Butt First

When you go sky diving they count to three and then give you about one second to jump on your own terms. If you don’t, they effectively toss you out of the plane. They don’t ask “are you ready?” Why? Because for most people, even when they are “ready” the answer is almost always “no.” Its like sheerly contemplating the concept of “readiness” makes us doubt ourselves and call into question everything we know; it makes us wonder “who in the hell do I think I am?”

I’ve learned to approach my life like one big sky dive. Every day the airplane door opens I am presented with some kind of opportunity that leaves my knees knocking and leaves me wondering “can I do this? Am I ready?” Then, instead of dwelling there- I count to three and say “yes.” “Yes” is the verbal equivalent of launching yourself out of a G-D damned plane.

I can’t tell you how many people come to me and say “this is what I want to do… but first.” “But First”— two simple but lethal words standing between you and your goals. If you were skinnier, smarter, faster, richer – then you would be “ready,” so before you say yes you should lose the weight, read the books, run the mile- blah blah blah. I can’t tell you how many people NEVER get past – “but first.” There’s a graveyard full of dreams lying between goals and “but first.”

I urge you to forget readiness- to replace it with willingness. Willingness to rise to the occasion, to fail and learn from that failure, to ask for help. I accept challenges every day that I have no idea if I am ready to handle. What I do know is that if I want to grow, if I want success, I have to move on in the face of fear and self doubt and rise to accept the challenges placed In my often quivering hands.

I am the queen of “wing it.” It’s a running joke between my assistant and I. She’ll say, “how are you gonna pull this off?” and I’ll  say “I’m gonna wing it.” Then she fights every urge in her mind thats telling her to try to talk me out of winging it, because she knows that will just be futile. She can say what she wants- in the end, I’m gonna wing it. Here’s why I’m OK with that: I work my ass off. I do not sit idle and rest on my laurels. My mind spins endlessly in pursuit of how to advance my life, the lives of those around me, my industry, my community- it’s never ending for me.

I know that all that hard work and conscientiousness has left me with ability and cultivated talent and I need to trust those things. I need to trust that God’s will doesn’t take me anywhere that his grace cannot protect me. I don’t believe the universe places any challenges in your lap that do not belong to you.

I believe in sweat, hard work and sometimes blind faith. I believe in dreaming a dream and accepting a challenge so large that you physically can’t accomplish it without becoming a different, larger, more evolved version of yourself. I refuse to settle for mediocrity. If I do something I am going to do it at the top level of my ability and then when I reach the glass ceiling of my ability I’m gonna blow through that shit, Willy Wonka Glass elevator style. Sometimes the risks turn out sensationally and sometimes they become a mess of gargantuan proportions- but regardless of which outcome I experience, the next day when the airplane door opens again, I jump.

If you’re looking out the airplane door and wondering if you can do the same- you can. You ABSOLUTELY CAN. Just turn around- count to three and jump, butt first.

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Had I Known How to Save a Life

I recently learned that a friend of mine took her own life. My beautiful, fun loving, kick ass, vibrant, young friend… killed herself. When I tell you the news shook me, I mean it shook me- rocked me straight down to my core. First it was shock, then denial, then just the deepest grief.

She was 34 years old; beautiful, sweet, adorably country, a fantastic dancer and always such a good friend to me. She was brilliant- the valedictorian of her class, the head cheerleader, she was always put together- her clothes were always an outfit, but there was not even an air of condescension or arrogance. She had a beautiful smile and a beautiful soul. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel sadness in her. I am super sensitive spirit and I always felt something was not completely right. That almost made her more beautiful to me, she was honest about her struggle in her own way.

I’d frequently check in and see how she was doing and it was always good stuff- she’d say she was dancing a lot or going on one of her many trips with her husband. She had a home she seemed to love in Oregon… a life that I am sure many envied looking from the outside in. She opened up to me a few times but never enough to let me even consider the possibility that she would do something like kill herself.

I think back now on every conversation, every text… was there something else I should have said or asked?… how did I not see this potential in my sweet friend who literally ALWAYS found something positive to say to me? Always wanted to shop with me, always complimented my outfit, always offered congratulations….I know it is no ones fault and we can never truly know what is on the mind or heart of another human- but you just can’t help but wonder.

She had asked me to go to Thailand with her in December- but I ended up extending my South American tour and I couldn’t go.. would that have changed anything? Could anything have changed it or was it inevitable for her? Why did she feel this was the only answer? All questions I will never have the answer to. I planned to go and visit her soon in Oregon but never set a date- why didn’t I set a date? I wanted to go. I just prioritized work and other things and I am so sorry for that now.

Someone once told me suicide doesn’t end sadness, it just moves it on to other people and now I know that to be wholly true. I will always carry some sadness in me for her. Every time I think of her and of our very limited, oh so precious time together, I will feel some heaviness in my heart for a life that was lost way too soon. I see her in her wedding dress all lit up at her wedding, lying next to me on the beach LOVING girl talk, running next to me on the treadmill asking how I was going so fast, In the aisles at Nordstrom Rack asking for advice on what to buy, dancing together in her studio or her backyard or wherever we could, her cracking up at game night and lighting up the dance floor on double date nights.

She was one of a kind and I am so thankful I got to have her for a little while. My sadness is that I didn’t tell her enough how much I loved her and adored her and really thought the world of her. She moved away some time ago and over the last couple of years it was just texts every couple weeks. I saw her pictures on Instagram and that made me feel like we were “in touch.” I think we let social media fool us into thinking we are doing the work, but we need to do more. We need to do more than press like and comment and repost… I wish I had picked up the phone more. I’ll always wish I had done that. We need HUMAN interaction, we need to work harder.

I never loved her any less or valued her any less -life just gets in the way sometimes. More than anything I hope she knows that I cherished her friendship and if there was anything on this earth I could have done to keep her here I would have done it.

“Love and miss u so much” – the last words she ever said to me. Heartbreakingly perfect- I do too Nic, and I always always will.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts please contact the national suicide prevention lifeline 1800-273-8255.

The choice is yours 

I think at the end of the day life boils down to being a series of choices, the salad or the Big Mac, college or trade school, marriage or a single life, swipe left or swipe right, say yes or say no. A choice is always available to you, even if it doesn’t feel that way, even if it’s not your ideal choice.
I don’t think that choices can be right or wrong or good or bad ( I’m not talking about choices like murder here by the way). I know that’s a revolutionary thing to say given we live in a time where the value of everything is qualified by likes and views. We keep a running tally of the approval of strangers over our decisions in the form of hearts or thumbs up…. and then we decide if the choice was good or bad. “200 people like my status about politics, I must be right.” To me though, that seems like a dangerous road- to gauge the value of our choices based on their popularity. 
Our lives are incredibly personal. Yes, we are interconnected with others and there are intricate dynamics between one and their friends and family, work associates, peers, loved ones and sometimes even strangers on the street. Ultimately though, your life is your own and no one else’s. The choices you make must reflect what is in your own heart and I think in order to truly be in touch with our own destiny we need to strip away the desire to label everything with a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
What if the choices were just choices? What if it didn’t matter what road you went down as long as you went in kindness and love. What if in the end, we find that all these roads lead to the same place? Wouldn’t that make all the time spent arguing over “the right road” seem pointless?
I don’t believe that we get a finite number of chances. I think we are all being called toward something… and we are being led to it, one choice at a time. With each decision we are being taught lessons that will shape us into the people we need to be to fulfill this calling. No time is actually wasted. Surely there are short cuts and round-a-bouts and long way arounds….but if you’re enjoying the journey then those minor things don’t matter so much. 
People come to me sometimes and say ” I made this horrible choice and I’ve ruined my whole life.” I get it, I know how in moments life can feel that way. Like you made a single choice and it just destroyed everything – but look at it this way, if one choice is strong enough to destroy you, then surely one choice is strong enough to save you- so you’re always one choice away from a brand new reality. Even in your darkest moments, you are one choice away from the light. It’s not always easy to make choices, I understand that feeling of powerlessness. I assure you though, that feeling is an illusion – created by doubt and fear.
You have all the power of the universe inside you. You must acknowledge that and not fear it. Lead with you heart and control your mind, silence the voice that says “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough” and make a new choice. You control your life- and in every moment you have the power to direct your path. 
My path calls me to travel. As a teenager I suffered with anxiety that literally crippled me- made me afraid to live my life. I wouldn’t even ride the school bus and now I fly all the time to far away lands that I’d only ever dreamt about or saw on the pages of my history books. I don’t want to be confined to only see and experience life from one place. I want to go into the unknown and see culture, religion, family, love… I want to see what it looks like to people through their eyes, on their soil, in their truth. 
I’ve searched far and wide to see what it is that people value. I’ve spoken to people in all walks of life on almost every continent and asked them about their life. I’ve sat in their homes, met their children, attended their weddings, taught them, learned from them and laughed with them around tables full of exotic foods. 
And What I’ve discovered is this: Though it looks different to us all on the surface deep down it’s all exactly the same. The way we love, marry, pray, laugh, mourn, fail- The customs are different, the language is different, the scenery is different; but the values and the goals, the fundamental truths are all the same. 
Last week I watched a wedding in Romania and three months ago I sat at dinner with my friends and their new baby in Israel and between that I danced with Maasai women in their village in Tanzania… all different moments in so many ways, all so incredibly similar and deeply connected through a very common thread. Love. 
We all want the same thing- to love and be loved, to know God, to find peace, to feel free. How we seek it doesn’t matter, so long as we find it. The most important thing to do is to pay attention. Whether you make a choice that calls you to the other side of the world or to your own backyard you won’t see what your meant to see unless your looking for it. 
I had a flight cancellation on my last trip that led me to an unexpected day in Warsaw, Poland. I hadn’t been there in a couple of years but oddly enough I remembered the streets in Old Town like I had lived there all my life. I followed one street down to a church that I remembered loving. A church that’s not particularly ornate but stands in such a way that it catches sunlight and looks like it’s on fire. It’s such an incredibly beautiful thing to see.
I walked about a mile to get back to this church, I didn’t want to leave Poland without seeing it again. Why? I don’t know exactly. Maybe it was a desire to be standing in the same spot I stood in years before and to feel the difference. Sometimes there is healing in that, sometimes there is heartbreak – this time maybe it was a little bit of both. 
When I approached the church I stood quietly in front of it, thought about the last time I stood in that exact spot… about where time had taken me since then and about how I had been led back to this spot at this moment in my life. I began to feel a sense of loss- loss of the life I had 2 years ago maybe, loss of the person I was or just loss of the time- of people I loved- or maybe some combination of all of those things. 
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw two women on a bench. One was a nun and the other was a young woman, clearly battling cancer, she had lost her hair to the fight and had her head wrapped in a pretty blue scarf that reminded me of the ones my mom used when she battled cancer a few years ago. The woman with the pretty blue scarf on her head as crying and the nun was listening. 
After some time, the nun took the crying woman’s hand and spoke to her, calmed her and I felt it calm me. I felt a sense of loss again but this time for that poor woman in the pretty blue head wrap who felt so much pain. I went inside the church and prayed for peace for her, and in the process found peace for myself. 
I saw someone else’s grief, a stranger who didn’t look like me, live on the same continent or speak the same language as I do- but I understood her and I recognized it. I saw myself in it, I saw my mother in it and how I would hold her hand that way while she was in her battle. Clear as day I understood the purpose of this choice, of this moment, of the series of choices that led me back to that single location on this great big earth. The purpose was to remind me that we are all connected – we are all in search of the same thing and that we must make choices. We most choose to follow our intuition, to ask for help, to find new love, to find God, to be kind. We must take a deep breath, decide and then go forward with eyes and hearts wide open. 

May 22nd 2017

May 25th 2015

A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone….

When I’m in Los Angeles my schedule is bananas. Straight up insanity. I wake up early and get going and don’t stop until the suns nearly up again. I start around 8 a.m. being active- hiking, pilates, yoga, dance classes, teaching private lessons, teaching weekly classes, creating choreography, editing videos, blogs, vlogs plus an entire personal life full of regular, mundane demands like laundry PLUS a group of friends that I love to the ends of the earth and love to spend time with. I feel so ridiculously blessed at the fullness of my life and I am never as joyful as I am when I’m productive. 
Long story short, I can move for 18-20 hour days in LA and I know it sounds crazy but I LOVE it. I don’t just love it, I thrive that way. The more I do the more I want to do, the more I create the more I’m inspired to create. I am a mover, a New Yorker deep down in my soul and busy-ness is the life blood that lights me up. It turns out I love being busy so much that just me being busy wasn’t satisfying enough so I hired an assistant, so I could make someone else busy too. 
Fast forward.
I’m writing this to you from Africa. I’m somewhere in Tanzania- I don’t know exactly where because I’m in about hour 6 of a 16 hour bus ride from Arusha to Bagamoyo. Let me repeat that one more time: a 16 hour bus ride. 
16 hours of sitting still on a bus with no wifi, no work, no nothing. Now that would probably be a struggle for even the most sedentary human, especially since it’s about 90 degrees here and this bus has no AC- but for ME!? Holy crap. This is like a next level type challenge. 100 to zero, real quick.
I boarded the bus, took a window seat -and felt restless within about 2.6 seconds. I figured I had two choices- run off the bus screaming and return immediately to Los Angeles OR sit still in this seat and learn this lesson that God has placed in my lap. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so of course I stayed put.
 At first I thought the lesson was in patience. It’s no secret that my lack of patience is my Achilles heel. My dad always said I was like a Tasmanian devil. That you’d just feel a gust of wind and see a flash of light before I was gone. 
So I sat in my seat, boiling hot, staring silently at the seat back in front of me and without busying myself with any tasks at all I tried to stay calm and quiet. I didn’t fidget and I vowed not to complain. After about 3 minutes of that, I turned my head when something out the window caught my eye. 
It was a young boy, running from his home (a poorly constructed shack with dirt floors and no electricity or water supply.) He was running towards me with the biggest smile I have ever seen. He was calling to me and waving. I smiled and waved back and he literally jumped for joy and screamed with laughter. 
That’s when it hit me- this lesson was not only in patience but in presence. By being present in the moment and being still I noticed that young boy- I made his day by seeing him, and he made mine by greeting me that way. Had I been busy with something else or distracted with something outside the present moment, I would have missed him. That thought alone could almost bring me to tears. I saw him for just a brief moment, but I’ll never forget him.
The challenge now is to find that stillness in the craziness of my everyday life- to stay connected and present in each moment as it passes and not fret over moments gone or ones that have yet to come. I will find that balance, the quiet in the chaos and I know you can too. 
This lesson was also in empathy and in gratitude. You cannot be in Africa and not feel the utmost gratitude for all the worldly luxuries home waiting for you. Most of the people here live on the bare minimum, about $100 US a month if they’re lucky. They don’t have AC or heat or even running water… but my God they are JOYFUL. They always say hello with a smile and laugh and dance, they sit outside with their children and bathe them and hug them and watch them play. There is real happiness and life here. It’s not squeaky clean or dressed up in designer clothes- but it’s breathtakingly beautiful. 
We visited a Maasai village where a Maasai leader took us into his home. A very small shack built with cow dung, no windows, and a cow hide on the floor for a bed. I asked the Maasai leader if he enjoyed living there in the home he showed us. His answer was simple: “I would be happy anywhere.” 
The simplest, most poignant thing I’ve ever heard. Happiness is not dependent on one single external factor. It’s a choice. One you can make whether you’re surrounded by cow manure or Italian marble. 
That young boy has every excuse to be miserable. He doesn’t have money or any of the material things people tend to value, he wasn’t even wearing shoes. Still, he had one of the happiest faces I have ever seen. Just beaming- utter and profound joy… to see a stranger through a window on a passing bus. He is creating joy in small things and spreading it around like wild fire. After a $100,000 college education I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever been taught from an 8 year old African boy I saw in a blink. A gust of wind and a flash of light, and he was gone.
So now, I choose to be happy; right now, on this endlessly long bus ride. I will continue to choose to be happy whether I’m home going a million miles a minute or sitting completely still on this bus in Africa or wherever my next adventure leads me- I will choose happiness, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…I’ll think of that boy and choose happiness every single time and every once in a while I’ll make sure to stop (or at least pause for a second) and smell the roses. Please don’t forget that the time is now, we aren’t promised tomorrow. Life is funny that way. A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone. 

The Yes Effect

I’m writing this from inside a tent in the Serengeti. It’s already been 3 days without a shower, wifi or any contact with anyone outside this group I’m traveling with. It’s my first time camping- it’s my first time on safari- it’s the first time in about 8 years that I’m on a trip with a girl friend and not a significant other. I have been having a lot of firsts lately; Throwing caution to the wind and instead of having a list of things I want to do, I’m writing my list of things I’ve done. 
How did I get here, is a question you might be asking yourself. Well, I don’t know if you’re asking it but I sure as hell am. How did I get here? I guess the real answer to that is in every choice I’ve made, large and small, over the last thirty years- that has somehow culminated in me lying in a tent in the Serengeti, single at 30, next to my other single female friend- trading war stories about relationships past, soul searching and finding peace in this great unknown. 
We came here to disconnect from the physical and reconnect to the spiritual. I needed to get in touch with my soul and what’s deep in my heart at this new point in my life and I knew that meant needing to lose touch with my daily life and regular routine. So here I am. I’m not sure I could be any further from my daily routine- I just had to hide my sneakers from a baboon for Gods Sake. 
They say that time heals all- and I like to think travel heals all too. Coming here I was close to feeling like my old self again..and then I asked – why would I want to feel like my old self? I don’t want old anything- and I guess that desire for newness is one of the many ways I got here. 
After Matt left I decided I was going to become a “yes man” – yep, just like the movie. I felt I had said “no” to a lot of opportunities and passed on too many personal goals. So naturally, I decided that in order to make up for lost time, I ought to start saying yes. To everything. Immediately. I’m not much of a take things slow kind of girl- if I’m in, I’m all in. This was no exception.
This wasn’t a situation where I would arbitrarily say yes to any and all things- but rather say yes to things that struck a cord in me, things I wanted to do but hadn’t, things that excited me. 
One of the first questions anyone asked me just hours after my Yes Man conversion – was “do you wanna go to Africa?” And here I am. I shit you not. Even though I’ve never really understood that expression. Yes. I do want to go to Africa… and here I am. In Africa, in a tent with a friggen hyena outside, talking to you. 
This yes commitment for me is about living my life in every possible way. I don’t want to die with shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I want to experience the world and understand people in a way that only comes with travel. You can only truly relate to people when you’ve walked in their shoes and seen life through their eyes. The world is a vast, crazy place with adventure after adventure waiting for you, calling to you. It’d be a shame to hit ignore.
Travel will challenge you, and it will change you. I come back from every trip refreshed, renewed and a different version of myself; a better, more empathetic, more patient version of myself. So far my yes journey is wonderful. It’s led me to so many new people and experiences that have affected me so deeply- and this trip is no exception. It has also led me to reconnect with old friends and become closer to the people around me. 
As I lay in this tent in Tanzania, looking up at the stars, I feel a peace that I haven’t felt maybe ever before. I feel completely confident that I am exactly where I’m meant to be in this moment. I truly believe there are no accidents- the universe is bringing me exactly where I’m meant to be. Every day, I wake up and ask the universe to guide me to my highest path and help me live in accordance with my highest purpose. In saying YES and trusting the little nudges I’m being given, I trust that I’m being led toward my destiny. I don’t know exactly how I got here, or why I’m here- I’m also not sure exactly where I’m going- but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 
For now, I’m learning to trust the process, have faith in myself and in others and to relinquish some of my precious “control” to go with the flow. I don’t need to know all the hows and whys. I just need to say yes and let go. I need to be present and prepare myself for the journey that lies ahead. I need to live in this completely perfect, very wild moment. 

My Relationship catch 22

This year I gained a lot of things, but I lost a lot too. It got me started thinking about balance and the way that things come and go. I came into more money and professional success then I ever have this year, said hello to more travel, excitement, adventure and generally have felt the best I have in a long time. I have returned to myself and to my focus on my own well being and happiness. Yet, I also lost a lot of faith in people, the ability to trust openly said goodbye to a lot of friends and my fiancé after a 5 year long engagement. 

I read a lot about how success often leads to the loss of people in your life- but in my case I don’t think success caused it, I think it was merely correlated. If anything, losing people led to the increased success, not the other way around.    This realization has made me a little bitter, to say the least. Why is it that when I have people I love and value I have trouble finding time to love and value myself? 

I came to the realization that I am a giver. I have a personality that wants to do for others. Sure, this sounds like a good thing and a lot of the time it is. It has made me active in every charitable organization from soup kitchens to animal rescue. However, what makes it a bad thing is that I put too much pressure on the outcomes and the happiness of the people I do for. I want them to be happy, satisfied and deep down, I want a pat on the back as assurance that I did the right thing by them. I often will sacrifice my own well being, needs and even happiness to see to it that someone I love is happy and fulfilled. Once I said that last sentence out loud to myself I realized the fatal flaw in that set up. How could the people around me be happy, if I am unhappy? 

So now I have finally found the root problem in a lot of my failed relationships and have begun the search for an answer. What is the balance between fulfilling my need to give and do for others but no do so much that I compromise myself and my sanity in the process. How can I elevate others and myself, at the same time? At this point, I am no where near the solution to that question. I am, however, knee deep in failures, which makes me hopeful that I am getting close.

I constantly wonder whether there is a magic formula for me that would help my relationships with all people be easier, and more mutual, so I don’t constantly feel like I am having the life drained out of me… or if there is just a certain type of person I need to find, that fits well with me and would help me to find the balance? It is no coincidence that I gravitate toward people that need some help. I like to help people. The trouble with it is that I find the more I give to people, the more they take. Not just financially but energetically too. I spend a lot of energy and time trying to help people, work with them, understand them, and that energy never seems to come back around.

I’ve heard these people referred to as “Energy Vampires” and it’s a perfect term. I have found very few relationships where energy flows freely in both directions. I have also found that you can create an energy vampire in someone who has a predisposition for it by doing too much for them. At the beginning I believe in the best in people. I give and give and tell myself “ Hey, this will turn around and this person will show up for you when you need it. It’s good to invest in people.” Then a couple months or even years in I find myself saying “huhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?” while the person I invested in walks off without even a nod in my direction.

Obviously, since this is an ongoing problem for me, it’s something that I am doing that is not working. As I stated earlier I do believe a good part of the root problem is that I do too much. Period. Once my own happiness is compromised it’s too much and its destined to blow up in my face, so I need to recognize that limit BEFORE it blows up, not after. The other part of the problem is that I invest in the wrong individuals. People with selfish streaks and people who don’t follow through with their word. This last part is really the hard part. HOW DO YOU KNOW? You don’t. I have gotten better at recognizing red flags and carrying garlic to ward off obvious energy vampires— but people still find a way to bamboozle me.

The final part of this problem is me and my desire for others to be happy with me and my effort. Wanting other people to be happy sounds like a good thing- but I have come to find that it can be really detrimental. Want is a frivolous, light word and that’s the only way it works. To casually hope someone has a good time, hope that they like and appreciate you and to truly be OK if they don’t. I’m just not OK if they don’t. Im not OK if they don’t like me or are unhappy…that’s the problem. I say I don’t care- but I do. I care too much. I want people to leave feeling better for having known me or taken my class or sitting next to me on the airplane. The latter is why I am letting this elderly man rest his huge elbow on me and crush me in this middle seat. I want them to leave happier, with something they didn’t have before- I want to give. When I don’t feel I have done that I feel badly about myself and about situations.— and that bad feeling of some kind of failure on my part further pollutes the energy in the situation and the relationship. That’s my catch 22.

I have found myself in a lose lose situation that I need to work through. The positive side is that I believe all  my failures and shortcomings come from a genuinely good heart. A heart that wants to help people find comfort, success, joy, laughter, ambition, adventure and inspiration. My motives are pure and I want to form real, honest connections with people- where energy moves in BOTH directions and both parties can elevate together. I want what’s best for others and I want to believe in the best in others. I am thankful for that and I pray that it will lead me to individuals with similar hearts and minds. I don’t want to deal with anymore individuals who live in the small bubbles of their own world and obsess over only their own needs and wants. I want people who look out and want to  connect- to move forward with other people, alongside them, not by stepping on their throats to get to the top.

I’ll search tirelessly til I cultivate this tribe, I believe they’re out there and I will continue to work to better myself in the process. I am learning to be alone and can feel myself learning and growing into a better human being every day. I hope that I can find the balance I seek and I hope you find it too. I hope you find yourself in relationships that build you up, excite you and elevate you- and if you don’t, I hope you find the courage to walk away, reassess and start over again. Let’s all treat each other with a little more kindness this coming year. Let’s reach out to each other. Let’s find solutions instead of writing each other off, let’s grow up and grow forward in the way we interact with one another. Say your I’m sorry’s, face your own demons and smooth over the cracks in your personality that might be leading you to failures in your relationships. Most importantly, keep moving forward; Keep focused on what’s ahead- That’s where your life is waiting.

Our 10 day Italian Adventure: Tips for having the trip of a lifetime in Italia| PART 1: SORRENTO, CAPRI & POMPEII | Days 1-3

As most of you know Matt and I just WON THE AMAZING RACE… (still hasn’t sunk in) and we used some of the money to  take my parents and one of our best friends on a 10 day vacation to Italy. My parents have gone through a lot in their lives. My father had diabetes and Alopecia Totalis his whole life. Six years ago his one remaining kidney started to fail and he was on dialysis for 6 months before receiving a life changing double transplant (kidney & pancreas.) My mother stood by his side and was his nightly nurse through the whole process. Shortly after he began recovering from his transplant his eyesight started to fail and he’s been going blind ever since. A year ago my mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She had ovarian cancer when I was in 3rd grade and had a full hysterectomy so she has lost a lot. Through all these trials they have been the greatest parents to me. They taught me to be strong, independent and always chase my dreams. They gave me the world and made me believe in my ability to actually achieve my goals by loving and supporting me unconditionally. Once we won, I immediately wanted to repay them in some way, to give something back to them. They have always dreamt of seeing Italy, I actually remember my father leaning into my mother right before her surgery last year and promising to take her when she was well again. They always helped me live my dreams and I wanted to help them live one of theirs, so I planned a ten day trip that would satisfy anyone’s need to see the sights, explore Italy and have the trip of a lifetime in one of my favorite places on earth.

Disclaimer: The trip was tight.. It would have been easier/more relaxing with an extra day in each city but we did not have the availability in our schedule to extend it any longer…instead we ran around like crazed, wild, luggage wielding lunatics and still had a blast doing it. Below is our itinerary and links to all the things we loved and enjoyed.

 

I booked the trip through http://www.virgin-vacations.com. I used their 8 day Rome, Florence and Venice vacation air and land package and I extended it by three days so that I could add in Sorrento  and the Amalfi Coast. They helped me book the extended airfare but I had to book my own travel from Rome to Sorrento and back to Rome (just bought this at the airport) and my own hotel in Sorrento (hotels.com) . Get this.. for all 5 of us it only cost about $8,000.00. $2,000.00 each for all airfare, hotels, first class train tickets… pretty incredible.

Day 1: Arrive in Rome, Naples, Sorrento
After everyone arrived at Rome Fiumicino Airport we hired a driver through welcomepickups.com to take us to Roma termini train station. This service was flawless. I downloaded the app before I left the country and then I got the name and phone number of my specific driver and he showed up holding a sign with our name on it- Easy Peasy. The trip cost about 100 Euro for the 5 of us and all of our luggage. There is an option to take the train from Rome airport to Roma Termini train station. This train is cheaper for sure and since we didn’t take it, I don’t know how easy it is, but I am told pretty easy. Keep in mind we did this trip with my father who is legally blind, so we made some choices based on ease and comfort and not always on budget.

We traveled from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale train station on a high speed train. The trip was 1 hour and 8 mins and cost about 100 euro per person for a round trip ticket. We could have hopped right on the Circumvesuviana and finished the trip to Sorrento but by this point we had all worked up an appetite and I am a pizza FANATIC. So there was no way I was passing through the birthplace of pizza without stopping for a slice and I can’t tell you how worth it it was. I highly recommend making this pit stop.

We left our luggage in the storage room at Napoli Centrale so that we didn’t have to drag it through Naples to the pizzeria. (To Find the luggage hold: after you get off the train and are facing the exit walk all the way down to the right6 euro per bag or 9 bags for 40 euro). There are two incredible pizza spots in Naples http://damichele.net and http://www.dalpresidentepizzeria.it. We arrived on a  Sunday when Da Michele is closed so our choice was made for us and we hopped in a Taxi toward Dal Presidente.

The pizza at Dal Presidente was out of this world. We were seated outside in the most incredible little courtyard, in front of a beautiful church. It was so old world Italy and we were in love with the whole experience. Every single pie we ordered was the best pizza any of us had ever tasted. We ordered the margherita, con prosciutto and a specialty white pie, we also got some draught beers and had a ball. I highly recommend it!

Grabbing a taxi  in Naples isn’t the easiest so ask for a card from the taxi that drops you off and hold on to it to call another taxi to return to the train station. We took the taxi back to Napoli Centrale to retrieve our bags and then headed downstairs into the circumvesuviana train station. Circumvesuviana means “Around Vesuvius” and its the special train that takes you down to the south of Italy and circles the incredible volcano.

We had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into with this train… literally none. This train is insane. Its packed, its rickety, rocky, wild and at some point I am pretty sure we traveled at light speed. In retrospect it was not the best idea for us with my disabled dad and 7 pieces of massive luggage but it was definitely unforgettable and we made it. The train is by far the cheapest way, we paid under 5 Euro per person. The other option would have been a taxi which would have run us upwards of 150 Euro. The train took about an hour and was a lot of fun, it’s the method I would recommend.

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Once we arrived in Sorrento we walked out of the circumvesuviana and I didn’t have any idea what to do. I didn’t look into how to get from the train station to the hotel, which was a rookie mistake- but hey, it happens lol. We were able to take a taxi but it was ridiculously expensive; It cost us 50 Euro to go about 15 minutes up a hill. Most of the hotels have shuttles that go to the hotel from the main square so its worth it to look that up with your hotel and be aware of the best and cheapest way to get to your hotel before you arrive. (my bad)

After a beautiful ride up a very large hill we arrived at our gorgeous hotel, Le Terrazzehttp://residenceleterrazze.it/. I cant rave about this hotel enough. It was breathtaking, with panoramic vistas from every angle that you almost cant believe are real. On top of that the staff took the most exceptional care of us, especially Vincenzo.  The breakfast buffet was delicious and included!

We arrived late at night after many of the local restaurants had closed and he made a call to his friend Pasquale who owns the most unreal restaurant up the street called Le Grotelle http://www.agriturismo.it/en/farmhouse/campania/naples/LeGrottelleSorrento-7280558/index.html. He picked us up in his car and drove us over there after they had closed. They grow 90 % of their ingredients on the premises and the food was probably the best I have every eaten anywhere on earth. The restaurant had such a fun old world vibe too- a must if you visit Sorrento.

TIP: Le Terrazze has a LOT of stairs. It’s carved into the side of a cliff which is why it is so incredible and has such beautiful views- but make sure to let the desk know if you are traveling with anyone disabled or elderly. The steps are treacherous.

Day 2: Capri by private boat

This was everyone’s favorite day of the whole trip, by far. We rented a private boat through Capitano Ago boat rental http://www.capitanoago.com/ and it was flawless. It was 800 Euro for the whole day up to 8 people and it included soda, beer, wine and limoncello and caprese sandwiches (pretty cutesy since we were in Capri). They also picked us up at our hotel in the morning and dropped us off at the end of the day.

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We had Capitano Agostino and he was so much fun! He started the day by bringing us to an ancient roman aqueduct and driving the boat right underneath it. It was soooo cold! He took us to see all the grottoes, the Faraglioni rocks and then brought us to a beautiful spot to jump off the boat and swim and snorkel. He played music for us and we had the time of our lives relaxing on the boat, drinking wine and swimming in the Mediterranean.

To  visit the Blue Grotto you must wait in line, when you have a private boat the line is considerably shorter. We waited about 10 minutes while others waited upwards of an hour. We were transferred from our boat into a small rowboat (pictured below), taken to the ticket booth to pay and then brought into the grotto. It really is a spectacular sight unlike anything I have ever seen. The cave is pitch black and the water literally glows. The trip into the grotto is short, maybe 5 minutes long and your rowboat driver will pester you beyond belief about being tipped- that’s just the way it is so don’t get upset. Make sure you have cash to pay the entrance fee which I believe is 13 euro per person and some tip for your rowboat driver.

blue grottorowboat

Once we finally arrived in Capri we were let off the boat to explore for a few hours. We took a Funicular (old school cable car) up to the top of the hill and had lunch at a charming little restaurant nearby the square called Isidoro. I had the pasta with clams and that was a hit with everyone lol. We shopped, grabbed some gelato and headed  back down to our boat. We went for another swim and then finished the trip back to our hotel.

We had dinner in Sorrento in Piazza Tasso (pictured below) at Bar Faunohttp://www.faunobar.it/en/index.php. I ordered the ravioli sorrentina, which was fabulous.

piazza tasso

 

Day 3 Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

We took our hotel shuttle down to the square and caught the Circumvesuviana to  the Pompeii Scavi stop, which takes about 30 minutes. I opted to buy tickets outside the train station in Sorrento before we departed, from tiempo travel, which is in an office to the right hand side if you are facing the train station. I purchased train tickets(2.20 per person), bus tickets to the top of Vesuvius( 22 per person) , and skip the line tickets and guided tour for Pompeii (12 euro per person- not including 13 euro pp entrance fee which we paid at the gate).

The tour we purchased for Pompeii was picked up outside the Pompeii Scavi train station. They walk you over to the entrance and help you purchase your tickets and then walk you through the whole area of Pompeii. This could be a good option because Pompeii is expansive and very confusing. However, due to my dads blindness we were a slower group. In all honesty though we were way happier to walk around on our own and really only bought tickets so we could “skip the line.” The tours are very in depth, even at our slow pace we blew passed them- long windedness is just not really our style. We did a short loop, started by turning right after the entrance square, through piccolo teatro and then  turned left up the ramp. We then made the first left, checked out the bath house, forum and hall with the pottery – I was really most interested to see the plaster casts of the bodies so we asked around and made a bee line for that. We followed that around past the basilica of justice and out the exit toward the Circumvesuviana. That exit brought us right back to the train station– which is where you pick up the bus for mount Vesuvius.

This took us about an hour and was plenty of Pompeii for us but depending on your level of history buffness, you might opt to follow a tour for a longer (2.5 hour) more in depth look at the ancient city.

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Because of the weather (it was raining and lightening) we ended up not being able to take the tour we purchased to Mount Vesuvius. The busses were not driving up because of the rain and at first we were super bummed. Then the same company we purchased the bus tickets from sold us a private tour in a taxi for 25 euro per person (10 euro per person entrance fee not included.) It turned out this was a way superior option and we got so lucky. The taxi was going up even when the busses weren’t, we had no one else with us (we would have been with a group of 20 or so if we had gone with the bus group) and we got to be on our own time. The cab ride took about 30 minutes.

Mount Vesuvius was so bad ass, excuse my french, but theres no other way to say it. We were all stunned and beyond obsessed. It was pretty much one of the coolest things I have ever seen and definitely was worth the hike. The hike was moderate intensity on a well worn path and took us about 20 minutes. The rain made it so creepy and epic- most blogs say don’t go up to the top in bad weather because it does compromise the view outward, but it made the volcano so much cooler to us. Make sure to bring a sweater no matter what the weather because of the altitude it does get colder at the top.

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We ended up taking a taxi back from Pompeii to our hotel in Sorrento. It cost about 80 Euro. We could have returned on the train but we were all tired and it was raining and we knew my dad needed a break lol.

We had dinner that evening at a restaurant called Fattoria Terranova- Fattoria means farm in italian, but it may as well mean place that makes you fat. The ambience at this restaurant is to die for and the food is excellent. We hear the bread is a stone wheat (inside joke…) http://fattoriaterranova.it/ but seriously, definitely a spot to check out- just be careful for the per person appetizer because that can get pricey 🙂