How letting my guard down led to my biggest travel misadventure and self realization

I want to tell this story in hopes that it provides inspiration to my fellow travelers. This is a cautionary tale about a girl traveling alone and a big mistake that could have been fatal. In this story the girl gets really happy, a little sad, then a little scared. Ultimately she discovers something deep about herself and has the best night of her life. Last December I was at a low point. Coming off of my life changing trip to South East Asia I had post-travel depression. Most of my friends already had travel plans for New Years and it looked like I would be ringing in 2015 alone. One morning in a daze I was scrolling through the Contiki Last Minuet Deals site when I saw an amazing discount on a 12 day tour of Italy. I debated for a bit and then pulled out my credit card. It was booked. In just a week I would leave for Italy! The day after Christmas I was on my way. Flying to Europe, getting a cab and exploring Rome was so much easier and less scary than Asia so I felt like a travel pro. When I saw the suitcases my tour mates brought (for just 12 days) and compared them to my tiny carry-on I knew I was (a pro traveler). The first couple of days were so flawless, simple and easy that I quickly began to let my travel guard down. When in Asia I had my guard set high. I limited my drinks (although my limit was very high…), always traveled in a group, wrote my hotel down, paid in cash, ect. But Europe is so safe! Or so I thought. On New Year’s Eve our tour rolled through Napoli and to the charming town of Sorrento on the Almafi Coast.

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My roommate and I pre-new years festivities!

As the sun began to set my Australian friend Mollie and I explored the markets where we came upon the beginnings of the New Years parade. Without a thought we decided to join the parade! We danced with the musicians and chanted alongside costumed characters. We followed a large papier-mache Donkey to the town square where Donkey was set on fire using fireworks!

Afterwards our group met up for a traditional Neapolitan pizza feast! Then toasted with Aperol Spitzers at this swanky restaurant right in the center of town. For dancing and more drinks we went to Americano. A Kareoke night club near the festivities.

After a few strong martinis bells rang out to single midnight’s approach. So we stumbled out of the club (stolen martini glasses in hand) and joined the masses in the piasa. Before midnight the locals started shooting fireworks at each other and throwing glass bombs on the pavement. It was noisy, hectic, scary and invigorating!

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Street fireworks!

Finally the countdown began. 3,2,1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The crowd went wild. I felt more emotion, energy and happiness in that tiny Sorrento piassa then I did in New York City!

Music filled the air, laugher, chanting and love engulfed me. Streamers flew and confetti fell. I kissed my neighbor and he kissed my friend. It was all in good fun. Then in Sorrento tradition we broke our stolen martini glasses on the pavement. 10906166_10152891595005813_1466665417180988046_n Then the piasa stage lit up and the DJ started spinning. We dance in a large mob and I made friends with some touchy Armenians. They shared their Grappa and I shared my awesome dance moves.

After dancing for what seemed like an eternity I began to notice that much of 40 person tour group was dispersing. I searched and found a couple of stragglers to join. We celebrated for a little longer before they decided it was time to head to the hotel. It was only 115AM. Our local guide told us that in Italy the party really doesn’t start until 2AM. So I tried to convince them to stick around. But they were done. So reluctantly I began to follow them back to the coach. On the way to the coach we passed tons of Italians who were just heading out for the night. They looked magical and majestic in their sparkly dresses and tailored suits. As we continued towards our bus I got sadder and sadder. I didn’t want to go home. The night was young. I wasn’t ready for bed! I tried again at no avail to get someone to go back with me. “YOLO” I aurgued. “The night is young, no regrets” I pleaded. But they were committed to retirement. As we began to round the last corner I cursed myself. “What was I doing?” I questioned myself. “Why am I following these people? I don’t even know them!” I asked. “I don’t need them to have a good time!” I convinced myself. “Why am I using them as a shield? Don’t be a follower Becca!” I cursed. “Do you! Do what you want!” I boasted. Without another thought I bid farewell and sped back to the town square. On my own.

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When alone you take Selfies to occupy your time.

Back at the the piasa I felt a hint of loneliness and timidness. I swallowed my fear and joined the dance floor where I shook my worries away. I found my Argentinian friends again. We danced the mambo, YMCA and the electric slide. Eventually they retired for the night and I was left alone again. At this point it was around 230AM. So did what all good American girls traveling alone in a foreign city should do…I took a walk. I ventured away from the busy piasa where I found myself alone in a maze of cobblestone streets. I was fascinated by the peacefulness that was just blocks away from chaos. I wandered back to the once crowded market and found myself surrounded by twinkling christmas lights. I was alone, but never afraid. In Sorrento on a mild winter night, I felt at home and at peace. As I walked I reflected on the past year. I wished I could see my mom again. She loved Italy and I remember her recounting her wild adventures in Rome. As I stopped to make a wish at a century old fountain I felt her there with me. I wandered back towards the town square and was met by hoards of drunk young Italians on their ways to after parties and other bars. Their laughter and enthusiasm was contagious. “Happy New Year!” is universal and it chimed throughout. I was got my second wind and wished I could find another party to join. I made my way back to the Americano Bar. I only peaked inside. I thought it was dead, so I turned back. I wish I had gone inside the bar. Apparently the three other Americans on my tour were still partying it up at the Americano! I often wonder what my night would’ve become had I found and joined their party. But I turned away. I went back to the DJ and the main stage. I settled down on a bench and listened to Opera singers and local celebrities belt Italian showstoppers. Around 330AM the festivities began to die down. So I decided it was time to head to my hotel. I pulled out my phone and found that it had died. Stupidly I didn’t write down my hotel or it’s address. I only had the information on my phone. I had no option but to hope that someone would know where my hotel was. So I hailed a taxi. When it comes to Italian Taxi drivers I think I won the lottery.

  • First stroke of luck: Rafael spoke perfect English. Second: He was young and enthusiastic. Third: He was charming and handsome. Forth: He thought I was hilarious.

I flat-out said “I have no idea where my hotel is”. He couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know what my hotel was called. I felt like an idiot. He thought I was super funny. I told him that I knew it used to be a nunnery. That it might be called “Sister’s Hostel”. He hadn’t heard of a hotel like that. So we googled it. Nothing. He called his friends. They didn’t know. So I was up creek without a paddle. I knew I couldn’t lose Rafael. He was the answer. If I walked away and tried to find someone else, they might not have been as eager to help me. So I said “I will pay you anything, just drive and I’ll try to figure out from memory!” He agreed. I hopped in the front seat and we drove. I think we drove all around Sorrento and maybe into Napoli. We navigated the winding streets and whisked past the cliffs and ocean. Rafael asked me to describe the hotel and it’s surroundings. I said “It’s in a very old building, surrounded by orange trees and gardens. It’s on a cliff and has a view of the ocean.” He chuckled “that describes every hotel in Sorrento!” I asked him to drive alongside the ocean. At least we would be in the right area. Finally we turned down a cobblestone path that I recognized. We continued onward. Then I saw a sign for “Phoenix Bar” and I remembered riding in the coach earlier. My friend Molly had asked “What’s a Phoenix?” I knew then that we were close to the hotel! Only moments later I saw what I thought was my hotel. But there were no hotel signs and the large wooden doors were closed. Rafael wasn’t sure so he got out of the cab and went with me to investigate. The doors were locked and my heart sunk. I thought I was wrong. Rafael knocked vigorously and luckily the attendant answered. Once the door opened I saw the lobby and knew I was right! Rafael chatted with the attendant briefly in Italian and they laughed. Rafael told me the hotel was brand new! This was its first weekend open and that it was called “Sister’s Hostel” (I was right!). That explains why we couldn’t find it.

I walked with Rafael back to the cab to pay him and say goodbye. In stereotypical Italian style he begged me to stay with him. I shyly declined. Then he invited me to brunch in the morning. He said “I want to introduce my family to the giggly American”. I was flattered and reluctantly said “I’m sorry, no.” My tour was departing early that morning. I gave him a generous tip (I think I paid like $200 for only an $80 trip). But it was worth it. Rafael was a perfect gentleman and I don’t like to imagine what might have happened if I had been with a different cabbie. My biggest regret was that I didn’t get a photo with Rafael. But my phone was dead so I had no camera. Finally at 430AM I was safe and sound back at my hotel. I passed out fully clothed in my bed. But not before soaking in the extraordinary occurrences on my wild night.

How to spend a week in Paris for less then $1200

This season we have a 12 day shooting hiatus during production this summer and I am ecstatic! I have extreme waunderlust and 7 months of straight work doesn’t allow for travel. But this season we have a break for Fourth of July! If you’re like me and have an incessant need to travel but are on a budget then here’s the “How To” for you!

How to spend a week in paris for less than a $1200

A Godsend in the world of Airlines: Nowegian air 

Norwegian Air is an affordable airline with the some of cheapest flights from the US to Europe.

The MEca of search engines: skyscanner.com

Sky Scanner compares millions of flights to find you the cheapest deal, fast. This is absolute best flight search engine I have found. However, if you’re a student I recommend you try Studentuniverse.com. You have to have a student ID and email address. I used Student Universe to plan my whole European backpacking trip when I was in college.

HOw to search for flights:
  • When searching search one-way. It’s usually cheaper then booking a round trip. You don’t have to stay within one airline so you have more options.
  • Leave from a major hub. I live in Norfolk, VA. It’s always cheaper for me to fly out of Richmond. Which is only an hour and half away from me. Another option I have is to leave out of New York. I can easily get to JFK (NYC) for around $150 from RIC. Or I take the 6 hour Mega Bus for just $25!
  • Search on a week day around 2pm.
  • Book flights about 6 weeks in advance if possible!
OUTBOUND FLIGHT

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Return FLIGHT

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TOTAL: $616

Hostel

If you really want to travel on a budget then staying at a hostel is the best solution. Hostels in Europe can be top-notch. If you do your research you can find excellent places that are cheap, modern, clean and friendly.

I suggest St. Christopher’s Inn. They have hostels all over Europe. Staying with a hostel chain means more accountability, better communication and higher standards. I’ve stayed our St. Christopher’s in London and at Gare Du Nord in Paris.

When searching for the right hotel I look for:
  • Breakfast
  • Bed sheets provided
  • WIFI
  • In room lockers
  • Organized Social events

Seven days and six nights at St. Christopher’s Canal, Paris: 33.62 per night

TOTAL: $238.35

FOOD Budget
  • Breakfast – Free
  • Lunch – $12 a day ($85)
  • Dinner- $15 a night ($100)
  • 25% off food and drink specials downstairs in Belushi’s bar and restaurant

TOTAL: $185

FUN

TOTAL: $115

TRIP TOTAL: $1155


Check out what I did on my last trip to Paris: CLICK HERE 

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Travel Bucket List

I’ve got a lot of work to do…

  • Sunrise at Angkor Wat
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    Magical Sunrise at Angkor Wat

  • Cooking Class in Tuscany
  • Sing “Don’t Cry for me”  in Argentina
  • Hike Machu Picchu
  • Sail Croatia
  • Cooking Class in Tuscany
  • Snorkel in Belize
  • Zip Line in Costa Rica
  • Carnival in Brazil
  • Rent a villa on the French Rivera
  • Go to the Cannes Film Festival
  • Rent a villa in Capri for the summer
  • Vodka Tasting in Russia
  • Rent a camper and travel across New Zealand
  • Karaoke in Japan
  • Thermal Bath in Budapest
  • Ski Austria
  • One wild night Las Vegas

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    Exploring the gardens of Versailles

  • Visit Versailles
  • New Years Eve in Eastern Europe
  • Visit Lochness
  • Sunbathe on the Gold Coast of Australia
  • VIP Coachella
  • Christmas in Helsinki
  • Full Moon Party in Thailand
  • Visit Auschwitz
  • See tigers in India
  • Hot Chocolate in Switzerland

Plus Size Girls Packing. Guide to South East Asia

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Before my trip to South East Asia I scoured the internet for packing advice to a plus size girl. I had very little luck. So in order to save you some time I’ve complied my recommend packing list for a curvy girl traveling in SE Asia.

1. Body Glide (Chub Rub Stick): Thick thighs, humidity and extreme heat do not mix. Invest in body glide! If you bring one thing with you, choose Body Glide! I went through two sticks during my trip. Prevents chaffing and irritation caused by rubbing skin or undergarments.

2. Maxi Dress with sleeves: Many temples in South East Asia require shoulders and knees to be covered for entry. Invest in a light weight maxi dress to look conservativ

Bright colors are a must in the tropics!

Bright colors are a must in the tropics!

e but stylish. This dress can also double as a swim suit cover up!

3. Two Linen or Cotton tank tops: Invest in light weight and flowy fabrics. These are easy to pack, layer and clean. I absolutely lived in my Maurices elephant print tank (pictured above).

4. Chiffon Kimono: Modesty is important while traveling in Asia. It’s okay to wear tank tops when at the beach or riding elephants, but when dining or going to the market I recommend covering up your shoulders with an airy kimono like this Floral Print Kimono from Maurices. 

5. Rose Water Spritz: I swear by Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Face Spray. It cleanses, cools, and moisturizes your skin.  Check out this article on the benefits of Rose Water.

Invest in layering pieces.

Invest in layering pieces like a vest or kimono. 

6. Soft, flexible and Supportive Bra: Many of the packing tip articles I found suggested do as the natives do and “go braless”. Well as a full figured woman there’s no way I could let the girls dangle. Invest in a great bra. Something that will not retain moisture, move with your body, breath and give support.

7. Bring simple t-shirts: I wish I had brought two plain, simple, yet chic t-shirts with me on my trip. I can’t tell you how many mornings I went through my suitcase and simply did not want to put on any of my frilly blouses!

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Invest in loose fitting, breathable tops to keep cool.

8. Don’t bring dainty flip flops: When walking through Bangkok you can play “I spy the broken flip flop!” From crowds stepping on your heals, getting sunk in mud, or just plain bad luck your “Old Navy” $5 thongs will break. Invest in sturdier sandles. I suggest Birkenstocks. They are super fashionable right now. Plus they have a life time guarantee!

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Invest in “Harem Pants” before you leave. Plus sizes are hard to find at the local markets.

9. Don’t bring jeans: Jeans are heavy, stiff and downright miserable when wet. If you’re like me and love the look of jean shorts then find some shorts with a synthetic jean like appearance (like these from Maurices).

10. Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray: Ditch you curling irons, flats irons and hair spray. Your hair will not withhold the humidity. Use a Sea salt spray to add sexy, tousled waves and a light matte finish to any hair type.

11. Beware Harem Pants: When in SE Asia you will be surrounded by stick thin hippies wearing “Elephant Pants“. You will desperately want to join the cult. However as a size 14+ girl you will struggle to pants that fit in the local markets. I tore three pairs during my trip! So think ahead and find a pair at your mall before your trip. They’re all over the stores right now!

12. Flattering, but conservative swim apparel: Modesty is always important in Asia. I love my body but when I rocked my cleavage boosting bikini on our first seaside outing I felt like I was given death stares at by the locals. I’m a confident woman but I did not like the glares.

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I wish I had brought a suit more like this cute, flattering tankini.

13. Bright Lip Stain and eye liner: You’re going on vacation so why not give your skin a break as well? Ditch all of your make-up and go all natural. Everyone else will as well. Plus any foundation, ect. will just melt off in the humidity. My essentials in Asia were my bright coral lip stick by Pixi brand (Target) and liquid eye-liner for fancy nights out.

14. No Jewlery: Twice on my trip girls lost their jewelry and one girl had her jewlery stolen from her suitcase at the airport! Don’t brink expensive rings, necklaces or family heirlooms with you! It’s not worth it. Instead pick up some cool accessories at the local markets!

15. Scarf: I have a rainbow scarf that has now been two 6 countries with me. It is my number one travel accessory. Invest in a large scarf that can double as a sarong, shirt, blanket, towel, bag, and more! Carry it with you all the time. It will keep you warm, modest, stylish and protected from the sun when needed.

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This temple in Thailand required your knees to be covered. Good thing I had my trusty scarf with me!


Want more information on what I packed?

Packing

Check out my detailed packing list for my Big Indochina Adventure!

Where do I want to go in 2015?

1. Peru

Peru is number one on my list of places to visit in 2015 because it features diverse landscapes, friendly people, colorful food and tons of adventure. I want to hike to Machu Pichu, white water raft on the Urubamba River and meet some Alpacas! I’m also going to try to convince a couple of friends to go. I want to share my adventure with others!

Hassle free trips I could take:

– Contiki’s Peru Uncovered

2. Eastern Europe for Christmas

I imagine visiting Eastern Europe’s capital cities of Budapest, Prague and Krakow in the winter will be like visiting the kingdom from Frozen or any other winter fairy tale. I want to visit Christmas markets, snow covered castles and ice skate on real ice! I might even like to do a week of skiing in Austria.

Hassle free trips I could take:

– Top Deck’s Spires in the Snow

– Contiki’s Berlin to Budapest

– Contiki’s Austria Ski

3. Camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains

I want to go camping with my family in the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains or the Harper’s Ferry region. We can take out my brother’s new Sylvan Sport Go Camper, go tubing or kayaking, hike and roast marshmallows.

4. Los Angeles

Since I work in Film and TV I think it’s about time to make the pilgrimage to Hollywood. I want to crash some celebrity parties, shop on Rodeo drive, take pictures with the crazy costume people at the Chinese Theater and hike past the Hollywood sign. Plus I’d love to catch up with my many friends who’ve made the move to the sunshine state!

5. Hampshire, Southern England

I want to dedicate a week or two of my year discovering Jane Austen’s England. But most specifically visiting my friend Becky in Petersfield! I want to rent a car and try driving on the wrong side of the road. I want to drink a pint of beer in a proper pub. I want visit the Downton Abbey castle, take in the English countryside and just relax with a proper holiday.

What Italy Taught Me

My second solo trip aboard gave me another opportunity to reflect on myself and life aspirations. Here’s what I learned:

1. I don’t need other people to agree with me

  • In Sorrento for New Years Eve all of the people I was with were going home at 115AM and I wanted to stay out. I tried to convince them to “stay out, seize the day, YOLO!” But they wouldn’t budge. Everyone “was tired”. As I followed them back to our coach I got really sad. I even started to cry. With all my heart I wanted to stay out, dance and be with the locals. That’s when I punched myself in the gut and asked “why do I need these people to be with me? I don’t even really know them! Why do I need them as a safety blanket?” I told myself “if you want to stay out here’s your chance! You don’t need them. Go back to the city square and dance the night away!” That’s when I found myself running back to the party alone and I am so happy I did.

2. I like to dance

  • When I am traveling I suddenly become a dancing queen. I transform into a sexy vixen with dance moves to kill for! When I go to my hometown clubs I’m more reserved. I’m with people I know or around people I’ll probably see again. So I tend to be more self-conscious. But when I’m abroad I let my guard down and dance like there’s no tomorrow. I defiantly want to adopt my new-found dance confidence the next time I go out in the states.

3. Italian food is good but Asian food is better

  • I’ll probably get some slack from this. But I honestly sampled more “life-changing” cuisine while in Asia. I think that American Italian food killed any ingenuity of real Italian food. I actually left Italy being kind of disappointed. Before my trip every told me “you’re going to eat amazing things.” I tried the local cuisine everywhere I went. I had focaccia, black squid pasta, pesto, meatballs, lasagna, cold cuts and mozzarella but nothing really stood out. In Asia one meal was always better than the last. I went home craving pad Thai, fresh spring rolls, noodle soup and screwers.

4. Always pack more underwear then you think you need

5. I can survive without my laptop or ipad

  • This is the first trip I took without bringing a computer.

6. Australians are not all party monsters

  • The last trip I took was filled with a ton of young Aussies who were perpetually drunk the entire trip. Italy attracted an older and more mature crowd. They surely changed some of the misconceptions I made of those from “down under”.

7. I want to take a trip with my best friends

  • Traveling alone is great. But it would be nice to come home and have other people to reminisce with. I feel rude when I’m talking to my roommates and I interject with “one time in Italy or once in Thailand”. I wish I had other people to revel in the glory I my ventures with. I think my girls and I could totally concur South America. I hope I can convince someone to go with me new time.

8. I prefer adventure tourism to historical tourism

  • Italy is beautiful. The history is fascinating and the sites are bucket-list worthy. My tour focused on seeing the ruins, churches and then shopping. After the third city it got a bit repetitive. I now know I prefer holidays where I can trek, swim, kayak, sky dive, ect. I want to experience the land, people and only a little bit of the history. I would love to go back to the Island of Capri or the Cinque Terre to go sailing or hiking. I defiantly need to visit Italy in the summer. I think it would be a completely different trip.

9. I do not like coffee

  • In Italy I did as the Italian do. I drank cappuccino and did an espresso shot. Each time I asked myself “why did I waste money on this?” Gross.

10. I love wine

  • After wine tasting in Tuscany how can you not love wine? I’m now a connoisseur!

You can’t see Rome in a day

We arrived in Rome last night. After checking in we embarked on a night walking tour of the city center. I would’ve preferred to see the sites during the day. I really feel like we were robbed by not getting to Rome earlier. TheTrevi Fountain was closed for reconstruction so I can’t even guarantee coming back to Rome by throwing a coin in the fountain’s waters! #fail

On our rainy walking tour we passed the Spanish Steps, the Piazza Navona and ventured inside the Pantheon.

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This morning we explored the Vatican City! It was pretty neat exploring the smallest country in the world! I really hoped we would get to see the Pope but apparently he wasn’t home. Our hysterical guide Peter helped us skip the line and gave an in-depth look at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. These masterpieces of architecture are a site to be seen for sure. I could stare at the ceilings all day. Every inch is decorated and everything is so vibrant!

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Looking fly at the Roman Forum.

Afterwards we all ate our weight in Pizza at this “by the slice” shop. You pay depending on how much your slices weigh! Ingenious. I ate about four slices and they were all delectable. After stuffing ourselves we took our coach to the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

Peter led us on a very factual tour of the Roman Forum. I would’ve liked to do more walking and exploring and less talking. I think most people would agree that the history is great to know, but we really didn’t see much of the vast ruins. Then we headed to the highlight of our tour, the Colosseum.

It was okay…

I know a lot of my fellow travelers would disagree with me. Yes, its impressive. Yes, its beautiful. Blah blah blah. But there’s nothing really there. You can walk in a circle and up a few flights of stairs. That’s it.

I think its hard for any ancient ruins to top Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

I only wish a hot man name Paulo would’ve whisked me around the Colosseum on a Vespa. If that had happened I think the Colosseum might have been something to write home about.

For dinner our group went to an amazing dinner theater where our waiters sang opera to us! We had bottomless wine and great pasta. It was a super fun musical party!

Musical Dinner Theater!

Musical Dinner Theater!

Then we continued the party by pub crawling. We went to a little tiny bar where we paid twenty euros to have “open bar” for an hour. That meant drink as much as possible before time runs out. I think I had 5 cocktails? After number 3 things got a little fuzzy.

The plan for the night was to get as drunk as possible and then sober up by 130AM to be able to catch my 3AM shuttle to the airport. My tour mate Howard and I made a pact to make sure one another got to the airport. I also commissioned my friend Russel to assure my departure as well (see as he owed me a favor from our last club night). Well I think things got a little out of hand. I pretty much don’t remember how I got from the night club to the airport. So thanks to whoever put Howard and I in a cab!

Going through Roma airport at 3AM drunk was an adventure. Being drunk on bumpy flights was terrible. I had a massive hang over for the duration of my 10 hour trip. Bad weather and flight delays didn’t help with how awful I felt either. But you live and learn. As Contiki says #noregrets.

Charming Cinque Terre

This morning we headed south toward La Spezia and the Cinque Terre region of Italy. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage sites famous for its coastal villages, scenic vistas, rugged cliffs and colorful villages.

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Today we had the whole day free to ourselves so it quickly became my favorite days of the trip. I hung out with two super fun guys. We had a great time drinking tons of wine, eating delicious food and exploring the quiet streets of the different Cinque Terre towns.

We started our food tour of the Cinque Terre with pesto focaccia pizza. We chowed down before exploring a breathtaking castle in La Spezia. At the top of the castle there was a harp player! 10906113_10152893621355813_7806844916176866695_n

Afterwards we checked into our tiny hotel.

Where did I stay? Hotel Firenze Continentale

Then we took the train to Monterosso al Mare where the boys and I decided to sit back, relax and treat ourselves to wine and aperitifs. 10407261_10152893619320813_8236156655788437128_n

Afterwards we traveled to Manarola. There we saw the Befana! The Befana is a witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). It was so neat to see the old woman parading down the street with hoards of children following and singing. What a special time to be in Italy! After the celebration I grabbed gelato and strolled down to the coast where I watched the sunset. 10922616_10152893619450813_6628597561072186127_n

Then we traveled to Riomaggiore for dinner. Our group filled a tiny restaurant. I tried pesto pasta and we had two bottles of local wine! Feeling happy we caught the train back to La Spezia where we hung out at the hotel bar and chatted the night away.

I truly had an amazing, cinematic, life-affirming day today. I will cherish the Cinque Terre for the rest of my life.

Tranquile Sirminone, Italy

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Today we traveled north to the commune of Sirmione in Lombardy, Italy. Sirmione is a beautiful peninsula on famous Lake Garda. Entering Sirmione you’re greeted by a stunning castle and historical villas. If you venture further into town you will discover Roman ruins, peaceful gardens, orange trees and serene vistas.

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We had a bit of free time so I explored the town on my own. I stopped for gelato in a croissant a traditional Sirmonie desert. It was delicious but very messy. DSC00963

I wandered up a tiny cobblestone street and discovered a beautiful overlook of Lake Garda. It was nice and sunny so I relaxed on a park bench and took in the view. I even discovered a lagoon with two picturesque swans. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 1.46.36 PM

Later our amazing tour manager Enzo was able to organize a special boat tour of the lake for us! So we piled into two high speed boats for a panoramic views of the town and Dolomite Mountains. The boat ride was by far my favorite thing I’ve done so far on the trip. I truly love Sirmione. I will come back some day.

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