03 March 2009

Take a Hike

People always ask me how I started hiking.

First, I was tired of sitting on the beach covered in layers, under an umbrella and constantly worrying if my 50 SPF was wearing off. On one of those perfect early summer days, a boy laughed at me, “By the time you get any color, it will be September.”

At the pool, the sight of my lily white legs brought gasps, causing parents to grab their children and reapply their sun-block.

I was always hot, but not in a manner to which I aspired. I was literally boiling under the layers covering my ‘simonized’ body. You see, despite having a bit of Italian and American Indian heritage, the English, French and whatever else, the genetic pool gave me really pale skin. After many beaches, most of the Caribbean and Florida, the reality is, “If I am very careful, I get beige.“

Then there was the thing about sitting still for hours on end, taking a break for lunch or cocktails but understanding the main focus is being 'one' with the sand, the chaise lounge and looking cool. It’s very difficult to look cool when you are being parboiled.

Swimming, as I learned from observing the really accomplished beautiful beach people, was only necessary when one became too warm and or perhaps, to get someone’s attention you ran to the sea and emerged like a god or goddess returning home from Atlantis.

I love to swim and am known to spend hours in the water---two problems, sun-block washes off and at 5’ 4” and well, being me, the image of running along the beach like Bo Derek or Cindy Crawford or Elle MacPherson was not happening.

So, here I was working hard to go on vacation, to sit under really well made beach towels from some very nice hotels, drinking very expensive cocktails, wondering, “WTF.”

Yes, I caught up on my reading, but somehow I always went home feeling, ‘eh’.

Lastly, I work in a very stressful and competitive male-oriented environment. Hence, the idea that beaches with balmy breezes and palm trees will rest the weary bones. Given the chronology of beauties running along the beach, you can see that I wrestled with this conundrum for many years. The reality was that I needed to get away and rid myself of the hoodoos of my work place.
It took some major life lessons and the approach of my fortieth birthday, to make me think.

I had never been to Europe, so I decided that even though the Italian part of me wasn’t enough to get a tan, I would spend two weeks in Italy. Learning from my experience on the beach and knowing that I was a freak for museums, art and architecture, I decided that one week would be spent in Rome and the next hiking through Tuscany so I wouldn’t be by myself ‘on the beach’.

So that’s how it began, one small step, many stories.

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