Vanessa Alvarado is another stellar member of the #LoudLadies community who lives a life full of passion and creativity. Her blog, Thrift Core, is one of the most interesting spots on the world wide web, where she shares inspiration for living a life outside of the status quo. Plus, she’s the only herbalist I’ve met with an affinity for both anime AND cephalopods. Let’s learn some more about this awesome ex-pat #loudlady!

Thank you so much for appearing on my blog! Can you give my readers a summary of what your current projects are?

Right now I’m finishing my studies to become a certified herbalist and loving it! I’m working with my mom and boyfriend to launch a line of natural body care products and plotting behind-the-scenes on some fresh re-branding for my blog. I was selling vintage and taking clients for random projects but cleared most of that from my plate. I’ve stopped trying to do one million projects at once…for now!

Phew! That’s a lot of awesome projects! And WHERE are you right now?

I’m in the best apartment in Riverside, Jacksonville, Florida with my best friend and boyfriend 😀 But you probably meant in life? I’m feeling dizzy from the array of choices I have with my two big projects right now and just trying to buckle down, focus, and make them the best they can be.

Ms. Vanessa herself, in a hotel in Tampa rather than in her lovely apartment.

Ms. Vanessa herself, in a hotel in Tampa rather than in her lovely apartment.

Your life location AND physical location both sound pretty dang great. Mmm, Florida! I’ve only ever visited Fort Myers, and that was for a wild whirlwind vacation with my girlfriends where I think all of us technically got married on the beach. So you were raised in Naples, Italy and Jacksonville, Florida. Did you split your time between both places, or spend a set number of years in each place?

My dad was in the Navy so we moved around a little bit. I was born in Norfolk Virgina. We moved to Naples, Italy where I only spent four years. We then moved to South Carolina for two years. After that we moved to Jacksonville, Florida where I’ve remained ever since. It’s been two decades since I’ve lived in Italy and I still miss it.

What is your mother tongue, and where else do you consider home?

I’m half Mexican (mom) and half Puerto Rican (dad) but my parents raised my brothers and I to speak English and only English. They said we rejected Spanish completely by about age 3 and refused to speak it. I consider my eclectic bohemian neighborhood (Riverside, Jacksonville) home but I have severe wanderlust and love to explore everywhere and everything. I want to travel the U.S.A in an RV and travel the world from there!

USA by RV is also one of my travel goals. I salivate thinking about exploring the Wild West that way. Do you travel much during the year to new places, or do you mostly make the rounds to visit family and friends in the same spots across the globe?

I visit family in Puerto Rico sporadically, they live in the Southern part (Ponce) away from the tourist scene so I get to indulge in the “real” Puerto Rico. We rarely explore the island outside of that, but try to. Otherwise, I try to go somewhere new in my area at least once a week or go on weekend trips to areas that are 2-5 hours away. My friends and I have a big calendar of explorations booked for the summer and I’m saving up for future, farther trips!

Caracoles, La Parguera, Puerto Rico

Caracoles, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, where you get dropped off via boat to reach one of the tinier Caribbean Islands.

What is something you’ve learned about travel the HARD way that you can share with my readers?

Really be alert when planning your trips and when you’re on your trips. I had a friend book a trip to Key West for us and he accidentally booked the hotel one hour away from Key West. We had to drive an hour each time we wanted to see more in the key! Also, pay close attention in the airport. I had a fast connector flight from Tokyo to Washington and didn’t hear that I got to skip ahead in the customs line for it. I had to dash across the airport and nearly missed my flight!

Just hearing about your near-miss at the airport made my heart rate spike. That’s really good advice, especially about double-checking your hotel bookings. RyanAir in Europe likes to make their own airports, claiming they’re in a city like Barcelona, for instance, and then when you land there you realize you’re actually an hour outside of Barcelona and have to spend even more money to get to the freaking city you wanted in the first place. SIGH. But, moving on…

You have a self-proclaimed love for cephalopods. Would you still love them so much if you woke up with an oversized, creepy, bottom-of-the-sea-feeder, electric blue mollusk poised to suction cup itself to your face?

I really would.

That’s so creepy. Have you ever been deep-sea diving and/or handled a mollusk? If not, can we try it together?

Nope, but it’s been a childhood dream. Let’s do it!

You’re one of the nerdy website girls of the late 90’s, like I was. Most of my time between ages 11 and 15 was spent teaching myself HTML so I could perfect the frames on my Hanson fansite (yes, yes, I know…) What were your websites about, and did you ever use Angelfire?

Haha, no shame. I had two of their CDs and my friends had wall-to-wall Hanson “wallpaper” (pages ripped out of teen magazines.) All the eyes everywhere made it terrifying to attempt sleep! I made several different anime fan-sites on Angelfire before switching to hosting them off my own domain name in the future! Oh, memories! I was sucked in and addicted from my very first Angelfire website. I had stupidly long URLS and abused the animated gifs.

The animated GIF’s! Ahh, what great times with those!

What is the biggest lesson you learned from your time spent as a corporate copywriter? And how do you use that experience to direct your freelancing career?

It would be hard to narrow it down to one! I value the search engine optimization tricks I learned, but learning how to phrase things to sell is my favorite lesson. The importance of communicating value was practiced and refined during my time in an office.

And those aren’t easy things to learn or refine! I certainly could stand to learn more about it (so I’ll probably let you know when I need a crash course sometime down the road…)

What’s your favorite non-American recipe? Share as much details as possible, because I want to make it like, tonight.

A classic comfort food staple I learned to make in Italy was a classic Italian-style Caprece salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella. It’s very healthy and fresh, a beautiful reflection of “real” Italian food, which is lighter and fresher than the Italian-American counterpart. You cube ripe tomatoes, cube fresh buffalo mozzarella from the market, julienne freshly picked basil and toss it all with extra virgin olive oil. Top with a dash of sea salt. Simple. Perfection. Makes your mouth very happy and takes very little time, too!

Dinner tonight = ready. Thanks for joining us, Vanessa! Don’t forget to check out her blog, Thrift Core!