It started as a casual conversation a few years ago between my husband, Troy, and me. How do you best celebrate a milestone birthday? For me, I knew I wanted to travel. “Let’s go to Paris!” I said, almost as a joke.
Troy didn’t take it as a joke. So, off and on for those few years, we would briefly bring it up and dream about how it would be.
After months of planning, saving, planning more and saving more, we had a three-week whirlwind trip through Europe and the Mediterranean planned. It was to be the trip of a lifetime. And it was.
So, the hiatus that Troy and I (and Intentionally Refined) have been on these last few months has been intentional. We put all other things aside and really enjoyed everything about this summer and this trip.
We toured London, Paris and Rome by foot over the course of 8 days. Following that, we boarded a ship and sailed for the next 12 to Santorini, Istanbul, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Mykonos, Athens and Naples.
I loved every second of this trip. From walking in the pouring down rain with luggage a mile to our hotel in London to navigating our unique food situations (which included food allergies and gluten concerns) with a language barrier. Thank you Google Translate for help in that.
We saw sights and had experiences I never imagined I would see in my lifetime. Paris. Croissants. The Louvre. Padlock Bridge. Sacre Coeur. Versaille. The Eiffel Tower.
The. Eiffel. Tower. I literally caught my breath as we ascended from the metro and rounded the corner to where it stood. I had waited more than 25 years to see it and that moment was better than I could have ever imagined.
I dove into this trip intentionally and decided prior to leaving that I would embrace everything about it (even when we accidentally insulted a Turkish man, who then ended up insulting us back. Another story for another time.)
Along the way, I learned three truths. Well, I learned a lot more, but these are the three I jotted down on the way home from our trip.
1. You will learn more from traveling than you will from any book, any podcast, any webinar, any classroom.
I’ve never been on a subway. Poor little suburban girl who’s never really experienced the big city before. My first underground train experience was on the Tube in London, followed by the Metro in Paris. What a way to break me in.
After a day or two of navigating the different lines (and I felt like I had a handle on how to get from point A to B), we turned the responsibility over to our kids, “Here’s where we are. Here’s where we are going. Get us there.” And they did. Kids, just like us adults, need to experience life. If they failed, well, we’d get to see more of the city than we expected and we might be out a few more Euros. But we’d remember it. And they would too.
2. The people in your presence are far more important than the people in your phone.
Truth. Put the phone down. You can like your friend’s post later. You can comment on your friend’s outstanding new recipe that she just tried and ask for the recipe…later. You can upload that selfie later.
The people and the experiences that are right in front of your face are finite. They will go away. Stahhhp looking down at your phone and missing what’s happening in the moment where you are.
I stood underneath the Eiffel Tower for what felt like hours. I just looked up. I looked around. I stood in amazement and wonder with Troy and my family. At that moment, nothing else mattered. So I acted like it, like nothing else mattered, and the experience was awesome. Had I been on my phone checking Facebook or scrolling through the latest Tweets, I would have missed it.
3. Squat down really low and then jump out of that rut you’re in.
You don’t have to travel outside of the country to realize that you are doing the same thing the same way every day. You eat the same breakfast. You drive the same way, the same roads every day. You go to the same cardio class. I can say this because this was me.
When we were overseas, we tried new foods, we walked everywhere (or took the train) instead of driving a car, we talked to people who were different than us. Be brave, be willing to stretch yourself and try a different way of doing it.
Ibn Battuta said, “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” I could talk for days about this experience and what this trip means to me, but for now – consider the truths above and agree to intentionally refine yourself in these areas.