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My Promise to My 27 Years Old Traveling Self

On April 28th, I turned 27. Last year, I started a tradition of traveling every year on my birthday. Being in unfamiliar places is by far my favorite thing. I feel more comfortable in unfamiliar places.

As I woke up in our tiny, San Francisco Airbnb apartment, I realized that it didn’t feel like my birthday. It seems as if each year, the actual day feels less and less like my birthday and more and more like just another day, but for some day on my birthday I do more of what I like.

I drank an Anchor Steam beer at 10 a.m.
I ate Ghirardelli chocolate for breakfast.
I bought a map to add to my growing map collection.
I wore my favorite dress, not because it looks good on me, but because I just like it.
I (over)shopped at Zara.
I took a million pictures and videos and met a bunch of really cool people.
And most importantly, I was traveling.

Then it hit me. If April 28 didn’t feel like my birthday anymore, just a normal day, why did I have to do these things only one day out of the year?

So I made a pledge to live every day of my 27th year of life doing things I love.

That means more raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, more creativity, more letter writing, more dancing, more beaches and palm trees, more blogging, more photography, more laughing, more steam beer, more dresses, more cats, more adventures, more loving my curves and myself, and most importantly more traveling.

Cheers to 27. And every day feeling like my birthday.

 

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Reluctant Heroism: What I Learned From my Airbnb Host in Nashville

“The hero has to be reluctant. That’s a little piece of advice for you.”

The hero has to be reluctant. The hero has to be reluctant. The hero has to be reluctant.

When I booked my Airbnb room last weekend, I had a lot of things on my mind. A lot. I was only looking for a place to stay to escape my current mundane life. I usually pick Airbnb’s based on the hosts because I’m on a mission to meet new people and travel the world.

I never expected to meet a Woodstock festival music player, past band member, award-winning author, former aspiring manuscript writer, talented songwriter, Bluebird Cafe musician, quiet man who has found a second calling in life; helping people explore the world when they stay at his apartment in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The hero has to be reluctant. That’s a little piece of advice for you.” That’s what he told me when I asked him about his novel writing tips.  I want to write a book someday about my story.

The phrase stuck in my mind, and as I began to think deeper about the words, they began to resonate beyond just a writing tip.

The hero has to be reluctant.

In life, we look up to our heroes, but at the end of the day only we can save ourselves. We are own heroes. And so often we are reluctant to take that next step, go beyond our comfort zones, do what we want in life. What if we weren’t reluctant to take the leap? Nothing would feel like an accomplishment. Nothing would give us satisfaction. If we weren’t reluctant, every step we took would just be another part of life that held little meaning, and we would never feel like we were growing as a person.

For two hours, Richard told me about his journeys around the world, how he traveled by himself to New Orleans and how he played at Woodstock and eventually found his way to Nashville. He told me about how he likes to help young musicians from all over the world who stay at his Airbnb. He reminiscent about how he read his book to his girlfriend and watched her eyes to note what parts of the story got her hooked and what parts he should change. I found to have so much in common with him, and it was serendipity that our paths crossed that weekend.

I’m always amazed by the humans I meet, especially on my travels. Richard not only opened my eyes up to the wonderful city of Nashville, but he also opened my eyes to my life.

The hero has to be reluctant.

I’m not my hero right now, but I am reluctant. I left Richard’s Airbnb devoting to be a reluctant hero, someone who is hesitant about the next step but does it anyway because she knows it’s what she wants and loves.

If you get a chance to visit Richard Carson’s Airbnb home, take the time to sit down with him and learn a life lesson. He may even sing you a tune or two. You’ll leave not only with a greater appreciation for the music industry, but also a renewed desire for wanderlust, adventure, and finding your place in this fast-paced world.

“I’m so lucky I ended up here..by chance,” replied Richard when I asked what he loves about living in Nashville.

I’m so lucky I ended up at Richard’s Airbnb by chance.

 

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Lessons From The Leather Man

The minute I arrived I Florence I felt a deep sense of love in my heart.  The beautiful city offered me beautiful views, fed my delicious mozzarella, presented me with wonderful art, and most importantly gave me the opportunity to open my wallet to purchase so many gorgeous items.

I knew nothing about leather before going to Florence, but I knew I was on a mission to buy some.  After shop hopping for an afternoon, I was directed to visit the Florence School of Leather or Scuola del Cuoio as the Italians call it.

The school reminded me of an episode of Project Runway.  Mannequins and designs lay everywhere.  Scraps of leather were being sewn together.  Needles and threads were meticulously moving in and out, in and out between colorful pieces of leather.

A room full of hundreds of colorful leather items, belts, purses, coin purses, luggage, keychains, and so much more greeted me as I walked through the doors.  I selected my items and took them to an old man named Vincent and a young Italian man in an apron standing behind a work bench.

Vincent neatly wrapped up my leather items and handed them to the young man.  I watched as the young man stamped my initials on my leather items.  AMP.  Anna Mary Pryatel.

It hit me.  Those initials were more than letters.  They were my identity.  They had to mean.  When people saw AMP I wanted them to think of the person, I was, kind, gentle, smart, ambitious, honest.

Vincent handed my items to me; all stamped up with AMP.  It was that day that I realized I learned a crucial lesson from the leather man, someone who didn’t even know he was teaching me a lesson.  Always try to be a better person of yourself.  Your mark, whether it’s stamped on a piece of leather or a license plate or somewhere else, is important.  It reveals your identity.

Remember always to be you and leave your mark on the world.

 

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The German Man who Never Stopped Smiling

Back and forth.  Back and forth.  He walked from the door of the restaurant to the outdoor patio for five straight hours.  Each time, carrying at least 1 liter of beer, and at times carrying up to 6 liters of beer.  The hard working old man was working on a Sunday, serving some crazy Americans who were (over)celebrating their friend’s recent Berlin marathon finish.

Back and forth.  Back and forth.  All night long, for six hours straight, he never stopped smiling.  He made sure our liters were never empty. He joked with us and laughed with us.  About three hours in, he introduced himself as Ralph.  He even began joking and dancing with us.  When he carried out the beers, we shouted, “Ralph!!!!!” applauding him for his great service.

Halfway through the night I noticed Ralph was hugging a family from afar. He gave a child a kiss on her head and hugged a few others.  I could tell they were his family by the way he treated with them.  He continued to serve us, stopping to enjoy a few minutes of family’s company who were sitting at a table inside each time he went in to refill our liters.  It wasn’t long until I noticed Ralph’s feet were deformed.  They were oddly shaped, causing him to walk on the outside of his foot.

How could this man be so happy?  He was working as a waiter on a Sunday away from his family as they enjoyed a nice dinner together.  His deformed feet and tired hands hadn’t had a rest in six hours.  He was watching his American customers have the time of their lives celebrating life.

And he never stopped smiling.  Ralph’s smile taught me something that night.  He taught me always to be happy and thankful.  Life can be tricky.  It can feel like you’re walking the same path over and over again, back and forth, with deformed feet and tired arms.  During those times, you just have to smile and be grateful that you have the opportunity to walk because things could always be worst.

Danke schoen, Ralph.

To witness Ralph’s extremely positive attitude and smile, visit him at the Bombay Indisches Restaurant in Berlin.

 

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Understanding What it Means to be Human: A Visit to Dachau

There I sat, twenty minutes on a train, anxiously waiting for my stop where I would exit, get on a bus and get off at the Dachau stop.  I sat twiddling my thumbs, thinking about all the movies I had seen about World War II and concentration camps.  I was nervous and felt a little guilty that I was spending a Sunday afternoon giving attention to such a horrific, historic event.

The bus was quiet, yet crowded.  Everyone seemed to look as if they were anxious about visiting Dachau.  Some people closed their eyes as if they were praying.  Others held hands.  Some quietly joked to break the silence.

Apartments lined the street leading up to Dachau.  People were going about their usual Sunday, taking the kids to the park, grocery shopping, and going on a run.  It was just another day in Germany.  For me, it was the day I realized how precious human life is.

The words “Arbeit mach frei” welcomed me to the camp.  “Work will make you free.”  I walked through the camp in silence.  It was just how the movies portrayed it.  A dreary, open space with buildings, or barracks, and a crematory in the distance.  The stories of survivors, victims, soldiers, and leaders were written on the walls of the museum.

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Standing in the middle of the camp made my heart pound.  I felt like I was reliving a nightmare I hadn’t been part of.  But the next minute, I felt a sense of relief.  A sense of relief that these memorials exist to ensure this will never happen again.  I was reminded of how precious life is and how grateful I am to get up and go to work each day, live in a safe neighborhood and not fear my government.

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As I walked in silence down the gravel road lined with tall green trees, I could hear it all.  All the stories.  Those who survived.  Those who tried to escape.  Those who were separated from their families.  Those who died.  Those who murdered.  Those who felt like they had no choice but to follow the leads of their government.  The trees told a story too.  Once, barren and skinny, now full grown and green symbolizing the Germany of today.

When I reached the end of the gravel path, ending my time at Dachau, I prayed for the first time in ages. And wondered how such a thing could happen.  The silence seemed to get quieter and I slowly walked out of the camp, suddenly understanding what it means to be a human being on this earth.