Dine, drink, and discover the world while building a community with kindness, consideration, and authenticity at its heart.
By Allie Albanese
This is not how I intended to launch my website.
The perfectionist in me had a very specific plan. It was to be impeccably designed. Meticulously written. Strategically promoted. It would properly showcase me as a creative and be a place where potential clients could see my vision and my work. It would be a personal outlet for sharing my love of food, wine, cocktails, and travel, and where I envisioned bringing people together through these passions that are near and dear to my heart.
But life has a funny way of taking us on unexpected journeys, full of twists and turns we can’t always see coming. It can change course at any time, its new direction sometimes failing to align with or consider our plans. It teaches us important lessons that we don’t always necessarily want to learn, and forces us to examine ourselves and our choices, whether we like what we see or not. Life is often unpredictable, and no matter how thoughtfully we plan, prepare, or execute, we can’t ever fully control it. Life is an enigma, the unknowns of which never more difficult to contend with than right now.
COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. In the blink of an eye, we’ve been forced to abandon life as we once knew it. Our daily routines halted. Our plans indefinitely put on hold. Our external distractions no longer effective in assuaging our internal truths. Overnight we’ve gone from hustle and bustle to silence and stillness, our sense of normalcy forever changed. Together we are living in a perpetual state of unknown, and as I sit in my relatively safe bubble here in Georgia, praying for the global curve to flatten, unsure of what the future may bring, suddenly my goals look a whole lot different.
Like so many, my livelihood has been stripped away due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The small business I started less than six months ago now reduced to nearly nothing, my clients all feeling the crushing impact of this pandemic right along with me. The projects I’ve been working on now shelved. The money I’ve saved “for the future” now going towards essentials for myself and those I love. I’m devastatingly sad for so many reasons, and in moments I’m paralyzed with fear because I have absolutely no idea where to go from here. But I refuse to feel sorry for myself. I am healthy. I haven’t lost anyone I love. And I believe that there is a meaningful and important purpose for everything.
If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that there is no happenstance. There’s a reason for everything, and I don’t say that in a cliché way to try and explain away a difficult situation, I say it because I’ve lived enough life to know it. Sometimes the reason is revealed right away. Other times it can take months or years or even decades to understand. And then there are times we never actually learn the reason because it isn’t meant for us to know, we are simply part of a bigger plan intended to impact someone or something else. As I consider the possible explanations for why this virus has infected our planet, I believe the reasons are a variety of those above. I can already see the immediate impact in my own life and on my own perspective, yet I also think that time will be a valuable factor in understanding the broader purpose for why and how our world is facing this crisis. I believe we are living during this unique time in history so that others may learn and grow from it, and that just as we have learned from those before us, those after us will understand the purpose for COVID-19 in ways we never will.
I’ve spent a lot of time in quarantine pondering all of this, and I can’t shake the feeling that one of the primary reasons for this pandemic is to teach us that we not only need each other, but that we need to be kinder. To ourselves, to each other, to our planet. I think it’s given us an important wakeup call about the value of human connection and the importance of community. We’ve been living in such a dog-eat-dog world for so long that I think we had lost sight as a collective as to how powerful we can be if we join forces rather than continuing to exist in our own silos, elbowing each other out of the way to get ahead.
I have seen and read many beautiful stories of people helping people as a result of COVID-19, and my hope is that these impactful acts of humanity will prompt a positive trend for the future. A future where kindness becomes the rule rather than the exception. But for this to happen we need to stop the comparison game. We need to stop caring who has more followers on Instagram or who has the most Facebook likes. We need to stop valuing money, beauty, and fame over compassion, consideration, and generosity. We need to stop perpetuating the “me first” mentality that has plagued our society for far too long, and become a community of people that supports, encourages, and cares for one another. Where instead of being each other’s critics, we become each other’s advocates. Where we empower one another and provide a safety net for each other’s dreams and goals. COVID-19 has given us a very rare opportunity to reset and to be better for ourselves and for each other. And I want to use this platform to do just that.
I haven’t abandoned my original goals for Parched, I’m simply shifting gears. Instead of focusing only on the “what,” I want to focus on the “who.” I want to connect and collaborate and help support the endeavors of those around me. I want to shine a spotlight on the talents, creativity, and good works of others. I want to engage with people, to challenge one another, and to learn new things. I want to share my passions as they are in this moment, as well as how they may change along the way, and to explore avenues that may lead to greater understandings or establish meaningful connections.
I’ve built a career based on storytelling, and now I want to tell my own stories as well as those of others whose journeys have inspired me in hopes that they may inspire you as well. Be it the winemaker in Australia who is using her voice to take a stand for women’s equality in the wine industry or the Michelin Starred Italian chef who has taught me how to appreciate the beauty of simplicity, both in cooking and in life. The home brewer who turned his passion into a career and is now the head brewer of a well-known Georgia brewery or my childhood friend whose hobby making bitters began his journey to becoming a major player in the world of craft cocktails. The Master Sommelier turned restauranteur in Texas who is changing the face of hospitality or the wife of a New Zealand winemaker whose business acumen made their brand a global household name and whose commitment to female mentorship played an important role in changing the course of my own life. I’ve crossed paths with some remarkable people over the course of my life, and I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to celebrate others and the unique way in which they are shaping our world. I believe this time of human separation is reminding us that people need people, and that we need to use our voices to uplift rather than tear down.
It’s been seven years since I first had the idea for this website. Seven years in which I’ve experienced some of my greatest joys and deepest heartbreaks, and that have challenged my identity and pushed me closer to a truer understanding of my authentic self. Throughout this stretch of time I’ve come back to Parched over and over again, hoping to finally have the clarity of thought needed to write about the things that I love and to share a bit about who I am in a way that might interest people. Yet with each attempt the timing didn’t feel quite right. And it’s only now that I realize it’s because I’ve been ignoring what my own journey has been repeatedly teaching me all along: it’s not things that I’m parched for, I’m parched for life.
For knowledge and understanding.
For courage and vulnerability.
For happiness, love, laughter.
For connection and community.
For people and for the inspiration gained through learning about the journeys of others.
I’ve been gifted with a beautiful life, one full of extraordinary travels and experiences, but also one that has at times broken me to the core. And for me, that’s what this one, precious life is all about. The good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. I’ve been trying so hard to fit this endeavor into a pretty little box that people will like when that’s not at all reality or who I authentically am, because without challenges we can’t truly appreciate our blessings or learn the lessons we’re meant to learn. So while this pandemic is not the cause for my soul searching, it is the reason I finally know the direction I want to go. Which is to share my thirst for life with you, with all the bumps and bruises felt along the way. And to engage in yours if you’ll let me.
We’re meeting at a serious time, and it’s impossible to convey all the facets of my personality in one message, but I hope that you’ll give me the chance to show you who I am and that you’ll allow me to get to know you in return. We may have to get creative for a bit in how we come together, but I’m eager to jump into the unknown with you! I look forward to eating, drinking, and exploring the world together. To meeting wonderful people and learning from their knowledge and experiences. To telling meaningful stories and to opening my life and heart to you. To building a community together based on kindness, where we support each other and encourage one another to be our authentic selves.
So welcome to Parched Around the World! I don’t have a master plan for how this will go, but COVID-19 has given me a powerful reminder that life is fragile and time is precious. So I’m going to start this blog and website in the exact moment of life that I feel in my gut is right for me to, and trust that the pieces will fall into place when and how they are meant to. I’m finally going to get out of my own way and to willingly follow life’s unknown path, wherever it may lead. I am beyond excited to begin this adventure, and look forward to being parched for life with you!