I am known for having a fragile heart.
Traveling has only made it more obvious.

Travel gives you so many experiences that sometimes it feels like your heart may burst from all the things you’ve seen, and all the things that are left to see and do. The further you travel, the more you realize how much further there is to go.

I often wish that I could leave a piece of myself in every place that I’ve stayed and loved, so that I’d never have to truly leave. Sometimes it feels like every place I visit hollows out a little space in me that can never be filled in any other way than by returning.

As I’m preparing to leave Germany, even with a wonderful adventure ahead of me, I find a part of my heart melded in the most unexpected of places.

I suppose it is just a hazard of traveling with an open, fragile heart.


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Traveling is something that many people long to do, but the act of traveling alone is often stigmatized and looked upon with with either awe or concern.

The idea of traveling alone first came to me only a couple of years ago, when a dear friend of mine decided to travel solo and then study abroad. At this time I was completing my first trip abroad in the company of friends (which was a huge deal for me), and the idea that I could experience the world alone had somehow never occurred to me before. As the next couple of years passed and the wanderlust grew, I realized that none of the people in my life were in a position to undergo extensive travel, and it became all I could think about. Then another friend of mine embarked on a long term solo trip through Asia and worked by teaching English online. That’s when the doubt in me vanished and was replaced with determination.

I began the trip with my partner in Ireland, and when it was time to bid him a farewell back home while I began my solo adventures I broke down into enough tears to catch the pitying eyes of nearly everyone in a fifteen foot radius. All the worry and fear that I had pushed down until that moment came flooding out of me (it also didn’t help that we had to wake up at 4:00 am and I was running on less than five hours of sleep, if I’m being honest). He jumped on a plane bound for home and I jumped on a ferry and began to set out into the world alone.

As a naturally introverted person, I relished the thought of having no one but myself to rely on and entertain. So much of my life had been defined by the roles that I played around others, and now I was in a position where no one knew me and no one had any requirements of me except myself. Whether cuddled up in my hostel bed or walking down a busy street, I was free to exist just for myself. It was liberating.

Of course, this wasn’t the entirety of the solo travel experience. At a hostel in Bath I shared a bundle of grapes with a lovely woman from France as we talked about travel and teaching opportunities. In the crowds in the London Underground I noticed a child waving at me and returned the gesture. I was approached by a dog and struck up a conversation in very broken Italian and English on a beach in Sestri Levante. I greeted dozens of people from all over the world at a Bed and Breakfast in Bracco and formed potential lifelong friendships. I learned that this was really the experience of traveling solo.

Everyone’s experiences are different, but for me, travel is largely about creating connections with other people; people you would never meet otherwise, people you can learn from, people you can come to care for. The truth is, on my solo travels across Europe, I have never really been alone. I have shared cramped hostel spaces with others, worked with strangers who would become friends, and have been graciously invited to stay with multiple people. I have had moments of feeling alone, but these have been infrequent and short-lived.

For a while I was trepidatious about the connections I was building. I had felt a sort of comfort in my complete anonymity, but I soon realized that though my connections with people in the past had often brought me a sort of confinement, it now also opened so many doors and provided me with a sense of safety and happiness that I didn’t even know I needed or wanted.

So my input to those thinking about traveling solo is this: There may be times when you are alone, but those will become wonderful learning moments in which you get to know yourself and the world more intimately. The rest of the time, you really won’t be alone at all— even if it’s just a smile from a person walking by or a conversation with someone about local go-to spots at the bar. The world can be a scary place, and yes, there’s a lot of bad in it, but I have learned that the majority of people that you will run into as a traveler have open hearts. I have been absolutely inspired by the kindness and compassion of those I’ve met abroad as well as those back home during this trip.

My spot of advice for those traveling solo: You know that feeling that you may get when you realize that every single person has a life of their own, with all of the experiences and feelings and life that makes them an individual? I have been trying to interact with every person I cross with that thought in mind. Meeting new people is like discovering new cities; you can never know everything about them, but you’re always the better for trying to learn what you can.

Love, Ari


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Many of us get homesick, but some of us get distance-sick, aching for adventure and a fast track to the horizon. The worst two years of my life were between periods of travel. Granted, there were many elements that went into making that period of my life absolutely unbearable, but chief among them was the sense of loss that I felt when returning “home” from an amazing adventure. I had opened doors, collected experiences, and breathed deeply for the first time, and then when I landed back home it seemed like all I got to keep were the knick-knacks and memories. That wasn’t enough for me.

I began to experience that overwhelming feeling of wanderlust, bordering on sickness. When I have been abroad, including now, I have never for one second missed my “home”— just my friends and loved ones, of course— but the feeling of missing the rest of the world was inescapable for the entire two years that I spent trapped back in the place of my birth.

On my quest to cure my distance-sickness, I had to change a lot. I had to let go and reanalyze my ideas of what my future would look like, how I would maintain relationships, how I would practice my spirituality, how and what I would eat, how to manage my illnesses, what my personal values were, and my entire lifestyle. I went from a very depressed, sedentary individual who ate primarily meat, lived with her partner, who used a lot of props in her spirituality and who had way too much stuff (like way too much), to a much more mentally sound, slightly more active person who is at least attempting vegetarianism, is temporarily nomadic, and is living (mostly through necessity) a rather minimalist lifestyle.

These were all goals that I had at one point or another, but felt too overwhelmed to attempt when I was “home”. It was through following my truest desires that I was able to come to a place where growth in other aspects of my life was possible.

When you can come to a place within yourself where you accept that the things you deeply desire are more often than not a sign of what you really should be pursuing, life becomes a lot less complicated and a lot more enjoyable. You can choose to cure the sickness of want that you’re experiencing if you can trust yourself enough to know what you need. Maybe this all sounds obvious to most people, but it took me an awfully long time to accept these things and an even longer time to put them into practice.

The cure for my poisonous life was simple— leaving it behind, prioritizing my mental health and wellbeing over societal norms, and finding myself among people and places that make me feel alive. Maybe it’s not always that simple, but it’s always worth trying.

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When I left my life behind, I knew that some part of me was doing it in the hopes of finding something. I wasn’t just running away, I was running towards something— though at the time I couldn’t have told you what it was. I just knew that it was “out there”.

For most of my life, I felt that I did not belong, a feeling accompanied by a hollowness and a sense of longing that I could never quite understand. There was some connection I longed to make with the world around me, some search for meaning that had to be undertaken, and I became convinced that I had to leave my life behind to find it.

When I began my travels alone, I felt outside of things, completely separate from the world around me. I doubted myself, and reasoned that maybe I was searching for something that did not exist— that place where I belonged and happiness didn’t feel like such a struggle.

Then my search took me to a place called Bella Vita, a Bed and Breakfast near the Italian seaside. Through Work Away, I worked there as a volunteer, and in return I was given food, a place to sleep, and the opportunity to meet dozens of new people, while sharing the beautiful sunshine and sights with those passing through. I planned to stay for two weeks and then make my way into the unknown to continue my search.

It is difficult to put into words how the next five weeks at Bella Vita changed me. I unpacked my bags and my expectations and just began living a new life. I worked in the mornings, lounged in the afternoons, and enjoyed home cooked meals and the company of pleasant strangers in the evenings.

I learned how quickly strangers can become friends, and how easily my heart can break when they go away.

I learned that honest work, friends, sunshine, delicious food, and the sea really can bring the greatest happiness.

I learned not to hold too tightly to any schedule because life has a plan and 9/10 times it’s going to overrule yours.

I learned that there will always be moments when I feel the emptiness.

Most importantly, I learned that what I had been looking for was “home”, and it could never be found just in a place or a person.

I felt it a dozen times while I was at Bella Vita—

At dinner while watching the sunset with a new but dear friend.

Looking out over the sea and enjoying the silence with a companion.

Walking alone and encountering flowers and trees I had never seen before.

Driving on the crazy Italian mountain roads with the sunshine and wind in my hair while listening to music on the radio.

Eating gelato so good I was surprised every time I reached the bottom of the cone.

Laughing with a friend over my poor knife cutting skills while trying to prepare a meal together.

Using homemade Italian language flash cards at a public dinner with my coworkers and listening in to the many conversations around us with smiles on our faces and food in our bellies.

Drinking cups of Earl Grey tea in the late afternoons with a friend and enjoying the dying light outside the window.

Taking a nap with the neighborhood canine companion in the middle of a warm, sunny afternoon.

It was moments like these when I felt like I had found what I’d been searching for, and I had to accept that they were only moments. Moments with amazing people, in breath-taking places, and moments that I had to let go to truly enjoy. If I tried to hold too tightly to them, they began to only make me sad because they were over. So in this way I learned that it really is living life in the moment and accepting the end of things that allowed me to find what I had been looking for.

After many conversations, sunsets, shell hunting expeditions, delicious dinners, laughs, goodbyes, and minor heartbreaks, it was time for me to leave Italy. Getting on the train and saying farewell to two people so close to my heart felt like a betrayal to myself and my happiness. But I got on the train and waved so long, and allowed it all to become  a beautiful memory.

No matter what other adventures I may have, I will never forget my time at Bella Vita— so aptly named “Beautiful Life”— because it was here that I came to accept how beautiful life really can be.

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Human life is full of emotion and conflicting experiences, perspectives and desires, but one need that rings true across all of humanity and beyond is that for freedom.

It seems that with the complexity of the human experience— the establishment of civilization, and the fascinating ability for us to walk around in our own minds and objectively analyze our own consciousness— we would have held more tightly to this innate need. Instead, it seems that we have allowed ourselves to drift away from it.

We have allowed ourselves to shift our understanding of freedom over and over again to fit society’s mold of what we are expected to want and to be. There are endless layers of expectations and assumptions telling us what we should desire and strive for, from the way our bodies look to our sexual orientations, to how much money we make and how many things we own to how we speak or where and if we are educated. It goes on and on.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted freedom.

Freedom from the strict religion I was born into.

Freedom from a dysfunctional family.

Freedom from what people thought and said about me.

Freedom from my thoughts, my body, my entire life.

When I traveled abroad for the first time, I felt freedom.

No one knew me or my story in the hillsides of Ireland or the bustling streets of London. I could be anyone, going anywhere, for any reason.

I was somewhere completely new with virtually no reminders of the life I had temporarily left behind. Even I began to forget the crosses I bore, so how could anyone else know about them?

It was through travel and shedding the parts of myself that were damaged that allowed me to find my freedom. Perhaps the most important things I learned from this experience were that your freedom does exist, and once you find it you should never take it for granted.

When I returned home, I became so aware of the ways I compromised on freedom. I think this is inevitable once tasting something divine— you cannot rid your palette of the sweetness of what belongs to you. Even then it is so easy to drift back into the world of compromise and expectations.

I allowed myself to be mistreated, to be relied upon in ways that prevented me from dreaming, and to insist to myself that the path everyone else was walking was also meant for me, but I just so happened to be miles behind. I told myself I couldn’t do this or that because of my body, my illnesses, my station in life, and in that way I temporarily convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of the freedom I had experienced.

Leaving “home” was my equivalent of freedom. I did it by buying a ticket and leaving everything behind. It was immersing myself in the unknown of new places and cultures that satisfied my eleutheromania— that vibrant zeal for freedom that many people with hearts like mine satisfy with wandering and adventure.
There are many areas of life that require compromise, but I suggest not letting your quest for freedom and happiness be among them. You can always find about a million reasons to compromise in the world and believe that the things you want are not necessary, and that your goals are too far-fetched. You’ve got to free yourself of those notions and realize that compromise will only get you so far before the bars of your cage become too real.

I find freedom in anonymity and also in sharing my story.

I find it in tasting new foods, hearing new languages, and experiencing new ways of living.

I find it in realizing that there are a billion opportunities to learn, grow, and inspire.

I am still learning, growing, and finding myself. I am not some embodiment of happiness and freedom and I am not brimming with hope every moment of every day. But it has been so long since I felt alright discussing these things. Even now, I feel like a fraud, since I have so little experience embracing these qualities of life. I still struggle with freeing myself from what is expected of me, of the negative emotions I have about myself and the world, and the memories I have to tuck away to feel okay.

This is a journey for me, and these realizations are a sort of map.

Freedom, Happiness, and Hope are some of my greatest destinations.

I hope you’ll join me.

Love, Ari

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Many lives have been changed with a plane ticket.

Most of us find ourselves spending hours scanning various sites, trying to find the best deals, celebrating when we do, and cursing ourselves for not booking sooner when we lose them again. Some of us look for years, checking now and again, telling ourselves that one day it won’t just be looking.

When that time comes there is that inevitable moment when we are hovering over our device, ready to click the button that will begin the process of taking us away. Sometimes we are excited, other times resigned, but always on our way to something new, somewhere beautifully, magically, not here.

With a click of a button, there is no going back. The emotions come flooding in— there is the thrill of going to a new place, the relief of running to or from something, or even the thoughts such as “Oh God, what have I done?! I hate flying!”. (This last one is me.)

Airports are strange and inspiring places. They have undoubtedly seen many more broken hearts and reunited smiles than most of us could imagine. They are so unshakably human, most often complete with rude TSA agents, overpriced soggy sandwiches, and not enough charger ports to accommodate the milling crowds. Despite these things, airports are magical; the last frontier before your life changes, the last place you see before you defy all the laws of gravity and humanity and become airborne.


I will admit it, I hate flying. I hate being crammed into a flying tin can— the mechanics of which I simply cannot understand— with hundreds of strangers, being flown through the skies by someone I’ve never met, with little to no hope of escape if things go terribly wrong.

There is almost nothing I hate as much as getting onto an airplane, but none of that matters when we land. None of the sleepless hours, leg cramps, panic attacks, and turbulent minutes mean a thing the moment I catch sight of some new shore spread out before me and I realize that I made it, that I am living my dreams.

I think that everyone, no matter what their dreams are, have the same feelings that I do when the plane is filling with people and I hear the hatch door close. We all experience that same lurching in our gut when the turbulence hits and we are convinced that we are not going to make it. The thing is, if I didn’t get on the plane, I would always be stuck where I am. I wouldn’t grow, I wouldn’t experience new things, and ultimately I wouldn’t be happy.

Yes, I would be elated to get off of the plane, and I would be much more comfortable driving home in my car with four wheels on the ground. But when I got home to the life that just couldn’t fill me, I wouldn’t be happy. I would still be empty. And more than that I would know that I allowed fear and my desire for comfort to steal something very precious from me. And I would have to ask myself, “Was it worth it?”

For me, the answer is always no. As many times as I complain about the flight as the fated hour nears, and as many nightmares and panic attacks as I have in the days leading up to boarding, I have never let them stop me from getting on that plane.

If I can pass along one piece of advice, let it be this:

Don’t let fear and comfort stop you from doing what it is that will fulfill you.

I can’t say that all your dreams will come true and everything will work out just as you expect it to— if it did I would already be a best-selling author living in a villa of my own on the Italian seaside— but it’s a start. You owe yourself that.

I can’t exactly say that I’m a success story—so honestly,who am I to be handing out this advice?—but what I can say is that I am writing this from a beautiful B&B in Italy, with a view of the sea and a mug of tea. So this might not be a best-selling novel, and I might not own the B&B, but I’m here, and I’m happy.


As little as I am certain of at this point in my life, I am sure of this: I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t gotten on the plane.

To those reading, I hope that something in this spoke to you, and I hope you get on the plane.


Love, Ari

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