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 revelers 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 how old they are and who has pushed them open before me. 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. 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, she is 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 don’t care.
I am joyful, bursting with happiness. Feeling renewed, present and gloriously fulfilled.
Three years previously my daughter was a freshman in college. She said, something along these lines: “when I graduate from college, I want to take a mother/daughter trip to Europe with just Mom as my graduation present.”
I almost burst into tears when she said it – tears of joy that she would want to do that with ME, and tears of worry because my husband had recently changed jobs and I didn’t see the trip as plausible on the financial front.
As it is known to do, time proceeded to fly by, aided by the fact that my daughter managed to finish her undergraduate degree in three years. In the fall of her senior year, my husband unselfishly encouraged me to make the trip happen.
“When will you have this chance again?” he said. “Let’s do what we need to do to get the two of you to Italy.”
So as I lean out the window of our flat in Florence, I fully appreciate the value of unfrugalness. I knew this mother/daughter trip would make my life’s highlight reel,
So as I lean out the window of our flat in Florence, I fully appreciate the value of unfrugalness. I knew this mother/daughter trip would make my life’s highlight reel but more than that it is an affirmation for me as a parent. 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. 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 that I consider her a fun, interesting companion.
I’ve made right choices. I’ve been exactly where I was supposed to have been and I’m now where I’m supposed to be and I will remain eternally grateful to my husband for his support in making this fiscally irresponsible – unfrugal — decision.
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 past regrets or borrowed troubles from the future. Traveling is like removing the lenses of near-sightedness and far-sightedness, letting you see and experience the present more completely. I got to experience Italy with my daughter as an adult, a travel companion and a friend. It was unfrugal and it was unforgettable.