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Traveling Bare Foot with Mickela Mallozzi

Dancing, connecting, traveling...

We're honored to welcome Mickela Mallozzi to GoGirlfriend to share her barefeet travel journey. Mickela travels the world, one dance at a time, and has been featured on magazines such as Travel + Escape, Travelocity and Canada.com.  

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Up close & personal with the founder of TravelBarefeet.com

Bare Feet ~ one dance at a timeBare Feet ~ one dance at a time

Meaghan Coneybeare: What inspired you to travel the world...bare feet?

Mickela Mallozzi: I always loved to travel, but when I got my first taste of traveling alone during a study abroad program my sophomore year of college, I became addicted. And growing up as a dancer and a performer, I was never shy to make a fool of myself in front of an audience (whether on stage or in public). So every place I visited, I would naturally seek out festivals and celebrations where people were gathering together, sharing the local music and dance. I would approach a complete stranger who was dancing, usually seeking out the most energetic person in the crowd, and I would try to follow along. If I could speak their language, I would kindly ask them if they could show me some moves. If I couldn't (which was usually the case), I would gesture the request, and he or she would happily take my hand and lead the way. I have a genuine love for learning these dances, even if I only can try it for an hour or so. But just having a taste of how a culture's music moves the people is what inspires me to travel.

MB: Italy seemed more of a ‘coming home' adventure...how was it different from your other experiences?

Mickela Mallozi dancing tango in Sal Telmo market - photo by Bridget PalardyMickela Mallozi dancing tango in Sal Telmo market - photo by Bridget PalardyMM: Yes, the Italy episodes are definitely different from the rest of the series. Italy was actually the first series ever shot for Bare FeetTM (almost three years ago); I wanted to go back to my family's roots as a starting point for this whole adventure. It is a very personal journey, and of course this can only happen for me here, as my entire family comes from this one little town. I truly believed in starting off with this self-discovery; I couldn't learn someone else's culture before I took the time to immerse myself fully in my own. And of course I had been to Italy before, and of course I had been to Minturno before (where all of these episodes were filmed), but I had never been given the opportunity to actually perform with I Giullari, the folkloric dance group, in the annual wheat festival, La Sagra Delle Regne. Along the way, I learned so much more about the history of the place and the history of my family. There is a lot of footage we couldn't use for the episodes, but the experience I had and local folk history that I learned was overwhelming.

MB: Is there one country you haven't been to that is high on your list of places to see?

MM: I have never been to Brazil, and of course my dream would be to dance with a samba school during Carnival in Rio in the Sambadrome!  The costumes, the energy, the music - it would be incredible!  But Brazil is such a massive country full of so many styles of dance that I could easily make a few trips down to also cover forró (which I absolutely LOVE), capoeira and other folkloric dances and music.

MB: Besides Italy, was there a country you found difficult to part with?

Mickela Mallozzi dancing in Grotta del Turco - photo by Bridget PalardyMickela Mallozzi dancing in Grotta del Turco - photo by Bridget PalardyMM: Actually, because I have so much family in Italy and the fact that I also teach dance there often, I always know I will be back. It is never easy to leave, but I know for a fact my feet will touch Italian soil the following year. It is every other place I visit that always ends with a bittersweet parting because I have no idea when or if I will ever come back. There are so many places I want to visit and so many dances I want to learn with only so much time to get to them all.

MB: In all of your travels, what's an experience that comes to mind and makes you laugh?

Mickela Mallozzi on stage with I Giullari - photo by Bridget PalardyMickela Mallozzi on stage with I Giullari - photo by Bridget PalardyMM: Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I have visited so far. Not only did I get a wonderful introduction to Irish step dancing in Dublin, but I also met some amazing characters along the way. One in particular stands out the most - my husband and I were driving along the west coast of Ireland, and we stopped for a night in Ennistymon in County Clare. It was the dead of winter, and we decided to grab a drink at a local pub, Cooley's - we were the only patrons there for the evening, and our bartender Kevin was a wonderful host. At about 11pm, an old farmer by the name of Jerry walked in the bar and entertained us for the rest of the evening with stories and typical Irish jokes. But the best part was Jerry's accent - he lives right by the Cliffs of Moher, and for the entire time we were listening to his stories at the bar, our bartender Kevin had to translate almost every word. I'm usually pretty good with accents, but Jerry's was so incredibly thick, we had no idea what he was saying (I'm sure the three whiskeys he had in the 20 minutes upon his arrival didn't help either). By the time we left, I could understand about 50% of everything that Jerry would say, but unfortunately, my husband was left in the dark the entire time. It was a hysterical evening of English being translated to...English.

MB: If you weren't traveling Bare FeetTM, what would you be doing?

Mickela Mallozzi dancing tango in San Telmo Plaza Dorrego - photo by Bridget PalardyMickela Mallozzi dancing tango in San Telmo Plaza Dorrego - photo by Bridget PalardyMM: When I'm not traveling, I'm teaching dance, and before that, I worked in the music industry. But there has always been an itch for my two passions to come together somehow. This is something I do naturally, for fun, and to make it my profession is the most obvious path. So my answer right now is there is nothing else I would be doing and nothing else I want to do. I've found my calling. And to take it a step further, I am partnering with tour companies this year to create branded Bare FeetTM Tours (itineraries based on the Bare FeetTM episodes), which is from where the whole Bare FeetTM idea spawned. I want to make my dance adventures accessible to people worldwide and inspire travelers to experience the world as I do. Stay tuned for upcoming itineraries in spring/summer 2013!

MB: What's on the itinerary for Bare FeetTM in 2013?

MM: 2013 will be a very busy year for me, which I am so excited about!  I will be in Aruba in the spring, and this summer, I will be in Germany to cover the 50th anniversary of Europe's largest folk dance and music festival, Europeade. Some more trips are still in the works for 2013, but expect to see Bare FeetTM in Ireland, Canada, and Western Asia.

MB: What advice would you give to women travelers?Mickela Mallozzi dancing with Jesus Velasquez in Tango Porteno - photo by Bridget PalardyMickela Mallozzi dancing with Jesus Velasquez in Tango Porteno - photo by Bridget Palardy

MM: Be adventurous but don't be foolish. There are ways for women to travel safely and still experience the world fully. I always recommend doing your homework before traveling to any destination, even for local trips. The Internet offers so much information at your fingertips, there is no excuse for ignorance or lack of knowledge. Always check how to dress appropriately, what the local customs are with greeting strangers (learn how to say necessary phrases in the language such as hello and thank you), and reach out to friends to see if they know anyone in your planned destination. I obviously have to do a lot of research regarding the dances and the groups that I will be meeting when I plan my trips and my shoots, but I always reach out to friends first to see if they have any contacts in the places I will visit. I trust my friends, and their recommendations and contacts have never let me down. And always trust your gut - if you find yourself in a situation where you don't feel comfortable, just leave. Chances are you'll never see those people ever again, so no need to worry about being rude! 

About Mickela Mallozzi - Bare FeetTM

Mickela Mallozzi ~ TravelBareFeet.comMickela Mallozzi ~ TravelBareFeet.comHost and creator of the Bare FeetTM Web Series, Mickela Mallozzi has been dancing for over 25 years, combining both her passions for dance and travel to 'experience the world, one dance at a time.' She teaches at The Ailey Extension in New York City, and is a trained musician with both a classical and jazz background. Mickela has been featured as one of the '15 Best Travel Blogs to Follow in 2013' by 101Holidays; 'Before They Were Famous Roamers' on Travelocity; one of the featured online series on Canada's Top Travel site, Travel + Escape; a Spirited Woman through Purewow.com; and more!  

You can follow Mickela at @TravelBareFeet or go to her website at TravelBareFeet.com

How do you travel? We'd love to hear your travel stories - connect with us on Twitter and Facebook. We'd love to hear from you!


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