Love Letters

Love Letter: To My 18-Year-Old Self

Whenever my birthday rolls around, I always struggle with whether to do a blog post. I typically do a new year’s post and always decide that is enough. But last year I saw this letter to her 18-year-old self-reflecting on the last 10 years, by Design Darling, and knew that it was something I really wanted to do for myself. She says, “it’s a fascinating exercise to recall memories from so many years ago and see which ones feel like they could have happened yesterday, and which ones seem like they happened to a totally different person.” After doing this for myself, I wholeheartedly agree.

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Mandy,

At 18, you are getting ready to your senior homecoming dance in a green dress that makes your hair look redder than you care for at the time (but learn to love later). When your acceptance letter to Kansas State University comes in a few weeks, you start to daydream about what college and living so far away from home might be like. You tell everyone that you are “still deciding” because you are scared, but when you visited campus in December you knew deep down that you would be back to stay. It is a fun last year of childhood in the dusty sagebrush town you grew up in and you celebrate graduation with your two best friends with a trip to Hawaii. Your lives all go three very different directions but 10 years later they are still an important part of your life. You experience your first taste of heartbreak over FFA state officer dreams that did not pan out and a boy that you met a little too late. But you will remember him for years to come and always be thankful that he showed you early on what a good guy should be.

At 19, you are two months into your first semester at K-State and while you have been more homesick than you expected, you are finally starting to carve out a new chapter. The scholarship house you are living in is already keeping you busy with activities and new friends. There is one girl who talks more than you and laughs just as loud, and after bonding over goldfish crackers and studying for an animal science exam, she becomes your “person” and a part of almost every story you have worth telling. The two of you are still inseparable to this very day. You are relieved that those ideas you had about what a career in agriculture and communications could look like since you were 10 years old are a possibility and you never look in any other direction. You attend an agriculture leaders conference you randomly saw advertised in an email and are recommended for a job in the grain science department. These two experiences will help shape the path to where your career is now. Also, years later you are going to wish you had listened to Mom and taken care of that broken finger properly. Always listen to your Mom.

At 20, you are so excited to be back at K-State for your sophomore year and it is a year full of lots of fun memories, which include spending almost every weekend cheering on your sports teams and falling in love with red dirt music while two-stepping at Longhorns. You are selected to be on a national leadership team for the student ag leader’s organization that you were introduced to last year. Later you will look back and see this as the most meaningful experience of your college career. Your network is still full of people you met back then, and you are still involved at the alumni level. You take a summer internship that is a great experience, but it teaches you exactly what you do not want to do for the rest of your life and you are grateful for that.

At 21, you are headed into a roller coaster year. You moved out of the scholarship house into a house with your best friends, added a few new ones and probably have a little too much fun – too often – exploring Aggieville. Your first semester on the student ag magazine hones your storytelling and creative skills in a new way that makes you so excited for your career path and you take a summer internship that pushes you outside your comfort zone in a good way. On the other hand, you also doubt yourself a lot this year. There are some conflicts, over-committing and growing pains that test your character. After failing your second class of college, you are put on academic probation and are forced to have a serious talk with yourself and your mentors about turning things around. This is also the year you get bangs and then spend years wondering why you thought they ever looked good. Like I said, this year was a roller coaster, but I promise, you get through it.

At 22, adulthood is rushing at you fast, but you are ready to work hard and finish senior year strong. Some of your best memories all these years later are from living with your two best friends (two of you will stand as co-maids of honor in the third’s wedding someday). Attending K-State was the best decision your 18-year-old self could have ever made and you are forever grateful for the experiences and “K-State Family” it gave you. You decide that the Midwest feels like home now and the day after Christmas you accept your first job as the Director of Communications at the Kansas Pork Association, an entire semester before you officially graduate.

At 23, you are a few months into your “big kid job” in the real world. You quickly realize that working for a farmer-led organization gives you a newfound sense of purpose. Hold on to this feeling for the bad days — it will remind you why you love what you do. There is a lot to learn, but you have a supportive boss and a co-worker who is a pioneer when it comes to modern agriculture and communications, and she teaches you how to hustle. You moved into your own apartment, but you are still living in your college town, so you are learning how to navigate being a young professional while still enjoying time with your college friends. You are a part of three weddings for your closest friends – all in the span of a month. These are women you have shared plenty of tears and laughs with and you know you will want by your side someday, so celebrating them is the highlight of your year.

At 24, you truly love your job, but finally admit to yourself that you are in a rut and know deep down you need to move on to something else, but you are not sure if that means moving home to the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else in Kansas. Then one day you see a post on Facebook about an open position just outside of Washington DC. You go back multiple times throughout the day to read the description and by that night you are calling your parents to tell them that you have a gut feeling that this job was meant just for you. Nine weeks later you have accepted the position, moved to the East Coast and started a new job working for an organization that does export market development for the U.S. wheat industry. Everything about your life changed quickly and the learning curve at the new job is high, but you love the challenge and spend the rest of this year adjusting to your new way of life and exploring your new city.

At 25, you have settled into your job and life in DC and are proud of yourself for being able to trust your gut feeling and being brave enough to follow through on it. (Also, a big shout out to the people in your life that continue to cheer you on.) But you also face some growing pains this year and make some not so great decisions. Living in DC introduces you to so many new experiences, diverse types of people and new ideas, that both challenge your way of thinking and refine who you are at the core. DC has so much to offer, but the harsher reality is making friends in a status-climbing, agenda-driven city is hard, and you struggle to figure out where you fit in. You also start to think seriously about dating (which is even harder in this city!) and decide to try online dating. You have quite a few funny stories and conversations to screenshot and share with your best friends, but none of your dates really amount to much. But keep your head up and have a little faith. You move to a new apartment that is a bit quirky but the perfect space for you and finally find a young adults small group that fits you. Your life will slowly get back into a rhythm that feels more natural.

At 26, you will be closer to 30 than you are 21 and are totally OK with that and looking forward to the next season of life. After 23 years, you and your sister finally get a baby Ego cousin and are absolutely smitten with Sawyer June. You are taking on more responsibilities at work and are recognized with a promotion part way through the year. You travel to Thailand and the Philippines for both work and a vacation and realize you have missed out on not traveling more internationally and promise yourself to make that a priority. Then, just as you decide that online dating might not be for you, a quiet, scruffy guy with soft eyes from Maryland messages you and soon you are spending all your free time together. He thinks it is cute when you ramble on and brings you three different types of mac and cheese when you are sick. You love his work ethic, arguing about Lebron vs. Steph, how easy it is to laugh with him and are empowered by how he makes you see yourself. You fall in love for the very first time and start talking about taking him home with you for Christmas.

At 27, the guy you wanted to introduce to your family decides that the timing just is not right, and you make the heartbreaking decision to part ways. This is the hardest thing you have ever been through and you struggle for longer than you want anyone to realize. You have never been more grateful for the small band of people who saw right through that and held you up and reminded you of who you were until you could see it for yourself again. Early on, you practically force yourself to join a Pure Barre studio out of need for a healthy distraction but are be surprised by how much you love it and how quickly it makes a difference in more ways than one. At work, your industry is in for quite a year of uncertainty on the trade front and you take on the challenge of leading a project for developing a new website. You throw everything you have into this project, and while completely exhausted, you successfully make it to launch day and are proud of what you did. Looking back on this year, you will always think of it as a hard one, but it also had a lot of high highs. You made good on your promise to travel more internationally and take a fun girls trip to London and an incredible family trip to Italy.

Now at 28, you are sincerely surprised at how quickly the past year went by, let alone 10 years since that green dress. You have lived so much in that time, finished growing up and took some big risks. You made some mistakes and got lost a few times but are thankful for a lot of grace. You set and carried out some big goals, started to build a career that gives you purpose, made it through growing pains, saw beautiful sites, experienced falling in love and being heartbroken and found people and places that mean the world to you. You are ready for what is next, with just a few more freckles, and tips and tricks in tow.

But Mandy, before I end this rambling nostalgic saga, I want you to know that the best is always yet to come. Hold on to that. I want you to know that it is OK for others to not understand your goals and decisions, and it is OK for you to change your mind about what you want. I want you to know that you should always strive for humility, but you should never compromise yourself or your values for others’ ideals. I want you to know that you have a one-of-a-kind family and you will be reminded often that others are not so lucky. Nothing is more important than family. I want you to know that a small group of people who inspire you and invest in you are a million times more worth your time than a large group of occasional friends. Invest in meaningful relationships and always show up for the people who show up for you. I want you to keep writing on this blog. Do not worry about what people think, that it does not fit into a certain niche or that you need to take a few breaks. This little space is all yours and it makes you happy. I want you to know that you will never regret hustling for what you want. I want you to know that the world is sometimes cruel and discouraging, but I want you to continue to believe fiercely that it is full of kindness and beauty. And yes, it is OK to believe in cheesy Taylor Swift songs. I want to remind you to stop and be still every now and then, and to not fear feeling things that are not happiness. There is a time and place for everything. I want you to know that you are beautiful, smart, thoughtful, creative, funny and surrounded by people who will tell you so.

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Keep searching for good stories to tell. You have got this. I love you.

Love,
Amanda

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 3

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Italy – Exploring Rieti
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2

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The third day of our self-guided walk started in Poggio Moiano and took us to Nerola. It was “supposed” to cover about 11 miles (more on that in a minute) and took us down from the mountains onto the Tiber Valley plain passing through more farmland and orchards.

Looking back, this was somewhat of a roller coaster day. Overall, I think it was the prettiest day we had as far as views go. But we also had what might have been the two steepest sections of the entire walk. And of course, going up steep inclines usually meant that the way back down was just as steep which most of the time was just as hard. And I say this with very little exaggeration, my right foot, (the healthy, not-sprained one), basically felt like it was on fire the whole day. I thought the day before had gone well considering my sprained ankle, but I completely underestimated what that would do to my other foot, which was covered in more blisters than I had ever experienced at one time while playing sports and dancing growing up.

Oh and… we got lost.

Or more specifically, we missed where we were supposed to veer off for our hotel (the guide book directions didn’t always take us all the way to the front door) and continued on another 3-4 miles and the NEXT day’s route. We had also gotten too spread out as a group, so when we finally all got back in one spot, we were in the next town over and then had to figure out how to catch a bus that would take us back to where we originally supposed to be. It all adds to the adventure I suppose but at the time I was never more happy to see a bed.

This was the view outside of my grandparents room. My Grammy took the picture above earlier in the morning when the fog was still settled and I took the ones below a while later. I felt like this should be part of a Lord of the Rings movie set!

The first stretch leaving Poggio Moiano was so pretty!

There are sheep and Great Pyrenees (guard dogs) in there off to the left, but what I wanted to point out was the bathtubs! We saw this a few different times and assumed that they must use them for water troughs.

Even in another country, my Mom had to pull me away from studying the livestock. This guy and his gals were pretty different from what I am used to.

This field looked plowed and ready to go, but all of the white/light color that you see? Those are rocks!!! We saw this quite a bit in most of the olive tree orchards and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Me and Mom

My cousins Ginger and Daryl

Aunt Diane, Grampy and Grammy

We stopped in Poggio Corese for some Coke Zero’s and a late lunch. They were actually closing for the afternoon (which a lot of the little towns we passed through did), but stayed open for us, which was VERY appreciated. We seasoned this pasta with a spice called “peperoncino.” It was delicious and I hoping I can find it again here, possibly at the Italian grocery store that is a few blocks from my apartment.

It was a long, but beautiful day. That night we stayed in a 12th century castle and I’ve decided to give that its own blog post because it was just so cool and definitely one of the main highlights of our trip.

I’ll be back in a few days with that post!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 2

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Travel Journal: Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Travel Journal: Doors of Italy
Travel Journal: Italy – Exploring Rieti
Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1

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The second day of our self-guided walk started in Poggio San Lorenzo and took us to Poggio Moiano. It covered about 9 miles, taking us south through unsealed country roads, through the mountains and past lots of orchards, fields and farms.

Most of our breakfasts on the walk were pretty light, consisting of cappuccinos and light bread and pastries. Some of our stops did have continental spreads which usually added in hard boil eggs, yogurt, meats and cheeses.

After resting the day before, my ankle was still really swollen and stiff, but I was determined to join my family again. It was definitely slow most of the time, but once I got going and loosened up a bit it wasn’t as bad. At least my hobbling was consistent 🙂

Our walk first took us through Poggio San Lorenzo, which was a sleepy little town that we stayed outside of the night before. It was interesting to see how each town differed and what remained consistent. They all were made up of earthy, warm colors, with a mix of different stone and bricks. The windows almost always had shutters and there were lots of little balconies, all garnished with greens and flowers.

Ancient Roman walls.

Most of our walk throughout the week took us through farm land. It wasn’t necessarily promoted this way, but after looking at the descriptions of the other walks the company offers, I’d say our could easily be dubbed the “ag tour,” which is obviously right up my alley. We saw hundreds of acres of olive trees, which is a commodity that we don’t know much about so thanks to Google for filling us in 🙂 We also saw quite a few different varieties of grapes, lemons, limes, tomatoes, berries, peaches, apples and various other vegetables.

That is an olive tree orchard above. Some looked prettier like this picture, but most were not this well-manicured.

The yellow and blue marker that you see above were the markers that coordinated with our guide book. Sometimes it was a sticker that looked more like a flag and other times it was painted on rocks, trees and posts.

So there is a version of this picture that is not blurry, but no one is smiling in that one and this one makes me laugh. I was trying to explain to my Aunt that she could still step back further to take the picture but use her fingers to zoom in. I think she finally figured it out but by that time I think I was too worn out to continue smiling and it still ended up blurry 🙂

Anyway this is where we stopped in the town of Monteleone Sabina and rested after a pretty intense climb and found some ice cream.

This home was partially caved in and overgrown with vegetation. I took some video and other pictures of it, but its just not the same. It felt like I was in a different time. My Mom and I hung around for a bit and tried to piece together what the house would have looked like when it was all in one piece.

Our accommodations in Poggio Moiano were one of two that I didn’t care for at all. These were small studio apartments (except I think the one my grandparents stayed in had a few rooms) and functioned more like an AirBnB. They did have kitchenettes which was nice, but they were just a bit strange overall and not very comfortable. However, ironically, the dinner we had here was by far my favorite from the walk. As I mentioned in my summary post, all of our dinners and breakfasts were organized for us. It was prepared by the people who owned the apartments which were right next to their restaurant. We had a round of appetizers, multiple family-style entrees and a selection of desserts. If I remember correctly, nearly everything came from their extended family’s farm and garden, and it was all homemade. They didn’t very much English, but they had a family friend who did speak English serve as our host and shared about each dish as they brought it out. It was all amazing.

They brought us a bottle of both red and white wine, and with that good of a meal, there was no way that I wasn’t trying both. Plus I just walked 9 miles on a sprained ankle through the countryside so I shamelessly told my family that I thought I earned it.

Thanks for tuning in today! I believe I’ll be back on Wednesday with another post.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Travel Journal: Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Travel Journal: Doors of Italy
Travel Journal: Italy – Exploring Rieti

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The first day of our self-guided walk started in Rieti and took us to Poggio San Lorenzo. It covered a bit over 13 miles, taking us along creeks and through fields and forests, and across a 4th century Roman bridge . On this day we didn’t pass through any other towns so we had the hotel in Rieti pack us some lunches.

I’ll add here, as I mentioned in my summary intro post, part of our tour package included a baggage transfer service. So at every place we stayed we collected our luggage together usually in the lobby and the service came to pick it up and take it to the next location for us. It was always there when we arrived at the end of the day and we never had anything missing. It was really great.

Each of us carried a backpack of some sort with water, snacks, bandaids, bug spray and obvious other things we thought we might need throughout the day. I brought my backpack, which has a compartment for my DSLR camera and extra lens that you access from the back side. I bought it back when I first got my camera in 2015 and it is hands down one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It functions well for my needs (including a spot that is perfect for my Surface when I am carrying that), its lightweight, super comfy even when its full and breathes well if I sweat. It even comes with a rain cover that otherwise lays flat and is stored in the very base of the backpack. I have taken it everywhere with me over the past 3 years and it is only starting to show a little wear and tear now. It doesn’t look like it is available anymore, but I’ve linked it here regardless. I’m sure something else from this brand would be just as good.

Two florists checking out a flower shop in a different country.

One thing that we thought was interesting was that most homes and fenced in business had guard dogs of some sort, with Great Pyrenees probably being the most common breed. This guy looked friendly but I decided it was best to not stick my arm in there to pet him.

Probably not even a minute or so after taking this picture is when I stepped into the pothole and sprained my ankle. We weren’t even a full 2 miles into the walk. I recapped all of that in my first summary post which you can read here.

Since I wasn’t joining them on the walk for the rest of the day I asked my Mom to take my camera with her. And I just have to say that I am so happy that she went outside her comfort zone. She claims that she “so bad” at it when someone hands her a cell phone to take a photo but I think she did a great job considering I don’t think she has ever touched a DSLR before. Now I’m pretty sure she just took it because she just felt really bad for me, but for the rest of the walk she continued to carry it off and on and actually started to enjoy using it.

This is the 4th century bridge that was almost completely covered by vegetation.

My family said that this guy (a donkey) snuck up on them to say hello. We found that it wasn’t uncommon for homes, especially out in the country, to be hidden behind fences and stone walls that were overgrown with vegetation.

I put my name mark on some of these for the sake of consistency, but this pretty one was all my Mom 🙂

And so was this one!

Our first nights stay was at the Agriturismo Santa Giusta, which was just outside of Poggio San Lorenzo. Agriturismo’s are essentially bed and breakfasts, and while nothing compares to the castle we stayed in later in the week, this was by far my 2nd favorite place that we stayed.

I am also really thankful that this happened to be the place we were staying on the day that I sprained my ankle. There were only two other guests besides my family and just a few staff (I think it was a family that ran it). Once I arrived I was able to relax outside in a chair with my ankle propped up and enjoyed a beautiful view and some wine. There was even a small pool that was nice to soak my ankle in for a while.

 

We took quite a few pictures of our rooms in most of the places we stayed, but I didn’t know I really wanted to fill my posts up with those. This room below is where my Mom and I stayed. The ladder leads up to a small loft that had another bed. In every place we stayed all of our rooms were a little different from each other instead of being really cookie cutter like a traditional hotel.

 

Thanks for stopping by again! I have a post for Day 2 of our walk almost ready to go, so I should be back tomorrow!

Have a great rest of your weekend!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Exploring Rieti

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Travel Journal: Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Travel Journal: Doors of Italy

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So I spent a few days sorting through all of my pictures, and friends, I never claim to be an amazing photographer, but between pictures that I think are actually pretty great, stories I want to tell and things that are more for my family and just creating a journal for our trip… there are SO MANY pictures that I want to edit and share. I tried to narrow things down and combine multiple days in single posts but at this point I don’t think that is going to work. So settle in, there are quite a few more posts on deck!

Alright, so once we all flew in to Rome and met up, we hired a car service to drive us North to the city of Rieti. With a population of 47,7000, Rieit is the captial of the province Rieit and is in what is referred to as the Lazio Region. It is also the geographical center of Italy. We arrived in the early afternoon, so after dropping off our bags at our hotel we went back out for food and to explore the city.

The city overlooks the southern edge of the wide Rieti valley at the foot of the Sabine mountains, and has a pretty interesting history. According to legend, when Rome was founded, the Romans kidnapped young women living in this area from the Sabine tribe in order to help populate the new Rome. This led to a war between the two peoples, which later ended once the women threw themselves between the two armies , because at that point there were families intertwined on each side. Other more historical accounts say that the Romans and Sabines built friendly ties over the need for continuous grazing lands. After the Roman conquest of the city in 290 BC, the city of Reate (Rieti) became a strategic point in the early Italian road network, dominating the important salt road (Via Salaria) that linked Rome to the Adriatic Sea through the Apennines. We walked along the Via Salaria at multiple points through out our self-guided walk. That’s just a small piece of what the history section of our guide book shared, but it goes on to share that the city continued to have an important role in the region’s history.

Even though we were all pretty worn out from long flights, I think we all loved Rieti and were happy that we had the chance to explore a bit. With so many different sights, sounds and smells, it was certainly a cultural overload, but a great way to immerse ourselves and kick off our two week trip.

Happy smiles and fresh legs the day before our walk. I was so happy that I was able to share this trip and my overall love for traveling and experiencing new cultures with my Mom.

To say that my Grampy loves all things ice cream, gelato, sherbert, etc. is an extreme understatement. This was the first of almost daily stops for a treat.

I spent most of the trip looking like the ultimate tourist 🙂

We stayed at the Hotel Europa.

Thanks for stopping by! I’ll be back soon with a post about the first day of our walk!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Doors of Italy

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Travel Journal: Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary

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On our first day in Italy, while wondering around the town of Rieiti, which was the starting point for our walk, my Mom and I kept saying to each other, “look at all of the cool doors.”

A few days later I joked that I should do a “Doors of Italy” blog post because I was taking so many pictures of them, and Mom thought I was serious. So while the rest of my posts for this trip won’t really be organized by theme, but more by city or walking days, I decided that this would be a fun idea. Just for you Mom 🙂

I won’t sit here and claim that I know all that much about different types of architecture or its history, but I do believe it is its own form of art, and that I do have a deep appreciation for. I think a door says a lot about a home or a business, and so many of the doors in Italy had so much character. It made me want to more about the people who chose them, and lived and worked behind them.

I know that someday when I own my own home I’ll make sure my front door has a statement to make.

But for now I’ll just enjoy these ones.

I’ll be back in a day or two with another post!

Have a wonderful day!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary

Ciao!

I’m settling back in to my normal busy schedule at home and have just started to dive in to the immense amount of pictures (and video!) that my family and I took during our two-week trip to Italy. My family included my mom, my Grammy and Grampy, my (great) Aunt Diane and my 2nd cousins, Ginger and Daryl.

By now, all friends and regular Instagram followers know that I went on this amazing trip, but I thought since what we were doing there was pretty unique that I would do a summary post to share a little background. That way, the rest of my posts can just focus on pictures and a few fun stories.

(L to R): Daryl, Ginger, Gloria (Grammy), Diane, Julie (Mom), Dave (Grampy) and me at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“One country, 7 family members, 6 days and 85 miles (56 for me). One sprained ankle, 2 bum knees, 1 broken tooth cap, a few dozen blisters and a few sunburns and scratches. Daily stops for gelato and Coke Zero, 6 fresh picked peaches from a generous farmer and a handful of apples from yet another generous stranger. Hundreds of acres of olive trees, a 4th century bridge, a 12th century castle and way more inclines than we were expecting. Getting lost 4 out of the 6 days. Lots of lizards, a few guard dogs and endless beautiful views. We were one big hot mess by the time we made it from Rieti to the Vatican, but we made it with quite a few stories to share.”

This caption from my social media post summarizes quite the adventure we went on!

For the first half of our vacation to Italy, my family did a self-guided walking tour from Rieti (north of Rome) over the course of 6 days back to Rome with our finish line being the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. Every time I share this I get quite a few raised eyebrows and lots of questions so here are the basics:

  • We went through a company called Hidden Italy that operates several guided and self-guided walking tours throughout Italy and Spain. Our walk was the last section of the Cammino (walk) of St. Francis.
  • In addition to the guide book, what we paid for included organized breakfast and dinner everyday and accommodations for 7 nights.
  • Also, every day our luggage was picked up by a transfer service and taken to our next accommodation for us. So no, we weren’t strictly living out of only our backpacks.
  • Our accommodations varied from hotels, agriturismo’s (bed and breakfasts), apartments (more AirBnB style) and a 12th century castle!
  • Our route took us on mountain trails, pedestrian paths and a few country roads. So with a few exceptions as we approached towns, we didn’t walk on major roads with heavy traffic.
  • Our guide book provided pretty detailed instructions as well as signs and color markers (blue and yellow that you’ll see in a lot of pictures) to look for. The guide book also provided a history lesson about each of the places that we stayed overnight and any historical markers along the way.
  • According to our guide book, our mileage ranged from approximately 8 to 16 miles a day for a total of 70 miles. We got lost a couple of times or took detours for food so our total mileage was more around 85 miles. Plus we are pretty sure there were a few places where the guide book was a bit off.
  • In regards to getting lost, it was a mix of our own faults and a few directions in the guide book that weren’t crystal clear. We found that as we went through towns that was always where the directions messed us up. But we always eventually figured it out.
  • The “walk” was definitely more of a hike on most days and we all agreed that overall it was much harder than the company advertised.
  • With the exception of a few protective guard dogs, we felt entirely safe the whole time and experienced quite a few acts of kindness from locals along the way.
  • Most of the walk took us through and had us staying in small towns that weren’t very touristy, meaning that there was a language barrier most of the time. But a smile and some patience usually went a long way.
  • The last day of the walk started on outskirts of Rome and led us to the Vatican.

The big headline about the walk that you may have already seen on my social media is that I SPRAINED MY ANKLE ON MILE 2 ON THE VERY FIRST DAY. I was concentrating on the guide book and stepped straight into a big pothole. It was a high sprain and since this is definitely not my first one I knew as soon as I went down that it was not good. So while my family continued on the walk, I waited 3.5 hours on a bench at a nearby water filling station we had passed for the Italian woman working there to drive me to our stop for the evening. She hardly spoke a word of English but another man there for water in the morning helped arrange it. About an hour in to my wait I heard a very familiar “hello.” It was my family, who discovered that we had originally went the wrong way when we passed the water filling station. Which is what I had said and was checking our guide book for when I stepped into the pothole. So if we had went the right direction in the first place my foot would have never found that pothole. The good news is that I made it safe and sound to the next bed and breakfast we were staying in but that experience just adds to the story. The Italian woman, Gabriella, started to leave without me until I hopped and yelled after her waving the piece of paper with the address on it. She drove a small RV (as a Criminal Minds superfan my radar was up!), we had to take a detour to make a bank deposit and once we reached the dirt road where the secluded bed and breakfast was, she didn’t think the RV would fit so I got out and hobbled the final mile. It might have been a little sketchy, but Gabriella turned out to be our Good Samaritan and will be a forever reminder of how important extending kindness to strangers is.

I rejoined my family and managed to hobble through days 2, 3 and 4, before sitting out day 5 so I could finish the last day (6) on the walk through Rome. I’ll be entirely honest, I have a pretty high pain tolerance but I was in quite a bit of pain and am pretty darn amazed that I was able to do what I did. By the end of day 4 my whole foot was twice as big as the other one which was also quickly covered in blisters from doing most of the work. My family insists that they didn’t think I complained too much all things considered but I know that I was pretty cranky overall and am really grateful for all of the grace they gave me. Unfortunately, it definitely put a damper on things at times and I can’t say that I’ll forget that part and remember only the good parts, but it does make quite the story!

OK, that’s it for my “summary!” I’ll be back to start sharing pictures and more about the rest of the trip soon!

Thanks for tuning in!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala