Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

I'm just a girl who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

This is my attempt to keep my friends and family updated, to keep track of my experiences, and to serve as an inspirational resource for all those travel addicts like me out there.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Candid with Candido

While workingaway in Montefegatesi I had the opportunity to meet whom I like to consider my soul-mate. That might be taking it a little to far. Whatever. There were so many "best" things about living in the village and working for such an amazing family, but mainly I enjoyed all the free time available to me while I wasn't watching the kids. The girls who were here before me made it a priority to take me over to some mysterious Italian man's home to play some card game. When we finally made it over there, I fell in love as soon as I walked through the door. His house was adorned in photographs, memories, old records, and classical books. I took a look around and realized this place looks like I could be living here.

Candido was an elderly man, in his 70s or 80s, who clearly enjoyed the company of the American visitors that frequented the village. He was as grumpy as he was sweet, which I loved about him. We opened a bottle of wine, cut up some cheese and I took a seat in his comfortable living room facing a set of sliding doors with a view of the green, lush Tuscan mountains. He shared his photography with me, most of which made up the decor in his home. We looked through old records and I shared my obsession with the sixties, to which Candido boasted about his presence at Woodstock in 69. He played The Beatles for me, and from that point on it was pretty obvious this was the coolest man ever.

I don't remember how many times I hung out with Candido, but throughout that time I learned not only a load of things about him but many things about the history of the village as well. He taught photography at a school in NY and claims to know several famous film makers and actors, including Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese. Robert was the one who convinced Candido to move to NY, and I've heard stories of the pair of them practicing for De Niro's role in Taxi Driver.

His father was born in Montefegatesi, and his father before that. During WWII his father was a partisan in the Italian resistance to the war. In the midst of the war his father returned to their family home in the village to hide. Nazi soldiers came knocking on their door, telling them that unless their father surrendered - they would all be killed. Hiding in the basement, his father heard the threats and gave him self up, later to be shot in the village square in front of family and friends. His friend, Christopher King, liked the story and decided to shoot a short film in the village based off it. One night we settled down with our standard glass of wine and assortment of cheese and watched it. I've been racking my brain for the last 5 minutes and can not remember what the name of it was. It was fun to watch because it was filmed throughout the village and in Candido's current home.

I learned that the root word of Montefegatesi - fegato, means "liver".  and how Montefegatesi was named after the deep red color of the rocks in the area.

I almost didn't see Candido before I left. I had attempted visiting him a few times and he was never home. The morning of my departure I somehow found 5 minutes to walk to his humble abode prepared to burst into tears if he wasn't there. I didn't even have enough time to sit down, but I made sure to give him the biggest hug I could manage. I thanked him so much for letting me hang out with him, I wanted to make sure he knew how big of an impacted he made on me. Before I left he thanked me for, "being alive, and being myself."

Sometimes the people you'll meet make up a lot of the experiences you have, especially while traveling the world. When you make connections that are undeniably deep and beyond explanation it makes you feel like a bigger part of the world. Making an impact on someone is a way of putting your footprint in the sand. 

In the film he showed us, they are casually rolling gnocci in the kitchen. I begged Candido to teach me how and arranged for a few of us workawayers to make dinner together. Definitely one of my favorite memories, and something free to take home :) I was well drunk by the time the serious gnocci production started, so that part I have had some trouble recreating. I am making progress though. The sauce on the other hand... oh I make a mean sauce. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Listen here, Lisboa

Lisbon, Portugal

Decided to travel to Portugal instead of spending more time in Italy. Mike and I spent a few days in Lisbon, roaming the streets while trying to stay cool during the day and drinking as much wine at night while weaving in and out of the streets of Bairro Alto. The hostel we were staying at, Equity Point, had no air conditioning. The room was pretty hot, not gonna lie. We made it work though. Sleeping outside on a couch tucked away in a corner on the patio made for a refreshing first night. The other few nights were survived by sleeping in my underwear, with no covers. We got lucky enough to not have any roommates (a huge feat, if you ask me) - or else the whole underwear thing could have been an issue. 

View from the hostel - Lisbon, Portugal
Bairro Alto - Lisbon, Portugal

Ate some of the most amazing food here - the most memorable being a prosciutto and melon salad with tomatoes and a big heaping scoop of LEMON GELATO in the middle. I'm drooling just thinking about it. It seemed like there were loads of fresh fruit smoothie and juice places, which made my heart smile. Trying the codfish while here is a necessity. It is a cultural dish, and it doesn't disappoint - especially for the seafood lovers. While walking along the Douro River in Porto I met a fisherman that told me all about Porto, back in the day. You can read about it here. Open up that Trip Advisor app and find out where you can get a decent codfish, it will be worth it!  

It's really popular to ride the Tram 28 around the city, which means it is also crowded and apparently everyone gets pick-pocketed. It was fun nonetheless, especially since it was too hot to walk around.  I absolutely loved the various ceramic tiles that you can find on almost every building and in every souvenir shop. They were all so colorful and the patterns were so fun - they really gave the city a lot of personality. They have a ceramic museum there, if you are into that type of thing.

The Bairro Alto at night is so. much. fun. This restaurant we made a pit-stop at for sangria (pretty much the only reason we every had to make a pit-stop) set a bunch of tables up on the street outside their establishment. It was a fun environment, with everyone bunched up drinking and eating - although a few times I nearly knocked over any drinks within a 3 foot radius. Everyone seemed to be very understanding of the near misses. These inclined streets are littered with bars selling cheap, cheap alcohol and delicious tapas.  There are a surplus of men offering to sell you things you will never need - sunglasses at night, drugs, mickey mouse ears; the usual. 

We ended up by Ponte 25 de Abril - A bridge that looks strikingly similar to the beloved Golden Gate Bridge. Come to find out, they were designed by the same person. Someone must have gotten lazy. There were restaurants along the waterside - all which proved to be touristy, without much to offer. We ate here anyways because we had a nice three mile walk back to the hostel ahead of us. Why we decided to walk, I don't quite remember. 

I usually prefer walking, even if there is a quick metro stop that will get me somewhere in the blink of an eye - it's ugly underground. I can't see things the same way on a crowded bus or with my nose pressed up against the window of a train. I would much rather be out in the open, walking the streets, breathing in the air. I lost weight while traveling around Europe, contrary to what I imagined would happen. I didn't have enough money to eat any more than I needed and I was walking EVERYWHERE. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A night in Bologna

Literally the only photo I took in Bologna, Italy

It's funny how things work out. The year leading up to my trip, I planned on spending the vast majority of my time in Italy. Out of my three months traveling around Europe I was there about 3 weeks and only saw Cinque Terre, Florence, Bagni di Lucca, and one night in Bologna (only because I decided to fly out early and go to Portugal).

I didn't see anywhere near as much of Italy as I would of liked, but that's the way it worked out. My wallet got pick pocketed in Florence, so I had no money to get to Rome, and no time to get to Naples or Venice. I guess I'll just have to go back, which I think I can deal with :) I'm happy with the experience I had nonetheless.

I made a last minute decision to spend the 4th of July in Lisbon, Portugal with my friend Mike. My flight departed from Bologna at 6am so it was necessary for me to get there the night before. This is where Couchsurfing saved my life.

Okay, I would have managed without it but it really made my life so much easier. Instead of checking into a hostel just to check out a few hours later felt pointless. I started sending out requests on Facebook and found an angel by the name of Alex to let me crash at his place.

He picked me up from the train station and took me to a cheap bar to eat and then walked me around Bologna. He pointed out everything and told little stories and quick histories. I also took one photo the entire time. I was apparently too busy looking and listening to worry about photos. 

We went to a small outside party, next to a pool with a DJ and loads of people just hanging out in the grass. A group of his friends met up with us, all of them incredibly nice and happy to speak in their best broken English to make me feel included. We bar hopped around for a little while, made jokes about southern American accents and talked about stereotypes of each of our cultures.


Make it a point to meet locals, it's easy. Just chat with the people that are servicing you while you are eating or buying souvenirs or asking for directions. Or if you have a question about something - NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK IT. Questions are usually the quickest way to get you to an answer, you just gotta know what you're looking for :)

Sharing organic interactions like this with people while traveling is one of my absolute FAVORITE experiences. It teaches you so much about perspective, yours as well as other's from around the world. 
I have a new understanding of America, and being American. I especially have a new desire to explore my own country more, one day. It's interesting, the things you learn unexpectedly. You gotta love life's little lessons. 

Anyways. Angel Alex gave me a lift to the airport that morning, taking loads of public transport stress off my shoulders. We still keep in touch and I hope one day we will be able to connect again!

So, a little bit of risk is all it cost me for new friends, a good story, and memories that I'll never forget. Couchsurfing isn't something that should be taken lightly, but at the same time you really just need to go for it. I'll be posting a blog eventually about being smart on Couchsurfing and how not to get hacked up :) stay posted!