We popped out of the dusty trail below the Acropolis, sun just beginning to drop in the summer evening sky. It must have been 7pm already and no dinner in sight, which no one really seemed to mind. I mean, we were in Europe after all, and everyone was settling in nicely to the later mealtimes. I reveled in the unstructured day we had just taken part in. Since the onset of this trip, there had been very few of those and it was a refreshing change from the rigorous schedule of the last seven weeks.
A slow morning it was, in our central Athens apartment with the high ceilings, creeky wooden floors and ornate crown molding. Coffee and pastries gotten from the Bread Factory just across the street. A moment to check in with the internet world. Lots of moments to linger in jammies over a shelf of toys- the most the kids had played with since they left home. With rested bodies and croissant filled-bellies, we eventually gathered ourselves and headed out to explore in the very late morning.
The open top bus proved to be more exciting as an idea than a reality. After passing the Temple of Zeus, the National Library, and countless buildings tattooed in graffiti all while narrowly missing getting whacked in the head by branches of creeping orange trees in the tight and winding lanes, we hopped off, never to hop on again, and found a souvlaki joint in Monastiraki Square, near the one we had chowed at the day before.
The bustle of the square, the scrunched tables lining narrow cobblestone lanes, all turning over at impressively rapid rates. It was exactly what I think of when I think of a midday meal in Athens. I mean, how can you go wrong with succulent kabobs smothered in tart, creamy tzaziki, topped with roasty toasty tomatoes, wrapped in a hot pita and washed down with cold white wine or, for the kids, orange Fanta? You can’t. It’s fact. A late lunch turned into a late nap back at the apartment, followed by a late (and thankfully cooler) arrival to the Acropolis.
Back to the dusty trail, and us popping out onto it.
As we headed down the path, there appeared a rocky outcropping to the right. Naturally, we wandered over to check it out.
Unstructured time is a hotbed for the indulgence of curiosity.
As we got closer we could see two sets of steps leading up to the lookout area. The one on the left was a manufactured staircase, complete with a handrail and even, flat steps. Safe and accessible. The one on the right, however, was what can only be described as original. As in, over 2000 years old. Steps carved into the rock, worn over time to smooth, slippery surfaces, sagging under the weight of millions of visitors. Uneven and quite frankly, not the safest option (you should’ve seen how gracefully I glided up those mf’ers). Hence the newer (ie, more accessible and far less prone to hip dislocations and ankle sprains) steps to the left.
“Oh, I’m taking the wild stairs!”
And with that exclamation, Nina took off for the slippery scramble up to the top of Mars Hill with abandon, the very place the apostle Paul is said to have preached in the first century AD, with her little brother and sister quick on her heels, wide-eyed and giggly with every step.
Throughout our time abroad, my kids have shown us the path to adventure in delightfully unexpected ways.
They have reminded us to stop and smell the actual roses.
They have helped us remember that, if we have the right attitude, power outages can be fun, playing games and eating dinner by candlelight and remaining completely in the present moment.
They have reminded us that being brave is the best way to experience everything to the fullest.
They have shown us that, sometimes, exploring a new place can be richer if we stop going and just BE.
They have taught us to slow down enough to make room for spontaneously indulging curiosity. *see bit about rocky outcropping and hotbed, above.*
They have helped us keep the balance between “everyone needs a sugar detox and must go to bed early tonight” and “I know it’s 10:30pm but the town is bustling and the air is still warm and somewhere there is live music playing and we probably all need gelato and we can sleep in tomorrow anyway.” (Usually leaning toward the latter option).
They have taught us to be unabashedly true to ourselves and our needs, apologizing zero times for it.
They have reminded us to express joy with our whole entire being.
They have also reminded us to be playful at least thirty-two times a day.
They are leading the charge toward the wild stairs with gusto and I am one hundred percent here for it.
I’m not going to belabor the point any longer.
And so, to my little globetrotters as well as you reading this, be you a seasoned adventurer or still a dreamer, I hope you always choose the wild stairs. Whether you are heading to the grocery store or up the slippery steps to Mars Hill. May you find the path of adventure in both the ordinary and the extraordinary of life and move toward it with so much “of course” that anything else would appear utterly preposterous. Life is only as adventurous as we allow it to be.
Make some room for the unexpected, stay curious, and given the choice, always, ALWAYS, take the wild stairs.