Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Oh The Places You'll Go! (Subtitled: Sometimes kicking and screaming)

This will be my final post in our 2 and a 1/2 week journey across 4 countries with 46 people. We finish off our time in Rome with a visit to the Vatican on Sunday - and a blessing from the Pope. Yes - you heard me right, the Pope was there at the time of our visit and we were able to gather in St. Peter's square and hear his message and receive a blessing. Yes - I'm Protestant and yes, it was still cool.
St. Peter's Basilica at night
The line for the Vatican. The vatican had been closed the day before and whenever that happens it is open the following day for free. Thankfully we got there early and the line moved relatively quickly.
Our wonderful Italian guide. I wanted to take her home. She was fabulous.
Everyone is pretty much in awe.
The Swiss guards in charge of guarding the Vatican and the Pope.

Getting ready for the Pope to make his address to the people.
We are pointing to the window where the Pope will address the crowd. You can see the red runner in the window.
And there he is! Pretty exciting stuff.

I know! Crazy, huh? Last Sunday we went to church in Notre Dame and this Sunday we hear from the Pope. Totally unexpected and one of those once in a lifetime things. What a trip of a lifetime for students and adults!

We leave the Vatican pretty impressed with our day. Time for a nice drink of water from one of Rome's fountains. Did you know that you can drink from any of the fountains in Rome and the water is clean and delicious? True story.
Some of us head out on a walk with Mario after lunch to see some of the less touristy neighborhoods.

Such a beautiful church!

I love this!

A beautiful walk!
We enjoyed a great relaxing dinner with the Italian soccer team playing that night.
Gene makes a toast to Karen and Tom who are celebrating their 29th anniversary.
Love these guys!
Arrivederci Roma!
The Pope's summer palace.
Picture stop! Robb and Brooke M pose for a great father-daughter shot.

Love this girl!
Shortly after this - we discovered our bus had an issue and we had a short diversion for awhile while it was repaired.
Everyone made good use of the time and after about an hour and a half we were on the road again.
Vesuvius - on our way to Pompeii.

We enjoy a pizza lunch in Naples, where pizza originated.
We also enjoy a little entertainment from this gentleman and our own entertainers.
Peter, Caleb and Gene playing a little music for our group.
Amanda turned 16!
On to Pompeii!

Jordan tests the acoustics at the amphitheater in Pompeii.
Wheel ruts in the stone.
The baths of Pompeii
I am pretty happy! I teach about Pompeii in my History class and I told my students I would take a ton of pictures to show them - I'm really trying not to post every single photo here. But it is hard!
It is right about here that my camera battery died. Bummer! Jordan and Tonya got some great photos of our group with Vesuvius in the background. You will have to use your imagination!
On to Sorrento -
Our lovely hotel - right on the water!
The kids were so excited to go swimming - we had a perfect beach for it too.
Great color and architecture - our hotel!
Last day - Capri -
We took a ferry out to Capri and then a boat around the island. So beautiful!
I'm doing it again. That thing where I show way too many pictures. I'm like a shameless new parent. But it is so gorgeous! Which ones would you have me leave out???The water was so clear and blue. What a perfect day for all of us.
After our boat ride we take a walking tour of the island. Again - lots of amazing pictures!
Coreen and Lucas - love this and them!
The Aiken family
Kyle and Roben - love this picture!
 Emily and Ingrid

Our family
We end our day with some much needed beach time! Perfect way to end our trip.
I love this picture - I came across Jim who is trying to teach this Italian guy who spoke no English  how to use his phone. I wish I would have had a video camera. Funny stuff.
Arrivederci Italy! I will miss you!

What an incredible journey and opportunity! I am filled with thankfulness for this trip and for those who came along. They were wonderful and really great sports.

I do have some take-aways from my time on the road - and it wouldn't be me if I didn't share. So after all the beautiful pictures here are some amazing things I learned that I couldn't have learned apart from this adventure:

I had no idea how exhausting the organizational part of this would be for me. I have been home a week now and am only just now feeling like I can manage human contact other than my own family. I realized that my personality bent is to make sure everyone is happy and that they are having the trip of their lives - ALL OF THE TIME. Can I just share with you how exhausting that is? At one point I totally understood why Moses hit the rock.

Thought experiment: If each person complains or speaks negatively about something small just once each day - that is 45 complaints a day. Also my personality is that I don't receive criticism well. Ha! Perfect! (I do want to insert that I never received 45 complaints a day and my group really was fantastic to travel with, but if you like to please people and success is important - well, you get the idea. The very hint that things aren't gloriously perfect can send a person like me into a manic state of some type.)

Travel pushes those of us who like our comfort (i.e. Americans) into places that require stretching - whether that is with different food, lack of sleep, lack of available bathrooms, aggressive schedules, etc... The comfort gods must be toppled when you travel. But it is easy to speak of other people's gods. What about mine? What did I learn?

I learned that the gods of success, power and perfection, which are my Triumvirate, have no home here because travel unmans them. Which sounds like a wonderful thing from afar - but is oh so painful in the moment. Pleasing people 100% of the time is not possible - not 46 people with competing ideals who show up with their own lesser gods. Travel requires give and take and expectation and disappointment and lack and plenty. So for me, travel and leading travel is probably the best holy science experiment possible. It forces me to come face to face with my lesser gods and choose. So here are my thoughts about travel:

Travel = growth

Travel does what you expect it to do - it opens up the world to us in ways that we expect - new food, customs, people, etc... It shows us things we could never see in our infant land of plenty. Travel makes us better citizens and makes us more thankful for conveniences that we take for granted. This is what I preach when I prepare people for travel. And it is all true and if that were all that travel did that would be enough.

But travel does something else - it topples gods. It takes you to places you weren't expecting to go (if you will let it) and it brings you face to face with who you really are when everything else is stripped away. Travel humbles.

For the Christ seekers this is good news. Augustine's quote means more now to me then it did when I left.

"Life is a book and those who do not travel read only a page."

The really wonderful news is that we get to change the ending. We don't have to be a one page wonder. This is immensely comforting to me. Travel can be the vehicle that brings about healthy change - repentance, thankfulness, courage, compassion, and joy.

I am profoundly thankful for this trip and opportunity and to the Lord for His continual pursuit of His own and His gracious dealings with a sinner like me. If you want to grow - travel. But be prepared to return changed.