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Packing, Prep, Rome, Travel

Travel Rules I Break and Why!

February 28, 2015


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Everyone one has a travel style. Many people avoid checking bags, only bring backpacks, look for the cheapest flights and take tons of photos. Others do the exact opposite and over pack, bring lots of suitcases and buy tons of stuff.  I probably fall somewhere in the middle of all this. Here I explain my reasoning for why I travel the way I do.

Packing light – No, I don’t pack everything I own and I do try to pack only what I think I will need, but I don’t think you need to pack light. You should enjoy your trip and if that means having your favorite clothes and shoes then pack them! (Or for me, my favorite travel pillow) Travel should be enjoyable and that means feeling good about yourself. You should wear what makes you feel good. I also like to have a backup outfit. You never know what can happen (staining your shirt or being invited to a party) and I don’t want to waste my travel time by shopping.

Checking bags – So this goes along with the first. I rarely don’t check a bag. This is for several reasons. I don’t like to carry a backpack as my only suitcase. I am very short and they get very uncomfortable for me. Usually my shoulders hurt by the time I have arrived at my destination and that is only with carry on items in it. Of course, this could be that I am out of shape!! I also have a hard time getting suitcases into the overhead bin because of my height. I also usually don’t change hotels once I arrive somewhere, so it isn’t a big deal to me to roll my suitcase to the hotel and back to the airport.  I have the four-wheeled ones that are great for this! I also usually fly Qatar Airways and I don’t have to pay to check a bag. That being said, I also don’t mind paying for one bag. It is a small price to pay for not having to lug my stuff around on my back!

Cheap travel – We all love a good travel deal, but I also want the schedule to be right for me. That usually means as few stops as possible (non-stop is best) and not traveling overnight. I know how my body operates and I need sleep. I am a terrible person to be around when I have had very little sleep and my joints ache. This means I usually end up paying $200-$300 more per flight as I want the schedule that everyone wants, but I also enjoy my trip more. It also means, I look for good deals on hotels or Airbnb instead. On my trip to Rome, I scored an Airbnb apartment for one week for $500!

Photos – I fall into the takes lots of photos category. Not thousands, but hundreds. Since I travel alone, this isn’t a big deal as I am not making someone stop to take photos. I also tend to take several shots of each scene to get it right. This is because I am trying to improve my skills. That being said, I still want to see the things I came to see without the camera. Take time to look at everything. I read a study that said taking lots of photos causes us not to remember what happened.

Talk to strangers –  I talk to strangers! I am from Texas and this comes naturally to me. It doesn’t matter if I am traveling alone or with someone else. Sometimes it doesn’t happen because I am in a place where English in’t spoken and my poor language skills don’t allow for it. But I will speak to strangers. I love learning about people and their stories! It’s one of the main reasons I love living abroad. Just do it, you won’t regret it. Start by saying hello or commenting on what you are both looking at.

What are some of your travel “rules”? Is there anything you can’t live without while traveling?

Europe, Museums, Rome, Travel

Christmas in Roma! – Rome Part 2

April 21, 2014

Christmas time in Italy is all about family (or so I am told!), so I was counting on less crowded streets and museums.  Not so!  The streets were less crowded but the Vatican Museum was full.  I had bought my ticket in advance, which I highly recommend unless you love waiting in long lines.  My ticket included a guided tour, which was the best idea I had.  I would have been lost and not really sure of what I was looking at.  Of course, it meant I didn’t see everything, but that would take days.  The guide was very knowledgeable about both art and the history of the Vatican.  There was so much to look at!  The guide kept pointing out things on the ceilings and the walls.  There were amazing tapestries and sculpture.  One thing that was rarely mentioned was the floors almost all the floors were tiled with elaborate patterns of small tiles.  Most of these were in excellent condition considering how many people have walked on them over the hundreds of years and even more so now that thousands of tourists come every day.  Here a just a few pictures from the Vatican Museums.  (No pictures of the Sistine Chapel as it is not allowed.)

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Christmas Day!  The only thing I wanted to do was to hear the Pope give the blessing on Christmas Day.  Not knowing how many people would have the same idea, I got there about two and half hours before the blessing was scheduled.  I was there in plenty of time and it wasn’t busy in St. Peter’s Square when I arrived.  I was able to take pictures in front of the Christmas tree and the huge Nativity scene.  I made my way to the front of the square (which is actually a circle) to the fenced area.  I now had about two hours of standing to do, or so I thought.  In front of the fenced area, there were rows of chairs.  I had seen events before and Cardinals or dignitaries would sit in these seats.  About 1o minutes after I got up there, they opened that area up to the public!  Not only was I closer to the action, but I also got to sit.  It was like a party up there.  People were singing and chanting.  The best was all the flags people had brought from their home countries.  Because of all this, I totally forgot I was spending Christmas alone in a foreign country.  After a while, music started to play and the Swiss Guard marched in playing music and then some Italian military marched in from the other side.  There was some kind of ceremony between the two. The Pope came out right at 12 and greeted everyone in Italian with Buon Natale.  I didn’t understand much of what was being said, but it didn’t matter.  It was an experience I will never forget.

Want to download this article with a walking tour? Check it out on GPSmyCity.

Rome, Travel

Arrival in Rome – Rome Part 1

January 12, 2014

Long before I arrived in Qatar, I had decided I would spend Christmas 2013 in Rome!  I knew that it was going to be too soon to go home.  This would be my first Christmas by myself and I thought I would be miserable and in tears by the end of the day.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

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I arrived in Rome on December 23 and managed to not get lost making my way from the airport train station to Rome.  It is a straight shot, but I had a fear that I would get on the wrong train and end up somewhere else!  Since I was staying for a whole week, I wanted a place with a kitchen, so I opted to try out Airbnb for the first time.  The experience was great and I had the whole apartment to myself for most of the week. Not only that, I had my own bathroom and tv (although there was nothing in English).

Jumping right in, I headed to the Piazza Navona.  This time I did get lost, but it also didn’t help that I hadn’t slept that much on my overnight flight.  A lovely American woman helped me out and we ended up chatting for about an hour on the streets of Rome.  If I remember correctly, she was working on her PhD in Catholic Studies.  The piazza wasn’t that impressive, but I think that was because the Christmas market I had gone to see was heavily commercialized with many of the same products in multiple booths. This is where I had my first meal in Rome.  While I am sure it wasn’t the best in Rome, it was good and I got to sit outside in December! They also had a Nativity Scene.

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What I did realize is that it was fairly close to the Trevi Fountain!  I knew it was a large fountain, but I couldn’t believe how large it was.  I kept thinking about how hard and how much work went into building a fountain of this size in the 1700s.  I did throw a coin in the fountain, although it was a Qatari dirham coin (only worth about $.14) so it may not get me all the way back to Rome!  The fountain was beautiful and it was amazing to see all the people that were gathered to see it.

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Stay tuned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the Vatican!