I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places in the past six months. I’ve visited more than 60 cities in six countries.
I’ve hiked to lakes. I’ve taken 8-hour trains for a view. I’ve paid way too much money to go up cable cars and funiculars, taken buses and planes. I’ve spent countless hours learning hiking routes, planning my transportation for the day, stalking travel blogs, planning out my outfits and my pictures. I’ve met countless kind and thoughtful people along the way: People who stop to give me directions, who volunteer to take my picture, who don’t laugh at my French but smile when I have a stupid touristy question.
But one particular day, in the middle of my fall break, was like never before. I’ve truly never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.
When I was 12, I visited New Zealand for two weeks with my grandparents. There, I saw some of the most beautiful landscapes, mesmerizing views. I even visited where the Lord of the Rings and parts of the Chronicles of Narnia were filmed. I’ve always told people that New Zealand is the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited and definitely will ever visit.
But this particular day– about two weeks ago– was more beautiful.
And not just because of the breathtaking views, but also because of the spontaneity of those views.
You see, I’ve pretty much known what to expect before arriving in each city I’ve traveled. I’ve seen pictures, organized the trips, and heard incredible commentaries, all before arriving in each city. Before going to New Zealand, I knew where all the best views were on the North and South islands. And before this summer, I had read a travel book on every city I visited. Though absolutely stunning places, and though I’ve learned and grown so much in the past six months, the views were often predictable. What made those trips incredible was the spontaneity of the little moments. And you all know that: I’ve written two blog posts on that spontaneity, on the importance of slowing down and realizing how amazing the people are around you.
But this day was like none other because this time the VIEW was the spontaneity.
In the middle of our fall break, we were taking a 3-hour train from Milan to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre has been on my travel list for far too long and I was bursting with excitement to get there. I planned to nap on the train because we had been running on very little sleep. I slept for the first hour, but somehow randomly woke up. Looking out the window, I saw the Alps in the background and a small lake reflecting one of the mountains. I was shocked that I was seeing such a good view before I even got the Cinque Terre views, so I glued my face to the window and kept watching.
The next two hours of this train became the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my entire life. I truly believe I will never see anything more stunning until I get to Heaven. It was so beautiful that my friend took a video of me crying at the sight of it. I was so overwhelmed by the spontaneity, by the pure beauty, that I started crying. I immediately put in my ear buds and started listening to worship music, overcome by God’s power and glory in creating our natural world. It was a surreal, almost out of body experience. I’ve attached the video and some pictures. It’s a bummer that you can see the glass reflected in some of them, but you can still tell how stunning the views are.
I’ve now added “Kayak in Chur, Switzerland” to my bucket list, because I absolutely must return there, where I believe I saw the most stunning views of the two hours, though it was all incredible.
I love this digital age of being able to surf pictures and touristy options before arriving in a city, but it can decrease the spontaneity sometimes. I thought I had done a great job of being present and spontaneous regarding the people with whom I interacted and the activities in which I participated, but until today’s stunning train it hadn’t occurred to me that I wasn’t being spontaneous with seeing beautiful views. I expected where the views would be, and I focused on other things when I wasn’t around my “planned scenic views.” Today taught me to look for the NATURAL beauty all around me, not just the beauty of the people around me.
I challenge you all not to expect what you’re going to see. Maybe you’re on a hike to the top of a mountain you’ve seen all over Google images. But don’t forget to stop and look at the trees and trails on the way up. Because those are beautiful too. The spontaneity will make it beautiful.
I wish you all could have been there with me, but enjoy the pictures and the silly video.