The Life of Travel Be’s…

logoTravel is like a sensuous dance choreographed to the different rhythms of life.  In order to make the most of your trip, keep in mind the 10 Travel Be’s:

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Riding an elephant has been on my bucket list for years! The ultimate experience is to interact with them in either Africa or India while they are in their element.

Be Inspired

Whether it be a beautiful beach photo on social media (i.e. Pinterest), a book or movie (i.e. Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love), an inspirational travel quote, or a fabulous travel blog (*waves* “hi, y’all!”)…be inspired by things around you.  It can be just the boost you need to encourage you to start planning your dream getaway.

Be Independent

Most people feel more comfortable traveling with at least 1 other person while others are a bit more adventurous and prefer to travel solo.  Regardless of if you are with a group or on your own, be independent!  This is your trip.  Be selfish and make sure you see the places or do the things on your travel bucket list for that place.  This doesn’t mean you stand up at breakfast and say “Alright, y’all…you are boring and I’m gonna have to jet and do my own thing because I will slit my wrists if I have to visit 1 more museum.”..then make a dramatic exit in a whirl of scarves and your phone cued up to “Flawless” by Beyoncé.  I mean, you can do it but maybe save those dramatics for after dinner when there is mood lighting, k?  Work out an itinerary with your travel partner(s) and figure out what the “must see/do” places & experiences are.  Then figure out if you all want to do the same things.  It’s okay if you don’t.  Just carve out time where you part ways and have your own independent adventure to live the greatest experience you can dream of.  Trust me, you don’t want to be on a plane flying home while giving your boo the side-eye because you gave up visiting the Eiffel Tower so he could walk around WWII battlegrounds.

Don't let this be you when your friend suggests a day of watching ESPN at the hotel when you're in Rome.

Don’t let this be you when your friend suggests a day of watching ESPN at the hotel when you’re in Vegas.

Be Adventurous

Explore the world…that’s what it’s there for!  Being an explorer allows you to be bolder than you are at home.  Immerse yourself in the culture, go whitewater rafting, go hot air ballooning over an African desert…whatever it is, make sure you take your sense of adventure and push yourself (at least a little bit) outside of your boundaries.  Think of at least 1 day of your trip as an “adventure” and plan things that will allow you to have a “wow” experience.

Sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert of Dubai, UAE.

My view from the sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert of Dubai, UAE.

Be Innovative

I love traditional tours but always mix in something unique for each trip.  While it’s a great idea to start each adventure by taking a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour to orient yourself with the city, make sure you book something fun & exciting too.  It could be a spa getaway, an overnight camping trip in the desert, riding camels in the Sahara, sunrise hot air balloon ride, visiting the Harry Potter movie set…you name it.  Museums are nice but make sure you give yourself time to do something that will allow you to truly experience the place you are visiting.  If there is something you want to do and there is no formal organized “tour”, call up the place and ask them if you can have your own unique experience.  Nine times out of 10, it will work and you will have an experience that most people will wish they had thought to do.

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Research + proper planning = a fabulous trip!

Be Prepared

(Including the “baby be’s”: be safe, be knowledgeable)  Research the place you are visiting.  My travel boo is Rick Steves.  Love him!  His books are THE BEST!  You need a game plan before you arrive (unless you are the type that just figures it out as you go…if that is you then know that we will never travel together because my nerves can’t take you).  This will help you maximize your time, avoid tourist traps and focus on enjoying your trip.  You may also want to go to the State Department’s website (www.osac.gov) and check out the country report for the place you are visiting.  It gives you great info on crime and other concerns (i.e. privacy, health, etc).

Rocking the abaya in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Rocking the abaya & hijab in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Be Culturally Aware

I love being an American and am an unapologetic feminist.  Even with all the struggles we have here in the U.S. when it comes to race, crime, poverty, etc…it’s one of the greatest countries on Earth.  But, sometimes I don’t like some of the people that live here…case in point, the current state of affairs with black men being gunned down by police officers or vigilantes who suffer no repercussions from those illegal acts.  Black lives matter.  I am also very aware that I am afforded rights here that I wouldn’t be granted in some other places.

With that being said, be aware that each country has their own set of struggles & cultural sensitivities.  Some are stronger than others.  On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I made sure I wore traditional clothing [a black abaya (long cloak) and hijab (head scarf)] so that I would not run afoul of their religious laws nor make people feel uncomfortable.  While it was a huge adjustment visiting a place where women don’t have as many rights as men, I tried to at least blend in physically since being submissive was a bit of a stretch for me (smile). When visiting other countries in the Middle East that don’t require the abaya, I made sure I was covered (long skirts/pants, long-sleeved blouses, etc). The last thing you need is unwanted attention or to be hassled by the religious police.  Yes, it may be hot but you are a visitor in their country.  And who wants visitors that don’t respect the house rules?

Be Open-Minded

The beautiful thing about this world is that it’s made up of so many different kinds of people (which is both a good thing and a bad thing).  What is normal to you may seem absurd to someone else.  That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind.  For example, if you plan a trip to Amsterdam and know you have very strong views about drugs & sex then make sure you avoid the Red Light District.  Please don’t tour the Red Light District wrapped in a cloak of judginess (is that a word? Spell-check says it isn’t but I kinda feel that it is…hmmm…too lazy to verify so I’m making an executive decision that it’s a word).  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, cloak of judginess…don’t walk the RLD pointing fingers at the people entering the coffeeshops or having impromptu prayer sessions for the sex workers.  Know yourself and if you don’t think you can handle certain situations, avoid them.  While drugs & prostitution are stigmatized and mostly illegal in the U.S., they aren’t in the Netherlands.  Sex workers have unions and get benefits.  Yeah, it’s weird to those of us not raised in a culture where it’s accepted as a daily part of life but I live by the motto, “if you like it, I love it.” and keep it moving.

Be Positive

This may be the hardest one for those that aren’t naturally a “glass half full” person.  It takes work.  My trick is to take a couple of deep breaths, fuss about it on Facebook complete with a full dramatic recap of what happened and a Meme (probably Kevin Hart).  Make the “disaster” funny.  Once you can laugh, you can start to get perspective. Being angry doesn’t help you fix the situation.  Anger is a thief as it steals your good sense & happiness.  Little issues become huge issues.  Don’t be that person who has a meltdown because you ran out of gum.  And, honestly, if things have gone horribly wrong…they can only get better, right?

I actually posted this to Facebook when my flight to Hong Kong was cancelled and I was told I'd have to sleep at the small regional airport I was at in Japan. Sigh...

I actually posted this to Facebook when my flight to Hong Kong was cancelled and I was told I’d have to sleep at the small regional airport I was stranded at in Japan. Luckily, I was able to sweet talk my way into a hotel about 45 minutes away.

Be Patient

Things go wrong.  Flights are delayed or cancelled, that fabulous hotel that you booked actually looks like the Motel 6, or you can’t find anyone who speaks English.  Trust me when I say that everything will work out.  It always does.  A little patience takes you a long way and can keep your dream vacation from turning into your worst nightmare.  With so many travel apps and international calling plans, it’s easier than ever to get help.

Morning meditation with a yogi

Morning meditation with a yogi in Bali.

Be Kind

A smile goes a long way.  It’s universal and understood in any culture.  You don’t need to know the local language (but it helps if you at least learn a few key phrases like “hello”, “please” and “thank you”).  I’ve had more people open up and share wonderful experiences with me just by being genuine and offering a pleasant smile.  Plus, a smile makes you beautiful and who doesn’t want that?

I hope this list of Travel Be’s helps you to plan and enjoy your next fabulous vacation.  Are there any Travel Be’s that I missed?  Let me know!

Save Me…Stockholm Marathon 2014

This poor fool here…sigh. Smiling like an idiot before reality sets in.

This poor fool here…sigh. Smiling like an idiot before reality sets in.

Back in December 2013, running a marathon seemed like such a great idea. Maybe I was hopped up on candy canes and Christmas cheer which impeded my ability to reason & make sound decisions? My sis had registered to run it and the Stockholm Marathon is billed as the most scenic marathon in Europe. So, why not? I really should’ve stopped to examine those reasons. Instead, I paid my money and started training. Then, got a new job and relocated from Atlanta to Washington, DC which meant I took a 2 month hiatus and just did mental training runs. Yeah, I said that. I claim a run even if it is just me taking a nap and dreaming about it. Which should tell you that I was not ready for this race. But, when has that stopped me? Remember when I wrote that letter from heaven after the Warrior Dash in 2011? Or when I got Jedi mind-tricked into doing Tough Mudder? Yeah, I never learn.

So, as with my other races, I am going to take you on the race with me…complete with pictures because you know I looked for ANY reason to take a break.

The race started at noon…which was kinda weird as most races start early in the morning. But, that worked for me because it meant I got to sleep in.

The only real prep I did was pack all the necessary running equipment...I guess "common sense" got left in DC.

The only real prep I did was pack all the necessary running equipment…I guess “common sense” got left in DC.

Let’s get started…

I am all limber and ready to go by the time the race starts. I feel good because I have on my favorite running outfit, compression socks and my running belt with electrolyte tabs & GU. Mentally, I’ve psyched myself up that this is just a sightseeing tour that I’m running instead of walking or biking. See? Sometimes you gotta lie to yourself to make it thru the day. Anyway, all is good and people are laughing and running with strides like Olympians.

After the first mile, I feel good. In fact, I think I’m a beast! My pace is awesome and the breeze is perfect. Then I remember I have 25.2 miles left to go and a piece of my soul dies. But, I psych myself up…I’m running a freaking marathon. Woohoo!!! (meanwhile people on the sidelines are looking at me like, “sucker.”)

Things are okay miles 2-5, then as I get to mile 6, I start to look for a scooter or Metro station. This can’t be my life. WHY AM I DOING THIS? GOD, DO YOU HEAR ME? Surely he can hear the sound of my sobs as I struggle.  Then, I look at my Garmin and notice that it is tracking a half mile off from the kilometer markers.  WTF?  I can’t run any extra steps.  So, I’m now running with this look on my face:

Only 8 kilometers?  Whatchu talkin' bout, Willis?  That should say 12!

Only 8 kilometers? Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis? That should say 12!

Sigh.  Mile 7 arrives and my feet aren’t happy…even the song by Pharell can’t perk them up.  They are clinically depressed.  But, I’m talking myself thru it and focusing on my playlist…then I see a hill.  Lord, Jesus…WHY?  I grit my teeth and power thru it by just trying to sprint up as fast as I can while thinking about all the cakes and pies I’m going to eat to celebrate.

I will say that the course was laid out well and they had djs and bands throughout.  It was weird hearing someone calling my name over a loudspeaker when I stopped for a sports drink and telling me that I’m doing great…I guess the chip in my bib transmitted my name and country!  Very cool!  That got me feeling pretty good for the next 0.2 miles.  LOL

By mile 8, I was certain of 1 thing —

not ready

Seriously.  At this point, I’m mentally preparing my letter to send to Iyanla Vanzant asking her to fix my life because I am apparently the CEO of Bad Decisions, LLC.

Once mile 9 comes around, there is a big crowd and I notice they are really enthusiastic!  I thought to myself, “How nice!!!  They are cheering me on.  I can do this!”  Then, just as I’m luxuriating in all the adulation & affections, I see a Kenyan sprint right past me with a police escort.  Wait…did he just lap me?  IS HE ALMOST TO THE FINISH LINE?  CAN I HOP ON THAT POLICE VAN?  So many questions.  But, alas, I realized that the applause wasn’t for me…the lady who got lapped.  It was for the winner.  But, lets pretend like it’s still for me, mmkay?

By mile 10, I knew it was a wrap.  I made so many errors in thinking I could run this race.

  1. First, I didn’t finish training.  Having my longest training run as 8 miles did not prepare me for this.
  2. Second, I have  ran in my regular training sneakers — not the new ones I bought.  My thought process was that the new ones were just like my training shoes but would be “fresh”…well, they were fresh alright…fresh hell.  My feet felt like I had been running barefoot over crack pipes for 10 miles!
  3. Third, I don’t really like running.  I mean, I’ve done it for a long time and always thought I should do a marathon…but I don’t like running long distances.  I’m okay with topping out at a half marathon.  13.1 miles is the perfect distance and it feels like 9,658,720,148,932,451 miles anyway…so I win.
  4. It’s okay to say “no”.  I didn’t have to run this race when I knew I wasn’t ready.  And, it is okay that I wouldn’t get my money back.  Sometimes, you gotta know when to hold’em, and when to fold’em.

So, at mile 11, I ran right off the course and into the waiting arms of a beautiful park bench.  I swear I could not walk for at least 30 minutes and had to take my shoes off for relief.  I don’t feel bad at all for not finishing the race.  Why?  Because I am alive.  LOL.  I saw so many other people had the same idea so I did not feel like a loser.  In fact, when I had a debate with myself about finishing the second lap, my saner side was like —

Another mile?  Bye, Felecia!

Another mile? Bye, Felecia!

The good news is that my sis did finish the race and I am so super proud of her!!!  26.2 miles is a major achievement!!!  Have you ever registered for a race and didn’t finish?  Please don’t tell me I’m the only one!!!

The Beautiful Blue Lagoon

20140514-231000.jpgAfter seeing a picture of the Blue Lagoon on Crack Boards (also known as Pinterest), I was obsessed with soaking in the thermal waters that were said to turn back the hands of time like Cher!  It just so happened that Groupon was offering an $899 deal for a 3 day trip to Iceland (roundtrip airfare, accommodations and some tours included).  I figured the deal was too good to pass up (side note: I’ll review the trip and using a Groupon to travel in a later post). My fabulous photographer friend, Sarah (who is responsible for the profile pictures on this blog), was kind enough to join me on this amazing adventure.

Snow blankets the ground around the thermal pool.

Snow blankets the ground around the thermal pool.

The Blue Lagoon was everything I had dreamed about!  And that is saying something considering we went to Iceland in January when it was COLD!

20140514-231148.jpgNestled outside Reykjavik (on the way to the airport), this famous thermal spa is all that it advertises and more.  There are shuttles between hotels in Reykjavik to/from the spa as well as from/to the airport.  We actually spent our last day at the Blue Lagoon.  After checking out of our hotel, we hauled our luggage to the spa.  At the entrance, there is a separate building where you can store your luggage for a minimal fee.  After receiving your claim ticket, you walk thru a paved path of cleared volcanic rock towards the actual spa.

Once you are at the main entrance, you can stand in line for a ticket (or pre-pay via the website or one of the tour vendors…the line will be long so I highly suggest pre-paying so that you don’t waste precious time waiting to get in).  There are different packages available and you can also rent towels, robes and shoes.  I brought my own towel and flip-flops but did rent a robe (some spa packages include robe & towel rental). Once you are checked in, you are given a wristband that acts as currency.  If you want to purchase anything (products, food/drinks, spa treatments, etc.), just scan your wristband and it will be applied to your account (which is linked to a credit card you provide upon check in).  So easy! 20140514-215542.jpg

You are then free to go to the locker rooms to change.  The locker rooms are NICE!  Very clean and easy to use.  After changing into your swimsuit, you walk thru to the showers to rinse off then out to the thermal waters.  It was our luck that on the morning we arrived, it started sleeting.  It felt like someone was shooting a gun filled with icicles at me as we were walking outside to the pool.  But, once in the water, it felt like heaven!!!  Some areas of the pool are warmer than others.  The water has a sort of “milky” texture to it…maybe because of the silica mud.  It was so soothing!  Word on the street was that the spa mud was supposed to take years off your face…so you know I was caking it on in an effort to look like a pre-teen by the time we left.  Didn’t work.  Sigh.

After relaxing in the water for a while, we decided to take a break and get a quick bite to eat.  What better way to continue to unwind than with champagne and cheese?  Living the dream, y’all 🙂 Once we were full, it was time to try the sauna before heading over to the private thermal pool for our in-water massage.  For regular readers of my blog, y’all know I love to go to spas in each country I visit.  I’d like to say it is because I am a connoisseur of fine spa experiences.  But, honestly…I just like getting rubbed on…which is what got me in trouble in Bali.  Ha!

20140514-231051.jpgAnyway, each time I visit a spa, my goal is to try a massage or treatment that I’ve never experienced before.  The Blue Lagoon offered an in-water massage where you lay down on a floatation device and are covered with warm towels (for 30 or 60 minutes).  The masseuse will use silica mud or oils to exfoliate/massage your body.  In traditional massages, you always start face down on the table so they can start with your back.  Here, you are always laying on your back but the masseuse (who is wearing a wetsuit) can go under water to massage your back and legs.  It is so cool!!!  Who doesn’t want to get a massage in warm water?  Even when the sleet turned to snow while we were outside getting our massage, I didn’t care.  It was like kisses from angels…that water got to me y’all.  I know I sound crazy but by the time they are done using magic to relax your muscles, you don’t want to leave the pool.  I felt like I was floating on a cloud with not a worry in the world.  Sigh.  I miss the Blue Lagoon. 20140514-231130.jpg

ASCOLI PICENO…THE ITALIAN SOUL

After a somewhat longer hiatus than I planned, I am back!!!  First post of 2014 is a guest article written by Stefano Tulli from Ascoli on the Road!  After reading about this amazing Italian city, I can’t wait to visit this summer to experience it first hand.  Enjoy!

1Ascoli Piceno is an amazing and still unknown destination in the very center of Italy…What? Haven’t you ever heard of it?? Follow us and we are sure you’ll get in love with our hometown..

Ok, I don’t know anything about Ascoli..why should I consider it as an option to my trip to Italy??

First of all.. Ascoli Piceno is the perfect essence of everything you are expecting from a trip to Italy.. Ascoli Piceno is a very ancient Italian city, older than Rome! Every corner of this town is art, history and culture..

2Are you looking for Italian history? Ascoli Piceno is divided into 6 districts, each one having a historical beauty.. Roman bridges, arches, amphitheatres, the typical Cardo and Decumano organization of the city map..

Moreover..reach Ascoli Piceno in July and August.. you will witness a great medieval experience, with an ancient joust called QUINTANA (different from Siena). The whole town celebrates the local medieval history with a series of historical events aimed at commemorating Saint Emidio, the local saint..

3Are you looking for Italian art and architecture? Ascoli Piceno is called the travertine city..the 2 main squares are simply breathtaking. The Cathedral, the museums, the ancient houses, the old streets… Ascoli is a great city for art lovers and it’s also demonstrated by the development of a great architecture and design university which hosts many overseas and Erasmus students every year!

Do you want to taste great Italian food and wines?? Well…the most famous local product are the “Stuffed Ascolana olives” and we are sure you have heard of this great fried olive once in your life. Not yet? Trust us and trust every tourist who has tasted them..unforgettable! Probably you will also want to drink something. Apart from the great local wines, you will also taste the incredible local liqueur..the Anisetta Meletti , which has a very delicate and special aroma coming from the quality of the Aniseed, carefully cultivated in certain areas around Ascoli Piceno..

4

Are you looking for a relaxing experience, far away from tons of tourists that visit the most famous places? Well..Ascoli Piceno IS your destination.. Food, art,, history, culture, lifestyle..Hundreds of Americans, russians and northern Europeans had the chance to visit Ascoli and most of them never came back to their hometown..falling in love with our romantic, beautiful and elegant Ascoli Piceno

5“Ok.. Ascoli Piceno could be an option..but how do I get there??”

Easier than you think.. Less than 3 hours from Rome and 1 from Ancona or Pescara Airports, Ascoli can easily be reached by train with the Milan – Lecce/ Bari train: stopping in the city of San Benedetto del Tronto, you can arrive in Ascoli Piceno in less than 20 minutes..

“Well, seems like I can have a trip over Ascoli Piceno..what else should I know and when is the best period?”

Again, the answer is easier than you think. Do you love summer time? Ascoli Piceno is 15 minutes from the Adriatic Sea..Do you love winter? Great mountains are only 30 minutes away from downtown. Are you an autumn lover? Wow.. excursions, walks and pictures during this period are amazing in our city. Do you want to reach Ascoli in spring? Ok, just listen to our final words..there’s nothing better than having a walk in a historical Italian city, taking great pictures and relax in an amazing square drinking your favourite cocktail waiting for the colours of the sunset illuminating the historical buildings of Ascoli Piceno..

Hope you will now be convinced…We are waiting for you!

Guest post written by Stefano Tulli — Ascoli On the Road

www.picenontheroad.com

ascoliontheroad@gmail.com

Nikki’s Favorite Things: 2014 Fashion Accessories (Fall/Winter/Spring)

With weight restrictions on checked luggage, it’s hard to travel light and be fashionable.  I used to be the girl with 2 suitcases and a carry-on…for a 7 day trip.  Why?  Because I needed options and apparently thought I’d be doing outfit changes every few hours like Scarlett (of the O’Hara clan).  So young.  So naive.  Now that I am wearing my Big Girl Panties, I’ve learned that all I need is one suitcase and a backpack.

It was hard in the beginning but you learn the critical items you need…and where to find a laundromat.  The last thing you want to deal with while traveling to different countries is a lot of luggage.  Most metro systems in European cities do not have escalators or elevators so you are stuck carrying your suitcase up and down steps.  By the time you finally reach your destination, you are cursing the name Louboutin and wondering why in the world you needed to bring 5 pair of stilettos when you can’t walk in them on cobbled streets.  The struggle is real.

With space limitations, you have to figure out how to make 1 outfit work more than once. How do I accomplish this?  With my favorite fashion accessory…SCARVES!  I like to wear a lot of black because I have put on quite a few pounds it’s fashionable.  Wearing  black also allows you to accessorize with lots of different colors.  While I love to shop for scarves in the cities I visit, I always bring a few with me from home to be safe.

Forget the big chain retail stores and support small businesses.  I love Etsy!  How I got addicted to the app is baffling to me.  All I know is that I browse the online shops at least 3 times a week looking for unique accessories that I won’t see on 10 other women at the airport.  The items I highlight below were all purchased by me with no compensation from the owners.  This is just my opinion and recommendation of fabulous shops that you might want to check out on Etsy.

Right now, my favorite shops are:

DottieQ — She has a collection of amazingly funky knit scarves in a vast array of colors, offers super fast shipping and is a dream to buy from!  I love this rope scarf!!

This rope scarf is everything to me!!!

This rope scarf is everything to me!!!

Bo Peep’s Bonnets – I am in LOVE with the Chunky Knit Cowls I purchased from her.  She is super responsive and offers a great selection of colors.  Can’t wait for my slouchy hat to arrive so I can wear it on my trip to Iceland in January!

This modern take on "Little Red Riding Hood" is fab.u.lous!

This modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood” is fab.u.lous!

Scarf Arts – This store has a huge collection of beautiful silk scarves in lovely solids & prints.  The scarves are super soft and wash really well.  This (and a pink print) are my “go to” scarves year round!  You can dress it up or down.

This scarf is amazing!  I can wear it all seasons and get tons of compliments!

This scarf is amazing! I can wear it all seasons and get tons of compliments!

Zojanka – The designer/craftsman is located in Poland and she has a ton of funky/edgy scarves like the one pictured below.  I love that I can wear the bracelet alone or as part of the scarf!  Multi-purpose and great for travel!!

In LOVE!  This linen scarf comes with a gladiator-style bracelet that gives it a little edge.  I've not seen anyone else with this type of scarf since I've been wearing it.

In LOVE! This linen scarf comes with a gladiator-style bracelet that gives it a little edge. I’ve not seen anyone else with this type of scarf since I’ve worn it.

Verbosity – This shop specializes in upcycled t-shirt scarves.  Originally, I had ordered a custom-made scarf representing my college alma mater, Indiana University.  Then, I saw she had a Star Wars scarf and was like, “I need this in my life immediately.”

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Love this fabulous Star Wars scarf by Verbosity. Rocked it in London during a trip in March 2013. The Force was strong with me that day 🙂

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.

Balinese Booty Massage

I’m calling on the Prayer Warriors, y’all.  Saints, please put me on your prayer list.  I’m sitting in an ePew placing my burdens on the iAltar.  Y’all???  Why is it that every time I get a male masseuse, my 75 minute Deep Tissue Massage turns into a 45 minute Booty Roll Detox?

It rarely happens with female massage therapists.  But, 95% of the male therapists I’ve had go straight to Booty Town and stay there like a matinée is playing.  Why?  I wear panties which I thought was the international sign for “don’t touch this” in the massage world.  I just knew this time would be different.  I know my booty is big.  But it is big because of genetics…not because that’s where I carry my stress.

So, the massage begins and I’m laying face down on the massage table and things are going well.  He starts with my upper back and shoulders.  Great pressure. Perfect massage so far.  Then he moves down my back.  Still okay because I got my “Don’t Touch This” panties on so I’m cool.  Next thing I know, he has pulled my panties down and started kneading my booty.  Wait!  What just happened?  The last time someone pulled my panties down like this was when I got a whipping for something I probably didn’t do (I’m still fighting those bogus charges with my parents!).

After 10 minutes, I’m thinking he’s going to wrap it up and move on to the legs.  Nope.  He LEANS INTO THE BUTTOCKS WITH HIS ELBOW!  Um, why is he kneading like I got booty knots?  I thought you just got knots in your shoulders?  Do I suffer from butt distress?

Sir?  Why are you now doing a “wax on/wax off” motion?  I’m going to need to shut down this production of Karate Kid – Bali.  In fact, I’mma need you to slide them hands back up to my shoulders, k?

Lord, help a big booty sista out.

To be honest…the massage was wonderful (once he stopped focusing on my booty).  I felt all kinds of relaxed afterwards.  Once I got dressed and caught sight of my backside in the mirror, I’m pretty sure my booty said “Namaste.”

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.

quote-i-havent-been-everywhere

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!

Photo of the Day: 3 Ladies (Ubud, Indonesia)

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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