This is literally the opening line in my short story that was chosen for publication in the anthology "Once Upon An Expat". Aren't you just itching to read the rest?! Well pop over to Amazon and buy the book. You won't regret it, it's filled with heart-wrenching and laugh-inducing stories of strong women, young and old, who've found themselves all over this world and consequently found themselves in interesting situations to say the least! *cough* naked manicure in France *cough*
Recently, I had the chance to do an interview with Multicoolty, a site aiming to connect the thousands of stories lived everyday by people all over Europe with a focus on the idea of those who are global citizens- the nomadic among us that have lived in more than one country. Here's a snippet from "Meet Our Team":
We are (Eve short from Evgenia, Inga, our collaborators Nasima, Ying, Masha, Lorena in Italy and Federicain France) a team of journalists, bloggers and migration experts passionate about storytelling and photography. We have lived and worked in different countries and our international experiences have shaped our global perspective on the world we live in. We are real multicoolties and global citizens!
Every day in the countries where WE are (Germany, Italy, France) we meet plenty of people from all parts of the world just like us: bright and inspiring people who bring their cultures with them making Europe more diverse. And so the idea of Multicoolty was born as we see how Germany, Italy and France increasingly become more multicultural and global. With this project we want to provide a glimpse into the lives of multicultural community by taking pictures, making great videos, collecting short and long stories from real people we meet on the streets (and not only) of various European cities.
Anyways, check out my full English interview here (I've included just a small portion of the questions and answers from it below), or if you like, read the short and sweet Italian version here.
What brings you to Italy?
Moved to be with my fiancé, I was a pharmacist and now am doing a mixture of blogging, freelance articles, and taking advantage of being a mother tongue English speaker for teaching and consulting.
What were the initial struggles when you moved?
The main challenge is leaving behind your old life- everyone and everything in it. Besides friends and family, I had just started a profession as a pharmacist and practiced for a little more than a year before moving so that was hard to give up. Talking to other expats, the most common struggle is the language but I had a slight advantage having studied Italian back in Canada.
What are the things that you like/dislike here?
Life in Italy is so coveted because it’s really well-rounded. You have the opportunity to be immersed in pretty much any “vice” you desire – great wine, food, scenery, art, shopping, history…you name it, you can find it in Italy. Plus, being such a small country, you can travel from one city to another easily and see the topography, dialect, and food change even between short distances. There’s only one thing I dislike- the bureaucracy. Everything that should be easy is made exponentially more difficult by the need to go to several different offices with several different documents on a variety of days (during hours you would normally need to be at work)…basically it’s a nightmare and you need to behave like an Italian to get things done. By this, I mean you have to be extremely persistent and not be afraid to raise your voice!
I had never heard of Wayn (Where Are You Now?) when I was contacted to be part of their Persona Programme which aims to profile awesome, travel junkies (I'm evidently a very awesome junkie) in order to inspire the entire social network community which is made up of travellers and wannabe travellers. It's a networking site much like a Pinterest/Facebook hybrid, however with travel and wanderlust being the primary focus. The idea was born when a couple of guys were backpacking and essentially imagined a way in which like-minded people could connect based on location and as such, share tips and travel experiences along the way. Anyways, it's a neat initiative and according to recent stats, the website boasts over 22 million users worldwide.
Check out my profile here: http://www.wayn.com/profiles/Jasmine-Mah.
I've also uploaded a myriad of globe-trotting photos, some from when I had blonde hair (yikes!), as well, you can see videos of one of my all-time favourite travel moments- when I went bungee jumping on the border of Tibet and Nepal at the longest natural free-fall site in the world!
Want to be part of the Persona Programme crew?
Head over to the website and Tell them about the amazing things you are doing by completing THIS SHORT SURVEY, and you could be next.
Ciao all! My newest collaboration just went live yesterday- so honored to have been asked to be one of JJ Caprice's "Savvy Travelers" for the Summer Travel Series where the site is featuring a different country every week:
Each week for the months of June, July and August we will spotlight a different country. Inspired by summer travel and adventure, our goal is to explore the globe, one cool city at a time. Each week we will feature country-specific content including Q&A's with savvy travelers who have visited, content from natives who want to share their favorite local spots, destination-specific outfit guides, travel tips, food recommendations and more. Let the wanderlust begin!
Let the wanderlust begin indeed. Click here to read my Q&A (or click the screenshot above!) and be sure to check out www.jjcaprices.com for hand-picked (by Jen personally), locally-sourced gift ideas from all around the globe.
It's Wednesday, but instead of my usual recipe, I thought I'd write about the Milan Food Tour that I took with my friend Kyra, from Germany who is also living in Bergamo. It's still relevant because it's still on the topic of food, plus if you take the tour, you get the recipe for Mondeghili which is one of many typical Milanese dishes you taste along the way! First off, let me say I am obsessed with food tours. It all started with the Original Greenwich Village food tour in New York City, followed by the NoLita tour a year later with Massi where we (fittingly) learnt all about the influence of Italian culture on the neighbourhood. The Milan Food Tour was my hat-trick (when you score three times in a row, used a ton in hockey talk).
There is something rather voyeuristic about going on food tours, I always feel as if I'm sneaking into someone else's life, in this case, the life of someone who lives and breathes Milan and knows it's ins and outs and all it's beautiful nuances. On this tour, you get taken into seven different locales ranging from a gelateria to prosciutteria, and you'll be immersed in ambiances from trendy to antique. One thing is certain- you would never stumble upon these places on your own, and even if you did, you wouldn't know what to order. Our guide was Mirella who is piemontese but has lived in Milan for more than ten years which proved to be perfect because she personally went through the long-drawn process of discovering the city all those years ago and hand-picked all of the stops on the tour.
It was an incredible way to spend three-hours on a Saturday in Milan. Not only do you get to stuff your belly with food, you also get to hear Mirella's antidotes about Milanese culture as she points out highlights around the Brera neighbourhood that you trek on foot. One of my favorite stories was how she told us about wealthy Italian ladies who sometimes take their own pans to the Antico Pastificio Moscova (one of the stops) to be filled with a made-from-scratch lasagna. They then can take their pan home to their businessmen husbands and pretend that they slaved away all day in the kitchen (when really they went shopping on Via Montenapoleone all afternoon). Food highlights for me included my cannella (cinnamon) and zenzero (ginger) gelato, the cuts of 27-month aged prosciutto and culatello (to take an entire one home would cost you upwards of 400 Euros!), and hanging out at Princi amongst the most fashionable and attractive crowd I've ever seen (although it was Fashion Week at the time, so that might explain things). The other part about this food tour that made it fun was the fact that you get to socialize with extremely interesting, like-minded people who are typically lovers of food and travel. It's an absolute hoot to sip aperitivi and share stories in the company of people who have also been all over the world.
My Top 5 Tips for Going on the Milan Food Tour:
1. Don't eat breakfast: I made the mistake of stopping for a cappuccino and cornetto before heading to the stop because I was starving, don't do it! The first stop will be your breakfast.
2. Make sure you don't have big plans afterwards: You will be either drunk or so full that you won't be able to move, or both. Come prepared to have a few drinks, it's five o'clock somewhere anyways!
3. Bring your camera: So many great food photo opportunities as you'll see below.
4. Wear your walking shoes: There is definitely walking involved so make sure you're comfortable.
5. Be fashionable: The last stop is the Princi (a trendy eatery) location next to Corso Como and it's a pretty fashionable area of the city. If you want to hang out at the end of the tour, best be dressed the part or risk being kicked out (just kidding, but you'll feel more local if you have a nice pair of shoes, overcoat, and sunglasses...!).
A huge grazie mille Mirella and Milan Food Tours, it was a literal slice! Now for the best part, scroll down for all the food photographs...!
Besides Milan, the company also provides tours in Florence and Rome. Click the button below to contact them by e-mail. You can also reach them at +39 0552398855 or at www.milanfoodtours.com.
I am beyond happy to be chosen as one of ten bloggers involved in the fourth edition of #NoFilter, an initiative that aims to take travel photography back to the basics- no Instagram filters, no post-editing, just the stand-alone shot as it should be.
more about #NOFILTER...
#NoFilter is an ingenious project born of London City Airport and this Milan edition will be judged by the fabulous Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy The previous editions have been: #NoFilterMadrid , #NoFilterSwitzerland, and the last location was #NoFilterDublin. As mentioned above, this is a showcase of photographs taken in Milan that are not altered in any way. Each blogger will also share tips and tricks for taking photos, you can find mine below.
how I PHOTOGRAPH...
First I have to say that I'm an Auto-Focus, point-and-shoot kind of gal. I'm usually too busy checking out the gelato selection to worry about changing lenses, settings etc and I definitely don't have space in my purse for any fancy accessories. These photographs are from throughout my trips to Milan in the past six years and encompass a variety of seasons there. They were taken with either a Nikon 1 J4 (the 'Everyday' model) or a Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II (which is my current go-to camera since it is very compact for it's capabilities and purse-friendly) and are of course shown here with #NoFilter.
musings on MILAN...
Milan can be hard on the eye at times, depending on where in the city you are, and Italians often complain about how un-pretty it is. But as all travellers will tell you, the beauty of exploration and photography is to discover the pretty wherever you are. It may take some hunting is all. Milan is a metropolis, a mess of history and ambition all rolled into one and that is perhaps it's greatest vice- people (tourists especially) come with the expectation of finding a classic Italian city and forget that this is also THE city for business and commerce in Italy. Alot of the time, it's a sea of suits, women decked to the nines and yappy dogs with Prada leashes. Some of the time it's students chasing the departing trams, tourists chasing the Italian dream, and everyone else chasing a better life in Europe. But on the rare occasion, you round a corner, get lost, and find yourself in a picture perfect Milan moment so naturally beautiful, adding any post-editing tweaks would be a crying shame. Now if only that same concept could be applied to certain Italian celebrities.
Travel Photography Tips
Tip #1: Focus on something unexpected; when everyone else is taking the typical tourist photo of the building itself, try taking the sign or entrance instead, or even another architectural detail.
Tip #2: Don't be afraid to be a creep; I often take photos of unsuspecting subjects. The natural ease of people who don't they are being photographed is something that no filter can mimic.
Tip #3: Take advantage of settings; experiment with your camera and use those nighttime settings, they are provided for a reason (to make things easier for us amateurs).
Tip #4: Find a surface perch for night shots; I'm not one to carry around a tri-pod but you NEED to keep your camera steady for photos like these. I've been known to use my fiancé's shoulder...
Tip #5: Look up; sometimes the best photo opportunities can be right above your head.
Tip #6: Capture moments first; a statue or monument will always be there, if you see something fun in action, snap that instead! You can always return to the statue later.
Tip #7: Photograph like a "boss"; take a thousand of them if it means one turns out. Kneel, lay on your back, don't be ashamed to become a contortionist with your camera in hand.
Tip # 8: Incorporate nature; a touch of greenery or sky can actually enhance a scene.
Tip #9: Get off the beaten path; the shot above was taken on top of the Duomo in Milan. There's quite a set of stairs to get to it but once you do, you'll have photos that not everyone else has.
I gotta admit it Milan, you're growing on me (although my heart will always belong to Bergamo).
Grazie mille to Ms. Adventures in Italy and London City Airport for this collaboration.
A couple weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with two of the founders behind Bergamo City Kiwi, an up-and-coming fresh take on traditional city guides. Currently it is available online in both Italian and English and is an invaluable tool for discovering the Bergamo's best-kept secrets (or as the girls explain below, "kiwi shops"). The Bergamo City Kiwi crew is actually made up of four members: Marco Quistini, Raffaella Algani (R), Fabio Damiani, and Margherita Bonaldi (M). I was particularly interested in hearing about how they started this project, what inspires them most about the city that is now my own, and what advice they have for tourists that happen to visit! Listen to a snippet of our interview (in English) below:
Where did the big idea for the project come from?
M: The idea came from Raffaella. She wanted to advertise her shop and she looked for something like a nice website or a nice guide that talks about...
R: ...shopping, tourism...
M:…something about the shops and the commercial activities that there are in Bergamo, but she couldn't find nothing.
M: Every guide that speaks about Bergamo, if you look for shopping, they send you to Orio Center or maybe in Via XX Settembre. There is nothing that talks about the beautiful shops and places to eat that there are in Bergamo, there is nothing that talks about that. And we walk alot around the city and we discover all these places.
R: We wanted to do something nice for the city and for us.
So basically you saw that there was a niche, there was something missing and that's kind of how it came about?
M: Yes and we wanted to do something that talks about the real city because especially a tourist, when coming to Bergamo, they just go to the Upper Town, Città Alta, that is beautiful. Nothing to say about it, it's beautiful, you have to go there. But there are also other borghi, I don't know how to say in English, for example Borgo Santa Caterina, Borgo Palazzo, Via Pignolo, Borgo San Leonardo...the city is divided historically in these borghi and the tourists miss that most of the time.
R: We tried to do something that we like to discover in other cities when we go around.
Did you look at any other guides that maybe other cities had? Like do other cities have something similar?
R: I've never seen something quite like [Bergamo City Kiwi], there are guides that talk about big cities with particular places like ours, different, not big chains, not big shops or big restaurants. Just the kiwi shop. We talk about kiwi shop and you can find them in other guides, in the big city, but I never saw something that's only about them [kiwi shops].
There are no restaurants, for the moment. A tourist or citizen also, that walks around the city to do shopping and stops for something to eat [these are places that are included in the Bergamo City Kiwi guide as opposed to restaurants]. In our kiwi shop, that are all of the same kind.
Right, so for now there is no restaurant category, it's more 'snacky' places.
M: Or wine bars, aperitivo [places].
But you think you will do restaurants? It would be a huge undertaking.
M: I wish, it's very difficult.
R: Because you have to try to test them.
M: It's hard, I would love to. I would love to select a maximum of ten restaurants that represents not the best restaurants of Bergamo, because everybody knows the, but the one that represents our vision of the project. Being the kiwi idea.
So who came up with kiwi, what is kiwi?
M: Kiwi is our logo that is the bird, not the fruit.
R: We are living with this kiwi, we can take pictures in the shop.
Oh that's him, oh ok, you have a little cardboard guy!
M: The kiwi is a rare animal who lives in New Zealand and like our shops, is something that has to be preserved and that we don't want to be extinguished. It's something small, it's not an eagle, but it's a kiwi, it's beautiful...
R: It's particular!
M: The animal is not really beautiful, but the logo is beautiful. We love it, it has alot to offer but it's in danger [referring to kiwi shops] because all the big shops, the big chains, can put it at risk. That's the point.
Did you think of the logo before you thought of the idea or was it the other way around?
M: The other way around. At the beginning we had like, very common names like Bergamo Sotto La Mura, but we were bored so we decided to pick something very strange so that people say, kiwi...why?
I like it! Fantastic! We already talked about what the main goal was, who was your main audience?
M: It's very recent so we don't have an audience yet really, we are collecting them on FB and we are investing in advertising.
So what would your target audience be? Who would you hope to use it?
M: There are two groups...the citizens from one side because it is a guide for the citizens of Bergamo, there are lots of places to discover that nobody knows. So if you wanted to go for a glass of wine or if you want to buy a dress, maybe you can look at this and find new places that you didn't know. And for the tourists of course, that come to Bergamo. For everyone. From ages 20 to 60! Men, women!
How did you go about compiling who you wanted to include in the list?
M: We walked around the whole city! We entered the shops and asked. When we explained to them the project, almost everybody was enthusiastic so we had no problems to gather the shops.
How long did it take to compile everything?
M: We started March the past year, since then. Not everyday, but almost.
It always evolves, so there is a News section so when a kiwi shop has something interesting to say- we go there, we take a picture, we write an article and we publish the news.
Also under the Curiosity section, it's also in evolution, there is a part about the stairways of the city- to go from Bergamo Bassa to Bergamo Alta, we have an interactive map with all the stairs and the description and all the water sources where you can find fountains.
You're going to make an app?
M: We would like to. We are looking for sponsors. We want to do the app. Probably we'll do it in the next two months.
What's the best way people can use the website?
M: We have areas, that is borghi in Italian (lists them). You can navigate inside them and in each, you have all the shops. Each shop has a page with pictures and description and info, and how to reach [them]. You can also navigate by categories. One shop can be in more than one category. There is also a map.
What’s your favorite discovery in Bergamo up until now?
M: One is Chiccus, I love it. It’s a winery and prosciutteria! It’s wonderful, we didn’t know it before.
Do you have any tips for tourists who are exploring the city (besides looking at your website!)?
M: They should for sure not just go to the Upper Town but also discover the borghi, the center is also beautiful. Also Borgo Santa Caterina is very beautiful…I don’t know what to say, just discover the city!
Want to know more? Check out the contact info below or just go to the website!
tel:+39 333 316 52 31
seguici su facebook!
This is the first of my Dare to Live the Dream interviews where I sit down with some fun, fearless females who are, like the name implies, daring to live the dream by leaving everything behind and following their wanderlust.
Click above to listen to a snippet of our interview. We were having a super casual friend brunch at Culina Millcreek in Edmonton. There are multiple voices and the quality isn't amazing, but if you'd like to feel like you're literally at the table with a group of (pharmacist) girlfriends talking about Michelle's impending travel, take a seat, grab a coffee, and join the laughs!
A guide to who's who in the interview...There were five of us altogether, but in this clip, you can essentially only hear three of us- 1st voice: Jamila, 2nd voice + annoying man laugh = me, 3rd voice: Michelle. The waitress also drops by towards the end.
Michelle is a twenty-something colleague and classmate of mine from the University of Alberta Faculty of Pharmacy who recently left her job to depart on an around the world trip in less than one week from today. Michelle was born in Malaysia and migrated to Canada when she was very young-
"the last time I went back was in high school and had huge culture shock; I don't think I valued traveling the way I do now". We most recently travelled to Italy together in the summer of 2012 on a study abroad program. She is both a talented seamstress and yogi who brings puts passion and dedication into everything she does, including travel. Michelle is a shining example of someone who is daring to live the dream.
Feb 12-Mar 22: South America
Mar 24-Apr 6: Indonesia (Bali Spirit Festival Mar 31-Apr 5)
Apr 6-12: Vietnam
April 12-16: Thailand Chiang Mai (Songkran Apr 13-15)
April 16-May 2: Thailand Islands
May 3-20ish: Malaysia
May 20-June 3: Australia
June 1-6: Travel to Turkey sometime this week
June 7-13: Turkey
June 14-20: Travel to Greece
June 21-27: Greece
June 28-July 4: Travel to Italy
July 5-11: Italy
July 12-18: Travel to Spain
July 19-25: Spain
July 26-Aug 1: Travel to Portugal
Aug 2-8: Portugal
Aug 9-15: Travel to London and head back home?!
Interview Highlights (November 29, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta)
So let’s get your general plan again, when are you leaving and when are you coming back?
I leave February 12th and I’m going to start off with Rio Carnival in south Brazil, and when I come back, I don’t know yet, I’m hoping the second week of August but it just kinda depends how things play out.
The basis of my trip I guess, what I wanted it to be based on is mostly festivals. So I’m starting with Rio Carnival and then I’m going to the Yoga Spirit Music Festival in Bali (that’s like a 5 day thing) and then after that, there’s the Thailand New Year’s Festival in April. And it’s like this huge day where they have a huge water fight in the street, I guess the idea is to throw bad water away and start the new year fresh.
After that, there’s a couple of other festivals in Europe but it doesn’t really match where I want to go. There’s couple of friends who want to go to the Tomorrowland music festival, a 3 or 4 day huge electronic music festival.
Oh ya, where is that again?
It’s in Belgium. But I dunno if I’m really into that, but it’d be cool to see. But when that takes place, I think I’ll be in Spain.
Are you gonna go to running of the bulls?
I think so…wait let me see (checks itinerary). Spain has a couple of festivals, there’s the bull festival and they also have this tomato festival. The bull festival is July 6-14th so no, I’m going to miss it.
So which sections are you are mainly doing solo and which are you meeting up with people?
South America, I’m with a tour. Brasil I’ll be with my old manager. And then, Bali I’ll by myself. Vietnam as well. So I’m kinda worried because my one girlfriend heard that some guy got his arm chopped off because he whipped out his iPhone in Starbucks. It’s crazy there, I hear stories. Initially I wanted to take the overnight train but now I’m just flying everywhere. Thailand I’ll be myself and then hopefully I meet up with my boyfriend in Bangkok and then we’ll take the trains down to the islands. West Malaysia I don’t have family, I have family in Singapore and East Malaysia. Turkey I’ll be by myself, Italy…hopefully I’ll see you there.
What are you going to do about things you want to purchase, are you gonna ship things home or just be like YOLO and eat and drink everything you can?
Ya or when I meet people I’ll give them stuff.
Are you going to do your hair?
I’m going to get a travel-sized curling iron. I don’t think I’ll care about straightening my hair, more just curling.
How do you take guidebooks for an around-the-world trip?
Hopefully I can do a lot more planning before I go and then hopefully, ask the hostels. I wrote out [plans for each place] so I’ll look into it.
Is your boyfriend freaking out?
He’s so scared, did I tell you how he said if I give you $10 000, will you not go on your trip?!
Wishing you the time of your life Michelle, in bocca al lupo (good luck in Italian) and see you in Italy!
Are you risking it all to follow a life dream? Travelling the world or moving to a new country? If you are and would like to be featured in a Dare to Live the Dream interview, please send me an e-mail. xox.
Found this ridiculously cute design by artist Sasha Netchaev who wrote-
I was fortunate enough to study abroad for four months in Firenze, Italia, and it has forever changed my outlook on life. This informational poster was created to shed some light on the beautiful Italian people. I based my information off of the countless observations I made every day living in Florence. I hope it resonates with Italians and those interested in Italian culture alike.
Check out the original page here: To Be An Italian
Jasmine is a (former) pharmacist turned freelance writer, foodie, and fashionista from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.