Archive

Traveling


Today I was listening to one of my Dad’s favorite songs, ‘Good Times’ by the legendary Sam Cooke.  The lyric, which is in fact the title of this post, made me think about letting go and just enjoying everything about life.  I’ve traveled all over the world, but living in another country is an entirely new eye-opening revelation.  If I sound like I am being a little dramatic, then you are following me exactly.  When I travel throughout a country, I still have in the back of my brain that the return home is inevitable.  If you are anything like me, right when you pull out of the driveway to head to the airport then you immediately say to yourself, “10 days away from home”… Or however much time you have off.  Living abroad, the sense of ‘return’ vanishes.  When I moved to Italy, I was immersed day-to-day with a foreign language and a variety of delicious exotic food.  Every single one of my senses were overloaded with an unknown world far and away from anything familiar.   Upon engaging with the Romans, I noticed that my personal space was instantly under attack!  At one point I thought they were trying to give me an Eskimo kiss by touching noses together and rubbing.  This was not the case and I eventually realized I was another typical standoffish American.  The United States is a culture of individualism, which is sometimes a fantastic characteristic, however this is not how Italy operates or any Latin culture for that matter.  While living abroad, I met more people and developed friends while out by myself than I ever have in the United States.  In America, almost all of my friends have been either introduced to me by another friend or I have met them at work.  Whether it was sparking up a conversation with people at a pizzeria, a laundry mat, or in a coffee shop, there always seemed to be another friend waiting to be discovered.

Our Roman friends that we met at the Forum in Rome, Italy

The most fascinating aspect to going out in Rome with a group of friends was to see how some Europeans would meld their groups with ours.   Our ‘Group A’ (Americans) would meet their ‘Group B’ (Italians/Spaniards/etc.) and before the end of the night everyone would have exchanged numbers and decided to meet later in the week for lunch, dinner, or coffee.  It was all for camaraderie and socializing in order to deepen one’s friend base/family.

A society of interaction was so comforting being so far from home.  I have tried to analyze why parts of Europe seem to be more of a conducive environment than America, to having an engaging conversation with strangers, but can’t put my finger on it.  Like I mentioned before, the standard arms length distance between strangers is crushed when you enter a country such as Italy.  I will admit that I felt this to be intrusive and even rude at first.  But, after I understood the spirit of Italy, I understood the connection among it’s people.  I don’t want to seem too philosophical, but having family plays such a huge part in Italian life and I believe they wanted to bring any kind soul into their ‘family’.  For example, when I am interacting with my immediate family, all rules of personal space are thrown out the window and the warmth of home, love, and closeness takes over.  I believe this is probably how a majority of the Latin cultures operate, but I can only speak for Italy.  Being able to connect with a random stranger and allowing them into your circle forces you to give them a bit of trust.  I guess I always had some sort of trust issue with strangers as many Americans do.  We were constantly told as a youngsters to, “never ever talk with strangers”, and this was undeniably great advice up to a certain age.  I carried that sense of fear of strangers into my adulthood and it thus thwarted any sort of deep interaction with a person I had only met an hour ago!  I am not saying that I now grab any stranger by the arm in Italy and say, “Brother!  How are you??  How’s about a cappuccino? Then we can go to my house for a meal!”  But letting go of that tense gait in our stance and just letting life come at you can be extremely rewarding! If living in Italy taught me anything besides how to eat like a Roman, it was to trust a little bit more, engage a little bit more, and do not be afraid to open a small aspect of your life to a stranger.  Now don’t go around yelling out your credit card number and giving copies of your passport to random people, but combine a little wisdom, with a little spontaneity.

Spending a night socializing in the square in Rome, Italy

As they say in Italy, “Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro.”  Which means, “He who finds a friend, finds a treasure.”

Advertisements

My brother and I embarked on many journeys together throughout our lives.  We’ve been all across

My brother, Jason

Europe as well as up/down the east coast of the United States.  I can say without hesitation that each trip has been filled with copious amounts of laughter, inside jokes, and even a few moments of serious discussion.  Maybe we had a few misunderstandings or disagreements along the way, but they were all insignificant since I can not recall any argument.  If you are reading this and thinking about embarking on a journey of your own for any extended period of time, it is important to choose your traveling companion wisely.  I was lucky enough to be the youngest brother of four males in our family.  I have a special relationship with each of them and traveling with any brother would most definitely be dissimilar from the other along each journey.

One trip I love to recall in particular was a journey through the Swiss Alps with my brother, Jason.  The

Driving through the Alps in Switzerland

landscape, from a distance, is as if you are staring directly into a snowy mountain masterpiece painted by none other than Bob Ross.  Driving through the winding mountain roads with cyclist, motorcycles, and other automobiles, I could spot lone trees speckling the white and silver Alps.  A few times along the way my brother would roll down his window and let out the loudest yodel/catcall with motorists turning their heads.  For those not familiar with the “southern catcall”, it is a bloodcurdling yell that you would hear at concerts such as, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, and ZZ Top.  Moving on…  I, of course, lifted my “Guide through the Swiss Alps” book to cover my face as a I slouched down a bit in my chair.  I could just imagine one of the cyclist taking a turn over the side of a mountain face after his ear was blasted by my brother’s southern rendition of the Ricola commercial. E.g. Ricola Commercial YouTube.

Once we crossed the pinnacle of the mountain we were driving, we began a lazy drive down into the town which was situated in a luscious green valley that wrapped around the perimeter of the valley.  I looked across the steep ridges and cliffs trying to focus all my senseson the magnitude of my

The valley in which our hotel was situated

surroundings.  I heard a soft, deep pitched ringing off in the distance.  As I walked down a steep road, my senses fixed upon the object that was producing that sound.  It was a large cow grazing in the distance with a large cowbell dangling underneath it’schin.  Cold air from the flowing streams could be felt within each of my breaths.  My eyes were bouncing from each vivid color as if I only had a limited time to process it all.  My brother and I reached the bottom of the hill on foot and a lincoln log type structure donned the name of our hotel.  As Jason checked us into our room using his impressive German vocabulary, I wandered the lobby and flipped through each brochure.  My legs ached from such a long drive and I was more than ready to stretch out for a few minutes before heading to dinner. Jason waved his hand and I grabbed my bags as we headed up the creaking

BUNKS?!

wooden stairs to our room.  He had a grin that crept on his face ever since he had taken the keys from the receptionist.  It looked like he wanted to laugh, but since he was always in a good mood I did not dwell on it.  He unlocked our door and started dying laughing.  My brother has a contagious laugh and I was laughing along with him before I even knew what he saw.  As I entered our Swiss hotel, I saw that our room contained bunk beds.  All I could do was turn to him and say, “BUNKS?!”  He was laughing

so hard that I think a few weary travelers poked their heads from their rooms to see what was happening.

Memories like these are what have made me the person I am today.  All my brothers have impacted me in ways that have changed and shaped my character for the rest of my life.  Jason gave me the opportunity to visit him and be his traveling companion throughout Europe 7 different times!  I learned three important lessons along the way.  Jason taught me to always look for a bright side to things.  As

Descending into the cavern in Switzerland

simple as that sounds, it changed my entire thought process and has opened up doors of opportunity beyond anything I could have imagined.  Look for the good because the bad will always pop it’shead up, so there is no need to make that list.  The second thing was that there is always something better out there.  I was astounded by the tunnels we drove through to get to our destination.  Jason would

say, “If you think these cliffs and tunnels are incredible wait until we reach the other side.”  Finally, Jason taught me what a man should strive to be.  My brother exudes kindness, self-control, and optimism.  Family are not just people you are raised among.  Family is deep.  Family is love.  Family is about learning who you are and what you can become.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

-Richard Bach

Holding on for dear life!