Travel to a Zone That is Outside of Your Norm

Travel to a place that is full of surprise for you.  Shock others by stepping out of your comfortable surroundings. I speak to you the White American that visits only places where others speak the same language as you.  I speak to you all the races and cultures that are residing outside of their native land and when you travel, you only travel to your native land.  This message is for you.

I am so grateful for my travel adventures and every time I am in a new place, I take a moment to try to connect with a local.  For me, it’s about getting a sense of perspective and renewing my mind.  I have my own bias and have to let go and learn.

Stretch yourself to step outside of your norm. Today, you don’t have to travel to another country to experience culture.  Travel a few feet within your office and get to know someone who is from Asia, Oceania, Africa, or South America.  Have conversations with people who are a different race than you.  If your workplace is diverse, you must use the opportunity to connect with others.  Your perspective on things is not the only perspective.  Learn about someone else’s perspective to broaden your own mind and begin to think more globally.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, peace be with you.

 

 

 

Entertain Your Soul Through Travel

Take a vacation that is good for your soul.  If you want to rest and allow your mind and body to be in peace, check out the all inclusive trips in the Caribbean and Mexico.  I reckon spiritual and yoga trips as well, although I have yet to experience this sort of trip.  Most of my adventures in the past two years have totally been to entertain my soul in cities by discovering authentic foods, hidden vibrant streets, cafes, art galleries and having conversation with locals.  Sometimes your soul needs to connect with other people or maybe even with animals around the world.  It always feels good to connect with nature and God’s beautiful creatures.  I took this photo while hanging out with these adorable koalas in Cairns, Australia.  Staring at an animal sounds boring and I typically don’t agree with visiting zoos.  I justified this experience because I didn’t know any other way to see these cute and cuddly animals in their native land.

Fun Fact: Did you know that koalas sleep for 16 hours a day? They need more time to digest the leaves they eat.

Entertain your soul to feel more alive in this journey we call life.

Coffee and Cake

All over the world people crave coffee as a drip, espresso, latte, macchiato, cortado and the list goes on.  Traveling through South America, drinking coffee more than once a day was a usual thing for me.  Actually, in every city that I visit, I usually like to try a local coffee spot and if I’m feeling kind of sugary…I’ll have a doughnut too.

In Australia, I had a hard time finding drip coffee.  First on the list was espresso or cortado.  If you absolutely, need to have drip coffee you will have to go to Starbucks. Even McDonald’s doesn’t have the drip coffee, it’s all about McCafe and the baristas are off to their own special corner to make a specialty coffee for you.  I don’t like going to North American places when I’m not in North America.  The whole point of travel is to experience something new! 

After having lunch in the Spice Alley, we found this cute Korean cafe, 85 Degrees, which we later realized is a chain throughout Australia.  The coffee and cake combo was a must after our spicy thai lunch at spice alley.

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Target Stores: Same Name and Branding, but it is a Different Store

As you travel, you will discover brands that you won’t find back home. This is part of the joys in discovering new places. What you think is cool back home might have another story in a different country. I have always loved Target stores, even when they came to my homeland, Canada. Although they didn’t survive, the excitement of Target stores entering Canada will never be forgotten…and sadly neither will their exit.

Even with a weaker Canadian dollar, Canadians have always loved shopping in the US to get deals on clothing, electronics, and even cars. When Target came to Canada everyone expected it to be filled with quality products at low prices.   The bargains they were used to getting in the states were far off from what they remembered when shopping across the border. Target did not survive in Canada and as far as I knew, Canada was the only country this company had tried to penetrate market share. To my surprise, while exploring the streets in Sydney and Melbourne, I saw Target stores many times. After seeing it so many times, I finally decided to check it out. The merchandise seemed the same and everything about the store was like the US version. I didn’t want assume anything though because I was in a different country, so I had to ask the store clerk, “Is this the same Target that is in the US?” Her response was, “No it is not the same company.”

I walked away wondering which store knocked off the other or was that employee completely off. I did a quick search and to my surprise, while the branding and the name appear to be the same, they are in fact completely different companies, with different owners, founders, and history. They were never the same company.  I’m still surprised that the two companies look the same.

What do you think about their similarities? Have you run into a similar experience on your travels?

 

The picture on the left is a Target in Australia and the one on the right is a target in the United States.

I’m not a fan of fast food, but we saw Hungry Jacks everywhere in Australia too. Since it is local to the nation, I decided to give this place a try.  Which fast food place does this remind you of?

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Hungry Jacks at South Cross Station in Melbourne

I was pleasantly surprised with Kmart Australia.  The women’s apparel was like shopping at H&M or Forever 21.  I picked up some tops, denim cut off shorts, and a wide brimmed hat.  I don’t remember Kmart being that awesome in Canada or the US.  Kmart Australia is an independent entity operating in Australia and New Zealand and was actually previously part of the American stores.

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Kmart in Australia. (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

What I have learned is that while we are so different from country to country, we are the same.

Just Say Hello

Ola, Hello, Bonjour, Kia Ora, Salam, Akwaaba, G’day and so many more greeting across this wonderful globe.  Greetings to each and every one of you.  Every place I visit, I try to connect with locals.  By simply greeting someone, you are welcoming a conversation. Striking a conversation with a stranger doesn’t have to lead to a super intense or long discussion, especially if you are on the go with a tight schedule.  All of my trips have been short and sweet, so I usually have limited time to capture as much as possible, but I always have moments to make an attempt to learn about local life. I appreciate their life, their land and their perspective.  If they want to know about me, I’m happy to share too.

All it takes is a quick greeting and if the individual is open, you can carry a conversation.  While visiting Australia, I wanted to connect with the Indigenous community outside of the museums and touristy sites.  One early morning in Cairns, my husband and I went to the Palm Cove Beach to watch the sunrise.  We did some meditation and then we took a walk along the beach.  There was a couple sitting along the edge where the beach meets the grass and right before reaching a shady woods area.  We started with “hello” and the hand gesture wave.  They responded with welcomes and had we a brief chat with them.  We learned that they were on a short and sweet trip too.  They had pitched a tent right behind them and planned to be there for 2 days as a getaway from their family.  They needed a break from their hustle and bustle.  We had an intimate moment, as the man told us that all the land belonged to them and that unfortunately there is no work so he is currently unemployed.  We also talked about going for a swim at this time of year and the dangers associated with the marine stingers and crocodiles.  We had read in the National Maritime Museum in Sydney that the crocodile is sacred in their culture as they believe that they embody the spirits of important people. The couple had no fear of going for a swim and confirmed what we had read in the museum.  They are both descendants of the Yirrganydji and maintain their spiritual connection with the land.  They proudly shared that they know how to spot and avoid the crocodiles and get of the water safely.

Speaking with them taught me to remove all judgement.  Prior to saying hello, I thought they would not want to talk to a tourist.  I took the risk and said hello anyway.  I believe if you put out love, you will receive love, so that’s what I did and they welcomed me.  We had a good chuckle, listened to a bit of music and then said our best wishes.  We snapped a pic for memories, however out of respect, I have only posted their shadows as we were on the beach and they were in their swimwear.

Thank you God for introducing me to more people and sharing pleasant moments across your globe.

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Palm Cove Beach, Cairns, Australia (Queensland)

A Journey that Ends with a Beach

There are over 10,000 beaches in Australia and to be exact the University of Sydney has counted 10, 685 beaches.  I would not be surprised if there are more in hidden places that man has yet to walk.  My trip was short and sweet and I only had a chance to visit a few places.  I never get tired of visiting the beach, even though my purpose is not to tan because I am blessed with dark skin.  I love the sun and for its rays to kiss my skin giving me the dose of vitamin D that my body needs for good health.  I love listening to the sounds of the water and feeling more connected to the earth.  When I get to the beach it is my moment of peace and calm from all the chaos and pollution in any city.  This post is to highlight one beach in Northern Sydney.

Palm Beach, Manly, Sydney

The journey we made to this beautiful beach took us about 90 minutes and we started with the Manly ferry from Circular Quay.  The ferry ride is about 20 minutes and boasts spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Once we disembarked from the ferry, we walked to catch a bus to Palm Beach and that bus ride was about 60 minutes. I like taking the bus so that I can view the city as the locals do everyday.

The long bus ride is worth it and you will realize that as you begin to approach this affluent area where the median home is selling for $2.6 Million.  A little fun fact for you: the long running Australian tv show, Home and Away is filmed here.

Palm Beach is along the Tasman Sea, within the South Pacific Ocean.  I was there on a December afternoon and the sky was a bit overcast, but there was enough sun to lay out and veg for more than a couple of hours without the risk of getting burnt.  The tide and temperature of the water was perfect for riding the waves and as we frolicked with every wave. The surfers were nearby catching the bigger waves outside of the swimmers boundaries. Let me remind you that when visiting the beaches in Australia, you must stay within the yellow and red poles, which are marked as the safe zone monitored by lifeguards on duty.  The waves can shift and mother nature can be violent at any time.

There is also a public pool at the end of the beach which we noticed wasn’t busy.  In that area, you can take a walk along the huge rocks and admire more of God’s creation.

Palm Beach is one my favourite beaches in the world.  I still have more to see!  As always, thank God for travel!

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Take bus 29 to and from Manly.

 

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sitting on the rocks at Palm Beach

Fast Track Through the Airport

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YVR (Vancouver) airport at 10:00 PM. The Nexus lane is closed at 10 PM and everyone goes through the same line. Don’t even bother expecting to be expedited here.  Your Nexus status doesn’t apply after 10 PM.

Frequent travelers heading to the U.S. have the option to apply for a Global Entry card to speed through the customs and immigration.  Before being approved to obtain this status, you must pay and then go through a full screening process and an interview.  The whole point of getting this status is to fast track your way through security after you check in or upon arrival at the airport, depending on your port of entry into the U.S.  With this status my husband and I have shaved at least 30 minutes each time.

For U.S. and Canadian residents, you also have the option to apply for a NEXUS card.

The following statement is taken directly from the CBP website:

NEXUS 

The NEXUS program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing when entering the United States and Canada. Program members use dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border ports of entry, NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada by air and Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States via Canadian Preclearance airports. NEXUS members also receive expedited processing at marine reporting locations.

The NEXUS program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing when entering the United States and Canada. 

Unfortunately, if you arrive at YVR after 10pm at a time when you absolutely need to speed through…you will run into the madness you see in the above photo.

I have been to more than 25 airports and as much as I love YVR, I have to say I was recently disappointed with when I was ready to go through the Nexus line only to be told that it is closed.  It is only open from 8AM-10PM.  What kind of foolishness is this?   The whole point of having this Nexus card is to avoid these sort of lines. Shame on you YVR Customs.

 

How to Adjust From One Time Zone to the Next

I usually don’t get jet lag, especially if the time difference from one city to the next is only 3 hours.  I recently flew from Dallas, Texas to Sydney, Australia.  The length of the flight was nearly 17 hours and the time difference was 17 hours.  The flight wasn’t so bad because it left DFW in the evening. I watched a couple of movies, walked around a bit to keep the blood flowing in my body, slept for about 8 hours and then I read for a bit… and then slept some more. I was fed a couple of meals in between that time too.  When it was time to land, I had missed the entire Thursday and it was early Friday morning in Sydney, Australia.

Upon arrival into the city, it was time for coffee and exploration in the central business district (CBD).  Now the body was definitely confused because back home I was supposed to be asleep and not gallivanting all over the city.  On this day I ate lunch at the local Sydney time and I skipped dinner.  By the time it was about 7pm I was beat and I wanted to head back to the room early and catch some zzzzs.  My husband suggested that we push through the desire to sleep in order to help us adjust quickly.  This totally worked!  Within a couple of days we adjusted perfectly, but I do have some tips for you if you have a lot of trouble adjusting to time change.

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
  3. If you have GERD, be sure to stay as close to your normal routine as possible.
  4. Live in the moment and enjoy.
  5. Mind over matter. Train your body to start adjusting to the time difference on your first day.
  6. Sleep and eat at the local time of your current city.
  7. Just have fun and don’t worry.

The picture in this post is the first picture I took in Sydney, Australia.

How to Pack Light For Any Trip

For the past two years I have traveled with one carry on and one personal handbag.  So many people have asked me how I do it.  For this post I want to share how you can pack light, get through security quickly and travel safe.

Most of my trips are short and sweet and I don’t need to pack a ton of things.  So take this into consideration, if you are going somewhere for 3 or more weeks, this may not be right for you.

Here is what I have in my suitcase as I adventure through Australia for 2 weeks:

4 mini tanks (undershirts)

10 undies and 3 bras

8 pairs of socks

3 t-shirts

1 blouse

2 pants

2 skirts

1 pair of shorts

1 cardigan

1 dress

2 belts

1 hat

1 swimsuit

toiletries (all less than 100 ml)

1 mini first aid kit

1 pair of sneakers

1 pair of flip flops

1 scarf

I wore an ankle boot on the day of travel and carried a jacket suitable for the expected temperature.  It’s summer in Australia and with 30 degrees Celsius temperatures everyday, it was easier to pack light.  My personal handbag is an over the shoulder canvas bag that fits my computer, books, and another mini knapsack.

I always pack everything I might possibly need for health and beauty. From toothpaste to lotions to tweezers, bandaids, and scissors.  Going through security at the airport, I have noticed that all airports have their requirements for what they allow and don’t allow to pass through.  All airports have a zero tolerance for bottled water.  I packed scissors in my bag many months ago and it was confiscated at the airport in Bogota, Colombia.  I had to replace that scissors and have since traveled many times after that incident with my new scissors and was faced with no challenges.  Today I was departing Cairns, Australia en route to Melbourne and my bag was put aside to check the scissors that showed on their x-ray machine.  Good news. They allowed me to keep the scissors because they are round edged.  So note to you…do not carry pointy scissors, even if they are tiny and just for shaping your brows or clipping unwanted nose hairs.

I find that most of the time, the amount of stuff I pack I don’t even use half of the items anyway.  If something gets really smelly, it’s easy to hand wash and hang it up in your bathroom.

What tips do you have for traveling light?

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons To Love Madrid

Madrid is magnificent.  I visited during this past Christmas break and absolutely loved the charm the city has to offer and I can see myself visiting again.  Madrid has something for everyone from art and culture to tapas to beautiful parks.  Depending how you choose to spend your time in the historical city, you will find yourself losing sense of the time and before you know it the day is gone.  Have no worries, things take on another fun vibe right through the night.  You can check out live music, flamenco shows, and eat until like 2 a.m. I tend to be one that turns in pretty early, so the latest I was out was about 12:30 a.m., but I heard that you can easily attend a flamenco show as late as 4 am within the local scene.

I want to give you my 5 top reasons to love Madrid and this is why I will find myself visiting again in the future.

  1. Madrid is a metropolitan city!  There is excitement the moment you enter the city and if you don’t speak Spanish, have no worries….most people speak English too.
  2. The architecture is gorgeous and no matter where you are, you find yourself surrounded by history.
  3. It is a walk-able city with and excellent metro system, which includes a route to and from the airport for 5 Euros.
  4. There is an incredible charm in this city, with its perfectly manicured parks.  I took a walk through the most popular, Buen Retiro.  This park, which belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, is also known as El Retiro Park and apparently a trip to Madrid is not complete without a visit here.
  5. Spanish fashion is hot!  I remember when I first visited Spain in 2007 and bought my favorite pair of jeans from Mango.  A few years later Mango started opening stores across North America. If you want to refresh your wardrobe this is the place to do it

This article is not complete without a mention of churros and chocolate. I loved the energy in this cute busy little cafe called Los Nuevos Alpes. It is across from the Mercado Market on Calle Mayor, 54, 28013 Madrid, Spain.

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El Retiro Park
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Christmas in Madrid
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The Royal Palace. If you are a member of EU, you can visit for free between 4-6PM.
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That’s my husband dipping the churros in the hot chocolate.

 

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