7 Things I Learned in my First Year of Travel Blogging

Yesterday marked one year of travel blogging for me.  In one year I accomplished so much, but I also have this sensation that I still have barely scratched the surface.  I lived in Europe with a full time paying job.  I went to South America for the first time. I went to loads of new countries and made friends from all over the world.  In my next year, I hope to do even more, and learn more…but first, what I have learned this year.

 

 It MUST be something you love doing.

At least once a week I get asked a blogging question.  Usually, it’s another similarly-minded, bright-eyed millennial asking how I started my blog, and what they can do to make their blog successful.  My first thing I tell them is it must always always ALWAYS, be something that you love.  I am a journalist, I graduated from UF with a degree in Telecommunication News Reporting, knowing I had zero desire to do news, but knowing that degree would give me all the tools I would need (hopefully), to be a successful blogger. I love writing, I love filming, I (sometimes) love video editing, and while I hate proofreading, I do it because I love the rest of it so much.  You need to be writing about something you love, whether it be travel, fashion, motherhood, healthy eating, or whatever.

 

 

Can you believe it, we made it all the way to the Arctic Circle…VIA CAR!! ? • • • • • • • • • #arctic #arcticcircle #alaska #travel #travelgram #vacation #travelblogger #zaruba #bohotravel #beboho #wearetravelgirls #familytravel #familyvacation

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You can’t compare yourself to others.

If you do, you will go absolutely insane.  Look to others for inspiration, but not to drag yourself down and wish you had the followers, the views, the likes, the fan base that they do.  It will do nothing but breed negativity in your life and in your work.  Do what you do best, and if people can see that you love your work, and you do it well, the rewards will come.

 

 

Cheesin’ because its cold, snowing, and I MADE IT- #RainbowMountain is seriously one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, and I’m so glad I pushed through the 16 km trek at that high of altitude to reach the top! ???Tag a friend you want to go with! •••••••Click the link in my bio for more information on Rainbow Mountain••••••• • • • • • • #peru #hikergirl #travelblogger #RainbowMountain #hike #igerperu #femmetravel #travelgram #rainbow #RainbowMountain #vacation #staycation #trek

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It’s more work than anyone will ever want to admit.

Very rarely to other people do I hear blogger within my niche talking about how much work they put in because it’s a little embarrassing.  Most of us have goals we set weekly, monthly, and yearly, and strive every day to reach them, on top of our normal 40 hours a week jobs because we haven’t made the blog the full-time gig yet.  In my first six months of blogging, I was on Instagram probably 3-4 hours a day, would blog twice a week, and networking an hour or two a day as well.  All on top of my real job, and the time that it takes to actually do what I’m writing about, TRAVEL!  Before blogging I never knew just how much of a commitment it would be, but I’m glad I made the stretch.

 

 

My last italy pic until I move back. Honest. True. How I feel when I’m there. Absolutely whole. Comment the place that makes you feel this way. Aaaaand go

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There will be good months, and there will be bad months, but it will all work out in the end.

I have had months with tens of thousands of viewers, and months with only a couple hundred viewers.  Some months I will struggle for content, and others I will have so much content I don’t even know what to do with it.  Take each blow and each grace in stride and be grateful for each moment as it comes, because it means you’re alive, breathing, and one step closer to your goal.  You can’t achieve success without failing first.

 

 

I was born and raised in Florida and this was my first trip ever to Miami, minus heading there to go to the airport! ? after visiting I found out why it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the world with over 15 million visitors a year!! Can we just say wooooaaaa ?❤️??? also… that #SKYLINE ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #travelblog #vacation #staycation #miamibeach #bohotravel #travel #travegram #miamiskyline #sunset #beachbabe #scenic #florida #visitflorida

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Your real friends and family will be supportive.

It slowly occurred to me throughout the last year that the people who genuinely care about me, are truly invested in what I am doing.  When I see them in person they ask me how the blog is going, what the next step is, how I make money doing it, where I want it to eventually go.  They ask me questions I don’t even know the answer to sometimes, and it’s so appreciated.

 

 

These gardens are absolutely stunning and a perfect place to escape the center of Florence and be in nature! ??Where is your favorite escape? . . . . #italia #tuscany #tourguide #myfirenze #myflorence #yourflorence #Florence #firenze #boboligardens #giardinidiboboli #arno #oltrano

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Start a journal!

The number of times I have forgotten something that happened on a trip, only to be reminded by someone who went with me, is astonishing. Taking a journal and writing down names of people, places, events (especially if it’s in another language), helps immensely when it comes to blogging about it later!  Somehow I am just now going to be starting this habit with my upcoming trip to the Florida Keys, but lessons have been learned!

 

 

#PROST! My latest blog post is up on the best way to pack for Oktoberfest! Stay tuned for more advice on Munich and the wiesn! . . . . . . . #oktoberfest #beer #dirndl #packing #blogger #lederhosen #munich #florence #firenze #travel #vacation

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At the end of the day, if it’s something you’re proud of, it’s been worth it all.

If you do well, you feel well.  If you feel poorly, you perform poorly.  Be confident, and be proud.  Take constructive criticism and with every blow from the haters, use it to better yourself.  Get back on your feet and stand tall.  Learn from mistakes and be humble with your victories.  And above all, be kind.  If you are proud of what you are doing, let it show.

 

 

One last “I Love You” from Paris to I start talking about the Christmas Markets in Florence & the beauty of Interlaken!!! . . . . . #paris #iloveyou #travel #vacation #girl #parigi #pari #france

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Cusco City Guide

When you Arrive

Much like Lima, there will be hordes of taxi drivers waiting to pick you up when you arrive at the airport and they will all continue to harass you until you get into a taxi. It is best if you contact your accommodation ahead of time and have them arrange for a driver to pick you up. This will cost you the same amount (40 soles), and will make your life much easier.  If you do end up grabbing one while you are at the airport, you can probably haggle your way down to 30 soles.  Be sure to NOT give them your bag, because if you do this they will start walking to their car with it, then tell you 5 soles more “for parking” or another scam.  I actually had to fight and forcefully grab my bag back from a driver at the Lima airport when I told him I wouldn’t give him the 5 extra soles.  

Don’t be like me, just get the prearranged car.

 

Where to Stay

Compared to Lima, Cusco is a much smaller town, and everything is pretty centrally located.  You will want to stay in the historic center, and not on the outskirts, but apart from that, there’s not much else to it!!  When I say Cusco is small, almost every day we were out and about we saw someone we had met before while either on a trek, at the hostel, at the bar, or just out to dinner. You will see people you know and you will love it, Cusco becomes very intimate very fast.

There are three main hostels that pretty much everyone stays at.  Pariwana, Wild Rover, and Loki Hostel. 

Pariwana, where we stayed, is pretty social, but doesn’t have to be.  Their biggest rooms are 14-bed dorms and we paid $8 a night for those, and the privates cost us around $20-30 per night (together, so $10/$15 apiece).  Breakfast is included and they do events every night such as salsa dancing, beer pong tournaments, neon party, and one night they even had a Corona party.
Loki and Wild Rover are two other hostels about a 5-minute taxi ride (up the hill) from Pariwana.  The great thing about these hostels is Wild Rover is a CRAZY party hostel.  It’s loud to stay at, but you’re guaranteed a good time.  The bar is an absolute blast (we even met some locals there), but obviously, the travelers were what made it such a fantastic experience.  Loads of free drinks and shots were given out, and lots of dancing on the bar ensues.

Nightlife

Most of the people traveling in Cusco are there to do hiking just outside of the city, so it’s hit and miss on who you meet that wants to go out. 
Apart from Wild Rover (which I recommend for meeting people at if it’s early in the night), there are a few other bars in Lima, including a few nice rooftop bars.  For the after party, there is a fun underground club called Chango, and though most of Peru seems stuck in the 2000’s music wise, they did brighten my evening with some “Shape of You”, “Despacito”, and lots of Shakira, Enrique, sprinkled in with the occasional Pitbull.  We probably stayed until 5:30 am, and it didn’t look like it was shutting down anytime soon.

How to Get Around 

Unfortunately, unlike Lima there is no Uber in Cusco, but thankfully everything is pretty much within walking distance.  Cusco is in the mountains though, so keep in mind the town is hilly.  If you aren’t up for a walk after you’ve been hiking (I wouldn’t blame you), then you can just hail a cab from pretty much anywhere on the street.  They’re easy to haggle down and going to somewhere else in the center should only cost you about 5 soles, and going to the outskirts (one of the overlooks) will cost you about 15 soles. 

Main train station is called Poroy, and is a 35-minute taxi ride from the historic center.  This is the only way out of town and will cost you about 35/40 soles to get there.  If you are taking a taxi from your hostel to the train station and the hostel calls it for you.

Things to Do

Cusco is a great city to just wander around the side streets and poke into little shops here and there.

There are a few museums, ruins and different things you can tackle, as well as a great Cacao Museum where you can make your own chocolate and learn about the history of the ancient Incas and their dedication to Cacao.  Apart from wandering and the ruins within the city, Cusco is the place where you take all of your hiking trips from.  From Cusco you get to Machu Picchu, this is how you get to Rainbow Mountain, it’s how you do all of the different treks.  When you get to Cusco you can walk into any shop and see the different trek options, difficulty level and more.

There us also a great market to explore, and try some of the fresh local food.

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A Guide to Machu Picchu

Everything you need to know about visiting the ancient Incan Ruins.

Undiscovered until 1911 by archeologist Hiram Bingham, the most iconic work of the Incan Empire, Machu Picchu was built around 1450, but abandoned during the Spanish Conquest.  One of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is an incredible and breathless experience which leaves you mesmerized at the history behind it. Getting to this site can be a bit complex though, so keep on reading to find out more about visiting this incredible place!

 

The sun rising over the Andes surrounding the Citadel.

How to Get to Machu Picchu

Hike It

There are tons of options when it comes to hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as well as hiking other trails in the surrounding Cusco region with Inca Ruins.  These treks can be anywhere from 2-8 days, so it depends on how much hiking you want to do/how much money you want to spend.

Some of these trips you can book ahead of time, but most can be booked in Cusco. I would recommend this approach because you can almost always haggle your way down to a cheaper price than what was originally listed.  The only reason I would recommend booking earlier is if you wanted to hike one of the other mountains surrounding the Machu Picchu Citadel, Huayna Picchu or the Machu Picchu Mountain, as both only allow up to 400 visitors per day. (You could also just purchase your ticket for the park ahead of time and book the trek in Cusco!)

While in Cusco there are tons of agencies to book through, as well as people on the street that will hawk you down and try and get you to book, it can actually be a little overwhelming.  Save yourself some grief and do a bit of research beforehand on what companies are good to book with, who is reliable, and what is included!  From there just haggle your options down!  

2 Day Train Trip (What I Did)

Not really up for a 4-day hike (I really like being able to shower tbh), I chose the path of taking the train the day before my visit to Machu Picchu.  We left from Cusco (the only station is Poroy Station), which is about a 25-minute drive from the city center and cost around 30 soles.

There are two train companies you can use to get to Aguas Calientes, Peru Rail (my choice) and Inca Rail.  There are three types of train, the basic, the Vista Dome, and the Hiram Bingham.   The "Vista dome" was the option we picked which cost about 80-100 USD per direction, so around 200 total.  To be quite honest it was worth it to take the step up from the basic option. The Vista Dome train is nice with comfortable ~reclining~ seats, huge windows on the sides and above you, and only on average $10 more per direction than the economy train.  On this train you can only have one 11 pound bag, so pack lightly.  They feed you food and drink included in the price, and on the night train back the following day after visiting Machu Picchu when the sun goes down and there is nothing to see, the train staff put on a dance performance and an Alpaca Clothing Fashion Show.  It was really quite fabulous.

LLAMA DRAMA

The next train up is a HUGE gap, called the Hiram Bingham and cost over $400 USD, which was crazy.  It looked super nice and if I had the money I might consider taking it, but it didn't look that fancy to me.  Regardless, Vista Dome to Aguas Calientes is the way to go!

Day Trip

You leave early in the morning, ride a bus for 6 hours, get to the ruins Midday, leave.  There are also two-day trips with buses you can take and different ways to get there.  When you get to Cusco ask your hostel, these are probably the cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu, though possibly also the least rewarding.

The Town Before Machu Picchu-Aguas Calientes

Unless you're hiking in from the Inca Trail, you are most likely going to stop into Machu Picchu Town, otherwise known as Aguas Calientes.  Let me forewarn you THERE IS NOTHING TO DO HERE.  There are some pretty sketchy thermal baths that we did not attend due to a good call by a friend. All of the restaurants, minus one we ate at twice called Mapacho, are tourist traps and we are pretty sure we barely dodged food poisoning from our first dining experience.

There are plenty of places to stay (only stay one night- the night before you visit the ruins), and instead of carrying all of our stuff up to the mountain we left toiletries and the like in storage.

How to Get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Once in Aguas Calientes you can either take the bus up to the citadel ($24 USD) or make the hike along the train track and up the mountain (about 90 minutes).  The first bus leaves at 5:30 am, and people will be lining up long before that.  We got in line at 5:15 and were on probably the 10th bus but we were still up at Machu Picchu before 6 am (they let people in early).  If you take the bus then there is really no hiking in the day at all, this is how thousands of out of shape people do it every day.

Something important to note is MOTION SICKNESS. The bus is winding around on a dirt road up to the mountain and you can't see very much out the windows. I don't get motion sickness at all really, and going up the mountain I started to feel a little queezy.

Trying to make the decision of if you should walk up to the citadel or take the bus?  Here is my recommendation: If you're not doing another mountain hike that day (MP Mountain or HP), the hike to MP from Aguas Calientes isn't that bad.  It's 60-90 minutes of straight stairs, which can be a burden, but isn't really that horrible.  Most people who are hiking up to Machu Picchu leave around 4:30 am.

If you are hiking another mountain that day, I wouldn't do the first hike, because HP/MPM hikes are BRUTAL.  Huayna Picchu is 2 hours of steep and narrow hiking, and not something you want to be exhausted for.

How to Book Your Machu Picchu Ticket

That giant mountain in the background is Huayna Picchu

If you aren't booking through a hiking agency, you are going to want to book your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu far in advance (a few months) to be sure you will get access to the site.  Only 2500 people are allowed into the site daily.  TICKETS ARE NOT SOLD AT THE ENTRANCE TO MACHU PICCHU.  The whole booking in advance thing goes double if you plan on hiking Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain since only 400 people each are allowed to hike those.  The Peruvian website which you book your ticket on is super confusing, and a bit of a pain to use.

Normally, I would never willingly send you to another site, but these guys did a fantastic way of explaining how to book and go through the process, so click this link when you go to buy your ticket and follow their booking instructions step by step...its the site that I used and the best way to get you through that process.

What you will need for your Day

  • Water Bladder Backpack- honestly this was great not having to constantly take out a water bottle, this is the one I have
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • No poles/walking sticks- they damage the site and will take them from you at the gate.
  • Snackage- the only place to eat is right outside the park and is expensive, bring food in!!
  • Bandaids
  • Ibuprofen/tums
  • More water
  • Deodorant
  • Sunglasses
  • Chapstick
  • Wipes/tissues - toilet paper can be hard to come by in Peru, and the only bathroom is located outside of the park
  • A small bag for your trash- there are no trashcans in the park!

What to Wear

The Machu Picchu Citadel looks incredibly small from the top of Huayna Picchu.

The important thing to remember when it comes to what to wear in Machu Picchu (and travel in general) is LAYERS!!!  Here is a list of all the layers you should wear when doing Machu Picchu.

  • Athletic pants that are breathable
  • T-shirt or tank
  • Light pullover/ flannel
  • Outer jacket
  • Headband / hat (optional)
  • Hiking boots

What to Expect

THESE VIEWS ARE INSANE

You're gonna get dirty. Literally covered in dirt.  Even if you are doing no hiking at all, you will come back from that mountain dusty.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, there are no bathrooms within the park and nowhere to eat, so make sure you are prepared for this!! Also if you are packing snacks/need to throw something out, there are no trashcans in the park so keep in mind you will have to put it in your bag.

Also in parts of the park that require you to follow a path.  These signs indicate a certain walkway is "one way" and are a bit confusing, but most of the day this didn't matter. We disregarded the signs for most of the time, exploring around, but another time a guard got on to us and told us to turn around.

If you want a tour guide for your solo venture you can find one in the town or at the gates, just make sure they speak your language first!

Exploring in the ruins will only take a few hours, and the best time to go is in the early morning, as the lighting is stunning and not too hot, but the later in the day you go, the fewer people there will be.  

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A Bat Cave Room in Taipei’s Eden Motel

*guest post*

 

photo credit, Eden Motel

 

"I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!"

 

Just like the Caped Crusader, you can now say those words out loud while staying in your very own Bat Cave at Eden Motel's Batman-themed room, if you so wish.

 

You can, of course, bring your very own English butler (and call him Alfred despite having a different name) to make your Batman experience in the hotel more authentic if you have the resources.

 

Eden Motel's themed room is every Batman fan's dream. It comes with a double bed with the Batman logo emblazoned above it, Bat Cave-inspired walls, a Bat-tub, and a Bat TV for monitoring crime outside the city - AKA watching the news.

 

photo courtesy of Eden Motel

 

Many Batman fans that have spent a night at Eden Motel have pointed how several Easter eggs were left in the room. The motel is well known for scattering gargoyle figurines around the room that look just like the ones from the fictional Gotham City for visiting to find. In addition, there are certain parts of the room that were both inspired by the Bat Cave set used in the movies starring Michael Keaton and Christian Bale's Dark Knight Trilogy.

 

The only thing that's missing in the room is the iconic pole in which the caped crusader used to use to enter the Bat Cave. So it goes without saying that the room doesn’t come with its own Batmobile.

 

 

The concept of using Batman as a feature in hotel isn’t entirely new. After all, Batman is the most successful DC Comics character ever created. Among all the many comic book icons published by the company, only Batman managed to have a thriving TV series (both live action and animated) in the 60s, a movie trilogy that has become a global sensation thanks to Christopher Nolan's superb directing, and a slew of video games for both hardcore and casual gamers.

 

Console and PC gamers know very well how great the Batman Arkham series has proved to be over the years, which shows a deeper and darker side of the villains facing Batman. For the casuals, slot gaming company Betfair recently released several Batman games in honor of the original character played by Adam West in the 60s. Titles Batman and Mr. Freeze Fortune and Batman and the Penguin Prize are some of the gaming platform’s most popular games. Batman's huge cult following is the very reason why DC Comics continues to develop Batman's story with a slew of spin-offs in celebration of Gotham City’s greatest hero.

 

So, if you're willing to pay NT 6,600 (USD 210), the Bat Cave can be yours for the night. If however, you just want to take a short rest and take pictures of the themed-room, you can also rent it per hour. Perhaps Eden Motel realized that it only takes an hour or two for fans of The Dark Knight to fulfill their dreams of being in an actual Bat Cave.

 

all images were obtained from eden-motel.com

this post contains some affiliate links

 

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Florence City Guide

Firenze, Florence, la fiorenza d'italia.

This place has been home to me, continues to be home to me, and I keep going back for whatever crazy reason.  Maybe it's the elegance of the Duomo.  Maybe it's the nature of the people who live there.  Maybe it's the streets steeped in history.  Whatever it is, this town which was the birthplace of the renaissance, hosts a whole entire collection of bucket list items and is personally my favorite town in Italy.  From the Duomo, which took over 600 years to build, to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), which was built in 1345 and miraculously withstood the trials of World War II and a horrible flood that took the city in 1966.  Here is my guide to Florence, from someone who lived there for over 9 months, is moving back, and has rented 4 different apartments in this short time.  (Pray for me if I ever have to move apartments on a cobbled street again...)

Things to See

Top 10 Landmarks to See/To Do

For a more extensive bullet list on to-do's this check out my 38 things to Before You Leave Florence.

  1. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Duomo)
  2. Ponte Vecchio
  3. Santa Croce
  4. Piazzale Michelangelo
  5. The Academia
  6. Uffizzi Art Gallery
  7. Piazza della Signoria & The Palazzo Vecchio
    a stunning statue of the death of Medusa in Piazza Signoria
  8. Fiesole
  9. Piazza Della Repubblica
  10. Palazzo Pitti & Giardini di Bobboli

Off the Beaten Path

  1. be sure to drink your cappuccino before noon to fit into cultural norms!

    News Café

    Via del Giglio, 59

  2. Santo Spirito
  3. The Florentine Street Art
    one of my favorite artists, @exit.enter.k on Instagram

Food

Dinner Starts at 7:30 or later, before you go to dinner, on the weekends most Italians will go to an aperitivo after work to pass the time from work to dinner.  Aperitivo can also be used in lieu of dinner, or just as a few pre-dinner snacks and drinks before the real feasting begins. 

Must Eats:

Bistecca Fiorentina (or any other Florentine Steak)

Where you can get it:  Pretty much any decent restaurant in Florence.  For the full on experience,  I would head to La Giostra, it's my favorite in town, but you will pay a pretty penny and probably have more food than you can handle- cue the grappa.

Borgo Pinti, 10-18 R

Ribollita

What is it?  A hearty soup made of bread and veggies that will warm your inner soul on a cold day.

Where you can get it:  Almost anywhere in Florence with a traditional Tuscan menu.  One of my favorite places is Ristorante Pizzeria Maso', just outside of the immediate historic center.

Via Matteo Palmieri, 30/r

Gelato

How you know it's gonna be good:  The biggest mistake people make when it comes to buying gelato is purchasing the gelato that looks the most delicious in the window.  I get it, it's very tempting to see those giant beautiful piles of gelato and drift into that particular gelateria. You will get a decent gelato, probably a bit overpriced and might never know the difference between what you COULD be having.  The gelaterias with the huge displays are not typically made in house, and can stay so beautiful in the hot Italian summer, is because they are full of preservatives.  Check out gelaterias where you can't see any gelato.  They will usually be held in silver tin buckets, and this typically means it's made in-house for a fresher experience for you!  

Where you can get it:

My favorite place to get gelato is from Marco Ottaviano - Il Gelato Gourmet.  Seriously amazing people and amazing gelato.  I first met this couple when I studied abroad in Florence many moons ago, and did a video piece on them (which has since been lost in the abyss, unfortunately).  But to sum it up, Signor Ottaviano was working selling medical supplies, decided he didn't want to do that anymore, and wanted to make gelato.  His wife sits out front selling the gelato and working on her other journalism work (my Italian has never been good enough to figure out exactly what journalism work it is), while he works in the back making the delicious gelato.  They also have an adorable dog named Mila who works out front. The flavor you need to try is Caffe' Bianco (white coffee), it's literally my favorite sweet in the entire world. 

Via Matteo Palmieri, 34

Coccoli:
so much coccoli....

My favorite appetizer, but also when I'm in a pinch and feeling super unhealthy, a meal.  Coccoli consists of fried balls of dough, stracchino cheese, and prosciutto.  Throw it all together and you have a delicious treat.  You can get this as an appetizer at almost any restaurant (even if it isn't on the menu, just ask and they'll probably have it). There is even a little place called Il Coccolo DEDICATED SOLELY TO COCCOLI.  YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT, A TINY PLACE DEDICATED TO THREE MAGICAL THINGS BREAD CHEESE AND PROSCIUTTO.   Welcome to Italy, folks.  This little locale is just down the street from the gelateria I mentioned above, so get your grub on and head to both!

Via Matteo Palmieri, 30/r  

Wine:

I am by no means a wine expert but if you don't drink all of the Chianti wine when you're hanging around Tuscany, you're doing something so wrong.  Peace and love, drink these wines! (Both red, both made predominantly from Sangiovese grapes.)

  • Chianti
  • Brunello

Aperitivo:

Soul Kitchen:

Soul Kitchen is great all times of day, lunch, aperitivo, or for getting your drank on...but they're aperitivo is phenomenal.  They pick a different region of Italy each night, and that's what the food served is based on.  It's cheaper than your average aperitivo, and so much better, it's more like a massive buffet, which is not an Italian norm, but I love it.

Via de' Benci, 34R

Oíbo:

Just down the street from Soul, Oíbo is another great option for aperitivo in the historic center with a pretty wide variety of food options.  It'll cost you around €10 for a drink and food, but the drinks are pretty and delicious, and oh so worth it.  

Borgo dei Greci, 1

Hotel Cavour: 

Here you're going to pay around €12 for a cocktail, and only get crisps and peanuts as your food, but DAMN the view is worth it.  Situated on top of Hotel Cavour, you get a panoramic view of Florence with all of the best sights.  So worth it, and a great place for a date!

Via del Proconsolo, 3

Dinner:

$- La Ghiota

Two people can have a full four-course meal here for €50 (trust me, I've done it!).  Traditional food, the family who owns the restaurant I believe also has their own farm so everything is almost at cost.  Not the most high end of restaurants, but if you're just looking to eat a lot of good Italian food on a budget, here is the place to go.

Via Pietra Piana, 7-red

$$- Il Gato e La Volpe

I almost hate to recommend this place, because so often of the time it is overrun by study abroad students because it is such a prime location on Via Ghibellina, but they've got some good food at great prices in a splendid location, and a HUGE menu full of options.  They also have a balsamic dressing that is to die for... Normally I would never tell someone to use balsamic for their bread in Italy, but il Gato e la Volpe is the exception to this rule.

Via Ghibellina, 151/r,

$$$- Perseus

This restaurant has two locations, one up in Fiesole (you will need to take the bus [line 7 from Piazza San Marco] and walk or take a taxi), and one in town that you would also probably need to take a taxi to, but it's good eating.  Make sure to make reservations.

Florence: Viale Don Giovanni Minzoni, 10/R,
Fiesole: Piazza Mino Da Fiesole, 9/R

$$$$- La Giostra

I have been here on a few occasions, all special because it's 100% out of my normal price range but I don't even have words to express my love for this place.  In a location where they used to store the old carousel in Florence, the restaurant has huge arched brick ceilings covered in fairy lights.  The food is actually to die for (please bring this to me as my last meal k thanks).  I surprisingly have no photos here because every time I have gone I have been so immersed in food, wine, and probably (read definitely) sambuca and or grappa, that pictures slipped my mind.  100% make reservations here and expect to leave fat and happy, just the way we like it.

Interesting TidBit: 50 Sfumature di Gusto- Literally translates to 50 Shades of Flavor

50 Shades of Grey lovers rejoice, here in Florence is a restaurant who's theme is completely encompassed by the 50 Shades of Grey series.  Seriously...there's a red room of pain with the mirror on the ceiling, the dishes (I believe) are even themed after different parts of the book as well.  Since they knew we were spending a pretty penny, they left us with an entire bottle of limoncello and meloncello at the end of dinner.

Possibly the most beautiful food I've ever eaten in my entire life and it was absolutely delicious...I wouldn't say it is a restaurant I would frequent often, but definitely worth a visit for some good food and Italian-Style 50 Shades!

 

City Tips

  1. The streets are almost entirely cobblestone.  This means they WILL destroy your shoes, and unless you're a pro, I would recommend sticking to a chunky heel and leaving the stilettos at home.  I have seen Italian women with a baby in one arm, a glass of wine in the other, arguing with her husband while walking down the street IN STILETTOS and looking fabulous...I hope to one day be at that level, but for now, I'll stick to my chunky ankle-savers.
  2. The city is 100% walkable!! Do NOT I repeat do NOT get tricked into renting a car if you are just staying in the city!  If you want to drive around Tuscany, then sure, by all means, go ahead and rent it for the days you are out...but the historic center of Florence is walkable from end to end in about 45 minutes tops.
  3. Stray over to the other side of the river.  Don't get stuck in the throngs of tourists on the historic side...head over to the oltrarno and wander, visit some of the gardens and have lunch.  There are tons of amazing finds over there.
  4. In general when visiting Italy, if something is not a custom you will receive a curt "It is not possible."  Just take it for what it is and move on.
  5. If you want to be mildly alarmed with your life but also kind of intrigued, head to the river and drop some food down to see the river rats (some people call them otters, but they are 100% rats) come out to play.  It's nauseating and kinda cute all at once.
  6. See the city at night.  Head out to some of the bars, and on your walk back home see the huge sights without the crowd of tourists around them.  They're so much more amazing that way.

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How I Afford to Travel on a College Budget

One-I Have a Job

The amount of people who ask me about how I afford to travel that also don't have a job is a little frightening.  Though it might not seem like it all the time, I DO in fact have a job, and contrary to popular belief, I work a lot.  Currently I am a full time student (17 credit hours), and I work probably somewhere between 20-30 hours a week on top of this.  I stay busy.  And yes, I am often drained and stressed, but it's all worth it as soon as I board that next flight.

Two-My Job Lets Me Travel

Not only do I have this magical thing called a job that brings in a measly income, I choose jobs that let me travel.  Throughout college I worked for a nanny agency, which allowed me to pick up babysitting shifts that fit my schedule, and when I need off, I can take off, for either a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.  The job has always been there when I came back and I love it, plus hanging out with some babies never makes for a bad day.

I also work for my parents when I come home as a deck hand on their boat the Schooner Freedom.  I make minimum hourly wage plus tips, and let me tell you, having a job with a cash flow is so nice when you're in college and trying to save money.  Also thanks to working for my parents, I also have started my 401k which I don't totally understand but I know it's a good thing, especially at my age.

I also make a tiny bit of money from blogging through affiliates, and I plan on starting up a small business soon.  It's not much, but it's a start.

My other (soon to be full time) job is working as a freelance social media manager.  I currently manage accounts for The Tab, Schooner Freedom, CloudSDS, and in the past have done online marketing for FlorenceForFun and Campus Florence among others.  

I brand for both my blog and myself as a professional as well, so it's something I'm good at.  There are tons of sites out there to find freelance work, and get going.  If you can be on a computer and be mobile, that is one of the best ways to be able to work and travel at the same time.

I Don't Spend My Money on Stupid Sh*t

Okay think of what you've bought this week.  Dinner out? How many times? Once? Twice? That probably cost you anywhere from $30-$50 if you drank.  Did you go out with friends?  How much was that? $20? $30?  Did you buy something at Target you really didn't need?  Did you do some online shopping?  Did you buy all of the name brand items at the grocery store, or did you stick to generic brands?  Really think about the money you spend and STOP SPENDING IT!  If you want to travel you have to save, and that means NOT SPENDING MONEY.  If you want to hang out with your friends, do things that are free, or require the least amount of money possible.

It's hard at first to not spend money, but once you get into the groove of it, you realize how much money you were spending before and it's actually a bit frightening.

Instead of looking at things like "Oh, I only spent $150 shopping today!" I think, "Well I could spend this $150 on clothes, or I could not and book a domestic flight instead."  It's all about perspective. 

I Get Really Good Deals

Let's be real guys. I'm on a college student budget, I promise you my travels are not lavish and luxurious.  Sure sometimes I will splurge and get a private room in a hostel instead of sharing the dorms.  Or if I'm traveling with my boyfriend we will sometimes get an entire apartment for a weekend instead of renting a room.  Let me be clear though, I budget travel.  This doesn't mean I don't have fun and don't do all the things people with tons of money do, this means I do my research ahead of time to figure out how I can get the most bang for my buck.  If you go into something blind, of course you're going to miss out, so doing your research before you travel is super important.  Not only that, but also when it comes to booking flights, I am such a haggler, and always always always seek out the best deal ~almost~ before anything else.  

I Cut Out the Unnecessary

I cut out any and every bill I can.  I cancelled my Netflix and Hulu subscriptions (shoutout to my brother for letting me mooch of his Netflix), and I eliminated other unnecessary things in life as well.  When I moved back from Italy in December I decided that posting up in my college town for 3 1/2 slash 4 months wasn't something I wanted to do when my parents only live 45 minutes to an hour away from my campus.  Sure the drive sucks, but factor in $400 a month rent for four months...that's $1600 at least.  Sure, it's not the most glamorous thing, but I get work done, and it keeps me from spending money in more ways than just rent.  I don'y buy groceries, I don't really eat out, because my mom is ~probably~ going to have cooked already, and not to mention all the other little things parents just buy (like toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, cable TV, Wifi, etc).
Realtalk: I obviously cannot live like this forever.  But it's a great interim phase for me and I always know that after my travels I have somewhere to come back to, no matter how much more my room has become more like a storage closet and less like my bedroom.  I am fortunate, but these are things a lot of people could do, but just choose not to because living with your parents isn't cool.  Or not having Netflix will be the end of the world.  It's not.  Look at it like this.  8 bucks a month.  12 months.  $96.  Sure, it doesn't sound like much.  But now double it with Hulu, and then add in the cost of wifi that you pay for to watch it.  Now we are talking about a round trip flight to somewhere. 

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A Weekend in Miami: 5 Things to Do

Having thoughts about taking a trip to Miami?  I just recently went visiting a friend so check out my top 5 things to do!

  1. See the Wynwood Art District


    Quite possibly the trendiest place in Miami, Wynwood is covered in art from pavement to roof.  Visit the Wynwood walls and stroll through the nearby areas to see some really unique street art, and get your colorful vibe on!

  2. Rent a boat and hit the sandbar


    If you have some money to spend, are really good at making random friends, or just have some friends with boats, hop on board and head on out to the sandbar for a truly Miami experience as people anchor out on a nearby sandbar, eat, drink, sunbath, swim and just have an all around good time.  Here is a website to rent some boats, but I am sure there are tons of other options as well.

  3. Head out to the beach.

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    For a cheaper version of number 4, head on out to Miami beach, one of the most beautiful white sand beaches the world has to offer.  Amazing warm water from the gulf stream keeps Miami Beach waters pleasant all year round.  If you're interested in seeing what all the hype is about, check out South Beach, or if you're like me and don't want to be surrounded by tons of people, head a little farther north to relax some.

  4. Eat all of the latin food

    It's just not a trip to Miami if you don't have some form of latin food.  From Cuban, Argentinian, to Peruvian, traditional Spanish, and Mexican, Miami has all to offer.  Don't miss out on the unique culture this city has to offer.

  5. Visit Key Biscayne National Park


    If you're a national park weirdo like me and have one of the nifty national park passports (I'm so lame....I know) head on out to Key Biscayne National Park for a slower side of Miami that is sure to wow you.

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