Filtering by Tag: travel

Savoring Sorrento

I'm gonna hit fast-forward for a second here.

This post should *technically* be about my next couple days in Florence. I tend to be a chronological order kinda girl. But today, I woke up thinking about Sorrento.

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And so that's where we're gonna go.

I don't want to write about my entire stay in Sorrento--though it was amazing, and I'll get there eventually.  I want to focus on one moment in particular.

By the time I reached Sorrento, I'd been on my own for nearly two weeks. I'd traveled to two different countries. I'd made new friends, tried new food, experienced new things.

And I'd been scared the entire time.

Last year, I'd begun living my life by a new motto: Feel the fear and do it anyway. And that's exactly what I'd been doing this whole trip. I'd spent the last two weeks terrified, nervous, unsure. But I woke up each morning and attacked the day in spite of those things coursing through me. But in Sorrento...

I arrived mid-afternoon, with plenty of daylight to find my hotel. Mapquest did not like Sorrento. There were stairs and winding paths that confused it. And, so, I got a little lost looking for my hotel. Once I found it, I was sweaty, exhausted, and all nerved up. This was the worst part of travel for me--switching between locations. I'd spent five days in Florence before this, and I was anxious about the new place. In fact, if I didn't have my heart set on Pompeii, I might have skipped Sorrento altogether.

And that would've been a mistake.

Once I got to my hotel, the beautiful man at the front desk gave me my room key, a map, and a couple pamphlets. He'd circled a few restaurants, and told me that the marina was not far from there. I tucked that piece of information away and went up to my room. I collapsed on my bed, welcoming the cool air and comfort of my own space. I could've stayed there the rest of the night, but the word marina kept bouncing around in my brain. I'd caught a glimpse of the Mediterranian Sea through the train window, and I couldn't wait to see it up close. So I forced myself to get off the bed, put my shoes back on, and head out the door.

The walk lasted about ten minutes and took me down a twisty road and through a long tunnel. 

 

I emerged from between a cluster of tall, brightly-painted buildings to find it there, sprawled out before me. Majestic, overwhelming, beautiful.

I walked along the street to a dead-end that dropped off a few feet, right into the thrashing, wild water.

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I video-called my mom so I could share this absurd beauty with her, and then I hung up and walked down the dock. On one side, boats lay beneath tarps. A few fisherman were calling it a night, unloading onto the dock. A little boy ran on wobbly legs to his father. An older couple wandered to the edge of the dead-end street.

 

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I stood there, breathing in the salty air, listening to the waves crash. And my heart stilled

A few minutes later, my stomach interrupted my reverie. I hadn't eaten since Florence, and I was starving.

Just ahead, a couple restaurants lined the street. I chose the one with the best view and requested a table overlooking the Mediterranean. There, I ordered the freshest fish I'd ever eaten, washed down with delicious wine and a decadent lemon dessert.

While I waited for my food to arrive, I pulled out my journal, and I wrote. And that was when it hit me: Sitting there, my first meal alone at a restaurant (I'd eaten with friends or on-the-go the rest of my trip), the sea-kissed air whipping my hair into my face...this was it.

This was the moment I'd been searching for my entire trip.

It was in that single moment that I felt it: the bravery everyone had been telling me I possessed from the moment I'd booked my trip.

Now, back home and surrounded by real life, I cling to that moment. When I set the deadline to release my book. When I hit "publish." When my sweet old dog died. When I sat beside accomplished and talented authors and talked about my own writing. Every single time I tell someone I'm an author--and not a *writer*--I feel it: the waves roaring in my ears, the buzz of wine in my bloodstream, the taste of freedom, sweet on my tongue.

I hold that moment tight to my chest every time self-doubt, fear, uncertainty starts to creep in. I can do it. I've done it before.

And I'll do it again.

 

Fair Verona

With my heart still firmly in Amsterdam, it was a challenge moving on to Italy.

You read that right. A challenge. Being in Italy. What's wrong with me, huh?

Well, that's a loaded question, and one I'm not digging into right now.

Anyway.

I left Amsterdam Friday morning, dragging my feet the whole way. I made it to the airport with no problem, got on my flight, and off I went. It was smooth-going the entire journey. Touched down in Milan that afternoon, hopped on a bus to the train station, where I caught a tram to my hostel (here's a secret: I accidentally stole my tram ride. I was unsure of where to buy a ticket, so I got on, thinking maybe I could purchase one there. Nope. I spent the entire ride afraid the Italian police were going to cart me off to jail!). Found my hostel and checked in with absolutely no problem.

And then I burst into tears.

You won't find any pictures of Milan here, because I didn't leave my hostel. I sat on my bed and cried. Ate a granola bar, sure that it was hunger bringing on the emotions, called my best friend, who Googled the nearest restaurants for me so that I could get some real food in me, and when we hung up...I cried some more.

At some point, my roommate wandered in. A middle-age Austrailian woman. She seemed sympathetic at first, asking if I was okay. I assured her I was. Just hungry and tired. I got my tears under control long enough to go downstairs to the hostel's bar and eat a hot dog and fries (that's right...my first meal in Italy was a hot dog and fries). 

When I came back to my room, I sat down and...yep. Started crying again. My roommate's patience ran out. She sort of rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, no. Are you going off again?" And then rattled on about how I must be a water sign, because I'm really sensitive.

We had a nice conversation once I stopped crying, and then I got a full night's sleep. The next day, I was off to Verona. I woke up, packed my things, and headed to the train station. I was okay until I got to my B&B.

And then I cried again.

I don't know what my deal was, guys. Maybe it finally hit me that I was thousands of miles away from home? Maybe I was sad about leaving Amsterdam? Whatever it was, my onslaught of tears took two days right out of my itinerary.

But you know what? The next day, I got up, got dressed, and hit the streets. Once I got into Verona, I was so caught up in the sights and sounds that those tears were long gone.

The first day, I did the requisite Casa do Giulietta, where it is believed Shakespeare's Juliet lived. I groped the bronze statue in the courtyard below the balcony (it's supposed to bring you luck in love...which is weird, if you think about it. That story did NOT have a happy ending), stood on the balcony, and left a letter for Juliet. Touristy as heck, but still fun!

I followed up with some gelato:

(WHITE chocolate...stupid autocorrect)

And a visit to the Arena di Verona:

This place was really cool. It's smaller than the Coliseum, and way more preserved. To this day, it's still used for concerts (you can see the floor seating in the picture). In the summer, you can attend operas here...makes me almost wish I'd gone then...

I was back in my room and ready for bed by 630pm. My feet were tired, my brain was overloaded with beauty and history, and I needed a rest!

I started bright and early the next day with a hike up the 200-something stairs to Piazzale Castel San Pietro. I'd heard the view was not to be missed, and, well, it was free, so...of course I was in.

The stairs, though.

I couldn't feel my legs, definitely couldn't breathe (I started to get a cold this day), but that view...

I sat on that ledge for what seemed like minutes, but was actually well over an hour. The church bells rang, the breeze blew by, and I sat there, soaking it all in. I didn't want to leave, but I had started shivering, so I knew I had to get moving.

The rest of the day consisted of tours of a couple of churches, a delicious plate of Lasagna Bolognese, more gelato, and a trek across the Castelvecchio.

All in all, a very successful two days in Verona! The next morning, I packed up and hit the road. Next stop: Venice!

Side note: If you want to follow my antics live, my Snapchat is meika622. You're missing out!

In Which I Freak Out About My Trip


I leave in nine days. Just over a week from this moment and I'll be boarding a plane aimed for Amsterdam. I'll be in Europe. An entirely different continent.

I've been planning this trip for a year. Dreaming about it for a lifetime.

(This is from a couple days ago, but it still stands.)


I can't see myself there. I try to imagine getting off the plane, leaving the airport, taking a bus (or something...still need to research this) from the airport to my hostel. Checking in. Wandering the canal-lined streets.

I can't see it.

But I can feel it.

Every time I try to envision it, my heart races, my feet cool, my face heats. I can almost feel my stomach drop as the plane ascends. I try to think about doing all the things I've dreamt about--and I'm utterly overcome with disbelief that it will happen.

It's happening, though. It's real. The tickets are bought, the hostel is booked. I'm going to Europe. Alone.

HOW did this happen? How did I sum up the courage and/or stupidity to buy that first ticket?

I don't feel brave. I know I've said this, but it's still true. I'm so scared. What if I can't do it? What if I get there and I freeze? Break down? What if I have to book a ticket back home before I even leave the airport?

I think that's my biggest fear. Not pickpockets, or running out of money, or not being able to communicate, or getting lost. It's the fear that I won't even give myself the chance to try.

It's one thing to book the flight. An entirely different thing to actually get on the plane.

I have to do it. Not because I don't want to disappoint anyone or waste the money I've already spent. But because I owe it to myself. I need to make this dream a reality. I need to go out in the world--alone--and find out who I am. I need to give myself the chance to try, to claim that independence, that confidence, those experiences for myself.

This trip is for me and only me. It's not to reclaim these places from my past or to make anyone jealous. I know that on the other side, when I come back, I'll be a different person.

And while that is a thrilling thought, it's also a scary one.

Change is scary. New things are scary. The whole damn world is scary.

I just want to be brave enough to face it.

I hope I will be.

I KNOW I will be.

In the meantime, I should probably put all this nervous energy into finishing the revision on my damn book...

Feel the Fear

Forty-five days.

Forty. Five. Days.

October 2nd, 2016.

Forty-five days away.

Excuse me while I have a nervous breakdown.

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...okay.

So. Yes. In forty-five days, I'll be boarding a plane aimed for Europe.

Amsterdam, Italy--north to south--and Paris.

Just over three weeks.

By myself.

People tell me I'm brave.

I don't feel brave.

I feel terrified and crazy and anxious. But not brave.

I had a meltdown the other day. It occurred to me that, once I arrive in Europe, I'll have no idea where anything is. My exact thought process looked a little something like this:

"What if I can't find the grocery store in Florence? I'm gonna starve. I'M GONNA STARVE TO DEATH IN ITALY!"

Right. Starve to death. In Italy.

This is what my brain has become. A constant stream of nonsensical fears and neuroses.

I'll be fine. I know this. I'll be fine and I'll come home stronger, more confident. Changed.

I'm looking forward to it.

You know, in between the meltdowns.

The quote. Yes, it was Pinterest.
I read a quote somewhere the other day. Pinterest, probably. It was something like, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

Well, that's what I'm doing. Each step of the way. From buying that first ticket to booking my hostel in Amsterdam. I'm terrified, but I want this more. I want to see and experience new things. I want to venture out all by myself, to discover new things about myself and the world. I want to claim the independence and confidence that has been just out of reach for most of my adult life.

I want to come home changed. Stronger. Braver.

And, dammit, I want gelato.

And so, in forty-five days, I'll get on that plane.

But that doesn't mean I won't freak out until then.

Forty-five days, guys.

Shit.


IWSG: Doing the Thing That Scares You

A couple months ago, I did something. Something big. Something scary. Something I have always wanted to do.

I bought a ticket to Europe.

Not as part of a group tour, or a cruise. A single, solitary, one-way ticket to Amsterdam.

The moment I confirmed the purchase, my stomach fell straight to my toes. What was I doing? Who did I think I was, planning a solo trip thousands of miles away from home? I wasn't that brave!

Here's a secret, though: I AM that brave.

We all are.

Life, I have come to learn, is often choosing to do the thing that scares you. It's not easy, and there are a million reasons NOT to do it, but what's the worst that could happen?

Given, of course, that the thing that scares YOU is not, like, committing murder or jumping off a high-rise. DON'T do those things. They're scary for a reason.

But buying a ticket to Europe? Applying for a job you really want? Asking that cute dude out that you see every day at the coffee shop (probably not for coffee, though)? Yes. Do those things.
Moments after buying my ticket.

Because the worst that could happen is that you fail. You get lost in the streets of Florence. You don't get the job. The cute dude says no. You're still okay.

This applies to writing, as well. A book idea that scares you might turn out to be the best thing you've ever written. Joining a writing group could earn you some new friends (and writer friends are the best) and maybe some solid advice. And self-publishing the book babies you've put your heart and soul into for years...

Okay. That last one is super scary, no matter how much optimism I sprinkle over it.

But, just like that ticket to Amsterdam, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do the thing that scares me. Because what's a life spent sitting on the sidelines while others chase their dreams?

What scares YOU (writing-wise or not)?

2015: Best Year Ever?



It’s New Year’s Eve. This time tomorrow, we will be at the start of a brand new year. Can you believe it? 2015 is almost gone, never to be seen again.

I hope your year was filled with all things that were good. I know mine was.

From start to finish, my 2015 was a lesson in changing and learning and growing. On a big picture level, there are a few things that stand out:

I wrote. A lot. Like, a lot, a lot.

At the beginning of the year, I attended a writing conference put on by the fabulous Capital City Writers Association, called Write on the Red Cedar. It was, hands down, the best conference I have ever been to. I paid extra for a workshop with Donald Maass, and, OMG guys, I learned so much. I went in to the workshop with my completed NaNoWriMo novel (the sequel to the one I had finished the year before), and when I left, I had a plan for rewriting the entire last half. That workshop was a game changer for the way I write.

As a side note, the CCWA is doing another conference in January, and this year's headliner is Bob Mayer. Interested? Ya better hurry. They're almost sold out!

So, I rewrote the last half of that book and turned it in to my wonderful writing group. The verdict? It was a solid first draft with minimal issues. The entire experience—writing that book, attending the conference, rewriting half of the book—guys, it changed me. As I’ve mentioned before, I spent a LONG time working on one book. Over and over and over and…well, you get the picture. I wrote that book so many times. I was stuck in a loop. When I decided to write something new last November, I had no idea how it was going to change me.

In about March, armed with notes from my writing group for revisions, I cracked open my manuscript, ready to revise. Only…I couldn’t. Because I had learned so much about writing and about my abilities as a writer, I knew I had to go back. I had to go back to that FIRST book. If I was going to present the two novels I had written as a series, then I had to rewrite book one. It didn’t match the tone, the voice, the everything of book two. So, with a sharp edge of hesitance, of nervousness, I rewrote book one. 


In July, I had MAJOR SURGERY!!!!! My gallbladder had been trying to kill me for a while and so I finally got that sucker yanked out. Life has been much less painful since.

I finished my rewrite somewhere around mid-August, and threw the whole thing to my writing group. At this point, it wasn’t even a rewrite. It was an entirely new book. The character names were the only constants between the new and old. And it was the right decision. My group loved it—of course, there were suggestions to make it better, but overall…I couldn’t have asked for a better critique.

From September to October, while putting together a plan of action for revisions, I went back to school. I finished one class before I decided that now was not the right time. I was finally onto something with my writing, I was excited, passionate, confident about it for the first time in forever, and I didn’t want to split my time between writing and school. It was a hard decision to make, because I don’t have much left for my Bachelor’s degree, and we all know writing ain’t a logical career choice (at least if you’re looking to quit your day job). But in the end, I had to follow my heart, and my heart was with the writing. It always has been.

So, I withdrew from school. One of these days, I’ll get back to it, finish up that degree. Hopefully by then, I’ll have a few published books under my belt.

Also in October, I took my first solo trip. I flew to New Jersey to spend a week with my best and oldest friend and her family. Jersey was beautiful, her boys were beautiful, and I finally got to see the ocean! 



It was a wonderful trip, and it gave me a confidence I needed to know that I COULD travel solo. Because that is a huge dream of mine: to hop on a plane aimed for Europe and see everything on my own. Now I know that I don’t suck at traveling.

In November, I started a new book. I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo, but I got damn close. And by the end of the month, I had 42k’s worth of a new draft I was excited and passionate about. The third book in my series was well on its way.

Not to mention, my writing lobster and I rang in the end of NaNoWriMo the best way possible—in a cabin in the woods, no wifi for miles. It was gorgeous and inspiring. It has since been decided that this must become a tradition.




Now, at the end of December, the end of 2015, I have not added to my NaNo word count. Instead, I’ve spent the month rearranging what I wrote in November. Once I’ve got everything in its place, I’ll finish writing the book (even though I don’t have an outline, so I don’t know how it all ends), and then I’ll move on to revisions—for all three books. Because that’s not crazy or anything…

So…yeah. That was my year in a nutshell. 2015 just might be my most favorite year so far. 2016 is going to give it a run for its money, though. Which, let’s be honest, is a good place to be in.

Stay tuned for a “things I’m going to do in 2016” post.

How was your 2015? Do you have any big plans for 2016?

Wanderlust Wednesday - Amsterdam

So, it’s Wednesday. Time for my weekly daydream post. This week’s destination: Amsterdam.





Now, before any of you jump to conclusions, I don’t want to visit Amsterdam for the same reasons others might. I’m not interested in legalized marijuana or the red light district. Anyone who knows me would know that’s preposterous – and extremely laughable.



The sole reason why I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam is to see this place:



The Anne Frank House. When I was twelve, we read The Diary of Anne Frank in English class and I was astounded by the courage and eloquence this young girl – not much older than me at the time – possessed. Ever since, I’ve had a fascination with her. She has been the subject of many high school and college papers and she has inspired me beyond words.



A friend of mine visited the Anne Frank House a few months ago, and she said that there’s a feeling you get as soon as you walk in, like the spirits of all the people who lived there are still wandering the rooms. I can only imagine that feeling…

To be honest, I don’t know much else about Amsterdam, but it looks beautiful, doesn’t it?








Alright, that's all for tonight. Idol Gives Back is on, so I'm going to watch it and then write a little before bed. Tomorrow: I pass on the award that the super-sweet E. Elle gave me!

Wanderlust Wednesday - Venice

Okay, it’s technically Thursday, but I didn’t want to miss this week’s Wanderlust post. I’ve been thinking about which destination to write about all week and just now came to a decision. Venice.

Venice, Italy.



Italy will probably take up a large chunk of this series. I’ve always had this dream of backpacking my way through Italy, one glorious stop at a time. And while I probably wouldn’t actually start in Venice, all the watery pictures seemed fitting, since it hasn’t stopped raining here for two days.

Also known as “City of Water,” “City of Bridges,” and “City of Masks,” among many other names, Venice is located in northern Italy. Its maze of canals spans across 117 small islands on the Venetian Lagoon, along the Adriatic Sea. The canals serve the same function as roads and most every mode of transportation is on the water. Gondolas are mainly used for tourists these days, but are also used for weddings, funerals or other big events. Otherwise, Venetians travel by waterbuses.



Often called the most beautiful city built by mankind, Venice is home to some of the most breathtaking views to be found in all of Europe -- probably the world. It’s also been described as one of Europe’s most romantic cities. Can’t you just imagine it? Cuddled up to the one you love in the back of a gondola as you’re steered through a maze of gorgeous architecture, history all around you. The ghosts of other couples just as madly in love as you are welcoming you. How many proposals do you think this city has seen? Weddings? Honeymoons? It just screams romance, don’t you think?



Venice is also a great place for museum-hopping. There are countless museums filled with gorgeous, history-drenched pieces of art just waiting for you to admire. Even the bridges themselves are artwork. The Bridge of Sighs, pictured below, connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace. It earned its name from the idea that the prisoners would take in their last view of Venice before being taken to their cells and sigh. I’m sure the sight would make me sigh, too.



How’s this for a great piece of writing history? Did you know that Venice was home to one of Italy’s earliest printing presses? And it was responsible for printing half of Italy’s published books? Pretty cool, huh?



Okay, sorry about being late this week. Next week, I'll try to be more prompt! I hope you guys enjoyed this little Italian detour and enjoy your Thursdays!


Wanderlust Wednesday - Santorini

This is a little something I've decided to try. Every Wednesday (or most Wednesdays, anyway) I'm going to post about one of the many places I long to visit someday. Today, the focus is a little place I like to call Paradise. Santorini, Greece.

Ahh, Santorini.



Ever since I caught the wanderlust bug, Santorini has called my name. With its endless expanse of skies and waters of impossible blue, it holds a beauty I can only dream of. And I do dream of it. I dream of tipping my face upward, inhaling salty, warm breezes while the sun kisses my face. I dream of a place where worries dissipate in the startling sunlight. Oh, do I ever dream.



And then I watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. For those of you who have either read the books or seen the movies, you know that Lena has family in Greece. In Santorini. The scenes shot there (even though the movie was a poor imitation of the book) were absolutely gorgeous. This place is post card perfect.



A little history on this little piece of heaven on earth: Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, which destroyed the earliest settlements of what was formerly a single island. The island’s cliffs slope into the Aegean Sea on three sides. The fourth side boasts a lagoon, which is separated from the sea by Therasia, a smaller island.





Named by the Latin Empire in the thirteenth century, Santorini is a reference to Saint Irene, one of three sisters who were martyred for their faith in 304 CE. Before then, it was known as Kalliste, which means the beautiful one. Rather fitting, don’t you think?



Enjoy swimming? Santorini has beaches galore! The color of the sand (i.e white, red or black) depends on which geologic layer is exposed. Some have sand while others have pebbles made of solidified lava. The water at the darker beaches is generally warmer because the lava absorbs heat.





And a little something for the myth buffs out there -- there is evidence linking the myth of Atlantis to Santorini!

Anyway, I hope my foray into travel-writing/daydreaming didn't bore any of you. Let me know what you think -- should I keep this series at one installment, or continue with next week's dream destination?