Introducing…Travel Unplugged

I am so excited to announce my new online travel show…Travel Unplugged!!!  Season 1 premieres April 29, 2015!  For 8 weeks, we will take an adventure throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East.  The second trailer will be released in a couple of weeks and will explain the concept of Travel Unplugged & what you can expect.  Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel & blog!  Thanks 🙂

Trouble Finding Your Passion? Start a Bucket List!

What are you passionate about?  Not sure?  Create a “Bucket List” that includes things you’ve always wanted to try or do.  You never know…one of those items may be what you are destined to do with your life!

Too many people wait until a certain time in their lives before they start pursuing their dreams.  Why do they wait?  There are various reasons:  “I want to wait until I get married”; “I want to wait until my kids are grown”; “I will do it when I retire”, etc.  Sometimes these “reasons” are really excuses.  START LIVING NOW!  Don’t wait until a certain event or milestone happens.  We never know when our last day on Earth will be.  Why not make the most of the time you have?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Single?  Do not wait until you find that special someone.  Fill your life up with things YOU want to do in the meantime.  That means you’ll bring some fabulous stories to your next relationship.

Have children?  Don’t wait until your kids are grown.  Inspire them to want to live a fulfilling life as they observe you pursuing your dreams and taking chances.

Don’t wait until you retire!  In this economy, who knows when that will be!  Start your bucket list now so you can have an awesome retirement filled with things you love to do and places you want to visit.

The great thing about a bucket list is that it helps you to visualize what you want to do and take action when opportunities arise.  Groupon and Living Social have deals everyday!  This is how I fulfilled my dreams of skydiving, race car driving…and in January, a trip to Iceland!  Best part?  I am able to achieve my goals on a shoestring budget!

I am a long ways off from retirement and still waiting to meet Mr. Right.  But, you know what?  I’m happy!  Everything isn’t perfect.  There are times when I feel like I’ve failed at life…especially when others make insensitive comments.  However, instead of punching them in the throat taking it personal, I force myself to remember all of the things I’ve accomplished from my bucket list.  I didn’t get here overnight.  In fact, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Bali (another bucket list item) where I learned how to meditate properly and use yoga to control my mood.  And you know what?  My imperfect life is pretty fulfilling as I’m living, learning, dreaming and exploring!

So…join me in making an awesome bucket list!  I promise that you will love the feeling of trying new things.  Some you may enjoy…others you may not.  That’s the beauty of bucket lists.  It’s like shopping for dreams 🙂

Need inspiration?  I’m addicted to the free iPad app “iWish” which provides inspiration in the form of photos, quotes & maps as well as allowing you to create your bucket list electronically.  I also recommend Bucket List Living Magazine.  Follow the directions below and use the coupon code “3free” for a free 3 month subscription.  Let’s start living the dream!

What’s been on my bucket list?

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How to Use the Bucket List Living Magazine Coupon

  1. Go to “App Store Downloads on iTunes”.  Search for Bucket List Living Magazine.
  2. Download the free app by tapping the FREE button.
  3. Tap the INSTALL APP button.  You will then enter your Apple ID Password and click OK.
  4. When the magazine app is finished installing tap the OPEN button.
  5. Permission to send new issues and push notifications from Bucket List Living Magazine is requested.  Choose OK.
  6. Tap the SUBSCRIBE button and then the CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS button.
  7. Enter the coupon code into the account number box and tap the CONTINUE button.  After you enter the code you will receive a notification that you have subscribed successfully.  Tap CLOSE. (The current issue should begin downloading in the background.)
  8. A VIEW button will appear below the current issue, tap it to begin enjoying the magazine.
  9. You will have access to any issue published during the trial subscription period.  At the end of the trial period you will retain access to any issue downloaded during the trial period but will be required to pay for any subsequent issues.

Hey! How Can I Travel Like You?

20130601-113254.jpgI like to think of travel as a close friend.  Someone I look forward to spending time with…and can’t wait to see again soon!  Many have asked me how I’m able to travel the world like I do.  So, I thought I’d share my journey.  If you want to travel the world…you can do it!  You don’t have to have a certain background.  Just a belief in yourself, determination, faith and a sense of adventure.

Most of the time, I’m asked “What do you do?”  It’s an innocent inquiry as to how I am able to travel to so many places.  I’m always so tempted to answer by saying “I’m an adventurer, explorer &  globetrotting travelista!”  But, while I consider that WHO I AM, it’s not the job title on my business cards…yet 🙂

So, what do I do?  I am responsible for compliance for a global company.  I know that seems really general but it isn’t really important as to WHAT I do…but more importantly, HOW I was able to transition from a job with absolutely no travel into finding one that allows me to explore the world.

I started out working in the legal department of a credit reporting agency.  I did absolutely NO TRAVEL.  Well, I did get to drive 23 miles from Atlanta to Alpharetta.  Woohoo!  Four years into this job, my mother suggested we do a family trip somewhere overseas.  We decided on Italy, booked the trip and headed off.  For those of you who have read my Roaming Thru Rome post, you know that is how this blog started. That is when I caught the travel bug.  I had such a phenomenal time.  While the post focuses on a lot of the hilarity that ensued, it wasn’t until my brother and I were walking around the Ponte Vecchio in Florence that I stopped and said, “I need a job that will pay for me to see the world.” I realized then that I had been missing out on so much.

After my trip, a friend suggested I read The Secret.  This book really helped me to shift from viewing my current circumstances in a negative light to clearly identifying what I wanted to do next and speaking that into being.  I can be Debbie Downtrodden, Negative Nancy & Pissed Off Patty all rolled into one sometimes.  I figured it was time for a change 🙂 So, I created a vision board with photos of international cities I wanted to visit and words that described my wish to find a job with overseas travel.

My desire to see the world was born in Florence.  That was July 2007.  In October 2007, I received a call from a recruiter asking me if I’d be interested in a compliance audit position.  I had absolutely no audit experience.  However, the company was looking for someone with a law degree to focus on certain legal-related audits and felt that I could easily pick up the audit piece.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested.  Then, the hiring manager called me and told me he had just gotten back from a month-long trip overseas to Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Ireland, etc.  At this point, all I heard was “international travel.”  I was sold!  A few weeks later, I was offered a job with my current company.

It didn’t start out with the international destinations that I dreamed of.  Here I thought I’d be flying off to the French Riviera.  When, in fact, during the first 2 years, my only “international” trips were to Mexico City and Toronto.  Mostly, I had to travel to places like Louisville, Mississippi since my boss called dibs on all the interesting foreign destinations.  I was not feeling that.

As planning was underway for the 2010 calendar, a few things happened.  First, my boss was promoted out of our group and into another business.  Second, I spoke up and became aggressive about being assigned international audits.  Everything then fell into place.  I spent 70% of my time in 2010 in the UK and Europe.

At that point, I realized that I needed to figure out how to become a specialist in compliance areas that would require international travel.  It takes time but those baby steps help build the foundation to get you where you want to go.

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But the best laid plans sometimes have unforeseen pitfalls.  My company sold its European business in 2012 and I was then promoted into a compliance position within a business.  While the business segment had a sub-business that had international offices, I was assigned to the domestic sub-business.  Which meant ZERO international travel.  I was devastated.  I didn’t want to drive around the southeast to mills!  But, I dusted myself off and put together a new plan.

That meant talking with sister companies that had international offices as well as having a frank conversation with my new boss.  Sometimes, you just have to put it out there and tell them what you want.  I was clear that I wanted to focus solely on international-related matters.  Not just because I love travel, but because I’m intrigued by international business.  The nuances of laws and regulations between different countries keeps me on my toes.  Turns out, my new boss didn’t care for international travel so I was blessed to be able to shift into a new position where I am now responsible for compliance for our international business.

So, how do you get to travel internationally for business?  Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Work for a global company.  This will allow you the opportunity to gain access to the international offices.  Think about joining a capability group (i.e. compliance, IT, law, etc.) that will allow you to work across the organization with multiple business lines.
  2. Work for a consulting firm.  This could be a law firm, forensic accounting…whatever firm offers services to companies.  Companies hire consulting firms to conduct investigations or independent audits in various areas (i.e. anti-corruption, data privacy, antitrust, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, etc.).
  3. Research job qualifications on LinkedIn.  This will help you to figure out what skills are most often listed for positions that have international travel.
  4. Leverage your transferable skills.  This will allow you to change careers.  Maybe you are in IT and know a lot about data privacy due to the various restrictions that need to be in place when setting up email accounts for international employees or transferring data to the U.S. from other countries?  Look to join a company in their Privacy group.
  5. Become an Agent.  If you have a background in sales, this would work for you.  Typically, Agents sell goods on behalf of a company.  Find a global firm and talk the hiring manager into letting you handle a foreign market.
  6. Be fluent in another language.  You will see that most international positions prefer to hire someone with language proficiency in the countries they will be interacting with.  Knowing another language gives you a competitive edge! Companies will see that they don’t need to pay for an interpreter to go with employees or consultants to foreign countries.

heart-intuitionThese are just a few suggestions to get you started.  The biggest piece of advice I can give is to surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you when you start to doubt if it will ever happen.  Think optimistically and know that you will find a way to travel the world.  Create a vision board; tape Post-It notes with motivational quotes next to your computer screen; and start living like the job is already yours!

If you have more advice to add to the list, I’d love to hear it!  Thanks for reading and good luck!

Photos of the Day: Nusa Dua (Bali, Indonesia)

IMG_0360Peaceful.  Serene.  Breathtaking.  Those are just a few words to describe the beautiful southern Bali beach town known as Nusa Dua.  I am currently staying at the fabulous Conrad Bali for work but was able to sneak in a couple of vacation days to lounge around the pool and spend the mornings on the beach as the sun rises.

With its awesome beaches, magnificent sunrises, crashing surfs and delicious food…this exclusive enclave is a welcome haven for those seeking to relax and get away from it all.

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Super Seoul Sunday

Statue of King Sejong the Great of Joseon

Statue of King Sejong the Great of Joseon

I had the pleasure of spending 24 hours in the beautiful city of Seoul, South Korea during a stop-over on my way to Bali for a business meeting and some R&R. Seoul far exceeded my expectations!

First, let me talk about Korean Airlines.

*sigh*

So, I purchased my ticket to Bali thru Korean Airlines trying to save my company a few dollars. They were a SkyTeam partner so I booked thinking this trip would finally get me to the coveted Diamond Medallion Promised Land. Wrong. Delta decided to change their SkyMiles Program and create 4 “tiers” for their airline partners. Prior to Sept. 1, 2013; Korean Airlines offered not only SkyMiles but 150% MQMs! I was psyched! Then, I started scrolling down thru the changes and guess who is in the dreaded “Tier 4 Barely SkyTeam Partner”? Korean Airlines. It’s like Delta wants to break up with them but doesn’t have the heart to do it so they are on a “break”. I’m so devastated that I can’t even write another Damn You, Delta letter.

I just assumed it was Delta’s fault. Like they felt they were now too good for simple Korean Airlines. Someone told them they were too pretty to be hanging with the nerds. Then, I flew KE for the first time on Friday and was like, “oh…sorry, Delta.” See, I now understand. KE just isn’t in the same league as Delta, KLM and AirFrance. Where was my amenities bag in Business Class? Why do I have to go to the bathroom to get a toothbrush? Why are you offering me headphones from a 1985 Walkman? Where are the noise-cancelling headphones? Where is the dessert trolley? Did you really just offer me a small Haagen-Dazs ice cream cup that I can buy for $2.99 at Kroger? I paid $8,000 for this? I need to see an itemized receipt. No, sirs and ma’ams. That ain’t the business. That ain’t SkyTeam Tier 1. That’s SkyTeam PIP (Performance Improvement Plan).

Um...what?

Um…what?  This is Business Class trappings?

I will give this to Korean Airlines…there was a lot of room seat-wise and their service is top notch and beats Delta hands down every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Moving on to the city of Seoul. I really didn’t know what to expect and figured a day layover would give me just enough time to decide if this is someplace I’d like to come back for a longer visit. This city is awesome! The people were so friendly, the service was excellent every place we went and downtown was so interesting.

View from the Conrad Seoul of the sun rising over the Han River

View from the Conrad Seoul of the sun rising over the Han River

We stayed at the Conrad Seoul (which I will review in my next post). It was a fabulous hotel! The only negative is that you were required to pay for internet. I feel that should be included in all stays because, seriously? This place ain’t cheap. Y’all can afford to make internet “free”. So, Mr. Conrad Hilton…to quote Amistad, “give us free!” With a 13 hour time difference and arriving to the hotel at 7pm, the first night was a wrap. But, we were up by 4am which gave us time to get situated and out for the day. Seoul’s subway system is so clean and easy to navigate! It made getting from the hotel to downtown simple and stress free.

Seoul's subway

Seoul’s subway

Our first stop was Gwanghwamu Gate where the 2013 Seoul Arirang Festival is taking place.  There are several musical performances that we walk past…

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We head over to the Gyeongbokgung Palace which is the first royal palace built in the Joseon dynasty.  “First constructed in 1395, later burned and abandoned for almost three centuries, and then reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty.[1] The name means “Palace” [Gung] “Greatly Blessed by Heaven” [Gyeongbok].  In the early 20th century, much of the palace was destroyed by Imperial Japan. Since then, the walled palace complex has been gradually restored back to its original form. As of 2009, roughly 40% of the original number of palace buildings still stand or have been reconstructed.” (source Wikipedia).

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Changing of the guard at the palace.

This palace is a series of buildings and walkways.  It reminds me of the palaces I’ve seen in Morocco and Istanbul as it has courtyards and a very open/airy feel.

Final stop was the National Folk Museum of Korea which houses an impressive collection of artifacts and tells the history of the people of Korea.  Very fascinating…and free!

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As we are walking around, I start to notice a theme with the couples. I’m guesstimating that 87% of them wore matching outfits. If their shirts didn’t match, they at least wore matching shoes.

Forget roses and rings...matching outfits show people y'all are MFEO (Made For Each Other).

Forget roses and rings…matching outfits show people y’all are MFEO (Made For Each Other).

Y’all weren’t ready for the collage, were you? This right here? This is commitment. Who needs a ring when you have a madras button-down and matching leggings? This also makes it easier to figure out where you stand in a relationship. If Kim Jong hasn’t gifted you with a “Jungle” t-shirt & a pair of bright yellow Nike’s that match what he is wearing? Y’all don’t go together. He is not your boo thang. Please understand this. Know the couple code. If you were trying to figure it out, then here you go. You’re welcome.

All in all, Seoul was such a great time & the food is PHENOMENAL! I can’t wait to come back and spend a good amount of time exploring monuments & temples and participating in a tea ceremony.

Have you been to Seoul? If so, what things do you suggest a first time visitor do?

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Travel Tip #1: Deciding on a Destination

Some of us know exactly where we want to travel to while others just know they want to go someplace. So, how do you decide on a destination?

1. Figure out the type of vacation/trip you want to have (i.e. adventure, relaxation, beach, ski, etc.).

2. What’s your budget? This will help you to determine the length & locale. Some people think that international travel is too expensive to consider. But, smart travellers can save a lot of money by travelling during the right months (shoulder or off-peak season) & with proper planning (staying in a vacation rental instead of a hotel, buying tickets in advance, taking trains, buses & shuttles, etc). Travel Tip #2 will focus on how to travel overseas on a budget.

3. What time of year? Keep in mind that southern countries & islands have opposite seasons than the US (i.e. South America & South Africa have their summer season during our winter season). So, if you are looking for a tropical vacation during the holidays, check out the Caribbean, Mexico, South America & Africa. If you want to save money and travel off-peak to Europe (including the UK and Asia), it will be cold there (maybe even more so) than it is here and there are less hours of sunlight but you can still have the trip of a lifetime.

4. Travel as part of a tour group or on your own? 
    a. The advantages of a tour group (especially in foreign speaking countries) is that you have a set schedule with an English-speaking guide and are pretty much guaranteed to see the big tourist attractions. I strongly recommend going with a tour group (i.e. Ambassadair) for Asian countries (the language barrier is a killer) or if you want to experience the “typical” tourist adventure in any country without the pressure of planning it yourself. These “pre-packaged” tours are pretty easy to do. Just sign up and go.

    b. If you are comfortable with planning your own logistics & want to have a bit more flexibility to your trip, doing it on your own can be cheaper & more exciting. I would only recommend doing this on shoulder & off-peak seasons for major trips (i.e. visiting Italy for the first time). Peak season brings loads of tourists and you’ll end up spending a lot of your time standing in line.

5. Buy a guidebook. I never travel without one. Rick Steves is my best friend when I go to Europe. Most of his books are updated annually (however, I only replace mine every 3 years as you can go online to www.ricksteves.com and get the updates). This is great because you have the most up to date information before you travel.  Just know that Rick only covers Europe, the UK and Istanbul. For other locales, try Lonely Planet, Eyewitness Travel & Frommers. Before planning a European trip, I suggest you pick up Rick Steves “Europe Through the Back Door” as it has a lot of great travel tips (buy it on amazon.com to save $).

6. Verify that you have a valid passport. U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. I believe they cost approximately $165 (passport book & card) or $135 (passport book only) for a first time adult applicant (16+).  Renewal is approximately $140 (adult passport & card) or $110 (adult passport only). Minors are charged $115 for first time applicant.  However, check the website for the most current fee schedule.  Passports must be valid for up to 6 months after your ticketed date of return.

7. Visas. Be sure to verify if the country you plan to visit requires a visa as well as a passport.  If so, you will need to fill out the proper paperwork. I generally get my visas thru CIBT (which also processes passports as well). 

8. Vaccinations. Visit the CDC website to see what (if any) vaccinations are required. You should definitely make sure your tetanus shot is up to date and consider getting the Hep A vaccination. A lot of cities have “travel clinics” where you can make an appointment with a nurse, tell them the countries you plan to visit and they will suggest the recommended (or required) vaccinations.

9. Travel Insurance. This is a bit like gambling — you just don’t know if you will need it. I recommend it because you never know what can happen and it can give you some peace of mind. I was lucky to have travel insurance when my luggage got lost on a trip to Italy. This allowed me to be reimbursed for the clothes I had to buy while I waited for my luggage to arrive.

10. Be safe. It never hurts to check on the state of affairs in the country you plan to visit. I generally look at the travel alerts on the U.S. State Department website and ASIS International (which will give you the demographics, crime rates & incidents, political climate, & emergency contact numbers). Also, I research any local scams on Rick Steves Graffiti Wall. This has proved to be invaluable.