my afternoon walk up the hill from the beach.

The owner of the guest house is Ignazio, a Sicilian guy in his late 30s. After 20 years of living abroad, he decided to return to Sicily to build a guest house on the farmland that his grandparents own. He's then joined by his girlfriend, Lara, (who arrange this working holiday for me) and other friends and family. The guest house is set on a hill in Marina di Ragusa in southern Sicily, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It is a simple yet beautiful place. It may not 'wow' you at first like a luxury hotel, but everyday you will be able to discover something small and wonderful here.

Did you know passion-fruit flowers look like this?

My favourite thing here so far has to be the panoramic view of the sea and the sunset. The pastel colours of the skyline make you feel safe and calm, even when you're alone in a foreign land.

View of the sea and Marina di Ragusa.

I work at the reception here. The work involves preparing breakfast, greeting guests, check-ins & check-outs, serving drinks, a bit of cleaning here and there and some admin work. It's not tough work, but I'm always on my feet; there's always something to do. The team here is very friendly and patient. There's a real family vibe to this place. The most difficult thing I have to do here is probably cooking/baking for guests. Although it's just really simply stuff like omelettes and basic cakes, as someone who hates precise cooking and presentation, I really need to push against my nature when it comes to preparing food.

The reception, where I spend a good amount of my time.

The rest of the work comes pretty naturally to me. I realised I've always liked meeting people, taking care of people and making sure they feel at home. Perhaps it's due to my own experience of living away from home since the age of 13 and having had to live with different host families during all my school holidays. I want to do my best to make everyone feel welcomes and included. I guess this could be a clue to my future career options!

Speaking of feeling at home; my home for the month is a caravan:

My little corner.

As you can see, it's pretty basic living - no air-conditioning (it's 40C everyday here), no kitchen and no toilet. To have my daily meals, I need to go to the reception and use the kitchen there, and to wash I need to use the bathroom in the storage room which is a short walk away. In the evening, I need to carry a torch and unlock the storage room if I need to pee. Sounds scary? Well, these conditions would probably have scared me before, but I've surprised myself that I haven't felt 'Oh my god, I can't do this!' for a single second. Instead of fretting that the inconvenience of having no private cooking and eating space, I'm learning to share space and adapt myself to the resources available to me. Instead of freaking out about ants, bugs, birds...(aka nature) that surround me in the caravan, I spend a little bit of time everyday to clean and tidy my living space. It feels quite rewarding having to 'make a living' like this; it makes me feel worthy and strong.

Inside the caravan.

Another thing that I'm appreciating is that there's no internet in the caravan (only available in the main guest house area). It has forced me to get into the habit of reading and napping on the hammock. The hammock is amazing! Its existence reassures me that it's socially acceptable to lie here and do nothing. Maybe we have become so addicted to phones because the modern life demands us to be constantly 'busy', constantly burying ourselves in something seemingly important.

Pitch black at night.

The first couple of nights I did get a little sad as I felt like if Joey was here with me, then things wouldn't seem as difficult. One thing I discovered travelling in Cuba was that as long as we are together, the hardest conditions become doable (as long as Joey doesn't get all anxious and aggressive). However, I found my coping mechanism - a nice bottle of Sicilian red wine :) I guess a little bit of familiarity is still needed!

Sicilian red.

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