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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Galagonia 2019

Local physican celebrates the birthday trip of a lifetime with her besties

by Moira Grainger

Some of us do better than others in how we choose to acknowledge birthdays and the inevitable reality that we have traveled around the sun one more time.  There are others such as local physician Lisa Larkin who embrace these events as a means of literally expanding horizons, sometimes to the far corners of our earth.

Julie Griewe, Nirvani Head, Anne Jaroszewicz, Lauren Hannan Shafer, Lisa Larkin; center: Julie Lehman
Last February, a group of 17 Cincinnati-based women traveled to Patagonia and hiked more than 75 miles to celebrate adventure, friendship and, of course, a five-year anniversary birthday for their friend and bestie Dr. Lisa Larkin.

Explains Dr. Larkin,This was our fourth trip together. For my 40th birthday, we hiked the Grand Canyon, on my 45th, we went Heil hiking in the Canadian Rockies.  For my 50th, we celebrated in Italy by hiking Cinque Terre and Lake Cuomo.  On this trip, our fifth together and my 55th birthday, we chose Patagonia.”

Lisa Larkin celebrates her birthday atop a mountain peak in Patagonia
Continued Dr. Larkin, “Our trip companions are lifetime friends from age 12 and junior high, through college and med school, along with professional friends and through our kids, all from Cincinnati.”

According to Dr. Larkin, Patagonia was “a bucket list place with great hiking and a place that many of my female friends wanted to go but their husbands were less excited about- and they needed a push to get there.”

She continued, “The overarching memory of this trip was exploring an incredible part of the world with amazing women, who I am lucky to call friends. We shared endless laughter and shared the experience of unsurpassed beauty. All of us describe the trip as a transformative life changing experience.”

When asked if she felt the travel group would continue to gather going forward, Larkin was quick to respond: “It has continued every 5 years since I was 40. Grand Canyon age 40. Canadian Rockies Heli Hiking age 45. Italy hiking Cinque Terre and Lake Como age 50, and then Patagonia age 55.  We are definitely planning another trip in 5 years!

Stunning view of the glaciers on the Galagonia trip
Indian Hill resident Lauren Thaman, who received a last-minute invitation to join the group, feels blessed to have been included. She shared the following insights. “I had previously met Lisa through work and we met for a drink socially once.  She is so amazingly warm and welcoming ...bottomline, the Tuesday of the week of the trip, she contacted me and said there was a cancellation and said I should go - they were leaving Thursday.  I knew no one else on the trip and knew Lisa casuall, but…I took the plunge and I went with 48 hours’ notice.  I have never met 10 such amazing women all from Indian Hill.  Each one of these ladies are warm, loving, smart, accomplished and interesting!”   

All 17 members of Lisa Larkin’s “Galagonia” trip
Added Thaman, “The key take-away was “the ups and downs are better with friends” – and these women are just amazing friends – they are warm, welcoming, inclusive supportive – I have never met any better people! I was struck by something Julie Griewe said to me as I was a bit terrified when we were crossing a fast flowing river on a horse.  She said, “Don’t look down, look ahead at the horizon – it’s kind of a good metaphor of life.”  That so struck me – these women always look ahead – they look ahead to support each other through all of life’s ups and downs.”

(L to R): Lauren Thaman, Lauren Hannan Shafer, Julie Lehmann, Julie Greiwe, Lisa Larkin
Thaman’s final comment sums things up. “My goal was to have an adventure – experience a new place and new culture and to importantly expand and grow myself.  Going on a hiking trip, given I would never consider myself an athlete and going with women I did not know, I knew would provide me the opportunity to grow.  I am excited that post-trip I would tell you I went on this trip with 16 amazing friends who supported me as I grew and discovered new things about myself.”

(L to R): Nirvani Head, Anne Jaroszewicz, Julie Greiwe, Lauren Hannan Shafer
Lauren Hannan Shafer has affectionately called this year’s trip “Galagonia” and comented, “Galagonia 2019! We hiked over 75 miles with these incredible women making a difference in the world! We did see the rainbow and the end of the road but all of the time spent making memories in Patagonia better than a pot of gold! Thanks again for the Patagonia memories of a lifetime with my gal power pals!”
Best selfies ever! from the Galagonia trip
Stated Shafer, “My goal was to celebrate life with my friend Lisa Larkin.  She has been my "adventure partner” for years. As this was her 55th birthday trip, she wanted to unite friends from all parts of her life.  There were 17 of us, and I was with people I knew from 7 from here: Julie Lehmann, Julie Greiwe, Sara and Michelle Vance Wadell, Karen Cassidy, Nirvani Head, and Anne Jaroszewicz. I met Julie Heidt and Lauren Thaman, who joined us too.  I also got to reunite with Lisa’s friends from grade school, college and med school who traveled from California and Florida.  It was an amazing group of women who all had Lisa as a common thread, but now we have the common thread of Patagonia so we are friends for life!”

(L to R): Nirvani Head, Karen Cassady, Lauren Hannan Shafer, Lisa Larkin, Julie Lehmann. Julie Greiwe
Stated Shafer, “I knew NOTHING about Patagonia but loved the idea of going somewhere I knew nothing about.  I was blown away with how wild, raw and unpredictable the weather and terrain is.  It’s like going back millions of years in a time machine and seeing the world before people existed.  Expanses of nature from icebergs and glaciers to flamingos and condors.  So Spectacular! My favorite memory was doing the long 14-mile hike and cresting a ridge at the top of a mountain range to see the sheer face of Fitz Roy (mountain depicted on the Patagonia label), snowy peaks, and the bluest glacier lakes ever.”

“Ups And Downs Are Better With Friends” celebration
Concluded Shafer, “My other favorite part was just being with 17 women where the dynamic was so positive.  We all spend our time taking care of others at home, but in Patagonia we could hike, laugh, drink Malbec wine, eat the best Argentinian steak every night, and just remind ourselves that we are important, too.” 

Patagonia’s unmatched beauty as witnessed by the “Galagonia” team


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