Being a mom is hard work, sacrifice, and total commitment. But it’s not the end of life. Here’s the story of Kristin, one mom who after raising two children is rediscovering her taste for adventure and passion for exploring the world.
The day crept up on me quite unannounced, although I should have anticipated the affects. One would imagine that after 20 years of yearning for peace, quiet and a calendar devoid of kid activities and demands, I would have circled that date in red.
When that time came however, it startled me. It took months to come down from the loneliness of the empty nest and the frenetic pace of these kid-centric years. But once my heart rate slowed and my mind cleared, thoughts that were buried for decades starting blooming. Thoughts of traveling to faraway places that do not have water parks or ball pits. Thoughts of the freedom to see and do something other than watch a basketball tournament or ask Siri where for the nearest McDonald’s Playland. Thoughts of enjoying a nice dinner with fabulous wine—without the whine!
My taste for travel was whetted early as a kid. The most impactful experience was as a foreign exchange student in the tiny town of Gorizia in Northern Italy. When my host family’s tiny yellow Citroën picked me up at the train station, I knew that this was going to be an adventure. The drive home quickly became awkward as we tried to get to know each other—but without understanding each other’s language! So, I spent many of the first weeks trying to not only learn Italian, but also to decipher body language—and was surprised to find my American senses were not used to the Italian way. It surprised me initially to watch dinner conversations escalate into heated arguments only to see hugs and kisses on the back patio a few hours later.
Despite the language challenge, I immediately fell into a state of wonder about the culture that surrounded me. I saw artifacts and architecture created a thousand years before my ancestors settled in the upper Midwest. I rode a public bus for an hour to get to the brilliant blue seaside where the locals were fascinated by our “cowboy” president (Reagan). I fed the Venetian pigeons in Piazza San Marco and bought a cameo ring that I still own today. And the pizza? The gelato? The pork and polenta? Nutella and French bread? Let’s just say I came home slightly larger than when I left. I embraced this little town and its people, with their heart and passion and beauty and yes, food!
Experiences like this taught me a lot about myself as well. Some of the things that mattered to me most when I was in my hometown really didn’t seem as consuming once I began travelling. My mind was blown at the rich history of different countries and cultures. And who knew that once you learn one Italian dialect, there were at least 87 more to master! This is what I love about travel. It has expanded my mind and my heart and made me a more compassionate, adaptable, and curious human being.
Admittedly, in the process of raising a family, I think that I lost some of that compassion and curiosity as I felt so consumed by the awesome responsibility of not screwing up two little beings. Today we have been released from that pressure chamber and voila! My energy and intrigue about different places is growing.
Perhaps this is the one of the last lessons I can teach my now-adult sons: people from different places can teach you so much; the world is interesting and diverse and beautiful and tragic; it is not at all like what you see on your social media feeds. Life begins when you step out of your comfort zone!
So arrivederci to vacations filled with water parks or chicken-nugget friendly restaurants. Italy, I cannot wait to see you again!
Find your next adventure.