Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Road Tripping to Italy

This 4th of July weekend we took a road trip to Lake Como and Venice, Italy.

I took about a million pictures of both destinations, places so beautiful that they lead you to suspect you are, in fact, an amazing photographer.

But I think Z and I would agree that a huge part of what made this trip one of our favorites was the drive. And sadly, I could not capture that with pictures. And I think that even if I had tried, I would have just felt disappointed that the camera couldn't do justice to the magnificence we witnessed.

We took different routes on the way in and out, and both boasted some of the most amazing scenery we've seen thus far. The route in through the Alps was dramatic, remote and a little bit scary. It felt wild and raw and intense and as we weaved up and down these gigantic mountains I found myself thinking "what would happen if we had car trouble out here?". My nerves about the steep drop-offs and hairpin turns were mixed with absolute awe over the endless snow-covered peaks and countless waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet down the mountainsides into valleys dotted with villages that seemed miniature when viewed from so far above. I felt very, very small in our little white Honda as we drove through those mountains.

The drive back was equally impressive, although not as intense. The mountains were...friendlier, I think. There were more rolling green spaces dotted with farm houses. More scenic vistas. A little bit more civilization. Still beautiful and transfixing.

I let my mind wander and found that I was incredibly curious about what life looked like for the people who lived in the many valleys we passed or in houses perched precariously high up the side of a mountain. What did they do for a living? Had they always lived there? Were the stuck when a big snow falls in the winter? Where did they get their groceries? Had they ever even tasted Cheerios?!

And did they appreciate the view that they had or did the daily-ness of it dull the sense of awe? Did their breath still catch when the sun hit that peak just right? Did they still stop and stare on an especially clear day when all you could see were rows upon rows of mountains?

It is one of things I am most thankful for about this stage of our life: the opportunity to get in our car and see these things. Z and I talked a lot on our drive about how road-tripping around Europe holds different value than simply flying in, hitting a few spots, and flying out. As with any trip, you see and experience more when you are given the opportunity to make the journey part of the adventure, not just the destination. I know this isn't always the case with road trips...I would have given ANYTHING to fly to Ohio to visit my grandparents every year rather than endure 12 hours in the car. And I'm sure my parents felt the same way, but driving was obviously more affordable for our family of 5. But in this case, we're not talking a Georgia to Ohio trip, where the highlights are ... what? I don't even know. Probably McDonalds, at least for me at that stage in life.

Driving through the German, Austrian, Swiss and Italian Alps is obviously a different story. I'm so glad we didn't fly over them, missing so much of their beauty.

Z and I both wished we could have pulled over many, many times to soak in the view and get some pictures. But I think in the end, we would have been disappointed that the pictures didn't do justice to what we saw. And some things are just better when they are savored and sacred and not interrupted with a well-orchestrated photo opportunity. We did pull over at one point, right before sunset, to try and capture just a hint of the ongoing panorama...and of course, I was saddened that the camera just couldn't grasp what our senses could.

This trip will definitely go down as one of our favorites. The beautiful drive, the gorgeous weather, the amazing destinations...which certainly made up for the fact that our little one screaming in teething-induced pain was the soundtrack that accompanied the visual feast of our road trip. It's important to share this information with you lest you romanticize our trip too much or have a false sense that we are having picture-perfect experiences all the time. Life is still life, no matter where you live or what you're experiencing. You take the good with the bad, my friends. You take the good with the bad.

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