My Entirely Personal TBEX Wrap-Up. WARNING: Excessive Hyperbole

I started this blog in August of 2007 with no agenda other than to write about being an expat. I certainly had no way of knowing that three years later, I’d find myself among a group of people who have helped me, hired me, inspired me and, most importantly, who understand my insatiable need to live the life I do. The conference was called the Travel Blog Exchange TBEX10, where travel writers, bloggers and PR professionals gathered to teach, learn and party like freaking rock stars.

There are many, many people who have already written about the conference with insight and intelligence. I’m not one of them, because I’m still on such a high that it may be months until I gain any kind of perspective on it. But I want need to write about it just the same, because otherwise I may just burst into flames from the awesome. Continue reading

Mid-Week Links and Randomness

  • Sean Keener of BootsnAll and I have started dealing crack to travel addicts in the form of Travel News Daily. Bookmark it now:

Have you ever had a dessert placed in front of you after a great meal, and you think you can’t possible manage another bite, but you stick your fork in it and something wonderful oozes out, and you get all excited and put it in your mouth and it’s the best thing you’ve ever had, and you hope you can eat there again the next night just to recreate that one moment?

That’s Travel News Daily – every half-hour, every day of the week, we’re going to give you juicy morsels of travel-related ephemera we find on the Internets. Get your destination guides, top 10 lists and ways to save somewhere else – this is for those among us who start planning our next trip during the flight home.

Travel addicts unite!

  • I wrote a rant about a completely unbelievable survey that revealed France as the most expensive holiday destination. It’s hilarious and scathing. Read it and weep.
  • A bunch of awesome Italiaphiles I know started a podcast called Eye on Italy. Listen to it.

Big, Newsy Update: I’m Writing A France Travel Guide!

Viterbo Primo Maggio

I promised myself I wouldn’t let an entire week go by without an update from your dear old Miss Expatria, and it looks like I’ve come in just under the wire. I’ve got a some fun, exciting news to share, so let’s get on it immediately, shall we?

I’ve been hinting at a big new project I’ve been working on, and now I can finally tell you what it is!

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How One Travel Writer Is Using Technology In 2010


That travel writer would be me, by the way. In my house, where 1/3 of the occupants are a cat and the other 2/3 don’t get out much, one person doing something equals a trend. So, 2010, what’s up! Let’s see what I’m doing to keep connected to the world in the Information Age.

Make sure you take a moment to tell me what your favorite techie tools are in the comments!


My iPod Touch

My father gave this to me when I was home last year, and it was like getting a pony that turned out to be a unicorn that farted rainbows and sang my favorite song, on key. It is the coolest thing ever invented, including fire and the Internet. As long as I have an Internet connection, I am unstoppable on this thing. I’m going to do another effusive post about my favorite apps, but for now suffice it to say that it could not be more perfect for me and who cares about the iPhone.

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My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

I’ve been tagged by the Artist At Large to divulge my three best kept travel secrets. I’m horrible at keeping travel secrets, so faithful readers will no doubt remember these. But without further ado, let’s get to it!

Oh, but before I do, I need to tag five people whose travel secrets I want brought to light:

Kayt at Travel Savvy Mom

Mary Ann at Enchanted Traveler

Dian at Girls’ Getaway

Gillian of Gillian’s Lists

Kristian of Londonelicious

The final list of Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets will be published in a special blog post on the Tripbase blog and shared across the Internets.

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The Cheese Lady, for Italiaphiles Everywhere

Jessica at WhyGo Italy recently told the story on Robin‘s blog, MyMelange, about how a single Italian sealed the deal on her abiding love for Italy. In honor of that story totally making me teary, I’m reposting this story, from my book, about My First Italian: The Cheese Lady.

Every Wednesday is Lavinio’s market day. Several streets are blocked off to allow for a long line of vendors selling everything you could ever want, in no particularly organized fashion – kitchen utensils, jeans, fruit, vegetables, lingerie, down comforters, shoes, meat, clock radios, cheese, flowers, CDs, purses in haphazard piles.

Every Tuesday night I would sit down with my translation dictionary and make a list of the things I needed, in case I needed to talk about them when I got there. But for the most part, the good thing about shopping this way was that I did not have to speak too often. I would gather up my purchases, show them to the vendor, and pay without saying more than buon giorno or grazie. I did not want to be outed as The American. I desperately wanted to fit in, which unfortunately often robbed me of the ability to speak at all.

But my deep and abiding love for all things dairy finally forced me to reveal my gulping, stuttering self to the Cheese Lady.

She was probably about 50; she was built like a Parma ham and had hands like baseball mitts. Her warm, genuine smile and the intoxicating smells from her stall targeted her as My First Italian.

Oh, how I studied the night before. I wanted to make sure I got the softest, stinkiest, yummiest cheeses she had.

That morning, I approached the stall and patiently waited for pretty much every customer in town to leave. I did not want witnesses to the butchering I was about to do to their language. Finally, it was my turn.

I quietly launched into my prepared speech about wanting cheese, which was probably the most formal declaration of love she had ever heard in her life. I must have said the right thing, because before I knew it she had come around the counter and was force-feeding me small pieces of about 114 different kinds of cheese.

“Si,” I’d say with a smile; or sometimes, with the most apologetic face I could muster, “Non mi piace.” After she had wrapped up my selections and I paid her, I turned to leave and she waved and said, “Ciao, bella.”

Now, this was a perfectly normal thing for her to say. She had probably said it 20 times that day. Everyone in Italy says it all the time, coming and going. I am sure she forgot about me four seconds after I left.

But even writing this now, three languages and five years later, it makes me teary. It was the first time an Italian had said it to me. Even though I was obviously not Italian, and had probably sounded like an injured seal, she said, “Ciao, bella” to me.

She was My First Italian, and I will never forget her.

Friday Round-Up: All The Travel News That Fits

Much like Jack Bauer on 24, I find that Friday has come around and there is NO MORE TIME to do all the things I wanted to accomplish by week’s end.  But, I have so much cool stuff I want to tell you about!  So, here we go!

This is best read if you picture me Walter Cronkite-like, reporting over a clacking news ticker. Or, that we’re having a delicious lunch and a glass of wine on the terrace. Either way, it’s VERY NEWSY.

First up, regarding the late night cornetto tragedy in Rome:  “Il cornetto è salvo!” (“The cornetto is saved!”) Hilariously, this is an exact quote from the Mayor of Rome, who appeared in person to officially announce the good news “to calm the people of the night, agitated for days after the news of the closing of late night ovens at 1AM.” The article calls the whole ordeal “Cornetto-Gate.” AWESOME.

So: Rome and I are back together. Come on. How could I stay mad at a city whose populace rises up in passionate defense of late-night snack foods? (No word on the fate of the sausage truck at Porta Maggiore; must do further research.)

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In Which Anthony Bourdain Makes Me Sad – TWICE.

Because he has my dream job, I get these little alerts about what’s showing every week on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Tonight he’s going to be in New York, revisiting all his old haunts and eating nostalgically.  (I think it’s like, Anthony Bourdain night on the Travel Channel or something, but this episode looks like it’s coming on at 10pm.) Now, I know he grew up in a different era than me, and I know every New Yorker has a list of their own secret/guilty pleasure eateries, but I must confess I was heartbroken when I searched through the rundown of the show and did not find these New York, and Miss Expatria, institutions:
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Showing Some Twitter Love

I know a lot of people don’t get Twitter, but I do – and I love it. I wish I had more time to spend on it. Every day the people I follow on Twitter inspire me, educate me, make me laugh, make me think, and above all they share my deep and abiding love for all things travel related. If you’d like to see who I’m following on Twitter, just click on any of the pictures in the mosaic below! And if you’re on Twitter, get your twitter mosaic here.

Two Contests!

I love a good contest.  And today, I have two for you! (And after the jump, a list of the 100 words and phrases you must know in Italian!)

The first one is finished tomorrow, so hurry up!  If you’re good with languages, try your luck at Transparent Language. Come up with a list of 25 to 100 basic words and phrases you think people should learn in the foreign language of your choice – and win one of their Complete Learning Suites for a language you don’t yet know! 

The second one is from the Travel Channel, where they’re giving away a trip a month! Sign up to enter, and then return each day to answer a trivia question to increase your chances.

Remember, you can’t win if you don’t play!
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HALP! J. Peterman Photo Contest

If I remember correctly, the J. Peterman catalog was a running gag on Seinfeld. But I subscribed to that catalog back in the day, and reading it was my very own appointment television, as it were. I was enthralled by the product descriptions, which read like tiny Hemingway vignettes; I coveted a pair of wide leg pants they ran for a while. I thought it no longer existed, but recently I found their (his?) online catalog.  Swoon! I revisited all my old favorites, and saw some new things to covet as well.

Then yesterday, my West Coast Gay Mafia leader (holla!) alerted me to a photo contest at something called Peterman’s Eye. Continue reading

Loving the Travel Blog Exchange

HI.  WordPress has a new nifty gadget wherein I can make a quick post about something I’ve noticed on the Web. I’m trying it out in the coming days, so be prepared for more, yet smaller, posts from me in addition to my usual, awesome, longer musings.  Let me know what you think!

The Travel Blog Exchange is the brain child of the ladies over at Galavanting.  I was one of the first people to join! It’s pretty cool, and I am looking forward to spending more time getting to know my fellow travel bloggers better than 140 characters at a time.

Yeah, see, this is the kind of thing I want to do with this new nifty gadget. I’m not sure if it is something I will want to keep doing, but we shall see. Ciao!