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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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A Not so Hostel Hostel: An Airbnb Experience in Charleston, South Carolina

Cheers to Charleston for winning the Best Small City in the U.S award! (Conde Nast)

With a week to kill between jobs, I found myself driving down to my favorite part of the United States, the South. For months, I had been pinning pictures of Charleston, South Carolina. I booked a room at the Not so Hostel Annex. Located just three blocks from the main street downtown stood a cozy little yellow house. A giant tree covered half of the front of the house and a porch swing gently swung as the humid evening breeze flew in.

The hostel was simple and instantly reminded me of my family vacations at the beach. It smelled of sand and water, a glorious smell of vacation and relaxation. My room was nothing more than a bed with a light and a nightstand, but it welcomed me with open hours after 10 hours of exploring during the day.

Perhaps the best part of my stay was meeting the host, Bailey. Bailey ran the hostel and decided to quit her full-time job to run the hostel. She wasn’t your typical host. She wasn’t running a bed and breakfast, so she didn’t serve you breakfast. She was a landlord, so she didn’t provide you extra keys or a map of the area. She was there to be a friend. She was there to ask you about your travels when you came back at night and laugh with you and listen to your excitement after you visited The Battery and the market. Her laid back attitude made the experience great.

If you get the chance to stay at the Notso Hostel Annex in Charleston, I highly recommend you get to know Baily. You’ll leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated. And you may even make a new friend.

Check out one of the rooms in the Notso Hostel Annex

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Berlin Hospitality Outside Our Apartment Walls: An Airbnb Experience in Berlin

As I stepped off of the plane at the Berlin airport, I quickly pulled out my passport, holding it like one of those characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who won one fo those golden tickets The long-awaited stamp on my passport was about to happen. I had managed to have customs organize my Italian stamps so well back in the Spring, and I had found the perfect place for my Berlin stamp on page 3. I walked and walked and walked and soon realized; there would be no stamp in Berlin. Disappointed was an overstatement. Why was the stamp so important? Because it branded (no pun intended since I’m a brand strategist 🙂 ) me as a temporary resident of Berlin for the next four days. My blank page 3 looked disappointed as well.

After a long journey by train and foot, we arrived at our Airbnb in a cozy little neighborhood in Berlin, but our apartment was difficult to find due to lack of technology, sim cards, and a delayed schedule. We found our building and my boyfriend hunted to find the internet to get the key from our Airbnb host. I sat on the steps of the apartment, still upset that my passport would never tell the story of my travels to Berlin and overwhelmed by jetlag. I just wanted to get in the apartment, take a shower, and unpack.

I began to notice the neighborhood. It suddenly hit me that it was not an ordinary neighborhood. People set out their glass and plastic bottles outside the public garbage cans so those who were less fortunate could trade them in for money. Older kids rode their bikes slower, so their younger siblings didn’t have to ride home alone from school. People shouted from balconies “Hallo” and asked if they wanted a coffee from the shop down the street. Another tenant in the building even offered us her phone and let us in the lobby so we could take a break from the sun. Was I witnessing extreme amounts of kindness in this foreign city? It seemed so much different than anywhere I had visited.

Soon, our wonderful host Vilius arrived. He was a no-nonsense type of man and welcomed us as if we were his friends. He pulled out a map, telling us where to go and what to see. He warned us about the not so nice parts of town. The apartment was clean and modern. No complaints! I highly recommend staying at his place if you visit Berlin. He was patient and kind despite our late arrival and he even cracked a smile behind his stern, Germany personality. He seemed to fit right in with the other nice folks in the neighborhood.

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It hit me after a few days. It wasn’t the wonderful apartment or Vilius’ amazing hospitality that made our stay so wonderful. It was the apartment’s front steps and windows that overlooked the neighborhood. It was the people that lived outside the walls of our Airbnb. They helped us experience what it means to be a Berliner: kind. If it weren’t for Airbnb, we would have never experienced the people of Berlin the way we did. I gave Vilius’ apartment five stars, and his front porch ten stars. 🙂 I wish there were a “made me feel like a local” rating dimension for Airbnb.

Sometimes it’s not about the cleanliness of the apartment or how many beds it holds or if the WiFi is fact. Sometimes it’s about if your Airbnb apartment will introduce you to new people and make you feel like a true local. I soon realized I no longer needed a passport stamp to feel like a Berliner. I just needed to be kind to everyone around me. Thanks to Vilius’ Airbnb apartment, I learned what it means to be a Berliner.

Check out Vilus’ place here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/88981?checkin=09%2F24%2F2015&checkout=09%2F28%2F2015&guests=3&s=XKpw

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Surviving a Flood: Why My Travel Items are my Most Prized Possessions

Last Saturday, I found myself in standing in a 500×500-foot puddle of water that had engulfed all my personal belongings. The night before, I witnessed a fast-moving stream of water pour into my tiny apartment through a giant hole in my wall due to my air conditioner caving in. In less than two minutes, the water began to rise, and it eventually reached 6 inches (maybe more). During my time of panic, I had to make quick decisions about what I could live with and without. It was in those two minutes that I found myself saving belongings from my travels. I shoved shoe boxes full of ticket stubs to the Uffizi and the statue of David, maps of Italy, Italian leather monogrammed with my initials, tour books from Charleston and Columbia, postcards from Rome, trinkets from Murano, Amelia Island, LA and Chicago and so many more items from my travels that had more meaning than just my “travel stuff” to higher grounds (my bed).

On Saturday morning, my entire bed told my travel stories, and I promised myself I’d put these stories in a scrapbook. These items were more than just things; they were stories. My green leather purse told the story of Lorenzo, an old Italian leather maker at the School of Leather in Florence, who taught me about Florence’s wonderful leather history. He carefully placed my initials on the purse and wrapped everything nicely in cloth bags with a personal note. He’s a character I’ll never forget! My 2-inch blue glass elephant from Murano reminded me of the colorful buildings on the Italian island and the glassblowers who took their craft so seriously and took hours to create one small animal figurine. The many coasters I’ve collected from my travels – The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville introduced me to the culture of struggling songwriters and the Lion statues that live outside the Chicago Museum of Art that my dad climbed one night while we walked around the city.

It was then that I realized one important item was missing – my passport. I frantically searched around the wet floor and suddenly found my “very important binder” full of drenched documents, all branded by the flood water. One item was completely dry and untorn, and that item was my passport. It sat so calmly in my Kate Spade passport cover as if it was shouting “I survived!”.

It was at that moment that I realized these were the only things I needed. Traveling is my life. Without a passport, a suitcase, and my travel accessories I’m not Annie. Yes, I lost my bed, my couch, shoes, clothes and thousands of dollars worth of stuff, including my apartment, but I didn’t lose my adventurous spirit. Next week I’ll be traveling to Berlin, Prague, and Munich and although my life in the States is very disorganized (I’ve been living in my boyfriend’s studio apartment with my cat and living out my car and a suitcase), there is no way I am going to miss another adventure. On to Europe!