Writing. Design. Social Change.

Posts from the ‘Travels’ category

Santorini – 36.3932° N, 25.4615° E 
One of the things I will always remember from Santorini is something that I couldn’t capture with my camera. We stayed at a Dominican Convent in Santorini – a home for 12 cloistered nuns of various nationalities. Although I never saw the nuns, I did hear them singing Vespers one evening; an otherworldly hymn that I first mistook for a professional recording. I will also remember the beautiful and serene energy of this place. It was palpable. We were the beneficiaries of these nuns who spend most of their days channeling grace through prayer.

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SYROS – 37.4385° N, 24.9139° E

Postcards from our month in Greece traveling, writing, and storytelling in COM 382 Digital Publishing.

When I look back on our two weeks on Syros I will be thinking about the blues. The seas, the skies, the bays, all in a range of that clear, impossible blue. If we can have that every day, perhaps it is enough. Maybe we don’t need as much as we think we need. That’s really the undercurrent of my time on Syros. The slower pace of life (except for the drivers!), the kindness of everyone we met, the three-hour meals with the waves lapping behind us, the raw beauty of the island, and the simplicity of its beaches. A towel and a tamarisk tree are all you need.

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COM 382 Digital Publishing in Greece May 24 – June 25, 2019

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Join us for a special COM course as we explore the islands of Greece.


  • Fulfills upper-level communications elective for majors & minors
  • Open to all majors at Saint Joseph’s University, no pre-requisites
  • Travel and study in Athens, Santorini, Syros, and Crete and many other locations

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Spend a month in Greece traveling, writing, and storytelling. The wide variety of digital media tools and platforms available allows us to share observations, research, and personal narratives with global audiences online. Using a variety of digital tools including 360 photography, video, audio, and social media, we will create a portfolio of stories for publication.

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As we travel throughout Greece, we will develop projects for digital publication. Each project emphasizes skills essential to writing for the web: finding, framing, and pitching story ideas; research, reconnaissance, and field recording techniques; the appreciation for and acquisition of story context; tools for evaluating issues of ethics; an understanding of story elements, organization, and assembly; writing, revising and editing for clarity and purpose; peer review and constructive feedback on your drafts; and finally, publication strategies for your work.

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Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 4.18.25 PMSee the Center for International Programs for more course information. studyabroad@sju.edu (610)660-1835


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As a Writer-in-Residence at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, I was awarded a cabin for a week to write in peace and seclusion.

Dedicated “to the betterment of human relations” Wildacres is a wilderness destination and public foundation for nonprofit groups, musicians, artists, naturalists, and writers. The generosity of the dedicated staff makes the place feel like a second home.

Deep in the woods in Owl’s Nest, I spent most of the week binge writing, making progress on my book manuscript which details the work of the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative, where students lead digital research projects with local nonprofits and community-based organizations.

There is no internet or cell reception in the cabins – which is the kind of isolation I need to get writing done.

A short hike up the mountain there is a thriving retreat center, where the Kumandi drum group convened for the week. I listened to their West-African rhythms into the dark nights. I heard their drums in my sleep.

Although Wildacres provides meals to all at the lodge, I mostly worked in seclusion and cooked in my cabin, living on spinach omelets and frozen cheese pizzas.

When I wasn’t writing, I hiked trails along the mountain ridges lined with rhododendron and mountain laurel. If all this sounds too pastoral, I also spent an inordinate amount of time killing stink bugs in my cabin. There were also crickets, black flies, bees, wasps, and giant wild turkeys, but no brown bears or snakes —  at least not ones that revealed themselves.

One muggy afternoon I headed to Asheville for a much-needed break. I had been charmed by Asheville a few years ago during an ACE Camp filmmaking workshop.

I arrived in Asheville without a plan, which was in the whole spirit of the week. However, I soon found myself following a woman in bright blue scrubs and her friend. The woman in scrubs was placing an order for lunch on her phone:

. . . I’ll have the avocado taco.

. . . Do you have plantains today? Those, too.

. . . Okay!

This has to be good, I thought. She obviously knows what’s what in Asheville. In anticipation, I followed them from a distance past the artsy shops and galleries.

Through a park.

Behind a brewery.

Across a parking lot.

Around a hotel.

Alongside a stream.

Through a pedestrian walkway.

Past a residential neighborhood …

Finally, as they moved toward an industrial complex, I wistfully gave up the mission.

Heading back the way I came, I sat for a while at a café and then perused Malaprop’s bookstore. An hour later, saw them return from their walk with two plastic shopping bags from Lowe’s. And no tacos.

All was not lost. I discovered 12 Bones Smokehouse and Wedge Brewing Co.

I also drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at every single scenic overlook.

In the cabin journal, past residents left their accounts of their week, each seeming to have an equally productive time.

I feel a strange, unexpected affinity to those who have stayed here in this place before me. Here are some snippets from the cabin journal:

“Dearest Cabin Dwellers, Collaborators – Welcome to the lineage and don’t worry about a thing. You made it here and the rest is gonna take care of itself.”

“This is a special place where time has the ability to stand still, where you have the ability to become invisible, like the animals and really become part of the forest.”

 “I think this was the most alone week of my life. Every bride should do this before getting married.”

“I left my journal entry in song. You can hear it in the creak of the wood floor, the acorn percussion on the tin roof.”

“I hope this solitude does its work in you and that you discover good and new paths to creativity and love of who you are.”

“Be open to whatever species chooses you as a friend. (ha!)”

“Look for GIANT TURKEYS. If your thoughts start getting too serious, they will appear.”

 “When I walked into this magical cabin, I totally felt like Ma Ingalls.”

“Laughed a lot at night – all alone.”

“I needed this week.”

“It’s a special place that cannot be described—only felt.”

The Wildacres Residency Program has my highest recommendation. Please let me know if you apply or have any questions.


PUGLIA – Italy
40.8167° N, 16.5500° E

Update:: Thanks to all who participated in our spring workshops.

Original post:: My passion is to learn about cultures and customs different from my own. Like other inveterate travelers, I want to understand different approaches to life, to knowledge, to meaning making. This is about expanding our views of the world and our place in it. With each journey – we understand a little more about the ethnosphere — what anthropologist Wade Davis calls “the sum total of all the thoughts, beliefs, myths, and institutions brought into being by the human imagination.” So, our mission on this trip was to learn how food, people, and place are all connected. We wanted to celebrate the living food cultures of Puglia and the traditions and festivities that surround them. 

Picnic in Puglia

The boot heel of Italy is known for its hospitality, its ancient olive groves, its white washed villages and its deep blue Adriatic seas. The region of Puglia has a food and wine culture that remains relatively unchanged through the centuries. It’s for these reasons that my colleague Tenaya Darlington (aka Madame Fromage) and I are organizing food and storytelling workshops there this Spring. We welcome you to join us. Although we will learn to employ digital tools to chronicle the stories we encounter – we are perfectly happy if you want to use this time to unplug and leave the tech at home. 


We invite you to:

  • Stay on a working farm in Puglia

  • Make mozzarella and Pecorino

  • Apprentice a shepherd

  • Bake bread from wild yeast

  • Learn about regional wines

  • Shop the local markets

  • Taste olive oils in the field

  • Rediscover three-hour meals

This week in Italy is for everyone who loves food, culture, and travel to authentic places. We hope you join us in Puglia for an amazing week. Visit Live Cultures to reserve your spot at the table.

Seaside Table, Puglia

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ROME – Italy

July 11, 1973

On her first trip abroad, my mother checked into room 454 at Le Grand Hotel – Roma (now the St. Regis Rome). Donna unpacked her bags, combed her long blond bob and headed straight for Le Grand Bar. She wanted to try something Italian, so she ordered a Campari with a splash of fresh orange juice. She sipped her drink and and took in the sumptuous surroundings. They were to her liking. She stayed for eight nights, making this historic landmark hotel her home base for exploring the city.

Vintage Fendi

At least I assume she saw the city… she was awfully busy exploring the finer things at the grand bar, the grill, and the ristorante at Le Grand Hotel. If there is someone who appreciates la dolce vita, well….that’s Donna.

How do I know this? I wasn’t born yet. And she never mentioned the trip. But, a few years ago, I inherited her vintage Fendi, which she purchased on this Roman holiday. Hidden away in a zippered compartment, I found a relic, more telling than a diary entry.

Fendi Purse from 1973

It was a bill – a reflection of her comings and goings. A small piece of paper that has provided me with more questions than answers.

I’ve spent hours pondering this bill, imagining my mother living it up in Rome in her late 20s. I looked up the exchange rate in 1973. A US  dollar = somewhere between 580 – 624 lire, depending on the source.

Bill 1973

Donna’s room cost 35,000 LIR or about 56 USD a night. A visit to the bar cost, on average, 2,000 LIR. But on one particularly busy night she spent 8,000 LIR – about 12 U.S. dollars. Perhaps she was welcoming the beginning of a new evening with a special bottle of Perrier-Jouët?

Were they dramatically sabering the champagne bottles then, like they do today?

And how did she afford such luxuries on a teacher’s salary?

Grand Hotel Roma

The total bill for eight nights was about 655 USD (I think). Or did I forget a decimal?!

Next week I will finally visit this historic hotel, so often on my mind. Maybe I too will have a drink at the bar.  And although I would love to peek into apartamento 454, that might be out of my budget for this trip.

Portrait of mother and daughter circa 1978

Portrait , Mother and daughter, 1978. Just a few years after her Roman holiday.


SANTA FE – New Mexico
35.6869° N, 105.9372° W

CottonwoodsLorreto ChapelInside the Loretto ChapelCasita at 10,000 WavesOfurokiva copycoyote copyBluecornpancakestacosghostranchGeorgia's house View at Ghost RanchRoad to Ojo CalientesSkyMonroe GalleryPotterySouthwest Safari tourriograndeFountain


CANCALE – France 
48.6769° N, 1.8506° W

Consider Cancale if you’re searching for: the quintessential fishing village on the coast of Brittany | towers of seafood | authentic charm

Mont Saint Michel

Oysters? For breakfast?

Seriously. It says “check here” if you’d like oysters delivered to the room for breakfast.


I sat, propped up on immense pillows, listening to the rising tide, watching the fog envelop the distant Mont-Saint Michel. I might never leave.

Cancale is a picturesque fishing-village on the coast of Brittany. It’s known amongst foodies for its oysters. Although small, Cancale remains a lively fishing port. Famed Michelin-star chef Olivier Roellinger holds court here. Lucky, lucky Bretons.

Cancale - Oysters

To do

Coastal trail Walk the coastal path around the peninsula into town (the old custom officer’s path). The scenic walk takes you along the cliffs, past vine-covered cottages, marine roses, row-boats, and oyster beds.

La Cuisine Corsaire- Culinary School Emmanuel Tessier and Olivier Roellinger offer cooking courses. They beckon visitors to “discover, master, tame and glorify the products of the Sea and of the vegetable garden using the set of spices which characterise the culinary spirit of Maisons de Bricourt.” Place Saint-Méen 
 Cancale, France

La Maison de Gwenn – After your long walk, some reflexology with flowers, oils, and spices is in order. 2 Rue Saint-Malo 
Cancale, France

Shop in the quaint downtown for La Marinière – the iconic striped sailor shirt, made in Brittany. Stock up on salted butter caramels  (caramel-buerre-salé) – which, due to the high-fat content of the Breton butter, are the finest in the world. Don’t miss the local cheeses (technically from Normandy) including Camembert, Livarot, and Pont-l’Évêque.

Mont-Saint-Michel  – a short drive from Cancale stands Mont-Saint-Michel, on a rocky tidal island. Formerly a Benedictine monastery, then a prison, then a military stronghold, it’s now on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Mont Saint Michel

To eat

Le Coquillage – Chef Olivier Roellinger is world-renowned for creating masterpieces by infusing seafood with spices. This is the site of the best meal of my life – lobster with sherry, vanilla, and cocoa (it’s 19th century-style, they say). The delicate scallops with coriander, anise, and cardamon took a close second. On my boyfriend’s birthday we ordered a seafood platter that took us two happy hours to polish off. D155 Rue du Mont Saint-Michel, Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes, France

Château Richeux Dining

La Houle District Stalls stand just feet away from the oyster beds in downtown Cancale.  Pick out your oysters and the proprietors will hand-shuck them for you and present them on a plastic plate with a wedge of lemon.  Talk about going to the source. Cancale, France

Grain de Vanille – A Tea Room to sample Breton pastries. If you’re in the mood for something stronger, there’s spiced hot chocolate and Breton cider, too. 12 Place de la Victoire, Cancale, France

To sleep   

Les Maison de Bricourt – Château Richeux – The staff take pride in this Relais & Châteaux property. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming, homey, and unique – not at all stuffy. Exploring the property, we discovered sheep, horses, hiking trails, greenhouses, gardens, ponds, and the bake-house where David was making the croissants. In the evening we ordered up some spiced grog and cigars, wrapped ourselves in white blankets, and headed out to the windy seaside terrace.  I don’t know how the blankets stay white, but they do. D155 Rue du Mont Saint-Michel, Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes, France

Château Richeux
Château Richeux window

Les Gites Marins – Relaxing seaside cottages with terraces, fireplaces, and breakfast basket delivery filled with David’s breads and brioches. 62 rue des Rimains, 
Cancale, France 

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