The Greatest Adventure

As an adventure journalist, I am captivated by the crags in Mexico, compelled by the rivers of Colorado and comforted by the oceans of Australia. My body in movement, while submersed in nature, until I drown in beauty, creates a spiritual awareness. I find the strongest fellowship with the creator in the communion of joining my life with creation by pushing through the physical and mental boundaries found in adventure. These explorations explode my senses with contentment, and make me feel more like me; consequently, when I am without their consuming lure, I am able to see past passion, leaving a less tangible, but more real journey, the journey of the every day.

Life is the greatest adventure anyone will experience. Each day is packed with problems begging to be assaulted with all the dedication seen in adventure sports. Catering perfectly to the individual, it is unrelenting, challenging and unpredictable. Each turn in the road, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is brand new and original, making every choice a first assent.

The path I am travelling has changed. Although writing is my passion, circumstances have taken me back to school in the medical field. This is my newest adventure, and it might be the craziest one yet, topping my 24-pitch climb or my class IV river running as a beginner. With this information in mind, I leave my blog in a hiatus. Happy living! Happy adventuring!

Escaping the Roman Oppression

It was our day off, after a long week of little amounts of sleep and large amounts of work. Even though I was in Italy, when my alarm startled me awake, I hit the snooze button, several times. With not a second left to spend in bed, I threw the covers off and sat up, exposing myself to the cold room, timidly tapping my feet on the frozen concrete for acclimation. I felt drained yet heavy but I knew I had to start moving; the train wouldn’t wait.

My friends and I were headed to Rome for our day off. Although prepared, Abby and I were dragging, resulting in us being the last Rome group to leave for the train station. Despite our late start, Abby and I arrived at the train station early. Its grand marble walls funneled the wind, bringing with it clouds and moisture. A last cup of espresso tempted Abby and I into a train station café. Even though we had been up over an hour, and had consumed intense amounts of caffeine, the cold and wet dulled our excitement.

Our watches pulled us onto the train and as we sat down, our hearts were pushed into our stomachs. I was dreading going to Rome! Both Abby and I had been there and the little money left in our wallets discouraged us from visiting Rome’s expensive museums. Not only did the cold weather, stagnant museums, and tired eyes discourage us from visiting Rome, our hearts tied us to Florence. In Florence, everything is beautiful, romantic and artistic and we had barely visited all the places that had permanent places in our hearts.

“Abby, I don’t want to go. I feel the weight of the Roman oppression.”

“I want to stay in the Renaissance,” Abby replied.

With a knowing look, Abby and I stood up and quickly, almost at a running pace, left the train, without an explanation to our group who was bombarding us with inquiries and quizzical looks. Two minutes after our departure time, we ran into the streets of Florence with a feeling of freedom and liberty. It was the beginning of an extraordinary day.



Lessons from an Interview

While I was in Italy, it was my job to produce at least one news story every day for my school’s online paper, thelink.harding.edu. With the freedom my professors granted, I had the opportunity to cover anything my initiative could create, how-to commentaries, event reviews, column work, and informative pieces.

With that independence, I was empowered to take advantage of this prospect, ensuring to stretch myself as wide as I could over the diverse bed of journalism, arms fully extended; however, a fundamental piece of reporting followed, generating a thread of consistency through the irregularity — the interviewing process.

Because I am a reporter, I have the privilege to justifiably pick someone’s brain, without any social repercussions, a blessing that I don’t take for granted. This experience makes me feel more like a psychologist than a journalist, and at times, this feeling becomes an accurate description of reality. If I can release the grip of my pressing deadlines and to-do-list, and put away my ever-present concept of time and productivity, I find myself rewarded by digging into the depths of humanity.

I have seen glimpses of insecurity in public figures, laziness in hard workers, humility in the proud and question in the sure-footed. All of these flashes of character, good or bad, encourage me, and reaffirm my faith and understanding of humanity.

One of my favorite memories in Italy was sitting in the large, almost commercial kitchen of the bible school, interviewing the director’s wife. A self-humbled academic, she spent her days in this new life, serving — cooking and cleaning — as opposed to teaching. Although she used to be a language teacher, now she was struggling to communicate to the Italians she loved. A strong personality, she reigned and submitted her kicking spirit to focus on others. As she commanded my attention, respectfully permitting my comfort, my heart swelled as I saw another beautiful, daunting and mystifying inconsistency of humanity.

A Few Verbal Pictures from Florence

During my time in Italy, the great artists of the Renaissance and the great artists of today, surrounded me. Existing in an art infused environment like that, it only makes sense that everything Italians produce is beautiful. Here are a few examples.

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I’m sitting in an Italian villa, tucked away in the hills of Tuscany, surrounded by the sound produced by a local jazz band in the next room. The sound hitting my ears is rich and creamy, punctuating by exciting runs. Like aloe vera lotion on sunburn — It cools and soothes, leaving just the “ahhh” feeling.

I can see the lead trumpet player, in his powder blue sweater, through the heavy wooden doors. He is small and very Italian, with a balding head, lined face, olive complexion and ears twice the size of his hands. He has joy seeping from his myrtle green eyes that I can feel from the next room. His small stature is overshadowed by his huge stage presence, and what a presence! The atmosphere around him is fun, carefree yet sultry and, to take the phrase from Cherry Dr. Pepper, amazingly smooth.

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The beauty of the Florence streets overwhelms my eyes, so much so that my brain can’t absorb the messages my vision is triggering. As I edge around the street, the break in the buildings release sunlight to the cobblestones, like a brilliant heavenly spotlight, showcasing the pride of Florence — the Duomo.

The piazza the Duomo is occupying provides no shield for the whipping wind. Not wanting to raise my head too high in fear of leaking cold into my coat, I peer timidly out from my collar. The building is so ornate that a single square foot piece of the sides could stand alone as art. Before I can soak in one section, I forget the previous frame and have to look back.

As much as I want to stare, the wind quickly herds me into a side street and keeps me moving until I am frozen by what is before me. My eyes sift through a store window and I see the most breath taking view in Florence, a spaghetti strap, floor length, purple, silk dress. The dress fell off the manikin as if it was made of water, gliding down the body and falling off the hips. I am not a fashionable girl but at this point, nothing else in Florence existed

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A Flair for the Dramatic

Although real-life theatrics often repel my interest and respect, while I was in Italy I began to appreciate a flair for the dramatic in a friend. I write of my friend because relationships anchor the most influential experiences, and so my impressions and encounters with Italy are tethered to personalities, most of which belongs to my crew and believe me, that’s a lot of personality. Let me introduce to you one of the many shades of rose that tinted my Florence glasses.

When I first met this girl and heard her accent, I was sure we couldn’t be friends. I didn’t know if I could tolerate her Chicago dialect infused with valley girl tones, elongated vowels and sing-song rhythm; however, within minutes her vernacular was overshadowed by a more pronounced work ethic, wit and intelligence. A paradoxical girl, she is fashionable and pretty, yet low maintenance, loves sweets yet lives healthy, and is dramatic but grounded. She makes reality bigger by using extreme words and hyperboles, designating herself as a “tanorexic,” claiming her farm is haunted, and storming her speech with superlatives.

While in Italy, we shared our lives over three meals, each halting our busy schedule for about three hours, starting with drinks, ending in desert. After our first lunch, I decided that these dinning experiences fell into the “rose garden” category. This kind of experience becomes a rose in my own personal garden, where I invite no one and take no roses out. They are mine, just mine, and to explain them would be pointless.

Having said that, those three meals were significant markers in my Italy experience. With these markers, I learnt to see a bad haircut as DISASTEROUS, a cup of gelato as a NECCESITY and an evening as SOOOOO magical. What a way to live, exhaustingly beautiful.

Florence: Street Level

Running has never been about exercise for me. It’s about the wave of excitement and accomplishment, no matter the distance. Creating an impenetrable solace of solitude, it leaves me alone to reconcile my concerns, prayers, fears, hopes and dreams. With every pounding footstep, and every quickened heartbeat, I shake the wild sand dunes of my being down to a smoother typography that is me. It is a panacea for my restless spirit, a spirit that tempts me to leave the good and peaceful for the sake of movement.

Today, I introduced my running shoes to the streets of Florence. My heart quickened and breath deepened before I even began moving, as excitement was preemptively releasing endorphins. This run was more meaningful than most because this run was in the beautiful unknown, guaranteed to  lead me to adventure.

As soon as I stepped outside, the cold Tuscan air pierced my lungs, invigorating me from the inside out. The blue sky freed the sun, opposing the wind by surrounding me in a cloak of warmth that was soon reinforced by the energy my worked muscles produced.

I ran along the side of the street, flooded and clogged with small smart cars, on a footpath that was unforgivably thin. Rustic sand-colored buildings shot up on my right side, framing me tightly with the street on the left. The buildings were all gridded by opened, blue shutters, often with clean laundry hanging from the windows. My eyes flashed down periodically to protect my ankles from the broken pavement and cobblestones until I caught a glimpse of a treasure nestled in a crack in the pavement.

It was a rosary. I picked it up and held it as I ran through the streets of a religious and historical center. As I experienced my own personal spirituality by pushing my pace further into Florence, I felt connected to the Florentines.

The Tides of Travel

Those who don’t travel often imagine the wandering as a glamorous lifestyle, romanticized by relic architecture, exotic characters, and life-changing art, a spiritual experience that transcends class, age and ethnicity. All of us who have lived out of a suitcase know that travel is all of those things, and more, but there is a reason most sit on their couches watching the Discovery Channel.

Often uncomfortable, sickening and stressful, travel is a lifestyle that is drenched in changed plans, misguided expectations and ulcer-inciting events. By no means do the negatives outweigh the positives, but it takes a courageous spirit to take the steps required to explore the unknown and ride the tides of travel.

In this particular trip to Florence, the stresses have been plentiful and my patience has been strained. Jet lag abused my fuses and now my natural rigidity is overshadowing my forced flexibility. I hit a wall. All I had left in me was snappy comments to my coworkers and a thirst to rest, until this morning.

This morning I woke up in time to make it to a local Florentine church. Although the hour was too early for my cranky attitude, I forced myself up and on the bus. I was tired. Tired of being asked questions and tired of not being answered.

As I walked into the church, the smiling faces washed my cynical soul. I sat down, listened to the service in Italian, and was flooded with a peace, the peace that everything is the same. People are the same. Song leaders sing the wrong notes in church no matter what country they’re in. Children inappropriately distract everyone in America and in Italy. And most importantly, people are good, everywhere.