In the past five days…

Let me recap the past five days of my life:

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I graduated college.

There were cupcakes.

I moved out of my college apartment.

olivia leigh gaggi

Hopped on a plane (on my 22nd birthday).

And arrived in Florence!

Needless to say it has been a BUSY five days!

I’m so happy to finally be in Italy though. I’ve been planning this trip for the past semester. While my dad will be in Florence for the next six weeks teaching a study abroad course I really wanted to see parts of Italy I haven’t been to before. I’ve been to Florence and Tuscany quite a few times. I lived here for four months when I was five years old and visited for six weeks at a time almost every summer I was in high school.

My itinerary:

  • Palermo, Sicily (6 days)
  • Milan (3 days)
  • Venice (3 days)
  • Back to Florence (6 days)
  • Herculaneum (1-2 days)

Then probably Barcelona and Madrid then back to Florida!

This is the lightest I’ve ever traveled anywhere in my entire life. Only one backpack for the whole trip! It’s going to be a very busy and interesting six weeks!

Things that make me happy right now:

  1. my fam
  2. Italy
  3. my cats
  4. tiramisu gelato
  5. color blocking

Love,
Liv

PS- If you want to see a few more pics that I’ve taken since getting to Italy you can click here…

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What I Learned in College

For the past for years I’ve answered the same question countless times.

“So, you’re from Florida, how did you end up at Appalachian State?”

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Four years ago, when I was a senior in high school, I knew I wanted to get out. I wanted to have the ‘going away to college’ experience. I wanted to try something new and live somewhere new. I wanted to grow up and become the person I wanted to be.  So many people I knew from high school (not all though), went to the same college, hang out with the same people, went to the same parties– Personally, I just don’t think you really have a chance to grow as a person and mature if you don’t challenge yourself and put yourself in new situations that may even feel uncomfortable at first.

Everything I had hoped I’d get out of college, I got. I definitely have had a lot of lessons in the past four years and looking back I got everything I wanted for out of college. It didn’t happen as easily and smoothly as I had imagined (nothing does) but I got there and I’m better for it.

At the end of each semester the seniors in my sorority stand in front of chapter and read a letter to the younger girls. I really liked mine. It was more of a list of things I wish I had known four years ago and lessons learned. Maybe I have regrets. I’m not sure, I’ve always believed you shouldn’t regret anything. But lately I think people who have regrets are good. They’re the people who look back on their life and thought about how they could’ve done better, how if they’re in a similar situation in the future they’ll do it right. As long as you don’t dwell on regrets and use them to give you direction in the future and be a better version of yourself I think they’re healthy and a good thing.

Anyways as cheesy as it is here is my list of things I wish I had known four years ago.  Continue reading

Independence

I always get urge to write in the middle of the night right as I’m falling asleep. I plan on getting up and writing it down first thing in the morning but as soon as my day gets going a million other things are more important to get done and writing gets pushed further and further back on my to do list. So here I am at 1:30 in the morning with class at 8 but I’m going to type this thought out anyways.

I like making hard decisions. I always have. The thought of doing something because it feels comfortable or easy makes me nauseous. Aside from a couple guys with sports scholarships, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person I know from my graduating high school class that went to a school that not only was out of state but also where I knew absolutely no one. I don’t even think I had ever visited Boone before when I made my decision to spend four years of my life here. Not to mention, I went to a school where if I check the weather during the winter and its between 30-40 degrees I think to myself, “that’s not that bad.”

Now that I’m nearing the end of my college career people keep asking me if I’m going to move back to Tampa or go to Charlotte or Raleigh or somewhere else where everyone goes in North Carolina. As much as I love Tampa and my wonderful friends back home I feel like it would be a cop out if I were just to move there and work. I think Charlotte or Raleigh would feel that way as well because now I know so many people who will probably be moving back there too.

I don’t know why I run from everything/everywhere I know. I can’t tell if this is a character flaw or a character strength.

And most of my friends will live a die in this zip code and it might be for me, but until I go how am I ever supposed to know?”
The Band Perry, Independence

The House That Built Me

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself

So, in my last post I talked about how the new owners of my old house had trashed it and how sad I was that the house I grew up in looked uncared for and I need to take that back.

My last week in Florida my cat of thirteen years, Caliope (named after the Greek muse of music.. don’t ask I was a weird eight year old!) started acting kind of weird and sick so I hopped on over to Temple Terrace to visit her vet. Things seem to be getting better for her now but for a little while I thought she might be reaching the end of her life and since she was originally a mostly outdoor cat and was going to have to be an indoor cat for the next few months since my parents are in the process of building a new house I decided that if she was at the end of her life i’d let her return to our old neighborhood and live out the rest of her life as an outdoor cat again, I think thats what would make her happiest.

Anyways, so I decided to stop by our old neighbors house to see if they would be willing to look out for Caliope if she was getting sick. The new family that had moved in were having a yard sale and I noticed a shelf that would be perfect for my bathroom at school. I got out of my car and had a look around. After chatting with the woman a little bit asking what she was doing and she filled me in that they had just bought the house and were decorating and making room for new furnishing, I decided to let her in on the fact that her new house was actually the house I grew up in. She was so excited when I told her and wanted to show me around the house so I could see the changes she and her family had made.

Walking through your home when its not your home is a really surreal experience. I met her two young children and her youngest child introduced me to their cat. She was really cute and hyper and loud. She has the same bedroom I grew up in. I’m pretty sure she is totally ADHD and it makes me kind of happy that another crazy girl is growing up in the back of that house.

Seeing the family and getting to know them even a little made me realize that the house really wasn’t so bad. I even kind of liked them. I’m happy that they are so genuinely happy in my old home.

Summertime

So I’ve been insanely busy with my internship cause I’m out of my mind and agreed to work until August 16th when I head back to Boone for school the 18th. So while everyone else has finished up their summer internships I’m still working on mine! Which is great because I’m learning a ton and meeting so many wonderful people.. I just wish I had scheduled in a little vacation time before I start my senior year of college! I still have no idea how my senior year is already here but that’s a whole other story!

Some other very exciting news in the Life of Liv is that I have another internship already lined up for this coming winter break with Daytime on News Channel 8! I had my interview with their lovely executive producer last Monday and I am very excited about this fabulous opportunity. I am so excited to learn more about the broadcasting aspect of communications careers!

I’m trying to fit in as much fun experiences as I can in my last couple of weeks in Florida as I can before I move back to the mountains so I’ve been extremely busy. Last Saturday I went snorkeling through Tropical Island Getaway’s with my lovely friend Samantha Whiting and had the time of our lives! I already knew about Tropical Island Getaway through one of the Family Fun tours I had been working on through my internship with Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater. I included it on my tour of South Pinellas county so I decided to give it a try myself!

The guides/captains were so much fun and they gave us a heads up on the best seats on the boat so we could get the best view of the dolphins who came and played and jumped behind us for part of the ride. The ferry was BYOB and they had extra coolers to keep your drinks and snacks reallyyy cold. Then we once we got to Egmont Key the snorkeling gear (and noodle floating devices) were included and we got to see all the cool marine life around the ruins of the Fort Dade, which was used in the Spanish American War.

After the snorkeling portion of the trip we went over to the island which was incredible. You don’t see beaches like that too often. Everything was very natural feeling.  The only thing missing was Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom from the Pirates movies!  We hiked around the old fort and saw the lighthouse which was built in 1858.  After our explorations then we went back and relaxed in the water with a couple noodles and brews.

There were private boats all pulled up and anchored right on shore.  If I ever move back to Florida for good: 1) I must live closer to the ocean and 2) I will have my own boat.

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After Saturdays sea adventure I went on a different kind adventure to Universal Studios. There was no way I was going back to North Carolina without seeing Hogwarts! I am a huge Harry Potter fan and had to see the new section of the park!

I think my favorite part of the day was going to Ollivanders wand shop. When you go to Ollivanders you can either wait in line and go in with a small group of other Muggles and have a chance at being picked by Ollivander himself to go through the whole process of finding the perfect wand for you or you can just skip ahead and just pick one yourself. I, of course, wanted the whole experience and luckily Ollivander picked ME out of everyone in our group to find the wand for me! Anyways the Ash wand picked me.. thats the same type of wand that Cedric Diggory had and it was also the same as Ron Weasley’s first wand.

It was such a fun day! I even tried fish and chips again. For those who don’t know me but I stopped eating seafood when I was nine years old because I ate too much fish and chips when we lived in Cambridge, England for a little over a month that year!

So anyways, I’m at my parents right now recovering from my wisdom teeth removal surgery and after going a little stir crazy the past couple days I decided to go run some errands around town with my mother.  We went and looked at the lot where they are going to be building their new house. It’s really beautiful and has a woods in the backyard which are going to be nice for barbecues and get togethers. Hopefully it’ll be done being built by the end of December!

Then we had to go run some errands in Temple Terrace (the part of town where we use to live.) I feel really bad because I kind of made my mom go and drive by our old house even though she didn’t want to and it looked terrible.  It was so depressing to drive by. The new owners were not taking care of it at ALL. There was crap all on the roof, the lawn needed to be mowed, they tore out some of the bushes so the yard looked bare and ugly, there were bouncy balls and toys all over the yard… The entire front of the neighborhood looked HORRIBLE because of the jerks that moved into our old house! The house I grew up was entirely TRASHED. It was beautiful when we sold it to them. My parents worked so hard to make it nice and they literally just killed the entire house and made the entire neighborhood look awful. I really hope that somehow the new owners of —— see this post and realize what assholes they are for killing an already beautiful home. I hope they realize that the entire neighborhood of Raintree Oaks probably thinks they’re douche bags for doing so.

Okay, well that’s what I’ve been up to lately! I’ll upload some pictures from one of the tours I’ve been working on later! Summer is almost over!

Love,
Liv

Words I Liv By:

“Do one thing thing that scares you everyday.”

What I mean by this is that everybody should challenge themselves daily. If you push yourself do something that you’re afraid of (that you know isn’t ridiculously stupid or crazy) you will no longer be scared of that one thing. You will gain confidence in yourself and have a better grasp on who you are as an individual.

I don’t know when I started saying this or where I got it from or if I even made it up myself (it sounds kind of like a Nike ad I think), but since I was about 16 years old I have used this phrase to give myself courage to do things that I find intimidating. From wearing crazy outfits and dyeing my hair pink in high school, to public speaking and all the way to deciding to moving almost 700 miles from the beaches of Florida to the mountains of North Carolina (where I knew basically no one) to start college. This phrase or saying has helped give me the courage to make some of the major decisions  in my life so far.

Although I do not graduate until next May, the closer that that day comes (and the longer that I stay in Florida this summer) I have come to realize that soon I will have to make another big decision and many more to follow after that. I’m going to have to decide what I’m going to do with my life and where I’m going to try to start that life. I’ll have to make this decision and commit to it, just like I did when I chose to attend Appalachian State University. Even though my first year at App was rough I was able to stick through it and ended up learning so much about myself and grew so much from those experiences into the young woman I now am.

The problem with this decision is this: what I want for myself and what my mother wants for me do not match up.  I know my mother wants what is best for me, wants me to succeed and wants me to be happy but I also know that my mother wants me to stay here close to her and stay in Florida. Even though I have expressed a million different times and in a million different ways that even though I love Florida (and perhaps one day I will end up here ) that this is not where I want/need to be to start the next chapter of my life.

My mother claims she is not trying to guilt trip me or manipulate me in any way but I can tell she is doing what she can to change my mind about Florida (which is interesting since she hates Florida and constantly reminds everyone that the only reason she stayed in Tampa was because her mother guilt tripped and bribed her into doing so). She attempts to change my mind by asking me about I feel about living/working in St. Pete (literally, 45 minutes away from Tampa).  Or since my parents are in the process of looking for a new house she talks about it having to be big enough for my sister and I to visit, for me to bring my future husband and also somewhere safe for her future grand kids to play at on weekends (I’m 21 and I do not have a serious boyfriend  at the moment and neither does my 25 year old sister).  And of course,  she never fails to remind me that she would not be happy if I moved too far away to somewhere like Chicago, New York or DC (where my sister happens to live.. make sense?) because she would miss me too much.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my mom so much. I am so grateful for her and everything she has done for me. We have a great relationship and I know I can count on her for anything and talk to her about almost anything but I feel trapped sometimes when I’m home.  I just know with every ounce in my body that if I decide to stay here after I graduate it will: 1) regret it for the rest of my life and  wonder what I would’ve become if I had attempted a life outside of my comfort zone and 2) Even if I stay here after I graduate with the intention of one day leaving I’ll end up getting wrapped up in a job or a relationship and wind up never leaving.

I love Florida. It’s where I was raised. It is comfortable and familiar but I want new and exciting. I believe that my life is in the beginning and moving back home will feel like it’s already halfway over. Yes, a new job in general will be new and exciting for a little while but it won’t be long until I’m bored of being in the same old, same old Florida.

So as much as it terrifies and scares me to start new in somewhere completely different and away from the family that I love and will miss it is something that has to be done.

I’ve done the beach and the small town so far… I’m thinking the city next. New York? Chicago? DC? London? I have dual-citizenship with Italy so anywhere in Europe is an option, although until I have get my Italian fluent I’ve only got my English speaking skills to guide me.

Love,
Liv

Mind, Body and Soul Project

This past semester I took a class called Woman Artists with Professor Lillian Goudas teaching the course. When I first selected to take this class I was just looking for credits to help fill my art history minor requirement but I ended up learning much more than the what was listed in the course description.

I first want to mention how highly I think of Professor Goudas. This was the second class I took from her and she is everything a professor should be. She is intelligent, passionate and enthusiastic. She works hard to engage her students and get them excited about not only learning her subject but she encourages them to be excited about the entire process of learning.. and she succeeds in doing so. At the end of last semester she invited students from our class to a delicious dinner at her house (which more professors should do). Having dinner in her home gave us a better chance to get to know our professor a little outside of the classroom.

A wall in her dining room is what her family calls the “Art Wall.” Each year she picks a theme she wants her three young children to focus on. This past year the focus was their mind, body and soul. Each day they were to do something that helped either their mind, body or soul grow, then they create an illustration and hang it on the wall. I thought this was such a fantastic idea I thought I should write that down to be something I can do with my future children. Then I thought that maybe I shouldn’t wait to practice this idea but maybe it could be a personal project this summer. Kind of a “practice what you preach” thing.

So I grabbed some pens and paper and I started making some lists of what I would count for each category that I’m doing this summer… (BTW, I love lists).

Mind:

  • My internship
  •  This blog
  • Reading one book a month (I’ve already finished Nicolas Sparks’ The Wedding and Kathryn Stock’s The Help).

Body:

  • Waking up at 5:30 a.m. during the week to go on a morning bike ride before my internship
  • Going to the gym each day on my way home
  • Also, spending as much time as I can doing outdoors exercising including the sailing lessons I just begun last weekend.

When I got to the Soul category and realized that other than to unsuccessfully attend mass each Sunday I didn’t have too much planned for my soul. I wanted to do something to help others but being as I’m a poor college intern I didn’t have much time or money to do so.My original plan was to put my PR skills into practice and plan an event or dinner that would raise money for a cause that I thought was particularly important and that I cared about.  After talking about some of my ideas with my boss, I decided I should focus on something that involved less planning. Since I am new to town, what I had originally had in mind would have been difficult to successfully pull off with my current schedule. I started on researching an organization where I could volunteer once every week or two.

My junior and senior year of high school I volunteered twice a week at a place called Everyday Blessings, which was a home for children from abusive families. Some of the children living there were up for adoption but most of them are only their until their parents are legally allowed to be their guardian again.  During my time there I helped out in the nursery which was the home for up to five newborns to toddlers at a time. I’ll never forget Sean*, a two year old african american boy, who I loved. Whenever I showed up Sean would run and jump to give me a hug and tell me, “I wub wou, Ms. Wibia,” which I believe translates to, “I love you, Ms. Olivia.”  I would always come home and beg my mom to please adopt him so he would be my baby brother. Which I knew was unrealistic but it didn’t stop me from trying. The week I found out that Sean was finally able to return to his mother I went to Everyday Blessings on his last day so I could say goodbye. I stayed as long as I could and cried the whole drive home.  Although he will grow up and probably has already forgotten me I’ll never forget that sweet little boy or my experience volunteering at Everyday Blessings. Since then I have known that one day I will adopt one of my children from one of these types of organizations.

Anyways, didn’t mean to get off topic but I wanted to try and find a similar organization nearby where I could volunteer again. I searched the internet and called different churches in the area and I couldn’t find anything that really seemed to interest me but the idea of volunteering at Hospice kept popping up. In middle school, high school and college I tagged along with my mom almost everyday to hospitals and nursing homes when my Lita (grandmother), Lolo (grandfather) and Tia (great-aunt) got sick. As much as I hate hospitals, I hate seeing sick old people by themselves alone even more.. especially if they’re IN hospitals.

I enjoy talking to people and making others feel happy so I think that the best place for me to spend a little free time this summer will be helping out once a week or every two weeks at Hospice. I still need to sign up and do some more research on the one nearby but that’s the plan as of now.

That’s my Mind, Body and Soul Project.

These are two quotes that I like a lot and wanted to end with:

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” -Audrey Hepburn

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” -Mark Twain

Love,
Liv

*Name has been changed

Liv Learns:

As I come to the end of my fourth week interning I’ve only just begun learning about all the ways PR techniques work their way into many of the different aspects of organizations and companies, especially those related to tourism.

One of the main projects I have been working on during my time at the CVB is planning  familiarization tours, also called a FAM tours. The point of the FAM tour is to help give those who work directly with tourists (concierge, bus drivers, hotels, etc.) an idea of different suggestions for activities that our location offers that they may not already know about.

The FAM I’m currently finishing up on is one that focuses on family fun activities that are offered in our county… and there are a LOT! There are so many that we decided to divide the county into North and South sections and do a tour for each part of the county. So I’m actually finishing up on two FAMs (after this I have to work on two more.. actually four more possibly)! In order to come up with fun family activities I have to do research through internet and making phone calls to various venues and companies.

Mapping out where all the different places are located and possible routes for the two tours are also part of what I have been working on. Also, since there will be two tours mapping possible routes and itineraries are also part of the process. We decided that it would be really neat for the the North tour to instead of using a boring regular bus to rent one of the old fashioned beach trollies instead!

Networking is also a huge part of public relations and promotion. Whether it is relating to tourism or anything else. Meeting as many people as you can and making connections to other groups and individuals in your community and elsewhere helps to create mutually beneficial relationships that will help build your company while creating a positive reputation for others to see.

Another project I have been working on is actually with helping out the film commission. Many of the photos on their database are out of date and need to be updated so on days when I’m not working on the FAM I’m driving around the county taking pictures of what it has to offer. I love doing this because A) I love taking pictures and this is a great excuse to do that! B) It helps me learn the county better and C) I learn another aspect of of the CVB and something else I may enjoy. What I DIDN’T like about it was walking around all day on Clearwater Beach when it was 150 degrees outside (or at least it felt like it)!! All I wanted to do was to RUN as fast as I could into the ocean but I couldn’t because I did not have my bathing suit on and I had my expensive Canon Rebel around my neck… Not to mention, it might have been a bit odd if I returned to the office soaking wet. Not sure what kind of impression that would have left on everyone there.

Also, I’ll be uploading my favorite photos from my film commission scouting every few days hopefully! The previous post was actually from my first day working on that!

Meanwhile, one of my favorite parts of living at the beach this summer are Florida sunsets every night. Even if I’m just watching them with girlfriends or Harry Potter (reading the book, obviously), Florida sunsets are by far the best in the world.

BTW, my sailing lessons begin this Saturday at one of the marinas downtown! There are four days of class, two weekends, each day begins at 2 p.m. and lasts until 7 p.m. ! I’m really excited about adding yet another new experience to this summer!

That’s all for this evening.

Love,
Liv