Keys in hand, I walk from the door of my home to my car, free to drive wherever I want in Amarillo, TX. A luxury I often take for granted is in sharp comparison to the value of using foot as transportation throughout Italy.
We arrived in Riomaggiore by train and hiked up a hill with our suitcases, a feat that took far more energy for some of us than others (remember when I dropped my suitcase on my face?). While in Riomaggiore, we walked up and down the rugged stairs to jump in the water at the rocky beach or order crispy calamari in a cone to eat for lunch. The simple lifestyle and compact environment made me almost forget about the car I depend on at home. Natives stand at their windows to share conversation with friends either in the building across or strolling along the street while I have to drive to another neighborhood or the nearest Braum’s to meet up with high school friends. So it was here, in Riomaggiore, where I got my first taste of a city with virtually no cars.
In Florence, we carried our suitcases across cobblestone roads and past the Duomo, observing the world around us and staring in awe at the new city we would soon be diving into. Our itineraries took us on long walks to basilicas ornately decorated and museums stocked with Renaissance art. Florence is known to be a walking city, and I made meaning of that characteristic by walking alone often to observe my surroundings. I synchronized my steps with my breathing to let my brain focus only on the sight of shops and the sounds of Italian conversation. The scent of pizza or gelato shops. The feeling of the warm sun on my head. Had I been in a car, I would have forgone these opportunities, and likely had a much harder time traveling through the city.
Rome. We said goodbye to traveling by rail when we arrived in our last city. Again, we would be tying our sneakers each day to walk across this city, rich with history. Thankfully, Dr. Pitcock allowed us to use taxis when moving between spaces far from one another, but I realized during these car rides the appreciation I had gained for walking. I realized the bonding associated with opening a map each morning and orienting ourselves with spaces around town. I realized the opportunity provided by walking across a city (some walks were 20 or 30 minutes) to discuss challenges, passions, interests, and more with people that had by now become almost family. Truly, I simply enjoyed walking because I walked past the Pantheon multiple times a day. For a few days, the Pantheon, built an unfathomable amount of time earlier, held a place on my daily exploration of the city. Walking through Rome allowed me to take a bustling and quickly-moving city at my own pace.
For me, the memories of CR synthesized by my brain so far carry undertones of walking. At meetings, we were told we would walk around 10 miles each day, and I thought this would only lead to exhaustion. Not the case. Something that may seem inconvenient for many created a distinct set of memories for me.
Among the many things I learned on CR, I learned to just walk when I have the chance. Slow down sometimes. Take time to talk to people. Appreciate my legs and strap on some walking shoes to see where I might go.