It’s time to get the heck outa here on a European adventure.
Almost time, that is. Today marks one month until I touch down in Italy to start a long-awaited summer adventure. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve traveled outside the U.S. In my book, that’s way too long.
Unlike most of my past trips, the adventure ahead isn’t for my day job. And no, I’m not doing a triathlon or marathon in some far-flung corner of the world. I earned most of the stamps in my passport that way. For years, I traveled the world as a triathlon journalist (usually at the invitation of the Challenge Family race series, and usually on assignment for Triathlete Magazine), writing and racing my way around the globe. As work goes, it was an enviable gig. Some of my top life experiences to date have come from gritting my way through a swim, bike, and run on international soil.
Sometimes a girl just needs a vacation. You know, that thing where you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is whatever you want. Because the side of working as a journalist that most people don’t see is the mad scramble to do the work, and still have time to fully experience the things you want to write about. In my fabulous life as seen on Facebook, I’m a globe-trotting triathlete with time to burn. The posts you don’t see (because I rarely share them) are of me bleary-eyed and wondering whether someone accidentally slipped me decaf, trying to meet a deadline while battling sucky wifi, lost luggage, sore legs, and travel delays.
Sometimes on the road, things go awry. Like the time I was on assignment in Asia for five weeks, and halfway through the trip the mother board of my Mac up and died. A quick blue flash and my lifeline was gone, replaced by an entirely unresponsive black screen. I lugged its dead weight to an Apple repair shop in Jakarta. The good news: it was still under warranty. The bad: they would need a week to properly diagnose the problem, and a few more to fix it. I was leaving in a few days for a race in Taiwan, with an article due daily. So I did what any resourceful journalist who doesn’t want to tap out full-length features on an iPhone would do. I bought a wireless keyboard, downloaded a janky Word program on my Kindle Fire HD, and called it a day.
This was my mini-office setup, where I managed to battle the baffling interface of Kindle and Word while reporting on Challenge Taiwan and simultaneously recovering from my own race:
Despite any snafus, I wouldn’t trade my work-race world-traveling adventures for anything. I welcome more of them, and even though I do less journalism work now than I used to, I imagine I’ll always tackle the occasional off-the-beaten-path assignment. But this year, I’m prepping for a new kind of adventure—a pure, unadulterated holiday. Sure, I’ll do a small amount of work on the road, but the purpose of my trip is all my own. Initially, I searched high and low for a race to tack on at the start. But then I thought: why bother? Don’t get me wrong—I love to race, and racing in international destination locations tops my bucket list every time. I’m a huge proponent of combining my passions for athletics and adventure, and it’s a mission of mine to encourage others to step out of their comfort zones and do the same.
Maybe it’s because I like the idea of lightening my luggage and leaving my race gear behind, but this year I decided to travel for the sake of travel alone. Actually, there is another reason that my trip is built around. I’m meeting up with 10 of my boarding school besties to celebrate our milestone birthdays. We’ve rented a house by the beach in Croatia where we’ll revert to our teenage selves while basking in the Mediterranean sun. I’ll spend a week traipsing around Florence and Rome beforehand, and I’ll have 48 hours of fun in Barcelona en route home. Hate me yet?
I know what you’re thinking, and no—I can’t take you with me. But I promise to share the adventure here. I’ll do my best to make you feel like you’re along for the ride. Plus, I’ll give you my top tips if Europe figures into your future travels. Here’s what I’m looking forward to most:
- A private pasta master class with chef Antonella La Macchia. I’ll spend a half day with Antonella in her Florence home, learning to make five different vegetarian pasta dishes from scratch. For real.
- Visiting the studio of Florence-based street artist CLET, and keeping an eye out for his street-sign masterpieces around the city.
- Visiting the studio of jeweler Elena Bertellotti. On my last trip to Florence, I bought one of her unusual rings at the artsy Mio Concept Store. A few months later, my friend Nilda (one of my Croatia-bound BFFs) visited Mio and bought a matching ring—without knowing which one I chose. I’ve been scouring Elena’s site and I think I’d like to come home with this one this time.
- A return (or two) to Ai Marmi in Rome for the best pizza I’ve eaten in Italy. And in my life.
- An entire week on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia—quite possibly my favorite place.
- Luxurious private motor yacht trips with Dubrovnik Boat Charter to explore the Elaphite Islands and Mljet Island National Park. (Eleven wild women on a yacht in paradise—can you say Real Housewives of NMH?)
- A return to Korcula Island to catch up with my all-time favorite homestay hosts, hop the water taxi for a few hours of bliss on Badija Island, and enjoy dinner at the incomparable Aterina.
- Anything and everything about Barcelona, where I’ve not yet been.
And best of all, a week with some of the greatest girlfriends I could hope for. Women with whom I share bonds built when we were 14-18-year-olds, navigating life away from home and “learning” in ways we still won’t tell our parents. Women whose divergent life paths have only brought us closer, and with whom I can’t wait to splash in Croatia’s bluest of blue sea and sip plenty of Plavac Mali and Pošip.
Yes, I’m counting down the days!