Making The Most Of A Day In Venice

Making The Most Of A Day In Venice

Seeing Venice in six hours

Imagine a city built atop a lagoon, filled with masked men and women stepping through dense fog, wearing wigs and dresses that date back to the 18th century, gracing the cobblestone streets as if they'd never left them. Children dressed as forest nymphs and princesses stare up at you through dark holes in feathered, painted disguises. This is where I spent my Saturday afternoon.

The bus from Rome to Carnivale in Venice left at 7 a.m. My friends and I spread out in the back of the second deck and prepared for the six-hour trek ahead of us. We drove into the hills until our ears popped and we could see clouds at our side. The mountains were a constant, shadowy presence in the distance as we passed long stretches of land and dirt roads, ghost towns and farms growing nothing but trees of thin, veiny branches. Mist settled onto the grass. I listened to the "Into the Woods" soundtrack and imagined a fairy tale.

We got to the shore after 1 p.m. and boarded a small private boat headed into the lagoon. The fog grazed the water, turning the world stark white ahead of us. Venice drifted into view like smoke. We wobbled off the boat and into Venice with only six hours before we would have to leave for Rome again, leaving us on the docks pressed to make the most of what time we had. As short as the time was, we really did find a way to do it without rushing ourselves. We bought masks in Piazza San Marco and blended into the crowd to explore the islands. The water at our feet was a pale green.

The girls wanted to go looking for a Bellini, so we stopped at a small place beside the water. The shop was stocked with sandwiches that made our stomachs growl, even though we'd eaten lunch only two hours before. We stood near the water and snapped pictures of the passing gondolas and costumed men and women.

At 4:30 p.m, we split. Five of us went looking for a gondola ride, while the others went to a glass-blowing show (something I'd love to see in the future, though I'd pick the gondola again, given the choice). Our boat slipped through the fog and into the green canals. I've always loved being on the water, and the slow rock of the gondola as we passed through high, colorful buildings was incredibly serene. The sound of the water lapping at the sides of the boat was the only thing to break the silence.

After the gondola ride, we found dinner at Dal Moro's, a fresh pasta take-out place that serves food in a Chinese rice box. It was definitely some of the best pasta I've had in Italy, so far. The pasta was great and cheap, and the marinara sauce was even a little spicy. We sat on the ledge by the window, where the people working behind the counter smiled at us as we watched them work the pasta-maker.

The day grew dark, and drops of rain started to fall as we went looking for gelato in our last hours. The night brought masks shaped like plague doctors and skulls, and the eyes of the masks from the morning transformed into black holes in the shadows. Our first stop was a shop that had been recommended to us, but after trying it, we decided to keep looking. We ended up stopping at enough places that I had a small collection of small spoons in my purse pocket by the time we found a spot that we liked.

We joined the bus group again and left before 8 p.m., an entire troupe of disguise-clad college students trying to navigate in the busy dark. We stumbled back onto the boat and watched Venice disappear into the fog as quickly as it had emerged, until it was just a string of bleary lights. We boarded the bus in a tired daze and immediately began falling asleep as the bus took us into the dark hillsides. We were satisfied that even though we, deciding to take the day slowly with just a few priorities, had only seen a corner of Venice, it had been the right choice.

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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Life In The Mountains Of New Mexico

In 2013, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life with the Boy Scouts with the Philmont expedition


At least once in your lifetime, you've probably gone on a family camping trip. Maybe even a scouts camping trip.

You know the drill:

Campfire, tents, marshmallows, a guitar, bug spray, animals. And if things get too extreme, there's always the car to hide in during the middle of the night in case things get too cold or uncomfortable in the tent.

But what if I told you that you could go on a camping trip so challenging and extraordinary, that your own life may depend on wilderness skills.

The camping trip I went on in the Summer of 2013 was exactly that with the two week Philmont expedition in the middle of New Mexico. It had been about half a year since I turned 18 and earned the highest honor in the Boy Scouts with the Eagle Scout rank. But with this Philmont expedition opportunity, I knew that my full potential as a Boy Scout had yet been reached.

My Philmont Boy Scout group included my brother, members of our Scout Troop 149, and a few other Pennsylvania-based Boy Scouts. Our journey actually did not start in New Mexico, but in Denver, Colorado where our flight landed. The first adventure we embarked on was going down the Colorado Rapids. It was such an exciting raft trip through the rivers of Colorado and the rocky landscape surrounding us was fantastic.

I'll never forget being in the hotel the night before our arrival at the campsite and seeing the mountains in the distance. You could see the lightning strike in the distance and could count long it took for the sound of thunder to arrive, indicating how close the lightning actually was.

What was a typical day like during our never-ending hike through the mountains?

It consisted of hiking while carrying huge backpacks, carrying our concealed meals for every day of the week. There were no convenient stores or grocery markets nearby, we had to carry every meal with us during our 10-day journey and having them exposed to the air was not an option.

Any trace of smell, or smellables as we called them, had to be captured and contained in a bag which we had to tie up and suspend in the air as it dangled from a tree. That was important because it prevented bears or any form of wildlife from finding us while we slept overnight. It was not only a procedure we had to follow to save us, but also to save the animals because if they found the scent of a smellable item then they're lives were in jeopardy too. Philmont authorities may be forced to execute animals who discovered and were used to a new scent exposed by the Boy Scouts.

The only time we caught sight of a bear was when my brother spotted one in the distance while we hiked. We were extremely quiet in trying not to disturb it and could also see a cub with it.

I also recall getting out of my tent one morning and all-of-the-sudden a deer, a doe, and a fawn all sprinted in line across the woods, about thirty feet in front of me.

Our favorite animals in Philmont, however, were called Mini-bears. Too big to be considered squirrels, but too small to be bears, mini-bears were all over the hiking trail as an advanced type of squirrel. They were the most likely to find and eat our food, but we loved them nonetheless for being consistently around.

Even brushing your teeth was a chore. You couldn't slab on a typical amount of toothpaste and brush, you had to put a small dab of the toothpaste on the brush and had to swallow it all. No sinks or toilets to spit into, no trash cans. If you had to throw up, you better swallow that too because you'd be screwed.

Wanna drink some water? You gotta find a streaming river and fill it against the current, then put in a tab to dissolve in and make it clean. How about a travel mule? Just kidding we didn't take one, but it was an option.

We had to wear reusable clothes, there was no laundry, everything down to socks and underwear had to be conserved. The closest thing to cleaning them was hanging them to dry at our campsite. (All the clothes I wore in Philmont I use to this day, they're perfect for exercise.)

The height of the trip was the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the Philmont mountain range with Mount Baldy. It was such a long trek up the peak of the mountain that my group and other teams were singing songs like Taylor Swift's "Love Story" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." When we finally reached the top of Baldy, the view spoke for itself. We could see clouds near us and saw the lands below us like pictures on a map. It was simply breathtaking.

Despite the challenges and incredible circumstances we faced on a daily basis, Philmont was the greatest bonding experience I had ever been a part of. Our entire group came together fully understanding that we as a group were as strong as our weakest member and that the slowest person would lead the trail, no man was left behind (that guy was occasionally me.)

We went on plenty of adventures and met plenty of great people working throughout the mountains. Some were pretending to be living in the early 20th century, others were guiding us through challenges like pole climbing (THE WORST) and rock climbing.

The days were long but well spent, the weather was almost always nice, and the views down the trail were often breathtaking. When our trip finally ended we were glad to finally shower and get comfortable back in our own homes, but wouldn't have changed a thing about the experience.

Philmont was the greatest adventure of my life (so far) because it felt living through a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel with me playing the role of Bilbo Baggins. All that was missing were orcs, dragons, an epic battle and Enya music.

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