Sometimes I tell travel stories and sometimes I offer travel tips. Other times, I tell stories about life and love, pursuing your dreams, and getting your heart broken.
Today, it feels as though I am doing a little of all of that…
On my first day in Rome, I went on a walking tour with the New Rome Free Tour company, and along the way our guide, Gaston, gave the group some highly questionable advice:
“You should always push on doors as you pass by. If they open, let yourself in and see what you discover.”
After the tour, I walked back to my room still thinking about Gaston’s strange advice. Taking it literally seemed like a surefire way to end up in jail, but the metaphorical interpretation seemed pretty solid…
Be the person who takes advantage of all that life has to offer. Don’t just wait around for an open door to present itself to you; instead go looking for the open doors and when you find them, confidently walk through them.
Am I someone who marches fearlessly through open doors, I wondered, someone who takes advantage of the opportunities I am given? Or am I more likely to stand in the doorway, just poking my head around to assess the risk?
I feared I was more the latter than the former.
A few days later, out walking, I noticed an interesting looking property with a wide open gate to its courtyard. Gaston’s words came back to me, “… let yourself in and see what you discover.”
“When in Rome…” I shrugged ironically to myself as I made my way through the gate.
A group of people resembling sanitation workers stood to my left, watching me curiously. The looks on their faces let me know tourists didn’t usually come through there, but they didn’t really seem unwelcoming either.
The courtyard didn’t have much going on. There were some trees and a fountain, but that was about it. Just as I considered leaving, I noticed a corridor that led to a second courtyard. “If only Gaston could see me now!” I laughed to myself as I made my way into the second courtyard.
There I saw apples trees and people sitting around on benches. None seemed overly happy or engaged with anything, and I came to the conclusion that they must be employees on their lunch breaks.
Once again, I wondered if I was intruding, but in the same moment, I found exactly what it was Gaston had sent me to find: relics.
Before giving out his crazy instructions to push on doors, he’d been talking about “Old Rome,” the Rome from thousands of years ago that still sits beneath modern day Rome.
He’d explained that during construction of new buildings, they find all sorts of ancient artifacts from whatever lies beneath the foundation of the modern buildings. When the new building is complete, they display the artifacts within the courtyards. Therefore, if we were to find an open door and let ourselves into their courtyard, we might just get the chance to see something unique and spectacular.
And there I stood, face to face, with the spectacular — columns, plaques, jugs and all sorts of artifacts that I could not identify. “This place is not for tourists,” I thought.
“There is no reason for me to be here, and yet I feel like that makes it all the more mine, for this moment.”
After a few more minutes of quiet exploration, I realized I was at some sort of medical facility, and so I made my way back out to the street.
There I reflected on what had just happened, on the experience that was so uniquely mine.
“What other doors should I be pushing on, challenging myself to walk through?” I asked myself, returning once again to the metaphor.
Back at home, there was a guy. Kind, funny, attractive, ridiculously smart, into baseball and travel, and for some reason, I didn’t understand, really into me. I had surprised myself by actually being into him – something I hadn’t truly experienced in more than 8 years.
My brain had been going crazy with questions for weeks, “What did it all mean? Was it a bad idea to get involved with someone if I didn’t see it lasting long term? What if it didn’t work out? What if it did? What if I hurt him? What if he hurt me?”
But as I walked away from that random courtyard, I came to a decision. The time for poking my head around and assessing the risk had come and gone. It was time to push open the door and, despite my fears, let myself in. It was time to let myself feel something again and trust I was strong enough to survive whatever would happen next, and know that even if I got my heart broken, it wouldn’t break me.