Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest Post - Travel Tips By Lauren of Girl With a Gypsy Heart

This article is a guest post written by the lovely Lauren of Girl With a Gypsy Heart.  I have an amazing respect for Lauren as not only a talented writer but as an amazing photographer and story teller!  I invited Lauren to share her words and talents here with you because I knew you would all fall in love with her!  Seeing the world through Laurens eyes and words is a very uplifting experience so I hope you all enjoy!  Don't forget to check out her blog, Girl With a Gypsy Heart and LIKE her on Facebook as well!

Hello! A big thank you to Mama Bee, Maegan, for inviting me to share on her incredible blog. Ever since 2009 when my world got turned upside down and I voluntarily leapt at the chance to nanny across the big blue in a small village in France, I have been the author of my own little sliver of the world-wide-web. I call it: Girl With a Gypsy Heart... here I share glimpses of my heart and many passions through words and photos. I love to explore and capture the many wonders and vast beauty found in our wonderful world... it's my goal to inspire others to tap into their passions as well and live truly abundant lives. At a young age, I discovered how easily our culture can suck us in. Before we know it, we're mere robots living the corporate life, doing what we're told... Although, in a few ways, the corporate world is necessary, (we've all got bills to pay, I certainly understand that!), let's give society a run for it's money and show everyone what we're really made of! :) Let's bring back the infamous daydream, beauty, compassion, wonder, awe, and FLAVOR!! Let's not waste the little time we have on this earth!!!

Okay... stepping off my soapbox now... Heavens! I can't wait to meet you!

One of my many passions is TRAVELING, I am truly thankful that I have had ample amounts of practice in this field! A few months ago I posted a few tips on what to bring, what to be aware of, some of the details I certainly didn't expect... just a few things I learned through my experiences. Lately, this has been a common topic of conversation as the weather is finally taking a turn for the better and everyone who have been cooped up alllllll winter long are finally ready to get out and see something new! 

Regardless of where you're going or what you're purpose is in being there, I suggest bringing along a journal. When you immerse yourself in another culture or community, there are bound to be moments of learning, no matter what your age, where you inevitably learn something about how things can be done differently, something about yourself, or something about mankind in general. All super important details to always be aware of! These are things that keep us intact and connected to each other and our core, our purpose here on earth. I know the details of everyday life are easy to overlook and take for granted, but think about the interactions you've had already today or this week and how they will impact the rest of your day or week or month -- life is allll about the small details and little moments. (They add up quicker than we realize!) My best friend from middle school and high school used to always ask me how I could fill a whole journal in a few months. My response was and still is that it helps me to clarify my thoughts, to straighten them out, if you will. Keeping a journal can be a great way to document what you're experiencing or learning as well as a great way to help you work through the craziness life and adventure can throw your way!

Some of these thoughts and suggestions are not only great for travel, but also something I try to keep in mind everyday. 

One thing I learned during my year abroad is the importance and incredible impact you can make by being others oriented. So often, I first find that I am super conscious of everything that I do, trying not to stick out anymore than I already do... this is a hard thing to overcome knowing that you're already maybe a little easier to spot because of what you wear or the dialect you speak in or even just your mannerisms. (Sometimes it just takes a round of karaoke and the reminder that many of these people you'll never see again!) However, once you are able to put that behind you, go out of your way to make eye contact, even when it's awkward! Do your best to know what is respectful in their community or culture and act and respond according to what you now know. Share your excitement with those you meet! Locals never tire of hearing someone appreciate something they're already proud of! If you're visiting somewhere that doesn't speak your language, do your best to learn a few common phrases to show you're willing to put forth some effort to enjoy their home. It may seem like a small gesture, but I can't tell you what a difference it makes to the people you'll encounter. 

Alberta sharing her incredible photography with a local in Annecy.
Take advantage of the exceptionally delicious and simple flavors of your place of exploration. TRY NEW FOODS. You won't like everything, but you may find something you will absolutely LOVE.
Only the most incredible bottle of wine and tartiflette; a French dish from the Haute Savoie region of France.

Fish and Chips from Wharton's in Kenmare. 

Macarons from Lyon, the gastronomic capital of the world.

Three tastes I discovered while exploring abroad are now some of my very favorite things, as well as memories! I have attempted to recreate the tartiflette (with success) and the fish and chips (with medium-success... in my defense, Wharton's is impossible to re-create). Bottom line: while some things seem odd or bizarre to your culture and tastebuds, if other people are enjoying them every single day, there's probably good reason for it - get yourself out of the dark and into the light! 

Try new things! ;)

Take advantage of the local markets. 
Olives and other tapenades at the incredible market in Ferney-Voltaire, France. 

This market had fresh fish, chickens and ducks with their feathers still in-tact, my very own 'wine-guy', Jacques, pastries, produce, clothing, jewelry, hand-made soaps, fresh pasta... everything you could think of! Some weekends there were even live music and other sorts of entertainment!

Whether you're in San Antonio, Texas, Paris, France, or Sorrento, Italy, there are bound to be local goods that are unavailable to you in your hometown. This could include fresh, locally grown produce or hand-made treasures. Check it out, see what's available. 

Enjoy those you're with. 
Dinner party, Italian-style.

Traveling isn't just about where you go and what you do... it's WHO you are there experiencing it with! Make the most of the time you're able to spend together. Use the market as a springboard for inexpensive ways to enjoy where you're at and who you're with. A couple ideas of what to do post market are to plan a party or a picnic. Easy peasy. 

Push the limits. Try to get out of your comfort zone. Growth and discovery doesn't happen when we're comfortable and complacent... it happens when we put ourselves out there! It happens when we do new things! Intentionally do at least one thing during your visit that you normally wouldn't do.

Sometimes leaving your comfort zone means driving on the RIGHT side of the road on super narrow roads on the edge of a cliff.

And sometimes it means facing your fear of heights... and water... and flying.

Recognize when you're wearing out and schedule some down-time. Whatever it takes for you to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge. (This might be a good time to reflect and break out that journal you brought with you!) During this time I always like to note different things that have caught my attention, things that I miss from my 'normal' everyday life, observe the locals, and savor the quiet of wherever I am.

Slow things down with a cup of vin chaude (mulled hot wine).

...OR speed 'em back up again with an espresso! (Or a beer...)


The balance of the camera is always a tricky feat for me. I want to be all there and experience everything first hand rather than from behind a lens, but there's really no better way to look back on an experience than from lens that was there capturing it all with you from the get-go. If any one knows how to both at the same time, please do let me know. :) Thanks.

I always make sure to pack wholesome snacks and a water bottle. It's inevitable for me to get dehydrated while traveling. I can go literally 45 minutes away for the day and still find myself sluggish and uncomfortable from lack of water. When traveling, (especially by train, plane, or automobile) recognize you're going to have to use strange restrooms and suck it up. :) The water bottle will save you from paying an arm and a leg for water and help you recognize when you're truly hungry rather than gorging yourself with fast food. The snacks will keep your blood sugars in-check, rather than letting them drop from fasting or spike only to drop soon thereafter from the nutrient-lacking convenience food that is so prevalent at most stops on really great trips.

For more tips geared especially toward traveling abroad, visit my blog, Girl With a Gypsy Heart. Wherever your travels and adventures lead you, I hope it's an incredible journey! (Drop a line, I'd love to hear about it!) Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have another questions regarding travels - while I don't claim to be an expert by any means, I do love it and am happy to answer anything I know first-hand and research things I don't!

Bon Voyage!

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