An interview with Neeyaz Zolfaghari
“I’ve always loved solo traveling, because there really is no better opportunity to reconnect with yourself than to be with only yourself. ” Neeyaz Zolfaghari
ANDREA: I BELIEVE IN TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THAT ALLOW US TO RECONNECT WITH OURSELVES THROUGH INSPIRING NATURAL SURROUNDINGS, DELICIOUS HOMEGROWN FOOD, GOOD WINE AND A DEEP CONNECTION WITH THE LOCAL CULTURE. WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU LAST FEEL TRULY RESTORED AND RECONNECTED TO YOURSELF WHILE TRAVELLING?
NEEYAZ: I absolutely echo with this belief, these are the very pillars that make a travel experience so memorable and stay with you for a lifetime. I’ve always loved solo traveling, because there really is no better opportunity to reconnect with yourself than to be with only yourself. Anytime I have the opportunity to travel solo, I come back more connected to myself and recharged. My most recent travels to Europe was the longest that I had traveled solo and it challenged me and supported me in more ways than I can explain. I’ve really stepped into a more evolved version of myself.
A: YOU HAVE JUST SPENT 2.5 MONTHS IN ITALY, WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE ITALY FOR SUCH AN ADVENTURE?
N: Ever since my first visit to Italy when I was 18 years old, I felt this deep connection with the culture, the country and the people. I loved everything about it and as soon as I began making my own money, I began traveling to Italy once a year and exploring a new part of it each time. Knowing how much my first trip to Italy awoke my soul, I knew that spending more physical time and immersing myself as a local, it was going to spark something really special inside of me.
A: WHAT WAS IT LIKE LIVING LIFE AS A DIGITAL NOMAD IN ITALY? DID YOU FEEL AT HOME?
N: I loved being a digital nomad in Italy. I joked that I felt a bit spoiled by the time difference, because I wasn’t at my computer working or seeing clients until 3/4pm local time. That gave me most of the day to explore and do things, before coming home to work for a few hours.
A: WHEREABOUTS IN ITALY WHERE YOU ABLE TO RECHARGE THE MOST?
N: I spent most of my time living in a villa in the Chianti region of Tuscany, more specifically Bagno a Ripoli. I know a family that lives there that graciously opened their 7 generation home to me. The amount of history and family admiration and appreciation, made it really easy to feel at home here. I woke up every morning to the sounds of nature and an incredible view of Florence beneath the clouds.
A: AFTER SPENDING A LONG TIME IN THE COUNTRY, I IMAGINE YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO GRASP A LOT ABOUT THE ITALIAN LIFESTYLE AND WAY OF LIVING. WHAT WAS THE THING YOU LOVED THE MOST ABOUT IT, AND WHAT SURPRISED YOU?
N: Nearly every country outside of the United States that I have visited, each of them have a very profound appreciation for time. The days are not rushed and there is no urgency for time to move fast. Things are enjoyed at a pleasurable pace and time with people and community is sacred and cherished. One of my favorite activities is to people watch and being that I ate most of my meals alone, I loved sitting at a restaurant or cafe and just watching people in passing. Especially during the extended lunch hours, not once did I see someone glance at their phone or watch to check for the time. They were present always and that is something I think a lot of us can learn from. I think what was very different that I wasn’t expecting, was the culture and cuisine differences between mainland Italy and Sicily. I always heard that the food was different and the cultures themselves were different, but it really was like night and day. I was pleasantly surprised and fell quite in love with Sicily as well!
A: AS YOU’RE A NUTRITIONIST, I CAN’T RESIST ASKING: HOW DOES ITALIAN FOOD DIFFER FROM OTHER KIDS OF CUSINE?
N: Oh well Italian food is truly one of a kind! Breakfast is always something sweet and small, lunch and dinner are full and consist of multiple courses. And let’s not forget cappucinos in the morning, wine throughout the day, coffee after lunch and dinner. Obviously very different from my Persian upbringing! If you order lunch or dinner from start to finish (an appetizer, course 1, course 2, etc) you hit all of your macros (protein, carbohydrate, fat) plus plenty of fiber (hello, pasta!)
A: HOW DOES FOOD HELP US TO RECONNECT TO OURSELVES AND ESTABLISH A RENEWED SENSE OF BALANCE?
N: Food is central to many of our most special memories growing up. Family dinners, holidays, celebrations; if you were fortunate, all consisted of having a meal or food on the table. There might be a particular food or meal that sparks a fond memory from your childhood, making it feel nostalgic and extra special when you do get to enjoy that food. I think the most profound way to connect to food and build a supportive relationship with it, is by getting your own hands involved in it. One of my favorite activities when I travel somewhere new, is to take a cooking class taught by a local. This helps me feel more connected to the foods of that region and create a new appreciation for the meal that I am sitting down to enjoy.
A: THREE TIPS FOR THE DIGITAL NOMADS WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT SPENDING SOME TIME IN ITALY:
N: #1 Study the language before you arrive and know basic words and phrases, to help get you around. Not only is this respectful, but it will make you feel more comfortable to be able to converse, even a little, with a local #2 Don’t forget that you’re in a brand new country, so schedule some FUN each day! This might be an entire day off for you to do a day trip or ending your day earlier to take yourself out to a nice dinner and gelato #3 Homesickness will come up and at very odd times, so be prepared for that. Something that really helped me, was have a FaceTime date with a close friend and/or family at least twice a week. It helped me feel more connected to my loved ones back home and being able to see their face was as if they were right across from me. Technology is really a wonderful thing, when used right!
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