I kept going back and forth about whether or not to write a full post dedicated to how we can work harder to support and uplift each other during this time of uncertainty. Ultimately, I ended up recording a video for that, but I also wanted to say something short and sweet here: the most overwhelming part of the crisis we are enduring is the uncertainty of every aspect of it. We are uncertain of how to fight or diminish this virus, we are uncertain of when there will be a viable vaccine, we are uncertain of how this will impact our economy in the long run, we are uncertain of the security of our jobs, and so on, and so on. But amidst all the negativity, people are certainly showing up for each other both physically and emotionally. Aim to be one of those people and do your part.
So, my original plan for this week’s blog post was to highlight events from this month considering it is Women’s History Month, but clearly, nothing has been going on. It does not mean that women are being less amazing because I know we are all still showing up and showing out during this time. But we have had to make do with transitioning to virtual life.
Many people that I converse with about my travels are people who do not currently have the time to travel or did not have the opportunity to in earlier years of their life. For anyone who is considering traveling more, whether that be domestically or internationally, it can be extremely overwhelming with the amount of resources that exist today.
It is no secret that advancements in technology, especially social media, completely flipped the way we communicate and share information. Similarly, this means that it is hard to decipher what to trust. There is so much out there on the web, so where does one start? Well, the beauty of planning of a trip is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing it. But here are a few steps I take when I am thinking of going somewhere I have never been:
This one was a no-brainer. First, I like to see what the city is about with a simple Google search; this includes major attractions, current news, and how many results for blog posts come up. I also use this time to browse on Google Maps to get an understanding of the location and what it’s close to which further helps me get an idea of how to pack.
As a fellow vlogger, I like to watch vlogs of the city I am interested in visiting. Narrowing down what to look for or to watch is completely subjective, but something I definitely like to do is put in the city and “black” in the search to see the city through a lens I can relate to (e.g. san juan vlog black). Mini vent: often times, the most popular results on any website are pretty, skinny, white women and/or white couples and, depending on the city I am visiting, I just know that my experience is not going to be like theirs. Vlogs allow me to see how accessible the city is on foot, how crowded certain areas are, and, frankly, what the city actually looks like!! For example, I am planning to visit Lisbon, Portugal later this year and had no idea it was a hilly city until I watched a couple of vlogs. It’s an added bonus that making specifications in my search allows me to find and support other black creatives. 🙂
Once I have narrowed down what I am personally interested in, I go on Instagram and search the Tags. For example, I saw there is a place in Portugal called Sintra that is an easy day trip from Lisbon, so I will search “sintra,” pick the tag with the most results, and see how many different photos come up.
If I find that a bulk of the photos are showing the same attraction/photo op, that lets me know I should research further if the day trip would be worth it. If you want to keep the search broader, you can just follow the Lisbon tag (if you have an Instagram) and get ideas that way for things to do or where to eat, especially to see where locals are tagging themselves.
Another thing I like to do is if I love how a picture looks, I will visit the Instagrammer’s page to see if they have any highlights for their visit and watch it to get ideas for restaurants and neighborhoods. For example, I had no idea that the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico had a black sand beach until I watched this woman’s Instagram highlight.
The good news about Instagram is that you do not have to create an account to browse it, but you will have to to follow tags/accounts or set notifications for when someone posts.
Word of mouth
Of course, there’s always the good old-fashioned grassroots approach of reaching out to people or friends of friends who have visited the city you are interested in. That is yet another benefit of social media since we can see these things in real time, save/bookmark the information, and reach people directly. 🙂
Fall to winter is the most festive time of the year with each month having its own holiday. I also think everything slows down in a good way at this time of year. Since many people become hermits with colder weather, the time you get with everyone seems more intimate and special because they peeled themselves out of the warmth of their bed for you. Though initially annoying as the call for Christmas gets earlier and earlier each year, the stores start to smell like cinnamon and vanilla and you get that urge to buy as many things that will make your home a cozy oasis. Another plus is that travel is the most affordable and popular places are significantly less crowded.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to take advantage of travel this winter season, but I thought I would share some destinations that I believe are worth investing in during the colder months–based on my personal travels–instead of saving your money for one big, expensive trip in the summer.
Maui, Hawaii Traveling to any of the islands of Hawaii is obviously a big item no matter where you are coming from, but not only are temperatures mild in the winter, it is also whaling season. You can see the whales swimming about and jumping into the air according to the locals I met when I visited this past July. Another random fact is that if you visit the lavender farm I visited in Maui, it is also when the lavender is in bloom and the farm is a purple hue. Ultimately, it seems the island just comes alive and is not only restricted to the summer months. I have only heard positive things about various islands in Hawaii, but I can only speak from my experience there: it was worth every cent.
Barcelona, Spain I visited Barcelona last September and my friend, Ilse, went last December; we both enjoyed warm temperatures and sunshine on our respective trips. I could really go on and on about why you should visit beautiful Barcelona, but that’s why I have a blog post and vlog about it. 🙂
New Orleans, Louisiana I have made the God-awful mistake of going to New Orleans in the summer, but I also went last October with friends and was able to enjoy a t-shirt and shorts the whole weekend. I personally don’t remember a significant temperature drop at night, but if you are going there for the same reason everyone else goes there, temperatures won’t matter (*wink wink*). Because of where New Orleans is located geographically, it is always susceptible to showers or storms, but hurricane season ends in November, so that’s a plus. I will be returning myself in January!
Los Angeles, California This one really needs no explanation. I pretty much stopped cataloging my trips to L.A., but you will never be at a loss for suggestions in a simple Google search. Like Hawaii, L.A. is expensive to fly to at all times of the year unless you’re flying from the west coast, but there is sooooo much information out there on how to make the trip itself inexpensive. Not to mention, there is so much to do which is why L.A. is…well, L.A.
Austin, Texas It’s been a while since I have been back to Austin, but Texas is a great place to visit in the winter because of our mild weather. Austin is even further south than Dallas, so their temperatures are usually on the warmer side. Austin is a playground for everyone–it has great music, great food, great nature activities, and everything is in close promixity because the city is really not that large. It is also home to our state university, so there is always a lot of going on and the city has a young energy. There’s a reason SXSW and ACL get bigger and bigger every year!
The unnecessary amount of money I spent this summer during my trips definitely taught me a lesson about how I want to travel next year. Though I won’t be able to explore new territory this fall or winter, I hope to hit the ground running sooner than later so I can come back with even more suggestions next year. And if you are like me spending your cold months in the comfort of your home, I have some travel vlogs that can maybe help transport you to a far away location for somewhere between 3 to 20 minutes–depending on where you go. 🙂
Edit: Please see the comment below from klassyhk–her recommendations are spot on and all places I have personally visited and enjoyed! ❤
Week before last, I visited the Dominican Republic–and the Caribbean–for the first time! I went with my tried and true travel partner, Ilse, for five days of R&R. We both had a lot going on in our lives this summer and, contrary to my personal travel style, opted for a lazy, beach vacation. This trip ended up being a lot more than we bargained for; while we had plenty of relaxation, we also had some trials and tribulations.
We stayed in Cabarete, a small coastal town known for its kite surfing; Ilse’s grandfather built a small home here on the beach which is where we stayed.
We were assaulted by mosquitoes almost constantly through this trip, lathering on layers and layers of repellent to the point that there was really no point in showering. Speaking of showering, we were also given a mid-week shock when the unfortunate drought in the city prompted a citywide water shutdown for about 24 hours without warning or update of when it would be turned back on. Even with these inconveniences, however, the location was definitely prime for everything going on nearby.