The “New Year, New Me” mentality sparks people to journal their goals and manifest greatness at the beginning of each year.
Goal-board collages consume most of every Instagram user’s stories the entire month of January.
Photos of ripped muscles, juice cleanses, and salads daunting those striving for fitness. Screenshots of six-figure numbers, pleated suit jackets, and briefcases motivating those aiming for success.
Across almost every goal board; however, were dreams of places people wanted to travel. For some, it was cliff-jumping in the Amalfi Coast. Others hoped to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Some just wanted to relax on a beach in the Hamptons.
The travel bug is more contagious than ever after having been stuck at home for practically two years now, aimlessly scrolling through “wanderlust” photos on Pinterest.
Having been born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, I was beginning to feel trapped. The small-town mentality was getting to me. I wanted a change in pace, scenery, and environment. I began to think the only way to find people that had as ridiculously-high expectations for their life as me was to find the go-getters who just did it.
Why wait around for your dreams to come to you when you could just reach out and grab them?
I had a harsh case of the travel bug that needed immediate treatment. So, as any 21-year-old girl does, I began to Google ways I could get myself to Europe.
I came across a program where I could study magazine editing, writing, and fashion in Florence, Italy. From there, I was determined to make it happen.
Despite COVID-restrictions, the fear of leaving my family and boyfriend, and a college budget, I moved to Florence in September of 2021.
For three months, I spent my weeks studying fashion and writing alongside some of the most creative people I have ever met and enjoying my weekends in different cities across Europe. It was everything my Pinterest board had ever pictured for me.
In stripping myself of everything I have ever known and diving into a culture I knew nothing about, I learned more about myself and the world than I ever could have imagined.
I learned that the pace of Europe allows time to savor everything from a cappuccino to a quality conversation. There is no rush for anything.
I discovered a newfound confidence in myself. Whether that was from viewing myself from the eyes of Europeans or from mastering a foreign subway system is up for debate.
I learned the secret to European skinniness. When you walk 20,000+ steps a day, you can eat pasta for lunch and dinner. And a scone for breakfast for good measure!
I figured out (the hard way) how to budget and plan trips. It is not as easy as hopping on a plane and magically arriving in London for the weekend, especially when you are relying fully on public transportation. Traveling is not always as glamorous as it looks!
I navigated how to maintain a healthy relationship across the Atlantic Ocean. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Perhaps more than anything, I learned to appreciate what I have. Sometimes you don’t know how good you have it until it is gone. I hate that we are wired that way, but it is true.
I came to Italy with the mindset that I would never want to leave. I was convinced that America would be ruined for me after all my experiences abroad.
That is far from the case. Stepping away from my everyday life here in Kentucky made me grateful for it in new ways. It gave me perspective.
I now appreciate the ease of America, like how the highway leads to any destination and if we don’t feel like leaving the couch, dinner can arrive at your doorstep.
I see the importance in how progressive America is in standing up for change in social, political, and economical issues.
I notice how blessed we are with such a diverse food culture and the practice of customer service in restaurants and stores.
The American Dream instilled in all of us provides confidence and drive that I am so thankful for. I realized I am surrounded by the go-getters with as ridiculously high dreams as me right in Kentucky. I didn’t need to go as far as Europe to find them — all I needed to do was click through Instagram goal-boards, ha!
If you are in a stagnant rut, take a second to look around at the ambitious community you are surrounded by and be inspired. If that doesn’t work, pack up and go abroad.
Become the cliff jumper in the Amalfi Coast,
the Mount Kilimanjaro hiker,
or the sunbather in the Hamptons.
Turn your goal-board into a reality.
Soon enough, your reality will be greater than all your dreams and your life will be an inspiration on someone else’s goal-board.
Riley Hostutler is a 21-year-old experience junkie, who says yes to everything from managing a freelance job while in college to moving to Europe alone for three months. Her strengths include writing. Her weaknesses include sports. She is a full-time student studying creative advertising and marketing at the University of Kentucky. There, she is also the editor of the university’s fashion and lifestyle magazine. In her free time, she enjoys publishing her own work on her blog, rileyhostutler.com, and has every intention of making a full-time career out of writing once she graduates.