The travel life and wanderlust mentality have taken over in recent years and for good reason. One quick search for travel advice and your feed will immediately be inundated with a never-ending list of calls to “go see the world”. Often times these articles explore all the ways travel will change you, broaden your perspective, make you appreciate things a bit more, and help you better understand those who live a different life than you. And all those things are pretty darn great. That list is why I fell in love with travel while living in London in 2007. I saw the world in a new way and loved experiencing life through a different lens. Fast forward to today and my husband and I love to travel and with each new place, we fall in love all over again. And with each new place, we are continually adding a layer to our world view, but recently we have discovered a new purpose for our travels. The motivation to go and see new things is great, but we find ourselves now using travel as a reset. A way to step back from the normal, see and experience something new, and use our time to reflect on our priorities.
Last fall, we made the decision to do something a bit different. Through a string of circumstances and decisions, we found ourselves in a place that allowed freedom to just go. We sold our condo, our second car, and booked an extended trip to Italy. Normally, travel is a hurried affair with lots of trains, planes, and automobiles shuttling us from place to place hoping to squeeze every last bucket list location out of a two week holiday. One night here, two nights there. Tour after tour and postcard shot after postcard shot. This time, we wanted something different. We decided to book a 6-week European stay with 5 of those weeks spent in one Airbnb in Florence, Italy. Not only were we staying in one place, but we were going to a place we had both been together the previous summer. So why? Why stay put when there is so much to go and see? Well, this trip wasn't meant to be an Instagram pumping, bucket list check off trip. We wanted space, a break from the ordinary. We wanted the time to connect with one another in a semi-unfamiliar place and talk about life, our future, and priorities. We had a few short trips to Paris at the front end, Venice/London in the middle, and Barcelona on the tail end to satisfy our bucket list, but in the end, the middle is what made the trip. The intentional time together separated from the hustle and bustle of American suburbia was just what our souls needed.
Our days weren’t spent standing in museum lines or taking selfies at major monuments. They were spent running along the river, reading in our favorite cafe, strolling the city, and shopping at the local market. We took a bit of language school, saw a few lesser known local spots, and took a few cooking classes to add a little bit to our experience, but most days were the same. Slow and steady. Simple. Homemade pasta with wine at home. Our favorite cheese bread from the central market. Movies on our laptop as we were cozied up on the tiny Airbnb loveseat. From the outside, they were all ordinary days, but we were experiencing a new place together and having conversations about life and priorities we had never had before. We weren’t burdened by the to-do lists and work schedules. We didn’t know anyone in the city, so we weren’t distracted by a long list of social engagements. We talked about our dreams for the future, our hopes for our family, and what we believe a rich life includes. We slept better, connected better, and relaxed in a way that just isn’t possible at home. It was perfect and it ended all too soon.
Not everyone has the luxury to travel the way we did. We had generous friends who let us stay with them until we could find a new place. We have jobs that allow for maximum flexibility, even from Italy. But the thing is, you don’t need 6 weeks to experience travel this way. Take a week or a weekend. Go someplace new, but don’t go for the Instagram worthy, bucket list experience. Go to slow down. By all means, see new things, but wander. Sit in a cafe and enjoy the chatter around you. Read and write. Turn off your phone. Explore the local market. Dream about life and the future and prioritize what is most important. And most of all, rest. Lean into the quiet and new routine. Lean into that restful space and I know you’ll come out thinking, dreaming, and seeing your life in a whole new way.
Lana Hawk is a photographer who enjoys capturing the beauty of the everyday. She loves to travel, see the world, experience new places, and capture the details with her camera and journal. Although she was raised in the Midwest, she now calls Colorado home where she and her husband enjoy the outdoors and all the mountains have to offer. She is a sucker for a good book/story, antique stores, and a meal shared with friends.