WHERE ON EARTH IS SHONTY?

BY SHONTELLE PINCH

Welcome to my very own Eat, Pray, Love journey where I learned to trust my gut, and listen to my inner voice like never before. This is a story of becoming aware of all that’s around you, and falling in love.

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So – how did this Toronto gal end up in Rome? I guess you can say the process began last December upon returning from a vacation with my then-boyfriend of four years. We had a passionate relationship full of ups and downs, and in the end, time wasn’t on our side. I can still honestly say I love this man very much, but sometimes there are far larger and longer paths to follow and one must simply move on. 

Following that, feeling the need to regroup and recharge, I journeyed off to Mexico with an open ticket, starting in Tulum. (Travelling on one-way tickets to exotic places in your 40s is one of the perks of having a kid at 16… 24-years-later, you regain a little freedom!)

Most people would have expected for their awakening to happen in the Yucatan, but for me, the energy was a little too heavy as it was quite busy due to the time of year (but beautiful all the same!).

My next stop was beautiful Acapulco and that’s where the magic happened. So many have misconceptions about this place, but I urge you to approach it with an open mind. At one time, it was frequented by the likes of  Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Brigitte Bardot and that kind of legendary allure still lives on.

My life altering experience began when my friend and I stumbled across a surf beach, and decided to take our very first lesson. The next day we went back for lesson number two, and this time I noticed a quaint and beautiful inn that I was immediately drawn to. The incredible power of the universe and its plan was unfolding right then and there.

A lovely woman came out and spoke to me, and shortly thereafter a man emerged that took my breath away – not in the way of attraction, but a stunning force of energy that later convinced me that this man was put on the earth to save and heal people. I was lost, and this man helped me find an inner strength I had suppressed for many years. The first day we spent together he threw me into the currents of the ocean over and over again, and literally cleansed me. He taught me to meditate and helped me connect with natural forces stronger than humanity itself.

That day on Playa Bonfil in Acapulco, I opened and purged all the things from the past that I needed to leave behind. I cried every day until my final day in Mexico City – tears for friends come and gone, heart ache, loss and all the life lessons in between. I later returned to my hometown of Toronto (although I  fully believe we’re all visitors and home is a state of mind) and began to contemplate everything I had experienced.

Suddenly, I couldn’t live the life of a drone any more. I had awakened and become conscious; I was setting down a path of truth and my soul had never felt more alive. But I felt a strong force urging me to leave, and for the first time ever, I was listening. For some time I’ve felt my place to be in Italy, and my homeland was calling. Louder than ever before.

I’m currently writing this to you from my bed, which overlooks the Laurentina in Rome and know that this is exactly where I need to be at this time in my life (even though before now, I hadn’t been back in 27 years!).

And so one chapter closed, and another book spilled open.

It’s here, in Italy, that I met a man almost immediately upon arrival, who twenty minutes after being introduced to me, grabbed my pinky finger with his own and didn’t let go. I knew from that moment this was the a new beginning – and openly accepted the adventure.

I have chosen to leave everything I’ve ever known for this new journey. It’s the first  time in my life that I don’t feel the need to prove my self-worth and strength as a woman, and it’s been a long road getting here. I met a person I could be completely vulnerable with, whom I could lay my head down beside and trust that no judgement would flow between us, one who was proud to introduce me to his world and one that stepped up to the plate and assumed all responsibility for me.

Although I am of Italian decent, I barely get by speaking the language, but here I am. Starting over…. in the most incredible, humbling and raw form.

Through this journey I’ve rediscovered empathy and found a new perspective and compassion for immigrants, as I’ve cried many nights missing my daughter, parents and friends… but deep down I know they are happy for me because I am finally whole.

Now is my moment to reinvent… to dive into this fresh new life, and use the tools and skills I’ve learned along the way to make it the best it can be. The slow pace and genuine lust for life in Italy, has also rubbed off on me, and although some days I still wake up with unanswered questions in my head and a fear of the unknown, I am mostly grateful, hopeful and excited as hell.

I was getting lost in Toronto on a desperate search for outlets to fulfill my soul, and as much as I love our incredible city, I’ve achieved so much there and felt an itch for change.

A quick background: I’ve opened five businesses in T.O.: Poochi (a pet boutique for grooming and apparel), Fabfind (which was a group buying site I was involved in), Gourmet Bitches (Food truck and catering), Rose City Kitchen (restaurant) and lastly Pinch Hot Sauce, which is still my passion. None of them made me rich in wallet but they each gave me invaluable experience that I’m thankful for everyday.

Just before I left on my initial trip to Mexico, I bumped into someone who asked me “what’s next” and that’s when I knew it was time to move on… it didn’t matter what I was currently doing it mattered what was next! So even in the midst of Pinch going into distribution, I put my business on the back burner and put my personal life first – something I have never done before. But I was listening to myself now.

“Listen to the whispers or soon you will be listening to the screams.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

And now, for the most important part of this whole equation, my daughter: Sammy. She’s been through it all with me and I have never been the “normal mother”. Life is full of unpredictable circumstances and none of ours are exactly alike – for me, being a 16-year-old mother proved to be one of the biggest challenges of my life. It created a lot of mishaps and misfortunes – many of which I often find myself  wishing I could go back and rectify. 

This incredible daughter of mine has gone through this shift with me and found a new love for me as well, which has been by far the most fulfilling part of the journey. It was my most joyous day when she said to me “you seem different, and I’m proud of you”. I felt like I’d won her heart back, so you can imagine how hard it was to discuss potentially leaving Canada.

And you know what she said? “I’m good now Mom, and you deserve to be happy. If you’re happy, I’m happy! Go and try because if you don’t you’ll never know.”

Seems the apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree. Just like me and my own mother before me, we are a family of strong women that lead with love and find strength when life throws us a challenge.

So, OFF I GO! Wish me luck on this adventure as I try to figure out what to do with all these ideas in my head and all this excitement surging through my veins. But I’ll keep you posted on all of that as I go.

Sneak peak (for all those wondering where the hell I’ve been) – I’m currently indulging in my current passion for fine Italian foods and preservatives; I may start a YouTube channel, and get into agriturismo (Google it). I want to incorporate yoga, mediation, excursion teachings and wine into all of this too. The possibilities are endless as you can see. 

But I know I am somewhere I truly belong.  My priorities have shifted… family, love, happiness and health are what most matter to me now, and I consider myself richer than ever

PS: the door is wide open for visits to the Eternal City for those who’d like to further discuss life and love with this senorita.

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