‘Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.’ – Anonymous
The sounds from the pub below drift up to the flat. Laughter, music and a chattering that is a soup of indistinguishable words, partly because so many people are talking at once, but mostly because the revellers are speaking Italian – a language I have come to associate with living in the moment and enjoying life.
I walk to the window of this Florence Airbnb and pull it open, then push wide the solid and heavy wooden shutters, wondering at how old they are and who has pushed them open before me. I’ve found that almost everything I see and touch in this beautiful country of Italy causes me to reflect on the people who came before me and the passage of time. History and significance hang in the air, coat the walls, and carpet the streets.
Resting my elbows on the windowsill, I lean out into the air two stories above Via Palazzuolo and look down upon the life that is pulsing below me. The pub goers spill out into the street, beers in hand, flirting, mingling, laughing, talking. I can see the glow of iPhone screens and can even make out the blue of the Instagram app background on a couple of the phones. Travel 5,000 miles and the landscape changes a lot and so very little all at the same time.
Behind me, my 21-year-old daughter is lying on the bed, reading a book on her iPad, decompressing from a day that began with espresso and shopping in Rome and ended with dinner and gelato in Florence, sprinkled with a few subways, a train and a lot of steps logged on my Garmin in between.
We are exhausted. We’ve been in Italy for four days and sleep has not been a significant part of the itinerary. I do not care.
I am joyful, bursting with happiness. Feeling renewed, present and gloriously fulfilled.
I knew this mother/daughter trip would make my life’s highlight reel, and I will remain eternally grateful to my husband for his unselfishness in encouraging us to take it. But as I hang out the window, I realise the trip has become more than a favourite holiday.
It’s become an affirmation for me – I made the right choices; I’ve been exactly where I was supposed to have been and I’m now where I’m supposed to be.
The affirmation comes in the form of being able to really experience my daughter as a friend – a friend I really like. One with whom I have so much in common that sometimes it’s like I’m hanging out with myself, only a version of myself without my worst character defects.
An upgraded version, all the bugs fixed. A 2.0. She is a friend who possesses the parts of me that I like, but enough of my kinder/gentler husband to smooth out or erase the parts of me that I’m not so crazy about, and even more of her unique self, making her a fun, interesting companion.
So often, our eyes perceive the world and our loved ones through lenses of goals, to-do lists, parenting worries, economic considerations and fears, burdening the present moment with regrets from the past or troubles borrowed from the future.
But when we travel, we are more able to set those things aside for the moment. In that way, travelling is like a cure for near-sightedness and far-sightedness, offering you a beautiful view of the present moment. What better way to enjoy the spoils of the job well done as a parent than to travel with an adult child and experience the present together?