Having just embarked on a trip to Italy with my wife, I’ve spent some time reflecting on what travel means to me. I haven’t done much international travel in my life, so this is coming from my first large excursion into this territory.

Firstly, Italy is a wonderful country. It’s beautiful, the pace of life is slower and less urgent than in the states, there’s plenty to see and do, and the food is wonderful. However, I want to focus on what I learned about the experience of travel.

Being my first major international trip in my adult life, I was excited, albeit a bit apprehensive - eager to see a new culture and experience it as best as one can in 10 days. We approached the trip with roughly one planned activity, sight to see, or restaurant to eat at per day, giving myself the rest of the time to do as we pleased - exploring, immersing ourselves, and interacting with locals. This was very successful, and really let us find things off the beaten path and away from the crowds. Immersing ourselves in the morning commute in Milan, the lunch rush in Rome, and the casual pace of life in Florence was eye opening, and some of my favorite parts of the trip.

I believe travel is an essential part of growing up and of life, I wish I had prioritized it sooner. Going to see other cultures and traditions, and getting out of your comfort zone. I don’t know any Italian, and found it easier than I expected. Yes, many speak English, but I could fumble my way through courtesies and ordering food. Throughout my trip, I found the break from the routine of my daily life and familiarity to be refreshing and welcoming. I could sit and have an espresso for an hour and just listen to the hustle and bustle, instead of order it ahead and pick it up on my commute into work. I could take an hour or more to enjoy lunch and conversation, instead of pack a sandwich and eat at my desk. This sense of new-ness and fresh air was missing from me before I left. Having returned and spent a week back at work, I just find myself more at ease and appreciative of some of the more mundane things.

I’ll end with a quote from Rolf Potts' The Vagabond’s Way:

Indeed, one of the reasons travel can lead to a sense of awakening is that leaving our home habits allows us to see things with eyes undimmed by familiarity.

Embrace the unfamiliar. Plan that next trip - I’m already planning mine to Portugal next year.