Thank you, Italy!

Well, I’ve been home now for a few days and while my sleep schedule isn’t quite back to normal yet, I am ready to write a few words about my experience before I head out on another adventure (this time WITH Toby!) later today.  It’s been a whirlwind July and I’ve not quite wrapped my head around everything that happened!  So, tonight I am going to get away for a couple of days and process my trip before life gets in the way and everything starts to fade.  

I’ve got more stories and pictures to share over the next few weeks but I wanted to take a second and reflect on the big picture of what just happened.  

I finished my first self-supported bike tour!

This is something that I’ve dreamed about since crossing most of the US with the Bike the US for MS team last summer.  As difficult as it was to ride 50-100 mile days back to back, we were always reminded how easy we actually had it when we crossed people doing the same ride with all of their gear strapped to their bikes.  They crossed the same mountains, faced the same headwinds and tried to outrun the same dogs without the benefit of having s support team and two vans.  Seeing folks of all ages, body types and ability levels made me realize that I could actually do that too!  I had the bike, I had the equipment and I had the desire.  

So, when planning my 2017 summer adventure, I knew it was time to go big, and that’s how this whole trip unfolded.  For the past three years, I’ve been driven to ride for those that can’t, and while there are many worthwhile organizations that do these fundraising rides, my efforts have all been towards multiple sclerosis.  

*Spoiler alert* I was married for a little while, and this happened in Italy – the same town that my Nonno and Nonna were married and lived.  My Aunt Alba planned and executed this whole thing, while struggling with the complications of having MS.  Her strength and her positive attitude throughout the whole process really inspired me.  She wasn’t letting this disease get in the way of anything.  

So, in 2014, as a way of saying “Thank you” to my dear Aunt, I registered, trained and rode the two-day, 175 mile Bike MS:  Waves to Wine Ride in San Francisco.  The fact that I was a Top Fundraiser, pulling in over $3000 made me realize that I am not the only one that wanted to do something amazing to honor Aunt Alba.  Family and friends came out of the woodwork to contribute in support of this amazing woman. 

To date, we have raised $11,753 for MS efforts!

For me, however, the lesson isn’t just about bringing people together to raise money for a good cause, or about bringing awareness to a disease that affects so many, yet is talks about so rarely.

The lesson is also about willpower, strength, determination, confidence, teamwork and accomplishment.  These are the things that Aunt Alba impressed me with back in 2013 and are also the things that it takes for these long bike rides.  

Italy taught me that I can do anything.  We all struggle with doubt, shame and negative thoughts from time to time, even though we rarely share these dark moments with each other, or maybe only with our closest people.  I consider myself a pretty confident person, sometimes borderline narcissist (It’s true I’m a big fan of myself!) but I’ve failed, at many things and many times.  Who hasn’t, really?  

This trip had so many opportunities for failure.  There were actually some moments when I had no clue what was going to happen next or how I was gonna get through, but it all worked out.  I remember stepping out of the airport in Rome, turning on my Garmin GPS with all of my routes and maps pre-loaded, waiting to find out if it would actually work in Italy.  This same GPS had just let me down a few days earlier when I was riding in Hollywood, because I missed an important step in the setup of the device.  Now, here I was, alone, on the other side of the planet, waiting to find out if I was going to have sweet turn-by-turn directions or if I’d be digging through my bags trying to find the pages of maps and directions that I printed out “just in case”.  Fortunately, the unit worked like a charm.  I didn’t really even have to think about where I was going since the GPS did all the work for me.  

At the beginning of my trip, I was suffering.  I wasn’t prepared for the heat and humidity and I pushed myself a little too hard with an 80 mile day in the mountains.  I made it, but I was seriously questioning my ability to push though to the other side of the country.  The outpouring of advice, well wishes and support from my friends, however, touched my heart and pushed me into the next few days.  It’s an amazing feeling to be loved and encouraged.  Thank you.

But the best part was how much life slowed down.  Between the bike riding and the hanging out with family in Porto San  Giorgio, Italy showed me that it’s okay to chill out a bit and enjoy life.  That we should take time to enjoy our meals instead of eating and rushing to the next thing.  That we can be without an internet connection for a few hours or even an entire day (gasp!) and everything is going to be okay!  That (and this is a tough one for me) we don’t necessarily need to plan  out every second of the day.  When Uncle Ferruccio (who only speaks Italian) offers for you to go with him, you say yes.  Even though you don’t know where you are going, how long you are going to be gone and what is going to happen, you jump in the van and you go.  And you have a blast, even if it’s not on the itinerary.  And most importantly, that our life is limited.  We can’t go everywhere, we can’t do everything and even if we do find a way to do it all, for many experiences it’s a one time thing.  The cities I rode through and the strangers I met, I very likely will never see them again.  There are other countries and places that I want to see.  The experiences are unique, with a certain group of people, in a certain place at a certain time that will never be repeated.  Everything is unique.  So, don’t put off what you can do today.  Take the trip.  Do the challenging thing.  Say yes to adventure.  

Italy was such a special place…  Can’t wait to share all my other stories with you!  Thank you for coming along for this adventure, I hope it inspires you to do something amazing and share it with me too! 

❤️, M

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