I never imagined Italy would be sooo beautiful!

I just got a phone message from my mother who is currently somewhere in Tuscany with a tour group.
Amy, Italy is amazing. I never dreamed it would be this beautiful! You should see the view from my window!!
She sounded choked up and so happy. I can't imagine what it would mean to finally decide to see the world when you are nearly in your mid-fifties, but I am so proud of her. I hope this kicks off a lot more adventures. I really believe that travel is life-changing and life-affirming. It is one of those things that you will never really understand until you've tried hoisting yourself into a country where the language and food is different, where the streets aren't built the way you are used to and where the people require something of you that is outside of your comfort zone.

I am not one of those zen travelers who takes things as they come. In new, uncontrollable situations, I get stressed out. I like to have a plan, a schedule. I like to KNOW, within near certitude, what is going to happen. This is exactly why travel is so good for me. Try as I might, when I am in an unfamiliar place, I generally can't make everything go according to plan and it's taught me all kinds of things about myself and made me learn how to take a breath and relax a bit when I am at home. The world is so big and filled with so many wonderful and terrible things. And life is short. I am proud of my brave mother and can't wait to hear about her new adventures.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a big inspiration for a lot of women. When I first read it, I was in a relationship that wasn't particularly fulfilling, I'd settled into a mortgage payment and was weighed down with the responsibility of animals and a career. The summer before I read Eat, Pray, Love, I took my first trip to Europe to visit my friend Jackie in London. While over here, I also took a long weekend in Paris by myself. Although London was amazing, my four days wandering through Paris alone was life changing. I was much more afraid of going on my own then I'd let on to anyone, and getting on the Eurostar felt very much like jumping off a high diving board; by the time you are up there, looking down, it would be humiliating to walk back down because of fear. So even against your better judgment, you jump. And usually, as soon as your feet leave the board, you are filled with a feeling of freedom and elation and the minute you hit the water, you begin think about when you are going to get to make your next jump. That's what Paris was for me.

Despite this amazing discovery, coming home after London and Paris was grim. I remember being almost sick with the heaviness of feeling trapped and stuck - like there was absolutely no way out of the situation I had been so instrumental in creating for myself. To everyone existing in the world outside of my head, I had a lovely life. A very nice boyfriend, animals that loved me, a fine little house in a nice neighbourhood and a great job doing PR for the biggest and best gallery in the Province. But I was miserable and dejected and couldn't help but feel that after this transcendent experience of travel, my life was now over. Then I read Eat, Pray, Love and slowly, I began to believe that there was a way out if I was only brave enough to take it. At first I didn't know what life I wanted for myself, but instead of feeling hopeless, I knew that when I did make up my mind, I could choose to either stay safely where I was or seize an opportunity to move in another direction.

Now, two years later, my life is almost unrecognizable from what it was then. It is lovely and imperfect but very importantly to me, it is something I am choosing to move forward with every day. I am not just allowing myself to be washed forward on a wave of expectation and comfort. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and difficult and other times it is lovely and, as cheesy as it sounds, I feel like I am going to explode with gratitude, but I always, always feel that I own it. I am no longer stuck, and that is everything.

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Friday said...

I had no idea you were at all nervous about Paris before you left. I still don't think I'd feel comfortable travelling by myself. We have a friend who has been taking lone trips to Paris for years, though I guess by her standards it would be a bit like going from Regina to Saskatoon. I'm so glad you were brave - it's certainly paid off!

Amy said...

I don't even think I realised how nervous I was! In my head I kept coming up with excuses why I should cancel my trip and stay in London. I am glad I went though, and likely would never have had the courage if it wasn't for you and Bruce telling me that plenty of gals do solo Paris weekends.