It was almost two years ago, and I was planning for James & Deanna’s Surrey, UK wedding at the beautiful Gorse Hill. My dad, an avid traveler and lover of Europe (I am definitely my father’s daughter!), was sharing with us all his favorite spots in London, Stamford, and Paris. “You have to do one of those red bus tours- it’s the best way to get around the city! Just jump on and off wherever you like, and that way you can hit up all the major sights.” And then my mom, being the sweetheart that she is, was sharing her advice for documenting memories- “make sure you take a travel journal! That way you can write down and remember later and the fun people you met, and the cool places you see.”
And of course, various other friends & family sharing their favorite spots and tips for each place we were going. All of it was great advice! I know they were all sharing from a place of being excited for us. But I started getting anxious, really anxious. There was this knot in my chest for a week or so before I finally realized what it was- for every tip I got, I made a mental list of obligations. Like “so-and-so said we had to go to that place Angeline’s in Paris for hot chocolate,” and “so-and-so said I need to make sure to visit that pub Victoria’s over near Ebury St. in London.” And with that list, I somehow felt like I was going to be disappointing people if I didn’t take their travel advice. Which is absurd, obviously.
I value spontaneity when I’m in a new city- I don’t want to make a huge list of sights we must see, or shops we have to visit. Because what if I wake up one day, and I feel this spontaneous whim to just WANDER instead? Then I end up feeling like I’ve missed out on whatever detailed plans we may have made. You know, that whole “fear of missing out” thing? It’s real, man. It’s real.
When I’m in a new place, I want to experience it like a local. I don’t want to spend my three precious days in Rome going to the Colosseum, or waiting in line at whatever pizza place the tour book says is best. Instead, I want to wander, get lost in the twists and turns of the little alleys and accidentally stumble upon some hole-in-the-wall joint that most tourists never find. Because it’s not on the beaten track, you know? I don’t want to see the Google-image-search-version of Marseille- I want to see the Marseille that locals pride themselves on experiencing every day. It’s experiencing the culture of a place in whatever limited time I have there that I’m after, not just photos of recognizable landmarks.
So please, if you offer travel advice (and you’re not someone whose spent an extensive amount of time in one place) and I choose not to take it, don’t be offended! It’s just how I like to travel. Other people I know LOVE seeing a new place via tour bus with a guide book in hand, dining at all of Rick Steve’s most recommended eateries (and the guy knows his stuff, so his recommendations are good ones). But as an artist, I need freedom in travel- freedom to wander, to dawdle, to get swept up in a beautiful collection of blooms outside an unassuming Parisian floral shop.
A huge shout out to my bride Caroline (who you’ll meet next week!) who gave me the most amazing gift at their engagement session last week- a set of cards that take you on off-the-beaten-track walking routes around the city, according to whichever arrondissement you’re in! She lived in Paris for a year so she knows the city, and I’m totally using those cards next week along with all her advice for the best places to people-watch among local Parisians.
Happy Friday, dear friends! I’m boarding a plane for Rome today and will see you in two and a half week! Ciao ciao!