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4 ways to be a more mindful traveler (and end the ugly American stereotype!)

29 Sep

As much as I love to travel, I can’t stand tourists. Yes I know, when I travel I’m also a tourist. But after spending several summer months in one of the biggest cities in Europe, it’s easy to spot the experienced vs. first-time international travelers.

Traveling certainly can be stressful and unpredictable, but that is no excuse to not act like a respectful human being. Here are four ways to be a more mindful traveler on your next trip abroad.

Respect cultural differences
When traveling internationally, it can be tough not to focus solely on the differences between one’s home country and the destination. Americans in particular find it hard to accept that many countries make you pay to use the restroom, ice and tap water are often nonexistent and bartering for goods is commonplace. But it’s important to remember different doesn’t mean wrong. Every country has unique customs, standards and paces of life. Accept them without complaint and your trip abroad will be much more enjoyable. Remember, you wanted to experience something new. Which is why you embarked on an adventure in the first place!

Quiet down
Now I don’t think Americans are particularly louder than other cultures, but they certainly do talk a lot more. After spending several months in Europe, I noticed that American tourists tend to talk incessantly while sightseeing, on the train, standing in line, shopping – no matter the situation, they love to talk amongst themselves and to strangers. This is probably where the “loud American” stereotype originates. So the next time you’re talking while sightseeing, consider pausing for some quiet reflection. Constant chatter can be distracting to other tourists.

Wear appropriate clothing
This tip applies mostly to tourists planning to visit more conservative countries. Prior to my first trip to Istanbul, Turkey, I took care to research appropriate attire for my visit. Which led me to leave my tiny shorts, cropped tops and sexy sundresses at home. Although Istanbul is a modern European city, the country is predominantly muslim, which means modesty is appreciated. By dressing more conservatively, I avoided unwanted attention and was able to visit religious sites without having to borrow coverups.

Remember you’re a guest
As a guest in someone else’s country it’s important to make a good impression. Remember, you’re representing your home country abroad, so be polite, patient and mindful of your actions.

What are some of your tourist pet peeves?



P.S. I can’t wait to share my Istanbul city guide with you! Stay tuned…

Travel Guide: Lake Como, Italy

9 Jul

Varenna Lake Como Italy Travel Guide

There is something truly magical about Italy. The food, architecture and Italian people come together to create one of the most welcoming environments in Europe. Italy is my favorite place to vacation. I have a special place in my heart for this boot-shaped country. Probably because 1: I was married in Italy several years ago (you can read about that here), 2: Italian wines lack the preservatives/sulfites that cause hangovers, and 3: the country easily accommodates individuals on a gluten-free diet. Yes, the land of pasta and bread is a GF haven. Who would have thought?!

caprese salad

Since our wedding, my husband and I made a pact to try and visit Italy every year or so around our anniversary. Last year we went back to Positano where the magic happened. This year, we decided to spend the weekend in a place we’ve never visited – Lake Como. I’ve always wanted to travel to this mountainous region in Italy. I credit one of the Ocean 11 movies for introducing me to this stunning piece of the world. Funny story – the movie Under The Tuscan Sun was the reason I wanted to get married in Positano.

Even though the weather was downright terrible (non-stop rain which is highly unusual), the scenery was spectacular and we had a wonderful time hiking, boating, wine tasting and devouring delicious meats and cheeses. If you’re looking for the perfect mix of culture, nature and relaxation, then Lake Como is your ideal vacation destination. As recommended by Rick Steves (my travel guide guru), we chose to stay in the quaint town of Varenna. One of the best parts of Varenna is its accessibility by train. Rather then rent a car, simply hop on a train from Milan and in an hour, you’re there. From Varenna you can access the other picturesque towns by ferry, bus or train.

The hotel we stayed at was called – Albergo Milano. The rooms were updated and nicely appointed. The location was perfect – boasting stunning lake views and a short stairway lead straight down to the water’s edge. The hotel is presided over by an adorable blind cat, yes you read that right, blind. Its name is Sashimi and it has the softest fur you will ever pet.

Varenna is a quiet town, so if you’re looking for buzzing nightlife, you would perhaps be better off staying in one of the larger towns nearby. That being said, there are lots of wonderful restaurants in town to keep any foodie happy. Varenna is home to one of my favorite sites – an old ruin castle. Perched high up on the hill, the castle has an amazing intact stone tower that features some unparalleled views of the Lake Como region. The only downside is the hike up. It’s along an old mule trail that is quite steep and when the weather is rainy (like when we were there), the rock path becomes incredibly slick!

Lake Como View from Varenna Castle

 – view from the castle high above Varenna –


view from castle lake como italy

  – view through a castle window –

In addition to hiking, my husband and I rented a small speedboat for a few hours one morning. This was definitely the highlight of our trip. We happily zipped around Lake Como dreaming about living in all the gorgeous villas that dotted the shorelines. Lake Como is huge, so if you decide to rent a boat, make sure get it for a least two hours.

Lake Como boat rental

The weather varied quite a bit while we were in Lake Como, so I would recommend checking the forecast a few times before you pack. The mountains and elevation can make the weather quite different (and cooler) then neighboring Milan. You’ll be safe packing beach gear and a few cooler weather pieces like jeans and a sweater for the evenings. If you like to hike, make sure to bring hiking shoes and outdoor clothes.

andi jenkins lake como italy

Now that I’m back home, I’m itching to return to this beautiful place. Next time I plan to stay longer than a weekend!