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Europe, Travel

Things I Learned While Traveling Alone (Part 1)

I hate traveling alone. Correction, I hate experiencing life alone. I enjoy journeying alone, if I am meeting up with someone. (Is this a description of my overall life? Maybe.)

A couple of weeks ago, I went to London to see this sweet baby, OJ. I couldn’t wait to meet her. She and her parents live in the UK, so an 8 hour flight from Charlotte, NC separate us. It’s hard to just pop over and meet her.


Yes, it’s easier to travel to the UK because they speak English (probably more fluently than we do). But there’s something exhilarating about being able to make my way around the city even if I am following directions.


It’s uncomfortable being alone, but there’s also so much peace.


Too often, when I’m traveling with someone else, I’m focused on whether or not they’re having fun. Seriously, I want everyone to have the time of their life. I am mostly uncomfortable traveling alone because I like to share. I invite people to events; I invite people into my life. I need someone to experience eating the best burger with me. Social media tricks us into thinking that everyone is seeing/following what we are doing every second of the day. But that’s just on the surface; they’re not really there.


So where’s the peace?

Alone, on a train, my thoughts can stream anywhere they want while the natural scenes of streams and skyscrapers flow by. I am free to think anything I want, with only judgement from myself. Yes, I judge myself quite harshly, but here, I’ve found grace. Forgiveness when I don’t deserve it.


And here we are, the part where I get to share with you.

What have you learned while traveling alone?


Rome in a Day


Prego! Country of beautiful history, food, and people! Last month, I went to Italy with my friend Danielle. As usual, our itinerary was jam packed. Here’s how we did Rome in a Day (ish).


We flew in Monday afternoon, and it was rainy. We took the Leonardo Express which is the 30 min express from the airport (FCO) to the center of Rome. When we arrived at Termini station, and because we were tired from traveling all day, we took a taxi to our hotel. On a scale of 1 to Morocco, the streets were about a 7 to navigate. Google maps is not very helpful to navigate the streets of Italy. A map with landmarks (that the hotel gives you) is much more helpful.


We stayed at Hotel Smeraldo, which was a fantastic location! Close to the Pantheon neighborhood and Trastavere. We were able to walk to most places.


Ancient Rome: We were going to explore ancient Rome (Colosseum, Palantine Hill, Roman Forum, etc.)  that afternoon, but due to the weather and the fact that it was off-season, most of the attractions were already closed (they close at dusk).



Trastevere: This is neighborhood across the Tiber River. There were adorable shops and small restaurants. I learned that Romans do not eat dinner until earliest, 8PM. We were starving at 7PM, but we found a restaurant that was open (Papa Re), and yes, it was packed with tourists. But I haven’t met a pizza I didn’t like, especially an true Italian pizza.

Colosseum: The next day we rose early to see the Colosseum. We did a quick run through and took all the pictures.

Rome Free Walking Tour: We took the metro to the Spanish Steps and met up with our guide. It was also fun to meet people from all over the world in the tour group. We walked around the area near the steps and the Pantheon. He was very informational and gave us a little insight to Roman life, then and now. We saw a lot in a short period of time.

Vatican: We bought our tickets online to save time. Ignore all the “tour guides” outside who want to take you through the museum. You can go any time during the day, even if you bought your ticket for a certain time. The Vatican Museum is overwhelming and exhausting. We were winding through room after room of art I knew was priceless and I was trying to capture everything to remember later. But then, I finally arrived at the Sistine Chapel. I just stood there, staring up, in awe.

Even if you’re on a time crunch, take some time to take in how well preserved, clear, and seemingly impossible to paint this fresco is by Michelangelo.

St. Peter’s Basilica: You will have to go through security, even to climb the duomo, which backs up the line to get in. Bring cash to pay the entrance fee. The climb up the stairs is not an easy climb. I truly thought at the beginning of the trip, I’d be able to climb all the domes in Italy (Ha). To save time, we paid extra to go up part of the way on the elevator, and continued up the 200+ steps to see the view of Rome from the Basilica.

Pasta making with Francesca via BonAppetour: We ended the night learning how to make pasta with Francesca in her home. Explore the website for eating adventures to personalized cooking classes. She was hilarious and very welcoming. We made orecchiette alle cime di rapa, tornnarelli alla carbonara, and tiramisu.


Gelato: We topped off the night with gelato (I know, we ate more?!) at Venci.

…and then passed out back at the hotel.

It is possible to see a lot of Rome in a day! You probably won’t see it all. Make a list and prioritize what you want to see. A tour is helpful so you don’t have to plan a couple of hours, but tour burn-out is real.



Central America, Travel

Costa Rica: Rio Celeste


February 2015, three friends and a Costa Rican guide set out to explore the legendary turquoise Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park in Guanacaste/Alajuela, Costa Rica. We took playing in rain puddles to a new level and sloshed all through the rain forest to find a gem of a waterfall.


Myth: All water is blue (Have you been to Myrtle Beach?). Fact: Rio Celeste is definitely a bold shade of blue.

Depending on the weather, it can appear light blue or turquoise. It had been raining for quite a while, so we saw it as a deep turquoise. For all the science nerds out there, two rivers actually come together to make the river and due to their different trace element make up, when they combine, the way the light reflects off those particles our eyes perceive it as blue. Here’s more information.

Even though we were soaking wet, the hike was well worth it and so beautiful. The deep green of the tree leaves, the gray sky filled with rain, made the blue water that much bluer. The hike is moderate, and possibly strenuous due the rainy conditions and the several hundred stairs you have to climb to get a better view of the waterfall.


It’s a sight you have to see to believe. So make your way down to Costa Rica and across wooden swing bridges to see one of the most breathtaking waterfalls I’ve ever seen.


Tiff’s Tips

  • Never turn down rain boots if they’re renting them at the trail head.
  • Never turn down a guide at the trail head, especially if the trail is not clearly marked.
  • Get nerdy at The Dyer (El Teñidero) and learn about what makes the river so blue.
  • Stay at the Hotel Rio Celeste Hideaway and your life will never be the same.
  • Invest in a waterproof, shockproof digital camera. Here’s the one I used.


Hike Information

  • Time: 3-4 hours (longer if it’s raining)
  • Length: about 3.5 miles one way
  • Obstacles: swinging bridges, mud, steps
  • Cost: There is a park fee and additional cost for a guide/rain boots  


Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Appropriately, the internet is out and I’m trying to write my inaugural travel post of 2017. This should give me plenty of time to write about all the places I’ve been stare at a blank page.


I’ll start at the beginning. We get to start over. Every. Single. Day. Perfect, I can try again.

It’s no secret dawn is my favorite part of any day. “Chasing the sunrise around the world”, is an item on my bucket list.

One of my favorite places to watch the sun rise is Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.

The larger than life, literal, red rocks flank the amphitheater creating a natural stage for the sun. The variety of red, pink, purple, blue, yellow, and orange of the sky makes me wonder how it’s possible they can all coexist. It is still and quiet at sunrise in contrast to the thousands of people and echoing music that usually fills this space. But I’m usually most happy to be there because I’m experiencing the beginning of a new day with family and friends.

If you find yourself in the Denver area, pop out of the city and experience the magic Red Rocks has to inspire you to make any day rock.

Tiff Tips:
  • Know what time the sun is going to rise and arrive no earlier than an hour before.                                                      I’d say that 30 minutes before the reported time is safe and you won’t get too cold.
  • Bring a jacket and/or blanket, because even in the summer, it might be cold.
  • Check out the numerous workouts you can do while waiting for the sunrise, or the summer yoga series.
  • Just sit and enjoy!


Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville, Virginia: the site of two successful friendcations, semi-middle location between Charlotte and DC, historical site, large settlement of the fratty swoop (google for definition if necessary), a college town surrounded by mountains and vineyards…so why haven’t I shared about this gem?

Pippin HIll

It is possible that Charlottesville is only memorable because of the company I’ve kept when visiting, but I’m sure you can find some girlfriends who like food and wine (if you don’t like these things, we can’t be friends). The first time we visited, was in May. The mountains were full of luscious green trees and the morning air was just a tad chilly, but the afternoon sun warmed us up from the inside out. This last time, we visited the coldest weekend in October. It was the beginning of leaf viewing season and all of the leaves were boasting with their colors, but we all know, my friends are prettier.

Band Photo

Here are just a few highlights on my must-do lists when I return next time. I will not show you a copy of the true itinerary because them you will all know how type-A I am (the rest of the world thinks I’m super laid-back). Note: this does not include Monticello, nor the University of Virginia – we always run out of time, so these tours have yet to be taken.

To Eat:

To Drink:


So grab your gal pals and blanket scarves and head to Charlottesville!