At the beginning of the year, I created a wallpaper collage for my computer. I selected my goals and aspirations for the next twelve months because I felt like having them in front of me every day would act as a simple yet thoughtful way to keep feeling motivated and inspired. Among them:
- A couple swing dancing (since I love dancing)
- Colorful fruits and vegetables (the body is a temple)
- Joshua Tree National Park (where I got married this August)
- An effortlessly cool girl with perfectly pastel pink hair (it is my ideal shade and I am always trying to replicate it with every dye job)
- A journal (simply to represent writing more, which I have)
- The Banksy quote, “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” (which I haven’t)
And of course, a photo to represent my desire to travel to Italy—and what better photo than one of the most quintessentially Italian city of all? Venice. I found a slightly too saturated photo of an emerald green waterway flanked by old brick buildings. Pots of pink flowers hung from windows and in the distance a bridge married one side to the other. An ornate, empty gondola floated at the foreground as if to invite me into it.
I had romanticized this city for years, and when telling someone, “I want to travel to Italy,” what I actually meant was, “I want to travel to Venice.” I had seen too many of those photos…the ones of lovely walkways and stairs that lead you right to a gondola, bridges oozing with history which spread out across the canals, and the golden light of the moon twinkling in the water. There was simply no question that I would like Venice—I knew I was going to love it.
When people ask me for travel advice, one of the best bits I can offer is: travel without expectations. Go somewhere without a particular goal in mind and do not allow your imagination to conjure up ideas of what it will be like; instead, just live it.
I did not like Venice like I had always imagined I would because I did not heed my own advice. Instead of a genuine Italian experience, I felt as though I were in the “Little Italy” section of an amusement park. On more than one occasion, I thought I was getting off the beaten track, navigating those narrow, damp passageways simply following my gut on where to go. Then I would turn a corner and find myself back at the Rialto Bridge, or at a restaurant where the primary menu was in English, or wandering past a goddamn Burger King. Any Italian person I met in Venice would shake their head in disgust when I asked if they lived in the city proper. “Oh, no,” they’d quickly say. “No one lives in Venice.”
And yet, I still look at my photos from this charming place and swoon. I forget the crowds of people and the Disneyland vibe, and I remember what I enjoyed most about the city: turning corners without any idea what might be around the next one. It certainly wasn’t what I’d expected, but Venice was my first stop of a marvelous month-long honeymoon and will keep a little place in my heart no matter what.
No, Venice may not be perfect, but what is? It’s a glorious maze of a city that’s ideal for wandering and meandering and getting lost in the best way, as best you can.