Simplicity Relished http://simplicityrelished.com your guide to adventurous living Sat, 22 Sep 2018 21:45:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 4 ways to live deeply when you’re busier than ever http://simplicityrelished.com/live-deeply/ http://simplicityrelished.com/live-deeply/#respond Sat, 22 Sep 2018 21:41:45 +0000 http://simplicityrelished.com/?p=5989 Year 1 of my MBA program is in full swing and I feel like a bit of a phony. I’m surrounded by classmates who worked really hard to get here. Conversations often dance around the battle scars of merger-induced all-nighters or volatile client crises that eventually devolved into a night of drinking enough to obliterate... [Read More]

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Year 1 of my MBA program is in full swing and I feel like a bit of a phony. I’m surrounded by classmates who worked really hard to get here. Conversations often dance around the battle scars of merger-induced all-nighters or volatile client crises that eventually devolved into a night of drinking enough to obliterate the miserable associated memories (not recommended). Meanwhile on my proverbial farm, I used the years between college and graduate school to refine my values, develop consistent practices of compassion and hospitality, and dream of the impact I wanted to make. I did some work too.

But what I’ve noticed about the work-to-death culture here on campus is that in some professional settings it’s the norm, not the exception. The nonstop 15-hour days here are new to me but not to everyone else. In fact, some would probably be shocked that I kept my weekends sacred with rhythms that involved the things I’ve come to love: community, harvest, creativity, reflection. True rest is something I’ve written about since the inception of this blog, and now I’m only more convinced that it matters.

When the world around us doesn’t seem to slow down, rest is a courageous act. But it’s not rest alone that brings meaning to these long days or the pages and pages and pages of schoolwork. In order to sustain ourselves holistically through the challenging nature of work, we need to find ways to live deeply. My definition of living deeply is a combination of self-awareness, spiritual conviction, faithful dedication, and communal connection. It brings meaning where meaning is absent. It breathes life into words on a page that only describe “effective leadership” or “change management”. It gives our currencies– talent, money, and resources– a cause worthy of growth.

So how do we live deeply? I’ve been working on the following:

Stay close to art, stories, and the non-quantitative capacities of humanity

As a society, we’re becoming increasingly obsessed with data. But Einstein is still a genius: not everything that counts can be counted. And expressions that dare to explore the uncountable tend to be creative, tender, vulnerable, and beautiful. I love reading poetry, attending performances, perusing galleries and sinking my teeth into a late-summer tomato. I choose to create as well: expressing my ideas through writing, trying a new recipe, taking photographs, or even composing mini reflections on Instagram. These things help me re-center my own convictions that we are all part of a story that matters.

Explore your community and seek to understand it.

I’ll be honest: we weren’t super excited to move from Los Angeles to New Haven, Connecticut. Despite LA’s flaws, we’d grown comfortable with our proximity to diverse communities, close friends, and delicious produce (those darn tomatoes!). But now that we’re here, I want to actually be here. I want to understand the community– from the Italian-American generations that call pizza “abeets” (still figuring that one out) to the various immigrant populations that came to Connecticut instead of New York.

When we know more about the land on which we live, we walk with an awareness and appreciation for the stories that have transpired here. We become a part of it. We’re no longer here just for ourselves. We’re here as a part of the story that is still unfolding.

Choose vulnerability even before anyone else does.

Vulnerability is no piece of cake. Being vulnerable first is even tougher. This past week, I encountered someone who seemed a little too absorbed in self-promotion. I was tempted to avoid him, but saw value in the perspectives he brought and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to learn from him. Rigid and put off at first by his attitude, I decided to let down my guard and be vulnerable. So I affirmed him and said that I needed his expertise in something I was working on. He melted immediately, and now I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing him again.

I wonder what would have happened had I not gone first, if I had let my own shame and insecurity keep me from pressing into a chance at friendship. Vulnerability is a risk and doesn’t always open doors, but it pushes us to live openheartedly and invites others to do the same.

Return to your convictions and pursue the truth.

If you are so fortunate as to be able to make decisions based on your values, it’s important to remind yourself of those values often, even while allowing people and experiences to help you refine them. This is a crucial case of both-and. We can be both openminded and anchored by conviction, seek other perspectives and pursue the truth.

At the end of the day, we all need beliefs and convictions that can stand the test of difficult seasons. In my particular case, the fact is that many of my classmates will go into careers where job satisfaction levels are below 50%. Given these stats, it’s not uncommon for high achievers to find themselves at mid-career deeply dissatisfied with their choices and lost in a sea of demands, expectations and “great” opportunities. That’s when their answer to “why?” needs to come to their rescue.

It’s true that most of us have to put our heads down and complete tasks we dislike at some point or another; but consistently making choices that are ultimately bad for our wellbeing is a symptom of fear or a lack of conviction. Conviction isn’t necessarily static; it can move and breathe with us, but it must exist and we must cling to it.

Let’s live deeply.

While the lifestyle I’ve chosen isn’t exactly popular, I’ve come to realize that it still somehow inspires. Even if living deeply means stepping away from the crowd, forward in vulnerability, and out in creativity, we become another point of reference for what life can look like.

Here’s my posture, at least: you can always come over here, take a breath, and remember that this moment actually means something.

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Heading to Yale for my MBA! http://simplicityrelished.com/yale-mba/ http://simplicityrelished.com/yale-mba/#comments Sun, 05 Aug 2018 21:51:24 +0000 http://simplicityrelished.com/?p=5952 If you had met me 4 years ago on the day of my college graduation—or anytime before that— you probably would not have thought of me as the business school type. And for the most part, I’m still not. My work experience has been a hodgepodge of independent consultation, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit marketing. I’m enamored... [Read More]

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If you had met me 4 years ago on the day of my college graduation—or anytime before that— you probably would not have thought of me as the business school type.

And for the most part, I’m still not. My work experience has been a hodgepodge of independent consultation, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit marketing. I’m enamored with social causes. My literary heart has often trumped my strategic brain. In college, I studied American intellectual history and almost pursued academia as a career. And for most of my life, I thought I would go into education in order to help kids in under-resourced communities rise up.

So while business school had been in mind as a possible grad school option, it was a surprise even to me when I felt a desperate urge to apply last fall. I remember staring at my dinner plate, then at Aaron. “I think I need to go get my MBA. Now.” His response: “Go for it, you should.” (I love him.)

I’ll spare you of the dizzying details of the application process, only to say that there is nothing like it. It’s just as (if not more) intense as the college application process, only this time you’re evaluated not simply on your performance as a student, but on your life choices as a young adult. Every decision seems to bear weight and demand explanation, even if you were just exploring an interest or serving a need. As an applicant who didn’t have a concrete plan to attend b-school from Day 1, I had to learn to tell my story in a manner that was “compelling” to a business-oriented admissions committee. And that in itself was exhausting.

I was also learning about business school (and business generally) while applying on an aggressive timeline. There were terms that were referenced in application resources that I had never heard of before. I didn’t recognize some of the top schools. I could count on one hand the number of MBA friends I had— and none of them worked at my office. I genuinely wasn’t sure if I had a decent shot, and it seemed impossible to find out.

Negotiating the limits of our control

On this side of eternity, I’ll always wonder what is and isn’t under my control. How hard do we push, when do we wait, when is rejection a gift, and when do we need to be resilient? The application process, like any other, forces you to reckon with the reality that sometimes your efforts don’t lead to the intended outcome. And when that happens, are there other positive outcomes we can appreciate? Or was it all just a waste?

Every time I had an existential crisis about the process (e.g., why do I have to keep doing the dance), I had to go back to why any of it mattered. A lot of people get their MBA to increase their earning prospects or to advance a corporate career. That wasn’t enough to keep me going; I had to think of investing in myself as a gift to people whose lives I wanted to help change. The more prepared I was, the better impact I could make.

Looking ahead

As it turns out, Yale’s program is perfect for my interest in nonprofit management and social enterprise. Attending also means packing up our things, saying goodbye to the community we love, and moving back across the country to Connecticut. I’ve left my job, where I also built relationships that matter to me deeply. There’s nothing childish about moving and going to school; in fact, I sometimes wonder if I ever really celebrated this next adventure.

So what is it really going to be like? I think we’ll hit surprises at every turn: connections to people who are totally different from us, and who are kindred spirits; joy in the bitter cold and the familiarity of warm drinks; spontaneous jaunts to New York City because it’s only 2 hours away by train. Lectures and discussions that change the way I understand impact. Nudging others to change their understanding. The hope is certainly to participate in a fruitful exchange of stories and ideas. If this isn’t the point of graduate school, then I’m not sure what is.

My MBA goal(s)

I’ll write more about this as details crystallize, but Aaron and I are planning to launch an organization together while I complete my MBA! What I can share now is that it’s related to international development, and it combines our strengths and interests pretty perfectly. In the process of launching a venture, there’s always the fear that things don’t work out. But we also know that in the social sector, success is often a function of listening, adjusting, and choosing not to quit.

Beyond launching something meaningful, sustainable, and effective, I want to make the most of my time as a student—it’s very likely the last time I’ll be in a degree program. Having spent 4 years out of school, I’ve come to even more greatly appreciate the rich resources attached to large universities. Funding to pursue your interests. Books of every genre, language, age, and authorship. Fascinating minds to enrich your own. Chandeliers and pianos everywhere. Theater, art, and music at your fingertips. Much of this is more wonderland than real world, and I am 4 years wiser and more appreciative than the last time I found myself at a place like this.

So here begins the next big adventure, and hopefully a lot of mini adventures. I’ll keep writing in this space about our explorations, lifestyle, and musings. Thanks for being here.

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Our China Adventure: poems, gardens, and painted dreams http://simplicityrelished.com/our-china-adventure/ http://simplicityrelished.com/our-china-adventure/#comments Mon, 25 Jun 2018 01:58:13 +0000 http://simplicityrelished.com/?p=5947 Our trip to China was six months ago. Yes, it’s taken me this long to write and publish something about it. Lately I’ve found myself searching for deeper meaning as I travel, not simply wandering for wandering’s sake, or for writing a useful guide. Trust me, I’m still all about useful. But this post isn’t... [Read More]

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Our trip to China was six months ago. Yes, it’s taken me this long to write and publish something about it. Lately I’ve found myself searching for deeper meaning as I travel, not simply wandering for wandering’s sake, or for writing a useful guide. Trust me, I’m still all about useful. But this post isn’t a guide. It’s about finding roots in a place that has experienced more uprootedness than perhaps any other on the planet. 

I wish I could sum up our winter trip to China in just a few words, but China has to be one of the most multifaceted countries I’ve traveled to. Every time I visit and learn a bit more, I realize how little I know — and perhaps how little is disclosed.

We prepared for our visit. I could have been more diligent, but I was short on time and also prepping for our trip to Rome (yes, same trip). We started with watching this very long and thoughtfully produced PBS docu-series. I also read The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan and am still working through Wild Swans by Jung Chang. The political documentary balanced nicely with passionate storytelling set in more recent Chinese history from female perspectives.

Solely exploring the cultural history of China awakened a sensation of odd familiarity for me. The philosophies resonated with my lingering tendencies, perhaps hidden in the recesses of my mind. “One year of tyranny is better than one day of anarchy,” one political philosopher said. I was immediately reminded of my tight grasp on control, one I’ve been working to release for years. It suddenly made sense. The temptation for me is to be oppressive, overbearing, and inflexible, rather than carefree, liberating, and trusting.

Unlike the American intellectual history I explored as a college student, elements of Chinese history offer emotional resonance. I don’t understand everything, at least in the rational sense, like I did Thoreau or Veblen or even Dubois; but I feel it. The repressed passion, the honoring courage, the sadness and shame— these are states of the soul that I’ve experienced somewhere in the mysterious continuum of time.

Perhaps it’s the blending of art, scenery and poetry that makes everything feel so oddly familiar. Nature inspires art, which inspires poetry, which inspires art, which inspires landscaping, which shapes nature. These cyclical tendencies turn bamboo groves into paintings, willow branches into words, gardens into calligraphy. My amateur Mandarin skills are sufficient to imbue meaning as poetry is read aloud, dipping with tones that rhyme imperfectly, as only Mandarin can. I look at my dad’s paintings and suddenly I’m transported; here in China, I felt as if I’d swum into the bristles of his brush, smothered in inky black.

Of course, there’s the China of myths, and there’s the China of today’s global economy. Both exist, both are true. But there’s a difference between hearing a poem’s echo deep within your soul, and trying to imbue romantic fluff into every last remnant of art. I’d argue that modern China, having found new identity in economic productivity, has yet to find its cultural center. The destructive breaks and tragic hiatus of the twentieth century haunt today’s efforts for a continuous narrative, while government surveillance and the lack of rights overwhelm an effort to harken back to the dignity of the past.

Still, the efforts persist. Here in the beautiful town of Wuzhen, an old fishing village now converted into an historic site, authentic facades are kept up to pristine conditions, while every stray willow leaf is removed by early-morning cleaning staff. The sunrise is majestic, but it doesn’t quite feel real. The residents of Wuzhen were shipped out years ago as their town became popular with tourists who wanted to see “old China,” and thought the canals were charming. Enterprising spirits soared, and now we pay an entrance fee to explore this ancient town, no longer residential.

Similarly, the city of Hangzhou used to be the stuff of myths, and still is. The saying goes, Above are the heavens; here on earth are Suzhou and Hangzhou (translated roughly by yours truly). Today, Hangzhou is home to 9 million people and a traffic problem that the local government tries to regulate extensively. The West Lake, covered with mist (and smog) most mornings, features in traditional operas, poems, paintings and stories, and has its own unique cuisine. I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to see both realities. Hangzhou and its lake are still in myths, and myths occupy a different dimension of reality.

Another stop on our pilgrimage was Suzhou, the other mythical city. Suzhou feels more like a small town than Hangzhou, developed in some areas and folksy in others. Home to China’s famous gardens, it’s flooded with tourists, many of whom are (arguably like me) looking for roots somewhere between the stone trails and sweeping pines. These quiet retreats are a thousand years old, dripping with artifacts that marked the intellectual and financial prowess of their commissioners. There are elements designed to bring fortune and favor; others for pure aesthetic pleasure; still others to show off the fortune and favor already received. One must wonder whether real tranquility existed in these quiet spaces, if much of the surroundings are focused on protecting, inviting, and boasting. That was one of the revelations of my limited research on historical China: in an age of warlords and localized power, the threat of tumbling off your pedestal was very real.

Whatever fears linger from millennia of hierarchical society, however, may or may not be apparent in Shanghai. As our last destination, I was excited to enter a cosmopolitan space. The food in Shanghai is legendary, and if you can afford to eat well, you certainly should. Beyond the excellent food, we enjoyed a few drinks at the trendy new cocktail bars in town, including getting into the speakeasy Tipsy at Sober company (access to Tipsy is a secret and totally worth it! Hint: poker chips are involved).

The Shanghai Museum is an inspiring if crowded visit, pulling together a collection of what China currently holds (I am partial to the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which arguably holds more national treasures). Beyond the food and museum, however, Shanghai left much to be desired. Unless you find witnessing blatant capitalism euphoric— or perhaps participating by shopping at international fashion flagships— the city doesn’t offer nearly as much culture as one might expect. It is certainly significant, but perhaps not for the reasons we travel. I’m happy to stand alone in this position.

4 Tips for visiting China

Because I can’t help myself, here are a few ways to prepare for an upcoming trip to China.

1) Read up and do your research. 

China’s millennia of history carry more nuance and complexity than most countries. Your visit will be enhanced more than you know if you’re not tabula rasa when you arrive. Thankfully, there are people who devote their careers to studying and writing about China. Go beyond the Lonely Planet and do some digging on topics that interest you— traditions, minority tribes, poetry, historical fiction, memoirs, and more. They exist.

2) Have an internet plan. 

As stated above, I’m not one to leave too much up to chance. If you’re hoping to access websites blocked by the firewall (e.g., Google and some social media), make sure you have a  plan for that. We used a VPN linked to our home server and it worked pretty well for a 10-day trip.

3) Expect some rough travel experiences. 

Bring a mask designed for smog; depending on where your going, there could be upwards of 200 parts per million. If you get motion sick, prepare for that dreaded stop-and-go traffic, especially around cities. As usual, bring tissues for the restroom, wipes, and cash. Be smart.

4) Plan ahead and arrange guides where possible. 

Aaron and I love to show up in certain destinations without concrete plans— this is a fine way to travel. But I wouldn’t recommend it for China. At the very least, you might need a Visa and that can take a while to obtain; beyond this, there are some areas where you’ll easily find help from locals and other areas where you won’t. More importantly, the atmosphere can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing or how to get into the sites you want to see.

5) Let inconsistencies exist. 

As I’ve alluded to in this piece, there is a lot of messaging around and within China— what’s allowed, what’s appropriate, what’s cultural, what’s honorable, what’s real. A nation of a billion people who occupy every socioeconomic status known to the modern world is bound to exhibit inconsistency. The less you let it bother you, the more fun you’ll have.

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The Vulnerability Tradeoff http://simplicityrelished.com/the-vulnerability-tradeoff/ Mon, 09 Apr 2018 03:17:17 +0000 http://simplicityrelished.com/?p=5940 Sometimes I wonder whether there’s anything I fear more than failing in plain view of others. And I’m not talking about your average “this is my first time” failure; I’m talking about “I worked really hard and I did not succeed” failure. Maybe it was because I grew up dancing, tumbling, and playing the piano.... [Read More]

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Sometimes I wonder whether there’s anything I fear more than failing in plain view of others. And I’m not talking about your average “this is my first time” failure; I’m talking about “I worked really hard and I did not succeed” failure.

Maybe it was because I grew up dancing, tumbling, and playing the piano. The performance arts do wonders for your presentation skills and self-awareness, and they also make failure– especially in front of an audience– the worst possible outcome. You can practice the same pirouette a hundred times a day, only to miss a step in the spotlight. You can trill Baroque melodies to the astonishment of your piano teacher, only to slip on the keys at your own recital. In utterly results-oriented activities, failure feels fatal.

There are a few ways we performance-oriented people can respond to our conditioning. First, we can be private: don’t let others into the story until success is absolutely on the horizon. Second, we can disengage: don’t let others perceive how much we care and how hard we’re working.

Third, we can choose vulnerability: allow others to speak into our process, share in our burdens, and lament over our losses.

Over the past several years, I’ve started to more openly explore Option 3. Because as much as I’d like to be the principle dancer twirling through each life stage with ease and elegance, opportunities constantly abounding and never a misstep, I know too much about the world to believe it’s actually possible. So if I’m to portray such perfection, I know I’m choosing solitude. And I don’t want to be alone anymore. 

Just tell people everything. That’s easy for the openhearted, extroverted, perhaps slightly narcissistic personality to say. Because there’s actually a tradeoff when it comes to vulnerability.

When we choose vulnerability, we let others see our true level of performance. It’s all too easy to give off an air of excellence when in fact, we are struggling or falling behind.

When we choose vulnerability, we allow others to see our true level of investment. Some people say success comes with a certain degree of obsession– the kind that can feel overwhelming to a bystander. Not everyone wants to go there with you. Not everyone approves of how much you care.

When we choose vulnerability, we invite others to enter into a story and stay for as long as they want. There’s the inevitable “how are you doing with that?” or “any updates?” or “are you still trying to…?” Questions can feel condemning, condescending, evaluative, or loaded. But the door we opened doesn’t close. At least, not on our account.

What makes vulnerability worth it

Vulnerability is worth it when we’re done being alone.

When we’ve decided the facade of perfection (which no one probably buys anyway) isn’t worth our anxious, quiet suffering.

When we’ve decided it’s better to receive empathetic insight and wisdom than empty praise and admiration.

When we’ve realized we need other people in order to accomplish anything of significant meaning in the world, and we shouldn’t wait until we’re perfect to ask for their help.

Vulnerability is worth it when we start perceiving life as a series of opportunities to try new things, rather than a string of stunts to pull before a crowd of critics.

I’m still learning this. In the meantime, here are a few practices I’m adopting:

1) Name the motivation, the action, and the emotion.

When we choose vulnerability, we need to tell the whole story: why we’re doing something, what exactly we’re doing, and how we feel about it. If it affects others, let’s be honest about that, too. Not sharing the whole story keeps us protected– and still alone.

2) Lead with mutuality and live in the tension of others’ successes.

All too many people try “vulnerability” by divulging every last detail of their lives, while showing no interest in the lives of their listeners. This doesn’t lead to deeper empathy or more meaningful friendships. So even when we’re working through a challenge, let’s remember that those walking with us have stories, too. And– whether eventful or not– let’s hear those stories.

3) Commit to the unformed narrative.

There’s always a temptation to reframe our failures as insignificant in light of graver realities, or part of a bigger story, or otherwise not as important as they feel. It’s a bit like retouching a photograph of ourselves: we clean up the scars, bumps, and discoloration to reveal an enhanced version of what was originally captured.

Some people in our lives only need the retouched version. Others– the ones with whom we’re choosing vulnerability– deserve the untouched version: emotions, frustrations, self-doubt and all.

The failure becomes the gift

Vulnerability allows us to move through defeat. It helps us to see that– even though we failed, embarrassed ourselves, or made poor judgments– we’re not alone, and the story is not over.

I’ve experienced much more courage when I rise up with people around me excited to see what’s next.

In what ways have you experienced vulnerability as a strength?

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Rome off the beaten path: a wanderer’s guide to the eternal city http://simplicityrelished.com/rome-off-the-beaten-path/ http://simplicityrelished.com/rome-off-the-beaten-path/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:31:49 +0000 http://simplicityrelished.com/?p=5847 I love the Spanish Steps. And the Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon still takes my breath away. And the first time I sank my teeth into a delicate lasagna in the Piazza Navona, I thought I’d discovered culinary gold. Rome is where I fell in love with travel. When I was 13, my mother and I... [Read More]

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I love the Spanish Steps. And the Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon still takes my breath away. And the first time I sank my teeth into a delicate lasagna in the Piazza Navona, I thought I’d discovered culinary gold.

Rome is where I fell in love with travel. When I was 13, my mother and I did a whirlwind tour of Europe (both of our first times) and I took Italy home with me. Rome is what I like to describe as atmospheric: every sense tells your mind and body that you are now somewhere else. The Eternal City– a home that’s not your own.

This time when we went to Rome, I wanted to see more than its famed ruins, churches, and layers of history. Years ago I had the privilege of traveling to Rome with my Classics teachers, a complement to our reading of the Aeneid in Latin; a few years later I traveled there again with family and zipped around on an epic Segway tour.

This time, I wanted to see where modern Romans actually lived and to walk its streets rather than board a bus, with only our sense of direction to guide us. I wanted to open my eyes (and lungs) to the deep chaos of humanity breathing, consuming, creating and dying for multiple millennia, in the same space. That’s the Rome I’m sharing about in this post.

Off the beaten path: a possibility

The fourth time you visit any city, you’re bound to notice things you never thought to look for. Even if that place is Rome, a destination every savvy traveler would like to lay claim to. In fact, “off the beaten path” in Rome is a bit of an oxymoron; what path in Rome isn’t beaten? What square inch of it isn’t filled with stories of those who trod before?

I suppose what makes this guide slightly different from the others is the aim to dig a little deeper than the freshest tourist footprints. In multiple moments during our visit, we found ourselves completely alone; other times, we were certainly the only non-locals. These corners exist in Rome (perhaps more in the winter than the summer), but still. You can find them.

First, the logistics & safety of self-guided wandering

Flying into Rome is fairly straightforward. Once we arrived, we had our AirBnB host pick us up for the longer-than-anticipated ride directly to our apartment (which I highly recommend for 1-2 travelers, it’s cozy!). If there’s a pickup service you can arrange ahead of time, you’ll find yourself less stressed prior to arriving in the city itself. Worth it, in my opinion.

Once you get settled, plan on finding a shop where you can get a SIM card for your phone. This is unbelievably helpful for navigating Rome on foot. There are various shops in the historic center you can visit and request that they install a SIM for you (and are MUCH cheaper than what’s available at the airport). The one we went to was right off a major road well-trafficked by tourists.

Depending on your travel style, you may want to decide which neighborhoods to visit prior to heading out the door. If you’re picky about food like us, it’ll also be important to add restaurants and cafes to your Google maps while in the comfort of your hotel room. That way, while wandering the city, you can always check your map for a nearby joint to visit.

A note about restrooms: In some major tourist cities, public restrooms are everywhere. Rome is not one of those cities. There will always be restrooms available at major tourists sites, but if you’re wandering the city without entering sites, this can be a challenge. Plan accordingly and always use the restroom when there is one; you never know if you’ll come across another.

Public transportation in Rome is pretty reliable. You can purchase tickets at the snack kiosks and convenience shops that are ubiquitous, particularly near bus stops, stations, or lightrail stops. When you board a vehicle, make sure you punch the ticket in one of those yellow boxes on a pole (long story there for another time).

And finally, do your absolute best to blend in. I know this isn’t easy for everyone, but the less conspicuous you are, the safer you are. My preferred travel style is chic and comfortable; it allows me to fly under the radar. Rome is not a dangerous city, but standing out as a tourist can draw attention that you don’t want. Maintain a good sense of your belongings, bring only what you need, and keep the essentials somewhere safe. I like to use this bag when I travel because of its amazing compartments, perfect size, and zip closure. It’s also tough leather so not easily sliced open!

Books you won’t want to miss

Shortlist: Restaurants for the food-obsessed

I’ll cut to the chase. Rome is an absolutely fantastic place for food, and nearly anything you eat will taste better than what many of us are used to for the same price at home.

That said, there’s good Roman food, an then there’s phenomenal Roman food. To the latter end, we were able to enjoy quite a few “New Italian” restaurants noted for their innovative approach to local cuisine. Reservations are highly recommended at each of these!

Antico Arco

Glass Hostaria

Osteria Fernanda

Roscioli

Emma

Per Me Giulio Terrinoni

 

Places to go for the off-season experience

Trastevere: the heart of Rome

More than one Roman readily told us that we were staying in the heart of Rome. We loved its quiet cobblestone alleys, beautiful boutiques and traditional trattorias. The church Santa Maria della Scala has a gorgeous interior worth poking your head into. If you’re open to staying here, choose an AirBnB in Trastevere and enjoy the local life (get $40 off if you book here).

The Jewish Quarter

If you wander through the more popular areas of Rome, you’ll likely find yourself in the Jewish Quarter without noticing. But you should notice– and you should walk straight to Pasticceria Boccione, where you’ll find the perfect snack. When we visited (twice), we loved the fruit bread they offered. It was moist, warm, and the perfect level of sweetness; so good in fact that we went back the next day. There are also ruins in the Jewish Quarter that are worth seeing right at the end of the main drag.

Villa Borghese

While the Borghese properties are hardly off of tourist radars, many tourists won’t visit if they’re only in Rome for a couple of days. Plus, the gardens are such a lovely place to read, people watch, or get away from the automotive chaos that dominates Rome. The Borghese Gallery is 100% worth visiting at least once; skip the zoo but take a boat out on the little pond.

Colle del Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill)

For a quiet stroll up to one of the highest points in Rome, head up Janiculum Hill. You can stop at one of my favorite restaurants along the way, Antico Arco, for some delicate pasta, as you ascend to a gorgeous view of the city. On the way down, head toward the Fontana dell’ Acqua Paola.

Testaccio and Monti

These neighborhoods are up-and-coming: you’ll find quiet streets, a market or two bursting with tourists, and unassuming sights like the expat graveyard we found. There are boutiques in Monti that come highly recommended; we didn’t get time to stop in, but I hear they’re a must-see if you’re inclined to acquire a new Italian accessory or two.

Do the classic Roman walk- differently

Of course, you’ll want to see the classics. But when you do, try to walk as much as you possibly can. Indulge your imagination as you stumble into new courtyards, shops, and alleys. Rome is full of secrets just waiting to be discovered.

Our visit was right before the week of Christmas, so the whole city was lit up with some of the prettiest lights. The combination of Rome’s evening urban uplighting, local Romans on the town for the holiday, and festive lights everywhere made our stroll all the more exciting.

Whether in summer or winter, join the passeggiata of every Roman evening to round out the experience. You’ll never know what you’ll find.

A few final thoughts

Rome is a city you can return to again and again if you’re lucky. But this might be the first– and only– time you ever visit. Either way, make it the trip you need it to be. Find your pace, lean into your intuition and where your heart leads you. It may sound cliche, but you might as well give yourself permission to skip the tourist lists. After all, this is your experience of Rome, not anyone else’s (even your kids can come back on their own one day!). When in doubt, get a carafe of the house wine and order the tiramisu. Seriously.

The post Rome off the beaten path: a wanderer’s guide to the eternal city appeared first on Simplicity Relished.

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