Living ‘La Dolce Vita’: How to Be Carefree and Travel with Meaning

Adventure Travel, Greece, Italy, Travel Philosophy — By on August 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Amy Rhodin
Special to The Lost Girls

“We want to live la dolce vita!” I explained to my new Roman friend, drinking down the last sips from my glass of champagne.

At a beautiful outdoor bar off Via Dei Serpenti, he shot back with a smirk that made my knees weak, explaining that two American girls in search of la dolce vita might get mixed up in the wrong kind of situation in Italy.

But in this particular moment, they were the only words to describe what my best friend Lizzie and I were trying to do with our post-graduation, month-long escape to the cities of Italy and the beaches of Greece. The phrase, translated to mean “the sweet life,” describes a gypsy mentality, live-in-the-moment spirit, and lust for adventure that she and I have just always had in our blood.

And this trip was meant to let us release all of that. It was a sort of in-between jaunt to let go of everything we were leaving behind, give into every Mediterranean temptation, and enjoy being alive and young before our lives were really about to change.

If you’re a Lost Girl who is looking to rip up her itinerary, say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and soak up the sweet life on a new adventure, then keep reading for my guide to becoming your inner gypsy and traveling only in search of the clearest water to soak your feet in.

Prepare to be unprepared
As perpetually bad planners who rely more on “rock, paper, scissor” than pro-con lists to make decisions, Lizzie and I wanted to travel easily through our chosen route, without feeling tied down to any plans. Still, we were also committed to accomplishing a few goals: seeing Italy’s ancient world, tasting wine straight from a Tuscan vineyard, swimming in the blue water of the Mediterranean and dancing until the sun came up in the Greek Isles.

To accomplish all of these tasks, we two free birds had to – gasp! – make some sort of plan. So before we left, we created a skeleton of an itinerary that would let us choose our journey day-by-day, but also keep us on track to getting through both countries. This included a round-trip ticket to Italy, a three-night hotel reservation for our first stop in Rome and a mid-trip flight to Athens. From there, the rest was up to us and wherever we stumbled.

Go with the flow
When it comes to navigating every day of your trip, the best advice I can give is: don’t! On our first day in each spot, we threw a map into my bag just in case, but really got our bearings by wandering. This led us to the surprising beauty of Pantheon Square glowing at night and an impromptu donkey ride through the town of Thera.

That vineyard we wanted to find? While trying to get back to our hostel in Florence one afternoon, we looked at our map and noticed a tiny ad for an all-day Tuscany tour leaving the next morning. We decided it might be easier then trying to get out to the different farms on our own, and this all-inclusive tour became one of the highlights of the trip.

During the trip, we allowed ourselves to take out the laptop for one hour on one day in each location, so we could make reservations for the next stop. This helped us make a solid decision about where we were headed – whether reserving a hostel in Florence, or a ferry to Mykonos – and still live in the moment of where we currently were.

Just keep smiling
Travel can be stressful for even the most carefree traveler, but there are some things to remember that will keep you happy when things go awry. Whether you get to the Vatican at 8 a.m. or wait until the crowds are crazy later in the afternoon, you’re going to have to wait in some sort of line. Enjoy the fact that you’re in the middle of a worldwide, centuries-long pilgrimage to the religious sanctuary. Even though you might feel silly waiting to get into these seemingly obligatory tourist traps, you have nothing to lose and all the world to gain from just doing it! Open your eyes and try to find something new and special about finally witnessing what you’ve only seen in pictures.

And remember that nothing ruins the sweet life more than finding yourself in an avoidable bad situation. That cute Greek boy at the bar offering to take you on his yacht might seem like a scene from your favorite chick flick, but think twice before ever going with someone you don’t know or doing something that might make you uncomfortable. There is a fine line between saying ‘yes’ to what could be the coolest experience of your life and ending up in something entirely different. Use your gut and street sense to keep you safe.

Wander after the wanderlust
If you’ve taken care of these necessary tools, then you’re all set to let go of everything else and live the good life in every destination. Drive an ATV to the highest peak of the Santorini cliffs, eat as much pasta and pizza as your waist can hold, taste every local aperitivo your waiter offers you on the house, buy your favorite piece at a local flea market and breathe in the same air that thousands of years of societies have breathed on the ancient Greek islands. Spend too much money, write down too many thoughts, sleep as late as you want, wear your bikini all day long and confide in your best friend all of your fears, dreams and hopes for the future that lies ahead.

Every day is an adventure, but when you’re a Lost Girl in search of the sweet life in all of your surroundings, you’ll find a journey that lasts far longer than any plane ticket could buy you.

*****

Amy Rhodin is a recent graduate of the George Washington University’s journalism program, and has written for National Geographic Television, contributed to the W Magazine editor’s blog, and assisted producers at the CBS News Washington bureau. Whether she’s volunteering in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa, getting lost on the dirt roads of the deep South, or tracking down politicians on Capitol Hill, she is daily inspired by the people and the stories she’s discovered by roaming around this world. Amy now lives in New York City and works in documentary television.

All photos by Amy Rhodin or Lizzie Speaker.

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