lake como in the snow

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Last year, I spent January 1st by the piers of Monterey and the final days of December next to these chilly harbors. Lake Como, as far as I understand it, is a celebrated summer oasis for boaters, architecture-lovers, and relaxation-seekers alike: of course we visited in the middle of winter, and spent our only full day dodging icy rain.

Yet Como’s weather deities smiled upon us at last during our final four hours in the area, and I had the opportunity to capture a waterscape unlike any I’d ever photographed before, pairing blue waves with distant snowy peaks!

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2017 in wandering

As repetitive as they has no doubt become, I’ve nonetheless very much enjoyed this week’s reflections on 2017!

From the narcissistic standpoint of my personal life, it was quite a mercurial year–featuring a volatile blend of unexpected medical troubles (remember when I injured my neck and spent weeks lying on the floor, or when my wisdom teeth attempted to destroy me?), drastic life changes (somehow I’ve completed a quarter of my MA by now!), and stunning romance that would have seemed impossible a year ago (hey, 2015-me, it’s very important that you get involved in snail mail and decide to write to a certain Welsh pen pal…)

At the same time, I enjoyed a shocking amount of whirlwind travels in 2017, at home and abroad: the saddest part, perhaps, is that my quasi-hiatus from blogging kept me from sharing many of those photos with you, readers! Consider this post, then, a bit of a preview for some travel-blog catching up that awaits later this month.

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2016 in Wandering

gillette castle, connecticut  ♡ washington, dc ♡ the clark art institute, massachusetts 

west kirby, england  cinque terre, italy firenze, italy

the lake district, england ♡ home! (volcano, hawai’i) ♡ the national gallery, dc 

Happy New Year’s Eve-Eve! Since I’ll be kicking off 2017 by traveling to Monterey Bay Aquarium…I mean, California, I thought I’d revisit these past twelve months of adventuring. It will probably be a long time before I take so many trips in one year again!

As someone who tends to get anxious about traveling (that’s the blog-friendly, extremely understated version of it, anyway), I am very impressed that I pulled off two international voyages this year: to Italy in April and England over the summer. I also took the train all the way down the Eastern Seaboard to D.C. twice, and spent time in countless New England museums. And, of course, I am very happy to end the year back home in Hawai’i!

Though I doubt I’ll be crossing as many international borders next year, I do hope to visit at least one new state, country, or area. It would be fun to meet a pen pal or two in person, too! What are your travel plans (or wild hopes and impossible dreams rather than plans) for 2017?

“The Painting of the World”: Florence, Italy

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Nearly seven years before I set foot in Florence, a younger Keely discovered a phenomenal musical: Adam Guettel’s 2003 The Light in the Piazza, set in the same city. I fell so in love with this remarkable story and incredible score that I even performed the title song at an awkward voice recital.

One of the musical’s leads, Clara, describes Italy as “the land of naked marble boys,” and I couldn’t help wryly remembering her various comments as I browsed Florence’s galleries and museums. I would say that it’s also the land of sweeping architecture, pale yellow houses, tourists gaping at masterpieces, and one spectacular vegan Italian restaurant. I certainly can’t show these photos to my sixteen-year-old self, who was constantly singing Piazza lyrics under her breath and dreaming of Europe–but I’m happy to finally share them with anyone who plans to find their own way to these piazzas!

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Shades of Sea and Sky

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I grew up in the North Pacific, slowly accepted the Atlantic as a second home, once sailed in the Gulf of Alaska, and spent one cold semester gazing out at the North Sea. Now I’ve discovered the oceanic love of my life: the Ligurian Sea, a gorgeously-hued part of the Mediterranean that gently troubles the shores of the Cinque Terre.

After a few months in the colorless, wintry haze of the East Coast, I basked in the colors of the Mediterranean as much as its warming sunshine. As a wannabe-mermaid and nature photographer, I wanted to take these blues and greens home with me like a piece of beach glass, hoarding them with all the other gems of seas and sunsets I’ve ever seen.

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What I Wore in Italy (a capsule wardrobe for museums to mountains!)

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Guess who’s back stateside–and back to blogging? After two days of inescapable jetlag and a sad period of mourning the lack of quality focaccia in my small Massachusetts town, I’m finally starting to process the amazing experiences I had during my trip to Italy.

This trip marked the first time I’d left the United States in just over three years, and the first time I’d visited a place entirely new to me in an equally long while. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed, disoriented, anxious–particularly when we visited bigger cities, which tend to make me extra jumpy and stressed!–but many more opportunities for me to discover new things, to expose myself to phenomenal works of art and culture, and to gain a true appreciation for a country I had never visited before.

Before I left for this trip, I assigned myself two main objectives: gain some understanding of Italian and figure out how to pack appropriately. Though I can’t teach you how to speak this beautiful language through a single blog post, I can give you a metaphorical peek into my suitcase!

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Italy Preview II: From Botticelli to the Bluest Waters


I’m writing to you today while under that enchantment of emotions known best to travelers–a dizzy mix of exhaustion and euphoria. Though I’ve seen such wonders over the past few weeks, I’m a hobbit at heart, and am looking forward to some rest back home…and writing blog posts regularly again, of course!

I have so much in the works for the next few weeks: landscapes, art, photography, and travel advice galore (including tips on how to survive Renaissance church stairways as a claustrophobe). Once more, however, please accept this iPhone-born teaser as a glimpse at things to come! 


I can’t wait to gush for hours about my new favorite place on Earth: the Cinque Terre! We visited all five of its pink-hued villages…


…and even hiked across mountain and seaside cliff for three hours to access two of them!


More frantic yet utterly astounding was our 24-hour Florence escapade–featuring many greats of European art history that I had only seen in textbooks before!


Finally downloading my hundreds of Actual Camera photos from this trip will be so exhilarating–I will be delighted to relive the adventure all over again! (Though only after I’ve collapsed following my sixteen-hour plane journey.) How do you return to “real life” after a long period of travel?