Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

My artist trip to Berlin

The one book that changed my life as a writer is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Ever since I read it, I have been writing my morning pages and going on weekly artist dates. Every morning, I write the three pages, called “morning pages” to clear out the chatter in my head and drop down into my heart to where my writing wants to come from. Since I live in Florence, it’s relatively easy to go on at least one artist date a week. After going on my artist dates for many years, I realized that every time I was alone I was on an artist date. I could hop on a bus, take a train, or wait in line and suddenly I found myself opening up to my surroundings and letting beauty be unveiled to me.

Me, My Heart, and I :: My artist trip to Berlin

A couple of months ago, I thought about how I could extend the artist date and go on an “artist trip.” I have visited a few Italian cities nearby, like Siena and Lucca, but I wanted a greater adventure. I decided on going to Berlin by myself. Julia Cameron says that artist dates should push you out of your comfort zone and I thought if I really wanted to do that, I should go to a city I had never visited before.

I haven’t traveled to a new city by myself in a long time. It’s possible that the last time I took a trip alone was when I arrived in Florence for the first time. Just the idea of going somewhere new to open my heart and mind and to see my surroundings with new eyes filed me with excitement. I did know one person in Berlin; however, we only met up once. So the rest of the time, I was free to navigate the city on my own without a plan.

It was thrilling for me to be in Berlin completely surrounded by a different energy. I enjoyed hearing the German language around me as well as admiring the city itself with its exceptional history and eclectic architecture. I had no expectations of Berlin and had leafed through only one guidebook, but I never took it with me and I couldn’t remember much of what it said.

When I first arrived in Berlin, I walked around the Tiergarten. I felt so drawn to the Tiergarten that when I was looking for a hotel, I chose one near it. It’s very unlike me because I generally prefer to be in the center of cities to live and breathe the city’s energy.

Me, My Heart, and I :: My artist trip to BerlinI enjoyed the Tiergarten with its numerous ponds, a few rivers running through it, the tall trees lined up along the bright green grass, and the brightly colored tulips and yellow daffodils. Along one pathway, I could catch a glimpse of some of the animals in the Berlin Zoo. I navigated the park and surveyed my surroundings so as to take in as much of the urban park as possible. When I felt inspired, I sat down to write on one of the wooden benches.

When I travel, I like to surrender myself to a city and feel its energy. I don’t like to check things off a list, compare one city to another, or try to find a way to label it. I visit a city to discover and explore it with an open heart. I am there to receive what it wants to present to me.

One day, I took a tour bus to get an overview of the city by seeing many of the attractions from afar. I hopped off the bus a few times to walk around the city a little bit. While I enjoyed my time admiring the churches and monuments, I ended up returning to the Tiergarten over and over again. I was especially attracted to the Victory Column, which is in my photo above.

My visit to Berlin was only an introduction to the city. I wanted to get a taste of the city and not feel obligated to see all the attractions during my first visit. From the first day I arrived, I felt as if Berlin was a city that I’d have to return to again anyway. There is so much more that I haven’t yet discovered.

My only regret is that I don’t speak German. I know that an important part of a city’s energy is the people and culture. I did get a small taste of the culture when the locals spoke to me in English. Their choice of words and communication style were quite telling. It’s not the same as speaking to them in their language, but I enjoyed my interactions with them.

Traveling not only allows me to break away from my daily routine and habitual life; it allows me to get back in touch with my sense of wonder and curiosity. The day after my return to Florence, I noticed that I was still open to seeing things differently. I noticed how the clouds were not as low as they were in Berlin and I noticed how the green is a bit darker and has an “old soul” feel to it.

I’m looking forward to going on more “artist trips” even if it’s just a day trip to another place outside of Florence. The key is for me to travel alone, to open myself up, to not have any expectations, and to discover the place as my heart dictates. The greatest bonus us that I received a burst of inspiration that prompted me to write on the plane for the entire journey home.

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