Creating a road map to happiness through travel

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. Perception is reality.

One of my most vivid memories to this day, is the first time I ever traveled out of the country. When I was eight years old, I left the Carribean feeling exhilarated, yet at ease. My world was forever changed. I felt clarity because I knew that my purpose was to learn and study each culture around the world. Every year I would make it my goal to go to at least one country that I had not been to before (even if that meant traveling alone). However, I figured out that the more I travelled, the more I want to travel and I quickly finished my first thirty countries in the next ten years. With every new custom and culture I explored, the more I was changed and fascinated by the psychological effects of travel. During my time in Italy, I have been able to further discover how travel can improve our mental health.

  1.      It’s a great stress reliever. The stress of demands of everyday life can distract us from what we find meaningful and interesting. While traveling I am able to slow down and prioritize the things that truly interest me. I found that this also helps promote happiness.
  1.      It helps one reinvent themselves . Solo travel expert, Valerie Wilson, said “experiential travel has the ability to expand your mind in a way you never realized was possible.” Learning about different values helps me reevaluate my own principles and sometimes change them. Traveling also gives us a fresh start and a new found passion for life.
  1.      It boosts happiness and selfconfidence . The new events and experiences help “rewire” the brain, which can help promote a better mood and more confidence. A Cornell study once found that the anticipation of a trip can increase happiness substantially, even more so than acquiring something tangible like a car.
  1.      It makes us mentally flexible or resilient. Living somewhere exciting, but intimidating has helped to toughen me up, mentally and emotionally. I never thought I would be a solo traveler, but once I gained confidence, I realized this is when I hit my peak of internal reflection. Furthermore, travel helps us handle adversity with grace.
  1.      It enhances creativity. Engaging in the local culture stimulates creativity. It also can improve productivity and problem solving skills.
  1.      Lastly, it has the potential to enhance everyday life because we can recreate those feelings back home by preparing dishes we found on our travels etc.

“A long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet” – Patrick Rothfuss

Ciao,  Shelby Sires



Putting the Pieces Back Together

It’s funny how much I have learned about my own culture while living in another culture with 18 other people for 9 weeks.  Taking off the blinders of my own social norms and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes is so beneficial and fascinating to me.  It has made me consider why my values are what they are, why others have their specific beliefs, and has helped me make my mind up about who I want to be.

As our time in Italy is coming to an end, I can’t help but reflect on just how helpful these past 9 weeks have been in shaping who I am and who I aspire to be.  I honestly didn’t think it would in the beginning but living in a totally different part of the world with 18 strangers has taught me a lot about myself.  The various workshops in class were truly beneficial, but outside of the classroom with my Chigi family is where I grew the most. Moments such as realizing we have to literally tell the waiters to stop bringing appetizers or else they will continue bringing plates of food, the early morning train rides, or simply enjoying a cappuccino before class are moments that make this experience so memorable.

Being in Italy with so many unknowns, we as a class have to work out things together daily.  This gives us a chance to really see how we work in groups when solving a problem, but without having to do it for a homework assignment or lab project.  We get to  live out real world situations that require us to figure out who we are in a group dynamic. Living and traveling with 18 people might sound challenging, but it has helped me work with all kinds of different viewpoints and has left me with some pretty amazing people I can now call friends.

One take-away after living in another culture with people from various upbringings is to jump into something that might shake up what I thought in my mind to be true. When I put it all back together and add in the new experiences and knowledge I have gained, I have been shaped into a truer version of myself.  It might have felt a little unsettling or intimidating, but in the end I discovered things about myself that I didn’t know were there to begin with.


Ciao Ciao for now!


Blakely Heideman

Some of us on a weekend trip to Germany for Oktoberfest!

Cairo Culture! by Jacob Garcia

| Above: Me on a camel in front of the Great Pyramids |

Before starting this absolutely amazing journey with Joseph S. Bruno Abroad in Italy, people were constantly offering me travel tips and advice on where to go and what to see. A lot of times this was very useful information, but I also find it to be a bit biased. At the beginning of the semester, with the world at my fingertips, I was eager to get out and start exploring! One particular destination and world attraction I have always wanted to see were the Great Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt. This destination also happens to be the one place almost everyone, including my parents, informed me NOT to visit. So what did I do?  I booked a flight to Cairo, Egypt! Was I nervous and scared? Absolutely. Were my parents mad at me? Extremely. Did I still go? Obviously. I knew Cairo was not going to be like any other trip previously taken. For other countries, I mostly look for the best places to eat and the coolest places to see. With Egypt, though, I knew I was going to have to put a lot more time, energy and research into this trip so that I could ensure my safety and the safety of my travel companions. Thus bringing me to my 5 travel tips when traveling to Cairo, Egypt:

Travel Tip #1. RESEARCH.

  •  This is first priority before traveling to any new destination overseas. First and foremost, I check and see if the country is safe and why it might be unsafe by visiting Government-approved websites containing more information on the state of the country I plan on visiting. Next, as a minority it is imperative that I make sure the country is safe for ME to travel too. Just because a country is safe for the majority does not mean it’s safe for the minority. As a member of the LGBTQ community I made extra sure to pay close attention to what life is like for gay people in Egypt and how to keep safe.
  •  You want to  make sure you look into your hotels really good! I read lots of reviews and look up its locations! We stayed at The Safir Hotel in Cairo, which online looked like a super safe and touristy hotel. However, while it was indeed a quality hotel, we were a little unaware that the hotel was located in a fairly residential area. The hotel clientele mostly consisted of Arabic people. Nothing was wrong with this, however it did make things a tad awkward at times.
  •  Lastly, I looked at costs. Egyptian people are very kind and happy people, but they love to take advantage of a good situation. The American dollar goes very far in Egypt, making it  inexpensive to have an absolutely amazing experience. However, Egyptians are very aware of the exchange rate and love to charge a lot more when they find out someone is American! I was sure to look into food, travel, and souvenir prices before arriving to ensure I was not over paying.

Travel Tip #2: Plan a rough itinerary ahead of time.

Cairo is a huge city and there are tons of things to do and see! Planning a rough itinerary before  my trip was important because Cario is so big that I needed to preserve time to discover and explore things my online research had not accounted for. Also it is good to plan ahead because, although Cairo is a relatively safe city, it is not a city where I could just walk out of my hotel and go exploring! I had to be smart. Hotel travel desks are very useful resources. A lot of times they will have trip packages with English-speaking guides and a driver available for the whole day.! An English-speaking guide is important! Cairo is filled with amazing ancient history and a lot of fun facts, and having an educated English-speaking guide on hand really enhanced my experience.

Travel Tip # 3. Prepare to be stared at!

In American culture we consider it extremely rude and inappropriate for someone to stare at someone else. That is not the case in Egyptian Culture. Women will be looked at regardless of how much you their cover your bodies.  Egyptians are very curious people and they don’t see American tourists very often, especially young American tourists. The staring is for the most part just out of curiosity and completely harmless, so I kept in mind I was visiting another country and a different culture and just ignored it. It’s a little weird at first but I got used to it!

Travel Tip #4: Egyptians Drive insane!!

I have been to five countries now and hands down Egyptians are the absolute most insane drivers I have ever witnessed. They say a person needs 3 things to drive the street of Egypt: A good car, good eyes, and good luck! In Egypt there are no traffic lights, lanes, or laws. Well, there are some traffic laws, but from what I gathered they are all very optional! I just buckled up and braced myself because that is another culture shock in and of itself.

Travel Tip #5: Absorb the culture!

Egypt has so much culture to offer! One of the things I was most nervous about was visiting a lot of the local mosques. I wasn’t  nervous due to the fact that they were Muslim. I was more nervous about the possibility of offending their religion or interrupting their worship! However, In my research I found that Egyptians have some of the oldest and most beautiful mosques in the world. Learning the customs and visiting these places was an amazing experience. I also bought myself a Galabeya! This is the traditional Egyptian/muslim robe/attire. They are extremely comfortable even in the Egyptian heat. I was laughed at, but also receive many compliments and respect from other Egyptians for my effort in adapting to their culture, and would recommend to my male friends to do the same! Also smoke the sheesha, a form of tobacco often referred to as hookah in America. There are many places in egypt that sell shisha including the hotel we were staying at.  

To wrap up this blog, Egypt is an absolutely fantastic place to travel to! It is filled with so much culture and life.! The people are so kind and willing to help whenever possible. The food is absolutely amazing and the sights are out of this world! Seriously, the pyramids were built by aliens. It is such a magical place where ancient history and traditions meet a more modern way of life! Egypt is safe. Egypt is beautiful. Visit Egypt.

My Grand Cultural Tour

Paragliding in Zermatt, Switzerland!!

This semester has been quite the whirlwind. From first arriving in Ariccia, to every JSB field trip, to our independent weekend adventures, it has been truly amazing and such a unique learning experience. I have become much more independent, and have tried to absorb everything around me along the way.

My favorite adventures thus far have been our optional field trip to Positano with everyone and to Switzerland and France with my mom over fall break. I love the beach, so being able to go to Positano along the Amalfi Coast was awesome. This place is like a fairytale with its narrow and winding cobblestone walkways and its colorful buildings all set up on the hill. Anna Caitlyn and I were able to rent a small dingy one day, which was so worth the risk. Although we chartered a boat one morning, this dingy ride was exhilarating just cruising through the rough waters and getting up close and personal with the massive yachts and enormous cliffs.

Switzerland was one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen. My mom and I traveled to St. Moritz, Zermatt and Lucerne. Zermatt was such a unique place because they don’t use cars, they only use these small gold carts as taxis to take people back and forth from the train station to their hotels. I went paragliding, much like renting the dingy in Positano, paragliding was a surreal experience. Running off a mountain and being lifted in the air was so nerve-racking, but once I sat back and relaxed in the air and just took in the scenery and the immensity of the Swiss Alps I realized how much world there is too see, and how small I really am. Twirling in the air and getting close to the mountain faces and trees was an incredible experience I will never forget.  Later, my mom and I hiked through the Alps and that experience was just as incredible, offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the slowly melting glaciers that may not be there 30 to 40 years from now.

Italy and Paris have given me a new and deeper appreciation for fashion. My mom and I took a train to Paris after our adventures in Switzerland, where we focused our experience more on the food and fashion culture than exploring the museums. We took a fashion tour and walked around the old Jewish district of Paris. The tour guide explained how Parisian style works, and how girls, and boys never buy an entire outfit from just one store because that is “boring.” Instead, they go to vintage shops, consignment stores, and other clothing stores to create a unique look of their own. Parisian style is making simple outfits stand out by adding an amazing bag, jewelry, scarf or shoes.

Although some adventures were thrill seeking, others were informative and gave me an insight to Parisian and Italian fashion. This semester has given me more of an appreciation for fashion in general because online shopping isn’t everything, and you should go out and explore the stores.  Even if I am not going to buy anything, going into certain stores in Paris and Rome really should be about the experience and being able to see the art of visual merchandising in a couple of the fashion capitals of the world.


Brigid Hans

Moroccan Me Baby

I’ve been looking forward to midterm break all semester. A year ago I would never have thought I’d be traveling to Africa, or guessed that my Moroccan getaway would serve as such an inspiration for my life and my future design work.

I chose to stay at a Riad, a traditional Moroccan townhome, instead of a typical hotel or AirBnB because it opened me up to the Arabic culture. What really made the townhome special was not only the beauty but also the location. It was in the midst of the locals. Being with the locals showed me how the people live, dress, and experience everyday life. On my first full day in Marrakesh, I rode a camel and got dressed up in a djellaba. A djellaba is a traditional Moroccan long loose-fitted garment, paired with a scarf wrapped around the head and face. I am studying fashion design, and experiencing the garments of different cultures interests me. Finally, I finished the day shopping in the Bazzar, which are the markets of Morocco. The Bazzar is set up like a flea market. The fun part was bargaining for deals because the shopkeepers will overcharge you if you are not a local. Luckily our tour guide helped us get some great deals.

On our second day in Marrakesh, we went to the Yves-Saint Laurent Museum. I was more than excited to visit. The museum was filled with all his sketches and designs. The designs were his most popular pieces. They ranged from custom-made outfits to just regular mock-up designs. There was one section where photos were not even allowed because of the precious fabrics used.

On the last day, I went to Casablanca and visited the Masjid Hassan II mosque. The colors of the mosaic were breathtaking and inspired me to make a collection of clothes. I can’t wait to get back to the Chigi Palace and start sketching. I will always remember my weekend in Morocco as an inspirational trip!

Siobhan Johnson

My first ever camel ride!

How Food Heals the Soul

As we approached the bridge leading into Ariccia, the Palace looming in the distance, I realized I hadn’t only become homesick for my friends and nest in the short ten days away, but also the Italian food that has become so integral in our day-to-day life. Only a few days before, sitting in a typical British pub, my friend Sarah and I had remarked over a serving of fish and chips how nice it was to finally have something that wasn’t Italian food! Yet here I was sitting in a taxi on the way back from midterm break, anxiously awaiting my next taste of Amatriciana from the restaurant down the road.

In the six weeks we’ve spent in Italy, I’ve come to understand how the diet and dishes that scatter the tables of both restaurants and home kitchens not only reflect the palate of this amazing country, but also a way of life. Italy is a country that takes great pride in everything it does; no action seems to be made without purposeful thought and food is no stranger to this concept. It shines through in our interactions with the locals at the food markets that line the streets, proudly showing off the produce that has grown just down the valley. There is no concern for ‘perfect’ looking foods here, instead ideal growing conditions and fruits and vegetables that bear the best flavours. Every week at cooking class, as we work alongside our sweet cooking teacher Mary Lou, I learn more about the importance of good quality products in the kitchen. The principle ‘less is more’ seems to be regarded as a golden rule around here; rather than overpowering the taste of the meal with a laundry list of ingredients, the idea is for the quality of the ingredients (generally only three or four) to be the star of the dish.

A glimpse of the ravioli workstation at our cooking class!

It isn’t only the ingredients that compose food here. It’s the idea of a recipe that has withstood time, and moreover the common link of human hands that have formed and moulded the meals that grace our tables. I saw this first hand in our cooking class we took a couple weeks back. I was surprised upon arriving to see that our teachers were not Italians, but a married couple from New York who had moved to Umbria to open a cooking school. How weird, I had thought to myself, that we were going to be learning about traditional Italian meals from two people residing in the same country as the rest of us. Yet, as we began the class and spoke to Gerry and her husband, I felt inspired by the same passion that had led them to give up their lives in NYC and move to the beautiful countryside of Italy.

It was in learning to make pasta, working alongside my friend Reilly, kneading and rolling out the dough, that I came to understand why the human touch makes a difference. That human touch not only has an effect in the ways we interact with others, but in the way we create and consume our food is a beautiful outlook on life. It is one that makes me understand why Italians are so proud of the food they create, and one that makes me feel a little less guilty as I reach for that next bowl of pasta.

I can’t help but savour the short time we have left in this magical country and the food that fills our plates.

“I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.” – Auburn Creed

For now,

Ciao Ciao

Emma Stevens