Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review: Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

Book Review:  Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

When a book comes to you effortlessly, you know there is a reason. This happened to me in January 2017. I scrolled through my emails and stopped when I read this subject line and title: 
“One woman’s solo pilgrimage along Italy’s Via Francigena brings challenge, healing”

In Award-Winning Memoir, Novice Hiker and Huffington Post Blogger 
Tackles Italy’s Historic Pilgrimage Route, Mending Her Soul Through Travel

I recommend this book to my fellow women travelers. The memoir is an easy read, and follows Chandi Wyant’s journey through one of my favorite regions — Italy.  My own favorite themes tugged at me throughout the work — a woman and solo traveler reconnecting with herself, and reawakening with every step she took on the pilgrimage. I also relished the Italian countryside, the ancient tales of Italian art and history intertwined with everyday living, and the local stories found in small Italian villages. 
I sat down for a week immersed in this book during the intense February rain we had in Northern California, and read Return to Glow from cover to cover. I absorbed each page of Chandi’s journey as she mended her soul through Tuscany. I noticed a strong emphasis on these three themes, and received more answers from Chandi regarding her spiritual discoveries, as well as the conversations she had with the people she met, and the history of the Italian regions she walked through.

I felt the struggles she was going through before the pilgrimage, specifically with how her life was in the beginning — a challenging operation in Italy, immediate emotions of separation from her spouse. I appreciated how she received affirmations of the journey both before and during the trip.

Tuscany Italy Credit to FunTourGuru
 A Gripping Read on Travel and Self-Discovery

This is an engaging and readable book. Below I will share my favorite part of Chandi’s journey, along with more of her reveals.

My favorite scene was when she was in the village of Pontremoli, and documented her stay with B&B owners Adriana and Lorenzo. The trio engaged in an in-depth conversation on the local Italian war history of nearby villages while eating an Italian dish of testaroli al pesto and enjoying homemade wine. This couple intuitively assisted and encouraged Chandi through the daily physical struggles that came to her feet during her stay. I actually felt the aches when she detailed this foot injury.  

FTG: Is there one place (or person you met) that was the most powerful and resonated with you for this spiritual journey? 

Chandi: One experience that I found powerful was in the town of Sutri, where I stayed at a convent of Franciscan nuns and watched them hold a service in their garden in front of their chapel. I felt that I had stepped out of my world and into theirs for a few minutes, and experienced their way of surrendering. I realized that they have learned to surrender in a way that many of us in the west would like for ourselves, but don’t know how to achieve. 

FTG: Your pilgrimage went through many unknown villages and popular towns we know today like Cinque Terre. What was your favorite place on this journey? 

Chandi: The region in southern Tuscany called the Val d’Orcia was stunning to walk through, from San Quirico d’Orcia to Bagno Vignoni, and from there to Radicofani.

Bagno Vignoni is unique in that it’s the only town in Italy where the main piazza is a pool of steamy water. While the Etruscans may have known of the thermal waters at Bagno Vignoni, it was the Romans — great connoisseurs of hot springs — who developed this as a spa town. When the Western Roman Empire fell apart, Bagno Vignoni fell with it, but the town perked up again when pilgrims began to come through on Via Francigena, stopping to rest in the hot, healing water. 

The rectangle of water in place of a piazza makes for an evocative sight in winter when the hot steam rising from it contrasts with the cold air. It equally appeals in summer when the homes around the water are bright with flower boxes and warm, sunny stone.

FTG: What changes have you made to keep following the intuitive direction you found? 

Chandi: I have learned not to block myself from listening to my heart. I have learned in fact, to block the chatter in my head about duty to allow my heart to have room to speak. 

FTG: I enjoy going on trips by myself, and get questions from other women asking me about walking solo. How would the spiritual journey have been different if you had not been by yourself — if a friend had gone with you?

Chandi: It would have been very different if I had not been solo. It never occurred to me to seek out a companion for this particular journey. I wanted the outer journey to facilitate an inner one, and I felt that to get the most out of the inner one, I needed to be alone.

Italy Buildings Credit to FunTourGuru
 FTG: I know one challenge is when one does not speak the language, and I am fortunate to consistently find connections who speak English. I also use my own honesty and authenticity to communicate. What advice do you have to be comfortable with this barrier?

Chandi:  Yes, it would have been different had I not known the language. Knowing the language allowed me to have a deeper experience with the locals I met, whether it was a chat with a man giving me a ride, or conversations about God with the nuns I stayed with.

Try to learn at least the basics in the language. In Italy, the Italians tend to be incredibly gracious and encouraging when foreigners try to speak even a bit of Italian. 

FTG: Most of the people Chandi encountered were men on the pilgrimage except the nuns she described above. There were reveals of women in her family who played roles. 
This sentence from the book spoke to me: “Truth is how we feel, it is about expressing our emotion in an authentic way.” Why are so many women reluctant to express the truth?

Chandi: I want to encourage women to speak their truth even if they fear being shamed. 

Today, despite all our advancements, women still receive strong messages about conformity — mostly about conformity to what the patriarchy has deemed acceptable.
“Don’t have too loud of a voice, don’t be too assertive or you’ll be called bitchy, don’t make strong boundary statements when you find yourself in an unhealthy situation because you have to be nice no matter what. Don’t put yourself first because you were placed on this earth to cater to everyone else. Stay silent when people make jokes or comments that are derogatory to women because if you say something you’ll be told you cannot take a joke, or that you are making too big of a deal out of it.”

I do see more and more women breaking free of being boxed up like that. But I also see that despite our strides in empowering ourselves, that those messages and that kind of boxing us in will exist for as long as the patriarchy exists.

To avoid the patriarchal trap, one of the best things we can do is to constantly and actively support other women with their empowerment.

Support women speaking their truth. Don’t fall into the patriarchal trap of dissing on other women who you could in fact admire. Memoirists who became famous, like Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert, received quite a lot of shaming comments. Strayed was called a slut and Gilbert called whiney. But in fact, it would be just as easy to call those women courageous for expressing their innermost emotional life on the page and presenting their most vulnerable self to the world.

It is an act of speaking one’s truth, and in that act is one’s empowerment.

We need to recognize when women are being courageous, and encourage it. We need to recognize that what the patriarchy has historically defined as courageous (conquering other countries) may not be courageous in the female world.  We need alternative ways of being courageous, and we need to hold these up for each other.

Chandi’s Self-Reflection

Chandi: I found that focusing on opening my heart, keeping it open, and making unexpected choices from the heart were vital to connecting with the spiritual gifts that my journey held.

I also knew that a pilgrimage was not going to be a panacea for all life’s troubles. But in discovering my resilience on this trek, I gave myself the tools to face challenges with an inner steadiness and a clear knowledge of my resilience, which has served me well.

A Modern Italian Pilgrimage 

Chandi is realizing her manifest of 30 years and vision she spoke of in the book, and moving to the Tuscany region where “she is immediately applying for the permesso di soggiorno (a special permit to stay which is needed in addition to the visa) to help others learn about Italy.”

Chandi: I will be leading short stints on the Via Francigena (two days walking on one of the prettiest parts). This is something people can add to their trip to Italy. It will get them off the beaten path; allow them to walk off the pasta, wine, and gelato; and give them the opportunity to see the gorgeous countryside at a pace that allows them to slow down and savor, which is what Italy is all about!

I agree! Thank you Chandi Wyant for this additional information. This is a fun and inspirational book to read and share with friends.  ~ The FunTourGuru

Chandi Wyant is a historian, foodie, writer, and passionate world traveler. She runs the Paradise of Exciles website, where you may purchase Chandi’s memoir on the this web  page

Or purchase on Amazon: Return to Glow [Ad] 

You may sign up for her newsletter, to learn of offerings in Italy, in the sidebar of her site: Paradise of Exciles.

Another resource to use is The Via Francigena website. Be sure to click on the interactive map of the route.  

Ed. Note: Italy pictures are credited to the FunTourGuru and Return to Glow book cover image credited to Chandi Wyant. I did receive a complimentary book for this review, I received no other compensation. 

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Tuscany Italy Credit to FunTourGuru

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Help And Tech Tools Are Here For ADHD Adults And Kids

Help Is Here for ADHD Adults and Kids

Positive reinforcement with game dyanmics -Picture from
The iGotThis app is not just for families or kids with ADHD.  Anyone can use it to keep their life organized and on track.

As you read my stories, you will find that I’ve experienced plenty of challenges keeping up with daily travel procedures.  A major challenge?  What if we or our children suffer from a disorder like ADHD? 

I think about this because I watched my father suffer through different stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and I know how devastating brain disorders can be.  I get frightened sometimes when I forget simple things. 

ADHD and Alzheimer's Disease Differences
Recently, I conducted research and found these FAQs explaining the difference between ADHD, Alzheimer’s Disease, and even aging for adults.  My eye-opener came when I read these ten travel tips for adults and children with ADHD.  I’ve learned that ADHD and aging are different, and that there are easy things I can do on my own trips to be self-sufficient.    

We all are extraordinary people — but how can we overcome standard travel expectations and stay organized, focused, and self-reliant?  Especially with ADHD.

Tips and Tools to Assist

iGotThis app - Picture from iGotThis

 The iGotThis app is one way we can achieve this.  The resource caters to millions of adults and children who struggle with ADHD.  I am excited about this new tool, and recently had a conversation with Richard Schramm, the founder of iGotThis.  

Talking with the iGotThis Founder, Richard Schramm

Founder of iGotThis
 FTG: After reading these ten travel tips for families and children with ADHD, I was apprehensive, and saved the tips because I recognized the traits in myself.  Will this app be useful for all people?

Richard: You are absolutely correct that anyone can use iGotThis — kids or adults, ADHD or not.  I purposely designed it this way so that it could meet the needs of the entire family, while still meeting the specific needs of those with ADHD.

Related to travel, one of the key features of the app is its “Project Planning” capabilities.  Examples we give are using the app to plan for a vacation by assigning a list of tasks to various family members, and keeping all of those tasks organized in a project.  You could assign your spouse to get the tires rotated and oil changed while you book the hotel or rental home.  You can also add a task for all family members, like “Try on swimsuits to make sure they fit” or “Pack for trip.”  

And for a task like packing, you can add subtasks to make a checklist for the kids that tells them exactly what to pack (“Shorts,” “Underwear,” etc.) You can track the progress of the whole project through the screen or the dashboards; and as people update the individual tasks, the overall project completion is updated.
Send Reminders - Picture from iGotThis

 FTG:  What are the three most important tips from this list in the article that one should consider when traveling with ADHD?   

Richard: I think it depends on your kid’s ages and whether or not they have the H (hyperactivity).  For my family, my tips are:

  • Every kid has a “Survival Pack” backpack that can be carried on.  It has electronics, chargers, battery-pack backups, medications, one change of clothes, books and magazines, and a mix of healthy snacks and treats.  It must be on their person at all times, unless it is stored in the overhead bins.  If we are driving, it cannot leave the car until we arrive at the place we are staying.
  • Assume the worst and prep them for that.  Traveling is stressful under the best of circumstances, and there are so many new things to see that it can amp up the ADHD.  If you add the additional stress of travel problems, then it can get out of control.  Tell your kids what might go wrong and what you will do if that happens (“if we miss our flight or it gets canceled, it’s no big deal — we’ll just get a different flight,” or “if our luggage gets lost, you have clothes in your backpack to wear until they find it, or we can buy new stuff”).  If your kids know you have a plan, they will be less stressed before they travel and when any issues do occur.
  • Plan for downtime.  Make sure you plan for downtime during your trip when you can.  Try to get longer layovers when you travel so you are not sprinting through terminals; and at your destination, plan for some free “hangout” time for the kids to do their own thing so they can re-center. Forcing new adventures one after another, even if they are fun, is exhausting for people with ADHD and will lead to meltdowns. 

FTG: Describe how this app can provide a solution to one of the three top tips. 

Richard: iGotThis is a great option to help plan for downtime.  Parents can schedule it ahead of time on vacation, and plan it around any activities that are already scheduled so that everyone gets a reminder to take some personal time and relax, or do what they want to do for a bit to get re-centered.

Dashboard - Picture from iGotThis

FTG: To help parents traveling with children, what are your recommendations for using the app should there be an unexpected delay at the airport? 

Richard: For my kids, they are all about screen time when we travel.  They have tablets, phones, and portable DVD players. Since we limit their screen time at home during normal life, we are okay with that — it’s part of the vacation.  iGotThis can be used to remind kids to charge all their electronics the night before, and pack them in their Survival Pack the day of travel so that should unexpected airport delays occur, they have something to do.  Also, it can help make sure they pack some non-sugary snacks!

Thank you so very much, Richard Schramm, with your insights and conversation around this special app for extraordinary people – and giving us tips that may be used with our travels and everyday!  I know I will use it!  

Richard and Family - Picture from iGotThis
The key points to remember when traveling with ADHD are to stay positive, healthy, and organized.  This app provides additional help to do this.  It’s so important to build self-confidence and remind those children that ADHD is not a deficiency, it’s a gift. 

Users may sign up at the web site and the app will be available to download in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store upon release.

You may receive additional information about this app and back the current project on the Kickstarter page between March 6th and April 6th to help fund finishing the app. Participants will become one of the “Founding Families” of iGotThis. These families will enjoy lower prices, additional rewards, privileges and recognition.

We are all extraordinary people.  Let’s share and help everyone - everyday and on our trips! ~ The Fun Tour Guru

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Many thanks for pictures and information to Richard and family at  

Press Release March 2017

First Ever App for ADHD Families, iGotThis, Launches Kickstarter Campaign iGotThis, LLC. of Cincinnati, Ohio has launched a Kickstarter Campaign 

Fun ADDitives - from iGotThis
I did not receive any compensation nor free products for this article.