Good day readers, it is Saturday, August 17, National “I Love My Feet” Day, thanks for joining me on my final blog. And oh boy, do I love my feet, especially as they carried me across Europe for over 26 days. Hope everyone has been doing well and enjoyed their summers now that school is almost back in session. I know I have.
It’s now been almost two months since my 4:47am wake up time back in Rome to get to FCO airport with Lauren Klingemann, one of the most high-spirited, morning people I’ve ever met. That morning I definitely didn’t satiate her need for conversation, as I was trying to have a pretty intimate date with my pillow and for that, I apologize, Lauren.
Back to our regularly scheduled program.
Now, with over two months of living back in the United States, my lifestyle has drastically changed. I no longer walk around 11 miles per day, nor do I pay to use a bathroom, but living here still can’t compare to the adventure that 16 lucky Frogs got to experience.
Let’s start at the beginning. I was in Costa Rica when I received my video that I got accepted to go on this CRegendary trip that has been raved about for generations, but I really didn’t know what I got accepted into. Nothing can prepare you for the cultural experience that is CR. Nothing. I think that is one of the biggest accomplishments and testaments that can be given to this program. I pointed this out in my first blog, “I think the gift of CR is found in the inability to prepare for it. When people prepare, expectations are set, and expectations are not always met. My biggest intellectual growth occurs when I am thrown into unexpected situations and am forced to adapt and learn. No class can prepare me for the navigation of a 39-minute layover at DFW airport (wish me luck). I want to experience and be fully invested everywhere I am.” First, I totally made my layover with over 4 minutes to spare, and second, the first sentence still holds true, as long as the CR nameplate exists, an unpreparable adventure awaits 16 lucky students. However, this final blog is not to regurgitate my pre-experience apprehensions, but to divulge the insurmountable personal and group growth every member underwent, and how we transformed from 16 unique individuals into 1 amazing Familia.
Not being the best at memorizing and regurgitating information on a multiple choice scantron, CR was an educational experience that was a blessing in disguise for me. Being in an environment where the only task was to really immerse oneself in whatever he/she found beautiful is where I found a true passion for learning. There is no set curriculum to follow, no national standards to meet, I simply got to learn about history through my perspective and interests. I feel like it is impossible to fully recap every second of CR into writing, so here is one of my favorite moments from each city that I visited.
Visiting the Reichstag in Berlin was one of my favorite moments. The construction of the dome symbolizes the reunification of Germany, which also happens to be free-standing, made out of glass and steel. While this may seem like a normal engineering achievement, Brent and Connor taught us that it wasn’t anything close to ordinary. They spit their knowledge, teaching us about a set of reflective mirrors that angle natural light into the building, which also provide additional passive heating. At this moment in the beginning of the trip, I realized that one of the beauties of CR is that I will learn as much, if not more from my peers, than my surroundings in general. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by 15 other extremely intelligent individuals who could all teach me something unique.
Admittedly, the city portion of Munich didn’t have my heart, which is okay because the countryside did. I love nature and being present in the outdoors. It adds a source of calmness to the calamity of my life. Two places that highlighted this aspect of natural beauty were two castles in the Munich countryside that perched over the greenery and nearby cities. Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein simply left my mouth open when looking at them. They both represent remarkable feats of engineering, architecture, and historical significance. Hint: Disney is even fond of one of the castles.
Interlaken is by far one of my most favorite destinations. I will never be able to top the beauty that I witnessed walking through the Valley of 72 Waterfalls. I need say no more, have a look for yourself.
In Monterosso, one of the cities of Cinque Terra, we had the privileged opportunity to eat a home cooked Italian meal prepared for us by an Italian native husband and American native wife. They graciously opened up their home in Monterosso, perched in the hillside with an ocean view, allowing us to take a breath, bond, and share about the once in a life time opportunity we’ve been given. That night, the wife mentioned how she was equally as impressed with our CR group as we were with the beautiful area. This is the night that I think most of us began to understand the implications of the infamous Cultural Routes legacy that was set before us, and how we needed to uphold the values that align with the nameplate. She applauded us for our professional, inquisitive, and driven natures.
Amidst all the Florentine artwork and architecture, our CR group ate at a restaurant called Francescovini. Fabio, the owner, who is good friends with Dr. Pitcock, was excited to see us and made sure to give us the best dining experience possible. His restaurant is famous for La Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a hefty T-Bone steak cooked to perfection essentially. This dining experience was so enjoyable, but before we left, we got to tour Fabio’s underground cellar. This underground cellar has existed for over 2000 years. Made original brick, one can even see the separation lines that once divided the old city of Florence. This once again reminded our group about the historically pertinent area we were submersed in, and how everything has a story around us.
Rome was special to me not because of its pertinent historical significance, nor its buildings that have stood for hundreds of years, nor the millions of tourists that walk its streets. Rome was special to me because of the people I was with. When we arrived in Berlin at the beginning of CR, 16 of us were separated into three separate exploration groups. Each city we would have to say bye to these people we had just gotten close with in order to begin a new adventure with new mates. In Rome, Dr. P took a step back and gave us our first groups we began the adventure with almost 21 days prior. For me, it was happy to be with these people again, not because they were my favorite 😉 (BRAVO forever), but because it was amazing to see how much we have grown individually throughout those 21 days.
Being an introspective thinker, it took me a while to realize how I’ve changed from the beginning of this excursion. I credit my learning experienced to the relevant locations we visited, but mostly because we had an amazing facilitator, and fellow students that desired to engage themselves and their peers. I can strongly say that each person on this trip had a profound impact that either challenged or changed how I approached my everyday life. To Brent, thank you for being yourself and challenging others with your extreme intelligence. To Bea, thank you for humbling us through showing us your strength you’ve developed through your life experiences. To Chloe, thank you for bringing a calming presence and beautiful heart wherever you go. To Claire, thank you for giving me the strength and courage to be myself, and for sharing a laugh or heartfelt moment with me. To Connor, thank you for leading and loving us with quiet resolve. To Cooper, thank you for reminding us to be grateful and happy with the life and opportunities we’ve been given. To Emma, thank you for your lighthearted spirit and intelligence. To Gabby, thank you for your vulnerability and trust you place in us. To Griffin, thank you for being a listener and for putting others above you always. To Harris, thank you for your endless support, love, and hospitality you’ve given me though this past year. To Kynnedi, thank you for your strength and strong values, always leading us in the right direction. To Lauren, thank you for having one of the biggest hearts ever and making everyone feel loved and purposeful. To Madelyn, thank you for always being willing to probe deeper and understand “why” behind people. To Peter, thank you for being a role model and leader for others to follow, always raising the bar. To Sarah, thank you for being unapologetically – yourself. To Taylor, thank you for taking a chance with us and letting us into your life, you are very brave. And to Dr. P, thank you for selflessly providing us an irreplaceable once-in-a-life time experience, we are forever indebted to you and the work you’ve done for so many years.
And to my readers, thank you for joining me on this journey, you’ve seen a glimpse into my raw thoughts and emotions as I embarked on this journey, I hope it was somewhat entertaining and engaging.
And with that being said,
That’s all… forever.