Archive for January, 2010

Cool Contemporary Folk Art

We have just added a new teacher to our Spring 2011 lineup. Sue Spargo does the neatest work. She combines her African and English history in wonderfully bright and vibrant pieces – contemporary folk art.

Red Clover by Sue Spargo

She will be doing a workshop using wool, taffeta silk, silk velvet and cotton to produce what she calls a “fabric journal quilt.” Sue is a quilter, and on this trip her students will record all their adventures in a quilted journal. Each piece will be unique to the person. It will incorporate simple drawings taken from time spent out in Orvieto, and from all the cultural activities our groups take part in such as the cooking class with a local chef, a trip to a gorgeous vineyard where we sample his most excellent wine, learning about olive oil and tasting it, and seeing the Etruscan roots Orvieto is built on, among other things.

Sue was born in Zambia and educated in South Africa before moving to England. She came to the U.S. in 1989 and has lived in New England, the South and West, before settling in the Midwest. She brings her wonderfully diverse cultural background to her designs and teaching. It seems absolutely perfect that she do this workshop in yet another country and culture!

You can learn more about the trip at our page for Sue and see more about Sue at her website.

Wonderfully colorful leaves done by Sue


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So, I read the article about how unhappy American workers are, which prompted my post a couple days ago. Then, in a wildly different subject – about one of the last remaining hunter/gatherer tribes in the world – I end up again thinking what a great idea it is to come to Italy with us on our Adventures in Italy trips. The connection?

The December issue of National Geographic has an article on the Hadza tribe living in Tanzania. It is a true hunter/gatherer people, one of the few remaining in the world. Much of the way they live would probably drive us crazy. But the author, Michael Finkel, although ready to return to civilization after two weeks with the tribe, said his life was profoundly changed by the visit. Two things really struck him.

  • The Hadza don’t worry about anything. Finkel thought this strange since he felt they should be worrying about lots of things such as, “Will I eat tomorrow? Will something eat me tomorrow?” But they don’t, and they live in the present more than seems possible for the rest of us.
  • They are incredibly free. Finkel writes they are “free from schedules, jobs, bosses, bills, traffic, taxes, news and money. Free from worry. Free to burp and fart (sic) without apology, to grab food and smoke and run shirtless through the thorns.”
Adventures in Italy trips

Wine Tasting in Orvieto

Finkel concluded with, “The days I spent with the Hadza altered my perception of the world. . . . they made me feel calmer, more attuned to the moment, more self-sufficient, a little braver, and in less of a constant rush. I don’t care if this sounds maudlin: My time with the Hadza made me happier.”

While our trips to Orvieto are nothing like spending a week in the bush of Africa eating off the land, our travelers end up feeling the same. They rush less, are calmer, live more in the moment, are happier, worry much less. That’s nice!

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A survey of American’s happiness on the job has just been released, and it is at an all time low. Just 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. Only 51% are interested in their jobs, down from 70% in 1987.

Misty Morning in Orvieto, Italy

I understand and I sympathize. I think it is inevitable to a certain extent, particularly for people as they get older, which is an increasing number of baby boomers. That which propelled us into the workforce is no longer new, the frustrations seem insurmountable. I believe it is a natural evolution as we age, particularly if we are in the same line of work.

So I feel particularly blessed that I listened to the tugs at my heart. Those voices of discontent began to make themselves heard 10 years ago. And it took me a full 5 years to accept and act on them. I am glad I did, for now Kristi and I are doing something that absolutely has our interest and enthusiasm – Adventures in Italy.

While I know it is good for me, what I also have observed is that it is very, very, good for the folks who come to Italy with us. There is something about a very different place, a place with different customs, a place that looks like nothing at home, a place where life is lived enough differently to be noticeable that awakens and enlivens us. Such a trip can be the catalyst to get us to become aware of our discontent and begin to act on it. The great luxury of a trip to a very different destination is that it can awaken that which has been slumbering in you for some time.

Perhaps 2010 is your year to awaken!

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