There I stood on the edge of the cliff, 40 feet above the water. My heart pounded, and my entire body trembled, while my friends shouted encouragement from below. I was the last to take a turn. ”The boat is leaving! You have to jump,” the tour guide yelled. It was unfortunate that I didn’t discover I was terrified of falling until I had already reached the top of the precipice. Finally, I screwed up my eyes and leaped outwards. Air rushing past me, I plunged into the Mediterranean Sea.
An integral part of studying abroad is having new and sometimes uncomfortable experiences. Which is why, when the tour guide my friends and I were traveling with last weekend invited us to go cliff jumping, I went along. I felt such a sense of accomplishment afterward, and although it’s not something I will probably do ever again, I’m glad I tried it.
In fact, the entire weekend was incredible and filled with a lot of other new experiences. As part of my quest to see more of Italy’s natural beauty, I traveled with my friends to Capri, Positano and Pompeii, using the town of Sorrento on Italy’s Amalfi Coast as a home base. I swam through caves filled with clear, turquoise water near the town of Positano. I hiked to the top of the Island of Capri and beheld incomparably beautiful views. I tried four different types of limoncello — a strong alcohol made from lemon zest that made my throat burn — as well as an Italian version of a burrito that contains eggplant and zucchini.
Pompeii struck me by how large and well-preserved it was. Even though Mount Vesuvius erupted over the town and buried it in A.D. 79, much of Pompeii stayed intact.
In addition, I was astonished by how advanced and cultured its inhabitants were even thousands of years ago. I wandered through a bath house containing a jacuzzi and a sauna, inspected the ovens where bakers cooked their bread and entered the ruins of a place of worship that echoed its grand past. I saw the plaster casts left by the impressions of bodies trapped in the volcano’s ash. I also perused a brothel containing stone beds (ouch) and erotic frescoes. I walked down Pompeii’s grooved streets, where Roman carriages used to pass. I saw the mosaic-covered floors of some of the wealthier homes.
It was on the ferry to Capri, however, that I was hit by all I was experiencing. This is my life. I have a new normal, but a normal that is completely unpredictable and filled with exploration. Every day is a new adventure. I’m constantly meeting new people, trying new foods and seeing new sights. At that moment, lounging on the boat, basking in the sun and feeling the spray from the sea, I realized what I’ve known all along: I am truly lucky to have this opportunity.