Tag Archives: Travel

“Getting Back To Traveling…”

* AUTHOR’S NOTE: I apologize to my readers for not having posted anything for such a long time. I was, for lack of a more exotic way of putting it, being lazy. Perhaps my move from NYC to Italy had something to do with it, or the ten kilos of pasta weight I’ve put on since then. Perhaps a life of teaching, traveling and photographing got in the way of writing about my life of teaching, traveling and photographing. Truth be told, I’m not sure where said stroke of laziness came from, but I’ll try not to let it happen again. *


Ladies and gentlemen, Covid-19 is everywhere.

It would be hopeful to think that it’s nowhere near you, but that would be completely unrealistic. Sweeping from east to west, it has gripped its “stay inside or risk dying” claws into all of us. For those of you who were already staying at home and not risking death, life may not have changed much. For those of us who crave the outside world however, staying at home for months on end was nothing short of tragic. To the former: I wish you many cheerful hours of TV-watching, video game-playing, recipe-trying and family life-living. To the latter: I offer a few of my ideas and experiences on how to go about returning to life as wanderers, explorers and travelers. As cities, counties, states, regions, countries and continents worldwide begin to “open back up”, I think it’s important we take a moment to acknowledge what that means exactly.


Let’s face it, there are rules to be followed.

While most of these rules might entail simply not standing near others, some might turn out to be more frustrating. Here in Italy, the government opened itself up several slices at a time, like a big, bureaucratic cake…a time-locked tiramisu if you will. Initially, it was “stay inside or risk dying”.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

Over the course of the last two months, “stay inside or risk dying” turned into “stay inside unless you have to go to work”, which later became “stay inside unless you need groceries”, followed by “stay inside unless you’re wearing gloves and a mask”.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

Many other countries in Europe have pretty much followed the same timeline, bringing us to where we are now. I believe this slice is called “fine, you may go back outside, and even travel to certain countries, just wear a mask on the plane and keep washing your hands”. As tourists and travelers, adhering to the rules will make your transition from couch potato to backpacker much easier.


In short, know how you’re supposed to move around before you start moving around.

Almost all of the information you seek regarding travel in this time of Covid-19 can be found online or by making a short call. Some airlines require you to wear a mask at all times (a few require gloves as well).

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Kayak.com, my go-to for air travel.

Many hotels and B&B’s are now required to maintain daily (hourly in some cases) practices regarding disinfecting, cleaning and general day-to-day activities. Just about every travel homepage and accommodation website I’ve come across has clearly posted messages describing their policies and limitations during this pandemic.

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Airbnb.com, my go-to for accommodations.

Nearly all restaurants, businesses, stores and public transportation require the use of masks and hand sanitizer prior to entry. Some places will even ask you to sign in/out of their establishments, so that they may have your info should you or other patrons become contagious during your visit or stay. Sure, you may have the right to complain, refuse and vehemently review on Yelp, but it won’t help you to get where you want, when you want. As an added drawback, you might find yourself in a viral video online, pointlessly screaming at an employee for simply doing their job of asking you to cover that offense-hurling mouth of yours. Be informed, be prepared and you’ll be allowed to travel more freely.


My first instinct when considering traveling is usually to get as far away as possible not only from my current home but also from my everyday life.

I decided that perhaps this summer might not be the best time to do so (see: everything I wrote in the previous paragraphs), so instead of jumping on a plane and taking in the sights in a foreign country, I planned a weekend trip to Venice for my girlfriend and I.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

While Venice might seem like an unobtainable goal to many, it’s only two hours away for us. You might be thinking, yes, I happen to have a somewhat fortunate, “geographical advantage”, but the truth is, everyone does, and everyone doesn’t, it all just depends on who you are and where you’re from.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

Through my upbringing, which required my family to move often due to my parents’ professions, I’ve learned that “geographical advantage”, like many other things in life, is simply a matter of perspective. To someone who has never seen it, Venice might be an oasis of sorts, a magical place where people fall in love, classical music plays softly over loudspeakers, and everyone rides around in gondolas eating gelato to their heart’s content.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

To someone who was born and raised in Venice, however, it might be a tourist-swallowing pit of despair, filled with flooded streets and the smell of sea life, where everyone rides around in gondolas eating gelato to their heart’s content. When I moved to Verona five years ago and told people I was from NYC, the response was almost always “I would give anything to see it,” to which I always replied, “That’s funny, because everyone I know there is dying to come here!” In short, people generally want what they don’t have.

For the past fifteen years or so since realizing this, I’ve been basing my travels on one particular ideology…


Everything new is good; no matter how new, no matter how good.

Sound absurd? Let me explain. Instead of saving up my money to take these elaborate trips to places I felt or heard were mind-blowing, I started taking day trips to places that were reachable by car in two or three hours, then coming back home that night. When I didn’t think I could do it in a day, I’d pick places that were four or five hours away, stay the night, then drive back the second night. In essence, I was only a city or two away from home, but the fact that I had never seen that place and was there an entire weekend fooled my mind and body into thinking that I was on vacation in some far away land. This “self trickery” helped me to realize that I was vacationing incorrectly! I had somehow fallen into the trap of believing that vacations were something for which I should save up ludicrous amounts of money and sick days. They were two-week-long trips to places like Paris, Tokyo, Milan, Rio or London, where credit cards would be charged and diets would be ignored simply because “I was on vacation”. Looking back upon it now, I suppose I should hold the hustle and bustle of NYC life responsible for that way of thinking, because that’s not how I was raised. The earliest vacation memories I have are being in the backseat of our family’s car with my two younger brothers while my parents drove us to some lake, beach, town, mountain or campsite nearby just to “get away for the day”. I remember enjoying the sights, sounds and people of those places simply because they were new to me, and seeing new things reminded me of how large this planet of ours really is and how much I had yet to see.

So what are you saying?

Get out there! You’ve been cooped up in the house for quite some time and could probably use a change of scenery. If you haven’t been cooped up in the house then coop yourself up in the house and order delivery. That would be something new, wouldn’t it? I suppose what I’m trying to say is, don’t refrain from getting away or doing something different simply because you’re saving up time and money for something BIG. You can find the same joy by adding up smaller things. Hop on a bus and head somewhere that’s an hour away. See what the people are like. Breathe the air. Baby steps. Take a friend or family member with you if you need the company. Go somewhere that’s two hours away the next time. Take a walk around that new city or town and maybe have lunch somewhere. Check out the local shopping areas. Baby steps. When you’re ready, try jumping in the car and going somewhere that’s farther, but not too far. We’re going for stressless. Spend what you would normally spend on dinner if you were back home. Don’t splurge. You’re only a few hours from your house. This isn’t a vacation. Walk along the pier. Hold your loved one’s hand and mention something about how interesting it is that the two of you happen to be in this new place together. Rent an absurdly cheap room for the night because seriously, you only need the bed to sleep for a few hours. This isn’t an actual vacation, remember?

Have breakfast in the morning, possibly in bed.

(photo: Fidel Amos)

You never do that at home right?

Take it easy. Get lost downtown. Head to the waterfront and take your shoes off. Try something new. You don’t have to work today, right? Try two new things. Hell, maybe this IS a vacation after all. See? “Self trickery”. Find out if they have gondolas and gelato…


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“When In India…”

They say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”…a saying I’ve tried to adhere to in every city in every country I’ve ever visited. To truly experience a culture (especially as a  photographer) one must allow oneself to become immersed entirely, to try new things, to fit in.

Often times in my travels I’ve noticed foreigners in other countries acting like, well, foreigners. More specifically I see Americans abroad complaining that it’s too hot, or too cold, or too dirty. They walk around upset because they can’t find a McDonald’s, Burger King or Budweiser. In my opinion, finding myself in a country lacking the “comforts of home” is exactly the reason I went to that country in the first place! Tasting the local cuisine, walking the streets and soaking up the essences that make that particular country what it is…that’s what traveling is all about.

…and that is exactly why on assignment in Delhi, India, I found myself meditating, yoga style, for the first time ever.


I can’t wait to go back.

– F

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Filed under Diary Of A Traveling Photog, Globetrotting, On Assignment, Uncategorized

“An AmerItalian’s Guide To Italy.”

Note to the American reader:

(photo: Rehana Meghani)

My first taste of Italy came over 30 years ago. I was barely old enough to talk, barely old enough to walk, and nowhere near old enough to comprehend the fact that I was in a country few would ever get the chance to visit, let alone live in. Being the product of an Italian mother and an American father (both multi-continental, multi-career parents), I was fortunate enough to live there for nearly a decade before moving away in my early teen years. Even after leaving I was able to go back and visit on several occasions, including a few weeks ago. I speak Italian fluently and have Italian-born friends and family residing in several cities there. It is because of this past history that the views, experiences, connections and insights I have formed in Italy may not be as easily obtainable for the average American reader. However, to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible experience while there (whether it be a vacation or a transfer), I’ve put together this guideline for you. Well, it’s not so much a guideline as my thoughts poured out on paper in no order whatsoever…in either case, I hope it will help you to gather a sense of how to enjoy Italy…and how not to.

– F


Leave the United States in America

Photo by: Fidel Amos

As simple as this may sound, as easy as it is for you to believe that this is something you won’t do, many Americans often forget this one important rule: every other country in the world isn’t the U.S.! There are many commodities, comforts and freedoms that we enjoy on a day-to-day basis that simply don’t exist in other countries. Assuming that they do exist, or getting upset once you find out they don’t is both foolish and, well, a totally American thing to do. I could stand here and tell you that the U.S. is the world leader in technology, science, political agendas and civil liberties. I could rant that we have more CD’s, DVD’s, barber shops, nightclubs, open gun laws, buffet lines, workout craze’s, fashion designers and movie theaters than anyone else out there. I would be half boasting…but I would also be half correct.

Photo by: Fidel Amos

In my thirty-three years of life I’ve travelled to nearly two-dozen countries, including South Korea, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, Austria, France and Canada…and yes, we are ahead of the game in more ways than one when compared to the rest of the world. We’re also way behind in more ways than one in several of those afore-mentioned areas…but I’ll save that discussion for another article. One advantage, however, that I’ve noticed most other countries have is the ability to accept the fact that the country they’re visiting will most likely be entirely different than where they’re from. This allows them to not only appreciate the sights, sounds and cultures of different nations, but to appreciate their own even more. This is something that you the average American reader should do as well before you even set foot on the airplane flying out of the U.S. You’ll be able to soak up Italy for what it is on the outside, while maintaining that proud, red-white-and-blue mushiness on the inside.

Phone Cards, The Celly, Textorama, Monster Bills

Photo by: Fidel Amos

In this day and age we’re more than likely to have three main items on our person at all times when visiting other countries: our passport, our wallet (or purse), and our cell phone. I won’t go into detail on the first two, as they’re simple to use, easy to carry, and shouldn’t need much instruction other than the fact that you shouldn’t lose them! The cell phone, however, can be a pretty tricky thing to use when you’re not making a call from inside the good ole US-of-A. If you only plan on visiting for a few days, don’t bother with your cell phone. Turn it off and keep it in your pocket so you can still turn it on and access your contact list when you need to, then buy a phone card. You’re on vacation for crying out loud, you’re not going to need your stupid phone! Catch some rays, catch some z’s, catch a lover…do something. You’re in Italy…enjoy it!

Many American cell phone companies offer overseas plans for those of you who will be traveling/living outside of the U.S. for extended periods of time. But be warned, these overseas plans can easily turn your average phone bill into a money-munching nightmare. This isn’t because your phone company is out to screw you (ok, maybe they are), it is simply because they have to raise the cost per minute, cost per text, and cost per megabyte you use according to whichever country you’ll be traveling too. I can’t tell you which plan and which country will cost you more or less, but I can tell you to find out before you leave. Getting your phone ready to use will be a hundred times easier to do stateside than it will be once you get to Italy. Another way to avoid the “bill of doom” is to buy an inexpensive phone for use while you’re there. You’ll be able to get a SIM card from a local phone company (TIM, Wind, Vodafone, etc.), and this will give you not only a local number, but also the ability to use that phone on pay-as-you-go credit. Several American cell phones also allow you to simply open up your phone, remove the SIM card you currently have inside (from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.) and replace it with the SIM card you just purchased from a local Italian company.

A word of caution however, this does not work with every phone! Again, do some research on the phone you own before you leave. You should be able to easily find that information on the Internet, you’ll find that it’s good for so many other things than just looking up porn.

The American Look, The Suit, The Dinner Outfit

Photo by: Fidel Amos

So…now you’re in Italy. You’re soaking up the culture, your cell phone is working, and you’re not sticking out like a soar thumb American. Or are you? Look at yourself. How are you dressed? Are you wearing your New England Patriots jersey? Are you wearing your Air Jordan’s and your backwards Abercrombie & Fitch baseball hat? Take them off. As a matter of fact, take everything off, sit down on the edge of the bed, and read the rest of this guideline before standing up to get dressed again. There’s nothing wrong with representing your favorite football team, and there’s nothing wrong with representing arguably the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball. But representing them in Italy might not be the best thing to do. Sure, sure, we could sit here all day and discuss pride of country and style of dress. Sure, you could decide that you want to look American, and that you’re going to wear whatever you feel like wearing because doggone it; it’s your God-given right as an American to do so. If that’s the way you see things, then there’s nothing more I can say. Put your clothes back on, and go have fun.

If, however, you decide to do in Rome as the Romans do, but aren’t exactly sure how to go about doing so, then get up off the edge of the bed and go look out the window of your hotel. Spend a few moments observing the people outside. Not the other tourists like you…the locals. As you can see, most Italian men and women dress with a certain flare that sets them apart from the men and women of other countries. I’m not saying that they walk around in tuxedos and Versace dresses all day while cooking breakfast and cleaning the house, but their day-to-day outfits are, well, more Italian. See how they tuck in their button-down shirts? See how they often wear ties, or jackets, or nicer shoes…even when they’re just out eating lunch? See how the women have on full dresses, oversized sun hats, not daisy dukes, short, tight mini skirts, and a plain tight T that says, “I ‘heart’ Me”? Good. Now go back to your suitcase, dress like they dress, and go have fun.

Photo by: Fidel Amos

You might be wondering why I’m so adamant about this. Why would I take so much time to talk about something as simple as the attire that one should wear while vacationing in Italy, when I could be teaching you how to cook Spaghetti Carbonara or telling you how to say, “where is the restroom” in Italian? It’s because having lived in Italy, I’m privy to a few reasons that have inspired me to caution you as I am…and I will dispense with those reasons now.

A) Just like the rest of the world, Italy has its share of pickpockets, thieves, and various other forms of low life’s. Sending out an “I’m American” signal will only paint you as a bigger target than the average European tourist, and that will cause them to want your belongings more than theirs. This is not something I can explain. It’s something that just is. It’d be like sitting next to a woman on a city bus full of men just because you’re a woman, or getting the back of a random Yankee fan in a bar full of Red Sox fans just because you’re from New York. People are more likely to bond with one of their own, and less likely to hurt someone they can relate to directly.

B) There are certain establishments that will treat someone dressed like a tourist, well, more like a tourist. And that’s something that you simply don’t want. Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and bouncers are more likely to spend more time speaking with a local then they are speaking to someone who takes ten minutes to order an appetizer or figure out whose name they’re trying to drop at the door because they can’t speak the language. Again, this is something that’s hard to explain, but take my word for it…it happens.

C) Some folks that are more than likely to want to hassle you more if they think you’re American: the police, beggars, hari Krishna, drunks, and the guys that sell fake purses on the corner out of a folded up sheet. True, they may only hound you for a minute or two, but when it happens ten times a day that can add up to precious minutes cut from your sun tanning on those topless beaches you’ve been hearing about.

Photo by: Fidel Amos

– F


* This blog is also a featured article in Contraband Magazine (Contrabandmag.com)


Filed under Globetrotting