Friday, March 16, 2012

Journal It! -  A Visual Experience

I am a sap for journals - big ones, small ones, fancy ones, homemade ones - I love journals and the idea of keeping a journal.

Anyone can keep one.  A blog is a public journal (assuming anyone reads it) and they're great.  But the look and feel of a physical journal cannot be beat.

I have been working on three journals for the upcoming trip.  I'll use them to sketch things I see, and to write what I feel in the moment.  Take a look:

So easy to make.  No special tools required and no special paper required.  Every piece of these was gathered from a scrap pile, from magazines, newspapers, scraps of paper, envelopes - you get the idea.  

Take a look inside:

More inside pics:

With a little paint, scraps of paper  and  some creativity anyone can produce a journal perfect for capturing memories of your trip.

But don't limit their use to travel.  Use it to chronicle anything - your garden, walks through your neighborhood, random thoughts - anything of interest to you.

There are a zillion web references for journals - I'm not going to go into it here.  Google "art journals" and you will find many great examples, tutorials and experts on the matter.

Two of these journals I will use to chronicle my experiences, and one I'll use for guests to write in.

I will have a lot of guests this summer.

SO!  Get loose, get creative.  Gather up a bunch of "junk" paper, some paint, some pens and whatever and "smash" a journal together.  Tie it together with string or bind it with a few rings.   It is insanely fun and easy so give it a try.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Planning - T-Minus 48 Days

Lifting the Load - For the Inexperienced or First-Time Foreign Traveler

I'm not this overly experienced world traveler and there are many many individuals far more qualified than me to speak on the subject of packing and what-not.  BUT, I have made numerous trips to Italy, Africa, England and other countries not of my birth, as well as many states in the US.  Here's the most important thing I learned:

  • No matter how well you believe you've packed, no matter how conservative you think you were with your selections - you have packed too much!  I'm not joking!.
You may think that 10 pair of underwear, four pair of pants,  four tops and three pair of shoes is conservative for a two week stay.  It's not!  You have over packed, especially since you know you're bringing small bottles of shampoo, your blow dryer, make-up, deodorant, a jacket, a sweater, pj's, your laptop and/or Kindle, snacks and heaven knows what else and every little item takes up space and creates the enemy of all travelers - weight.

Read any travel blog or travel book and they all say the same thing.  Pack light and when you think you've packed light, remove some things anyway.  It's a given that unless you are always staying in very swank hotels where you send your laundry out for overnight cleaning (at a hefty cost), you will have to wash socks and underwear out in the sink or tub and hang them to (hopefully) dry. 

Some additional thoughts on the matter:

It is embarrassing, not to mention an inconvenient delay, to have to spread your belongings on the floor of the airport while you try to redistribute your stuff because your bag is overweight.  Do you want your underwear out there for everyone to see?
  • If you are traveling to Italy or Europe (which is perhaps why you stopped by this blog) know that cars, buses, trains and hotels do not accommodate large luggage very well.  You are better off with smaller luggage and a light weight carry on.  I have made the mistake of using big luggage and then regretted it on arrival when I had to lug this insanely large bag everywhere I went.  It's awful!
  • All flight attendants and people who travel a lot will tell you that rolled clothing fits better than folded clothing in suitcases.  And it is true.  I've packed both ways and you get a lot more in a suitcase when you roll your clothes.
  • Maximize Space. Take advantage of all space.  Pack small items inside your shoes and jacket pockets.
  • Just accept that your travel photos will portray you in the same clothes over and over again.  It's not a fashion show - it's an adventure!
  • Hair Dryers etc.  Many travel books will advise you to leave your blow dryer and flat irons home.  I refuse!  I travel with all that stuff and a couple of good converters because I'd rather have those items than another pair of shoes.  That's just me.  I KNOW I will blow up the converters so I always carry more than one.  Just me - if you have a wash and wear haircut then bravo!
  • Shoes -  really.  A comfortable pair of walking shoes and perhaps some sort of closed shoe that you can wear into a good restaurant, the opera or whatever place that isn't casual.  Maybe a pair of sandals depending on the time of year you are travelling.  Leave the rest at home.
  • Bag It! - You probably already know this but just in case - bag whatever you can like socks, underwear, etc.  They  pack better and if your luggage is inspected and they paw through your stuff it won't be quite a disaster afterwards.  The bags also come in handy for dirty laundry.
  • Be sensitive to the cultureYou've heard all the stories about the ugly Americans who travel the world in shorts and flip flops, with butt cracks and big bellies hanging out.  Don't be one of those people even if you have a nice butt crack or a small belly.  Many churches, and certainly the Vatican will not allow you to enter unless your shoulders are covered, and do not allow shorts above the knee. (Meaning that leggings or Capri pants are OK - men or women in short shorts - not OK). Men and women - leave the tank tops in the suitcase.
OK so enough said - this is starting to sound like a lecture and all I really want you to know is that you are most likely thinking of taking too much stufffahgetaboutit!  If you forget something, break something or run out of something - you can always buy it somewhere. 

Let me leave you with this story:  OOPS!  Real Life "Home Alone"

In 2008 a family was flying from Tel Aviv to Paris with their 5 children.  When they were settled in and watching the in-flight movie, they realized that their 3 year-old was missing!  Really!

The child was found in the duty free shop at the airport where the family had apparently left her and to her credit she was actually able to articulate what had happened to her.  The child was placed on a flight to Paris with a flight attendant and reunited with her parents.  Moral of the story???? 
  • Plan ahead, count heads, don't get distracted while waiting for flights, go the boarding gate early and avoid having to run for "last boarding call" and everything - and everyone - will be great! 

 Buon viaggio!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Magnificent Obsession, otherwise known as:

The Pull 


The idea of running away to Italy started out like many ideas millions of people have every day.  Part day dream, part obsession, I have longed to spend half of the year in Italy and the other half in California where I was born and raised. 
The magnetic pull of Italy comes to me by birth.  Both of my maternal grandparents were Italian and spoke the language fluently.  Though I never understood a word, as a child I would sit and listen to the old people talking, and think even then that the conversation sounded more like music than words.  I now understand as an adult that all those vowels at the end of the words help infuse the language with that melodic sound.  It’s a beautiful language, but at the moment I digress…..
It happened to me like it does to many others -  one day I woke up at the other end of my life, with grown kids, retired from the corporate life, working part-time at a nonprofit, wondering what the rest of my life was going to present to me when it dawned on me.  If I wanted life to “present” something to me it was going to be a very long wait, and I didn'thave that many good years left!  I needed to go out and make life happen.
 Slightly over a year ago I decided that I would casually search the Internet to see what the housing market was like in Italy.  I searched in all the places I’d visited on previous trips, and quickly realized that I could not afford anything in any of the places most people have heard about – Tuscany, Umbria, anything at all along the Mediterranean, nothing near Venice, and so on.  It was disheartening, but I wasn’t willing to give up quite yet.
Flash forward to October of 2010 and my husband of 39 years and I are on a plane headed for Italy to hunt for houses.  We have several in mind, they seem affordable, we have booked a week at a lovely little B&B and we are headed to the Abruzzo region of Italy, along the Adriatic side.  To say I was excited would be a colossal understatement.
The “Readers Digest” version of why we didn’t buy the house I fell in love with is that once back in the good old US of A, arranging the finances was more of a challenge than either of us anticipated, and involved us going through probate court for property inherited by my brother and sister and I, the challenges of getting financing in a down economy, and the heart-breaking realization that even if you sold everything you owned and emptied your savings, it was not going to work.   My even thinking about tapping our 401K just about landed me in divorce court.  Reality set in and I spiraled into a rather nasty funk – OK – so maybe it was a depression.  I was not easy to be around for awhile.
It was almost a year later while talking to a Board member at work that another idea surfaced.  I was sort of pissing and moaning about my tremendous disappointment with not getting the house, when the Board member casually said “why don’t you just go over whenever you want and as often as you are able, and just rent a place on those occasions?”  What?  Why didn't I think of that???? This gigantic light bulb went off in my head and I could have kissed him!  Of course I could do that (rent, not kiss him).  Not only could I do it, I could do it for a lot less than buying, and not have the taxes and upkeep associated with ownership. 
Now I was on a mission!
So it is here that you find me, 49 days from departure.  It was admittedly a tough sell for my husband who would not be joining me.  I mean really – someone has to stay home and take care of things, feed the dog and take care of the house and the 26 acres that surround it.  And there was the reality that he had a business to run and it’s hard to do that when you are 6,000 miles from that business.  However, once I convinced him that this trip was all about me and that it had nothing to do with him or my wanting to get away from him, he decided to stop fighting the idea and gave in to my obsession.  I think he was secretly thinking that this was a cheaper alternative to buying and that maybe I'd get this idea, this obsession out of my system.  I secretly wonder what I will do if I don't want to come back.....
This is my journey.  It’s almost a cliche, since we are all on a journey of sorts as we move through this life.  But this journey is mine.  I hope you will travel along with me in this space, on this page, as I document the experience through words, photographs, sketches, recipes and whatever comes my way.  It will be a three month experience and I don't really know what awaits me besides the little house I've rented in the small village of Coreglia Italy.
Ciao!  A Piu Tarde!