Tag Archives: adventure

Buongiorno Milano!

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Shopping Center

Milan’s cobblestone streets are flooded with Italian women wrapped tightly in fur coats and men in designer jeans and studded belts. Nodding heads on subway cars look more like Ralph Lauren billboards than tired passengers heading home from a day of work. This city has a pulse and it beats rapidly, deeply through the night and early into the morning. Where I can pass as a local in some places, Italy knows better. My pale skin, pale hair and blue eyes cause long stares and incoherent words under soft breath. Men whistle as they pass by, staring too long with eager lust in their eyes. But even the greatest offense sounds beautiful when it is muttered in Italian.

This language shakes and breathes and dives in and out and up and down. Every word sounds like a call to action, a battle cry, a plea to join a cause. And the people lift their arms high, and put their hands close to your face and speak with a passion I’ve not experienced in my most heated moments. Hymns sung to Beethoven’s Fifth in an intense and frightening way to an ear that knows no better. The metro hums with chatter and booming laughter and a sense of famiglia encapsulates the city and all of the people inside it.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

We visit the Duomo, a beautiful, skyscraping cathedral, if there ever was such a thing. Never have I seen so much art in one place. Every inch is ornate and ironic in the most beautiful way: the walls, covered in sculptures up to the ceilings, which you can barely see with human eyes; stained glass windows stretch beyond my grip of sight; the floor, a maze of complicated patterns and colors; paintings hang, two-up all the way down the church on either side. We try to make sense of everything our body is trying to absorb, but we fail and become overwhelmed, groggy from the dim lights and evaporating holy water. We leave the church, letting ourselves get lost, wandering narrow streets; every turn a new discovery, a new way to get lost again and again. We are asked for change, harassed by people on the streets collecting money for ‘Africa’ or to feed their hungry babies. We push past, pretending not to understand, and stop at a tobacco shop to enjoy a freshly rolled cigarette on a cold patio, surrounded by like-minded  locals.

And on a Thursday night, we walk into a small bar, where we are greeted by a group of men, laughing and eating cichete and drinking the local birra. Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!! echoes around us in a room with walls covered in old newspapers, slot machines lining the back perimeter. We swiftly and quietly order “due birre” from the bar and take our place at a small table in the corner. We quickly learn that’s not how Italians make friends. We are stoned to death with questions, and brought endless plates of formaggio and freshly sliced prosciutto,  deviled eggs, cheeses, salami, bread and  chips and dips. Every time we finish one plate, another one comes to replace it. Arthur works on a computer in the corner, ridden with unnecessary programs and a long history of user error. He tries to navigate Windows in Italian, and the men joke, calling him Bill Gates, gesturing to his over-sized head. They string together sentences in Italian and broken English, furrowing their brows when we don’t understand, then burning paper and building charades with toothpicks to help us along. They laugh because we don’t understand much; Armando, who knows the most English translates what he cans, and makes inappropriate gestures to either party in between his translations. The men tease each other with gay jokes and pepper their sentences with ‘fuck’ as often as possible. They apologize because I’m a girl, and immediately joke that they will take me home with them; their wives will forgive them tomorrow, they say.

IMG_0786Then a free round of beers come before the bar closes, but we stay inside, laughing and eating, filling the room with the sweet, choking smell of competing tobaccos. The owner pulls out his camera, points to his wall of photos, and we spend the next 15 minutes posing for pictures we’ll never see. We part ways, but not before receiving an invitation for the next night, which we know we will accept. And we will come back the next night, but it won’t be quite the same. These fleeting moments are never able to be repeated, and so we cherish them even more.

Day 118: 72 Things.

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I’ve clearly been delinquent on this daily posting about what I’m thankful for. I can blame it on a lot of things, but laziness wins out if you scrape all the bullshit out of the way. I majored in PR, so I’ve got enough bullshit to power a rocket to the moon and back.

After having a conversation today about my ’30 Before 30′ list, I realized I’ve done a lot in my life so far that I can be really happy about; proud of even. While I have friends with Superbowl rings and sitcoms who can toss humble pie into my face, I’m going to be proud anyway. Because good for them – I mean, really. Good for those people who have accomplished such amazing things; they’ve worked their butts off for it. But good for me too. I’ve not done too bad. You probably haven’t done too bad yourself if you think about what is really important to you. And if you haven’t done great, then get off your ass – time is perpetually running out.

While having goals is important, realizing what you have accomplished is equally so. I can’t say every moment in the last 25 years has resulted in the kind of photos that would allow me to run for office, but I’ve had a really good time being politically/socially/economically incorrect. I think life is something like 10% what you’d like to do and 90% what you actually muster up the courage to do.

Here’s my 90% so far:

  1. Swim with wild dolphins
  2. See the Grand Canyon
  3. Visit Roswell
  4. Appear on TV
  5. Kiss a stranger
  6. Help plan an event for charity
  7. See a solar eclipse
  8. Go whale watching
  9. Set free baby turtles
  10. Have a night in Vegas that stays in Vegas
  11. See the bats at Carlsbad Caverns
  12. Go to a rodeo
  13. Paint  pottery
  14. Perform on a stage
  15. Go to Disney World
  16. Pull an all-nighter
  17. Go Spalunking – that’s cave diving, people
  18. Break a bone (it was my middle finger, none the less)
  19. Get a tattoo
  20. Kiss someone of the same sex
  21. Graduate college (with two degrees even!)
  22. Ride on a trolley
  23. Sleep in an airport
  24. Have a near-death experience (coincides with the night in Vegas)
  25. Ride in a limo
  26. Build a float for a parade
  27. Go snorkeling
  28. Throw someone a surprise party
  29. Take a “hit” (I’m talking peace circles, not bar fights)
  30. Go white water rafting
  31. Go deep sea fishing
  32. Take the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  33. See an opera
  34. Go on a terrible first date
  35. Be a bridesmaid
  36. Adopt a pet
  37. Go ziplining
  38. Donate blood
  39. Learn an instrument
  40. Go to a concert
  41. Win something off the radio
  42. Go to a professional sporting event
  43. Visit the nation’s capital
  44. Ride a mechanical bull
  45. Tie a cherry stem in a knot
  46. Go skydiving
  47. Be a Big Brother/Big Sister
  48. Ride a jet ski
  49. Parasail
  50. See a tumbleweed
  51. Become student counsel president
  52. Go to a strip club
  53. Enjoy (or try to enjoy) a lapdance
  54. Ride on a party bus
  55. Dance on stage
  56. See the St. Louis Arch
  57. Wait tables for a living
  58. Build a snowman
  59. Take a roadtrip
  60. Sleep in a tent
  61. Wait in line on opening night of a movie so you’re the first one in
  62. See the Chicago Bean
  63. Build a gingerbread house
  64. Have surgery
  65. Bet on a horse race
  66. Build a sandcastle
  67. Water ski (or get drug behind a boat with water skis on.)
  68. Have a night on Bourbon Street
  69. March in a parade
  70. Be sent to the principal’s office
  71. See a shuttle launch
  72. Move to a foreign country (pending)

And I’m sure there are a lot more. But still, I’m off to an okay start. How many have you done off my list? What else have you done that you are proud of?

Day 12: Like Riding a Bike

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Day 12: Today, I’m thankful I got on the bike.

That overused cliché about never forgetting how to ride a bike turns out to be true. I haven’t had a bike since… well, I honestly don’t even remember. Sometime around second grade, I think.

We got my dad a bicycle for Father’s Day a few weeks ago, and since the temperature dropped from 93 to 75 degrees over the course of an hour today, I finally decided to give it a whirl around the block. I’ve been debating for weeks, but I’ve psyched myself out every time, imagining violently sliding across the pavement sideways and meeting my untimely and embarrassing end. Today, I said screw it, put on some soffe shorts and a tank top, and went for it.

I went around the block twice and came back in, sweating, and feeling good that I conquered my fear – even if that makes me as accomplished as a 6 years old. After a little bit of lightning and some spitting rain passed, I decided to go back out again.

I’m so glad I did – the air had a yellow hue, the clouds were dark purple against an auburn sky, and the air was cool. I kept the gear higher than I should trudging up the massive hills in my neighborhood and didn’t succumb to squeezing the breaks as I came soaring down the other side. It felt incredible to go that fast, cool air beating around my ears and tangling my hair. And one time around the block turned into three or four or five, as I lost track of time.

I’m sure I my butt cheeks will be hurting tomorrow, the unfortunate way they do when a bicycle seat bruises them, but for now, I’m glad that I got on and started peddling. Once I did, I realized how silly it was to not ride simply for the fear of falling down.

140 Days to Prague

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Somewhere between our situation and our outlook resides our character.

I get that life is complicated. I get that things won’t always go your way. But, sometimes I feel like the universe has a pillow over my face.

This year has been wild. I’ve had a surgery, two car accidents, bought a one-way ticket to Europe and have had more friends get married than I can count. Those are just the big things. In between, I’m dodging calls from boys I want to forget, listening to my mother warn me about “ending up alone”  – including a recent article about how people who live alone die younger – and working behind a desk at a job that I’ve mentally checked out of. And then a million more things like it.

All the stress has been making me a little nuts. Has me seeing a glass half-empty, brown grass sort of world. But yesterday, I was going to get ice-cream with a friend and I put on a pair of jeans that have until recently, been too tight to wear. And I took a good look at my butt and all the rest melted away. I know we are a “big picture” world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy these little moments of bliss.

Thus, 140 days to Prague is born. A countdown until I leave and start my new life. 140 things in the interim that I find to be thankful for. Just one good thing a day. Suffocated or not, I can find one magical moment every day to be thankful for.

Day 1: The way your bum looks in the perfect-fitting pair of jeans. Hug my legs and cup my cheeks, wash is dark, pockets deep. Thanks, good-ass-jeans.

1,000 Reasons Not To

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It’s funny to make a plan that frightens people so much. Moving to Europe is the equivalent of moving to the Moon in my parent’s minds. Still, the most common response I hear is, “I wish I would have when I was your age.” Then a story about mounting responsibility as you grow older ensues.

It humors me to hear all of the “I was going to but I didn’t” stories. Dark humor, I mean. It is a little sad that so many people dream of doing things that they never accomplish. Maybe they are not passionate enough about that particular thing to make it happen, or maybe the fear of failure overcomes.

A good friend explained it best when I gave the ‘bad timing’ excuse. She said you will always be able to justify reasons not to do something. The excuses won’t go away in a year or ten years or ever. She opened my eyes to my own fear of the unknown. Not enough money, too much good family, the good job, the boyfriend, the bills, health, language barriers, ignorance, the list is infinite and expanding faster than the universe.

So, of course I have thought of 1,000 reasons not to go to Prague. I have as much baggage (good and bad) as anyone else. I’m leaving behind a good family, a job I shouldn’t have at my age and a world of opportunity. But there is one overwhelming reason telling me that it’s okay to go: I’ll regret it if I don’t.

Not everyone has the same Everest. If a desk job and Excel worksheets are your dream, you should, by all means, follow that dream. Get the extra lumbar support in your chair if it makes you happy. It’s not about how unconventional or adventurous you can be. It’s about following your heart and your dreams and looking back when you’re 80 and saying, “Damn, I did life right.”