By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD.
People are always shocked when I tell them I’m going on vacation, renting a car and have no set agenda or reservations for a hotel room.
My preference to travel this way started years ago when my sister and I arrived in Amsterdam and our rental was a disaster. We just wandered the countryside for ten days, stopping at places that looked interesting and grabbing a room. We always say it was our favorite vacation together.
This was different than when we used to travel as a family. We were up at the crack of dawn and roaring down the road in our station-wagon towards the largest ball of string… and the next hotel reservation my father had booked for us.
The Largest Ball of String
My husband and I did see the largest ball of string a few years ago, but it was part of a one week wander that we did in Western Kansas seeing wide open spaces, outsider art and strange little museums. We were even invited back to a farmer’s house who we met at the largest round barn in the world. He wanted us to see his cows and windmills.
I try to savor the moment when I travel, because it’s easy to stay present in a new restaurant or place. I also like to savor what I call time affluence—free, unscheduled time.
The Sweetness of Doing Nothing
One of my favorite Italian sayings is “Dolce far Niente”, which means “the sweetness of doing nothing.”
It does not mean being lazy, it’s referring to the pleasure one gets from being idle. The ability to completely enjoy and savor a moment. For Italians, this concept is a part of their every day life; spending time drinking cappuccino at a café, enjoying an Aperol Spritz at sunset, talking a stroll around the moonlit piazza before bed and spending the day at a beach.
Dolce far Niente is something Italians embrace and something they do very well.
Our Trip to Italy
John and I had the luxury of spending June and July in Italy this summer. He is a teacher, so he has those months available.
We spent most of our mornings drinking cappuccino and reading on the lovely beaches. And then afternoons enjoying historical places and churches. Finally a lovely, slow dinner late into the evening. We had no agenda and booked almost every room on Hotels.com the day of our stay.
We found farmhouses, small funky B&B’s, an 1,100 AD Monastery, a small round house called a trulli and a Napoleonic fort on the ocean. I always added the search filter of free breakfast, free wi-fi and free parking when using Hotels.com. The deals were incredible because we stayed in areas that had no American tourists. For example, unlike the $400/night hotel in Positano, we stayed 30 minutes away for $80/night in a beautiful Monastery carved into the side of a cliff. And we were the only ones there.
Traveling this way is scary to some people. Part of it is that we think we’re going to miss something. But what we forget is that serendipity is what we’re really missing—it’s the things that aren’t on our itinerary that are often the most important.