What I learned from Italian grandmothers and traveling alone through Europe.
I didn’t know what to expect coming to Europe but more than anything, I knew I wanted/needed to shed a heavy heart.
The best part of this trip, though? The journey isn’t over.
Upon moving to San Francisco a year ago, without fully realizing it, I stopped nourishing myself. For almost an entire year, I was starving myself of creativity, physical movement, sacred spaces and deep, healthy connections.
Gifting myself a trip throughout Europe has begun to turn that around for me and fast. I’m learning to lead with what I love and need, and discovering through much trial and error. Below are some of my key lessons thus far.
#1 Give yourself space to cry and do “nothing”.
I have planned next to nothing on this trip, have moved on the wind’s time and have taken action based on what’s felt easy. #howdareI
There were many days where getting out of bed was my big accomplishment. And I did my best to love my A-type self right through it.
It’s ok to do nothing. It’s normal, in fact. Dare we say healthy. There is deep wisdom in the art of stillness, one I’m beginning to appreciate more and more.
Rather than choosing cheap hostels where I’d share a living space with 6+ people, I chose beautiful Airbnbs that gave me the privacy and sense of security necessary to feel whatever came up.
The intentional “let it be” attitude removed the pressure of needing to plan my day, act according to what’s expected of a typical “traveler” and learn what my body deeply desired.
Sometimes that was sleep and a whole lot of it. Other times it was to move my body in the park and run in Villa Pamphili.
There were plenty of impromptu cry sessions, which wouldn’t have been possible or as nourishing had I not treated myself to one of the most sacred things on earth: space.
Pre-San Francisco departure, the amount of space in my life was in the negative. I didn’t realize this until I went off and spent almost 45 days with myself, traveling.
How can you gauge how much space is in your life?
Internally, reflect on how much empty space is in between your thoughts. Space comes in the form of being present, of literally stopping to smell the roses and enjoying the seemingly insignificant happenings in your life. Your body will also feel relaxed. Lack of space may consist of racing thoughts, feelings of being suffocated, and as if you’re a prisoner of your own mind.
Externally, ask yourself how much time you have for yourself? Do you have your own room or place you can go to in order to unwind? Do you feel guilty for taking time away? Are the people in your life supportive of your time alone?
Personal space is essential (tweet it). This trip, and how it’s aided in the recovery of both my health and heart, has shown me that.
#2 Discover what nourishes you.
[The picture below is actually a shot a sunset over the Black Forest in Baden-Baden, Germany, which I ran/hiked in various times the day before. #nofilter]
Before I left for the airport today, I ran 3 miles in the woods and hit the gym. It felt right, it felt easy and I was doing it because I genuinely wanted to. Taking care of myself has started to feel fun and natural again, as opposed to this task that needs to get done and might negatively impact my relationship, job or [fill in the blank].
For me, it had been a long time since I decided to “get to know myself”. Truth be told, I don’t know that I ever deliberately asked myself what I liked, regardless of what other people thought.
For example, in the biz world I play in, blogging is pretty normal. Most everyone blogs, writes or creates some form of content. And while yes I like to blog, I’ve been greatly influenced by what I’ve done before and by what has felt normal or acceptable in this space. But that doesn’t take into account what I really want to say or create, does it?
Can I talk about my day to day life, spirituality and lean into comedy and pure art, I’ve wondered. Can my work be imperfect and act as a place of discovery without fucking up my reputation or business?
Bottled up self-expression, which are really gifts in the making, can leave one to feel stagnant, limited and suffocated. It’s not good for your body to keep all that juiciness locked away.
#3 Learn what you like to do, eat, see and be.
Previous to this adventure, of course I could tell you that I love to travel, but omg, did I learn how much I LOVE to eat. Like if there’s yummy, new, local eats, count me in. The picture below is a little spot I ate at in Bologna, Italy. That’s butterfly pasta. I basically imagined I was eating hundreds of miracles (read about the meaning of butterflies if what I said makes no sense to you).
And I love to have gorgeous forests be a main staple of the cities I visit, right behind my house if I can swing it. City centers and tourist sites aren’t my jam, but nature bragging most certainly is.
And yes, a private room is important to me so shared dorms are a no go most days. And yes I want yoga, running and lots of time to create.
I didn’t know how much I love bubbles (!), aimless wandering and hadler (spelling?). Or that stress in your chest isn’t normal. Pain in your heart, for what?
I deeply cherish having developed a practice of getting to know what I like through spontaneity. For all the people in the world who don’t know what they like, especially us women, I encourage you to get down to brass tacks and discover it. It’s one of the funnest and most fruitful investments you will ever make.
The journey continues…
The journey is going to continue on to Costa Rica, for what I expect to be 2 months (?). I’m gifting myself the chance to practice yoga, meditation and acceptance through an organization called Pachamama in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It’s a legit jungle and the spiritual boot camp I think I’ve always been looking for. I mean, come on. If I seriously considered the Marines, I can seriously consider this.
Until next time.
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Originally published at www.viralalita.com.