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The governing force of the Italian people isn’t the Pope or the actual government. No, it’s a social norm that dictates how to dress, host, and behave in public and in social interactions called Bella Figura. Bella Figura literally means, “a beautiful figure.” The blog, Eye in Italia, wrote this about Bella Figura:

“Bella figura can mean many things, but at its core is presentation…how one looks, how one comports oneself, how one makes the best possible impression in all things. That such a concept is hardwired into the Italian psyche is no surprise: what else could be expected from a country that’s been creating beauty for centuries? Beauty is revered in Italy, whether expressed grandly through art and architecture or more simply by the perfect cut of a suit. Bella figura goes well beyond image, visual beauty and presentation…it also is defined by behavior: knowing how to properly and graciously interact with others in any social or public situation. Exhibiting good manners, tact, and gentility is an essential component of “cutting a beautiful figure”

The opposite of Bella Figura, is, of course, Brutta Figura. Carol King, in an article for Italy magazine, wrote,

“A brutta figura could be doing something that reflects poorly on your family: bad mouthing or complaining about a family member in public, even if it’s with some valid reason, is frowned upon and makes for a brutta figura. Equally, it could be inviting someone to dinner or a function that’s ill organised, or it’s when a politician makes a gaffe that reflects poorly on ‘la patria’ and embarrasses the nation in front of the rest of the world.

What’s tricky is when the desire to have a bella figura means people are too embarrassed to make a mistake. For example, Italians may be able to speak English but often are too afraid to open their mouths and have a conversation in case they fumble over their words. Yet anyone knows that to learn to speak a language is a process of trial, error and occasional funny moments when someone uses the wrong word, pronounces something in an incomprehensible fashion, and so on. Such reticence to make mistakes also strangles innovation in a country that has been traditionally known for its creativity: who wants to try something new and face the brutta figura of failure?”

Personally, I’ve always struggled with the entire concept because frankly, I have a very difficult time giving a shit about what strangers think of me. I like to dress nice, but sometimes I’m crampy, tired, sick, or too busy for heels and a full face of makeup. As a writer and storyteller, I can’t worry about what people think. If I spent all day worrying about upsetting Maria down the street or Lorenzo from the market, it would be impossible for me to get anything written. I’m also, and this might be obvious to ALL OF YOU, an open book. If you meet me in person, I will tell you everything about myself, my life, my flaws, and every dumb thing I’ve ever done since birth. I have a hard time connecting with people if I can’t be open and honest and it doesn’t occur to me to filter myself so that I look better or more impressive. And why would I want to talk about the weather when I could be asking you prying questions about your divorce? I want to talk about the real shit, not about your lasagne recipe (I love lasagne but I really don’t want to know how you made it unless you’re giving me a cooking lesson).

My husband, however, is like bella figura in carnet and this has always been a struggle for us. He’s always dressed perfectly, is gracious and polite, and will always put manners before his own comfort or even his own beliefs at times. In order to make a good impression, he won’t give his real thoughts or opinions on topics. He’s constantly embarrassed by me. Example? We went to yoga yesterday and while everyone was seated quietly waiting for the teacher to come in, I was doing a series of very weird stretches and whispering to him,

“How do I get more bendy?”

His eyes darted around and he was like, “Dude! Can you just sit down and stop putting your leg up like that!”  

I rolled my eyes, “No, I want to get bendy, damnit.”

Some love it, some hate it, but regardless of how you feel about it, it’s crucial to understand it if you plan on spending a lot of time in Italy and you’re the kind of person who wants to make a good impression. 

Examples of Bella Figura:

  • Looking your best at all times. That means approaching every day as though you’ll be on a catwalk.
  • Saying only positive, sweet things about your partner, parents, etc.  
  • Succeeding in a way that makes your family look good.
  • Throwing a successful event in which all guests were pleased and things were organized perfectly.

Examples of Brutta Figura:

  • Complaining about a family member or partner at any given time to other people.
  • Getting drunk and barfing in public.
  • Throwing an event that isn’t organized very well or where you do something that’s considered tacky (giving less money to a bride and groom at their wedding, than they gave to you at yours, for example).
  • Showing up to an event dressed inappropriately.
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Today, I’ve got something special for ya’ll, a guest post from my friend, Sarah. Sarah has been a friend and as a freelance graphic designer, we’ve worked together a lot in the past couple of years now. She’s a free-spirited and kind person who has a special eye for design and all things creative. Sarah is a bit of a wanderer, traveling frequently between Idaho, Salt Lake, and Washington state, and currently Berlin. I asked her to send me some photos from her most recent trip with her sister. So, without further ado, I give you lady Crane.
————–
I’ve spent 2 months in Berlin enjoying a cultural shift and all the many things the city has to offer. I’ve done a few quick trips out of the city but was waiting to really venture out until my sister, Mary, came to visit.
When she arrived, we headed for the vineyards of Southern Germany, the Rhineland-Palatinate & Saarland area. Noteworthy places included Rhodt unter Rietburg, Trier, and Junker Sonnenberghof Winery in Impflingen. We found some really wonderful wine varieties, I’ve never tasted anything like them. We thought we would just be wining and dining around but our lack of schedule and direction kept us lost in a beautiful way.
“After all, the beauty of being truly lost is that you don’t know you’re lost at all,” my sister turned and said to me at some point during our trip. These photos are where those lost moments took us.
Berlin Street in the Mitte Area
Top row: Left – The Altes Museum in Berlin. Right – View of Trier Bottom row: Left – Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Right – Walking patterns in Rhodt unter Rhietberg

Lorsche sunshine with a beer and view of the Rathaus in the background.

Tiny village strolling in Rhodt unter Rhietberg

Cappuccino and romantic lighting for days in Rhodt unter Rhietberg

Trifels Castle in the Annweiler area. This castle supposedly held Richard the Lionheart and the King of England.

Trier – Dom St. Peter.

Trier- St. Gangolf Church

View from Hambach Castle – Neustadt an der Weinstraße area

Sarah Crane is a freelance photographer and graphic designer currently living in Berlin. You can find her design work and photography on her website, www.skcrane.com. She’s currently accepting new clients.

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I’ve written about this before but I get a lot of questions asking for travel tips so here’s an updated post on how I personally survive long trips. I’m a wuss. I truly hate to be uncomfortable so much so that when I travel the very first things I pack are my travel robe (yeah, I have one) and travel slippers (yep, I’ve got those, too). Pretty much everyone makes fun of me for it but I’ll tell you right now, when we actually get to our destination and I’m cozy af in our apartment or hotel room, folks sing a different tune. Because of my obsession with comfort, I hate long trips because it makes your skin feel dehydrated and your legs cramp and body feels all gross and skummy, which is unfortunate because I frequently take long trips.  And because we often step off of the plane and head to see friends or wander around for a while, I’ve also become adverse to looking like a complete hobo when I travel. Trust me, a decade ago I looked like someone two years into a meth addiction, but I’m also not a goddamn Kardashian, so there’s no way in hell I’m going to force myself to wear high heels on a twelve-hour fly.  Middle ground? Yes, please.

HOW TO FEEL AMAZING ON LONG TRIPS TIPS (And Fight Jet Lag)

First thing, get a carry-on bag that you can put under the seat in front of you. Get a toiletry bag that can fit inside of it. Fill your carry-on bag (and toiletry bag) with the following things:

Overdose on Vitamins: I throw a little pill container in my bag with a multi-vitamin, a B-Complex (helps with stress), vitamin E, and Melatonin. I also take a few Emergen-C packets. Right before I board the plane, I take everything except for the Melatonin. Planes are full of germs and the poor air, altitude, and speed just jacks up your body but I’ve noticed that the vitamins really help a lot. I never get sick when I travel. When I decide to sleep on the plane, I take the Melatonin.

So Much Water: Dehydration is a real thing when you fly and those tiny cups the airline gives you isn’t going to cut it. I always travel with two empty glass or metal bottles (like these ones from S’well, I have this in black and gold). Right before I board, I fill them up and make sure to drink both of them on the flight. You’re thinking, “well that’s dumb,” but trust me, it makes such an enormous difference. I’ve noticed I sleep better, it reduces my recovery time, and I’m way less tired the next day.

Comfortable Clothes & Slippers or Socks: I always wear shoes that are easy to remove for security and that don’t require socks (like Birks, loafers, or in F’s case, boat shoes). It makes security a breeze and more importantly, as soon as I’m on the plane, I slip my shoes into a little cotton bag and put on aloe spa socks. Or, I bring slippers that roll up really small and fit in my carry-on tote. I also own a pair of Mahabis slippers that are amaaaaazing for travel (the bottom pops on and off so you can wear them in the airport, and pop the bottoms off to wear in your hotel room or apartment), but they’re a little pricey. You’re thinking, this sounds like a lot of work but once you do it, you’ll never travel a different way again. Wearing shoes for 24 hours per day feels nasty and your feet get all sweaty and it’s just gross. Slippers, however, it’s heaven on your feet (and also not as weird as walking around the plane barefoot. EW! Don’t do that!).

Neck Support, Blanket & Eye Mask: I can’t do the old-school neck pillows. They don’t work for me. What I find more helpful is this scarf support thingy that holds my head up. I don’t travel with a blanket anymore, instead, I have this long, wool cardigan sweater that I usually wear. It’s cute and works like a blanket. Francesco doesn’t get cold like I do so he just travels in a hoodie and is fine. I also bring a pressure eye mask and earplugs. They really help me sleep by blocking out the movie screens and the jet noises. The pressure eye mask is also super relaxing and reduces stress.

Book, Notebook, IPad: I try really hard to do something productive on the plane so reading, writing, or doodling are a must for me. I get super bored on flights and there are only so many movies I can watch before I start to lose my goddamn mind.

Comfortable Clothes: Francesco cares about looking put together more than I do, so I’ll start with what he usually wears: Joggers, a slip-on shoe of some sort, and matching hoodie or cardigan. I usually wear leggings, a long cotton blouse or sweater, and slip-on shoes. This is kind of what I look like, only I somehow look like a rabid honey-badger —> https://www.pinterest.com/pin/863987509737696266/

A Killer Toiletry Bag: In my carry-on tote, I have a pretty stellar toiletry bag that is filled with travel essentials. I should preface, I do this for me, I really don’t give a rats ass about arriving at my destination looking like a supermodel. I just hate feeling gross (remember, I’m a wuss). In my toiletry bag I have the following:

MILK Makeup Face Cleanser: This cleanser is a solid so it’s TSA-friendly and easy to use. You can get this at Sephora. It’s great for both men and women and it’s my go-to travel cleanser.

MILK Makeup Toner: This is also a solid and is TSA-friendly.

A Small Washcloth: I use this to remove my makeup and to clean my face in the morning.

Deodorant wipe: It’s just a nice and easy way to do a little “whore’s bath,” as my mom would call it before you land.

“Intimate Wipes”: This is a fancy way of saying, “adult baby wipes,” but honestly they’re magic. You don’t need to step off of the plane with swamp crotch. Again, “whore’s bath.”

Face oil roller: Now, you can buy this for a shitload of money from anywhere but I wouldn’t recommend it. I bought a roller at the store for 2 bucks and I make my own. My current recipe is: Half the bottle with sunflower oil, ten drops of rosehip oil, 5 drops of argan oil, 2 drops frankincense, 5 drops of rose oil. I use this as both a makeup remover oil, a moisturizer for my hands and face, and a perfume oil. My roller is small enough that’s it’s never an issue with TSA and it is a 3-1 product. If you don’t love the smell of rose (you monster!) you can use Sandlewood, Jasmin, Ylang-Ylang, or whatever you like. My husband likes Sandlewood and Cedarwood.

Toothy Tabs & Toothbrush: I used to love Lush products but I realized not that long ago that most of their products have parabens in them (it comes from oil, like the kind of oil we pump out of the ground for fuel). They’re not very great for you, so I backed off of most of their stuff. However, their Toothy Tabs are soooo great for travel. They’re solid little tabs that look like mints, you pop one in your mouth, chew it, jam your toothbrush in there and go to town, then rinse. You don’t have to mess with a tube or worry about TSA issues with too large of a tube. They’re travel magic.

Face Mask: My husband hates it when I do this but sometimes, depending on the length of the flight, I’ll bring a sheet mask or a hydrating sleep mask with me (you can put it on and leave it all night) and use it on the plane. I look like a psycho but it reduces puffiness and stops my skin from rotting off of my face. Another area where the washcloth comes in handy if you use the sheet mask. You can get sleep masks pretty much anywhere but I’d recommend the travel sizes or the sheet mask to avoid TSA issues.

Tinted Moisturizer with SPF: Often when we travel, we arrive at our destination hours before we can check-in to our apartment or hotel. This means that we spend hours wandering around the city or visiting friends and family before we’ve had a chance to shower or get ready. Because of this, I always keep some kind of tinted moisturizer with me. Once I didn’t and I GOT BURNED to shit before we checked into our hotel. It sucked. My husband has a regular moisturizer with SPF without a tint. My travel favorite is MILK’s Sunshine Tint (because it’s cruelty-free, paraben free, has SPF, is in a roller and easy to use).

Wide-Tooth Comb: After a flight, I usually look like I’ve been breakdancing on my head all night so a comb is pretty important. I occassionally braid my hair before my flight, too, to keep my hair tame and also give it a little wave for the day. But a braid also makes me feel ten, so…

And there you have it! Do you have any travel tips for looking and feeling fresh af when you travel?

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One of the most frequently asked questions I get on this blog is, “how do I blend in on my trip to Italy?” Traveling somewhere with a reputation for fashion can be a little intimidating for a lot of people. Although I have to say, you should really dress however you want because who cares what people think of you? But, if blending in is important to you, or you just really love Italian fashion, I can help you out.

It’s true that there’s a culture of beauty in Italy. The pros, everyone looks dapper as hell all the time. The cons, some could argue, is that it can create an air of, uhm, superficiality. But if you’re a creative person (like me) and aesthetics are kind of your thing, Italy is heaven for the eyes. Something that I really like about Italy is that fashion is equally important among the sexes in the boot. Unlike the US, where men can wear sacks and actually look homeless while the women are expected to look great all the time. Double standard, guys? The cultural standard in Italy is that both men and women should look their best at all times because why the hell not? Love it or hate it, that’s how it is for the most part. However, that isn’t to say that everyone complies. Plenty of Italians don’t care about fashion at all. Like everywhere, people are different.

Similar to the US, fashion changes drastically from city to city. In Milan, you’ll find more high-fashion, and a lot of people dressed more globally, taking fashion tips from New York, LA, Hong Kong, all over. In Florence, you’ll find that neutrals are a big thing and there’s a sort of bohemian chic feel for women. In Naples, you’ll find a mix of high-fashion, slim cut Italian suits, gorgeous dresses, and also a fair share of bedazzled pants and occasionally adult women wearing Disney character t-shirts. Further south? It starts to resemble L.A. a little bit because it’s on the beach.

The best way to stay up-to-date on Italian style year round is to follow Italian fashion Instagram accounts. And so, voila!

Dress Like a Local: Italian Instagram Accounts to Follow Right Now @emanuelebuono-Just getting started but he’s adorable. @nastilove-a well-known blogger with a fiery look. @Erika_boldrin– Super eclectic style I can appreciate. @giuliatordini– Model and artistic director, she’s polished and high-fashion. @eleonoracarisi-She travels quite a bit and documents her trips through fashion. @lucarubinacci-Based in Naples, his suits are famous and so much fun. @linoieluzziofficial-Amazing street style for the mature man. Keep it classy. @giannifontana-I’m obsessed with how cool his style is. @mararomrraro-Classic and kind of sexy like an Italian Bond. @filippofiora-A young, sassy man who travels. My kind of guy. @Nicolettareggio-Timeless. Any age can wear her looks and look classy af.

Did I miss anyone you love? Put it in the comments below so I can check them out.

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Hanging with locals when traveling will always make a more unique and usually more fun experience. Why? Honestly, because they can make your experience more authentic, especially if you’re traveling to a foreign country. When you show up somewhere, it’s hard to find the best things to do. Apps can be helpful, like Yelp, but let’s be honest: All of the people leaving the reviews are travelers, too. And usually (not always, but usually), their five-star review about “the incredible majestic experience of El Caliente Fun World,” is based on the fact that they were just excited to be somewhere new but they didn’t have anything to really compare their experience because it’s not their home and how could they possibly know. I can’t tell you how many tourists come to Italy with a list of things they “must,” do according to their cousin, Barb, from Florida. And the list is a bunch of weirdly touristy things that couldn’t possibly be further from where the locals eat, drink or socialize. Seriously, someone once told me that their friend told them to “eat dinner at BLANKETY BLANK in the Duomo Piazza in Florence!” and I kind of threw up in my mouth a little. Because in that Piazza, there is only ONE restaurant that makes good food, only one place the locals eat, and everywhere else serves actual trash food that is reheated from frozen bags they excavate from their freezer. But, how would you possibly know that if you don’t live there?

On my very first trip to Florence, my friend and I met a group of Italian guys at a local concert. We found the concert by asking a Florentine store employee what she was doing that night. The result? A whacky group of guys who were able to show us a side of Florence that we’d never have found otherwise. In fact, when I moved to Italy for school two years later, the stuff the students were doing was totally different from the stuff my Italian friends did. It’s so easy to fall into tourist traps in cities that thrive on tourism.

So, how do you make local friends and see the authentic side of any given place to get the best experience possible? Well, mostly by chatting with strangers with reckless abandon. But also, remember that people can be rapists and murderers even in pretty places like Paris or Rome (even though it does happen much less in most European countries) so have fun, open up, talk to people, but like don’t follow them alone down a dark alley at 3 a.m. Use your best judgment and the buddy system when possible. Traveling alone? Stay in well-populated areas and carry Mace (no, I’m not joking).

Go to Local Bars

A really great way to meet people is by going to local bars or finding a local concert. And I’m not talking about the dance clubs that some sketchy dude handed you a flyer for the second her heard you speak English. That place will suck, I promise you. Instead, ask a barista or a shop assistant to point you towards their favorite bar. Make sure that you emphasize that you want to go where they go, not where they think you’ll want to go. Local pubs are always a fantastic way to meet random people. I have a close English friend who I met in a pub in London ten years ago. We’re still friends, we still talk, and he still makes fun of Americans for wearing stretchy waist pants.

Get Lost

When you’ve dreamed of going somewhere like Rome or Florence, it can be really easy to get obsessed with site-seeing. And you’re thinking, yeah, of course, I have to see this, and that, and all the things I’ve read about in history books! And I agree, you should see some of that stuff for sure. But part of the beauty of travel is to actually meet the people who made all of that cool architecture, food, and art possible. What would Florence be without Florentines? And Rome without Romans? You get the idea. Leave time to wander, give yourself a half day to aimlessly walk around, have a long coffee break, go to a bar, and talk to people. Talk to your barista, your bartender, or the shop assistant. Chat with the people sitting next to you in that cute cafe in Budapest. Go ahead, they’re not going to bite (unless they’re a vampire. Possibly check mirror reflection if they seem unnaturally pale and magical to you).

Language Meetups

You can meet some pretty fun people abroad by going to a Meetup, like this one in Padova, Italy called Tea and Talkers. You show up, chat, make new friends and have tea apparently. Glorious.

Eat at a Local’s House

While you can’t just show up to someone’s house and demand they feed you while vacationing abroad, you can do the next best thing–sign up for a dinner on EatWith. Humans basically invite you over to eat in their home for a fair price. The humans are vetted (think Lyft) and you get to meet some locals, eat some delicious food, and get the details on what locals do in the city you’re visiting.

Blogs

Reading blogs, like this one, is an excellent way to explore a city through the eyes of a local person. Sure, there are a few blogs out there that care more about curating a pretty Instagram (this isn’t a dis, I love these blogs, too, but for different reasons) than helping you to have an authentic experience but it’s easy to tell the difference between a person just passing through and writing blips about their trip and a person who knows the place decently well and has spent a good amount of time there.

Instagram and Facebook

There is a shitload (actual scientific measurement) of amazing Travel Instagram accounts out there. Some are enormous and others are not. Honestly, the smaller accounts are more useful for you as a traveler. Follow them, share their stuff, make friends and chat a little. In no time, you can spark up a friendship and they might be willing to meet up with you when you’re in their city. I’ve met some pretty great people through my FB page and would def hang out with them if given the chance. Now, if you write someone and they don’t reply back in a timely manner, don’t get mad. I try to reply back to every email I receive and sometimes it takes me MONTHS to get back to people. Not because I’m an asshole but because I get a lot of emails and just honestly can’t get to people fast enough.

Tinder

I have expat friends who love Tinder for meeting potential partners and friends alike. And one of my fave people in the world met ALL of his Italian friends on Grindr (so, so many friends). Again, be safe, but sometimes these dating apps can be a really fun way to meet people. It’s especially fun if you’re traveling with a friend and you guys can do a double date. Safety in numbers! But also, have a great time! Traveling alone? Again, just meet in a very public place ideally during the day like for lunch. And, avoid being alone with that person until you know them better.

And there you go! How do you meet locals abroad? Share your stories, tips, and tricks in the comments below.

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Last year, Cocoa Laney, a photographer working towards her MFA in Florence, Italy, took a trip that took a turn for the worst: Her boyfriend broke up with her in airport security, she nearly died in Cinque Terre, Italy, she found herself nude in a cave in Croatia surrounded by gawking tourists and after being robbed, found herself broke and stranded in a Holiday Inn in Greece.

 

Tune in to my latest podcast episode, Bad Travel: Dumped, Naked, and Broke with Cocoa Laney, to hear Cocoa’s honest, and hilarious account of a dream trip gone horribly wrong.
About Cocoa Laney
Cocoa Laney is a photographer and second-year MFA candidate at Studio Arts College International in Florence. You can see her work at cocoalaney.com and follow her on Instagram at @cocoalaney.
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There are a lot of people out there who dream of a trip that they believe is unattainable. “One day I’ll visit Italy before I die,” or “My dream is to visit the country my family is from.” Traveling can be costly and it’s time-consuming but with a few tricks and tips, absolutely everyone can make it happen. You just need to plan a little. You’re thinking, “yeah, but I don’t have the money and can barely pay my bills.” Trust me, as a person who has been broker than broke before and still managed to travel to Europe when I could barely pay my rent, there are ways to make it happen.

Make a Real Plan: Believe that you’re going to do it and make a solid plan and make it in advance. Plan out everything you want to do with the exception of marking the exact dates. “In 2019, I will go to Italy for seven days.” Write it all down, make a “to-do” list of what you’ll need and plan to take a week for off for it. Create a Pinterest board of things you want to see on your trip and the cities you want to stay in. Print out pictures and put it somewhere you can see it with post-its that say things like, “you’re fucking going.” The more you plan it, the more likely you are to actually do it.

Be Flexible with Dates: Timing is everything if you want to find cheap tickets. The most costly way to travel is to decide where you want to go and which month you need to do it and search out tickets for that time frame. Example: I’d like to go to Italy in July in 2018. If you do it this way, you’re going to pay out of your ass for tickets. The best way to travel is to have an idea of where you want to go and be flexible with your travel dates. That way, you can monitor tickets and look for extreme dips in prices. The other day I found RT tickets to Europe from SLC for $400 dollars. You heard that right. Save up money, and start monitoring tickets. There are a number of apps and websites that make doing this very easy (I’m writing a blog post about it now that will be up in a week or so). When you find a shockingly cheap ticket, buy it. In order to do this, it’s important to leave a week of vacation time open on the year you want to travel. And you’ve got to really be disciplined about not dipping into your saved trip money.

Look into Rewards Cards: If you don’t have any already, get a rewards card or two if you can qualify. I’ve written about this before but my two favorite cards are the Delta American Express and the Chase Sapphire Card. Why? You get a buttload of sign-on points for both cards. The AE covers airfare while the Sapphire covers hotels and Airbnb (as of recently you can buy Airbnb gift cards with your points). The trick to credit card points is to use the card for monthly things you already have in your budget, like grocery shopping, and pay off the card immediately. That way, you’re getting the points and paying zero interest to the credit card company. DOUBLE WIN. If you don’t have the credit for a rewards card, no worries. It won’t stop you from taking that dream trip.

Save Smart: Go over your monthly budget and see if there are any expenses you can cut like eating out with friends or those weird dog sweaters you keep buying Fido. Open a savings account at a separate bank and put whatever you can afford into that account every month. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t put a lot in right way. Every little bit adds up so if you can only save ten bucks per month at first, that’s okay. Keep your eyes peeled for side work or other opportunities to make a little extra cash here and there. Write random things for Textbroker.com or sell some of your old clothes to a second-hand shop. Finally part with those glass trinkets that grandma gave you but just isn’t your jam.

Be Open-Minded (it can save you money): Don’t be afraid to travel in a way you never have before. Open yourself up to nontraditional lodging like a hostel or couch surfing or save your points for an Airbnb. Ask friends to come with you and split the cost of a hotel room or apartment. Sometimes, people think they can only travel under perfect circumstances and that’s just not true. You don’t need to stay in a nice hotel to have a good time. I once stayed in a hostel in Ireland with 12 other women (in bunk beds in one room) and while the entire thing sounded absolutely miserable before I arrived, it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. I also know a couple who are in their fifties, a husband and wife, who travel the world together and only stay in hostels. It’s how they afford to do cool shit all the time.

Ask for Travel Instead of Shoes for Holidays: Ask for travel-related things for your birthday and Christmas. Ask for Airbnb gift cards, luggage, or use UpGift to raise funds for your amazing trip. Upgift lets friends and family gift services instead of material items, which I love because experiences are so much better than stuff (and also produce less waste). Hooray for the internet!

Change Jobs: If travel is really important to you but you just can’t swing it financially, get a job that provides travel perks. Airlines, travel agencies, hotels, all have travel perks that can put you that much closer to your travel goals.

Whatever your travel goal is, you can make it happen with a little tenacity, some creativity, and a killer rewards card.

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Surviving in Italy by M.e. Evans - 5M ago

There’s something about getting out into the world that changes you. It’s hard to hold onto bigotry or ego when you’re experiencing new people and finding yourself just a small speck in the world. I feel like with every trip I learn something new about myself, I grow or shrink, depending on the experience, but in the end, I’m always changed and that change is eventually good. Travel has, without a doubt, made me a better version of myself a thousand times over. And I think this is one of the reasons I love it so much: It’s accidental progress. Travel has forced me to evolve even if I didn’t mean to in a number of ways.

Travel has helped me to understand that I can’t control everything all the time and I just need to learn to be okay with it. I can’t control the weather and my flights might be late. I can’t control that one drunk pilot who just hasn’t shown up to fly the plane, and I can’t control the baby next to me that will not stop launching it’s dinosaur binky onto my laptop every five goddamn minutes. It’s a constant lesson in letting go and reframing the way that I think about things. I could lose my shit entirely, but that’s just miserable for everyone. Or, I can read a book, watch some people, take some notes, and just let things fall into place as they will eventually. The plane will eventually take off, the pilot might sober up, and the baby will fall asleep (possibly after the parents drug it with baby Benadryl). In the same vein, I’ve learned to be vulnerable. I might not know a language or the customs, I might look stupid or make mistakes, but it’s okay. In the end, the adventure is worth the moments I don’t have control over my life.

Being among people of other cultures has enriched my life in so many ways I can’t possibly even name them all. A Spanish friend taught me how to Flamenco dance in my kitchen in Florence during the summer one year, we have a Thai bidet in our bathroom in Salt Lake City, my husband and I celebrate Yalda, Noruz, Befana, and the change in seasons from the Persian and Roman influences in our families. I learned about Nutella on the floor of a tiny apartment in Paris with a French girl and her neighbors who also taught me about community. I’ve learned about what it means to be family in Italy (and how to create boundaries without resentment), how to savor food in the south of France, how to embrace my body on a nude beach in Spain. On every trip I’ve ever taken, I’ve left a piece of myself behind and replaced it with an idea or a lesson or an experience I’ve learned along the way.

I don’t know anything and every place in the world is both terrible and wonderful at the same time. As an American, I was raised with the idea that my country is the absolute best in all the universe. It’s practically pounded into us as children and while there are a million things I love about my homeland, my travels have taught me that every place in the world has its strengths and weaknesses. There’s no such thing as a perfect country (not yet) and you can find beauty everywhere. The more you see in the world, the less sure I am of anything, and the less I feel like I know about the universe.

War is unacceptable. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dive into politics here but for me this is true. The more you travel, the more people you meet in other places, you see that everyone is the same even if we are different. We all love our families, we all love our children, we mourn, we celebrate, and we’re all concerned with health, happiness, bettering our lives, and cherishing our family pets. If you’ve ever talked politics with people in other countries, they’re just as trapped in a system as we are. If our leaders decided to go to war, there’s nothing we could do about it and very few of us are responsible for their decisions. When you step out of your bubble and see that other people are just like you, the idea of war, of fighting, of the dead and the wounded, the widows, the fallen innocent, hurts and horrifies in a way that it didn’t when people were across the globe just nameless and faceless.

I feel like travel has made me more bold, open, and definitely more cultured. I’m also possibly more interesting at dinner parties with stories like, “that one time I drunkenly talked my way onto a French Cruise ship at 3 a.m.” Travel has helped me to become a better version of myself and I wouldn’t trade the experiences travel has given me or life lessons it’s taught me for anything.

So here’s to those with wanderlust, to wearing your adventure panties, to taking the dive into the unknown towards growth.

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Surviving in Italy by M.e. Evans - 6M ago

There’s something about getting out into the world that changes you. It’s hard to hold onto bigotry or ego when you’re experiencing new people and finding yourself just a small speck in the world. I feel like with every trip I learn something new about myself, I grow or shrink, depending on the experience, but in the end, I’m always changed and that change is eventually good. Travel has, without a doubt, made me a better version of myself a thousand times over. And I think this is one of the reasons I love it so much: It’s accidental progress. Travel has forced me to evolve even if I didn’t mean to in a number of ways.

Travel has helped me to understand that I can’t control everything all the time and I just need to learn to be okay with it. I can’t control the weather and my flights might be late. I can’t control that one drunk pilot who just hasn’t shown up to fly the plane, and I can’t control the baby next to me that will not stop launching it’s dinosaur binky onto my laptop every five goddamn minutes. It’s a constant lesson in letting go and reframing the way that I think about things. I could lose my shit entirely, but that’s just miserable for everyone. Or, I can read a book, watch some people, take some notes, and just let things fall into place as they will eventually. The plane will eventually take off, the pilot might sober up, and the baby will fall asleep (possibly after the parents drug it with baby Benadryl). In the same vein, I’ve learned to be vulnerable. I might not know a language or the customs, I might look stupid or make mistakes, but it’s okay. In the end, the adventure is worth the moments without constant control over my life.

Being among people of other cultures has enriched my life in so many ways I can’t possibly even name them all. A Spanish friend taught me how to Flamenco dance in my kitchen in Florence during the summer one year, we have a Thai bidet in our bathroom in Salt Lake City, my husband and I celebrate Yalda, Noruz, Befana, and the change in seasons from the Persian and Roman influences in our families. I learned about Nutella on the floor of a tiny apartment in Paris with a French girl and her neighbors who also taught me about community. I’ve learned about what it means to be family in Italy (and how to create boundaries without resentment), how to savor food in the south of France, how to embrace my body on a nude beach in Spain. On every trip I’ve ever taken, I’ve left a piece of myself behind and replaced it with an idea or a lesson or an experience I’ve learned along the way.

I don’t know anything and every place in the world is both terrible and wonderful at the same time. As an American, I was raised with the idea that my country is the absolute best in all the universe. It’s practically pounded into us as children and while there are a million things I love about my homeland, my travels have taught me that every place in the world has its strengths and weaknesses. There’s no such thing as a perfect country (not yet) and you can find beauty everywhere. The more you see in the world, the less sure I am of anything, and the less I feel like I know about the universe.

War is unacceptable. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dive into politics here but for me this is true. The more you travel, the more people you meet in other places, you see that everyone is the same even if we are different. We all love our families, we all love our children, we mourn, we celebrate, and we’re all concerned with health, happiness, bettering our lives, and cherishing our family pets. If you’ve ever talked politics with people in other countries, they’re just as trapped in a system as we are. If our leaders decided to go to war, there’s nothing we could do about it and very few of us are responsible for their decisions. When you step out of your bubble and see that other people are just like you, the idea of war, of fighting, of the dead and the wounded, the widows, the fallen innocent, hurts and horrifies in a way that it didn’t when people were across the globe just nameless and faceless.

I feel like travel has made me more bold, open, and definitely more cultured. I’m also possibly more interesting at dinner parties with stories like, “that one time I drunkenly talked my way onto a French Cruise ship at 3 a.m.” Travel has helped me to become a better version of myself and I wouldn’t trade the experiences travel has given me or life lessons it’s taught me for anything.

So here’s to those with wanderlust, to wearing your adventure panties, to taking the dive into the unknown towards growth.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE! Thank you, a million times, for supporting me here, for commenting, sharing my stories and yours, showing up, and being a part of this journey with me. YOU ARE THE BEST AND I CANNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH!

2017 was an incredible year in a lot of ways. I had some personal setbacks, recovered from a nervous breakdown, and all of that fun stuff. But, all of that panic, fear, depression, and tears triggered a lot of introspection, inspired me to get help, and now I’d say I’m the healthiest and possibly the happiest I’ve ever been. I learned a lot about myself and grew a lot as a human being. I learned how to communicate better and because of this, I will not kill my husband by way of fork anytime soon.

I have no idea what I’m doing here but there was vodka. Happy New Year!

I traveled, so much, had a wonderful time and will be eternally thankful for the experiences I had on my journeys. I went to New York, Las Vegas, Italy, Hawaii, Salem, and Boston, just to name a few. I checked a number of things off of my bucket list, bought a wand in a wand shop in Salem, meditated on the beach in Hawaii, and thanked the universe for blessing me with the ability to see so much of the world and meet so many interesting people.

You guys know me. I basically travel to stalk humans in the world. I love watching people.

This is kind of how I ended up launching my travel podcast, Bad Travel. I love stories, I love to travel, I’m completely fascinated by people. Put that all together with my whacko sense of humor and you get a podcast about shitty travel experiences. No, it’s not Eat, Pray, Love. It’s better. It’s a great way to laugh with others, to relate to less than ideal circumstances, and to learn above all what NOT to do when jet-setting.

But 2017 is over. It’s come to an end and with that brings a new year, new goals, new hopes, new dreams, and new travel experiences. And, hopefully, a newer improved M.E.

My Travel Bucket List For 2018
  • Croatia: I’ve been all over Europe and have somehow still not been to Croatia. This must change.
  • Iceland: How have I never stepped foot on the land that created Bjork?
  • Maui: I can’t get enough of Hawaii. It’s like a magical paradise of calm beauty that reminds us of what the world could be like if we stopped mucking it up.
  • Dana Point, CA: Ladies trip mutha fuckas! I can’t wait to enjoy some sun and the CA cool with some of the greatest women in my life. Ladies I met in my weird journey in Italy during graduate school.
  • Road Trip Through the Southern United States: You guys, I’ve NEVER been to the south. And I’m dying to visit New Orleans, South Carolina, Atlanta, the works! There’s so much to see and so little time. It has to be a road trip.
  • Milan: I’ve never spent much time in the north of Italy but I’d like to (possibly) live in Milan in the future so, naturally, I need to stalk it out. Who wants to hang with me in Milano? Do some shopping? Take photos of humans? Wine? Things?
  • Argentina: I want to take tango lessons in Argentina. It’s a thing I must do and I can’t explain why. I WILL DO IT.
  • New York: Always on my list
  • Florence & Rome: Also, always on my list because of FAMILY and well we spend a ton of time in Italy.

What about you guys? Where do you want to go, see, do? Tell me in the comments below! I want to know everything about your travel dreams for 2018! They can be as realistic or fanciful as you want. Dream big, yall (I’m practicing for my road trip).

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