“My heart aches to travel again” Suzanne Claims

When Suzanne’s husband passed away suddenly in 2018, she pledged to take their long-awaited dream vacation to Italy to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary. This journey was significant for Suzanne on many levels, from fulfilling a lifelong desire to spending time with family in Italy and rediscovering her Italian heritage. She flew from New York, USA, to Rome on our 2019 visit to Italy for an Italian concerto.

Suzanne’s CodedHits Unlocked Awards entry

The following is what Suzanne discussed in her inspiring entry for the CodedHits Unlocked Awards:

“I’ve been working toward this goal for my entire life. In April 2018, my husband passed away due to a severe heart attack. He had been working the same job for 46 years and was only three months away from retiring. 39 years of marriage passed between us. He assured me that we would travel to Italy. I boarded a plane to Italy on the day that would have marked 40 years of our marriage had it fallen on our anniversary date of September 1 instead. I had no doubt that he was there with me in spirit.

While on the Italian Concerto tour, I started on the adventure of a lifetime. Giuseppe, our tour guide, was outstanding in every way! During the tour, I had the chance to meet several amazing folks. The first time I ever saw the Sistine Chapel was a memorable experience. I burst into tears as I looked up at the ceiling. I have a degree in fine arts, and I also worked as a teacher before I retired. Before that, I had only seen pictures of it in textbooks; I had never seen it in person. The Amalfi coast was such a breathtaking sight! I tried to etch the scenes of the beach and the sailboats into my memory so that I could draw on them whenever I needed to get through the difficult times I was going through.

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My soul yearns for adventure once more. I am still in touch with the other passengers on the trip with me at various points during the year. Created some interesting new friendships. I put together a photo album to remember the wonderful time I had on my vacation. I have no doubt that my husband accompanied me on that trip in spirit. It was unbelievable! The ride on the gondola and the visit to the Colosseum will live long in the memory. Thank you for helping to make the celebration of my 40th wedding anniversary memorable. It was something that my spouse really enjoyed.

Suzanne’s Story

We asked Suzanne about her fantastic trip to Italy, why travel is essential, and where she wants to go next.

Why did you choose Italy as your dream destination?

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and live there. My grandparents came to America from Italy, seeking a better life. My maternal and paternal grandparents became Americans. They struggled to acclimatize to a new nation, language, and culture.

My family spoke Italian, but I never did. Since “America” was their new home, most Italian immigrant families urged their children to speak English. I could understand but not speak Italian. My maternal grandma recounted her Calabrian childhood. Her brother hunted bunnies in Calabria’s gorgeous countryside. I loved her tales. I wanted to study Italian and my ancestry.

During undergraduate art history classes, I was intrigued by Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Bernini, and Raphael. I longed to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. I vowed to return to Italy, my “mother” nation. I wanted to find my ancestors.

Why was taking this trip so important to you?

My husband unexpectedly passed away in April 2018 after a heart attack, teaching me how precious and fleeting life is. Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Make the leap and execute it. For our 40th wedding anniversary on September 1, 2018, my late husband and I had discussed traveling to Italy, but that never materialized.

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I decided to leave my 20-year job as an elementary school teacher after my husband’s death. I required time to mourn. After 46 years of employment, my husband was set to retire, but he passed away three months before that time.

So, on September 1, 2019, which would have been our 40th wedding anniversary, I made that leap. I felt at last at home as my jet touched down in Rome. I’d completed it. While I did it to please my late spouse, I did it for my satisfaction. After 39 years of marriage, I needed to show that I was strong and had accomplished something independently without him.

What are some of your favorite recollections from your journey to Italy for the Italian Concerto?

My first journey to Europe was for the Italian Concerto tour. I chose this itinerary because it included several places I wanted to visit in Italy: Vatican City, Rome, Florence, Pompeii, Capri, The Amalfi Coast, and Venice. I’d finally see Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

I have so many fantastic tour memories. Seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel was my favorite. When I first saw Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I cried. I started crying… It was true. All of the photos of the roof of the Sistine Chapel that I had seen in college textbooks had come to life. Everything was genuine, and I was looking at it. It was real.

The Roman piazzas and fountains, the Colosseum, Tivoli, and the Villa D’Este Gardens. Walking through the Pompeii ruins on cobblestone streets. Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Duomo, and the unforgettable gondola ride in Venice. The stunning Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Positano… Dinner at the 1,000-year-old Norman Tower in Maiori, Amalfi Coast, was incredible!

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This was a once-in-a-lifetime journey for me. I met so many amazing people from all around the world. We still communicate on Facebook, wishing each other happy birthdays and holidays.

What is it that makes travel so unique?

What’s so great about traveling is the knowledge you gain by experiencing a different country’s people, history, culture, and customs, as well as meeting fellow travelers from other nations who share their stories while you share yours. My journey to Italy on CodedHits’s Italian Concerto tour has equipped me to overcome my grief. There is a world out there awaiting my exploration.

Where else do you want to go?

I’d love to go to Scotland and England one day. Last year, I went to Paris, France, along with a friend. I’ve also found Key West, Florida, USA, quaint, beautiful, tropical, and a great place to relax. But it could be better than Italy.

Wards, we’re giving away a pair of spots on our upcoming Balkan Delight trip. When was the last time you visited the Balkans? If you won, who person would you choose as your partner?

The Balkans are one place I have never been to. From the photos on CodedHits’s website, it appears to be stunning. Since she has supported me since her father and husband’s death, I would love to take her on this journey. She has been there for me through thick and thin, supporting me even while she dealt with her own loss (that of her father) and those of her own family (her two children and her husband).

We appreciate your remarkable honesty, Suzanne.

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