One Week in Tuscany, How to Get the Most Out of It

One Week in Tuscany, How to Get the Most Out of It


Tuscany, a place to relax and unwind. Join me as I share how to get the most out of your stay in Italy. This destination is a frequented topic in our Travel News section. Stay connected with me and give me some comments below. Enjoy!

There is a region in central Italy that attracts millions of visitors from all over the world each year. Its luxuriant hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, thick oak woods and combed by the hard work of farmers can be seen on pictures, paintings and wine bottle labels worldwide.

I am talking about Tuscany, of course, where you will also find plenty of culture, relaxation, joy of life and great food. Florence alone attracts a great many of all those that set foot in Tuscany each year. The cradle of Renaissance, as the city is often called, is a must see during your tour of the region…or is it?

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Several Ways to Climb a Mountain

Back in the fall, before the snow fell, Boy 12, Boy 7 and their 7-year-old cousin hiked up into the hills near our home. (It’s a mountain range, really, not just a hill. But since they weren’t going far, “hill” gives a truer impression.) Their destination was “the tree house,” which is not a tree house at all, but a pair of rope swings—how the spot got its name I’ll never know. Kids are liars, all.

There are two rope swings tied to a large Cottonwood tree. You sit or hang on the stick tied to the end of the rope and then swing out over the steep trail you just hiked to get there. The tree is on a relatively level spot on an otherwise steep hill, so when you swing out, you’re a good 10 meters from the ground at the apex. Boys, being boys, love it. Even I love it, and I get scared on a Ferris wheel. So the rope swing is a true test of my outer limits. This cheap thrill can be yours for the cost of a steep 20 minute hike up the mountain.

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Sweet Chaos

Noise, noise, noise. Life these days is so filled up with busy noise, of children, husbands, house, TV, or just things around us.

Sometimes I feel suffocated by the noises and want to escape for just a moment. I get desperate to just have some silence. To have a space to myself that I can sit and think for a few minutes without interruption. To have some feeling of peace.

Well, a few days ago, I got the chance to have that time.

I was on a plane for several hours by myself. The plane was especially quiet. I had read my magazine and was just sitting looking out the window when I realized that something didn’t feel right, like I was missing something.

And of course I was. My family. I really missed them and their NOISE.

I realized that even though my life feels crazy sometimes, I love the beautiful sweet chaos around me.

I just hope I can remember that feeling when they’re driving me nuts!

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The Split: Exciting Things Happening at Your Favorite Blog (No, I mean this one)

My friends, the time has come. The Freelance Rider has gotten bigger than my britches.

So, based on some very good advice, it’s time to separate my blog from my business website.

The blog will be moving to in the very near future. I’ll set up a redirect from this page and, in general, make it as easy and seamless as possible, but please bear with me if there are any technical glitches in the process.

Of course, all of the wonderful content that you see will be migrating, as well, and you can still count on the same insightful posts that you’ve come to expect. I’m also going to start featuring guest posts, so get those pencils ready.

I’m really excited about the move, and I think that giving the blog its own space will help it grow even more. It’ll also give me a chance to do a few awesome things that I’ve been wanting to do, like a members’ only cage fight arena! Or maybe that was my other other website…

So, here’s the fun part for you guys: user feedback!

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Progress on Goals

Reading: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb; Seven Types of Ambiguity – Elliot Perlman
Playing: High School Story
Coding: Nothing
Working On: GED prep with MyCareerTools. I passed the GED language practice tests. Next stage: Math
Thinking: That I need to find that article I’ve been looking for.
Feeling: Motivated, Inspired

I realize that nothing really has changed above but the GED…but have you tried to pass a GED practice test? It’s exhausting, even the simple language questions, it’s  an excellent exercise. If you don’t understand what I mean go to this website: and take a test. It’s not easy at all.

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How to Apply to a Job or Write an Email That Actually Gets a Response

I am one of those people who thinks jobs are irrelevant to making money, despite having a full-time job. I also believe in financial diversification, multiple streams of revenue, freelancing, and self-employment. I’ve had staff jobs, long-term freelance jobs, sold ebooks, gotten paid to participate in focus groups,transcribed amateur wrestling interviews, held temp jobs, and made money through traditional publishing routes. I seem to be one of the few that jobs are sometimes fun. Or teach you things. Or give you a place to stop and rethink where you want to go. Or offer a useful way to learn how to launch your own business or harness skills to take to your freelance endeavours.

Regardless of if you want a job or a freelance life or are still just figuring your life out; you need writing skills to get there. It doesn’t matter if you’re not interested in being a writer, you still need them. If you can master a traditional job application via email; than you can master the query letter, guest post pitch, or anything else.

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Save $2.44 a Day For a (Comfortable) Week Abroad

When I was growing up, my family went through financial lows and highs, and I never felt rich or poor. I grew up in a large house nestled on a few acres of woods in Georgia that my parents bought when property and building a house was extremely reasonable. Even in financial pinches, my Dad was always a sharp investor and paid for most things in cash. Money was often unpredictable, and I learned not to depend on it always being there. And I also learned I didn’t need money to have the kind of lifestyle I wanted.

Money was just a tool to me, and if that tool wasn’t available, I just found another one to use.

Travel was also free and plentiful, no matter our financial standing. The two were not mutually exclusive, or even related. My Dad (and one of my brothers) are pilots and we always flew stand-by in any extra seats for free. From an early age, we learned that a vacation started with a 4:00am wake-up call to hop the first flight out, and the game of “Lifeboat”, or “Who’s Going on This Flight if There Aren’t Enough Seats?”

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How to Travel 50 Days a Year With a Full Time Job

I was recently interviewed by a personal finance site on how to how to maximize travel time even with a full time job. When the interviewer asked me how many vacation days I will have taken between 2009 to 2010, including weekends and any days the office was closed for holidays, I realized it was 50. 50 days! In one year I traveled 50 days while holding down a full-time job, freelance projects as a travel writer, and still had a social life at the same time. Had someone presented this idea to me, I would have thought it was impossible in regards to both time and money. But I did it. Here’s how the days broke out:

  • 3 days in January to see my in-laws in Cleveland over Martin Luther King Day weekend. No time off work needed.
  • 3 day weekend in April for our anniversary in Lake Placid, 1 vacation day taken.
  • 3 day weekend in April to go to Boston, 1 personal day taken.
  • 11 days at the end of May and beginning of June for Iceland and Norway. I used 6 days vacation days, and received 1 day off for Memorial Day Weekend, plus 4 weekend days.
  • 2 day weekend in Maine, no time taken off of work.
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Why It’s Important to Travel Even if You’re Broke or Love Where You Live

Yes. It’s true. It’s important to travel, and not because you have money and resources to do so, and not because you need an escape from your life. It’s important because it offers an explosion of creativity and a point-of-view you can’t get from surfing around Tripadvisor planning for the day you have 5k and 4 weeks off. Which is probably going to be never. The real question behind travel is to ask is “Does environment matter”, and it does. You will still have the same core problems, talents and skills regardless of environment (in other words, you are who you are no matter where you are), but that doesn’t mean environment doesn’t inspire. You don’t really understand the economics and politics of Sudan unless you’re there. Or what it’s like to dodge monkeys at burma’s Mount Zwegabin. Unless you’re actually dodging them. Or why roughly 80% of the Icelandic population is undecided on elves and trolls unless you see it’s landscape and talk to the locals.

But more than anything, travel is important because it wakes you up. Provided you’re off the resort. And also exploring life, not just the bottom of a margarita at a cabana bar.

Are you asleep?

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Get More Inspired with Less… Much Less

I’m a sucker for a minimalist on a journey. Anyone who can walk away from a job that makes them unhappy, start a business with pretty much nothing, or pursue their art all with a creative strategy like minimalism is completely dazzling to me. While I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, I embrace minimalist sensibilities, a desire to live with less and simplify. Living with less is subjective. Some would think my carriage house in Brooklyn, NY is too small. Others way too big. For me, it’s perfect for what we want, and I don’t feel the need to fill every square inch with stuff. I’m comfortable with what I have and enjoy a lean aesthetic. However, I spent the first half of my tenure in New York with little more than a bed, dresser, love seat, and clothes and was quite happy with what I owned. Everything else I used was generally a roommate’s or came as a free hand-me down. It was enormously convenient when moving around apartments, spending less time on cleaning, and having more money at my disposal for travel and the things that actually mattered to me.

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