The only way I’ll wake up early is thanks to my good friend, Jet Lag.
I had been looking forward to getting to Rome for several reasons – the main one being sleeping my ass off. We’ve been on the road since December 16th, 2017, accepting sleep deprivation and constant activity as the new normal. To be honest, while I’m probably asleep with my eyes opened half the time, I wouldn’t trade experiencing the things I’ve lived through the past four months for anything. With that being said, I was still looking forward to finally closing my damn eyes and dozing off. The theme of the trip that Damon and I have been joking about has been:
“I don’t wanna see yo name on ma phone.”
We’ve been so plugged in and on social media documenting the trip in Africa, and Greece that Rome would finally be a solo escape. Plus, it’s the alone time Damon and I both need to regain our sanity and recharge before meeting up in Madrid later this month to go on another film trip to an exciting country (stay tuned for more details).
The night before my flight to Rome, I decided that going out with a near stranger to explore Gazi, the nightlife area in Athens was a great idea. If i’d pulled all nighters for dumb research papers in the past, why shouldn’t I pull an all nighter to feel alive?
Next thing you know, I’m zipping through the hills of Athens on the back of a motorbike with my new Greek friend. We sat on the hills in the dark eating Souvlaki and drinking Greek beers, almost in silence because the magic of the moment left me speechless.
After a 2am bedtime, I rose up like a zombie at 5:45am to make it to the airport for my 8am flight to Fiumicino airport. The *squeal syndrome was real, I’d be completely alone in a country and there’s nothing more exciting than that to me.
*When you’re so extremely excited the only thing you can do is squeal because words just aren’t enough.
At around noon I landed fully aware of the fact no one would be waiting for me in the airport, or at my airbnb. It was really just me, open to the possibilities of what could and would happen next – the definition of being in the moment.
It took about an hour for me to decide it was nap time. I of course, ran around my massive airbnb jumping around for joy at how beautifully spacious and beautifully mine the area was for the next 12 days. I could sleep on the couch, in the bedroom, on the floor if I wanted to and no one could tell me how to live my life otherwise, what a glorious feeling.
A three hour rejuvenation session gave me enough fuel to go out and look for the real fuel – chocolate. You know it’s my city when there’s a chocolate fair happening about 100 meters from the place I’m staying. It was a classic European afternoon, not really having to be anywhere but feeling like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. I ate pizza and a suppli, bought a few chocolate treats, and retreated back to my yellow palace for a chill session with music, wine, and a new Italian friend thanks to swiping right.
My eyes were rolling back by 10pm (not like that ya nasties), from the fatigue of time zones. I had a celebratory sleeping session in major starfish position in the bed because it seemed the more space I took up, the more being alone felt amazing. At around 7am I woke up, feeling the crisp Roman air graze my face. Gloomy skies, and chilly breeze deemed it a Sunday in Europe. With all this sleep restoring life back into my bones, I felt good enough to hit the streets with my dirty and overworn sneakers. I’d be going for a run in the first time in a long time. I always say that good moments of my life are marked by a great run. You’re unplugged and present, plus seeing what’s in your surrounding always gets you pumped to keep exploring.
I wanted to make it all the way to the Tiber (Tevere) river, the equivalent of Paris’s Seine only way less pretty and way dirtier with way more *barboni.
Without doing much research on the areas I’d be crossing, I just started running in the general direction of the river.
I passed hundreds of closed storefronts confirming that it was indeed a European Sunday. I passed parks, went up hill, then luckily down hill, until I realized I’d been running for like 45 minutes and still hadn’t made it to the damn river. If anything, I knew I’d be burning off the plates of pasta I was about to consume in the next two weeks.
The stillness of the city was the perfect backdrop for my body in motion. I ran through pristine patches of green with ancient trees forming a tunnel. I ran around a dead pigeon, and wondered why someone left their motorbike completely unchained on a sidewalk. I marveled at structures that have been a part of history, thinking about how interesting it is that Rome, such an old place, is inhabited by modern people. And finally, all those thoughts brought me to the mouth of the dirty river. There’s beauty in the dirt, especially when it’s about to rain and the gloomy tones make it all make sense. I ran down underneath the bridges for about 3 minutes until I realized I was intruding on barboni’s shower sessions. And at that point, I decided to run back towards San Giovanni where my yellow palace is tucked away.
On my way back, I took back alleys, and noticed I was the only one on the street. I took advantage and ran in the middle of the street when all of a sudden, it started to rain. A perfect cooling drizzle covered my whole body and a smile overcame me completely. I finally reached civilization as I waited to cross a busy intersection. I was pulled out of my running world by a tiny old Italian man who tapped me on the shoulder. I plucked out my headphones to hear what he had to say. In very Roman Italian, he asked me what running team I was a part of. I confessed that I was on my own, and that I loved running to mark moments. He smiled and said he used to be the captain of a famous running squad in Rome, and that every time he sees young people running he smiles. The happiness is contagious.
There are perks to waking up early, and I had jet lag to thank for the miracle of me getting up to go on a 7 mile run all before 9am. Of course, I was sore for two days after, but the run did exactly what I thought it would, marked another beautiful moment in my travels.
What marks a beautiful moment in your life?