Buon giorno, Firenze! 

Well! It’s been three days since I arrived in Florence, and it’s been quite the adventure thus far. I’ve walked between six and eight miles each day since arriving here.

Italy is having colder than usual weather this month, so I found myself cold and in need of a heavier jacket. Fortunately, I live close to most of the designer shops, both high end and low end, so I was able to hop into a Zara for the fuzziest coat I have ever owned. Two pairs of leggings a day, wool socks, a warm head band and scarf, and my trusty Dr. Martens are keeping the rest of me warm.

Thanks to the great amount of walking I’m doing, I’m not having to worry too much about what I eat. That being said, I’ve missed my veggies these last couple of days, so part of tomorrow’s mission will be going to the market in search of fresh vegetables.

The first day I was here, January 5th, I arrived in Florence around 9:30am. At the airport, I met up with a couple of girls from my program who I had met through the Facebook group. Four of us crammed ourselves and luggage into a medium sized taxi, and split the fare for the drive to SACI. Once at SACI’s main building, we got our apartment assignments and branched off in our own directions. I met my apartment mates, Annie, Livi, Lauren, and Clio. All fellow SACI students. Later in the evening, I met up again with my friends from the airport and got dinner from the restaurant under my apartment. I went to bed early that night, which turned out to be a wise decision since we had loud, drunk people outside our window for five hours in the middle of the night.

On day two, I had a rough start to the morning, including a migraine and getting sick to my stomach for the first time in years. So I’m going to skip to the afternoon. Actually, the afternoon wasn’t super exciting either. We split into groups and got a very cold tour of the location of all of SACI buildings and local important spots. However, yesterday was a holiday, so nothing was open. January 6th is the holiday, Epiphany. In Florence, the holiday is celebrated with a parade from the Palazzo Pitti to the Piazza Del Duomo with hundreds of people parading in renaissance costumes, starting with the three wise men.
We had to wait for a break in the parade in order to get home since it blocked every route home that we knew of. On the upside, we bought our first bottles of cheap Italian wine on our way home. Let me tell you, €3 bottles of wine in Italy are far better than $3 bottles of wine in Tennessee.

At the end of the day, Livi, Clio, and I went for a walk. We found the river for the first time and had our first Italian pizzas. I definitely plan on having a few more of those while I’m here.
Today was my third day in Florence. In the morning, I had a whirlwind tour of the artistically historical sites by one of SACI’s art history professors. I’ve never experienced someone try to fill so little time with so much mostly extranious information in 25°F weather. In the afternoon, we registered for permits of stay with the Italian police, and then napped for a longer than suggested period of time. And now it’s pasta time, so ciao!


Just Like That

After a busy semester, running around, getting paper work in to both ETSU and SACI, I returned home for winter break thinking that finally, I could begin thinking about my upcoming trip to Italy. After just a couple of days at home, it became clear that this holiday season was going to be far too busy to think about Italy. Three weeks later, I am all packed. My suitcase and duffle bag are sitting in the front hall waiting to accompany me to the airport tomorrow. I’m sitting here numb. I’m excited but equally anxious, evening out my emotions to be energetic but calm. 

It seems unreal that I’ll be on my plane to Europe in less than 24 hours. It seems like just last year, I was in middle school, hearing about my older cousin going abroad to Copenhagen. Now, one of my best friends is doing that same trip to Copenhagen, and I’m flying off on a trip I thought was ages away.

My phone plan has been suspended for the next few months, so once I leave the house, I won’t be able to communicate with my parents or friends until I have wifi in Italy. 

This isn’t my first time traveling alone. When I was sixteen, I went to France on my own. Since my last solo international excursion, I have grown a lot, but the intimidation of traveling alone remains. Five years older than I was last time, I still find myself feeling young and small as I think about the adventures ahead.

With friends living in Germany, and friends studying in the U.K., France, and Denmark, I am thrilled with the opportunities to come. I will not let intimidation hold me back, but I will embrace that intimidation as it brings with it growth and memories. 

Making Strides

I am excited to report that I finished 2016 with the fulfillment of a personal goal! I went on a five mile hike/trail run completely on my own! I’ve definitely ventured into the woods alone before, but not to hike alone.

Often, I have found myself about to go hike alone when I chicken out. I’m so used to people telling me its dangerous or stupid to go outside alone that those insecurities have been ingrained in my mind. While I appreciate people’s concern for my safety, I also appreciate people not discouraging me from my hobby.

There are definitely a lot of things to take into account when going outside alone, but it’s also more likely for me to be injured or killed in my drive to the trail head.

When I come across someone knitting, I don’t give them a lecture about the integrity of their scarf or how to do it because I only knit occasionally, so I assume they have a better understanding of what they are doing than I do. Similarly, if someone doesn’t regularly hike, I would appreciate them taking my experience into account before telling me just how likely it is for me to be injured. I appreciate concerns for my safety, but I don’t appreciate it when someone takes the conversation from polite concern to projecting their own insecurities on me.

I’ve been hiking and camping my whole life and backpacking for about eight years. I’ve been a leader on a number of backpacking trips, and my dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was sparked when I was just a fourth grader. In my years of hiking, I have hiked injured, I have helped those who have been injured, and I’ve been caught in some really scary weather. None of this has discouraged me. If anything, it has encouraged me. I love and crave the simplicity of life on the trail. It is humbling and inspiring, and on my worst days, it is a reason to live.

Not just as a hiker alone, but as a woman alone, I take a lot of precautions when I go outside. Though nature can be scary, I trust it. People on the other hand- if I don’t know you, I don’t trust you. Nature can be mostly prepared for with a smartly packed daypack, but every person met, has a different motive, good or bad.

I am thrilled that I finally went more than a mile outside on my own. It was freeing and a personal best. The only time I was wary was in passing hikers I did not know. I started my hike with some frozen rain that dissipated with warming temperatures. Despite the grey sky, my heart felt happy. The fear instilled in me from countless lectures from various people, dissolved as I found myself right where I was meant to be.

I want to validate those who express concern for me because it is genuinely appreciated that you care, but I want my feelings validated too. Being outside puts me at ease, and I would never go out alone unprepared. So you hike your hike, and I’ll hike my hike, and when we need each other, we’ll reach out to support but never to discourage.

Cheers to 2017, and hiking your own hike. Let 2017 be a year of love, support, and respect.


the nitty gritty of being a lady outside

So last year when I started my first b12308363_10204330410694272_632819222802126837_nlog that this one is now replacing, my first post was about having a period while backcountry camping. I’m copying a pasting that post here now because it remains an important topic for female adventurers. So many times, I’ve had women use their period as an excuse to not go outside. To me, a period is the perfect reason to get outside. Here’s the original post from my old blog:

“First post, and it’s about female hygiene on the trail! I found this article last year, and it’s pretty great. It covered a lot of territory with some great tips and tricks.

The one thing this article doesn’t talk a lot about is having a period on the trail, but that’s a really important thing to have information on.

This article
lists three options for periods in the backcountry. One of these options is birth control that keeps you off your period, and one is using a diva cup or something similar. The other option, of course, is just using tampons and pads on the trail. I know, it sounds grody and uncomfortable but it’s not any worse than having to keep up with a diva cup. So how do you go about having a period on the trail? Well, for your trash, take a ziplock baggie and cover it in duct tape. This way, you have your own trash bag, and you can’t see what’s inside. Then, in another baggie, think of periods past– how many tampons do you use in a day and night? Multiply this number by how long your period lasts or how many days you’ll be gone with your period, and take that many tampons plus two. I recommend tampons over pads because you can’t feel them and they won’t deteriorate with movement or burst if they get wet. Just carry some hand sanitizer with you, and make sure your trash baggie goes up with the bear bag. Don’t let your period keep you out of the woods. When we’re inside, following the dull path of everyday life, we often forget how much exercise actually helps periods. By being in the backcountry with your period, you have no choice but to be active. Stay hydrated, and bring some midol if you need it, but don’t let Flo get you down! Having a period outside really isn’t scary once you give it a shot!”

As a side note, one year later, another possible period option for the trail is period panties! Period panties are still a new thing in the world of feminine hygiene products, and right now they aren’t the most economically appealing option, but they might be a great alternative to someone looking to replace pads and decrease waste. I’ll let you know how backpacking with them goes once I have the opportunity to give it a shot. However, that may be a solid six months since I won’t be doing much, if any, backcountry camping while I’m in Italy.

hello, friends

What better way to start this blog than with a little art history.

Tonight, my mom broke out some of her old sketchbooks from childhood and college. I took some photographs of a couple of her drawings from a figure drawing class.

One very unique thing about how my parents chose to raise me was that, from an early age, the human body was never hidden from me. We had story books that taught about human and child development and how babies were made. As I grew up, I was not uncomfortable or overly curious about bodies of the opposite sex because it wasn’t a mystery and it wasn’t taboo. Right from the beginning, I was taught that the human body was science and art. I feel blessed and thankful that I was raised this way, and I have no doubt that it helped shape who I am as an artist today.

Here are a few of Mom’s drawing from 1980 and 1981.