+1 increase in trailer hauling

I am now tucked into a Motel 6 in Tennessee for the night. I left Base Camp on December 31 and have been making my way slowly west since then. The adventure began with a stop for a blanket fort party in Virginia for New Year’s Eve. Then down 95 to North Carolina to visit my godson, finally meet his younger brother, and catch up with my old college roomie. This afternoon I left them and headed due west on I-40. Memphis and a childhood friend are my goal, but since I have the Vardo in tow the going has been slow and nerve wracking. I made it a little less than half way before stopping for the night.

Mostly I am thankful that the Jeep and Vardo survived the Smoky Mountains Crossing! I definitely found myself chanting “I think I can” in a zen-like mantra as we slowly chugged our way over the tops of the steepest ridges.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/129/28861433/files/2015/01/img_0463-1.jpg

Really, I think I’d like to update my Official Gypsy Scorecard after today’s drive…

I am docking myself
-2 for poor route scheduling. Why did I think it was a good idea to cross the mountains in the rainy darkness?

But awarding myself
+1 increase in trailer hauling skills
+1 in aimless wandering, unlocking power of the snail with her home on her back
And
+1 in climb every mountain, because I had to take this route in order to visit as many friends as possible and they are totally worth it!!

So overall I’d say it was an adventure well accomplished.

I did consider sleeping in the vardo for the first time tonight…but I didn’t really “move in” I just loaded up, and I don’t even have a mattress for the platform yet. Plus these rooms are once again made possible by the generous support of Bill Hession and his Christmas gift of guilt free hotel glory! So instead I will be enjoying a night of grainy motel room tv and an itty-bitty shampoo bottle spa.

Gratefully yours from the road,

Aeri

road-dog routines

After a long winter at home, I can see the road beckoning on the horizon, and my little heart goes pitter-patter with excitement.

I have spent seven months straight at Mamma Bear Base Camp this year, a practical eternity to a hopeless wanderer, and as the end of my stay draws near I feel the need to take a moment to reflect philosophically on the emotional roller-coaster  I have ridden.

Sometime in early June I arrived home fresh from a successful show season on the road, elated with the new developments, bursting with plans to conquer, and a little nostalgic for the thought of spending some quality time with family and friends.

Yet by the end of September the daily grind of normalcy was starting to take its toll. My part-time office job was pounding out new linear paths in the artistic labyrinth of my mind. Reconnecting with friends meant a parade of well dressed, first apartment-ed, newly wed, career focused fine upstanding young adults marching past. I even began to experience a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I could be one of those be-suited socialites. Should I be striving to become a well-coiffed, demurely mature, subtly fierce young professional, shattering glass ceilings with a single spreadsheet? Perhaps. I gave it some serious consideration. I brushed off my resume and rattled off a few cover letters.

My exciting life of art and travel seemed so foreign and alien so quickly that not even the arrival of my long awaited vardo could reconnect me with the colorful fairy I loved to be. It sat awkwardly in our suburban driveway, squat and bright with its purple walls and orange trim, and dared me to remember who I was.

vardo

The memories came back slowly. The disconnect was real. Days of khaki slacks and office coffee, car payments and the thought of real estate had made an adult out of me.

Then I woke up this morning and I could practically smell the wild sage and desert sand of Arizona. I found myself craving a WaWa Sandwich…a staple of highway nourishment.  I found I could actually focus on the thought of packing, an insurmountable mental block just a few days earlier.  I mapped my route and learned I had not one but two of my best friends directly en route and simply demanding a visit.

This is the balance I fight to maintain. When I am on the road I love so much about it. The color, the energy, the new friends I meet and the adventures and misadventures I have . But I miss my old friends. I experience such hiraeth; longing for a return to my college days when all my closest friends lived just around the corner. But those days are gone. My friends, fierce young professionals that they are, have carved niches out for themselves all over the world.

But for me at least, perhaps they are still just around the corner. It is just that my neighborhood has gotten a whole lot larger. A trip around the block lasts from late January to early June and takes me on a lap around the continental United States. A visit across town is more like a journey across the ocean and a crash reunion with ex-pats and euro-rats.

I know it won’t always be like this. So until the day that I find my own niche to carve out, I’ll just stay happy with my endless wandering, and content myself with my road-dog routines.

Here’s to stale coffee and sandwiches. To counting the miles, singing out your heartbreak and happiness to the open road, and going crazy one white line at a time.

Until the day we can all be together again,

~Aeri

is this america?

I sit at a stop light and look to my left.

Next to me is a dirty, grey Toyota Corolla. Possibly built in 1992.

Around it’s mirror hangs two endearingly intertwined graduation tassels, hung there by two graduates in a fit of optimistic enthusiasm two years ago.

In the front seats sits a couple. The owners of the tassels?

They rest, exhausted by the day’s labors, heads leaning on fists propped up on window’s ledges, waiting for the light to turn green.

In the back a toddler sits, wrapped in a puffy white hand-me-down jacket, playing with a flashing, whizzing, whirley-gig of a toy.

Is this America?

The light changes and I drive off.

the art of the exotic palate, FLiP W November 2014

This article is being re-posted from FLiP Magazine November 2014.  FLiP Magazine is a great publication with insight into pop-culture for both men and women! Aeri Rose is a regular contributor to FLiP W, the female focused half of the magazine.  You should definitely check it out, and subscribe for the free digital editions! Even if I’m quiet here…I’ll always find something to say there!

FLiP W Cover November 2014
FLiP W Cover November 2014

 

The Art of the Exotic Palate: Trying and Declining New Foods

By Aeri Rose

flip w article nov 2014

Being polite can be very similar to knowing an intricate dance. When you don’t know what you’re doing, it is easy to step on some toes. And when traveling abroad, it is easy to feel like you’ve packed two left feet. Just like a ballroom dance, research and practice will help you avoid a misstep, but sometimes you just have to jump in and do the twist. So, to help with those impromptu moments, this month’s travel article is called “The Art of the Exotic Palate: Trying and Declining New Foods”, and we will talk about a particular situation when a polite and graceful demeanor is the most important: during meals. So, enjoy our stories, and our universal tips to help keep you fed and happy on your next vacation.

Tip # 1: Be Inquisitive and open minded! Taste and try everything.

Remember you are on an adventure, you are open minded, curious, and hoping to turn strangers into friends all around the world. If someone has invited you into their home, invited you to share a meal, or even just made a recommendation after seeing you hem and haw over the lunch menu, accept their advice! Even if it ends up being the worst thing you’ve ever tasted…at least you will have a new story to Like the time I was encouraged to try silk worms in a Korean marketplace. They were served in a clear plastic cup with some broth and a toothpick. High in protein I was told. I was able to crunch a few down before they got cold, and they really weren’t even that bad. OK so maybe they were really gross. But I ate them and lived to tell the tale! And you can too!

Tip # 2: Taste but don’t waste!

Some dishes are recognizable, others strange. Some smell amazing, others…strange. When trying new things, take small portions so you will still be able to finish a dish even if it is not to your liking. Please do try to finish what has been served. Your host might have been using your visit as a chance to prepare some specialty dishes with expensive or hard to find ingredients that would be a shame to throw away if the crazy American took too much and couldn’t finish it. Remember, if you like something you can always follow the tiny first helping with a second larger helping, provided everyone else has already served themselves as well.

It is important to note that while food should never be wasted, often leaving one or two bites on a plate is the unspoken signal that your appetite has been satisfied.

Tip #3: Don’t be childish or immature if you encounter unexpected, unappetizing, or visually shocking

My Sicilian grandmother came to America when she was 17, and shortly after arriving in Maryland she was invited to a crab feast. Anyone who has ever shelled crabs knows they are odd, ugly little things that are cooked alive. She screamed when she saw them, and thought she was being made to eat a giant spider. My point is…everyone eats weird things in weird ways. It’s only weird if you aren’t used to it. So contain your gag reflex, control your urge to dissect your meal like a 7th grade biology lab, and keep your screams to a minimum when exploring exotic meals.

Tip # 4: Follow your host’s lead.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do! Preparing and eating foods and drinks like the locals will give you a chance to taste and learn about a new thing, or a new way to enjoy an old thing. Take tea for example. Everyone has a way they like to drink their tea: with lemon, honey, sugar, milk, hot, cold, etc. When you’re traveling don’t drink tea the way YOU like to drink it, drink it the way the locals do. When you’re in England, take tea with milk and sugar and a piece of shortbread. When you’re in Turkey take it strong in a tiny clear glass with too much sugar. In China? Dump some leaves in a cup, swirl them around, and spend the rest of the time trying to figure out how they drink the tea so gracefully without getting mouthfuls of tea leaves. And then call me and tell me what you’ve learned, because I still haven’t figured it out!

Tip # 5: If you absolutely cannot attend or cannot eat a dish served, say “No” as soon as possible, politely, firmly, and perhaps up to three times.

Being a picky eater, or having something else sort of planned that night are not really acceptable reasons to decline. But, if you know that fried crickets and blood pudding will be on the menu and you just will NOT be able to navigate a graceful decline at the diner table, than perhaps declining the initial invitation is your best choice. If you do have to decline, do it as soon as possible. As in, DO NOT accept and later change your mind, and definitely DO NOT accept and then stand them up.

Some acceptable reasons to decline might be because of known allergies or strict dietary restrictions, or because non-negotiable travel plans have already been booked. Like, for example, if you are a vegetarian hiking through the Gobi Desert and a Mongolian nomadic family invites you into their Ger to share their evening meal, you can be certain it will be 99% comprised of various cuts of goat meat, organs, and cheese products with perhaps one onion diced and boiled in your honor. As a vegetarian, you might find it easier to offer them some sweet mint tea and continue on your way.

So to recap, the dinner dance can be intricate, but there are always some general guidelines to keep in mind to help navigate any meal without stepping on too many toes. And when in doubt…say please and thank you and make your mamma proud.

Good luck and enjoy! Buon Appetite!

=====================================================================================

Have you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Five years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose can be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur. To follow Aeri Rose on all her adventures, check her out online at aerirose.com or travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.”

savvy souvenir shoppers, FLiP W July 2014

This article is being re-posted from FLiP Magazine July 2014.  FLiP Magazine is a great publication with insight into pop-culture for both men and women! Aeri Rose is a regular contributor to FLiP W, the female focused half of the magazine.  You should definitely check it out, and subscribe for the free digital editions! Even if I’m quiet here…I’ll always find something to say there!

flip cover july 2014

“Savvy Souvenir Shoppers

By Aeri Rose

There is a fine art to souvenir hunting and becoming an expert shopper takes some serious practice.   Of course, there is no wrong way to shop- if it makes you happy, you’re doing it right- but to get the most bang for your buck, and the biggest prize for your pesos, follow these five tips on your vacation this summer.

Tip #1) Seek the Authentic:

Most tourist stops and downtown walks are well canvassed by souvenir shops filled with inexpensive mass produced imports making a cheap parody of the local cultural arts and staffed by jaded and hardened sales clerks. Try not to shop here; except maybe in Finland, where they have made it a point of stocking their souvenir shops with goods from local artisans.

Instead, try to seek out the authentic: local craft shows, artisan boutiques, and traditional workshops. Never pass up the chance to walk through a street festival!

Sometimes finding these gems is a matter of trial and error until you stumble into the right shop. Once, on a hunt for hand painted ceramics in Cefalu, Sicily, I poked my head in countless stores and found nothing but the same low quality plates, until at long last I found a shop owned by two brothers who threw the pottery and painted the pieces right there in a workshop in the back.

Sometimes finding these gems takes as little effort as a well-placed question at the hotel reception.  In Gorёme, Turkey, on the hunt for, funnily enough, more painted pottery, I found myself overwhelmed by the choices until a local tour guide took me to the next town over where a centuries old workshop was still buzzing away, happily carving out red and white clay from the riverside and turning it into incredibly detailed, hand-thrown, hand-painted pieces of functional artwork.

Don’t settle for parodies when you can find the real deal! Enjoy the hunt as part of the experience!

Tip #2) Consider Logistics:

Speaking of pottery- beware fragile products and delicate tokens that do not travel well.  There are few things sadder than opening your suitcase at home to find a pile of brightly colored gravel where once there was a bowl, or finding your clothes have become a purple soggy mess when once there was a bottle of wine. If you just have to have that fragile thing, and nothing else will do, consider shipping your prizes home. The extra cost of recruiting an international shipping company, like UPS or DHL, to transport your fragile treasures is worth the reward of getting them home in one piece.

And size matters! When packing for a trip, always remember to leave a little extra room for new things.  Then, once on your trip, remember how much extra room you have to fill.  No one wants to be stuck trying to pack up an hour before departure only to find that unlike Mary Poppins their suitcase is not going to magically grow to fit everything they want to bring home.

It is best to buy things that are small but poignant, can be compressed, are sturdy enough to make the trip, or flexible enough to make packing a breeze.

Otherwise you must consider logistics when making your purchases- to pack and carry, or to ship and pay.

Tip #3) Admire the Practical:

Perhaps it is a more practical treasure you are after.  Pick up an extra jacket, scarf, or hat for a chilly evening and be reminded of your trip every time you wear that great accessory at home. Answering “Bolivia” instead of “The Gap” when an admirer asks you where you picked up that trendy new piece can be a great conversation starter.  Or browse the kitchen gadgets isle at a local department store for fun and interesting gadgets.  Pick up olive pitters from Greece, metal chopsticks and bamboo dumpling steamers from Korea, or tiny caviar spoons from Russia.

Remember that anything can be a souvenir as long as it reminds you of your trip!

Tip #4) Authentic Does Not Mean Expensive:

Some of the best souvenirs can be free! Dried leaves and flowers from a hike, ocean smoothed pebbles from a stone beach, sketches from a train, and printed and framed photographs from a trip all make wonderful memories and gifts.

Consider sending postcards!  They are an inexpensive yet delightful way to show someone you’ve been thinking about them while adventuring. After the trip, spending the time making a poster collage is a great way to look back on all the photos taken and memories made.

There are quality authentic souvenirs and trinkets to fit any budget!

Tip #5) Souvenirs are memories, not scavenger hunts:

The most important thing to keep in mind is that souvenirs are not meant to be conquests checked off of a “to do” list.  If you know you will never use it, don’t get the fur hat just because you’re in Russia. Souvenirs are tokens meant to be a reminder of a great trip.  So when traveling, buy things that reinforce those memories in the making.

Wait to make purchases until you’ve learned about the unique place you are visiting and you’ve experienced the richness of that new place.  What do the local cultures take pride in producing? What experiences have they wanted to share? Enjoy seeing those cultural treasures pop up again and again. And then when you find that perfect piece, buy it, even if it is out of your budget, because you might never get a second chance to buy it again.

C’est la vie and happy shopping!”

==================================================================================================Have you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Five years and over two dozen countries later, Erica Hession is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery which awaits those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Erica can be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur. To follow Erica on all her adventures, check her out online at aerirose.com or travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

 flip july 2014

making your dream travel plans into a reality, FLiP Magazine October 2014

This article is being re-posted from FLiP Magazine October 2014.  FLiP Magazine is a great publication with insight into pop-culture for both men and women! Aeri Rose is a regular contributor to FLiP W, the female focused half of the magazine.  You should definitely check it out, and subscribe for the free digital editions! Even if I’m quiet here…I’ll always find something to say there!

flip cover oct 2014

“Making your Dream Travel Plans into A Reality: It isn’t a dream vacation: it’s an unplanned adventure!

By Aeri Rose

The problem with dreams is that we think they are almost impossible to achieve. We put dreams on a pedestal and think about them fondly and frequently, but with a certain amount of aloofness and pragmatism, being pretty certain they will never come true. We can dream of being the queen of a floating cloud island, but unless we find an unmarried king with a decent cumulus that dream just will not come true.  We can dream of being the most famous Martian designer, but until we master interplanetary space travel, those catwalks will have to go without our fierce alien styles.

We should not dream about a vacation because travel is attainable. You CAN go on those trips you’ve always wanted to go on. You can and you will, as soon as you stop dreaming and start planning. In order to start planning successfully, there are a few misconceptions we are going to clear up right now. Don’t ever think you can’t travel because:

  1. You can’t afford it.
  2. You can’t go if no one will go with you; it isn’t safe to travel alone.
  3. If you travel alone, you’ll be lonely.
  4. You can’t decide where to go.
  5. You can’t leave right now.

Let me explain.

  1. You can travel, because travel does not have to be expensive.

Many budget travel bloggers, myself included, can talk for days about tips and tricks for frugal tourism.  For a smattering of those tips you should check out my blog www.travelingwithaeri.com. I can promise you that there are trips to fit every budget.

Saving for your trip does not need to be scary either.  A couple of friends once told me that they were having trouble saving for a trip they wanted to take until they put it in perspective.  They asked themselves what the trip was worth to them. Turns out it was worth more than soda.  So they gave up soda, and every time they felt a craving or thought about buying a bottle of pop, they would put that cash into a jar.  And sooner than you would believe, they had kicked an unhealthy habit and had a jar full of potential adventure.

  1. If you act smart, being alone in their country is no worse than being alone in your own.

Traveling alone is not asking for trouble. It is not the dangerous and intimidating experience your grandmothers want you to think it is.  Not all strangers are trying to lure you into their vans with candy. Most strangers are perfectly nice people going about their day just like you would be if you were home.

I have a few strategies to get comfortable with a new place, like to timing my arrival so there is still daylight, and taking a walk around the area to orient myself as soon as possible; but beyond that, don’t be afraid to explore! Ask for directions! Get a little lost wandering off the beaten path. That’s often where the best memories are made.

  1. “To Old Friends, New Friends, and Strange Places.”

I have raised my glass to this toast many a time, in many a place, with many a face.  Travel is your chance to get outside your bubble. Travel is more than looking at the architecture and geography of a place; it is about getting a feel for the culture too! Go introduce yourself to someone new! Smile at the bartender, get a drink at the hotel and chat up some fellow travelers! Ask the locals where you should eat and then invite them along! You might never see these people again, but there is comfort in knowing that there are people half a world away that you forged a genuine connection with.

But remember to take time to be alone too. Don’t be afraid to sit quietly on the bus and stare out the window. Remember the way the countryside looks as you ride past. Capture the serenity of a solo sunset and you’ll be able to access it the next time you’re surrounded by stress and chaos.

  1. This isn’t your only trip, it is only your first trip.

Don’t put the trip on a pedestal. Don’t you do it! Get it off of there! This doesn’t have to be the perfect, best, trip-to-end-all-trips trip.  It just has to be your first trip. Pick somewhere sort of interesting, and sort of in budget, maybe sort of nearby, and go for it. It might be great, it might not be what you expected, but no matter what it WILL be an experience to remember. You’ll learn from it. You’ll find things you love and things you hate. And you’ll discover that you are capable of so much more than you thought. And the next time you plan a trip it will be that much easier to get your butt out the door, and you’ll have that much more confidence in yourself, and that much more enthusiasm for the world around you.

  1. No time like the present.

There will never be a perfect time to go. There will never be a time when you have no deadlines at work, no significant others (people, pets, or plants) requiring your attention at home, and no other expenses demanding your hard earned dough. You will never get ALL your ducks in a row. So just leave them in a pile and get out there! Do it for yourself. All your ducks will be waiting for you when you return.

Now it’s your turn to decide what travel is worth to you, and recognize your own strength and independence. Don’t dream of cloud kingdoms; plan your next adventure instead. Travel is attainable! Go get it, girlfriend!

=====================================================================================Have you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Five years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri can be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur. To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at aerirose.com or travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.”

flip oct 2014

so here’s the plan…

Remember those pesky details I mentioned in the last post? Well, it seems that details spawn faster than the Easter bunny’s slutty cousins in the spring.  Cause boy oh boy is it going to be a crazy summer for me.  Wanna hear all the details so far?

Well you better, cause I want to tell you! If you don’t I guess you could just stop reading. Go away!

Still here? Awesome.

So.

Right now I am in Waxahachie, Texas.  I got here about a week and a half ago after a hastily, though skillfully, completed pack down in Arizona.  Here, I quickly moved into the super wonderful booth I am renting for the season and prepared for opening weekend of Scarborough Faire.  I do love the booth. I’m rather proud of it, honestly.  The clothing racks are curvy branches and really give the shop an organic flow.  And I put them up myself. With a power drill!  The skirts look colorful and wonderful hanging on them. Roxanne and I have had a great time playing fairy, and I have every confidence that she will be awesome when I have to drive away and leave her in charge of things.

Look at my racks!
Look at my racks!
20140405_183721
Aeri Rose, Scarborough 2014

So when am I driving away and leaving her in charge of things? In two days. Aah!!

On Sunday afternoon I will climb back in to Shelly the Sportvan, who is currently full of everything I’ll need to set up a booth at the Virginia Renaissance Festival and all of the things I hopefully will not need when I return to Scarborough at the end of this mad adventure.

After I climb into Shelly and turn her on I will proceed to drive from Waxahachie, TX to Denton, MD- approximately 1500 miles and/or 22 hours of straight driving.  I will need to do that drive within 48 hours in order to catch a flight to Italy from Dulles Airport by 11:00 pm Tuesday night.  I am hoping to do it in about 30 hours, leaving me “plenty” of time to catch up on necessary things like renewing my business license and/or sleeping.

So I climb on the airplane and delight in the ability to sleep, or read, or do anything other than pay attention to where I am going.  Ten hours and fifteen minutes later I land in Istanbul, Turkey where I will probably try to go explore  the city for a bit if they will let me out of the airport. I have a heinous 24 hour lay over after all.  I am certainly not spending all that time staring at other bleary-eyed travelers near Gate B30 of the Ataturk International Airport.

Anyway. So flight to Turkey. Mini Turkish Adventure. Short flight from Istanbul to Rome. Hopefully manageable navigation of customs, etc. Catch commuter train from Airport to Termini Station. Catch 10:30 pm train from Rome to Cefalu, Sicily. Enjoy train ride down Italian coast and Train ON A FERRY ride across the bit of water separating Sicily and Italy.  Get to Cefalu. Get picked up by family in Cefalu.  Yay family!

Operation: Crazy Family in Sicily Adventure begins. Yippie!

Operation: Crazy Family in Sicily Adventure ends. Boo!

Return to Annapolis again via heinous Istanbul layover. Return the evening of May 1st.  Sleep, or something.

May 2nd I drive out to the Virginia Faire Site near Lake Anna and meet up with Team Wonder-Fairy to set up our booth.

After that it starts to slow down. I just have a wedding on the west coast to catch, and to get back to Scarborough for the end of the faire. And then get back to Virginia. Somehow. Even though I’m probably leaving Shelly with the Wonder-Fairies to use as a safe and dry storage spot. And then there are some more shows and festivals along the east coast I might do. Or maybe I’ll be running out to help in Colorado.  Or maybe back to Italy with my sister.

Who knows!

I’ll be somewhere on the planet. That’s good enough for me!

Bring it on summer! I have caffeine and glitter! I’m not afraid of you!

Wonder-Fairies Unite!
Wonder-Fairies Unite!

 

Wish me luck and stay tuned for updates, mishaps, adventures, and mushrooms! Mushrooms? Sure, why not?

 

With Love,

~Aeri

traveling like a vacationer

I make a great traveler. I make a terrible vacationer.  If this is what planning a trip feels like for most people, than I don’t blame them for not traveling very often.  I had no idea. Honestly.

This April my mother (blessed saint that she is) is taking her husband, Jeff, and my Grandma, Anna, to San Ambrosio, Italy, to visit our Sicilian Family.  (On a side note there seem to be an excessive amount of commas in that sentence but I can’t seem to ditch any of them.)

They all really hoped I could come along.  I really hoped I could too.  At first I thought I couldn’t. April is a busy month for me, because I am a vendor at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival.  Last year I ran the tent by myself and barely had a helper to take a pee break, let alone an epic international family adventure. But through a clever and convenient series of events it seems I actually WILL have the opportunity to go with them.  I have a great employee whom I am fully confident in leaving alone for extended pee breaks, and even for epic international family adventures.  And I have a booth. With real walls and a real roof under which my awesome employee can work with ease.

So with excitement and a slight feeling that I was somehow playing hooky, I visited my trusty travel site, Kayak.com, and began searching through options.

My initial instinct was to drive up from Texas to Maryland and fly from Dulles International Airport. Mostly because I was going to be vending at a Renaissance Festival in Virginia in May and it was a good excuse to drive the tent and some stock up early.  It also seemed to work out because flights from D.C. to Rome were the cheapest I’d seen (around $850).  But then I really started to think about the details.  Details”, I am learning, are a traveler’s worst nightmare. The more needy, clingy, bossy “details” you have to entertain, the more stressful and less pleasant travel seems to become.

First there was the details of timing.  My flights weren’t on the exact same days as the rest of my family’s because I needed to leave time for the drive north and I wanted to try to be away from the festival in Texas for as few weekends as possible.  But once I factored in flight time, lay overs, and extra time spent taking the train from Rome to Cefalu (the nearest train stop to my Sicilian Family’s tiny village of San Ambrosio), I realized that I would only really have 5 days in Sicily at the same time as my family.

Back to the drawing board.

It was right about this time that I realized how many more details were secretly latched onto my first “traveling as a business professional trying to fit in a little family vacation time” trip.  Like tiny leeches you don’t notice at first, suddenly these details had gorged themselves on my stress and grown to massive pulsing blood thirsty little buggers.

There were departure times to consider.  If I flew from Dallas instead of D.C. I could cut out the drive north and depart a few days earlier…but then who could take me to the airport?

There were arrival times to consider. If I flew directly into Palermo instead of Rome I could cut out the extra time on the train up and down the Italian coast. But it was still a two hour drive/train ride to Cefalu where my Sicilian Family could pick me up in the car.  But that meant an arrival time that allowed time to take a bus to the train station and catch a train…that arrived at a reasonable time for a “young girl” traveling alone to arrive.  Similarly, all flights home from Palermo seemed to leave at 6:00 am, which would require taking the train into the city the night before. I felt a headache beginning to throb just thinking about trying to convince my Sicilian Family to let me spend a night in The Big Scary City all alone.

Let me catch you up to speed. In 2006 (2007 maybe?) I visited San Ambrosio by myself.  And when I left, my Uncle Sarro somehow got a hold of my mom’s work number and called her to find out why she hadn’t called yet to tell them I had arrived at home safely.  She hadn’t called yet because I was still in the air! They miscounted the time difference and literally expected me to arrive home before I was physically capable of doing so.  I can only imagine how much they worried (needlessly of course, but worry and guilt are an Italian’s greatest talents) while I traveled that time, and how much more they would worry with every step that kept me alone and in transit this time. Explain to them that I had traversed continents alone with nothing but a backpack and, well, a backpack? No. NOPE. Not even going to go near that with a 10 foot pole wrapped in rosaries.

Convincing them to “let me” fly in and out of Rome instead of Palermo and take the train in and out of Cefalu was a fight I was leaving to my mother. (Did I mention she was a saint?)

What blood thirsty details am I leaving out? Train time tables, hotel and hostel reservations probably, my awesome employee and her sufficient stock of inventory, oh right and price.  Flying DC to Rome was coming in at $850 or so, where as flying Dallas to Palermo was coming in at around $1400.  And that wasn’t even for a great flight that kicked all those other nagging details to the curb.

ARGH! Is this how hard it is to plan a trip for a vacationer? I like the trips when all I need to know are sort of kind of the days I have free, a starting point, and and ending point.  I now truly appreciate the family that has gotten used to me coming and going, and at this point just hopes for a list of addresses and a copy of my passport.  I will never snicker at those I consider homebodies when they admit they’d rather just stay home and relax when they have holiday time off from work.  If THIS is the gauntlet they have to fight through just to get on the plane than I really don’t blame them.

I still don’t know what flight I’ll end up on. I know I have to book something soon. I’d just like to throw a tantrum a little longer first.

With grumbles and pouts,

Aeri

shelly the sportvan gets a makeover

Some projects grow. Some projects spiral out of control.  Some projects implode and some explode.  This is the story of Shelly the Sportvan, and the Great Makeover of 2013.

Shelly is a 1994 Chevrolet Sportvan that I picked up in Texas last May.  Here she is the first week I got her.

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Almost as soon as we became partners I knew that she would need to be painted. I mean come on, if I’m going to travel the country in a Big Van, I really should travel the country in a BIG AMAZING HIPPIE VAN.  It is really the only reasonable thing to do.

So this December I decided to begin painting her.  I wanted to break the ice, but start small, so I decided to paint the website on each side.  One side would say “travelingwithaeri.com” and the other side would say both “travelingwithaeri.com” and “Living the Fairy Life.”  Nothing too extravagant yet.

So I painted one side.

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The next day I painted the other side.  While I was out in the drive working, my friend Fix-It Fabian wanted to look at a few things for me: a squeaky break, a whiny belt, and a temperamental break light.

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And that’s when things got interesting.  The whiny belt was actually an alternator with worn bearings that needed to be replaced. Fix It Fabian! The temperamental break light was the result of some faulty wiring that kept shorting itself out instead of grounding properly.  To fix that Fabian would need to get behind the inside panels.  Which meant completely unloading everything, taking out a platform, and taking out some panels.  Well, I had always planned on remodeling the inside, and getting rid of all the boring beige everything.  So if we were unloading things for one project I said alright then lets unload Everything, lets take out ALL the panels and lets redecorate!

I am pretty sure this is when Fix-It Fabian was wondering what he had gotten himself into.  Yup, I ate up almost all of his week of holiday vacation playing in the front yard and remodeling Shelly. Here are some photos of the process.

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Gut the interior
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Paint the panels green
Custom light covers you say?
Custom light covers you say?

Honestly, I had a great time with the project. It was one of the most fun and relaxing Christmases I’ve ever had, and the time Fabian spent helping me make Shelly so beautiful was really one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten.  We enjoyed our success for a day or two, but then I had to put Shelly back to work and load her up.  What a happy, full, and beautiful travel partner she has become.

An empty Shelly
An empty Shelly
New Lights! They even have a LIGHT SWITCH to turn them on and off!
New Lights! They even have a LIGHT SWITCH to turn them on and off!
My traveling living room
My traveling living room
I love my new fabrics, colors, and lights
I love my new fabrics, colors, and lights

Love from the Road,

Aeri