Italy: a preface from the end

20151230_145348 (1).jpgIt is the penultimate day of 2015 and I write from the last row of a dark airplane. We’re 3081 miles from our destination. We’re 1398 miles from our origin. We’re flying from France, but Paris wasn’t our true origin. Neither was Florence or Pisa or Venice or Rome, the cities in which I’ve spent this Christmas vacation. For this Georgia girl, born in Ohio, raised by parents from North Carolina, traveling the world has taught me that my origin stretches across more centuries and stories than I know.
I have kissed the Blarney Stone. I’ve climbed both the Great Wall of China and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As a five year old little girl in twirly dresses and blonde bangs cut too short, I have watched the changing of the guard at a British palace. I have splashed in rainforest of Costa Rica while white water and I’ve jumped off a waterfall in the warmth of an Alabama August. I’ve walked where Michelangelo and Lincoln and Galileo and Paul strolled. I have leaped across rocks in Giant’s Causeway and repelled down rocks in Alaska. I have rowed a gondola under a bridge in a Venetian canal. I have sung the song of wild elk in the Rocky Mountains. A private coach has taught me the art of Kung Fu in a courtyard in China. In cathedrals and quiet fields, I’ve stood in silence before the graves of Mark and Newton and Tennyson and Peter and the unknown soldier and my grandfather. I’ve gasped at the beauty on the edge of the Grand Canyon and I have been soaked by the mist of Niagara Falls. I have seen the sunset over a Volcano in a small village in Mexico. Eels have brushed my ankles near my favorite beach.
I’ve tasted enough of the world to know that I have seen so little. I have a home here on this beautiful planet full of mystery and intrigue. But all of the beauty I have seen fails to compare to the beauty in the people with whom I have seen the world. I see galaxies in the gazes of my sisters as we laugh together. I know the prayers of my parents are stronger than any mountain I have climbed. My friends make the leaps and songs exciting.
I know my origin. My origin is in the love of my traveling companions, my adventure friends. My origin comes from the poets who have penned beautiful thoughts to serve as a soundtrack for all of the wonders. Great ancestors who fled their country, believers risking it all to build an ark and an arch—they laid a foundation. Grandparents risking vulnerability, promising love, and honoring those promises every day—little choices and monumental decisions. That’s my distance from the origin, so close and yet impossibly far from my understanding.
The distance to my destination is another story entirely. I don’t know how many decisions and days I have to travel before arriving. But I am confident that the destination holds unparalleled beauty: worship more profound than the waves, worlds that put all of the words to shame, and wonder and found wandering that will last forever. I’ll arrive sooner than I know.
Until then, I will taste of new lands. I will keep meeting new people and listening to their stories, knowing their origins. I will strive to share my destination and this, the greatest journey of faith, with every stranger turned friend. I as many windows in this broken world that I possibly can, and I will point out every glimmering mountaintop and monument through the glimpses.
Why do we travel? To learn about new lands and cultures to take in smells until the smells trigger memories. To get lost and rejoice in being found again. To grow tired beyond the very point of exhaustion and still continue on. To be reminded of the things that matter most, to laugh in the same language that the whole world speaks, and to know our very selves: this is why we travel. Why do we love? For all the same reasons.
Distance to destination: 2882 miles. Distance from origin: 1603 miles. 521mph.


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