Fathers Day is today, and as I was shopping for the perfect Hallmark card I figured I would dedicate a post to one of the greatest men I will ever know: my dad.
Family has always been important to me (moreso as I get older), but one thing always remains stagnant, my dads love and support for me. Let me first make it clear that I do not call my dad "dad". When my sister and I were younger my dad called us his little "dudettes". Therefore I have and will always call him "Dude". It confused my step cousin (she thought he was my moms boyfriend), but everyone has acclimated to this interesting word, and most of my friends call him Dude as well.
Anyways, on with the reason behind this post. I stick out of my family like a sore thumb...I'm in the fashion industry, and my entire family is in the agriculture business. I love big cities, they despise them. I'm obsessed with the world and travel, and they are pretty content with my small hometown. It's pretty interesting, and more often than not I feel like a black sheep.
Growing up I was a SUPER shy kid. So shy that my kindergarten teacher thought I was a foreign exchange student from France (I was named Dominique after my great grandfather Dominic). I was shy all throughout school and well into college. When I was a sophomore in high school my parents asked me if I wanted to go on a Summer Europe Trip with my high school...a trip that I didn't know would forever change my life. The trip spanned 5 countries in one short month.
Now let's be clear...I never traveled much as a kid. Our family vacations surrounded my home state of California, with trips to Vegas, Arizona, and Southern California. I remember begging for us to go a little further, to Portland or Seattle, but the begging was never very fruitful (please note my skills of persuasion have gotten significantly better).
After that trip to Europe, I was bitten by the travel bug, and the idea that other cultures and some of the most beautiful places on this earth were just a short plane ride away. I knew study abroad was in my future.
I wanted to go to college on the East Coast, specifically in Connecticut. My parents were absolutely not for this idea, and since I was only 17 I reluctantly agreed to stay in the state. The one glimmer of hope that I received was the promise that if I did stay in the state, I could study abroad. My junior year of college came and I convinced my parents that a study abroad program in Italy was something that would benefit my career. After hours of reviewing brochures with them (and begging), they agreed.
I got to Florence January of 2006, and by March I had convinced my parents that they MUST visit me. After finding out my boyfriend back in CA cheated on me, this was the most amazing news I could have ever received. My dad told me that they booked their plane tickets, but that we would book hotels as we traveled through Italy. I am not the type of person that "plays by ear", especially when it involves accommodation- not only is it cheaper to book in advance, but it also serves as a great piece of mind.
This was mom and dudes first time out of the country (excluding Mexico because that doesn't count in my book). I remember my mom calling me as I anxiously waited for them to arrive, and she clearly said on the phone, "I couldn't get on the plane...we aren't coming." My heart dropped, and then she said. "Just kidding, we are in Frankfurt." NOT THE TIME TO JOKE MOM. NOT THE TIME.
Anyways, their trip to Italy was amazing. My dad drove like he was an Italian race car driver on our way to Milan, Rome, and throughout Florence. Some of the days that I had school they ventured to Venice and Assisi. In Rome my mom wanted to take a taxi everywhere, from the Colosseum to the Pantheon. My dad and I agreed to lie to her and tell her that everything was in short walking distance. I mean who goes to Rome to see things out of a taxi window...especially when there are gelato places and enchanting Italian cobbled streets? My dad and I were on the same page - explore as much as possible, and inhale the beauty of our ancestors. Needless to say, my mom found out and was not very happy with us.
I loved sharing with them my experiences there. Both of my parents have relatives in Italy (my mom- Caprille, and my dad- Lucca). We got to meet them, and have Easter with them. I really feel like this experience ignited something within them, especially within my dad.
Since that trip to Italy, it has opened my dad's eyes to the world. I think it showed him that nothing is impossible, and all it takes is just a little planning and a touch of persistence.
I've undoubtedly got my sense of humor from Dude, unafraid to be silly in front of strangers, and sometimes having the worst timing...but hey, that's life. My friends can attest that sometimes my bursts of laughter are inappropriate and sometimes uncalled for, but I'd rather not take things so seriously.
When I got a job in Wisconsin, he didn't question that he was going to fly with me and help me find an apartment and a car (my poor Jetta wouldn't make it in the snow). After hours of looking at apartments, I let him drive through the countryside. We even stopped at a random farm and got a tour of a beautiful red barn. I knew this made him happy, and it made me happy knowing that. Life is about those little compromises. He wasn't even a bit upset when my sister and I tricked him and said I needed to go to IKEA...when we knew IKEA was really close to Chicago, and he wouldn't be able to resist being so close and not seeing it. He may be a little more country, but he loved Chicago. :)
Living in Wisconsin, my family- and especially Dude, loved visiting. While I personally needed a little more city in my life, I've always appreciated where I came from. I remember one particular visit (maybe it was their 5th or 6th time in Wisconsin) - I wanted to do something different. You can only do so much in the Milwaukee area, so at breakfast I suggested we drive to Nashville. We all loved country music, and it was a 9-10 hour drive - totally doable in the 5 days they were visiting. With a lot of persistence and persuasion, and the mention of the Grand Ole Opry, we were off to Nashville. I knew once I got my dad behind my crazy idea, everyone else would be on board. To this day, everyone in my family still talks about that crazy random road trip. These are the moments I live for.
While I was in Milwaukee, my dad decided that we were due for a family vacation. When my dad threw out two ideas, I almost choked - road trip across the US or take a cruise to the Caribbean. WAIT, WHAT? DID I CREATE A MONSTER?! We ended up going on a cruise in the Caribbean and visited 3 islands. When it came to excursions, my dads eyes lit up with excitement, and really reminded me of myself - wanting to experience everything the islands had to offer. We swam with the dolphins, did tours of the islands, and just enjoyed each others company. My dads permanent smile and excitement on this trip made my heart so happy. I even got him to zip line at the top of the cruise ship.
I enjoyed sharing my passion for the world and other cultures with them. Seeing my dad continuously smile, laugh, and experience adventure made this family vacation an absolute dream.
When I found out I had gotten a job in Seattle, I knew I wanted to drive from Milwaukee. I mean when else was I going to drive across the middle of the country? I was going to do it whether or not anyone wanted to join. My dad was the first (and only volunteer). He flew to Milwaukee, and we drove to the Mall of America, The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone. I had such a great time with him, and to this day Dude still talks about our adventures. When we started the road trip, he told me that this was the longest time away from my mom that he has ever spent. I never take things like this for granted. My heart is full knowing that somehow this great man became my father, and that he is always there for me.
I turned the big 3-0 last year, and the last thing I wanted to do was have a big party - but my parents insisted. that they throw me a party complete with an "Around The World" theme. I think the theme was 99% of the reason I agreed to have one. Now, I have never seen my dad dress up (even though my moms birthday is on Halloween), but he was 100% on board with dressing up as a "Cruise Ship Cruiser", with my mom. I had to take pictures because I am not sure if it will ever happen again. It meant a lot to me that he would do something like that for me.
Having a father like him is one of the greatest blessings of my life. He has not only taught me the most valuable things in life, he taught me to be true to myself and to never forget where I came from. He taught me how to make people smile, how to be goofy (and most of the time childish), and was always up for any adventure I threw at him. He has supported my craziest dreams (believe me, I've had a lot), and was always willing to help me see different perspectives of a situation. There are not enough words to describe how important he is, and will always be.
Well I have arrived in Aruba, and as I lay in my bed with the air conditioner on full blast, aloe on my sun exposed skin, and multiple bruises all over my body; I wanted to give a few first impressions of what I have seen and done in Aruba thus far.
1. IT IS HOT. VERY VERY HOT. I'm the kind of girl who lathers on carrot oil and baby oil in search of the perfect golden tan. From the moment I got here, I felt like the sun was boiling my skin. How did I not realize that I booked a trip that was basically a desert? Never have I ever in my life bought SPF 50, but there is a first for everything.
2. Rent a Car. Even if it is only for a few days. The public transportation system seems legit, but it's far too hot outside to be standing at a dusty bus stop in the middle of the desert with your belongings for the day. We rented a car yesterday and today, and got to drive the entire Island. The island is 19.6 miles long and 6 miles wide.
3. The Locals Are Friendly, and The Alcohol Is Not Cheap.
Pop into a bar off the beaten path, outside of the high rise hotel area. You'll find local beers, and local people. And don't be afraid to talk to them. Oh, and on another note the alcohol is not cheap. If you plan on drinking - Right after you land in Aruba you should immediately go to the duty free store right by the baggage check. You are limited to one bottle per person, but we ended up getting two each and sneaking them in our suitcases before walking out through customs. The key is to look straight ahead, smile, and say how excited you are to be in Aruba. :)
4. The White Sand Beaches and Clear Blue Waters are Unimaginable.
I know the water is just as blue as you see in magazines and on tv, but I am still in awe when I am presented with something so beautiful. My favorite beaches are the ones that are off the beaten path, such as Baby Beach (see below). There is just something about getting to swim in crystal clear blue water that gives you the serenity that you need.
As of right now, those are first impressions. I am now halfway through the trip, but I will definitely give more detail in regards to my AirBnB experience, and links to a lot of other things that I did. Right now my friend and I are laying in bed, watching "Entertainment Tonight", getting ready to go get some ceviche on the beach, and are determined to find a fabulous discoteque to dance the night away.
Talk to you all very soon.
Dom and Ducky
Bellisima = "Extremely Beautiful" in Italian, and how i would describe the world, and how I view it through travel.