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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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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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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

Laramie and the Landlords

I made it to Laramie and decided to check out the Wyoming Territorial State Prison. Laramie is a small college town and there isn’t a whole lot to do there, but there is the prison. I was actually really happy I checked it out! There are a ton of cool old buildings on the site and the audio tour is very informative. Some outlaws make infamous by western movies (such as Butch Cassidy) were incarcerated there and the truth was normally not quite as exciting as the legends. The prison ran a broom factory on site and part of the prison had been used by the university at one point, so not only could you learn about prison life, but you could also find out about farming and old-fashioned broom making.

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The Town of Jackson

I was fortunate to get a last-minute Couch Surfing acceptance from Seth in Jackson, Wyoming. Locals call it Jackson, not Jackson Hole. I made that mistake and put Jackson Hole in my GPS and ended up at a parking lot of a resort I couldn’t afford to stare at. When I finally made it into town I walked around and swung into the Grand Teton Gallery. Seth was out in the woods and I needed to kill time before meeting him. I found the right gallery as they were having a magazine launch party that evening! I lucked out! Bar! Who needs a bar! I found a social place with free food (and good stuff – shrimp cocktails, cheese, meat, crackers, watermelon…), wine  and lots of art! A few of the pieces in the gallery were from some of the same artists that show at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia. I do work for the arts festival, so I was so excited to see the work of some artists that I knew!

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Boise and The Oregon Trail

I have always wanted to head west. In elementary school I had a guinea pig named Fievel and I loved playing Oregon Trail. I always knew that the real Oregon Trail was going to be a highlight of my trip and I planned to stop at as many landmarks as I could. One of these landmarks that was featured in the game was the Whitman Mission. There wasn’t really any of the mission left to see, but they had a nice museum and it had a park atmosphere great for leg stretching.

I was happy to get out and stretch my legs. The scenery changes drastically from eastern Washington to Idaho. The desert makes way to vast green hills. I had underestimated the size of the hills in my mind. I was driving along some elevation, but you would look over large amounts of flat land too. I’m so grateful for interstate highways and motor vehicles. Seeing those tracks winding over the sides of hills looked precarious enough without a wagon on them.

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Seeing Seattle

I booked a bed at the local American Hotel HI in the Asian side of Seattle. Being the friendly hostel veteran that I am, I quickly made friends with another solo traveler – a really sweet girl from Uruguay who was traversing the U.S. after her study abroad. We checked out a local noodle shop and then walked to the harbor. Next door to the hostel was also a dessert shop. It was so colorful that you just had to walk in. The shelves were lined with beautifully decorated cake slices of every flavor. The menu also included every kind of Boba Tea you could imagine.

 

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Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

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Pigeon Point LighthouseAbsolutely beautiful and relaxing, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is located right over the cliffs from the beach. It is known for its hot tub overlooking the water. The view is amazing. I enjoyed eating dinner and having a few beers with some of the other hostellers. I met lots of interesting people: a lady from the area, coming back after a long time, two guys bicycling the coast and some girls from Europe. Flowers grew all along the cliffs. I heard that many of the flowers are actually non-native and that they were planted there to prevent erosion. It was breathtaking.

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Music and Austin Manor

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I really miss Bill and Morgan, but especially Bill. After my first week in Austin, I drove out to the country to Couchsurf with Bill in Manor, TX (pronounced Mainer) I really didn’t know what to expect as I drove out of the city and across wide-open fields divided by barb-wire and giant rural electric towers. Bill said he had two Couchsurfers stay with him for over a year and I wouldn’t want to leave. I turned down one cracked country road to another, until I ended up on the dirt.

In a gravel drive I walk up among trees and weeds to what looks like a very tall mix between a house and a sculpture. I am greeted by a short, round man with white hair and I follow along the warped pavers. We enter an antique door into a formal dining room. Hanging on the walls and propped up on the floor are oil paintings, mostly nudes. Bill is quite the artist and gourmet chief. “Is this house historic?” I ask. “Oh, no I built it myself about fifteen years ago. I was going for 1890s.” “Oh, you seemed to achieved that well.” Yes, I was very throughout in keeping to the time period.” “Did you use reclaimed wood?” “Let me show you around.”

I walk upstairs to gaze out of the bathroom windows. Windows wrap around half of the bathroom. A claw-foot tub shines brightly as the sun streaks over it onto the wood floors. My room is up the third set of stairs. An air mattress has been set up in the middle of the room. Windows and unfinished art work surrounds me. I an eagle in a nest also known as the artist studio.

I spent two happy weeks walking around the 25 acre land co-op in Manor, cooking dinner with Bill and Morgan, a girl who lives in his guest house. Bill makes everything from scratch. I got to learn how to make pizza and Shrimp Diablo. It was so cozy, our family eating around the dining room table when Morgan came home from work. No wonder his guest don’t want to leave.

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