They say that if you want to make God laugh, then make plans.I had both plans and a vision for 2017.My plans included spending 2017 in Mexico to reconnect with my culture, to try to regain what I've lost in the two decades I have lived in the U.S, and to find the pieces of myself that I thought I could only find in my homeland. I was going to write an "Eat, Pray, Love" sort of second book, it was going to be equal parts memoir, history and culture. If I got lucky, maybe I'd even mend my broken heart and find find love, what would it even be like to date a Mexican in Mexico?!It was going to be called "From, From: ...." (The ... would be filled at the end of my journey).Then, in April, I walked into love with a man that I still cannot believe actually exists.A man that shares my values and culture (I had never dated a culturally Mexican man).Being Mexican with him is beautiful; we go eat tacos at the Piñata district after church on Sundays, not as a field trip, but as a way of life.There are a million things we never have to explain to each other.At the same time, there is so much we teach each other about Mexican culture and how diverse and dense, and rich it is ( he is from the north (del Norte) and I am from the south ( pa ya del D.F).Then I realized how much of Latino history in the U.S is hidden, how vital and integral we have been to this country and how little it is known or celebrated.We have so much material for Oscar-winning movies, best-selling books, critically acclaimed documentaries, so why are we not doing and achieving those things? We were there during every single historically important moment in U.S history, so why do not even Latinos know about it? And then, Donald Trump won the November election, and my plans were out the window.I certainly cannot leave the U.S now, not even for a year. Oh no, there is much work to be done, here and now.So my plans have all changed for 2017.But my vision, my vision was constructed with prayer, with deep reflection and truth.So while my methods had to be adapted, I am on a mission to reconnect, discover, and grow.2017, I am excited to receive you.
Traveling alone was the best experience of my life. It allowed me to reflect on the past, on everything that it gave me and everything that it asked of me. I tend to be pretty reflective, but this trip was more than reflective time. It allowed me to get clear about what’s next in my life.
Life is full of commitments and it should be. Life should be about more than just our own desires. But sometimes, it is so important to get clear about what WE like when we are alone and no one is looking. Traveling alone is the fastest way to learn about yourself. So this trip was all about ME. What I wanted to do, and see. There were days when I just sat in cafes, and read and wrote and napped. There were other days that made me physically exhausted…
I could write pages about each of my stops, Rome, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence and Paris. But I’d like to share some of the highlights here.
After an hour of hiking uphill, I was exhausted and still had more to go.
Just sitting and writing and eating good food.
My first stop was Rome. Rome is fascinating, history is fascinating. I was in awe of the things, the structures that men were able to build in ancient times. The Colosseum can be seen from many places in the city, and the first time I set my eyes upon it, I was struck. Walking around the winding streets of Rome is one big ‘uh, oh, wow’. No matter where I was walking or where I was looking, there was something amazing. Something that had been standing there even before Christ was on earth!! Rome was a great first stop, people were welcoming, and the city gave me all that I expected and more. I even danced to some classic Sevilla folklore music at the Trevi Fountain, with a crowd and even got some Euros.
But there was no place in Rome that took my breath away like the St. Peter’s Basilica (technically in the Vatican City). I didn’t take any pictures in there, because I was just so captured in the moment. I did not want to be distracted trying to capture beauty that could not be captured in pictures.
The Colosseum. Truly breath-taking.
Dancing at the Trevi Fountain.
And while Rome was beautiful and amazing and I was in awe of the creation of men, my next stop was all about God’s creation. And God’s creation, I cannot even begin to describe. Cinque Terre, sits along the Italian Riviera in the Mediterranean. It is made up of five towns which are connected by a series of hiking trails and trains. If there is such a thing as falling in love with a place, this is what happened to me and Cinque Terre.
God showered me with beautiful sunsets and gorgeous views. In Cinque Terre, I hiked in the mountains, hiked through vineyards, swam in the ocean, and drank and ate delicious food and wine. I truly felt like I was in God’s presence every second that I was walking through his creation. This is where I was the most clear, the most at peace. Cinque Terre is the place I miss the most and the place I most want to visit again.
One of my very first views. I fell in love at first sight.
The water was the most clear water I have ever seen.
These grapes made the most sweet, crisp, delicious wine ever!
Sunsets always let me know how much God loves me.
After hiking and swimming for five days, I headed to Florence. Florence was an interesting stop, and one that I did not get to enjoy as much as I wanted to. It really bothers me how weak the body can be, my body can be. How we must attend to it before we can attend to other things. So after 5 days of hiking, and swimming, I am not sure why I thought it a good idea to go on a 33km bike ride through the very hilly Florence.
Throughout the bike ride, I kept thinking about journeys and destinations. Some people say that it is about the journey not the destination. Others say that as long as your destination is worth it, you can go through anything to get there. I think both are true, at different points. There are some things that are not worth it, regardless of the destination. But there is such a thing as the beauty of sacrifice for a larger cause. But when you are enjoying neither the journey (because you are sun burnt, dehydrated, and your back is literally killing you), nor the destination (even if you are sure you just lost 10lbs in three hours)— well then you are just annoyed and upset that you went on the bike ride.
But Florence was not to be outdone by Rome. And the city found a way to capture my very tired self. My favorite place in Florence were the Boboli gardens which sit at the back of the Pitti Palace. It is crazy to think that at one point, these garden’s were someone’s backyard. Florence is a city full of history and full or art. It is also a reminder of people’s greed and desire for power, and desire to be remembered. The Medici family, which ruled Florence for hundreds of years, made sure their name was remembered and no matter where you look in the streets of Florence, you can see their coat of arms.
Though the bike ride sucked, we did get some pretty awesome views of the city.
The Boboli gardens, and the views of the city.
Sunset view of the Ponte Vecchio
Florence also had one more surprise for me. An awesome exhibit of Picasso, Miro and Dali, which inspired me to write this post. And the best Gelato in the world, can only be found in Florence.
The last stop of my trip was Paris, and it was a grand finale to my trip. And there must be an encore soon.
Paris was everything, everything I’d imagined. As my friend Maria (@MydaysandNights) puts it, even simple things like a piece of bread taste better in Paris. Paris was a much more relaxing stop (I took a 3 hour nap at a park on my second day there), I did less but experienced more. I only visited The Sacre Coeur, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and the Moulin Rouge— so many sights unseen on this trip. But each of those places could take a day on its own.
Paris is one of those places that just captures your attention. Walking through the streets of Paris made me feel at home. The metro made me feel like I was just riding in New York. But when I got out of the metro, the sights were things to marvel at.
Notre Dame de Paris
Sunset in Paris
and one last one…. The Eiffel Tower
And that was my trip. All lovely, all beautiful, all peaceful.
Check out the full photo albums here:
If there was ever a melody that moved my soul is this one! I never get tired of listening to this song. It brings me joy, inspires me, consoles me. Every time I hear it, I listen to something new. @bradmehldau #exitmusic