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Keeping the Spark of Travel Alive

The Pantheon. Ashley McCallan

When the excitement of travel fades, here are three ways to reignite it. 

I barely slept a wink the night before my flight to Rome—not due to excitement, but because of a deadline. Taking a few days of vacation is not without its downsides. The 3 a.m. wake-up call necessary to get me to the furthest airport from my apartment was not welcome. I rushed through security desperate to bank a few extra moments so I could buy a much-needed coffee (which I promptly spilled all over myself in my haste). The last place I wanted to be was on a plane to Rome. I could literally hear my bed calling me. 

When travel becomes your normal, it’s easy for the sparkle to fade around the edges. It’s an embarrassing thing to admit; especially when you’re painfully aware of how lucky you are and how many people wish to be in your shoes.

So whenever I sense immunity to that travel-esque wonder coming on, I focus my energy on these three tips to keep the magic alive: 

Plan and dream

As a Canadian, I grew up far away from frequent international travel opportunities. I certainly was lucky enough to have a few excellent trips before moving to London, but those are moments that I anticipated like a child waiting for Christmas. For weeks ahead of time I went to sleep excited and woke up excited. There was so much time for anticipation to build.

When travel becomes your normal, it’s easy for the sparkle to fade around the edges. It’s an embarrassing thing to admit; especially when you’re painfully aware of how lucky you are and how many people wish to be in your shoes.

When travelling and exploring become your norm, it’s easy to slide down the slippery slope to how I felt prepping for Rome. You get used to dropping into brand new places, and things like navigating and planning on-the-go become second nature.  

So research your destination in your free time. Read travel blogs. Ask people who’ve been there for recommendations. Let yourself get excited.

Europeans have been properly spoiled having so many places within their reach. So channel your inner North American, a gazillion miles from the nearest cobble stone street and anticipate.

Know how you travel and own it

When you’re living a life abroad in your 20s, particularly in Europe, you’re likely surrounded by other expats who are filling every free moment with travel. With everyone around you constantly jetting off to explore new places, it’s easy to feel the pressure of what you “should” be doing with your travels.

Backpackers think tour-goers are “inauthentic,” tour lovers think backpackers are insane to risk missing something vital. Some people fill their itinerary to the brink, while others sacrifice a few “must-sees” in favour of taking it slow and soaking it in. Want to know a secret? They’re all right and they’re all wrong.

All you need to know is how you travel—what makes a trip worth it for you and you alone. Knowing that immediately eliminates all external pressure of “making the most of it,” because you already doing it by default.

Know your best time of day and utilize it (mine is morning), what your “musts” are (Pantheon, the Vatican, espresso and people-watching), and where you’re willing to be flexible (I wouldn’t have missed my espresso and people-watching for the world).

After figuring out these things, just let yourself have them and don’t worry about the rest.

Don’t be married to your itinerary

When I arrived in Rome, it was pouring rain, and the free walking tour I joined was downright awful. I was overtired, grumpy and wet. I forced myself to go for a walk, aiming for the Colosseum, rather than retreating to my hotel to eat a grocery store dinner in my bed and binge the new season of Stranger Things.

On route, I turned a corner and was suddenly arrested by the gravitas of a different building towering over me. I approached it, marvelling at its columns, their reflections glittering in the puddles on the marble floor. Flames from nearby torches flickered valiantly amidst the rain. For a few magical moments, I found myself standing before the Pantheon—entirely alone.

The experience seeped into me, completely squashing my bad mood. How unbelievably, ridiculously, mind-bogglingly lucky was I? I came to Rome for the weekend. Just because I could! And here I was experiencing actual magic.

I skipped the Colosseum entirely that evening, allowing my buoyant mood to lead me back to my hotel for the early night I craved, marvelling at how absolutely insane it was to have been at one of the busiest landmarks in the busiest cities in the world, all on my own.

Of course, it soon hit me that it wasn’t the Pantheon at all. In my overtired, in-search-of-a-reminder state, I forgot that I already knew the Pantheon looked like. Instead I happened upon a grand structure, saw columns, and thought—the Pantheon, yes! But the discovery didn’t lose an ounce of importance in my mind. The Pantheon-that-wasn’t would never have happened if I had stuck to my original plan, and finding it will forever be one of my best travel memories.

When you’re living abroad, it’s easy to feel the pressure to make the most of every moment and check things off your list, but don’t let this cloud the wonder of adventure that sent you off in the first place. Get excited about pending trips, travel how you want to travel, and leave room for the moments that take you off-course—do this, and your travels will never lose that bit of magic.  

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Ashley McCallan

Ashley McCallan studied English and writing and worked in book publishing before moving to England on a Youth Mobility visa. She now lives in London, works in Project Administration, and is as in love with Big Ben as the day she arrived.

Website: www.instagram.com/ashleymccallan055/

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