I know it has been quite some time since CR ended, but the memories are still very alive. My time on CR would not have been the same without these lessons learned in Riomaggiore.
Lesson #1: Surround yourself with people who love you at your best and worst.
There were many moments in Riomaggiore when you could really feel the love. One of these happened after dinner on a grassy lookout point. All of the girls somehow ended up in a huge dogpile and we started singing. Song after song we were laughing and having the time of our lives. At one point the girls stopped singing and we could hear the boys off in the chairs singing Frank Sinatra. It was such a tender and hilarious moment. In this singing dogpile, we unofficially decided that Kesha is our role model and I would like to personally thank her for giving us our national anthem “We are who we are!” This night on the grass was one of the unspoken situations where you just knew a moment was happening. We were at our best and the love was so real.
Although Riomaggorie had amazing moments like the dogpile, there were also some difficult times where love was still so evident. One of my favorite, yet unexpected, memories from Riomaggiore was when Madelyn somehow ended up sitting on the floor next to my bed and we had the most meaningful late night conversation. I have known Madelyn since the very first night of college (“BOULDER” HAHAHA) and this conversation on the floor is one that stands out among the rest. We had no fear of being vulnerable with each other and it was a very special moment. This is an example of a time where we had endless love for each other through hard times.
Through unplanned moments like the dogpile and floor conversation, CR has introduced me to the most loving group of people. They are there to celebrate your successes but also there build you up when they know you are down. I love these people at their best and their worst. Through CR it is impossible to see only the sugarcoated version of these people. I appreciate their authenticity and love every version of them, even their worst.
Lesson #2: Be Open!
This lesson came from the lovely hostess of our dinner on the hill, Daniela. We were all gathered in a circle and I asked her to tell us her life story. She responded by saying it wasn’t that interesting, but every story is worth sharing because you never know who your words will impact. Man oh man her words really impacted me. She grew up in Chicago and shared her journey that has led her to Italy. Her life of adventure inspires me to explore all that this world has to offer. She offered advice about being kind and tolerant. But the biggest piece of advice she gave the group was to be open. Being open is so important in honestly any situation. CR has made me more open to cultures, change, and criticism. Experiencing different cultures throughout these countries has made me reflect on American culture. At times I questioned our culture because our young nation seems to be struggling to find its own culture in the presence of social media. Americans are so sucked into living on a screen that they actually forget how to live. There is a lack of ambition and it was a breath of fresh air to see people in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy work so hard for what they believe in and not stop when they face a road block. If I had not been open to experiencing different cultures then I never would have seen how American culture is so flawed because of social media. Our generation has the power to change this problem, and I believe genuine human connection needs to replace a Snapchat streak in order for us to get back on track.
I have the traveling bug right now and want to be shipped off to a random country and explore their culture. I no longer see traveling as a vacation, but now see it as an opportunity to learn. This is because CR has made me more open to change. I feel like I have always been pretty comfortable with change, but living out of a suitcase and not knowing the itinerary for a month abroad really makes you comfortable with change. I seem to always be living in the anticipation of something exiting in the future that I forget what may be happening in the moment. CR has challenged this and now I try my very best to be present and take life one moment at a time. CR is not meant to be an easy experience. Dr. Pitcock claimed in the very beginning that he chose us because we were a “hot mess” and now I know what he meant by that HAHA! We each got something completely different out of this experience, but it was exactly what we needed.
Lesson #3: The mountains vs. beach argument is not that simple
This is a common ice breaker question that I have heard so many times. Although I live in California, I sometimes consider myself a fake Californian. During the summer, I will only go to the beach around 4 times. Mostly because I turn into a lobster 11/10 times because I forget sunscreen. However, I still appreciate the beauty and mystery of the ocean. The Ligurian Sea off the coast of Riomaggiore is b e a u t i f u l. I bonded with my fellow California native, Kevin Crump, about the span of the ocean view. In Riomaggiore it was practically 180 degree views of the water whereas California offers much less. When we were on one of the lookout points, all you could see was miles and miles of water. It was absolutely breathtaking.
To address the moral of this story, we have to flash back to Switzerland. As I was strolling through the valley of 72 waterfalls, I turned to someone and said that the view clearly solved the mountains vs. beach debate. I was completely convinced the mountains was the correct answer. Right after I made this decision, we arrived in Riomaggiore. Within minutes, everyone hopped in their swimsuits and went to explore the beach. We climbed over rocks to get into the salty water. Floating and swimming through the Ligurian Sea with this crazy adventure crew was an experience of a lifetime. I will also never forget the banana gelato that followed this experience. Oh my lanta it was life changing. But seriously the ocean is one of the weirdest things on the plant. An entire world of sea life resides beneath the surface and research says only about 5% of the ocean has actually been explored. That is crazy!! Can you just imagine all the amazing and terrifying things that we have yet to explore. Mind boggling. The boats out on the horizon and children frolicking in the waves made me reconsider my answer to the mountains vs. beach debate. I realized that there is no firm answer. Both destinations are SO beautiful in their own unique way. You just can’t compare them because they are so different. It’s kinda like people. You can’t compare yourself to someone else because they are so unique and beautiful in their own ways and so are you!! It is honestly overwhelming the amount of beautiful places we are seeing. I feel like I am in a dream most of the time and I NEVER want to wake up!!!!
After all this talk about the beach I think I might go now… stay tuned for the sunburn!