That Time I Went Quiet Clubbing in NYC

I’ve never been as fond of clubs as most of my peers seem to be. After half an hour, the music selection gets annoying, the crowds are overwhelming, and it’s hot. I’m normally ready to go before the hour mark. … Continue reading

Traveling with Afro: Tips, Tricks , and Avoiding Awkward Moments

My afro is my favorite part of my body and , no matter where I go, it always causes heads to turn. If I’m in certain places abroad, it’ll also cause a lot of unsolicited stares,questions, and even touching. And don’t even get me started on the trying to find the right products to keep the ‘fro presentable and healthy.

The Afro

The Afro

Luckily, I’ve developed an arsenal of tips and tricks  to care for my hair and deal with the awkward moments abroad.

First , the tips:

Tip #5: If you can’t find it in the supermarket, pack it.

Many of my must-have hair products double as cooking ingredients. Because I know I’ll be able to find them in most markets I never worry about packing things like olive oil or mayonnaise for long trips.

Things that are a bit harder to find and always go in my luggage are Shea butter, castor oil, and shampoo and conditioner specifically made for my hair type.

Tip #4: Utilize travel size containers for short trips

If I’ll only be away for a short amount of time, I don’t worry about finding all of my usual products. I’ll pick out two or three that I can’t live without  and  squeeze them into a travel-sized container.

Tip #3: Wear Protective Styles

I always wear my hair in twists or braids because it’s easier to manage. Instead of waking up early every  morning to detangle the inevitable night-time knots, moisturize, and style I just fluff out the twists, spray a bit of moisturizer, and I’m out the door.

Tip #2:  Wear “flat”styles to avoid TSA searches 

For whatever reason, the TSA is very unforgiving when it comes to puffy,big hair like mine. Even when I braided it or scooped into a bun , I was still ended up with a pair of gloves shifting through my curls. However, on my last trip through an airport, I pulled my twists into a low pony tail and then gathered all the loose hair into one braid. I went through security uninterrupted. I think the key to avoiding awkward hair pat downs is to style it in as flat a way as possible. Think french braids,corn rolls, etc.

And speaking of awkward hair moments…

I’ve definitely experienced a few.

*Near Cordoba,Spain I was encircled by a group of women who took turns tugging at my twists.

*In a checkout line in Korea, I handed the cashier money and she responded by reaching up and , again, pulling my hair. ( as a side note, why must everyone pull?)

*While waiting in line for the bathroom on a flight, I felt someone massaging my scalp from behind. I turned around and asked the tiny Asian woman doing the massaging to stop but she only gave me a thumbs up before continuing as soon as I turned back around.

When traveling , I’m so focused on experiencing different cultures and people that I forget that I’m just as new and interesting to others. This was probably the biggest shock for me when I moved to Asia;people would gasp, follow me, and pull their cars over to take pictures at red lights .It took me a while to realize that in certain places, people who look like me – with dark skin and kinky,big hair – aren’t an everyday sight.I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the staring but one thing I have become quite comfortable with is saying “No” when people touch my hair.

The first few times the hair-touching accidents happened, I was afraid to do more than walk away. I didn’t want to come off as the “Rude American” or “Angry Black Woman”. Then I realized that if I was going to do the solo travel thing, I would have to get used to protecting my property. And that includes my body, and by extension, the hair.

So my #1 tip to anyone traveling with afro is to never be afraid to say STOP or NO if someone if touching you without permission. It may only be hair but it’s still yours.

 

Have you had any awkward hair moments while traveling? Share them in the comments!

 

 

 

 

3 Dumb A** Travel Mistakes I Continue to Make

I’ve just returned from my first trip to the West. I loved the heat and palm trees ( two things we just don’t have on the East Coast) but now that I’m back in the comfort of my bed, I can’t help thinking about how I could have made the trip better. Though I’ve been traveling for nearly two years and returned from my first solo trip overseas alive and with all my belongings, I still make mistakes…sometimes expensive ones.

Here’s some of the most recent travel mistakes I regret the most

Mistake #1:  Taking Emergency Cabs

photo credit:gettyimages.com

photo credit:gettyimages.com

Back in April, I was in Amsterdam. For a reason I don’t remember, I didn’t buy the round-trip train ticket from the airport to Central Station. Fast forward three days and I found myself at the station at  4 in the morning surrounded by closed customer service desks and with an American credit card that wouldn’t work in the  automated ticket booth. Because I also read my boarding pass wrong, I thought I had an hour to make my flight. Long story short, I ended up taking a 70 dollar cab ride to the airport.

A round trip ticket would have on caused me 16 US dollars.

I made a similar mistake leaving Vegas yesterday.

I had already scheduled a shuttle to take me to the airport and as my hotel was all the way at the other end of the strip, I caught a taxi to get me there in time. The driver, who only paused his phone conversation to ask me where I was going, drove halfway there before I told him the meter wasn’t running. He wanted me to pay him the “normal ” fare but I wasn’t using cash and just paid what the meter said.

I was too busy averting his death stare to check the seat as I normally do and I was at the airport before I realized I didn’t have my passport. It must have fallen out of my bag when I was searching for my wallet. After calling the cab company , the driver brought me my passport but , of course, the meter was about 15 dollars higher than it should have been. He had added the “normal” fare from before.

The cost of using my passport for a domestic trip and then leaving it in a questionable taxi? 50 US dollars.

Mistake #2:  Relying on ATMs

photocredit:gettyimages.com

photocredit:gettyimages.com

I was so excited to start traveling within the States because I figured it would be much cheaper. I made my budget and celebrated when I didn’t have to allot for exchange rates and conversion fees. What I should have thought about , was the fact that I’d be splitting taxis and checks and giving tips for ever service imaginable. The result was a handful of trips to the ATM and more than a handful of fees.

Mistake #3: Not Planning with Co-Travelers

photo credit: gettyimages.com

photo credit: gettyimages.com

When I’m solo, I don’t do much beforehand except for looking up directions. I have the whole day to do whatever I want, whenever I want and rarely leave a place without crossing the most important things off my to-do list. When you travel with others, as I did in Vegas , you not only have to take others’ interest into account but also their sleeping/eating/bathroom schedules, budget, and other eccentricities. Looking back, I feel like we only did a few of the things we planned on doing. Things I though would only take a few hours turned into half-day activities.

Next time, I’ll definitely sit down with co-travelers and have a solid plan before departure.

So, to my future self: take out cash before leaving, do not carry your passport on a domestic trip, and have a plan when traveling with others. And for the love of everything good in life, do whatever it takes to avoid taxis to the airport.

What are some of your travel mishaps …and how did you recover?

4 Apps To Make Life in Korea Easier

Two months into the Korea adventure and I’m finally starting to feel settled. I know the bus routes, can get to the supermarket with my eyes closed, and finally got a cell phone! Because of the language barrier, I spent a month and half trying to find the elusive English-speaking  store all the foreigners here go to. Now that I have my phone , I’ve been putting it to good use. Here are the 5 apps that have made the transition to life in Korea so much easier.

Translator With Speech

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Any old translator app will do but using this one is as simple as typing and clicking. Just type in your native language and the app will translate it and say it out loud if you desire. No lie-I use it every time I leave the house.

Retro Camera

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This apps has different camera settings and filters to make perfect pictures. There are different settings for close-ups, panoramas, portraits, and any other type o f picture you can think of. 

Learn Korean

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I use this when I’m waiting on the bus. It’s an easy and simple way to pick up basic vocabulary quickly. The categories range from essential sayings to travel to numbers ( the hardest part of the Korean language in my opinion)  . The only problem I have so far is that some of the sayings don’t  match with the Korean phrases I pick up living here. Either I’m learning the slang or the Learn Korean sayings are very formal and possibly outdated.

OTO-International 

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Everyone in Korea is obsessed with the app  Kakao Talk. The app allows for free texting and calling as long as both users download the service. I use it all the time but OTO-International trumps it in one major way: You can make free international calls to both cell phones and landlines. I love this app because it makes getting in touch with my 80- year- old nana –who doesn’t use the computer- easy and , most importantly, free. The free call feature only works in certain countries. Luckily, Korea is one of them.

If your outside of Korea, you can pay for this service or use  a more mainstream app like Skype.   

* Do you know of other good apps for expats? Share below!

3 Ways to Spend Christmastime in New York City

Back in NYC, Christmas is once again in the air. The coffee shops I love to frequent have added yummy seasonal treats to their menu, window displays are decked out with fake snow and giant bows, and ,of course, one can’t … Continue reading

Indulge that Wanderlust Thing

           Most of my energy these days is devoted to finding ways to travel. The most obvious thing to do would be to grab a credit card and book the first all-inclusive package I find. Unfortunately, limited funds (and by limited I mean none) make that option near impossible right now. Luckily, if there is one thing I do have it is a persistence to aim for things out of my reach. So, with a lot research and a little creativity, I found some ways to indulge the need for travel.

1)  Spread your knowledge

Despite the economic issues affecting most of the world right now, many countries are still willing to pay native English speakers to teach the language to the natives. As someone who has studied a language overseas, this particular option is most appealing to me right now. In addition to earning money , you also get to explore your new surroundings and other nearby locations during breaks from school. The best thing about this option is the flexibility it offers; you can teach in one place for a year and then move on to the next job and place just in time for a new school year.

2)  Cruise or Fly for Free

If the option of being away from home for long periods of time isn’t that appealing right now, working for an airline, cruise ship, or travel agency is a good way to travel free or cheaply, in or inside the country, while also have a guaranteed and relatively quick way back home if need be.  

3)  Study Abroad  

Having studied abroad myself, I can say that this is the best option, especially for students who have never been overseas before and could benefit from a little assistance when it comes to things like making travel arrangements, getting your passport, and finding housing. Another bonus; your in the country of your choice for months at a time giving you a real chance to soak up the native culture and language.    

4)  Volunteer

Schools, Camps, Farms, Hospitals, Orphanages, and Humanitarian Organizations all host volunteers from around the world to both help and learn in their own countries. Keep I mind that these programs usually require the volunteer to pay for transportation and living expenses. The most popular example of this is the Peace Corps.

5)  Home Exchange

For those who actually own a home, this is a good way to see the world without having to worry so much about the home front.

6)  Get A Sponsor

A risky move, but some companies or goodwill organizations will fund your travel in exchange for publicity, permission to document an unusual adventure, or your promise to help either the business or communities you visit. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       7) Don’t Be A Skeptic 

So, it’s not a roundtrip ticket to Paris, but this year I won two free tickets to the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware. Not only is it a chance to see some of my favorite artists in person, (for free!) but its also a chance to travel somewhere I never been and try camping for the first time. There are always contests and giveaways that offer paid vacations and tickets to different events. It might seem like a scam or a waste of time but you might be rewarded for the simple act of trying.      

8) Pack Your Skills

If you have a skill that is worthwhile at home, chances are you’ll be able utilize it overseas or at least use it to fund your traveling. Think athletes, musicians, writers, doctors, architects etc.