On a rainy afternoon in Chiusi, as I ate at my pecorino and pear salad, I realized I felt lonely and bored. Lonely and bored and gloomy.

How could this be? I was traveling in Tuscany, where ochre villas rise along winding roads lined with cypress trees. Dreamy countryside, friendly people, delicious food.

I was affected by the weather. Day after day of overcast skies had burst into pouring rain, followed by more dark clouds. That might sound cozy to some; in my case, it made me sad. I was there for a month, so it wasn’t that my trip had been ruined. But the lack of sunshine brought me down.

Over time I’ve learned what elevates my mood: being with people I enjoy, reading a page turner, driving through beautiful countryside. It took effort to rouse myself into action and go to Chuisi’s Etruscan Museum after lunch. It turned out to be a smart move — art and history transported me to a place of delight.

During the next few days, I wrote in my journal and drove the back roads. But it was the interactions with people that were the highlights. It was a pleasure to be with the proprietors of each inn I visited. At the first place I stayed, near Montepulciano, the owner lent me her bathing cap and towels, so that I could swim in the municipal pool, an Olympic-sized beauty. A small act of kindness that made me feel welcome.

At the second place, the owner's wife prepared a lunch of pasta with pumpkin for us, while he helped with my itinerary, drawing maps to guide my way, including a trip to Perugia and its exquisite National Gallery. I had a private Italian lesson with their friend Paola, who raised my skills to new levels of linguistic elegance. I had cappuccino with another American who has lived in this part of Italy for more than 20 years. I loved hearing her ex-pat story. Even though I looked forward to returning to California, part of me dreamt of living in Italy.

What brings joy is a personal matter. I loved connecting with people there, as well as Skyping with friends back home. Once again, I discovered that when I write, I am never alone, recording my thoughts, lines of dialogue, and events, and describing my days using all my senses. Exercise – walking or swimming – grounds me. Seeing art and other sights can transform my mood. Whether I’m home or abroad, it’s always worth the effort to shift to a happier state.

Writing prompt: Describe what you'd do on an overcast day. How does the weather affect your mood?

Copyright © 2012 by Laura Deutsch

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