One of the habits I’ve adopted in this strange period we are living through is daily mediations through an app called Insight Timer. I was perplexed a few days ago by a meditation about joy, led by teacher Carrie Suwal. She kept repeating, “joy is not conditional,” but I’ve always felt the opposite, feeling joy triggered by something beautiful, like a flower. Or a work of art like a song steeped in memories, an incredible painting, or a play. And in my favorite way: traveling in a special place.
I trust that teacher Carrie is correct, and that with a good amount of work, I could find myself achieving joy someday no matter where I am or what I’m doing. But even though joy shouldn’t be conditional, it usually is. And so I’m having a good deal of trouble finding joy without being able to rely on the triggers that aren’t so accessible now and for the forseeable future. And with rumors flying, like one I heard about international travel to Europe not being expected to return to normal levels until 2023, my personal need to build new joy triggers – and I imagine yours, too – is acute.
Luckily, joy slapped me in the face yesterday, in the best of ways, by a premiere performance by The Old Globe, which was only accessible for a short period due to contractual obligations. Which has inspired me to curate this list of ways for those of us that love travel – especially cultural travel, and traveling in Italy – to find joy until we become fluent in creating it for ourselves. I’ve focused this list on people, places, and things that you might not have already been exposed to, imagining you’ve already heard about major cultural outlets’ offerings, like the much-referenced Uffizi virtual tour.
1. Teleport yourself to London in Shakespeare’s time by joining in on The Old Globe’s artistic director’s weekly celebration of Shakespearean sonnets on YouTube. He’s a Shakespeare scholar and these weekly talks have been generating quite a buzz.
2. Take part in the Italian Renaissance with Renaissance art historian Paola Vojnovic’s talks, interviews, and master classes! I got to know Paola in the year I lived in Florence, and she is someone adept at inspiring joy. Learn more about everything she has coming up here. And if reading is something that gives you much joy, take a look at Paola’s book recommendations (scroll through the photos for titles) that will surely make you feel like you are in Italy.
3. Next, head over to Venice with travel writer and longtime Venice expert Monica Cesarato’s Instagram live series called #VeniceMeets, usually held on various days at 6pm CET, noon EST and 9am PST. Learn more on Monica’s Instagram profile.
4. Travel throughout Italy via Italian cinema and the well-curated selections of the San Diego Italian Film Festival. They are hosting regular virtual discussions, and give detailed direction on accessing a great selection of Italian film (all offering English subtitles) via various streaming services.
5. I’m new to the app, Steller, even though it has been around a while. It is giving me much joy perusing the stories from faraway places, like the Netherlands, or places that feel a bit closer to some of us, like the Muir Woods. And finally, my first story about my favorite city, Bologna.
6. Finally, how about something as simple as finding a way to incorporate music into your life more regularly? I’ve decided to cut down on listening to news broadcasts, and instead, spend more time enjoying my favorite music. I’ve dug up old playlists and albums that I listened to during different periods of my life. The songs transport me to nights in Bologna, long walks in New York, and parties in Pittsburgh. I forget how much joy good music gives me until it becomes an important part of my life again.
While those are my current favorite outlets for finding joy, I’m so interested in what you’ve found that is making you happy these days. Please do share in the comments section so we can continue to grow this list! In the meantime, take care of yourself, and enjoy!