Spring Broken

On Friday for my Photo a Day project, taken at the Cave of Hercules, I mused, “I wonder what labors I will have to endure to deserve this type of view.” On Saturday I found out.

It is now Sunday evening and it hurts to type this. Just breathing is laborious. Yet somehow I am determined to get this post up.

My “breaking spring” week toured 4 cities in 10 days. I didn’t realize how prescient I was being in my pun nor post. From Edinburgh to Lisbon to Tangier to Madrid, my friends and I had a whirlwind but epicly fun set of adventures. If you’re wondering, it is really by dint of cheap flights and happy accidental finds that we set our itinerary.

Double Rainbow Camel RideOn the way we shared lots of laughter and beautiful vistas, each locale trying to best the last for the ultimate experience. I completely fell in love with Tangier.

The camel ride under a double rainbow might have something to do with my newfound love of Africa.

Yet I also just enjoyed being in such a different, bustling, alive place. We kept looking at each other and saying “is this real life?!” It was with sadness that we left after just 48hours. I am quietly ruminating on how to get back there for an extended visit/stay.


The week culminated hooking up with friends in Madrid yesterday. When we booked our tickets we found that it was cheaper to have a one day layover in Madrid on the weekend then to fly back to Florence. Then I found out there happened to be a GoRuck Challenge scheduled for that same day with two of my buddies from previous challenges participating. I love these events but given my most recent history, I thought about simply playing photographer. But I was cajoled into full-on participating by said “buddies.”

I’m the one who says “I’m in” right?

So after 9 days of travel to 2 new countries and a new continent for me, I found myself Rucking up at 7am on Saturday morning with a group of Spaniards. I’m rereading that sentence over and over, trying to figure out who wrote it. Is this really my life?

My aching muscles say “yes” but my brain still can’t quite wrap my mind around it.

After another few days and more sleep maybe I’ll have the words to describe how tough this one was for me. I wasn’t well rested, fueled or mentally prepared for it. After being concerned about finding bricks, I was carrying far too much weight in the form of a dumpster-find stone and team-provided sand. 4 Challenges in 4 different countries and I’ll say definitively was by far the hardest (we had 5 drops out of the class, I hadn’t experienced one previously).

Oh and 95% of the class was from the same Crossfit gym and spoke almost entirely in Spanish. GoRuck is about building a team and, while I made friends with a few of the others, wordlessly commiserating with the few other women especially, the language barrier meant that in addition to a physically demanding challenge, it was a mentally and emotionally isolating experience. That is all to say it was a tough one.

Just as it was for Tough Guy, it was my buddies — this time my friends Rob and Filip — that pulled me through.

The path of heroes

They encouraged with their laughter. They provided salt and a few winks when I desperately needed it. They spurred me on with their goading and chiding. Filip said at one point, when I was shaking from cold and exhaustion but refused to give up my Ruck, “she would rather die then show me weakness.” Damn straight.

Most of all, these two unbelievable men set an example that I tried to live up to. I don’t know how each managed to carry the stone that he did but if they were able to, darn if I was going to let them down. Getting updates on the first woman who ultimately completed GoRuck Selection from cadre helped significantly too. And she did the latter half completely alone.

“Inspiration” doesn’t begin to cover Paige nor the reminders that the cadre and our men and women in uniform do such “challenges” and more day-to-day with real life and death on the line.

BuddiesReminder of the smallness much?

While I might have felt isolated, I might have hurt, I might have had it tough, I knew I was ultimately making the choice to be there.

There were times I was trapped in my own body/head/emotions and those were the worst times. The better times — the best times — were looking out from under the brim of my hat and seeing friendly faces sharing the same experiences.

Really, the same went for the whole week.

It was shared laughter that made the camel ride truly epic. It was shared support that made the foreign comfortable. It was having a friend to tell me “yes this is real life” that made all the experiences real. 

For my friends I am eternally grateful.

My body rebels at the idea of taking on the next challenge but I will be back rucking up, this time in Dublin, in less than 2 weeks. There again I will be amongst friends, some new, some old, some somewhere in between. Being amongst them is worth the labor.

We are united by common purpose and will — by shared experiences. They are my crazy tribe. I am filled with gratitude that I found them and can be in their company.

Spring officially is broken.

Go. Find friends who make you better and enjoy life multiplied.

Sempre Avanti,



  1. This adventurous romp of a post should motivate anyone with a trace of a wild hare to do more!! It certainly has lit a fire under my ass. And this I can never hear enough of: Go. Find friends who make you better and enjoy life multiplied. We are having a tough time time in Houston doing this. Perhaps we’d have better luck in Europe? Love the Post, Jo!

    • Thanks! Well I am all for adventuring in Europe obviously, CJ, but it’s funny, I was just reading a post by an expat living in Amsterdam who was having the same difficulties. I am happy that my post lit a fire and I have learned that you can find community that inspires you just about anywhere, just keep looking. I wish you well in your search. If these online experiences have taught us anything it is that there are others like us out there and we just have to keep opening ourselves up to finding them.

      • Thanks Jo! And right you are about finding our peeps right where we are, not to mention that we are loving the community we’re finding online.

  2. “Find friends who make you better and enjoy life multiplied.”

    I am making this my new motto. And I am about to sign up for a Tough Mudder in New England. While I am a little nervous, I got a great group of pals that are going to help me through it and I will be doing the same for them, all the while I will be asking myself “Am I as badass as Joanna?”

    Keep rockin on wit yo bad self!


    • Thanks Barry, it is certainly my motto right now. Kudos on the sign up (DO IT!) You’ll be fine and it is all about having fun. Glad you have a great group to do it with — that support obviously is key to me — but even when you go it solo, by bing in the same space and seeking the same types of adventures it is amazing how many like-mindeds you’ll meet. Keep rockin wit yo bad self (and post something on your blog once in a while eh?)
      Sempre Avanti…

  3. Hello Jo and congrats on the fine finish! CJ just said, “Jo posted a picture of beer on Twitter that says Good Friday” and it reminded me that I have not been receiving your updates. I just checked, and I am subscribed, so we shall see if I receive your next post. Perhaps you don’t like Lagunitas IPA, so I updated my favorite beer to Hopadillo IPA. It is one of the nicest things here in Houston! 🙂

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