Girls Trip: Which Urbantravelista are you?

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Finally, the long anticipated film Girl’s Trip debuts in theaters today (I know, it seems like we’ve been seeing the trailer forever).  In case you’ve been living under a rock, the film features Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifiah, Regina Hall, and newcomer Tiffany Haddish . The plot is very near and dear to my heart.  It follows the shenanigans and debauchery of four lifelong girlfriends during a New Orleans trip to Essence Festival. Now I’ve had my fair share of girlfriend getaways, a couple that also included Essence Festival.  As I reflect on those memories, I can’t help but think about the various personalities I’ve come across over the years. I also wonder how my girls have perceived me during our getaways.  My reflections led me to identify 10 common personalities you might come across on a girls’ trip.  Disclaimer: This piece is not intended to stereotype anyone, it’s all in jest. I found myself in a couple of these personalities. Which one(s) resonant with you?

 

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Complaining Travelista

Nothing will ever be good enough for this travelista.  She will complain from the time you narrow down a destination until you return home.   She’s going to complain about her seat assignment at check-in.  She’s going to complain about the turbulence during the flight,  the person sitting next to her, and the movie selections.  When you finally make it to your destination, she’s going to complain about her room assignment, the hotel/resort staff, and the food.  The beach will have too much sand , the ocean will have too much water, and her television won’t have enough English speaking channels.  If this travelista won a million dollars in the lottery, she would complain that it wasn’t a two million.  By the time you make home, you’re happy the trip is over to get a much needed break from her constant whining and complaining.

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Passive Aggressive Travelista

This travelista will have an attitude the entire trip.  Why? Is she upset because the resort didn’t look like the pictures? Does she have PMS? Is she upset because her boyfriend didn’t respond to her text messages?  Who the hell really knows because she won’t tell you. Don’t even waste your time prying. Because every time you inquire she will insist, with one word replies in between awkward silence, that she’s good.  But she’s far from good.  And she is pissing you off. Don’t completely write her off though, she makes an excellent companion on should you decide to book a getaway to the Twilight Zone.

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#TeamNoSleep Travelista

No one on your team gets the party stared like this travelista.  She STAYS in turn up mode.  She is truly the life of the party and can go non-stop. She has the best playlist on her iPhone.  Her outgoing and boisterous personality draws people in. When things go left, she’s the one to get everyone back on track.  She will not allow anyone (nope, not even you) to ruin her joy. She lives life to the fullest and is the queen of hook ups.  Your squad will never have to buy a drink or pay a cover with her on your team.

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Wandering Travelista

This free spirit breaks away from the group and does her own thing.  You might bump into her in passing with “new” people.  If it weren’t stopping by the room to shower and change, you would forget she was even a part of your squad. And when you all meet in the lobby for your airport pick-up, she’ll say with the most confused expression on her face, “I barely saw any of you”.

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Inexperienced Travelista

This travelista requires a lot of patience because the ink is still wet on her passport.  She’s the one that contacted you (the group leader) a million times with the same redundant questions.  Her carry on will be oversized and will she will have to check it.  She’s not familiar with TSA check-in policy and will be flagged for bringing prohibited items through security. Be nice though, we all have to start somewhere.

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Boring Travelista

There’s no way to make it any plainer, this travelista is just plain boring.  She doesn’t have a streak of adventure in her blood.  She doesn’t want to get her hair wet. She’s afraid to go jet skiing.  She wouldn’t be caught dead on the beach without a full cover-up.  And, since she’s afraid to try the food, her diet consists of burgers, chicken fingers, and fries.  She spends A LOT of time in her room.  Don’t bother pairing her up with #TeamNoSleep Travelista because she’s in bed by 8pm.

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Attached Travelista

This is the travelista that brings her work, home life, and problems along on every trip. She spends most of the trip Facetiming her partner and/or children and emailing her coworkers.  She’s attached to every single one of her communication devices.  She gives Facebook and other social media outlets a play by play of all of her “vacation” activities.  If the wifi is spotty at your destination, there will be hell to pay.

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Drama Travelista

This travelista can’t hold her liquor. Her drinking binge started in the Sky Lounge before boarding. This is the travelista that will embarrass you and get you held up in customs.  It’s not that she’s inexperienced or foreign to travel etiquette, she doesn’t give AF.  She’s prone to making a scene and loves attention, both positive and negative.  And, before you know it, she will turn your grown and sexy girls’ getaway into a college girls’ gone wild excursion quicker than you can say first class flight.

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Broke Travelista

I was going to use  the more politically correct term “frugal” to describe this travelista.  But, let’s keep it real. This travelista that had no business booking anyone’s trip and should’ve stayed home. If you coordinated the group trip, you probably had to track her down for each payment.  This is the one that probably compromised the entire trip for everyone else because of her slow payments.  She’s down to room with 6 other people in a single occupancy room.  She never tips the staff. She won’t participate in any excursions and she skips a lot of meals. She’ll order an appetizer and nibble off everyone else’s plate.  Advice:  Don’t invite her again.

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Runway Travelista

Also known as “Selfie” Travelista and “Can You Take My Pic Every 2 Minutes” Travelista. This travelista has over 20,000 followers on Instagram.  Her luggage is Gucci and LV. She does photo shoots in Agent Provocateur swimwear and her pictures are flawless.  You wore yoga pants, comfortable shoes, a baseball cap, and your favorite travel tee to the airport.  She wore Louboutin heels, 7 For All Mankind skinny jeans, with a beat face and her hair up in the perfect bun. And don’t bother jumping in her pictures, she will crop you out.

Looking back at these descriptions, I think I most definitely can relate to Attached travelista.  I mean, if it wasn’t posted on Facebook, it didn’t happen right? Hopefully, this piece brought back some great memories from your girl trips (I know it did for me).  If not, I hope it inspired you to plan a getaway soon with your inner circle.  My past girl trips have been a staple in my travels.  Over the years, I’ve strengthened friendships, created new ones, and even lost a few.  And regardless of where life and circumstance has taken us, I value and cherish those experiences.  In parting, from New Orleans to Iceland, I’d like to share a few memories from my many past girl trip adventures.

“Friends may change, but memories last forever.” ~Unknown

 

Celebrating mothers and travel…Happy Mother’s Day

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I’m not a mom and at this stage in my life, I doubt I will ever wear the title.  As an outsider, motherhood seems like one of the most challenging yet rewarding roles that a woman could ever take on in their lifetime.  It’s a gift and a blessing to ever be entrusted with such a role.  I admire mothers.  I admire their strength, courage, resilience, selflessness, and unconditional love.  I was lucky enough to have a mother that exemplified those qualities and more.  She loved her family without limits and no sacrifice was ever too great.  Growing up, she was always the first to wake up and the last to go bed making sure every need was met.  I miss her dearly.  If this blog seems like I’m rambling, it’s because I am.  My words aren’t very fluid today, as this is my first Mother’s Day without her in the “physical” sense.  I miss her presence.  I miss her making me laugh.  But, instead of being sad today, I wanted to immerse myself in things and memories that bring me joy.  And one of the things that brings me joy and seeing photographs of moms introducing their children to travel. Leading by example, mothers show their children that all goals are attainable and nothing is impossible. This blog entry is a dedication to mothers around the world, including my very own watching over me.  Here’s to mothers giving the world and showing their children world all at the same time.  N’joy!

 

Don’t fear travel, fear NOT living

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A new year, new U.S .presidency, and new travel concerns.  It’s no secret 2017 has ushered in new and uncertain times.  A couple of weeks ago, when our president (yeah, I’m in still in shock too) issued the first travel ban against immigrants, many fellow travelers expressed concern and even panic.  With an upcoming trip to Cuba and Iceland, many people hit me up inquiring about my thoughts on traveling abroad.  Am I going to cancel?  Is it safe?  Am I afraid of experiencing any anti-American sentiment when traveling abroad?  Well, yes and no.  There will always be a fear that something could happen when I crossover into international territory, but it’s no greater than the fear I experience when I drive to work every day.  Looking at the data and statistics, I probably have a greater chance of being killed in a mass shooting at my local shopping mall or movie theater, than being killed in a terrorist attack abroad.  So what will I do?  How will I proceed?  I plan to do exactly what I’ve always done:  be aware, stay informed, and practice common sense.   While others are hesitant, I plan to continue to live. And there is absolutely no judgment towards those that choose to pull back on their travel experiences.  At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you and your comfort level.  Hopefully, the following tips can help guide you in your decision making and ease your fears when it comes to traveling abroad.

1. Enroll in the STEP program

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The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  As a participant, you can receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, allowing you make informed decisions about your travel plans.  Participation can also help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. And you can also help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

2. Travel alerts/warnings

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The U.S. State Department issues travel warning and alerts and updates information on their website regularly.  This site is helpful in guiding your destination choices.  A travel warning is often long term and in place until the situation resolves itself. A travel warning can include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks.  A travel alert is short term and usually related to an election season or a health alert, such as an influenza outbreak.

3. Turn off the Television

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Stay informed, but don’t become obsessed.  I am a firm believer that the very thing we focus on the most shapes our reality. Constantly watching the same negative news reports over and over again only reinforces the very thing you want to avoid.  It incites and fuels fear.   If I governed my life based on the news, I’d never leave my house…and I’m just talking about the “local” news.  Be aware of what’s going on around you, but don’t let it overwhelm you or take hostage of your life. There is always the risk that something can happen.  It can happen abroad or right in your own back yard. Life is risky, live anyway.

3. Communicate/Check-In

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Communicate your travel plans to your family.  Provide them with a copy of your itinerary, flight/lodging information, excursion information, and copy of your passport.  While I’m a proponent of remaining unplugged and disconnected when traveling, it’s a good a do to check-ins, through social media.  If something happens, your loved ones will have a time line and information on your last known location.

4. Roadtrips/Domestic travel

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If you’ve decided that traveling abroad isn’t for you right now, it doesn’t mean you have to stay grounded. There are a plethora of things you can do right here on U.S. soil.  Take a road trip and visit some of those landmarks that remain unchecked on your bucket list.  Spend a weekend in New York and catch a Broadway play. Consider catching a flight deal and attending a music or film festival in a city you’ve never been visited before.  The possibilities really are endless.  Last summer, I launched the Tourist in My Town campaign.  This campaign provides tips on how to take advantage of the tourism opportunities right in your own backyard. If you didn’t participate last summer, this is the perfect time to put it into practice.

Safe travels and wishing you the best in 2017!

 

@urbantravelista 

A dedication to my Sorors and Sistergreeks…yes, We TRAVEL!

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Last week, my intention was to post this blog as a dedication to my beloved sorority’s Founders’ Day.  But this adulting thing just won’t let me be great.  With most black Greek sorority’s celebrating Founders’ Day last week (the founding anniversary date of our respective sororities), I wanted to recognize my beautiful sorors and fellow sistergreeks making strides and globetrotting all over the world. We’ve come a long way in opportunities since our founders set the path for us over a century ago. I’m sure they never fathomed that sisterhood, service, and excellence would be reflected all over the world today. Actually, I take that back.  Of course they knew.  Our founders were pioneers and visionaries. They dreamed big without limits.  They saw beyond the mental walls and ceilings of defeat and “it can’t be done”.  And not only am I happy to be part of such a glorious legacy, but I’m happy their legacy can be seen around the world today. So, without further ado, I bring you the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho. Young, black, educated, and TRAVELED.  Note: If one sorority seems more represented than others, it wasn’t intentional.  I “pinky” swear LOL.

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@passportprissy at Big Red Sand Dunes, Dubai (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@tanzamerican1920 at the Colosseum in Rome (Zeta Phi Beta)

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@starrdevereaux at the Chichen Itza in Mexico (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@esha_diva10 at the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Delta Sigma Theta)

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@ms_nicky at Los Cabo Mountain Top (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@raegaddy in Pont de l’Alma (Sigma Gamma Rho)

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@sassybebe30 at The Hamptons, New York (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@alexisaifa13 at Koh Phi Phi Beach, Thailand (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@jasheceo in Costa Rica (Delta Sigma Theta)

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@viva.la.vina at Christ de Redeemer in Rio, Brazil (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@blktraveladdict at the Taj Mahal (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@chakalate_mamihlapinatapai at Copocabana Beach in Rio during the 2016 Summer Olympics (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@curlsandcouture in Indonesia (Delta Sigma Theta)

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@poshandpumps, Chacchoben Mayan Ruins (Delta Sigma Theta)

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@jorilacour at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Rome, Italy

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@queennadiaa in Capetown, South Africa (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@pearlsofarabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@tydomo_45 at the Royal Palace in Seoul, Korea (Alpha Kappa Alpha)

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@i_carlii at Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland (Sigma Gamma Rho)

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@encassilating at the Cathedral-Basilica de Nuestra in Spain (Zeta Phi Beta)

@urbantravelista 

So long 2016: 20 moments in travel that inspired us all

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While 2016 may have not been the greatest year for many of us, it certainly was another great year for travel.  It’s no secret that Instagram has been my “go to” for travel inspiration. From celebrities to regular people like you and me, your travel experience is incomplete if it wasn’t captured and re-posted on Instagram.  From the sandy beaches of the Caribbean to the sandy desert of the United Arab Emirates, Instagram has graced us with some of the most spectacular travel images from women all over the globe.  These women represent freedom, empowerment, and embracing the unknown. These women are fearless and live by the creed of “creating the life you deserve.”  It was hard to narrow down, but here are 20 travel moments that inspired me the most in 2016:

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That time @stripesofjoy sat on that camel fearless and unafraid in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

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When @gabunion scaled the Great Wall of China and did it so effortlessly

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When @mmikaelajoy showed us how life imitates art in Aruba

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When @crissyluv to fine dining to a whole new level in the Maldives

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When @_bawsey and the squad held each other down in front of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Chichen Itza in Cancun

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When @juliembaby gave us squad roadtrip goals through Texas

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When @virginalovers gave us squad goals in the sandy desert of Dubai

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When @latoyaluckett showed us how to play your hand and how to play it well

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When @ellegee08 showed how to embrace the beauty of the Musee du Love in Paris, solo style 

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That time @itsrhee60 made us jump for joy at the Taj Mahal

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When @ashcaldc served us pretty girl squad goals in Rio De Janerio

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That time @oneika showed us how the beauty of living in the now in Monument Valley, Arizona

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That one time @beyonce gave us motherhood goals with Blue Ivy in Paris

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When @enikobaby gave us bridal squad goals when she became Mrs. Kevin Hart in Punta Cana

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When @brienneyvonne made Old Havana look beautiful and new

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When @passportprissy repped that AKA in Dubai

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When @livinglifetravel inspired us to relax and let go at Volcan del Totumo in Cartagena, Colombia

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When @solarkimmy showed is how to take the perfect selfie while swimming in the waters of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

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When @naturally_nakyia broke the internet and gave us natural hair squad goals in Punta Cana

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When @janique_jaja let us know the we will never forget losing Prince (Liverpool)

Urbantravelista | Experiences over things: Changing Christmas tradition

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My Christmas morning looks vastly different than it did years ago. From childhood through my young adult years,  I’d wake up at my parents’ house anticipating this day. After exchanging gifts, we would put on our best and head over to my grandmother’s house. When it came to cooking, she hosted most of the big holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  My family and I would arrive greeted by a host of other family elders and close family friends. There would be so many people that you couldn’t find a place to sit. But fast forward to today, that picture is only memory. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Over the years, my family has gotten smaller. Those family elders that would reach into their pocket to give me a dollar or a peppermint complete with the tightest embrace have passed on. And, unfortunately, I never had a family of my own to extend those traditions. Each year, the gathering is smaller. And this year, we lost a significant part of our tradition, my mother. On a brighter note, my nephew joined our family in 2009 and we’ve been able to keep the childhood aspect Christmas alive through him. But I know he won’t experience that same traditions my brother and I experienced growing up. My grandmother was significant part of Christmas. But, his grandmother is no longer here. This led me to ponder if we should continue it at all. Maybe it’s time to let go of what was and try something new. Maybe we should consider traveling during the holidays?

It seems like more of my friends are choosing to travel with their children and loved ones instead of celebrating Christmas the usual way. One friend of mine opted not to buy presents at all. Instead, she packed up her kids to spend the holidays at Disney. Another friend of mine opted to surprise her middle age son with a trip to an unknown destination out of the country. Growing up, I would never fathom spending Christmas this way. Run me my Guess jeans and Sony CD walkman LOL. But with our family becoming significantly smaller, I think about providing these alternatives for my nephew. Would he value spending Christmas on foreign land learning about other cultures over a new pair of Jordan’s and set of Pokeman cards? Probably not LOL. But who knows, he might surprise us. I guess we’ll find out once we try.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday season. Regardless of how to choose to honor your traditions, cherish them and your time with your loved ones. Traditions may change or fade away, but your memories will never die.

@urbantravelista

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Urbantravelista: 2016 Year in Review

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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!

 

Golfing

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.

 

 

 

@urbantravelista