Yesterday, three weeks into studying abroad in Italy, my friends and I took a day trip to Cinque Terre, Italy. Besides the fact that it may have been one of the greatest days ever, it was a day that caused me to greatly appreciate wilderness. Instead of being normal, and taking the easy hike from town to town, we decided to attempt a three-hour (10 mile) hike between the first two cities, Monterosso to Vernazza. This wasn’t our most sane idea, but it ended up working in our favor. We were able to hike along an Italian road up into the mountains, and an hour in we found the trail we were looking for that led us straight into the woods. We followed this trail for another two hours where we were able to experience Cinque Terre in a way that many others are not able to. Along this route, we saw the most amazing views of the Italian coast, and it’s cities along the way. Throughout this hike, I felt as if I was truly in wilderness. I imagined that we were in the uncharted wild, besides the fact that our trail had markers.
Today, as I was reading William Cronon’s “The Trouble with Wilderness”, I read the phrase, “The mountain as cathedral”. As soon as I saw this quote, I thought of my hike and how sacred the atmosphere felt as we walked through it. I felt as if I was intruding on a beautiful land, which could not have been made for my own eyes. Cronon goes on to say that wilderness, and in his case mountains, is a church in which you can worship. The views that we were seeing yesterday were something that could only have been created by God.
All of these feelings have shown me that you can find beauty in a lot of places. And where better to find that beauty than in wilderness, where you can hear the noises of life, and nature. While walking along the ocean or through the woods or anywhere else in nature, if you are quiet, you can experience true nature. Without the noise pollution of people, machines, and even people, you are able to hear the noises of wilderness. While hiking yesterday, I was able to hear the birds chirping, the wind blowing through the trees, and even the water crashing on the rocks at points, and the only sounds that proved we were there was the crunching of the dirt beneath our shoes.
I believe that while experiencing untouched earth, it is easier to feel close to God because you can see Him in nature. The pure beauty that surrounds you in times like these can make you feel peaceful and happy, especially if you give yourself time to soak it all up.
My advice from what I have learned traveling to amazing places in the past three weeks is that you need to give yourself at least 10 minutes to think about what you are experiencing. Just pause and let yourself enjoy what you are feeling in the moment, because you might never have that feeling again.