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.

Oslo

Our first stop in Norway was in Oslo.  Oslo is a beautiful, clean city.  While there, we were able to balance the outdoors with art and history.  We visited the Vigeland park which housed more than 200 sculptures showing humans in a variety of capacities.  We also made a trip to the National Museum to view The Scream.  Our other major destination was the Viking Ship museum.  This was probably our favorite stop.  The museum is well set up, and a video presentation is impressive and informative.  Besides visiting these places, we mostly enjoyed the city by foot.

The biggest shock we experienced in Oslo was the prices.  It was nearly impossible to eat out and have a meal for less than $100 for two people.  Beer was about $15 for a standard lager.  Although we thought Oslo was very beautiful, we were not expecting such high costs.

 

Snekkerston

After leaving Copenhagen, we took a three hour bus ride up to the northern part of Denmark.  This bus was not necessarily meant for a long ride, but instead it was a city bus with over 80 stops.  It was definitely an interesting way to go.

We decided to stay in a bed and breakfast in Snekkerston because we wanted to cross back over to Sweden to visit Gothenburg.  Although the bus ride was interesting, the bed and breakfast was lovely, and a nice, quiet escape from the city.

 

 

Copenhagen

The third destination on our honeymoon was Copenhagen.  This was the city I was probably most looking forward to visiting, and it did not disappoint.  We spent three nights, but a week would have been better.

Below are the pictures from my DSLR.  I took many more with my phone because this place is so photogenic.  This will give you a good taste of Copenhagen.  Stay tuned for a podcast to come out soon about this fun city.

 

 

 

 

Warsaw

The second destination on our honeymoon was Warsaw.  Warsaw and its people are very resilient.  It is a city that on the brink of prosperity, saw destruction that came by bomb in 1939.  Since then, it was a long, and not always successful fight whether you were a Jew forced into the ghetto, a member of the Home Army, or a resident of Warsaw dealing with the occupation.  We took in not only the beauty of the city, but also its history.

Since seeing The Zookeeper’s Wife, we knew we wanted to visit the Warsaw Zoo.  We had  been intrigued by the World War II history, and we sought out sites to help us learn about the past.  While at the zoo we went on a detailed tour that walked us through the Zabinski home, and showed us how they helped save hundreds of Jews from the ghetto.

The movie also made us more aware of the Warsaw Uprising.  There are markers all over the city talking about how the 50,000 urban soldiers fought back against the Germans.  They took the city over after a few days, but German reinforcements destroyed the Home Army since very little aide was supplied by the allies.  There was a great museum that walked us through the timeline and showed how the people did not want to give up their city.

After the heart-breaking loss during the war, the terror continued with the days of communism.  We did not have enough time to delve into the effects of communism in Warsaw, but we could see how once again the people could not be free.

This city has been rebuilt after nearly 85% of the city center was destroyed in World War II; first from the bombing, then from the destruction caused by the Germans as revenge for the uprising.  They tried to rebuild it the way it was; even accounting for imperfections like leaning buildings.  Although this part of our trip was faced with some challenges, like the language barrier, the difficulties were far outweighed by our experience here.  The food, the history, and the atmosphere are all definitely worth another visit someday.

 

Fika

Yesterday you got a chance to see what Stockholm looks like.  Today I’m sharing a tradition in Sweden that I think we should adopt here.  It is called fika (fee-ka).  The basic idea of it is to have an afternoon coffee with a sweet treat, but it is more than that.  It is a break to be shared with people you care about.  A chance to step away from hectic life and remember what is important: loved ones, sweets, and good coffee.

The illustration you see is one that I created using Adobe Illustrator.  The dessert you see in the image looks like a cinnamon roll.  It is called kanelbulle.  Rather than being smothered with frosting, it has sugar pearls sprinkled on top.  The best ones have a flaky, buttery crust.  Interested in having your own fika?  It doesn’t take much.  Grab a friend, a cup of joe, and a little dessert.

 

Stockholm

The content you see here are photos of Stockholm taken with my Canon digital SLR.  I have other photos on my point and shoot to share, but that is another day.

Stockholm is both an old and new city.  Life seems so streamlined and simple, yet old town boasts colorful buildings from the past.  Since it was our first stop on our honeymoon, I feel like we know it least because we were still adjusting to the time change and the idea that we were on our honeymoon.  Nonetheless, we had an amazing time, and it is a city we would like to return to because even the small imprint it made is enough to leave us wanting more.

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.

Building a Business

The Liberated Traveler has returned!  Although it has been a few years, I identify as the Liberated Traveler more than ever.  I’ve recently started the process of starting my own business under this name.  Sometimes we can’t travel as much as we’d like, so traveling needs to come to us.  The goal of my business is to keep our travels memorable.

Although I will offer a variety of keepsakes, my business’s primary service is travel photo editing.  When traveling to far off lands, we often capture hundreds of images that later remain locked in our devices.  Let those pictures out!  I will take your photos (whether taken with a camera or phone) and enhance them to professional-like quality.  From there, they will be available for download or purchase.  I will also put together keepsakes that will make the most out of your images that can be available for purchase.  Here is an example of how photos can go from lack luster to feeling like you are there again.

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One of the travel keepsakes I’m most excited about is custom word art prints.  These custom travel word art prints are a great way to display the essence of a trip.  I take your photos and mask them with letters so multiple images can come together to create a print.  I’m excited to make a shadowbox from a couple trips I’ve gone on.  Stay posted for this exciting keepsake.  Here is a print I made for my aunt with her images.

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Venice by Vaporetto: Rialto East

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Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli-Want to see what Venetian Renaissance looks like?  This marble church is considered a “jewel box.”  Pilgrims flocked to the church after the Virgin Mary performed several miracles.  Glide up the canal and hop off at this recently renovated church.

Santa Maria Formosa-One of my favorite Venice moments took place just outside this church.  It was Palm Sunday and a group of men were playing guitars in the campo.   Formosa means “shapely saint Mary.”  A vision appeared of a seductive Mary near this location.  Was it Mary, or a courtesan?  Nonetheless, a beautiful church stands in the spot of the original.

Ca’ del Sol Mask Shop-Hiding one’s identity is tempting while in Venice.  What happens in Venice stays in Venice?  Even if you aren’t visiting during Carnevale, you can get your fill of mysteriousness at this mask shop.  While I was visiting Venice, I was able to get a behind the scenes glance at how simple paper mache is turned into glamorous masks.  What style would you pick?