Jo here, sitting in a Tumblr-esque co-working space out of Los Angeles. After downing three cups of coffee, I’ve been able to tackle all the unread emails in my inbox, which eventually led me to an interesting person’s story that’ll have you dreaming of hopping around continents as much as he does. Since we’re well underway to planning, booking, and checking off all our summer travels, and I have enough caffeine in me to breeze through this blog, I figured you might get a little extra push to shut up and go after reading our We Fly High feature for the month. This Italian boy wonder will have you wondering why you haven’t shut up and booked your next flight right here on our site.
So fill us in, who are you, and where are you from?
My name is Giacomo, I’m 19 years old; born and raised in Italy, I’ve been moving around the world since I was born. I have Argentinian origins and I’ve been an International Language High School student so I’ve been surrounded by many languages since I was very little: I speak fluent English, Spanish, Chinese and of course Italian, even though I understand and speak a tad of both French and Portuguese. Okay, this sounds like a huge bragging email already; trust me, that’s not my point in here.
I started taking travel as a serious thing at the age of 14: Malta, Argentina, Spain, Ireland, Holland, USA, France, Switzerland, Palestine, China, and now Thailand in ten days!
I moved to China for a year all alone when I was 16 to improve my Chinese, moved back to Italy for my last year of High School, and now I’m back at it again in Beijing for my college experience, trying to make it big on translation and simultaneous interpretation (if it was not clear, languages and traveling are my thang!).
I’m currently in northern China, right on the Russian border between the two countries to celebrate the Chinese New Year with my Chinese family that hosted me two years ago. Up here is minus 30 degrees Celsius and I’m kinda jealous of your sunny LA glow that you guys always have.
The flight that imma be taking next week is directed to Bangkok to see old friends, hopefully to meet new ones and then move up north to Ayutthaya and then to Ko Samet, a small island for some special me time. (This second trip was also inspired by y’all!!!)
Damn, are we related? Maybe not by blood, but in ballsiness and in spirit! Love all this already.
Let’s get down to the good stuff: why did your parents put you in International High School?
I was actually the one who decided to attend an International High School, because languages and foreign literatures were and still are the only things I really love studying. Confronting myself with different cultures and people has always been part of my nature, so this choice felt just right to me.
I am the youngest son in my family: my brother Matteo, who is two years older than me, is moving to France for a year abroad in a few months. Seems like we all love traveling!
Love how you were always a mover and shaker! Clearly, a natural born shut up and goer (sounds so bizarre).
How did you convince them to let you go at such a young age?
I’ve always been very independent, from a very young age. My parents have always pushed me and my brother to make things on our own, and ask for help only if we really were in need. In fact, I had my first trip abroad (Malta) without my parents when I was 13 and then I just kept on building that “independence muscle” that convinced them to allow me to go to China for a year all by myself when I was 16 and attend High School there.
I totally get that independence muscle, and it’s such a part of yourself that CAN be worked out and strengthened.
Did you ever face homesickness?
I never felt homesick in a way that made me want to head back to Italy, but I do have to admit that going to class on Christmas Day because it is not celebrated here in China makes me feel a little nostalgic sometimes.. now I’m already used to it, and festivities can still be celebrated with my friends here in Beijing no matter what, so I don’t feel homesick anymore.
So interesting how cultural customs we have are often not even a thought in another other peoples’ minds.
Let’s keep it real: how do you make money to keep traveling?
I started working here in Beijing reinventing myself and following the “fake it till you make it” philosophy. I have a stable part time job as an English teacher for children and when companies are in need I also work as a dubbing voice-over native speaker for text books and cell phones’ softwares in Italian and English, I translate birth certificates, instruction pamphlets and commercials and take tourists around Beijing.
All the money that I earn from these jobs goes into a box in my room and not into my bank account so that I will not spend it all without even realizing it (thieves you better not find my secret place where I hide all the cash). This big fat amount of money is then all available to be spent on plane tickets, hostels and everything that I’ll need on every trip I take.
The trick is always to get creative on the skills you have that can always be monetized, you go boo boo!
Describe the first moment you felt alive:
The first moment I really felt alive was this year, on my trip to Thailand. I was laying on the beach gazing at the stars with a dear friend of mine on a quiet night of February and then suddenly I realized I made it to Thailand, all by myself, with my own money, my own legs, my own mind, and I felt so, so proud of myself. I was alive. Breathing, seeing, feeling everything around me. I was alive.
Giacomo, you are SPEAKING to my soul right now. You’re so our kind of person who can take a moment that would easily be overlooked by people, and realize the significance in it.
Now, if you’re really like us, I can predict the answer to the following question: do you ever get your languages mixed up?
Oh Lordy Lord, who doesn’t get languages mixed up when you live abroad for so long and when you switch up so many languages all in one day! 🙂
Since I was little I’ve always had an issue with finding the right words in Italian, because I always felt like the same word in another language made a lot more sense, or felt more true to what I meant to say. Now that I live abroad, I have the hardest time remembering how to say things in Italian, since I speak Chinese, English and Spanish most of the time. My thoughts are mostly in English and Italian, but I do sometimes dream in Chinese and I’m more than used to it at this point.
When you start dreaming in the language you’re learning, that’s when you know you’re really IN IT. Luckily, we all do mix up our languages, signs we have busy brains.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to move around the globe as much as you do?
If it’s a big and long term move abroad, make sure to be ready to handle all sorts of difficult situations. Stay calm no matter how bad a situation might appear: most of the time all the negative things are just in your head. Be curious to learn how to do new things: how do I pay taxes in China? My pants just cracked in half right on my crotch area, how do I sew it together? My kidneys are hurting like hell, how do I do a health check up for this?
If it’s a normal trip then, just make sure to have all the essentials with you, have a few sentences ready to communicate and then you’re good to go: there’s no need to think or plan too much boo.
AMEN to being prepared. Of course, we never know exactly what’s going to happen, but making predictions and planning ahead can really save your a$$ in the long run when you’re stranded without resources you’re used to having access to.
So, what’s next for you?
I’m about to end the first semester of my third year out of four of my bachelor degree in Chinese language here in Beijing. After this, I plan on doing my master’s degree on simultaneous interpretation either here in Beijing or in the US. Meanwhile, I’ll make sure to always travel around Asia as much as possible since it’s so hella cheap, keep on working to make that money, get my degree and make it all work. But above all I just want to enjoy the process and keep on being happy with what I do.
You go boo boo! Think of all the stories you’ll have before you’re 30!
Final and burning thoughts you’d like to share?
I want to thank you guys for being so great at what you do and for inspiring me to do me. Since I started reading your blogs I’ve changed so many aspects of my life for the good: here in Beijing I started working as a part time English teacher, as a dubbing voice-over native speaker for text books and cell phones’ softwares in Italian and English and it is all going great. In fact, all the money that I’ve been putting aside from these jobs is going on all of my travel expenses: I was in fact able to book my flights to Thailand and the whole vacation itself with that money (of course the tickets were booked through SkyScanner!).Thank you for making me ponder on so many aspects of my life, for suggesting awesome self help books that really have switched things around on how I face the world (like “You are a Badass…”: that gave me the strength to finally come out to my parents and friends just a few weeks ago, and FYI it was a total success!!!).
Giacomo, I’m so excited to have had the opportunity to take a moment and get to know you! Even if it was only via screens, the important thing is that your story will most likely inspire others to keep shutting up and going. Huge hugs, and in bocca al lupo carino!
If you’re feeling jet-lagged after reading how much Giacomo has traveled around, join the club. Keep up with his adventures on his YouTube channel, and see a little bit of Beijing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1GDEbjSR0gBZXd69NXdCjQ