The overriding idea is that one is either an “ocean person” or a “mountain person,” though being from the flat, flat lands of Ohio and not vacationing much, I’m not sure if that is a universal idea or an Italian one.
In any case, I’m all about the water. I’ve already described my childhood swimming in lakes across Ohio – for me the water has always meant freedom, summer and fun. I swam competitively for 11 years and even got a part-time job teaching swim lessons, staying in the water after our two-hour practice to work. I practically lived at the pool.
Maybe it’s simply because there are no mountains in Ohio. I remember well the ridges covered in pines whenever we drove through West Virginia and was impressed by the Rockies during a trip out west, but besides their innate beauty, I never understood, or realized, what the mountains offered.
For me the ocean was this magical place where I could spend hours swimming or jumping over wave after wave. It’s water 2.0 as far as I was concerned.
Now I wake up every morning and see the two peaks of the Grigne from my balcony. Mountains have replaced the potholes and corn fields of Ohio, as everyday for my Italian friends as the corn is for me. Though my love of the ocean hasn’t faded, for the first time I’ve been able to explore what the mountains have to offer.
My process of becoming a “mountain person” started before this though, in the summer of 2011. Marco talked me in to going on a 4-day vacation hiking in the Dolomites, the Shangri-la of hikers. But I didn’t know that at the time.
In the Midwest, hiking generally means “purposely walking on a dirt path for longer than you normally would.”
Apparently, that’s not the definition of hiking in the rest of the world, least of all in the Italian Dolomites. We spent the first day on an eight-hour excursion with over 1,000 meters of elevation change. We descended into a rocky valley and hiked up through a lush, green pasture. We passed cows and searched for groundhogs whenever we heard their pitches. We dunked our tired, aching feet in ice-cold mountain streams and then begged a jeep to take us back down the mountain. Actually, that was just me…
My ankles were swollen and bruised from my new boots, my legs were tired, but there was no way I would have skipped the next day’s hike. Day two offered a completely different scenery. Green like I’ve never seen, with a cloud hanging so low that we stayed close together to not lose sight of each other. The day after it seemed like we were on Mars. We were so far above sea level that nothing could grow and the white and red rocks were our grass.
Though it took many hikes after our trip until I could genuinely say I liked hiking (there’s a difference between a 1-hour hike in L.A. and a 4-hour hike with over 6,000 feet of ascent and descent in the Alps), I’ve learned to look forward to each hike as a sport, a meditation – a way to travel.
Many undoubtedly choose one over the other, dreaming of the sea on Monday mornings or planning weekend hikes in the mountains any chance they can get. Instead with help from Marco, not to mention the beauty of the Alps, I’ve learned to love the mountains, incorporating it into my vacation dreams as much as the water.
Like the ocean, mountains provide a different perspective of the world, but especially a different perspective of ourselves. I’m still a water person, but I’ve learned to love the mountains as well. How could I not with some of these views?