Italy may be my favorite country in the world. The summer after I graduated from high school, my best friend & I backpacked through this beautiful country for a month, and it changed my life in a lot of ways.
It was in Italy that I was away from home, on my own, for a month, for the first time. It was in Italy that I was first able to drink legally. It was in Italy that I had to figure out who I was when no one else was around to tell me what to be. It was in Italy that I made some really big mistakes that eventually taught me how to live for God instead of living to bolster my own ego and prove myself to others.
Italy taught me about the beauty of cultural difference, how to navigate conflict and disagreement, and how I prefer to travel. Italy taught me about how I am different than others and how that is okay. Italy prepared me to enter into college equipped with more knowledge of who I am and who I want to be.
The most beautiful place I visited in Italy was a town called Mennagio in Lago di Como. It is a small village nestled in the Alps on the shore of a big, beautiful, clear lake. The scenery is breathtaking. Every second feels like a movie because it is just that awe-inspiring. Last weekend, I had the privilege of returning to Mennaggio and staying in the same hostel I stayed at 2 and a half years earlier with my best friend from high school.
This village was where I made the biggest mistakes of my trip to Italy, and it was cool to return to such a crucial place in my story under such different pretenses. While I used to look back at the person who did those things in disgust, I can now see how the Lord was moving in my story and drawing my heart closer to Him in even my darkest moments. I do not feel the need to disassociate myself from the person who did those things, because they are beautiful proof of the story of redemption and healing that the Lord has been telling throughout my life. I was Tori then, and I am Tori now, and I will never be “good” on my own, but will always have a God who takes me as I am and loves me through the process of becoming.
It was fun to return to such an important and beautiful place and do things differently. I went with Kristina, my roommate at U of R, as well as Amalie, my roommate in Madrid, and three of our other good friends. We picnicked on the shore of the lake, went out to a nice Italian dinner, and hiked up to a church with a beautiful view of the city. Additionally, there was FALLLLLL in Como. The leaves were vibrant and the weather was crisp. I had been deeply missing North Carolina autumn, so this was a welcome change from the one day summer next day winter seasonal transition in Madrid.
One night we had drinks with some Australians that were staying at our hostel, and the wine made me “extra passionate” (Kristina’s words, not mine) about effective altruism, privilege, and human rights. Me and my new Australian friend fed off of each others comments and got fired up about social justice over wine. This is a hilarious contrast from the high school girl who didn’t know what a mature relationship with alcohol looked like when she arrived in Como 2.5 years earlier. Jesus is faithful.