Urbantravelista | Reykjavik, South Coast, and beyond


If anyone ever told me I would grow up to become a fan of cold weather trips, I would have told them they were lying.  No sir, no ma’am.  I loathe winter and find nothing enjoyable about it (except for the occasional days I’m snowed in and get to play hooky from work). I’ve spent 99.9% of my life as a resident of Chicago; a city that enjoys about 3 good months of hot summer weather per year. And couple that with the fact I was born just shy of the summer solstice, it would only make sense that I denounce all things cold. Well, I did until I traveled to Iceland back in April of 2016.  Over the course of 4 days and 3 nights, I fell in love with a new territory.

Iceland is a destination that completely contradicts itself.  At first glance, it’s cold, dreary, and melancholy on the surface.  But once you start to peel back it’s intricate layers and immerse yourself into it’s culture, you will be pleasantly surprised by its beauty, warmth, art, and joy. When I visited last year, I KNEW I would return and did just that a few months ago. Coming back the second time offered me the opportunity to dig deeper into its beauty and gain an even greater appreciation for Icelander life. During my first visit (you can read about it here: Don’t sleep on Iceland), I explored the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle, and the Northern Lights.  The second time  around, I added sightseeing in Reykjavik, whale watching, and South Coast to my itinerary.


Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a city that is very near and dear to my heart.  Its art beauty, and culture captured my spirit the first time I came to visit last Spring. The city is adorned with eclectic street art and is home to significant landmarks, museums, and quaint restaurants and shops, collectively known as “city center”.  Most tourists explore it by foot and it’s a short walking distance should you choose to stay at one the bordering large chain hotels.  Reykjavik truly reflects the heart of urban Icelandic culture. For this reason, many tourists opt to stay at one of it’s many Airbnbs, as opposed to the large chain hotels located on the outskirts of city center.



Hallgrímskirkja church is one of Reykjavik’s best known landmarks and its tower is visible throughout the city. The structure was erected in 1986 and took almost 40 years to complete from start to finish. Entry into the church is free.  However, there is an entry fee to enter the tower of the church (Adults: 900 ISK, Children: 100 ISK).  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to capture a view from the tower as it closes promptly at 5 pm. But no worries, I have an excuse to visit next year!


The Icelandic Phallological Museum

Yes, you translated that correctly.  Also known as “the penis museum”, The Icelandic Phallological Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to ahem…penises and houses more than 215 penis and penile parts from land and sea animals. Its collection also contains 4 human penile parts that were “gifted” by certified donors.  Admission is 1500 ISK and the museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm. They also sell really cool penis related gifts.  It’s located right in the heart of Reykjavik.  I highly recommend a stop there during your visit. I mean,  how cool is it the be the only person in your circle that has visited a penis museum? Not many people share those bragging rights.



Whale Watching

If you want a break from land activities, Iceland offers activities by boat such as whale watching and the Northern Lights chase. I recommend the tour company Special Tours. They offer round trip pick up service at your hotel (or Airbnb) and the guides are very professional and informative. Exploring Iceland by sea offers captivating views of the Reykjavik city center district and the calm beauty of the Arctic ocean. The boat departs from Old Harbor (located in city center) and the tour lasts about 3 hours.  The boat provides free wifi (gotta post those selfies on social media) and a has two lower cabins that sells souvenirs, refreshments, and coffee.  The lower cabins also provide needed warmth if becomes too cold on the main deck.  Actually, there is no ‘if”.  It WILL become too cold. While floatable overalls to wear over your clothes are provided, I cannot stress the importance of dressing warmly.  Warm hats, gloves, and footwear are your best friend. If you are prone to sea sickness (which 75% of us found we were by the time we made it out to sea), anti-sea sickness tablets are available free of charge.  Sea sickness and the unpredictable (and sometimes low) probability of seeing any whales are the downside of this tour. We never saw any whales, but we did capture some amazing views of the dolphins. Overall, it was a great experience.  The cost of the tour runs about 9.890 ISK.



Skógafoss Waterfall

The next five landmarks I will cover are located in South Iceland. For this tour, I utilized Geoiceland, the same tour company I did last year when I toured the Golden Circle.   The tour costs about 13.900 ISK and lasts a full day, approximately 10 hours. Our first stop landed us at Skógafoss Waterfall. This waterfall is situated on the Skoga River and is about a 2 hour drive from Reykjavik.  It is considered to be one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and there is no entry fee.



Sólheimajökull Glacier Walk

Next, we made our way to Sólheimajökull (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either), one of Iceland’s most popular locations for glacial walking and ice climbing.  There is no entry fee. The hike starts off moderate, but becomes challenging against the cold, strong winds. I mean, the wind literally takes your breath away.  But the challenge and frost bitten face and fingertips are totally worth it once you reach to summit. It’s the most peaceful, yet coldest area I have ever visited.  I never thought it was possible to feel both at the same time.




Due to inclement weather, our South Iceland tour was cut a little short. To make up for it, we made a stop to Eyjafjallajökul (nope, I can’t pronounce this one either).  This glacier is actually the site on an active volcano.  Its last major eruption occurred back in April of 2010. Seismic activity is common and it’s frequently monitored by the Icelandic Meterological Office.



Yep, you guessed it, another waterfall; but not just any waterfall. Seljalandsfoss is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland. What’s so special about it?  Well, it’s one of the only large waterfalls in the world that you are able to stand behind. This landmark is popular for many tourists and offers breathtaking views year round.



Urridafoss Waterfall

Our final stop was an impromptu visit to Urridafoss Waterfall.  Again, this stop was to make up for the portion of the tour that was cut short. This beauty contains the largest salmon stock in Iceland and is a popular site for fishing…I guess when it isn’t completely frozen?



This sums up my visit to South Iceland.  Following the unexpected of death of my mom just a couple of months prior, this visit offered me a much needed retreat.  I think that’s what connects my heart and soul to this destination: it’s my retreat from the outside world.  As soon as I step off the plane, I feel a million miles away from all that plagues and stresses me at home. It’s the perfect destination to disconnect and regroup.  It’s calm.  It’s peaceful. It’s serene. Iceland is my sanctuary.


Until we meet again…

Urbantravelista: 2016 Year in Review


Twenty years from now, if someone ask me about the year 2016 , I won’t know where to begin. This has certainly been a tumultuous year for many.  There’s been birth, growth, and a lot of loss. No one was exempt.  I mean, we lost Prince. That alone was enough to send many of us over the cliff.  But for me, the first half of the year actually started off on a good note. Exactly this time last year, I was scouting my favorite shopping malls and boutiques in search of THE perfect dress to celebrate NYE in Dallas with one of my besties. I brought in the new year surrounded by good friends, good people, and positive energy. We spent the first day of 2016 enjoying a fabulous champagne brunch at a friend’s home. We fellowshipped, prayed, and spoke our goals for 2016. The following day, I boarded my flight back to Chicago feeling inspired, empowered, and ready to smash every goal and intention I set for myself. And things went well in the beginning. They really did. But by July, 2016 turned on me like a rabid pit bull. But such is life, right? Sometimes, a year will give you everything you hope for and more. And other times, it will leave you wondering how you survived it at all. In spite of 2016’s tragedies and having to put some of my adventuring on pause, I did have a few great moments in travel and adventure.

The birth of my brand

In April, I gave birth to my lifestyle/travel blog, Urbantravelista™. I created it as an outlet to share my personal life and travel experiences. I debuted my blog recounting my first international solo vacation experience. BTW, if you missed it, no worries. You can read it here: Solo Travel: Tips for a first time “Urbantravelista” . This is my second run at blogging and it’s the longest I’ve ever stuck with a writing project. Truthfully, running this project and growing Urbantravelista has kept me sane and grounded in the midst of 2016’s insanity.  I guess I finally found my niche.  I look forward to seeing it’s growth and evolution in the forthcoming year.  My goal is to encourage others to create their own fulfilling experiences by embracing the unknown and stepping outside of their comfort zone. I want to inspire others to live their truth (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and to make lemonade in the midst of life challenges…and be fabulous while doing it.  Life is imperfect.  Therefore, we don’t have to be perfect.  But we do have to LIVE.

 The Iceland Blackout

Also in April, I had the opportunity to join a meet-up experience in Reykjavik. We dubbed this event “The Iceland Blackout” as we collectively represented a group of over 70 black likeminded travelers from all over the world.  You can read about it here: Don’t sleep on Iceland . This adventure was special to me, because I had NEVER travelled this far away from home alone. Iceland was a destination that I never fathomed I’d ever visit or even have the desire to visit. Well, I completely underestimated it’s DOPENESS. I basked in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon, rode the Reykjavik bus system by myself, danced with Icelanders in a Reykjavik hip hop club, toured the Golden Circle, felt the chilling magnificence of Gullfoss Waterfall, learned about Icelandic culture, walked the path between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and danced in the middle of nowhere under the Reykjavik stars while chasing the Northern Lights. I’m looking so forward to my return in March of 2017.  Stay tuned!



When spring opened up, one of my best friends introduced me to the game of golf. It started with drink and appetizer outings at Top Golf. To my surprise, the more I practiced, the more I wanted to experience going out on a real course. So we did just that and after a few outings, I got to be pretty good at it. I do have a long way to go before I become proficient at it, but my performance and interest motivated me enough to invest in a set of clubs of my own.


Being Bobby Brown

He may not be significant to you, but he’s very much important to those of us that grew up during the New Edition era. My mom found out he was in town for a book signing in my neighborhood. Because she was a bigger fan than I was, I braved to two hour wait in line and got an autographed copy of his new book for the both of us. It was a couple of days for before my birthday and he was the first person to give me a hug and wish me Happy Birthday. How cool is that? Thanks Bobby!


TouristInMyTown Summer Challenge

 Over the summer, I launched a “TouristInMyTown Summer Challenge” campaign to encourage people to take advantage of the culture and tourism in their own backyard. I promoted this campaign by patronizing the various festivals, events, and tourist attractions in my city and challenging others to do the same in their respective cities. I kicked off the challenge at the Wells Street Art Festival held in historic Old Town. This festival featured over 225 artists from across the continent. Next, I attended the Taste of Randolph, a food and music festival similar to the Taste of Chicago, but on a much smaller scale. As summer progressed, I took the challenge to the south side where I attended house music’s signature summer event, The Chosen Few Old School Picnic.  This event is held in Hayes Park and takes place during the Fourth of July holiday. This was my third time in attendance and it gets bigger and better every year. Next, I headed back to the western suburbs and attended Naperville’s Rib Fest. This event is also held during the Fourth of July holiday and expands over four days. My final festival of the summer took place at Lincoln Park’s Hot Dog Fest. I stepped far outside of my comfort zone by trying a hot dog for the first time in 30 years. Yeah I know, pretty groundbreaking.  And in between my summer “festivaling”, I reacquainted myself with Oak Street beach, a Chicago attraction I haven’t enjoyed since my childhood. Sunbathing on the beach with my city’s beautiful skyline as the back drop was everything.

Saying Goodbye

After experiencing one of the best summers I’ve had in years, travel and adventure came to a screeching halt when I experienced my biggest heartbreak ever, saying goodbye to my beautiful mother. Death is an event that you never see coming. It doesn’t send an invitation for you to prepare or RSVP. It just shows up on your doorstep completely uninvited and gives zero f*cks. My fall and winter itinerary suddenly became replaced by profound grief and sadness. Discovering my “new” normal and picking up the broken pieces of my heart has become my newest adventure. It’s all a very unwelcomed adventure, but still an adventure that most of us will face some day nonetheless. Looking back, I came into 2016 feeling empowered and inspired. Although my year took a tragic turn, I still find joy in the goals I was able to accomplish. I find solace in the positive experiences I was able to create and the possibility of inspiring at least one person to create some positive experiences of their own. I’m not sure what’s in store for 2017, but the only thing that keeps me optimistic is my desire to continue living the way my mother wanted. She lived vicariously through my adventures and I look forward to honoring her memory by creating more awesome experiences in 2017.  Sure, it’s dark now, but joy comes in the morning. Let’s hope the sun shines brightly in 2017 with more travel and adventure.






What is the cure for wanderlust…when you can’t “wander”?


Last week, as a favor, I picked up a friend from the airport. As I made my exit to O’hare, I couldn’t help but feel kind of sad. The last time I stepped foot on a plane was in June when I went to Dallas for my birthday. My last international trip was back in April when I went to Iceland. Outside of that, I haven’t traveled anywhere. And while I realize life is all about perspective (some people haven’t traveled beyond their zip code…not travel shaming, just stating fact), I had higher expectations for myself this year.  I mean, I launched a brand and blog this year dedicated to travel. How can I promote travel, if I’m not…well…traveling?  But hey, it happens to the best of us.  One minute you’re on a traveling roll then boom…life happens.  Meanwhile, in the midst of sulking and feeling sorry for myself, my social media outlets have been LIT with friends globetrotting this year. Thailand, Dubai, Greece, Colombia, Brazil, Paris…they’re doing it this year. And I’m happy for them. It makes me happy to see others winning, even when I feel like I’m losing at the moment.  My life’s motto is this: If I eat steak and lobster, I want everyone to eat steak and lobster.  If I have to eat Spam, I still want everyone else to eat steak and lobster.  I want us all to win. But in the meantime, how does one cope with wanderlust when they can’t “wander”..at the moment?

Be a tourist in your town

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about being a tourist in your town (you can read it here: #TouristInMyTown) for the summer. Well, this applies year round.  There is so much culture right in our backyard that we seldom take the time to appreciate.  Spend a day being a tourist and checking out the landmarks, museums, and festivals in your city. I’ve come to learn that we usually abandon these outings after departing our school years, only to return when we’re under “obligation” to do so. I haven’t been to the Museum of Science and Industry since I was 17. I lived just a few blocks away for 13 years, but never visited. I should really go. (<=see what I just did there).

Do a local “staycation”

Treat yourself to a hotel deal on Groupon or Living Social. This gives you the opportunity to rack up hotel rewards to use for your next BIG vacation. It also allows you to check out different hotel chains without spending a fortune. You can make a full weekend out of it. Book a room, go see a play/concert, have a spa day, try a new restaurant. You can also use Groupon and Living Social to find deals on the activities I just mentioned.

Plan a day trip

Are there any nice attractions that are within 2 to 4 hours proximity to where you live? For example, if you live in Chicago, the wineries in Galena and Michigan are a great option for a day trip. Or, maybe you want to try something more adventurous like hiking?  Starved Rock is a great option for my Chicago people.

 Buy a cheap flight to a domestic city

Take advantage of flash flight sales and try visiting a domestic city you’ve never been to before. Every once in a while, a friend of mine will check Google ITA and buy the lowest ticket regardless of the destination. Contrary to popular belief, there’s so much to see and experience within our borders. Again, this allows you to rack up miles to use for future travel.

Stay inspired/Stay encouraged

Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t kill your joy by comparing your travel adventures (or lack thereof) to other people. Life happens. Whether it be work, school, finances, or illness, life challenges and obligations sometimes have to take priority over collecting the next passport stamp.  But remember this: change is constant and it’s all temporary.  Just because you’re not traveling as much as you’d like at the present moment, doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming or lose your will. Keep adding destinations to your travel bucket list. Keep planning your next BIG getaway. Stay connected to your passion and be grateful for all of your travel experiences, big and small. This too shall pass…



Aruba 2013 “Believe in Yourself”


#TouristInMyTown: Wells Street Art Festival


So this past weekend, I kicked off my #TouristInMyTown Summer Challenge at the annual Wells Street Art Festival. Usually held the second full weekend of June, the event takes place in historical Old Town, on Wells Street between Division and North Ave.  Sidebar: For almost 3 years, I used to work on the same block as this event and never ever attended SMH!!!

The Wells Street Art Festival features over 225 artists from across the continent with an estimated 50,000 patrons in attendance over the entire weekend . Many of the disciplines represented include: traditional painting and sculpture, artisan woodworking and metalsmithing, jewel craft, and digital arts. There is also live entertainment, a children’s play area, and over 20 food and drink vendors from most of the restaurants in historic Old Town. The festival is located in close proximity to Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, walking distance from North Avenue Beach, and very accessible via public transportation.  The cover charge is usually based on whatever donation you would like to give.  This year, they requested $7.00 from each attendee. The gate donations support various community organizations and causes such as homeless services, local schools, hunger initiatives, health education, and arts and culture organizations.

Overall, this event made my weekend. It was peaceful and the first Saturday that we saw 90 degree weather.  And, I also appreciate the festival’s efforts in providing a social platform for unknown and upcoming artists to share and promote their work to those of us that don’t usually get the opportunity to enjoy it.

For vendor or sponsorship opportunities regarding next year’s festival, please visit their website at http://www.wellsstreetartfest.us/#!contactus/c24vq