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: Life’s a Beach

It’s been less than a week and I’m already missing the beach.  Something about water calms me…it’s like an instant shot of happiness 🙂  Maybe I need to get an “ocean waves” app or something…but then I’m nervous that it will make me want to pee all the time.  Hmmm…I guess the next best thing to being there is staring at pictures!!!  As I started looking thru my online photo albums, I realized that I’ve been BEYOND BLESSED to visit so many amazing places!  And I’d like to share a few of them with you.  So, get your pretend swimsuit, a very real cocktail, sunglasses and let’s go!!!

Mimosas on the beach? Yes...please & thank you! (Cancun)

Mimosas on the beach? Yes…please & thank you! (Cancun)

A Hilton Head sunrise...best way to get your day started!

A Hilton Head sunrise…best way to get your day started!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it's absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it’s absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

I know this may be a stretch...but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands...and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey :) So serene & peaceful!

I know this may be a stretch…but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands…and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey 🙂 So serene & peaceful!

The famous Santorini caldera sunset...

The famous Santorini caldera sunset…

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The marina in Monte-Carlo

The marina in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

The French Riviera: Days 4 & 5 “Livin’ it up, Monte Carlo-style”

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Hey everybody! My Mom and I finished our vacation in the French Riviera with 2 days in Monte Carlo.  It is a beautiful place! Approximately 45 minutes from Nice by bus, Monaco consists of 3 distinct tourist areas: Monaco-Ville, Monte Carlo, and La Condamine. Most of this small country was built on a cliff.  The streets are a bit narrow and since it’s built into a cliff, things seem a little congested but it is breathtaking so you sort of just overlook that.  This place has a very distinct feeling of “money”…people have it.  That is obvious.  For me and my poor little pockets, well…I was pretending 🙂 

When taking the bus from Nice, you will ride along the Low Corniche.  If you want to take the route all the way to Menton (like we inadvertently did), it takes just an hour.  You pass thru the beautiful villages of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, and Beauliu-sur-Mer on your way to Monte Carlo.

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Monte Carlo Bay

Monte Carlo Bay

Once we arrived in Monaco, we checked into our FABULOUS hotel, the Monte Carlo Bay Resort & Hotel.  The resort has a casino, gym (with free personal trainers) and a spa. I was able to hit the gym and get a good 45 minute run in before hitting the casino.  My absolute favorite thing about Monte Carlo?  THE CINQ MONDES SPA!  OMG, this place is heaven on earth.  Seriously.  The purpose of our visit to Monte Carlo was to gamble & spend a day at the spa.  Well, we lost at the casino (I love roulette and my numbers weren’t hitting all night…and I just knew I was about to hit it big and live the life of a newly rich jetsetting diva…but, it apparently wasn’t meant to be that day *sobs*).   On the plus side, the spa more than made up for it.

Japanese Bath

Japanese Bath

I’ve been to countless spas and this has to be the absolute best in my opinion. We started out in the hammam to relax prior to our spa services. My first service was the “Aromas & Flowers Japanese Bath” — and it was the most fabulous thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was like Christmas!  The Japanese Bath is essentially a big wooden tub that traps heat so the water never gets cold.  You step into the tub of very warm water, then you have aromatherapy oils poured over you in the water.  Once that is complete, rose petals are sprinkled on top of you.  Next, the masseuse places a pillow under your neck and proceeds to give you a scalp and neck massage.  Afterwards, you are left alone for about 15 minutes to relax.  Once you are fully rested, the masseuse brings you peach tea, honey and dried fruit to snack on while still in the bath.  Um, seriously…did I mention this was HEAVEN?  Because it is.  I do not think I will be able to replicate this in my own tub with some Calgon & Lipton.  You already know I was notating everything because my next home needs a relaxation room like this.

After the Japanese Bath, I had an Oriental Massage which was basically laying on hot towels being massaged with warm oils. Total bliss. Once the services were over, I was taken to the “Relaxation Room” to lay down with more peach tea & honey.  I would go back to Monte Carlo just for the spa.  It was that fabulous.  Want to know more about this fabulous resort?  Check out my hotel review here.

Cathedral

Cathedral

The next day, Mom and I head out to do some sightseeing.  We decided to take the bus from the hotel around this “city”.  Word of caution…if you don’t speak French, you may be a bit challenged as there are no English translations and it’s not really clear where the stops are. 

Monaco-Ville is the oldest section of Monaco and contains the Royal Palace, the Cathedral (which holds the tombs of Prince Rainier & Princess Grace), the Cousteau Aquarium, and the Exotic Gardens (pictures are in the slideshow below). 

Tomb of Princess Grace

Tomb of Princess Grace

Tomb of Prince Rainier

Tomb of Prince Rainier

The famed Monte-Carlo Casino

The famed Monte-Carlo Casino

The district of Monte Carlo is the area around the famous Monte Carlo Casino (which has a cover charge and dress code).  The area is absolutely gorgeous but it is very tight & congested since everything is built very close together.  It’s also very expensive.  Breakfast was 35 euro/per person…and this was a continental breakfast.  Once you get over the sticker shock, you can really enjoy it and see that it is a wonderful place to visit. 

The were a couple of cool sculptures across the street from the casino (which remind me of sculptures I saw in Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway).

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Overall, the French Riviera was really nice and a wonderful experience. I can only imagine how wonderful it is when the temperatures allow you to get in the water. Nice was my favorite city as it lends itself to a lot to do. Monte Carlo is nice…but I would suggest that you day trip over from Nice. It’s not really worth 2 days unless you want to stretch it out. Cannes…that was one of those places where I can say I’ve been there. But, not interested in going back as there really isn’t much there to see.

Here are some of my favorite photos:

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Next stop…Milano!

The French Riviera: Day 3 “Yes We Cannes”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJanuary 4, 2010

Bonjour!  It’s day 3 and today was cold and overcast. We woke up this morning and went to our favorite cafe, Grand Cafe de Lyon, for our croissants & cafe au lait.  How am I going to live my life without this cafe near my home?  Clearly they need an Atlanta location [makes note to self to speak with manager about this].

We head out to see the Russian Cathedral before taking the train to Cannes (which is about 30 minutes from Nice).  As we are walking, I notice that almost every dog has on a designer outfit!  Seriously.  Let me ask you a question.  What dog do you know in the U.S. that is rocking a leather jacket????  Not Riley.  He wrote a blog post about dogs dressing up.  These dogs don’t wear plain little coats…they have designs and ruffles.  Like they are about to go on the runway at a Stella McCartney fashion show.  There is even a dog & cat clothing store.  I kid you not.  And, the dogs have the nerve to get attitudes if you stare a little too long…like they think you are about to steal their designer duds.  There is a dog in the apartment building we are staying in who barks as soon as you come into his line of sight.  But, I think that’s because he may be the poor relations around town since he didn’t havean outfit on.

Anyway, the train station is in the opposite direction from the promenade and the markets which we saw yesterday.  As we are walking to the cathedral, the “element” (you know who I am talking about) seems to be more prominent.  Maybe they don’t let them visit the nice part of Nice???  Anyway, it’s cold & rainy so I am focused on following the map to get to the cathedral.  I then start to notice that the area isn’t as pretty as other parts of the city but it has “character”.  However, my Mom stops me and asks, “Is this the ghetto? Why is dog crap all over the sidewalks?”  It was too much for her and I knew she was ready to hightail it back to the bourgeoisie part of town.  But I was determined to see the cathedral so she was going to have to talk to New Brenda and tell her to come on. LOL.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally find the Russian Cathedral and it’s nice…but not exactly what I expected.  I guess because it was in the ghetto?  I expected something a bit grander (and in a nicer area of town).  Kind of like expecting St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and getting St. Mary’s Hold My Mule So Help Me God Church of Christ AME on Bankhead Highway.  But, it was still pretty.

My Mom and I start walking to the Nice Ville train station.  Now, I don’t know why I think things in Europe are different.  In the states, the Greyhound is always in a seedy part of town.  But, I thought that since the train I took from London to Bath was in the nice Piccadilly area, maybe that’s how they roll across the pond.  I guess they didn’t share the memo with Nice. 

Then it happens.  We are waiting at a stoplight and suddenly some man almost knocks down a woman who is standing next to us waiting to cross at an intersection.  The lady was very dramatic about the whole scene and I recognized crazy instantly.  And, let me tell you…Nice has a whole new brand of crazy I ain’t never seen before (and yes, I had to use a grammatically incorrect sentence to highlight this fact).  My Mom was a beat behind since she thought it was just an ugly woman (he was a tad large and had man-breasts) but he had a buzz cut so I don’t know what she was thinking.  Being in the ghetto had her shook, I guess.

Anyway, Beat’em Up Bertrand (hereinafter known as “BUB”) dang near assaults a woman trying to rush to make the bus…and ends up missing it.  This is wear the C.R.A.Z.Y. comes out.  BUB decides he’s gonna cuss out the bus driver (or maybe just the bus because it was rolling down the street without poor BUB).  Then, once the bus is out of site…he decides to cuss out everybody else.  We are walking behind him and it’s like a bad car accident you just can’t stop looking at.  This fool takes his bottle of whatever (probably whiskey…you know crazy likes to stay bourre).  Oh, now “bourre” is my new favorite French word. It means “drunk” and is pronounced “boo-ray”.  You know I use it in sentences like, “I think he’s bourre’d” (because I don’t know how to conjugate in French so work with me).  That’s just how we do in Atlanta.  Anyway, Bourre Bertrand takes his bottle of spirits and THROWS it at a car that is pulling up to the intersection.  People are looking around at BUB but nobody says anything.  Not even the driver of the car.  They recognize he is bourre’d.  My Mom and I cross the street because that’s what my Grandmama told me to do when you see crazy.  He was out of control crazy. I don’t know what he was saying as it was in French but I have a pretty good idea because crazy people usually use the same 4 key phrases.  Maybe he should’ve walked over to the cathedral and talked to someone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter witnessing the Battle of Bourre, we finally make it to the train station and are on our way to Cannes.  As I stated above, Cannes is about 30 minutes by train from Nice.  This city’s focus is on big money and shopping.  You won’t find a lot of museums.  But, the shopping and hotels are phenomenal if you can afford it (and sadly, I could not).  We went inside the Hotel Carlton (which I believe was the hotel used during the Cannes episode of “Entourage” but I need to double-check) and is the most famous address on the boulevard de la Croisette.  Rooms start at 750 Euro and go up to 5300 Euro. They embroider your name on the bathrobe and everything.  It really is a beautiful hotel.

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After leaving the Hotel Carlton, we went to see the Film Festival Hall where they show the movies during the annual Cannes Film Festival.

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Afterwards, we ate at LaMocca restaurant which is across the street. I had the Tandoori Chicken & Coconut Mashed Potatoes.  I wasn’t sure how the mashed potatoes would taste with coconut but I’m always game to try something new.  It was delicious! My Mom had the antipasta dish which was tasty as well.

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At this point, it’s getting dark so we head back to the train station.  The train back to Nice was delayed by 30 minutes so I felt at home since this is a normal occurrence on MARTA 🙂  After we finally get on the train…next thing I know, the metro police are rushing through the train.  Some guy is looking guilty…like he may be trying to get his 13 virgins or something.  At this point, I’m like, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Nikki. Tell Margaret to hold on because she’s been tying up the line for dang near 40 years! Please save me from crazy and the Taliban. Amen.”  I guess he heard my prayers because the final 20 minutes were peaceful.

We leave Nice tomorrow morning and head over to Monte Carlo so I can win big money at the blackjack and roulette tables (cross your fingers!).  Au revoir!!!

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The French Riviera: Day 2 “Nice is Nice”

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January 3, 2010

Bonjour!  Today was our first full day in Nice.  The weather was mild (but still needed a coat) and the skies turned sunny by early afternoon.  Nice is a beautiful city.  You will fall in love with the market, the buildings, the sea, the people!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got a bit of a late start today due to jet lag but once my Mom and I got started, we were good to go.  The first item on our agenda was to walk about 5 minutes to Avenue Jean Medecin to find a place for breakfast.  We found the perfect cafe which had the best croissants & cafe au lait!!!  And, it was just 8 euro for 2 people!!!  You can’t beat that. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter breakfast, we walked down to Place Massena (which is Nice’s ground zero — everything old meets new).  I tend to agree with Rick Steve’s when he says that standing here makes him feel like he’s in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.  It has that feel…especially with the curved buildings around a central place/piazza. It also reminds me of Disneyland in a way.  With the colorful markets, Christmas decorations, piped-in music of children singing songs…it really had a fairytale feel.  But, then they started playing a Michael Jackson song so…maybe a Neverland feel?

 

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After leaving Place Massena, I happened to see the most fabulous faux fur vest in a store window.  It was on sale and it fit.  It’s like the fates declared for me to have it! 

I was a bit nervous with the shopping because everybody that I see in France is tiny.  The store didn’t have sizes on the garments…I guess they could eyeball you to tell you whether or not you needed to keep on walking.  Although they spoke limited English (and I, limited French), the clerk & I were able to have a limited conversation…enough for him to ask if I was from South Africa.   

Which brings me to a point of observation…everybody who knows me well knows that I research my travel destinations thoroughly before I arrive.  Well, I had read several places that the French were a bit aloof and that you should have a rudimentary understanding of French or they would give you the side-eye.  That has not been my experience at all.  Most of the people I have met have been very friendly and understanding of my language “handicap”.  If we can’t figure something out with hand signals & my French/English phrase book, they find someone who can translate.  I do find myself defaulting to Italian when I’m searching for French words which just confuses them even further.  As far as people being rude, honestly, it’s the same as in the U.S.  As long as you are respectful and smile, the French will love you!

I met a guy named Bruno who was born in France but moved to Georgia (the U.S. state, not the country) when he was 16.  He actually owned a hair salon in Roswell for about 16 years or so before deciding to move back to Nice with his wife (who is American).  Bruno is fabulous…love him!!!  Now, I will admit that it is sometimes hard for me to understand accented English.  My friend, Abenaa (who is from Ghana), will testify to that.  I may have a blank look on my face while I try to figure out what you just said.  But, eventually, I will either get there or ask you to repeat what you said 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, back to our day.  We ended up shopping at the outdoor markets.  Let me just say that I absolutely LOVE the outdoor markets.  Nice is known for growing lavender and olives (and they have lots of it).  Everything is so fresh and upscale.  People are out with their dogs (they even bring them into cafes!).  Riley (my cocker spaniel) would be in heaven.  Maybe I’ll try to find him a little beret.  Of course, Riley is from the streets so I know he wouldn’t even entertain that.  Plus, he likes to fight so we’d get to walk about 2 minutes into the market before he thinks a Jack Russell terrier is mean mugging him and wants to go “introduce” himself.  He will probably write about it in his blog.

While in the market, I come across a beautiful painting and asked the seller if he is the  artist.  He says yes and we have a limited conversation (as he isn’t selling croissants or cafe au lait, I don’t have much more French to use).  I instantly fell in love with the painting as it seems so peaceful.

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After leaving the market with gifts for family and friends, we finally get to the the famed Promenade des Anglais (or “walkway for the English”).  It’s a 4 mile promenade along the Mediterranean Sea with stunning views of Nice around the bay.  This is what I had been waiting for.  The views are absolutely gorgeous!

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As we walked down the promenade, we came across some “rollerblade street performers”.  I have never seen anything like this.  They do all these rollerblade tricks to French & American hip hop music.  They were actually very entertaining.  We need that on Peachtree!

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After that, we continued down to the Palais de Mediterranee (which is gorgeous). 

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Once we completed the 4 mile walk, we headed back to our flat thru Old Town Nice. 

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Then back home to rest & blog.  Tomorrow — Cannes!  Au revoir!!!

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The French Riviera: Day 1 (Getting There)

*I’m migrating posts from my old blog to this site…so don’t get alarmed and think I’m suffering from dementia.  I still have at least 6 months before that gets ahold of me fully.*

French Riviera guidebook

January 2, 2010

Happy New Year everyone!!!  I pray that you all have a prosperous, blessed & happy 2010!  So excited to start the year off in Nice, France!  I decided that I was going to be a more patient person in 2010.  “New Nikki” is supposed to just brush off irritations and frustrations.  “Old Nikki” has been struggling with that concept for some years 🙂 

So, to that end, I decided to give US Airways another try for international travel.  If you read my Italy travel blog post from my trip in 2007, you already know that this was a big step for me as I had named them Beelzebub Airlines due to the drama that I had to deal with (delayed flights, lost luggage, etc).  So, New Nikki thought 2010 would be a year of second chances.  Sigh.  I arrived at Indianapolis International Airport 3 hours ahead of time since crazy folks had been out during Christmas trying to take down flights with firecrackers & possibly a 5 oz bottle of contact solution.  As soon as I stepped to the kiosk to check-in, the gate agent asked if I was connecting thru Philadelphia (where B-bub ALWAYS has an issue).  Once I answered affirmatively, the agent told me that he would need to re-book me on another flight since the flight I was scheduled to take in 3 HOURS would be late.  Apparently, the plane was having mechanical problems and they only have like 5 planes that operate nationally.  Seriously.  Why are there never enough planes to accommodate the mechanical failures?  Don’t they have Service Level Agreements with the manufacturers??? 

Anyway, B-bub Airlines decided to test New Nikki on the very first day of 2010.  The agent stated that instead of arriving in Nice at 10am, I would arrive late afternoon which effectively took out 1 day of my vacation.  New Nikki tried to see the silver lining, Old Nikki was like, “F&*K THAT!”  But, it’s a new year and I couldn’t cave 11 hours into 2010.  So, I sucked it up and tried to put a positive spin on it.

After waiting 5 hours, we are able to board the “repaired” plane.  The plane is pushed back from the gate…then the PA system comes on and the pilot says, “Brakes still don’t work.  Guess they weren’t fixed in Philadelphia.  Sorry.  We will have to cancel this flight.”  New Nikki — “At least we found out before we taxied too far”; Old Nikki — “F&*K THAT!”  I am a cracked plate, y’all.

Good news is that B-bub was able to get us on another flight within 30 minutes but I still missed my connection.  Which meant another 4 hours of waiting.  This caused me to drink a large number mimosas and wine in an effort to soothe my nerves.  Trust and believe that.  New Nikki tried to think “at least the international flight was only delayed by 10 minutes.”  Old Nikki’s response?  I think you already know.   I was able to leave B-bub in the dust and fly Air France from Paris to Nice.  Of course, B-bub is a bad influence because you know that after traveling for 22 hours, we get 2 crying kids in our row and the row behind us.  

I’ve decided that US Airways is like that friend you don’t really like but you feel sorry for them because they are so pitiful and against your better judgement, you decide to hang out with them.  You know the type.  They call, beg you to hang out and they even offer to drive.  Only to tell you after you are dressed and waiting that either 1) the car doesn’t have any tires or 2) they are running an hour late.  New Nikki has to side with Old Nikki on US Air.  It’s a wrap.

So, it took a total of almost 24 hours for me to fly from Indianapolis to Nice.  But, I am here and it’s fabulous so I’ll stop complaining.

We took a taxi to the apartment rental and let me tell you…these cabbies drive Audis and Mercedes and the few that I saw look like male supermodels (I’m sure there are a few that may not be runway ready but hey…New Nikki is trying).  Our taxi driver even turned up Jay-Z & Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind” during the drive.  So, not only do you get a cabbie, you get a dj!

After arriving late afternoon, My Mom and I checked into our vacation rental.  I got the idea of renting an apartment from tripadvisor.com.  There is much more space and it’s cheaper than a hotel.  Great location, free internet, lots of room and it’s really peaceful.  We rented a 2 bedroom apartment from Nice Pebbles.  As you can see below, it’s a really cute little place and definitely a sight for sore eyes after a long day of travel. 

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We will do some sightseeing tomorrow.  Good night!

2012 Update:  New Nikki never made it back.  She tries to make an appearance every year but sadly, she ends up being beaten to death by Old Nikki in a fit of rage over something.  She’s going to try to make it work in 2013 but I think we all know how that is going to end.  Don’t tell her though…she has hope.  And clearly some issues since she’s talking about herself in the 3rd person.

What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!

coco3

3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.

Emma

4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.

MM

5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.