I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. My husband and I, wide-eyed newlyweds with a spirit for adventure, checked our bags and triple-checked our paperwork. In a short time, we would be taxiing the runway at O’Hare, headed over the Atlantic on our honeymoon where we would immerse ourselves in the local culture by road-tripping through Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland.
What began as a trip destined for romance and wanderlust turned into my first taste of complete freedom and total relaxation. Somewhere between the coast of Italy and the mountains of Germany, I sank into the passenger seat and realized that this was the first time – ever – in my adult life where I gave myself permission to be fully present. No itinerary to blast through. No diet to adhere to. No devices to mindlessly scroll through. I threw rigid expectations and hyper-vigilant habits to the wind in favor of embracing an entirely foreign new pace of life, if only for these next two weeks.
This trip was the first time I’d ever seen such lush backdrops and scenic drives, but it was also the first time I’d witnessed myself in my own element. I was experiencing my true self for the first time, stripped of the need to push, power through, and prove something; to do more; to reach and strive for that elusive image of ‘better’ I had promised myself was waiting for me. Like the locals we met through our travels, I began developing intentional habits that re-routed me back to what I had lost in the hot pursuit of what I told myself I needed to be all along. I began savoring my food, indulging when it felt right. I found myself breathing more deeply, slowing down the never-ending wheel of anxious thought patterns that kept me feeling frantic back home. Counterintuitively, everything that I had resisted stateside was everything I needed to realize my true potential for being, not doing.