The Set Up

On April 23rd, 2023, my little sister sent me a message from Italy that kicked off a most unexpected adventure.

She’s been living there–with her family–for the past few years, as her husband teaches in the study abroad program for an American Catholic University. When she first moved there, we all had plans to go visit. But shortly after she left, my father died. Then my husband got sick. My mother needed help. My dog had to have a hip replacement.

Life got busy. So busy, that a trip to Italy to visit my sister was out of the question, sadly.

But, I don’t know… it seems God had other plans.

I woke up at 5 am to say my prayers that morning, and I saw my sister’s text, asking me to ask my pastor something about brown scapulars. The ones she had were falling apart. I told her I’d ask my pastor, and said my prayers.

After Mass later that morning, I asked Father her question, and he suggested I send her some scapulars from the U.S. I couldn’t, I told him, because she’d be home soon. Her two years are almost up.

“Express them!” Father suggested.

“Are you kidding?!” I exclaimed. “That would be so expensive!” I laughed and went home, where I prepared lunch for my husband and I.

As we sat down at the table, my husband turned on the TV, and found a program about Rome.

Rome… I thought. It’s chasing me.

Then I started to think… my sister is leaving Rome, after two years! I never went to visit her! What a shame! What a lost opportunity!

So I asked my husband, “Honey, what would you say if I asked if I could go to Rome to visit my sister?”

It was a big ask, I knew. But my husband is so generous.

“Well,” he said, “you didn’t really have a 50th birthday present…”–my father died five days before my 50th birthday! Thanks, Dad!–“check out the tickets and see what you find!”

And the search was on.

I found a ticket–flying out of Newark–for $850 the following Tuesday. Granted, I couldn’t check a bag, but how much clothes did I need, really? (The answer to this question ended up being way less than I brought!) With the shuttle to Newark, this option was still less expensive than anything flying out of Philadelphia, so my husband gave his approval, and the packing commenced.

I told my mother. She was TICKLED! She didn’t want to go herself, but she was glad someone from the family was going.

I understood my sister’s desire for someone to visit her. When you have an adventure, it’s SO MUCH MORE FUN when someone you love joins you! Telling people about a trip you take isn’t the same as sharing it with them. And, really… who in their right mind doesn’t want to go to Italy?


I packed a carry-on suitcase and a backpack that held my fancy camera–a Canon 5D and a couple big lenses that were worthy of the amazing things I would see in Italy. Which brings me to my first list:

Things I regret having brought:

  • My Canon 5D and lenses, plus a small camera bag. Little did I realize that most of the places I’d be visiting–churches and shrines–do not allow photography. Also, my iPhone 12 Max is so good at photography now, my Canon 5D is just a heavy clunker. After a few days on the road, I stopped using it, but still carried it around in my backpack, just in case. After a few more days, I just left it in my hotel room. I won’t be taking it on anymore overseas trips, that’s for sure!
  • Jeans and a denim jacket. Jeans are heavy and they take a lot of space. And when I decided what to wear each day, a heavy pair of non-stretchy jeans was last on my list. I think I wore the jeans once. The jacket, never.
  • A big fat book. Never bring a big fat book on vacation with me. I don’t take restful vacations. I like to go, see, do. So at the end of the day, reading puts me to sleep. All I want to do is sleep.
  • Yoga pants without pockets. My yoga pants are super comfy, but without pockets, they were useless. You need pockets to easily carry your phone, wallet, change, etc.

Things I was glad I brought:

  • Comfy pjs
  • earplugs (many)
  • noise cancelling headphones
  • super comfy scrubs pants with pockets
  • comfy tennis shoes
  • my iPhone with an e-sim card (using Airalo)(read about it here and here)

Making My Way

The shuttle I always use when I fly out of Newark–which I first did when I flew to Jordan–is SuperTrans. Super affordable, no stress, and reliable. We met my shuttle in King of Prussia, but I later learned I could have met them closer to my home, in Plymouth Meeting.

When the shuttle arrived, the shuttle driver asked if I’d be his copilot, and sit up front with him. I loved it! We got to Newark in record speed, chatting all the way.

Newark airport is much nicer than Philadelphia airport, and I found myself a fun little fainting couch to relax on and wait for my flight. I was very early, but that never bothers me. That way, I can pick a seat and just relax. This is my fainting couch and stuff.

At one point, I saw a man walk by and I thought… “hm. I know him…. I wonder what TV show he’s on…”

A short while later, he was standing right in front of me… and it hit me! I knew him in real life! It was my friend, Mike, who was also flying to DC (my first stopover) on my flight!!

We took a pic to send to his wife, Susan, and had a good laugh. It turned out, he was a row back from me, so we asked our seat-mates, who happened to be husband and wife, if we could switch with them, and they so kindly did. So Mike and I chatted the whole way to DC. What a great way to start my trip!

Once we got to DC, we went our separate ways, and it was a good thing, because when I got to my gate, they started boarding!

I was in an exit row, which meant I had loads of leg room, but no table to rest on. But God is good. I was able to sleep enough that by the time I got to Italy, I had no jet lag. It was a grace. One of many graces that God would give me on this trip.

Tomorrow, I will post about my first day in Italy and, I hope, to post about each day before I forget it all! I hope you’ll follow along as I reminisce!