I’m a planner. For our France adventure we have done a lot of mini-trips in the middle of our big trip, and all of it has taken a lot of planning. I have done a lot of research, made a lot of itineraries, and–importantly–used my imagination to envision how we would spend our time.
The dreams and visions are important. Not just for traveling, but anytime you want to make something happen. You imagine an outcome and then you head towards it. But I’ve learned that there comes a critical moment when you need to release the outcome that you imagined to make room for what is real and actually happening.
Reality always looks different than whatever was happening in your mind. There are more details–fewer filters. Sometimes what is real will exceed your expectations (like when we arrived in our village and it was even cuter than I thought it would be), and sometimes you will be disappointed (bugs and weird smells in Airbnbs). Sometimes things will line up exactly as you planned–but more often, the subway will be late, the restaurant will be closed, and the sun won’t be shining. I’ve learned that the quicker I can release whatever it was that I had imagined and accept the reality that is in front of me, the happier I am.
Some of my favorite moments, places, and experiences have come after something that I had imagined and planned for didn’t work out.
On Christmas Eve, my sister was here with her family and we were exploring Colmar. We had taken pictures in Little Venice, and our plan was to visit the Toy Museum, do some shopping in the Christmas markets, and then go to our dinner reservation. However, all the Christmas markets started shutting down an hour earlier than expected, so we missed them, which was a big bummer. Disappointed, we figured we could kill time and keep warm until dinner by sitting in the cathedral.
What I did not anticipate or expect was that there would be a beautiful Christmas Eve mass happening. The cathedral was lit up and specially decorated just for this moment, we got to hear beautiful French Christmas hymns, and our children were able to attend a Christmas Eve mass for the very first time. It was one of my favorite parts of our Christmas experience, and it only happened after we were redirected after a disappointment.
Every single one of these pictures below represents a hoped-for outcome that I needed to release–maybe the weather, or a tour that didn’t go as planned, or a missed opportunity. And yet, in each instance, what IS–the experience that I had that I took a picture of–is absolutely beautiful and wonderful. I’ve learned not to miss what is right in front of me because I’m mourning a reality that was never going to be.
For more about what our time in France has taught me, check out 25 Reflections: People are People.