Nothing Like Norway – A Trip to the Arctic Circle

I’ve been traveling now for about 6 months. For someone who’s held at least one job since I was 14, not working is a bit strange. Boo hoo, right? Yea… I know – I’m sure I’ll manage.

So a few weeks ago Steve made his way to Europe to see me. He’s an engineer who minored in Astronomy. This is one area where we really bond as I studied a lot of Astrophysics in college. So our one goal for this trip was to see the Aurora Borealis. We decided Norway was the place to go. So we planned a trip up to Tromsø, Norway in the Arctic Circle to see if we can manage a sighting.

Unfortunately,  the weather forecast was no bueno. They expected overcast and rain for the entire week meaning our chance to see aurora was probably shot. But, we tried to make the best of the cold dreary weather anyway. Tromsø is a nice little Scandinavian town full of friendly people and beautiful scenery as it sits right in a fjord. We spent several days walking around the town and enjoying some indoor activities like the movies and the science museums. Norway is rather expensive. We were lucky to find reasonable accommodation at the ABC Hotell, which also has a nice kitchen so we cooked a few meals to save some money. The staff were also very friendly and helpful.

(Beautiful Tromsø)

One day, Steve learned about a nearby hike in Skulsfjord, so we packed our rain gear and set out for a day. The hike began on a high note – no one was around and we thought the rain was going to hold out. Unfortunately we got a bit turned around as the trail wasn’t marked properly. And of course, this is the point the rain started pouring. So we head back – cold and drenched but if nothing else, it made for a good memory.

(Hiking before it got messy)

(Hiking after things got rainy and messy!)

We saw that on our last night the weather was going to clear up so we booked a guide to take us around the area and hopefully see the aurora. As we only had that one final night, having a guide show us the good spots around the Tromsø area was well worth it. We spent the evening driving around to so many beautiful view points and then settled in the mountains to wait for the light show. All of a sudden, the aurora came out of no where. It was an indescribable moment that completely made us forget how cold we were. The lights were spectacular. For about 2 hours we sat by the fire and just enjoyed the show. It was the best way to end our time in Norway.

(Amazing Arctic Fjords!)

(The boy turned his pants into shorts and went wading in the frigid Norwegian Sea… He’s nuts!)

(The light show!! Steve’s new fancy camera did a great job!)

Early the next morning Steve and I headed to Paris. The last time Steve was in Paris, he was there with 4 other military dudes and had decided he wanted better memories! Ha! So we booked a few days in the city and did all the quintessential Paris things… The Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, etc. The poor weather followed us from Norway, but we took it in stride and settled into the city for the time we were there.

(Taking museum selfies while Steve messes with his new camera.)

(Eiffel Tower – always beautiful)

Before Steve headed back to the states, he came back to London to do the London tourist bit. London now has Chipotle so we hit that up for lunch as I’ve missed it desperately since I left. I then showed him around the city for a day, checking out all the touristy London things. We ended that day on the London Eye near sunset. London is a really beautiful this time of day as the city lights up.

(London from the Eye)

Stef karaokes every Friday night. She’s a singer so it’s her thing… I go when I’m here, which means Steve goes when he’s here. We did a “spectacular” rendition of Baby Love by the Supremes. As the DJ stated, “it was what karaoke is all about!” Well, if nothing else, it was certainly memorable!

(Karaoke night!)

Stonehenge was also on Steve’s list of to-do’s while here. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Stef’s house in London, so we all packed in the car for a little family jaunt down to Salisbury Plains.  Before heading to Stonehenge, we stopped at another lesser known stone monument in Avebury. It was a great way to spend our last day together before Steve had to go home.

(The boy climbs anything…)

(Fun at the henge!)

I’m now hanging out in London for the next few weeks before heading to Africa. I miss Steve, but it won’t be long until we rendezvous  in Cape Town. I’m excited for my African adventures! Dreams coming true every day… maybe this not working isn’t so bad after all. Although eventually I’m gonna have return to the work world. Not yet though… not yet.

Beautiful Switzerland – Traveling with New Swiss Friends

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I met Elsa in the jungles of Peru. She is from the Geneva region of Switzerland and we immediately hit it off. I am grateful to have so many great memories with her throughout Peru! Switzerland was always on my list so when I made my plans I wanted to include her. Luckily for me, her wonderful family agreed that I could stay with them while there. Switzerland is a very expensive area in Europe and I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found. I was so grateful to have a place to stay and cook most meals. An average meal out could cost up to $40 per person, so if you’re on a budget it’s best to find accommodation with the ability to cook some meals.

After I met Elsa at the airport, we went straight to see Lake Geneva. We wandered over to Bains des Paquis, which is a community spot in the middle of the city where you can swim or just hang out by the lake. It has a beautiful view of the Jet D’Eau – a main attraction in Geneva – and a nice restaurant where we got a nice salad for lunch. Lake Geneva is stunning. Formed from a glacier many years ago, it has a crystal teal blue water that is breath taking.

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(Lake Geneva, Jet D’Eau, and Swans!)

We also visited the Red Cross Museum, which I highly recommend. It was very eye opening concerning what is required to respond to crisis around the world. This includes long term planning against crisis as well as immediate response teams.

I only had a week in Switzerland and I was desperate to get some nature in. I’ve been city living something fierce while in Europe. While Lake Geneva help my nature loving soul, I needed to see some mountains. Luckily there are mountains in Switzerland. We planned 2 trips. One driving to Chamonix in France to see the lovely Mont Blanc and the other was a train journey to see the Matterhorn in Zermatt.

Chamonix is a small town with the most lovely scenery. It’s not surprising that it attracts many hikers and travelers. Elsa and I took a cable car up the mountain for about 33 euro and hiked around for the day. We didn’t do as much hiking as I wanted due to me having a cold. But it was nice to have a legit reason to stick my boots on again and go for a little walk. Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps standing over 4800 meters. It’s a beautiful sight from anywhere in town.

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(Chamonix and Mont Blanc)

Zermatt is about a 4 hour train journey from Geneva. Now like I said, Switzerland is expensive. The round trip train ticket was going to run about $200. This was out of budget for both Elsa and me. Luckily her brother remembered we could get $40 rail day passes from the city counsel. This pass allows you to travel anywhere in Switzerland for that day. There’s not a lot of these passes available but we were able to score 2 passes. This meant we had to do Zermatt in a day but it was worth it.

Zermatt is perhaps one of the best ski areas in Europe during the winter. But during the summer it offers beautiful hiking with amazing views of the famous Matterhorn. It was a nice way to round out my trip.

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(Matterhorn)

Switzerland is an amazing place to travel. Between the lakes and the mountains there are wonderful things to do while you breath in the crisp Swiss air. I hope to go back one day and spend more time hiking and trekking. Summer colds can really zap your energy. But that’s all over with now. Today I’m meeting Steve at Heathrow Airport. We are going to Norway tomorrow then onto France. I’m so glad he’s able to meet me along my journey. I’m really looking forward to seeing him and have our European adventure.

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(Thank you Sweet Elsa for the wonderful Swiss Experience!)

 

Family Time – Mom Joins My Adventures

The last few weeks have been pretty busy. I left Italy and went back to London where I met mom the next day on my birthday. She was the best birthday present! 


(I also got beautiful birthday flowers from Steve delivered all the way to London!)

When I set out on this journey, my mom quickly decided to join me for a few weeks while in Europe. She has talked a lot about going to Europe so it was exciting for me to see her there. I’ve traveled to Europe many times and in general, it doesn’t feel too far removed from home for me. Especially having a best friend (she’s like family, really) in London who is willing to host me whenever I want to show up! But having momma there was especially exciting. 
So what did we do, you ask? Well… in addition to London, we had decided to travel to Ireland and Spain. I felt these two locations would provide a broad sampling of what Europe has to offer. Also, they were countries I hadn’t seen yet.

As soon as mom got to London, we hit the ground running. We only had 2 days there and I wanted to her see as much as possible. Thanks to Stef for being a wonderful tour guide, we hit all the big spots.. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abby, Tower of London, London Bridge, etc. It was so fun and exhausting running around seeing everything and watching moms eyes light up at every new place!


(Wandering around London – me, mom, and Stef)


(Fun with sweet Molly at the Tower of London)

In Ireland we flew into Shannon airport and stayed in Ennis, a near by town that was just lovely. Momma don’t do hostels so we stayed at Hotel Woodstock – which was very nice… And I must admit, having a nice king size bed to lay out on and a private bathroom was a nice reprieve from hostel life. (Thanks mom!) The most adventurous part was getting to the hotel, you see, we rented a car… and Ireland drives on the left. I was familiar with the road rules due to all of my time in the UK. However, actually executing them was a first for me. We miraculously survived and as the days went along, it all became more natural.


(The Heiny flowed heavy in Ireland as we aren’t dark beer drinkers lol)

We took our time in Ireland and relaxed, wandering around Ennis and driving to many castles in the area. The countryside was so beautiful and the Irish are some of the nicest people in the world! So cheerful and happy. I just wanted to stick one in my pocket. We ended our second day with afternoon tea in Dromoland Castle, which was spectacular. The tea was so delicious and they catered to my vegan dietary requests. While you’re going to spend about 25 euro for this little treat, it’s highly worth it – because seriously… how often do you get to have tea in a castle! Our last full day in Ireland we drove out to see the Cliffs of Mohor. This is a spectacular sight to see, despite the area being very touristed. I suggest you go early to get a parking spot.


(Fancy castle tea)


(Cliffs of Mohor)

Now onto Spain… oh Spain. We flew from Shannon to Barcelona via London and while sitting in the London Stansted airport, I realized that our tickets didn’t actually take us to Barcelona. We booked the flights with Ryanair, which says “REU” (Reus) is a Barcelona airport. Oh no, my friend… REU is about 70 miles south of Barcelona. So here I am, in transit with my beautiful “Type A” mother (I’m a little type A as well) knowing that we need to find a way to get from Reus to Barcelona. Let the adventure begin.

It turned out to be pretty easy. Just a bus to the train station, a train to Barcelona and a cab to the hotel. Not so bad, just longer than we were expecting. The whole journey cost less than 20 euro per person, which is far better than a 200 euro cab from Reus into Barcelona. So protip – don’t believe Ryanair when they say REU is in Barcelona.

(Momma enjoying the view of the Med on the train)

Mom planned three full days for us in Barcelona. Day one we toured Monserrat, a mountain with an old monastery that has played many important roles in history. One famous story is that Hitler and his crew scoured the mountain in search of the Holy Grail. After Monserrat we went to a nearby Spanish castle winery for a small wine tour/tasting. I mostly enjoyed the wine, mom however, is not a fan of red.


(Monserrat)

Day two we had a 13 hour bus tour that took us into France and Andorra. Three countries in one day is serious business! The tour was good and we got to see a lot of the Pyrenees mountains. We had breakfast in Mont Louis, France, and old military camp/fortress that is now a UNESCO site. Then we went on to the capital city of Andorra for lunch and a bit of shopping. It was a long bus ride back, but we found ourselves at the Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona with Margaritas so, whatevs.


(Baga, Spain)


(Andorra – all of it. Seriously, this is it.)


The last day was one of my favorites. Mom had booked a parasailing trip for us. I hadn’t done this before and it was a great time – especially with my beautiful mother!  Parasailing over the Mediterranean was a perfect way to wrap up this great adventure with mom on her first trip to Europe. 


(Parasailing!)

When we planned this trip, I told her we would do whatever she wanted to do and I think she did a great job planning it. I was so sad to leave her at the airport as it’ll be many months before I’m home again. But I must say, I’m desperately lucky to have the amazing support of my family as I wander around the world.

Ciao Italy – I’m moving on…

My last few days in Naples were bitter sweet. I was ready to move on, but will miss the animals, children, and of course my new friends. Someone once described Naples as a beautiful woman with dirty feet. I find this description very fitting. Naples is full of warm and welcoming people set within a stunning coastal setting. But there’s definitely some riffraff peppering the scene. It’s certainly a place to visit and spend some time as you will quickly feel integrated into the community.

Right before I left, I found a small vegan ristobar called Sbuccia E Bevi. It featured great light lunch options, smoothies, and cupcakes. Yes, I said cupcakes. I haven’t had a vegan cupcake since I left Washington, D.C. and they certainly did not disappoint. It was a superb place to grab a quick bite and satiate my sweet tooth!

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(Sbuccia E Bevi – Cupcake!!)

After Naples I made may way north to Florence. Florence has always held a special place in my heart. In short, I love its history and the important role the area played in the advancement of science. The renaissance period spurred so much new art and science and the city captures this well.

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(Duomo, Florence, Italy – Easily one of the most beautiful buildings int he world)

I spent some time in Florence about 8 years ago and was excited to make new memories with this city. I spent most of my time just wandering around, seeing the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, Tower, and of course I took a ride on the Carousel.

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(Who doesn’t love a carousel?!)

The science museums are my favorite spots in Florence, particularly the Museo Galileo – it was redone since the last time I was in Florence. The museum features many scientific instruments created throughout history to further the advancement of many areas of science from astronomy to medicine. One of the most impressive exhibits is the collection of Galileo telescopes. I spent an entire day wandering around this museum and the Leonardo Da Vinci Activities Museum. The Da Vinci museum featured many interactive replicas of his inventions and I let my inner science child run loose in there!

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(Museo Galileo. Santucci engineered this Armillary Sphere in the late 16th Century and it’s stunning!)

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(Leonardo Da Vinci Activities Museum)

Due to it’s high density of tourists, Florence is very expensive. I managed relatively cheaply, but I still spent more that I would have liked. I stayed at the Riverbank’s Hostel. It is very nice and clean and has the best location close to the Ponte Vecchio for about $35 per night. I also tried to keep my meals reasonable. But there was certainly wine – it is Italy after all.

Today is my last day in Italy and this morning I made my way from Florence to Pisa to check out this tower business. It’s beautiful here, and there’s a nice breeze. The best part is seeing all the tourist trying to hold the tower up in their pictures. I was caught up in the moment and flagged down a family to capture me doing the same.

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(From traveler to tourist in 0.7 seconds)

I loved this culture for a long time, and I’m glad I took a few weeks here to make new memories. I’m going back to London tonight to meet up with momma! She’s coming to Europe for a few weeks and we’re going to travel around a bit. Spending this time with her will be an amazing highlight in my journey. Until next time Italy, stay cool! Viva Italia!

 

 

Piedi per la Terra at Vigna di San Martino – Volunteer Days


For the last four weeks, I volunteered at Piedi per la Terra at Vigna di San Martino. During most of the year the program works with the public to provide them an organic natural experience. The goal is to promote organic food production and give people an appreciation for where their food comes from. It also reminds patrons to have a thorough respect for their environment and how their actions affect the world around them. However, during the summer, school is out and many people in the area go on vacation. During this time, the program hosts children at week-long summer camps. In a city where there is very little green space, it offers a great chance for children to spend time outdoors.


(I loved this big guy! He was so easy and gentil – not to mention stunning!)

My volunteer time coincided with these summer camps. Vincenzo had a goal to get the animals interacting more with the children and vice versa. So here’s where I stepped in. The chickens, rabbits, and donkeys were very much loved at the Vigna, but some had minimal human contact. I came in daily with fun treats and talked and played with them while I provided basic care such as food, water, and cleaning. I brushed the donkeys and held the chickens and rabbits often. They were all very good and it wasn’t long before they were literally eating from my hand.


(We had a watermelon party…)

The children would come down daily and spend a little bit of time with the animals. I showed them how to be kind to and gentile with the animals, which was a new challenge for me. I don’t have much experience working with young children. As time progressed, the animals tolerated their presence more and more. By my fourth week, the animals easily let the children pet them and pick them up. It was so rewarding for me to see the children and the animals becoming so calm around each other.



(This little cherub just loved the chickens and was so sweet to them. She wouldn’t talk to people much but would chatter away with the chickens!)


(Another one of the kids who really loved the animals and was really good with them! I’m so proud!)

Over the past month, I learned that in urban communities in Europe, conservation awareness boils down to reacquainting the community with nature. This is very similar to America, I think, as populations grow increasingly farther from their roots in nature. And it’s hard to understand the need or want to protect the environment. I hope the time I spent with the animals and children at the Vigna carries on into some life long love for all animals and I certainly hope more volunteers find value in working with these animals in the future.


(I’m going to miss these girls!)

A Napoli Experience – Tour of Naples & Neighbors


Naples is a lovely, vibrant, colorful area of Italy with many things to do and it’s very hot in July. I’ve been in Naples for about a month now and I’ve been mostly spending my time volunteering. However, between my volunteer days, I have been able to venture out and see the area. Of course I managed to see several of the museums and stunning churches, but I had a few other must-dos on my list.

(The essence of Naples – arches, graffiti, pizza, trash, and a dude leaning on a wall…)

During my first week in Naples, I made sure to find somewhere to scuba dive. Scuba is quickly becoming a big hobby of mine and I was sure to add Italy to my list of dive countries. The coast line here is stunning, with fantastic views of Vesuvius, and I being near the water is a must. I spent a day in Pozzuoli at Centro Sub Campi Flegrei where I completed two dives. My dives were at the Baia Underwater Archeological Park. Diving amidst ancient ruins was an amazing adventure. I am a bit remiss at the state of my underwater camera and hope to get better dive pictures in the future.

 

(Underwater statue)

Gaiola is another underwater archeological sight in Naples. It is one of the only public beach areas in the area, but only allows 100 people at a time in in order to keep pollution down. The area also aims to protect its biodiversity. The center at Gaiola offers many classes for young people to understand the environment and the importance of protecting it. I was fortunate enough to visit the area and snorkel the preserve area and learn about the historical significance. The water now covers a port that was used by the Emperor Augustus for his vacation home on the bay. Fancy…


(These waters were amazing to swim and snorkel in!)

Another must do around Naples is to visit the ancient city of Pompeii. As many people know, in the first century A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted killing thousands and preserving the city in a bed of ash and rubble. Over the years, Pompeii has been excavated and preserved, and those interested can wander through the remains and be taken back in time. I’ve always had a love for Roman history, and so seeing Pompeii was a special treat for me. I believe the best of Pompeii is the mosaics. So many mosaics are still intact and display some of the most beautiful geometries. They really spoke to my math sensibilities and spoke of the same within the ancient residents of the city. Finding commonalities that touch the inner workings of who I am allows me to experience something beyond my normal senses.


(Sunny wall at Pompeii. Photo by: Andrew Ahmed.)


(Geometry… )

After Pompeii, I found it only suiting to conquer Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius towers over the Bay of Naples and is stunning from any view-point and any time of day. After a 45 minute bus ride to the entrance of the park, I hiked the rest of the way up. The path is very loose and gravely and steep making the walk rather slow. But it was worth it! As beautiful as Mount Vesuvius is, the view from the top is even better! I was able to see the entire Bay of Naples. The view was breathtaking and the breeze was the icing on top!

So first I went high, then… then it was time to go low. Naples means “new city”, it was built on top of many old city ruins. This means that there are tons of underground ruins to see. Tours are available to these areas that take patrons 40 meters down where temps are a refreshing 75ish degrees. The climate in the underground tunnels is very stable, the temperature and humidity remain relatively constant throughout the year. Researchers exploit these benefits to run experiments with plants. These underground areas served as bunkers during WWII. It was haunting to see the displays of left over toys and supplies and reminds you of how prepared many people had to be in order to survive. This is definitely a must do during your time in Naples.


So when you’re not stuffing your face on pizza and pasta – al fresco style – there are many beautiful things to see and do in this area. The islands offer many tours as well as exploring other cities on the Bay such as Amalfi and Sorrento. Naples is a place to experience, not just visit. Viva Italia!

Io Sono Vegano – A Vegan Experience in Naples, Italy

So here I am, a vegan traveler, in Naples, Italy. “Io sono vegano” – I am vegan, it’s very important to know. I wasn’t quite sure how I would fare here, but I’m volunteering, and meals are part of my program fee. However, I’ve had a few problems with the catered meals not being vegan, or, in many cases, not even vegetarian. This is not the fault of the volunteer agency per se, but of the restaurant for not listening and appreciating a vegan’s needs. The explanation to me was that Neapolitans, and Italians in general, are not familiar with the vegan concept. And I understand that the whole world is not on the same page. However, when I would go out for meals, I was always able to find food.

(Pasta everywhere! This is one of my favorites – Spaghetti alla Provenzale – Spaghetti with tomato sauce, olives, and capers!)

I think the key in Naples, and in Italy, is to just peruse the menus. Most pasta dishes don’t include meat and you can easily ask for no cheese – “senza formaggio”. And always ask for dried pasta, not fresh pasta, as fresh pasta contains eggs. One of the best parts about Naples is the pizza. And we vegans are lucky because a cheese-less pizza is a staple on Neapolitan menus. This would be the “Pizza Marinara”. I would regularly order this “con zucchini” or “con fungi” to add a little variety.

(Pizza marinara con zucchini – so good!)

Another delight in Italy is the bruschetta. The toasted bread with fresh tomatoes and olive oil really hits the spot on a hot day in Naples.

(Bruschetta and pineapple. Pineapple should always be served this way. Always.)

Amazingly enough, there are a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Naples. One in particular is Vitto Pitagorico. This restaurant boasts many pizza varieties with vegan cheese and other vegan dishes. When I visited, I wanted to try something other than pizza or pasta. So I started with their fried veggies – a fresh variety of vegetables, battered and fried, with a smokey dipping sauce. So good and not the pizza/pasta you find everywhere. For my main course, I opted for an asian fusion type dish that included noodles, veggies, and almonds together in a  chili soy sauce. The flavors were awesome and again, a nice variety to the normal Italian diet.

(Amazing dishes at Vitto Pitagorico!)

Vitto Pitagorico is not the only vegan restaurant in Naples. Others include Cavoli Nostri and ‘O Grin. I have not tried either place yet, but they come highly recommended. I hope to hit them before I leave Naples in the next week.

All in all, being a vegan in Naples, and in Italy, isn’t impossible. It really just takes the same amount of diligence as anywhere else. And when in doubt, there’s always pizza!

Little Farm Big Goals

The Vigna, where I’m working, is not very large. Or, at least, it doesn’t have a ton of flat space. They find every ounce of flat land to farm and cultivate organic fruits and vegetables for the community and to offer a beautiful place for the people to go and get hands on with nature.

The summer camps at the farm are great. He brings in many kids of all ages and they spend all day out side learning about nature, about growing food organically, and about animals. The past week or so has been very rewarding for me.Every morning I get there and do a round of basic animal care providing food, fresh water, and a little cleaning. It’s great because the animals rush up to me now when I get there. I think I’m potentially buying their affection with the treats I bring them. But after this, the kids come down to see the animals. and it’s a real pleasure to sit with them and show them how kind and sweet the animals are. Teaching them to touch them softly, “piano… piano…”, as they say in Italian. The kids are great and very receptive.

The kids are also very kind to the fact that I don’t speak much Italian. The older kids will continuously inform the younger kids that I don’t speak Italian, “Non parla italiano, solo inglese!” It’s really adorable, and well appreciated!

(Vincenzo doing activities with the kids. He’s really good with them and likes to joke and have a good time! It’s nice to see.)


(Me… With the sweetest chicken, and cutest little Italian kids!)

So my work here is not as adventurous as it was in the jungle. But, that’s ok, because this work is just as important. The more seeds of kindness we plant in our youth, the better chance we have for the future.


(The life…)

Volunteering Italian Style


Naples has so much to offer… lovely coastline, kind and friendly people, and of course Pizza – vegan pizza at that! What it is lacking, however, is green space. Most people live in apartments and if they do have a house, there is no real garden to speak of. What the city does have is an ancient vineyard, on a large hill, in the heart of the city.


(The vineyard is at the top of the hill in the background. What a hike!)


(Yes… I get to make my way up there every day!)

Vigna di San Martino was originally part of a large monastery that sits on the top of this hill, next to a castle of course. The monastery and castle have since become museums and the vineyard… the vineyard has become a community garden and green space for the public. It promotes and practices organic, biodiverse farming. The Vigna offers citizens an experience with nature that serves to educate them on the importance of eco-friendly organic farming. This experience is like no other in the area.


(But you can’t beat this view!)


(Mount Vesuvius)


So where does volunteering come in? Volunteering at the Vigna generally involves working in the gardens, ensuring the weeding is done and that there is a variety of heritage fruits and veg growing. This past week, I spend most of my days doing this type of work. It’s hot, real hot here in Naples and working outside is not for the faint of heart. But I dug in and got dirty – which is my way. But on Friday, my job changed and I couldn’t be happier.


(Organic gardens don’t weed themselves!)

I’m now working with the few animals that live on the farm. These animals are safe here and they’re well loved. There are 2 donkeys, some rabbits, and lots of chickens and other foul. My experience at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary really prepared me for this. They are wanting to take the best care possible of their animals, yet the Vigna does work on limited funds. So my goal is to educate them and be very creative! The ultimate goal is to have these animals available for the summer camp children to experience them and learn that they have personalities and need to be treated with kindness and respect. This is an exciting task for me, because I really love animals and getting children involved with them early plants a seed for kindness in their futures.


(I’m so at home with farm animals… Or, well, any animals.)


(I call this guy “pajamas” and he rules the roost!)



(I try to bring treats to the animals when I can. These were quality nectarines!)

So I’m looking forward to working more with these animals and showing the kids how fun they can be.

Set Change – South America to Europe

So leaving South America was bitter sweet. I had fallen in love with Peru while I was there. The people and the landscape just filled my heart. Chile was a bit of a mixed bag of experiences. The people are awesome and I now some great friends, but being sick essentially for a month, was a bit of a turn off. However, I was so happy to get my diving license completed and to make my way to Easter Island. Those are the highlights for sure.

So on my way to Europe I made a quick pitstop in the states. It was good to see my folks. Although mom insisted that all my things smelled and everything had to go in the wash. So it was like old times when mom would wash my clothes, but this time around there were many more interesting topics of discussion!

Steve came down to visit for the weekend I was there. It was good to see him too. My dad took us flying in helicopter, which was great. I’ve been flying with my dad since I was a kid, and it’s always the best time!


(Do I look like a pilot??)


(Me and Steve… And the hat. The jury is still out on a the hat!)

After my brief pitstop, I made my way to London. Post Brexit. It was an interesting atmosphere for sure. One of my best friends, Stef, lives in London so it’s nice to have a home away from home. It was so good to see her after 3 years as well as her gorgeous daughter whom I just adore to pieces.


(Silly Girl!)


(Baby Yogi!!)


(Karaoke… It’s a family tradition.)

Europe is definitely different from South America. I’ve traveled around Europe quite a bit, including more trips to the UK than I can remember, so things familiar here, even though they’re very different from home. Europe is expensive though – way more expensive than South America. I’m fortunate to have friends here to stay with. I did have the very unique opportunity to watch a bunch of lovely British Amateur Dramatics companies have a soccer match off. They weren’t too bad… though, that could have been their acting ability kicking in!


(Lovely London Day!)

I’m currently in Naples, Italy. I’m here to volunteer with the community and help them better understand good sustainable farming practices and the benefits of such. My volunteer work is at Vina di San Martino, an ancient vineyard, olive and fruit farm, and animal sanctuary dedicated to sustainable practices and community education. I’m excited about my placement, while it’s very different than what I did in the jungles of Peru, the visions and goals of such programs are very similar.


(Viva Napoli!)

I’m excited to learn more about the very unique culture that is Napoli as well. Many friends warned me about how “dirty” the city was… but honestly, after a month of limited showering in the jungle, dirt is the least of my worries! Viva Italia!