Years ago, Jody and I were in Idaho meeting my oldest daughter’s future in-laws. We were all having lunch together, and on the wall next to us was a picture of the bay and coastline in Portofino, Italy. It was incredible! I looked at Jody, commented on how beautiful it was, and promised her that someday I would take her there.
Fast forward a few years, and we’re halfway into our trip around the world with our two youngest children, Allison and Riley. Jody’s parents, Jan and Lou, had joined us in Madrid, Spain at this point for a six-week trip through Europe.
We had just spent a week in Tuscany, which was on my bucket list. Tuscany was everything you would expect—we made so many great memories, including all six of us hitchhiking to town in the rain! Our next destination was Genoa in northern Italy. We were headed over the Alps on the Bernina Express—it reminded me of the Polar Express—to Zurich.
We had checked into the hotel and were about to settle in when Jody came to me and said: “Mom and dad are going to watch the kids, you and I are getting back on the train to go three stops south and spend the night in Portofino all by ourselves!” I looked at her with a tear in my eye and responded in a voice that was nearly soprano range: “Really?!”
Ten minutes later, we were headed out the front door of the hotel back to the train station. Jody had remembered how much I loved that picture in the restaurant in Idaho a few years back, and asked herself: “What if I surprised John with a trip there someday?”
Why not, right?
We had never once discussed stopping in Portofino in all the planning before the trip, or even once we arrived in Italy. But when our travels took us to the boot-shaped country, Jody looked at a map, cleared it with Jan and Lou, and planned a night away.
It took us no time at all to get back to the train stop, where we then walked down a cobblestone street to the ocean two towns south of Portofino. To be honest, spending the night in Portofino was out of our budget, even during the off-season. We walked around, looked at three different hotels on the water and settled for one that an Italian family had owned for 85 years. It was fantastic!
We had such a great dinner (conveniently, in a restaurant hosting the “Parma” convention, which I’ll have to tell you about in another blog post!), drank delicious wine, and had an evening walk along the water, before retiring to our private suite on the top floor of the hotel, overlooking the town square and the ocean.
After breakfast the next morning, we took a bus ride up the coast line and spent the day walking around to all the shops, having wine and cheese in a water front café, and walking up to the castle on the bluff that looked out over the town on one side and over the ocean on the other.
To this day, the screensaver on my computer’s desktop at home is a picture I took of the Horseshoe Bay from the castle garden that day. What a wonderful memory!
For me, this spontaneous getaway was the biggest surprise and gift of the entire trip! And it further proved what the trip taught us, and what we’ve reaffirmed every day since: Everything on your bucket list is achievable. And it’s a list that should be reviewed regularly to keep all of those dreams in the forefront of your brain, so that you can keep moving towards crossing them off every day.
Our family has found that as we marked items off of our lists, new adventures and goals simply took their place. Paying attention to and going after the “What if…?” items on your bucket list will make you a better and more interesting person, give you purpose, and I believe, keep you younger your entire life.
Why not go for it?