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Perhaps I am like some people, enticed by exotic foreign lands, their landscapes, language, culture and food. Those that know me know I advocate travel, learning other languages, and exploring cultures other than one’s own. I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to live in Madrid and Paris while in college and with a husband who enjoys learning and exploring the world as much as I. In our two years of marriage we have been able to immerse ourselves eight countries. I say immerse because we don’t normally approach travel as typical tourists- we try our best to experience a place at the local level. As a Spanish teacher, most of my year is dedicated to language instruction and sharing my experiences with students, in order to spark their curiosity of life and what’s outside their small Connecticut town. To some extent, I’ve been successful. Yet this aching frustration has been building over the years regarding the motivation behind my primary objective of travel, which is to go to a place where life is better enjoyed by its people. My frustration lies in the fact that for the most part, it seems like not many people, including myself, were enjoying life. Occasionally, we had a good weekend, got to escape to the glitz and glam of NYC or Boston, perhaps relax on the beaches of Rhode Island, or catch up with friends. Yet on a daily basis, I felt a sense of angst, discontent and unhappiness. My Nonni always said that she loved America, that there was no place better to live, yet I found myself gazing at the pictures in the textbooks I was teaching from, wishing I was there instead. I felt terrible that I could not see the beauty in this country that she saw. Perhaps it’s easy to imagine given the dismal economy, less than admirable morals, constant news about war, debt, weather, growing health problems- you name it and I felt old beyond my years. I have thought several times of moving to another country, to live in a place that values life, human connectedness and the land from which we live, yet I always kept her words close by- America is the best.
About six months ago my husband and I had a talk which discussed all these things, for he too was feeling some of the frustrations with life. Already in an environmental career, he decided that cleaning up messes of our corporations abusive practices, was too little too late and wanted to change his career to something more proactive. After much debate and evenings that mimicked “pin the tail on the donkey”, we finally decided that Denver, Colorado had an established solar industry that would allow him to begin his career transition, while incorporating many elements of life that worked for the two of us. He came out here in May to start his internship, while I was begrudged to complete the school year back in Connecticut.
I’ve been here for a month now and I cannot describe shift that has occurred in me. It seems like the “high stakes” lifestyle back East, surrounded by the epicenters of financial meltdown, dismal home sales, exorbitant prices and constant traffic, made me lose sight of what this country has to offer. Places I’ve seen here rival those in Europe or Central America and they are right here in the United States. So that got me wondering- why is Denver, or Colorado for that matter, so different from home? Was it just the change from the normal routine? Was it the sun? The lack of humidity? Surely I couldn’t be this peaceful just based on weather. So is it the fact that it’s so vast here and that you can physically see the beauty of this country outside your window, even if that window is from a completely modern industrial loft at the pulse of downtown? I think it is.
With the mountains normally within eye-shot, one constantly feels small compared to the massive ridges of those majestic Rocky Mountains. Take a short drive outside the city and have a 360 degree view that spans one hundred miles around. The landscapes here make it evident just how small we are. And it’s not a small of weakness, of fear, or lack of importance- it’s a small of insurmountable beauty and peace. There is utter serenity and quiet.
I find it amazing that so much of modern life has gotten away from existence at its core. We have placed so much emphasis on money and the accumulation of things, useless stuff, that we have destroyed much of the natural beauty of this country and ourselves as a result. We have forgotten what it’s like to be human, to show compassion and not just for each other but for our planet, for the awesome beauty Mother Nature has created and how much diversity this country truly has.
While I can theorize, research and argue how and why our country has gotten into the terrible mess that it is in today and the numerous ways that are possible for us to refocus our future, I will not delve into that. But what I would encourage someone to do who doubts the sincerity of my words is to truly disconnect and escape, whether that’s your backyard, a weekend trip or something of a larger scale and truly pay attention to the beauty that surrounds you. In certain areas, feelings of “this would be prettier if…” statements, due to the contamination, pollution and lack of respect modern man has for nature, are bound to happen. In those cases- do something about it! We still have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to restore our country, both financially and environmentally, if people start making the right decisions. Wouldn’t life be so much better if we liked where we lived and found it beautiful? If we respected our surroundings and each other? If we thought about all the true costs involved before making decisions? Before wasting? Before we ate badly? Before we came up with excuses not to exercise? Before we ignored people? Before we thought we were bigger or more important than we really are? We’re always striving for happiness and many never seem to find it. I think that speaks volumes about the way our society is living and the values it holds. Fundamentally, perhaps biologically, it’s because we know our actions, in trying to get ahead, are destroying our inner peace and the world we need to live. Once you see the beauty, the peace, the awe this country has to offer, I would hope that you would make better decisions in trying to restore and preserve it in your daily lives. I am grateful that I finally agree with the words my Nonni spoke, that America is in fact, beautiful. If we keep that beauty at the forefront of our minds, I am confident that we can not only “bounce back” from these dark times, but we can prosper- environmentally, financially and spiritually.
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