more from Toledo

Toledo took my breath away. I would suggest anyone to take a trip to this ancient city when traveling throughout Spain. I hope to revisit Toledo again someday.

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a european connection

Today we traveled to Toledo, a city that is 2,500 years old and one of the oldest cities of Spain. Toledo was about a 45 minute drive from Madrid. During the drive I had an amazing philosophical conversation with my dear friend Ashley, which definitely started the day off well. As we came upon Toledo I began to see old buildings, brick roads, and various castle looking structures. It was absolutely stunning. We had a tour guide take us through the Synagogue de Santa Maria la Blanca. The synagogue, though plain looking on the outside had a beautiful interior with various columns, a picture is below:

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This building is extremely significant as it is one of the few synagogues left in Toledo, and is the oldest. The religious building was built with three religious influences: christian, muslim, and of course jewish. After walking through the building and hearing various stories about it we headed to the cathedral within Toledo. As I walked in, I was near tears. The history, beauty, and richness of the art and building structure are remarkable. I felt that God was truly speaking to me in a deep way while in the cathedral. Bing raised catholic, this building truly impacted me. The beautiful paintings, the gold trimming, the sculptures, the cross, the saints, the angels, everything touched my heart. My breath was literally taken away as I thought of all the amazing religious figures that had probably stepped foot into the cathedral. It’s amazing to see how people long ago truly tried to set apart the house of God from the rest of the world. Though many people were talking negatively about the church, about the money once spent on the building, this did not change my opinion. The people who designed and funded the building, had good intentions I believe, they wanted to honor God in creating such a miraculous cathedral, which they did. The whole time I was at the church I separated myself from the group and the tour and quietly walked around the historic place, taking in every detail, feeling close to God. I never once before thought I would ever say a building was beautiful,the church redefined beauty for me. The cathedral was a different kind of beauty, not like nature’s, but almost otherworldly, a holy place. Parts of my faith that I did not know existed were rekindled today, and throughout the past few days, starting with the art museum yesterday (I will explain in a future post). I did not want to leave the cathedral but on departure I thanked God for bring me here, to Spain, to Toledo, to the cathedral, to the fullness I feel in His presence. Here are a few pictures from the cathedral:

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After the cathedral, a few friends and I stopped at a little spanish cafe for lunch, walked around the city for a little while and then returned back to Madrid. Once in Madrid, I headed to the palace and another cathedral, went to a market, then returned, I am leaving soon for dinner, but I will write about all else in future posts. So far, I am absolutely in love with Spain! All the people here are so great too, this area is so historical, which I love more than anything. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

when in spain

Here are some of the photos from my journey in Spain so far! This will be my second night here in Spain, it’s already 2am here so I’m not quite used to this time change, it’s a good thing that my friend Ashley isn’t either. My trip has been amazing so far. As I have been walking through the streets of Madrid, Spain I can’t believe that I am actually in Europe! This has been my dream and it has turned out better than I could have imagined so far. This city is so clean, so beautiful, historic, the food is so interesting, and the people here are so kind and genuine! Today we traveled to two art museums, which I will talk more about in my future posts! Today we also walked around and got to know the city better. I am in love with Spain and Europe already! Tomorrow we are going to travel to Toledo, which is a very historic spot and I hear that it is absolutely wonderful. Of course I will post about Toledo in the future. Ciao mis amigos!

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a thoughtful flight

1,673 miles from L.A. and 3,7000 feet in elevation. Here I sit mid flight to Madrid. One of my closest, most true, genuine friends sits beside me on this journey. People all around are either sleeping or engaged in television. All is still, all is quiet. So, here I am alone with my thoughts, the ones that prevent me from resting. I’m about to embark on the Camino De Santiago. This is a dream, a wonderful dream, one that is now becoming a reality. We should arrive in Spain tomorrow at 2:30pm. This adventure is quickly approaching and I am going to cherish every moment on this journey, even moments like these on the plane. Though these moments may seem insignificant to some, they are wholly significant to me. These moments of peace, of calmness, of rest, are ones that I will remember forever. I am so blessed to be here, to be in this very moment of quietness and rest mid flight. I will never forget that not everyone is blessed with an experience like this. I will live every moment with thankfulness because I do acknowledge the opportunity I have been given. I am thankful not only to be on this trip, but also to have a family that has allowed me to do so. God has given me a loving, faith-centered family, one that never fails to support me in all that I do. Today my dad called me and told me the words that I often long to hear, he said, “I am so proud of you Amelia”. His tears, I could tell were running freely. How have I been blessed with such a loving father? I crave to make him proud, because he and my mother have truly aided me in every way possible throughout my life. To hear my father express that he cares and loves me is so dear to my heart. What a perfect picture that is of God, my true, eternal father. I hope to hear God say to me one day that He is proud of me, just as my dad has done so humbly. As I embark on this journey ahead I will remember the true reason I am hiking the Camino, to grow spiritually. For the next few months I long to walk in quiet prayer, lifting up the prayer requests that others have given me. I hope to be loving towards all those in my group, inclusive, and understanding of those around me. I hope to learn to develop patience, consideration, and compassion like my mother’s. When home this past month, I got to visit my mom at her new job where she works with a sweet boy that has severe autism. The patience she has with him is inspiring. I can tell that she genuinely wants him to strive towards growth. I want to develop patience and understanding like her. I want to look through new eyes, where I can see Christ shining more clearly through even the most difficult situations. I hope this trip will be the beginning of a new chapter for me, one where my love for God is strengthened, renewed, and deepened. I hope to be presented with challenges, especially those unexpected. I want my character to be tested and tried. I want to hurt, I want to suffer, so that I must fully rely upon Christ for strength. I know that I myself, will not be able to complete this pilgrimage that is over 500 miles, but with Christ, the distance seems quite menial. If my body aches, craves rest, and feels weak at the end of my journey, and if my heart is aflame, full of passion, strength, and energy; I will then know that I have pushed myself in the right direction. At the end of this journey I want my earthly body to hurt. I want my soul and my heart to rejoice and long to be filled with humility. I want to learn how to express love in a deeper way. Throughout my life I have faced trials, loss, and tragedies, as I am sure many of you have also experienced. However, I have also been renewed, remade, and given hope, which I sincerely hope is true for each of you as well. I feel as though my journey on the Camino will be similar to my lifelong journey. I’m sure this pilgrimage will be one with pain and trials. If I follow the path, stay true, and work hard then I hope that I will see the light. The bright, florescent light at the end of my present journey, the one that will prepare me for the next one. Thousands have walked the Camino, desiring God, thirsting for spiritual growth, longing for renewal. As I walk the path that many saints have journeyed on before me, I pray that I will see the rich spirituality that resides within every step. I know the Camino is just the beginning of my lifelong pilgrimage. So here I am, ready to jump into these unknown waters, only 8,005 miles until I arrive, then my journey in Spain will begin. Stay true, life justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

an adventurous spirit

I pray that my trip will give me opportunities to explore not only the world around me, but also myself. I want my longing for adventure to grow as I journey through these lands unknown to me. I hope to meet new people with openness and love, to embrace the unexpected moments. To adventure. I want my adventurous spirit to grow, to be lit on fire on this trip. I never want to fear the unknown again, but embrace it with ever flowing excitement. I hope to learn about myself on this trip, to grow spiritually, to step out of my comfort zone and to cling to the blissful moments ahead. Let’s all let our adventurous spirits run wild, for they did not leave us in childhood, each of us has our own. Let’s use our adventurous spirits for good. For the exploration of the external world around us and of our own thoughts and selves. It’s never too late to grow, to learn, to be free, to adventure. Live true, act justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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blueberry oatmeal

I enter. I walk. I wait with eagerness. I’m in the airport waiting to board my flight to California. The time has come for my adventure to begin. I am staying in California for the next three days before I depart for Spain. I had an early start today with little sleep last night. Most nights I sleep for longer than an hour, but last night was different. Do you remember the excitement you once felt as a child on Christmas Eve, a birthday, or an upcoming vacation? Do you recollect the nights where you were unable to sleep because the joy of the unknown and the thrilling anticipation of tomorrow were both too consuming? Well, I remember those nights. Last night was that kind of night. I tried in vain to sleep as I thought about Spain and my upcoming travels. When I finally got through the security check point at the airport I decided despite how early it was, to stop by a Starbucks near my terminal to grab some breakfast. I decided to order the blueberry oatmeal. I sat before boarding the plane, surveying the airplane terminal. All the people, their different stories, unique interests, and separate lives. Yet, I then thought about how similar each of us are. We all have different backgrounds and some of us have conflicting beliefs I am sure, but what connects us is not our similar interests, as there may be none. What unites us is that we all share the same kind of lives: we are all headed somewhere in life, though our journeys are different, we all have a story of our own. So why did I bring up the oatmeal, you may wonder? Well, as I was sitting in the terminal I noticed everyone was engaged in something. Some individuals sleeping, others talking, a few thinking, one or two consumed by their laptops or cellphones. This is all I know of these people, all I will probably ever know of them, soon they will all be a distant memory. But who was I to all of these people? I was simply the girl sitting in Indian style, wearing chacos, and eating blueberry oatmeal and that is all I may ever be to these individuals. Just like all the other people that surrounded me, I am more than what those travelers saw me to be. Sometimes, I don’t pay attention to those around me, but what a shame that is. I want to start paying better attention to those around me. All of us are so different yet connected in a deep internal way. Some people we only share moments with, others we share days, years, a lifetime. We should try to reach out to others, even those that will not be in our lives long. A quick “have a wonderful day” can break down barriers and can allow each of us to grow as individuals and also collectively.
If all a person remembers is a stranger saying “hi” with a smile, then I have done what I’m trying to do. I long to break the cycle of barriers that we each put up. As we each begin to step out of the normality of the day, start paying attention to those around us, and begin to break down societal boundaries, the world will begin to change. It may not be tangible, but even a simple act of kindness will change the world. Such an act adds more joy and peace into the world, pieces that would be missing without someone’s genuine care. I want to show others that when you start acting with love and stop judging others based on your observations, you are acting in a radical and memorable way not a societal and forgettable one. I don’t want people to remember me personally, instead, I want them to remember what I stand for: love, kindness, and a genuine character. I’m not saying that I am all of those things by any means, but I strive to be with all my heart. So, today I challenge myself and all of you to start living like this world is a connected community. I challenge everyone to stop acting as if we each live in completely separate and isolated worlds. Don’t just be the girl eating the blueberry oatmeal, the man consumed in his cell phone, or even the woman entertained by her computer. Be bold. Be radical. Breaking the norm begins with a simple smile.   Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

vegan hiking boots

When someone talks about hiking boots, I’m sure many of you picture bulky, heavy, dark brown, leather boots.  Right?  Well, that is the sort of image I once pictured when I thought of these sort of boots.  What if I were to tell you that that image is actually not accurate anymore? Further, what if I told you that there are vegan hiking boots? Yes, vegan: meaning no animal products were used at all in the making of these boots. Well, get ready for this readers, because vegan, non-leather hiking boots do exist!  I know what some of  you are thinking, “How can non-leather hiking boots be durable and reliable on long trips?”  Well, I asked myself the same question as I was searching for my vegan boots.  But in reality vegan boots do exist and they are durable, have good support, are long lasting, and vegans and non-vegans alike have claimed to love them.

How I found my boots:

I searched and searched the internet with little avail.  All the boots I found online were less than desirable.  So, I decided to take a trip to a nearby REI store.  After looking through all the women’s hiking boots and speaking with an REI employee, they informed me that they did not have any “non-leather” boots in their store.  They did however, give me a few websites that had non-leather boots.  When I returned home and visited the sites I was given, I found that all of the boots I saw were for men!  Though frustrated, I kept looking on the internet and I came across a Backpacker Magazine article that titled Editors’ choice 2013: Zamberlan 230 SH Crosser Plus GTX RR Boots which were made up of only man-made materials.  I quickly searched for a women’s version of these said boots, with success!  I quickly ordered them after some research; I found out that they were made up of gore-tex waterproof material, and they had corder nylon uppers.  After getting the boots, I took them out on a 15 mile hike, where my feet felt completely supported and comfortable.  I broke the shoes in to prepare them for my trip then set them aside, since I do not want to wear them out too much before my pilgrimage!  The only issue I have with these shoes is that I never want to take them off, not ever, even when inside!

         My amazing hiking boots:

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I am so happy with my purchase.  I can’t wait to wear them every day on the Camino!

Pros: vegan friendly, waterproof, light weight (1 lb. 5 oz.), good support, vibram soles, comfortable, easy to break in, pretty color.

Cons: Price ($170)