My Travel Valedictory Address

I graduated from college in 2009. Since that time, I have built up a travel writing career, a life of doing what I love. When I graduated from college, I was off to Italy to be an au pair. This wasn’t exactly my dream. It was merely a means to an end, a way to be in a country I loved without the red tape needed to actually work in the country. After just two sleepless nights of living in a hallway and a chilly welcome from my host family, I left the au pair job and began traveling instead. I could only take two nights of being unhappy before I broke. I wanted to be a travel writer, not an au pair. I’m not completely there yet today, but I have come a long way from that graduation stage.

Hilarity of hilarities, I was selected as class valedictorian to impart my words on to my graduation class. That day I stood up before 7,000 people to tell them where to go in life and how. Since I have started this site, I have received several emails from college students asking me how to do what I do. These are the most admirable emails to receive. I wish I had their courage in college to reach out and make what I wanted possible at 18 years old. While I did do what I wanted to do in college and post graduation, I know I could be hundreds of miles down the road today had I taken more initiative like these readers.


With graduation season coming to an end and many in search of direction, I wanted to share the story I told three years ago at this time. Inspiration doesn’t always come from the noble professor or even the seasoned work-force employee. For me it came from a man who makes gelato for a living in Italy. His words of wisdom are in large part why I travel. There are so many people in this world with worldviews far from our own. We need to meet these people in gelaterie in Italy or at train stations in Austria. The conversations that come from travel can be life altering, as this man’s words proved to be for me in my life.

I traveled to Italy the summer after my freshman year on a study abroad program to Sorrento. One day, we had the opportunity to learn how gelato was made by one of the most acclaimed gelato makers in southern Italy. The owner of the gelateria imparted on to our small group of Italian students a wisdom that I can only shamelessly pawn off as my own. Gelato making proved to be much harder than just picking up a spoon to taste test the final product. Great preparation went into selecting the perfect and best ingredients. A time consuming process, with a constant monitoring of machines and temperatures, never crossed my mind as going into making such a simple dessert.


As we gathered in the basement of his restaurant watching him turn Sorrento lemons into the perfect gelato, someone asked him if he ever got tired of his job. He quickly, loudly, and adamantly remarked complete with the Italian over usage of hand gestures, “If you do what you love, you never get tired.” Coming from seemingly the happiest man on earth as his dream job consisted of making gelato, these are the words I will gladly lick up. As simple as it may sound, whatever persona you have cultivated in college or elsewhere in life, you have selected a major, sport, interest, place, friends, or whatever it may be, that engaged you to want to spend time exploring. Take that interest and run. Like my Italian friend, you will never get tired.

I hope someday I can return to Sorrento, find this wise gelato man and thank him. His words were so basic, so obvious and yet they are what I think many of us need to hear, day of college graduation or 15 years past graduation. If you do what you love, you will never get tired.


Have you ever had someone say something so inspiring to you on your travels?


  1. Matt says

    Great words of wisdom Suzy! I know far too many people get into careers they are not interested in simply as a means to an end and then end up sticking with that job for the stability of it all. I had an experience where I briefly was on a “career” track but had to say goodbye to that as soon as I realized I was incredibly unhappy. I am much happier now freelancing at the time and pursuing a career that I shall never tire of :)

  2. says

    Very wise words, and so true! I “work” more on my blog than I probably have at any job I’ve had. And yet, it hardly ever feels like work, because I enjoy it so much. Everyone needs something to be passionate about in their life, and I’m so thankful I’ve found that thing!

  3. says

    I met an old British retired race car driver in Spain 7 years ago. He had such an inspiring life that I asked him if he had any advice to impart. He just said to me “Do it while you can”. That really resonated with me.

    • says

      I love this because it’s so true. So often we hear tales from the elderly who say “I wish I did this or that when I was young” or people who have had life altering experiences (an accident, a death in the family, etc.) who have epiphanies after that something happens. But why wait to do what you want? Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, nor is your health. We live once as far as I know, so make it count!

  4. says

    Wonderful post! Yes, when I was on a train from Thessaloniki to Turkey, I met an Italian man named Gigi who sold backgammon boards for a living. He had been visiting his family in Italy and was now on a train traveling all the way to India through Pakistan (a country he loved very much). He said he had given up making money, money, money because it was pointless. We had many conversations on that train (and backgammon games), but I remember him saying: “Sometimes we are teachers, sometimes we are students. Watch and be both at any moment.” :)

  5. says

    Wise words Suzy from you and the gelato man. Sometimes we over think things in life when all we really need is the obvious!
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. says

    A few years ago I managed to meet my hero Robert Fisk in Beirut. Being one of the leading journalists on middle-east conflicts for over 30 years, I just let him roll through all his amazing tales for the whole night.
    One distinct statement he made I will never forget. “This part of the world doesn’t need our soldiers! It needs our doctors, our teachers and most of all our tourists!”

  7. Rebecca says

    And adding to that, if you do get tired… you can always do something else you love right?!! Great article! super inspiring. Working my way to being Location independent so I can just travel and keep doing what I love. sure its not the easiest trail but worth it in the end.

    Found the comments on this article inspiring too

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *