10 Life Lessons I Learned from Doing Yoga

10 Life Lessons I learned from doing yoga

I’ve been doing yoga on and off for six years but it wasn’t until two years ago that I began a more regular practice. After I moved to Germany, the stress of not being able to find a job plus having to learn a new language and getting used to life here, caused me a lot of depression and anxiety. So I decided to have a mini-retreat, like the one I went to once after reading “Eat, Pray, Love”. I did an online meditation challenge with Oprah and Deepak Chopra and practiced with some yoga videos (you can find so many great ones on YouTube). This really helped me reduce my anxiety and sleep through the night. But finding peace within also helped me connect to my inner being. I prayed to find my path and asked for guidance, and I found the answer. I discovered writing and now my life is forever changed.

Yoga is not only an exercise, but a way of being. As my online teacher, Anita Goa says all the time (check out her YouTube channel), what happens on the mat spills over to what happens off the mat. Yoga helps you become more aware of your body and to keep your attention in the moment. It is impossible to do a difficult pose in yoga if your mind wanders. So here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my time on the mat and how I believe they apply to life off the mat:

1. Breathe through every challenge

Yoga is all about being aware of your breath. No matter how challenging a pose gets, you have to keep breathing. If it gets hard for you to breathe, then ease off. Sometimes a pose may seem challenging, but as you stay calm and breathe through it, you realize that you can do it. So it is in life. No matter how hard things get, just take a break and breathe, then keep going. It’s never as hard as your mind tells you it is.

2. Patience is key

You can’t expect to start doing the difficult yoga poses the first time you start. It takes time to gain the flexibility and strength needed, so just focus on your breath and keep practicing. In time, you’ll notice your body opening up and being able to do the more advanced poses. Like the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination”, we need to keep our focus on the present and what we can do today to achieve our goals. Before you know it, you’ve arrived.

3. Resistance is futile

If you try to do a difficult pose before your body is ready, you will hurt yourself. It is better to just let it happen organically – do the pose and in time you will be able to do it. When life presents you with a difficult situation, just accept it and then try to solve it. If you resist the situation by complaining or getting angry or afraid, you’ll only cause yourself more stress. Accept what is and take the steps needed to change it or to adapt.

4. Don’t put yourself in compromising positions

This goes hand in hand with the above. Why put yourself in a pose that causes pain or discomfort? In life, you have to accept your own limitations. Don’t give yourself unrealistic goals and do something you hate just to please someone else. Do what feels right and what is right for you. Life is too short.

5. Balance

Sometimes one side of the body is more steady or flexible than the other, and yoga strives to bring both sides into balance. The practice helps you become aware of this imbalance and how you can correct it. When one side of our lives, like work or obligations, dominates the others, we risk losing ourselves and having too much stress. So be aware of what you can do to bring more balance to your life. This can entail blocking out time to dedicate to something that’s important to you, or reducing/eliminating some unneeded task or habit.

6. Life may have twists and turns but always maintain your center

Some yoga practices are unpredictable and move at a fast pace, where you don’t know what pose will come next. To be able to do the practice you have to focus on every movement and every breath. If in life, we focus on the present and always connect to our inner beings, we can conquer any obstacle that presents itself. If we stay centered, we won’t fall into fear or self-doubt. We will remain aware and focused.

7. Change does not happen overnight

After two years, I still can’t do many of the advanced poses. My body has transformed ever so slightly and I know I’ve made progress, even if the small changes are only noticeable to me. I’ve accepted that any change I want to make in myself or in my life will take time. I just have to keep working at it.

8. Be compassionate towards yourself

Some days you can do a difficult pose and the next you can’t. Some days you’re more tired than others or not as focused and you keep falling, and that’s okay. It will happen. Just try your best. When you fall, pick yourself back up and keep going. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The important thing is not to quit.

9. Go at your own pace

There are certain limitations that my body has and it may be that I’ll never be able to do a crow pose or a bind. Yoga is not about the difficult poses, it’s about becoming aware of your body and your breath, knowing what you can and can’t do. I may never be an athlete or run a marathon or be a great cook but I can write a novel and sing. We all have our strong points and our weak points. Own them. Be yourself and do what you can. Don’t compare yourself to others. Live your own life the best you can.

10. Let go

A yoga practice can only be fulfilling if you let go of expectations and thoughts of what you can’t do. So let go of perfection. Stop trying to control everything. Just be. Just breathe. Live. The meaning of life is to be happy. If we’re not happy then what’s the point?

I still struggle to find balance in my body and in my life. I’m sometimes too hard on myself and get depressed when something falls out my control. But I have to take it day by day. It’s a practice. The more aware I become and the more I try to change whatever I’m not happy with, the better it will become. It may never be perfect, but at least I keep trying.

Has yoga changed your perceptions about yourself or your life? What other lessons have you learned? Let me know in the comments below.

10 Life Lessons I learned from doing yoga
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What’s it like to be Puerto Rican?

What's it like to be Puerto Rican

Living in Germany for the past four years has taught me a lot about what it’s like to be Puerto Rican. Even though I haven’t lived in the island since 2007, the plantain stain, or mancha de plátano, as we call it, is in me, no matter how much I may try to hide it. Many people don’t know about Puerto Rico, yet we are everywhere. So here is a humorous look at who we are, based on my experiences living in US and Germany and the differences I’ve encountered.

We’re disappointed when people don’t know where we’re from

To us, Puerto Rico is the best place in the world, so naturally we’re disappointed when we say “I’m from Puerto Rico” and we only get a glazed look in return. It is even more disappointing when the other person is from US, since Puerto Rico has been a US territory since 1898. The ones who do know have been there on vacation or know someone from Puerto Rico. I met a guy from the Philippines who knew that Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez are Puerto Rican, so that was nice.

Here in Germany, it’s even worse. The people only know that Puerto Rico is somewhere in the Caribbean or maybe in South America. They confuse it with Costa Rica all the time. It’s funny because Germans travel to Cuba and Dominican Republic a lot, yet have no idea Puerto Rico is right there, in the same area.

We’re always late

All Latin/warm countries seem to suffer from the same problem – we always arrive late. In Puerto Rico, people often arrive one to two hours late to a party. I’ve never been so late, but here in Germany I’ve noticed how hard it is for me to be punctual, especially when German punctuality means arriving ten minutes early. If you meet a Puerto Rican or any other Latin person, learn to live with it. We can’t help it.

We can make a party out of any situation

One of our comedians once poked fun at how Puerto Rican protests differed from US protests. In US, protests are organized and tame. In Puerto Rico, someone will bring a drum and the slogan will be made into a song. When there’s a hurricane watch, people buy beer and plan to spend the day at home drinking and relaxing. We have festivals for everything, from coffee to bananas, to kites and flowers, to chicken and fishing. We also have a yearly festival to our patron saint, and each of our 78 towns has a different one. Our Christmas season starts on Thanksgiving and lasts until the end of January. So if you want to party, Puerto Rico is the place to be.

We love to shop

Puerto Rico is a poor country, but you wouldn’t know it if you visit the malls. They are always full. A new store opens, and we are there. We have the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean, Plaza Las Américas. Enough said.

Puerto Rican food is not the healthiest

Puerto Rican food is delicious but it’s mostly all fried. We hardly eat vegetables except for the occasional salad. Our diet consists of rice, beans, and fried meat, with some fried plantains on the side. If you go to Puerto Rico, don’t plan on keeping your diet.

Not all of us can salsa dance

Puerto Rico is the salsa capital of the world yet most Puerto Ricans don’t know how to salsa dance. They feel like they should take lessons and they don’t want to look foolish in front of other people. I was one of these people, and it wasn’t until I moved to a small town in Germany where I finally learned Puerto Rican style salsa from a German couple. The irony.

Or know how to swim

Just because you live in an island surrounded by water, doesn’t mean you know how to swim. The beach is for sunbathing and jumping into the water when it gets too hot, then stand there while you look around and/or talk. It’s not for swimming. It can be dangerous to swim. It’s not a sport event. Hence, why I still don’t know how to swim and may never learn, since here in Germany it is rare to find swimming lessons for adults. Most everyone takes lessons when they’re children.

We don’t speak ‘correct’ Spanish

Puerto Rican Spanish is a mixture of our indian Taino heritage, African heritage, and English. In Puerto Rico, an orange is not a naranja, but a china. Supposedly, Puerto Ricans gave it the name that was stamped on the bag they came from–China. We use many English words like strawberries, parking, and truck, but pronounced of course a la Puerto Rican: estrawberries, palking, tro. Other Latin countries make fun of our accent, but we don’t care.

We’ve already had a crash course in defensive driving

People in Puerto Rico break traffic rules all the time–they don’t use the signal when they want to change lanes, slow vehicles travel on the left lane without moving over, the speed limit is not followed, cars that should be in junkyards travel the streets. You have to keep your eyes open at all times, and watch every car around you. The people driving may or may not have a driver’s license, and if they do, it doesn’t necessarily mean they passed the test. You’ve been warned.

Even if we make fun of our country we’ll always be proud

I love Puerto Rico and I miss it. It’s a unique land with a unique history. We’re part of Latin America but belong to the United States. Our education, government, and law systems stem from US, yet our culture, music, and food match those of the rest of the Latin community. We have economic issues and many of us have had to leave our country in order to make a better life for ourselves and our families. Yet Puerto Rico is a part of us and we talk about everything it has to offer with everyone willing to listen. Once you meet a Puerto Rican, you will learn about Puerto Rico and will always know where we’re from.

Are you a Puerto Rican and have more to add or think I’m off base? Let me know in the comments below. And if you’ve met a Puerto Rican or visited Puerto Rico, does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your anecdotes.

What's it like to be Puerto Rican

How to Use Feedback to Improve your Writing

How to Use Feedback to Improve your Writing

Last month, I gave some tips on how to give useful feedback to a writer. Today, I want to talk about how to receive that feedback and use it to make your work better. Receiving critical feedback is hard. You’ve worked hard on your manuscript and now someone tells you all the reasons why it doesn’t work. This is the part when some writers tune out and prefer not to listen. This is the part where you can get discouraged and stop writing all together. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all about detachment and not taking it personal. It’s about seeing your manuscript as a product that can be improved. But this is easier said than done. It takes practice, patience, and a lot of perseverance to keep going.

I received a brutal critique where the person ripped my first chapter to threads, told me it didn’t make any sense, didn’t mention one thing positive about it, and then “consoled” me by telling me I shouldn’t get discouraged, that I was still new at this, and that I would get better with time. I was very angry and upset by this feedback. It wasn’t encouraging at all. If it had been my first critique, I would’ve probably given up. But after I took the time to remove the emotions out of it and look at the critique objectively, I found some things I could use.

Spending time on the online writing community, Scribophile, I’ve been on both sides (giving and receiving feedback) and I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share. Hopefully it will help you use the feedback you receive to improve your work.

Don’t ask for feedback until you’ve finished the first draft.

The first draft is all about figuring out the story and getting to know the characters. If you ask for feedback before you finish, you risk getting discouraged or overwhelmed by a different perspective. You may question your choices, like the ending or a character that someone finds annoying but you love. Also, if you yourself don’t know what the story’s about, how can someone help you improve it? Get clear on the story and what you want to achieve, then seek out feedback to see what others think about it.

Don’t respond immediately. Take time to let it sink in.

Your first instinct will be to think “this person doesn’t get it” and negate their feedback by defending your choices. This will only make the other person feel attacked and like they wasted their time. This applies more to when the critique is in writing and you have time to re-read it and go through it, addressing each point made.

There were times when I responded to my critiques in a defensive manner and later had to apologize to the person and admit that I was upset and that they had good points. So take time to process the feedback before you question it.

Ask questions.

Instead of acting defensive, ask the person why they have a certain opinion. Maybe they just have a personal bias and their opinion is subjective. Or maybe there is something not clear in the writing. It’s important to communicate openly with your critique partner and clear up their point of view. You can also explain your intent or why you made certain choices. This is the best way to really see if the manuscript needs to be fixed or it it’s only a matter of personal opinion.

Don’t accept all suggestions.

Just because someone says their is something “wrong” with your work, doesn’t mean they’re right. Only apply the suggestions that really resonate with you and give you an “A-ha” moment.

Listen to your gut.

Some suggestions will be style-based: sentence structure, show vs. tell, etc. These are easy fixes. But when a person says you should cut a scene or change a character’s motivation, then you have to put more thought into it. After analyzing why the person thinks the change should be made, ask yourself if you agree or not. If you don’t agree, then don’t change it.

Stay true to your characters.

Even if someone questions a choice in the story, sometimes these choices are not dictated by you, but by the characters. If it makes sense for the characters to act a certain way, then you should show that. It’s not about pleasing the reader’s wishes or perceptions, it’s about showing characters acting out their truth, no matter how unlikable it may be. As long as you explain or set up why your specific character makes the choices, then it doesn’t matter what other people think. For this, you have to really know your characters inside and out. Motivations can be tweaked and made clearer, but the essence of the character shouldn’t change.

Always be grateful and thank the person for their time.

No matter what, the person took their time to read and critique your work. You should be thankful. Even if the feedback is mean-spirited and nasty, and you won’t use any of it, you should at least thank them for their time. When the person gives you a great suggestion you plan to use, let them know. It feels great when you know the author found your feedback helpful and plans to use it. It’s even better when they apply it and ask you to take a look at the work again.

If you act defensive, but later realize your mistake, apologize to the person. This has happened to me multiple times, when I didn’t agree with someone’s suggestion and sort of negated it in my response, yet a few days later realized the other person was right. I sent a message and acknowledged it. It helps keep communication channels open and to keep the person as a critique partner. This is especially important when you get critiques on a chapter-to-chapter basis. You may have gotten a negative critique in one chapter and don’t think you can use it, but then on the next, the person has a brilliant idea and you feel lucky they caught it.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve found this useful. How do you deal with negative feedback? What have been some of your experiences receiving feedback? How has feedback improved your writing?

How to Use Feedback to Improve Your Writing
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8 Life Lessons I Learned from Watching Soccer

8 Life Lessons I Learned from Watching Soccer

I’ve been enjoying the European Championship these past few weeks and I’ve come to realize how much a soccer match is similar to life. I believe you can find inspiration anywhere if you pay attention so here a 8 lessons I learned while watching soccer that I hope to apply into my own life. I hope they inspire you as well.

1. You have to train

Training is important in sport and in life. You need to learn as much as you can if you want to succeed at something, be it by going to school and learning a career or learning soft skills, like effective communication, resilience, and patience. It takes discipline and hard work to succeed and for that you need to prepare yourself as much as you can.

2. Have a strategy

We need plans and to set goals and deadlines, but we also need to be prepared for the unexpected and be flexible. There is a strategy to a soccer match. The players are chosen based on their skills and positioned to better utilize those skills. The opposing team needs to be studied and analyzed for weaknesses. In life, we also need to analyze our own strengths and weaknesses and learn what we don’t know or ask for help. We also need to learn to adapt when things go wrong and come up with another plan. If our strategy doesn’t work, then we have to change strategies. Sometimes it means sacrificing something, like when a player stays on the bench for the good of the team.

3. Take risks and attack

You can’t wait for things to happen. You can be cautious, but once you see an opportunity in front of you, you need to take it, even if you fail. If you don’t take it, you’ll never know if it would’ve resulted in a win.

4. Mistakes will happen but you can’t let them affect you

Keep trying. Don’t give up. Soccer players miss passes, lose the ball, or try to score a goal but miss. Even through these mistakes, they keep moving and trying to score.

5. You will fall and be pushed down, but you have to get up and get back in the game

Soccer players fall and get hurt all the time, but they always get up if they can and don’t let the fall keep them from playing. When life pushes us down, we need to recover and keep working on our goal.

6. Sometimes hard work doesn’t pay off

I watched a game where no matter how hard the team tried, they never managed to score a goal, and it ended in an undecided match. Sometimes our hard work doesn’t pay off. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Or sometimes it’s all about luck. The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and try again later.

7. You can’t let losing keep you from playing or winning go to your head.

Winning teams know that one game lost doesn’t mean anything. They know they can do better and will try again next time. Winning teams also know that just because you won, doesn’t mean you’ll win again. There is always room for improvement. So don’t get discouraged by setbacks. But also don’t stop working hard if you succeed, because you never know when your winning streak will end.

8. There’s not one way to win

Some teams like to keep possession of the ball and tire out the other team, while other teams attack early on and only focus on getting the ball away from the other team. No matter your strategy, if it works for you, then keep doing it. You don’t have to copy anyone else. Be true to yourself and keep going.

Do you agree with my observations? What are other life lessons can you come up with? Have you ever been inspired by an athlete or a sport event? Let me know in the comments. I love to get inspired.

8 Life Lessons I Learned from Watching Soccer
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How to Give Useful Feedback to a Writer

How to Give Useful Feedback to a Writer

As part of becoming an author, we’re told to seek feedback on our work. Since I didn’t know any writers, I joined the online community Scribophile. For those of you who are not familiar with it, in order to post your work for critique, you have to earn points by critiquing the work of others. This ensures everyone gets critiqued and it’s a great system, but how can you give useful feedback to other writers when you yourself are only getting started?

Just like writing, giving feedback gets easier with practice. And the cool thing is that you learn so much from identifying problems in other works and applying it to your own. And the more you learn, the better you are at identifying problems and offering suggestions.

Being on Scribophile, where people critique per chapter, I have given and received hundreds of critiques. I received a harsh critique once where the person didn’t mention one good thing about the work and was very condescending, and it was hard to sift through the noise and find something useful. I’ve also given harsh critiques, and as hard as I tried to qualify them in a nice way, received defensive responses from the authors and was even hurt in the process on one occasion. It’s very easy for personal feelings to get hurt, so it’s a hard art to master. But I’ve also received many comments where the authors applied my critiques and said I was helpful, so I think I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to give useful critiques.

So based on my experience, here are five tips to keep in mind when giving feedback.

Always mention something positive.

This is especially true when you find many mistakes and have to offer a harsh critique. Always start with the positive. No matter how “bad” a piece of writing is, there’s always something positive to say, even if it’s just mentioning good grammar or punctuation.

Be honest but not cruel. Don’t make it a personal attack.

It’s important to be honest–in the end the point of offering feedback is to help the writer improve their work. But this has to be wrapped in kindness and encouragement, so that the author doesn’t feel attacked. Make sure you mention the weaknesses in the writing, and not how the author is “wrong”. It also helps if you can mention how you too have struggled with the same problem.

Sometimes, no matter how well you phrase it,  it can be unavoidable to offend the writer. It depends on how open they are to receiving critical feedback.

Stay objective.

For me this is the most important aspect of useful feedback. We all have our own likes/dislikes and personal biases. I may not like a specific character because he reminds me of a real person who hurt me. But that is not helpful to the author. The important thing is for the author to explain rationality and logic and be clear on who the character is. This type of critique is better served by posing a question such as “wouldn’t he do so and so?” and opposed to “this wouldn’t happen; no one in real life would do that.” As long as it’s true to the character and it fits the story, then there’s no room for personal biases.

Be specific.

This goes hand in hand with staying objective. If you don’t like something in the writing, then point out why it doesn’t work (not why you personally don’t like it) and give suggestions on how to make the work better. That shows the writer that you’re not just giving a personal opinion but actually understand the why’s and how to fix it. This gets easier as you learn more about writing and how to identify the main issues.

Don’t be condescending. Stay humble.

In the end you don’t know everything. Maybe something that doesn’t work for you, works for someone else. Maybe the character you hate is another reader’s favorite. Always qualify the critique as your personal opinion. Mentions of “you’ll learn” or “you’re just starting” seem encouraging but can also be interpreted as “I know more than you”.

Giving feedback gets easier once you develop a good relationship with your critique partner and have open communication with each other. You should also be honest with yourself and accept when you’re not the right person to critique. If you really can’t find anything positive to say and find yourself hating the work, you won’t be able to offer anything useful and will just be wasting everyone’s time.

I hope this has been helpful. Anything else you’d like to add? What have been some of your experiences giving feedback? Check out my other post on how to receive feedback and use it to make your story better.


How to Give Useful Feedback to a Writer
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8 Tips for a Relaxing Trip to Venice

8 Tips for a Relaxing Trip to Venice

Last month my husband and I visited Venice for the first time. Ever since I was a child, I’d always wanted to go to Venice, so my husband arranged for us to spend six days there as a birthday present to me.

When we told everyone we would spend so many days there, they were all skeptical. “What will you do during all that time?” they asked. “There’s not that much to see.” Most people who visit Venice only spend one day and see only the major tourist attractions (mostly everything around Piazza San Marco).

Another issue that came up was the warning that Venice is one huge tourist trap–there are tourists everywhere, it’s expensive, and the food is bad.

Our goal with this trip was to have a relaxing time with no rush and to explore at our convenience. We’ve visited other major cities in Europe on our own and have always been able to have an enjoyable trip. In our experience, it only takes some research and preparation beforehand, while at the same time leaving some things unplanned and going with the flow.

We were still concerned about visiting Venice and feared our experience would be bad. But it wasn’t. Venice is indeed a huge tourist trap, but there are ways to avoid tourists and enjoy this picturesque, unique city and everything it has to offer. And there is a LOT to see and do, including museums, churches, shopping, and island-hopping, some of which we didn’t get to cover on this trip.

So based on our own experience, here are a eight tips to make the most out of your trip to Venice in a relaxing, budget-friendly way.

1. Set up your “home base”.

Prix supermarket hidden in a small alley
Prix supermarket hidden in a small alley near our hotel

We stayed in the neighborhood of Cannaregio, at the north end of the city. We didn’t have a view of the Grand Canal, but we did have many bars and restaurants close by. It was also a more peaceful, less-crowded area to be in.

After arriving at our hotel, the first thing we did was to set up our home base. We asked the receptionist where the closest supermarket was so that we could buy water and snacks to take with us. Luckily, it was just around the corner, hidden in a small alley. As everywhere else in Europe, water costs money and you have to pay for it in restaurants and other food places. While walking through the city, you can save a lot by simply taking some water bottles with you. Make sure you bring a back-pack to carry it in.

2. Be prepared to walk. A lot.

Venice Bridges
Venice Bridges

If you really want to explore the city, bring comfortable shoes and walk. Venice is small, but not that small. You can get lost, and walking from one side to the other can take a long time. Every corner presents a photo opportunity if you stop to look and are not rushing through. There are stores and galleries to look around in. Yes there is public transportation in the form of the vaporetto, but these are full of tourists and can get expensive (7.50€ for 75 minutes, one way).

A note of caution: if you are carrying strollers or traveling with a person in a wheel chair, know that only bridges in the main tourist areas around the Piazza San Marco have ramps. All other bridges contain stairs that you’ll have to maneuver.

3. Get lost and explore, but also carry a map.

Even in Venice, you can find yourself alone - Fondamenta Rio della Tanna, around the Arsenale
Fondamenta Rio della Tanna, around the Arsenale

I read that the best thing to do in Venice was to get lost and not look at a map. But even with a map you can get lost. There are small alleys that are not marked on the maps, so you will always need to orient yourself to find your way back to your hotel or other destination. And bridges to cross from one island to another are only available at certain locations, so if you miss them, you have to retrace your steps and walk a bit more to find them.

Another useful thing about the maps is that they mark the public restrooms in the city. These are spread out and available mostly near the tourist areas. Follow the map and then look out for stickers on the ground that point the way. Use of the restrooms is 1.50€ and the machines only take 1€ or .50€ coins. An attendant is available to give you the exact change, but it can happen (as it did to us) that they run out. Sometimes the map is not accurate or the bathrooms are closed for repairs, but for the most part, we were able to use them.

4. Avoid the tourist areas as much as possible.

Of course you’ll want to visit the Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace (I definitely recommend the Secret Itineraries tour, which needs to be reserved beforehand), but to really get the full experience of Venice, you’ll have to wander to the other, less touristy areas. Walking just parallel to the main tourist way will also help you avoid the crowds. You won’t avoid tourists completely, but you’ll at least wander around more secluded areas and even enjoy some of them by yourself.

5. Eat standing up or sitting on the ground.

When visiting Venice, be prepared to eat standing up.
Cicchetti and Spritz Aperol across the canal from the squero

The cheapest way to eat is to grab a quick lunch or dinner and find a spot where you can sit near the canal and enjoy your food. Some take-out places don’t have a lot of sitting room (if any) and you’ll have to find some other place to sit. This worked out well for us and we saw many people do it. You can also visit one of the many supermarkets in the city and buy sandwiches to eat outside. Be aware that pigeons will approach. Just shoo them away and they won’t bother you. Also, grab on to your food packages to keep them from flying away and polluting the city (as happened to us when our plastic containers flew into the Grand Canal–oops!).

6. Take a trip out to the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

Torcello Island
Torcello Island

This was my favorite part of the trip. We bought a 24-hour boat ticket and went island hopping. Visiting these islands can all be done in one day, depending on how much time you spend in each one. Murano is the largest one and is famous for its glassware. This glass is sold all over Venice, and in Murano there are a multitude of stores. We were lucky to find a factory near the Faro boat station that had open doors so people could watch workers as they worked the glass. Near there is also the School of Glass offering demonstrations on Thursdays at 4 pm.

Burano is famous for its lace and colorful houses. And Torcello has a nice cathedral to visit, just be aware of the visiting times and that you have to pay for entrance. The day we visited the cathedral was already closed, but this island is not as highly visited and there was a nice, peaceful atmosphere.

What I found surprising was how many tourists also made this trip. The guides I read said this was a good way to escape the tourists, but they are still there and the islands are prepared to cater to them. We were a bit mistrustful as to whether the lace and glass were really made there or in another country, like China, but we did find a store where a man made glass horses and cats right before our eyes and we bought a glass horse as a souvenir.

You can also head out to other islands around the lagoon, like Lido or Giudecca.

7. Look for restaurants recommendations online or ask in your hotel where to eat.

Cuttlefish and its black ink with a side of polenta
Cuttlefish and its black ink with a side of polenta

I used Tripadvisor and Wikitravel to find restaurant recommendations. Most were take-out places to have a quick lunch, and we could enjoy local food and not spend a lot of money. We also ate at some sit-down restaurants that weren’t that expensive (one was recommended by our hotel). I marked the restaurants on my map and if we were in the area, we sought them out. Local food consists of mostly fish, like pasta with tuna, grilled whole fish, or risotto with fish. They also sell a type of tapas called cicchetti, which is mostly fried fish or bread with an assortment of toppings. Another specialty is cuttlefish, a squid with a black ink that is either served with pasta or by itself with a side of polenta. All in all, our experience with the food was really good.

8. Enjoy the night life.

We were lucky to stay in the Cannaregio neighborhood where the night life actually occurs. There are a lot of bars and many students hang out there, sitting on the ground or in boats and having drinks and cicchetti. It was a different experience and we enjoyed it. Also, go to the Piazza San Marco at night. There will still be tourists around, but the atmosphere is completely different than during the day. There are musicians who play during the day at the different cafes, but at night, they cater more to the crowd and give a sort of mini concert.

Our trip to Venice was truly a dream come true for me. Taking the time to really explore gave us an insight as to how it would be like to live there. We walked through all of the neighborhoods, saw some churches, sat in park benches or by the canals and just watched people. It was a relaxing adventure, and because we had no rush, we could take many breaks from all the walking. We were lucky to enjoy great weather during our visit, not too warm, but still sunny with clear skies. I recommend that everyone go there at least once in their lives and to spend at least more than one day to really give the city a chance.

Did I miss anything? Have you spent more than one day in Venice? What was your trip like? Any other tips you’d like to share?

Here are some resources useful to me in the planning of this trip:

Wikitravel – Venice (Check out their Murano page as well, for restaurant recommendations)

Italylogue – Top 10 Things to do in Venice

8 Tips for a Relaxing Trip to Venice Pin

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