Growing up in New York, I wasn’t accustomed to visiting “the sea” because I had the ocean. With this in mind, ocean and beach were always interchangeable terms for me. Until I moved to Italy and would refer to the beach as the ocean. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not the ocean here; it’s the sea. In Venice, it’s not “ocean air,” it’s “sea air.” I’ve made the sea/ocean “error” countless times, but honestly it seems like an exercise in futility to me. Ocean. Sea. Same difference, no?
Hitting adulthood in the United States meant adjusting to “career life” which came with one major drawback: less vacation time. A meager ten days a year is the standard if you’re lucky. Some places offer more, some places offer less. Some employers allow you to acquire more over time which seems fair while others permit you to “buy” more vacation time, as in forego a week’s salary for an extra week off. By law–and I may be wrong about this–but it’s my understanding that employers don’t have to give you vacation time at all so at the end of the day, perhaps ten days isn’t really very skimpy at all.
Well, skimpy or not, I would choose to visit European cities for my vacations. Sure, it would have been nice to perhaps visit an island and relax on the beach for a week to recharge, but how I could I do that when Rome and Paris were happening?
Prior to moving to Italy, the closest I got to a beach vacation in what seems like eons were two nights I spent in Liguria during an August 2012 visit to Italy that also included Rome, Milan and Assisi. Yup, I managed to squeeze all of this into just eight nights and yes, it was exhausting to return to work jet-lagged immediately after such a compact “vacation” but that’s just how I did it for quite some time. And I’m not trying to sound like a martyr or anything because I know very well that I’m not the only one. It’s practically customary. Why would you take an extra day of your already sparse vacation time to adjust to jet lag when you could get in some extra Madrid time?
Now that I live in a major European city and can visit my other favorites for a few nights at a time without having to make a big trip out of it, I can take a seaside vacation without feeling like I’m “missing” something. This Sunday, I head to Elba Island where I’ll be staying for an entire week. It’s somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time…funnily enough, if I’m conversing with an Italian and Isola di Elba comes up, everyone seems impressed that I know of Elba’s existence. When they ask me how, I always respond with what I learned in Ms. Pojer’s Global Studies class my freshman year of high school, “It’s where Napoleon was exiled in 1814, but then he escaped from there.” Though, from what I understand, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to escape from such a paradisiac place.
I’ll still be working from Elba of course as I could never imagine completely checking out, but I’m just tickled pink by the idea staying in such close vicinity to the beach for an entire week, partaking in an Italian August tradition. If there is one drawback of Milan compared to Rome, it’s that Milan lacks Rome’s seaside proximity. Sure, there are the beautiful lakes, but as spectacular as those lakes are, they’re still not the ocean. Sigh. Whoops, sorry…there I go again. I meant the sea. The lakes are not the sea. 😉