What my family vacation in Italy helped me remember

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I am back! I planned on only taking two weeks off from blogging, but that turned more into three. After my beautiful sister’s wedding and our road trip through Italy (thanks to those who followed us on social media!), my sister came into town for a few days more after her honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. We played tourists together through NYC and as every day went by I felt more and more relaxed with a lighter, more easy-going outlook on what I wanted to do for the rest of the year.

I have a bunch of posts and photos I want to share with you; where to go, what to do, where to stay…but first, I wanted to write about how significant the time away was for us.

I pulled my kids out of school a week before spring break to go on this trip. In great part because my sister’s wedding was then but also, it costs us all so much to travel to Europe together that I just didn’t feel that it was worth it if we didn’t go for a longer time. I was stressed out about emailing the school to let them know the boys would be out, so much so that I waited till the very last minute to do it. I didn’t want to deal with any pushback from school administrators or teachers over a trip that was more than just a vacation for us.

After I sent the email and we were on the plane, I immediately felt like a lot of the weight over all of that was slowly lifting. We’ve been to some pretty great places, my family and I, but I could tell over the course of a few days that Italy had quickly become a favorite for them. The food, the warmth of the people, and the weather! We had the best weather! It rained only at night, while we slept, and it wasn’t too hot or too cold. We had clear skies almost the whole time we were there and I even came home a bit tanned.

I worried about taking them out of school for such a long period of time. The schools are in full-speed ahead mode as the weeks of teaching are coming to an end and teachers need to cram in all the lessons still left to explore. My boys are doing better in areas such as math, but not stellar, and I worried that taking them out would set them back. It’s also a new school and they are struggling still with making friends – the consistency of being present being such a massive part to staying relevant. So much worrying and doubting if taking a trip was a good idea.

Just writing that makes my head explode, especially considering how important I believe traveling is for children. But societal pressures are just as powerful and fear of exclusion, judgement, and stigma are just as intense – more so for kids.

These thoughts rolled in my head until after a couple of days into our trip.

My children were curious about every single detail and wanted to see it all. We spent days walking for miles and they would follow along, even when we all felt our feet were going to fall off. They quickly learned some words and used them as often as they could, with whomever they could. “Ciao!” “Grazie!” “Io mi chiamo…”

Mesmerized by Lake Garda, Italy.

Mesmerized by Lake Garda, Italy.

Private taxi through the Venetian canals.

Private taxi through the Venetian canals.

Photographing the roof tops of Venice.

Photographing the roof tops of Venice.

They asked tons of questions every where we went. They took photos and asked for a camera of their own. They even started talking about starting a blog. They tried new foods and happily explored every new place we suggested. They played and laughed.

They came alive.

It was some time into our 3rd day, while we were touring a castle near Brescia that I was reminded of why this all matters so much. Why I even started blogging back in 2008.

I had a sudden realization of how little all the other attachments to this type of career matter. I was happy to not have partnered with anyone and turned our trip into work. I looked at my boys standing in the ruins of an ancient Roman empire absolutely loving life, loving their surroundings, loving each other and that very real moment they were sharing. I realized that this is why I needed to make the choice I did.

Brother selfie in Italy.

Brother selfie in Italy.

Exploring Roman ruins.

Exploring Roman ruins.

It was unique because we weren’t surrounded by tourists, it being low season and everyone still in school, which made it pleasant and easy to walk around and see things at a leisurely pace. My kids were more often than not the only kids around but they didn’t really care as they have each other. It wasn’t hot and nothing was terribly pricey either, which made it possible for us to splurge a bit more.

I got a chance to bond and reconnect with my family from Italy, many of whom I haven’t seen in so many years. I was reminded of my time there and how much I loved it and I even questioned why I ever left. Being at my sister’s wedding will remain a highlight in my life.

My baby sister and her husband!

My baby sister and her husband!

The bottom line is, I can’t believe that I had forgotten for a very lengthy moment why this is all so much more important than the publishers, the brands, the work. Why this was far more valuable for my kids.

An education is such a gift. So many children around the world crave to go to school and learn whatever they can to improve their lives and that of their families. I could never, and would never, state that it doesn’t matter or isn’t valuable. But taking a break from the pressures inflicted on our kids today is also important, and giving credit to the education provided by life experiences, interactions with others, and travel are also significant in the development of our children and in our continual growth as human beings.

Over the Duomo, Italy_GirlgoneTravel.com

As for myself, I took 3 weeks off from blogging. Experts would say that absence is professional suicide and yet I feel incredibly alive and excited and energized and happy because of the time I got to spend with my family and the space I took to enjoy them without distraction (granted I tweeted and such, but not much and it’s not the same as doing this).

I admit that for the past few months I have been disillusioned with the online space, the direction travel blogging has taken. I have fallen out of love with much of it because it has become so superficial, inauthentic, and instead of becoming a space of diverse voices, faces, ideas, and perspective, it has molded into everything that media has always been: whitewashed, simple, materialistic, voyeuristic, elitist, and exclusive. In the end, the financial powers that be have taken over the space and forced creative minds to follow the money – because we all need to eat, right? Creativity and originality is lost in the noise of those with the most influence and power. I was feeling a little lost.

I returned home from this trip assured that I love what I do. I was doubting that before this trip, but I realized that, in fact, I would still do this even if and even when no one paid me – though I wouldn’t do it for anyone other than myself for free. I see bloggers being taken advantaged of, abused, and unappreciated. I see people fighting so hard to get paid for their work, ideas, creativity, and art. It has made me sick to my stomach, incredibly frustrated, and at times angry.

It wasn’t until I took this break that I figured out a way to separate myself enough to continue to do what I love, even if just for myself, even if it wasn’t paid work anymore, without being dragged into the mess that much of this has become. I still have strong relationships with partners that have been fair, loyal, and supportive and that allow for me to remain my authentic self even through a paid partnership.

All that being said, I would have moments where I would freak out about not having worked, as being a freelancer means always working, but I would take a deep breath and refocus on the moment. I eventually found myself reevaluating a lot of my process and the many insignificant things I have allowed myself to get caught up in, realizing that I was falling back into mis-prioritizing way to many things that didn’t deserve to be given so much space in my head and time.

I know what I risked every moment I was “away” from this fast-paced, ever-changing, incredibly competitive, easily forgetful space. But whatever it was seems such a small price to pay for what I got in return, in the form of a very important, much-needed reminder to stop and look at all the beautiful things happening now, in real life, right in front of my eyes before it grows and is gone.

Overlooking Venice.

Overlooking Venice.

Take a moment, my friends, to stop, walk away, breathe, and find your spirit. You will be so happy you did.

 

More on our Italy trip coming next!

 

All photos are property of Girl Gone Travel® and may not be used without direct consent from the publisher.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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4 Responses to What my family vacation in Italy helped me remember

  1. Noel Morata says:

    So wonderful…a breath of fresh air and the real joy of travel!

  2. Love this post!

    And yes, the family is most important so much so, that I tend to take my 14 year old tween with me on about 70% of my trips. He’s extremely well travelled, easy to look after, and a dream to travel with!

    I live in Germany so from about the ages of 16 and 17, they tend to start travelling abroad without their parents. By 18, it’s a Gap Year before university, and then they’re off into the world!

    • caincarol says:

      I wish I had pushed my teen to travel more on his own, he won\’t do it yet. Fingers crossed he will find his way to this too!

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