If you want to have a Grand Adventure, travel alone and leave your camera behind.
I have just returned from a three week trip to Italy—fifteen days of it spent traveling alone. When first planning the trip, I had planned to travel most of the time with an acquaintance. She bagged out ten days before the trip—yes, you read that right. Fortunately, I had sensed the way the wind was blowing, and had made extensive backup plans to travel alone.
Yes, I was nervous about traveling alone in a foreign country. But all my life I had dreamed of seeing Italy, I was not going to let fear stop me. As it turned out, traveling alone was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I came alive. I woke up.
In Florence, the museum that hosts Michelangelo’s great David doesn’t allow photography, preferring you to buy their inferior photos in the gift shop. I have to thank them, because putting away the camera started something amazing. Because I needed some way to express my powerful feelings on seeing this masterpiece, I stayed at the David for two hours writing streams of poetry. After that, I continued writing poetry for the rest of the trip.
Countless times in my life, I have tried keeping a journal—aren’t writers supposed to do that? But I always failed. Friends urged me to keep a journal on my Italy trip. Although I tried, I was too overwhelmed, busy, and exhausted to write in any coherent linear fashion about what was happening. Then I met the David and discovered that journaling in poetry—in images and bursts and metaphors—worked wonderfully for me.
I returned with fifteen rough poems to develop, two new ideas for books, and ideas for revising a book in progress. Italy cracked me open like an egg. I don’t think this would have happened if I had been travelling with someone.
So here are three truths I learned:
1. A journey is not measured by the number of miles traveled or by the number of masterpieces seen, but by its impact on your heart.
2. The intended destination is only the point of departure for the real journey.
3. No Grand Adventure ever ends in the heart.
Go. Live. Write.
Moonlight shining on the Duomo in Siena
View from my room at Alma Dolmus Hotel