We drive to a new place almost every day, staying long enough to do a little exploring, eat, and sleep, and then before I know it the streets I’ve just walked are somewhere in the rearview mirror and we are on our way again. Barefoot in the back seat, I often fall asleep in one city and wake up in another. And no matter how many times I do this, it never gets old – the feeling that comes when wandering around a city where no one knows your name is irreplaceable. Breathing in the mountain air, the car exhaust, the ever-present cigarette smoke lingering above your head, you are just another face these ancient cities meet. Bricks and balconies and towers and terraces and cobblestones and castles; there is so much that each one of these little red dots on the map have to offer. When you decide that it’s okay to let yourself get lost, there is nothing like letting yourself getting acquainted with a new city. And to do this every day feels like a dream.
I wrote the above entry in a journal I bought for two euros from a bookstore on one of Verona’s many sweet little side streets. The penmanship was messy but sitting in the back seat of the car my family had rented for two weeks to road trip across Italy, I could not care less. I was ecstatic to be free of an itinerary. I woke up every morning unsure of what the day would bring, and I had never felt so alive. It dawned on me then, that my attitude had completely changed; I hadn’t read a nutrition label in weeks. I could see clearly enough to distinguish what was important to me and what was flimsy enough for me to throw away. Every string tying me down, every weight pulling me down was released the minute I touched down in a place I’d never been before. I suppose that’s what they mean when they say that a little distance puts everything into perspective – being away from a routine I didn’t find stimulating, from what felt like living the same day over and over again, was the best thing that ever happened to me.
The beautiful thing about traveling to a place as rich in culture as Europe, is that you momentarily forget about where you came from. After a little while, when the foreign phrases begin to roll off your tongue a little more easily, you realize that you have a piece of this place with you always, and that a little bit of you will remain on its very streets. You realize that this huge, crazy, amazing world we live in deserves to be marveled at, and suddenly there is an appetite to see the world that wasn’t there before.
I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit. I have a very restless heart, and the only thing that seems to settle it is adventure. The urge to explore is in my blood and travel has always been my motive, my ultimate goal. I always felt that my thirst for experience would never be fully satisfied, but I came to realize that I’d been looking in all the wrong places. Whether you’re six minutes down the road or six hours across an ocean, there is always more to see, and there are endless ways to make your mark on the world so that you leave it a little more beautiful than it was before.