Travel Europe

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I fell in love with Florence at a ripe age of 20 years old, when I studied the Italian language and Dante’s Inferno in a summer study abroad program  – even though what I actually did was eat my weight in gelato and run around the city with spritz always in hand.

My obsession for this magical city never died, and I always had my eye on the prize (pizza prize, to be exact) of returning to this carb filled, art centric city. Returning back to a familiar spot was a blast, especially since I already hit all the popular hot spots, and focused on hitting all of my local favorites.

What I did

Explore the oltrarno

First things first, Florence is divided by the “arno” which is italian for river. I like to think of this as Florence’s undiscovered side. This side of the river feels a bit more authentic and less crowded. The next three spots listed are located in the oltrarno.

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Giardini Bardini

My newly discovered favorite place on earth, and that’s not an exaggeration. This tranquil place was a private garden which is an extension of Boboli gardens. Every part is breathtaking, but the best part was Wisteria Lane, a tunnel of honeysuckle flowers. This spot is a great place to relax and picnic.

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Have apertivo in Santo Spirito

Italians go crazy for aperitivo, and I can see why. The best way I could describe it is happy hour on steroids. It’s a light bite style buffet, accompanied with drinks. For a traditional style aperitivo, a light (usually dry or bitter drink) is consumed, including: Campari, Vermouth, Negroni, Aperol Spritz and Prosecco – but anything goes really. Apertivio is typically between 6-9PM, and offers one drink with light style buffet between 7-10 euros. As far as where to go, Santo Spirito is a square which has such a local feel, and always feels alive.

My favorites apertivo spots in Santo Spirito include: Volume, Popcafe and Tamero

Eat Gustapizza at Piazza Michelangelo

Gustapizza (yes, it’s one word) is arguably the best pizza in Italy, and IMO the world. After your pizza comes out of the brick oven, grab a bottle of wine and a taxi and head up to Piazza Michelangelo. It’s about a ten minute drive or a thirty minute walk up hill. The views from this square are one of the best in Florence. Amazing pizza + breathtaking views = the best combo. Go a bit before sunset to get a good seat.

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I present to you, Gustapizza chefs at their finest

What I get: margarita pizza (not typically a margarita pizza type of gal – but this one can’t be beat. Also – if you’re a pesto fan, order their pesto pizza even though it’s not on the menu.)

Eby’s

A man who could be mistaken for Einstein himself. He’s the bartender and owner of an eclectic bar steps from the Duomo. The bar is open at 11am, but he typically arrives around 9:30PM(or whenever he feels like it) to create his liquor art concoctions. His signature words are “Vai vai vai” as you down shots on fire. 

What I get: Request the house favorite, anything with nutella, or shots on fire if you’re feeling adventurous 

Make pizza from scratch

Airbnb Experiences is an experience or other activity designed and led by local hosts. Hosts give guests unique access into places and communities in their city. Airbnb Experiences is currently in beta and has rolled out Experiences in about 15 cities, and lucky enough – Florence was one of them!

We made pizza from start to finish at Ristorante Toto, which is a restaurant that’s been passed down for four generations. Piero, who is currently the owner of the restaurant, was a sweet Italian man who briefed us on the history of the restaurant, and exactly how to create the perfect pizza. This was an unforgettable night, and would recommend it to anyone.

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Climb Giottas Tower

414 steps up…you gotta burn off that pasta somehow, right? Turn that fitbit on because these views are more than worth it.

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Eat your weight in gelato

Need I say more? My favorite gelato spots: Santa Trinita, Grom, Gelato la Carriaia

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Massimo leather

I fell in love in Italy….with a man who creates and sells leather purses and jackets. Florence is known for leather, and there’s even a whole market dedicated to it (Santa Croce). But the question is – are those stands selling real leather….? Probably not. His leather shop a side street off of Santa Croce, La Borga Noce specifically. He was recommended to me four years ago, and his bags are still in perfect condition and still some of my favorites.

Indulge in truffle

Truffle pasta, truffle pizza, truffle cheese – eat it all! Truffle items are a lot more reasonably priced in Italy.

Please enjoy this video of four cheese truffle gnocchi at Osteria Santo Spirito – brb currently drooling

What I learned

There are no Ubers or Lyfts, so put your phone away and put your hand up to flag a taxi

Eat all the carbs you can see, Italy is not the place to keep up with your gluten free/keto/atkins/whole 30 diet

Florence is extremely walkable

What I didn’t do this time around but recommend

Visit the Gucci Museum and enjoy an espresso on their patio after. 

I’m a real sucker for rooftop bars, and the department store, la Rinascente, has an amazing rooftop bar with views of the city and close up to the duomo. 

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Art museums galore – Ufittizi Gallery and Galleria dell’ Accademia are my favorite.

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I can’t wait to return again, if you have any questions or any of your favorite spots – comment below!

Meet Kait, an all American girl who made the leap abroad to get her Masters Degree in London. After living in England for 4 years, she is currently residing in NYC. Kait recently founded Backpacks to Briefcases, a full service career consultancy for students and recent grads. Read about her journey abroad, and the best advice for making the move to a new country.

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1. What was the scariest part of moving abroad by yourself?

For me, it was the unknown! I originally moved to Surrey, England for an exchange program my final semester of college at the University of Central Florida. Studying abroad was the best experience I have ever had, and it opened my eyes to so many new things and opened up so many new opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.

The great thing about my study abroad program was that my school organized everything for me. When I moved abroad for my internship and later began working full time, I had to deal with everything myself; applying for visas, hiring immigration lawyers, enrolling in the National Health Service, registering with the police, etc. All complicated things you would never even think about! I also believe that it’s a common misconception that if a country speaks the same language as your native country, that the culture will be very similar to your home. We know this isn’t true even amongst different states in the US, imagine the difference of being on another continent!

I was very fortunate to always have my mom there for me during my college years, so I was able to feel very independent, but also have her on call to consult about bills, paying rent, car insurance, etc. When I moved abroad, the whole system was different, so I couldn’t rely on family to help, I had to teach myself.

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(Stonehenge)

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced living in England?

My personal biggest challenge was that my stay there always felt temporary, and I wasn’t sure how deep to let myself put down roots. It was an extremely tough decision to choose whether to stay permanently, or to leave. Although I was only supposed to be abroad for 4 months for my exchange program, I ended up staying 4.5 years! These years were filled with many ups and downs (academic, professional, legal, and personal).

It is a massive struggle to find *legal* work while abroad, because you must first obtain sponsorship from your company, and not many companies are not willing to do this, especially with entry-level positions. Sponsorship is generally reserved for hard to place, highly qualified positions in the medical, engineering, and academic fields. That being said, there are internship programs you can enroll in to make this process easier!

Choosing to uproot your life and move abroad is no easy task. Regardless of how long you plan on staying, the process is not for the fainthearted! A good way to gage if you would be well-suited to live abroad for work or school is how much you like traveling, especially abroad. If you like unfamiliar surroundings, learning as you go, and making new friends, it is definitely for you!

3. What did you miss most about home?

Chick-fil-a chicken minis, obvs! On a much more serious note, I missed the feeling of ‘being home.’ Everyone has a different definition of ‘home.’ For some, it is the house they were born in, for others, it’s their home state, still others consider it to be their college town. For me, it’s more of feeling than a physical place. That feeling of safety and acceptance, of familiarity; that’s what I missed most. While I was in the UK, I met so many amazing people, made so many new friends, fell in love, fell out of love, and had 5 different residences, but it never truly felt like home. Everything was just that much harder when abroad. I still think moving abroad was the best decision I ever made, but I can also say that I am so happy to be back in America, and am extra patriotic these days!

4. What was your favorite part of living abroad?

It’s so hard to pick just one…so I won’t! My top favorites were…

  • How easy it was to take short trips to other countries. Just as easy as I would travel from Orlando to Tampa for the weekend, I could fly to France, Italy, Greece, or Spain. For SO cheap!
  • How many different cultures and personalities I was exposed to through travel
  • Pushing myself out of my comfort zone
  • The awesome variety of food!

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(Barcelona, Spain)

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(Amalfi Coast, Italy)

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(Arctic Circle, Sweden)

5. Are British accents on guys as appealing as they seem?

To put it simply, YASSSSSSSSSS. Beware of the charm of the British chaps 😉

6. What tips would you give to people looking to make a big move?

Always remember that nothing in life if permanent. Try new things! Move to new places. The absolute worst possible thing that can happen is that you don’t like it and you go back home. As I always like to say “I’d always prefer an ‘oh well’ to a ‘what if”…

 

Backpack to Briefcases is here to help you find your dream job without breaking the bank. For more tips about studying abroad, working abroad, or tips on getting hired here in the good old U.S. of A., visit Backpack to Briefcases website, Facebook, or send them an email. Best of luck, and remember the world is your oyster!

 

Meet Kayla, an incredible soul who has combined her passion of art, travel and putting an end to human trafficking into starting a non-profit, Operation 1:27. This organization is under Florida Abolitionist, and raises funds and awareness for local human trafficking prevention efforts. She’s spent the last two summers in Greece, learning more about the cause, and applying the knowledge to Operation 1:27.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Kayla Orr, I’m 24 years old, currently living in Orlando, Florida. This question’s always hard for me. I enjoy art and writing, love sports – especially spikeball at the moment. You can hear my laugh across the room, it’s sort of obnoxious, and I apologize in advance. I attend the most wonderful church, One Hope. I work full time at 4Rivers and am a proud UCF Alumni. I love business in the nerdiest type of way. Seriously, Shark Tank is my favorite show and I’ll read business and marketing blogs for fun.

Traveling became a passion very quickly. It helps me refocus, and allows me to try some great coffee shops along the way.

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2. Tell us about Operation 1:27

Based off of James 1:27, Operation 1:27 is an annual Silent Art Auction featuring all mediums of local art; from musicians, spoken word, tangible arts/crafts to baked goods. We organize all donations into a fun night of gathering together to learn about human trafficking, and bid on some amazing items. All funds are donated to Florida Abolitionist – Orlando’s local human trafficking taskforce, whose vision is ending human trafficking in all forms in Orlando, and all of the United States.

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3. What inspired you to start Operation 1:27?

My sophomore year of college I attended a conference, Passion. There was an artist on stage who painted to a song, and the message it conveyed was very moving. Being an artist and a new Christian, I had no clue where my gifts fit within the church, and that day I realized my gift of art could be used.

After attending Passion and learning that human trafficking is so prevalent locally, in my own city (and not just abroad), I decided to make this cause the focus of our efforts.

Art is a powerful voice against injustice, and artists were the original story tellers. Most of what we know about history was because an artist captured it on some medium, in their own unique way. Even today, we are still extremely moved by ancient art. I felt inspired to start the first Operation 1:27 event in Jacksonville, to raise money for local orphans and widows who are victimized by human trafficking.

4. What has been the most fulfilling part of this journey?

Seeing other people join the cause, and receiving so much joy from their generosity. Everyone is gifted in such unique, essential ways. For example: I’m a visionary, details drain me. I’ll forget something as simple as pens for the event. From logistics, event planning, communicating, teaching, catering – all hands on deck are needed for this type of event. It’s so amazing and joyful to stand back the day of the event and just watch God’s people – Christian or not – confidently walk in their gifts to make a difference in our community.

 

5. Did you ever feel like you wanted to give up? And how did you work through it?

Honestly, every year there is some thought of ‘why am I doing this again?’ or ‘this won’t happen again after last years event.’ Yet, I always end up doing it anyways. It’s tough planning an event of this magnitude in the midst of everyday life. At some points attending school full time, and working full time. I’ve often been overwhelmed with how large and complex human trafficking really is. Although, every year the Lord sustains me through my awesome friends and community, who really are the heroes in this story. I cannot do this without their selflessness, passion and support. Oh and coffee…tons of coffee.

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6. How does traveling to Greece tie into Operation 1:27?

In 2015, I went to Greece on a limb. My friend Lydia lives there so I decided to finally visit her last summer. I then connected with A21, an anti-human trafficking organization in Thessaloniki, Greece, to meet with them and learn.

In Greece prostitution is legal, as it always has been – even back to the temple days. I was blown away by how complex this issue is overseas. I was extremely curious if American business played a role in human trafficking abroad, since prostitution in itself is a business model of supply and demand. I learned very quickly it does, and what that looks like as a whole. I also learned about the need for companies to employee the rescued women, to help them learn job skills and earn an income.

During the summer of 2016, I went back again and connected with another organization. This time, I was able to visit brothels and see first hand what they look like and learn a different angle of rescuing and locating the victims. I can’t share the stories I heard or where we went, but I will say that to hear women as young as 14 and old as 21 are being held in a room for 12 hour shifts, really broke my heart and fueled my passion even more. It has led me to want to further understand business in the United States, and use art to raise funds to fight against human trafficking locally and overseas.

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(Black Beach, Santorini)

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(The Parthenon, Athens)

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(Black Beach, Santorini)

7. Tell us the highlight of your Greece trips.

Being refueled. Rest is so important, something Americans rarely value. We take pride in being the most prompt, professional and efficient. But to be in such a beautiful country with such joyful people really allows you to breathe and rest and laugh. Oh, and the food and coffee is a bonus.

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(Athens, Greece)

8. What cities and islands in Greece did you go to, and which is your favorite?

I’ve been to Athens, Milos, Hydra, Santorini and Thessaloniki. My favorite is Milos, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The beaches are pristine, the food is fresh, and the people and lifestyle is so simple and joyful.

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(Plaka, Milos)

9. What advice do you have for people looking to start their own non profit ?

In my honest opinion, while being as sensitive to peoples’ passions as I can, my advice is to research and fully think through it. The process is frustrating alone and expensive. Look around first to see if you can join a local group and get on board with what they are already implementing. There are too many small organizations – if like minded people could join together think of the impact and funding available. There is power in numbers.

10. How can readers support Operation 1:27 ?

Our event is once a year, so of course we’ll need help then. We also need help all throughout the year in different ways! Give your time, talent and/or treasure. You give where your heart is.  If you’re in Orlando, sign up to volunteer and learn more at Florida Abolitionist’s website. If you’re not in Orlando, then join your city’s taskforce. If there isn’t one, help get one started. That is how you can help the most.

Check out Operation 1:27 on Facebook

Email Kayla at Operation127@gmail.com

Follow her on IG @kaymarieee0909

 

 

I present to you Santorini with #nofilter

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13876512_10154377303792442_5090453960512603888_n(A local Grecian’s home – aren’t those flowers to die for?!)

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13925024_10154377303682442_6120155666494157338_n(Lounged & pinacolodaed at Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar)

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13932879_10154377303912442_7338207642662316431_n(This picture doesn’t do the Santorini sunsets justice)

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Couldn’t stop drinking, so sips and trips has continued!

 

1. Chateau Marmot in Los Angeles, CA

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2. Mango daquiri at The St. Regis Saadiyat, UAE

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3. Irene serving us a Sex on the Beach welcome drink in Markos Village, Ios, Greece

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4. Mint Lemonadae at Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar

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5. Riesling in Mykonos, Greece

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6. Chai Tea Latte at Brew Urban Cafe, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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7. Nutella Latte at Sambalatte in Las Vegas, NV13933355_10154365596292442_1583866673_n

8. Prosecco Pops at Loopy Doopy, New York City

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9. Merlot at Steak 954, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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10. Fresh Orange Juice at Dubai Miracle Garden, Dubai, UAE

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