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.




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.


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.


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.


From Hosts to Friends: An Airbnb Experience in Rome

By the time, I had reached Rome, my blistered feet, overpacked suitcase of leather, and fresh mozzarella breath told the stories of my travels. Florence had given me beautiful monogrammed leather and a wonderful history of art and culture. Venice had stuffed my belly with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes drenched in balsamic vinegar. And both cities had left their mark on my feet with lots of blisters and scrapes. After three hours on a train, all I wanted to do was sleep.

So far, all my Airbnb hosts had been wonderful but I hadn’t stayed at a place with the host. We met Cassandra in Venice and Sylvia in Florence, but they did not live in their Airbnb rentals. I was a little nervous, yet excited to stay at Luca’s B&B. As someone who enjoys her space, I wondered what it would be like to have strangers as roommates in a foreign city for five days. As an Account Planner at an advertising agency, I wondered how long I could ask them a million questions before they accused me of being nosey and rude.

Nicole, Luca’s girlfriend, met us at the train station with her German accent and European hospitality. “Hello!!!” she excitedly greeted us. Max, my boyfriend, and I followed her about ten blocks to the bed and breakfast. During those ten blocks, she spoke so highly of the city and her job and her love for meeting new people. When I meet strangers, I usually have to remind myself that not everyone is looking for a new friend. And I tend to use the word “friend” loosely. “My friend who I met on the El train yesterday…I don’t know his name but he always sits on the right side on the 5 PM Red Line, and we talk about the Cubs…yeah. Him, my friend.” You get the picture.

The apartment was simple and felt like home. Luca greeted us with his strong Italian accent and hugged us as if we had known each other for years. He immediately pulled out a map and started to show us the secrets of Rome. Nichole made us an espresso and served us some food. What great hosts, I thought to myself.

As the days went on, Nicole and Luca did the typical host duties. They served us prepackaged pastries for breakfast, coffee and helped us map out our day, but at the end of each day our relationship with our hosts began to change. Suddenly, I realized we were no longer random couples meeting through Airbnb. We were friends. Friends who began to share stories about our past, learn from each other and encourage each other to be our best selves. Evenings were spent on the rooftop of the bed and breakfast, laughing about life, talking about German and Italian culture, discussing American politics and hearing Nicole’s wonderful saying “Live and let live” over and over again. By day 5, I wasn’t sad to leave Rome, but I was sad to leave my new friends who had so graciously developed a friendship with a random American couple who decided to stay at their place based on Airbnb reviews.

Over time, I’ve become a go-to person for friends and family who are looking to travel and every time I tell them about my international Airbnb experience they cringe. “You stayed at an Airbnb overseas? Those seem sketchy”. And every time I reassure them it is the best way to travel. Airbnb connects you with people, not just places.

Traveling isn’t always about the destination or the historical cities and beautiful scenery. It isn’t always about buying beautiful leather bags and shoes or eating delicious pizza. Traveling is more than a review on a website or a picture of an Airbnb apartment. Traveling is about meeting new people and connecting with human beings. Our world is huge, and the most important part of this world are the people who live on it.

If you read Luca and Nicole’s reviews, you’ll immediately want to book their Airbnb space. Be prepared to make new friends and gain a deeper understanding of Italian culture. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/121609 You’ll be telling me “Grazie” after your stay.

The Musical Streets of Venice

Venice is a beautiful city to see with your eyes, but it’s also a beautiful city to listen to with your ears. Above the tourist chitter chatter, boat horns and Italian conversations you can hear the real sounds of Venice. Those sounds are the sound of happiness, joy and life.  


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South Carolina’s Forgotten City

Columbia, South Carolina is a hidden secret. It sits in the shadows of its more popular neighbors, Charleston, and Greenville, the South Carolina city doesn’t get too much attention unless it’s college football season and the town is cheering on USC. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Columbia. It’s a little in size but has a big ole’ southern soul with a sprinkle of hipster youth.

A must do: Find the famous Chicken Man in town. Ernest Lee paints beautiful, abstract chickens on wood. Each abstract chicken is different in color and shape. The Chicken Man is a local celebrity and sells his art at different art festivals and on the side of the road. Bring cash and select the abstract chicken that represents you the most.

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Where to eat breakfast/brunch: DI Pratos. It’s always crowded, and the staff treats you with extra southern hospitality. Order the Pimento Cheese appetizer and the Eggs Charleston if you like crab cakes. The Pimento Cheese small appetizer could be enough for one meal! Top it off with some sweet tea and a “see Y’all again soon” because the food will bring you back for a second, third and fourth visit.

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Where to eat dinner: Pawley’s Front Porch. Sit outside and enjoy the cool, evening South Carolina breeze. Pawley’s is not the place to be on a diet, so be prepared to break your diet if you go. People watch as you eat one of their famous burgers. The Isle of Palms, a burger topped with South Carolina’s famous pimento cheese, and Sullivan’s, a burger topped with grilled pineapple and citrus jalapenos, are great menu choices. Top of your meal with a side of their sweet potato fries tossed in cinnamon sugar. Sit back, relax and be prepared to be overfed.

Where to Grab a Drink: Craft and Draft. Craft and Draft is a craft beer store and bar. Enjoy a craft beer and buy some to take home. The owners are extremely friendly and love to interact with their customers. You’ll probably leave with a new friend or two! Follow their Instagram to see which craft beers they have on tap and for special promotions.

Where to cool off and get a tan: Float down the Saluda, Broad, and Congaree Rivers. Be prepared to pass through around seven rapids and spend around 3 hours floating. Rent an extra tube for your cooler of beverages! The officials tend to look the other way when they see alcohol, just be sure not to litter the rivers. And wear sunscreen!

Where to shop: Columbia is known for its clothing boutiques. Just a Thing, Entourage and M Boutique are great places to shop or browse. Check out Entourage’s jewelry sale bin by the cash register and stock up on the 2 dollar pearl earrings!

Where to explore on foot: While all of Columbia is quaint, full of history and beautiful, the downtown area, and Shandon neighborhood are a must for explorers on foot. Downtown offers a history lesson. Visit the capital and state government buildings. Stop inside if it’s a weekday. Explore the gardens and beautiful outdoor landscaping and gardens. Shandon is a neighborhood about 2 miles from downtown. It offers beautiful, historical homes. It’s a highly residential area, but it’s worth take a walk around if you enjoy old architecture.

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Avoid: Avoid the city during football season, unless you’re a USC fan. A lot of tailgaters will surround you. The city is less crowded during the offseason.

chicken man

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