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Make it real | Travel with me to Italy

travel italyPart 3, Travel with me it Italy series.

You’ve picked your ideal time to travel and have decided how long to go.

Now it is time to make things real.  Time to set up that designated savings account, arrange for the kids to stay with family, get your guidebooks, make your lists and put in for vacation time.  Time to do whatever needs to be done to put your dates on the calendar IN PEN and start setting things in stone.

Once you have transition from dreaming of Italy to I’m going to Italy, everything will begin to look different.  The countdown is now on!

In upcoming posts I will be sharing how I research my destinations, the most ideal flow of your itinerary, negotiating through flights, my favorite travel reads to get you in the mood, best guide books and much, much more!

If you missed early posts in the series, follow the links here.  How much time to spendWhen is the best time to travel.

 

Copyright 2014, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

How much time should be spent | Travel with me to Italy

time spent italy travel

AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!

Well, as much as you can.  I recommend a minimum of 10 FULL days in Italy.  Remember, those in North America lose a day flying to Europe so I always count 2 days there and 1 day back as travel days.  I never count these as vacation days.  I will explain why at least 10 days are needed.

1.  Travel effort and expense.  As I mentioned above, an Italian vacation involves a THREE day travel commitment.  Spending 50% of your time getting from here to there is not conductive to a memorable or relaxing vacation.  Taking a full two weeks drops that percentage to 21%.  Let’s face it, airfare to Europe is not cheap no matter what day of the week or what time of year.  Why would you spend a major portion of your vacation expense flying to Italy without spending a good amount of time in Italy.

2. Transportation time within Italy.  On a map, Italy looks very manageable with simple connections and distances between the major cities.  What a map doesn’t tell you is when and where the trains or taxis will strike, how many roundabouts you will take before heading in the right direction, which little old lady will hold the attention of the only open ticket booth and thus the entire line.  Or which petrol stations will be on an extended lunch break, where a local market will have an entire street blocked off, or which 1/3 of the Florence roads will be under construction.  Travel from Point A to Point B from almost anywhere in Italy is an all day deal.  Then there is the check in process, assuming you found your little gem on the first try.  There are passports to check, forms to sign, cheeks to kiss, and bags to lug.  This is one of the major reasons I recommend a minimum of 2 nights at any one location.  Ideally a minimum of 2 full days and 3 nights.

Italian-Map

3. La Dolce Vita.  The sweet life.  Italy is meant to be savored.  Cherished.  Seduced.  You can’t do that on a one week itinerary.  The more time spent, the more you can slow down to see and feel Italy.  The essence of Italy, not the checklists will be what makes you fall in love.  Why would you want to rush that?

I tell everyone, you can’t see and do it all on the first trip.  You will be back.

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Photo courtesy of MarcheBreaks

Copyright 2014, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

When is the best time to travel | Travel with me to Italy

best time to travel italy

I get asked this all the time.  This is usually the first question my clients have and the first hurdle we tackle together.

So, when is the best time to travel to Italy?

The answer is not so simple and is actually different for every traveler.  The best time to travel depends on several factors which I will break down here.

1.  Budget.  Money usually drives most decisions and your budget can be tweaked quite a bit just by changing the dates of your travel.  High season comes with the most expensive rates and the least chance of negotiating any price breaks.  Shoulder season comes before and after high season and usually has lower pricing, more flexibility but comes with the risk of some poor weather.   High season runs from the end of May through September.  September is NOT shoulder season.  In fact, I find in my business September is one of my busiest months with accommodations booking their best rooms well in advance.  April and October are classic shoulder season months with early October being my personal favorite time to travel with the easiest bookings.

2.  Experiences.  Wanting to spend your time soaking up the hot sun along the coast?  Packing only shorts and bikinis?  Can’t stand the rain? Or planning on hiking in the Dolomites.  Summer.  Hate crowds, long lines and annoying tourists?  Temperatures above 70 degrees make you melt?  March, April or October.  Always dreamed of being a part of the grape harvest?  Or go white truffle hunting?  September.

3.  Time off.  Many travelers only have the summer months available for travel.  For these travelers my biggest tip is to try to avoid traveling in August.  The weather is scorching making cities like Rome nearly unbearable.  Italians also traditionally take this entire month off and head to the coast.  This means many little businesses are shut down and the seaside is jam-packed with vacationing Italians.  Don’t panic if August is the only time you can travel but the earlier in the summer you can leave the more enjoyable the temperatures and certain locations will be.  I will talk more about how long you should go in an upcoming post.

My two cents?  I have traveled to Italy in almost all of the seasons, from March through the end of October.  Each month has something special about it and each month comes with its own draw backs.  Ask yourself what is most important for you, what would be the most disappointing?   Once you have an honest answer, pick the time of year that will make you the happiest.  For me, I love traveling from September through October.  I love fall.  I love the weather, I love watching locals start to let their hair down.  I love watching the harvest of the grapes and olives.  I hate scorching hot weather and long lines.  September and October are my travel soul mates.

 

market

 

My love affair with rome

 

Lucignanello Bandini

italy grape harvest

long lines vatican money laundering

vernazza cinque terre

Copyright 2014, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

Worry then breathe

Quotation-Martin-Luther-world-change-Meetville-Quotes-88625I worry.  I’m a worrier by nature.  By design.  I come from a very long line of worriers.  I have learned that I must spend time every day focused on gratitude to help plant my feet in the present and keep me from anxiously looking too far into the future.

Worry isn’t always a bad thing.  As a travel planner it helps me anticipate potential issues before they ever become problems.   I map out not only Plan A but B and C.  My worry channeled appropriately and effectively becomes a powerful toll of intuitiveness.  Worry keeps me sharp and prepared.

Worry sometimes gets the upper hand though and begins to spill into my every thought, filling the corners of my mind and wreaking havoc in my dreams.  Writing helps to control and contain.  I once read, “If you want to change the world, pick up a pen and write.”  I’m happy to just change the climate of my thinking with my words.  So here I sit.

I worry about Ebola.  Just like everyone else in recent days.  Although around for decades, it has made a dramatic debut here and we are now painfully aware of how truly under prepared we are.

I worry about travel.  I selfishly worry that my plans for Italy next fall will be effected; that my business will suffer.  I worry that this will change us, isolate us.  Make us more distant and less trusting.

And I worry for nurses.  I am a nurse.  I’ve been in the ER and ICU for over 17 years.  I’ve worked from the barrios of Phoenix and the best trauma center in Seattle to small town Montana.

I can promise you that I’ve seen it all.

I have stories that ban me from dinner tables and ones that still leave me in tears.  I have worked under pressure so intense to this day I have no idea how I fought through.  I’ve held hands and whispered in ears that it’s OK to let go more times than I can count.  I’ve carried a tiny baby to the morgue.  I’ve been spit at, peed on, kicked and nearly choked during my pregnancies.  I’ve been called every name in the book.  And then some.  I actually know what brain matter looks like and I’ve watched two students pass out because of it.  I’ve fought for my patient’s rights and dignity, sometimes defending them from doctors.  Sometimes their own families.  I shared a hug with a man no one ever thought would survive.  I even borrowed a smoke from a bum on ER curbside.

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I worry most because I am a nurse.  I know exactly what a critically ill dying patient looks like.  Nurses maintaining the ventilators for breathing while titrating a myriad of IV medications along with watching labs, giving blood, pushing fluids and keeping things clean.  Constantly cleaning.  Blood, vomit, sputum, drainage, pee and stool.  Endless amounts of stool.  Care of this kind of patient is tremendous, let alone if improperly supplied.  Are we expected to roll up our sleeves and do the best we can with what we have available?  Make due like we all have done so many times before.  Like those nurses in Texas?

I worry about fear.  Fear can be as great a danger as the danger itself.  Tweets, posts, rants and blogs all with more undertones of fear than fact.  How can one safely tip toe around the edges without falling in.

I worry about balance.  Finding a way to prepare for anything without letting my efforts become a obsession that destroys the one true thing I do have at this moment.  Now.  This day. The present to be with what is mine.  They sometimes wake me up at all hours in the night and hand me boogers but they are beautiful and full and my treasures.

I breathe now.  In and out.  Often.  I hold on to faith and hope while always keeping one eye on my Plan A.  And B.  And C.

 

Copyright 2014, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

The problem with commitment

The reality of the difficulty in committing to travel really hit home as I re-read an article I wrote years ago.  I felt like I was reading the words of someone else much wiser than myself.  At the time I penned that article I was full to the brim with the heartfelt intention of traveling within the year.  I remember feeling it in my bones.  Life had other plans for me though.  And the year after that as well.  And the year after that.  Three full years later I am finally set to fulfill my promise to myself.  Three extremely full and challenging years later.  During that time I caught myself feeling defeated at times, wishing for things to play out differently.  Or for a huge trust fund.  I realized soon that attitude was truly the only thing I could ever control and so I took a step back for a better perspective.  I found I have nothing to be disappointed about nor discouraged.  My babies were now well on their way through toddler-hood and they knew what it felt like to have a mommy who was always there wrapping them up in love.  All the pieces had finally fallen into place and we were putting down roots in a place I’ve been longing to call home.  I had personally grown and learned how to put myself out there, get comfortable with being uncomfortable and take chances to obtain what I wanted with my business.  I have the satisfaction of standing by my husband and watching his dreams come true after taking the terrifying leap into self employment.  My wanderlust heart may have ached for adventure but the framework of my life had been solidified and I am now right where I need to be.

just go travel bozemanAlmost everyone I talk to gets misty eyed when the topic of travel comes up.  Everyone has somewhere that calls to them.

They also have bills, jobs, kids, family and responsibilities that call louder.  Taxes, tabs and a dishwasher in need of replacement.

I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t understand the reality of life when I push to travel despite obstacles.  I’m in the trenches too and I can honestly say that I am knocked down backwards more often than I am able to pull myself up.  My war cry remains the same.  Just Go.

If you can’t swing a flight across the ocean I understand.  Believe me.  Grab the keys instead and discover what is lurking next door.  I may have missed exploring the back roads of Tuscany but I discovered the jaw dropping beauty of Glacier National Park (and the heart pounding terror of a grizzly encounter).  My little kids have yet to play in the piazzas but they can name their favorite forest service cabins and we have hiked nearly every local trail.

Just Go.  Travel anyway.  Any where.  Travel to grow, to learn, to heal, dream, recharge, teach, change.  Travel to become a better version of yourself for yourself.

 

My original article posted in 2012 ‘Commit to Travel’

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

Copyright 2014   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

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Living Locally | Relax and Enjoy

I have talked about four of the five steps to my Living Locally philosophy so far:   putting yourself in their shoes , making the first attempt at communication , blending in and keeping an open mind.  Now for the final and most important!

STEP FIVE:  Relax and enjoy

You will have already created the time to experience encounters that you have been dreaming of because of good preparation and smart traveling choices.  This will not be the perfect trip because traveling (especially in Italy) is never completely predictable, but this will be the absolutely most amazing adventure.  Remember to roll with the punches and always be on the look out for an opportunity to get to know Italy personally.  A rainy day may mean a missed bike ride but instead a glorious little cafe otherwise overlooked.  Travel, like life, is full of ups and downs.  The trick is to be prepared for the worst while enjoying whatever is thrown your way.  Traveling is fun, but Living Locally is pure joy.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Keep an open mind

I am continuing on with step four of my Living Locally philosophy.   I have covered three of my five steps to more meaningful travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  This is Living Locally.   The first three steps were about putting yourself in their shoes , making the first attempt at communication and blending in.

STEP FOUR:  Forget what you’ve known to be true and keep an open mind

It’s a big world out there, and nobody does it exactly like we do.  While I’m not asking you to pretend you aren’t American and aren’t a tourist, I’m simply suggesting that you leave your expectations behind and don’t compare things to how we would have done it back home.  I have learned that there is always more than one way to get something done.   You never know, you might actually discover something you like better.  I have learned that pasta anyway other than al dente is a crime and the last time I used Ranch dressing on my salad is a very distant memory.

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Try To Blend In

For those of you who missed my previous posts, I am taking some time to explain each of my five steps to more meaningful travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  I call this Living Locally.   The first two steps were about putting yourself in their shoes and making the first attempt at communication.

STEP THREE:  Try to Blend In

Osteria dell'AquachetteWatch the locals and by all means copy them!  See a crowd hanging out somewhere?  Go check it out.  Sometimes I feel like a private investigator as I try to figure out where they hang out, where and what they eat or why they do what they do.  Forget trying to explain “double-tall-non-fat-sugar-free-half-caf-vanilla-latte” and belly up to the bar for whatever they are having.  I learned how to appreciate my caffe by studying those around me.  Never go to a restaurant full of tourists with billboards in English screaming ‘we take credit cards.’  Instead, walk around and explore the narrow streets until you find a place packed with locals.  Handwritten menus tacked to the door are the best but be prepared to pay in cash.  Ask your host or the lady at the market where they ate last NOT where they think you should go.  When all else fails, follow your nose.

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Make the first attempt at communication

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to watch other travelers as they interacted with locals and responded to their new environment.  I have witnessed some wonderful encounters but I have also had the unfortunate chance to see some horrific examples of “ugly Americanism.”

For those of you who missed my first post, I am taking some time to explain each of my five steps to more meaning travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  I call this Living Locally.

STEP TWO:  Make the first attempt at communication.

tuscany

No translation needed.

I do not speak any other languages fluently, but I learn to say a few simple and polite phrases in the language of any country I visit.  Always ask the person if they speak English…in their language.  Nothing screams “I don’t care about you” like a tourist rattling on in English on the assumption that the listener understands.  While most foreigners do have at least some understanding of English, everyone appreciates even a simple effort on your part.  You will also find that people are more likely to go out of their way to help if you have tried to communicate on their terms first.  I have witnessed someone pretending they didn’t understand what was being said, only to later speak effortlessly with me.

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Five steps to more meaningful travel

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to watch other travelers as they interacted with locals and responded to their new environment.  I have witnessed some wonderful encounters but I have also had the unfortunate chance to see some horrific examples of “ugly Americanism.”

Travel is a unique experience in that it is a two way street.  The tourist is obviously there to take in and receive all that the foreign land and its people have to offer.  While seeing sites and discovering far away places is exciting, it is only the first part of the journey.  What so many do not understand, and therefore completely miss out on, is the gift of reciprocation.  Most travelers are there to receive, worried mostly about what they are “getting” out of the trip.  I say that true traveling begins when the visitors find themselves concerned about what they have brought into each interaction, when they begin to wonder what else they can give to each situation.  As traveling shifts from a one-way express lane to a two lane gravel road, opportunities begin to appear that would have otherwise been missed in a cloud of self absorption.  The traveler becomes less of a strange and forgettable tourist and more of a temporary part of the community.  I call this Living Locally.

Living Locally is actually quite easy and very addictive, you just have to take a breath and jump in.  Before long you will find yourself shaking your head in dismay at the other tourists, wondering why they have not learned to blend in and become a part of their surroundings like you have.

I will spend the next few days explaining each of my five steps to more meaning travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  You can have a once in a lifetime experience.

STEP ONE:  Put yourself in their shoes.

sant angelo wine barWhen you begin to try and trade places with the locals, you see things in a new light.  Things would be ideal if everywhere you went in Italy, people were pleasant and easy going.  But this is the real world and in that world even the nicest people have a bad day.  I try to look at the big picture, step back and see the world from the other person’s eyes.  Once I do that, a crabby waiter suddenly becomes a harried worker trying to please patrons from around the world.  Patrons who all speak different languages and many of them without any attempt at Italian.  I don’t know about you, but I think I would last about 10 minutes before losing my cool.

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