The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“I wish I could do that…” Why can’t you?

February 29, 2012--BrittanyS

For many of us, when it comes to going abroad, perhaps the hardest step to take is the first one.  You have to decide to go.  Once that decision has been made, the rest will follow.  I know you may be thinking “Easier said than done.”  I can agree with that, after all, actions speak louder than words.  But clich├ęs aside, to that I say it’s not as hard as you think.
Like with most other things worth doing or having, the going abroad pursuit comes with its own obstacles.  But the biggest obstacle is YOU.  Fret not, if you are reading this, that alone means there is hope for you yet. :-)  So here’s a little help overcoming the little naysayer resting on your shoulder.  Let’s discuss the top 5 reasons we decide to stay at home.

1.      "I don’t speak their language."
Well, you’re in luck.  If you can read THIS, then you speak the most powerful language in the world: ENGLISH.  Not only is English the official language in several countries around the world, (even ones you might not readily think about like the Philippines or many African countries) but (American) English is the world’s business language.  As a result, at least proficiency in it is sought in countries that either have high international tourist revenue or countries that do heavy trading with English speaking countries.  Either way, speaking English will take you far.  HOWEVER, please do NOT be THAT ignorant American (or other nationality) that thinks everyone should worship the ground you walk on because you speak English, be real.  If the country does not have English as one of its official languages, don’t expect everyone to speak English.  It is common courtesy to at least ATTEMPT to speak the local language.  They will appreciate your efforts, you will learn something new that you can impress your friends or insult your enemies with, and in some situations, it will help you out when the other person doesn't speak English.

2.     "There isn’t anyone there that looks like me and/or shares my culture."
Even though it may be a huge step for you to decide to go abroad, you (more than likely) will not be a trailblazer.  We are here!  We are also great resources for just about anything: jobs, hair, food, shopping, dating, etc.  Anything you can think of, at least one expat woman of color in that country has experienced it.  You can learn from our mistakes and benefit from our successes.  We got your back ;-)

3.     "I have too many bills to be able to take a vacation like that.  Plus I have a significant other and/or child(ren)."
Maybe you have too many bills for a VACATION, but what about to move to another country for EMPLOYMENT (which in my eyes is still somewhat of a vacation)?  The cost of living abroad can be considerably cheaper if you play your cards right AND, in some cases you might even end up making something considerably close to what you were making at home.  You know what that means?  More money to pay your bills/debt.  It also means you don’t have a lot of expenses abroad so that’s money leftover to take a vacation somewhere else!  As far as your family is concerned, bring’em all, “and your little DOG, too!!!!”  While you are doing your homework on different countries, investigate their family policy.  Some places even give priority to family units.  There are international schools (and other options) that have instruction in English if you are worried about your child(ren)’s education.  There are even some places that will allow you and your partner to work together, but don't tell them that if you don't want them crowding you. 

4.     "I heard they don’t like (insert your country/race/ethnicity here)."
REALITY:  where you are RIGHT NOW, someone probably doesn’t like you because you are a woman and/or of color.  Your genetic makeup includes the two categories of people discriminated against the most.  *shrug* That’s life.  Hold your head up high and be proud to be who you are, no matter where you are.  Don’t let someone else’s preferences hold you back.  Besides, what one dislikes, the other adores!  You might find yourself to be the local celebrity!

5.     "What am I gonna eat over there?  I heard they eat dog/raw octopus/bugs, etc."
Yes maybe (some) people do.  But that’s doesn’t mean YOU have to!  Think about popular foods in your country.  Do you like them ALL?  Just like you don’t have to eat them there, you don’t have to eat them in (insert your desired country here).  Food is a cultural marker, even down to the way it is consumed.  Some places use hands, others chopsticks or forks.  Some chew like wild horses, others nibble like rabbits.  You’d be surprised at how similar your food culture can be to other places in the world, and even more so how easy it is to adapt to someone else’s without losing yours.  Hey, if you can stomach McDonald's , a food that practically has no expiration date (something food is SUPPOSED to have right?) then you can eat another culture’s food.  I’m sure whenever I mention “chitlins” (chitterlings, or pig intestines) to some people, they think THAT’S weird, but what’s weird to some is normal to others.  You might like their “weird” food.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Choice to Live the Life of Travel

The Choice to Live the Life of Travel
January 14, 2012— by Cha Jones

I was about three month’s old when I took my first trip to Mexico and before I was even a year old I had traveled with my paternal grandmother to see my aunt in Detroit, MI. So, actually I have been traveling all my life. I guess I didn’t have a choice in the matter, I just learned to live the life that has been given to me.

I turned thirty-three years of age two days prior to me moving to Korea to teach English as a second language. On the brink of turning thirty-six I am trying to decide my next steps, but I know that I am in no position to give up this life of adventure and travel. There is so much of the world to see, and I have only taken my first taste of what the world has to offer.

Walking in their footprints

Even though I am not the first person in my family to travel and/or live abroad, I am the first and only person to travel and live abroad without any support system. My aunt traveled to Africa when I was in high school, and I had an uncle who was in the marines who has lived in many countries. However, when you fully submerse yourself into a culture and actually live abroad it is totally different than visiting and/or having any government support backing you. When you live in a country and you become part of their economy you get to see the country just as the locals see it. We actually have a saying for the military who reside in Korea, “We live in Korea while the military lives on Korea.”  There is a huge difference. When you live in the country you use the money, you live in the hosting, you pay bills, you eat the food (well most people do, just not me), you pay taxes, you interact with the people, and even though many military people do some of the things I’ve listed, the biggest difference is that they still have a safe haven to return to, the military base, where they can get everything they need and want just like living in America.

Sunrise Peak, Jeju Island, South Korea

Being an inspiration for others

I will never forget when I took my first vacation in Korea. During my summer break a co-worker and I went to what Korean’s believe to be their Hawaii, Jeju Island, which is a decent size island just southwest of the Korean peninsula. It was a wonderful trip.

On our second day we decided to take a day tour which took up to a place called Sunrise Peak. Sunrise Peak is about a twenty minute climb up the side of a small mountain. The hike included walking in the pouring rain, up some very narrow and steep steps. As I took each step I thought about all the people whom I was carrying on my shoulders, the people who would never leave their cities, states, and not to mention their country. I was taking these small steps in a foreign country for all my relatives and friends. Even the pictures I took were more for those whom I would be providing a small glimpse into another world. It’s my hope that as I venture out of my comfort zone, I not only open a window to the world of travel, but that I am able to inspire so many more people to do the same.

Making the choice to travel

In America, most people travel on vacation and many people don’t really travel outside of the popular tourist spots because of time and/or money. For me, I believe it was my destiny to travel. I have lived in all the American cities that I have ever desired to live in, and I have actually been to thirty-nine of the fifty states as well as Puerto Rico2x. I simply love traveling.

At the age of twenty-five I thought that I wanted to settled down and do my part by buying into the whole “American Dream.” So, I bought a house and started a business, and lived a semi-stable life for about four years, but there was always something missing... a void to travel. In the four years I was decorating, throwing parties, planting seeds and watering grass, but I was also unfulfilled. The only time I was able to travel was on my birthday to Miami, FL and to visit my mother in Nebraska. Other than that, I was too busy trying to secure my next check or making sure I could keep up my investment, all while thinking to myself, “Is this what they call the American Dream?” more like, “Suffering in contentment.”

However, I remember my first trip to Maui when I was eighteen; I told my aunt that I should be a nomad and island hop. Aren’t we so perceptive in our youth? If only I had known then what I know now, I would have followed the dream that I wrote out on the napkin while sitting on the beach whale watching. At eighteen, I had a plan and it involved the adventures of traveling, and a little hustling, but that wasn’t the important part. The point of the matter is that in my own little way I knew that I was suppose to go places, see things, and experience what this huge world has to offer.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

7 Lessons Learned from a Pint-Sized Traveler

February 2012- eternitysojourner 

When I imagined my life as a traveler, I saw myself solo, wearing a backpack, volunteering for Peace Corps or the like. I never imagined I would be traveling married, wearing a baby sling, loving life as a stay-at-home mama. While many may forfeit relationships and family for the freedom of travel, I’ve found great fulfillment in traveling as a family!

Many people dread even sharing a flight with a baby, much less traveling with one. Yes, there’s an extra little person to consider, an extra bag to carry, extra gear, and, once they hit the golden age of two years old, an extra flight ticket as well, but traveling with a baby isn’t all bad and the experience has a lot to teach us all. Here are just a few lessons learned from our little star trekker!

1. Take the time to plan.
Many wanderlust travelers love to “travel on the fly” and just “wing” their way through a new destination. You can stumble on a hotel and create (and recreate) your itinerary as you go but with a child, you realize that a tad more planning can save a lot of headaches, long walks, and wasted time. Taking the time to research your travel plans and accommodations are the most important points. While the low-budget traveler may always opt for the cheapest flight itinerary, traveling with a baby warrants that you examine your flight schedule closely. Bed times and nap times are sacred and should be guarded as such. Be mindful of layovers, flight transfers, and travel times, if you want to smooth out the already challenging airtime.

2. There's a season for everything...including an upgrade!
In the interest of saving money, child-less travelers may opt for hostels, street food, and public transportation. However, traveling with a baby definitely warrants adding a star to your accommodations, a rented car or taxi, and inclusive breakfast deals. Yes, you may have to shorten your trip to balance out the budget but you’re more likely to enjoy a well-rested, healthy, and energetic stay as a result.

3. Familiar routines are orienting.
Young children are especially sensitive to routines and rhythms. If you have morning or night rituals, like stretching, meditation/prayer, reading, etc., maintaining your practice while travel can help you to feel centered and whole as you discover the day. You also may find that you rest better at night and meet the day feeling recharged and ready!

4. The early bird catches the worm.
If you fear oversleeping, there’s no better alarm than a young child! You’ll be sure to catch all of what early rising offers: watching the sun rise, visiting museums and cultural attractions before peak crowds (or peak heat), and the best pickings at the breakfast buffet! ;) Additionally, you have a full day of touring ahead, way before worrying about closing hours.

5. Mid-day siestas are not just for Spain.
I’ve recently rediscovered how refreshing naps can be! These are especially critical if you started your day early. In warm climate regions, the mid-day is the best time to take a break indoors and avoid blazing heat. Even if you’re not tired, you can use the break as an opportunity to restrategize your afternoon and evening plans, so you have a game plan for tackling the second half!

6. Always keep a snack packed.
Travel can be as unpredictable as life itself. Even the best itineraries are not immune to traffic jams, road detours, checkpoints, getting lost, etc. Keeping a healthy snack can help you ride the currents of an unexpected delay, stretch the time in between meals, and steer clear of temper tantrum meltdown. And don’t forget to pack your water bottle and stay well-hydrated!

7. There's more good in the world than you might have noticed.
Traveling with a (calm) baby is almost guaranteed to evoke a smile, or at least a smirk out of others. In nearly every culture, babies are cherished and to see strangers express warmth and kindness to you and your child reminds you that the world is not so bad a place after all. Yes, there’s corruption and war, chaos and injustice, but there’s still mercy and love, generosity and compassion, and none teach us this better than a pure little being.

Without a doubt, traveling can be a shared adventure. In some ways, you get to see less because of higher travel costs, slower pace of activity, selective outings, etc., but seeing the world through new eyes also allows you to see more. “Settling down” might mean “slowing down” but it doesn’t mean “staying still”. ;)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I’m Leaving For the Year…Who Cares?

Campaign Decrease International Checked Baggage
February-Contributing Writer 

Last fall many of the American airlines changed their baggage policies and the International checked baggage policy was just one of the policies that were changed. So, if you are currently traveling to or from the United States on an International flight, then you are only allowed one checked bag. WHAT! When I was preparing to travel back to the United States from Korea and I read that, I was floored. Many people who travel overseas are staying for a lengthy about of time unless they are traveling for business. So, why are they changing the baggage policies? Well, could it be to increase revenue?

Be prepared to pay anywhere from $70 to $400 for your checked baggage.

More and more people are beginning to move overseas for school, work, and better living opportunities and the limiting on baggage is another way to increase revenue for the airlines and make the public pay. As if we aren’t taxed enough in the midst of an economic crisis.

What are you going to do about it?

Well, I am actually pretty upset about this change, and I am one of those people who think that you should fight for what you believe in. So, I can’t just let this happen while sitting around and complaining, because I’m no victim. However, I am wise enough to know that change doesn’t happen because one has a personal issue with something, change happens when the masses have a personal issue with something. So, what am I going to do about it? Well, I am starting a campaign, Campaign Decrease International Checked Baggage; this will be a FB campaign and email write in campaign. I urge you to hit "Like" on the new FB campaing page and then send an email to each of the airlines expressing your discontent."Like" us on The Campaign International Baggage

United Airlines Baggage Policy--->click

American Airlines Baggage Policy--->click

Delta Airlines: Baggage Policy--->click

Don't Settle For Less While Paying More!!!

I am asking you, if you too have a problem with accepting with change to send an email to United, Delta, and American Airlines requesting for them to change their policies.

I am not sure what will happen, but I know that there is power in numbers.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preparing to Move Abroad

Everything a Woman Needs To Prepare For A Year Away
February 20, 2012—Cha Jones

 Completed all your paperwork, secured the new job, and now it’s time to pack!!!

If you have ever lived on your own and had to move, then you know all the frustrations of what a move can bring. However, take all that you know along with moving thousands of miles away to a foreign country that you have never been to, yeah I call that “Packing Hell.” Oh, and not to mention that in most cases you have no idea what your new place has or doesn’t have that will give you some type of insight on what you need or don’t need.

I remember when I was moving to Korea for the first time, I was trying to pack for the year journey, after I had already packed half my life and placed it in storage. Let’s just say I was overwhelmed to the fourth degree. I had already searched the internet for any information I could find on climate and tips on what to bring, but still I was faced with what was actually reasonable for me. I will be honest, I am not the backpacking type and my idea of roughing it is staying at the Hilton. (Don’t judge me; I will stay at Hampton Inn, too.) So, I had to be very sensible when I condensed my life into one year.

What’s One Year?

That question is actually laughable. A year of clothing is like a small department store for most women, especially those who love being fashionable. My love is for shoes. The most difficult thing for me to do when I began packing for Korea was to decide what shoes I’d be taking. I began to think, “Why I am doing this?” So, at the end, I decided that I would only take a pair of walking shoes, a pair tennis shoe, 2 or 3 pairs of dress shoe (one brown, one black, and neutral color), and a few pairs of flip-flops (those are light and won’t kill your weight). I figured that I would be walking everywhere, so there was no reason to be wearing a bunch of my nice shoes and ruining my prize possessions.

When it came to clothing I was really at a loss because Korea has for seasons. I eventually decided that because I would be working with small children I would take more casual clothes, and then I would mail other things as I needed them. In 2009, when you traveled abroad you could check two pieces of luggage and you were allowed to have two carry-on bags. So, I packed my under clothes, 3 to 4 pairs of jeans, some casual shirts, a couple of dresses, shorts, some dressy shirts, and a jacket. I went to Korea in late spring. So, I didn’t worry about packing for the winter, because I eventually would have my aunt mail a box of things I had set aside for the winter at a later date. (I strongly suggest (if it’s an option) to pre-pack a box of things that you will need for the next season if you are moving to a country that has seasonal changes.)

Packing Suggestions:

  • Pre-pack for seasons (pack some boxes to be sent at a later date)
  • Minimize your wardrobe (casual, dressy, and comfortable)         
  • Only enough shoes (walking, tennis shoes, dressy, and cute)
  • Request that people send things as needed
  • Pack in bulk and then mail

Because of the recent change in most airline baggage policies, you are only able to travel with one checked bag (50 lbs or less) and one carry-on bag and a personal bag (purse or laptop). Remember, you can always pay extra for more checked bags.
  1. Think “minimal”: pack enough clothes for a week or two
  2. Think “functional”: pack what you need and ask for a care package later

Things to think about taking:
  • Language books
  • Reading books (I suggest getting a kindle on your computer or buying a reader)
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Tampons/Sanitary Pads
  • Skin care products
  • Hair and Beauty care products
  • Lotion and body care
  • Make sure you have a copy of all important documents to bring with you
  • Glasses and contacts (contact solution and maintenance products)
  • Medicines (prescriptions, headache, cold, sinus, and motion medicine)
  • Condoms and Pleasure Stimulants *(if you the country permits it may be illegal)…Did say that?
What you may want to ship:
  • Send extra clothing and heavy items like coats, jeans, and shoes
  • Food that you may miss (potatoes chips, snack, and dry goods)
Things to think about having or doing before you leave:
  • Create an emergency check list (leave one with your family and take one with you)
  • Make sure you have you bank account setup for wire transfer and have routing and account information
  • Contact the Embassy and get added to their newsletter
  • Look into a supplemental insurance or travel insurance
  • Contact your credit card companies to let them know what country you will be in
  • If you have student loans, contact your company and step-up a deferment program (give yourself 6 months without payments) (Unemployed)
  • Setup automatic bill pay
  • Setup a skype number (people w/out skype can contact you)
  • Setup a skype account (people w/skype can call you direct)
  • Hulu (allows you to watch televisions that have been archived)
  • Setup Slingbox (have US television while you’re away from home)
  • Setup a VPN (allow you to pull up websites in other countries that you can’t access)
  • Satellite Direct (pay a one –time fee and get over 3,500 television channels)

To get an update on new things added to this list please sign up for my Welcome Abroad Girl Newsletter

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are There Black Folks There?

American Airlines Going Black
February 17, 2012—Cha Jones

While lying on my bed in Korea watching TV One on my sling box, my way of living abroad but staying submersed in American television, I was aroused by a commercial I saw. The commercial was advertising travel from an African-American experience. Hmmm…well, let’s just say I was very interested. I jumped up and went to the website where I then watched travel expert Nelson George do a complete five minute video travel blog on traveling to Shanghai, China. In Shanghai, he interviews black people about their experience living in China as an African-American. He also went to a few tourist spots that were interesting and may cater to African-American’s all while discussing food, culture, and entertainment.

I will say that I really loved Nelson’s video travel blog. However, as I began to sift through the website I couldn’t help but to ask myself a few questions. I first wanted to know why American Airlines would be sponsoring an African-American travel initiative. The site featured travel all over the world and it centers on travel from an African-American experience. Their slogan is: “Your passport to the Black Experience.”


Also, I noticed that Nelson was traveling to several different places nationally in America as well as abroad, but in what I saw, he was pointing out where the black people were on his trips or how black people contributed to the area, and I have no opposition to any of that. I don’t oppose because when I travel nationally in America or abroad the first thing I want to know is, “Where are my people?” or at least the natives. However, I am still trying to understand the angle in which American Airlines is coming from.
I’m thinking…Let’s pocket some of the black consumerism.

What’s in a Name?

Now, I find it very interesting the name of the site is Black Atlas. Is that like Black at Last? I’m just saying inquiring minds would like to know. I have done marketing for like thirteen years and I have this funny suspicion that the name is a play on words.  Could very well just be Black Atlas, like the globe.
The website is a first of its kind social networking site launched by American Airlines which… ok let me just put it in here in their own words.
            BlackAtlas.com Connects African-American Travelers Through Dynamic Online CommunityAmerican Airlines will launch a first-of-its-kind social networking site, BlackAtlas.com SM, which combines the best features of a travel site with the power of social networking to create a dynamic online community for travelers to share experiences unique to the black community.User content will be anchored by travel video blogs and commentaries from author, filmmaker, television producer and world traveler, Nelson George, who will serve as the BlackAtlas.com travel expert at large. Unique travel content for the site is currently being collected at BlackAtlas.com. The site is scheduled to fully launch later this month.“I love to experience new cities, new food and meet new people. I love the thrill of discovering black culture everywhere, and so many African Americans feel the same way I do,” said Nelson George. “I want to entice more people to hit the road by giving them a different, and hopefully fresh, angle on travel through BlackAtlas.com.” READMORE
So, back to that name of the site

Is it like…we are black and at last we can are traveling the world or at least leave the comforts of our own neighbors? Just asking because inquiring minds would love to know.

I’m all for it

As a black woman who loves to travel, I can honestly say that I think the idea of the site is wonderful, interesting, but still wonderful. I enjoy traveling and writing about travel, that is the reason for this blog, and I’m even more interested in learning that you can become a contributing writer on the site…that’s good stuff.
Being a black person born and raised in Omaha, NE of all places in the world I think that this site is needed. I use to hate when people asked me, “Where are you from?” and I had to reply, “Omaha, NE” and then they would say, “Really, are there black people there?” and I just shook my head thinking to myself, “Well,  just the two I left there because I’m gone.”

So, now we as African-American people have a site dedicated to traveling, learning or at least being exposed to different places that are influenced by black history and culture, places that many people would not normally think black people exist, less alone travel to.

At last Black people are traveling the world…maybe we will be free Atlas.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

So, How Do You Date While Living Abroad?

February 16, 2012, Cha Jones

You notice this nice looking guy and he notices you, so what’s next?

Many people who move abroad are only going moving to a country for a short stint like six months to a year. If you are teaching abroad, then many contracts are yearly and after the initial year is up you are able to renew your contract or move to another employer.  So, I guess the question is, “Would a relationship work if it’s just temporary?

I interviewed a young lady a few months back and I recall her telling me that she is in no way thinking about a relationship because, “No one really knows where they’re going.” That makes sense to me because when I first moved to Korea I had no idea that one year would turn into three, so I wasn’t actually looking to be in a relationship. However, I was willing to be open to all possibilities.

Issues with dating while abroad
One of the issues I have seen with the dating scene while living abroad, in particularly when the military is in the country, is deceit. I have found that many people are reinventing themselves when they move abroad and for many military people they are on extended vacations from reality. So, the issue becomes the question of “What is fact and what is fiction?”

Some people only want someone to be with while they are on their assignment, and I guess that’s ok as long as they are truthful about the situation. Many times military people, male and female, have spouses back home, and I have seen and heard of people lying about their situations, when in fact they have entire families at home waiting for them. Now, I don’t agree with it, but as long as all parties are aware of the situation, I feel that adults can determine the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. However, I totally disagree with anyone being deceitful about their marital status.

Letting chips fall where they may

On the flip side of the coin there are many people who move abroad and find themselves in a relationship that they never intended to have. We have all met those couples who said, “It just happened.” They were out and about and stumbled upon the person that they fell in love with and now they are a couple. There was no desire to turn a temporary situation into something permanent, but at the same time they were both willing to allow things to be what they were going to be.

I have met many people who moved abroad just to have a change in pace and one day they met someone that they were interested in, became good friends, and eventually fell in love and got married. I actually have seen this happen on several occasions. I have even met people who were dating several people and not interested in being in a long term relationship, and then they met someone that made them change their minds. Some people come with the intention to stay a short time and meet someone who makes them want to become permanent citizens, so it’s very possible that fate changes all plans if you are open.

Looking for love

Now, we all have met someone who is fixated on being in a relationship. You know, one of those people who are looking for the next best thing and always would like someone to introduce them to your friend who is single. Well, when you move abroad those people will be there. I personally think that being in a relationship is something that happens naturally, but hey I’m single and some of the people who are getting married this year were put together by a match maker, so what do I know? Living abroad doesn’t change any of that.

Love is universal

I guess, when it’s all said in done what happens next after you notice the nice looking guy and he notices you all depends on what both of you want, and it really doesn’t matter where you are in the world as long as you are on the same page. So, is dating different when you live abroad? Sure it is, but I think that for the most part it’s universally the same. When two people have an understanding about where they are in live and they are clear on what they want, then I don’t think that where you are in location matters. If you are looking for a long term relationship, then I think you need to be flexible and very honest. And if you aren’t you need be equally honest. However, I believe that if you want to find true love while back packing across the world it is possible.  All things are possible if you are willing to be open to the possibilities.

Tips on dating while living abroad
  1. Be clear on what you want
  2.  Be honest and make sure the person you are dealing with is being honest (can be difficult, but ask questions)
  3. Be open to dating
  4. Don’t limit your self
  5. If it didn’t get you what you wanted at home, maybe you should do something different
  6. Have fun and enjoy the process 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Top Ten Reasons I Love Traveling

The Top Ten Reasons I Love Traveling
February, 2012—Cha Jones

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day I thought it would be nice to look at why I LOVE to travel.

1.       I can see the world from a different perspective. As the old saying goes “Perception is Reality.” When you get to see a place through your own eyes everything you ever heard or read begins to get challenged based on what you are seeing first hand for yourself. So, it is my thought that it’s not real until you have discovered it for yourself. 
claim token FHA96A7HUNJW

2.       Humanity and putting a face on the people of the world. This is a run-on of #1. We all have heard about the people in said country (Iran, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Egypt, etc.), but if we have never met them, touched them, or communicated with them, then unfortunately we tend to see them as just faceless creatures we've heard about. However, when you actually get the opportunity to meet the people in person they become real and your compassion for how they are treated, living, and for them as whole begin to change…it becomes AUTHENTIC. If you could see the starving children in an underdeveloped country, then they wouldn't be a commercial story, they would become conversation that has heartfelt meaning behind it, and just maybe the world would change.

3.       Beauty is in the eye of its beholder. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So, if you go the beach and feel the sand sifting through your toes and you smell the ocean as the warm breeze tickles your nose, how many more words would it be worth to describe your experience? Traveling to the place gives you so much more than the photo could ever give you. Sure, pictures are wonderful, they help you remember, but the experience of being and seeing firsthand leaves an impression that will live with you forever.

4.       I love to EAT!!! Now, I know you can feel me when I say AUTHENTIC. There is something very different about eating at an authentic Mexican restaurant rather than a good ole commercial Tex-Mex restaurant. The Tex-Mex can’t even compare. Now, I happen to love Tex-Mex, so don’t get me wrong. However, I would rather eat authentic Mexican food any day of the week. So, when you travel you get the opportunity to eat the food the way the people of that particular area intended for it to be. Remember, real is always better than the replica anyways!

5.       Learning experience. When you travel and you visit a different city, state, or country you learn so much more than you could ever learned reading, hearing about it from someone else, or watching a movie, documentary, or television show. So, I encourage you to get out and travel and you will come back with so much more knowledge, which will also allow you to teach other people who will not get the same opportunity.

6.       Expanding your thought process. We live in a world that can be very narrow, but when you travel you get to experience things that will hopefully enlighten how you think or see things. Sometimes you even get to dispel rumors about places that you have believed all of your life. Traveling opens the door to many new beginnings.

7.       Rest and relaxation. I love living in the city and I really love having many options, but sometimes I just want to rest and leave all the worries of life behind. Traveling allows you the opportunity to do that. If you take a day or two to sit on the beach and just be, then everything that you do in your day to day hustle and bustle becomes worth it. Relax and take a moment to smell the roses. When you take this time away from everything that you think you must do, you then learn to appreciate life and you also get the opportunity to rejuvenate your thoughts and prepare to move forward.

8.       Pampering. Now, you should always take the time to pamper yourself no matter where you are, but some of my best pampering has been done while I was traveling. When you go on a nice vacation it’s always a good idea to go to the spa and get pampered. Make sure you eat the best of the best and experience the best parts of the place that you are visiting.

9.       Interesting stories. Life is fascinating, well at least mine is, and when you get the opportunity to travel and see different places, meet interesting people, eat really good food or bad food, do things you wouldn't normally do, and just live without boundaries, then you tend to develop the best life stories ever. Remember, everyone is not going to take a chance, veer off the beaten path, or will be able to afford the opportunities to travel, so your stories allow others to vicariously live through you. Live and then tell about it!

10.   I get to reinvent myself through my experiences. It’s great to go see a different place, meet new people, eat new foods, learn something different, and create lifelong stories to tell future generations, but one of the reasons I love traveling is that I get to reinvent myself through the places I've been and the things I have done. When you travel, look at it like you’re a snake shedding layers of dead skin you've been lugging around for years. What you may have brought to a situation can be shed by being open to seeing, feeling, and being in the moment. At home in your own environment you may have become complacent, but when you go somewhere new you have the chance to try something you have been dreaming about. If you don’t like who are anymore, then you can become someone knew (as long as you aren't lying to others or yourself). Reinvent yourself and find the courage to live life outside the box, because inside the box there isn't much room for living at all. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thai Escape

Thai Escape
February 2012- Nicole Brewer

When I think of Thailand, I think of beautiful beaches, refreshing drinks and a fun escape from the current cold winter of South Korea. On my most recent winter vacation I visited four breathtakingly beautiful cities which included Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. On the pristine beaches of Phuket fun in the sun awaited me where I was able to take in frothy, delicious cocktails along with every meal.

I spent 4 days in Phuket staying at the Chalong beach resort and spa’s sister lodging Club Phuket in Rawai. Club Phuket is hostel style living at a fraction of the cost of the resort prices. While this resort afforded me the comforts of the Chalong beach club, I would highly recommend you look into staying closer to the Patong beach area where most of the action takes place in Phuket. The cab rides back to party central Patong became quite costly. Nonetheless, if you want to be in a more family friendly, chill environment then Club Phuket is for you. Also, it was conveniently located in order to take a day trip to the gorgeous Phi Phi islands as several tours departed out from the Chalong bay area.

However, Patong beach is where I found myself most of the time dining at delicious eateries such as Hell’s Kitchen. At Hell’s Kitchen you can eat succulent steaks or chicken along with potatoes au gratin that would leave your mouth watering for more. This area also affords you to the most entertaining ladyboy shows in the land at Simon’s Cabaret show. Phuket will not leave your heart desiring much in terms of entertainment or relaxation.

After spending Christmas on Phuket, I decided to test the waters out at the infamous Full Moon parties at Koh Samui for New Years Eve. I took a ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Samui. Koh Samui ‘s deep blue waters with spell-bounding waves are a surfer’s paradise! I stayed at I-bed Samui hostel which was located directly across a main road to Lamai beach. I-bed is a boutique hostel that has open air living space, decked out with stunning cherry wood panels throughout, a sun roof and modern furnishings. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in my time living and traveling across Asia.

The full moon party is Not for the shy or introverted. I traveled alone via speed boat to the huge beach parties that were set along Ko Phangan island right along the Haad Rin beach shores. I may had traveled solo to the party but I made friends while taking in the sights and sounds of a beautiful new year’s celebration. There were fireworks, fire dancers, fire jump ropes and even streakers. It was a party animals best dream.


Next I needed a bit of relaxation and culture so I headed to Chiang Mai. I stayed at my own private bungalow called Tanita House. Tanita House is located in a great location near the Ping river. They are rustic, teak wood houses that have the feel of down on the prairie homes but in the big city of Chiang Mai. I adored waking up to bright sunshine coming in from the wood panels, pulsating colors from flowers all around the yard and even a wooden swing set that would sit children of the family in the house next door to mine. Ms. Aor the guesthouse owner would also cook the guests fresh scrambled eggs, bacon and vegetables every morning. The service at Tanita House would be hard to beat!

Chiang Mai would have to be the city that I fell in love with because of the culture and beauty. I’d recommend at least spending four or five days here as I did not have enough time to see all of the amazing sites such as temples there. I took a half day tour to the temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which has amazing views of the city as it sits atop of a mountainside. However, the two locations that are must sees here would have to be the Tiger Kingdom and one of the elephant nature parks. The park that I wanted to go to initially was totally booked so the guesthouse owner at Tanita House booked the Baan Chang elephant park for me. It is smaller in scale to some of the bigger parks but I rather enjoyed the experience here with my group of 15 as we feed, rode and washed the sweet, charming elephants.


The last two days of my Thailand adventure were spent in Bangkok. I was fortunate to get a called Refill Now. Refill Now offers extremely clean dorm rooms at the reasonable price of $20 a night. Not only has it won numerous awards on Hostelworld for cleanliness and environment, but it has a sleek modern design that one can wind down in.

After so much traveling and island hopping, I looked forward to having a mellow time in Bangkok so I spent my afternoons dining and shopping at Terminal 21 mall that is designed like an airport. Each floor is designed after a big city or country with themes from Hollywood for the movie theater to Istanbul on a different level. My final recommendations would be the luxurious Grand Palace where you can see how the royals live and the floating market which is about an hour and half drive outside of the city for the old time feel of the way locals shopped in the past. Bangkok, as much as the rest of Thailand, has so much to offer that it should be on
everyone’s list of places to escape their winter blues.