As I mentioned in a previous post, I went to Italy last fall. It was a monumental trip in so many ways. Venice was our last stop, and of course, I couldn’t go home without riding the gondola. Sure, it’s hokey and touristy, not to mention expensive. BUT it’s also the quintessential Italian experience. Right?
More importantly, it was all part of the dream I had of one day going to Italy. It was the equivalent of crossing the finish line in a race.
But what does it mean to actually accomplish a dream? Is it all that it’s cracked up to be or do you sometimes get to that point and think: hmm, ok, well that was cool, what’s next? I think that’s why everyone says it’s so important to be in the present moment and enjoy the journey. That way, when you reach that actual moment of realization, acclaim, success, you don’t deflate.
Allow me to take you on my journey to realizing a lifelong dream and show you what I discovered in the process.
My husband and I decided a morning ride would be just as romantic and quaint as an evening ride, especially since it costs twice as much to ride after dark–and forget about being serenaded, that’s a whole extra charge. Our hotel recommended a trip around Rialto Bridge and told us we might have to haggle for a fair price. We found a dock with gondoliers advertising, but decided to check around, since their ride seemed a little short for the price. But as it turned out, other spots were even busier and no less reasonable in price or time length. We headed back to our original spot only to watch the gondoliers receive a telephone call and dash away. What now?
We entered a busy square and found a super tall–I mean gargantuan–male gondolier waving his big hands around and calling out his services. Well, I knew right away, this was our guy. He had a friendly face and despite a small concern as to whether he would fit under all the bridges, he seemed the most likely candidate for the job. I imagined he could steer us anywhere with those hands. Of course, as soon as we chose him, another couple swooped in like a couple of pigeons, not exactly to steal our guy, but rather to try to get in on the action by sharing a boat and saving some cash. This is common procedure and even recommended in guidebooks, but I was NOT having it that day. I mean, this was my shining moment of glory. I was not planning to share it with a couple of strangers. Plus there’s only one love seat. How do you have a romantic moment with other tourists? Anyway, I waved them away, and the gondolier didn’t seem to mind, so off we went! But I did feel a little sorry for the couple we left behind, who actually seemed pretty normal and well-intentioned.
Getting into the boat was a feat in and of itself. And then getting situated. The gondolier wanted us on certain sides to maintain the balance, but all we could think was: What about our photo ops? If you know my husband, you know there will be many of those, they need to be just right, and they cannot be dictated by the needs of the person steering the boat even if he’s just trying to do his job and keep us from capsizing or crashing 😉 Well, we got it squared away. As I say, we had THEE GONDOLIER who was willing to do whatever it took to make us happy and get paid. So we’re bouncing around trying to pose ourselves and feeling quite antsy and truthfully not really enjoying the moment or noticing much of the scenery except in terms of what would make a great shot. We reach the Grand Canal, the place to see and be seen, and truly wear ourselves out with photos.
But FINALLY, we settled down, relaxed, and absorbed the sights and sounds of our surroundings. We cuddled, politely kissed, sailed under bridges, cruised down secluded passageways, listened as our guy chatted about history and architecture while we admired the ambience, and savored every delicious minute. And even still, it was over too soon. But again, our gondolier did not rest until he got a few final perfect shots of us in the boat, per our request.
So how did I feel after stepping out of the gondola? Elated, exhausted, perplexed, complete, and secretly a little bit disappointed although I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. I’m certain I built up the expectation in my head to a staggering degree that could never quite measure up to any experience in real-time. But to be fair, I only had romantic, Hollywood movies as a model. Anything would pale in comparison 😉
So was I totally 100 percent gratified afterwards? No. But was it still worth it? Yes. And here is why.
Riding in the gondola was a symbolic part of my journey and I couldn’t really consider the trip complete without having experienced this moment. I think for me, it was about honoring the occasion. It was THE EVENT to mark the rite of passage. To say I came, I saw, I did everything there was to do in Italy including the gondola ride. I could then go home feeling certain that I’d accomplished my lifelong dream to go to Italy and discover my roots.
So am I saying don’t bother going after a big dream in case it doesn’t live up to your every expectation? Of course not. Go after your dream with confidence! After all, my trip to Italy as a whole was everything I hoped it would be and more. But when you reach the TOP, if the view isn’t quite what you expected, no big deal. It’s the getting there that’s the real prize. You might even find that the very thing that had been thrashing around, unsettled, in your heart, becomes still. And whatever comes next, because there will certainly be new mountains to climb, you can hold this moment of accomplishment in your mind as a testament that dreams really do come true.