Vacation can teach us a lot of things. About ourselves. About others. About the world. Even about work. Here are some of my takeaways from my recent European adventures.
Have patience (and some faith)
This is the stunning Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto, Portugal, rumored to have been a partial inspiration for Harry Potter.
Everything takes longer than you think. This is a universal truth but one that's especially relevant on vacation and in another country. If you think you're going to breeze up to the door of an experience and waltz right in, well the mile-long queue might have another idea. We got timed tickets for this bookstore (yes, you read that correctly) and naively thought we'd be in and out in five minutes with plenty of time to spare for our food tour. But when we arrived, the ticket holders line was hundreds of people deep. I got on line and said we'd give it 20 minutes and if we weren't inside we'd abandon ship. Maybe, I hoped, it would move faster than we thought. At first it looked hopeless, but then things picked up and as luck would have it, or patience, or both, we made it in. It was worth it. This place is incredible. And had we done what most impatient NYers do and just left, we would have missed out on an incredible experience. But we gave it a shot. And were rewarded for it.
Be ready to pivot
Sporting Clube de Portugal, Jose Alvalade in Lisbon.
I'm a planner. Shocking. This trip was quite packed, for better or worse, but sadly my friend wasn't feeling well one day, so that meant pivoting. As my son is a huge soccer fan, I thought it might be fun to check out one of the stadiums. I looked online for a tour, but as with most European websites, the experience was lackluster, so we took a chance and a $10 Uber to the stadium and figured worse case we'd just wander the grounds and go to the store. As it happens, when we walked in they were just starting a tour! So we happily spent the next hour learning about the club and getting to see the field, the trophies, the President's box and more. And, by the time we were done, my friend was feeling better and we were able to resume our night as planned.
Try new things
The beautiful Balfour Winery at Hush Heath in Kent, England.
Wine in England? That can't be good, can it? Well, thanks to climate change, England is now producing some really great sparkling wine, even rivaling Champagne. Yes, England. We took a lovely tour of this winery, whose wine is served at Buckingham Palace, Harrod's and countless other fancy establishments, and let me tell you, it's some of the best sparkling I've had. Delicate. Smooth. Lingering. And from England. Again, who knew? I actually learned about this from a documentary, Sparkling: The Story of Champagne and was quite skeptical, but again, felt that the worst that could happen was we'd see a lovely winery and leave empty-handed. But for a region that's only been doing this around two decades, they're doing something right.
Take in the view
A view of the city of Lisbon from Sao Pedro de Alcantara.
Ever notice how you find things when you aren't looking for them? We rarely do this in our day to day, but when wandering on vacation the most amazing sites can come out of nowhere. This was the case on our way to dinner, after climbing 1000 steps (or so it felt) and being rewarded with a stunning view of the city. There's something so satisfying about wanderlust and exploring with no idea what you'll find. So often, those are the best experiences and images.
Never stop learning
Travel feeds my soul. As someone who never cared about history growing up, it's now my favorite thing to learn. I'm always the annoying person on every tour asking all the questions. I'm fascinated by other civilizations, countries and cultures and I'm constantly humbled by all that there is to know and experience in this world. Mark Twain famously said that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." and I couldn't agree more. Travel has made me a better writer, a better friend, a better mother and an overall better person. It's made me more accepting and understanding and more curious and courageous. Travel reminds me how small we are and yet how fortunate.
I'd love to hear where you've traveled to recently or where you're going.