Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My last day of work


"This will be the first time since I was 17 that I will be unemployed. I have no idea what a budget is but I will soon learn. I know I can live with a lot less than I'm used to. I've already gotten rid of all my possession and my car will be the last thing to go. However, I'm determined to travel the way I want for as long as I feel the desire."   

- Patricia Clay


Q: What made you want to do this long-term travel thing? 
Q: How did you go about planning for it?

A: I've been asked these questions many times over the last week or so. I will now do my best to answer for those who are interested.
I was already traveling as much as I possible could with a limited number of vacation days. I mean...I was always going somewhere...in the U.S. or internationally. Thank goodness I had the best boss in the world who allowed me to do so. Anyway, around 2 years ago on a trip to Peru, I met two young couples who quit their jobs to travel for 6 months. I was instantly inspired and dreamed of doing the same thing one day. Time went by and that feeling never went away so about a year ago I made the decision to go for it. I knew as long as I was working, I'd never be able to visit all the places on my bucket list. I started doing the research on round-the-world (RTW) travel to see what something like this could possibly cost then set my plan in action. I had already stopped shopping for clothes, shoes, and handbags. My car was paid off and I really didn't have much debt. I set a goal to save $25k in a year which wasn't easy since I was still traveling. I'm not very disciplined either so I could've saved more. I just couldn't give up that Starbucks hot chocolate every morning...lol. Little by little, I started eliminating things. I sold, donated, or gave away pretty much everything that I own. I moved in with a friend and the last thing I sold was my car. 
I'm passionate about travel. That's pretty much the bottom line. I want to do it on my terms and at my own pace. I want to know what freedom feels like. I was tired of going to another country having to rush around seeing everything because I only had 7 days to get it done. I'm not afraid to travel solo because that's the way I travel 90% of the time anyway. I love it actually. This thing I'm doing won't be easy at all. I'm horrible at budgeting because I've never had to do it before. I don't know how far my money will stretch. I'm traveling to 5 continents with Africa being the most important one for me. There are so many countries on that continent that I want to experience. I will do my best to see it through. I'm thankful for all the help I received beforehand and any help I will receive in the future.
I hope this answers the questions.  No Fear... 

I won't have anything in storage. My son is keeping a few sentimental things for me.  

Things I need to think about: What size pack do I bring? Do I stay in a hostel or hotel? One thing for sure, I'm gonna need to carry hiking boots as it's one of my favorite activities.  


Packing for this type of adventure will be very challenging for me. I think my current pack is 45L (55L with the smaller one attached). I need a little more space to put all my stuff plus, where would I put my toiletries? LOL... Ah... guys have it much easier when it comes to that stuff. 

This is the bulk of what I'm taking with me and I can tell you right now I'm overpacking. I still have miscellaneous items to fit into my backpack.


While on this trip, I know I'll have periods of loneliness, but hopefully not many. This will not be an easy adventure at all, but I know it'll be rewarding.  


I'm a runner so I feel like I would have to bring a pair of running shoes to maintain some level of fitness. On second thought, Trail runners might be a better idea. I don't want to be weighted down. Speaking of weighted down, I almost forgot about the rain. I should get a rain cover for my pack as well.

Oh wow! I have to make sure I pack right because ...I don't want to check bags either.  
One thing I will have to figure out is how to carry a years worth of disposable contact lenses.
I'll figure it all out in due time. I just want to maximize my space in my pack. I'm sure I'll start off with too much stuff and learn along the way of what I can do without. I'll purchase a new pack soon.


I will depart for Colombia very soon, like real soon. I have a reggae cruise and then 2 weeks in Jamaica prior to that. :-)

I'm just sitting here at work counting down the days to freedom...lol.
I'm so restless but all the planning is keeping me busy.
I'm finally beginning to feel the pressures of preparing for this adventure. I still have lots of things to take care of.

I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea of blogging. I seriously don't want it to feel like work. I know I need to journal at the very least. We will see how it all turns out.

Times like this I love Exploring, Being Free, Traveling and 
Being Black...



I approve this message!!!!




The day has finally come!!! 1 year ago I made the decision to give up everything in order to fulfill my dream of traveling the world nonstop for about 18 months. It won't be easy and I'll be on a strict budget, but I'm so excited for this journey. 
There are two people who helped me reach this point by letting me stay at their house. Bettye let me invade her space for 5 months and Rhonda let me stay at her house for about a month as I bounced back and forth to the Caribbean. Ladies I'm forever grateful for your kindness. 



Group trip to Columbia, coming Summer 2018 

Keep up to date on future trips.

So I made it to my hostel and lawd it's the most basic one I've ever stayed in. I walked in on my hunky, British roommate who was wearing nothing but a towel. πŸ‘€       I have a top bunk and it's a bit tricky getting down from that thing. I don't think I'll venture out tonight. I'll get my bearings tomorrow. This budget travel life will be interesting. πŸ˜ —  


Google translate is going to be my best friend. I have a roommate from China who speaks very little English. I was trying to ask her about the bathroom.

This is what it looks like when 6 backpackers share a room. Organized chaos and I'm actually okay with it. Everyone is on an extended journey of 6 months or more.



It's been a looooonnnnngggg day, I really hope this bed is comfortable to sleep on.   Good Night

I'm up early because I could barely sleep. I didn't sign up for a party hostel, but that music was blasting until the wee hours. At least it was salsa classics. It's extremely hot and humid in Cartagena. I'm gonna see how far I can walk before I drop.

Loving the architecture and street art so far.





LAWD!!! I don't know why this Colombian money is confusing me so much.



I was pretty much winging it today. The heat wore me down so I ended up at the beach sipping cocktails and supporting the locals.




So I'm on a party bus with a bunch of old people and I'm the only one who speaks English. What in the entire hell?????!!!!

A few good things came out of a total fail. An older man on the party bus was from Poland and spoke perfect English. We talked about his experiences all over Africa. He actually lived in Nigeria for 4 years. I ate something that was deep fried and yummy. I had the opportunity to dance salsa, merengue, and bachata at some club. The best thing that happened is I didn't pay for this outing. Apparently the people on my bus paid in advance.

My point, don't be to quick to judge a book by its cover. 

I woke up this morning and had no idea what day of the week it is. I guess that will be my life for a while. I don't think I'm doing much today. I need to pull out my laptop and do a little research. Tomorrow I'll do a day trip to San Basilio de Palenque. This village is mostly populated with Afro-Colombians who are direct descendents of African slaves. I should hire a translator because I really want to have a conversation with the people. Okay...have a great day at WORK everybody. πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜


  San_Basilio_de_Palenque



Breakfast is included at this hostel. It comes with eggs, but I don't eat eggs. I'm forcing this fruit down. Today I'll be searching for empanadas. So much for losing weight.


I met this guy, Harvis, he is picking me up at 8pm to take me to a street party in the ghetto (his word not mine). If you know anything about me, you know that this is my favorite thing to do...be around the real people...away from the tourists scene. Should be fun! 
In another note, I met a guy who "handles" the girls. He's short like Money Mike. He doesn't look like a pimp at all. Anyway two American men were in the market for some company and he commenced to showing them photos of beautiful, Colombian women.

FYI

For those of you cheering me on, I'm gonna need it. I know there will be times I want to give up. Travel isn't always easy and glamorous. Oh...for those offering me a place to crash or just meeting up for a drink if I'm in your country, I plan on taking you up on the offer. Love you all. 




Sidenote 

Never think you're too old to do anything. A 74-year old backpacker just checked into my hostel. He's from Austria and I didn't want to hassle him for a photo. Live your life people!!!


Today I visited San Basilio de Palenque which is a UNESCO world heritage site near Cartagena. The community was founded by escaped slaves as a refuge. It has a population of about 3500 people who are Afro-Colombians that are direct descendents of slaves. 

This is the number one place I wanted to visit while in Cartagena. I love interacting with the locals and learning more about my history. We had a great tour guide, we sipped on some rum, and had a great lunch.



I made it to Santa Marta and OMG! I like this hostel so much better than my last one. I'm in a 4-person room with ensuite and my roommates are female. I'm in a bottom bunk and there's a swimming pool and restaurant in site. Too bad I'm only here for 3 nights. I came here to visit Tyron national park.


Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, 
It's about learning to dance in the rain. 


Currently chilling in a hammock at my hostel. I sure hope it can hold my weight. πŸ˜£

Q: Tell us about a few observations about your journey so far: 

A:
1. My diet is crap!
2. I definitely overpacked and need to let go of some things, very soon.
3. I really need an exercise routine.
4. I need to be on a daily budget before I run out of money. 

Other than that, I'm having a blast! 


There's supposed to be a free salsa lesson tonight. These young people don't seem the least bit interested. It's part of the culture!!! Well...I'm taking advantage of the FREE lesson.

This older lady at my hostel shared her pizza with me and then told me if I'm in Germany, her door is open. She lives in the countryside.

Hostel Life, yup. I think I love it. 

I was treated to a yoga session by my hostel mate. He's from France and is a fitness instructor. He's sexy too! Hella Sexy... 


Today one of my hostel roommates and I set out to do some hiking at Tayrona national park. It was a pretty muddy hike and not clearly marked half the time. Thank goodness for the locals helping us out. It took us approximately 2 hours one way. I'm not really looking forward to the walk back but it's good exercise.


Hanging out at my hostel with my roomie and this super cool dude from Austria. I felt his vibe...laid back, friendly, and he lives a simple lifestyle. The beauty of traveling is the people you meet. Plus he bought two rounds of shots.







Good morning. I had my yoga session and now I'm enjoying a little breakfast. This hostel has a buffet-style breakfast for a little more than $3. I'm still eating fruit so yay me!!! Today I plan on hanging out at the hostel. I need to research some airline tickets and take care of other business. Down days are nice and necessary. Have a great day everyone!


 Next stop is Medellin, Colombia! I ended up leaving some clothes behind to lighten my load.


                             

I made it to Medellin but couldn't check in yet. I dropped my bags off in search of food. This mall is a 5-minute walk from my hostel and it's huge. My eyes lit up when I saw Starbucks. The food court has about 30 options but I decided on Asian food.



I'm so happy to be in Medellin but my evening didn't go as planned. I wanted to go to this bar that plays reggae music so I tried taking an uber. Instead of coming to my hostel, uber wanted to meet at a designated location. Okaaay! I thought I was in the right spot, but the driver called me and that resolved nothing because he didn't speak a lick of English. At that point I gave up and returned to my hostel. I probably needed to stay in anyway because I caught a cold from sleeping in freezing AC. I've been sneezing and hacking all day. Everybody was hacking at my last hostel.

Good morning from Medellin. I'm still not feeling 100%, but I'm about to do this Graffiti tour. It's about 3 hours of walking. Another thing I'm hoping to do here is paragliding. I just need to find a company that won't make me pay for two people. Have a great day everyone! 


Today I did the very popular graffiti tour in Comuna 13. Comuna 13 used to be the most dangerous community in Medellin. We took the metro and a bus to get there and once we arrived, had a local guide there to explain the history of community and the meaning of the artwork. I highly recommend it but if you're not able to do much walking, this is not your tour.



I'm so worn out from the graffiti tour and still not feeling good. I hope this Cosmo helps a little. I'm going to attempt to have one in every country I visit. Cheers!

Today I didn't want to do much so I took the metro and cable car to Avri Park. I wasn't sure what to do at the park so I did what I do best...ate!!!



 My night. I went to a local area with my Belgian roommate and had the time of my life. We were the only tourists there and I'm happy he spoke Spanish. The metro stop was called Sabaneta. Loved all the Christmas lights and dancing.





"Not all girls are made of sugar and everything nice. Some girls are made of adventure, dark chocolate, intelligence and courage." 

What kind of person wakes up early in the morning to take the metro and a 2-hour bus ride just to climb a bunch of steps...after a night of partying???

ME!!!!!!!!!!


Q: If it was ever one in place. How did you get over the hurdle of being a female solo traveler?

A: I honestly never felt like it was a hurdle. I think we get caught up in societal norms. 5 years ago I wouldn't have even thought about traveling by myself. It was only after a relationship ended that I branched out on my own. I started with baby steps by doing tour groups and cruises. I eventually realized that groups don't really work for me. I love doing what I want when I want. 


Yesterday I did a free walking tour in Medellin. The tour takes place in the city center...also known as downtown...also known as a place not to visit at night. 
The tour was great and so was the tour guide. We learned about the history of Medellin and that included Pablo Escobar. Netflix/Narcos never told the part about him being a pedophile. He had young girls delivered to him on the regular. Locals who are at least 20 years old and up despise him. Anyone younger thinks he's some type of hero.

                                                                    Pablo Escobar
   


We saw some really cool sculptures by an artist named Fernando Botero. Also, there's a really nice church downtown, but if you walk along the side of it, there are vendors selling hardcore porn videos. Heck...even I gasped at one of the video covers.


Good morning. I didn't get much sleep last night thanks to two new roommates being a bit inconsiderate. They decided to come in after midnight and turn the light on...and leave the light on for an extended period. The most annoying thing is they kept coming in and out of the room and they didn't close the door quietly. We are all usually very considerate. We use the flashight on our phones and we try to be quiet. I really had to bite my tongue last night. 
There are definitely cons of staying at a hostel and every now and then people don't have home training. I'm a bit of a germaphobe so I use a paper towel to open the doors, etc. Some of these people don't wash their hands. I damn sure not sitting on any toilet seats. 
I was supposed to go paragliding today, but I'm going to cancel. I think I'll spend the next 2 days doing nothing. I have some personal things to catch up on...including sleep.


Early morning walk to the metro. Each metro stop has restaurants, shops, and street food vendors.


I was supposed to do nothing today, but I ended up going in a little hike to Pueblito Paisa. It's basically just a tourist attraction, but the views of Medellin are great. The hike wore me out. I met a random tourist from Berlin who I helped navigate the metro. Then I met a really nice couple from Costa Rica. Little things like that make me happy.





A whole new level of hustling in Medellin. When that light turns green he sho nuff better be off that road because they don't play here. My walks around here are like playing Frogger and crosswalks mean nothing.


Sitting here chatting with the girls I was annoyed with yesterday. Just like I thought...they didn't think they were being rude. Anyway, they were super quiet last night and this morning. 
One more night in this hostel and then I'm off to Cali, Colombia. I didn't really like this hostel for a few reasons.

I think my phone and laptop are under attack. First the sound on my laptop mysteriously stopped working. Today my phone is doing very strange things like opening apps automatically. I guess I should've stayed with the iPhone. 

I strayed a little bit away from my neighborhood for lunch. There are nice restaurants and a couple of hostels here. I like it! I barely ate the garlic bread because I didn't want to get full. The spinach-stuffed pasta was good, but Colombians sure do use a lot of salt. Currently sitting outside sipping on a margarita. I might go listen to some reggae a little later.



Colombians are on their own time. I thought my Jamaicans were bad. πŸ˜‚
I'm at this reggae bad that's supposed to be open. I called the number and dude tells me they are running late. I won't sit out here too long because it'll be dark soon.

One of the best voices in reggae music.

#NowPlaying Ken Boothe


Ken Boothe (right) with director Ras Tingle


Last day in Medellin. My daily routine has been getting up early to walk to Starbucks for a hot chocolate. It's cheaper here so that's how I justify spending the $.

Final stop in Medellin, Medellin Airport. I really enjoyed Medellin. I didn't enjoy my hostel though. My hostel in Cali messaged me this morning to see if I wanted to participate in the barbecue they're having this evening. 
I think this hostel will be an improvement, but we shall see.  


Q: How have the Colombian people been treating you? 

A: I just remembered something that happened when I was in Cartagena. I walked over to a street vendor to buy water, but he didn't have change (I had large bills because I'm a baller πŸ˜‚). He allowed me to take the water anyway and told me to come back when I got change. 3 hours later I returned with his change and he gave me a huge smile and shook my hand. Yes, I used hand-sanitizer after I walked away because I'm a germaphobe. Anyway, his kindness gave me a first great impression of Colombian people.


Ladies...meet Pedro. All 6'2 of him!!! He's a bartender at a pub in the Bogota airport. He speaks good English and I learned a lot from him over two drinks. Lawd! I could've missed my connecting flight. Seriously, if you're in the Bogota airport, stop by and say hello.




Okaaay! I just made it to my hostel and guess what? The power is out!!! Apparently there was a storm. The room is okay and I'll be sharing with three females. The bathroom is huge and we each have a big closet. Judging by the drive from the airport, Cali isn't modern like Medellin. Well, I'm thankful to have shelter and I'm not starving. I'll take a shower by candlelight and get some rest. I can't be on my phone all night because I need to preserve my battery.


I like this hostel!!! Fun people and the hosts are so cool!!




Q: How is it traveling the world as a black woman. 

A: I've never had any issues, but that doesn't mean I'm not aware. 
1. In Colombia, I was at an event with European women. An Afro-Colombian guy asked every female in our group (sometimes twice) to dance except me. I found that so odd. 
2. I was waiting out front of this tour agency with three girls from Holland. I was standing and they were sitting. An elderly couple comes walking past and they reach me first. I say good morning and I get a response...no smile. They get to the Dutch girls and go out of their way to speak, smile, shake their hands, and ask them where they're from. 
I have to wonder what people's mindsets are. For the Afro-Colombian, does he dislike women who have the same skin color as him. Was the couple simply fascinated by the blonde hair? I don't know but I love who I am and wouldn't change it for the world. I will continue to travel with an open heart and mind. 
"One Love"



OK, Okay, OOOOOK...  About last night. This is not a party hostel but we did just that last night. There are some characters up in here.




After all the drinking last night, a group of us went salsa dancing. It was so much fun!

Hard to get up in the morning...   LOL

Feria de Cali is the reason I came to Cali. Sooo much fun...so festive. Cali is the salsa capital.





SalsΓ³dromo, amazing, too bad the second half of the parade was ruined by the pouring rain!!!

Yesterday was the start of Feria de Cali, which is a week long salsa celebration and the reason I came to Cali. A group of us along with our hostel host went to the parade. Talk about a great time! Colombians love to party. They love to drink and share their bottle of liquor with you. It rained more than half the time, but that didn't stop the party. We have a guy in our hostel who became an instant celebrity. The locals were drawn to him mainly due to the way he danced salsa.

Last night we went to the Grupo Niche concert. The entry included a 6-pack of beer. I don't drink beer so my hostel peeps were even happier.








Tonight was the huge "salsa" concert of Feria de Cali. We went as a group and arrived at the soccer stadium where it looked like the entire city was waiting to enter. This is where the negative experience started. All of a sudden there was all this pushing and shoving by locals basically trying to create a distraction in an attempt to steal whatever they could. My hand was on my bag, but I felt someone trying to either put their hand inside or snatch it altogether. I gave that person a shove and told him/her to get the f**k off me. One person with us got her concert ticket stolen. 
I've never been to a concert that didn't have any food. Then they were charging to use the bathroom. On top of that, it was supposed to be a salsa concert, but the first two acts were reggaeton and something that sounded like Latin rock. A few of us left early due to boredom and hunger. I'm still annoyed by the attempted robbery, but I still believe Colombia is a great country with great people.


Last night we started off at a salsa concert and ended at a salsa club. Dancing is definitely my happy place and I did plenty of it. 
I even danced with a professional dancer which was pretty cool.

There was a live performance at the salsa club last night. Then the dancers pulled people out of the crowd to dance.

I had so much fun salsa dancing tonight!!!

This place makes my stomach happy. Since I arrived in Cali, Colombia, I've eaten here three times. You can get a plate of home-cooked food and a drink for around $3.



I love the food here, Ate at the same place for lunch today. Cheap and delicious.
 

I am now full and tired I think I will stay in tonight. 

LOL

Well...I said I wasn't going out tonight. But I love dancing so much......   




Such a great night of dancing!





New space, New time, New Friends, New country...

AND YES, A NEW

ME!!!!!!!


Okay...you can close your mouths now. I know this is shocking, but I've been wanting to do the big chop for years. Trust me...I was afraid. I'm still trying to get used to it. My natural hair journey has begun.

 I miss my kiddies, but I'm happy to be spending time with these super cool people from around the world.




Colombia was so good to me. I truly enjoyed Cartagena, Santa Marta, Medellin, and Cali. Medellin was my favorite, but I had the most fun in Cali due to the people I met and the Feria de Cali celebrations. If you've been hesitating about visiting Colombia, I'm here to tell you it's a great country full of wonderful people.  




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