Come Fly With Me (Happy Holidays)

I've had a month of nothing but travel and I am exhausted. I bet you are too doing all that holiday stuff with your families and friends. I'm gonna get some much needed R & R. 

Happy Holidays!!!

Come fly with me in 2015…


To Finally Be

I came "home" last Wednesday. I still cannot believe I am here. A few nights ago I borrowed a can opener. I'm surrounded by boxes of things I no longer fit, like or want. I walked twenty minutes to the grocery store. I took the bus clear across town out of boredom. This has all happened too fast. I have changed. It isn't about the city and the skyline and the lost friends. I personally have changed. I've barely spent any time with myself in this apartment. It was supposed to be a household of two. I may have took this space by myself but I keep inviting others in. 

My potential roommate didn't like it. I figured his complaints were only a few and the place was the only thing I knew of. So I contacted the owner and made my own arrangements sight unseen. I was moving in within the week. I had to do a number of things to rush it. I shipped myself clothes, food. I turned on utilities for a place I'd never stood inside of. I also took the train down at the 11th hour knowing I could lose my deposit if I were late or didn't show. I don't know if it was the nerves or the motion but I threw up three times on the train. I wasn't in an aisle seat so I tormented my seat mate. Even with shipping things I wound up with four bags when I should have had two. I was bogged leaving. I couldn't even sleep for the combination of worry and excitement. I had a hotel room just in case and I barely slept five hours with two beds. 

I am moving slowly. I also have comfort in purging things. I'm no longer sentimental. Frankly, I am no longer attached. I sat a chair out on the curb I've been lugging since I was sixteen. I "accidentally" broke a plate I had deemed ugly but only kept because my mother gave it to me. I have a growing pile of random things I don't even understand how I got in the first place. I can't even go into the amounts of expired food and medicine that was on the verge well before I put them in storage. I also cannot believe how many shoes I have. I recall getting rid of about twenty pairs of shoes and I still feel overwhelmed by whats remaining. I find myself opening something and telling myself "this is nice" when I chose it and have owned it. 

The freedom is the most overwhelming. What do I do with myself? Should I read a book? Should I watch all 3000 HD channels I have? Should I take this new commuter train all the way to Sanford? I'm honestly bored. I'm typically up early, still waking to my mothers pills alarms. Once up I'm not hungry so I find myself analyzing light switches or washing things in the dishwasher because the water is included. I find myself noticing pointedness of spoons. I have a hundred bottles of thickened nail polish. I bought headbands a few days ago just to discover two unused packs of them. I'm scared to check my printer ink head for it may be fused to the insides of my printer. I threw away an entire box of things from my childhood including weird magazine clippings and clothes. 

I've narrowed down the things I cannot live without to one tote in the corner of my closet. I cannot find my trash can. I hate all of these sheets. I had bought Christmas cards in 2012 with "Seasons Greeting" in many languages. So it felt good to sit down and make out these cards to the people I love. I had just enough forever stamps. I messed up my address at least seven times so I'm down quite a few envelopes. I've done laundry twice. I walked to Panera and ogled at all the lines for brunch around here. I've missed a lot. I see now this place isn't so bad. It may even be too much. But it feels good to finally be.


North Carolina

Oh boy. Time to say goodbye. Farewell to chicken and biscuits. No more "hi you"s in the grocery store. Hats off to incoming winter. I can't find my winter scarves anyways. I've been packed since June. Anything acquired or bought just gets packed up too. I have always been prepared to leave, just waiting for my cue. And just like France, as I am leaving, I feel some strange tie. I guess it'll remain because my mother is determined not to leave. At least I'll have a room where things will stay unchanged. There will be evidence of my stay. Maybe when I come back the food and the country greetings welcoming. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all…



In talking about travel and Europe and friendship …

It was said why would I go abroad accompanied again to dissolve yet another relationship. It was said jokingly but trust I don't wish for that to happen again. Does lightning strike the same spot twice? I really don't know. I just know that I value my current friendships even those newly formed. I believe that if I hand picked any of them, with blindfolds on and in a third world country - we would make it through. However, I'm not going to justify what happened against what could or may happen. The only thing I can do is redeem the happenings that would make anyone joke that I'm "the bad travel friend". Reality is this post has been written, updated, edited, deleted, started over and over again. I'm really trying to redeem my entire experience. Of course, I'm not doing it through this blog but this one post is supposed to be the code change. Right now, I'm supposed to explain that I did have fun … we had fun! Seriously, not everything was bad! In fact, there really were more good times than bad. There were epic nights, many bloopers, happy disasters and inside jokes. I can also say there were highlights to the trip and unforgettable little things that made everything seem worth it. 


My Flying Nun (Ally, Angel, Savior, Friend)

About a month ago I was gently reminded of how long this journey has been. I was out at breakfast and my phone rang. I had a phone call from someone I hadn't spoken to in a very long time. Now I don't indulge in the idea that once we aren't talking daily I no longer need your contact information. I keep every phone number and business card. I have every physical address book, date book and journal. I am not into the digital business of making space for new and getting out with the old. So boy was I glad to hear from someone who believed in the same. She called me out of the blue and within hours we were talking just like old times. Nothing had changed or did it?


Yeah So Orlando

Going home was a last minute decision. It was all so random and poorly planned. There was just an inkling that if I left at that particular moment I could actually get things accomplished. I know now that maybe a great amount of time and money was wasted on the trip. However, hindsight is 20/20.

And We Are Back ...

I cannot believe I'm actually saying/typing this … I have not opened my computer for more than a second for over two weeks. I've simply forgotten it exists. I had to dust it off to touch base. 

I literally just shaved dust off the top of my laptop. 

So yes I went back to Florida … for absolutely nothing. Yet again, not a single thing was accomplished. The food was good though and quite necessary.

I joined a virtual book club. So constantly reading a book has become the new normal and I feel guilty when I choose another form of stimulation. I normally take on a book and immediately neglect it. So I'll finish in months versus a few weeks. Now I find myself on some imaginary deadline and always manage to miss the online discussions because I am behind. We are on our second book so this time I'm trying harder. 

I got sick … all over. First I began one of those Pinterest exercise regimens which killed me. Then I fell doing something I really shouldn't have been doing taking my right knee out. Three different braces later my support knee threw in the towel. Then just as everything goes back into place I get whammed with a case of "Ear, Nose, Throat". All of these lovelies are not really treatable. 

So yeah I came back and started a two week vacation from myself. Wherein I stayed on pain meds, compresses, book chapters and NyQuil. And of course I am still in the process of clearing my late Grandmothers house which is a full-time, non-paid job - rain or shine, in sickness or in health and whether I like it or not. I REALLY don't like it.

Florida was the calm (albeit pointless) before the storm. 

I'm almost 100 pages in a book I should be done with. The estate sale is this weekend. In between the two I rode in a Veterans Day parade and saw "Interstellar". I guess you can say I am superwoman. However, in order to do it all I had to let go of one thing.

The blog. Many others blogs. The food blogs. Pinterest. My entire online life.

And no my phone doesn't count because I mostly used that for eBay research and the dictionary for reading what is turning out to be a very complicated sci-fi novel. The movie watching helped otherwise I'd be on page forty looking up galaxies and stars. Surely, I attempted to update statuses on social media but I failed miserably at that too. I said my piece on November 4th and 5th. I also did my normal "Ooh Rah" on Vets Day. This is so people wouldn't think I was dead. 

So yeah. I'm alive. I'm back. Just beat up a bit. It'll all be over this weekend. Then everything will be back to normal.


Two Turns : 85 East to 95 South

This last month has been nothing but road trips to places I don't want to be. It is exhausting - more so than any train trek or airport layover. I am tired yet I continue on. We'll be back on the road in a few more days and this one will be a doozy. We are attempting to put each others lives back on track. We have had a breakthrough of sorts with my mom and I've been offered a temporary job. In my eyes, this is the best things have gotten and will ever get with North Carolina. She can move on. I can live. Vice versa. I wish I could say I'm looking forward to going back to life as it was. Let's just say I'm taking a lot of naps and eating regionalized foods. I will no longer have the luxury. Back to rush hour traffic. Back to monitoring milk and gas prices. Back to forward. 

I am hopeful that this will be my last and final road trip. I don't want to rewind.


A Moveable Feast Indeed

The preparation and excitement for modern day travel drowns out the obvious noise. The  necessities and the fear gets all masked in packing and planning. It's apparent now that I had read and heard many things before going but I wasn't listening or interpreting. I had read "A Moveable Feast" many times. It was a bible of sorts to refer to when the chips were down. I never took it literally. The same goes for the act we all take for granted of charging and filling our devices. We get ready with all these seasons and playlists. We've played those songs over and over again and gotten no references. Maybe theres a time or place we go back to but nothing stands out as relevant now. The same goes for the movies, shows, games and apps that sort of blend into our lives and make days shorter. We set our iPods up for a 45 minutes commute, a road trip down 95 South or a 2 hour flight to NYC. We pack up the paperback books, manage our Amazon wish list and check the Netflix queue but there is no real intent to finish what we start. I guess all of the above are just tools of solitude. Now I wish I had considered it all apart of an unwritten guide.

Everything Ends With Pride

I've been telling myself I cannot wait until this year ends. I like to think of 2013 as bad but necessary. 2014 though was just really uncalled for. This has been a rotten year and I cannot wait for it to end. I am open to a new year, with new beginnings and new faces & places. I've been a nomad for far too long. It will be so amazing to just put my feet on the ground and make a home even if it's temporary. Today I got out of the shower, I managed my ordinary routine, my new normal and I just imagined what could be. I wouldn't have to navigate this life. There will be a place for me and my things and it will all feel right. Seriously, as much as I try to commit to this, my everyday, it just doesn't feel like mine. This is what not having a home feels like. I'm out of suitcase. I am surrounded by boxes. I am collecting a life I yearn to live. I just want some place to put it all. There is no shame in admitting how much I need that.


Everything Starts With Friendship

We all have our hangups. I'll admit that mines is trust. I was raised to believe you can't trust anyone and nothing in this world is free. Funny how I every time I set out to prove this theory wrong it eventually bites me in the ass. I guess mommy was right. So it's faIr to say that her saying of "friends are far and few" is prophecy. I didn't cultivate that many friendships, relationships early in life. So maybe seeing is believing. Enough with the sayings! Did I - have I … made in mistake in trusting, valuing and cultivating a friendship knowing what I already knew?

I did.


"Thumbs Up!" and Other Forms of Winging It

This Summer I immersed myself in the thing that is David Choe. I'm not going to provide any links to this character nor will I encourage you to seek out who he is and what he is about without caution. He is an artist. He's a Korean-American artist who was born in L.A., raised up in the 80s and 90s and made a lot of money doing commissioned graffiti work in the new Millennium. I like to think of him as more a graphic artist who branched out into the art world with graffiti and Korean personality notoriety. Dare I say it but he's a nobody who created a brand with zero creation at all. One of his earliest branding stints was traveling the states with no money or expectations. He documented this in a multiple season low budget Vice show called "Thumbs Up!" In the show, he basically train hopped and hitchhiked across the United States. Of course in-between the kindness of others he was sponsored by many casino wins and various collaborations with fellow affluent Korean-Americans. Since then he's been featured on Anthony Bourdain's show touring the culinary genius of L.A. and created his own dirty Asian ran podcast. At this point, he sort of misnamed as the "Facebook" guy who made a million drawing graffiti in the original HQ in exchange for stock options. The reality is he does a lot in the art world and gambles his fortunes which keeps him on the up and up. The show "Thumbs Up!" well that's an entirely different monster that continues to inspire people to just go.


Travel Re-Designed and Re-Defined

I've been absent from blogging for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, my grandmother took ill and eventually passed. I didn't expect her death to affect me but it has in a "life is too short" kind of way. She was always suffering some problematic, yet preventable disease along with old age. However, she seemed to move upward despite her issues and always outdid the youth of our family and our time. She had planned to travel a lot this year and to my surprise my mother had agreed to accompany her. Let's just say when she took a turn for the worst it was revealed to me that she really hadn't done all she wanted to do in life. The same goes for my mother and now down to me. A few weeks before her death my grandmother was reluctantly transferred to hospice care. She sort of outlived all her ward neighbors and put on a good fight. However, she went into a vegetative state just a few days in - never speaking again. This left a lot of unanswered questions and many a story told through others that claimed to have known what she wanted. I honestly don't believe what anyone has to say about what she may have or may not have done with the remainder of her life. I only know that she left here unfulfilled. And I only know this by the remnants she left behind and her seething jealously of others freedom.


10 Things About Your Passport No One Will Tell You (But I Will!)

A good friend of mine is making the voyage to Europe in a few weeks. His birthday is in days and I kinda talked him into letting me get him a passport cover (you can get the one I choose here). It is the one thing he hasn't gotten and I feel like it is one of the tokens of travel that makes it all "real". This is someone I've known since childhood so it's fairly easy to know what he likes. However, I found myself asking him basic questions trying to gauge his style of travel. This is his first trip abroad and he asked me to use my best judgment. As much as I love being that person for him and many, I realized I was just as confused as he is now. I remembered that no one told me anything about my passport. I almost failed you too. So here goes ten great things to know about your trusty passport…

Traveling While … Black Part II (Last Revised June 10th 2021)

UPDATE: This post was originally written in August of 2014. This was a catalyst year for change in discussion of race in America. For some that year might be 2016 or 2020. But for me it was 2014. When I read this now, knowing what I know today, even knowing what I knew just months after posting ... I wish to scrap it. This is an archive of memories, a time capsule so I am not keen on just erasing things from this space. But I will fess up to not liking what I wrote and feeling as if I was trying to make something feel better than reality. It appears as if I am one of those colorblind individuals and my actions later on like marrying a German and living in Europe sort of back that up. I am not colorblind nor have I ever been or plan to ever be. I am hyper aware of my race and its dynamics especially when moving about the world. This ring on my finger or apartment in Germany doesn't give me some sort of pass nor does it shield me from anything. However, perceptions of who I am or what I am about are still problematic even more so today. Instead of challenging the views of someone who was in a different place at a different time please consider the changes in society as well as personal growth on my end. I am mature enough and have had too many experiences to align with respectability politics while abroad. However, I do realize people struggle with this concept even domestically in the bonnet gates and code switching conversations that are happening today. I wish that we could just be ourselves everywhere at all times and not have to stay on code or fit into whatever box. The reality is that is impossible for so many but as I now proclaim to be a global citizen I move different. But hey even Oprah couldn't get into the Hermes store in Zurich. You feel me? 

Allow me to generalize for a moment - which type of Black traveler are you? Are you the first in your family to go or do anything rather - i.e. finish high school, go to college, get on a plane? Are you the affluent type who has always traveled and you are numb to the experience of travel and or being a "Black" traveler ? Are you the nomadic gypsy in between jobs and school taking a hiatus or leap? Are you the hard worker who rewarded yourself with a once in a lifetime opportunity? Maybe you are none of the above but who are you anyways? What do you convey as you go about the world with a suitcase? Sadly, the first thing you would be is your color. It is your first impression and everything else is secondary - thats life. Just imagine, what if race and colorism don't play a role elsewhere? What if your nationality always proceeded you? Which would you rather be judged by? I'll tell you when you're getting on the Paris Metro, who you are speaks louder than words and may have nothing to do with your being Black.

Traveling While … Black Part I

A year later I realized the importance of having traveled as a young, Black woman. I began to think about the few of us who do get the opportunity and how it's typically for alternate reasons than leisure. I understood that my particular experience was 180 to the ones of those who have a week long school trip or a short lived military tour. To be Black and travel for travel sake is a luxury most never get to have. I cannot help but wonder what the issue is. Does the desire to travel stop at the mystique of getting a passport? Do we feel we do not deserve it? Do we consider those who do get an opportunity to travel, even if short lived, to be lucky? Do we have hang ups about being the one person who gets to do it? Do we attempt and never get to go? At what point in life do we give up going at all? Is it ever too late to travel?


The Things I Lost In The Fire (A Conclusion to the Story)

I won't mince words. I write a blog and it's my opinions and views on what occurs in my life. However, people always get affected by what affects you (hmmm…).That is how blogging works. That is why my blog is unknown to many. She found my blog. I never expected that to happen. Her response to it… to throw away everything I left in France. Oddly enough it was after a great deal of communication about my possessions. A conversation I didn't initiate. I didn't want to be bothered with her. Yet I didn't expect her to stoop as low once she realized we were done. I wish I could say that was all. It would make me feel so much better if she retaliated with just throwing my stuff into the Seine. The problem is she didn't stop there. I don't feel as bad as I did when things originally happened. Now I just feel like I made a series of bad choices. It's hard to talk about. I feel violated. Surely, I lost material things but I like to think I lost so much more.

I Went Back "Home"

I time traveled a bit and chose to return home … temporarily. It's been about two weeks since I went back to Florida. I thought it would set in motion a concrete plan to return permanently. Instead, the trip made me re-evaluate a lot of things. I had a great time. Again, traveling with little to no expectations. I also saw too much. Now there is great uncertainty if going back is even the right thing. I am questioning my willingness to return and my overall happiness if I do. I feel I may get trapped "Redemption Road" style and never go on to fulfill my dreams of not being there at all.


The Debt Collector

I am in debt. I've always been. Since the ripe age of 19. If anyone would have told me what that debt would do to impair my life I probably would have made better choices. The debt hinders me in so many ways and there seriously is nothing to do about it. Sadly, I don't even have anything to show for it. I basically have one lambskin belt, several pieces of mediocre costume jewelry, a 5pc dinette set, a lot of photos and a reeling mind. That to the tune of just shy of $15,000. I wish I could just pay it all off and be done with it. However, its not that easy. The majority of my debt keeps growing. No matter how much and how often if I don't pay it in full it continues to increase. The reality is I bought crappy clothes, a $300 set, took out a $5000 private loan for school and went on a world tour with a selfish bitch. The odd part is I had the cash money to pay for all of that. I chose to "build my credit". That was the only advice I was ever given.

International Affair/Homecoming

In Iceland I dealt with the same uncertainty as Paris. I was being led by a travel app that was suffering without internet. The time was changing and there was a complete communication haze. I was also sleeping whenever I had a moment which put me on edge. Basically when I got off that first plane I was to transfer to another. I had no clue where to go and Icelandic was not a language I wished to deal with. When I entered Reykjavik I was dehydrated and irritated. No matter how hard I tried I could never see where I was supposed to go real time. So in my stupor I walked a different direction than everyone else to look for clues. It wasn't until I heard an unfamiliar clicking that I realized what I'd done.

Why Did You Unfriend Me??

I realized this message belonged to a specific person months after I returned home. I had never scrolled up to try to figure out who it was. When I did I was looking for something entirely different. I'd forgotten about it. So when I found it again, I took the screen shot because things correlated to present day.

This is the first and only person to notice they were deleted and say something. They turned out to be the main person who started the everything in the first place. They turned out to be a person that continually aggravated several situations. I didn't know it was this person when I received this message. The reality is I didn't know who this person was and at the time I had no way to respond. I was in an airport with no service. I tried to reply a million times and I simply couldn't. I kept thinking whoever this was would get a million desperate messages from me beamed down from whatever server way too late. I don't know if that happened or not. The reality is I traveled four countries in less than 24 hours. I came home. I slept. I forgot.


Oh Facebook … Connections and Cut Offs Via Social Media

Social Media can be a gift and a curse. No matter how you use it, there is always some way for it to bite you in the arse. It all starts out beautifully. You only see it as a way to communicate and connect. Soon it's a problem. Well it can be a different problem for everyone and I'll get into that. Just know that social media is a window. All of your online activity is just a window. You have the ability to look out and see other things but your personal online identity is on the other side. You are vulnerable when that thing is open. Not everyone should be privy to that space. Someone may come inside, you could get hit with a rock, rained on or the ultimate burn - a bird could poop on you. Just be aware that the window goes both ways and not everyone is who you think they are and vice versa.


Wildest Moments

My last evening in France was as intended. I wanted things to be wild and hectic. I wanted to be brazen and rushed. Now timing was everything and my destiny was unknown. I just had a bunch of digital boarding passes to different places in the world. I didn't know where I would sleep. I thought by some good graces I would have a phone. So I was straddling my suitcases and trying to change out the SIM at the back of the car. I was up and at it way before the train approached the station. It didn't occur to me I was now wild. I was the one who disobeyed the warnings. I was teetering on a moving train with several bags and a phone. I was getting the annoying yet familiar messages in French about not having enough credit. I was off the train before everyone else. I was using ticketing kiosks. I was going down escalators. I was conversing with people on the platform. 


Last Train To Paris … Literally

When I finally got on that TGV train I was happy. I wasn't happy about returning home. I was happier about returning to France. Those who grow up north in the city learn the sounds and smells of the trains and there is a familiarity that stays with you. Every homecoming you can recite the stops and announcements and know where you are just by the tiles out the windows. Well, after a while the trains in France were embedded in my memory just as the commuter trains from Penn Station to Brick Church in New Jersey. There is a distinct sound that plays on a TGV train letting you know where you are headed. That chime was like a bell ringing in my mind. I was not prepared to be going anywhere. I'd somehow packed my good glasses in my suitcase which was behind me in the car. I only had an apple, a flat soda and a pack of crackers left. I would not eat again until my second flight out. I had about 13 Euros. I had no magazines and I was tired of my books. I had no way to keep my devices charged after leaving Iceland. So I couldn't watch a movie or play games. Besides there was absolutely no wi-fi. The only reliable source of entertainment I had was an ancient iPod. When we rose through the Alps the elevation nearly killed it. Most electronic devices are anti-elevation. There was an excruciating sound that went through my headphones and a flash on the screen. I snatched them out of my ears and looked up - we were trailing up the freaking Alps! I was looking into mountain towns and cold water streams and that outer world you never think you'll be able to see. My iPod was permanently damaged, it works now but the remainder of the evening it wouldn't take a charge and it now has lines in the LCD. It didn't matter then. I suddenly realized I had transitioned into a bonfide traveler. I was no longer impressed by all the things. I was more enthused with my reactions to my surroundings. I was staring out and I didn't need to take a picture. That five, six hour ride was reflective so much so I didn't even sleep. I was happy with my choice to stay on as long as I did. To return home wasn't about comfort or pleasure. It was about doing the right thing for that moment. It was the right thing money wise. It was the right thing friendship wise. I had no money. I had no friendship. No matter how tied I was to that space in time - I had to return home. My timing for everything was spot on. I wasn't driven to the decision. I was mysteriously guided. It seemed no matter the circumstance or obstacle, I overcame it. I felt blessed. I felt lucky. I was literally on the last train to Paris! Just my ability to get a ticket was miraculous. Now I was in my own front facing seat looking down the car. I was listening to that chime and the French announcement was more prevalent than the one in broken English or garbled Italian. As others took their seats and looked at me, we shared the same expression. We were going home. 


What I Learned Cont'd - The Things… Italy and All Its Parts

Italy was the one flawless destination in our trip. It seemed free of problems and hiccups. Everything just fell into place. We'd wake up each morning with a plan (even when going separate ways). If anything began to unravel there was always a dreamlike free fall but I would be caught. There was always someone or something to catch me. I was never startled. I was never stirred. I would just stumble into things - many times alone, unprepared and angry. Then wherever I was or whoever was there settled me. What baffles me is there was so much more we both intended to see. We had hoped to visit four or five cities. We had hoped to see the water. Instead we chose the landlocked cities of Rome and Florence. Rome being a popular tourist destination. Florence being ideal for leaving. Most of the time we were seeing and doing our own thing. We also didn't seem to share our experiences anymore. In the company of each other we were silent. Apart I'll assume we both had our own internal thoughts. I always wondered did solitude make Italy more rewarding? Or did going most of it alone make it less of a dream? Either way this was my lost stop - happy ending or not.


Time Traveling/Petty Party

I've only shared this blog with a few close friends and people I've met since the trip. For those reading through the wonders of the Blogger community and Google - thanks for your views. By now I see a trend in anxiety versus a need to know about what happens next. I see this in the analytics of my blog entries and hear it in the voices of those I talk to about my blog. When discussing the goings on of my European trip I am informative to a point and then emotionally vague. Trust that I am reliving all the moments of last year in the now. I am reading daily Timehop's which speak to that time. I am reviewing notes in my phone written when I was there. I am packing things here and coming across ticket stubs and exhibit maps from back then. So for me this blog is frighteningly relevant.

Hotel Review Part II : Write About It Later AND Far, Far Away

So I started this series with a post about principle of hotel reviewing here. Now its all about the when and where of the actual posting of a hotel review. Let it be noted I am still reviewing my stays from last year and this should be the norm. You do not want to be one day into your stay casting a review online. Why? Well anything can happen during your stay. Your initial impression of the room may change. A poor introduction can be turned into a better experience. You could have a snafu while checking out. You also don't have anything to compare it to. Yes - you can't say that momentary stay is the best or worst because you need to have a variety of stays under your belt. Besides, no one trusts that sole reviewer that stayed last week and has something to say. People are looking to read reviews from well-traveled individuals who have many online postings and a ton of experience to back them up. Did I start out the traveling guru? Nope. However, after a few experiences good and bad I'm well prepared.


Travelin' Hygiene - The Cycle of The Cycles (Revised in 2021)

Disclamer & UPDATE - So much has changed since this post was originally written in July of 2014. First off, allow me to tell you a new fun fact. People have periods. I wish I knew to factor this in when writing about having a shared cycle on a EuroTrip. Please consider anyone traveling can and will experience a period. And with inclusivity comes sensitivity. Consider this your trigger warning as this post includes frank yet discreet terms around dum die dum ... menstruation! Having moved permanently to Europe and living in a city were we just lobbied (and won) to have free period products in public restrooms ... I have embraced the concept of a "period product". A not pink, not plastic filled, practical product to keep you clean and dry during your 5 to 7 (or 12 or 18 day cycle). I now use whatever including OB applicator free tampons and free bleeding. I have literally gave up on the reliable or convenient way to manage ones period. Most of the world is beginning to see how important human dignity is over societal vanity. If the only choice is a pad that will double as a twin sized mattress, we will take what we can get. As of today there are options - infused pads, more ecologically sourced cotton hygiene companies, a variety of reusable cups as well as absorbent panties, Pinky disposable kits etc. which make it far easier to travel when having ones period. In regards to what happened to me while in France I'll never quite know. But the body does change with changes and later on I found out my birth control was causing a slew of trouble down there. Pretty much everything I experienced was due to my being on the pill. Consider this post entertainment and me making light of a horrible situation. Hopefully, a situation no one else will have to endure in present future! 

I'd almost gotten through this story of two of girls traveling Europe and spared you the intimate details of the dreaded shared menstrual cycle. Run-on sentence indeed but it says a lot. It's not a mystery that when women are housed together their cycles tend to align. Really it can be quite cosmic like traveling pants. I've shared mine with co-workers, camp counselors, best friends, dorm mates etc. At first, it can be profoundly annoying especially when you are used to your start day and full week of misery. Then you become blood sisters about it relying on their timing. If they don't get their period, they question you and then you can embrace having yours on schedule and vice versa. You can see it all as healthy competition or a physical reminder. 



That last night in Florence I kept one eye open. I laid there in bed while she did her usual inventory. I could feel her unpacking everything just to touch it. Then I could see her carefully folding everything back. She would sit at the desk as she did at every hotel ripping up boarding passes and receipts. Then she would throw out old empties and ravage the toiletries in the bathroom. She would struggle with her ailing phone and charge up her iPad. All loose ends were tied. She'd said all she wanted. I'd come to terms with the loss. I wasn't using her charger. She wasn't using my laptop. She'd returned my copy of Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast". I'd asked if she needed money for a taxi in Milan knowing I didn't have it to give. The creepiest part was her talking through me about her arranging so I could have breakfast and be able to stay in the room until 12pm. Now she was reaching. I didn't feel entitled and my invitation hadn't been rescinded. I didn't need her permission to do as I'd planned all along. 


Disclaimer: This is the real, uninformative part of the blog where it gets all emotional and boring...

When I came back to that room I don't recall if she was there or came in shortly after. However, she was angry but that wasn't abnormal. So I don't recall if she was truly angry when I came back or dialing down from being steaming mad all day. I don't know now and I didn't care then. What eventually happened was a dramatic flight from the hotel room. I remember her snatching things and slamming the door. Then I attempted to reason with her via iMessage for nearly an hour. I don't know if I was successful. I don't know if I said the right things. The reality was we were two people who needed a place to sleep for the night. In the morning, she would go her way and I would go mine.

A Tuscan Fiasco

I'd told her I needed a hair day...

The night before she'd declined my grapes but wanted to talk and watch torrents of "Love and Hip Hop". She hadn't realized I'd unfriended her a city ago. She didn't notice how I knew she was keeping her toothbrush far away from mine. There was no correlation when I made my request. I guess to her it was more obvious that I hadn't combed my hair for a week. I'd been rocking a rather militant afro since Rome. I didn't even make an effort to put a headband on it. At first it was about the weather and trying to maintain my cool. Soon it became a statement about my frustrations. It was my way of saying "it's time to go home". So I really needed the room to myself to not only detangle but rethink things. And I did set out to do my hair. However, I got half way through my routine and realized I had a chance to turn things around.


Flavors & Surroundings - Super Mercato Shopping in Florence

I'm a jill of all trades when it comes to shopping. I love a good shoe, to me Sephora is the closest thing to Heaven and a supermarket can be a blinding oasis for my inner chef. I never thought of stores as challenges or safe havens but while abroad they became just that. Places for cultural exploration (or confusion), air conditioning, money changing, phone recharges and refreshment. In London, it was the newsstand with lemony water and Clark bars. In France, it was the open air market with strange smells and tasty delights. In Spain, it was the plethora of ham and tropical flavors of every yogurt imaginable. In Italy, it was just bad. The only supermarket we entered was dark, dismal and had warm Cokes. The alternative was dark, dismal and gourmand. Surely, I want jars of olives, sauces and pasta that was stretched by hand but it isn't practical. What I missed was the variety of a Publix and the access of a Super Walmart. If Rome was bad, Florence was worse and for all the same reasons. There was the dismal and the inaccessible. Then it became whatever works and Sapori & Dintorni.


Highways and Doorknobs and Forts

My last two days in Firenze involved staying awake and active. I had to do whatever I could to avoid the anxiety of leaving and hunger of being broke. Instead of sleeping all day or watching horribly dubbed TV I chose to get up and go out. My mother also offered to send me money in spurts. Well it was per my request so I didn't have much to spend and had enough to navigate back to Paris and home. The day of the Accademia fiasco I'd discovered an alliance banking ATM closer to the hotel. This meant that I could drain my account for whatever could be sent as well as explore. I expected to find somewhere that was off the beaten path for tourists i.e. a small bar, a free gallery. Just anything to occupy my time and spend as little of my money as possible. So I set out to this bank the latter part of the day and had a bit of an adventure.


If You Would Like To See Michelangelo's David...

Know that there are three (not including this one in Sarasota) …


Tactics & Strategies

That evening of boredom, hunger and overdosing was decided long ago by others. I'd been warned about this. Years ago a co-worker suggested that her and I go to Europe for fun. At this point my mind was far from doing anything like that. However, she suggested in a couple of years we'd be prepared and it would be an easy reward. We had both expected to graduate. We had both expected to be able to quit our day jobs. We had both expected to be fit for the journey. We both had never been abroad and she explained that the trip would cost us a fair amount of money. She thought it best to finish school and save for a while and maybe a year or so after that we could go. In that I didn't agree because I felt I had a better understanding of money. She was a lot younger than me and I knew that someone her age would put great value on an amount. I always felt like a few thousand would suffice for a backpacking expedition wherein a younger person saves four summers for a $1000 piece of shit car. I encouraged her not to wait on things as I did and go when she was ready versus prepared. Damn, was she right about waiting, saving and seeing things for how they really were. I had spent so much money so fast I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of it and now it was all gone.

See Here Is My Problem With Florence

Just an hour or so after arriving in Florence we headed to the center. We needed to find food and she needed her 12 Euros. We passed some familiar named places, stopped in others and then found ourselves in an Egyptian protest. Then we wondered around all the shops and restaurants. Soon we found a square with a few vendor tables, carts and a big carousel. While she was taking pictures of seesawing horses and other peoples children I zeroed in on the ATM just behind it. I know I told her where I was going but I doubt she was listening. Once inside the bank I took out 20 Euros as usual and we met just outside. I know she was curious as to what I had but it really wasn't for her to know. Instead I helplessly followed her on this hunt to see the bridge with houses on it. I figured at some point we'd get thirsty and I could change my "big money" for her. 

No Ice Cream

My first impression of Florence was "wow, look at all the people". From the train station, to the streets and in the center there were so many friggin people. The people of Florence are used it. Well the've accepted it. They have adapted to the sensibilities of everyone but themselves. There are the shops for cheap Americans not slurping special ice cream a.k.a. gelato. There are the churches and bridges for photo happy, well dressed Asians. There are oh so many trinkets for the rest of the European Union including crusty bread and Schweppes sodas. When we did come to standstill and the crowds were above us the only thought I could muster is what a decent blur of a place for a couple. If I were happy and apart of a twosome I would do Florence over Paris any day. KimYe got it right.

366, 100, 5 and One (Real Time)

This time (real time),last year I was preparing for the big voyage. This time (in the blog) I was just arriving in Florence. The timing is so strange. In this very moment, I'm thinking about the Florence I didn't get to see. That KimYe wedding just ties up all the loose ends. It is also my birthday, well Friday that is. I am again preparing for that alongside the bigger voyage. Yes, at this very moment everything is packed and I'm ready to go home. Just like I couldn't find a way out of the U.S. faster or a way to "get" Florence - I cannot find my way back home to Florida. No, I still have not found a job. Oh and suddenly theres some drought in housing and my former roommate and I cannot find a place. So again I'm in a limbo much like last year and much like in Florence. 

I have to remember I am here. I mean after all this is my 100th post. I have 93 published, 6 in drafts and this one being typed (real time). If I hadn't stayed optimistic and ate crow and saved face I wouldn't have been able to write anything at all. A lot can happen in five days. I'm not going to make a hard goal of it. I'm not going to force it on myself. I will let the cards fall where they may. For now just as before and once, twice again - my suitcase is packed. I'm ready to go. I was so ready to go June 5th. I was already gone in Florence (I'll get to that). I am soooo totally ready to get the hell out of here. I can't believe I may be stuck here for my birthday. If it happens I'll let my mother amuse me with tokens of affection and re-celebrate later in the month or July. 

So what now that the adventure is almost over? Well is it really? I think it's pretty magical that everything is coming full-circle now. The timing is right. My best friend is coming to get me and he wants to make a road trip of it. We plan on going to Asheville and Savannah. My mother has also suggested she come along. I don't know how this is supposed to work with three dogs, garbage bags full of winter clothes and boxes of Cheerwine but I'll have to see. Trust and believe, I will keep writing and I still have a lot more to tell beyond Florence. I had a stop in Milan. I saw the Alps and my iPod suffered the altitude. There is Paris, Iceland, New York, a few places in between and here. So heres to many places, 365…366 days, 200 more blogs and June 6th and many more. 


Italo Train/Florence The Land of ATMs and Drinks

I didn't want to leave Rome. If there was another way around it I would have stayed. I was hopeless about moving on. I just knew no matter what was scheduled or planned things would be up in the air. They were indeed because we sort of walked on eggshells about checking out. She wanted to leave without breakfast and I thought it was important we get one last free meal. I had to face it. Our next meal wasn't guaranteed and the city ahead was my last stop. I only had so much cash and I didn't want to waste it. However, when we turned in the card keys we were offered breakfast with a twist. It was free to us considering we did stay the night but since we were leaving it was time for us to pay our city taxes. Also when closing the account they tacked on a room service fee for our first night's evening tea. So I left on a full stomach with an empty wallet. She was rushing and that put us at our train station two hours early. All the while I was really dreading getting on another high speed train.


It's A Small, Small World

Our last night in Rome I was met with a wallop. Well several back to back. First, an old friend of mines got married. Second, she was the one to tell me this. Third, her frienemy reaction made me realize her and I should have never been friends to begin with. To sum it all up I was sitting in bed with her showing me wedding pictures as though we were best chums. The reality is she was just turning the knife. My old friend was someone I'd encouraged to marry. I know now that I only did that because I couldn't have him myself. Their six degrees of separation was now forcing me to smile at photos of him marrying someone he told me he didn't love. I smiled to keep from crying and participated because I couldn't leave for another four days. 


Life: The Laundry, The Lady and The Lies

Eventually when traveling you run out of underwear. What happens next says a lot about you and your circumstances. I sure some can afford to throw them away and simply buy more. I'm sure there are those who must continue to wear them. I had imagined washing them out in hostel sinks. Thankfully, I really never had to do that. Most places we stayed had accommodations and I'd brought more than what I thought would be enough. There were skipped days too. Beach days in bikini bottoms. Days I never left the confines of our hotel room. Sooner or later we both had to come to terms with doing our laundry and it became apart of the travel experience. We'd have to find the facilities or negotiate when to use provided ones. We'd have to figure out how to use the machines since they were all weird and foreign. We'd have to be nice to each other and pool our money and or dirty underthings to make things more efficient. I guess you could say it was about bonding for a mutual cause. Most times we were alone in this process and made due the best we could. If we weren't tagging each other out for use of a washer, we were arguing over drying space to hang things and then we were always trying to figure out what was vital or going into file 13. This last laundry trip was symbolic. We were now down to our last bits having thrown out most everything for the trip home. We didn't care as much about niceties like softener or hanging delicates. It was more about reflection and closure. In this I stayed in the laundromat while she went back to the hotel.

This wasn't some big to do decision. She always seemed to want to hang her stuff up and have more space. She had brought all these silly summer sweaters and jacquard/lace shorts so she needed more drying time. I liked to hang my things because I always do. I personally don't like drying my things to a crisp much like I don't like icy cold drinks or air con blasting in my direction. I guess I'm less conventional but the idea of me hanging my shitty clothes leaving less space for her splendid wardrobe irked her. So when given the opportunity to leave with her wet valuables she ran. She had left quite a bit of things behind so I was wondering about that. Like did she want me to regulate the drying time of those things in the same manner I did mines? Some people wash their dry cleaning, bleach their bras and allow their t-shirts to wrinkle - I don't. However, no matter the issues between us I still cared that her Aerie crap stayed decent and every few minutes I pulled something out that needed tending to. I put her socks in matches and I laid out her other stuff. Sooner or later I had things draped across every chair and table. I'd also taken a walk. I looked at gelato. I wrote some notes in my phone. Then came this woman with a small bag of things much like ours. She was obviously traveling long term too. In this we sparked up a conversation. She was American and nearing the end of her trip. She too was faced with going back to no job and no money. We talked a great deal about that and I made room for her to sit by me.

This lady was in her mid 40s. She'd never been married or had children. She'd worked all her life. She really couldn't afford to travel but she had some family member that lived overseas. That allowed her to come over and do a bit of hoping through other nearby countries. Her concern was that she had been laid off and really couldn't find anything else. It was too early for her to retire and she was afraid no one would hire her. She wasn't the greatest looking either and you could tell life hadn't really been kind to her. But she did have vacations and holidays abroad and no one could take that away from her. I explained that we had both been looking for jobs after leaving the same company for the trip. I told her how I expected to be like her and it was important for me to travel while I could. We talked about the luxury of it and having developed a better perspective. We discussed her coming back and transitioning as she'd done time and time before. She just seemed so weary and concerned about not being able to work. Soon my friend came back and went straight to the dryer which had been neglected since I'd been talking. Inside she realized she'd forgotten one of her stupid sweaters. I showed her that I'd noticed other things and "saved" them but she really wasn't thankful. She was also put off by the presence of the woman who was nice to acknowledge her and invite her into the conversation. 

Now I'd been in this position how many times? I would come back from the restroom and find her engaged in a conversation with people just gabbing on about me. It was never clear or correct information just whatever she could muster up for attention sake. I'd have to answer to the questions of those that thought she was a photographer from D.C. and I was an aspiring French restauranteur. In this I gave her justice. To this fellow American she was the same. She was a single, childless, jobless and desperate woman. We all were. Sadly, she didn't even give the woman a chance. She was already ten steps ahead embellishing herself and even me. The lady just looked at me with open eyes as to say 'I guess this one is ashamed'. I'm sure she was. We were both looking at ourselves in this poor lady with a nylon bag of dirty underthings and a few frocks. She couldn't even realize at least we had each other. We could have been this poor woman working our entire lives, sacrificing everything and then traveling between checks and opportunities and going it alone. She just didn't get it. She was too busy trying to stretch her sweater back out and tell this lady in her weird put-on accent that we we're going to be working in sectors we weren't even interested in. I just smiled. Obviously, she didn't get the symbolism of everything. 

Here we were in Rome of all places. We're standing in an internet cafe/laundromat. Out of all the people in the world in walks someone you can take a cue from. We're all standing over the same table folding panties and balling up socks. We all have no idea what we are going to do. We don't know what were going to eat. We don't know how we'll get home. We don't know where we will live. We don't know how we will survive. We're all American woman with similar backgrounds at different places. The lady is in her 40s. I'm in my 30's. And she's in her 20s. This woman is telling us so many things without saying anything at all. Our clothes are clean. Our conscience is clean. Our slate clean. Now what? I don't want to ever go home. This lady just wants to be considered. And she just wanted me to get her sweater out the dryer and lie to this lady about who she is and wants to be. The same way the sweater and the shorts lied. The same way the whole damn trip was a lie. I promised myself then and there that I would never lie to myself again. I would accept things fully and at face value. I could have been that woman but thank God I'm not. I'm traveling! I have clean underwear! I'm going home but I'll be back!


The Colosseum

I don't like ruins. I avoid them. I was practically dragged to them in Spain. I do however enjoy history. I just avoid natural history museums. Well at least the stuffed animals and bones part. Stuff like that isn't relatable to me. I prefer relatable history. I like ancient relics and folk art. Think those Mexican art galleries that have metates. I love seeing them and knowing that was the original food processor. I can relate and retrace the steps from then to now. In Rome, there is a rich history lesson in relatable things like humanity, architecture, culture and religion. There is living folk art and relics still in use. I'm sure most tourists don't care about that sort of stuff. They don't imagine walking in ancient footsteps. They don't align with the cause and effect. They don't care to ask themselves how is this apart of me and others like me today. So as much as everyone else cares to just walk The Colosseum taking pictures and telling a friend. I much preferred walking the well curated displays and halls telling the complete story. Surely I could have walked in the blood of thousands but wouldn't have had an understanding. I may have came away with a typical response to the things I don't like. Instead, I took away the loveliness of the gathering. The idea of it all. There is the grandeur of the place. Knowing that everyone from emperor to commoner came to see. Thousands upon thousands of people sat there watching. Everyone playing at morality with thumbs up and thumbs down.


Fighting To Be A Gladiator

On our last day in Rome we planned the excursion to The Coliseum/Colosseum. We had a decent evening and planned to be well rested for the journey. I however was in a million different places mind wise. I was still negotiating my trip home. I was offering advice to a friend looking to travel to where we were. I was also horribly managing my money. I seriously kept re-counting what I had and tallying expected costs. I was coming up very short and then I'd locked up my own card by buying train tickets. I was supposed to receive money from a friend and my mother but we could never connect. Earlier in the week iMessage was down. Then when I expressed the need it was after business hours in the states. My friend would agree to send money to match my mothers for my train ticket but wound up getting underpaid. It was a real disaster. I had about 20 Euros on hand, a little over $28 available in the bank and so many expenses ahead. I didn't know what to expect at The Colosseum, the hotel would be charging us city taxes in the morning, then there was Florence and still had to make it to home. I was in turmoil.


The Papa and The Pizza

From the moment we arrived in Rome we'd been greeted by a pizza papa in a window. It didn't matter the time or day he was simply there. In that window he was rolling dough and making garlic knots. He would sometimes have it down a bit and talk to people through it. Whenever we walked by he would do some ditty for us. He'd tap on the glass or blow us a kiss. It would always make us smile. After the long hard journey to the Vatican we felt ready for some pizza. Oddly enough the papa wasn't there but his place was waiting for us. When we walked past all tired and irritated there was no papa to cheer us up. Instead there was a snarky maitre d putting on his new tie in the foyer. As we peered in looking to see the papa he quickly tidied himself and approached us. He asked did we like pizza. He said we could have pizza just for two. He then said the papa would be back in a few hours. So we told him we'll be back when papa returns.


It's Been A Year - Update Written May 16th 2014

I cannot believe it. 

A few days ago last year I came here to North Carolina. This is exactly where I didn't want to be a year later. I have been so distracted by things going on. I've been awful at others birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, announcements. So much so I forgot this unfortunate one. I also forgot to re-evaluate my exit plan. I had recently planned to give myself thirty days to leave. On the 15th day I should have been midway right!? I'm so far from doing what I need to do. I'm not even close. I'm just as unsure about everything as I was exactly 365 days ago.

Pieces of The Sistine Chapel

After leaving St.Peter's square we were covered in water and ready to make the short journey around the city walls. We were going to call it a day but I thought it was best we do it all including the Vatican museums. By now it was around 2pm and they all would be closing within the next three hours. We approached it like other museums knowing we may not have time to see everything but started big and worked our way back down. We honestly didn't see much art or sculpture and spent most of the afternoon on a journey to The Sistine Chapel. I say journey because it is not a one stop shop. You must enter the main museum and walk past most exhibitions to get to the chapel. At some points we were outside making the trek and cutting clear through the Vatican City. I can easily say I felt mislead by the all the fanfare and expected to be disappointed much like seeing the Mona Lisa. Instead once there everything slowed a bit and it was a very intimate viewing of an amazing space. Sadly what we saw was not to be discussed and we were not allowed to take any photographs. There were many that chose to take chances ruining it for others. Today the chapel is nearing closed invitations for viewing only because too much traffic is ruining the structure. So as put off as I was about the experience of seeing it, I am one of the lucky ones. I can't share a lot of insight on what I saw that day but I did do this…


St.Peter's Basilica and The Dome

Once inside the great St.Peter's we walked around in awe of its many doors, niches and altars. There was prayer as well as a full service going on. There were a lot of barriers in place to keep the flow of people. There were also lines to various sites within the compound. I didn't pay attention to much because everything was beyond me. The sheer massiveness of the structure itself was enough to marvel at. It would take a lifetime to really explore every part of the place. It would take a lifetime and a half to even understand what you actually saw. In the moment of being there I tried to retain the grandeur versus the detail. So I didn't take many photos and I tried not to touch anything. The majority of the morning I fumbled with my make shift covering which was one pin away from a wardrobe malfunction. So instead of really getting into things I found myself in corners trying to keep my knees from showing.

Don't Get A Roma Pass

In all my glory of the Vatican I forgot to discuss our decision making process on going in the first place. We expected to get the "Roma Pass" to access all sites within Rome and we assumed the Vatican would be a selling point. Once we noticed it was excluded along with many other attractions we opted not to get one. Heres how we came to that decision and how you can figure out if its a go or a no…