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

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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

a very coleman thanksgiving

I know it’s a little late, but I had such a wonderful Thanksgiving this year that I just have to share it!

What's on the burner now?
What’s on the burner now?

I spent Thanksgiving in Todd Mission, Texas with my good friends Noelle and Al.  Noelle is another wonderful traveler who is touring the country with the most delightful little vardo in tow. To find out more about her story, you should really visit her blog- A Life Fantastic.

This was our first Thanksgiving as “adults;” and by that I mean, we weren’t with family, watching the game with the men, wrestling with cousins or dogs, and waiting for our grandma/aunt/mother to ring the dinner bell.  We were the chefs! Well, Al and Noelle were the chefs. I brought a case of beer, some carrots, and an eager appetite.

When I arrived I was first greeted by Tiny Puppy.  Cooper, a seven week old Australian Shepherd, is a tiny grey ball of cute.  A few more steps and I was in the living room: a tarped over space between their amazing vardo and their kitchen tent, complete with fat white Christmas lights,  an outdoor carpet and a camping couch.  There, I was greeted by Noelle and Al and given a culinary tour.  The warm scent of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air around us.  “That would be the pies.” Noelle said.

Pies?

This thing can heat like a convection oven! See the tiny pies inside? Yum!
This thing can heat like a convection oven! See the tiny pies inside? Yum!

Pies.

With only a Coleman two burner propane camping stove, and a toaster oven they put together a complete Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m talking turkey, stuffing, gravy, corn, carrots, cranberry jelly, rolls, mashed potatoes, AND home-made pumpkin pies.

All of the Things!
All of the Things!

I have a feeling that these two are amazing cooks anywhere, but they really proved that those little stoves are good for more than reheating Spaghetti-O’s and re-hydrating space food.  While the pies continued to bake in the toaster, Al prepared the turkey with fresh herbs and spices.  Then, while the turkey cooked we used the stove to make creamy mashed potatoes, buttery corn, fluffy stuffing, brown sugar glazed carrots, and gravy. Sorry gravy, ran out of adjectives. The scents shifted tantalizingly through the spectrum until finally the turkey was ready.  The rolls were thrown into the oven for a moment while the turkey basked in it’s own juices.  And then, only then, did Al deem Things Ready.

Cutting the roast like a pro.
Cutting the roast like a pro.

And boy was it good! It was amazing!

It was the best way to spend an evening with friends.

It drove home once again how thankful I am for the opportunity to live the life I do, with all its travelling. And it gave me a new chance to be thankful for good friends and warm homes, whatever the home may look like.

 

And thank you, to everyone who reads this blog. I hope you continue to get as much joy out of reading it as I get out of writing it.

 

Thank you!!

 

~Aeri

Buon Appetite!
Buon appetite!

a moment of equality

Last night was quite and unexpectedly epic evening.  After our morning pottery excursion, and afternoon hike, I had reservations to see a Whirling Dervish Ceremony.  At 50 TL it was a bit pricey, but I have always been interested in this human phenomena, so I decided it was worth it.  And I think I chose correctly.  The Dervishes went through an intricate ceremony of iterations of bowing and spinning, encompassed by bigger rotations around the stage. The rotations symbolize the connection amongst all beings, from the smallest atom to the largest planet.  Everything revolves, both in movement through space and cycles through time.  Though they moved quickly, the Dervishes seemed relaxed and meditative, a feeling that filled the energy of the room.  During the show the Dervishes, in their white flowing gowns, seemed to glow with some inner light…but then I realized that the dim cavern was actually lit by black lights.  The white gowns were glowing beneath the black light!! While the cavern may be several thousand years old, clearly the technical system was quite a bit newer. It was a nice touch all the same.

The rotating Dervishes seek a state of love and ecstasy.

Afterward some small sample of a red drink was offered.  I wasn’t able to find out what it was, but it couldn’t help but make me think: “Don’t drink the Kool-aid!” Despite the funny drink, I was impressed with the main principles of the Whirling Dervishes:

1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river.

2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.

3. In concealing others faults, be like the night.

4. In anger and fury, be like the dead.

5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth.

6. In tolerance, be like the sea.

7. Either exist as you are, or be as you look.

After the ceremony, I peacefully returned to the hostel, where I met Maree. We had plans to visit a restaurant we had passed that afternoon which advertised live music.  The restaurant was charming, with more of the low tables and large pillows.  Here, I ordered the local Cappadocia wine, a dry red, and was very pleasantly surprised.  It was very mild but palpable.  Not extremely complex, but not at all tasting of vinegar.  I’ll certainly be taking a bottle or two home to share.

Though live music was advertised, it seemed not forthcoming.  A little sad, but enjoying the environment all the same, Maree and I stayed for a few drinks and snacks.  Eventually, we were the only remaining  guests, and the restaurant workers settled down across the room from us with a Saz and some hand drums and wooden spoons. They played several nice songs while we listened appreciatively.  Then the Saz player- Charlie- asked if we would like to join them! Though I have a little experience with hand drums, it can be intimidating to play songs you don’t know with people you’ve just met.  All the same, I happily took the offered Dumbek and settled on a pillow across from the Saz player.  Maree took a shaker. We played some songs  with them and after a few minutes of loosening up we even sounded somewhat good.  Certainly nothing to go on the road with, but also nothing to make a musician’s ears bleed.

I have to say, music is a wonderful thing.  It can bridge cultures in an instant.  It is a way to bond with friends and strangers and not a word needs to be uttered.  It inspires both unity and humanity; creativity, originality, and connection.  And it’s just plain fun!

I don’t know what travel tips to offer from this experience.  This was one of those lucky moments that can’t be planned for, trained for, or scheduled. They can only be hoped for.  The moments when you can bond with strangers, not as travelers or hosts, but as equals finding themselves in the same place at the same time and sharing a brief moment of simple happiness. I can only hope that you can find these moments too, when you’re traveling and even when you aren’t.

Much Love,

~Aeri

get off the beaten path

The last few days have been stunning.  That’s why the message of this post is to “get off the beaten path.” It’s impossible, or rather impractical to plan out your entire trip before you even leave home.  You just can’t know all the great stuff to do in a place, even with all the internet research in the world! The best way to find the good stuff is to just ask around– ask the locals, ask the travelers, ask Everyone! And stay flexible.  If you like it somewhere, stay there for a few days- don’t rush it.  Tour around. You’ll feel it when it is time to move on.

So how has my latest “unplanned” trip gone? Smashingly, of course!  We left Istanbul on a bus for Çanakkale, a port city on Turkey’s west coast.  The next morning I went to the ancient city of Troy. You’ll need an imagination, to appreciate the expansive “city” which is just a collection of foundations and ancient rock walls now. But it was wonderful to be somewhere so ancient, and still being excavated currently.  I  touched a 5,000 year old wall!  I mean just think, the human race has only really been around for a little over 10,000 years; and that wall has been standing for fully HALF of it!  Far out! And bricks and mortar are still a popular method for building construction. Sometimes people are so slow to evolve. hehe.

Anyway, after Troy I spent some free time in Çanakkale, waiting for the bus to the Cappadocia region in the center of Turkey.  Çanakkale was really an unexpected gem.  They had a cute town square, warm weather, and beautiful restaurants and pubs along a waterfront (the Aegean Sea). 

Seaside veiw from my café seat

In no time we were on the bus to Kayseri, the big town on the edge of the Cappadocia region.  I have to say, bus travel (while totally necessary at least once!) can be entirely unpredictable.  Luckily, long distance buses in Turkey were fantastic. They were new, large coaches with plenty of heat.  This trip was not very crowded and Maree and I each had a row to ourselves with space to stretch out and sleep- which was really good considering the bus ride was 16 (yes, SIXTEEN!) hours long.  My longest ever ride yet. When going on a long trip like this, consider timing as well. We left in the evening so that we rode through the night.  This is good for several regions: for a budget traveler you can include a night’s lodging in the price of the ticket, and for the time conscious traveler you don’t waste daylight stuck inside.

Arriving in Kayseri in the morning, we were refreshed (well, excitedly energized  at least) and ready for an adventure. Our first mission: find a place to sleep for the night!  A few minutes work in an internet cafe and we found a hostel for 20 TL a night in a town called Göreme.  Works for us!

Now, I have to tell you.  We chose to add Cappadocia to our tour for one very important reason: the caves!  Called “fairy chimneys” by the locals, these strange landforms were made by volcanoes ages ago.  The local tribes moved in, and carved out elaborate cave homes in the cliffs and chimneys.  Many local people, while having moved away from the original caves, still build their houses backed up to caverns.  The hostel where we stayed was a cave hostel, and our room was a stone cavern.  The beds were even nooks carved into the living wall!

Totally Cool Right?! I’m that second nook on the right. :D

We could really settle into this town for a few days, with limitless hiking in the beautiful surroundings, and local crafts to experience. And we did just that.  Almost as soon as we could throw the bags into our rooms, we were out on a trail.  We explored up and up and found ourselves in a vineyard at the top of the plateau.  This region is also known for its wines, which I  will be sure to experience and report on- purely for the reader’s benefit of course.

The Fairy Chimneys of Göreme, Turkey


The next day, today, we started with a trip to Avanos, to visit a sixth generation pottery shop.  And boy-o was this some pottery shop! The owner showed us the facilities, explaining the process.  They collected mud from either the riverbank (for red clay) or the hills (for white clay).  They process the clay so it is ready for throwing.  The potters use either an antique foot spun wheel, or an electric wheel. Then we were shown the painting room, where each pot, plate, and bowl is hand painted by local artists.  The detail and craftsmanship was just stunning. One painter was working on something different from the other artists.  It was explained that he was doing some modern art pieces.  I was blown away by the thought that this family could maintain the work done by their family for generations, yet bring in modern influence to keep the art meaningful, present, and fresh.

Lastly, we were taken to the finished pieces showroom.  Every traveler should be prepared for this moment.  At least once on every trip you will encounter the thing that sucks you inThis was my thing. You may think you have a perfectly planned budget, you may even be perfectly keeping to your perfectly planned budget. But then, without warning, you’ll find that thing that sucks you in.  Really, you should plan for this too in your budget. My thing sucked me in was a collection of 7 bowls and 2 cups.  Including shipping it totaled…well suffice it to say, I blew my budget for this day and for several days after.  But it was worth it.  When you find that thing that sucks you in, let it.  You only live once, and you’ll probably never be back to the place to “buy it next time.”

Just looking at those bowls makes me happy. Which is a good thing considering I won’t be able to afford to put much food in them for a while!

So, to recap, my two important travel tips for today are:

1. Get off the beaten path, and

2. Be prepared for the thing that sucks you in.

Whew! Good night!

~Aeri