Alleluia _ An Overseas Adventure _ My World
Economy class air travel is probably the main reason why anyone in his or her right mind would avoid overseas travel. The Disneyland queues for security, boarding and customs, long flight times, claustrophobic seating, the difficulty in trying to sleep in a semi upright blood pooling, ankle swelling position, and worst of all, the crying and shrieking colicky infants is enough to send most people screaming for the exits. There has to be a big reward for enduring this kind of deep venous blood clotting mind-numbing abuse. Fortunately, the brain suffers a form of pain amnesia if the time between overseas trips is sufficiently long. The big reward, in our most recent trip from the U.S. to Italy was a spectacular cultural and fulfilling experience. That made it all worthwhile. Although, with the return flight fresh in my mind, it took a little time before I was ready to reminisce about my experience. It was worth the wait. Read on if you are interested in the rest of the world. Alleluia. Meet our tour guide, Olivia, and our spiritual guide, Brother Ignacio. See a sea of light. Find an answer to your prayers. Read on. Let me be your travel guide. I?ll paint pictures for you with words.
This is not a Rick Steves travelogue. It?s better. It?s about what made a great experience for someone who needed a rest and did not want to make any decisions. _Just point me?, I say. I had had recent back surgery and needed a mental break from the constant post-operative discomfort and uncertainty about my progress. Excluding the confinement on the plane, the opportunity for walking, resting and the camaraderie of a congenial group was going to be good for me. Somebody else was going to lift my heavy travel duffle. The wine served at lunch and dinner was a good muscle relaxant and analgesic. _Wine?, they say. _Its not only for breakfast!?
This was our fifth approximately two-week trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). Over the years we?ve been to Peru and Patagonia in South America, Costa Rica in Central America and Iceland/Eastern Greenland. I?ve written about our travels and adventures in previous blogs and in my two memoirs _Hiking Out? and _Inside and Outside?. OAT specializes in intimate small group (usually around 15 travelers) adventure and educational travel. Their travel packages are an incredible value. Their guides are highly motivated, bilingual, knowledgeable and personable. They are like family. You often meet members of their family. You meet other families in home hosted events and meals. You want to take all them home with you. You learn every thing about the country you are in, including the good and bad. Two weeks seems like two months of immersion in the culture. I wrote the following edited article for a local newsletter about our trip:
Our Italy Vacation
The Sederquists enjoyed a memorable two weeks in Italy on an Overseas Adventure (OAT) tour May 7_21. OAT specializes in small, intimate and educational overseas group travel. There were 15 seasoned and enthusiastic OAT travelers on this tour. This was their fifth excursion with OAT including two in South America, Latin America and Iceland/Eastern Greenland and their third major trip to Italy since retirement. This tour focused on the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy in a small van with four 3 night hotel stays and local road trips throughout these regions, finally ending in a beautiful countryside villa outside of Rome for one night before flying home. OAT lives up to their middle name, Adventure, an incredible value with very knowledgeable and friendly 24/7 guides. Her name was Olivia, and she was loved (and she loved us back) by all of us.
The tour included visits to the regions around Lucca, Chianti, Florence, Siena, Pienza, Trevi, Norcia, Assisi and the countryside outside of Rome. There were extra virgin olive oil tastings, wine tastings, and two home hosted visits including truffle hunting in a mountain village reached by a winding precipitous road with no guardrails. Two incredible experiences were an interview with a man who experienced the German presence in Florence as a child during World War Two (I told our local guide, _It was better than visiting a thousand cathedrals.?) and an interview with a Benedictine Monk, Brother Ignacio, in Norcia, about his life story and devotion to work and singing chants during daily services. In a rare and unexpected opportunity, he sang for the group. _Alleluia, Alleluia.? I asked him if he considered himself a baritone. He responded that he was, but his range allowed him to sing tenor. Then he said humorously that when it comes to singing, some of the brothers consider singing a _Joy?. To others, who are musically challenged, singing might be considered a _Penance?. Whatever, they put their heart and soul into it. They are very good.
The food and wine flowed for the whole trip. As they say, _When in Rome, do as the Romans do. ? and _I?ll start dieting tomorrow.? Every morning our guide, Olivia, would greet the group with her favorite word, _Bambolini?, which means her little dolls or my little charges. She kept the group enchanted throughout the day with a fount on knowledge with all the good and the bad about Italy. OAT does not hold back on telling you all the things you would like to know about the place you are visiting. Indeed, this was an incredible trip.
While in Norcia, in the Umbria region, at the conclusion of our visit with and interview with a Benedictine monk, I stopped and looked at an array of small burning candles in a small local church left by visitors in memory of departed loved ones and as prayers for friends, relatives and the world to heal itself. I?ve never done this before, figuring this is something for practicing Catholics. My feet were locked to the floor. I couldn?t leave that bank of flickering lights. I deposited a Euro in the collection box. I took a new candle and lit it, placing it next to the others. My eyes blurred by the liquid lens distorting my vision, turning the many individual candles into a sea of light. I prayed for the continued health of my hiking friends, heroes who have faced life-threatening medical conditions. May they never ever have to face those challenges again! Although I struggle praying to a personal God, I performed a leap of faith. I wanted to believe that my prayers were heard.
Here is a link to National Public Radio?s (NPR?s) recent article about the Benedictine Monks of Norcia. It talks about how they brew craft beer and published their first singing album, _Benedicta?, to support their mission. Brother Ignacio is there in the photograph. I?ll never forget what he sang, _Alleluia. Alleluia. Al-le-lu-ia? It seemed like a personal blessing for my prayers.
✔ Yes, I recommend this trip.