Ljubljana, Slovenia

A town of gentle dragons and disarming views. You want more grit, and maybe some exists here, but it also feels like a welcome escape. From the other world. The one you're not sure is the real one anymore. Meanwhile, the coffee you're drinking is a bit stale but the croissants are okay and whatever's cooking for lunch smells like home.

Morning sun turns frost to dew and you're happy to sit for another hour, wondering the story behind the Indian restaurant across the street. 

Bassano del Grappa, Italy

To miss a place is to know place. Maybe not perfectly. Probably (definitely) nowhere near exhaustively. But you know it in a way that's imprinted on your senses, your spirit; it's suspended there like dust in the air only noticed through a sunbeam.

You can't catch it. You can't bottle it up. You can only breathe into it, hard and deep, hoping the memory materializes before it's fossilized in the bones that once brought you there. 

Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin

Through a park that's seen the worst: bombed and burned and stormed with hate; yet, the grass grows back. A beacon stands. Sprinklers dance and businessmen pedal. You feel the shade and thank the sun, have a pesto sandwich and keep moving on.

Inside, there's a timeline of stories. You think, "Art is thinking, then not thinking at all." It's smart and free, simple, special. It has the power to unite, yet often birthed from being alone. Maybe it's an object -- a chair or a lamp; or maybe it's an idea -- a setting or a view. It's an act of rebellion and just as much, expression. Art is superfluous to living, but essential for life.

Gullfoss, Iceland

Here I stood, and here I melted. Into a moment where nothing made sense, yet everything clicked to center. Thoughts, feelings and dreams fell in line, like iron shavings around a magnet.

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Do you remember the last time you felt small? But small in a way that made you so glad to be small. Glad that you didn't have to shoulder the world's problems or ills or expectations for a moment.

Here, the gaping wounds don't make you feel afraid, they're peeks into promises of restoration. Reminders that the crags and the confusion, the bumps and upside-downs... are where rainbows are born. 

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Bellagio, Italy

It's where I learned that an Aperol spritz is best accompanied by a bowl of potato chips. Dressed up in a bar framed by dark wood and seated with leather, anything's fancy. 

Later on, when everyone else stays straight, take the right. The stairs are steep, but the cypress trees friendly. They'll stand at attention, ushering you up to the prettiest view and the bakery on the left -- enter it. You'll speak in Italian and feel wonderful. The nocciola gelato, capped with berries, helps. You won't forget how it tastes when the crowds disappear and you find a moment truly delicious. 

Lake Bled, Slovenia

The bell rings repeatedly, up toward the blue sky sponge-painted with clouds. The ducks are the jesters of the bunch, laughing and cackling while graceful swans stream in between. You hardly notice their feet.

I see my 22nd dog of the day. The cedar bench is hot beneath my legs, but it smells good -- warm and baked, like the sun filled it with secrets that it's just about to spill. 

Bikes whiz by. Pletnas navigate the course of buoys. And the church (if you're a romantic, then you'll call it a castle) dots the center of the lake. It's the cherry on a Sunday. 

Bassano del Grappa, Italy

There's a moment when the light slips behind the hills and you're left in the sunset's negative space. Crickets buzz. A clocktower dings. Suddenly, you're aware of just how empty the streets have become. Gates? Down. Bikes? Gone.

Then, it happens.

A window opens overhead. You hear a radio somewhere, there. Bottles clink. Knives tap -- against a wooden cutting block, no less. Shuffling, rustling, life above and beyond whirls to its third act of the day. And you can't imagine being any place better than paused on an empty street.

Listening to the symphony.

Olcio, Italy

She made us a French dish, thinly rolled pasta sandwiched between thinly sliced meat. Its white sauce was creamy, slightly tart, and paired well with the bottle of red she gave us when we walked in. A TV played in the corner. It was raining outside.

When our plates were clean, she came back to our table -- the only table -- and asked us how we enjoyed it. "It's a new recipe," she said. "You like?"

"Very much. When do you open tomorrow?"

"You hungry, you come. Then, we start. Non c' `e problema."

There, it never is.