Episode #4: Souvenirs

Intro

I’m sure what I am about to say could be psychoanalyzed, but I enjoy shopping.  I think it is probably the most enjoyable while traveling. Over the years, I’ve learned to become a more purposeful shopper.  I’d rather fill my house with items that mean something to me rather than something that was at Target or Ikea, and it simply filled the space.  Today, I hope to share my shopping wisdom with you.

As you travel, you will find lots of souvenir shops with tacky key chains and shot glasses.  You can buy those kind of souvenirs too, but it is going to end up just being “stuff” that you have.  I try to find souvenirs that can be passed down–either the physical item itself or the memory of it. These long-term souvenirs will hold greater value to you or the recipient.

Today’s list is an assortment of 17 different items that you may want to be on the lookout for during your trip.  Not every item on this list will apply to every place you go, but pick and choose what you like.

List

  1. Take advantage of the local crafts.

    1. Sometimes when you visit a place, there are certain crafts they may be known for.  When we were in Poland, I fell in love with Polish Pottery. The colorful patterns are a distinctive design to Poland.  It is much more exciting to get out my coffee and creamer set when it brings up memories of being in old town Warsaw. At times, it can be difficult to bring these items home.  We made use of the Polish Postal service to send home our goods. Although it took about 4 months for us to get our package, we only spent about $40 to get it home. You may want to consider creative ways to transport your souvenirs.  Sometimes the local craft may be a traditional piece like the Polish pottery, or it could be more modern. When my dad was on a road trip with his father-in-law, visiting our genealogical past, he found an artist that made necklaces out of broken porcelain.  I think what is so enjoyable about these types of gifts are that they are one-of-a-kind.
  2. See the art, buy the art print.

    1. This is probably the souvenir I purchase most often. I usually try to stick with just carry on luggage, so I don’t have much space for extras. By getting a poster tube, I can find multiple prints and keep them safely rolled and stowed away in the side pocket of my bag. The only issue with this becomes that my husband and I are fighting for wall space in our house. If you are looking for reasonable frames to showcase your new art, I recommend visiting IKEA, or using Snap frames as an affordable option. One of my favorite prints came from a bouquiniste while strolling along the Seine River in Paris. For less than $10 I found two prints that embodied haute couture, and it is a fun little surprise to see these prints when I go to grab a scarf since they are displayed right above my collection.  If you are really trying to be frugal, buy a calendar. I’ve been known to rip out each month and make a gallery wall out of it. When I was in the Cinque Terre in Italy, I found an artist who made a calendar out of his paintings. Just like that, I had twelve prints to create a cohesive wall of art. Sometimes I catch myself sitting on the couch, as I’m lost in thought, staring at my print and being drifted away.
  3. Bring the smells home.

    1. I’m sure you’ve experienced it.  You are walking along, minding your own business, and then you smell something, and immediately you have been transported through time and space to whatever moment is stored in your memory bank.  Thanks to the olfactory bulb, messages are sent to areas in our brain that hold memories and emotions. Sometimes those memories are thanks to travel. If I happen to be in a place that has a distinct smell, I try to capture that with a souvenir.  While in Provence, France, lavender was queen. At one little shop, I found fresh-made lavender scented soaps. As if a bath wasn’t relaxing enough, lavender scented soaps made it all the more serene. Even if it is not a scent you bring home, hold onto that memory.  At one of our apartments we stayed at, there was a strong garlic aroma lingering in the hallway. Even something as simple as roasting some garlic at home can take me back.
  4. Read between the lines, and buy a book.

    1. There are several different approaches you can take with this souvenir.  Maybe it is just a hip bookstore, and you want to remember it by picking up a book of your choice.  Shakespeare and Company is a great example of this. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast called to me from the shelves.  Buying it and reading it while in Paris made the book come more alive.  Perhaps a book in a foreign language is to your liking. Although you may not be able to comprehend these books as well, it can be an opportunity to learn more of the language.  My aunt has been working on her French by reading Harry Potter in French. I have ambitions to do the same with Le Petit Prince. Or, maybe the cuisine of your travels is something you’d like to bring to your kitchen.  Cookbooks are special additions to your library. I have cookbooks from New Orleans that have taught me how to make jambalaya just right. If you get a chance to pick up a new read, picking it up during travels might be the right move.
  5. Get a doggy bag.  Bring home food or drinks that left an impact.

    1. Have you ever had a taste of something, and having it once just wasn’t enough.  On almost every trip I take, there is a food that I fall in love with, and I need to have it again to survive.  You can take a cooking class to learn the recipe, or you can bring home key ingredients. You’ll want to look online to make sure you are not smuggling back illegal foods, but typically canned and packaged goods are fine.  Alcohols are okay as long as you check them since they surpass the 3 oz maximum for liquids. When you actually go to enjoy the samples you brought back, make a big deal out of it. Invite people over to share the food and beverage with others. Some of my favorite souvenirs I’ve brought home are Toc Cheese Crackers, Super Sur Sour Candy, and many wines.
  6. Scoop up some sand or rocks.
    1. I’m not saying you should go chisel a piece off Stonehenge.  People have done that before, but our intent is not to be destructive.  While you are out, see if there are any unique rocks to bring home. In Petoskey, Michigan, I was on the hunt for a Petoskey stone.  And I actually found one! Make sure you aren’t accidentally bringing home chunks of concrete. When I am at a beach, I take a water bottle and add some sand.  Grab a couple shells and sea glass if you see it. My father-in-law is the king of “can you bring me back a rock?” It is just a natural way of bringing a place home.  When you do get home, I recommend writing on the rock where it is from. Otherwise you just have a big collection of rocks from somewhere.
  7. Hold onto those glass bottles.

    1. Recycling, or repurposing can not only be a gift to yourself, but also to the planet. While traveling, you may notice that glass bottles are more prevalent.  A simple water bottle can become a great way to store sand or transform into a makeshift vase. While in Venice, I saved my aunt’s Campari bottle to store little pebbles I found.  How many times do you see something at the store with writing in a foreign language? This is a way to make your own version with something relatable.
  8. Take photographs and film videos.

    1. I know this one is kind of obvious, but it is my favorite memento, so I have to share it.  This one doesn’t necessarily cost money, which is nice. The key is to do something with your photos.  Make a video montage, frame some of your favorites, or check out my Etsy store at Liberated Traveler to get some other ideas on how to creatively capture your travels.  Not that I’m trying to promote myself. In the future, I will share a podcast with you about how to take better travel photos.
  9. Play that funky music.
    1. Finding music to bring home started with my first trip abroad.  I was fourteen years old and headed to Ireland on a ladies trip with my mom, grandmother, and aunts.  While out shopping, I found a CD with classic Irish pub music. When I got home, I really missed being in Ireland.  The first signs of wanderlust were sinking in. There were so many nights I laid in bed with my headphones in, listening to Whisky in the Jar.  That started my obsession with bringing back music.  Sometimes I go to a music store to find the top billboard CD’s and pick one.  Other times I go to a concert and pick up a CD at the end. I’ve even been known to use the app Soundhound to find the title for a song playing at the bar.  With apps like Spotify, it is even easier to make a playlist of your favorites.
  10. Pick up some new threads.
    1. I typically avoid buying clothing unless it is something unique to the place.  I’m not against going shopping during the Soldes in Paris (which are their bi-annual sales), but usually I am looking for something I can’t get at home.  I’ve bought scarves, shoes, skirts, and even sweatshirts when a place is colder than I anticipated. It is kind of fun when someone says, I like your scarf.  Where did you get it? And you get to respond with, oh, I bought this in southern France. Something to think about.
  11. Get some bling.  
    1. If you are lucky, you are visiting a place with a distinct kind  of jewelry style. In Poland, amber is the way to go. With the Catholic influence, I knew a cross made out of amber was the perfect gift for my Polish grandma.  Don’t just buy jewelry because. Make sure you are seeking quality.
  12. Drape your home with linens.
    1. Some places you go will have distinct patterns or types of fabrics.  If that is the case, it might be a good idea to bring home some linens.  I have tablecloths and placemats from Provence that go out in the Spring and the vibrant colors repress the winter blues.  Little kitchen towels with sweet phrases make cleaning up not such a chore. I also enjoy buying fabric to later be used for a multitude of purposes.  My aunts have been kind enough to make napkins for me out of fabrics from travels. There are many options for how you can make use of this souvenir.
  13. Decorate your home with your travels.
    1. You probably won’t see pictures of my house in Better Homes and Gardens, but it is a perfect mashup of my husband and I.  The largest influence in our design is our travels. It might be a lamp we bought in Columbus, Ohio from a Turkish store, or a decorative antique tray for the kitchen.  I am excited to take a road trip this summer because I feel like I don’t buy much for the garden since it is typically not compact and customs doesn’t really like it when you bring back live plants.  This is a way to surround yourself with memories.
  14. Make way for new traditions.
    1. While traveling you will notice that overall, humans are pretty similar.  Something that makes each culture stand out is its traditions. Purchasing the little Swedish gnome known as a Tomte protects our farm which is a plot of about 8 tomato plants, 2 varieties of lettuce, some herbs, cucumbers and zucchini.  This is just one way we’ve brought in a new tradition.
      If you are like the Italians, you’ll leave out some wine and food to feed the witch known as Befana as she drops off candy for the kids in stockings on January 6th.  Perhaps you’d like to make some of these cultural traditions part of your own.
  15. Get accustomed to other cultural customs.
    1. Building on traditions, you may also want to bring home the souvenir of customs.  As you visit new places, you will see that they sometimes perform events in life a certain way.  Maybe you’d like to treat your family to a standard Italian five-course meal. Start with an aperitivo which is a drink to warm up your appetite.  Feed that appetite with the antipasto first. Next, you will be ready for the primo. This is the pasta part of the dish. It is interesting how it is served separately for the main course.  The secundo is next. This is the meat dish. After you’ve filed yourself with that, it is time for the contorno which is the veggie dish. If your sweet tooth has been calling, the dolce is next.  Then of course, you should probably have a coffee, too. Finally, you will finish with a digestive to help the meal go down. If this sounds like too much, go for an afternoon fika, which is a Swedish coffee and  pastry. My husband has found a way to bring this into his teaching life by calling the students’ snack time a fika. No coffee for them, though.
  16. Seek and send postcards.
    1. This is a classic. I think writing postcards is more important than ever because it is one of the few forms of writing that I still do. When I receive a postcard from a far off land, I feel loved because that person took time from their getaway to think about me. A couple of twists that I have seen with postcards are writing one to yourself. My aunt introduced me to the idea of a postcard journal. Write to yourself about your adventures, send them, then put them together in a scrapbook or keepsake of some sort. I can see this being a great idea for kids. It allows them to write without having to put down a whole novel, and hopefully it would be something they cherish later. Another idea my father-in-law mentioned was purchasing postcards from an antique store, finding vintage versions, then take them with you to use and send. Your trip will be encapsulated in a new way.
  17. Knowledge is power.  Bring it back.
    1. I have saved the best for last.  The ultimate gift you can give yourself on a trip is the knowledge you have gained.  If a vacation is planned well, you will come back with a greater wisdom about the world we live in.  You will hopefully feel more connected to people, and empowered by the experiences you had. These are the true souvenirs that have left a life-long impact on me.

 

Hopefully, the next time you are out and about shopping for souvenirs, you’ll have some guidance to help you make rewarding choices.

 

I’d love to hear about your favorite souvenirs.  Please visit my website liberatedtraveler.com to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

 

Episode #3: Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Denmark

Intro

I first met the city of Copenhagen in 5th grade while reading the novel, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  Even then I was amazed at how put together Denmark seemed to be.  Whether it was attributed to their push for equal rights or their active fight to protect the Jews, it was a place I knew I wanted to visit in the future.

Twenty years later, I was finally able to visit Copenhagen during my honeymoon.  We planned a Scandinavian getaway, and this was the city I was most looking forward to visiting.  Denmark has ranked near the top of the World’s Happiest Places list for many years, and I wanted to see what the Danish did to make them so darn happy.  Perhaps there would be a way I could incorporate that into my own way of life. Of course, it’s not that easy since I don’t control the government, and this seems to be a big stakeholder in providing happiness.  Imagine that. But, never fear, I did gather some insights to bring home.

Since I shared this experience with someone who is pretty important to me, I thought it would be advantageous to include his perspective.  Nothing like putting the husband to work. His name is Michael, and he has some great insights to share. Stay tuned for his input.

Together, we have compiled a list of ten moments to induce liberated travel.  So, let’s begin.

List

  1. Stay in the old port of Nyhavn.

    1. This is the neighborhood we called home.  The colorful harbor may seem like a tourist trap, but it was a perfect place to make our base.  If you’ve ever seen a picture of Copenhagen, this is probably the place it was taken. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating around here, but the central location made for a great place to start each morning.  Several of the items on this list were just a bike ride away from our hotel. Being a photographer, I especially appreciated being able to get out before anyone else, and imagine this historic port as it was back in the 1600’s with the sailors and ladies of the night welcoming them for a drink and a bit more.
    2. So, Michael, what are your thoughts?  Nyhavn is a bit touristy, would you recommend staying there?  I guess it depends on what you’d like to experience in the city. I can see why it has a “touristy” vibe at times, however there are things about this area that if done correctly can still be a unique and authentic Danish experience. For example, sitting by the pier and docks enjoying a beer in Nyhavn’s touristy places can seem expected from someone who is visiting the picturesque scene, however enjoying a relaxed conversation with someone accompanied by a delicious beverage and taking it easy is all part of the Scandinavian experience – it is the way that Danes (as well as adjacent Scandinavian countries) live their lives. The streets and pedestrian walkways might be a bit crowded at times with people who are not native at all to the area, but if you learn to appreciate what originally made it such a hot spot of the city in the first place and take in the environment above the other aimlessly ambling tourists, you can enjoy the place itself and not just what you might see on the surface or pushed into the storefront windows of souvenir shops. For me, riding my rented bike through this area and learning how to correctly navigate through the streets as a part of the regular traffic is what made me feel a little more connected with the area rather than just another tourist. Plus, the hotel that we stayed at was a nice local and historic spot in Nyhavn which also made us not feel as much as visitors, but more part of the culture. We had traditional Danish breakfasts there and were able to talk with the people at the front desk who knew everything about the city and made great recommendations for how get to the places that we researched ahead of time that makes Copenhagen special. I would certainly recommend staying in Nyhavn, just make sure to embrace the philosophy of experiencing the area and culture for what it is, not just what the pandering shop keeps expect you to see.
  2. Get your beer and BBQ fix with Warpigs.

    1. I didn’t start drinking beer until I met my husband, and now I am cursed with going to craft breweries and drinking flights of beer.  It is a pretty tough life, but I’m managing. I had kind of heard of Warpigs before we left, but it was my husband that was the expert on this matter.  I figured, he is the one who taught me how to love beer, so I trusted his guidance in visiting this brewery. We were definitely not disappointed. Although it took some unique navigating to find the hidden golden brew, we prevailed.  
    2. Michael, what makes Warpigs such a well-known brewery?  Being a craft beer enthusiast, my introduction to Warpigs brewery started off by just hearing about it in the craft beer community. People would always be talking about it and whenever it would be available in the states (whether at a liquor store for purchase or at a restaurant or bar), people seemed to lose their minds to get their hands on it and would soon be sold out. Based on my observation of this high demand, I kept my eyes open for whenever I would have the opportunity for me to get my hands on some. Once I finally did, I could see what all the fuss was about. Not only is their beer great and vast in regards to their different styles, but also after learning more about the history of the brewery and it’s beginnings as the collaboration of the Danish brewery, Mikeller and Indiana’s own 3 Floyds Brewery, has a strong foot in the door of the craft beer community. Anyone who is into craft beers knows at least one, if not both of these renowned breweries and their team-up to form Warpigs is just as big. The collaboration between these two separate, yet somehow strangely similar breweries have created Warpigs which has expanded from their starting point in Copenhagen, now to new Warpigs brewpubs in the U.S.. The Warpigs Brewpub in Copenhagen is a large industrial looking establishment, with a large variety of great beers, accompanied by an absolutely amazing menu of BBQ style food served from their in-house butcher station! A great place to eat and enjoy a great beer!
  3. Experience it all at the Glyptotek.

    1. I am a sucker for art museums, especially when filled with nude marble statues.  It is kind of funny because I’ve been exposed to this kind of art so much, that I forget some people may think it is taboo.  I was going to show some pictures to my 5th grade students, and I remembered that our culture has a little bit more censorship with nudity, even when it is art.  What I appreciate so much about marble sculpture is the ability to capture emotion, movement, and just the overall realism. Something the Glyptotek has done very well to showcase the art is providing a stark contrast for the background.  The walls are painted bold shades of blue to really make the marble stand out. As if this weren’t enough, the Glyptotek is home to mummies, a cafe, paintings, and gardens.
    2. There is more to appreciate about this museum besides its collections.  Can you tell us a little more about the Glyptotek museum? How did it get started?  I was not really very familiar with the Glyptotek museum before going to Copenhagen, but I was familiar with the founder of it, or at least the other part of his life that he was known for before the opening of the museum. Segwaying from the last question, I suppose it all starts with beer. The founder and proprietor of the Glyptotek museum was Carl Jacobsen, famous Danish brewer and son of the founder of the famous Carlsburg brewery in Denmark. Before going to Copenhagen, this was the extent of my knowledge on Carl Jacobsen, but after my time in Denmark I was fortunate enough to learn a lot more about him beyond the beer. While we understood that it was an art museum that we were interested in visiting during our time in Copenhagen from our research before leaving for the trip, it wasn’t until we actually stepped inside that we realized how great of a place it actually is. In fact, despite being two art enthusiasts, we had originally planned on being there for only a couple hours because we wanted to make sure that we had time for other things. However, after realizing what we had really stumbled upon at the Glyptotek museum, we actually found ourselves there for almost double the time, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way! What makes this museum so great is the environment it evokes when walking through it’s many vast exhibits – all encompassing a different theme, but maintaining their own unique intrigue. During our self-guided tour of the museum, not only did we get to see amazing pieces but we also learned about the very unique history of the museum. The best description of its origins can be found on the museum’s very informative website: “Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek was founded by the brewer, Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914), who was one of the great industrial magnates of the 19th century and the greatest art patron Denmark has seen. Carl Jacobsen was a passionate collector. From the profits generated by his brewery Ny Carlsberg, he built a rich collection of art and cultural artifacts. In 1888 Carl Jacobsen gave his art collection to the public and began the building of Glyptoteket to house it. Another exceptional donation followed in 1899, this time of the master brewer’s vast collection of antiquities, which lead to the building of an entire new wing to the new museum.
      Glyptoteket has been open to the public since 1897 and holds over 10,000 works primarily divided between ancient antiquities and Danish and French sculpture and painting from the 19th century.”  This museum is a must see for anyone interested in sculpture, painting, or historical relics. The beautiful ambiance of the museum will elicit feelings of creativity and cultural appreciation, while sipping on your favorite Carlsberg brew served at it’s bistro-like cafe within.
  4. Be a peddler.  That is, bike your way around town.

    1. Biking is the best way to get around the city.  You do need to know what you are doing though because they are serious about their biking in Copenhagen.  If you haven’t been on a bike in awhile, I recommend some basic practice before you come. We rented bikes for 24 hours and saw the city from a whole new perspective.  Everywhere that we had been before on our honeymoon was a walking city. Our feet hurt. Although walking is probably my favorite way to get around, biking is a lot more efficient while still being scenic.  
    2. What do you think are some of the benefits to renting a bike in Copenhagen?  I would say that the best benefit of renting a bike in Copenhagen is feeling as if you are a part of the culture of Copenhagen. When people think of bikes as the primary source of transportation, we mostly think of places such as China or Amsterdam, but bikes in Copenhagen are just as vital to their culture as they are anywhere else, and for good reason too. Scandinavians are a very forward thinking and progressive people, so any reason to lessen their emissions, keep healthy, and have a practical and logical way to approach a thing like transportation is something they do inherently. Plus, with the unique design of the city which includes, many pedestrian streets, piers and docks amidst the regular roads, as well as limited space for parking many vehicles, biking is truly an essential experience in Copenhagen. Plus, with biking you get to enjoy the beautiful weather (especially in the summer), and get around easily. Riding bikes in Copenhagen is really different from here in the U.S.. Due to the fact that biking is the preferred method of transportation in Copenhagen, bikes are treated as cars there in regards to security and theft. We learned that each bike in Copenhagen essentially has a VIN number attached to it, just like cars, making them all registered with the government. As such, theft of a bike in Copenhagen is almost viewed as grand theft auto in the U.S. and taken very seriously, which also means tracking down a stolen bike is something that is a little easier in Copenhagen. We rented our bikes from a very cool bike rental shop in Nyhavn where we got lots of great advice from one of the staff members on bike etiquette in Copenhagen, and were surprised to learn that locking up our bikes for the evening was simply activating a small lever on the bike wheel to lock the back wheel in place. We were told that we did not have to lock the bike up to anything like a pole or bike rack – and the next morning were happy to see our bikes right there, but this is commonplace in Copenhagen. I would highly recommend renting a bike for Copenhagen, even if it is just for a day. The prices were fairly reasonable from the place we rented from and they charged by half-days to days.
  5. Get some Copenhagen Street Food.

    1. Papiroen (paper island in English) is a warehouse filled with food trucks and vendors in shipping containers.  I’m sharing this liberated travel moment with a bit of good news and bad news. Of course, let’s start with the bad news.  Papiroen is no longer in business. But, don’t despair! There is hope. This is where the good news comes in. They have recently left their leased space for a new space with more opportunities.  Reffen hopes to go beyond food and open its doors to creative entrepreneurs. I’m actually kind of bummed we don’t get to visit the new venue.
    2. Michael, what was your favorite food you had at the Copenhagen Street Food vendor?  Oh gosh…where to start?! It’s really hard to pick one. We ate really good in Copenhagen. Although what we ate from the Copenhagen Street Food vendors was not particularly Danish, the awesome facility that all the food vendors were housed offered many different types of food. This was a great way to fill up on types foods you may be missing from home, but with it’s own unique twist, which still makes you feel like you are indulging in something special during your travel and not just gorging on something you would find at at a chain restaurant at home. For example, Mexican and Italian foods are some of my favorites, and as expected, Denmark is not full these types of restaurants, but at the Copenhagen Street Food vendors, I was able to get my fix with a special street food style twist in their take on these cuisines. Chorizo sausage, thin, brick oven pizza, and even buffalo-style chicken wings were some of the things I would be more than happy to indulge in again on a return trip to Copenhagen’s Street Food vendors.
  6. Experience, the history and humor of Rosenborg Castle.

    1. When in Europe, I try to visit at least one castle because it is simply something we don’t have here in the states.  Rosenborg castle is not the grandest palace I have visited, but it did provide for one of my favorite experiences. We participated in a self-guided tour and I’ve never seen a self-guided tour filled with such interesting information.  A secret “telephone,” a prank chair, a porn room…This place had it all.
    2. Michael, I think you felt the same way.  I know you haven’t had many opportunities to visit castles, but what did you like about the Rosenborg Castle?  I have only visited two other castles before in Ireland about 10 years ago, and I have always remembered them as some of my favorite parts of that trip. So on this trip, I wanted to make sure that I was able to tour castles again, and the Rosenborg Castle did not disappoint at all! For people who haven’t been to castles before, we usually expect them to be looming structures made entirely of stone with cold hallways, an open courtyard in the middle, and towering turrets with the cliche staggered brickwork aligning the top. While some castles are built this way and have a more militaristic appearance and purpose, we also have to remember that many castles were also homes for royalty, and as such required a sense of regalness and elaborate beauty, and this describes Rosenborg Castle perfectly. We really enjoyed the self-guided tour of this castle not only for it’s extravagance, but also for the unique history of it as well. After getting our tickets, we were given a pamphlet which gave us information about each room of the castle as we easily navigated ourselves throughout every room. The pamphlet was great because it gave us a more real sense of what each room was for and how it was used. I feel like many times during these types of tours you learn about facts that although are interesting and historically significant, can sometimes be hard to relate to as a visitor of the museum. However, amidst this information that we learned about the castle and its various inhabitants along the tour, we were also exposed to more relatable and at times humorous anecdotes of this landmark. Some of these included: learning about a “trouser wetting chair” in the lounge which was a seat that would soak the person’s pants as a prank from an attached hose, or learning that the early drop-toilets installed in the castle all drained into the moat surrounding the castle. Amusing bathroom humor aside, the tour is also visually very stunning from the very regal throne room, to the collection of priceless art and artifacts carefully placed on display throughout its halls. Of course during the tour you also get to see the very grand crown jewels in the cellar among decorated weapons and barrels of aged wines. We really enjoyed this castle and it has given us a great memory during our time in Copenhagen.
  7. Take a time machine to Tivoli.

    1. They know how to do an amusement park in Denmark.  I’ve been to Six Flags and carnivals, but this was different than anything I had ever experienced before.  It was so glamorous and classic. We went in the evening and we found it to be a very romantic place to stroll.  It felt very “adult” and from a different time period.
    2. I think you felt this too, how is Tivoli different than amusement parks in the US?  Tivoli is different than amusement parks in the U.S. because the focus is set more on the relaxing and enjoyable environment as opposed to the fast trills and extreme rides that amusement parks strive for in the states. Tivoli has a quaint, yet undeniable charm that a Six Flags or even Disney World cannot match. There are rides at Tivoli, games, vendors, and different themed sections much like the amusement parks in the U.S., but Tivoli has found a way to maintain these as a source of amusement without the hectic, overly-loud, and sometimes exhausting result that many parks in the U.S. unintentionally evoke. It’s really hard to know what makes the charm and allure of this landmark so special and different from any other amusement park, but perhaps it again falls on the shoulders of the attitude and simple, yet dignified lifestyle of the Danes. Think of Tivoli embracing the innocence and wonder of a carnival in the 1930’s and 1940’s with its attention to detail and true draw to its patrons, and then combine it with the forward-thinking and progressive, yet relaxed demeanor of Danish culture. For those who are not big ride enthusiasts, there is still much to do and see at this historical park. Although fun, many people in the U.S. would not use the word “pretty place” to describe a theme park in the United States, but I can assuredly say that this would be a great adjective for Tivoli.
  8. Be a pedestrian and walk down the Stroget.

    1. This is the main pedestrian street in Copenhagen.  It is filled with shops, food, and people. I want to warn you that it can be your typical shopping street, but in the end, it is just a nice place to go for walk.  If you aren’t able to make it out to Billund, Denmark, the home of Legos, you can find several shops to fill that void.
    2. While on the Stroget, we visited a Lego shop.  What do you think is so great about legos?  Wow! Well, Legos could probably be described as a toy cultural phenomenon. I mean, who hasn’t heard of them or spent endless hours at one point in their lives assembling something they deemed as magnificent out of Legos? Growing up, I would say that Legos remained my staple go-to toy, and I know it’s the same for many others. Toys usually go in and out as phases through generations of kids, but look at Legos; I mean, they have remained consistently popular for years. Practically everyone was playing with Legos when I was growing up 20+ years ago, and today kids, and adults too, are happily spending their time with the famous pegged bricks. I think what’s really great about Legos is their limitless qualities. You can build, design, and create practically anything from them. Certainly, they are the most versatile toy ever, which makes them so applicable to all types of people. Plus, with their more recent collaborations with other culturally significant companies such as Marvel, DC, and Pirates of the Carribean, their reach is stretching even further. The Danes certainly hit a great chord with this contribution to the world.
  9. Experience the bohemian way of life in Christiana.

    1. If you are a bit of a free spirit, this is your place.  Back in the 70’s a group of hippies settled here and basically developed their own society.  If you know anything about this place, you know that marijuana is “legal.” I’m saying legal with quotation marks if you can’t see.  My husband and I are supportive of this, but we were not participants. We actually found that there is much more to this place than weed.  They do have their limits though, and you will quickly see that hard drugs are not allowed. Since the area is not completely built up, you can enjoy the natural setting.  We also found this to be a great place to see art with meaning. If nothing else, it is a unique spot to grab a beer and get away from commercialism.
    2. Christiana is not necessarily for everyone.  Who do you think should visit? Thats hard to tell. It depends because people might visit this unique area of Copenhagen for different reasons. I would have to say that it certainly has a certain type of feel and ambiance that might not be for everyone, however if you are able to get passed the way of life that is commonly accepted in Christiana, you will find a laid back, open minded, and some would describe as a “hippie” culture. Although we found Christiana interesting and unique as we sat at the bar drinking Christiana and Danish drinks on a beautiful summer afternoon appreciating the different culture, it certainly is not for all visitors of Copenhagen. I would say that if you are thinking about visiting Christiana, go in with an open mind, and an appreciation for the accepted philosophy of approaching life simply and free of the complexities of the modern world.
  10. Get closer to God at the Church of Our Savior.  Literally.

    1. Who would have thought climbing 400 steps could be so fun?  If you are looking for the best view of the city, we recommend ascending the spiral stairs.  For some reason, there seems to be a draw to seeing a bird’s eye view of the city.
    2. Why do you think people like to see a view above the city?  First let me start off by saying that this church and the climb to the top of its spire to see the view was incredible! The spiral staircase through the tower was as expedition, but totally worth it for the cool insights to the bells within and the great view at the top. If you are one that struggles with heights or narrow passageways, I would say that this may be something to take in stride, but the view at the top truly is remarkable. From the top, you can see the beautifully laid out city of Copenhagen from its seaside bays and piers to its vast sprawl of mixtured new and old architecture arranged in a potpourri of Danish excellence. You can even see across the narrow Øresund waterway to Sweden, reminding you of the relative physical closeness of European countries. At this vantage point you are also able to see a great display of Scandinavian efficiency in the many wind turbines that line the bay in progressive nordic valor. I think that people like to see cities from above in order to as the phrase goes, “take it all in”. It really gives you a chance to see all the special facets of a place and hear the unique hum of the city below in order to compile it all together into the cultural vibe of a city.

Foods to Eat and Drinks to Sip On

  1. Danishes
  2. Smørrebrød
  3. Røde pølser- Red Sausage
  4. Pickled Herring
  5. Street Vendors
  6. Akvavit
  7. Carlsburg Beer and other Craft Beers
  8. Mead
  9. Glogg-Mulled Wine

Sights to See

  1. Nyhavn
  2. Rosenborg Castle and Gardens
  3. Glyptotek Museum
  4. Views above the city
  5. Tivoli
  6. Christiana

Experiences to Have

  1. Ride a bike around town
  2. Park yourself in Nyhavn close to sunset
  3. Slow down and enjoy a beer

I’d love to hear about your experiences in Copenhagen.  Please visit my website liberatedtraveler.com to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

Episode #2: Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Intro

As I was preparing for this podcast, I had this flood of memories.  Or, Acqua Alta of memories I guess you could say. I have never fallen in love with a city quite like I have with Venice.  It is one of those places that I never want to leave, and I have to believe I’ll come back. Perhaps it is the idea that it is sinking (whether by water or tourism), that makes it seem so precious.  We appreciate life because it has a deadline, maybe I feel the same way about Venice. I’m not the only one that has experienced that magic. If you look online for quotations about Venice you will find a plethora of people who were inspired by the city.  One of my favorites was said by poet Arthur Symons: “A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.” So, how can you make sure you experience this Venice?

Let’s start with some basics.  Venice suffers from hordes and hordes of tourists being dropped off each day.  ABout 55,000 a day to be more specific. I recommend you try to steer clear of them the best you can.  I try to achieve this by avoiding the most popular spots during peak hours. I also prefer going in the spring versus the summer.  You are probably thinking, Melissa, you are a tourist too. I don’t quite see it like that. These people that I’m referring to show no respect for the place or people around them.  They are the kind of people that are there to say they’ve been there. They bring a picnic to the city, and they don’t visit any museums. We want to try to experience the people of Venice, not so much of its visitors.

The last thing you probably need to know before we take off is how the city is set up.  Venice is made up of many islands. That means no cars. That means a lot of walking and steps to cross bridges.  The city is organized into six neighborhoods called sestieri. They are Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce.  I’ve never really been successful following a map in Venice since the calle (streets) are very winding and not very north/south, east/west. I will give you some tips to help you get around in the list.

And, without further ado, I bring you the list.  The Venice list is comprised of 17 items to help you make the best of your time in the city shaped like a fish (that’s Venice).

List

  1. Ride the vaporetto.

    1. This is my favorite way to get acquainted with the city.  The vaporetto is basically the public transportation of Venice.  Once you get settled into the place you are staying, and you freshen up, visit the biglietteria by the Rialto bridge to take a boat trip down the Grand Canal.  Make sure you watch your step getting on, otherwise you may have an unexpected bath. Usually this is the first moment I realize I’m actually in Venice. I’m on the water, feeling the breeze, and seeing the unique architecture.  If you get a chance to ride at night, take a look into the lit up windows of the Palazzos and be amazed by the elegance. And don’t forget to look up at the moon if you can see it. Venice under moonlight surpasses all of the cliche expectations.  On a side note, I’d like to say your stay in Venice will be magical, but it probably won’t sink in right away. My first impression was actually kind of harsh because of the chaos and exhausting trek dragging my luggage on the cobblestone and climbing up the stairs for the dozen bridges to get to our apartment.  The less you carry, the happier you will be. I just wanted to warn you that you may have to give Venice a second chance once you are settled and are a little less jet lagged.
  2. Get lost winding through the canals.

    1. You will get lost.  I often find not having a destination provides great opportunities to stumble onto something unexpected. My first time I was in Venice was during the spring.  On Palm Sunday, I woke up early, grabbed my camera, and set off for a mini-adventure. I had no plans for where I was going, I just pointed in a direction I hadn’t gone yet.  I ended up by a church called Santa Maria Formosa where an acoustic guitar concert guided my ears. The people were walking out with their palms, gathering around to listen. I felt so fortunate to be given this peek into Venice life.  Essentially, I want you to know that getting lost in Venice is not a bad thing. Remember, you are on an island. How far off track can you get? If you are trying to reach an endpoint at a certain time, I would recommend leaving early.  This will help you enjoy that time getting lost rather than being frustrated about missing an important event.
  3. Figure out how to get around Venice.

    1. Although getting lost can lead to unforgettable memories, learning how to get around is also very rewarding.  Take the vaporetto to get to different areas in Venice, but then walk to find your destination. The streets are very curvy and lead to piazzas with other streets branching off.  I recommend using the signs on the buildings to help you get around. Two common signs are “Per Rialto” and “Per S Marco.” Before you go, study your map and determine what your sight is near.  For example, if I want to go to the Bridge of Sighs, I see that it is near San Marco Square. So, when I leave my apartment I will look for signs that say Per S Marco, then look at my map one more time to see which Calle I should take from there.  I find that using this method takes away the frustration and stress of getting to the next place. You can also ask for directions. Mi scuzi is a phrase you should know to say excuse me, and then dove means where is it.
  4. See acqua alta.

    1. Sometimes when we travel, we need to experience the struggles a place is going through.  This can help bring awareness and it allows us to gain a better understanding for others’ lives.  Venice suffers from flooding called acqua alta. The rising water levels are caused by a combination of elements such as high tides, low pressure, and a type of wind called scirocco.  People often attribute this flooding to the city sinking, but this is not the case. The city typically sinks less than a millimeter a year. Acqua alta is a growing problem, and it will continue to plague the city as our climate changes.  So, how will you know that acqua alta is happening? Other than the obvious visible signs, you will also hear a siren to warn you. Have a listen. PLAY AUDIO. It can be a bit alarming, but it is just a warning. Certain places in the city suffer greater than others.  San Marco Square is one of those places. I have visited Venice twice, and each time we experienced acqua alta. My first introduction to it reminded me of a scene from Titanic. We were walking under the arcades to escape the rain, and as the water rose below our feet, the winds howled, and the torrential downpour washed the city.  Besides the sound of the makeshift waterfall, we heard classical music playing in the background. As we followed the sound, we saw a string quartet playing as it appeared the city was sinking. Life goes on during acqua alta, and the Venetians have learned to adapt. If you hear the sirens, go out and see what this phenomenon does, and reflect on changes we need to make on our planet to protect the places we love.  
  5. Go for a gondola ride.

    1. It seems very cliche to go on gondola in the canals of Venice, but you should.  Gondolas originated in Venice, Italy hundreds of years ago as a way to navigate the narrow canals with just one oarsmen.  They are expensive, but well worth the cost. To make the most of your ride, talk to the gondoliers and find one you like.  If you want to hear singing or narration, ask about it. I recommend trying to escape the grand canal and take the opportunity to visit the quieter canals.  I have gone during the day and at night. Although I enjoyed both rides, I did find the evening experience to be more romantic. When I returned to Venice a second time, I was planning on skipping the gondola ride because it was expensive and I had already done it.  My friends talked me into joining, and I am so thankful they did because it was a different kind of experience. That was definitely a time I learned to go with the flow and be open to doing something more than once. I almost missed out on a liberated travel moment because I thought, “I’ve done this already.”  If you have an opportunity to go to Venice, go on the gondola.
  6. Meet the people of Venice.

    1. Unfortunately, there are not many native Venetians left.  Tourists and the rising cost of living in Venice are the major causes of this.  If you can, try to talk with the locals. If you like to go on walking tours, do some research and try to find a guide.  Elizabetta was my guide and it was a great opportunity to have a conversation with a local and ask questions about the history and culture of Venice.  I also got a sneak peek into current life in Venice. If this is not for you, then make sure you put yourself out there in other ways to meet the Venetians.
  7. Wake up and smell the roses, or fish, at the markets.

    1. I always try to seek out markets when traveling.  I enjoy visiting the Rialto market to take a gander at the seafood.  Markets can be kind of intimidating if you want to buy something, but give it a try.  We just mentioned meeting the locals, and this is another way to talk to them. If you are looking for an al fresco dining option, visit the market to pick up some lunch essentials and then find a spot along the canals to enjoy your fresh bites.
  8. Admire the architecture.

    1. The architectural style is unique to Venice, and it looks quite different than other major Italian cities.  It is known as Venetian Gothic. This style has a Byzantine and Moorish influence. One of the beauties of this architecture is the way it is able to bridge the styles of the east with the west.  Everywhere you look you will be impressed. If you are looking to learn more about the architecture and history, I recommend taking a guided walk. Besides the architecture, Venice also has some interesting engineering feats.  It all started with wood pylons being driven into the ground. Since then, they have also worked on other projects to protect the city such as MOSE which is essentially flood gates. Does that name sound familiar to you? It isn’t a coincidence.  There is a lot that can be learned by studying the structures of this city.
  9. Take a class.

    1. I love to learn, and sometimes it is nice to learn something from another person in a natural setting.  If you look online, you will find an abundance of options. During my first visit to Venice, I took a photography class.  I’ve taken other photography classes, but taking one in the field taught me so much more than any classroom. I’ve also participated in a mask making demonstration.  When trying to select a class, pick something that is interesting to you, but also consider what the place is known for.
  10. Explore the Venetian Lagoon.

    1. There is plenty to see in Venice, but the surrounding islands are also worth a visit.  There is Giudecca, Lido, Murano, Burano, Torcello, and San Michele. With a simple vaporetto ticket, you can hop islands and see the unique character of each.  My favorite island is Burano. The buildings are very colorful so the fishermen would be able to see land if it was foggy. It is a photographer’s dream, and a great place to escape the craziness of Venice.  Murano is also well known for its glass. The Lido is where you’ll find the beach scene and a place to lay out. Giudecca is more of the working man’s Venice. Torcello is a quiet island that is a pleasure to stroll.  San Michele is the quietest island of them all because it houses a cemetary. If you have enough time, consider venturing to the Venetian lagoon.
  11. Wander around San Marco Piazza in the late evening.

    1. San Marco Square is mad during the day.  You can’t skip it, but you can try to visit when it is a little less hectic.  My favorite time is the late evening. Visit the basilica, strain your neck to look up at the Campanile, check out the gondola parking lot, and admire the architecture of the Doge’s palace.  As darkness starts to blanket the city, the lights come on and the music begins to play. Find a bar and treat yourself to a bellini which was one of Hemingway’s favorite drinks. I think if you visit during this time, you will see the true ambiance of the big piazza.
  12. Step up to a cichetti bar.

    1. Food is good.  Food in Italy is divine.  This seems to be as true as the sun setting and rising.  Cicchetti is the tapas of the Italian world. Savor samples of the freshest dishes by hand selecting your personal desires.  Suppress your hunger or make it a meal; cicchetti is an affordable way to sample several local dishes in one place. Since returning home from Venice I have experienced symptoms of withdrawal.  I cannot find seafood so fresh where I live, and the produce has limited taste. I know where I will be eating the next time I visit Venice. Perhaps I’ll go on a cicchetti crawl.
  13. Visit the churches.

    1. There are numerous churches I would recommend visiting while in Venice.  Some of the most popular churches are the San Marco Basilica, Frari, Salute, and Miracoli.  One of my favorite memories happened at San Giorgio Maggiore. We had read that at certain times, we could hear Gregorian chants, so we went to check it out. Compared to the grandness of the church, the door we were supposed to visit felt a little less sufficient.  Maybe this was the door Alice went through after chasing the rabbit. We rang the doorbell as if we were ready to be welcomed into someone’s house. I guess it is someone’s house after all, the house of God. A kind monk appeared, and quietly guided us to the room where the mass was being held.  We didn’t end up hearing Gregorian chants, but we did meet a monk named Dona Andrew. He asked us to join him for coffee and a lemon pastry. He shared with us that he was from Scotland. When he turned 30, he found himself becoming very selfish. He looked at his possessions and the life he was living, and he knew that he could not stay on this path.  That was how he became a monk. There are so many times during travel that the unplanned moments end up becoming your favorite. There are numerous times that these have happened at a church for me, so I recommend finding at least one you’d like to see and take some time to get to know it.
  14. Go shopping.

    1. There are an abundance of shopping opportunities in Venice.  I avoid the luxury shops like Dior or Prada, but instead I seek out local artists and boutique style shops.  My favorite souvenirs to pick up are art prints and posters. They are usually not too pricey, and with a tube, they can be safely stored.  One of my favorite shops is Acqua Alta Library, It is a store with piles and piles of books. On the floor you will find footsteps that lead to Casanova according to the owner.  It actually leads to a canal. I guess Casanova got away. There are also some great true-to-Venice souvenirs you can pick up such as a mask or Murano glass. If you can get away from the streets where the tourists are dropped off, you will find yourself enjoying your retail therapy.
  15. Stay in an apartment.

    1. I’m actually struggling with this concept right now.  Staying in an apartment has provided me with so many fantastic opportunities to be part of the place I’m visiting.  During my first trip we stayed in a wonderful apartment in a neighborhood we wanted to be part of. We found a local bar downstairs that we visited each night.  It smelled of tulips, and that is a smell that still triggers those memories to this day. I even have a Da Vinici print hanging in my bedroom because there was one in the bedroom I stayed in and I just loved looking up at her.  But, here is where my struggle comes. I recently read that someone is putting up posters around Venice claiming that we are ruining Venice. Because of companies like Airbnb, people are buying up real estate causing the cost to rise and landlords to kick out their tenets.  People have been leaving Venice for many years now for numerous reasons, but this poster claims that Venice will become an “empty shell” because sites like this are pushing out its residents. I feel conflicted because this has been a core part of my travel, but of course I don’t want to contribute to the desertification of the city.  Japan’s government recently cancelled 80% of the Airbnb reservations for this same reason. The hosts will now have to be approved by the government and they can only let out their place for up to 180 days during the year. I wonder if this will be a trend we see. I suppose this provides an opportunity to be reflective and think about how our traveling impacts the places we visit.
  16. Watch a futbol game in the piazza.

    1. Soccer is much more popular in other countries compared to the United States.  If you are in Venice during the soccer season, find a bar showing a game. You may need to stock up on some gear such as a blue Italia shirt or some face paint because this is serious.  For one of the games that I saw, Italy was going up against Spain, so they placed some screens at the bar entrance, and people spilled out into the piazza. At one point I was standing up front and I turned around to find a sea of faces amongst the blue.  This is one of my favorite photos. If you are hoping to find more experiences with the locals, this is a great opportunity to step up next to a fan and cheer on their team.
  17. Try to use some Italian.

    1. Speaking a foreign language is both exciting and intimidating.  You will find that they typically speak at least some English, but it is not only polite to try in Italian first, but also part of the fun.  Before I leave, I usually pick up some CDs at the library and try to learn some basics. My go to phrases I try to learn are: hello, goodbye, excuse me, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian, where is, bathroom, and cheers.  I also like to be able to recognize items on a menu and on signs, so I study those terms as well.

Foods to Eat and Drinks to Sip On

  1. Risotto
  2. Baccala
  3. Sarde in Saor (Marinated Sardines)
  4. Polenta
  5. Bigoli
  6. Gnocchi
  7. Tiramisu
  8. Cuttlefish Ink
  9. Mussels
  10. Bellini
  11. Wine (Prosecco)
  12. Grappa
  13. Aperol Spritz

Sights to See

  1. San Marco Piazza and Basilica
  2. Doge’s Palace
  3. Rialto Bridge
  4. Burano
  5. San Giorgio Maggiore
  6. Peggy Guggenheim Collection
  7. Venetian Gothic Architecture
  8. As many canals as you can

Experiences to Have

  1. Ride a gondola.
  2. Go for an early morning walk.
  3. Ride the Vaporetto
  4. Take advantage of cicchetti
  5. Visit San Marco Piazza in the late evening.
  6. Take a class.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in Venice.  Please visit my website liberatedtraveler.com to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

Podcast Episode #1: Liberating Experiences

Liberating Experiences

Welcome to Episode # 1 of the Liberated Traveler.  In this podcast we learn to escape by pursuing liberating experiences.  Thank you for joining!

Intro

Welcome to our first installment.  The purpose of today’s podcast is to introduce you to liberated travel.  We each have our own way of experiencing events in life. This type of travel is how I make the most of my time.  My goal is to share what I have learned along the way in hopes that you will define your own liberated travel as well as have an opportunity to take a little mental trip while listening.  I believe in budget travel, but within my own comforts. I didn’t sell my house to travel the world, or quit my job to become a vagabond. I’m a pretty normal person just trying to milk everything I can out of my travel experiences.

Travel time is crucial for our overall well-being.  I’m sure you’ve heard about how bad Americans are about taking time off.  Back in 2016, a study was released about our lack of vacation time. The study found that 55% of Americans did not use their vacation time resulting in 658 million vacation days being unused.  Imagine the kind of trip you could take with those kind of days. And the saddest part in all of this is that we don’t even get that many days compared to some other countries. This is why it is so important to make the most of the time we take, and hopefully encourage everyone to not let that time escape us.  Travel is good for our mental and physical health, and we could all use more of that.

So, who am I?  By day, I’m a 5th grade teacher in Illinois.  I come from a family of teachers who have taught me lessons beyond what any textbook can provide.  They have instilled values in me that encourage living life now, and staying open-minded. This is a message I constantly try to share with my students, and I hope you will be able to take away.  I’ve been dabbling in travel blogging for years, and now I’m seeking a new avenue to share my findings.

You may be wondering what I mean by liberated travel.  Liberation is defined by freeing, releasing, and a form of rescue.  This is what liberated travel is all about. It involves paving the way for as many moments as possible that leave us feeling happier, wiser, and more connected to our world and the people in it.  I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I feel the sense of liberated travel when I find a cooking utensil I want from the store that Julia Child used to shop at. It may seem a little shallow to find happiness in a material item, but I do, and I think a lot of other people do too.  In contrast, I also find liberation in hearing the story of a young man growing up in Germany during World War II. As you listen to my podcast, think about what you enjoy most and try to apply what I share in a way that works for you.

We are about to get started, but there is one more thing I want to mention.  Hopefully, each week you will flood your ears with the sound of my voice. I find comfort in organization, so you will notice each podcast is layed out in a certain format.  I’ll begin with a short little intro, then I will share my list. I’m not going to say it is always going to be a top ten list, but it will be a top something list. It really depends on the topic, and I don’t want to be confined by the pretty number of ten.  The list will share the best opportunities to experience liberated travel. After this, I’ll do a quick little summary of sights to see, foods to eat, and experiences to have. Just as a reminder, I have not been everywhere in the world. I will possibly miss a great place to go, or restaurant to eat at.  I am just hoping to give you the keys to the car so you can map out a plan that works for you. That’s kind of cheesy, but I think you get the point.

List

1. Plan for a mixture of cIty and country.

  • The city can be an exhausting place, and she can break you down if you aren’t careful.  When making my itinerary, I always try to find a balance between metropolitan destinations and countryside excursions.  Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find an oasis in the city. You may just need to visit a park or garden. Other times, a day trip may be in order.  A few years ago, I stayed in Paris for a month. It is one of my favorite cities, but I found myself craving more than just Tuileries gardens or Park Monceau.  A visit to Giverny, where you can find Monet’s home and gardens, or Auvers sur Oise, the home and final resting place of Van Gogh, rejuvenated me as well as giving me a greater appreciation for the city once I returned.  How many times in life do we try to find balance to keep us well? This same concept applies to travel, too.

2. Stay in an apartment or Airbnb.

  • I’m not against hotels, but they offer a different experience than renting a home.  My aunts first taught me about the idea of renting an apartment back in 2009 when we stayed in one for a week in Venice, Italy.  During that time, it became our home. Another perk is that it can be more budget friendly. We have found that this is a more reasonable option for staying in the neighborhoods we want to be part of.  It can also help with food expenses if you are willing to do a little grocery shopping and give up eating every meal out. Now that Airbnb is so accessible, this is my major way of finding accomodations.  For our summer road trip through Canada and the Northeast, every accomodation was booked through Airbnb. I also consider bed and breakfasts a good option, but it would be difficult to pick a hotel over these places.  In the near future, I will have another podcast episode about finding apartments to stay in to make sure you have a safe and rewarding experience.

3. While staying in a place, try to make the place yours.

  • These may seem like minor details, but if you are fortunate enough to stay in an apartment/home, try to gain insight from the owners.  They may know about that perfect bar downstairs that has the best craft beer and pizza. Find a local grocer that has some basics you need.  Visit the same boulangerie each morning for your fresh baguette. Perhaps there is a restaurant on the block that has a rotating menu and it is so good, you find yourself going there more than once on your trip.  Finding your local “favorites” connects you to a place and opens up the opportunity to connect with the people running them. Perhaps if you go enough, they might even start to know you by name.

4. Try local foods and drinks.

  • Food.  Drinks.  This can be enough to make a trip for some people.  I’m one of those people. For this podcast, I would love to recommend every delicious restaurant I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, but the truth is I’d be missing so many.  Instead, I will focus on what types of foods and drinks you should seek. This summer, I’m going to Montreal. I will not leave until I have true poutine. While visiting the Finger Lakes region in New York, I will sample ample amounts of wine.  If you want the best, eat like a local and eat what is in season. I’m not saying you should only eat fish and chips in London. I’d actually recommend finding a restaurant with Indian cuisine. The goal is to try to recreate experiences of locals, and we all know that food and drinks are an experience.  

5. Respect the culture.

  • I’m not saying you should change who you are, but there are things you can do to gain approval of the locals.  I recommend before you go somewhere that you do your homework. Hmmm, maybe that is is just the teacher in me coming out.  But seriously, learn more about their customs and language. While traveling abroad, I know that I should say hello when I walk in a store.  I should not pick up everything and touch all the merchandise. When starting conversation, I should make an attempt to start in their language even if that is all I really know how to say.  I know that I should dress conservatively when going to churches. My shoulders should be covered and my knees not visible. You may be wondering how this provides a liberated experience. By showing respect to a culture, you are acknowledging their way of living and opening the door for better communication and a greater chance of having a positive experience.  

6. Find a good cafe and park yourself there.

  • Many times, the best travel is not about checking every single item off a list.  Sometimes, it is about slowing down and taking in a place and its people. I’m still very guilty of overplanning, but I know that visiting all the museums I want to see in two days is not going leave me feeling liberated.  Instead, I’m going to feel exhausted and blistered. Visiting the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay in the same day was a prime example of this. I’m trying to limit myself to one major museum a day. This is going to be tough because often I don’t have a lot of time in a place, and there is so much I want to see and do.  The truth is I will never get to see and do everything I want, so I need to prioritize and believe in the idea of returning if it is something I really want to do. So, sit down for a while. Grab a coffee or wine and take out a notebook. Sketch the scene in front of you or do some free writing. Even catching up on postcards can offer a reflective moment before you continue on your way.

7.See the city by foot (biking, walking, public transportation).

  • Getting around is part of the journey.  Depending on where I am going determines what transportation I prefer.  I always love walking because it allows you to slow down and see little details you may otherwise miss.  It is important to not exhaust all energy on walking though because you want to feel up to what you are going to see.  There are some cities made for biking, such as Copenhagen. This is quick, but also scenic. If these two options do not seem optimal, then I choose public transportation.  This may seem strange, but I actually enjoy taking the metro in Paris. There is a sense of achievement when I have successfully planned a route and arrived at my destination.  There is also something to enjoy in experiencing something the way the locals do.

8.Look for special events.

  • Whether you are traveling in the winter or summer, you are likely to stumble upon a festival or special exhibit.  One of my favorite days of the year is the summer solstice because in many great cities you will enjoy the festival of music.  During the longest day of the year, music can be found on street corners, churches, and other attractions. I also look for special art exhibits or food festivals.  Taking advantage of these opportunities often provides for a great memory.

9. Visit markets.

  • I love markets.  Flea markets, farmers markets, antique markets, you name it.  This may be a little more challenging to find in the winter, but if you have the chance, go to a market.  Find a memento to bring home. Grab some fresh peaches to suck on at the park. Create your makeshift picnic to enjoy by the canal.  You probably won’t regret taking some time to mingle through the stalls with locals. One of my favorite markets was in Arles, France.  It was a combination of food and other flea market finds and we ended up spending the whole day meandering around the ramparts.

10. Capture a place (photography, video, drawings, journal, etc.).

  • We all have our own way of seeing the world and finding a way to etch it in our memory.  My favorite method is through taking photographs. My granddad and dad have taught me to enjoy photography from a young age, and now I won’t leave home without a camera.  I think people sometimes miss the best part of photography which is going through your photos when you get back home, editing them, and putting together a narrative to piece them all together.  I’m also known to carry a journal just in case. I would love to keep a sketch journal, or watercolor journal, but my skills are definitely lacking. My aunt spent a morning at a cafe drawing what she saw in front of her, and that is how she captures a place.  Find your favorite method and spend time taking in the scenery.

11. Get out in the early morning or late evening.

  • Tourism is huge.  There are so many places now that have thousands of people hopping off a boat to invade a city for a few hours.  Feeling overcrowded can ruin your experience and leave you disappointed. Venice is my favorite city in the world that I have visited, but if you are in San Marco square at noon in the summer, you will see nothing but a sea of people.  My advice is, during the day, try to find the lesser known places to visit (maybe go to a less touristy part of town or visit a nearby island or town). Then spend your time at the hotspots in the early morning or late evening. By that point, many tourists are not out and about yet or they have packed up and moved on to the next destination.

12. Go shopping for unique items.

  • I know life is not about “things.”  I understand that I should hold on to memories and not stuff.  But, what if an item is tied to a memory? In my kitchen I have a pottery butter dish from Gordes, France that reminds me of that hilltop town every time I look at it.  On my wall, I have a poster of a Severini art print from Venice, Italy. In my bathroom, I have a bidet I brought back from France. Just kidding. I wish. But, I do have a little porcelain bathtub from Provence that holds my soaps.  My house is filled with items from my travels that are symbols for where I have been in life. I don’t go to the foreign mall and buy something at H & M. That is okay if you want to, but that is not the kind of shopping I’m talking about here.  Find boutiques, markets, street vendors, or whatever items you like to buy, and enjoy the buying experience. Later, you’ll enjoy the memory.

13. Check out the art scene.

  • I think everyone appreciates art in some form or another.  Whether you like the classics, sculpture, street art, pottery, garden art, or any other type of art under the sun, try to take in some.  If you don’t like art, maybe you should give it a try. Art is part of the humanities and within it we find history, religion, philosophy, and messages that hit on the human experience.  If you have a favorite artist and you have the fortunate opportunity to take a tour featuring that artist, go for it. I have always been a fan of Van Gogh’s work, but it was not till I got to know him in Provence, saw him in the Netherlands, or walked through the fields where he tried to take his life outside of Paris, did I truly start to understand the tragedy in his life.  Getting the backstory on our favorite artists brings more meaning to their work. My advice is to see art and try to understand it. That sounds simple, right?

14. Listen to music.

  • This is kind of a similar concept to the art scene.  How many times in life have you heard a song and it instantly takes you back to a memory?  Wouldn’t you love to constantly go back to your memories of travel? How I try to achieve this is by picking up at least one CD while on a trip or identifying a song I hear while out.  For example, when I was in Spain, I went to a Spanish guitar concert. You can bet I bought the CD afterwards. When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Scandinavia, we took refuge in a coffee bar in Bergen, Norway to escape the rain.  While sipping on the best coffee I’ve ever had and devouring a waffle, a song came on that I instantly loved. I took out my phone, found my Soundhound app and identified the song playing. This is now one of our favorite songs that we listen to on repeat, and when we hear it, we are back in that coffee shop while the rain pours outside.

And that is the list.  Now, for some final thoughts.

Sometimes I wish I could buy my own town and combine all of the elements I’ve enjoyed from travel.  There would be a little shop for bread, one for meat, one for wine, one for beer, etc. There would be a fresh market open everyday.  You’d have to take a vaporetto (boat) or walk to get around. There would be a local Irish bar that everyone goes to, and it has live music every night.  Just outside the town you will find the alps. The other direction you will find the Mediterranean Sea. Doesn’t this place sound great?

Unfortunately, I don’t think this dream town will ever happen.  So, instead I must find my own ways to incorporate my favorite liberated travel moments into my everyday life.  Perhaps an afternoon fika will help me get through the day. When the winter comes, hygge will keep the blues away.  And, when all else fails, I can walk through my garden and sip on a super tuscan wine to reminisce about the good days.  

I’d love to hear about your liberated travel moments.  Please visit my website liberatedtraveler.com to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

Free Writing Workshop

Cafe Hugo 3Travel writing comes in a variety of forms.  Maybe you are a travel blogger, or perhaps you jot down ideas on a coffee-stained receipt.  If you are looking for some advice to improve your writing, you might want to check out Dave Fox’s free audio workshop.  Dave Fox used to work for Rick Steves.  I bought his book a few years ago, and I still revisit it from time to time to refresh my perspective.  The first 20 minutes are about journal writing and the last half is about publishing travel writing.  Check out the blurb below for more information.

 

“Free Audio Workshop: From Personal Journaling to Professional Travel Writing

Writecamp is a series of casual, half-hour workshops offered each year at the Singapore Writers Festival. Speakers present fast-paced talks on writing-related themes. Attendees can choose from a couple of different topics in each time slot and are encouraged to drift from room to room to see what they like.
 
This year, I talked about travel writing I initially debated whether I should cover travel journaling or more polished travel writing. In the end, in the frenetic spirit of Writecamp, I decided to cover both – scrunching what is usually several hours of material into 30 high-energy minutes.
 
I recorded the session and I’m making it available for free! You can download it from iTunes or listen to it on Globejotting.com.”