Prior to moving to the Netherlands, I tapped into the Fulbright network and emailed everyone asking for tips about the transition to Dutch living. My underlying hope was that I would also make some friends. A handful of people sent me pragmatic lengthy emails filled with information about purchasing a bike and setting up a bank account. One woman, Claire, sent me an email offering her couch so that I would not have to rent an AirBnB. Another, Emily, asked if I wanted to meet up for a coffee after I arrived. At that moment, I should have known we would become friends.
Three weeks later, I sat across from Claire slurping down ramen and picked her brain about life in Holland. As we moved our conversation to a nearby bar, I brought up my hopes for travel during my six-month stint in Europe. My passport stamps before the Fulbright were limited to Japan and the Czech Republic and I could not pass up the opportunity to use Schiphol as my launch pad for weekend excursions. Claire told me that she was looking to hike the Dolomites. I love hiking, so I immediately offered to be a travel buddy if she needed one. Later that week after meeting Emily for brunch, we wandered around Amsterdam window shopping. I explained to Emily my plan to head to Italy with Claire.
“You can come too, I’m sure!” Oddly enough, Claire and Emily had barely met.
Emily then explained to me that she never hiked before, “are you sure? I would not want to hold you back.”
“Yes, I’m sure!” I exclaimed.
The seeds were planted. We would, at some point in the next six months, explore the Italian mountain range. In March we booked tickets to Venice for April 22nd-29th. The only potential downfall of this time was that it was in a transition period between winter and spring. The weather would be completely unpredictable. Living in Amsterdam and learning to tough it out in the rain, we decided that hiking wet would be no worse than biking.
About three weeks before takeoff, my logistical alarm clock went off and I insisted that we meet up to solidify an itinerary. Claire, the visionary beyond the trip, had a few things in mind. Going off her research we decided on the areas we planned to explore and booked lodging. We also stumbled into pieces of information. For example, we needed an international drivers license to rent a car in Italy. As the trip got closer, we trepidatiously checked the weather. The predicted forecast: rain the entire week.
The week before the trip, temperatures finally broke 20℃ (68 ℉) in Amsterdam. I started to question my decision— was I really going to escape the sun and head 3,343m (10,967ft) into the mountains to get rained on?
Instead of spoiling the fun— here is a photo journal of our trip to Italy.
We arrived at 10 pm only to find our hotel was closed? After finding another hotel, we kicked off our trip with a trip to the local cocktail bar.
We headed into Venice to wander around aimlessly and consume carbohydrates.
First, but definitely not last, gelato of the week.
Talk about a water view.
Does this giant column make me look tall?
Hands-on building experience.
Even the facade of St. Mark's Basilica is amazing. Read six fun facts about this masterpiece.
Checking out churches.
Carbo loading for our drive to the Dolomites.
It took less than 24 hours before I bathed myself in olive oil.
Sporting our best athleisure.
After a few hours of driving, we arrived at our first home: Camp Lago Arsie in the province of Belluno. Emily's initial reaction to glamping, "I just don't understand why anyone would want to do this?"
She figured it out soon enough. All smiles here.
The Lamon bean is native to Belluno. Yes, I did research the bean before I came.
Serving up some local cuisine.
Claire Da Bear made some delicious asparagus and caramelized onions on focaccia to fuel our first hike.
Just three women ready to take on the world!
We drove up some seriously twisty roads, bouldered a bit and made our way to Cadini Del Brenton.
Della Soffia is the best known waterfall in the bunch, but each of the fifteen stone basins that made up Cadini Del Brenton were spectacular.
Don't jump in Claire! The water is cold as the ice that melted at the top of the Dolomites and trickled down!
Nerd Alert! Book break.
Our new favorite game: everyone pick out a type of cheese for the cheese plate.
We packed up the campsite and navigated switchbacks in a tiny Fiat for three hours to make it to Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Mountains, mountains, everywhere. As far as you can ski! Cortina d'Ampezzo is hosting the Alpine Skiing World Championship in 2021.
Nestled in the top of the mountain, we arrived at our next home: Sass Dlacia.
The Dolomites are made of sedimentary rock and used to be completely under the sea! Dolomite is also a common mineral found in antacids.
We drove into town to scarf down some pizzas. Claire couldn't be bothered to pause for the picture.
I tried some speck, an Italian type of prosciutto.
Emily decided she likes nature and led us into the mountains.
Because of the time of year, we found ourselves completely alone on the trail. Well, just us and the clouds.
I call this: Claire Da bEAR.
After finagling the camera into a tree, we captured this gem. Mountain women.
Another day, another cheese plate.
Trying our hand at making some Aperol spritzes, a cocktail made of Aperol, Prosecco and seltzer.
Not pictured: Sass Dlacia also has a wellness center with a sauna, steam room, and relaxation room. We did not take our phones, or clothes for that matter, so no pictures from that adventure!
We made our way to Burano, a small fishing village about 45 minutes by boat from Venice. Burano is recognized as being one of the top ten most colorful cities in the world.
They were b(right)! Burano is a rainbow of houses!
Not only were the houses color coordinated, but their plant game was on point!
Matching your drying clothes with the color scheme of the houses.
Stop. Let's take a selfie!
Trying some squid ink pasta. I have never received so many confused replies on an instagram story before! Don't worry, it was delicious.
Boating back to the mainland.
Through a series of unfortunate events, we ditched the idea of getting a hotel and camped out in the Marco Polo airport for our 6 am flight. Not only were we not alone, we had a hysterical time operating on minimal sleep and laughed the entire night. Oh, and we brought pizza and beer.
My Fulbright experience is situated in this odd transition period in my life. I am in-between living in Brooklyn and D.C. I am moving from teaching at the same school for the past three years to job hunting for my next adventure. 29 is the last thread between my twenties and thirties. I just got engaged, definitely a transition between tinder and lifelong partnership. My friends and siblings are having babies and getting married. It seems as though this is the next stage of adulthood— or whatever that means. Surrounding myself with the silence of nature refocused my priorities and sharpened my drive. The time also reminded me that my instincts to reach out, foster friendships, and take risks, will propel me through this transition and into whatever lies ahead.
Thank you for following my adventure!