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

 

Urbantravelista | Adulting: Getting through the things we never asked for

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While perusing one of my favorite social media outlets, a friend of mine posted the following question: “Honestly, does anyone REALLY feel you’re truly succeeding at this adult business?”. It didn’t take long for me to respond with all of the nopes I could find. I’m just 6 days shy of my 44th birthday. And, after much reflection and introspection, I can truly say that I’m failing miserably at adulting. And nothing supports my claim better than the last several months. Life is funny. After experiencing the most devastating loss ever (losing my mom), I thought the Universe would maybe reward me with a break. I mean, that’s what happens in the movies? The person goes through this horrendous challenge then life is gravy again, right? They find the love of their life, win the lottery, quit their job and travel the world? Yeah, in the “movies”. But in real life, NO! To shed some perspective, the last several months have felt like a game of kickball, with me being the ball. For starters, my grandmother has suffered a myriad of health challenges over the last few months. In my mother’s absence, I am now the matriarch of the family. I’m the listening ear, the conflict and problem solver, and the “go to” person. I could say the politically correct thing, like “it’s an honor to have this role and I’m so open to the task”. But I’m far from politically correct. So I’ll be transparent because that’s all I know how to be. This is a role I wanted no parts of, at least not for another 20 years. I’m still a kid myself. My routine work days have been replaced with sudden runs to the emergency room. My social life has been replaced with taking care of my grandmother. I cancel plans at the last minute. In fact, these days I rarely commit to anything at all because I don’t know what health emergency is gonna come up. The structure I once had in my life is gone. Every day is unpredictable. I launched a travel and apparel business with lackluster response. I don’t blog or write as often because my passion is slipping away. My laptop died this week (yeah, it was almost 10 years old, but still). And due to my own fault, I lost a 13 year friendship this week. AND, on top of all of that, I’m still dealing with my own grief. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. So no, I don’t feel like I’m succeeding at this adult business. Enduring maybe. But succeeding? Absolutely NOT.

When my mom passed away, I was often provided with the following platitude: “God never puts more on you than you can bear”. I guess this is supposed to comfort people in their time of confusion, heartache, and pain. But it really doesn’t. I know people have the best intentions when they attempt to comfort you with such phrases. I totally get it. But maybe people simply “bear it” because jumping from a bridge isn’t an option for them…yet? Who really wants to bear hardships, failure, and loss? Thanks God, but I don’t want to bear it. I want no parts of it. If I can’t bear prosperity, love, or even just one week when all hell doesn’t break loose, take it back or give to someone else. Now to clarify, this isn’t a “woe is me” or look at how terrible my life is piece. Because in spite of my challenges, I don’t view my life as being terrible. It has it’s rare high moments. Tough breaks come with the territory of living and life could always be worse. I know this. The intent of this piece is to let those of you that feel like you’re failing at adulting know that you are not alone and that there are solutions to help you through the storm.

So how do I stay grounded in the midst of chaos? I’m glad you asked:

Live in the moment

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Next week is my birthday and have some down time planned. The one thing about loss and challenges is that it makes you recognize what is truly important. My birthday plans have gone from planning an international trip to a spa day to now, a week of being home doing absolutely nothing. Life has been so chaotic for me lately, that all I want is a couple of days of uninterrupted quiet time. But with my grandmother’s unpredictable health status, I know that my birthday may be spent with trips to the emergency room and hospital. And if it happens, oh well. I will deal with it if it comes. I focus on the day and whatever task I have on my plate at the moment. Focusing on next week won’t hinder the bad that may come.

Practice gratitude

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At the beginning of the year, I began keeping a “gratitude jar”. Being that I was going into the new year without my mom, I thought this would be a challenge. But so far, I’ve been wrong. I bought a mason jar and fill it with at least one post it note of something good that happened or something I’m grateful for. At the end of the year, I will read each note and hopefully find that maybe I’m succeeding at adulting better than I thought I was. We’re only half way through the year, and my jar is 3/4 full!

Self-care

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This is paramount. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are totally useless to someone else. In order to accommodate everyone else, I found myself putting off much needed health screening and wellness appointments. I stopped going to the gym. I stopped eating clean. I stopped doing the things that I enjoy. I gained 10 pounds. I started slacking on my financial responsibilities and goals. None of this is helpful to me or the people in my life that need me. How can I help my grandmother if I’m in a hospital bed too? So, I’ve learned to try to carve out at least a few hours during the week to do something strictly for me. I treat myself to massage or a movie. I take myself out to dinner. I try to get in the gym at least one day a week. I take off from work when I have the time to do so and tell no one that I’m off. And I do all of this UNAPOLOGETICALLY. Because when those that we cared for are eventually gone, who will be here to take care of us? That harsh reality reinforced the need to stay in the best physical and mental state for as long as I can.

Release what you can’t control

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As I mentioned earlier, I lost a 13 year friendship this week. Although it was primarily my fault, I truly valued the person and the friendship. Without going into too much detail, I attempted make amends and owned my role in its demise. I really tried to make it right. But this person chose to write me out of their life, at least for now. I beat myself over this all week. But then I realized, I can only control my actions. I can’t force people to stay connected with me. Leaving is as much as their right as it is mine. I owned up to my mistake and tried to make it right. That’s all I can do. Release it and let it go. Because if it’s the Universe/God’s will for the friendship to be restored again, it will be.

Journal

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I’ve been journaling ever since I was in highs school. I use my journal to jot down my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and aspirations. It’s a great tool to write out your vision, goals, and affirmations. Journaling helps me vent and also helps my stay connected to my goals. It’s easy to lose sight of your dreams when you don’t write them down.

Therapy

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts even our best isn’t good enough. If you’re barely holding life together with a safety pin, it might be time to talk to professional. I sought counseling a few years ago when I through my divorce and just after my mom passed away. After that, I thought I could handle all of the challenges coming my way alone. I’ve always prided myself on handling everything on my own. I wore it like a badge of honor. But this time around, it was crushing me. Life was literally crushing my soul. If you look forward to sleep because you’d rather not endure your waking hours or you find yourself and passion for life slipping away, reach out for help. There is no shame in self care and ensuring your mind is well. Your mind is just as important, if not more than your body. Again, what good am I to those that need me if I’m in a mental institution or worst, an early grave because I couldn’t hold on anymore.

In conclusion, I hope this helps someone. I may not have the family I always dreamed of, the house with the white picket fence, or a million dollars in the bank. I may very well be failing at adulting. But I will always summa cum laude the hell out trying and overcoming.

@urbantravelista

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 

Urbantravelista | Five money saving ideas to fund your travel in 2017

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Let’s be real, it cost money to travel.  I don’t care how savvy a person claims to be, you need money to travel. Everyone has mastered their own budget travel hacks.  Some people rack up hotel points. Some people rack up frequent flier miles. And others subscribe to alerts or use apps to snag ridiculously low flight deals or error fares at a moment’s notice. Regardless of the scenario, you need money to book those flights and hotels to accumulate the needed points throughout the year.  You need to have funds available to catch that low travel deal or error fare.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a $100 round trip flight to the Maldives.  If you don’t have the funds readily available, your dream trip will remain just that, a dream.

I think the beginning of the year is a great time to implement a strategy to start saving for travel, especially if you’re looking to travel over the summer or for the holidays.  If you start in January and want a plan a getaway in June, you will have 6 months to prepare. If you want to take a family Disney vacation for the holidays, saving until June will at least give you hefty a down payment. Here a 5 ideas you might what to consider:

1. Digit

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Digit is a savings app that saves money based on your spending habits.  How does it work? First, the user connects the app to their checking account.  Digit will then analyze the user’s income and spending and transfer small amounts of money to set aside. They use 128-bit bank-level security, and do not store bank login information. Every 2 or 3 days, Digit transfer  money (usually $5-50) from your checking account to your Digit savings. According to their user agreement, they will never transfer more than you can afford, eliminating the risk of over-drafting your account. They also have a no-overdraft guarantee. You can access your money at anytime by simply sending a text message.  Digit will transfer your funds back to your checking account the next business day. They all unlimited transfers, with no minimums or fees.

My experience:  I started using Digit over the summer and can attest that it works.  I’m terrible when it comes to saving.  Money management has always been a challenge for me. Digit works for me because it withdraws the money in small amounts and operates on the “out of sight, out of mind” concept.  You’ll be amazed by the amount of money you will be able to save in such a short amount of time.

2. 52-Week Money Challenge

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The 52-Week Money Challenge surfaced on Facebook a couple of year ago. There are many variations of the challenge allowing you to save as much as $5,000 in one calendar year. The challenge involves putting away small amounts of money, based on a weekly schedule.  Depending on your discipline, you can put your money in a jar or canister or transfer it to the savings account of your choice.

My experience:  It works in the beginning, unless you’re REALLY disciplined. Unfortunately, I’m not that chick.  If you’re able to stick with it, I think it’s a great way to visually see your progress.  But by February, I usually end up dipping into my money jar for food delivery or gas to hold me over until payday LOL.

3. 5-Dollar Money Challenge

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The 5-Dollar Savings Challenge is similar to the 52-Week Money Challenge. Instead of following an established schedule, the strategy is to put away every 5 dollar bill you acquire throughout the year. Again, depending on your discipline, you can put it away a jar to be designated for your travel fund.  But what if you use your debit card and don’t utilize cash? You can opt to receive a 5 dollar cash back when you make a purchase and put it away.

My experience: I haven’t tried it yet. And since I struggle with the 52-Week Challenge, this one may not be for me.  But if you’re discipline enough, you can visually see your progress and over time, accumulate and nice egg.

4. Credit Union

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This is an oldie, but nonetheless still an effective savings strategy.  Take advantage of the credit union offered by your employer or the military (depending on your status). You can create a “vacation club” account. Contribute as little as $25 per pay period through pre-tax payroll deduction or manually transfer it to your account.

My experience:  It works for me. By utilizing the payroll deduction amount, I find I don’t miss the money. Again, out of sight out of mind!

5. High Interest Yielding Online Savings

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In lieu of a traditional savings account plans offered by your local bank, online banks offer high yielding savings options. With a higher interest rate on your return, you’re able to save more.  Most high yielding online savings account plans are just that: online.  Limited access allows you to stay disciplined. Without ATM access, you’re more likely to stay on track and use your account for it’s intended purpose.  You can link it to your primary account and schedule monthly deposits based on your payroll calendar or make manual deposits. And, there is usually no minimum deposit: Here are a few recommended by Magnify Money: Goldman Sachs (1.05%), Ally (1.00%), Synchrony Bank (1.05%), and Barclays (1.00%).

My experience: This strategy works.  I opened a Goldman Sachs account about a year ago and found it to be an effective way to save additional cash.  This account is perfect for people like myself that lack discipline, because limited access deters you from dipping into funds.

I hope these tips are helpful.  Depending on your level discipline, some will prove to be more effective than others.  Whatever strategy to use, I wish you much success and abundant travel and adventure in 2017!!

@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