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  • JoAnn Gustave

The ART of wandering

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Every time I travel, whether with friends or alone, I always pick one day or maybe just a couple of hours to wander in the city, not really knowing where I'm going or what I'm going to do that day.

I believe that it is the only way you get to really experience a city like a true local. Sometimes it leads to absolutely nothing; maybe just a few hours people watching, which I think is vital for ones mental health, but most times I discover gems that I would've otherwise missed.

I am not saying that you should not plan a great trip ahead by doing some research or booking a great tour, I am a travel advisor who plans trips for a living but I feel that a lot of people my age travel just to take pictures and leave with no true essence of the country they visit, especially when they do not have a lot of time. I always encourage people to do something they would normally get done at home when travelling or participate in a social event attended mostly by locals. It may put you out of your comfort zone, especially if there is a language barrier but getting groceries or having a coffee at a corner store even when it feels unnecessary while you are away will bring you so much closer to the people where you are.

On my last trip to Barcelona, I decided to go to a hair salon and get a wash and blow then took the rest of the day walking near the Rambla in search of the perfect churros which I never found.

Later that day,after having indulged on a nice paella lunch at Placa Reial , I stumbled into an interesting art gallery, Villa del Arte Galleries where I discovered French artist Francoise Nielly. Her work fascinated me with the colors and textures she used in her paintings so much that if I were just a bit more secured financially, I would have bought a piece to take home with me.

Me at the Villa del Arte Galleries courtesy of Melissa Jules @life_thru_my_lenses

picture courtesy of Melissa Jules @life_thry_my_lenses

I would not call myself a great art connoisseur or anything but it is everywhere in Barcelona, which I like to call Gaudi's playground, and the gallery was a great haven in the middle of such a busy city. According to the Barcelona Field Studies Centre, over half of Barcelona's population is subjected to noise levels of about 65 decibels during the entire day and that is one of the negative effects that tourism has had on the city. Just like with any other large town, it's always great to find yourself a quiet space.

picture courtesy of Melissa Jules @life_thry_my_lenses

It's not always about the lack of noise, sometimes it's also nice to find a busy place! Case in point, in Florence, after having checked off my list of touristy things to do, I followed the large crowd on a Sunday and walked up to what I consider to be until this day the ultimate food heaven, the Mercato Centrale Firenze. Did I plan to eat 5 meals for lunch? Probably not but when you walk into Nirvana, you don't ask how many calories you'll gain. You just buy all the truffles and oils you can and eat until you feel the ogre's appetite inside of you has been tamed.

So naturally I had a glass of red wine, the braised fennel, the beef carpaccio, the fried seafood bowl, the fresh pasta and a chocolate cake with a warm cup of coffee to seal the deal. Don't judge me, it was a Sunday! Oh and did I already mention the gelato I grabbed on the way out? There I was, in the middle of a market having lunch by myself watching Italian families grabbing a bite and because I do not speak one word of Italian, imagining all kinds of stories by their body language.

Oh how mundane! one might say, doing nothing while on vacation? but I assure you that when you try it, something inside of you will warm up and you will be filled with a sense of gratitude that I cannot explain. You will feel joy, you might smile for no particular reason and a sense of peace will fill up your entire body.Try it! You'll thank me one day.

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