Havana, April 2018

Honestly one of the most rewarding trips, probably because of the lack of wifi and cell service lol. Because I knew there would be a lack of internet I kind of planned ahead a few activities with my girls that I will post below. The best part of our trip was the hospitality of the Airbnb host that I will also leave below. Navi made sure that we had everything we needed included taxis, internet cards and restaurant suggestions. The city was very colorful and all of the men were friendly to us lol, something I am finding to be constant in more latin countries. Everything was affordable! Our flight was less than $200 from Atlanta to Havana and every entree there was less than $8! Very affordable. We split the Airbnb and it was about $100 pp. The chemistry between my very diverse friends was awesome which gave me the idea for the travel club. Traveling together creates for an affordable and bonding getaway that creates lifelong memories. I will be forever grateful for this experience!

Cuba tips:

  • Travel for “support of the Cuban people” and book an Airbnb. That is supporting a small entrepreneur in the country.
  • Take toiletries or small items that fit in your luggage to give away. They still do not get simple imports that we take for granted. We brought female sanitation items and gave them out. Its cheap and only takes a few moments to pass out and they will be thankful.
  • Don’t sweat your Cuban visa! Purchase it at the airport, and don’t let that stop you from traveling.
  • Airbnb housing: Host Navi
  • Airbnb experiences: It wouldn’t allow me to share those via a link, but search for “Cuban soul through pictures” and “Cuban dance” Join Airbnb

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Happiness is a Choice

Don’t let anyone take away you ability to choose.

I grew up in humble beginnings.  I always thought about how great it would be if I lived in an actual house versus an apartment, own a car instead of rely on public transportation,  make a salary, etc.  Then I grew up and all of those dreams aligned to something totally different, bigger, and even more out of reach making me unhappy.  One noticeable measure of happiness is my career and going to work everyday doing something I thought I loved. I would never in a million years as a child thought life with co-workers would ever be the way it is; I would have never thought that life would be so unhappy and miserable for people with salaries and material things that I only dreamed of as a kid.

Negative energy transfers, meaning if you wake up in the morning in a good mood, go outside to check the mail and the mailmen kicks your dog for barking at them and curses at you when he drives off, then you may get an attitude with the local barista because they forgot the “no foam” on your daily coffee.  In actuality, you were so caught up in the morning madness that you actually forgot to tell them “no foam”, so now that barista is rude to the next few customers, and then is continues to transfer.

One thing I am working on is stopping the negative energy.  Gossip stops with me, attitude stops with me.  I refuse to pass it on, and I choose to be happy.  Sometimes life can be like a dog chasing its tail and we are chasing happiness.  I am learning that that is fine!  Dogs are some of the happiest creatures anyway lol and we could learn from that.  Find something in the unhappy situation you are in that makes you happy and work on that all while deflecting negative energy.  Happiness is a choice!

Decide today that you will be happy 🙂 20170228_131237

Euro trip 2018

photo of eiffel tower
Photo by Eugene Dorosh on Pexels.com

Hey!  I took some video footage when it was on my mind this trip to log our trip instead of writing.  I can’t say I prefer this method yet because I come up with some great ideas and words after the moment in reflection.  I do however love the idea of a video log and I just think it will take some practice!  Challenge accepted!  In the meantime check out this raw footage from this Euro trip we had!

Some other things I reflected upon are the food and my favs.  The food honestly was not the best because of the lack of seasoning lol I swore to take some Lawrys next time.  There was lots of bread and carbs are not my friend!  I did indulge 🙂 but as far as my favs, the diversity in Paris was everything, along with the croissants.  There was an unlimited amount of things to do in Barcelona and we definitely were overwhelmed.  London was slightly chilly in July, but the views were amazing.  The French language is amazing and I would actually like to try to learn it!

Thank you for reading!

Writing an Open Letter

Do you have someone you would like to get something off of your chest to but you can’t because you are afraid, or they are ignoring you, or distance is in the way of your sincerity?  Well an open letter may be an option.

pexels-photo-356331.jpegI have always preferred writing!  (Clearly) But seriously I felt like there was no one to ever listen to my endless thoughts as a child so I would write.  I even wrote my teachers when I needed help with work!  Honestly, writing is maybe the truest form of communication that I have ever practiced because I prefer not to argue, and if you haven’t heard the phrase, “angry people, drunk people, and kids are the only truly honest people” then you will understand the thought process of arguing and how that is a very effective method of communication (As long as one person talks at a time and it’s non-violent).  Another reason I prefer to write is because a lot of verbal communication is fake…people normally send a representative of themselves and personally I just can’t take it.  Maybe one of my personal flaws but hey I’ll just keep writing in the meantime until I work on it.  Text messages are ideal, but they can get lost in translation, or lost in the limit of characters.

An open letter is a letter that you write…to yourself…to a younger version of you…to your children….parents….friends…..whoever!  They may not be able to read it but that is not why you are writing it.  You are writing it to get closure.

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I have some open letters, specifically one to my mother, who I can hand deliver it to right here in my city, but she will not “receive” it. ( Deep) She will appreciate it, but not be receptive of what is in the letter.  At the time I wrote it I was deeply hurt and the only healthy way to release that energy was to immediately get those thoughts onto paper and boy did it feel better.  Another letter I wrote was to my younger self.  Will I ever get a time machine to deliver this said letter to myself?  Probably not!  (If you have a time machine, I’ll just settle for sending my younger self some winning lotto numbers). The letter to myself was very hard to write, yet relieving.  It was hard to write it without the feeling of being judged.  I will blog these letters later because if I had something like this blog to read when I was younger, well it would be like reading an open letter to myself!

I would like to Guest blog some of your open letters!  They can be anonymous but just remember your road that you traveled, someone else may have a similar path filled with the same distractions that your words can help navigate through.

Traveling Alone

pexels-photo-490411.jpegWhat are your comfort zones alone?  I can do anything alone….except travel!

Personally I love to be alone.  After a while though I want to be an extrovert again which is a fear of traveling alone.  It is one of my 2018 goals…..I thought I could do anything alone since I thrive doing things alone such as movies, dinners, even a drink or two at a local bar!  I absolutely love shopping alone I mean I despise it with other people actually lol.  But I was recently faced with the opportunity to travel to Cuba alone and I froze.  There is no way I can go to Cuba alone with all of their rules right?  But it’s one of the safest places for an American to travel abroad, yet I just couldn’t.  I can literally travel to Los Angeles for a weekend alone and have the time of my life though!  My comfort zone was not having it.

I believe the paranoia came from my US Navy port visits and the unlimited trafficking/customs training we received.  Our number one priority was to remain in a group of at least two.  Sometimes you would pair up with someone you didn’t even know just for the sake of getting off of the ship.  I’ll start a checklist for traveling solo:

  1. Research the place!  You can “fly by the wind”, but have a plan!  At least a loose one that includes where to go in an emergency, lists of things you want to do, and “touristy” places.
  2. Let someone know where you are! Self explanatory.  Close friends/family should have a copy of your itinerary.
  3. Know the customs before you go!  That way if you are in a situation like my Cuba one, you will know that it is best to at least meet up with an online travel buddy than to go alone.  Some customs are as simple as women covering up.  For me, I would rather go with a group to a country with strict women rules to ensure I don’t overstep with my Western first world entitlement.
  4. Meeting new people.  Specifically love interests, let someone know what and where you will be doing whatever it is you plan on doing.  Judgment aside, sex trafficking is real.  It is good to meet up with travel partners from travel groups you are apart of that have similar interests.  I’ve read a lot of success from those and some even turn into lifelong friendships you would not have made otherwise because of distance.
  5. Popularity.  Ensure when booking your lodging that it has multiple high reviews!  Air b-n-b will provide you with ratings of the hosts along with honest travelers reviews, even detailing the location, amenities and availability of the host.  Hotels websites obviously sell a dream but their stars don’t lie!  And neither do the travel agent sites such as hotels.com/Priceline/Orbitz etc.  They allow the actual paid customers to review honestly.  RESEARCH!  Also, some lodging is a shared residency/room (Air-bnb or cruises)  Read the fine print and call ahead to request single occupancy, or book a different air b-n-b.
  6. Free Wi-fi.  Self explanatory, especially overseas.  Or at least plan on overage and data roaming added to your phone bill.
  7. Plan to set your alarm early.  Yes you are on vacation but you can sleep in on your day off at home!  Enjoy every second of your hard earned vacation.
  8. Plan some tours.  A lot of them are on Groupon and affordable, just don’t overload yourself because some tours are draining!  Research the tour because they will tell you what’s involved such as hiking or swimming and what you will need.
  9. Plan some “Me time”.  Blog, beach, Snapchat, spa.  Whatever floats your boat but make sure its what you needed.
  10. Do something different.  When traveling with others it is hard to do the things you want to do because of the compromise so when traveling alone, fit that thing you wanted to do last trip in.
  11. Take pictures.  You ever hear the phrase “If it’s not on FB then it didn’t happen”?  Well you don’t have to post every picture but I will tell you from experience you WILL regret not taking any pictures at all, especially if it is out of pride because “that’s what everyone else does” or “I don’t want to miss the moment”.  My first couple of years in the Navy I went to some bomb places, particularly Rio and I only have my memories, one of my only regrets.  Don’t be like young me lol take plenty of pictures!  Old you will thank you later!
  12. Keep it short and sweet. Now this one is my preference.  Take as long as you need but keep in mind that vacations can turn into the twilight zone after a while, and you can run out of money and it can turn upside down.  I like to keep some trips short to keep the memory fresh and fun!
  13. Stay safe! Remain positive and as long as your trip is researched and planned you will have the time of your life!

You can do it!  Please email/tag me in any of your solo vacations I would love to feature them.  Include a short description or journal entry.

 

The American Dream

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Lets be real, its a dog chasing its tail

What is the American Dream anyway?  Be a homeowner, drive nice cars, have a girl AND a boy, marriage, six figure career, successful business owner?  Is all of that attainable?  Is there a timeline?  Are you currently trying to achieve it?

I have had a conversation with a friend, whose entire family immigrated here.  His version of the American dream is exactly what his mother accomplished; she came over, worked extremely hard, and opened a successful business.  She did jobs that no one else wanted to do and worked extremely long hours to save for her business.  She lived meagerly and humbly.  Her making it to America was a dream turned reality; it was something her family and families like hers always talk about because of the living conditions and unfair wages in their country. For their family they achieved the dream; Hard work equals success in America.  She came over, worked hard and provided a legacy for her children to uphold.

For my family, the American Dream was always a steady paycheck.  Living on government assistance my entire life, tax time was everything, like winning the lottery!  Taco Bell dinner was SOOO freaking exciting lol it was like an elegant dinner we could not afford.  No one had fathers as far as my eye could see and some didn’t even have mothers.  Jail was normal.  Candles due to lack of electricity was common.  I was accustom to sharing bath water. Bombing for roaches was normal.  When I got my first real paycheck at McDonald’s at 15 I was like a kid at the candy store!  I had never seen $171 my entire life and it was what I had worked for!  All I wanted was some clothes and Jordans, but I had to pay the rent.  I had never been to a sit down restaurant and we snuck into movies.  My first dentist trip was at 17.

Once I started to live this “dream” I realized how much bullshit it was!  Man most people have student loan debt that if they are lucky enough to find a career in their field that the debt paid for, they will be paying off these loans the first 6-8 years of the said careers!  Even longer if they don’t get that “high” paying salaried job.  Mind you I put “high” in quotation because Uncle Sam takes much more than his fair cut from the middle class.  I try not to complain about that because I was raised off government assistance, which apparently the taxes help pay, but ironically, the government assistance we used as a child was designed to keep us on it!  Yes you read that right.  A lot of individuals that use public assistance to get ahead have to work 4 times as hard to get off of the assistance.  Example: When you receive food stamps you are “encouraged” to get a job.  Once you get a job, say at a department store making minimum wage, once you work over 20-24 hours your benefits severely decrease, if not come to a halt.  However, you can not afford groceries off of minimum wage job that barely wants to give you 40 hours a week.  So that is why most people do not work.  There are not many programs out there that are helping individuals find better skills for better employment.  I could get deeper, especially since I had a hell of an experience with section 8 (free rent) as a child, but I believe you get the point; its set up to keep people dependent on it.  Because of this flawed system I find it hard to support the amount of taxes my colleges have to pay, but its a part of the American dream right?

When I got older I realized that the things I looked forward to were normal….at least to the average American.  I began to learn that the average Americans dream was to be a homeowner, get married and have children with a career, in somewhat that order.  Maybe marriage first with the career but you get the point.  My outlook was all jacked up!  If it weren’t for me being an avid reader as a child man I would probably still be in the hood!  My imagination took me way past James P Brawley, the street I grew up on in a neighborhood just west of Atlanta.

The more diversity I was exposed to I learned that theres even a different dream out there for other Americans.  Suburban middle class children have sort of a…privilege for lack of a better term?  They go to college, period.  They have parents who provide them with tutors and the necessary skills to succeed.  They have options, but they can “fall back” on a career if they need to.  A lot of them knew exactly what credit is and start off with decent credit (meaning no overdue Georgia power bills from their childhood).  Some kids even stay with their parents for a few years, get to stay on their parents health/car insurance premiums and are sent out into the world with support.  Their dreams are the marriage, career, house, kids.

My dream was to be alive.  My dream was to not get addicted to drugs.  My dream was to not have 5 baby daddies.  My dream, from reading books, was to be rich by the time I was 40 (lol I still say that one).  But I had NO clue how I was going to achieve all of that.

The first dream was about hard work equals success.  The second dream was finding hard work and surviving is a success.  The third dream is just waiting on guaranteed success with minimum work.  The idea of this article is to spark conversation obviously, but to ask a few questions: Why are there 3 different dreams in America depending on race and economical status? Why do all of these dreams include debt? (maybe thats the real dream that they are selling us) And lastly, Can we provide to every kid in our reach, the information needed to be successful BEFORE they head out to tackle life?  Let us all ensure no one is doing their “dream” alone!

 

It’s My Birthday!

The significance of the Holiday known as birthdays.

We all have holidays where we are “trained” from birth to celebrate.  Well I’m not a big fan of them!  It feels too much like protocol…like a military muster lol.  I celebrate the silver linings…for example Christmas I love to see family and see on social media all the happy kids and happy parents, happy couples exchanging love I mean it all gives me joy (more-so the free time off).  But one holiday I love that WE control, that no one can take away from US, is the day that we were blessed with life.

I love how we all have a story to tell!  We all have some sort of family issues, personal drama, or a perfect life where nothing went wrong lol but its our life and our day to celebrate just that!  You get to decide how you want to celebrate it, you get to dictate what you want to do.  I like to reflect.  A little personal secret is it is when my new year starts! I get to decide to make changes on my terms! I like the entire Aquarius season to celebrate because…its the best season!  I’m a control freak I know but hey it’s our lives why not take control of them?

If you are having trouble taking control, you can start with your next birthday! Plan a dinner, shopping day, low key date, whatever fills that New Year in the world!  Celebrate your day the entire month!

Glamping! (Glamorous camping)

May 2017 Bear Lake Utah/Idaho

Dare to be different; dare to be YOU-nique!  The idea of “Glamping” was lame to family and not as enticing as a trip out of the country with friends, but it’s something that I wanted to experience while I was living out west.

 

 

 

It was like…The Oregon Trail (game I played in elementary school) but our version with Wi-Fi and Blue tooth speakers.  We slept outside by a campfire and roasted marshmallows like they do on TV lol, but most importantly we bonded.  Something completely out of the norm made us a lifetime of memories and I would love to do it again!

 

Who Are You in Competition With?

Are you constantly comparing yourself to your friends?  Do you constantly tell them how awesome your career is and how there is no way you can do theirs?  Unhealthy!  Did you realize it before I just posed the question?  When you do that you are implying their career choice is less than desirable, when in fact, we are not the same!  We all have likes and dislikes and we fit in different places and different scenarios.

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Do you tell others what you would never get married when they are planning a wedding?  Or you would never go to the club that people have plans to go to because their drinks are watered down, but then turn around and say “But have fun…”?  Or my favorite is when people tell me, without asking, how much money they have saved or their amazing credit score! (Personally I automatically distrust people who disclose such personal information without anyone asking) These are not so subliminal methods of creating competition through jealousy.

Sometimes we don’t notice the unhealthy competition because it is coming from someone we really care about deeply, until it’s too late.  The jealousy comes from a “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, or in rare cases, the light of content that shines from within an individual that money can’t buy and the other person can’t obtain.

I’m human and I’ve been a victim on both ends, more so from routine.  Being in the Navy definitely created a sense of competition for reasons of advancement.  Near the end of my tenure in the Navy I felt like I had made a couple of friends just for their personal advancement, and that I had befriended them for the same reason just in case I decided to re-enlist.  Once I got out of the Navy it was clear to me that it was definitely a light of content inside of me because I didn’t have much to monetarily compete with lol.  But Ive heard several people say “If I had been through half of what you endured, I wouldn’t have made it”. I think that is the light, the “nothing can phase me” or “it’ll work itself out”  mentality and it was a lot to accept because I had nothing monetarily that no one else could obtain with some hard work!  And in actuality if people used that same energy to talk to me they would know that I freak the hell out over everything!  I am in constant panic mode! But then I think of the times I played the same competitive cards and I realize it comes full circle.

We can exercise some healthy competition methods because it is human nature to compete!  When you put kids of the same age together you will see them arguing over who sits shotgun or race to get to the door the fastest (which is extremely annoying.  Shout out to all the patient teachers out there).  Maybe discussing whats going on in our lives in an open and honest platform while admitting situations that make us jealous and comparing what we have going on with the goal of leaving fulfilled will help.  I’ve always been confused when girls try to compete with me because of my family life.  It is mostly girls who came from an awesome mom and support system who become jealous of me, meanwhile all Ive ever wanted was just that!  So Ive created a life around that broken foundation, but for some reason that is all people choose to see where if we actually sat down and talked in that healthy environment we would eliminate that jealousy!

I have always tried to organize nights out or girls trips, because those are the most vulnerable scenarios I know for women.  Men too, because men are just as, if not more sensitive than women but refuse to admit it.  But sometimes to discuss healthy competition just having a drink in the house with kids running around and spouses/other people around does the opposite and leaves us right where we were.  Try having that night out with friends and facing that healthy competition and thank me later!

Anyway, let me in on some healthy competition stories, or unhealthy!  I would love to guest blog these cases!