And there I was, simply her mom letting her be brave so she could develop this thing called courage.
When it comes to teaching our daughters to lead, how do we do that? How far should we go? Encourage good grades? Encourage career over all else? Do we teach them to forge ahead first? To seek and take advantage of each and every opportunity that comes along?
“The trick to building courage competency is to purposefully move outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Don’t move so far out as to become petrified with fear, but enough that your body starts to give you the physiological cues that you’ve become uncomfortable,” write the authors.
My daughter knows these physiological cues. Two years ago, she was completing a three-month internship in Venice, Italy at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a well-known modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. At first, her foray to the floating city caused much stress and worry, especially in the early days of her time there. She experienced stomach aches, anxiety, and a lack of appetite.
She also experienced environmental and social challenges: Venice’s maze-like corridors, the language barrier, new colleagues and workplace. And then there was the peeping Tom.
However, as her internship continued, she became accustomed to her experience there, and she was able to enjoy it completely. It was good to feel courageous despite the difficulties. I remember my daughter saying this about her day-to-day experience alone in Italy: “I became comfortable being uncomfortable.” She even said one day about a month after she returned home that she missed the feeling of discomfort she had become so accustomed to.
“Moving into your discomfort zone is how you learn and grow,” writes Treasurer. Believe it or not, true discomfort will build courage. And courage is at least part of the solution to overcoming the organizational biases that “inadvertently favor men” for leadership roles, writes Treasurer, Adelman, and Cohn.
Well, guess what? My daughter recently returned to Venice for two months for another internship… to help staff the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the renowned international exhibition of contemporary art from countries across the globe.
In the weeks prior to her departure, my friends and co-workers asked me how I felt about her return to Italy. They asked me:
“It’s so far away. That doesn’t bother you?”
“How are you handling it?”
“Aren’t you worried about her?”
I told them that I was fine with it. I told them that I encouraged her to apply for the opportunity.
And then I doubted myself and wondered…
Should I feel this unfazed?
Am I being careful enough?
Should I be so willing to let her go so far?
This was followed by a confident second or two when I asked myself, “Aren’t I just doing what mothers should do with their daughters?”
Shouldn’t I let my daughter be brave? Let her travel? Let her get so far outside her comfort zone that being uncomfortable feels comfortable? Isn’t this what the authors of The Power of Courage for Women Leaders are getting at? After all, aren’t I just allowing my daughter to grow in ways I was never encouraged to? Independently? Without commitments?
Don’t we encourage our sons this way?
And yes, I get it, she’s an adult and completely able to navigate across time zones, oceans, and mountain ranges. And yes, she did eventually meet up with a roommate. But until then, she was simply my daughter venturing forth alone in a big, big world. And there I was, simply her mom letting her be brave so she could develop this thing called courage.
So, is this the price I must pay—this apprehension and fear that comes and goes when I imagine her navigating Venice, alone, head down, leaning into the misty winds of early May? Is this the price I must pay to demonstrate to my daughter that she deserves to be brave and to venture forth into the world?
Is this the price I will pay to teach her to lead with courage? Will I go farther or have I gone far enough?
These are the wonderings of an anxious mother’s heart. Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts. Have you ever watched your child venture forth into the world, yet had your own reservations about watching them do just that? Follow my blog for more posts on parenting, travel, and education.
And other observations my daughter made when she visited on a daytrip from Venice
My daughter spent three months living in Venice in 2017 as an intern at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small, yet world-renowned modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. Her time there was magical, challenging, beautiful, and life-changing. On four occasions, she day-tripped with her friends away from the 124 islands that compose Venice to visit these cities: Bologna, Padua, Verona, and Vicenza.
Since her return, we’ve enjoyed many conversations about her time in Italy. This post is about her daytrip to Verona, home to 257,000 residents and located on the Adige River in northern Italy.
The interview answers are just the two of us talking; see the photo captions for more detailed notes and facts about her trip.
How did you get to Verona? We left the train station in Venice around 8:45 in the morning and arrived in Verona around 9:30. It really doesn’t take long to get there! And let me just start by saying it was the first sunny and clear day of spring. The weather in Venice during the first month or so of my stay there had been rainy, gray and cold, and we were all ready for some sunshine. I didn’t have to wear a jacket at all. It was absolutely beautiful.
Once we arrived at the train station, we had to walk quite a distance to reach the central historic part of the city. It probably took around twenty to thirty minutes. We walked past a café and decided to get cappuccinos for breakfast and then we kept walking to get to the old city walls. This is considered the heart of Verona. The walls are about fifty feet high.
What was first on the agenda? After reaching the center of the city, we decided to go to the arena first to meet Alessandra, one of the interns at the Guggenheim museum in Venice who had returned on her days off that week to Verona, her hometown. She was going to be our guide for the day.
To get to the arena, we walked through Piazza Bra, one of the largest public squares in Italy. There was a garden show going on. Vendors were selling flowers and citrus trees and other plans and lawn supplies. It was very busy. There were people everywhere.
The arena di Verona looks like a coliseum. It’s made entirely of stone and is literally a big stadium. They still hold concerts and theater productions there. It’s crazy old. The day we went to Verona was the first Sunday of the month and throughout Italy, there are discounts to state-run museums. At first, after meeting Alessandra outside the arena, we couldn’t decide if we wanted to go inside, but because it cost only 1€, we went in to see just how large it was.
Where did you go next? After we saw the arena, Alessandra took us down one of the main streets, Via Mazzini. It’s a pedestrian-only street. It has tons of shopping with lots of retail clothing shops.
Did you see anything touristy? Yes! That was next! From Via Mazzini, we continued down to Casa di Giulietta, the “house of Juliet” from Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet. Legend has it that the stone balcony that’s in the courtyard was the inspiration for the scene in Shakespeare’s play.
The balcony looks exactly like what you would expect it to. There’s also a statue of Juliet in the courtyard. It’s free to see. You pay, however, to stand on the balcony where you can have your picture taken. There’s a sotoportego—a tunnel-like walkway—you walk through to get to the courtyard. There’s a wall where people have written love notes on this wall. It’s totally black with writing and spray paint. It’s covered with notes and anything and everything people can find to stick their notes to the wall with… gum, Band-Aids, whatever.
Did you see any art while you were there? Yes, we were in Verona on the very first day of an exhibition of Toulouse Lautrec, the French illustrator and painter. The show was at the Verona AMO-Palazzo Forti. It was a show totally devoted to his work. I really wanted to see it, so another intern and I went. The tickets cost 15€. We were at the museum for an hour and fifteen minutes. It was an incredible show. The galleries were painted in French blue and a dark, muted magenta. There was one room where all of his prints were displayed. This room was arranged like a café with tales in the middle and strings of light bulbs that led to the center of the ceiling. Seeing this show in this gallery was the highlight of the day for me.
Where did you go for lunch? We went to a restaurant my friend knew about. It was called Terrazza Bar al Ponte. You can sit outside on a balcony over the river that runs through Verona. We were hoping to find a place on the balcony, but it was so crowded outside that we had to sit inside. I ordered totellini with sausage. The pasta was a very thin dough and there was sausage flavored with rosemary and cheese. It had a spicy flavor, but the spiciness wasn’t overkilled. The tortellini was in an olive oil and light butter sauce. It was super light… a lot of food, but very light. The service was great. We did have to wait around forty minutes, but in Italy no one seems rushed when there’s food involved and there were five of us. Also, the staff let me charge my phone behind the counter.
Where did you go after lunch? After lunch, we crossed the Ponte Pietra, a stone bridge that crosses the Adige River and then we walked to the top of Castel San Pietro, the location of the first settlements of Verona. The settlements date from the 7th century… before Christ! From the castle, you get this amazing panoramic view of Verona. There are restaurants there for lunch, but since we had just eaten, we took a walk to the top of the castle instead. There were stairs everywhere. It was quite a hike to get all the way up there, but I’m so glad we did because the views were incredible.
Where did you go after the Castel San Pietro? We went to see the Arco dei Gavi, an arch constructed to honor a family by the name of Gavi. Under the arch, you’ll see stones from an ancient Roman road. We walked over the stones—they’re smooth and rounded around the edged—under the arch. You can see the ruts from wheeled chariots and whatnot that used the roads back during Roman times.
What, no gelato yet?! After the Arco dei Gavi, we went to Piazza delle Erbe, a square that’s the business center of the city. And business for us meant, I guess you could say, the business of gelato. I had one dip each of raspberry and lemon-mint from a shop called Pretto Gelato arte Italiana. It was so good. I really preferred the lemon-mint and wished I had ordered two dips of it.
What was next on the schedule? After gelato, we walked to the Castelvecchio & Museum. It was old and beautiful. So much history right there.
In 1957, Carlo Scarpa, who’s a famous modern Italian architect, began renovating the castle. This in effect created the museum. Throughout the museum, there are rooms with paintings and sculpture. There are also rooms full of weapons that were used back during the era when the castle guarded Verona.
When he was doing the renovations, Scarpa put a modern spin right on top of the ancient. He was making the castle usable again and also put his modern style on top of the old. He intentionally made details stand out so you’d notice the contrast between the old and the new.
After touring the Castelvecchio, we noticed it was around five o’clock, so we decided to head back to Venice. We got back to Venice around six o’clock.
Where does Verona rank on your list of the cities you visited? Well, no doubt, I think it’s the most vibrant. It was the most surprisingly charming. Before we went to Verona, I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect it to be so packed with activity and with so many things to see. There were so many sights… and maybe the weather spoiled me a little, but it is probably the one city I would go back to first and spend more time in.
I make no apologies. As a writer and parent, I feel perfectly entitled to take full advantage of my daughter’s experiences in Italy by wringing every possible story idea from it! Yes, our family did visit her in Venice for a week, and while we saw so much in that time, we envied the luxury of time her three-month internship allowed.
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It was scary to think how much time and effort this man had put into his actions that night.
Imagine being 22, female, and in Venice, Italy for a three-month internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small, yet world-renowned modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. At 2 a.m. on the day your father plans to leave after helping you get settled for a week, you notice that the motion sensor outside your door is lighting up frequently. Too frequently, in fact, for this time of night. In addition, some of the lights are brighter than others. That’s odd.
You also hear strange noises outside. You ask your father to check the exterior heating/AC unit that you assume must be malfunctioning. He discovers not a malfunctioning appliance, but a rickety lawn chair that someone has been using to stand on so they can peek inside your apartment.
The peeping tom had made his first appearance earlier that evening, after dark around 7:30. My daughter’s landlord–let’s call her Maria–had come over to help with the t.v. reception and while they were making adjustments, my husband and daughter had both noticed someone outside the apartment loitering in the walkway. They discussed the strange loiterer, but Maria eventually dismissed him, explaining that he was likely just someone from the neighborhood who was curious with the activity in the apartment since it had been vacant for quite some time.
So, in the middle of the night, when my husband ventured outside to check on the furnace and instead found a rickety chair, and a man with frizzy, shoulder-length hair rounding the corner about thirty feet down the corridor, real concern set in. Trying to assess the situation, my husband walked further down the corridor and noticed another lawn chair that had been stepped through around the corner. My husband immediately called Maria, who then immediately called the polizei.
While they waited for Maria and the police to arrive, both my husband and daughter tried to make sense of it all. Upon reflection, they both figured the peeping tom had ruined his first chair while peering in the window, and gone to retrieve another. My daughter also realized that the brighter lights from the motion sensor were more than likely flashes from a camera. Did he deliberately walk back and forth often enough to cause the motion sensor light to camouflage the camera flashes? It was scary to think about how much time and effort this man had put into his actions that night.
Fifteen minutes later, three uniformed police officers were there assessing the situation. Then, unbelievably, the frizzy-haired man sauntered by. Actually, because of the way the walkway turned, there was no way for him to avoid the small gathering without looking suspicious. He tried to play it cool, his camera hanging from his neck.
When my husband recognized the man, he nodded to the police officers who stopped the man and asked what he was doing out so late at night. He replied that he was a photographer taking night shots of the city.
Maria didn’t stand for it. Her Italian temper flared and her arms waved in anger. She accused him of spying and told him to leave the neighborhood and never return. She informed him that a police report was being filed at that moment and if anything happened later, he would be sorry. He was never seen again.
Although this was incredibly scary for me to hear about back in Missouri, it was good to know that, in general, Venice is a quiet municipality known to be “one of Italy’s safest cities.” The full-time resident population in the historic city center has declined dramatically in recent years, and today rests at about 55,000. We had researched the city’s crime statistics before our daughter left on her trip and were reassured. What causes the most trouble for the millions of tourists who visit each year? Pickpockets. What about violent crime? According to Frommers, it’s considered rare.
The next day, my daughter actually considered returning home; maybe this adventure was too much to take on and this incident was a sign that it just wasn’t meant to be. After an anxious day of pondering her options, she decided to stay; however, she did want to find a different apartment.
After attempting and failing to find an alternative rental with the help of my husband (who postponed his return flight for three days), my daughter returned to her original apartment, where Maria assured her she would be safe.
Still, my husband and my daughter took a few precautions. Before leaving, my husband helped her cover the windows with white paper. They figured that if a peeping tom had no view, there would be no temptation. They also made a point to meet the older woman, a Venetian native, living just across the passageway.
Over the next weeks, my daughter got on with her new Italian life. She began working a routine schedule at the museum and truly felt comfortable and at home there. She made many international friends. She became more brave and confident in her new surroundings.
Gradually, her strange experience became a distant memory. Most importantly, she didn’t let the peeping tom’s bad behavior define or detract from one of the most valuable experiences of her life so far. It had been a rough start, but she was determined to thrive.
Thanks for reading! If you found this post interesting, click like so others may more easily find it. Also, feel free to leave a comment on your own strange travel experiences.