- GRADUATE STUDIES
- STUDENT LIFE
October 6, 2007
A Good Dream
By Alexis Coutsouridis
I am slowly but surely finishing my rolls of black and white film. I have found much inspiration in Florence, a city full of the most amazing art in the world. Italy is like a very good dream. Last night I had the pleasure of going to bed early after enjoying some alone time. Before that, some of the walkers and I had watched TV for the first time in 3 months. It had been so long since we had watched TV...and I hadn't missed it very much. We watched music videos on an Italian MTV-like station which was kind of cool because I got to see what is going on in the popular music world. I don't really like any of the music that is popular right now. It seems to me a mesh of emo-poppy/punk boo-hoo type music. I like watching the videos though, to see the artistic aspect of them. The hostel we are staying in right now is awesome. There is graffiti all over the hallways with drawings and inspirational quotes. There is a patio that everyone hangs out on at night to have drinks and mingle.
A few days ago the group visited the city of San Gimignano. Matty and I shopped and got some gelato. I got pear and cheese flavor. It was surprisingly delicious. Some of us went into a museum on torture and the death penalty. It was fascinating and extremely disturbing. I enjoyed it only to a certain extent. Matty and I were the last ones to leave the town. At first we tried to leave and ended up circling around the city. We decided to get some maps in one of the squares and sat down to figure out where we were. There was a young woman playing the viola in the square and Matty and I sat right behind her, looking over our maps. She played a lot of classical songs that I recognized. It made me a bit nostalgic because I grew up on classical music. It was a lovely day.
Yesterday we saw the David at the Academia. It was mind blowing to stand in front of such a legendary sculpture. I was walking around the museum with Brit, and when we entered the room with the David and started slowly walking up to it, we couldn't help but quietly laugh. We didn't think that the sculpture was going to be so enormous. I never realized that David had such an angry and passionate expression on his face. The David has giant hands. He is absolutely beautiful. I was quite overwhelmed yesterday but in a good way. The Academia had so much incredible art. There was one room with so many sculptures in it, I was blown away.
"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything stayed where it was, Nobody'd move. You could go there a hundred thousand times...Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you."
October 16, 2007
Nearing the End is Bittersweet
By Alexis Coutsouridis
The walk is about feeling free. The walk is about overcoming fears. Becoming family. Discovering things inside of yourself that you never knew existed. Learning about other cultures. Taking yourself back to a time when the world was fresh and new. I love the walk. I love this walk. And I dearly love all of the friends that I have made. Through all of my best and worst periods of self-reflection on this trip, my fellow walkers have been there. They've gone through the same thing I have and we all have this mutual understanding. I can't express how beautiful it feels to have come to this realization. The outcome of it all is that we have each grown. The walk is a growing experience, an eye opening experience, and a life experience.
At this point in time, I have talked to a number of walkers about the next big thing: Going home. Some of us are excited - some of us are a bit weary. Some of us are experiencing both feelings. What comes next? We all seem to be pondering this question. The way we view our lives and relationships with people at home have changed.
I know that my perception of people and things in my life has changed. I feel that I have gained a greater appreciation for my family since I have been on this walk. I can't express how much I love them. Friends can come and go but family stays forever. I am looking forward to spending time with them and getting to know them better.
I am sad that the walk '07 is coming to an end. But I know that I will be spending a lot of time with my fellow walkers in the future. I have made thirteen life-long friends, and I wouldn't change any of our experiences in Europe for the world.
P.S. We will be returning to America with a Jambai and a Digeridoo.
"For the Times They Are A-Changin'."
By Brittany Barry
It is our last night in Paris, our last night on the Walk, our last night together in Europe so we all pile into one hostel room listening to the poetic sounds of Bob Dylan and no one can help but think they the times are changing. Starting tomorrow, our way of life will be changing from all of what we have known for the past three and a half months and it is such a bitter sweet feeling.
Today Lisa, Jennie and I met up with my mom for a nice lunch and a little bit of site seeing. It was so nice to see a familiar face.
November 2, 2007
Nearing the End
By Christi Farina
The mood in the tent has changed, as we have reached the final week of our journey. There are no other countries to explore, people have begun to empty their duffels, and the majority of us are planning our first meal at home. For many of us we have set up the tent for our last time, prepared dinner for 16 for the last time, and we have showered for our last time before Paris. This week alone, we have dealt with the harsh reality that our time as a family is nearing its end.
This reality has swept me off my feet. To everyone in the 2007 Franklin Pierce University's Walk across Europe program, I hope you realize every one of you has earned the title of family in my heart. We have covered four countries, countless museums and historical sites, as well as slept in the same tent without privacy for over 3 months, together. Not many families living in the same home can say they have been as close and have shared as much as we have during our time in Europe.
We have bonded into one group with a common goal, starting from 13 students and 3 leaders all with our own reasons for undergoing this journey. Each of us has grown as a person, and although we can tell our stories and show our journals, the only people that can truly understand us is each other. We will filter our way back into our "normal" lives, but after this adventure, we can hardly be the same as we were before leaving. I am writing this not for our friends and families back home, but for our family in the tent. We have taken our education and lives into our own hands and have made something beautiful for it.
I am so proud of the people we have become and the situations we have dealt with. There is no one I would want to share this experience with besides my fellow Walkers. Mark Twain once said, "Don't let schooling get in the way of your education." We have chosen to follow these words, and have learned more than we could have imagined. This journey has been incredible, from meeting families like Betty and Maurice, to watching people walk in and out of our family, to following the words of past walkers on throwing rocks. Thank you to the 2007 Walkers, Alex, Alexis, Ashley, Brittany, Caroline, Christopher, Jen, Jennie, Lisa, Lydia, MaryBeth, Matty, Orrie, Paul and Tara, for experiencing this adventure with me. There is nothing I would have changed in all our time together. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to all of you for everything we have been through together. Thank you for making my senior year one of the most memorable experiences a person could encounter.
~ Before doors, outdoors was just called home. ~
An Essence of Beauty
By Lisa Dougherty
Walk 07' Journal Entry
30 October 2007
I've met my share of beautiful people throughout my travels through Europe. The Bettys, Marilyn Monroes and the Fabios, you know, the physical beauties bestowed to us from Hollywood. The surrounding landscape and architecture found in our places of travel seem to compliment those who reside here. Beauty in Europe is easy to come by; it's found in every corner. From the rolling hills in Italy to the dead leaves on the autumn ground back here in France, it's all beautiful. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this beholding eye for beauty has reached maximum vision capacity. Just when I thought I'd had seen all the beautiful things there are here in Europe, light was shed on a different essence of beauty. With her enticing character and simple acts of kindness, Alexis emphasizes that beauty is not always so easy to see with just your eyes.
One night in the town of Santarini, Crete, some walkers opted to enjoy the moonlit beaches after having drinks together. Later on in the evening, other walkers had joined us. When Alexis had joined, she shared with me her charming story of an encounter she had with a local. At a small pub alongside the beach, the two crossed each other's paths while dancing and enjoying the music. After dancing, the two found their kicks by racing down the moonlit boardwalk. The two also shared stories of their travels and diverse home lives, being from different countries and all. The night ended with the gift of a necklace to Alexis, in thanks for sharing the evening with him. So I'm sure you're saying to yourself, so what? What's so beautiful about that particular story? What I found to be so intriguing was the way in which Alexis had shared such an amazing time with someone, despite cultural differences, language complications, and disabilities. It turns out this individual was unfortunately in an accident and because of it, was placed in a wheel chair. It's as if they had nothing in common but their high energy, ability to look past complications, and to live carefree, for even just one evening.
Life presents everyone with harsh realities at times; it's inevitable. Remarkably, there are those who, no matter what happens, leave everything on a high note. When you leave it on a high note, there's nowhere to go but up. Alexis was able to see this man's smile despite all the differences between them and find courage behind it. In turn, I found courage in her and a reflection of her enchanting personality. The compassion and fulfillment she expressed while telling her story was refreshing and innocent. So I guess I was just happy to find beauty in its simplest form, merely interacting with others with a perspective such as Alexis and the local in Santorini had towards one another. This experience has truly reinforced the idea that beautiful things aren't always seen through just the eyes, but perhaps through the mind.
The Temple of Poseidon on Sounion Hill
By Brittany Barry
Out of breath and sore from running, we hiked it up one last hill to enjoy the sunset. The sky was painted with an array of pinks, oranges, and purples as the sun lingered over a small island; I sat on the edge of a hilltop sketching and writing in my journal. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets; however, it was not the main attraction. Just to the right of the sunset stood the most magnificent structure I have ever encountered: The Temple of Poseidon. It was truly breathtaking. I had such a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, and was definitely the most touched I have felt since being in Greece. I had been educated in Greek mythology for a few months, but did not fully grasp the true relevance of it all until I actually saw this structure in its element. It really helped me to further understand what we had been learning in the classroom and in the tent, and got me more excited to learn more about the myths and culture surrounding Greece. The power of being in the element is a strength you will never fully grasp until you observe it with your own eyes.
November 2, 2007
The Unscheduled Hike
By: Christi Farina
"Only one who will go too far can possibly find out how far one will go." One of my favorite quotes from T.S. Eliot kept spinning through my head. We were in Cinque Terre, Italia, a beautiful mountainous area with amazing hiking. We had arrived the previous day to a tent on the edge of a mountain overlooking a beach. On this day, we were free to explore the area, or explore the terrain. Lydia and I quickly chose to explore the terrain, finding a trail on the mountain behind our tent.
The beginning seemed like an easy quick hike. We spent time on the rock cliff that scaled the edge of the ocean. Once we realized there was another ¾ of a mountain to climb, we scurried up. About halfway to the top it started drizzling, although that only deferred us from our mission for just enough time to decide we were hiking anyway. The trail was ours and we had complete control over our decisions. The path was not well traveled and we kept coming to forks, each time picking and choosing our way to the top. Eventually we managed to get to the very top, following a path along the mountain's edge.
You'll never know who you are, until you don't know where you are, reads an ad we have read here in Europe. We continued following this path, contemplating what to expect when we arrive back in America. An hour into these deliberations, we realized we were overlooking the train station one or two stops before the town in which we were staying. Although we had no desire to take the same path back down, we had little choice. On the way down we got to view the ocean and mountains and beaches, slowly picking and choosing our way in order to get the best views.
Later on that night, we hiked into town in order to watch the Rugby World Cup. For all those reading this, yes I am aware that this year's Walk is primarily women, and I assure you we went to town to watch rugby. England took quite a beating from South Africa. At the end of the day, I couldn't help but snuggle into my sleeping bag, inside our giant white circus tent, with a smile on my face. That day was probably one of the best of my life, one which I will remember forever, the one about which I will eventually tell my grandchildren when convincing them to go on a trip like this one. I have Franklin Pierce to thank for this journey, as well as my traveling partner Lydia. As for future plans, the hike did nothing but add to my itch for traveling and I look forward to returning to Cinque Terre at first chance.
~ We do not inherit the Earth from our grandchildren; we borrow it from our children. ~
Weekly Post 10/30/2007
The Moment I Saw David...
By:Matty Lin Roumacher
We arrived in Florence on a nice October day and settled in our fabulous hostel that had writings all over the walls from past travelers from all over the world. The next day, some of us went to the Borgello museum and saw Donatello's David, which was being restored right in front of us. It looked like they were performing a surgical procedure on the statue.
Later that day, we all walked to the Academia museum to see Michelangelo's David. We stood in line for a bit, watching random performers trying to be statues, and then walked in. Almost everyone went straight for David, but I took my time to look at the paintings and statues in the first room. There was also a music section of all different instruments from different time periods. After all that, I made my way through the crowds and entered a large, long, white room. There was a rush of cool air and I looked up and saw David at the end of the room, large and in charge. He is a lot taller than I expected and a lot more impressive than any picture or postcard.
I walked up and saw that all of the other walkers were sitting down and admiring the glorious statue before them. They also tried to sneak some pictures of the famous David without getting caught by the museum staff. Most of us stayed there looking at David and then went to the gift shop and further contributed to the ‘David Mania' by buying books, journals, pens, and postcards.
This was the most impressive museum moment of the trip for me and I was quite taken with him. Hopefully I will see him again some day.
By Jennifer Henley
The unexpected is a funny thing... you never know when it's going to hit you, hence why it is called the unexpected. The way you deal with it can seriously alter the course of your life; which way it will change will vary based on the decision made, but it will change nonetheless, and there is nothing that you can do to stop it. Take life with each and every stride and don't ever look back and regret the things that you have done; without them, you would not be who you are today. As a quotation attributed to Mark Twain read, "Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do then by the things that you did. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade-winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." These words are very powerful and I came across them, written on the walls of our hostel in Florence, two weeks ago. When I first read this quotation, standing in the hallway at three o'clock in the morning with a new friend, its meaning hit me. It made me realize that this trip was a godsend for me; giving me the opportunity to not only to learn about the places and cultures that I have visited, but also a time to learn about myself and those I am traveling with, as well as to come to terms with my life and where I want to go once I return home.
My travels have taken me through many interesting places and I have met some even more interesting people along the way. From two very generous elderly couples to some cool guys in a hostel, with stories like our own to tell, it has been a great trip. Along the way, I have come into contact with someone that has forever changed my outlook on life and has made me realize that there are more things in life than what meets the eye. I never would have thought that I could travel half way around the world to find myself and end up finding both myself and someone else. It's amazing at how unexpected things just come and go during your life and how they can forever change the way you think and feel. The people that I have met were definitely an unexpected surprise in my life, but I would not change it for the world and I am glad that I was able to be in Florence at the same time to have met them. You can call it fate or destiny, it doesn't matter which word you choose, but it was definitely something that brought us together... something that I am very thankful for.
My time here on the Walk is coming to an end and I am forever grateful for the things that I know I will be walking away with. Being on this trip has given me a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, as well as a better hold on my self esteem and confidence. I am forever grateful to all those with whom I have journeyed, for they have each given me something to take home which will forever help me in my daily life. I only hope that I will be able to keep all that I have learned with me forever and not forget it once I return to the reality that I left behind when I started this trip. To use Joseph Campbell's terminology in Hero With A Thousand Faces, my call to journey and preparation are now complete, and the journey itself almost as well; now all that is left is my return home and the retelling of the tale, and that chapter of my life will finally be finished. It has taken me five years to complete this trip and I am glad to be able to say that I have finally done so and will never forget the experiences I have had while I have been here; the Walk experience will be forever etched into my memory and my heart, and will always bring a smile to my face when I think of it.
Weekly Post 10/23/2007
Italy Walk Update
By Professor MaryBeth Failla
We've been in Italy for 23 days, and today, we enter France again. We are traveling to Aix-en-Provence, by train, where we will walk to the home of the Cabrie family, Alexandra Haines' relatives, who will be our hosts while we camp on their land for the next two nights.
Our days in Italy have passed quickly. We arrived in Ancona, Italy, by Minoan Lines Ferry from Patras, on 2 October. On that first night, we camped at the shore of a lake, under the stars, after a wonderful Italian dinner. We began hiking from Perugia, toward Firenze. We walked through the Tuscan landscape of olive groves and vineyards terraced through the hillsides, stopping for a full day in Siena. From Siena, we walked through Montereggione, San Gimignano, Bocaccio's birthplace of Certaldo, and Macchievelli's birthplace of San Casciano, before reaching Firenze.
Our experience in Firenze was fulfilling on many levels. Christopher and I drove ahead to unload everyone's luggage at the hostel and to secure Museum reservations. Students arrived later in the day and immediately began exploring the city. On day 2, we began our day with a visit to the Bargello Museum to view some of Michelangelo's earliest large sculptures before viewing Michelangelo's "David" at the Accademia that afternoon. Fine Arts students were astounded at our good fortune: Donatello's "David," one of the most important works of the Renaissance, was undergoing restoration in full view of visitors, right in the center of the Donatello room in the Bargello. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. We were able to stand just two feet from the sculpture and observe the restorers' delicate work, firsthand, and on a TV monitor. Recent laser technology has made this restoration technique possible.
On day 3, we visited the Duomo and the Uffizi Galleries, and afterward, some of us walked across the Ponte Vecchio, in order to view Michelangelo's bridge and the DeMedici Palace.
Day 4 was a free day and everyone enjoyed shopping and sightseeing in this beautiful city. So many students expressed regret, during lunch and dinner conversations, that they might never get to see Michelangelo's "Pieta" in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, that I knew what I had to do. That evening, at Ashley's birthday dinner, I made an announcement. "Since so many Walkers have expressed an intellectual interest in the Sistine Chapel," I began, " I have decided that we must make this happen. We will go to Rome tomorrow." Early the next morning, the Walkers boarded the train for Rome, a 1 1/2 hour ride., and then stood on line for. 2 1/2 hours to enter the Vatican. Enter they did, and now everyone has seen Raphael's work, the Sistine Chapel, and even three Salvatore Dali paintings. They visited St. Peter's Square, the Forum and stood in front of the Coliseum.
That evening, everyone arrived in Firenze exhauisted, but not too tired to rise early to accomplish some last minute shopping the next day, before leaving the city. Doug Carty, our Walk Liaison at Franklin Pierce, joined us for the next few days, and had a great time walking with us 25K/day, camping in the Tuscan countryside, and even serving on Van team. He walked with us through Vinci, Leonardo's birthplace, and visited the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum there. Doug returned to campus on the day that we viisited Pisa. Look for his photos in the Website Photo Gallery.
Our next and final destination in Italy was Cinque Terre, where we camped for three days in one spot, on the edge of a cliff overlooking a deepening pink sunset over the clear turquoise sea. Walkers hiked on trails through the five villlages, free climbed the rock walls, and kayaked along the coastline to beaches of tiny purple and green stones. From our windy perch, we watched dolphins playing in the shimmering moonrise.
Now, we head back to France, to walk through Provence, toward Arles, the inspiration for so much of Van Gogh's work, and then toward the Dordogne region. Our trip has come full circle, as has our experience of History and Art. We end now where we began, literally and figuratively, on our way to visit the earliest known works of Art, discovered in modern time, by farmers, as they tilled this land in the French countryside, in the caves at Lascaux.
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Weekly Post 09/29/2007
Greece Travel Update
By Professor MaryBeth Failla
Here we are, on September 29, 2007, and we have two very full days ahead of us before we leave Greece. In Greece, we have journeyed from the sea to the mountains, from the 16 kilometer Gorge of white stone in Samaria, Crete to the 200 meter active volcanic crater of black lava rock on the island of Santorini, from the quite villages on Corfu, the Peloponnese, and Crete to the busy cities of Patras, Athens, and Iraklion, from the sacred temples of the gods to the human museums that attempt to classify and categorize the cultures that built them. We have experienced more, here in Greece, than most have the time or resources to experience in a lifetime. Our academic pursuits, the books we have read as a group, the classes in which we have participated ( on campus in June, on the ships that have taken us through these islands, in the tent with the white board and notebooks, in the informal discussions on the road and in the tavernas ), the papers we have prepared, and the individual research projects we have shared, all have contributed to the knowledge and interests we will pursue for the rest of our lives.
The Greek experience has challenged and entertained us. Bus schedules are an approximation only, in most areas of Greece, and the arrival of a bus at the station or at a bus stop produces a cacophony of sound and motion that, at first, shocks even the most hardened New Yorker. There is sudden loud argument and wild gesticulation, and since it's all Greek to us, we just stand back in bemused silence and let the bus driver and ticket collector fight it out with the tangled mass of riders trying to board the bus. After the first week, I realized that if I walked directly to the front of the line and said, "Excuse me, I'm so sorry, do you speak English?" in Greek, with a smile on my face, the ticket collector would be so disarmed by my calm demeanor that he would take the sixteen tickets for the group and allow me to count them off, one by one, as they boarded ahead of everyone else. Surprisingly, each time, no one in line protested as the ticket collector yelled at them to step back. Bus drivers have been so good to us that one driver even altered his route, forcing the other passengers off the bus at a crossroad bus stop, so that he could drive our group in the now empty bus, all the way from south of Rethymno, directly to our campsite in Hania, an almost two hour drive away.
Our last bus experience in Santorini turned into quite a hair-raising adventure. The bus that was supposed to arrive at Perissa Beach to take us to a bus stop in Fira, where we would board a bus to the Port to catch the Hellenic Lines ferry back to Iraklion on Crete, arrived 1/2 hour late and dropped us off at a crossroad that led to the harbor, since to go all the way to Fira might cause us to miss our boat. All sixteen of us stood on the road as bus after bus passed us by, until we decided to make a run for it, literally, and hike down the nine switchbacks on the 3 kilometer road down to the harbor that was 200 meters below us. We watched our ferry sail into harbor, and in desperation, I flagged down an empty taxi and implored him to take me and the three Walkers closest to me down to the harbor, so that I could possibly hold the boat for the others. We jumped in, and had the wildest ride of our lives, as Matty Lin kept saying, "We're going to miss the boat, I know it.", and I kept saying, So, we'll take another boat. It will be an adventure." and Paul kept saying. "Think positively, and we won't miss the boat." At that moment, my phone rang, and I could barely reach it with my backpack on my back, in the front seat, and my face pressed up against the windshield as the taxi careened at great speed down the mountain, around the tight switchbacks, to the harbor. It was Christopher, the Walk Assistant, calling, to say that he had jumped in front of a passenger van driving to the port and had convinced the driver to take the rest of the group down behind us. Their ride was apparently even crazier than ours, as the driver was absolutely determined to get the group to the now docking boat before it took off for Crete. We all arrived at the dock at the same time, and I ran to the boat with the tickets as Paul retrieved a receipt for payment from the driver, and as Christopher's driver refused to be paid at all, handing out his card to everyone and requesting that they call him for taxi service on their next visit to Santorini. Well, we made it to the boat and laughed about the journal entries that would describe this experience.
We've had so much fun here in Greece. The smooth stone beaches of Corfu, the white sand beaches of Crete, and the black sand beaches of Santorini have given us gorgeous tans to show off in the clubs and tavernas that open for dinner at 10pm and remain open until sunrise. The trip to Santorini, planned and implemented, and partially paid for by the Walkers, turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of this entire four month Adventure. After a day at the beach and a night out, the Walkers chose one of three options for Day Two of the trip. Christopher led some Walkers on a hike to the ruins of ancient Thira, above Perissa Beach while others chose to sun on the beach that day and sleep on the beach that night. The remaining eight of us chose a sailing excursion of the main volcanic island in Thira and the islands surrounding it. We began by bussing to the port where we boarded the beautiful sailboat that would take us there. We sailed to the volcanic island first and hiked the 3 steep kilometers uphill to the top of the rim of the Volcano, from which sulfurous gas emerged at intervals. The entire landscape looked like the scene on the craters in the movie "Armageddon," and the heat was overwhelming. I didn't realize why I was so hot, apart from the heat of the sun absorbed by the black lava rock around me. At the top, our guide asked us to touch the ground in a spot where just three inches of the surface dirt had been scraped away. It was too hot to touch for long, apparently of a temperature hot enough to fry an egg in three minutes. I suddenly realized that the extreme heat was radiating up from the ground as well as down from the sun.
Our next stop was to the small island across from the Volcano. The boat stopped a distance from shore, and the passengers jumped into the cerulean blue water and began swimming to the shore where hot springs awaited. The mud from the hot springs is a great for the skin, and after playing in the mud and washing off in the hot springs, everyone swam back to the boat, fish jumping around them, and climbed back aboard, refreshed and hungry. Our next stop was a small island with wonderful tavernas lining its coast, and the smell of grilling meat and seafood met us immediately as we stepped ashore. After a great meal, we boarded the boat for the high village of Ia on the tip of Santorini, the village photographed in all travel brochures, and had a wild and crazy ride on donkeys up to the top of the village to see the most beautiful sunset I have ever experienced. After sunset, we boarded a bus which took us back to Perissa where we all showered before the clubs opened for the evening. As I write this, I can't help but feel sorry for the students who chose to spend the semester studying, eating, sleeping, and partying in the traditional manner when they could have been here, on The Walk in Europe, with us.
This morning, we are camping at the beach in Crete, and everyone will gather at the tent at 12:30pm for a class discussion of Eliade's The Sacred and The Profane. This will prepare everyone for our day in Athens tomorrow where we will visit the Agora and the Parthenon. I chose to alter the itinerary slightly, to avoid the havoc in Athens prior to the elections. We had visited the National Archaeological Museum just two days before the elections, and when we emerged from the museum four hours after we had entered, the entire city seemed to have been transformed by demonstrations and loudspeakers and a general feeling of unrest. All bus travel was suspended and for a time, we were stranded in Omonia, the least desirable place in Athens to be. The place had the feeling of the type of tension I would imagine preceding a coup in a third world country, and I herded everyone below into the Metro where we began a very circuitous journey back to the campsite south of Athens at Sounio. It was a typical case of "You can't get there from here," and I chose to get everyone to the Athens airport by Metro and train, where we would be assured of some type of transportation to our destination point. Many hours and ten separate public transportation rides later, we arrived at the tent. As a result of this experience in Athens, I thought it would be prudent to cancel our trip to the Parthenon that next day, and to reschedule for tomorrow, weeks later. We will take the Minoan Lines ferry overnight to Piraeus where we will take two Metro stops to the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysus, the Erichthyon, the Agora, and the Agora Museum, and then will bus to Delphi where we will sleep under the stars near the foot of the sacred precinct of Apollo.
Yes, we are going to Delphi, the center of the world in Ancient Greece. This was not on the itinerary, but we made it happen. I thought it was important to do this since the Walkers have been so conscientious in their academic work and would really appreciate this visit. It will be the culmination of all their work with Philosophy of Religion, Myth, and History, and will be the perfect end to their travels in Greece and the perfect beginning to their travels in Italy and historically, into the Roman Empire and the Christian world. From there, we will bus right to Patras where we will board the 18 hour overnight ship to Ancona, Italy. We will be in the region of Perugia and will begin walking through Tuscany toward Florence. The Walkers are already planning a horseback riding excursion in the hills above the city, and no doubt, a visit to some of the many wonderful vineyards we will pass as we walk. The Accademia, The Uffizi, The Bargello, and The Duomo await our arrival in Florence. We will be some of the best read and best prepared scholars in the city for the three days we are there, and some of the coolest Americans in the clubs in Florence during the nights. Well, Franklin Pierce University students, if you are reading this, there is always next year's Walk in Europe. Stay Tuned!
Weekly Post 09/18/2007
by Professor MaryBeth Failla
"Don't forget to look up," I tell everyone as they carefully ascend the crumbling stairs cut into the rock. This is the start of the Corfu Trail that will take us up into the hill towns that skirt the northeastern coast of the island. The trail is difficult to follow as we enter the cool shade of the olive groves terraced with low walls of white stone. Our guidebook mentions a faint trail that widens, but in the olive grove, this could mean any terraced path, and we wander, centuries of dried silver leaves crackling beneath our trail shoes. We pick our way through unusual dried flower stalks that Jennie stops to gather, over shards of stone and a litter of black olive pits, observing shafts of light reflected on thin leaves of silver-green and glimpsed through gnarled tree trunks shaped with holes. The groves are quiet and peaceful, and when we listen, the stillness is punctuated only by the cooing of doves and the droning of bees. Different varieties of thyme grow wild across the ground, and I recognize shrubs of geraniums that lend their fragrance to the delicate herbs we breathe deeply as we walk. The scents are lovely, but disappear almost as quickly as we notice them, and we walk on, trying to recapture their beauty with each step we take.
We turn back several times to recover the trail at the last certain landmark, grumbling at the ineffectiveness of the trail guidebook, but we are Walkers, and we've come to realize that where we are at any given time is where we are supposed to be. Comfortably lost, we forge ahead. We pass two ancient houses that sit on the hillside over the sea. They are built of the same stone as the terraced walls and blend into their surrounding behind us. The sea is a vivid teal blue and the hills of Albania are about a one mile swim from the coastline below us. The trail joins the road at this point, and we pass huge cacti in flower. Looking closely at a giant cactus beside the road, we draw the attention of the landowner who greets us enthusiastically. What looked at first like amber-pink flowers, we realize now, are really fruits, and I ask him if they are prickly pears. Grasping a pear between two flat pieces of stone he takes from the ground at our feet, he carefully removes the fruit from the cactus, and with our Swiss army knife, cuts away the offending skin. Beneath, is ripe red fruit as sweet as watermelon, and we thank him for his generosity. Farther along the road, Alexis and Caroline admire grapes growing along a fence, and an old woman sweeping her garden path picks two very large bunches of the sweet white grapes and insists, in Greek, that we take them with us. They are the best grapes we have ever tasted.
We walk along the road now, hurrying to reach the sea, in order to catch the last bus of the day, to our tent site to the south. As it is in all of Greece, the road is littered with trash and rock fragments. Looking down as we walk, we are aware that the low costs that we benefit from leave this country with few material resources for cleanup and construction. Life is simple here and the beauty is all around if one only looks up or out to the sea. Vines of orange trumpet flowers are intertwined among the branches of tall black walnut trees, and delicate leaved trees, heavy with red pomegranates, grow along the roads and border the groves of unripened lime green oranges. As we walk along the road, our heads are brushed by the leaves of huge figs, and the grapes, purple and gold, are everywhere, sweetening the air. The hill towns of Corfu are lovely and peaceful, with only a few residents to tend the goats and chickens we have passed, but we have remembered to look up, and the beauty of the hills has not escaped our grasp.
Weekly Post 09/10/2007
Going From Maine to Florida...But Not Really
By Christi Farina
Yesterday we landed in Florida. It was a quick drive over the border from Maine. In actuality, we are now in beautiful, warm, sunny, gorgeous Italy. We just left Switzerland, which was more gorgeous and incredible than a person could imagine. Pictures do no justice to what we saw on a daily basis.
Switzerland was more exciting and incredible than I could have dreamed. We were fortunate enough to climb some of the Swiss Alps, as well as spend time in gorgeous Saas Fee. The first hike of Saas Fee made me wish I had a spare tent to set up at the top of the mountain and never move. When we were sitting at the top you could not help but feel like an invisible speck in the world. In fact, you realize just how small you are and as sad as that sounds it is really an eye-opening experience. We also explored a stick hut, which seemed like something out of the "Three Little Pigs". If this wasn't enough for one hike we got to sit on a wooden plank bridge over a glacier waterfall. Sweet!
As anyone who knows me personally knows, I was born and raised Italian. Cut me open and find red wine, red gravy, garlic and olive oil running through my veins. However one cannot compare the experience growing up in an Italian family to that of being surrounded by Italian culture. In two days, I have had to order food in the supermercato, and scary as it was, I was grateful for the 5 years of Italian I had taken. Tomorrow we land in Venezia for the famous boat regattas, a truly big part of the culture. We will leave in a few days, only to arrive in Greece before returning to beautiful Italia in a few weeks. So, in essence, we will be arriving from Florida to Hawaii and back again.
The Rodin Museum-Paris, France
by: Matty Lin Roumacher
One day in Paris, a group of university students, from The United States, wandered through the city of love, got on the metro, and arrived around the corner from the Rodin Museum. They walked through a park that had pony rides. One of them wanted to ride one. The pony man said no. The leader purchased the museum tickets and handed them out. They started inside in a showing of Rodin's collection of Asian art. This wasn't really interesting to some. Once they finished that gallery, they moved outside to the gardens. Throughout the gardens, there were Rodin's sculptures. Through a path with tall hedges on both sides we walked to the base of ‘The Thinker.' ‘The Gates of Hell' and ‘The Burghers of Calais' were also a sight to see through the many rose bushes that lined the gravel paths.
Making their way through the garden, they entered the Hotel Biron, which housed the main Rodin exhibit. Inside was like going back in time. There were creaky wooden floors and high ceilings with golden crown moldings and chandeliers. The ground floor consisted of Rodin's early works, the Belgian period, The Age of Bronze, ‘The Kiss', ‘The Walking Man', ‘Camille Claudel', ‘Eve', Portraits of Women, and Drawings and photos. ‘The Kiss' was a favorite of many in the group of students and finally seeing it made some sigh with satisfaction. They then climbed the white marble staircase to the second floor to finish the exhibit. On the second floor, they saw ‘The Gates of Hell' again, Public monuments, ‘The Burghers of Calais', Assemblages and marble statues, Portraits of men and Van Gogh, ‘The Danaid', Dance movements and assemblages, and ‘The Tower of Labour.'
Once finished, the group members met up on the steps of the main exhibit. A few went to the gift shop and purchased some memorable postcards. All came out of the museum feeling more alive and had a better sense of self. Actually, some were glad to get out of there and then get back to the hostel and go out on their own. But for me, the museum was the best one I've seen out of all of them. I did leave there with a better feeling than when I went in and I will most likely go back in November.
My New Love Affair
By: Matty Lin Roumacher
We left this creepy campsite where people dreamt about gnomes and giant shadows for our final hike in Switzerland. We walked along a river for most of the walk. It was very scenic and quite comfortable because we were in the shade of the mountain. It was all fun and games...until we came to the very open grated walkways that went along with the tunneled roads. They were the kind of walkways that go over huge abysses that you don't trust at all. And you can see clearly through them. Now I am terrified of that. The moments when I see down that far are very horrifying to me. We all know the saying, ‘Don't look down.', but it doesn't work like that with me. I think that I'll get over my fear by looking down but it just makes me shake more. At one point, I almost lost my camera lens through that grated walkway because my legs were shaking so much. The last gated bridge that we had to cross was the hardest and the tallest. I didn't go over it until Alexis grabbed my hands and almost ran across. The whole time I was breathing quickly and I kept saying ‘Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down.' But I survived it! And we made it into Italy by bus and trained to the campsite, which was really beautiful because it was right on the water with a beach. The view from the beach was amazing; we could see across the freshwater lake to the other side and when the sun set, the buildings on the other side were lit up and had an orange tint to them.
The next day we trained and took a bus to just outside Venice where the campsite is also on the water and when you walk down a path to the water's edge, you can see Venice. I went down there to read a book and I had my iPod with me and listening to my music, with the wind blowing in my hair, and with Venice in site, I felt so content with everything. I have recently fallen in love with the boot country and I plan to stay here forever.
P.S.- We're in ITALY!!!!!
Walk 2007 Journal Entry
By Paul Clifford
I am flying through the clouds on a large winged creature, and then all of a sudden I hear a voice interrupting my mystical dream. "Wake up, it's seven", I roll over and open my crust lined eyes to see someone lying next to me. Reality sets back in, I am living in a white plastic tent with sixteen other people, and each morning I wake up next to someone different. Hopefully no one noticed that I was awake, and I think to myself ‘maybe I get just go back to sleep.' Next I get a tap on the shoulder and finally realize that I need to get up. I mumble a few incoherent sentences producing this aroma of morning breath. Finally I stand up and move my lifeless body around the tent, trying to avoid the other sleeping bodies in the tent. I finally make it to the breakfast table to grab a little grub before a long hike. After finishing the light meal with the morning coffee, I head back over to my designated sleeping area and begin to roll up my sleeping bag and mattress pad and shove it into my already full duffel. I let out a sigh when the zipper finally closes, pick up the duffel and roll it over to the large white van that is park right outside our nomadic home.
Once everyone goes through their morning routine, it is time to dismantle this large white plastic tent. First the side walls come undone and must be folded to fit into a large black Rubbermaid container. Then the twelve aluminum poles need to be piled and tied together with a black rope. Next, we must untie all the white ropes that are tied to the metal stakes. We get the sludge hammers ready to unearth these twenty inch stakes that held our home in place. Now it is time for the center pole to come down. Two of us get on either side of the pole and yell, "Tent coming down", as we guide the center pole to the ground. A small gust of wind is produced by the collapsing tent, as we rush to fold this now flat piece of plastic. This is a day to day routine that we as walkers experience, and even though its hard work at seven in the morning, we all realize that it must be accomplished in order to move ahead with the day.
So far, to me the walk has been much more then just walking. I understand walking as ‘moving forward'. It seems I am moving forward both personally and educationally. But it seems in order to move forward, one must reconnect with the past.
Personally because I am becoming more independent, yet I have evolved and grown to get to this point in my life, from my beloved family and friends. They have molded and shaped me over the past twenty years, and now I am able to utilize what they have taught me and finally put it into practice.
Educationally, I am able to appreciate everything to the fullest due to the great educators who have inspired me throughout the years. It is thanks to them that I keep an open mind and try to soak up as much information as I possibly can.
I am on this walk because of my friends, educators and most importantly, my family, who have all contributed so much time and effort to my life, and now I am here in Europe gazing upon some of the most beautiful things man and nature has created. From chateaux's to museums, from the edge of the Lorie to the Alps, I am experiencing them all.
I never know what the next day will bring; but I know not to expect anything.
Chateau de Monet
By Orrie Sobers
Art comes in many forms and are expressions of an individual's feelings. Seeing first hand art work from some of the most talented painters and sculptures of the time was an awesome sight. At the Momatarte gallery I was transfixed before an original Monet painting titled Les Agapanthes. Staring at this painting and not being aware of the other people trickling past me was one of the most intriguing feelings I've had in front of a piece of art. I was trapped just staring; staring into something which kept me interested. Later I walked through some of the most spectacular chateaus that I've ever seen. I just wanted to be trapped in those stone floored homes with nothing but candlelight and keys, with a thunderstorm racketing outside. I know it sounds really weird but when I entered the grounds of these grand castles, it put me in a whole new world, a world I'll cherish forever.
By: Brittany Barry
Ten hours on the train and it was worth it! Getting off the second train onto the last was great, heading into the mountains was Beautiful, and we saw so much scenery and all got so excited. I was seriously ready to leave the countryside of France and more than ready to arrive in the French Alps. It was where I belonged. I knew it as soon as I got off the train and looked at the breathtaking city of Chamonix and up at the amazing Alps hovering over it. I could not get this huge grin off my face no matter what. We had to move the tent to a smaller area uphill. That was a task on its own. But I accomplished it with a smile, enjoying the snow covered mountain surrounding me. By the time the tent was set up and ready, it was about 6:00 and we began to make dinner. After stuffing our faces, it was an early night and lights were out around ten o'clock. Morning came quickly, even though we were able to sleep in a little later than usual.
By the time everyone and everything was put together, it was about noon and we headed for the Mere De Glace trail. The hike started at such an intense incline, I was quickly wondering what I got myself into. But I talked myself into believing that it would get easier. It had to, right? Ha! I was wrong. Each switchback was more difficult than the one before, but the view just got more and more amazing. The burning in my thighs and sweat running off my face never felt so good as I looked down at Chamonix, the city I earlier was standing in. It took us about an hour and a half to get a little more than halfway up, to the first Chalet; which was owned by a small mountain man who happily greeted us. We sat on a small balcony while drinking our ice cold Kronenburg and listened to the Zen sounds of the Baraka CD. Never in my life would I picture myself there, in the Alps, sweaty, smelly, with a fire in my eye, ready to see what picture the top of the mountain would paint me if half way was that magnificent! I saw that look in everyone's eye, so we quickly finished our refreshing beer and kept truckin'.
It was a slow start but the hour that it took us to get to the top went by super fast. As we turned up the last switchback, the gardens of lavender obscured our view of the enormous glacier that would soon stand directly in from of us. At that time, I couldn't help but be American and belt out a loud WoooooooowwwwWWHHHOOOO! It felt amazing being at the top and the fairytale scenery was painted so perfectly. We stayed at the top for about two hours, having lunch and taking pictures. It was only four of us on the way down. WE had a great time, only out of breath from laughing so hard. The short hour and half it took us to get down led us right into the city with time for a quick cup of coffee and a few stores before dinner. After dinner, we all headed back to town to a busy pub on the corner of the main street. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, and ice cold drink and some loud live music. This was easily one of my favorite days thus far on the Walk.
Journal Entry by Lydia Kingsbury
So far there have been two particular days of The Walk that still stick out in my mind as two of the best days of my life. Well, so far this whole trip has been the best days of my life, but these two particular days were incredibly inspiring and filled with pure bliss. The first day was back in July and was one of our first days walking. This is some of what I wrote in my journal at the end of that day. "A camera can't even capture the beauty of the French countryside around us. The rolling hills, fields full of flowers and tall grass, gorgeous stone houses with tall colorful doors, trees everywhere that seem to be perfectly placed, and even the clouds look beautiful here. Today made me realize exactly why I signed up for The Walk. It made me feel completely in the moment and focusing so much on my surroundings and the people I was with. We all talked about our past and certain experiences we've had that that have changed us and how the Walk is going to end up changing us even more. We talked about the here and now, and how who and where we are and what we're doing, are exactly where and what we're supposed to be doing. Today was absolute pure bliss."
The second day was back in the Swiss Alps. I took a gondola up to the top of a mountain with MaryBeth, Christi, Caroline, and Britt. We sat at the top of the mountain overlooking the valley and could see mountain beyond mountain completely surrounding us. We were much higher than the tree line and even hikers a little way down looked like tiny dots moving through the zigzagging trails. Christi and I climbed down a few feet and sat on a ledge overlooking the valley and again, I felt as if I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
We continued to hike down the mountain and along the way, we came across a giant glacial run off river with an old bridge. I sat with the others on the edge of the bridge with my legs dangling off the edge and the water spraying off the rocks all around us. Sitting on a bridge over a gorgeous glacier run off with the beautiful trails all around and the other laughing walkers felt so fulfilling somehow.
Throughout this trip I've read two books that go along perfectly with I'm doing on this trip. One book, Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, is a retelling of his experiences hiking through various mountains and meeting amazing, interesting people, all the while trying to perfect his Zen practice of becoming a Dharma Bum and finding all truth in his world. Another book I borrowed from another Walker is Awakening the Buddha Within, which also talks a lot about Dharma, or the truth and how everyone has his own Dharma to find and his own experiences that make him realize what that truth is. Dharma is seeing the truth for exactly what t is and seeing all things as they truly are.
This walk has taught me how to look at my surroundings exactly as they are and appreciate every situation for the way it is, good or bad. While reading those two books, I realized that these two amazing days in the French countryside and the Swiss Alps and hiking every day, were my Dharma. Hiking has especially taught me that I can find my truth, that I can see life for what it is, and that I can have a million of those pure blissful moments if I take a moment to look around and see my surroundings. This is exactly what The Walk allows me to do.
Weekly Post 09/04/2007
Walk 2007 Update
by Professor MaryBeth Failla
The days have gone by - too fast to write. We've walked through the Val de Loire, through fields of wildflowers, fields of sunflowers, and vineyards. Along with beautiful flowers and excellent wines, we've collected friends and memories.
The flat land gave way to snowcapped mountains as we trained into Chamonix, and the real work began. Serious uphill hikes and thinner air left us breathless with exhaustion and exhilaration. The beauty at the top of the mountain passes was staggering and we were all seriously challenged by by the length and difficulty of each day's hike. We crossed into Switzerland on the Tour de Mont Blanc trail and camped in the midst of snow-covered peaks or slept in mountain refuges without our tent for shelter. The hikes remained difficult as we made our way to Saas Fee to the Saas Grund campground on the mountainside below the town. In Saas Fee, we shifted perspective, and playing above the tree line at the base of the glacier became our focus. We rode cable cars to the top, below Allalin, in the morning, and hiked horizontally across the mountain range before hiking down to the town by evening. We crossed waterfalls that flowed freely from the glacier each afternoon, filling our water bottles at the top, before the water became a rushing torrent cascading over rock, to meet the river below. We stood on small wooden bridges, welcoming the glacial spray of the falls that rinsed our sweaty faces and sun-browned skin, laughing at the beauty of it all and at our surprising fortune to be above the clouds in such an awe-inspiring place. No pounding the pavement, day after day, for us. We're Walk 2007, and our Walk is AWESOME in so many ways that the Walk has never been before. We're not a group of Walkers, but a family of friends, and we're experiencing the best of everything this world has to offer.
We hiked through Simplon Pass in Wordsworth's footsteps, and down to Simplon Dorf, surviving freezing weather and terrifying gnomes, in the one patch of flat land in this mountain town. The moonset at dawn lifted our spirits slightly, but it took some serious hiking into Gondo to warm us, and by the time we reached the rising rock walls of the gorge, we were too excited by the dramatic scenery to feel the cold. Passing through damp mountain caves, reminiscent of Tolkien's Mines of Moria, and crossing high above glacial pools of deep aquamarine on thin bridges of open metal grating, we sucked it up and remembered to breathe, until we reached rock to place our feet upon. This trail tested our courage rather than our stamina, and the exposed ledges and open-bottomed bridges created one of the most scenic and satisfying Walks we had experienced to that point.
By late afternoon, we reached the town of Gondo, and a few kilometers later, crossed the border into Italy. We bussed to Lake Maggiore, where suddenly, at the end of the coldest night and day of the Walk, we were camping on a lake, in sight of tropical palms and a glorious sunset. The warmth and humidity further lifted spirits heightened by the day's experiences.
But this was only the beginning. We set up our tent the next night, on the shore across from Venice, and tried to synchronize our wild imaginings of the magical city of masks with the reality before us. We floated into the floating city by boat, and followed the entire Grand canal by Vaporetto, by design, on the slowest route possible, to our final destination near St. Mark's Square. The assignment for the day was to lose oneself in Venezia, literally and figuratively. The maze of cobblestoned streets eventually led us through silent waterways, over tiny bridges, past sudden glimpses of hidden courtyards, and all the while, the gondolas glided silently past and the operatic voices of the gondoliers resonated in song through the secret spaces. Each step took us deeper into the maze as the cool damp air of the canals met us at each turn. This was a labyrinth that beckoned with riches beyond our imaginings, and escape was the farthest thing from our minds. We reached the hostel which, like all of Venezia, expressed a sense of elegant decay and old world charm. Once the home of a wealthy Venetian family, the thick mahogany doors, leaded glass windows, marble staircases, and ceiling frescoes, created a rich and dramatic atmosphere. We watched the late sun's reflection on the quiet waterway below us, from bedroom balconies covered with vines of ripening purple grapes. The hostel was magical, as was all of Venice.
Now we sit, on a Minoan lines ship, high above the floating city, gliding very slowly past the pastel beauty of blue sky, pale green sea, and the yellow, pink, and white architecture that is Venezia. It is early afternoon and everyone is in shock. "MaryBeth, you didn't tell us we were traveling on a cruise ship." "There have to be some surprises," I answer, as we head into open sea, the "wine-dark sea," as Homer called it. By tomorrow, at this time, we will dock in Corfu, near Odysseus" "rocky crag," Ithaca. The beaches and hills of Corfu await us. Unlike Odysseus, we will offend no gods, and will arrive on time. We've all met our personal Cyclopses on this journey in one form or another. Though further trials await, heroes all, we will arrive.
Weekly Post 08/24/2007
What The Walk Means To Me
by Lisa Dougherty
When the Walk was first presented to me, it felt distant and unrealistic to even think I could get myself into the Program. With hard work and determination, I've made it here. I have been blessed to see some of the most beautiful landscapes, art, and architecture. But along with this, I have created strong bonds with total strangers and have educated myself about different cultures and experiences while traveling across Europe.
This Walk has been different from prior Walks in so many ways which attracted me and my fellow Walkers. The idea of of academic and intellectual interests were being further implied and practiced. I am glad to confirm that this is so. Since we have been here, we've visited many Museums, Chateaus, and landmarks, all of which have taught us bits and pieces of Celtic, Medieval, and Renaissance history. My personal interests lay in the Art museums such as the Rodin, and the Marmottan where we saw some of the first Impressionist Art pieces ever created. Monet's Impression: Sunrise was among the first Impressionist paintings. Along with the museums and Chateaus, we have found History in our walks every day.
While walking to Chinon, we saw the castle in which Joan of Arc spotted the King among the common men when he was testing her. I relate a lot to Joan of Arc as she was a leader and a strong woman. I like to consider myself the same. Leadership was highly spoken of and enforced on our Walk.
I feel our group has created bonds that could last a lifetime. Getting lost, putting the tent up in rain or shine, and enjoying our meals together are just small things that add up to the big picture of the bond we've created. This is why I could not participate in another Walk. All of us have come together because of our academic interests in this particular Walk and because of the experiences we have already shared. I have made a family with these Walkers and wouldn't find these people in any other Walk.
Responsibility in this Walk is very important to me. Since Day 1, I have felt responsible in contributing in as many ways as possible. I feel a responsibility to myself as well. Before we began the Walk, we read The King Must Die by Mary Renault. In the novel, Theseus us a man driven by his Moira to find out who he is, through his triumphs, downfalls, and travels. I feel a responsibility to myself, to complete this trip, as Theseus felt in his journey. Although I've learned so much already in just being here for one month, I'm starving for more. Italy is the home of some of the world's most profound architecture deriving from the Renaissance. There is so much to learn there and I want to be a part of that experience.
It was just a couple of days ago that a fellow Walker and I discussed our feelings, and the sadness that some people may never get the chance to to see such beautiful things and learn so much about history, culture, and themselves. There are so many pictures I could paint with words to tell everyone what I have seen and learned. The Walk experience itself is something that can never be understood unless one goes through it firsthand My fellow Walkers and I have learned so much, academically, spiritually, and mentally. The Walk is an opportunity that, for us, has essentially become a dream come true.
Parking Lots to Vineyards
by Lisa Dougherty
Just a couple weeks into the walk and I can't believe what we've already learned and accomplished. The group grows closer every day as we come together and feed our minds with historical cathedrals, art, etc.. The transition into a new culture and living with locals has also brought us together. There is so much to share with all of you at home but perhaps I can reflect on what I considered to be the highlights of the trip.
Paris proved to be romantically beautiful; there, we were able to visit museums that held some of the finest pieces of art ever created. The Rodin museum proved to be astonishing with his collaboration of modern and classical form. We visited Marmottan museum where I saw Monet's first impression painting: Impression Sunrise. With its turquoise water colors and reflected orange sun, it provided a path for a lone traveler to sail in his boat. I felt a connection with this particular painting because I could picture myself as a lone sailor featured in this piece, subjecting myself to whatever the ocean had in store for me. Of course, Monet's water lilies were just as beautiful. Paris also provided me with the historical backgrounds of Notre Dame. Chris, one of our walk leaders, told of stories behind the archways and architecture. My favorite archway was the third one which emphasized the idea of good and evil and the judgment of souls. Angels lined the left side and demons lined the right. The church itself was intimidating but yet beautiful. It was fun to learn all the stories of its creation, down to the last gargoyle. After Paris, we began our travels to the countryside of Northern France, where there real walk essentials began.
The second day of walking was a surprising 22K. I think after waking up for the first time in the tent that morning, we all began to ask ourselves "What are we doing here?" That day, we traveled along the Loire River which was gorgeous. I think we were all happy to trade in parking lots for vineyards and buildings for cottages. I specifically remember spending that day with Britt, Orrie, Paul, and Alexis. We toasted to what was to come at a cute little cafe along the Loire. The Loire Valley consisted of beautiful towns and landscapes to take in while walking along. One of my favorite places to stay was Breure. In Bruere, a lovely couple Betty and Maurice welcomed us with cheese, drinks, and local songs. They owned a German Shepard that mingled with the group as well. Maurice (the gentleman) bid us a farewell in his two-horsepower vehicle in the morning with his German Shepard in the back. He looked exactly like a French man you would see in a movie with his mustache and hat. That day, I began to realize how welcoming French folk are. It's refreshing to see such friendliness among strangers. I am happy to report that Maurice and Betty were the first of many to welcome us on their land. Along with Bruere, Chinon, Amboise, and Chambord were among other towns that proved to be my favorites in the Loire Valley.
In Amboise and Chambord resided Leonardo Da Vinci's creations, bedroom, and tomb. It was phenomenal to even see the velvet and wooden bed set that Da Vinci slept in! To look out the same window as he did proved to be powerful . After looking at some of Da Vinci's masterpieces rebuilt inside the Amboise Chateau, Jennie and I wandered outside to research other works of Da Vinci. We ran into the rest of the group and all began playing on the manor lawn of Amboise. I began twirling on Da Vinci's Propeller design, laughing and feeling like a child. Perhaps it was because I was twirling with young children at the time. Caroline and Alex rolled down the manor hill as children do, as well. It was easy to feel light hearted and happy that day. The Chambord Chateau is the home of Da Vinci's double helix staircase which prevents those ascending up the stairs to see those descending. This too was a powerful moment, to stand in the center of this staircase and gaze at the open window ,all the way to the top where I could see the sky. Chambord was laced with folks dressed in Medieval attire and horse carriages. It was easily one of my favorite chateaus.
Since then, we have left the Loire Valley and have entered that city of Chamonix, just outside of Switzerland. The mountains are profound! I had never seen anything like them prior to this. To think, the Swiss Alps! I am going to climb the Swiss Alps! I knew just saying it would prove to be easier then actually climbing. But I was ready. It was something I was going to conquer, and I did. On the first day, the group climbed Mer De Glace which was 1913 meters high. On the second day, the group climbed 1877 meters high to Chalet de la Flegere. Mer De Glace was simply brilliant, at the top, with a front row seat to gaze at the cloud covered mountains. Sharing a lunch with the group at the top was a small victory celebration. We were in awe that we really made it. Something comes over you when accomplishing something like climbing the Alps. On the way to the top, you feel so many emotions, such as exhaustion and yet fulfillment. It's hard not to believe you could accomplish anything you tried to do.
So there it is. Just a small re-cap of what life's been like over here in Europe with the fellow walkers. I feel as if words can only paint a brief picture of what we see here. I was blessed to rest my head in a hay filled field and watch hot air balloons dance in the sky as the sun set. I wish I would share this with all of you. Take care!
Weekly Post 08/17/2007
Forest of Chamonix
by Ashley Michaud
This is the first location where the tent seems to fit its surroundings. We are no longer a giant white eyesore on the endless fields of the French country side. Our tent is at home in a forest at the base of the French Alps. Next to the impressive view of the mountains, our tent is no longer something to be gawked at- or evev noticed for that matter. In Chamonix, we are just another group of people hiking trails. The town here is also a welcome change. I could walk around in my Keen sandals and quick dry top and feel right at home. This is a dramatic change from the 24/7 fashion show that we found in the rest of France.
Walking Outside Our Comfort Zones
by Alex Haines
It feels so good to change into dry clothes. The weather is rainy and cold; and setting up the tent today was tiring. The strong winds from the west blew violently under our tarps and almost carried everything away. But now we are inside the tent, shielded from the rain and wind, yet I still shiver and huddle under my sheet.
Everyone inside the tent is waiting and napping after a long day of walking. We wait for the leaders to come back with propane so that dinner may be completed. It is my turn to cook. I have prepared everything for chicken curry and can only hope that I can make it as well as my mother can. Maybe I should sleep now too. My body is tired and achy. I can feel my muscles growing and my stamina building, but at the end of each daily journey, I collapse into a chair to ease my throbbing feet.
It seems that the winds have come back. They force the sidewalls to flap and I worry about the support poles. If our tent fails us, there is no other shelter from the elements. We have camped on land with large crop fields and the trees are a good walk in the distance. The rain too has started again and now, lying on my sleeping bag, I can only dream of comfort. I wish for a warm fire or a large fluffy blanket, anything to make the bleak weather more bearable. I think we all try to make the tent as cozy as possible but on days like this, we know what we're used to. I know that this is my challenge, our challenge, one of the reasons we are here. We are "walking" outside of our comfort zones and learning to live with what we are given. Even so, I think about a big warm sweater, a hot cup of tea, and my dog to cuddle with.
City of Love to Fields of Gold
By: Matty Lin Roumacher
The Walk is something that you can not plan at all. I don't really know what I expected, but it's completely different when you experience it first hand.
Arriving in Paris was stressful, but once we got off our bus and turned the corner and saw the hostel where we were staying, my heart sipped a beat. There was a beautiful church about 6 feet from the hostel front door and all the windows had red flowers on the window sills. The whole city was gorgeous and so great to explore with the walkers, but it was especially fun to just wander around Notre Dame with only a few people. We randomly talked to some French people and went to plenty of cafes.
Leaving Paris was quite sad, but we left on the bullet train and it was a great ride just reading Harry Potter and listening to my music. Then we finally came into Angers, France and met up with Chris and had our first walk. I walked with Jen that day and it was a great walk. But soon, the scenery changed to corn fields and sunflowers, which is pretty but really boring. Walking through random small towns are really cute, especially when they have the French miracle known as a Tabac, which is basically a small store to get cigarettes, drinks, candy, etc.
Tent life is a whole different procedure, though; especially when it rains. The losers who made the tent didn't seem-seal the tent so when it rains, the tent leaks! But it's all good. The only complaints are that van team sucks the first time, the 11pm curfew is very appropriate, and having a fully charged iPod makes me VERY happy.
Soaking It All In
by Alexis Coutsouridis
I am finally in Paris! I have so far found it to be the most magical city I have ever been to, and I've only just seen a small part of it. Currently, I am sitting in my room in the Mije, the hostel we will be staying in for the next four nights. I am sitting by the big windows which are wide open. The sun is warm and pleasantly beaming into the room and there is a gentle breeze. The room is small, especially for four people, but it's not like we will be spending much time in here. When I look out the windows, I can see the beautiful old church that is directly across from the hostel. It's old and decrepit but the architecture and detail of the building is a sight to see. There is an old nun walking in and out of the church gate, obviously busy with something. The scene takes me back to some ancient time. The sound of people hustling and bustling about on the street brings me back to this present time. I am excited to be going out to dinner with my group in a couple of hours. We will be going to another hostel to dine. The old church bells are ringing now. They seem to resonate all throughout the city. At this moment I feel an overwhelming anticipation of what is to come. I feel so much better now that I am here. I also feel better because I have talked to some locals and learned that they do not all hate Americans.
Experiencing Art in Paris
by Alexis Coutsouridis
We visited the Rodin Museum and it was incredible. Walking through the gardens I felt on the verge of tears because of overwhelming happiness. The art here is like nothing I have ever seen. We also visited the Musee Marmottan. It was an amazing experience. I wish I had felt better so that I could have enjoyed it more. I'm still feeling jet lagged. The museum was like a hidden jewel, not many people inside but just as precious as the Lourve. Tomorrow is a free day so we can do whatever we want.
Enjoying the Luxembourg Gardens
by Alexis Coutsouridis
Yesterday was amazing. We had our first walk day in Paris. We walked somewhere around 10 miles if I had to guess. We went to several art museums and the experience was otherworldly. I'm so tired that I can't even remember the names. I saw Monet, Renoir, Sergeant, Picasso and many more. My mind was taken to another place. I am back in the Luxembourg gardens. So far, this is my favorite place. It is the central park of Paris. I just bought deliciousness at a food stand...a tomato, fresh mozzarella and grape salad. I like that people sit alone at places here a lot, which is more taboo in America. It is a very cool day, but not cold enough to be uncomfortable.
#1 Paul Clifford
I am flying through the clouds on a large winged creature, and then all of a sudden I hear a voice interrupting my mystical dream. "Wake up, it's seven", I roll over and open my crust lined eyes to see someone laying next to me. Reality sets back in, I am living in a white plastic tent with sixteen other people, and each morning I wake up next to someone different. Hopefully no one noticed that I was awake, and I think to myself ‘maybe I get just go back to sleep.'
Next I get a tap on the shoulder and finally realize that I need to get up. I mumble a few incoherent sentences producing this aroma of morning breath. Finally I stand up and move my lifeless body around the tent, trying to avoid the other sleeping bodies in the tent. I finally make it to the breakfast table to grab a little grub before a long hike. After finishing the light meal with the morning coffee, I head back over to my designated sleeping area and begin to roll up my sleeping bag and mattress pad and shove it into my already full duffel. I let out a sigh when the zipper finally closes, pick up the duffel and roll it over to the large white van that is park right outside our nomadic home.
Once everyone goes through their morning routine, it is time to dismantle this large white plastic tent, fist the side walls come undone and must be folded to fit into a large black Rubbermaid container. Then the twelve aluminum poles need to be piled and tied together with a black rope. Next we must untie all the white ropes that are tied to the metal stakes. We get the sludge hammers ready to unearth these twenty inch stakes that held our home in place. Now it is time for the center pole to come down. Two of us get on either side of the pole and yell, "Tent coming down", as we guide the center pole to the ground. A small gust of wind is produced by the collapsing tent, as we rush to fold this now flat piece of plastic.
This is a day to day routine that we as walkers experience, and even though its hard work at seven in the morning we all realize that it must be accomplished in order to move ahead with the day.
So far, to me the walk has been much more then just walking. I understand walking as ‘moving forward'. It seems I am moving forward both personally and educationally. But it seems in order to move forward, one must reconnect with the past.
Personally because I am becoming more independent, yet I have evolved and grown to get to this point in my life, from my beloved family and friends. In which they have molded and shaped me over the past twenty years, now I am able to utilize what they have taught me and finally put it into practice.
Educationally I am able to appreciate everything to the fullest due to the great educators who have inspired me throughout the years. It is thanks to them that I keep an open mind and try to soak up as much information as I possibly can.
I am on this walk because of my friends, educators and most importantly my family, who has all contributed so much time and effort to my life, and now I am here in Europe gazing upon some of the most beautiful things man and nature has created. From chateaux's to museums, from the edge of the Lorie to the Alps I am experiencing them all.
I never know what the next day will bring; but I know not to expect anything.
Je voudrai un soupe Korean.
So I've been in total denial since I got off the airplane in Paris. It seems as though I've traveled from retro New York City towards the beautiful country sides of Kansas covered with sunflowers and corn. Somehow the concept of charades has become one of my most used strategies. I seem to use this form of mime to express myself to the people in the lovely French country. On one of my excursions through the town of Chinon, settled along the Loire, I came across an individual who made me struggle to create a decent conversation and laughed at all my gestures. In fact, it was only an honest joke because Edrienne actually spoke English. I brought up the idea that Europe doesn't look much different than home. He replied by saying "When you become a world traveler, all the world seems to look the same."
It struck me hard when I realized I had to work on a team with two other people to find a place for our group to sleep. We got into the van, making all the wrong turns and ending up nowhere; which turned out to be really hysterical. It became evident to us that we had to get down to business. We found the best old couple we could ever meet. My team and I had a little difficulty communicating with this couple, but somehow, we managed to secure a sleeping place on their land for the next day. Soon after we were invited into their home, being offered café au lait and something I thought was cheese; I was so wrong about that thing that looked like cheese. I spit out the pâté and slowly concealed it into a napkin under the table. I knew France had swallowed me when I couldn't find my favorite Korean Noodle bowl anywhere.
It has been said that getting a second chance is hard to come by. And most, even when presented with the opportunity, choose to turn it down because they are afraid of the ‘what if's' and consequences of their decision. But what if you had been given the opportunity to do something so rare and enjoyable, something that you had done before but not be able to complete, only to find that you are once again unable to complete that task? It is hard to be told that you won't be able to do something even after you worked so hard to get back to where you are, only be told to turn right around and go back top where you started from. I have been given the opportunity to redo a part of my life that was cut short due to a decision that I had made and that had forever changed my life only to now have to, once again, abandon it and return to my home.
Not too long ago, I twisted my knee while I was on van team and was unable to walk for a little over a week. Each day I was working on it and slowly getting it able to bend so that I would be able to return to walking with the rest of my group in the near future; that is until I accidentally tripped on something and over-extended it, not to mention bruise the bone. After a doctor's visit, I was told that I needed to stay off of my leg completely and keep it raised for a month. Now that may not sound like a long time to most, but for a walker, it feels like an eternity. What good is being on the Walk if you are not walking? It may sound totally stupid to most, but to anyone who has ever been on a walk or has been an athlete, it is like the end of the world. So it is now, or at least in three days time, that I return to Paris and take a flight home to New York so that I can allow my knee the proper time and atmosphere to heal. Once my month is up, I will be returning to the Walk, meeting up with my group in Greece, Athens to be exact.
It seems as if I am doomed to not complete a full Walk, which is obvious from leaving my first Walk back in 2002 prematurely and now bidding my walking group farewell in a few days time, but I am able to beat it this time and return to my group once I recover from my ailment. I may not have completed one full Walk, but I have if you add both the 2002 AND 2007 Walks; so it lifts my spirits slightly based solely on that. So it is with a heavy heart that I depart from my group to return to the normalcy of the world, but it is with that heavy heart that I carry the hope of returning to this trip; only this time I will be granted another second chance.
A First Taste of France, a First Taste of the Walk
Soon after arriving in Paris we learned a few things; one being the French are different in almost everyway from us, two being wine is a way of life, and three being as a group we were underdressed. We quickly went out and fixed the third difference, buying skirts and scarves to hide our fashion ignorance. After dinner a group of us made our way through Paris experiencing the culture and finding places to return to the following few days.
Our first indulgence into the French culture happened by pure coincidence. We were walking down the main street noticed a corner café and stopped in. After bonding over a plate of meat and a bottle of wine the four of us decided to try and work on our language barrier. We attempted to speak to the waiter in French, failing dismally. Our waiter attempted to speak to us in English, proving to be just a little better than we were at French. Through our mixed speaking we were able to communicate eventually leaving to the waiter saying, "See you sooner!" as we left.
A few days later, as we were in the French countryside at this point, on our first walk we realized how hard the language barrier would be. Once you leave the major cities the people who know English are farer and fewer between. This was quite apparent on van team duty. If it was not nerve wracking enough trying to find a house that has property for our giant tent and landowners who are nice enough to let us use their land, we can not communicate to them easily. However we were fortunate enough to get lost and land at Betty and Maurice's. Who graciously lent us their land, toilets, showers, freezer and brought us into their house to toast a new friendship. After leaving in the very French way (double kisses) we made it back to the campsite excited about our discovery. Our night at La Bruere was amazing. Betty and Maurice came out to talk to us. We sang and swapped stories as well as shared desserts (yum!).
At the end of the night we all wanted to adopt Betty and Maurice as our newfound French grandparents. This being one of our break-in sessions to the walk, life seemed great. Betty and Maurice even told us to stop in if we were ever in that section of France again. As we have been traveling we have seen several landowners that we have stayed at days afterwards, showing us that the world really isn't as big as we have imagined. As the waiter said, "See you sooner!"
By Caroline Smullen
24K walk today; I started it off with techno and a CD player that worked... I ran a little and trucked it power walking the rest of the way. However, around the 8thK my left Achilles tendon started acting up again, my bandaids started coming off the blisters on my heels for which I had no replacements, and my CD player busted. Now I'm sitting in a café in the town of Mont Baison contemplating whether or not to put my flip flops on. I probably won't. I want to tough it out like an adult, like Theseus. Maybe part of me wants to prove something, I'm not sure, but I want to tough it.
This café is interesting. As I sit here with my grand café crème, I'm being eyed by a grey haired man with spindly fingers and a beer. He casually looks over ever now and then, sizing me up, wondering where I'm from I suppose. The man at the bar keeps avoiding me with my "l'addition". The woman working with him gives me sly looks every now and then, I wonder if she's comparing us as women. The group of men at the bar throw me glances every now and then as well, I wonder what they are drinking. I'm fairly certain that I smell like a farm animal, oh well. I guess it's not a bad way to make a good impression in France, smelling like the stinky cheese that they are famous for! Still, I'm intimidated by the looks I'm getting, maybe because I can't understand their conversations, maybe because I'm not used to not looking my best, maybe it is because I am alone here. No one knows me or cares about me in this little café. Those who do are behind me now, halfway across the planet. It is an eye opening experience sitting here sipping French coffee in the Loire Valley.
There are many things I've thought of since I began this semester long trek. I've left a lot of things behind to come here, and in a sense I've sacrificed much time. The rewards I will reap from this adventure are hidden from me for the time being, but I am confident that they will be plentiful. Everything in our lives happens in due course, and the most difficult times for us are the ones that make us strong. Although I am not leaping bulls in the labyrinth of Crete, I am still strong. This is my time to find that out for myself; Achilles aches, blisters, broken CD player and all. On this walk, I am finding my feet.
Weekly Post 08/10/2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
A Hello to Families and Friends of the 2007 Walkers
by Professor MaryBeth Failla
We have completed Week 2 of our Journey and we are all getting stronger. The blisters are still there but are not bothering us as much, and we are really enjoying the added kilometers. This week, we have upped the walking distance to 24 Kilometers per day. Our travels have taken us through beautiful countryside settings with fields of gold bonneted sunflowers turning their faces to the sun. The delicately swaying flowers bordering the fields are a mixture of translucent red poppies, Queen Anne's Lace, and bright blue cornflowers, and pastures of purple and pink wildflowers cover the fallow fields we pass, weaving an impressionistic tapestry of color.
Yesterday we passed two deserted farmhouses, along a silent road through corn and hay fields. Something prompted us to explore them, and on the limestone door frame of one, a swastika, shocking in its clarity, accompanied the name of a Nazi soldier who had inscribed his name beside the date: 1940. Farther down the road, a curious herd of cows and calves walked toward us, behind their pasture fence, and when we turned back to look at them, we noticed what we would otherwise have missed: a plaque explaining that on that very spot existed the Ligne Imaginaire, the Line established to divide Nazi occupied and free France on 18 June 1940. The farmhouse we explored sat a mere 1/2 kilometer SW of the Ligne Imaginaire in Nazi occupied territory, and we were now NE, across the line, free, in the beautiful Val de Loire, on 8 August, 2007.
This important piece of history was rendered even more poignant by the reactions and reminiscences offered by the farmers who have so generously opened their homes to us this past week. All members of the Greatest Generation, to use Tom Brokaw's phrase, they have told us that they remembered the American soldiers they met during WWII and were pleased to be able to offer something in return to us as Americans. M. Bienaime ( His name translates to "well-liked." ) stopped to speak with us on the road in Anjers, and was pleased to hear that we were Americans. He offered us a pasture inhabited by Cadichon, a sweet 35 year old white donkey named after the donkey in a well-known French children's story. Betty and Maurice, in Buere, 22K east of Chinon, offered us their shower and bathroom, and brought us regional bottles of wine and cheese, and brewed coffee for us, explaining that the Americans ran a military hospital during WWII, right down the road from their home. M. Gerard, in Nantilly, a man who had known Americans in Vietnam, offered us his mowed field and brought us a crate of the walnuts he had harvested from the black walnut trees lining his field.
We have been welcomed and cared for by our gracious hosts in France, and have enjoyed the pleasures of warm sunlight and cool breeze on our faces and in our hair, of worked muscles, of expansive horizons, and of the deep sleep brought by strenuous exercise and cool night air. We have awakened to the mist on the river, the cooing of doves, and the dancing of playful river otters. We have eaten delicious cheeses and fruits, have tasted wonderful wines, and have walked miles with bread loaves bought warm at the patisserie/boulangerie each morning. In short, we are in heaven. Though we miss all of you, we are in no hurry to return and have rejoiced at the expanded moments in time that have seemed to stretch out before us. Our days are too full to pass quickly and we truly feel the gift of freedom that The Walk magically offers.
See more photos
Weekly Post 08/01/2007
Wednesday, August 01, 2007 1:31 PM
Hi All, It is Day 8 of Walk 07 and all is well. We have covered even more than what is planned on the itinerary. Paris was an exciting experience for all. Students practically ran through Paris on the last two days in order to be able to visit every museum on the list I gave them. As a group, on Day 1, we visited Notre Dame, Musee de Cluny, Cathedrale de San Chapelle, Jarin de Luxembourg, Cathedrale de San Sulpice, and ate crepes. On Day 2, we went to Musee de Rodin, Musee de Marmottan, Tour d'Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Jardin de Tuilleries, Musee L'Orangerie, and a great Jazz club in the evening. On Day 3, Christopher and I drove to Angers to find the first campsite for the group, while most students visited La Louvre and Musee D'Orsay, and one went with Jeanne to Versailles and four went with Tara to Jim Morrison's gravesite.
Everyone made the most of the Paris experience and has been appreciating every detail of our life in the Loire Valley. We have actually covered more sites than are listed on the itinerary, since we hiked to the Chateau of Saumur as we passed through Saumur today. We are camping now on the south bank of the Loire, right on the water, and the church bells are resonating through this valley as I write this, and the wonderful aroma of stuffed mushrooms grilling in the background is making everyone thrilled with the van team's dinner selection. We have been influenced in our taste by the Musee de Champignons (Mushrooms) we passed on our Walk yesterday.
Everything is going quite smoothly. Some Walkers are overwhelmed by the work and exercise but have great attitudes nonetheless. Christopher and I have been training the drivers and by the end of this week, everyone will have had van team duty. Tomorrow, we have been given permission to camp on a golf course, and will walk through the Abbey de Fontevraud on our way through the fields of sunflowers and vineyards. Dinner's ready!
To be continued!
Weekly Post 07/20/2007
A Personal Renaissance
When any great person ventures to a new land, he experiences something different, something he is not accustomed to. Yet when he returns, he is changed, transformed into a world citizen, an explorer.
The Walk is an adventure that not everyone gets to experience, and this experience will last a lifetime. To finally be where so many historical events occurred and for history to actually come alive instead of reading about it in some outdated text book is simply mind boggling.
This is my chance to become a world citizen, not a tourist, but one who can interact with the people and the land, as if I belong. I will be traveling to many new and unique places, listening to stories from locals, tasting the fine cuisine and actually waking up on land owned by someone whom I had never met before. This is one of those experiences you would have to be crazy to pass up.
Sixteen of us are lucky enough to experience this life changing event at this time in our lives. All of us will become life long friends who will share high and low points throughout our journey, and by the time we board the plane back to the States, we will, "have been changed for the better." (Wicked!)
Experience of a Lifetime
I have many hopes and dreams for the Walk across Europe. First and foremost, I hope to learn about myself. Being taken out of my comfort zone and being challenged physically and mentally will force me to step back and truly observe. It has become difficult for me to stay true to myself in the college atmosphere. I want to be outdoors, exploring, seeking amazing places and learning so much about them, all while learning about myself. I also hope to experience other cultures that are unlike the American culture I have grown up in. American culture is very fast paced and crazy at times and I really want to experience cultures that are slower, and more appreciative of food and the arts. This brings me to the subject of Art. One of my dreams for the Walk is to see amazing works of art in Europe. I am currently an Art major concentrating in Photography. However, I have a great appreciation for all types of Art. I hope to be moved to tears. As an artist, I hope to be inspired by the creativity that I encounter. I truly would love to see all the classics, especially in the Lourve. I know that this is the perfect Walk for me, and I hope it will be the experience of a lifetime.
There are many things I hope to take back with me from this journey. First, I hope to begin to gain a better comprehension of the world as a whole instead of only understanding the American philosophy of life. I plan to spend a lot of time in self-reflection in order to look ahead at the direction I want my life to take. I feel that this walk provides the perfect environment to allow my own thoughts to come forward to form a path for my future. By taking my first steps on this journey, I will be able to begin to quiet all other voices and really listen to my own inner voice.
I also hope to gain much artistic inspiration from the foreign cultures, local craftsmen, prestigious museums and beautiful landscapes we will encounter. I think that all the diverse and new sensory input will add fresh water to my well of creativity.
I hope I will gain a greater sense of independence and confidence in myself and know that I will be able to handle whatever life throws in my path. In the past, I have felt rather unsure of myself in strange or new places. However, I know that after this adventure, I will be able to travel just about anywhere with confidence.
Letter to Matty Lin
Dear Future Matty Lin,
First off, felicitations on getting accepted into the Walk in Europe program! You've gotten through the summer session and there are only six more days until the trip. I truly hope that you will have a splendid adventure full of mystery and suspense. I hope that your trip will be a successful one, in the sense that everyone comes back alive and changed for the better. I hope that you and the rest of your group will become a very close family. I hope that you will experience all there is to offer in Europe and that you meet all the wicked cool European people you can. You are going to have the time of your life, and I know that when you read this when you get back, you probably will be thinking that I, past Matty Lin, have no idea what it has been like. I'm sure that you have purchased many things on your journey and have eaten all the tiramisu that you could. I hope that you will find what you are looking for.
Matty Lin Roumacher
The Walk, to me, has always expressed a concept of self realization and personal conquest. It is a chance for the selected young adults about to embark into what older adults refer to as the ‘real world,' a chance to put themselves to the test both mentally, physically, and most importantly, socially, giving them the tools that they will need in order to be successful in the world into which they will graduate. As a past walker, I have had a taste of these challenges, and this has been one reason for my desire to repeat this program. I am honored to have the chance to not only relive that experience in a different place, but to also experience it from a completely different point of view.
The previous Walk was a significant moment in my life when I had one grand master plan for my life and it was all going the way I wanted, though reasons broke it apart, my son not being the main reason for that, and I lost it all. The Walk is even more significant to me now because I am much more experienced with the ‘real world' and have valuable experience to share. I see this coming walk as an opportunity for two different generations to bond and learn from one another, to help make each of us even more aware of the world around us and what's in it. I am very honored to be a part of this experience once again.
Swim to France
In April 2006, my friends took me down to Pearly Pond. They all had intentions of jumping off the jock and wading for a while. Next, I was thrown into the icy water and almost drowned, since I didn't know how to swim. I was always a nature person but I never came to terms with large bodies of water playing with me inside their mouths. I know if I jumped in, prepared for the battle, I would have been better prepared to face what lay beneath. Being forced into the water didn't do anything besides provoke a beast which stayed hidden.
When I think about The Walk, I can't even begin to imagine all the great things that I am going to see and achieve. Meeting new people, while using my Walk family to help me grow stronger is the backbone I hope would emerge as we become accustomed to one another. Just imagine walking on the outskirts of a small village picking lavender or poppies from small fields. Would you give that up? Besides meeting new people, accepting different cultures and seeing massive scenic frames, I wish to find myself. There is a possibility that I'd be able to converse with my self and decide where I wish to continue with my life. Waiting for my call to this adventure seems as though it came a little too soon. Now it feels that time will tell if I can leave my parents for such a long period of time. This is only one of my fears which I know I will work toward slowly, but surely.
I want to walk along the countryside observing the animals I meet along the way. And I want to hear the trees applauding me for walking within their range. I want to compare the different terrains and landscapes. I want to speak French the Parisian way while in Paris, but switch as soon as I head away from the large city and into the countryside. One thing is for sure; simply enough, I wish to know that my fellow Walkers have taught me how to swim.
The Call to Adventure
Since beginning summer school before the Walk '07, my mind has become steadily more jumbled. I've realized that I am completely unstable and unconfident. I don't mean to say that I am afraid of people, or lacking with social skills, but I am not confident in myself as a person and as a young woman. I've realized my total dependence on my family and my boyfriend to give me constant support and happiness, and have never had to necessity to teach myself otherwise. Since I have surrounded myself constantly with people who give me the greatest care and love anyone could ever ask for, I feel like my strength wanes because I have never had to deal with significant hardship, it just hasn't ever been in the cards for me. I find myself envying individuals who are so strong because of going through difficulties and tragedies in their lives. Through this Walk I hope to create for myself a situation full of hardship and success that I can learn and grow from, no matter how ‘contrived' it may be. Confidence in my decisions and accountability is something I am in dire need of. I am hoping against hope that this Walk will enlighten me in all of these areas.
I can't put into words how excited I am to bond with these amazing young women, and two young men, who are embarking on this adventure alongside me; they are all such beautiful people and I can't wait to make lifelong connections with all of them. They will undoubtedly become my new rock as I distance myself from my boyfriend and my family, and with them I will become a true, strong, and valiant young citizen of the world.
"I'm ready to shine, shine like the sun; it's time to walk the line instead of run." - Me.
I feel like people take time for granted. Often we are rushed throughout our days to meet deadlines and fulfill daily tasks. Without even knowing, we are passing by opportunities to potentially challenge our character and perspectives. Won't anyone take the time to feel the breeze? Is there no more time to feel at ease? It's easy to feel alone when you take the time to look at something beautiful and find that no one is there to share it with you. With the Walk, I want to further take in my surroundings and appreciate it with other fellow walkers.
Along with other expectations, I want to gain a better understanding of who I am. I feel as if people take on impressions left by those they've met along the way and that's great. Without those impressions, you couldn't be who you are today. But with this, aren't we restricting ourselves from fully being ourselves? How often do we have time to just figure out and understand exactly who we are? With the walk challenges, I will gain an understanding of my strengths, weaknesses, and limits and better improve myself, both physically and mentally. Through reading, writing, and researching while on the walk, I can educate myself in ways that I couldn't while sitting in a classroom. This is something I'm looking forward to greatly.
Lastly, I want to have fun. I want to laugh, cry, learn, make mistakes, and make even more memories with the 15 strangers who have chosen to take this walk as well. I'm fully aware that this can be a life altering experience and I'm at the prime of my life to challenge myself. I'm ready and willing with open eyes and an even more open mind.
While looking at colleges during my junior year Franklin Pierce immediately stood out to me because of the walk in Europe program. I knew right away that I wanted to attend Franklin Pierce and go on The Walk. Now that I've met the group and we've started the Seminar, I know I definitely made the right choice. Everyone in the group is amazing and we've already built a strong sense of camaraderie that I know will last even after we come home. I already know this trip is going to be a great adventure, but I hope this is one that is a profound life changing experience. I hope to have a better understanding of myself and what I want to do with my life by the end of these four months, and to open my mind to the amazing possibilities in the future. This program is perfect for fulfilling my need for travel and exploring. I've wanted to travel the world my whole life, and this is the best way to start.
A Call to Adventure
"This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy."
-Susan Polis Schutz
In many ways, I have already completed a journey in order to start this new adventure. A year ago I wasn't ready to go on The Walk; I had no confidence and no faith in my abilities. I was afraid of letting go. I was terrified of being on my own. I needed a safety net. I was not a happy person; I allowed myself to marinate in my misery.
The events of the past year have changed me. I have lost some friends, gained others, and ultimately, I feel good about these changes. I believe people come into our lives for a reason, and people fade out of our lives when there is nothing left to gain from the relationship. I am stronger than I have ever been. I am ready for a challenge. I am ready for The Walk. I want to push myself to grow emotionally and physically.
I will admit that applying to The Walk was an impulsive decision. But I know that I was meant to go on this Walk. It seems like everything has fallen into place. I will be going to the places I have dreamt of visiting, and I will be seeing the Art I have fallen in love with.
There is so much I hope to gain from the Walk. I want to continue to grow and change, and to become a stronger person. I can't wait to learn more about the Walkers and to develop strong friendships. I want to experience life outside of my safety zone.