When I decided to go to Italy, it wasn’t because I had some burning desire to go, not at that point in time anyways. I had always wanted to go to Italy and I knew I would get there at some point, but when I thought of Italy, I thought of Rome and Tuscany, maybe Pompeii even, but I never thought of Venice. So when my friend invited me to go along with her to Venice, Florence and Rome, I was totally into the Florence and Rome part. However, I think I actually made a face when she said the word “Venice.” It just conjured up thoughts of moonlit canals, lovers in gondolas, hand in hand strolls along ancient sidewalks. I mean, for crying out loud, its the birthplace of Casanova, arguably, the greatest lover of all time! No offense to my amazing, dear friend, who I did in fact, end up going with and having a fabulous time, but the last thing I wanted to do was experience Venice without a man! After all, what is Venice without love?! I was torn and I struggled, but it was such a good deal! Such a good deal that I felt like I was stealing!!! And one just does not go around passing up perfectly good opportunities to go to Italy.
Oftentimes, people mistakenly think that it is impossible to be unhappy when you’re on an epic vacation in some distant, exotic corner of the globe. I know this to be untrue. There are many, many factors that can lead to discontent while away. But more than likely, whatever it is that is upsetting you in your dream destination was causing you grief before you left. Yeah, yeah, I know, travel is supposed to lift the spirits, be balm to a tortured soul, ease an aching heart. Well sometimes it does, but then again, sometimes it doesn’t. So what do you do? Head it off at the pass! First, be happy at home. If you’re happy at home, you’ll be happy abroad. So was I happy at home single? Eh. Depends on the day, but what I did know was that there are things that make me happy. And if they enhance my mood at home, certainly they would enhance my mood once I got there.
So here’s what I did and I think it could work for anybody:
- Educate Yourself: What I realized is that I was excited about going to Rome because there were things that I wanted to see. I dreamed about gazing up at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, strolling through the Forum, standing in awe, looking up at the Colosseum. I knew that Florence was the home of Michelangelo’s The David (which, by the way, is so unbelievably impressive in person. If you can go see it, you MUST, I was absolutely blown away). I envisioned myself eating pasta in a farmhouse in Tuscany and drinking Chianti in Chianti. But I knew nothing about Venice. Well…..I knew that I didn’t want to go there because I didn’t have a guy to ride in a gondola with. Having said that, I knew that I had learn something else about it. And once I started reading, I learned that there is much more to Venice than gondolas. The canal system itself is a feat of engineering that was far ahead of its time, you can visit the Doge’s Palace were Casanova was actually imprisoned and escaped. Or climb to the top of the San Marco Campanile to see the city from a different perspective. There are tons of things to do. Never go in blind, because you don’t have to, and most of all you don’t want to!
Canals, the roadways of Venice
2. Find things that you enjoy doing at home and you’ll enjoy them even more while you’re away: Interestingly enough, I love being with my girl friends. Maybe sitting in a cafe, having a cup of tea, warming up with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. What’s better than getting to know a group of friends over a bottle of wine, right? Now imagine that it’s not at your neighborhood Starbucks or the same wine bar you go to every other Friday, but that you have a view of ancient buildings and boats traveling down a wide waterway, pigeons landing on the piazza foraging for crumbs and scraps. That bottle of wine or cup of tea suddenly got better, didn’t it? Yup, wrap your hair in a scarf, put on a pair of sunglasses, plop yourself down in a chair at a sidewalk cafe, thank the waiter for pouring you a glass of wine and congratulate yourself…..you’re in Venice! Now take a deep breath, sit back, relax and watch the world go by.
Piazza San Marco, don’t overthink it, just enjoy.
3. So you’re in Venice, you don’t have to go on a gondola ride or for that matter do anything else you don’t want to do!: I can’t even begin to emphasize this enough…..just because you are in Rome, you do not have to go to the Vatican. Just because you are in Los Angeles, you do not have to go to Universal Studios. Just because you are in Seattle you do not have to go to the Space Needle. Just because you’re in London, you don’t have to cross Tower Bridge. Just because you are in Dublin you do not have to go the Guinness Factory! Are these things that tourists do? Yes! Are they major attractions? Sure! But that doesn’t mean you have to!!! If you don’t want to do it, don’t! While traveling, never feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do. Will people give you a funny look, when you tell them that you went to Washington, D.C. and didn’t go to the White House? Of course they will! But who cares, because whatever you did do was your choice and you had a great time doing it. My friend and I chose not to do a gondola ride. Am I kicking myself over that? Absolutely not! We did check into, discussed it and decided against it. You’re gonna charge me 80 euros for an awkward feeling ride in a boat with another woman???? That’s like….8 glasses of wine, or at least 3 meals!!!! Thanks, but no thanks.
Gondola-Do or don’t do. It’s completely up to you
4. Be Adventurous: The great thing about traveling with friends is also the worst thing about traveling friends and that’s compromise. It never fails that one of you will really want to do something that the others don’t want to do and vice versa. On the one hand, it can open you up to trying something new and exciting. On the other hand, you can get stuck doing and paying to do things that you end up absolutely hating. Let me first of all say, that the latter has never happened to me. Have a been dragged, kicking and screaming and complaining? Of course. (Sorry guys. You all know who you are 😉 Here is where I apologize….I know I do it. Horrible personality trait, but I digress….) For all my complaints and resistance, for all of the incidents and mishaps, there has never been any tour or excursion that I have regretted taking. Would they have been my first choice? Maybe not. Did I have the best time? Again, maybe not. But it was an adventure and experience, something I wouldn’t have done otherwise and those are most often some of the best moments. Now, what does this have to do with Venice? Well, at least in my experience, Venice is not the easiest place to navigate. And I tend to not be comfortable with not having a plan or a destination, much less getting lost. But get lost, is exactly what we did. I was bent on finding out where we were, how to get where we were going and making that happen as quickly as possible. But, my friend that was with me, was content on just wandering. Being lost on purpose???? This idea was completely foreign to me and not one that I was sure I was going to like. So what happened that night? I think that was our best night in Venice. By being lost, we found great food, great markets, great scenery and ran into some funny, quirky locals. Enough said.
“Not all who wander are lost.”-JRR Tolkein
5. Last but not least, be happy with what you have: It’s a known fact that the grass is always greener on the other side. The lonely single girl wishes she was married, the discontent married woman wishes she was single, the mother of three wishes she could be as carefree as the woman with no kids and so on and so forth. Let’s be real. Every circumstance in life comes with its challenges and imperfections. It’s up to each one of us to determine how we will deal with it. While you’re looking longingly at the the girl and boy walking by holding hands, you’ve missed the glow of the setting sun illuminating the stained glass of St. Mark’s Basilica. If you’re busy focusing on what you can’t do because you have kids, you’ll never know what you can do with them. And that’s a shame. Your vacation, like your life is your own, make the very best of it that you can.