Beyond the Romance

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My husband is an Instagram junkie. If Instagram addicts had a 12-step program, he'd be the poster child. It's not a bad thing. He's good with a photo, quick with a caption, great at capturing that elusive "perfect moment."  He brings people, places and things to life, gives them personality, makes them accessible. Truth be told, he's a romantic, and he brings that sense of romance to his photos. He makes people envy what he sees and want to be a part of it. Who doesn't want to fall a little in love, even for a moment?

Problem is, they're "snapshot" moments. My Italian houseguest, Livia, asked me to explain the concept of a "snapshot" recently. I told her a snapshot is an idealized moment in time, one second of an entire experience captured for posterity. It only seems representative of the whole. In reality, it's deceptive, a sleight of hand. Like most of life, it's contrived by the author to tell part of a story, the part he or she wants to share. An experienced person always knows there is more. Or should, in this day and age of constant social media manipulation of us mere mortals.

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Why am I on this harangue about romance versus reality? Well, my business is travel and half of providing travel that satisfies is capturing the romance of the moment. My work is to create unique, intimate, unforgettable experiences for my guests. To get to the unique, intimate and unforgettable part, I search out interesting people doing interesting things in the world of artisan food and wine production in Italy and Spain. The odd beekeeper in the center of Milan. The woman in the hills of the Roero keeping her grandmother's confection, condiment and conserve recipes alive. The self-taught 21-year old high school drop-out successfully running his family's vineyard, after nearly running away from winemaking altogether.

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My guests and I may be the travelers, but these folks are on the real journey. And while we're seduced by the romance of these old-world, artisan-centric stories, beneath the surface, there's an underlying reality that is bone-crushingly difficult.

Meetings take place after the business owners have spent a long day in the vineyard, are halfway out the door to a much-needed vacation following weeks and weeks of 18-hour days, in the middle of the olive harvest, or in a 100° kitchen as the chef wipes his hands clean at the close of service in a 5-star restaurant.

How do they do it? They're fueled by passion, by heritage, by pride, by a love of sharing and by a refusal to fail. When I ask for their hashtag, they tell me they don't have the time for social media. But they're social media stars, nonetheless, having enviable lives, at least in a snapshot.

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My friends often tell me they are "taking a social media vacation." They remark that there are times when they just can't tolerate their own feelings of jealousy or envy (or loneliness? or isolation?) when they happen across a particularly emotionally engaging photo.

My advice is always the same: you, too, have lived similar moments. You, too, will live them again. It's just your heart telling you it's time to shut down your computer, take a risk, and make another memory. More than that, be happy for your social media friends reveling in their social media moments. Believe me, there is always more to the (back)story.

So the next time you feel a twinge of envy over a seemingly perfect snapshot moment, remember the words Earth, Wind + Fire sing so eloquently in Shining Star: "life ain't always what it seems, oh yeah." Instead find a little inspiration to go out and make your own memories. Or at least, take a new profile picture.

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