While I am usually drawn to wide, open spaces and the opportunity to savour loneliness, I realised recently that my longing for exoticism is multifaceted. For me, travelling is about letting go of any familiarity in terms of colours, scents and surroundings. It's about embracing a place without any preconceived notions of it.
People don't tend to go to Italy for wilderness and solitude; the country is known for its rich history, friendly people and food. The first time I visited I did indulge in some preconceived ideas of what I wanted to do - primarily eating fresh sea urchins and endless plates of pasta - I also kept an open mind. A lack of schedule left room for new opportunities and unexpected discoveries.
I wandered the white town of Ostuni and the surrounding villages, grilled locals about their favourite places and went on winding drives without knowing where I would end up, often stumbling upon the most special places along the way. I found myself alone in centuries-old olive groves that seemed to drop into the sea and lazed in coastal coves, chatting to locals and eating crisp squid, my fingers shiny with olive oil.
It turns out that exoticism comes from your frame of mind, both while travelling and before you depart. Courage, curiosity and a little faith is far more rewarding that a list of things to tick off in fear of missing out.