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A Year Later: Lessons Europe Taught Me

It is so hard to believe that I arrived in Paris a year ago to start an adventure that would show me and teach me so much about myself. I was scared to go. It was kind of like getting strapped into a roller

coaster and as it started to move thinking “What have I done?!?!?!” Before I knew it I was inching up a steep incline and the only thing to do was to surrender to the drop. The drop being the moment it really hit me that I was on another continent for 6 weeks by myself. Let the adventure begin!

The Lessons

They just keep revealing themselves even a year later.

There are so many lessons and realizations to

share but I will only share a few here for the sake of your time and to keep me from adding to symptoms of carpal tunnel.

“And then I realized being alone isn't scary, unenjoyable, or even uncomfortable at all. It is being lonely that is terrifying.” Journal entry March 1, 2022
  • Being alone and being lonely are two different things. One of my biggest fears in life has been being alone. I have done a great deal of work around this with my therapist and we have been able to link the fear back to childhood. When I became aware of it, it became something that I wanted to continue to work through. I think that maybe even subconsciously going on the trip alone may have been a way of choosing to explore what it is to be alone. I learned that being alone is what I am not so afraid of. It is being lonely that is so terrifying. While in Europe I was anything but lonely. I was amongst people and I felt good and happy. I met people I would start to see everyday. I met Mackenzie, my hallmate in Firenze, who was from the States but lived in France and had dinner. My friend Dumazi came to Firenze from London and we walked the streets after dark, ate, and admired the architecture. I met Adam who is from the States but lives in Firenze part of the year at my favorite lunch spot, Enoteca Pitti Pitti Gola e Cantina. We talked about all things America and how he lives in Italy and the US. I was a regular at Ditta Artigianale, a coffee shop with amazing food and coffee where the baristas and waiters knew my name. I was alone in Europe, but I was never lonely. I realized my real fear is being lonely. Being lonely is something I can control just by being present and engaging. Traveling solo was the best experience for me to understand the difference and to challenge my real fear.

  • Dolce Far Niente “the sweetness of doing nothing”. Yeah… Sadly I haven’t mastered this one just yet but goodness did I learn a lot by observing my Italian friends. Sitting out in piazzas on a sunny winter day to feel the warmth of the sun just because you can. Stop, pause, be still. Prioritize your peace. I still envision images of all of the people on the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge eating gelato, sketching, staring out over the Arno River while I was upstairs working and wishing I could be out with them. I understand the importance of dolce far niente now more than ever. Now that my business has gotten more complex and is growing and living in a part of town that I thoroughly enjoy, I make time to stop whether it is enjoying a cup of coffee from the Farmer’s Market on the bench at Bicentennial Park, or ending my day with relaxing music and a drink under dim lights. I get to choose to do nothing and the feeling of doing that is great and something that I need. I get to choose to make space for it because it won’t happen if I don’t.

  • Always Trust My Gut. I almost backed out of going a good three times before I actually went. Everytime I thought about canceling my flight and getting a credit, something always nudged me to keep it. I now realize that I HAD to leave to be where I am now. Going to Europe helped me to determine what is important to me. Before the experience if someone had asked me what was important to me I would have responded with my family and friends. By being away I really learned the most important thing to me is my genuine happiness. I do believe I was led to go away in order to discover it and apply my discoveries to my life back here in the States. I was unsure about so much before I left. The pieces started to come together when I challenged myself to do something different.

  • I Know How To Do It Afraid. Everytime I think about the experience I think about how scared I was to do it and how I was able to show up for myself in every encounter. I’ve kept that realization close to heart. Doing things afraid has shown up in my life so many times in the past year specifically in regards to business and love. It requires vulnerability and vulnerability can be scary. But in those vulnerable spaces I get to see different parts of myself. I welcome those parts and I value them deeply. They keep me from being boxed in and afraid of all of the possibilities. Those parts show me who I really am and who I am capable of being, good and bad. I am thankful for the ability to choose something different.

I have highlighted the word choose throughout this post for a specific reason. We get to choose to do the work. We get to choose to see ourselves. We often don't feel like we have choices because of our circumstances, our mindset, our environment, etc but we always have a choice even if it is to have a different mindset. When we can understand that we do have choices we can experience life and he world differently. Europe was an experience that I didn’t know I needed. I chose to challenge myself in this way and I am so glad that I did. Many people have asked me when I will do it again and interestingly enough my response is I don’t know. When I made the decision to do it initially it

was something I felt compelled to do. I don’t have that feeling anymore. It served its purpose. I would love to go for a shorter period of time to vacation, but to stay for a prolonged period of time is not something I feel like I need to do. I’m forever thankful for the experience and the person I am because of it. I’m thankful for the fun experience and the challenging ones too. I’m excited to continue to grow and expand as a person and in my career. I am also super excited to grow Self Work With Jess as a brand to encourage and empower people to do the things their heart desires, to lean in and take risks that show them more of themselves. France, Italy, and Spain were so good to me. I’m thankful and filled with so much gratitude for all of the lessons learned and the lessons that are yet to be discovered as a result of the experience. La vita é bella!


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