Travel is an incredibly personal activity. Choosing to travel, deciding where to travel, who to travel with, and how to travel are all decisions that we don’t take lightly. It is a privilege and an escape from our day to day, ordinary lives. Over the course of my traveling years, I have developed a set of tenets that shape the hows, whys, wheres, and whats of my travel experiences. My travel philosophies, if you will.
The following 7 tenets continue to serve me as a guiding light for the experiences that set my soul on fire and light me up inside and for the types of experiences I design for the travelers I serve. These are 7 foolproof ways to travel better – and return home more inspired, enriched, and fulfilled.
Eat Well, Travel Often
This common little phrase does a great job of summing up my personal priorities. No question, local cuisine, and culinary discoveries are the main motivator for how I choose where I’m heading next, and certainly how I choose what I’m doing (and eating) once I get there. I believe that experiencing a culture through its cuisine is a critical component in a well-rounded travel itinerary.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a gorgeous landscape or adorable wildlife photo as much as the next gal, but there’s nothing that gets me salivating over my next trip quite like the anticipation of the local foodscape. I’m a variety kind of girl and I definitely don’t discriminate against culinary experiences – you’ll find me geeking out over the local hole-in-the-wall where no one speaks a lick of English but the food will blow your mind and the fancy-pants, 3 stars Michelin fine dining.
But no matter where I am dining, the focus is always on what. Why is this such a critical element of the journey?
Because nothing tells the story of a place and its people like the food does.
The fastest way to connect to a culture and the people who live it is by engaging with them through their local culinary traditions, even when it puts us out of our comfort zones. That means developing more adventurous palettes, being up for trying anything at least once, and a willingness to indulge in the delicacies of the land. Once you do this, you’ll realize a deeper relationship with your destination and the friends you will meet along your journey.
My fondest memories always seem to center around the stories told and the commonalities found between people at the dining table. As well as the unforgettable, transportive tastes and transcendent moments found there. Eat Well, Travel Often – you won’t regret it.
A Safari Will Change Your Life
“If I Have Ever Seen Magic, it Has Been in Africa.”John Hemingway
When you ask a travel professional and serial wanderluster about their “favorite trip ever” it is like asking them to pick a favorite child. In other words, next to impossible. However, the trip that most changed me, that opened my eyes and my heart in ways you can’t understand until you experience it for yourself, was my honeymoon safari in Africa.
On safari, you can’t help but come alive.
There, in the wildest, most untouched parts of our planet is where you gaze upon elegant antelope bounding across the plains, where you exhilaratingly chase after a cheetah on the hunt, and where you hear the roar of the mighty lion lazing underneath the shade of the iconic Acacia tree, afraid of no beast and no man.
On safari, your senses erupt awake – heightening, intensifying.
No longer distracted by our phones, tablets, or pressures of everyday life, the energy of nature – the symphony of the wild – rushes through you. The vastness of the savannah amplifies the padding of a herd of elephants, the call of the birds, the whistle of the wind, and the unrelenting heat of the African sun.
On safari, the ancient, primordial heartbeat of Mother Nature pulses through you.
Maybe you’ll be lucky and catch a glimpse of the ever-elusive leopard hiding, camouflaged, within the tall trees, or come across a huge herd of elephants making their way to the river to bathe, so close you could reach out and touch them. Then you can truly understand that if the lion is King of the Jungle, the elephant is most assuredly the King of Beasts.
On safari, every day is an adventure
Chasing the wildebeest migration, stalking the predators who stalk the prey, following the birds, and the endless horizon.
On safari, you can go to bed on the rim of the world’s largest inactive, unbroken volcanic caldera and wake up to a dense fog curling out from it like the smoke off a boiling pot. You can revel in some of the world’s most luxurious camps, tents, and lodges with world-class comforts, exquisite food and intimate dining experiences, and the camaraderie of sharing the day’s stories around the campfire.
If there was one type of adventure I believe every traveler should experience, a safari would definitely be it. I wish all travelers to experience the magic that is Africa. Suzanne Evans summed it up nicely when she said:
“I hope you have an experience that alters the course of your life because, after Africa, nothing has ever been the same.”
Always Return to Italy
“You may have the universe, if I may have Italy.”Giuseppe Verdi
I might be just a little biased, but my favorite country in the entire universe is Italy. Maybe it’s because my identity as an Italian-American is so deeply rooted in who I am, but when I step off the plane in Italy it always feels like I’ve returned home.
Five years after my first visit, I returned to study abroad in Rome – a poetic city sitting in a constant state of dichotomy – and then again to visit family in Sicily, devour sweeping sea views and incredible seafood, and – unbeknownst to me at the time – getting engaged to my now-husband on a balmy summer evening. I continue to return to visit both old and new places, and I’ve learned there’s simply never enough time in all the world to uncover all of Italy’s charms and secrets.
Certainly, no stranger to tourists, Italy is one of the world’s most celebrated and diverse countries. Despite it being the size of say, Arizona, it offers an endless variety of landscapes, cultures, and cuisines. Not to mention an overwhelming abundance of history, art, architecture, and natural wonders. But even being home to so many of the world’s most treasured sites is not what truly separates Italy from its neighbors.
An Italian vacation is defined by its warmth.
Yes, warmth from the golden Tuscan sun and the salty sea breeze along its many coasts. More importantly, though, the warmth found in the boisterous, generous spirit of the Italian people.
You find it within the hearty plate of bolognese covered in freshly grated, slightly gritty Parmiggiano-Reggiano. It’s there in that third (or fourth) glass of Barolo you’re sipping at a 3-hour meal in the hills of Piedmont where no one is rushing to finish because Italians know that life is best lived around a table, with those you love.
Italians coined a term for this pleasant idleness – dolce far niente – which is also known as the art of doing nothing. You, too, can perfect this skill while traveling there.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been once, or a hundred times, Italy has the magic to make you fall effortlessly, hopelessly, and endlessly (you might say eternally) in love with all it has to offer.
Italy is meant to be savored.
It is meant for leisurely days spent soaking in all of its splendors and late evenings indulging in its cuisine and famous wines. Italy is a recipe for return visits – whirlwind weeks that try to cover too much ground will not allow you to absorb the regions, cities, towns, villages, cuisine, or culture the way they were meant to be discovered.
And when you trust us to design your first, second, or third trip to Italy, we guarantee you’ll return understanding what the beautiful word commuovere means – having been stirred, touched, and heartwarmingly moved in ways that will stay with your soul forever.
I Haven’t Been Everywhere, But It’s On My List.
I am often asked what is the number one place I want to visit – my top bucket list destination. As a travel professional, this, too, is next to impossible to answer! I almost always say “everywhere I haven’t been yet!”. Every day we are exposed to and learning about new places, new hotels, new adventures, new foods, etc that continuously shift the rotation of what’s on top of our “where to next” list.
Why? Because the world is VAST. Because even when you’ve been everywhere or seen everything…you haven’t. This tenet teaches me and reminds me that keeping open minds and open hearts is the very key to traveling well.
Everywhere has something wonderful, interesting, and special to offer – and an intrepid traveler will seek it out, no matter where they are.
But, this tenet also reminds me that having a goal, a dream trip, or an “ultimate” vacation gives us endless inspiration. It sparks our curiosity, creates focus, and gives us something to look forward to and a plan to take action on. And the beautiful thing? Your “ultimate” adventure can change with your interests, experiences, and seasons of life.
For me, my current “goal” trip is to Gorilla Trek in Rwanda. Can you picture it? This is the type of deeply enriching experience that will leave you changed forever. Sometimes called the “pays des mille collines” – French for “land of a thousand hills” – Rwanda is a small country set amongst a backdrop of emerald green hills.
I’m enthralled by the dichotomy that is the ultimate in luxury properties juxtaposed with the strenuous work of the trek itself, and the euphoric feeling of coming face to face with these majestic creatures. It’s hard to imagine the joy that awaits those lucky enough to meet the friendly giants that live in Rwanda’s mountains – gravely endangered, heavily protected, and incredibly mighty.
Seek Euphoric Moments
Taking my first steps as we began our ascent, I looked up high into the Andes and thought “there’s no way we are actually climbing that high, is there?”.
I knew we had 8 or so hours of non-stop trekking ahead of us but being relatively unfamiliar with the terrain and the route, I wasn’t exactly sure which of these heights we’d be scaling. One foot in front of the other, I thought.
My mantra was going to be to focus only on my next step, and not what may or may not lie ahead – except for the end goal, which was to walk through Inti Punku – the Sun Gate – and view Machu Picchu for the very first time. As we trekked up and down the ancient, narrow, rocky trails, curving around the mighty Andes, I felt precariously positioned between the steep mountain side and the powerful Urubamba river below.
Trying not to focus on a potential fear of heights that I was suddenly developing, I allowed myself to soak in the moment.
To listen to the melodic sounds of nature, to inhale the fresh air as we ascended further and further into the tropical Cloud Forest, and to be soothed by the rushing waters of the river below.
I connected with a friend in the most basic of ways, through adventure, through laughter, and through one awe-inspiring moment after the other – free from the pull of everyday distractions.
When I’d stop to take in the breathtaking (literally, and figuratively) views I’d turn back to see how far we’d come. I couldn’t contain the surprise and pride I felt at having navigated the twists, turns, and steep inclines that the trek required. But, nothing prepared me for the euphoric moment that awaited when we climbed the steep, terraced steps to finally arrive at Inti Punku. Or the emotions that surfaced as we crossed the entryway and were surrounded by fellow trekkers loudly cheering us on. There – still an hour and a half of trekking away – was our very first glimpse of the architectural wonder of the Lost City of Machu Picchu.
The moment was transcendent, immediately moving me to tears. I had made it – here I was standing before one of the Wonders of the World, 8,000 feet above sea level, after an arduous day of climbing. I’m not going to lie to you, the trek had not been easy – but since when was anything worth its salt easy? I had earned this view and it was everything I never imagined it would be.
I know I will never forget the way I felt the day that I trekked the Inca Trail. I call memories like that Euphoric Moments. These are the moments in travel that we live for – the ones that alter our perspectives, challenge our points of view, and shift our realities.
Seek Euphoric Moments out as much as you can.
And they don’t always have to be extreme adventures or accomplishments – euphoric moments can come from an amazing meal spent at the home of a local where you dine on authentic food and have an authentic conversation. Likewise, it can be a day out on the shimmering Adriatic sea while Croatian island hopping. Or, maybe it will come from soaking in a hot spring and staring up at the dancing wonder that is the Aurora Borealis on a clear, cold Icelandic night.
Whatever form they take, Euphoric Moments will stay with you forever, and they will change your life.
Don’t Leave the Kids at Home
I recently hopped on a plane with my 2.5-year-old where he spent a good portion of the time refusing to remain buckled in his seat belt, or even sit down in his seat. Those moments where he wasn’t listening, where he was kicking and screaming, were enough to make me sweat bullets and hang my head in shame and embarrassment.
Real talk: travel with kids is hard.
The packing-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, the logistics of traveling with car seats, strollers, and/or portable high chairs, the settling into new sleeping arrangements, adjusting your itinerary to accommodate for little people – it is all hard.
But you know what? It is worth every second. The stigma around traveling with kids is real, and I am here to push back on it. Yes, traveling with small children will be a different experience than traveling as a couple or with other adults. Yes, you might spend less time at Michelin-starred restaurants and more time chasing down gelato (but really, is that such a bad thing?). And yes, you might have to adjust your activities to account for the ages and abilities of your children.
But the gift you will be given is so much greater than those small sacrifices.
You’ll see the world through their eyes – their innocent wonder, their ability to find joy in the simple and the otherwise mundane, their willingness to learn and try new things, and above all – their openness to smile, laugh, and love with all people of new cultures, languages, and ideas.
Exposing children to new and different ideas, ways of living, eating, playing – and simply new surroundings – does wonders for their development as little global citizens. And it all happens naturally as you let yourselves immerse into a destination and discover its wonders, together.
While yes, they may not remember that that Cathedral you saw was built in Baroque style, or that there is a whole, intricate history behind the magnificence of the Colosseum – what they will always remember is the wonderful, happy emotions they felt while seeking adventures. And spending quality, uninterrupted time with you.
And you? You’ll be blessed to remember the joy on their faces, the sweet sound of their laughter, the glow of their smiles, and the precious gift of discovery with family.
Stop and Smell the Roses
To travel well is to travel slow. There was a time I didn’t subscribe to this philosophy. I, like many, thought seeing as much as I could in the short time I was given – can we all take a moment to lament American vacation time? – was the most important thing of all.
However, when it comes to travel, speed is not your friend. It wasn’t until I graduated college and took 3 weeks to explore Thailand that I started to understand the value of slow travel. There is a joy in lingering somewhere – past the time required to “see” all the sights. There is serendipity to be found, authentic moments to be had, and the simple pleasures of stopping to soak it all in.
I like to say that travel is less about what you see, and more about how you see it.
The quality of our experiences goes down when we are speeding through them in order to check items off the proverbial bucket list. I have naturally started subscribing to a new rule of thumb: I rarely travel more than 2 hours from my original destination on any one trip. You can change your scenery, change your pace, and change your experiences within a nice 2-hour radius that doesn’t require days of travel and a crazy schedule.
On the other hand, sometimes the joy is in the journey.
Maybe it’s a leisurely drive on country roads through picturesque villages or around a scenic wine road to discover family-run producers. Instead of hustling between point A and point B, you make room for spontaneity and unplanned discovery. You allow for the magical moments of chance.
One of my last trips abroad before the pandemic was to Slovenia. A teeny, tiny country most people can’t find on a map. The majority of tourists visit here for a day (mayyybe two) while traveling through Croatia. Alternatively, they may stop there for a few hours on a cruise ship.
Slovenia has very few “must-see” sights that make the world’s best list – but it is incredibly rich in history and culture. It has an abundance of scenic landscapes, quaint villages, and charm. It is also a hub for adventure and a foodie paradise.
We spent a full 8 days exploring Slovenia’s nooks and crannies. Yet, I still desire to go back as soon as I can as there’s so much more to see! Most importantly, we made life-long friends with our guide, who opened our eyes to the country’s fascinating history and the journey of its people.
When you travel slowly, you’ll start to uncover the real heart of a place and take it with you as a forever memory.
Consequently, you’ll find that you’re leaving a little piece of your heart behind when you go, too.
And that’s the simple beauty of stopping to smell the roses.
Which of these tenets sounds the most like you? If you’re ready to get started on your own fulfilling journey, give me a shout!