It’s Thursday!

So you know what that means on the innanets?! Throwback time! So I figured we could play along here on the blog. Travel-related throwbacks are the best! Bring back so many memories. So here goes mine:

Being young, wild, and free in the Bahamas

Being young, wild, and free in the Bahamas

 

This was in the Bahamas 5 years ago (I can’t believe this was 5 years ago!) with some of my favorite girls from HU. Love it!

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Friday Photo: HU -> China

As you can see, today’s Friday photo is a slight variation of the previous images. It’s not of a landscape, or my favorite place. In fact it’s the only picture I haven’t taken myself. Instead it’s something much more important to me and it makes my heart smile in a crazy way! I actually don’t know know where this photo was taken. Probably, D.C. but, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what it represents – my alma mater’s clear and expressed committment to internationalization. I think I may frame this and put it up in the Bunche Center when I am named Director of it in 5-10 years or so my living room or home office. It may seem like a simple guesture – ok so what, a Howard hoodie and a passport. But the truth of the matter is that if you went down the street and asked 10 people to show you their passport, on average only 3 of them will even have one (here in the U.S.). So that’s why this is important. Howard is identifying itself as a institution that develops GLOBAL citizens. Yes, you can do an internship on Wall Street (and MANY HU students do), but you’re not limited to that.

photo credit: http://www.howard.edu

I found this image when Howard tweeted about it’s Freshmen Leadership Academy participating in a 3 week study abroad to China. Can you imagine that? Before you even enroll in a class at HU your first experience is with other future Bison jetsetting to Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo! As sad as I am that this didn’t exist when I was a freshman, I’m just happy that someone picked up the ball and is making strides to expose HU students to a world beyond Georgia Ave. Check the full press release here: Howard Freshman Leadership Academy Promotes Global Citizenship with New Delegation to China and Japan. No, really, click that link. I’m done here. 😉

Myth Busters (or You Really CAN Afford to Travel)

So I think it’s time for me to set the record straight once and for all – traveling does not have to be expensive. Ever. I work for a public state-funded university and I am in grad school. Read: I don’t make a lot money. Prior to this I was a public school middle school teacher. Again, no money. And before that I was on the first rung of the corporate latter for a major shoe wholesaler. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the ladder I wanted to be on so I jumped off before I actually started making good money (more like gently stepped off as I hadn’t gotten very far). Anywho – my point is, you cannot look me dead in my face and say you “You must be ballin girl” or “I aint got it like that” or “I would go but that’s gonna be too expensive” because you probably make more money than I do!

I am constantly surprised at how much people “think” vacations cost. The estimates usually range between $3000-$5000 – and at that I’ll say, you need to stop watching Basketball Wives. So on this episode of Mythbusters, I’ll breakdown how inexpensive traveling can actually be! First let’s pick a destination. This is the first place to save some money. Pick a place where you know somebody – or you know someone who knows someone because that’s a free place to stay! You’ve already cut the cost of your trip in half right there. Just for sh!ts and giggles sake (and because I desperately need a beach in my life), we are going to Aruba from August 30-September 3 with 3 friends! 

Flights: So first things first we need to get there. You really have to make sure your timing is right – not just the timing of your trip but of your purchase. I just priced flights to Aruba over Labor Day weekend and it looks like Jet Blue and AirTran are competing for customers. Capitalism – 1, Staying in the US – 0. Flights to Aruba over a holiday weekend are $385 right now. Yes, you read that right. Which is crazy because I haven’t spent less than $400 on a flight to Memphis the last two times I went home. And I could’ve been in Aruba all that time! So now you’re asking – isn’t it because it’s hurricane season? Ah ha. Research a little more (or listen to the lady from Trinidad who sat next to you at church last week) and you’ll learn that Aruba is part of the hurricane-free great-weather-all-year-round “ABC” islands. So book that flight! Just a side note – I’d never book a flight that was over $1,000 unless it was in Asia or some parts of Africa. The costs will usually even out because of a favorable exchange rate or simply because the cost of living is so much cheaper in some of those places. But if you’re trying to get to Europe and the flights are close to $1,000 – you may need to rethink your dates because that’s highway (airway?) robbery. 

Lodging: So since we’re going with a few friends, it may be more fun (and economical) to rent a house. Benefits – you get a bigger space with a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out all the time. Cons – You have to make your own bed? Can’t really think of any but, yes, I am being biased. A quick search on airbnb.com returned a number of entire homes or 1 bedroom apartments to rent for as little as $90/night (if you only want to rent a single room it get’s even cheaper!). I spy a really nice spacious 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home for $95/night. And it’s not only cheap, but it’s really nice and has a hammock – because I know y’all are fancy.  If there are 4 of us and we’re going for 4 nights, that’s only $95 per person. So let’s add that to our total.

Food: I have no idea what the costs of meals are in Aruba. Or the exchange rate. But I can say that if you’re staying in a house you can have breakfast at home, lunch shouldn’t be more than $20 and dinner (splurging because you’re on vacation) $50. So that’s $75 bucks a day rounded way UP. Because you can also make dinner at our fancy villa and I know I don’t spend that much at every single meal. But like I said, y’all are fancy. So now let’s add another $300 for that ($75/day for 4 full days on the island – not counting the travel days since you usually end up missing a meal and/or eating at the airport).

Play money: The only thing you have left to pay for are the “extras.” Souvenirs, excursions, renting jet skis, tours, etc. This will vary from person to person but I think a safe amount of play money for a 4 day trip on an island would be about $300. Also note that when I go to an island, most of my free time is spent at the beach. Which, if you hadn’t heard, is free.

So what’s our damage? The total cost of Labor Day Weekend in Aruba is $1080! Which all at once may seem like a lot but if you look at it in terms of what you’re paying per paycheck it’s really not that much. So basically, we’re getting paid this Friday, so you shell out $385 for the flight. Easy. Next paycheck, pay your rent! But save $150 for some of your play money. The 3rd paycheck, pay  the $95 for your awesome villa and save another $150 – you’ve now paid for everything except for your food! By the time you get to Aruba (which will be the 5th paycheck from now), you’ll only need the $300 to eat with!

Now if you can’t spare $300-400 in three of your non-rent checks, we need to re-evaluate some things!

But that brings this episode of Mythbusters to a close. I do believe that I have eliminated the “I can’t afford it” argument. What else you got?

What a Difference 5 Years Makes…

…or not. Because based on these pictures (both taken at the Pantheon in Rome Italy – but 5 years apart) I haven’t aged not one bit. If I keep this up I’ll be the flyest 50 year old you’ll have ever known! No, but really, why do I not look at least one month older in that second picture?! I mean, it’s been half a decade!

The photo to the left – October 2006, HU student, two months into my study abroad experience in Italy (which was my first time out of the US), one of the few people who are actually using Skype already, my only cares in the world were a) I hope we don’t miss our train back to Milano and b)I hope it rains during Homecoming so I don’t feel like I missed anything (I’m sure it did), memories of hostels and overnight trains.

The photo on the right – January 2012, 5 years, 5 moves, three jobs, an engagement (and subsequent disengagement) and half a master’s degree later, my job is paying for me to visit these places (i.e. no more hostels!)

What a difference 5 years makes! You NEVER know where this life or your travels will take you. Who knew that this one journey during the Fall of 2006 would actually end up changing the trajectory of my life COMPLETELY! People always say studying abroad is a “life changing experience” but in my case it literally was. Studying abroad planted the seed for me to first start encouraging others to study abroad, and then to travel in general, led me to volunteer for a nonprofit called the National Center for Global Engagement, and ultimately led me to quit my well-paying corporate job to go back and start that Master’s Degree in International Education. And all of that somehow has gotten me to the point where I am today, as a coordinator for diversity in a study abroad office for a campus of 35,000+ students. Crazy! But perfect…

Most people like to say, “Think outside the box” but like the motto of our office, I’d like to say “Think outside your borders.” Your life’s passion and calling may be waiting for you just on the other side of a passport stamp. I’m not saying you may begin to work in the travel industry, but seeing different ways of life really opens your eyes and your heart to all that is possible out there. You don’t have to be limited to 40+ hours of misery or even mediocrity. The world is yours forreal – it’s just up to you to go out there and see it!

Let’s see where 5 more years gets me. So far it’s looking pretty good!

 

Traveling Pretty (or How I Hiked Sugarloaf in a Sundress)

“How in the world did you fit three weeks of clothes into that duffle bag?” Sundresses and sandals my friend. A pair of jeans is only half of an outfit but still takes up the space of 3* sundresses! So, yeah I do it mostly because I know I can bring like 50. But also because ummm they’re cute? I don’t like to be “that tourist” traveling through the airport looking all frumpy – that’s the number one way to spot the Americans in the international terminal.

Yes I hiked up here in a sundress. And sandals. Keep your judgement and give me a drink!

Besides, the photo ops are better. And you can go from sightseeing to the bar without skipping a beat.  And if you bring a sweater you can go to church too (a post about that later).

Traveling pretty is great – until your Couchsurfing host lets you know that it costs damn near $50 to ride the tram to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Say what now?! But all hope is not lost – there is a way to hike up the mountain and you get the very same views plus a little workout in – for free! Great. I’m wearing a sundress and Havaianas. And so is she. Well, we decide to do it anyway. Because we’re geniuses of course.

Are we there yet? No. Well, let's stop anyway.

I really thought it was going to be an easy hike. I saw people taking their kids up, others taking their parents. Everyone who was coming off the path was full of spirits and some were even laughing. Duh! Because they were coming down! (Insert Homer Simpson “Doh!” face here.) Yeah going up was another story. It definitely wasn’t the worst hike I’ve ever done. Far from it – it’s just the sundress and sandals combined with the week of eating nothing but steak, cheesy bread snack things, and more steak wasn’t really a good prep for a Sunday morning hike. It was pretty fun(ny) though! I’d definitely do it again – in tennis shoes. The views of Rio de Janeiro were unbelievable, the weather was perfect, and it’s actually a great place to just hang out and maybe relax with a good book (or a boo :)).

*Not scientifically proven (i.e. I totally made that number up).

The view of Flamengo Beach and Centro Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf

Discovered While Traveling: The Secret to Happiness

I’ve now been in Rio long enough for me to finally sit down and take a breather. In the past few days, I’ve started Portuguese classes, attended a music festival, visited Christ (the Redeemer), been to two different beaches, been to the movies, had some amazing dinners, walked (a lot), met a ton of new friends, and just explored whatever and wherever my little heart desires.

Besides the fact that I’m always happiest when I’m near beaches and 80 degree weather, I really think I’ve discovered the secret to happiness. Every single morning I wake up and I do two things. I promise if everyone practiced these two things daily, we’d be so much happier! It’s really quite simple and for the life of me I can’t figure out why people only do these two things while they’re on vacation.

So basically, every day when I open my eyes and thank God for the opportunity to experience another great day in this thing called life, I do these two things:

  1. Ask myself “What do I want to do today?” What will make me happy? Sometimes it’s a whole list of things, other days it may be just one thing that needs to happen to “make my day.”
  2. [Insert answer to #1 here]. <— Do that.
So much of our life is spent doing what we think we should be doing, or what we think we have to do, that we often prioritize that above what we really want to do. And that’s pretty damn sad. Every morning here I ask myself the question above and then make it happen and I just realized – I should do this everyday! Why is it just restricted to days spent traveling? When I visited the Christ the Redeemer statue, I couldn’t help but realize how happy everyone was to be there. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand a single word out of their mouths. I understood their smiles, the squeals, the energy.  Even before we got up the mountain to the statue, people were excited just to be on the tram. And I know they’ve been on trains before. It’s because they’re just eager to be doing whatever the hell they wanted to do that day. And I can’t be mad at that. On the contrary, it makes me very very happy!

Is she smiling so hard because of Jesus?! Or Vacation?! Hmmm...