Stairway to Jesus, Ghandi, and Abby Souder

If I could mark my time in Riomaggiore by something, I would say it was the beauty and nature, the amazing culture and closeness of the people, the incredible number of flowers, and the delectable food.

If I could mark it by only one thing, it would be stairs.

I consider myself a relatively in shape person. However, there was scarcely a moment in Riomaggiore where I was not panting or keeled over, begging for water.

Perhaps it’s due to the absurd amount of gelato I consumed in our mere two day stay, or perhaps it’s because climbing directly uphill for 8 miles is kind of difficult, but I’m currently doubting my physical state. There was more sweat on my body than I thought was humanly possible.

That being said, Riomaggiore was also marked by a much more important word for me: peace.

Watching the city operate in harmony every morning through evening, hanging their laundry out on their patios and walking to each other’s markets, I felt a great sense of inner peace. Riomaggiore was unburdened by the stress of modern technology, and I found myself enjoying the nature and beauty that surrounded me rather than needing to constantly check the screens around me.

The sheer number of flowers that surrounded and seemed to enclose us on our hike astonished me; they were indigenous to that region, no one had to plant them there. The city was just filled with natural, unfiltered beauty, and no one tried to force it, and that’s how they found peace. I admired the respect they had towards their city and their culture.

Riomaggiore was different because it felt like a screeching halt in the middle of a high speed train. For the past few weeks on CR, we’ve been going going going all day every day, and any time there’s a chance for rest I found myself collapsing, even for a 15 minute nap. But Riomaggiore wasn’t about seeing everything or going to all the places we could; it was about admiring the beauty that surrounded us and understanding what made it so special. It wouldn’t have made sense to speed around Riomaggiore, because that wouldn’t fit the culture of the place we were in.

I spent the time in Riomaggiore getting to know not only the culture and beauty of my surroundings, but the wonderful people that accompanied me on this experience. Being in an environment where we could relax and talk about what we were feeling without being in a rush helped to get to know my friends on a much deeper level, and I am incredibly grateful for it. I am also so grateful for the role they played in my growth and how they helped me through my struggles. I don’t know what I did to deserve such amazing people, but I love them more than anything.

Emma Hoffmeister talked to me about Christianity as we walked through the beautiful hills of Riomaggiore and as I was telling her my story and listening to her own, I felt as if a part of my tale was being built through the conversation. Her openness, empathy, and encouragement inspired me so greatly in not only my faith, but my life.

Nishu and I discussed a variety of topics, from amazing music to what bothered us the most to a stream of consciousness of what was running through our minds in that moment, surrounded by such beauty. We were having a conversation that could’ve been had anywhere, but it happened in the hills of Riomaggiore and that made it so much more memorable. Nishu’s passion for music and justice and family and life is something I admire so wholeheartedly and hope to bring into my own life.

Kyle Hepting challenged me and my beliefs in many ways. I had fun teasing him and saying I was a superior being, and when he challenged that notion by saying Jesus and Ghandi were better than I was, I admitted to being okay with being third. Third place is alright on that list. But Kyle also uses vocabulary very carefully, and I can see him fully thinking through an argument before he starts it. I’m astonished by his intelligence, his patience, and his willingness to walk alongside others.

I learned so much about the people around me and what values I hold closest all the way up in the hills of Cinque terre just by admiring the beauty of nature and feeling my spirit settle in peace.

Riomaggiore, thank you for your peace. I’ll miss all that you taught me, but I’ll never forget it.

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