I was lucky enough to visit the Amalfi Coast last year with my wife and youngest son. We stayed in Ravello and Praiano. We hiked the cliff sides, ate the food, drank the wine, explored the villages, and swam in the sea ... Oh my ... those incredible Mediterranean waters! There aren't enough words ...
But last years' visit isn't when the Amalfi Coast "changed my life". This happened many years sooner, a long time ago when I was a just a little boy. I don't know where it was - maybe it was one of those tourism posters on the wall somewhere or a picture hanging in an Italian restaurant that my parents brought my sister and me to. Perhaps it was in one of the National Geographic magazines laying around the house that I would thumb through as a kid imagining all the places in the world I would see and the many different people that I would meet. I don't know exactly when and how but I do know that that's when this exotic and enchanting place called "The Amalfi Coast" changed my life.
So many of the seeds of our dreams are planted in us when we are almost too young to remember. By connecting to a powerful image or story we are connecting to a feeling and our energy is instantly elevated. We are transported to a different place borne solely out of our imagination. The dream is born somewhere and somehow within us and we are never the same again. I knew it was somewhere I had to go in my lifetime. I had to see this magical coastline with my own eyes. Someday I would be walking along those same cobblestoned steps, cliff-sided villages, and swimming in those same luminescent blue waters that I saw in pictures. I knew that, barring the misfortune of death taking me early, it wasn't a matter of "If", it was a matter of "when". Like so many of our dreams that we are fortunate and grateful enough to realize, this is when the Amalfi Coast actually changed my life.
When we arrived in Ravello last year and I finally got to look out over that ancient coastline where the sea meets the earth and the earth meets the sky. My body tingled. I thought about my life ... My wife, my kids, my friends, and my family. Those reflective moments; when it feels so profoundly personal and your whole life is pulled through you by some force beyond consciousness. There are no worries - for that moment, at least - only the fullness of the moment. I thought about my parents - pictures from magazines laying around the house growing up, conversations of travel over meals, and the travels near and far that would always expand my mind in some way - whether a trip to see my mom's family in Nebraska, my dad's in Illinois, or wandering the exotic canals and mysterious pathways of Venice as a 17 year old feeling the impact of a world so different from the one I knew.
I think you can tell what's important to people by what they take pictures of. My earliest memories of travel include my dad taking pictures with his Canon AE-1 - spending way too much time (it seemed in my child's mind) on a flower, a waterfall, an abandoned ghost town, or the sun setting over the ocean. My mom's voice in the background saying, "Isn't it beautiful?!" in her own unique way that we all still joke about with her today. Photographs from those times still hang on the wall of my parents' house - pulling us back pushing us forward. Now, like most of us - my dad uses his phone to snap pictures with more speed and a less particular eye, as the old AE-1 fights off dust in the closet.
As the sun fell asleep over the water far away, casting off the refracting light of day turning into night, I watched the coastal villages illuminate and the sea sparkle in their gathering reflections inviting the evening and the night. I knew in large part that I wouldn't be seeing what I was seeing if it wasn't for my parents. Because, in the middle of just doing their thing in the world, trying to do the best they could - balancing life and work, raising kids, staying connected, and trying to live out their own dreams - my dreams took hold. A faraway place called me - like a bell ringing to open my eyes a little wider, look a little more closely, see beyond the locality of the stories chosen and unchosen - to come home to the place that always waits for our arrival.
I took a picture - like many have taken before me, and many will take after. But this one was mine. This moment was mine. But it was a space bigger than only I could occupy. Unbeknownst to my dad and mom thousands of miles away, it also belonged to them ... And the rest of my family, my sister, my friends, the old neighborhood and the stories that were always waiting beyond its' borders. I looked over at my wife and my son - taking it all in through their own eyes in their own ways. I felt grateful. I saw the faces of my older son and daughter filling the void of their own absences - their eyes glimmering like boundless seas - as they were off in the world living out their own dreams. In that moment, life was simple. There were no problems. No struggle. Everything just as it should be ... No longing, yearning, or strife. Everything - more than enough. Everything connected. I took another picture. There was a vividness to what I was seeing that no camera could capture. But, I could try. Because, we take pictures of what is important to us; what inspires us. Our dreams are in those pictures. And this one was beautiful.