Be Brave

Still on a delicious bloggy break…so here’s another dandy from the archives…originally posted on July 17, 2008. Enjoy!

For weeks now three big boxes have been sitting patiently in the corner of my studio. They are filled with old photo albums, journals, and sketchbooks that I sent via snail mail from Cleveland. They sit there because honestly I have no idea where to put the stuff. But something was calling me to open the top box. Inside was a couple old sketch books, and two leather bound, beautiful, big photo albums. These treasures house the photos I took six years ago when I went backpacking through Italy solo.

I understand now. I’ve spent the entire day today thinking about being brave and watching the world’s most serendipitous moments reveal themselves to me, this is of course , why I needed to revisit these photos. I wanted to share some of them with you, and part of the story that lives embedded in the ink.

In 2002 I followed one of my dreams, and went to Italy. I had very little money, below basic knowledge of the Italian language, no experience traveling overseas, and no one to share the journey with. What I did have was a voice inside me that kept telling me this is where I need to go next.

When I finally arrived in Italy, all I knew is that I needed to get to Florence. My entire itinerary/ plan was to “take a walk around“. I spent every night in $10. hostel rooms similar to the one above (I was bottom bunk!). Many of those nights I was the only chica. It was a fabulous experience staying that way….I met people from all over the world, with the most interesting of lives, doing the same thing as me…taking a walk around!
Here I am standing at the foot of the amazing Duomo in Florence. There are very few photos of me, since I was traveling alone!
Here’s another…in the Coliseum. The funny thing is that when I got to Rome I was totally lost. Left my hostel and started walking around and became terribly lost in a shady part of town. Then bang–here’s the Coliseum standing next to me. I was kind of disappointed. I don’t know why, maybe too many gladiator movies, but I was expecting it to be out in the middle of a great field, and be empty and desolate inside. Not the case. But I had to ask someone to take my picture here…would have been a sin not too.

These are photos of some cool chicas I met on my travels. Almost every night I would go to some non-tourist Italian restaurant to eat dinner. I would get a table alone, which when you are a woman solo, you usually get shoved in some dark corner. I’d order, start writing in my journal, and then the instant I heard English conversation I would pick up my dish and belongings, walk over to the table and explain that I was traveling alone and desperately needed English conversation. Worked like a charm every time. I never dined alone. I met people, once again, from all over the world…and they were always so excited that I did such a bold move, they’d pay for my dinner! Ha!
During the day I spent a lot of time walking around and looking at art.

I even had long conversations with ancient sculptures. You can learn alot from a piece of artwork..if you just ask! And, a secret between you and I…when I was in Rome, I went to the Ufizzi. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the The Birth of Venus by Botticelli…I had no idea it was there…I was so excited to be in its presence that when no one was looking…I ran my hand across it…just so Botticelli and I could have our own moment together!

I learned in Italy that there are a lot of people out there that don’t like Americans. And they aren’t terrorists. And they are actually nice people like you and I.

I spent a lot of time noticing how different the light is in Italy. I was amazed how landscapes and everyday passing bys always resembled a Renaissance painting. When I was in Italy I emailed my old Art History professor. I told him that all the lectures, all those slides, all those damn articles he made me read…none of it prepared me for this. None of it prepared me for the pure magnificent beauty that is flooding every inch of Italy.
I learned what real dedication and passion is. I learned how each tiny piece is important for the best of the whole. I learned this through the mosaics I saw, and through the thoughts and emotions that were presenting themselves to me on this new journey I had begun.
I spent a lot of time watching people. Listening to the lyrical sound of the language.
Finding beauty in everything. Amazed on how everything I saw was completely new…

And completely old at the very same time.
I loved all the surprises that came my way, and I greeted them with open arms.
It rained almost every day that I was there. But each time it rained I happened to be inside somewhere. Two days before I left it started to rain when I was sitting in a cafe writing. I packed up and ran out the door. I walked through the streets, and got lost, and totally soaked!!! Complete strangers tried to offer me their umbrellas, but I refused. I was so full of joy that my body was soaking in Italian rain! I felt like I was part of a painting. Then, I turned the corner, and there stood a man, also soaking in the rain, playing a guitar and singing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, and I knew that I was never alone in this world. Ever.
The photo above I took because I was so drawn back by the simple beauty. I felt like beauty was alive like a person and presenting herself over and over again only for me.
But its this photo that I love. I sat here daily, in this exact spot, for many hours, across a week span just staring at the beautiful city of Florence. It was here that I fully realized that this is my life. That I am alive and granted this beautiful gift of a life to paint in any way I desire. I sat here, and for the first time noticed my breath and how it was connected to the earth, and how the earth had so many stories to tell me. It was here that I decided to be really brave, not just go to another country by yourself kind of brave. Brave to live your own life kind of brave. Brave to have faith in your steps. Brave to listen to that voice inside you. Brave to be open to any experience that presents itself to you. Brave to believe that you are always safe, always connected, and always going in the right direction.
And it was in the Pantheon, when I looked up at the heaven’s, that I understood why something inside me needed to go across the Atlantic, thousands of miles away. Just to prove to myself that I am truly brave.
I dedicate this post to all the beautiful women I’ve met here on Dirty Footprints, that remind me everyday, to be brave. There is great, great love here for you.

Peace & Love.
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