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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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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!

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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.