This photo isn’t special. The saturation is off. The cropping is wonky. It’s definitely not the most beautiful capture of Il Duomo and Giotto’s Campanile. I’m okay with these truths, though. It’s the story behind the image that holds the most meaning for me. Sometimes it’s the story that counts more than the perfect shot.
When we decided to take our parents to Italy as a delayed Christmas present, I knew that my job as a traveler would change. This time, I would be the guide. I would be in charge of more than waking up and walking around and making a train on time. To be honest, it became a personal challenge to me. Coordinating six people at home is daunting at times, so I knew that this task would need to be well planned, right down to the routes we needed to walk.
But, as any well-seasoned traveler knows, there will always be caveats and detours and unplanned events in even the most carefully planned itineraries. That’s what gets the motors running for those of us afflicted with the disease of wanderlust. Some people jump out of airplanes. Some run marathons. Wanderlusters thrive on the challenges of navigating through a trip. It’s what we do.
On the day that I took this photo, my family and I meandered through the long and beautiful halls of the Uffizi Museum. It was a pleasant end to a day of wandering the streets of Firenze. Unfortunately, we had a minor emergency involving a lost coat check tag, but, fortunately, I had my Super Traveler cape folded neatly into my back pocket. After a whimsical conversation with the museum guards in my best toddler level Italian, it was necessary to fly (I had a cape, remember?) through and wind around the maze of the museum. If you have never toured the Uffizi, let me tell you that it is not an intuitive building to negotiate. In my breathless frenzy of trying to save the day, I turned the corner and found myself staring down the images in the photo.
And I gasped.
I gasped at the sight of the setting sun’s reflections on the buildings. I gasped at the fact that I could step out on a terrace and witness the golden Tuscan sun and structures made through the genius of humans. The highly saturated yellows in the photo were taken down a few levels because of the intensity of the light. This seemingly minor experience reminded me of why I travel, and it reaffirmed my faith in God’s great designs and in the beauty of taking a breath in the present moment.
You see, you can have the best laid plans. You can carefully carve out your path, down to the route and the mile markers and the stops. You can tick off boxes on your list, but even the most crafted lives (and trips) present detours and unpleasantness and unplanned experiences. That’s life. That’s travel. But, what we wanderlusters know deep in our hearts is that it’s those detours that offer the best views and most meaningful experiences. We know that travel is a tired cliché for life, but who cares? This day was no less a hackneyed cliché for me. In the midst of a crisis, there are lessons. Sometimes there is also beauty. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the importance of catching our breath in the maze and appreciating the moment. You just never know what you might discover.