I am doing this.

I am really doing this. I am going to learn how to cook authentic Italian food in a small, rustic village in Tuscany. And I am taking this gastronomical journey alone, the ultimate act of self-indulgence. Sure, I have plenty of reasons NOT to take this trip; plenty of work to do and people to take care of, but this trip is a personal challenge. And I am calling my own dare.

Want to join me?

I’ve packed carefully and thoughtfully for this journey, committing to carry-on only and expertly rolled each article of clothing into my suitcase to maximize my limited space. I tucked in a few eccentric indulgences like lavender essential oils and a travel fan, to keep fragrant, relaxing air swirling around me. I packed plain, casual clothes, comfortable shoes, one simple black dress and a just a few pieces of jewelry. This trip is not about fashion. It’s about food, and I intend to be focused, comfy and unconcerned with making a fashion statement as I lose myself in this delicious adventure.

As I board the plane, I realize I forgot to wear my ever-present wristwatch and I smile at the symbolism of this omission. In my daily life I am ruled by time, scheduled by the hour and pack way too many tasks, meetings and phone calls in each day. I am making a vow to not let time rule me this week. Let the trip take me instead of the other way around. Let my curiosity set my pace. Let my body tell me when it is time to shift gears instead of a timepiece.

As a mother of two children, I’ve never vacationed alone. It’s almost unthinkable to take a trip without them. They are both such great travelers and we’ve made so many memories in spectacular locales together. But life has changed and they have grown up and begun their own grand adventures without me. My 29 year old daughter has married and has a marvelous new travel companion in her lovely husband and my 26 year old son is now in an exciting career that gives him an opportunity to travel the world. My 30 year marriage ended almost a decade ago and since then, every day teaches me something new and profound about my life on my own terms.

I have always loved to cook and have grown more adventurous as I’ve gotten older. And here’s a delightful bonus; I am in love with a chef who has taught me so much about technique, trends and taste. Food is our common language and our obsession. He constantly inspires me to become a better cook and encouraged me to take this trip. What a mensch!

Like most women, I struggle with my relationship with food and my ever-expanding waistline. But this week I’ve promised myself a whole new level of mindful eating. I have always loved Italian food and now I am going to cook with women who are honoring and preserving their family history through recipes that span five generations. They are the opposite of celebrity chefs. They are not interested in nabbing their own TV series or launching a line of their own pots and pans. They are passionate about the simple, direct reasons to cook: fresh ingredients and a deep, delicious shared experience. They are the real deal and can’t wait to meet them.