Young and hopeful, I dreamed of seeing the places from my “Who Was” books and History Channel documentaries. I wrote stories of going to Egypt and discovering King Tut’s tomb for myself. I wished I could go to India and return, having found the ghost of Mumtaz Mahal lingering in the Taj Mahal too. I wanted so badly to climb Mount Vesuvius, visit Pompeii and see the people who were left covered in volcanic rock. Over the years, I slowly began to visit the places that my 6-year old self had waited so patiently to see. London..Paris..Barcelona..Rome..until..
Here I am, after years of eagerness and anticipation, I have finally made it. I’m so close to achieving one of my lifelong dreams; I can just about reach out and grab it. I’m at the base of Mount Vesuvius, the still active volcano that erupted onto the city of Pompeii so long ago. As the tour guide constantly reminds us that this volcano could erupt at any given moment, my sister begins to get anxious. Complaining to my mother about how I am the one who got my family into this “mess,” I can barely hear her. I’m too busy on cloud nine, preparing myself to hike this volcano.
I’ve never really hiked before, just a few “not hardcore-at all” night hikes on some school camping trips. As I looked up at Mount Vesuvius, I knew this time it would be different. Harder, most likely, considering the distance but I couldn’t resist the excitement of it all. My sister seemed to pick up on that as well, moaning and groaning all the way to the entrance. Nevertheless, it was time. We were going to climb an active volcano and soon I would have another item to cross off my bucket list.
The thing about looking forward to something for so long is that you start to imagine what it would be like, how it would look, how you would feel when it was all over. You start to picture various scenarios, that are not really probable, but you imagine them anyway just because. Then, when it finally is time, real life takes ahold of things and somehow it is better than anything your imagination could have ever conjured up.
That was what it was like when I reached the top of Mount Vesuvius. Better than my History Channel documentaries, better than my imagined reality and better than almost anything I had ever experienced in my life. It was unforgettable.
We then proceeded to make our way to Pompeii on the tour bus. I was feeling quite exhilarated considering my recent accomplishments. We arrived, only to meet a sea of modernization. I panicked a little, thinking where was the city I so longed to see. But then there it was, behind it all, the gate to the ancient world. The city of Pompeii was eerie and burning hot. The buildings were covered in hardened volcanic ash and everything stood still. The cobblestone streets were alive with tourists, and noise, and flashing cameras. And in the middle of the chaos was me, watching the breathtaking city that stood before me. I saw it then, the massive volcano I had just conquered, sitting peacefully right before my eyes.
Soon it was time to leave and sometime thereafter I had to eventually come home. I am older now, maybe even a little smarter too. The trip feels like a lifetime ago. Everything I saw and experienced, just a memory now. The crazy thing is, it all still feels like a dream that I keep remembering.
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