5 Tips for Planning your Next Trip

Recently, I took a quick little day trip to San Francisco because I seriously can’t go a month without visiting something new! #Typical. But as I was planning, I realized that not only do I plan all my trips the same way, but I’ve become the D.P. (Designated Planner) for all the trips I go on with my friends and family. So today I’m sharing my top 5 tips for planning trips.

Have the travel conversation” if you’re traveling with others

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I almost want to put this in caps because it’s SO IMPORTANT. Everyone travels differently. There’s the I-want-to-relax travelers, the plan-every-second travelers, and the go-with-the-flow travelers. Figure out which one you are and talk to your fellow travel buddy if you have one. I swear, nothing will cause conflict on a trip like having unclear expectations. Make the plan together, and make sure you’re on the same page. Also – don’t be afraid to split up. Even though you may be traveling with a group, don’t let the pack mentality keep you from visiting things you want to see.

Create a Pinterest board & search ” X Travel Guide” “Most Instagrammable Places X”

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Each of my trips has a Pinterest board. You can check out my general travel board here, my Hawaii board here, and my San Francisco board here. This is where I pin travel guides, pose ideas, and really anything related to the location. Some of my favorite search terms?

  • XX Travel Guide
  • Most Instagrammable Spots in XX 
  • XX Fashion
  • Tips for travel XX 

Make a Google Maps

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I absolutely love the personalized map feature on Google Maps. If you haven’t heard of it, basically it’s where you can save locations and well make your own map. This article shows you how to create one. Why do I love this feature? Not only does it allow you to aggregate all of the spots you want to visit, but you can group your sights by location. Since you can create multiple layers, I usually group sights by neighborhood or by type (restaurants, monuments, museums, etc.).

Use Instagram as your guide

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No one gives Instagram enough credit. I once planned an entire weekend just. on. Instagram. Uses the “places” tab to search your destination or try some hashtags like the #X #XTravel #XBlogger (X being the city). I’ve discovered some off the beaten paths from just scrolling through photos.

Set a budget for how much you want to spend

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Okay so maybeee I should have mentioned this first. It’s important to set a budget as a guideline. The budget will help you with deciding which restaurants to visit, how you’ll be getting around (Uber, Taxi, public transport), and where you’ll be staying.

What are your travel planning tips?

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I’m Sicilian, and NO I’m not in the Mafia

I’ve written, re-written, erased, and almost clicked “publish” on this post more times than I can count. This topic doesn’t seem to fit with my usual career, style, and travel posts. I felt the need to be 100% authentic and we’ll shortly return to our usual programming.

I don’t know – it’s something that makes me angry. Not the type of anger you see in an action movie with fists flying. But the kind of anger that brings tears to your eyes and you smile through it as you don’t know how to respond. It’s a tired anger. On a good day, I forget that it’s a problem, and on a bad day, I realize it needs to be discussed. The other day, “the straw broke the camel’s back” as the saying goes. It was one comment too many. One joke too old. And the problem is, no one is standing up for against it. I’m Sicilian, and no, I am NOT in the mafia. Let me clarify, my family is also NOT in the mafia.

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Would you feel comfortable walking up to a woman in a hijab and asking her if she’s a terrorist? Or would you feel okay with hearing someone speaking Spanish on the street and then asking them if they’re part of a drug cartel? I would hope that the answer would be “definitely not” because those stereotypes don’t apply to everyone – and they’re typically created based on a radical few that somehow start to define an entire group.

The media – TV shows and movies – have a way of romanticizing certain crimes (think: The Netflix Series Narcos or The Godfather) and villainizing others (have you heard the opening music to Disney’s Aladdin? Go back and listen). I get it. It’s interesting. It makes for great entertainment. The problem arises when we subconsciously forget that when groups are being villainized or romanticized, we blur fiction with reality.

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You might be wondering how any of these problems have absolutely anything to do with me. If you were to walk past me on the street you probably just think, “there’s another white girl.” Or you might not think anything at all because I easily blend into a sea of white skin and brown hair. If I opened my mouth, you would hear an accent-less English voice and just assume “American.” So, like you might be thinking, what does any of this have to do with me?

Often when people meet me, they ask “What is your heritage?” When they learn that I’m Italian, the conversation typically goes like, “You’re Italian?! I LOVE Italy. Where in Italy are you from?” Knowing what is about to come next, I usually smile and say “Sicilian.” 9 times out of 10, I hear “Do you have any Mafia connections? Is it like the Godfather? We need to make sure we get on your good side.” Because 9 times out of 10 the people asking are complete strangers, I laugh, they laugh and life goes on. And as I walk away, my face falls and deep down it feels like a complete hit to my heritage. My theory is that because my accent says California girl, people assume that I’m removed a few degrees enough where it can be a joke.

I am not the type of person that gets easily offended. I can deflect insults left and right. But these insults have been going on for years. And it took years for me to realize what was actually happening.

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My earliest memory of this mafia connection was in 6th grade in Latin class. My Latin professor called me “Miss Mafia” when he discovered I was Sicilian. I was too young to really consider what he was saying and thought it was funny. Looking back now, that was not okay. I’ll admit that for the longest time, The Godfather was one of my favorite movies. While an amazing cinematic creation, that movie has basically single-handedly massacred an entire culture.

Here’s the reality of who I am and where I have come from. My grandparents grew up in a town of less than 10,000 people outside of the capital of Palermo during World War II. My grandfather was one of 10 children, and growing up he often told me about how many times there wasn’t enough food to go around. They would go to sleep hungry. My grandmother remembers leaving town in the darkness one night to go hide in the olive groves because there were rumors of potential bombings.

Fast forward to when they eventually immigrated to Canada with nothing. The rumors of all Sicilians being mafia meant that my grandfather was rejected from job after job because Sicilians supposedly would steal and cheat. Despite being white, he reminds me that he was subjected to a discrimination he couldn’t hide with his thick accent and heritage that he couldn’t change. Eventually, my grandfather started one of the first pizzerias in Toronto, Ontario and went on to have a chain of 13 restaurants. My grandmother started by working in a factory sewing undergarments and subjected to that same prejudice due to her background.  They worked tirelessly to provide for their family.

This story isn’t so different from that of so many other immigrants that came to America to seek opportunity. When you look at me, on the surface you’ll see a white girl with a BMW that went to private school for most of her life. But I am so unbelievably proud of where I come from, and it is something that I think about every single day. I am also unbelievably grateful and aware of all the opportunities that I’ve been offered due to the hard work of my family.

But when you ask me if “I have mafia connections,” you’re discrediting all the years of hard honest work and suffering that my family has overcome. When you ask if “I have mafia connections,” you’re asking me if my family has killed, broken the law, taken from innocent people, and engaged in what I would consider targeted terrorist activity, to get to where I am.  And it hurts.

It hurts that an island that dates back to 12,000 BC, that has a unique language, where the art of comedy was born, home of Luigi Pirandello and other Noble Laureates, and of course, where Cannoli were invented; is discredited by summing it up with “the mafia.”

It hurts that I don’t feel comfortable telling strangers, “hey that’s offensive. It’s ignorant. It’s untrue.” The reality is that in general, when we make jokes we need to consider where that joke comes from. Just like there are drug cartels in Mexico, there is Mafia in Sicily. I’m not arguing that the Sicilian Mafia doesn’t exist. As my Mexican friends have told me, it exists but they don’t let it define their rich culture. Mafia in Sicily exists, but it is a small part of the island and not something that really affects you unless you’re involved.

It hurts that some of the most progressive people I know have made these comments without even considering what they might be saying. If we’re all working towards equality and respect for each other’s cultures, why do we allow some cultures to have a “sensitivity” precedent over others?

Lastly, I want to comment that  if you’re reading this and have asked me this question before, this isn’t being written to make you feel guilty, or to garner an apology. I know that you weren’t trying to be hurtful. And maybe had I said something before, you would know that it hurt. This is being written because I have been silent long enough. This is being written to educate you and ask you to think about how your comments and questions can affect others.

For many people, including me, my Sicilian culture is one of my strongest identities. When you joke about someone’s culture, whether it be to ask something as small as to ask an Irish person if their entire diet consists of potatoes, or as big as asking a Colombian if they run a cocaine ring – remember that it may be funny to you, but to someone else it may be a direct attack on their ancestry.

I’ll leave you with that, and don’t worry, a horse’s head won’t end up on your front porch :p (jk)

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San Diego City Guide

Hi loves,

So today I’m sharing something with you that let’s be real, I should have done YEARS ago– a San Diego City Guide. I mean I was born and raised in San Diego. I’ve been holding off on this and now it’s finally here!

I’m sharing with you some of my favorite places– from brunch to shopping. This guide is a work in progress – as I discover more I’ll be adding to my list!

BRUNCH & ACAI

COFFEE

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You can see my post with more detailed descriptions here.

 BEACH

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  •  Law Street Beach – Locals only! (JK). But it’ll be hard to spot a tourist tanning at this small but very popular locals beach.
  • Mission Beach – The college scene. There are a lot of young people and it can get pretty loud. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach experience this is not for you. But if you’re looking for f.u.n. then give it a go.
  • La Jolla Shores – Fam time. Though you’ll see a mix (friends, family, tourists), you’ll primarily see families with small children at La Jolla Shores

HIKES

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  • Torrey Pines Hike – If you want cute pics & a mile long “walk.”
  • Potato Chip Rock – It’s 6 miles round trip and you do it for the potato chip shaped rock at the top.
  • Iron Mountain – #Views, but be ready to get your uphill incline on.

SHOPPING

  • UTC – Spend the morning visiting the seals at the La Jolla Cove before heading to UTC ( basically in La Jolla) for lunch and shopping.
  • Fashion Valley – Fashion Valley is UTC’s boogier sibling. Here’s where you’ll find all your luxury brands – think Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and more.
  • Girard Street – Girard Street in La Jolla is all about ambiance. It’s where you go for a nice walk, a cup of coffee, and popping into small boutiques.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

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  • Safari Park (Read my post about it here)
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Balboa Park
  • SeaWorld

FARMER’S MARKETS

You can find the full list here. Below are some of my favorites!

  • La Jolla – Sunday’s 9AM- 1:30PM
  • Little Italy – Sunday’s 8AM – 2PM
  • Hillcrest – Sunday’s 9AM – 2PM
  • Ocean Beach – Wednesday’s: 4 pm – 7 pm (October – March). 4 pm – 8 pm (April – September)

“HIDDEN ATTRACTIONS”

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You can check out the site Hidden San Diego for more cool ideas but below are some of my personal favorites:
  • Adobe Falls Hike (find my post about it here)
  • San Diego Suspension Bridge (find my post about it here)
  • Mushroom Caves Hike
  • Ho Chi Minh Hike (find my post about it here)

What are your San Diego favorites?

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Your Instagram Guide to San Diego

This is Part 2, in my San Diego Guide Series  – where I’m talking about some of the most ‘gram worthy spots. In Part 1, you can find a list of my favorite coffee shops here. On this list you’ll find a few classics (think : La Jolla Cove) and a few places off the beaten path.

PIGMENT [ NORTH PARK ]

Pigment isn’t only extremely Instagrammable – from the mountain of succulents, to the ombre pink wall outside, to the egg chairs – there’s a lot to photograph. Not to mention they have the cutest shop, which is a great spot to bring your friends a little San Diego souvenir.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR? MURAL [ 7596 EADS AVE, LA JOLLA ]

Make this quick stop if you’re planning to head to La Jolla Cove. Fingers crossed no one is parked in front of the wall – since technically it is in a parking lot.

SALK INSTITUTE [ LA JOLLA ]

If you’re into white backdrops, ocean views, and minimalism, this spot near UCSD is a must visit. There’s something eerily beautiful about everything being off-white and smooth.

BEFORE I DIE WALL [ Corner of University Ave & Richmond St. ]

Quite a few cities now have a “Before I Die” wall, but if you find yourself on University Ave, it’s worth making a note of one of your dreams (which taking a picture of it).

LA JOLLA COVE [ LA JOLLA ]

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La Jolla Cove is a classic. Take a walk by the Children’s Pool to see the seals, or head into the La Jolla Contemporary Art museum to check out the latest exhibit. You can see my post about the museum here. All I can say is the cove is an Instagrammers paradise!

SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK [ ESCONDIDO ]

This is the closest you’re going to get without actually heading to Africa on a safari. You can see my post about the experience here. Just note: this experience doesn’t come cheap – the “Caravan Safari Adventure” costs about $110 per person, on top of the entrance fee. But with those palm trees and blue skies in the backdrop (and the giraffe of course) it’s 100% worth it.

ADOBE FALLS [ SDSU AREA]

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Note: This short hike is technically illegal, so venture at your own risk. I have mixed feelings about the whole hike to the falls because on one hand, it’s kind of cool to see the city meets nature, but on the other hand it’s sad that humans have destroyed it. See more pictures from my adventure here.

HO CHI MINH TRAIL [ LA JOLLA ]

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This hike is by no means difficult distance wise, but you want to be sure to wear shoes that have some tread so you don’t slip in the crevices. You can get lost (not in a bad way) amongst the sand formations. Bring along your GoPro and get some cool shots. Note: the entrance is pretty hard to find so make sure to do your research! You can see my post about the hike here.

SAN DIEGO SUSPENSION BRIDGE [ HILLCREST ]

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The San Diego Suspension Bridge (featured here) is hidden in a residential neighborhood on the edge of Hillcrest near the San Diego Zoo. Pro tip: try to visit in the late afternoon or early morning to get a chance to take pictures on the empty bridge and not get hit with too much sunlight.

COMMUNAL COFFEE [ UNIVERSITY AVE ]

I mentioned Communal Coffee in Part 1 of my San Diego guide. No explanation needed as to why your ‘gram needs this.

I’ll be adding to this list so be sure to check back! What are your favorite spots in San Diego?

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6 things I wish I knew my freshman year of college

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to mentor a few incoming college grads asking me what my advice was on becoming “successful.” I like to think success is a constant work in progress, but for my current stage in life (I’m a Marketing Strategy Manager at a Tech company), I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for where I am. I will admit, it was a major uphill battle for a lot of college, as I made mistakes that were a lot easier to make than to fix. That’s why I want to impart some advice that I wish I had known as a freshman in college.

1.Your GPA Freshman year matters

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Some people will argue that C’s get degrees. True dat. C’s also don’t get you your dream job. I remember first semester freshman year I ended up with a 3.97 GPA. Great right? Second semester, things went a little downhill as my classes got harder and I got distracted with trying to get more involved on campus and make friends. A few ‘bad’ grades (okay they were in the B range but still) dropped my GPA by almost .5. That’s CRAZY right? I soon learned that it’s so easy to drop your GPA, and almost impossible to raise it. It took me 3 years of raise it to a 3.73.  I still to this day regret that one semester. Do yourself a favor, and just don’t take your pedal off the metal.

2. Burn the bridge that is those toxic relationships 

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I swear, my downfall has always been giving people way too many chances. College is supposed to be the best time of your life, and life is too short to spend time surrounding yourself around people that bring you down. Don’t forget that. Seriously, all that drama will weasel it’s way into every corner of your life – physical, mental, educational, EVERYTHING. Just walk away from people and situations that don’t positively impact you.

3. Be a leader on campus 

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So this one I actually figured out my sophomore year, and by senior year I’d held over 9 leadership positions. I cannot tell you how much I learned about myself and others by being on the board of organizations. I had my fair share of frustrations with people that just didn’t care, people that wanted the leadership role as a “resume builder” without actually doing any work, and people that just drove me all types of crazy. But I also learned how to send professional emails, public speaking, flexibility, and problem-solving. I use those skills every single day in my current job.

4. Apply to internships ASAP

I started interning after my sophomore year of college, and wish I had started sooner. Throw the advice of “applying to internships junior year” out the window. (Well not totally). Your internship after junior year is really important. But to get that stellar internship, you need to have some experience! It’s never too early to start applying (and your career services center can help). My recommendation is to start small with companies that don’t have super strict internship programs. Even if you intern for one month of your three month summer, that will help build your resume, as well as allow you to explore different paths. I definitely didn’t know what industry I wanted to go into my freshman year. I went from academia, to publishing, to medical technology, to retail, to finally tech. Also, those industries helped me realize where I wanted to be.

5. Do something in business (minor, major, whatever) 

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Okay, here’s the thing. I may be biased because I double majored in Marketing and International Business. But let me tell you, I am the go-to for all my non-business friends for resume help, email writing, presentation creating, and work attire. Because NEWS FLASH, in business, classes actually teach you that stuff. And it is life helpful. As in, it’s helpful in real life. Unlike bio and logic class. Do yourself a favor, if you have your heart set on engineering or comm or whatever, at the very least, minor in business. You’ll thank me later.

6. Find something that makes you happy. 

Something that I figured out just recently, (like Giulia what were you doing for the other 23 years of your life?!), is that you should make time to do something that make you happy every. single. day. I was a total stress case for most of college. Ask anyone that knew me well, I had my fair share of stressed rants, gray hairs, and moments where I was so nervous I couldn’t even eat. A lot of it had to do with not allowing myself even five minutes a day of doing something that made me happy. It could really be anything, 5 minutes of morning meditation, watching a show on Netflix, treating yourself to coffee… something that you can tangibly look back on and be appreciative of. I think that had I done that, some of my stress could have been avoided.

On that note, welcome to college! If you have any other questions feel free to comment below!

Photography: Karya Schanilec Photography

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