Day 20 / by Kenneth Dixon

Day 20 (7/26/16)

I’m one week away from heading back to O’hare Airport. I suppose it’s bittersweet at this point. Before the journey even started I knew sooner than later I’d be saying, "Man! This trip is flying by." And that day officially came today. Yesterday may have been one of my favorite days backpacking so far. Climbing what I expected to be all of Mount Vesuvius and walking ancient ruins of Pompeii turned out to give me more than I could have ever imagined. Prior to yesterday’s excursions, I had managed to make my way up two mountains, one in Germany’s Black Forest, and the other on an island in Spain. After trashing my shoes and reviving them twice, I figured that would be done for at least for the remainder of this trip. Once I arrived in Naples, my 4 new Australian amigos, had invited me to hike one of the only active Volcanoes left in the world. Minus the tourists and not being able to hike the volcano from bottom to top (bus ticket didn’t explain we’d be driven halfway up the mountain before we could actually walk up the volcano) yesterday may have literally been the perfect day. Despite the Mt. Vesuvius’ semi-attractive appearance, the vibes and people made the hike uphill that much sweeter. Who would have thought Australians were so fun to be around and similar to Americans? I can’t exactly accredit Australia for making the day so great as one of the other guys in our group was from California. Everybody seemed to mesh well and could add their own humor to what seemed to be literally any and every situation. What stunned me the most was the post hike adventure. After hours on the volcano, we hopped on the train to check out the Ruins of Pompeii. Now classified as a museum, the city of Pompeii hadn't survived its last volcanic eruption over 100+ years ago which turned into a historic tragedy leaving the city’s inhabitants killed and left into molten rock. I was able to photograph a few of the bodies that remained left in glass cases or behind jail bar displays. I walked the ruins and saw the remnants of century-old homes, pottery, paintings, and colosseums. What surprisingly enhanced the entire museum were the newly added sculptures of art placed throughout parts of the city. You could see a gigantic 110-year-old pillar made of marble and see a beautiful body sculpture or a Roman head that was incorporated just less than 10 years ago. It was strikingly amazing and beautiful. I had literally never seen or felt anything like it in my 26-years living on earth.    

Quotables from lofty conversations

"Is it life or is it slavery, not race, money?" 

"When you have people, you have power."

After some writing and alone time, I met with my new Aussie homeboys who had already begun their drinking for the night. It must have been a wave of similar energies and wavelengths we were vibrating on because after I finished writing up my thoughts on Black activists and movements, my inebriated friends somehow got on the topic of social, economic, racial and political movements. Maybe it had been because one of them had dropped them N-bomb casually during one of our huddle conversations. Either way, the initial discomfort of the word being said amongst mixed race friends no longer lingered and we were having separate group conversations about life, society and all of their complications. One of the guys who I was now interacting with for the first time, had sparked an interesting conversation with me that seemed to last over an hour, as we all shared stories over kebabs and American sodas. It was transparent to me that he’d had more than just a couple drinks because of his hesitation, emotion, and long-winded responses, not to mention everyone’s earlier agreement to repeat the prior night’s festivities, which left what seemed to be everyone in the hostel hungover the next day. After one of them had said the N-word, I remember walking to get food, and the lofty thoughts began to take place. What stood out to me the most were a series of quotes or ideas that were mentioned and expounded upon by either myself or my homeboy. Amid discussions of the current state of the corrupt governments worldwide, questioning everything, education, and being modern slaves, we began to asses if life as we knew it was something we actually felt freedom in or modern day slavery. We agreed on the latter.