The Lost Art of Being Present

I think I am moving to Italy! Arrividerci!

Our time in Rio Maggiore was an absolute DREAM and the beauty and aura of this place is indescribable. The brightly colored yellow, orange, and red buildings contrasted against the turquoise foamy waves crashing against the rocks and the lush green cliffs and vineyards was pure magic. Italy is so special, and I realize why my grandparents came here so often in the world-traveling stages of their lives. The people are wonderful and the views are breathtaking. It is unreal to stand on cobblestones and walk through narrow pathways of buildings that have been standing since the 1200s (over 800 years ago. wow)

We hiked up to the top of Rio Maggiore where a gorgeous Cathedral sits on a hill, and on the way up we passed multiple vineyards and farms. Grape-growing and wine-making has been a Cinque-Terren practice for hundreds and hundreds of years. I was so excited to see the livelihood of Rio Maggiore in action on our hike as we watched a farmer tend to his vineyards outside of his home in the morning dew.

Rio Maggiore was a lovely reminder to me of the beauty and art of being truly present. I unplugged from social media completely during this part of CR, and chose to put off blog writing (whoops, writing this in Florence) for the sake of taking everything as it came to me and really soaking in the fact that I am in ITALY – a dream come true. I reminded myself that the social media world doesn’t need to see my whereabouts; I don’t need to shout “look at me!” It is so much fun to document our adventures on Instagram and other social media networks, but at times it can feel like the only reason FOR our adventures is SO we can post them on social media. In my religion class this past semester, we talked about how one of man’s greatest fears is living the “unobserved life.” The difficulty of letting go of the desire to live an observed life reveals itself in our generation’s obsession with social media.

Anyways, I believe that being present and appreciating each moment FOR the moment is a lost art form; everywhere you go you see people snapping photos and not actually taking their surroundings in. And that to me, is polar opposite to the values and atmosphere of Rio Maggiore. Rio Maggiore, and the entire Cinque Terre region is rich in tradition and culture, and filled with opportunities to stop, slow down, breathe, and look around and be content with just that.

Each day we were in Rio Maggiore, I saw an older man sitting on the bench around the corner from the hostel gazing at the ocean view for a long time. No phone, no book, just this man and the ocean. Every time I ran into him, he had a pleasant smile on his face – a smile that illuminated his level of content. He wasn’t taking any photos or doing anything else; he was simply existing and appreciating the world, and that is a wonderful thing. I think we should be like this ‘ol guy, wherever we are. We should put our phones down, look up, and live for the moment we are in, as well as people we share these moments with.

In Rio Maggiore I had a lot of time to do this sort of thing – time to simply exist with my people, and I am so thankful for all the moments of reflection and peace. Shout out to Harris, Peter, and Cooper for being the coolest and for our chill time on the rocky beach. We spent two hours after a busy day of exploring literally just sitting on the beach, journaling, and listening to Judah and the Lion and that lovely sound the waves make as they recede back over the smooth rocks. There was no urgency to be anywhere or be anything; we simply existed together and engaged in meaningful conversations. Another morning I sat on the balcony with Griffin as the town woke up, felt the warm sunshine on my face, heard the birds sing and kids playing soccer below us, and appreciated the surreal view. At one point, a loud group of locals belted out the song “La vie en rose” (an all-time favorite) in a coffee shop when it came on the speaker, and all I wanted to do was stop and listen and appreciate the beauty of people. I am immeasurably thankful for these kinds of simple yet powerful moments on CR.

I have always been the “Go, go, go!!” kind of person that wants to fill my day with activities and adventure, but one thing CR has taught me is that there is an equal amount of beauty in taking in both the mundane and spectacular parts of the places we visit. There is just as much value in the relationships, the deep conversations, and especially the quiet moments as there is in the history and beauty of our destinations. It is altogether beautiful.

What a joy it is to go and adventure but also what a joy it is to simply exist. Part of fully embracing the culture and beauty of a place involves the exploration but also the stillness. Yet in the stillness, there is still so much to be explored. Rio Maggiore, thanks for the sweet reminder. You were wonderful!

Ciao bella!


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