Visiting the Cinque Terre, five cities nestled on the coast of Italy, was an incredibly influential experience as both a traveler and an artist. The textured, rocky landscape and crystal clear Mediterranean Sea- bolding pressing the saturated views of houses built into the mountains.. all work to create jaw-dropping views for any visitor. These cities pull at your heart strings and beg you to stay, just a little longer...
Traveling has always fulfilled a sense of happiness in my life. Filled those gaping empty spaces, aided the distraction from uncomfortable places. This past trip, several years after my last abroad experience, was filled with many eye-opening, transformative moments. Has there ever been a place, a moment, a time- where you thought to yourself, "I have to remember this..."? Where you stood longing and wishing to put all that your feeling in a little glass jar, saving it for a darker time?
There are moments, no matter how fleeting or how significant, where we can detach ourselves from all that has defined us. The things we feel have weighed us down, changed our thought process- made us second guess our self worth. A past relationship, a stressful job, a traumatic experience. For some, these moments may be scarce, or even brief. Others may be fortunate enough to revel in this mindset their entire life. For me, traveling has always pushed my boundaries and the way I view myself. Forced me to open my heart to new experiences, embrace the present, and often reminds me that I am truly the one in control of my thoughts and emotions. But sometimes, most times- this is always possible. And it almost always, starts, with letting go...
Growing up in The Hudson Valley, New York- hiking has always been a part of who I am. When you grow up in a place surrounded by nature, breathtaking views and world-famous hiking trails, you often forget how fortunate you are. And who knew, that I would have such a life-changing moment, all while hiking- yet hundreds of miles away, across the world.
Because of our long travels and small bags, we were unable to pack hiking supplies other than basic sneakers, maps and travel water bottles. But as soon as we knew that many parts of the Cinque Terre could be hiked, we couldn't turn away..
It was an overcast early morning and we had just finished up some breakfast before exploring the next town, Riomaggiore. Dozens of hikers piled off the train and were setting off on their journey...it all looked too inviting. So, in the spur of the moment (clearly, in my dress and sandals) the sun finally came out and we decided we would take on a hiking trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola.
The start of the hike was the most difficult. We found ourselves trudging up incredibly steep and narrow stone stairs built into the mountain side, for a good half a mile. Little to no railings, and here I am- holding up my dress, watching my every step in (not so great) fifteen dollar sandals. Stopping every so often, you could see through the brush that you were slowly climbing higher and higher, towards the peak.
Once past the trees and bushes, you make your way to one of the most spectacular views, one that for me, was one of the best in my life. Hiking that unsteady path suddenly became much more rewarding.
Photographs do not always do a scene or a feeling justice. The sun peaked through the clouds, reflecting on certain areas of the ocean..creating a saturated emerald shine. Mountains below that we had just hiked seemed so small and irrelevant, the wind blew a cool breeze through my hair. I was in another world, miles and oceans away from everything I knew; standing at the top of this mountain above the Mediterranean Sea. And there, standing next to me, was the man I loved more than anything in this world.
There are moments you cannot fully freeze in a photograph, put a price on, or describe to another human with the same emotion and conviction. For me, this moment meant everything. I felt free. Free to be one with the world around me, to be who I truly am in the deepest part of my soul...free to be happy.
And these feelings, these realizations, they are not because of traveling or hiking a mountain in the Cinque Terre. These moments are present because I have finally dug out every inch of uncertainty and bitterness from the dusty parts of my soul. I am who I am, and that is enough for me. Moments like these, are life changing. And there are always there, waiting....to be experienced..
The way back down, towards Manarola, was just as breathtaking...
There are many trails and places to explore all through out this area. If you are a hiker, an outdoors enthusiast, or just longing for a new place with fresh air.. visit, explore, and get lost.