Growing up, Halloween was an excuse for a big party. We were never allowed to go Trick or Treating and, although it felt like a punishment at the time, I now understand why my parents didn’t want us doing it. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun. We would dress up every year, my parents included, go to a big party, carve pumpkins, dance and generally have a great time. At university, Halloween was just another excuse to dress up and get drunk.
In Italy, Halloween is only just starting to be celebrated. Children dress up in typical costumes – ghosts, pumpkins, vampires – and go trick or treating in the town, or “dolcetto o scherzetto” in Italian. Restaurants, pubs and clubs hold special theme nights. Being a Catholic country, there are still people who are against the idea, claiming it to be an American festival or, at the worst, some form of Satan worshipping. Traditionally, the first of November is far more important here in Italy, which is what led me to writing this post.
On Sunday, I found myself at my boyfriend’s family’s house. As has become somewhat of a tradition, we stuffed ourselves at lunch and then went for a bit of an exploration. Usually we head off to find a castle in some far-flung corner of Abruzzo, but this time we stayed in Cansano.
On the last Sunday of October, it is custom here to visit the cemetery in memory of lost loved ones. As we entered the gates, I felt an incredible sense of sadness wash over me. We visited the graves of grandparents and friends. As we did so, I started thinking about the people I’d lost and the loved ones I’d left behind to move abroad.
One of the hardest things about being far away is when things go wrong back home. I’ve been abroad when loved ones get sick or, worst of all, die. I haven’t been able to visit them in hospital or go to the funeral. I’ve had to hear the news through other people and get updates via Skype or text. Missing out on the good times, like birthdays and family reunions, is hard enough, but missing out on the bad times can be almost unbearable. Every time something bad happens, I feel a surge of guilt – is it right for me to be off living my dreams? Should I pack up and go home to be with the people I love?
The answer is no. The people I love also love me; they want me to be happy. They know that living in the UK wouldn’t achieve that. So, I want to take this opportunity to say that I am incredibly grateful for everything they do for me because I know I don’t say it often enough. Truly, thank you. And to all those who have doubts about their travelling, remember that you’re not the only one who feels that way. Ultimately, we all have to live our lives the best way we can.