The Conversation That Started My Passion For Travel

"You have a European soul... you know that?"  The statement that would shift my entire perspective of life as I knew it was a passing notion said by my favorite person on this planet, my Grammy.

Untitled-3.jpg

It’s hard for me to explain my love and devotion to exploring the world without thinking of my favorite armchair adventurer, my grandmother. You see, my Grammy was cultured by novels and anthologies, by practicing world religions and delving deep into cultural exchanges through the pages of thick, worn books. She’s never adventured further than Florida, but the woman could spin into frenzy about Lao Zu, the navigation of the Vikings and everything between. Her love for learning, and, more importantly, her love for culture and history has completely and utterly propelled my desire to see and savor the wild, wide world.

My favorite armchair adventurer may not have crossed an ocean, but I sure think the reason that I’ve crossed so many is because of her excitement for this planet we are on.

In elementary school, Wednesdays were my favorite weekday. My Pop-Pop would pick me up after school, secretly let me switch the gears of his old, champagne colored Toyota Camry up the long, tall hill that lead to their split-level house. And there, on the screened in back-porch, would be my Gram, always reading. The image of my grandmother I will always have etched in my mind is that one. The breeze sifting through the mesh screens, the bells hung on the wooden beams above swaying, and her, languidly, happily in her own world. In my early youth, we spent so many days together making, reading, learning, and dreaming.

You see, my grandmother would fill my imagination with so many stories and wonderings, that I would sneak downstairs at night exclaiming, “my mind won’t shut up!” and she would laugh and laugh, and back upstairs we would go to make up stories together from where my mind would wander.

In my teens, my grandmother and I would lye on the mauve colored carpeted floor of her living room, sifting through magazines and we’d talk of so many things… art, music (her love for the “dark side” of music was particularly relevant to me at the time), movies, books. And that was where she looked me in the eye and said, “you have a European soul... you know that?” with such certainty and eagerness. 

With that sentiment, the whole world seemed to open up in front of me. Yes, I had heard about London and Paris and Rome, but was it possible that maybe I belonged in those different places? Was the reason I felt so different because maybe I had the mindset of someone from far away? Were the lives and people really that much different from my own? What was life even like in Europe? A thousand questions spewed into my mind. And with those questions came a devotion to dreaming of far off places.  

So began my lifelong love of wanderlust. Unable to study abroad during college, I pinched my pennies working four part time jobs after graduating, knowing that my ultimate goal was to fly to Europe, explore the cities I longed to see and find a piece of myself out there in the wide, beautiful world.

Untitled-2.jpg

My experiences traveling since my first journey abroad have been wildly varied, but all so fulfilling. From the white sands of Thailand’s island shores, to the gloomy, overcast Highlands of Scotland, to the gritty cityscape of Shanghai, to the spicy dishes from Korea, to the untamed beauty of Iceland, my boyfriend Luke and I have made a habit of summering abroad for the entirety of our relationship. We’ve gotten incredibly lost in the mountainsides of the Japanese Alps, we’ve tasted the insane deliciousness of Bologna, we’ve stayed out far past our bedtime with locals of Taipei and every single experience we’ve had together has instilled such an appreciation and wonder for this little blue planet we’re situated on.

But it's always upon my return from these wild explorations abroad that I instantaneously want to run to that screened in back porch, where I know I can find my Grammy languidly waiting to hear all about the adventures I've had. It's always upon my return that I want to thank her, for her instilling her relentless inquisitiveness, her appreciation for new, her wild imagination. I want to thank her for making me feel like a child of the world. I want to thank her for putting a fire in my feet to go see, go do, go make good. 

So, Grammy... if you're reading this (which I'm sure my mother will insist on showing you), you already know what I am going to say. Your kindred spirit sets out into the world because of the curiosity you have instilled upon me. I cannot thank you enough for that.


Where does your desire to travel come from? 

Feast Of Saint Pizza: Lancaster Edition (& How To Host Your Own All-Day Pizza Adventure!)

It's the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the year! That's right. At this point, our annual Feast Of Saint Pizza is basically my favorite holiday. The idea is simple. Choose a city (large or small!), eat at ten of their best pizzerias, indulge in ample amounts of carbs unabashedly, compare our favorites and have a BLAST while doing so. It's basically a day filled with pizza... and what's not to love about that?

IMG_2831_0278.jpg

Inspired by the dudes on The Feast Of Saint Pizza podcast, two years ago my dear friend Sara of Cake Over Steak coordinated a quest for the best slice of pizza in our small town of Lebanon. Our tradition continued last year on a much, much larger scale in Philadelphia. I couldn't be more thankful for all of Sara's INSANE, crazy ability to organize a pizza crawl for all of us. Check out our previous feasts in Lebanon and Philadelphia if you haven't already, and Sara's too here!

And do be sure to check out Sara's post on our day in Lancaster too. I love her illustrations of each pizza slice we ate. So freakin' cool. And she's a food blogger, so homegirl definitely knows the ins and outs of all the deliciousness we ate! 

This year, Sara brought up the idea to host our feast in Lancaster. With the insane amount of love that I have for my little city, I was sort of bursting at the seams with excitement. Not only is Lancaster incredibly walkable, but getting to learn about the pizza shops I haven't frequented yet sounded like a dream come true! It's kind of crazy how often I choose to order a pie from the same couple of places, so having the opportunity to expand my horizons and learn more about the slices available in my own neighborhood. 

Lancaster is truly a melting pot when it comes to pizza. We have everything from your typical mom-and-pop pizza shops (THE BEST) to your more upscale, wood fired pizzas served with fancy cocktails and appetizers (WHO DOESN'T LOVE THAT)... basically, we have the best of both worlds working here in Lancaster. And trust me when I say, we were more than willing to try both!

Want a taste (pun intended) of what we experienced? I've got our entire day's adventure on the podcast today and Sara's got the true, detailed foodie run-down right here. Without further ado... here's a highlight reel from our pizza adventure in Lancaster!

IMG_2862_0309.jpg
IMG_2731_0442.jpg

HOUSE OF PIZZA

IMG_2734_0444.jpg

To start our day's adventures, we started at the mighty House Of Pizza. This place is not only POPPING at 2 am (I can speak from experience!), but it was also the first place that opened in the morning. Turns out, House of Pizza does not play! Seriously guys... if you find a pizza place that only closes for, say, eight hours a day, you can bet that it's delicious.

It's always a little odd to start taking notes at our first stop. With little to compare our first slices to, who knows where it'll rank when we've fully gorged ourselves, right?

Well, I can honestly say that starting at House Of Pizza was a total win. We weren't too quick to hop to conclusions, but I'll be honest we ended up referring to it later on in the day over and over again. 

Crusty, sweet sauce, great cheese to sauce ratio. We really hit off the day on a great note by coming here first!

 
IMG_2774_0222.jpg

FEDERAL TAPHOUSE

A short walk away (or to be more clear, a half a block away from our first stop), we hit up Federal Taphouse for some of the wood fired pizzas. This time we got really classy and ordered a fig pizza and a duck confit one as well. Although the flavor combinations sounded chic... I'll be honest, this was not our favorite. The crust was a bit dry and flavorless. Perhaps we found ourselves comparing their fig pizza to Luca's (one of my personal favorite pizzas I've ever had), or maybe we just didn't care for the extra amount of arugula that was added on top. These pies didn't quite nail it for us. But then again, with the amount of flavors Fed Taphouse serves, maybe we chose the wrong pies!

 
IMG_2791_0238.jpg

ALLEY KAT

Gotta love a classic bar-grill-pizza place, right? The Alley Kat has always been a conundrum to me. I've passed its doors so often, and yet, I've never been compelled to go inside. Well, that changed during our feasting, mostly because their "famous Alley Kat pizza" came highly recommended online. We ordered a classic cheese pizza as well as a white pizza with some additional ricotta (good call, Dave!) for good measure. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being an absolute knock out... Alley Kat is a strong 5. I can't honestly say we were blown away, but I can see how coming to a place like this would be fun for a slice!

 
IMG_2831_0278.jpg

SLUGGER'S

Okay, discovering this place (which is aptly decorated in baseball paraphernalia due to its location near Lancaster's baseball team) was like hitting the jackpot. Our friend Nick, who's lived in Lancaster for some time now, hyped up the buffalo chicken pizza... and MAN, he was not exaggerating.

I LOVED THIS ONE. The chicken on top was smothered in breading and buffalo sauce, and having an additional side of ranch to dunk its delicious crust in was a total home run. Pun totally intended. Guys, you'll never find me ordering buffalo chicken anything and I loved it so much. Their regular pie was great as well. They nailed their cheese to sauce ratio. Which is huge, in my opinion!

Slugger's quickly became a top contender after House Of Pizza. I mean, you know you've found a gem of a pizza place when you order another pie the same week as our feast. No shame here, guys. It's just that good.

 
IMG_2897_0344.jpg

THE FRIDGE

Ah, The Fridge. Being only a few blocks away from this gem of an establishment is a joy. With a long row of fridge's (duh) lined with some of the best craft beer bottles, as well as a few seasonal favorites on draft, mixed with a great little menu of nosh-y foods... The Fridge knows how well beer and pizza play together. 

We ordered a few flatbread pizzas to share, mixing in some veggies as much as possible. Trust me when I say that it's always around the half way point when we all start craving some serious nutrients. Our favorite? Hands down, their veggie flatbread pizza. With everything from snap peas, to purple carrots, peppers, onions and more, served on top of a crispy, crunchy flatbread dough... it was a fantastic switch up to the classic dough-cheese-tomato sauce train we were riding for so long! 

After tossing back some more slices of their margherita and mushroom pies as well, we were firm believers in The Fridge's kitchen. Although this was necessarily our all time, standout favorite from the day's feast, it definitely was a high scorer in most of our books. 

 
IMG_2915_0353.jpg

ESPINO'S

I live a blessed life, and that's because Espino's Pizza is a stone's throw away from our place. I couldn't even count with two hands the amount of times we've ordered Espino's. From our long day's moving in, to the impending snow storms when we celebrated "snow days", to the random Tuesday nights when we didn't feel like cooking. We know first hand how delicious this place is. And it holds a special place in our hearts, for sure!

And that's why hearing such positive responses to their pepperoni and our "family tradition" pepper pizza was so heartwarming. Espinos' crust WINS. With a cornmeal dusted bottom and a doughy yet firm (not soggy) inside... this was another crowd favorite within a few bites of each slice!

 
IMG_2980_0406.jpg

LUCA

Oh dear, sweet Luca. I could write poetry about this place. No seriously, I could.

Luca is a family-owned Italian eatery that has been killing the game here in Lancaster. When Sara and I first sat down to plan our festivities, we knew that without a doubt, Luca would HAVE to be on the day's schedule. 

Luca's staff were incredibly helpful in allowing our group of almost 30+ people to sample their best and most delicious pies. We started with their fresh, seasonal Sorrento pie with crema, basil, shaved garlic, buffalo mozzarella, shaved lemons and spring onions (one of my absolute favorites!)... followed by their classic Margherita pie wit crushed tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Hands down, their Margherita is the most authentic slice I've had since leaving Italy a year ago! Finishing up, we ordered their spicy Piccante pie with crushed tomato, hot soppressata, mozzarella, pecorino, shaved garlic and hot honey, and their delicious Norcia with tallegio crema, mozzarella, thyme, black truffle, pancetta and black pepper. All of the pies were mindblowing. I have to give a nod to their attention to detail when it came to pairing of flavors. Every pie had something special to offer. Every bite was savory, mouth watering and downright life-giving.

Basically you guys, we FEASTED. And we loved it. And we LOVE Luca. 10/10 forever and always.

 
IMG_2986_0411.jpg
IMG_3000_0417.jpg

LANCASTER BREWING COMPANY

By and large, our trek to Lancaster Brewing Company was one of the longest "treks" we had to do in our day of feasting. And by "trek" I mean we had to walk about a mile (and after a cocktail or two, that can be quite the adventure)! 

After ordering a few selections of their their hand tossed pizza, ... we realized our long walk was absolutely worth it! Their BBQ chicken pizza with smokey barbecue sauce, chicken, red onion, chives and cheddar jack cheese was the bomb dot com. But, hands down, their Hawaiian Hog pizza with smoked pork, pineapple, tomato sauce, aged mozzarella and cheddar stole the show. It was SO delicious. Especially if you're a believer of pineapple on pizza like this gal!

Lancaster Brewing Company really surprised us. I've gone here multiple times and admittedly not known what to order from their extensive menu. Now I know! 

 
IMG_3011_0428.jpg

DICARLO'S

Ahhhh... if there's one thing that's remained the same in all three feasts we've taken part in, it's this: there's ALWAYS a mystery pie that sweeps us off of our feet. This year, it was DiCarlo's (at least in my book)!

We ordered a pie the "DiCarlo's way" with a crispy, Sicilian style crust with sauce baked until it's nice and hot with finely shredded provolone added post-oven to maintain its flavor. Well, without a doubt, the DiCarlo's family knows that this unique style of making a pie is what sets them above the rest. We were all salivating over our slices.

And again, you know a pizza has blown your mind when you're dreaming about it only a day later! 

 
IMG_3013_0430.jpg

DOMINION

For our final stop, we pretty much took the whole dang place over! After waddling a few blocks down, I think we were all pretty much tapped out on dough and cheese. Nevertheless, we happily scarfed down a plain cheese and pepperoni slice of Dominion's pizza! 

 

Lancaster-ites do you agree? Did we miss one of your personal favorites?

If you want an inside glance on our day adventuring around Lancaster, DEFINITELY pop over to our podcast and take a listen to what trouble we got into! I'm pretty sure we got TOO interested in things like the cheese-sauce ratio (which is oh-so important, my dear pizza loving friends) and rambled on a lot of important pizza plans. This is probably one of my favorite podcast minisodes to do every year... mostly because I love my friends, I know you'll love them too, and man, are they a hoot and a half!


When it comes to planning and organizing your own Feast Of Saint Pizza... third time was definitely the charm. Sara and I met a month or so before the feast to rehash our plans, but we basically had it all covered. Sara, I'm pretty sure you could do this with your eyes closed next year!

For those of you who are excited to create your own Feast Of Saint Pizza in your hometown (or even on a larger scale), here are some of our tips for hosting your own version of Feast Of Saint Pizza:

COMBINE PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS WITH ONLINE ONES TOO

Meeting with Sara about a month ahead of the big festivities, we discussed how she sifted through the seemingly endless amount of recommendations that came our way from friends and other Lancaster-ites. Say hello to the beauty that is Facebook event pages! All of us who planned on attending this year's feast received updates and were able to voice our opinions and favorites all in one place. Easy-peasy.

After seeing a big old list of recs from friends, Sara crossed-checked recommendations made on Yelp, Trip Advisor and the like, seeing if there could possibly be any other spots that were ignored. Most of the time, you'll find that your highest recommended places are also well loved on the interwebs... but it never hurts to look! Cross-checking your recommendations with what's online is a great way to solidify your line up as well as which pies to order because, believe it or not, you're probably going to want to sample more pizza flavors than your classic cheese and pepperoni! 

TEN IS A GREAT NUMBER

Indeed it is. For all three of our feasts, we've settled on the fact that the number ten is the perfect amount of places to visit in a day! Trust me, any more might set you over the edge. But any less is just a little easygoing for our nature. Yes, ten pizza places (and slices each) seems to be a lot, but you'd be surprised!

SCHEDULING

In a perfect world, you gather a solid crew of pizza lovers, you meet at your first stop and all of you make your way around your city of choice without any snaffoos. However, as we all know, life happens. Although it seems like we always have our "core crew" of feasters who are there for the long haul, some couples and small groups had to leave or arrive late in the game due to a variety of reasons. 

You'll find that most mom and pop shops can come in a variety of sizes. From large spaces to sit, to hole in the wall shops that can barely squeeze a few people, it's important to know the size and popularity of your stops. For example, we knew that Luca was an upscale dining choice and a confirmed reservation with an estimated amount of people was absolutely necessary! In contrast, places like DiCarlo's and House of Pizza had ample amount of room to fit our party and a reservation was not needed. Scope out how large your party will be and give your fancy places a reservation or at least a heads up with your estimated time of arrival.

WHEN FOOD COMA STRIKES...

Walk it out, talk it out or.... if all else fails, drink some water! 

GET INTO IT

Pizza themed tee shirts are 1,000% welcomed! So grab your favorite pizza paraphernalia, create an Instagram hashtag (check ours out at #feastofstpizza) and post as many Instagram Stories/ Snapchats as possible! The best part of feasting is the act of doing it together... so make it a BANG of an event.


Why Adventure Is A Mindset & 5 Tricks To Tap Into It

I think we can all agree that we're enthralled with idea of adventure. We say yes to weekend trips, we find ourselves double tapping images of girls looking out towards an epic skyline, we want to collect as many passport stamps as humanly possible... we're those type of people. We want to drink in the world.

The reality of life is that most of us can't hop on a plane at any moment in time. Between physical restrictions, work schedules and limited vacation time and the dreaded financial strain that comes with booking a grand adventure, the truth is... life often gets in the way of letting us live our adventurous dreams.

And that's why living worldly and traveling without travel is something that is so important to us creative adventurers. By adopting a mindset that encourages a curiosity for life, we are able to see the larger scope of the world in our own backyard. By tapping into an adventurous mindset, we can explore while tracing the same steps we've trekked for years. We can discover while staying in our neighborhoods. Yes, adventure is totally a mindset. And sometimes, it can be even more meaningful than a passport stamp. So let's explore this new outlook on exploration together, shall we?

Why Adventure Is A Mindset & 5 Tricks To Tap Into It

1. Observe - Always Be On The Lookout

The art of adventure stems directly from observation. This skill is one that we forget, especially in today's fast-paced, saturated and distract-able society. To sit and notice, without a camera, without a phone is to find a little taste of adventure, no matter where you are. Stop, be still, look and become hyper vigilant. Look for the oddities. Look for the ordinary, and then look deeper. Notice patterns, trace lines in the cracks of the pavement, question sounds... just look closer. Observation is an art form. It takes a willingness to be curious and receptive. But with practice, observation will lead you directly to adventure.

Late this summer while cooling down from my tri-weekly running routine, I started noticing all of the vivid colors of my neighborhoods' front porches. It was like they were asking for me to document them! From that first day on, I made it a point to take a different route home in order to find a new "porch scene" to document and appreciate. And, yes, for those of you asking... I am totally known as the neighborhood weirdo since I started this tradition! I just can't help myself!

2. Do One Odd Thing A Day

Reroute your commute, make an odd choice in your morning routine or switch your meals (eating waffles for dinner is ALWAYS a good idea). By keeping your schedule ritualized, we often forget the joy that can come with some change. Take the scenic route during sunset, go to the nostalgic diner that you pass on your way home, just switch it up. Altering your course, while remaining sensitive and observatory in every turn, can open an adventure in a matter of seconds.

IMG_5762.JPG

3. Consider Every Sense

Becoming hyper-sensitive to the smells, sights, tastes, textures and sounds that surround you on a daily basis is something overlooked so often. What are the specific sounds you observe your particular block? How are they different to say, the sounds in the closest park... or even compared to the sounds you've heard on your last grand adventure? Are there similarities? Record them, share them, write about them! How does your backyard (or closest park) shift and change with the seasons? Are there particular foliage or flowers that you look forward to seeing? Go see them! Is there a tree that blooms the absolute best cherry blossoms, or the brightest, most vivid fall leaves? Document it's changes! Is there a texture you see repeatedly used on exteriors of your area? Are they anything like you've seen in other parts of the world? Draw comparisons! See if you can find your own local Taj Mahal! When you consider every sense, picking up on nuances that you often overlook, curiosity takes over and (you guessed it) adventure ensues.

4. Stay Curious, Document Often

Question everything. Find the stories behind what's sitting around you. Don't consider anything to be ordinary. This seems obvious, but boy does it take practice to master! As I've mentioned above, documenting "front porch scenes" was by no means my intention when I first noticed the crazy blooming flowers in my neighborhood. But adding a little dose of curiosity to my routine run has definitely allowed me to gain a deeper sense of appreciation and understanding about my neighborhood. 

IMG_5724.JPG

5. Think Like A Newborn... Or A Tourist

Live your day as if you've never seen what's around you before in your life. I mean, that's what adventure is... isn't it?

Living here in Lancaster has definitely opened my eyes to Amish history and culture. So much so that I sometimes forget how odd it can be to drive past two or three horse and buggies everyday to work... like, helloooooo Laura, this is totally not a normal commute thing! I'm sure to many tourists would see a horse and buggy and it would completely make their trip. And that, my friends, is why seeing your surroundings with a fresh perspective can 100% add a serious dose of adventure to your day to day.

Ask yourself... if I were a tourist, what's one thing I'd love to see or do in my town? 

Why Adventure Is A Mindset & 5 Tricks To Tap Into It
FullSizeRender.jpg
IMG_5794.JPG

 

We are able to travel without traveling. We are able to live worldly without leaving our living rooms. We are able to explore without a passport. Adventure, friends, is right here. Adventure is a mindset. And we're able to tap into it whenever we want.

What are your tricks to finding adventure in your every day?