Tag Archives: Italy

My first flight

Growing up, I dreamed of traveling the world and going on adventures. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at an early age and my symptoms worsened into my adolescence. For awhile, I gave up on my dreams of traveling and focused on school and my health. I didn’t think I would ever be healthy enough to see the world.

While in the 6th grade, I took my first flight and traveled from Texas to Washington D.C. I’m terrified of heights, even to this day. That first flight was brutal. I was already having a bad flare up but didn’t want to keep going to the bathroom. I had the window seat and had terrible anxiety about asking the other people sitting in my row to get up…again. My stomach was making so much noise and I was so self conscious. The take off left me feeling incredibly nauseous. I had a sharper than usual pain in my stomach. There were so many crazy thoughts going through my mind. I felt panic starting to set in. Then I forced myself to really look out the window. I thought I was going to throw up, realizing how far above the ground we really were. I couldn’t even see the ground. That was destabilizing at first. But slowly I felt myself calming down. It was really peaceful up there.

I loved seeing the clouds from that point of view. I had always enjoyed looking up at the sky, as Texas has some of the most beautiful skies (I’m biased, I know). My body relaxed a little. Then we would hit turbulence and I would go right back to square one. Nauseous, in pain and terrified.

The landing was scary and so hard on my stomach. I had held my vomit bag tightly the entire flight but I came very close to using it during the landing. Once we stopped, I felt much better. I was beyond proud of myself for having made the journey without throwing up all over or going to the bathroom a million times.

The flight back was easier. I was excited to sit by the window again. I knew what to expect this time through so I had a lot less anxiety. Most of it was even enjoyable. When we landed back in Dallas, I was elated to have completed the trip with minimal issues. I had been very sick in D.C. and was in constant pain (nothing out of the ordinary) but I survived the flights and had an overall positive trip experience. It gave me hope that I could actually have the life that I dreamed of as a very young girl.

While I still don’t like being crammed in confined spaces, flying has become something that I look forward to. My health has had many ups and downs but I have taken many trips since I timidly boarded that first flight. A few years ago, I even quit my job and left everything behind to go on a long-term solo trip to Ecuador (and then to Mexico, which wasn’t originally planned).

Crohn’s has been and will continue to be an obstacle in my life that I have to overcome on a daily basis. Some days I come out on top. Other days, I get my ass kicked. But I’ve learned that no matter how difficult, it doesn’t have to be a dead end. I have proven to myself time and time again that I can rise above adversity and live the life I want to live.

So far, I have visited 7 countries (England, Finland, Italy, Croatia, Ecuador/Galapagos, Mexico and Colombia). I lived in Ecuador and Mexico for three months each. There was a time that I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to live alone in foreign countries. So, while every single day is an uphill battle, I continue to climb. I continue to take steps toward building a life I love.

What was your first flight experience? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below!

Souvenir Box

Over the years, I have collected many souvenirs from my travels. After my first major trip about 7 years ago, I bought a travel box to house my collections. I put many things from my first adventure in Maui, Hawaii in that box. Things that I still have to this day. Lavender from a lavender farm tour I went on. Napkins from a delicious restaurant I ate in.

Looking through my little souvenir box, I see a lot of it is random paper items like receipts, maps and ticket stubs. Things that I had planned on using in some creative travel craft project that was never created. I’ve cleaned this box out a few times over the years, but it’s so difficult to throw any of it away. I know I don’t NEED a ticket stub for a train ride in Italy from 6 years ago, but I still want if for some reason that I don’t fully understand.  

Among my collections are currency (mostly coins with a few small bills) left over from my trips. I have euros, pounds, pesos (Mexican and Colombian) and a few Ecuadorian coins. I’ve always loved foreign currency. The bills are always so colorful and decorative, unlike the bills we use here in the United States. Often, I feel like currency is reflective of the people it represents. In many of the places I’ve traveled, the people are colorful and full of life, just like their beautiful currency.

On a recent trip to Colombia, I decided I wasn’t going to buy or keep things to put into that box anymore (except currency, of course). No more shot glasses or keychains that will never be used or gifted. No more collecting postcards from every city and sight I visit. No more saving every scrap of paper handed to me. Instead, my boyfriend and I bought two beautiful art pieces to hang on our walls. To date, they are my favorite souvenirs. Things that are on display for the world to see instead of locked away in a box for me to occasionally reminisce over.

Every time I open this box, I have a rush of mixed emotions. Joy remembering all of the amazing experiences I had and the incredible people I met. But also sadness. Sadness that those experiences have come and gone. Sadness that I will never see some of those people again. Sadness that I’m sitting in my apartment looking through the past instead of currently being on an adventure. I often have feelings of being trapped after I look through my little travel box. Trapped back in a life that didn’t satisfy the last time. Or the time before that.

So now I’m trying to decide what to do with the contents of this box. Do I continue to lug around my past experiences, keeping them hidden away for just me? Or do I actually clean this box out? Get rid of the little faded scraps of paper. The 6 year old candy bar I never ate. The now crushed dried flowers.  

What kind of souvenirs do you collect and where do you keep them? Do they bring you joy or sadness?  

A Day in Croatia

During a trip to Italy, I had the opportunity to spend a day in beautiful Croatia. My friends and I were staying with a lovely family in Muggia, Italy. After a night of laughs, delicious homemade cuisine and the strongest mojitos I have ever had, I woke up hung over and exhausted. I didn’t feel great. I struggled to get up and get dressed. The Italians laughed at me for being a lightweight. They all drank way more than I did and were totally fine, while I looked like death. Eventually we loaded up into two cars. I rode with the Italian couple we were staying with and their daughter and my two friends rode with the sister of our host and her boyfriend. Slovenia is just a stone’s throw away from Muggia. We stopped in Slovenia to get gas and I bought a large bottle of water that I promptly chugged. I felt a lot better immediately. I thought I was just dehydrated and that the worst was behind me. We got back into our cars and got back on the road.

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The couple I was riding with consisted of an Italian woman and a Slovenian man. He was driving, I was sitting in the passenger seat and she was sitting in the back with their young daughter. Despite the language barriers, we were having a fun lively conversation when all of a sudden, I felt the urge to throw up. We were coming up to the border checkpoint in Dragonja when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to keep it together. I didn’t know how to say that I was going to throw up in Italian so instead I told them in Spanish and hoped they understood. “Necesitio vomitar!” She yelled something to him in what I assumed was Slovene and he quickly cut across two lanes! I thought we were going to hit the car next to us. It was terrifying! If I hadn’t already needed to throw up, I would have needed to after that.

We screeched to a halt next to a grassy partition and I flung the door open. I hardly had the time to lean out when cold water came gushing out. “Oh, is only water,” she laughed from the backseat. They seemed to think it was hilarious and not a big deal but I was so embarrassed. We went through the checkpoint and I received another stamp on my me-croatia-signpassport. I was starting to feel better. We met up with the other car near a welcome to Croatia sign. When we parked and got out, they were all discussing the fact that I had just thrown up. The couple in the other car had our lunch with them and they gave me some bread and told me, “Mangiare!” I ate some bread and the feeling of nausea was slowly subsiding. We took turns taking pictures in front of the Croatia sign and then got back in the cars to find the beach.

We ended up in Umag. The Croatian beach was unlike any other beach I have ever visited. The first thing that struck me as odd was that there wasn’t much sand. There were some sandy patches but most of the area was concrete, all the way to the water. People were laying directly on the concrete. Children were running around and playing on the concrete. Then I started to notice the Speedos. So many Speedos! Unfortunately, the men wearing the Speedos were generally very overweight and unattractive. Over the course of my two week trip to Europe, I saw just how comfortable Europeans are with their bodies. They aren’t bashful at all. For the most part, I’m happy with my body but I will probably never know the confidence that European women, and men, have.

We claimed our space on the concrete and set up our stuff. We swam in the Adriatic Sea but the water was way too cold for me so I spent the majority of the time getting baked on the concrete. The sun was brutal. Even with sunscreen, I felt my skin cooking as soon as I sat down. We spend several hours there and throughout that time, I kept reapplying sunscreen but I still got burnt! The Italians brought an impressive spread for lunch. I have never eaten so much at the beach before. There was even pasta!

After we had had enough of the beach, we walked around the town a little bit. We stopped at a place called Spritz Bar where I ordered some kind of coconut drink. It was interesting. Not my favorite but it was nice and cold. We had a great day in Croatia but when it was time to head back to Italy, I couldn’t wait to get showered and into bed! I hope to go back to Croatia one day and really explore!

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Pompeii, Italy

A few years ago, I took a trip to Italy with two friends. While planning, I had only one request. I didn’t care what else we did or where else we went, the one place in Italy I wanted to see most was Pompeii. We planned for a day at the end of our trip and I couldn’t wait!!

Every city we visited over our two weeks in Italy was amazing! The people were the most welcoming and hospitable people I have ever met. The food and wine were, of course, the most incredible food and wine I have ever tasted. We were having a great trip and I knew that Pompeii was going to be the perfect ending to our tour of Italy. The morning of, we got into our rental car and headed out of Rome to Naples where we stopped to have lunch. The pizza was delicious! Just as it had been in every pizzeria we tried on our trip. When we were full, we got back in the car and pressed on. By this time, I was antsy with excitement! We were so close!!

Finally, we see the sign stating Città Di Pompei! Here’s a fun fact! While researching, I discovered that Pompei with a single ‘i’ is the spelling for the modern city while the spelling for the ancient city is with two, Pompeii. We made our way to the entrance of the ancient city and walked down the long walkway that leads inside.

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The vastness of the ruins was startling. It was astonishing to see that not only had the people of ancient Pompeii achieved incredible architectural feats, but also that these structures have endured all this time. We wandered for a long while, taking in as much of the richness around us as we could. Every corner we turned held something amazing. The amphitheater that still stands today, the artwork that has survived the elements and the artifacts that still litter the ground.

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Everything was breathtaking, but after a few hours of walking, we still had not seen any of the bodies that seemed so prolific on my Google searches of Pompeii. By this time we were thirsty and began searching for the concession area. The June heat got to me and I couldn’t take it any more. I needed water. Eventually, we stumbled across a waterspout attached to a carved stone. The carving was a bit ominous. I hoped that the face was that of a sweet wild-haired man and not one of a horned demon waiting to curse me with Montezuma’s Revenge. As I put my lips to the water, I kept thinking to myself, “Please don’t get dysentery, please don’t get dysentery.” I expected the water to be hot and nasty tasting but instead it was cool and refreshing. It tasted very clean, if that’s a thing. I felt reenergized and impressed with myself for making such a risky move. Five minutes later, we found the concession area that I no longer needed!

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Then we started to see people crowding into a doorway. We walked over to see what they were looking at. It was a body encased in glass. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It gave me chills. I could see the skull of the man in the case. He looked like he was writhing in agony. We moved on. There were more cases. More bodies. Some cases just had bones scattered around.

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Eventually we made our way into an open area with several barred rooms containing more bodies and artifacts. A tour group was slowly walking ahead of us. They stopped in front of a room with the body of a man crouching down with his hands clamped to his face. A woman in the group exclaimed proudly, “He was praying to Jesus with his last breath!” The tour guide kindly replied, “Actually, he was probably covering his airways to reduce the amount of fumes and ash he inhaled.” The woman clearly didn’t like that, which I found amusing. She gave him an angry glare as my friend shot a picture of me, smirking next to the crouching man.

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We posed for our final pictures with Mount Vesuvius and the wreckage it caused as storm clouds loomed overhead. Mount Vesuvius is still an active volcano. It last erupted in 1944. Luckily, the damage was minimal and the casualties were few. But one has to wonder, when it erupts again, will modern day residents have enough warning to evacuate or will future generations look upon those ruins and see the same devastation we see from the AD 79 eruption? If you ever have the opportunity to visit Pompeii, take it! Pompeii is truly a marvel of the ancient world, an awe-inspiring sight to behold.

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