STILL PICTURING THE PRETTY IN LIFE – ONE YEAR LATER

Today PicturethePretty.com is one-year-old!  Over the last 12 months, I made 452 new follower friends, with over 4,800 views.  This time last year I was in Afghanistan, wondering whether or not I could go to Italy ALONE.

At the time I began this blog, I was finishing up a six month stint in Afghanistan. I ran there for a scenic divorce-moon (why yes that is the opposite of a honeymoon and I did indeed just make the term up).  While I was there I made some rather extravagant travel plans with someone.  This someone cancelled his plans to travel Italy with me and I was finally forced into thinking about my newly single life.  Could I travel alone?  Would I enjoy living alone?  Could I be happy all on my own?  The answer… to living, traveling and be happy is the same…

I will always have a much better time alone than with miserable company having travel fights with my companion on trains, planes and automobiles (we’ll save those stories for another time).

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Ever since venturing on 11 trains, a bus, a boat and a handful of taxis in just six days, I have continued to finally become comfortable in my skin while trying not to give up looking for love. Hopefully in the future I will find someone to share my life with, but until then I’m hoping to make life as interesting and fun as possible… all on my own.  Next up will be a whirlwind, jam-packed, no time for silly sleep trip to California.

In the last year, I have undergone some significant transitions from living on a different continent, a long bout of unemployment, and now settling into a new job.  I hope that the next year brings many memorable changes as well – most of which I’m sure I can’t even imagine now.

Thank you so much for following my journey and I hope you will continue to take your time to follow me and let me know exactly what you think every step of the way!

 

*The picture was found here
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REFLECTIONS OF 2013

After a little reflection, I realized I had a bit of an Eat, Pray, Love experience in 2014.  (Since it sounds cheesy, let me explain.)  I began to find myself by isolating myself and then getting to know the person who emerged.

Last year, I got divorced (which is of course a story for another day).  I changed jobs shortly after, so that I could deploy to Afghanistan.  I felt like I needed to get away from all the small stressors of life and my fear of being alone forever.  Instead I needed desperately to take a deep breath and get to know the stranger I was with… myself.  If you had asked me last fall, I would never would have been able to explain my sudden need to get out-of-town. I just knew that it was a necessity. Deploying for me was like taking a six month pause on real life, with the wonderful side benefit of building a little nest egg to minimize financial fears now that I am on my own.

Shortly before my six month deployment ended, I began this blog and met all of you.  I have never felt so confident opening up to complete strangers and sharing so much of myself without judgement.  And PS, it’s much easier than opening up to people I know… who knew?  This has been a very positive experience for me.  So thank you to all of you for being part of my year. No it’s not meditative yoga in India, but I find it a bit therapeutic and insightful at times.

At the end of my six month deployment, I took a solo trip to Italy.  It wasn’t the original way the trip had been planned, but does anything go as planned?  In the spirit of Carpe Diem and not letting other people take control my little world, I reimagined what at one time may have been an incredibly romantic trip into an adventurous solo journey.  Traveling by myself made me incredibly confident (I didn’t miss any of my zillion train/hotel/bus/plane/boat reservations) and excited that whether I ever find love, I am still very capable of living out my travel dreams.  It seems quite a good sign when you can stand your own company and talk to nearly no one over the course of a week.  After being told I am quite embarrassing, it is nice to travel alone and not have travel fights because I’m traveling with the wrong person.

I began to date this year, which is not my favorite at all.  I think that I’ve grown as a person and become so much more confident than the shell of myself that remained after my marriage crumpled.  I am no longer putting on airs or pretending to be happy, but moving toward real happiness.  It’s not easy, and there are days when the unexpected throws me for a loop, but everyone has bad days. I’m no longer pretending to be perfect, but enjoying learning my imperfections and making them my favorite parts and maybe one day someone else will see their loveliness as well.

After having quite a successful and happy year, December has been an utter tornado wrecking havoc in my world.  Although it’s never good to wish for time to pass quickly, I cannot wait for 2013 to come to a close. I am hoping that 2014 will bring new opportunities in work, love and happiness with each passing day for me and to you all.  Happy New Year!

BUON VIAGGIO

My plan to have an Italian adventure was formed and completely booked in about two days while in Afghanistan (let’s call it sheer determination or desperately needing something fun and new to look forward to).  I was going to travel alone.  I wanted to travel, and if I wait till I find someone with time, money and who wants to go with me… it felt like I could be waiting forever… and I deserved to have something wonderful to look forward to after Afghanistan.  Somehow I didn’t get caught up in the fact that I could go anywhere or do anything… I’m not sure how as I usually have trouble just deciding what to wear.

I picked Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence and Capri and I would do all of them in a week.  How I chose those places?  I have no idea.

Of those cities, I had only been to Rome (twice) before, so it was going to be home base and I would fly in and out of there since I was a bit familiar with it.  I booked three tours through a company called Viator that I found while looking at the Lonely Planet website.  Somehow simultaneously I picked the cities, found the hotels (nothing fancy) and booked the tours.  The tours I picked were:  Espresso, Gelato and Tiramisu (in Rome), Skip the Line: Florence Walking Tour with Accademia Gallery, and a Day Trip to Capri from Rome.

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The Plan:

Sunday: Fly to Rome

Monday: Arrive in Rome in the morning,  and attend the Espresso, Gelato, Tiramisu tour in the afternoon

Tuesday: Take a morning train from Rome to Cinque Terre

Wednesday: Take an evening train from Cinque Terre to Florence

Thursday: In the morning take the Florence walking tour, then take an evening train back to Rome

Friday: Take the day trip from Rome to Capri

Saturday: Fly  home

It didn’t seem ambitious and it was packed full of new things to see at every glance so there was never going to be time to be bored or lonely.  The upcoming blog posts will be highlights of my trip adventures.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

WHAT DOES HOME FEEL LIKE?

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Yesterday someone asked me if it feels like I’m home yesterday and I realized I’m not even sure what that means. What should home feel like? The best way to figure out what makes you happy…take away everything and figure out what you miss and what you want to do most. But, is home a place or a feeling?

Of course life this week has been loads more comfortable than my time in Afghanistan, however real life is always far more complicated and a lot more work then the strict (and often exhausting) schedule offered on deployment.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been focused on getting cable and Internet connected, cleaning up my back patio, getting a fancy new hair ‘do and now I’m visiting family on a weekend away.

This week I got a new ‘do that has gotten an embarrassing number of compliments which is insanely flattering but… having just returned from an environment where I tried to blend in to the background, walk with blinders on and not draw any attention while trying to get food at the chow hall and do all the things the guys did. Finding the attention flattering now and remembering that taking the time to look nice does not equate to some sort of selfishness or weakness like it felt like there is going to take some getting used to again. First world problems, right?

I went to a movie by myself this week because I wanted to see it and had no one to see it with. I think my idea of what home should feel like is more than a place, but the feeling of complete comfort with myself and with another amazing person… hopefully someday.

ON A JET PLANE

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First thing this morning my watch stopped. Although I took it as a sign my time in Afghanistan had ended, I’m starting to believe it was a prediction of the speed of my journey. I now feel like Tom Hanks in the movie “Terminal.” It is wonderful to be on my way home, and I do hate to complain, but… I do so wish the trip didn’t take nearly two entire days. We have traveled to space and I’m not convinced I will ever leave the airport. How do you think changing my residency to the airport will affect my taxes? Thank you for following along in my journey. More when I’m home,feeling far less cranky and much more grateful.