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Posts tagged ‘Memories’

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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Happy Mother’s Day Italian Style

I just couldn’t help myself!  Enjoy the giggle on this special day.

italian women travel

My Love Affair with Rome | Sunset at Castel Sant’Angelo

Several weeks ago I began a journey to explain why I am so in love with the city of Rome.  I began with an article defending it against common criticism that can be found here.  Now I would like to begin my series that breaks down my infatuation piece by piece, hoping that in the end all that have followed along with at least give some grace to the city that holds my heart prisoner.

rome italy vatican sunsetOn a trip to Rome several years ago, I ended up spending more time than I expected touring Castel Sant’Angelo.  As the sun started to fade I made a split decision and found a little table at the overpriced cafe with a picture perfect view of the Vatican.

I normally avoid touristy restaurants like the plague, but this moment made everything worth it.  As I sipped my wine and watched the sun melt behind St Peter’s iconic dome, I wondered how many other people could say they have shared this experience.

Travelers Note:  Castel Sant’Angelo was originally built as a tomb for the emperor and has been used as a prison, castle and place of refuge for popes under attack throughout the centuries.  This is one of my favorite sites that is sadly missing from many travelers itineraries.  If for nothing else, the views of the city are worth the trip.  Closed Mondays.  Open 9.00-18.30 Tue-Sun

castel sant angelo

rome italy

rome italy

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

My Love Affair with Rome | Campo de’Fiori

Several weeks ago I began a journey to explain why I am so in love with the city of Rome.  I began with an article defending it against common criticism that can be found here.  Now I would like to begin my series that breaks down my infatuation piece by piece, hoping that in the end all that have followed along with at least give some grace to the city that holds my heart prisoner.

italy morning market rome

The best way to start your morning in Rome is with a stroll through the Campo de’Fiori market.  I always make sure to spend my first day here when jet lag usually has me up earlier than normal.

The smells from the spice and cheese vendors have me drooling.  I am visually captivated by stall after stall of the season’s fresh produce.  Everything can be found here; from flowers to coffee pots and necklaces to salami.

The market is found everyday filling up the entire Campo de’Fiori square.  This is a fun way to gather up all the ingredients needed for a mid-day feast.


rome italy market

rome italy market flowers

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

My Love Affair with Rome | Catholic Essence

Several weeks ago I began a journey to explain why I am so in love with the city of Rome.  I began with an article defending it against common criticism that can be found here.  Now I would like to begin my series that breaks down my infatuation piece by piece, hoping that in the end all that have followed along with at least give some grace to the city that holds my heart prisoner.

One of the most handsome men I have ever laid eyes on was a Roman priest.

I could hear the authoritative clicking of his dress shoes on the cobblestone path behind me.  I turned and could not help but stare as he gracefully, yet somehow seductively, passed by me on that narrow street.

I felt guilty and I’m not even Catholic.

Holy Hotness

Thus began my introduction to the Catholic essence in Italy.  While today 90% of Italians report being of the Catholic faith, less than 1/3 of those actually prove it by attending mass.  Even with such a low overall attendance and participation rate, the faith is visible on almost every corner of Rome.  From the nuns on the street to the ‘pope shop’ by the Pantheon.  I even once purchased a calendar featuring 12 of the finest men in cloth.  A priest pin-up of all things.

Over the years I have attended masses and I never miss a visit to St. Peters.  I can be found on any given day obsessively stalking nuns with my camera.

The Catholic faith, while still much a mystery to me, is a subtle element that draws me into Rome.

The Pope Shoppe

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Top Ten | Cheap Thrills in Italy

Who says you need to spend a fortune to enjoy yourself when traveling.  The following are my very favorite and very affordable experiences.

10.  Crossing the street.  If anyone disagrees with me here, they have obviously never tried to do so in Rome.

9.  Driving on the Autostrada.  The thrill goes both ways.  I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and out in the open.  It seems though, no matter how well I’m doing or how fast I’m going, some Italian is on my butt.

8.  Ordering an espresso (or two) in the afternoon.  I just can’t get enough of coffee in Italy and I find myself sneaking in and out of bars through the day indulging in my addiction.

7.  If coffee isn’t your thing, then I dare you to double down on gelato.  Ignore those raised eyebrows and go back for seconds or order a triple to begin with.  My mouth watering combo?  Pistachio, hazelnut and something chocolate!

6.   For you ladies wanting to live on the edge and believe in fashion at all costs, try an evening on the town in heels.  There is nothing more amazing or sexy than watching the Italian women strut along the cobblestones.  I have tried this myself and….well, not so sexy but I didn’t break anything.

5.  Passeggiata.  Probably my favorite time of the day, when the day trippers have gone home and the locals come out to catch up on the day’s news.  There is no better time to people watch and be watched!  Even in the smallest of villages, people can be found out and about during the evening right before dinner.  Couples holding hands, old women arm in arm.  Magic.

4.  Sagra.  These food centered festivals are everywhere, in every town or village.  Love garlic, cheese or olives?  You are in luck because there are a handful of places across Italy ready to celebrate.

3. Festivals.  Each and every town has some festival rooted in tradition that you can be a part of with the right timing.  The activities vary widely, from pushing wine barrels up the steep city center to decorating the ground with elaborate works of art made from flower petals.

Another perk to flirting: better prices

2.  Flirting.  It’s free and it’s everywhere.  The men in Italy love women and not just the Victoria Secret model women.  Feeling bad about the extra weight you can’t seem to get rid of?  Having trouble hiding the grey?  No worries!  Italian men are professionals when it comes to making a woman feel beautiful, any woman.  Flirting taken with the right frame of mind can be a great ego boost.  Of course, if they go too far I’m not afraid to let them know they’ve crossed a line.

1.  Battling the old women during the morning market.  You have to mentally prepare for this scenario.  They are plump and sweet on the bench in the piazza, but they are shrewd and as stealthy as any ninja at the vegetable stall.


Sweet and innocent? Don’t be so sure

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

The Danger Of All You Can Eat Buffets

Sometimes life requires a time-out.

I have a knack for getting a little ahead of myself.  I can’t seem to help it.  Ideas float in my mind all day, everyday.

Over a month ago I found myself overwhelmed.  My plate was full.  As in heaping full, like a greedy diner at an all you can eat buffet that serves prime rib AND coconut shrimp.  I needed to unload something, but many things in my life can’t be put on hold.

I have three of them.

Ok.  That wasn’t fair, even if she is a Diva.

We also just moved to the most amazing little town this side of heaven.  You may have heard of it.  Bozeman, Montana.

Bozeman Montana

Of course the beauty hasn’t helped us tackle this any faster.

I have learned that despite of all this wonderful chaos, I need to write.  I must write and I must share.  Passion is hard to subdue.

So I’m back in the all you can eat line with my empty plate and my elbows up.

I will never learn.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Father’s Day Tribute | Travel Memories With My Dad In Italy

I couldn’t help re-posting for Daddy’s Day.

My dad is my great friend and to the disbelief of my old high school self, I have come to realize we are actually quite alike in personality.

Except at some crucial moments when we are traveling.

Over the last few years I have taught my dad the beauty and art of savoring the moment and throwing schedules to the wind.  My dad has reminded me that patience with family and a perfect packing job make for a better vacation.  Here is my list of favorite travel moments with him.  Some good, some bad and some utterly embarrassing.  Hey dad, this is pay back for grilling my boyfriends in the living room before they could date me.

10.  My parents met me in Rome after a cruise.  This was their first time ever in my favorite city on the planet and I couldn’t wait to make the introductions.  One of the first things I taught my dad was how to cross the busy streets; walk out with confidence while maintaining eye contact and never hesitating.  At his first lesson, I told him to stay close and do what I did.  When we got to the other side of the street he turned to my mom and said, “Our daughter has balls of steel!”

9.  I have driven a stick shift most of my life and usually have no problem, but on one particular day I was trying to get up a steep gravel road in our excessively weighted down sardine box of a rental.  I stalled half way up and couldn’t get the momentum back.  My dad saved the day, maneuvering that sorry car up the hill with gravel flying and smoke trailing behind us.  I am sure our hosts were wondering what they had gotten into watching our approach from above.

8.  Speaking of that cracker jack box of a rental, I had accidentally reserved an economy sized car instead of a compact.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right?  Not unless you want to take your luggage with you.  I stood in front of the car and fought back tears.  There was no way we were going to fit four adults, one child with her car seat and our luggage.  Then my dad started putting stuff together like a real-life game of Tetris.  The ride wasn’t the most luxurious but we didn’t have to leave anyone behind.  I know for a fact I could not have done that without him.

Well, hello again

7.  My dad has an uncanny sense of direction, maybe it was all the Boy Scout trips of his youth.  You can blind fold him, drop him in the middle of nowhere and before you can say Bear Grylls he will have found his way home.  Except in Italy.  For some reason his internal compass goes awry and I’m not sure if he would be able to find his head if it wasn’t attached.  Of course, we didn’t discover this until one fateful night in Rome when my dad was leading the charge toward the Spanish Steps.  Instead, we found ourselves repeatedly visiting the Column of Marcus Aurelius.  My dad commented that he didn’t realize Rome had so many relief style columns; I commented that I didn’t realize my dad knew how to read a map upside down.  Not the best night for the two of us.

6.  The issues with directions didn’t end there.  Originally, my dad was to be my co-pilot and right hand man in the car.  Nothing was farther from the truth and the tension came to a breaking point near Milan as I was demanding to know which exit to take for Lake Como.  He was utterly frozen and I was less than kind.  My mom decided to chirp in from the back seat (where her sole job was to entertain my daughter) and ‘help’ which only infuriated both of us more.  My dad balled up the map and threw it in her face, telling her where she could put it.  Mind you, this all happen in front of my four year old and the version found here is toned down for the sake of my readers.  The event made a lasting impression on my daughter, and to this day she will ask me to reenact the day Papa threw that map at Nana.

5.  For the most part though, travel with my dad has been bonding.  One of my favorite things to do with him is go for a morning cappuccino and then spend the rest of the day popping in and out of little cafes for our espresso fixes when my mom isn’t looking.

4.  Another great memory is cooking together with my dad after shopping in the morning markets.  Sometimes we would make nothing more than cheese and meat platters, other times we would go all out.  Once my dad made us steaks cooked over a centuries old hearth in a little villa in Tuscany while I put together a simple Carbonara.  Perfection.

3.  On that first trip to Rome, I took my dad into the Roman Forum.  I can’t explain how touching it was to look over and see him bent down on one knee and weeping over the site of Caesar’s cremation.  I knew then he wasn’t the average tourist.

2.  His love for Italy and travel in general started on that first trip and then blossomed even further when he returned two years later.  Watching him grow to appreciate and love the people and lifestyle of Italy was amazing.

Pants removal not required.

1.  I made sure my parents both traveled with their money belts containing everything of value safely tucked beneath the pants and safe from the fingers of pick-pockets.  They were instructed on the importance of use and what they should keep stowed inside.  What I forgot to mention, because the thought never ever even occurred to me, is that you do not need to remove your pants to access your money belt.  Yes, that’s right.  I happened to walk into the lobby of our hotel and found my dad in the corner with his pants around his thighs trying to pull a credit card out of his money belt.

Sorry dad, but this one was too good not to share.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Top Ten | Travel Memories With My Mom In Italy

I have been asked to be more…..delicate with this list.  While my mom is a good sport she is a tad bit more sensitive than my dad.  I was banned from throwing her 50th birthday party after she watched my dad endure poo cakes, pin the colostomy on the donkey and beer served in urinals at his.  I guess I can’t blame her.

So here goes nothing, don’t be too mad mom.

Traveling was something my mom and I talked about doing together for years, but I refused to go anywhere with her until she learned not to pack three suitcases.  She did eventually learn the art of packing light-ish and I was able to teach her there is beauty in unexpected places (even those with bathrooms down the hall).  She showed me that accepting differences is easier than expecting change and that sometimes people need time to adapt.  Patience and understanding were lessons well worth learning for me.

10.  No matter how old you are, when you feel sick there is nothing better than a mom.  I was slammed with the worst stress induced cold on one of our trips and she kept me rested and hydrated until I could get back on my feet.

Disposal of the offending outfit.

9.  There were many fashion items I learned to just endure when traveling with my mom, but one item in particular was just more than I could take.  The guilty item was a light blue matching warm up suit that screamed LOOK AT ME, I’M A TOURIST!  Weeks of relentless pleading, begging, taunting and threats finally lead to the disposal of that horrific suit.  We called it the walk of shame.

8.  I introduced my mom to one of my Italian indulgences.  Handbag shopping.  My favorite spot is a little boutique in Orvieto.  The ladies kept bringing out more and more bags for us to ‘try on.’  We were the center of attention while they gave us their opinions.  I walked out with two that day!

7.  On one of our long trips together, my parents watched my daughter while I led a tour group.  I scheduled a day of my tour so that I could spend the afternoon in Florence with my daughter.  I insisted my mom come with us and we spent the day riding in horse-drawn carriages, chasing pigeons and chatting with the locals.  Somehow having the three generations of ladies together made the time that much more special.

6.  Civita.  One of my most special places in Italy.  I could not wait to share this experience with my parents.  But fate had other plans for us.  My daughter was sick and puking, so I took her up to the village to try and get her settled.  Meanwhile, I had left my parents to bring up their suitcases and planned on going back for mine later.  What I did not realize was that my dad would take my Rome lecture about safety to the extreme here in this village and insist that my mom help him carry EVERYTHING from the car, uphill over the bridge and to the B&B.  Mind you, this was also during my mom’s transitional packing light stage.  She arrived at my most special place exhausted, overheated, angry and crying.  And that was before she discovered she had to use a bathroom down the hall.  Things were not as I had envisioned.  Civita has a magical effect though, and by morning she was under its spell.

antico forno civita B&B

The infamous bridge of luggage terror.

5.  My mom is the great encourager.  On a trip to Italy when my daughter was only two and I was still a single mom, I found her constantly telling me how brave I was and what a good job I was doing.  One day in particular we were climbing Giotto’s Tower in Florence.  I had my daughter secured to me in a sling while I marched up to the top.  When my mom met me there, I remember her telling me she couldn’t believe how strong I was.  Of course she meant physically but the encouragement was taken even deeper.

4.  My parents have been together since high school.  Yes, one of those sickly sweet romantic true love stories.  I’m used to it and all the mushy, lovely dovey stuff that comes with it.  Over a dinner in Cortona, my mom consumed a little more than her usual amount of wine and I found myself asking them to cool their jets.  The making out was beginning to draw attention and I found myself blushing as she french-kissed him over dessert.

3.  I am a control freak when it comes to my daughter.  I am also a control freak when it comes to driving in Italy.  I needed to leave on tour and decided to make my mom the designated driver while I was gone.  We spent a full week practicing how to drive with the crazy Italians.  I showed her the best ways to deal with passing or being passed on the autostrada, how to assertively but safely manage the round abouts and how to park without getting boxed in.  The thing I loved the most was watching her gain confidence.

2.  While mom might have trouble with rooms lacking private bathrooms, she certainly knows how to roll with the punches when it comes to glitches in travel.  The rain rolled in and threatened to ruin our plans, but instead we embraced the grey and grabbed our umbrellas.  We spent an entire day in Cortona sipping on coffee and splashing in puddles while other tourists (whose names will be withheld) pouted in their rooms.

1.  Life hasn’t always been fair for my mom.  She missed out on experiences as a child that should have brought her comfort and given her confidence.  On a visit to this amazing little pottery studio (read more here), I learned about a passion my mom possessed that I was completely unaware of.  I don’t think her face ever looked more peaceful or beautiful than it did that day as she worked at the pottery wheel.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Roman Art Through The Eyes Of A Four Year Old

A few years ago I took my four year old daughter to the Seattle Art Museum where they were having a fantastic display of Roman art and sculpture as well as a chance to see Ghiberti’s Golden Doors before they were to be sent back to Florence forever. It was a great chance to expose her to art and history before our big trip to Italy! We had spent so much time talking about travel, looking through pictures and magazines and even learning Italian together. I even had a section in my travel office with a little desk and supplies so that she could do “business” with me.  This exhibit was going to be the first time I could expose her directly to what we had been talking about.

Beyond excited for her adventure, she descended from her room and down our stairs like the Queen of Sheba.  Decked out from head to toe in sparkly Barbie party accessories complemented by a blue sundress and magic wand, she was ready to hits the rainy streets of Seattle. We spent the ride into town deciding which exhibit we would see first and finally settled on the statues.

Once in the museum, I was beside myself surrounded with an amazing collection on tour from the Louvre. Wanting to share this excitement and teach her how to appreciate what she was seeing, I went into full art historian mode. I’ve always prided myself in my ability to explain art in a simple way that anyone can understand and more importantly remember. While we walked around the room I talked about everything from mosaics to marble while she listened and commented appropriately.

I could not help but swell with pride as I noticed she was the only child in the museum, not to mention I was the exceptional mother who brought her there.  Don’t think I didn’t notice the admiring glances from other patrons.  The many passing conversations in my mind went something like this:

Why thank you, I do my best

Yes, she is an exceptional child

Quite brilliant, I know

I was practically throwing my shoulder out patting myself on the back when my incredibly  and outrageously clever child stopped dead in her tracts and made an announcement to the entire room.

“Mom, this really isn’t my favorite part of the museum.”

Always trying to encourage open communication, I asked her what made her feel that way.

“There are too many penises here.”

Now that she mentions it....

...she does have a point.


Averted eyes.

Was that a stifled giggle?

A pause for thoughtful reflection.

Indeed there were quite a few, and from her perspective (and more imortantly eye-level) they must look even more pronounced.  Always one to make each experience a positive learning opportunity, I decided to switch gears.

I would later regret this snap decision when traveling in Italy.

To keep her interested and to allow me to finishing viewing the exhibit, we spent the rest of the day counting the “yucky, squishy penises.”

Joining up once again with the fabulous writers at yeah write. Click the button below to read some truly wonderful writers and don’t forget to return on Thursday to vote for your five favorite posts.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel


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