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Venezia, Italia

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Being a dumb American, I did not know Venice was actually Venezia until I started booking my reservations.

My host, Kenneth was extremely helpful and arranged for me a place to stay in a hotel affiliated with a church that was only 65 Euros a night. That was a great deal, considering at this time of the year the hostel was going for over 100 Euros! He also accompanied me to the station with detailed travel instructions. Oh the benefits of having a host!!

I boarded the train and saw that I was assigned to the aisle seat, but no one was next to me yet, so I stole the window seat.

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Bellinzona and Valle Verzasca – Pinterest Success!

pinterest-valle-verzascaIn Como, I made up my mind that I was going to try to find this swimming hole that I had pinned on Pinterest that mapped out as pretty close by. Pinterest has a new mapping feature, which is pretty cool if you’re traveling! So I used the hostel wifi at breakfast to pull up Google Maps and see what the transportation situation was like. I found out that while this place wasn’t very far away, I was going to need to change trains in this town called Bellinzona and because I would likely be getting in mid-day, I would need accommodations for the night.

Researching Bellinzona I found out that it actually is a UNSECO World Heritage Site with three castles! Pretty awesome! So I packed up my backpack (which was extra small as I had left my backpacking one in Milan and was traveling with a school sized backpack… yeah, I wore the same clothes over and over… but it’s good to travel light), booked my hostel and I walked to the Como train station. Well, first I walked to the wrong train station, but they straightened me up over there. Because I walked to the wrong station, I missed the first train and spent the majority of the afternoon hanging out at the train station.

I point this out because people think that traveling or vacation is all glamourous and pleasant all the time. Yes, it is wonderful, but part of the reason why I’ve seen so many amazing things is because I’ve been ok to eat PB&J, stay in and work, sleep in my car, accidentally go to the wrong place, hurry up and wait, wear the same thing over and over, ride long distances.

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Lago di Como

It’s wonderful being hosted when traveling. I was so fortunate to have Kenneth invite me to visit and host me in Milan (Ciao Milano). When I travel, I like a more authentic exploration and having a local to guide you on your way is so helpful. After a while in Milan, Kenneth suggested I visit Como. He called the hostel and gave a reservation for me in Italian and also gave me thorough directions for the train.

Como was very very beautiful, but also very very touristy. It fulfills the very essence of wealthy resort. If someone was going to shoot a Vogue spread on resort wear, they would do it in Como… they probably already have. Well look here, Vogue actually did write an article about it a few months after I was there.  Later when I told some Canadians where all I had traveled, they accused me of stalking George Clooney. All I will say, is that I can’t help it if George and I happen to have the same distinguished tastes in vacationing and we just so happen to run into each other at some social event. Hahaha! Who am I kidding! I got to Como and checked in at the hostel! Read the rest of this entry

Ciao Milano

The Prologue

People have been asking a few different questions recently. Where is Whitney? How come you haven’t blogged in a while? What have you been up to? How can you afford to travel?

I’m attempting to answer these questions here:

1.) I am currently in Tampa. Plan to see some “How to do Florida like a local” posts in the future. I really like it here and I’ve started to accept how Floridian I am.

2.) I’m all full of excuses of why I haven’t blogged in a while. Mostly it’s because my life is busy, but in a more mundane sort of way.

Ecclesiastes 3 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die…”    …A time to surf and a time to host

Yes, I’ve been doing lots of hosting. I have a map of the U.S. that was hand embroidered by my Great Grandmother hanging in my living room. We use it as a reference point. “What states have you visited?” “I’m on holiday in the U.S. for two weeks, where should I go?” “I’ve been there.” I love hearing about other people’s journeys. Every Couchsurfer does it differently: foreign exchange students, long-distances bicyclists, au pairs, freelancers, conference attendees, vacationers, hitch-hikers, WOOFers and those lucky Germans on sabbatical.

3.) I’ve actually been up to quite a lot and that’s why I’m trying to get back in the swing of things!

4.) I know this may blow your mind, but traveling is not expensive. NOT AT ALL! In fact, it can be cheaper than staying in one spot.

So without further ado, I bring you my Italian adventure!

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Nashville and Asheville

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Nashville was truly my last stop, as in Asheville was meeting my family and Elliot, the guy I was dating back home, in just a few days for the 4th of July. I arrived at the very welcoming home of my Couchsurfing host Jacob, and his roommate Ken.

Timing does really mean quite a lot in life. In Kansas City I had been surrounded by people at the International House of Prayer and listening to their opinions. Like most conservative Christians, they found issue with the fact that back home I was dating a Jew.  I didn’t really find any issue with it, and neither did my family. Jews do have great reputations after all, they are known to put out hard-working, respectable, financially responsible men who treat their women well. What’s not to like? And besides Jesus was Jewish! But I did understand where they were coming from, it wasn’t something I hadn’t heard before and I began to wonder if I maybe should only date Christian guys.

Coincidentally, about a week later in Nashville I landed on the doorstep of two attractive young Christian men. Little did I consider (it was pretty obvious once it was pointed out) that one of the effects of traveling the country by yourself is that you become more interesting, and therefore more attractive. People love to live vicariously through travelers, traveling solo makes you seem very secure in yourself and since this was the last destination really, I had plenty of stories to tell.IMG_20130701_183017_649 Read the rest of this entry

St. Louis – Back to the South

Apparently there is a debate across our country on whether St. Louis is really Southern. From my experiences it is – though my thoughts on whether a place is Southern or not is largely culinary based. Do they brew the sugar in the tea or do they stir it in after the fact when you order? I can taste a difference! Do they traditionally have their own distinct style of BBQ (Pulled Pork Carolina Mustard Style, Texas Cut Brisket, ect.) I grew up sticking my head out the school bus window to smell that savory smoke billowing out the front screen of BC’s BBQ – the pride and joy of all the Yalaha, Florida locals. I’d smell it down the road on Saturdays and hear the vroom of  biker groups speeding by on their pilgrimage. We had to stop by grab the meat, a coke from the long wall cooler and a mini sweet potato pie at the cash register. I later worked at Sonny’s serving up the good stuff – smelling of sweet sauce. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some authentic St. Louis style ribs!

I was directed to this place called Pappy’s by my Couchsurfing host Mark. I was fortunate to have a spare bedroom in the apartment of my freshly college graduated and surprisingly platonic roommates Mark and Laura. I was told to go to Pappy’s at an odd time of the day, because it is always packed. I headed over at around 2:30. There was a line out the door, but the BBQ was worth the wait! Ohh… it was some good stuff!

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Praying for Home

I covered a lot of ground between Laramie and St. Louis. It’s mapped at about 13 and a half hours of driving, but it took me several days. I left Laramie hoping to make it to Kansas City. That thought was a little over ambitious as for the record I don’t drive over 7 hours a day by myself and it’s a 10.5 hour trip. I ended up driving just about as far as I could.

Nebraska is a rather boring state. It’s filled with farms and towns that are barely a speck on the map. The terrain is flat and doesn’t contain many large trees or bodies of water. I stopped to stretch my legs at Fort Kearney. I jumped in the air after almost stepping on a snake and I took a ton of photos of my adorable little prairie dog friend.

Around sunset I stopped for free camping in a public park. I was surrounded by RVs and locals playing baseball. It was a nice park, but I couldn’t tell you where it was. I don’t think I could’ve told you where I was at that moment either. Settling in for that night I was hit in the face with humidity for the first time in months. Before I left on my trip, I didn’t really understand humidity. Growing up in the South people like to talk about humidity, but it’s just that there’s indoor air and outdoor air. I thought all outdoor air felt a certain way – because well, it isn’t air conditioning! That night I finally understood it was like someone had decided to throw a warm bucket of water in my face, I couldn’t sleep in my car without being damp, I couldn’t sit outside without moisture. It wasn’t the most comfortable night – I don’t like sleeping under bright lights anyway, but a long day was ahead.  Read the rest of this entry