The Travel Writer’s Life: Myths Debunked

by Alex Schnee
( May 26th, 2015 )

travel writer myths

I was out to dinner the other night as my last meal out in Lucca before heading to Rome and then New York, and I ended up chatting with some nearby Canadians. Inevitably, why I was living in Lucca came up in conversation, and I told them that I was a travel writer living abroad.

Whenever I mention that I do this for my career, everyone’s immediate response is always one of awe. “That’s the dream job, isn’t it?” Which is true, it isn’t a bad one. I love my work and what I do, and I am going to miss my long-term experiences abroad. However, travel and living as an expat for work is very different than choosing it for pleasure. There are some amazing perks to being able to say that’s what you do for work, but there are also times where it is exhausting, lonely, and frustrating.

Here are some myths debunked about being a travel writer.

You’re on a constant vacation—False.

Though you can certainly enjoy yourself when you are abroad, there’s a certain amount of professionalism that you need to have when traveling. I’ve traveled on both sides of that—there are times where I have not had to worry about work and have had a blast. But when you are traveling on someone else’s dime, it’s important to keep that in mind and act accordingly.

Not only does your conduct change, but you will not be doing the same activities that you would if you were traveling for pleasure. When I go to review a restaurant, I might end up in a tourist trap with terrible service and food. You also often have to stick to a budget since the company you are writing for is footing the bill.

You’re always working on the road—True.

At least for me, this is true. I’m usually writing on planes, trains, and on the move. You’re never not working. Even when you are enjoying some down time at a hostel, you’re also keeping in mind that it might be something you need to write about. It’s a lot of time and effort to take down names of places to stay, places to eat, etc.

You always get the luxury treatment—False.

It’s true that when you are on a press trip that most the time the company or establishment you are writing for will be trying to put their best foot forward and make sure you write good things about them. Sometimes, you’d be surprised at how little of the luxury treatment you might end up getting. This is especially true as a Generation-Y blogger. I’m blogging for those on a budget, so I usually have to a live and work a budgeted lifestyle too.

Have any questions about what it’s like to be a travel writer? Any other travel writers out there who want to debunk a myth?

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Coming Home: Returning from Life as an Expat

by Alex Schnee
( May 11th, 2015 )


Home Expat Life

I’m headed back to the States in a few days, and my expat journey in Italy will officially be over. I’ve lived here for a quite a while now, and it would be accurate to say that I’ve had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’m saying goodbye to an experience that has shaped me and who I am, but I am also ready to start some new adventures, as well.

I wrote a post about reverse culture shock about a year ago, and how in some ways that can also be harder for expats than the initial shock you experience moving abroad. You’re usually aware that heading overseas will be a huge adjustment culturally and emotionally, but you can be less aware that moving back can be equally as hard. Every time I have returned, I’m always surprised to find out what I’ve missed in the news and trends that I am not aware of because I’ve been away for so long (and that I’m a little isolated in Lucca).

For me, this experience also means the end of living abroad for a while. I’m ready to make up a home base from where I can travel from, to come home for the holidays, and to meet up with some of my friends rather than just to have a Skype date. Living abroad has taught me more about myself than any experience I ever could have had, but now it’s time for something new. I’m going to have to learn to be patient with myself and not expect myself to assimilate seamlessly. That there are going to be times I desperately miss the constant adventure of being on the road or sitting at a cafe with a steaming espresso. That I am going to miss certain sights and smells that I won’t be able to find anywhere else and that’s okay.

Everything ends, and my time in Italy has come to a close—but that just means that there is room for more and different kinds of adventures. I have trips planned over the next few months to keep me busy and working, so it should be easier to adjust. I’m also taking back a few little trinkets to remind me of my home here. Needless to say, the coffee is definitely one of them.

Have you ever moved back after an experience abroad? Any suggestions for former expats?

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Mamma Mia! Tips and Tricks for Palermo

by Alex Schnee
( May 8th, 2015 )

Tips Tricks Palermo

I’ve lived in Italy for quite a while now, and regrettably I’ve seen a very limited amount of it. I decided to change this by heading south to some warmer weather (it’s been rainy and foggy here in Lucca—an atypical Tuscan spring). Taking the approach that the best trips are usually the least planned, I chose to head to Palermo. It’s a city where you will find very few American accents, and some traditions and food that come to mind when you think about Italy.

Here are some tips for Palermo that I found helpful the days that I was there.

Know the two main roads.

Three streets stretch out from the train station, where you will usually arrive by bus from the airport or by, of course, train. Via Roma is the main street where you will find most the shops and ATMs in case you need to get cash. Tucked into some side streets are plenty of restaurants serving fresh seafood and pasta. The second main drag is Via Maqueda. Most of the hotels, hostels, and life of the city is located here. The good news? Both are easy to find and stay on, so you should have no problem getting from one end of the city to the other.

Watch your money and stay safe.

Unfortunately, Palermo is not the safest of cities, which is why you will find few Americans there. Shockingly, the Mafia is still a large presence, and you should watch your wallet and try to use an ATM indoors so you are less likely to have your cash swiped after taking it out. As a woman, you want to be especially careful. Try to avoid going out at night alone and reconsider a night at the club—you won’t be able to walk home with the assurance of safety like you can in other cities in Italy like Florence or Venice.

Mondello Beach Palermo

Day trip.

Palermo is a great city with a lot of character, but you can see most everything in a day or two. If you are planning on seeing some more sights, consider taking a day trip to one of the nearby locations like Agrigento where you can see Grecian, Roman, and early Christian ruins. The absolutely stunning Mondello beach is only a twenty-minute bus ride from the city center, and it’s worth spending an entire day there relaxing in the sun. Just don’t forget your sunscreen—the sun is stronger in Sicily than many locations.

Have any tips for Palermo? Any ideas for day trips?

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