A few weeks ago, I made an odd request to one of my good friends. This individual jetted off to Israel and various locations in the Middle East and I made one request, bring me back sand from the desert. 

Now I know this sounds terribly strange to ask someone to get you sand, but the truth is that I always wanted to have a piece of another place in my collections from my personal travels and from those of my family and friends. I own pins, coins, postcards and other assorted knickknacks from places I have never been, but wish to visit in the future. I have never seen a desert with my own eyes, not even in the United States.

So I asked for sand.

Israel, the country roughly the size of New Jersey (CIA Factbook) is approximately 5,550 miles away from my home in Rhode Island. I speak not one word of Hebrew and my skin is awful in the sun, turning red with the hot burning situation. The rich cultural fabric of Jewish, Islāmic and Christian culture blends as one, even if the groups hardly ever see eye to eye.

I think Israel has always fascinated me because it seems so far away from my own cozy world in suburbia, sandy deserts in place of green parks and white picket fences. I have only read and heard about the Middle East and its exotic treasures in books, magazines, on television, in films. Now I have a part of that land in my room, sitting upon my desk. 

It came wrapped in two bags from thousands of miles away in the heart of Jerusalem. Intertwined in pink and purple plastic came the sand I requested, just the right amount of desert for my bedroom in suburbia, on a cul-de-sac far away from war zones and car bombs. I will end up buying a glass jar for it, to remind me of places far beyond my reach that maybe someday I will be lucky enough to visit.


Here is my attempt at a book review of one of the most magical books I have come across lately and I hope it does not disappoint. To know me, you must know that I love to read and the summertime always affords me that luxury. I read books that make me open my mind and soul to new places and stories that I would not otherwise experience in my life.

I picked up Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert one day while visiting my aunt, who had bought the book but not read it as of yet. I began to read and immediately identified with the author on her search to find meaning in her own life by travelling across the globe.

This book is the memoir of the freelance writer Elizabeth Gilbert, a thirty something New York City woman who has just recent been divorced and broken up with her boyfriend. She travels to three countries, Italy, India and Indonesia to find out what is missing in her life.

I identified with Liz as a writer and a traveller, but more specifically because I also lived in Rome, Italy for four months and could identify with the kinds of people and places that she experienced. In Italy, Liz wants to find pleasure specifically in the art of eating Italian food. Then she moves on to India, where she lives in an Ashram (a type of meditation retreat temple) where she learns how to pray. Finally she travels to Indonesia, to the island country of Bali to learn balance in her life. Her book is divided into the three countries she visits, and then further subdivided into stories that she tells of her travels.

I love this book and have not yet even finished the entire thing, but wanted to recommend it to all of my readers. As Americans, we sometimes never realize how different the world is outside our borders and how beautiful interactions with other cultures may be. Bali is next on my wish list of dream vacations!

There is also a film version to be released on August 13, 2010 in the United States and stars Julia Roberts.

Travel across the world is amazing, especially when you have the actual time and resources to experience it. I lived in Italy almost two years ago now, and still miss the little things everyday. But my one regret of my Italian study abroad trip is that I never came close to visiting the island of Sicily, the proverbial soccer ball that the boot of Italy kicks.

Sicily is one of those places that I have been enthralled with every since I started my strange fascination with the Sicilian mob around age 16. First, a bit of history of the mythical island.

Sicily has had its share of invaders and cultural influences, in fact its strain of Italian dialect is a combination of many languages and cultures that ruled the island. It has been ruled by the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, the Ottomans and the Normans. It became part of the unified country of Italy in 1860.

Sicily is characterized by its rocky landscape and Mediterranean mild climate, which makes it a perfect environment to grow oranges and lemons, one of its main exports. The island is only about 10,000 square miles, with the capital city of Palermo in the northwest. It is home to about 5 million people, but in the summer it becomes a popular tourist destination.

Sicily has a unique spell over the world, whether it be its control by the Mafia or the scent of its fragrant oranges. I have always wanted to see the sights and sounds of the island which has experienced so much tumult over its long history.

My ideal life would be one where I could travel for months at a time to far away places and experience new things.

I love traveling to new and exciting places, particularly with good friends. However, I would like to voice a few of my pet peeves when traveling by air, train, automobile, etc. For my most recent trip, I decided to travel by plane. Plane travel has its benefits, such as short travel time and the complimentary beverages served. Here are my peeves, in no particular order:

1. People who travel with fanny packs/bulky backpacks

I can not stand people who think it is still 1990 and fanny packs are acceptable to wear in public. Particularly if you are travelling and over the age of 40. They were never an attractive trend. Also, the bulky backpack with everything that you would ever need is ugly, and will weigh you down. Opt for a light tote bag instead.

2. Small children who run amuck in the airport

Get your child a leash if you cannot teach them enough decorum to sit quietly and shut up. I hear they come in a variety of colors and patterns.

3. The overpriced snacks/beverages in the kiosks/stores

Don’t charge me $4 for a water bottle just because you know I cannot take one through security. That kind of extortion should only be reserved for the snack bars of movie theaters.

Just a few things that bother me.

This the view from the port city of Sperlonga, Italy which is located in the southwest, halfway between Rome and Naples. I travelled here in November of 2008 and wanted to share a snapshot with you!

Next weekend, I am venturing to the great city of Chicago. I have one problem, I have no idea what I would like to do while I am there. I do not want to do museums or historical tours, but I would like to see some sites and taste some food (Mom and Dad ask that I take photos of all the food I eat). Any ideas? If you have been to Chicago, let me know what you think are the highlights of the city and maybe share some links? Thanks for your help!