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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Testing the Waters: How to Plan a Vacation Abroad on a Reasonable Budget

By: BrittanyS
Courtesy: Google Images

            I’m going to be frank with you: this is NOT one of those articles about extreme budgeting.  It is truly inspirational that people can do so much with so little, but if the average woman of color is anything like me, then she probably thinks about travel as being something afforded to the wealthy or to those who decide to embrace the nomad travel outlook.  I know I don’t fall into either category, so these stories offer me only inspiration.  What makes these stories inspirational to me is that, if they can do so much with so little, then I can do a lot more with my average spending!  So be advised, this is not going to teach you how to travel full-time with $17,000/year or even livecomfortably without using money at all, but it will help you travel on a modest budget.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What if I don’t have any start-up money?
No worries.  Everyone has something that they spend excess money on, whether it is clothes, food, transportation, etc.  At least once a month/week (depending on how active your spending is), pass up on something.  Carpool to your friend’s house, put back that shirt that you think you have nothing to wear with, and write a grocery list so you will buy exactly what you need and leave.  If you really need extra help with that, take only a set amount of money/credit with you so you can’t afford to go over.  You can always take more of an extreme couponer approach or cancel your premium subscriptions, but saving doesn’t always have to inconvenience us so much.

TIP: Outside of these, give up something that you want to give up for health reasons.  If you stop buying those as much or at all (cigarettes, snacks, sodas, etc), not only will you be healthier, but you can pocket that extra change. Also, see below for more ways to make budgeting a little simpler.

What international documents do I need?
If you haven’t left your country before, you will need a passport.  Passports are somewhat pricy (at least in the States), but the earlier you apply for one, the cheaper it will be.  If you already have a trip planned, the passport is the first step so you don’t have to expedite the process and pay an additional fee.  (You may also have to applyfor a visa, depending on which country you intend to visit.)

TIP: The passport in itself is expensive, so apply early, and go get your passport photos from a photo booth, not from a place selling passport photos.  You will save a few dollars here, especially if you are required to get several photos.

Where do I want to go?
Now that you’ve gotten that paperwork processed, it’s time to figure out where you want to go.  See our Asian country trip quiz to help get you started.  Once you’ve figured it out, do some research on when their off-season is, and if the off-season is still comfortable travel whether for you.  For instance, in Italy, off-season is from November to March (with the exception of major holiday weeks), but this also encompasses Italy’s winter dates, which can be less than pleasant.  However, in Thailand, off-season is July to November, as this is their monsoon season.  It is still safe to travel to both of these places during these times, but just make sure you do your homework on what the weather is like exactly during these times so you can choose your dates accordingly.

TIP: Tickets are the cheapest during off-seasons, and are even cheaper if you buy them well in advance. Also, if you plan far in advance, you can locatecheap flights.

Where will I stay?
After your ticket, you need to figure out your accommodation.  Just as with flights, the earlier you reserve a room the better.  Options range from sleeping on someone else’s couch, stay in someone’splace with or without them there, staying in a hostel/guesthouse, or staying in a 1-5 star hotel.  Out of the four, my preference is for the latter.  Although I know people who have successfully stayed at the other options numerous times, I am a little suspicious of those for both hygiene and security purposes.  Besides, why stay there when you can stay in a 3-5 star hotel for areasonable price within your budget?

TIP: Set a lodging budget FIRST.  Then determine how much time you will be in the room and what you MUST have in your room to determine what type of lodging to book.

What will I do there?
If you don’t want to shell out any money for a travel book, check out a popular website that ranks and providesinformation on tourist attractions, bookmark a few of them, and see where they are in comparison to where you are staying (as well as the travel time/costs to get to/from them).  If possible, try and choose some of the inexpensive things to do throughout your trip.  You can attend concerts, museums, etc for FREE in some places.  Just do your homework.

TIP: Read the REVIEWS of these tourist attractions.  Something you may have waited your entire life to see can be a total letdown and something that never crossed your mind can be the highlight of your trip.

What do I pack?
For the most part, that varies per traveler and destination.  Just check the airline’s baggage regulations (including weight, dimensions, and quantity) and the location’s weather report.  Outside of that, be sure to grab your passport, extra passport photos, another form of ID, itineraries (flight and sightseeing), and cash in your home currency as well as the local.

TIP:  HAVE FUN!  Safe travels!  

Was this helpful?  Please feel free to leave feedback.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pigeons, Puerto Rico, and Peace of Mind

By Rukiya McNair

Old San Juan
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Currently, this is where my family and I reside and would not have it any other way. I could amuse you all day with delightfully nightmarish tales about my time in Jakarta -from a fist fight with a taxi-driver to the night my roommate’s drink got spiked- however, I will save those stories for later (trust me there are plenty). Right now, I want to talk about a beautiful island that compares to no other.

Let me say that, yes, I know that Puerto Rico is still technically the United States…so, for some this may not “count” as living abroad. But, as someone who has lived near and far I can say Puerto Rico can definitely fall somewhere in the abroad category.

Now, if you have never been to Puerto Rico, I suggest that you start planning your trip...like, now! I feel more at home here than I have anywhere else, from Pittsburgh to DC to Indonesia, it is here I where I truly feel like I am at home. "Why," you ask? Although I'm still struggling to pinpoint one exact reason, I'd say that it could be the pleasant disposition of most people we meet; it could also be the way people positively acknowledge and seem to enjoy seeing my children (whether they are laughing or even screaming), or the way people smile and say hello if they make eye contact, the way strangers ask where we are am from and waste no time welcoming us to Puerto Rico, it could also be how I don’t get stared (or gawked) at and how me and my family seamlessly blend in here…there is nothing quite like the peace of mind I've found here.
Old San Juan

Old San Juan in particular is quite a magical place itself. It is the oldest city in United States territory, with over 450 years under its belt and 7 square blocks of wonderfully restored buildings who wouldn’t love it? Walking down the distinctly narrow, blue cobblestone streets it’s easy to forget that you are still on U.S. territory, as it feels more like walking the streets somewhere in Spain.   

Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park)
I must admit, though, the love affair that Puerto Rico has with pigeons is interesting and at first, a bit uncomfortable. I would walk through Old San Juan and see people of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages feeding the pigeons. Like...on purpose. Now, I didn't grow up in a city, but I have spent the majority of my adult years living in them and typically on a stroll the last thing I'd want is a (or several) pigeons landing in my hands or on my shoulders looking for food. However, my mind was changed about a week ago while we were visiting  Parque de las Palomas, aka Pigeon Park.  A woman offered a bag of bird food to us, as she was getting ready to leave and thought we would enjoy feeding the pigeons.  We gave some seeds to our 2-year-old daughter and let her "get crazy" so-to-speak. She loved watching the pigeons crowd around her and if it makes her happy, I suppose I can live with it. We may even do it again soon.

All of this is just a brief snapshot of the time I have spent here thus far.  As, there are many more things to do and experience in Puerto Rico (and I'm sure you'll hear more about these things later). What I definitely do know is that my family and I are very happy here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vegan Travel 101

by:  eternitysojourner
Vegan Meal on Korean Air Flight

Eating abroad is its own adventure, isn’t it? There are new flavors, new tastes, and new dietary norms to explore. Many adventurers affirm that eating the local or native diet—wherever you are and wherever you may be—is part and parcel of cultural immersion. I completely understand, but my vegan ethic travels with me. With mindful planning and a little research, you can taste your way through almost any destination while keeping your plate animal-free. So, whether you’re a newly-vegan traveler or a newly-traveler vegan, take note of the following tips to keep you well-fed on your journey!

Pre-book your flight meal AND confirm in advance.
One of the worst ways to experience your first big trip across the Atlantic is hungry! You can brave your way through a domestic flight with roasted peanuts but an international flight merits a meal. The Vegetarian Meal (VGML) option usually doubles as a vegan and vegetarian meal, so you should be covered there. The VGML may be bland but it’s always edible! If you want more “spice in your life”, select the Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVML), which is pretty much code for “Indian food” (and may include dairy), or the Vegetarian Oriental Meal (VOML), which is code for Chinese or Oriental-style cuisine. When the Asian Veg meal doubles as the Veg Meal, you won’t have to covet the sumptuous curries that your South Asian co-travelers are enjoying.

Don’t forget to confirm and re-confirm your meal. Call three days in advance AND don’t hesitate to ask again during check-in.

Consult the Happy Cow.
Happy Cow is an online vegan/vegetarian dining directory.  You can find “on the ground” info for vegan eating, health food stores, restaurant reviews, etc. that spans the globe. If during your travels, you stumble across a vegetarian or veg-friendly establishment along the way, you can share your findings with other travelers by contacting Happy Cow.

Vegetarian Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Research the local cuisine.
Take the time to research regional cuisine and you can almost always come up with at least one vegan dish (or side dish). Visit a locally-available ethnic restaurant before your travels for field research and see what you like or don’t like. When you travel, not only will you have “guideposts” to look for when ordering meals or eating at a host’s home, you can negotiate the balance between tasting the local cuisine and staying purely plant-based. Some of the national vegan foods may be considered common by the locals but that doesn’t mean they’re not tasty! Have you ever tried tempeh in Indonesia, "doubles" in Trinidad, or frijoles in Guatemala? Also, the so-called common food is more likely available at a common price, so non-vegans on a tight budget should consider going green on their next trip! ;)

Comprehend the Culture
If the general cuisine offerings don’t appease you, dig a little deeper and research the religious and socio-philosophical culture of a country. You may find devotees who commit to a cruelty-free diet and will warmly welcome you to “break bread” with them. My husband still recalls the “bomb” mushroom and noodle bowl he shared with Buddhists in their monastery over ten years ago while teaching in China. Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Hare Krishna, and various forms of Yoga are a few groups that you may be able to share a meal with without joining the flock, if you don’t want to.

Make your way to the market.
In many traditional societies, the market is still the best place for fresh produce and dried staples, like nuts, raisins, dates, etc. These are great allies to keep stashed in your backpack or at your lodging while searching for vegan eateries.

Learn the lingo.
If there’s one statement that every vegan traveling solo should learn in the local dialect of their destination, it should be: “I’m a vegetarian” or “I don’t eat meat”. It’s also really important to understand these statements in context of the culture because I still get offered fish, cheese, and chicken even from my own family members and friends after almost ten years of being vegan! The easiest essential language acquisition route would be to have a list of the names of foods you do or don’t eat, accompanied by very clear facial and body gestures. If you’re stuck in an Indiana Jones encounter, where you’re offered monkey brains, a firm headshake and grasping your stomach and mouth should convey the idea clearly. Also of importance: take the time to learn how to say “please” and “thank you” in the warmest ways possible, so your host or host country doesn’t take offense to your refusal. Informing your host(s) in advance is also a great idea. You’re more likely to enjoy a satisfying meal and your host is more likely to feel satisfied by watching you lick your plate clean. ;)

Special veggie platter prepared by our hosts in Nouakchott, Mauritania

Pack some supplies.
Depending on the length of your stay and circumstances you encounter, it would be wise to pack vitamins, supplements, or snacks to get you through. Vegan protein sources are often the most challenging to find (outside of Asia), so packing protein bars, nut butters, or dairy-free milk powders can help.  Secure adequate sources of calcium, iron, vitamin B-12, and essential fatty acids to keep your health in top shape and your immune system robust.

For the herbivore, omnivore, or veg-curious amongst us, don’t think it impossible to Go Veg! on the road. Not only will the planet thank you, but, as in my experience, your tummy will thank you too! Happy Veggie Travels!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Integrating Into A New Community

March 15, 2012--Meisha

It’s always exciting to move to a new place, but making friends, learning the culture, and getting acclimated to unfamiliar surroundings always initially poses a challenge.  Here are a couple of tips to ease your transition and help you integrate into a foreign culture.

Learn the language: Language is the biggest barrier to keep you from understanding the culture and truly getting to know people.  Don’t take for granted that everyone will be able to speak English. And even if English is the dominate language, if any local dialects are spoken, it is invaluable to also learn one of them.  For instance, I live in South Africa where English is the national language, but I am also learning Tswana which is the tribal language spoken in my community. 

Minimally, before you arrive, learn greetings and “do you speak English,” to demonstrate to your new community that you are at least trying.  Meet-up groups and Verbling provide great forums to practice languages with speakers at all levels. Once settled into your new home, seek out a tutor or classes to increase your fluency of the local language. 

Create a network prior to your arrival: Before you leave home seek out contacts in your new home from friends, coworkers, and family.  Also, try social networks such as Facebook affinity groups like as Women of Color Living Abroad and Nomadness Travel Tribe, Linkedin, and CouchSurfing, to make local or expat contacts in your new home.  Your new contacts may not become your close friends, but they can be useful when you first arrive to introduce you to other people, help you navigate the culture, and assist you finding your way around.

Observe: When you first arrive conduct your own research by sitting back and observing the locals—the style of dress, grooming, eating, and social and professional interactions.  Adopt behaviors and customs that will ensure that you are respectable and non-offensive of the culture and avoid unnecessary harassment.  I am particularly mindful of how women dress.  In a Muslim country this is even more important. I also closely watch interactions between women and men to understand what is socially acceptable.
Dressed in my Nigerian best during a visit to Port Harcourte, Nigeria!

Walk:  Even if you have a car take the time to walk around. In particular, walking around in the community where you are living will get people familiar with your face.  Depending on the culture, many people will introduce themselves because they will know that you are new to the community.  This will also give you a great opportunity to practice those greetings you learned!

Recreate your normal routine: This is your new home.  The sooner you are doing the activities that you love and are part of your normal routine the quicker you will feel like you are at home.  This will also create opportunities for you to meet new people and learn your way around.  Gather information from your coworkers, neighbors, and landlord.  Don’t forget Google is always a great resource!  Hairstyling also offers a great way to meet women in your community or learn local gossip!  Also, do try to participate in the local pastimes and social activities.

Say hi!!!:  The unfamiliar can be daunting. It will take some time to adjust to the visual of your new home and the people living there. Remember, you may look just as strange to the people in your new community as they do you.  Don’t mistake the strange looks you may get for disdain.  Most non-Western cultures are pretty hospitable and open.  Simply saying "hi" and introducing yourself is as always a great way to break the ice!!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I want to go to: ASIA…but where?

March 15, 2012--Brittany S
Asia is a HUGE continent that encompasses A LOT of different countries/sovereign states.  If you decide to go to Asia, you are going to have to be a little more specific than that. :-) Here are a few basic questions to help you figure out where in Asia you would like to visit.*  Please choose the answer that is most like you and keep a tally of each letter.  No cheating!

If I was in a movie based on some aspect of Asian culture, I’d be in:
AMemoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The King and I, or anything Bruce Lee
B Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, Lethal Weapon 4, or the Rush Hour movies
C Well now that you mention it, I’d be in A & B. (Choose C if you can’t choose between A & B, otherwise, choose your favorite.)

When I travel abroad, I think knowing a place’s language is:
Aessential!  Without it, I won’t be able to get around and will end up lost and hungry.  LOST AND HUNGRY! Oh the agony!
B beneficial, but not required. Body language is universal for the most part, plus I can draw!
C Hey, as long as I know how to be polite in their language, and they have a convenient metro system, I’m good to go!

While on my vacation I decide what I want to do based on:
Ahow much it’s gonna cost me!  I already spent a ton of money to get out here, I don’t want the bill to stress me out to the point where this isn’t a vacation anymore!
B what I came here to do!  I just HAVE to hit up the night market and did I hear you say Mall of Asia?!  Plus I need a massage.
C I just need to buy a few souvenirs for the people back home, take a pic of some cultural stuff, and sleep in a safe place…like, a REAL safe place.  None of that creepy stuff like on Hostel.

Vacations cost, but mine cost:
Aless than $1000USD, including my airfare!  I’ll only be there a couple of days and I’m just trying to visit a bunch of cultural stuff, take some pics, eat, sleep, and come home.
B whatever it costs.  I want to be able to shop, relax on a beach or something, get a massage, and do whatever else I want to without having to worry about the price tag.  I’m trying to get my groove back!
C somewhere between $1000-2000.  I know the ticket is going to be a bit pricy, but after I buy that, as long as what I spend outside of that is less than the cost of the ticket, I’ll be happy and it’ll be worth it.  I want to see the sights, relax, and shop, but I’m not opposed to cheap housing and transit.

Your Score

If your answers are mostly (A)s:

You are curious about travel and open to learning about new cultures.  You acknowledge that not all places are the same in terms of standard of living, language, etc but you are ready to explore these differences.  You will be just as content riding on a long boat in Thailand or on the back of someone’s motorbike in Vietnam.  You are ready to face the language barrier challenges and will at least attempt to learn some basic phrases and/or carry a phrase book with you.  You are a patient and understanding traveler and will make the most of every moment of your trip.

Suggested Spots:  Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, (Phuket) Thailand, (Osaka or Kyoto) Japan, (anywhere but Taipei) Taiwan, (Andong or either of the Jeolla Provinces) S. Korea.

If your answers are mostly (B)s:

When you think about vacations, you think about the best of the best.  From 4-Star beach resorts and succulent lamb or steak platters, to endless shopping and spa treatments, you like to vacation like the stars.  When you go on vacation you can be caught with a big beach bag, straw hat, sunglasses, and a flowing sun dress with a drink with an umbrella in it by side.  Your vacation has a very relaxed itinerary and you’re not in a hurry to do anything but unwind.

Suggested Spots:  (The southwest part of) Sri Lanka, (Da Nang) Vietnam, (Boracay or Cebu) Philippines, (Hainan Island) China, (Phuket) Thailand, (Bali) Indonesia, Cambodia, (Jeju Island) S. Korea

If your answers are mostly (C)s:

Your travel options are limitless.  You could just as easily visit the Ankor Wat and the Great Wall of China as you could the Tokyo Tower or Bangkok’s downtown shopping district.  Although you enjoy a little pampering now and then on a beautiful beach and luxurious hotel, you acknowledge that these places exist in your country, too and there is no need to leave it to find this.  Your idea of international travel is a cross between traditional and modern cultural elements.  (I fall under this category and what helps me decide which place to go is which place has the cheapest ticket at the time.)

Suggested Spots: Anywhere!  Generally speaking, the bigger cities in different countries have traditional elements like old temples, shrines, and palaces as well as a variety of cultural museums.  But they also offer some of the best shopping the country has to offer, as well as must-see performances (Cantonese operas, sumo wrestling, “lady-boy” shows, etc).  You can stay anywhere from a hostel to a 5-star hotel in these cities.  If you are looking more for traditional elements, see (A) suggested spots.  If you want more beach resort this go-round, see (B).  

Otherwise, try: (Bangkok) Thailand, (Tokyo) Japan, (Manila) Philippines, (Taipei) Taiwan, Hong Kong, (Beijing) China, Singapore, (Seoul) S. Korea

*This list does not include every Asian country/sovereign state.  This focuses mainly on Southeast Asia.  It includes places that are easily accessed by foreign crowds (flights and public transit considered).

I Want to Go With Oh to Barcelona

March 2012- Cha Jones, Contributor 

"Go with Oh"
Listen up ladies I am entering the “Go with Oh” blog competition where I can choose from 10 destinations in Europe to spend 1 month traveling to 4 different cities for FREE! Sounds like heaven to me, what about you? (for more information go to www.GowithOh.com)

Again, there are 10 destinations to choose from and I decided I would choose Barcelona. When I think of Barcelona the first thought that comes to mind would be people running through the streets on a bull run. However, I know that Barcelona has so much more to offer like rich culture and so many great sights. Here are (5) things that I must see when I go to Barcelona:

My Wish List...

(1)  Poble Espanyol de Montjuic
I absolutely love architecture and I can only imagine what it would be like to walk in admiration of some of the most beautifully designed buildings in the world.  As a poet, this would be a paradise where images  dance on pages while escaping the prison of my thoughts. A place where old and new could meet and find common ground, the thought of never seeing Poble Espanyol de Montjuic almost scares me.

(2) La Rambla
Can’t you just see me rambling down La Ramlba, which is one of the most famous streets in the world? La Rambla is the Arabic word for “dried riverbed” but there is nothing dry about dancing in the street, participating in all the festivities and admiring the structure of the trees painting a canopy for buildings lining the street. Wow! People watching on one of the best streets in the world sounds like heaven calling me.

(3) Casa Battlo
Known as Gaudi’s work of art, Casa Batllo sits in the heart of Passeig de Gracia. It’s been called “an emblematic work” for Catalan architect. I would call it a collage-like building with a marine encouragement. I’d love to see how one man could take fantasy and superimpose it on a building such as Casa Battlo.

(4) Barcelona Beaches
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t love the beach, so no matter where I go I have to enjoy the water and the the sand warming my toes. I can’t imagine going all the way to Spain and not being able to play on the beach, even if it were only for a moment. I understand that Barcelona has some wonderful beaches where I would be able to people watch, see some nice architecture, and have a refreshing drink while relaxing and listening to the waves.

(5) Barcelona Cathedral’s
I can never get enough of some beautiful and well preserved architecture, and the cathedral’s of Barcelona would be a must see for me. The giant Gothic Barcelona Cathedral towers over the old town area, and I can only dream of what pleasure it would have been to walk the streets in the days of its creation. 

I can't wait to see Barcelona up close and in person for myself. After the 1992 Olympics I have been dreaming of my date with destiny and this fall seems like a great time make that happen!

If you would like to learn more about the "Go with Oh" blog competition or would like to get some information on how you can win 4 fantastic prizes in the Go with Oh FaceBook competition please go to www.GowithOh.com for more information and a chance to win. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Every Woman Should Know Before Traveling

March, 2012—Cha Jones

If you are an American and a woman, then you have most likely been WARNED about woman’s safety. I think all American women have the rape statistics ingrained in our brains. We all know that 1 out of 4 women have been raped or molested, and to be safe and cautious when in new environments. Or do we? 

How many times have you watched the news and saw a person traveling overseas on vacation featured as MISSING? You would think that anyone going to a foreign country would have some precautions, women in particular, would be very mindful of their environment. However, that is not always the case. 

Are you aware that sex trafficking is 90% women, or how about that 50,000 women are trafficked into the United States alone each year?
Government and nongovernmental experts in the field estimate that out of the 700,000 to two million4 women and children who are trafficked globally each year, 45,000 to 50,000 of those women and children are trafficked to the United States. Approximately 30,000 women and children are being trafficked annually from Southeast Asia, 10,000 from Latin America, 4,000 from the Newly Independent States and Eastern Europe, and 1,000 from other regions. (Central Intelligence Agency briefing, Global Trafficking in Women and Children: Assessing the Magnitude, April 1999.) 

Now, I know that many of you are Solo Travelers, but it is always safer to travel in a group. However, I have traveled in a small group and I felt like it would be much safer if I were alone. When traveling on my own I tend to have my guard up, but it's much easier to be comfortable when you think you have the safety of a group.

I recently went on a trip where the person I was with got invited on a date, and because I was with them, I felt obligated to go if for no other reason than to keep them safe. It was at that time, I realized how unsafe some women are. I have a photographic memory and I pay a great deal of attention to my surrounds, but I realized that some people just don’t. I witnessed firsthand a women falling asleep in a car with a stranger, I was floored. How do you know where they are taking you, and how do you trust someone that much with your life?

When traveling overseas the best part of the experience is being spontaneous and adventurous, but that doesn’t mean being unsafe or ignorant. I am the type of person who lives by my intuition, and nine out of ten times I am always correct, but if I feel anything wrong I never second guess it, I follow my feelings. I happen to love meeting new and interesting people, but I don’t care to meet anyone who will potentially take my life. In most cases you are safer than not, but here are a few things that you could do to keep yourself safe while traveling and meeting and having a wonderful time:

  1. Always be aware of your environment, watch the locals and see how they respond
  2. Blend into your environment, when you look like everyone else it is harder for people to single you out
  3. Have a plan, when you know what  do if something were to happen before it does, then the less you have to think about and prepare  for (If you stay ready you don’t have to get ready)
  4. Have some form of communication (cell phone, paper and pen, ect.)
  5. Research the area you going to first and be aware of things that could occur, make sure you know the areas that are not really good for women or foreigners to be in alone
  6. Leave your plans or trip itinerary with someone that you trust or that you talk to frequently
  7. Check trip advisory boards to see about weather issues and possible negative tourist attacks

Do you know the top 10 countries listed for rape are
                                             (to see the complete list: click)
  1. France
  2. Germany
  3. Russia
  4. Sweden
  5. Argentina
  6. Belgium
  7. Philippines
  8. Spain
  9. Chile
  10. Lesotho 

Again, I am not trying to pump fear into anyone. I really want more women to travel and see the world from a place of love, but I believe that the more you know the more valuable your experiences are. It is always better to be safe than it is to be sorry. So, I hope that you find this articles helps you think about some things that you may not have thought about.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

'Till Death Do Us Part

By Rukiya McNair

Terima Kasih. Salamat Pagi.  Apa Kabar?

These are only a few the phrases that were part of my world in 2007. It was me and Jakarta, Indonesia for one year…for better or for worse. I quit my job, left the man I was dating,  voluntarily had my car repossessed, as I couldn’t find a buyer for my pride and joy, sold everything I could…old, new, cherished…it was all posted on Craigslist. I spent my last paycheck on my plane ticket, and headed to my parents’ house for a few weeks until my departure. I didn't know it then, but I officially married the travel game that year. Yes, it goes by many different names-- jet life, wanderlust, nomadic lifestyle, or even just plain ol’ traveling-- all I knew was I was o-u-t. Something was calling me…calling me to fulfill this overwhelming need to experience the beauty of the world first-hand. I left the States with an all or nothing attitude, quitting (i.e. running back home) was not an option for me, I had given up too much.  

For Better
There is so much good in Indonesia; there is even a small amount of good in Jakarta.  I met amazing people from all over world, developed a true love for teaching, ate the most delicious food I have ever tasted (well, except for my mother’s macaroni and cheese…nothing beats that), saw volcanoes, monkeys, experienced Chinese New Year and Ramadan in a Muslim country for the first time. It was beautiful.

 I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the more materialistic and consumer-oriented side of Jakarta as well.  I’m talking about a place where women dress up in heels and skirts just to go to the mall, and wear cocktail dresses and heels to go out at night. I truly loved how women in Jakarta embraced their femininity to the fullest; it was re-assuring for an independent, jean-loving American gal. The nightlife was amazing with everything from ultra-posh nightclubs to Jalan Jaksa, where you have your cheaper bars and a more backpacking and traveling crowd.

For Worse
As with most places when a newcomer arrives, people are interested. They want to know, who is this person? Where do they come from? Or sometimes people simply haven’t seen a Black person in real life until…me. Yes, for an American it’s a strange concept, that someone can go their entire life without seeing a person of African descent, like…in person. In Jakarta, Indonesia my reality was stares, some interested and some disgusted. The color of my skin seemed to be clearly offensive to some, while others seemed to embrace it just as I do. I was thrown out of a bar on Jalan Jaksa as soon as I walked in, yes it’s true, because I am Black. I have had a parent and child look at me, point and say “Orang hitam!” meaning, “Black person!” Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but when anyone points at you from across a room it’s a bit unnerving.

Also, how could I forget the air pollution, trash that could be found piled up just about anywhere on the streets and in parking lots, walking down the street having strangers yell,"Hello mister!" as I passed by, dishonest and untrustworthy taxi drivers, dishonest and untrustworthy police officers...

Indonesia was not the only place I had been nor was it the last stop. As a matter of fact, I’ll more than likely be going back. There is so much to see and experience in Indonesia, I feel like I need to see more, and I will.  On this journey around the world and in life I’m looking forward to experiencing everything that each new country, city and town has to offer. The good, the bad and the ugly.  All of it. There is beauty in every last bit.

‘Till death do us part…the world and I. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Should I Move Abroad?

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Living Abroad
February 26, 2012—Cha Jones

Are you ready to trade your current life for a new life of adventure and travel abroad?

Well, before you go jetsetting around the world you may want to think about the advantages and disadvantages of moving abroad. Now, don’t get me wrong I believe that anytime you can trade your everyday life for an adventure, then you certainly can’t go wrong, or can you?

After, living in South Korea for three years these are that things I think would make me want to leave America and live abroad.

  • No rent to pay: huge advantage if you are living in the city paying upwards to $1100 a month with no supporting cast members
  • No car payment: I didn’t have a car payment before I left, but when you moved abroad, although I had a car my second year, there was great public transportation…so no car note is good
  • Healthcare: oh! I had really good healthcare and I didn't have to pay much for drugs
  • It’s easier to learn the language: if you are looking to learn a new language it’s much easier to learn one if you have to use it every day to communicate
  • You will have a better appreciation for diversity: America is a melting pot, even though we tend to think of everything as Black and White, when you live abroad you appreciate multiculturalism and the value of meeting people from everywhere
  • You are able to see the world from a different vantage point: if you have never traveled abroad, then the world looks like what you see on television. However, when you travel abroad you’re able to see things as they are and not how someone else is telling you things are
  • You are able to dispel rumors and educate people: many times people have heard negative things about other races and cultures, but when you move abroad, especially being “of color” you are able to help people have a better view through first hand experiences
  • Good Food: if you like the countries food, then you get to have good authentic food
  • New Friends: You are able to have very diverse sets of friends
  • Traveling the World: it’s easier to travel and see other places when you live abroad
  • Learning experience: you just learn so much about everything
  • Improved Lifestyle: you are able to experience living rather than just working and surviving
  • Change: you are always reinventing yourself and making new friends

As far as the disadvantages, and yes there are some…

  • Time difference: you have to get use to being in a different time zone where it may not be very easy to communicate with friends and family
  • Missing Out: you miss out on some very important events (weddings, birth of children, and many holidays)
  • No home cooked meals: you can’t just run and get a home cooked meal from your mother
  • Nothing is convenient: having the things you like to eat at the grocery store is not always easy  to get
  • Shopping may not be idea: you may have to order your clothes and when you get them they may be all wrong
  • Losing touch with others: all the people at home are changing and you feel so disconnected
  • No familiarity: you have to make new friends where you are, and they can’t replace those friends who really, really know you
  • Change may be difficult: you have to give up some of the things you love to find new things that you like
  • Home-sick: when you really miss home, it’s so far away
  • Communication barriers: you may not have many people who speak your native language around you, and you may have trouble communicating
  • Food allergies and dislikes: you may not like the food in your new country and it may be very difficult to get food you like or you just may be unable to eat

I could spend several hours thinking of all the things I love about living aboard and an equal amount of time thinking of things I hate. However, I think when you are weighing the odds of what is in your best interest, living abroad has so much more weight than the alternative. The experience alone is a great reason to do it, but if you know that you are not an open person, then I’d suggest rethinking your options. However, if you’re not an open person living abroad may not even be a consideration in the first place?
I say follow your heart and everything else will work out. Welcome Abroad! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Relaxing the Korean way

March 4th 2012 By- Nicole Brewer

So you’ve had a long day at work and need to unwind once you get home.  In USA many of us would do this by maybe having a nice cocktail or a bubble bath.  Nonetheless, in Korea and other Asian countries such as Japan with huge populations most families live in smaller living conditions that do not offer a full bathtub.  Many Asians delight in what are called bath-houses or jimjilbang in Korean.  

I have now lived in Korea for 3 years and going to the jimjilbang is one of my favorite past times here.  I live in Busan, Korea which hosts the largest department store in the world Shinsegae (noted in the guinness book of world records).   Located at Shinsegae is one of the nicest saunas that the city has to offer called Spa Land.  This is where I go to just get away from it all typically once every couple of weeks.
Nicole relaxing at Spa Land.

The price range runs from 14K won ($13 USD) on the weekend to as low as 7K won ($6 USD) during the week in the evening.  You can spend a max of 4 hours here relaxing in the various warm/cold baths, sauna rooms and other relaxation rooms that it offers.   The baths are therapeutic since the varying baths have sodium chloride (salt, benefiting the muscles and joints) and others have sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, said to "improve beauty of the skin").You can go from sitting in a massage chair to soaking your feet in the beautiful outdoor foot spa or even watching a movie in the lounge chairs in the movie room.  
Spa Land's outdoor footspa area.

Please note that there is an age limit. No one under 13 years of age is allowed in this bath house even though most Korean bath houses do not have an age limit.  It is typical in Korean culture to go to the jimjilbang with your friends, family or even mate to spend quality time.  The bathing sections are separated by sex but the common areas that you relax in are shared so it is a great date location or place to hang out with friends.  

The décor of Spa land is totally unreal.  Once you walk into the lobby you are greeted by huge white couches, gorgeous hardwood floors and stone pillars.  There are more than 13 sauna and hot steam rooms that are individually themed including the Wave-Dream room and SEV room, which were first introduced in Korea.  There is also a Roman room which recreates the ancient roman bath and the Body Sound room where you can rest by listening to sounds of nature and meditation music (my fav of them all).  Also they have coined new and innovative technologies here such as the Spa the color room which includes comfortable couches surrounded by soothing colors and sounds.  Also included here are O2 Oxygen machines and the all new Phytoncide (wood essential oils) bath that emulates the “forest bathing” craze in Japan.
Turkish Sauna room in Spa Land.

Color Spa room.

Furthermore there are several entertainment zones or rooms such as the “Relaxation room” filled w/ recliner chairs from Japan that each have your own personal tv.  An Esthetics area where you can get a face, body, or scalp massage, a lovely restaurant and café/bar areas to delight on a glass of Bernini wine or Asahi Japanese beer.  One of the best parts too is you don’t have to worry about carrying cash around, everything can be paid for with your key card upfront then later in money in the lobby area.  So what more of a reason do you need to come visit the beautiful city of Busan.  I’ve recruited many friends to check out Spa Land. I hope you’ll one day have a chance to relax the Korean way too!