Fast Forward To Now: Why I Stopped Blogging and Learned My "Place" In The World

So as you can see I took a long hiatus from my continuous photographic memoir of this summer. There are three reasons as to why. I would like to put them in no necessary order but then that would decrease the seriousness as to why I stopped blogging. So there is a main reason, a minor one and then something I can and will get fixed.


La Playa Part I - Barceloneta Beach

The pivotal turning point in our trip was the beach. It was the highlight of the overall experience. To finally get there meant the start of actual recreation. Imagine being in France among people and just being exposed to what we're supposed to like. Spain was about tying to find what we didn't know we liked. At least that was what it became for me. 


Travelin' Hygiene - Do "Other" People Use Washcloths?

What person gets excited about going to a strange place and showering? I don't. I am plagued with anxiety about it. Why? Washcloths. Yes. I said washcloths. That miniature towel to wash ones parts with. Sometimes it is folded over. Other times it becomes that warped "rag" laid across the faucet. I'm more of a fan of fluffy rolls or bundled stacks. I'm a tad more classy about mines. I also like to conceal them after use. Then I boil mines with bleach and repeat. So when traveling I do wonder how am I going to stay clean? 


Bebidas Buddy System

I dare anyone to go to Spain and not drink. I bet serious money that it will be impossible. You may involuntarily consume vermouth soaked olives or sherry bathed shrimp. I'm not saying you will get drunk and wind up in jail. I'm just saying you won't be able to avoid the temptation and allure of the Torres winery. Cruz Campos on tap. Shandy on the beach. I would even be as bold to say a non-soda drinker would be screwed. There will be days so hot the stores are out of bottled water but the Coke is ice cold. So is the Fanta and the Postabon. In my case, I'd been advised. I took an oath. I forgot the advice. I broke the oath. This while in the company of someone who was supposed to deter me from my faults. 


Fuck Tapas!

Now I know people travel to eat. It is the best way to know more about the culture of where you are visiting. However, it never occurred to me to travel for food sake. I didn't think about the opportunities in exploring a country through cuisine. I've always been rather open minded about food even calling myself a selective foodie. However, I do have issues. My nose is sensitive. I have redundant colon so I should be choosey. Texture is a problem for me so I may eat sushi one day and be completely turned off by something as simple as tomato seeds the next. Tapas was supposed to be an unintentional, easy way to explore Spain. It was also the most unfulfilling, expensive and nauseating way to explore Spain. I don't regret tapas. I'm happy I tried it once, twice ... four total times. After that I just wondered the streets hungry looking for any alternatives. One could never imagine how difficult it is to just find a decent burger in a world of Iberian ham and funny colored olives. Seriously, there are only so many things even a foodie can tolerate.


Money, Euros and Banking While Abroad

This is probably a little too far in the blog but that is what labels/tags are far. I hope you skipped ahead and found this gem of vital information. Sadly, I didn't get a lesson in world wide currency until abroad and two countries later. All I knew was my own countries money. I have only been mildly fascinated by the color & variety of international bills. My ignorance to currency exchange and the value of the U.S. dollar seriously hurt my spending ability while in Europe. I would encourage anyone embarking on a trip outside of their realm to research the comparing dollar before making any financial moves. Such moves do include any bookings of travel, accommodations or getting funds to spend while on your trip. Of course, I did make some specific financial moves well before I left but I'm afraid I didn't ask all the right questions regarding them. In order to save you precious time and a fair deal of money - here is what to do, say and ask BEFORE you leave.


Oh, Barcelona!

We booked a total of five days in Barcelona. It was the first week of July and the weather was right for it. Most every day it was 80 degrees with a slight overcast. By the afternoon the sun was out and sunglasses were a requirement. Barcelona teemed with an expected fashion sense. Totally unaware that Barcelona is a fashion capital and the epicenter of all things Spain - there was definitely something in the air. Women were well dressed, men were absolutely gorgeous, shops had guards and things just moved - fast. With the hustle and bustle there was pollution and noise, a lot of it. I found myself trying to process a vacation in a big city with so much going on. If you're looking to escape or relax, you would need a car or a spa appointment in Barcelona. There was plenty to do and see but you had to travel out a tad to getaway within one of Europe's largest cities.


Spain 101

Spain is an interesting country.There are beaches, mountains, deserts, valleys, gardens, forests, ghettos and suburbs. Surely, every country has a mixture of this but every city in Spain is so different. There is no east coast or big south that boasts the same everything. From the train on I found completely new weather, customs, foods and there was always something brand new. This is utterly confusing because you arrive with misconceptions. You expect for everything to be revolved around windy, rocky beaches and bullfighting rings. I didn't think tapas would be as primitive as it was. I didn't expect Spain to be as modern as it was. I truly didn't know what it was to be Spanish. There are really no parallels in North America. Surely, there are concepts and traditions that we have taken but we have diluted most of them. Honestly, Spanish culture is more than olives and flamenco. Spanish culture is about relaxation, luxury, high art, design and love. All the infusion into Hispanic, Latino, and Caribbean culture as we know it cannot even begin to compete.


Elipsos 477: The Overnight Trainhotel To Spain

We both found out about the Elipsos in May. Before then we both believed that travelers would get a train pass that allowed for travel all over the European Union. This pass does exist with some very important exclusions. France has a wonderful train system ran by SNCF and trains leaving France are considered apart of the TGV system. However, France's train systems do not have to play nice with other countries regardless of the pass. When going to the SCNF and Eurorail websites, which coordinate tickets for international purchasers you will find a short video about the stipulations. Spain has Renfre/Adif and Italy has Italo so there is no way to interconnect from France even with a pass. The video explained how there was only the Elipsos for travel from France to Spain and alternate means like ferries and flights to Italy. This is why we had to reverse our plans from Italy first to Spain. We also had to forgo the global or Eurail pass and stick to individual train tickets. We would head out to Barcelona, use Renfe within Spain to travel Costa Del Sol figuring out Italy later.

Hello From The Distance Future ... The Elipsos/Trenhotel took its final journey that December in 2013. If you want to do anything remotely like it there is now a friendly six hour train connection between SCNF and Renfre. You can also take a Flix Bus or fly. 


Being The Bigger Person (Looking Back)

Only now can I find a solution to every problem. Only now can I turn every scenario around. Isn't that how things always wind up? You have an altercation, make a mistake or take the low road and then find an alternative to avoid whatever just happened. In our case - bitchiness, immaturity, excessive travel and money issues just heightened everything. There was no time to settle, own up to things and properly react. Well, no one decided to be the bigger person and make the time. I expected for us to "quarrel" for lack of better words. I knew being in close quarters and under the stress of travel would create disagreements. I was ready for that. I was also open to discussions and compromise but that never happened. My biggest mistake was taking my feelings elsewhere than to her. Her biggest mistake was resenting me up front for merely being there.


City Highlight: Nantes

Let me spring back to my stay in Nantes. Having stayed there just short of a month I had plenty of time to explore and learn about the city. First of all, Nantes is pronounced nahnt. The city is an amazing mix of Medieval old world, Britagne rule and French moderne. I've mentioned how Nantes appeared to be a mini Paris and in actuality it is far from it. Surely, Paris has neighborhoods, historical landmarks and cultural spots but it isn't moving like Nantes. Nantes is bustling yet small. The city is constantly working to NOT be Paris. Nantes boasts an epic public transportation system, a city-wide green campaign and a supportive arts community. The outcome is a city on the brink of next all the while keeping it extremely real and very old French. 


Things I Left In Nantes - Rewinding Back To w/e June 29th, 2013

That last week in Nantes was an evaluation. I'm strumming through my things and packing up a myriad of mementos. I'm checking all the drawers in the room, finally strumming through tourist books and hoping I haven't missed anything - be it a stray sock or an art installation. Meanwhile my friend and I are going in opposite directions. I found myself in that apparthotel a lot. The weather was seriously the worst. It was always raining, with a nasty overcast and ending with a bitter cold. Pretty much the good days were over. Fete de Musique was last weekend. The BBQ was that Sunday so all goodbyes were had with the dancers. I'd also sat most of that night playing Candy Crush Saga. I did this while everyone was enamored with watching a tour video. That night I think her friend was finally over me. She gave me several looks of death during this BBQ now turned viewing party. Seriously, I didn't understand why someone would enjoy watching themselves unedited for nearly two hours. I was rather full, extremely tired and it was better for me to play a game on silent mode then fall asleep. For that I think I was punished. My friend claimed that she needed to bond with them. Then she had several dates lined up with him. So I was left to my own devices which were always flukes.

One day I walked to the Paradis mall hoping for wi-fi. It had no air conditioning and a wi-fi network that lasted about twelve feet. While walking back her friend claimed she saw me as she was driving past. I guess I was walking too fast for her to bother offering a ride. Another day I took the tram as far as it would go. I then walked an overgrown park looking for this rose garden the one dancer had told us about. Instead, I found several old bag ladies and graffiti. I wanted to get my last croissant amande and the bakery I liked most was closed over two days straight. I finally decided we could both go see the chateau. She asked could we wait for warmer weather so that took a few more days. When it was finally sunny I was asked to meet her over their house to do our last loads of laundry and bring over the "not taking" bag. Since her friend had the luxury of owning both a washer and dryer we could go castle hunting that same day. Their silly washer took nearly two hours to wash and the dryer an additional two hours to "steam dry". I figured we could easily do a load and be back by the Electrolux chime. So I got all dressed up and did my hair and makeup. I then schlepped all the way to her friends house with both my laundry and my bag of unnecessaries. 

When I arrived she wasn't even dressed. Yet I was wearing some statement necklace and had did my nails. I started our clothes while she looked at my huge duffle. Then she went to take a shower and upon her return I realized my whites were pink. They were pink from an orange scarf she had gifted me. Well not gifted me - she donated to me. She loved to donate things she didn't care for anymore. I typically re-gifted to my roommates and whatever they didn't want I officially donated without telling her. So I began to wonder could I go get bleach and get back in time for us to do anything at all. However, somewhere in between her judgement and my mistake she had mentioned that she wasn't going with me anywhere. That was the same night as her dinner and sleep over. So now I was dressed up with nowhere to go and being asked if I could hurry with my laundry so she could get to her date. I rode all the way to the store and got bleach and a sandwich. I ate my jambon & butter on the tram back because lunch and the chateau were now out of the question. Once back she left me to the laundry and I pretty much sat there for the next four hours. My clothes never got back completely white in the wash, so I put the clothes to soak in the sink and there in the kitchen I found a bottle of perfectly fine bleach in the cabinet. Once done with my laundry I put what I wasn't taking with the other stuff, packed the keepers in my new reusable bag from my unduly bleach trip and left the key under the mat for her friends. I then schlepped all the way back but now waiting for one of the last trams while cold in a sleeveless dress. 

The next day I met her in front of the chateau. We went to see some other temporary exhibits and then entered the castle itself. We then left abruptly and later I realized we'd missed half of the chateau due to some haste on her part. She had already woken up at his place. Then she accompanied him on his way to work. Now she was with me and could not stop talking about him. I asked could we have lunch and she informed me she was meeting him for lunch. Then when he said he couldn't meet her we went to a burger spot. However, now she was asking me should she get him something. When he declined that too she seemed pissed off. He said he was going home to eat and I think it bothered her that he wasn't willing to come out or take her hand outs. So we left the burger spot abruptly so she could catch him at home. We were leaving in the morning and in my eyes there was still so much to do. I'd forgot certain things at the hotel that should have been in my leave bag. She was also now responsible for money I had transferred to her and I needed some cash. So we're walking down the street and she's scolding me. Why did I need money? Why was I trying to add stuff to the bag? She then handed me a 20 from her wallet and proceeded to walk away from me. Her last words were "is that enough?" I think I walked the streets for all of an hour before going back to my hotel. I didn't even have enough change to take the tram legally. So I wound up dodging controle for a bit. Then it occurred to me to break the 20 in a nearby kebab shop. So two French Coke liters later I was schlepping again.

Once back at the hotel I realized I hadn't left much out. I just had some multi buy things like these Christian LaCroix tins and French Tic-Tac boxes I didn't necessarily need in Paris. I also had makeup I'd bought and I just didn't want to travel with loose pigment in glass jars. Besides all the major stuff like my Tous cross body purse, all my H & M skirts and long sleeved things were at her friends. Those were all things I wouldn't need. I didn't bother to double check. Besides she made sure to tell me how she'd already went through everything and merged it into her stuff. She didn't want to burden her friends with a lot since their flat was small and quite messy. All I got was an image of everything stuffed into my backpack which was originally inside of my duffel. So I ignored her for the remainder of the night, got drunk on French Coke and attempted to eat everything in my kitchenette. Anything left over including eggs and ramen noodles were placed in a donation bag for her friends. On the way to the train station I reminded her friend several times to make sure she got it out the backseat. In the back of my mind I imagined her stopping just outside of the train station and catapulting it all into trash. One could hope she'd forgotten and found garlic salad dressing and rotten eggs well after we'd gotten into Spain. I'll never know. 


Friends Are For Long Walks In Paris

In Paris, we waited over an hour for a cab to our first hotel. Then the cabbie pretended to not know St.Germain. Upon arrival the lobby was filled with a fashionable bridal party. Every single girl was rail thin, over 5 ft 8 and wearing a unique couture cocktail dress. Lets just say we were underdressed having traveled for two hours by train. We were supposed to have a champagne toast but were given a voucher to go get it. The room was gorgeous but we were afraid to open things assuming we would be charged. So we didn't wear the robes and no one touched the glass Evian bottle. We took a lot of pictures, connected to the wi-fi and took to the streets for a meal. Up the block we found a string of brasseries and cafes. We even sat at one that offered "American" food which consisted of awful sandwiches and breakfast all day long. I know someone told me about this magical pancake place but we weren't interested. We opted for a normale spot next door for baguettes and frites. However, this is where I experienced my first $10 USD soda and a true thon sandwich which was just tuna... seriously nothing else. There was a loud group of Americans discussing cloud computing and a Russian couple arguing over avocados. The ambience was a no. Gladly, the Seine was just across the street facing the Musee D Orsay. We waited for over an hour to get in just to be kicked out in less than two. Surely, we saw Degas but that was it. The place was hot, crowded and full of flash happy tourists. We walked the Seine, passed the Louvre and walked parallel to the famous jardins. Gladly so because they were all lined in dirt not moss and mazes like you imagine in story books. My friend had already been so she walked twenty feet ahead while I peered into shops and boutiques. I saw enough limoges to make me second guess the authenticity of my personal collection at home. We finally landed at Angelina's. She hadn't shut up about the place since visiting in May. It reminded me of that bakery in Disney's Magic Kingdom complete with white counters and snooty people scraping their plates. We got some little cakes and macarons to eat in the nearby park. There we were serenaded by a ferris wheel and a one legged pigeon. Thankfully, our hotel was just across the river and champagne seemed like it would complement our meal. 

Paris Isn't Burning But It Is Overrated

When it came time to go to Paris I'd already gotten used to the French mystique. So I was not as pleased with the major sites or turned on by it. I'd also grown so tired of French cuisine and longed for anything without butter, cheese or ham. I was also devastated with the amount of money I wasted within Nantes. I'd absorbed enough of France and didn't wager what I needed to enjoy other places. So after too many cafe au laits and tram rides I was lacking for Spain and Italy. Thankfully, there was enough money aside to enjoy Paris for what it was. I walked the same streets as Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso and Kanye West. I had Laduree macroons, walked the designers in Le Bon Marche and visited the Lourve to see the Mona Lisa. I've had a 7 Euro sparkling lemonade, paid over 300 Euros for a single night in a boutique hotel and walked over a mile for a noveau vegetarian hot dog. Paris is quite aware of how naive an American can be. They know the majority of us are seeking thrills and amusement. They also know we will pay anything for it no matter how lackluster. It kills me to say this, but Paris is one big amusement park - a sideshow if you ask me. If you are not in it for romance, artistic exploration or spiritual sabbatical you may get what you are looking for.

Now What? : Check-In Do's and Don'ts

While abroad, I stayed at ten different places in less than sixty days. One might say that isn't a lot if they travel often but for me it was unsettling (no pun intended). Two of these places were homes of a friend of a friend, two Air BnBs, one apparthotel, one brand hotel, two boutique hotels and two four star hotels. In all of these situations, there has been a check-in. I've arrived at a set and expected time. I've been introduced to a new space with its own rules and activities. I've gotten acquainted and relaxed. Then I freshen up to either go to sleep or leave for the days excursion. I guess you can say there is an unwritten code or a check-in etiquette for all stays alike be at a friends or a five star hotel

Hotels 101

In my lifetime I have never had to book a hotel. Like ever. Every single time I have traveled domestically someone else did the bookings and I just showed up. In the past five years, I haven't went anywhere that required a stay other than camping; which is camping. I don't even like online shopping. That notion is a huge indicator that online bookings are not my forte. I didn't even bother booking accommodations for myself until about three weeks before my trip. I made so many mistakes. I booked hotels on the edge of town. I booked hotels that were the definition of sketch. Sadly, I was just competing with my friend who was well-versed on booking shit. Every time we sat down to eat or got online the boxing round began on who booked what. I just didn't want to admit how bored I was of it and how I just didn't know my resources.

Frenchy 101

France is a heavenly place. France is a bazaar place. We agreed early on that bazaar was the most ideal word for it. The country is immersed in itself, its people and its random yet welcoming culture. Words cannot describe some of the things I witnessed while within its borders. I can't be sure about the east or south but the north and west of France is nothing short of fascinating. There were quite a few things to learn and sort of get used to. Lets just say travel books and movies didn't assist. There is a sort of reverse preparation you need to handle France beyond the duration of a few days. Honestly, there is a refinement you go into France expecting and you may even hold yourself accountable to simple etiquette. However, just pure manners are all you need. You'll rely upon everyday manners way more than where to put your napkin. 

Preventative Planning For Shit To Happen While On Vacation

When asked to accompany my friend it was all about France. Our original travel plans consisted of Nantes, Paris and that castle on an island from that one movie. Over the phone we dreamed up this plan to conquer most of Europe. I had my plans of seeing Sweden and Germany. She had her plans of seeing southern France and Costa Del Sol. We both mapped things in our own way. She had all these lists and I kept an ongoing document. When we finally sat together in NYC we re-routed everything. We sat down with maps and online reviews. We created an itinerary sending us west to Spain, then to Italy and back up through Belgium to London. She would have already been to London and Paris but would save the popular attractions for my arrival. Now we had air tight plans to have a weekend in Paris and a week in Londontown. Everything was open to change and ultimately we decided it would be better to return to Nantes skipping Belgium. Doing this would allow a slower pace back through the south of France. We would pass through Lyon and Versailles and finally see Mont Saint Michel (the castle). We would also save money going back to Nantes. Hopefully, we could stay with friends and eat-in. Besides Nantes was bitterly cold and we hadn't really seen Summer there. We would return in the first week of August refreshed from our trip and actually enjoy it this time.


Touche Touchet: Relationships and Romance Abroad

I honestly never had an opportunity to really clarify how I felt about everything that occurred in Nantes. I did mention how my friend and I totally discussed this happening or not happening rather - well before we left. I recall discussing this over the phone and in person. Most conversations surrounding the trip were between us coming home from work. Her walking to or from the subway and me in my car making random stops. I remember clear as day sitting in my car after work under the glowing lights of Publix. I explained that I hadn't had sex in a few years and I'd also found it very hard to get past the "getting to know each other" phase. I'm human first and foremost. I'm over 30 which is a very important factor in why I am single. I'm also Black which burdens me in the relationship leading to marriage department. I am okay with my own personal experiences and the statistics I face. I don't treat any of it like a death sentence and most of the time I'm content. However, I was quite concerned about going abroad with no action in sometime. I expressed that we both had to have a fling or two before traveling so far away. We both joked about being "Taken" or married off to French princes. In both scenarios I don't think either one of us wanted to be the American prudes. So in my opinion it was high time we both dated and whatever happened should just happen.

Secrets & Lies

Staying in Nantes was a logistical mess. I'd stayed at a remote hotel. My next hotel was more of a transient motel. So I stayed at one of the dancers for a week. Then I moved into my longest stay, an apparthotel. Everywhere I had stayed or was supposed to stay was in a circle. This time though there we're things around me. I had a bakery, a grocery store and a closer tram stop. I also had a large balcony in my room. I booked the place for 16 days and I took a room for two. While in the states she had convinced me that she would stay at my place when her friends returned. So I made sure to have the room cleaned and maintained for two. This meant extra linens and turning down the sleeper bed. I spent most days sleeping in and then going in my friends direction to meet up later in the afternoons. We also had the dancers keeping us quite busy. And her friends were to return soon. She explained that she may need to get out of their way when they returned and would definately need to stay with me during her finals week. However, having dropped her course I had really didn't know when to expect her, if all. So I pretty much kept the room up just to be alone.

Tres Bon a F Bar

I never had the luxury of recovering from jetlag without leaving the confines of my room. That very first full night I was coaxed out to meet people. The friend she was staying with was a musician of some sort. She had met her in D.C. just before our NYC trip and met her entourage. Her friend traveled with a band and a dance troupe. So when the tour wound down the dance troupe came back to Nantes. Since meeting them in D.C. they were brought together through social networking. My friend showed me messages from the leader about meeting up for drinks at a local bar. I thought the invite was genuine and approached it with a "When In Rome..." attitude.


Wore Out Welcomes - Written July 13th 2013

The journey to go to Europe and beyond was someone elses idea remember. I was just tripping alongside of her. Her goal was to complete a French language course in Nantes, France. My goal was to get a much needed vacation. We told each other early on that we must embrace the surprise. Well there has been so many since the journey began. The first was a few hours into my arrival in Nantes. She had been in class for a week and wanted out. My first mental reaction to this was if you aren't in class then why am I here? But then I thought if she was out of class we would have more time together. She would have been in class all week at the university and I would be left to my own devices nearby. Surely we would meet on weekends but she could want to be alone or have homework or something? I really wanted to spend her class time focusing on things and traveling a bit more myself. I thought I could just train hop to places like Germany or Belgium. I realized just before leaving the states that was impossible. So now there and already involved in quite a few non-refundable long stay hotel bookings - I was forced to wait to see whether she'd quit her lessons or not. Her doing so would be the end of my personal freedom and the beginning of a lot of regret in coming to France in the first place.

Traveling The World In A Day Part II

I headed down the platform and remembered all the things my friend had told me. She asked that I not talk to anyone and maintain all my luggage. She told me to hurry down the platform and exit north or Nord as they call it. When I went down the stairs my friend was there with balloons and a cabbie sign. She attempted to give the balloons to some children but they just ran from the gesture. I didn't even have an opportunity to breathe before I was on yet on another train. We passed gardens, a castle, bustling streets. I had planned to just throw down my stuff and go celebrate being 32 in France. She had an orientation at school in the morning and I was delirious. So we wound up at a small cafe near the train stop. There I had my first beer in France and a little dessert cake. I looked out, it was 9 PM and perfectly still daylight. I pinched myself and took a few pictures while she presented me with a birthday card. We then walked a daunting twenty minutes with all my luggage to her friends house. There I wound up finally connecting to wi-fi, taking a shower and passing out for the night. I hadn't been sleep before midnight in ages and then I had to be forced to wake to go to my hotel. 

I was terribly jet lagged. I didn't know what day it was, the time or anything. We walked a good hour total sharing the luggage load to my hotel. It was well off the beaten path. It actuality there was no real path to it, several trams and miles later it was down a hill, around a corner and a complete block down even further. When we walked in there was a thick feeling of no ac in the lobby. Then I get in the room and find no view and no electricity it was all primitive. We figured out that electricity was controlled by the room key and wouldn't stay on no more than five minutes with the key after room entry. Later I found out that wasn't some green or European thing but quite familiar to avid travelers even in the states. Out of the window there was a suburb view on one side and a major highway on the other. I was minutes away from a McDonald's. I had traveled over 10,000 miles in one day for that - a pre-fab fast food restaurant as a view. Later that evening I realized my room had a hidden kitchen which was a big plus considering McDonalds was my only dinner option. My room was so remote I had live chickens as neighbors. I noticed that wi-fi didn't work in my room or anywhere but the first floor lobby area. This was the point where I realized communication was going to be a nightmare. In order to use my phone as intended I had to go downstairs to all common areas for wi-fi. There was an ethernet in my room but only at the desk. The time change was extreme. I couldn't speak with anyone in the states until after midnight and most friends worked or attended school until 9 or 10 at night. So most nights, I would get dressed and go downstairs between 3 and 5 am to text. Oddly, there was a roaming troupe of security guards and someone at front desk at those hours. One night I stayed down there so long I witnessed the baker bringing in bread for that days breakfast. Sitting in the lobby there was no ac but open doors and windows. At night the temperature varied from 40 to 50 degrees. So I sat in this brisk air on a leather chair in lounge clothes. I had no real pajamas assuming I would be in my room on wifi or using my phone. Of course within 48 hours I was sick.

The illness was no virus or bug. It was simply a combination of jetlag, climate change and loss of equilibrium. I spent most alone time not sleeping but barking up a lung and using every tissue in sight. I then gave the bug to my friend and we both lived off citrus, cough drops and donated tissue from local friends. My little kitchen was loaded with market faire - oranges, grapefruit, yogurt etc. It took me a total of six days to get back to normal. I pretty much flushed the sickness with Evian and slept the rest of it away. In that time, I did experience a few outings, met some people and stayed in a traditional French flat. I did all of that quite sick and mentally off because of the time change. If it weren't for advice about sleeping after travel I'd still be on permanent vampire time. I'd just sleep all day and rise at night completely wired. Instead I had to adapt by staying up and busy to sleep at midnight or later and wake when ready. This was also confusing because Europe has a tendency to stay light out past twilight hours. It was always daylight until 10pm so even appropriate sleep for locals seemed impossible. Most people dined at 8 or 9pm and socialized until 2 or 4am on a weekday. 

The best advice I could give is never to travel like I did. Never. Ever.

I would have chosen a more elaborate hotel my first few days. You need something luxurious if only for one day. Allow yourself a traditional setting where you can communicate, get comfortable and sleep well. I should have had in-room wifi since I didn't have a carrier sim for my phone. I should have had access to things around me like restaurants, a pharmacy etc. I should have arrived days ahead of meeting anyone and given myself a proper sleep schedule. Of course there was no way to predict my travel trauma but there was ways I could have prevented it. I didn't properly research my first hotel stays. I didn't realize how long I'd have to lug all my bags to those said hotels. I pretty much thought I was invincible to jetlag and all of the above. Three countries and multiple time zone changes later I now know the consequences. I would also say get a seasonal forecast before buying clothes and or packing. I thought Summer was everywhere at the same time but it just hadn't come where I was going. I was so unprepared for the weather and overstocked on things I wouldn't use for over a month. Six vampire days later I was good to go. Sadly, my first days in France were recovery from my first days in France. My dream turned nightmare and I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy.

Traveling The World In A Day Part I

My voyage to Europe in one word ... different. I left North Carolina to have a layover in Miami, then I went from there to the UK, took a train from London to France and another train from Paris to Nantes. It was an amazing journey but extremely tiring and at times very confusing. I really tried to pack it all in with absolutely no clue on what I was doing. International travel is hard on the body and senses. The time is changing. The language is new. You may not eat right. Your feet swell. You smell awful. You can't find anything. Seriously read and practice all you want to prepare for it - you can't. I seriously don't know how celebrities and business types do it. My dream of traveling was a nightmare.


I forgot twenty very important things - an unforgivable act - don't do this...

Packing 101

This is all you need - eliminate what isn't on this list - and pack what applies to you and or remains after elimination

Backpacking, Eh

The entire premise for this blog, at first, was to be a travel log for a sophisticated backpacker. I felt like I had read every single travel blog and forum there was and they all sucked. No offense but I find no joy in reading survival techniques or scrolling through ameteur pictures of the sights or reading how your boyfriend got you a tour of a winery or fashion house. I felt that travel didn't have to be this rough affair and being a tourist didn't have to be so cookie cutter. I also strongly believed vacations fueled by well off boyfriends were not authentic. Was it too much to ask for some simple rules and advice? All these outlets did was talk me out of the true backpack experience. However, reading all I could prepared me for the reality of what could go wrong.

"The" Suitcase

I bought my suitcase from Walmart. I paid $59 bucks for it. I then returned less than a week later and got $10 back because it went on sale for $49. Price comping is a beautiful thing. My suitcase is a 24 inch Traveler's Club 360 rolling hybrid. Hybrid (half plastic) or all plastic cases are all the rage. I could have gotten that particular suitcase anywhere be it online, at an outlet, at Ross - because Traveler's Club is America's cheap yet mass produced suitcase company. Sadly, it ain't American Tourister but it will do. It did do and still does. I originally saw the case in a 20 inch. When I returned to get that one all I found was a 24 inch. There is also a 26 inch and an online exclusive set with all three. I chose this case because it wasn't anything fancy and happened to be the lightest thing I found. I looked. Yes, this suitcase was my first choice but I never stopped looking even up to days before I left for Europe. Why? Because the suitcase is the most important purchase after your home, car and computer. It can totally make or break you. If you don't have one you probably can't get up an go. If your suitcase sucks it may fall apart during your trip. If your suitcase is heavy it can burden you during your trip. If your suitcase is awesome it will fade into the background during your trip. My suitcase was the most reliable thing I had. Even more reliable than human beings and paper money.

Image and Such: Shopping For Travel is a Don't

Early in planning this trip, before I'd even signed on - I'd dreamed of a specific image. Think "Jewel of the Nile" - I saw myself in exquisite playsuits, large emeralds, chic flats and huge designer sun hats. Of course, I had no budget for this travel only wardrobe. I just assumed that with my decision to go I'd need to amass a new look. My friend and I had a lot of discussion involving image and perception as an American in Paris. I personally never saw myself in Paris beyond a few days. There are so many weird and transient crime doers frequenting the city looking for sore thumbs. The friend and I don't look very cookie cutter - however our clothing, phones, bags may have read "dumb American". So the need to shop became a dire way to avoid that.

Yeah, New York

Now I recall coming to conclusions about New York City in September 2012. I had lived most of my life assuming the world was passing me by up there. Even growing up in New Jersey one is raised to idolize what happens in the big city versus around the neighborhood. When in Florida I never wished to go home during summers. I always preferred the day trips to Manhattan. As a young adult I attempted to move there over and over again. I kept applying for jobs in the city and trying to maintain relationships with people who were going up that way. Even as late as 2010 I was trying to move up there again. However, in September I quickly surmised that I could never live there. Having never traveled to NYC alone and as an adult, I never had time to think it all through. Now I was in this place and quite irritated with it. Surely, it was enjoyable in the company of friends. I mean everything is great when theres exquisite Thai food every few blocks and a Madewell in the flesh. No matter the glory of the city I kept reminding myself that city life like that wasn't in the cards for me.

New York, New York - Partially Written May 24th 2013


When I think back on vacations I have had I cannot legitimize them as such. My perception is I should be relaxing, dining out and be stimulated by wherever I chose to go. As an adult, I can't recall having a valid vacation. I completely discount the fact that I've had two three prior "vacations" with my friend. We went camping that one time. I went to NYC last year Labor Day weekend to see her. In January when she visited we stayed at her fam's timeshare and went to Disney World a.k.a. vacation. Now I guess her involvement made it too effortless to be such. I guess that is why I cannot include this last minute trip north. This trip is nothing but tying up loose ends. I am in NYC with a purpose. Surely, I hope to get a little leisure and recreation in but I figure things would be more about packing and bookings, etc...


Up until a month ago, my travel companion was to meet me in Florida to plan for our trip to France. When she mentioned her family was coming up to her, I realized she'd traveled to me quite often. It was time I made the effort. I also had a series of points and credits from JetBlue and they were set to expire. It made sense to make a last minute domestic trip, not only to see her and plan our journey, but to do a personal test run of airline travel.  My last trip to NYC was in September and I hadn't flown in almost seven years. It wasn't anything elaborate but necessary. Packing for more than a few days, getting through security checkpoints and knowing what was allowed was an unknown. I had a lot of difficulty getting through and had some rather embarrassing hiccups. My trip now is built on valuable time - to plan and prepare together just before her departure. So getting there was extremely important and somewhat experimental. If I could have a seamless domestic trip things like customs would be a breeze. 

Having recently left for North Carolina with my mother this trip was rather rushed. I was bringing things I would need while in NC, my dogs, the car and all items necessary for France. So packed car and 12 hours later we arrived with only two days for preparation for NYC. The goal was to get in the door and separate clothing by season and use. I would leave all Winter items at her home, pack items for NYC and keep all international items to the side. While traveling up to NC we had to find very creative ways to make space in my car. So all my Winter stuff got mixed with the Summer, my items for NYC were not all planned out and all my gorgeous things for international travel were balled up in my trunk. It was a hatchback nightmare of random. As much as I wanted to travel rested it was impossible. I wound up staying up almost three hours till leaving for the flight doing laundry and sorting things out. 


The morning of my flight my car broke down 19 miles out to the airport. We had to call highway patrol, AAA and someone to pick us up. After making so many arrangements I truly had no time to make my flight. I spent most of the morning on the side of the road yelling at a few inconsiderate airline representatives. I rescheduled my flight for later that evening which I knew would inconvenience everyone. Yet it bought me more time for rethinking my suitcase and my friend more alone time to tie up my own loose ends. I had no cold weather clothes packed and NYC was quite cold. I forgot to get a lint roller and some wrinkle release spray so a trip to Walgreens was in order. I also removed all the fluff in my bag like books and nail polish. I was now streamlined and ready to go.

Thankfully, Charlotte-Douglas International is a smaller airport. Although the place was far, busy and under re-construction its only one big terminal. I was delighted to see the ticket counter empty and a variety of shorter checkpoints that I could actually choose from. I lightened my carry on load to a laptop backpack and a small cross body purse. However, I didn't realize what normally required shoes off and one tray now I needed three trays. So I had to remove the laptop, the travel toiletries, my shoes, sweater and scarf. Once I got to the gate my shoes were barely on and they were already boarding for my section. Sadly, my seating had been rearranged to the last seat on the plane so I had some lingering time. I decided to curb hunger and anxiety with some Illy coffee. The coffee was the best coffee I had ever had. I hadn't eaten in hours and my nerves really needed soothing. I even bought in-flight food and was pleasantly surprised. However, takeoff and a latte didn't mix well. I got coffee all over my new laptop backpack and really made a mess. I was also clumsy with granulated crystallized lime they provided with tonic water. This experience prepared me for future flights. I know now to ask for quite a few packets of this lime and to place coffee in a barf bag during turbulence. Thankfully, the person next to me was very welcoming and even held my latte as I tried to clean myself up. I don't know if I'll get the same level of friendlessness on future flights.

I flew into JFK for price not location. I had no idea where JFK was located in regards to the city. I knew my later flight was going to throw off my companion. However, she showed up just minutes after de-boarding and was able to meet me at baggage. She informed me that the trek for her was indeed long and now cold. I had to open my suitcase for a sweatshirt, put my coffee stained scarf back on and then brace this 60 degree temperature drop. We got a taxi rather quickly and were dropped off curb side at Grandma's in the Bronx. We also had a lot of help with the luggage. However, we paid almost $70 with tip but we simply had no other choice after 10pm at night. She paid half but she really shouldn't have. Even with her help I'd depleted all of my on hand cash and pretty much 1/4 of my overall trip budget. A few excursions the next day completely broke me. It was chilly and raining our first day out so we took a series of buses, trains and cabs. There were no day pass MetroCards and all cab rides no matter how short required a large suggested tip. Towards the end of the day we settled in a Times Square Starbucks. We spent about three hours there getting warm and planning our global expedition.

Sitting down with a doting barista and decent wifi we were able to plan out the entire trip. I was very open about not knowing how to navigate or not having any set plans. I'm a follower when it comes to directions. I can be rather adventurous when in comes to food or entertainment. Please don't ask me where I would like to go or if I know where something is. I need a guide and playing guess where isn't my idea of fun. If there is no guide and/or map I can get defeated rather quickly. I've always been very disappointed in myself being so lost as we walked the city. I imagined a rather daunting arrival in London. Thankfully, she was able to visualize the location of London-Heathrow in regards to Central London and where all the touristy things to do actually were. It was clear to both of us London was not to be done alone. We totally revised our trip plans to a rather short French visit, a month in Italy and the last month between Spain, Belgium and London. We also looked for inspiration through friends who had recently traveled and gave suggestions. All I could think about was Buckingham Palace in London and now we had a list including Spice Market, the Tate Modern, WB Harry Potter etc. The same went for France and Italy. She had such great lists of sites she had to see and we carefully merged my expectations with them. In a few hours we had a calendar full of destinations, festivals and landmarks. We also discussed accommodations making sure her and I were close as she studied in Nantes. When leaving Starbucks we both felt rather accomplished. We never butted heads on any potential places to visit and were both open to plan changes as problems or different interests arose.

Spending time with her was vital for our trip but very introspective for me. Having left the only city I really know to make this trip; it was important for me to witness her take on closure. Just as I was I she didn't seem to know what to do to make herself feel okay with leaving. There simply was no bucket list for either one of us. As I left, I simply allowed last minute appointments and invitations to shape my last days. So I explained that there was nothing I needed to do or see and whatever came about I would gladly attend. So we went out dining and shopping with someone she had been seeing. We met a business partner of hers for drinks. We sat at the Lincoln Center for nearly an hour pondering. We went to her mothers for brunch. We had a few exciting days in the city with no rhyme or reason. It was a lovely time where she could have done so much more but took it easy. I was also very happy to be introduced to her family and connections. It is really interesting as the last days unravel how those closest to you make an effort. We have both been experiencing strange pop-ups from people we were personally or professionally connected to. Instead of choosing the right people to hang out with the right ones sort of make themselves available and send you off right & proper. 

I left early morning just two days later. She took me half way to the JFK bound train and I went most of the trek to JFK alone. When above ground we texted. She explained what she was doing and I complained how long the journey to the airport was. We left almost 3 hours before my trip but the airport was a complete mess. If it weren't for a few wise moves I may not have made it home. I found myself in the same position as before. I was not able to move any faster to the gate and had no time to relax. The AirTrain was delayed, it took me several minutes to get to ticketing, I had to check a bag and security was overwhelmed. The final boarding call was announced as I was retrieving my things at checkpoint. Honestly, if I hadn't gotten a Skycap, forfeited the pat down and left my shoes off and ran to the gate I'd still be in New York. I made it to the gate just as they were sealing the doors. I boarded the flight bare footed and dropping things out of my open backpack. The flight was more comfortable since it was a seat I'd actually chosen. However, my ride kept canceling via text and left me feeling very uneasy about coming back to North Carolina. Hungry and tired I was looking at a possible six hour wait for a ride. Sadly, I had no idea how to navigate back on my own so I was forced to wait for whoever could come. I also rushed to get my checked bag versus grabbing something to eat nearest the gate. I also bypassed the Illy coffee stand because there was a long line. I walked past checkpoint knowing I couldn't get back that way so I found myself at a baggage claim stuck with bottled water and souvenir candy. I had my laptop and phone and the airport has great free wifi. I was able to get a lot done while waiting and that distracted me from sleeping. I was glad to have made it both ways despite circumstances. I was also proud that I could find ways to both enjoy and learn from the discomfort.

My friend flew out later that evening. She continued to communicate everything she was doing on her last day. She went downtown for a smoothie, met her friend for lunch and spent the remainder of the day with her mother. She was at the airport almost 3 hours early and was able to communicate with me once past security. She also explained that customs was on the other side and texted me about the interrogation after her flight. She said everything was rather light and didn't contact me again till much later. Apparently, she fell asleep with all the London rain. I didn't stress her about being back in NC which was so boring in comparison. Having the opportunity to watch her prepare was definitely necessary. Just seeing her pack is going to streamline my possessions and allow me to make some sacrifices as she did. I'm also going to really focus on making the most of the people important to me versus leaving unannounced. I will attempt to rest days before, really plan out the departure process and linger around the gate for my last American drink and fare. This last minute trip really ironed out the kinks for a more efficient international journey.

Positive Vibes Man

In reading those original posts I am so glad there was some glimmer of hope. I was probably in these most hopeful state I'd ever been in just planning things. The reality is everything went incredibly sour in less than a few weeks. May was my hardest month. May was when I kissed life as it was good bye.

Connections, Burning Bridges and Pretending There Are Other Ways (Written April 26th 2013)

I've compiled a list of very important things one must have for this trip. My list includes  simple things like traveling sheets, sunscreen and prescriptions. I knew all along the most important thing I needed was a ticket up and out of the states. However, I didn't really have any money to buy one. I was also quite nervous about not getting my passport in time or having some strange incident where I had to legally stay here. Even when I got my passport quite early I had to await the return of my birth certificate. I'd actually just gotten that by traveling with my friend to New Jersey. I imagined it being lost in the system or something. However, it soon followed. Actually only then did money grow on trees and fall from the sky. So one would think I had everything to complete my list and move forward on my journey. There was one thing missing and it is called connection. In many facets of life one must have strong and valid connections. Sadly, I started out with little integrity in maintaining them.

iQuit - Written April 22nd 2013

Sacrifice is financing this trip. It is the sole sponsor for my friend and I. We both have little to no savings but similar earned and now vested 401K accounts. We worked for the same company at two different locations - her five years and me eight. So when she proposed quitting to gain access to the funds, I was already ahead of her. For years I have wondered what it would be like to quit and simply live off the money. The idea of leaving early to get whatever we needed before we left was mutual. We executed two similar plans of strategically leaving thirty days before the money disburses. So her last day was two weeks ago on a Thursday. She had a lot of fanfare and gifts. My last day was this past Friday with no celebration. She put in two weeks and I left rather abruptly. I haven't really inquired as to how she is feeling with the voluntary change. I just know that my brain hasn't fully adjusted and she seems to have moved on rather quickly.

Expat Dreams/Growing Pains - Written April 13th 2013

I really wish to make this transition to expat life seamless - however accumulation of animals, ornate things and personal effects stop the flow - moving - especially overseas -isn't just a check of the box - I must make plans, take care of my responsibilities and leave without disconnection - so in order to leave and make my way to non-U.S. citizenship I must rely on people - and the only person I can rely on the most is my mother - at the same time she is the only human being I dread having to ask - in the past few months I've attempted to confide in her - I have tried to explain how exhausted and unhappy I am - I am still trying to convince her that this move is best - and at this time I just need her to know that I will be okay and she will be the sole heir to everything I have - this request is making a detour in my one way trip.


Not Nantes - Written April 12th 2013

Today was the first time my travel companion mentioned her destination. Today is also the first day I had some funds to actually discuss travel arrangements. This entire time I've been focused on discussing this a month from now so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to talk about and afford accommodations. She has began to slow up on her own plans and is now encouraging me to accompany her on her weekends off. She won't be done with her French language courses until the end of June. She will be in an accessible city not some remote place as expected. She will be staying in Nantes and the plan is to stay and or visit as often as possible. However it is remote in relationship to France and any other bordering country that is. And Nantes sounds like the word not.

Passport Accepted - Written April 11th 2013

This morning I randomly woke a little after 5 am. I have had a slight anxiety over the passport situation. I feel like there is some negative loophole that will deny my passport - it's been a constant series of unfortunate events and this could be the most devastating. Imagine moving out of my place and relying upon my family I barely trust - and then whoppity doo - no passport! However rolling out of bed at this hour all I could think to do was check my passport status online.

"Do It Alone" - Being Forced to Conquer Fear

Kid Cudi's "Demo Tape" had this out of space track on it called "Do It Alone". The song is sort of a mantra for someone facing a new frontier. Cudi's an alien and he's being forced to leave his planet all alone to make things happen. I have always felt that you should not have to go anything alone. People are my crutch, my cryptonite. What kills me is everyone thinks I'm this emotionless creature who doesn't need anyone. I'm totally not. I'm an extrovert and a social butterfly. I need attention just as much as the next. At times, I'm completely insufferable because I'm left to my own devices.

Introduction to "SheMe" - Fast Forward to September 13th 2013

So yes my changes, my move, my trip are now a blog for you. I wanted a resource that I couldn't find - for all my fellow Black girl travelers. I wanted for there to be community around people coming to conclusions about life and moving forward. Well...

I did make those changes. I did move. I did embark on the trip of a lifetime. In that I have become a resource. I'm the person that would tell you to do what I did. I would just need to make some corrections and edits. Why?

The changes were irreversible. The move permanent. The trip was remarkable in more ways than one. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the value of relationships. I learned a lot about the flaws in friendship.

I found that putting trust in yourself is bigger than putting it in the hands of another person. I concluded trust between individuals is a farce. That we actually need more time then we think to establish it.

I also found that speaking up about things is better than saving face. I have never found the line between maintaining dignity and demanding what I wanted. I just sort of passive aggressively stumble through lifes screwed up choices. At least I can admit that.

In essence, I traveled with a stranger. Well two. My so-called friend who unraveled at the seams with each new destination. And myself just trying to endure her and walk the line as a new person. I just couldn't put myself back in time before things went whatever way.

I kept a series of blogs while gone. One that was always there. One for you. Then lines got crossed there too. I lost my identity while trying to clear the air. And now I ask for what? For whom? All could have been explained in one line. 

Why did I even go with her?

I went to build something that had no initial foundation. That reality almost ruined an experience of a lifetime. I say almost because I don't have any regrets. She allowed me to do what I would have never done - travel!

I left Europe 23 days early. I've been back in the States a little over a month. I am completely beguiled by my now former friend. I am smitten with the new me. I am in a triangle with travel. I am your resource and my first and best piece of advice is...

Do it alone.

Iz Going Travelin' - Written April 4th 2013

Disclaimer: Forgive the lack of punctuation ... this used to be my stylistic flow

The past 12 months I've maintained a miserable lifestyle - in this time I have moved, attempted to finish my bachelors, resorted to getting a roommate (a good decision after time) and became public enemy no. 1 at my work - I'm exhausted and terribly unhappy  - and it's beginning to show - this is also the longest I've spent without family, my closest friends have begun to ignore me and my idea of fun is sitting on my phone looking at mobile dating sites - life is too short for this so when a friend propositioned me to move overseas I asked that she not allow me to dream out loud - moving out of the country has been a life long dream - something that I just couldn't imagine for myself - something that was meant for other people - however, she convinced me that now is no better time - being that we are young, single and childless - we had no real responsibilities - and she made travel seem casual and attainable - as long as I got a passport - the time and money would come

That notion came months ago and since then plans have changed ten-fold - I imagined myself boarding a ship with all my personal effects and embarking on a new citizenship - but I quickly realized a one way trip was more tedious than that. The claiming of ones finances, the ownership of so many "things", Visas and such - there was no way I could just take the leap - so I proposed an extended trip of sorts - one where there was luggage and hotels - however my friend was more interested in house shares and villa rooms - she arranged French lessons - she bought a ticket to London - she would stay there for six days and visit friends - then she would travel by train to her destination - and once there her accommodations were already booked

So back to the drawing boards - how could I ever keep up? - whatever she had paid for I wouldn't have the money to match it - I couldn't ask an airline to hold the seat next to hers for months on end - I didn't know anyone in London - I don't even want to see London - so it occurred to me that dreaming out loud was a mistake - something I never should have engaged in - I have a car, two dogs and a job - why would I walk away from all of this just to be alone in a strange country - just whose idea was this anyways - and it was clear - her plans won't be my plans - but having planted this idea to go I could link up with her - on my own terms - each of us could make it what we wanted - the decision was to be made on my own - I could come in June - after her classes were complete - we could be acclimated to the city and then travel the rest of Europe - blow dryers, cafes and footed baths - this is what modern travel was made for

From this point on began a world of dreaming - imagining my style of dress I tore my closet apart - I shopped with Paris in Summer on my mind - I thought about the luggage I would buy - I began to learn the language - I even smiled a bit more than usual - and then the bad thoughts came - would I arrive with 90 days worth of tampons? - how on Earth would I leave my job of 8 years? - who would take care of my dogs? my car? - as much as I liked the idea of jet setting and resort hopping - nights in Ibiza, beach trips to Nice, beer in Belgium - there was no way of affording the actual travel all the while seeing and doing everything - I know what you're thinking - why would you make elaborate and high-risk plans knowing you couldn't fund them - I was dreaming okay - and living vicariously through someone who was decided and perfectly capable - someone who had less to lose and a lot to give - and it felt good at first - and then it became something I had to live up to - to follow through with - by any means 

In the past month, I've trolled for every blog, travel log, tips etc to learn the best way to travel overseas and see the most for the least amount of money - I thought to myself I'm Black and there will be some Black girl travel blogs about going overseas on a budget - I found plenty of Black girl travel blogs all right - women who married and left America with their prince, women who opened businesses between Europe and the States and women who didn't really explain their back story but who happened to travel all over all the time - and their only advice was Black people do travel - well having seen that - I wondered what was the alternative - and there was none - for me by people like me at least - so I began to research backpacking - I truly wanted to unload not to take on - and I felt as if traveling between house share to hotel with my friend was not only going to be expensive but very materialistic - I would need a zillion things - I would be bound by check in times and tourist itineraries - backpacking would eliminate it all and save me a great deal of time and money - and both were luxuries I hadn't had in some time 

When I looked at backpacking sites - I thought there has to be some refined way of doing this - I don't have to be technically homeless with camping gear on my back - I thought European shops are only so big and stairwells are steep - I'm a very short and chubby person - I couldn't really dig the idea of going out rolling down a spiral of stairs or knocking over some keepers priceless steins - I continued to hunt for ideas, alternatives - little packs - rolling cases - ways to bring a laptop - options for bringing a few pairs of normal shoes - I imagined wearing old cotton weekend shirts, ripstop shorts and Tod's loafers - I could relax on the trains at night and stay in air conditioned galleries by day - I would partake in street food and conversational French - I'd close the day with a beer and meet a new friend - when stressed I would blog - internet cafes were everywhere - I'd have a decent phone to call "home" with - I'd stay at hostels most of the time - and every two weeks I'd contact my friend and stay in a nice hotel or inn - there I would do the maintenance I was accustomed to - like exfoliate and wash and comb out my hair - re-pack my things - send things I no longer needed home etc - this was backpacking - but my way - on another level

From the moment I made up my mind on this things began to fall into place - I was able to get an unlocked phone - work became harder therefor easier to leave - my family was on board - my roommate was okay with taking things I could live without - it was easy to go through my possessions and devise what would be taken, left behind or sold - I began to plan myself - and when I informed my friend - she was happy for me - and now it wasn't dreaming - it was known - it was verbal - you could see this climatic change from a complacent retail employee to a free worldly woman - I thought to myself I may not be able to do things like sleep with nine pillows or microwave a burrito - but I would be seeing so much - and really doing things while evaluating myself - getting to know me on another level - and that is why I had to make the choice alone - it was never about having some BFF trip to Europe - it was about us both making some serious changes- I don't really know her end goal - I know she wants to move to France - but I cannot say if I'm ready for that - I can say if I manage well for 90 days across a continent - I may chose to live nowhere for a while

The closer I get to a one way ticket, a decent bag and my passport arrival I think I'll be more inclined to make an extended decision - for now it is all about putting myself in a place where I am not tethered - I will quit my job, my car and dogs will go to my mother and only my functional things will be put in storage - my material things will be sold or given away and I will take my life savings and go - the timeline to leave is less than 60 days - which is very rash in comparison to bloggers who have taken years journaling the way over - the plan is to go and see what I can in 90 days - if I like where I am and wish to stay I'll attempt to secure a place and a job within that time - I will return after that to collect my personal effects, my dogs and possibly my car and go "home" - if I get there and the nomadic life speaks to me I may not come home until I a. run out of money or b. get into trouble - if I go and nothing seems worth it I'll search for a place and another job online and go site unseen into a new life - I say new life because I hope to be ever changed - I hope to be better off - I may return physically run down and financially broke - but I think I may be very wealthy internally - in mind and body

My friends last day is soon - I'm fastly approaching my own edge - most of my things are already packed - my mother will be here in less than two weeks - the plan is to pack up and restart my life in less than a month - we'll both drive back to her place out of state in my car with the dogs - if we survive that trip I'll stay with her and my family for about two weeks - once she is privy to every private detail about my life - I will board a plane to the unknown - I may have to manage for a week before seeing my friend - she'll be staying just outside of Paris at an old friends - she would have been there for at least 2 weeks - I will await her classes end - and I hope she'll accompany me - but as the plan has changed a few times so can her mind - and so far I'm psyched out enough to go it alone - we are supposed to discuss an itinerary but I'd rather not - I know what I need to see and what I need to do to see it all - the only plan is to survive, sleep and eat without missing anything - and I've accepted that some days I may go hungry, I may not have a place to sleep or I may be tempted to call home for a hasty extraction - I just don't want to concern myself with what I left behind or stress myself with the expat procedure - I'd rather just embrace my well deserved freedom and roam - and when I think of blow dryers, cafes and footed tubs - I'll recall the Ecstasy of St.Therese and Champs Elysee and afternoons of Spanish tapas and constant daylight of Prague - and the sacrifice of such small meaningless things will be well worth it - heres to dreams ….