Off Balance in Pisa

I’ve been struggling to write blog posts over the past few weeks. I had some scheduled to go up while we were traveling with my parents, and I’ve been doing a decent amount of paid writing, but with my two sites, I’m blocked. So I thought maybe if I got all of this out of my head and dismissed my normal attempt at being chronological, it might help. Andy and I are a little more than halfway through our month in Pisa, and it’s not going so well.

I’m sure Pisa is a wonderful city. From the little I’ve seen of the center, it looks like an interesting Tuscan city with plenty of shops and restaurants. I can tell there’s more to it than just the famous leaning tower.

Pisa, Italy struggles

But we’re not in the center.

The apartment we rented is cute and functional, and despite the uncomfortable, firm bed, there’s nothing really bad about it. Before we committed to it, we noted that there was a bus stop just around the corner, and it’s just a 10 minute ride to the train station and the center of the city.

But living and working remotely in Italy also means dealing with not-so-reliable Italian public transportation. I am not a fan of buses in Italy. For the most part, the bus should come every 10 minutes, but sometimes it doesn’t show up for 20 minutes, and sometimes there are two back-to-back. And in a country where most people don’t eat dinner until 9pm, why do the buses in Pisa stop running around 8:30? So we often end up walking, which takes 25-30 minutes and doesn’t encourage us to go into town much.

Pisa, Italy struggles

We feel a bit trapped.

Neither of us realized just how quickly Pisa would go from a bustling city to suburban-feeling. We’re in a big, generic apartment complex, and across the street are several more big, generic apartment complexes. Also, the apartment is directly underneath the flight path. With the airport being just a few miles away, this means from the early hours of the morning until about the time we go to bed, there are loud planes close enough to feel like they could be landing on top of us. It’s more disturbing than I ever would’ve imagined.

The closest grocery store is tiny, doesn’t carry much, and seems to only get the beat up produce that’s a day away from going bad. So we often take the bus a couple miles down the road to the big store, which is at least as big as grocery stores in the US. It’s a huge, crowded, chaotic place and we get stressed out just going in. Ironically, the only aisle that ever feels calm and empty is the pasta aisle.

On the weekends, we’ve been exploring. We went to Lucca our first Saturday here. Andy went back two days the following weekend for the comic festival while I went to Cinque Terre. This weekend we’re going to Siena, and as a bonus, Andy found a steam train that runs through Tuscany only a handful of times per year, and it’s going this Sunday from Siena. Next weekend we’ll pick another town for a day trip. Then when we leave our rental in mid November, we’re going to Cortona for a couple days.

Lucca, Italy

While that all sounds great, the balance is off. We spend most of our days working because we need to earn money to pay for our lives. So it feels like we’ve given up our comfy home to work and live in a less comfortable apartment, in a neighborhood devoid of character, just to see a few glimpses of Italy one or two days a week. It doesn’t feel like a good trade-off to be here and not get to spend much time seeing the place. During our 33 days in Tuscany, we’ll get about eight or nine days of exploring. I want either the comfort of my own home or the enjoyment of traveling, and right now both are lacking.

Something’s gotta change.

We’ve tried working and traveling at the same time, always coming to the conclusion that we were traveling too fast. This time we’ve slowed things down, but it’s still not working right. Maybe living in a city for a month or two while we still have to work only fits with cities we’ve already been to. Or maybe it only fits with bigger cities where we can do plenty of exploring in small chunks throughout the week in addition to the weekends. Maybe working and traveling at the same time isn’t our thing.

For now, we’re looking forward to our upcoming two and a half week, laptop-free trip to Morocco. And hopefully Sevilla will work out better for us for mid December to mid February.

Certain ideas we had for next year have flown out the window. New ideas are marinating in our minds. It’s all scary and confusing and frustrating. Basically, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.

But we’ll keep trying.

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