Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Type of Surfing? Don't Mind If I Do!

Don't be so naive. There is a world outside your comfort zone. I know society has molded you to believe that we should say certain things and behave a certain way. But really, how open minded are you? Would you invite a complete stranger to sleep in your house for a couple of days? Once a topic intrigues me, its like I become obsessive over it until I fully understand it or accomplish it.

I just recently set up a profile for CouchSurfing.org. Not everyone finds the concept of consorting with unknown people appealing. I know what you are thinking and I have heard many stories (good and bad), but give me chance to explain. I like to think of it as a blind date where people bring another country's knowledge as well as their toothbrush for a slumber party. I figured, since I haven't been able to travel as often as I like why not bring the country to me and at the same time pay it forward to someone in need of a place to crash. But before engaging, I needed more information.

Last Wednesday, I got a email from Jeremiah, a couchsurfer from Dallas. In his email he explained that he was passing through NYC (for 24hrs) on his way up to Boston. He was looking to have a drink at Blarney Stone, which was right down the street from where I work. A couple other couchsurfers answered, but I was the first to show up. Happy hour turned into my personal research paper. I understood the concept of wanderlust and travelling the world, but what type of person ventured out without a plan, without knowing where they would sleep that very night. It wasn't until we were 4 drinks in and 2 bars down, that it dawned on me. I sat in a group of 11 other like minded couchsurfers from around the world, all with accents ordering their mispronounced drinks in the heaviest accent. Believe it or not, there is a network of people, a community rather, who have an insatiable desire to travel and this method of lodging enabled them to see the world on a budget. I learned that there were so many advantages to couchsurfing. It's not about what amount you save but more the intangible moments, the immediate shift that happens as you turn from a tourist to a local traveler.

When you stay at a hotel, you only see the tourist areas (what they want you to see) but you don't experience the culture. Staying with a local lets you see a day in their world, fully embrace their way of living. It's the authenticity of having a friend in another country who is willing to show you around, a free guide opening their world to you, your opportunity to engage in their way of life. As we got to talking, my new found friend Steffano from Milan, described it to be "bringing a piece of the world into another person living room. The experience is priceless". As we toasted to new friends and a great life, I took in the scenery and let it all marinate. It was a stress free, worry free zone where no one was pressured by society, there was no specific plan, nothing holding them back. It was as though they were confidently going in the direction of the unknown and fully embracing uncertainty. That very moment that it all made sense to me(a little light bulb went off in my head). Why were we confining ourselves to society's standard? I told myself to be more open minded and eventually try couchsurfing for one night.

As I look to the left of me, I see Magda. She was tall, with mid-length dark hair, pale skin girl from Poland with a great personality. Magda looks down to her phone and her smile quickly fades as she proceeds to read her email. Concerned, I ask if everything is ok and she answers that YMCA has a hostel in Harlem but they had replied to her request letting her know they were booked. She turned homeless in a matter of seconds. She seemed nice, was this my chance to host a couch surfer? Open up my doors to a complete stranger, invite them to invade my personal space, to slumber on my couch. How open minded was I really? Perspective played a part, a huge part. This was my great opportunity, but is the risk far greater than the reward?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Fashionable New Yorker in Europe

The excitement of planning a trip comes with a dreadful anxiety of not being prepared. What should I pack?

One of my Fashionista friends is preparing for a fabulous 10 day trip to southern Europe this fall.
 Sophistication is in the Italian blood, and most Italians would unhesitatingly trade in comfort in order to achieve it. It is a nation that cherishes outward appearances. Its picturesque scenery and seascapes call for reciprocity on your looks. It is no wonder some of the world best designers are from this region (ie. Prada, Armani, Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, etc..).

When traveling to a fashion forward country, you always want to look your best.The wardrobe combinations are endless. This tends to cause internal conflict wishing you could pack your entire wardrobe to fit into a 50lbs luggage. This is a fashionista's biggest dilemma.

A good rule of thumb is always checking the weather of your destination before packing. It helps you narrow down the type of clothing you will need. In this case, the weather for Italy in September is still very comfortable. In the high 70s/low 80s.The next thing to consider is the excursions. What activities do you have planned? For example, when visiting churches/museums you will need  appropriate attire. It is wise to wear long pants/skirts and covered shoulders. Lastly, the length of the trip.

After much research and debates, it is safe to say that the climate and destination demand the following:

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 neutral pair of Capri pants
  • 1 pair of comfortable sneakers
  • 2 cardigans ( neutral color and a bright color)
  • 1 light jacket
  • 3 pairs of shoes (ballerina flats, sandals, heels)
  • 2 ziploc bags of jewelry (earrings, bracelets and necklaces)
  • 3 mix and match bikinis
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 4 semi-casual tops
  • 2 sun dresses
  • 2 pashminas/scarves
  • 3 warm PJs (it gets cold at night)
  • 1 camera
  • Bug spray/Sun tan lotion
  • Make up bag
  • Crossbody bag
  • Evening bag
  • Electronics and chargers

Before you go, you should coordinate your outfits with jewelry and snap a quick picture. This will save you time and frustration, whilst remaining super fashionable. Remember, the less you pack the more room you will have for souvenirs and items purchased abroad.

P.S. undergarments and toiletries are a given. :)

Addio per ora la mia bella fashionista, Buon divertimento!