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The “Lived” Travel Experience

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Valentine’s Day around the world

Valentine’s Day around the world

The western world is set to celebrate the day of love, February 14th, Valentine’s Day.  However, we should understand that not everyone globally celebrates this day the same.  While many people worldwide celebrate this day in the western style of gift-giving, chocolate, cards, and flowers, the celebration can differ in other countries.  Valentine’s Day is observed differently in many parts of the world.  Here are a few unique ways different countries celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Japan.

Japan is a popular destination for many, and like many places worldwide that have adopted western culture, it also celebrates Valentine’s Day on February 14th.  Depending on the individual, Valentine’s Day celebration can take on all the attributes of the western celebration of mutual gift-giving of symbols of love.  However, in Japan, traditionally, the woman gives the gift of chocolate on Valentine’s Day.  It is not until March 14th, on “White Day,” that the men do the gifting, and gifts are usually much more substantial than chocolate.

South Korea.

Like Japan, South Korea also celebrates Valentine’s Day as many westerners do.  However, in addition to Valentine’s Day on February 14th and White Day on March 14th, South Korea also adds another day of celebrating love on April 14th known as “Black Day.” This day is set aside for single friends who get together to eat noodles and celebrate being single on this day.

Finland and Estonia.

In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day is not only for lovers; it is a day for celebrating significant others and friends.  Cards and gifts are shared with anyone, a neighbor, friend, or lover.  It should also be noted that Valentine’s Day is a popular day for getting engaged in both these countries.  However, in Estonia, singles can take a special “love bus” in the hopes of meeting someone special.

France.

Traditionally in France, Valentine’s Day is only for lovers.  The French consider this the day of love and for people in love, so gifting to friends and others could signal a more substantial interest than intended.  Like most western countries, the gifting of chocolate, flowers, and jewelry is similar.  However, France sees this day as a day for adults “in” love, not for children or teen crushes.

If you somehow missed the opportunity to show your love by February 14th, don’t despair.  Take the opportunity to choose another way of celebrating love from around the world.  You can also take the opportunity to save money by making travel plans for a destination and time less commercialized than Valentine’s Day.  Do you have a different way of celebrating Valentine’s Day?  Show me some love and leave a comment below; I’d like to know.

Traveling with pets.

Traveling with pets.

For travelers with pets, considerations must be made when making travel plans.  For many, pets are a part of the family, and traveling decisions are made around the pet’s needs.  Can the pet be taken on the trip?  Will they have to board the pet?  How long can they make a trip?  How will the pet travel?  These and many more concerns need to be well thought out.  Here are a few thoughts for travelers with pets.

Traveling with a pet.

Traveling with a pet locally is not as cost prohibitive as traveling with a pet internationally.  Most small pets can travel with the owner in an approved pet carrier when traveling domestically for a small fee.  For larger breeds, travel must be in the cargo area and will require a specially designated approved pet crate.  Some pets can also fly at no charge if they are fully trained service animals.  When traveling internationally, your pet needs to have a health certificate to prove that they are in good health and free from parasites or any contagious diseases.  In addition, based on the country’s destination, other paperwork, including a picture of your pet, microchip information, as well as health and vaccination records, are required.

Pet documentation.

Pet owners should ensure their pets have a sturdy leash and collar with current identification.  In addition to having a recent picture of your pet and copies of your pet’s health and vaccination records.  It is prudent to have your pet microchipped and access to that information with you when you travel.  It is not uncommon for pets to become alarmed and run off when in unfamiliar surroundings.

Boarding costs.

The average cost of boarding a pet in the US averages $30 to $50 per night.  Rates can vary based on the size of your pet, the length of stay, or boarding accommodations.  Depending on your dog’s age, other special considerations and needs will have to be addressed, and if you want your pet to socialize daily, this may also add to the boarding costs.  In addition, the pet must be current on vaccinations as they will be exposed to other dogs.

Pet accommodations.

Not all hotels have pet accommodations, so travelers must ensure that their hotel will allow them to have their pets on the premises.  Like when traveling with babies or toddlers, pet owners should ensure the hotel is free from any hazards that could harm the pet.  In addition, consideration must be made on whether the pet can stay in the room without supervision or if it needs to be always with the owner to prevent costly damages to the room.

Travelers need to take many other travel considerations, including your pets’ food and water, potty breaks, exercise, and even travel sickness.  In addition, any delay or cancellation of your travel plans will also affect any accommodations you have made or will have to make for your pet.  If you plan to travel with your pet, I hope you think it through as much as you do for yourself and your family.  For me, pets are like family too.

Have you ever considered moving to another country?

Have you ever considered moving to another country?

Leaving Singapore 2014

As an immigrant and having been a Singapore ex-pat, it’s not unusual for me to consider moving to another country.  While living in Singapore I met and was embraced by many other wonderful African Americans from all over the world.  Leaving my Singapore friends back in 2014 to return to the US, was a bittersweet time.  Historically you can think of James Baldwin or Josephine Baker, to name just two of the famous black Americans who chose to live their lives overseas.  In recent years the term “Blaxit” has become a familiar concept amongst African Americans considering the possibility of living their lives abroad, free from the racism and oppression they face in America.  Here are a few realities for Americans who might consider leaving the US to live abroad.

Is the grass greener on the other side?

As fascinating as the concept of Blaxit is, the first step on this journey is to get a passport.  I have heard many people talk about living abroad but do not even have a US passport.  Additionally, if you don’t have a passport, it means you’ve likely never traveled internationally.  How will you know if the destination you are seeking to move to even fits the imagined concepts that you have?  Before anyone thinks about leaving the country, I think they should first get some international travel experience to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side.

Ways to move abroad.

For those who manage to pass the first hurdle the Blaxit process, there are several ways to start the Blaxit journey.  Historically, many black Americans have been exposed to living abroad from an overseas military assignment.  Many more options are now available such as a student, a government assignment, an employee of a multinational firm, or simply packing up and leaving the country.

Paperwork.

Whatever option you choose, know that a lot of paperwork needs to be completed.  Many countries will allow you to visit as a tourist without a visa, but you are often allowed only a certain number of days to stay in the country.  After those allotted days and you are still in the country, you will have overstayed your visit and be subject to whatever penalties the country sets.  Those penalties could include jail time or a lifetime ban from the country.

Finding work abroad.

If you do not have the income to support your moving choices, you will have to find work.  Working overseas is not as simple as applying for a job.  Many jobs are reserved for citizens and not immigrants.  If you find a job, you will have to obtain a work permit unless you become a citizen.  Becoming a citizen is not a simple process as you may have to give up citizenship or become a dual citizen.  In some cases, even though you are living abroad, you are still liable for US taxes.

Overall, the Blaxit decision is not an easy one, and there are many more considerations that must be made.  There is no simple checklist of things you need to do to move abroad.  Careful consideration and a broad review of the paperwork and fees required to complete the process are necessary and individualized.  Be informed before considering Blaxit.  Have you ever considered living overseas?  Please let me know in the comment section below.

 

 

Travel and culture revisited

Travel and culture revisited

I wrote about this topic last year, but I believe it is important to revisit it this year as well.  I currently live in SE Asia, where the celebration of the Chinese New Year is an important and revered time.  This years’ lunar new year also falls on the first day of black history month.  I am a black woman of color who experiences all that being a black woman entails, so celebrating black history month is especially important for me.  I believe travelers must be aware that they will experience cultural differences when they travel and need to respect the culture they choose to place themselves in.  Here are five ways to become a more culturally sensitive traveler.

  1. Know that culture is not limited by race or ethnicity. People have different cultures based on their upbringings, language, gender, religion, or sex, to name a few.  As a traveler, expect to see people with different experiences, backgrounds, or viewpoints.  For example, there are people from China, Japan, Korea, and many other places that I frequently see people categorize as Asians.  However, each region has distinctly different practices that others should recognize individually.
  2. Know that you will see, hear, and possibly feel things different from what you are familiar with. For example, queuing or standing in line is common when traveling through airports in the boarding process.  The boarding process can be chaotic in some cultures as some cultures are accustomed to a “me first” mentality.  However, it will be frowned upon in some cases if you do not queue as requested.
  3. Know that even though you might recognize your destination for a particular culture, this does not mean that you must abandon your own culture. Be culturally sensitive as many places are multi-cultural, and you can add value to your destination with your own culture.  I embrace Asian fashion and particularly the concept of wearable art.  I don’t see it as cultural appropriation but simply a fashion choice and a healthy respect for the talented artists that make the fashion.
  4. Know that culture influences people’s attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior. Try not to judge a person based on what you presume to be their culture; often, your judgment is based on your own unrecognized bias.  For example, Sikh people are confused with Muslims, but they are two distinctly different cultures.
  5. Know that travel becomes a much more pleasant experience when you have learned to accept and respect people and their differences. You will become much more open to new knowledge and experiences and add value by sharing your own culture with others.  I often get asked about my natural hair by people here in Asia.  I appreciate those who ask as I am willing to share that part of my culture with them and respect that they are eager to learn.

Traveling has opened my eyes to seeing people as they are and not what I think they are or should be.  As a black ex-pat, I don’t believe we need to celebrate a single culture, but we must appreciate the cultures in which we place ourselves.  Has traveling opened your eyes culturally?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Travel but expect the unexpected.

Travel but expect the unexpected.

When people think of travel, they often have thoughts of all the wonderful things they expect to happen.  Suppose it’s a beach vacation; travelers think of sunny beaches and warm waters.  If it’s a winter vacation, many will think about the snow and the incredible snow activities.  However, for many, vacation expectations can be disappointing and frustrating.  These expectations are because social media often only shows picturesque and positive vacation experiences.  Therefore, it’s best always to have an open mind when traveling and expect the unexpected.  Here are a few things that could go wrong despite all your best-made travel plans.

Missed flights.

Even though travelers may have booked their flights in advance and know the time guidelines for getting to the airport before a flight, many still miss their flights.  Reasons from waking up too late, confusing am times with pm times, long TSA lines, or leaving items at home are common.  It’s always best to prepare and do prechecks the day before departure to ensure none of these scenarios is a factor for your travel plans.

Expired passport.

Many people do not have a passport, but many of those who do, have passports that have been expired or are very close to being expired.  International travel requires having at least six months validity.  Many travelers take the time to plan and pay for their trip then get to the airport with an expired passport.  An expired passport is a traveler’s self-inflicted wound; all related expenses are at the traveler’s cost.  If you plan to travel internationally, check your passport’s expiration date before booking your flight.

Getting sick.

Getting sick is probably one of the most common realities of traveling.  Most often, travelers get sick from consuming contaminated food or water.  However, many often get overexposed to the sun and get sunburnt or are bitten by insects.  Travel, in general, puts us more at risk for sickness as we most often travel to places with persons we are not familiar with.  Traveling by air puts us in close contact with people we don’t know, and the airplanes’ recirculated air makes encountering germs more possible.  If you plan to travel, take precautions like staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.  In addition, traveling with some medicines to combat minor sicknesses is highly recommended.

Lost items.

When traveling, it’s not uncommon to lose personal items.  Items such as passports, mobile phones, losing your wallet or purse, losing luggage, and forgetting to pack certain items are common occurrences for many travelers.  Often, we are so caught up in our new surroundings that we forget our belongings.  It’s best to be organized when you travel.  Use packing lists if you must and keep copies of your important documents like passports, credit cards, and reservations.  If you lose your electronics or wallet, you can more easily make reports if you have more than one way to access your information.

I hope you never experience the unexpected when you travel, but I want to make sure you are prepared if you do.  Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios?  If so, how did you handle it?  Please let me know in the comment section below.

How to make your holiday stay feel more at home?

How to make your holiday stay feel more at home?

Most hotel rooms are standard, but you don’t have to see your holiday stay as a sterile place.  Incorporating personal touches into your hotel room can enhance the vacation experience.  Here are five ways I try to add my personal touch to a room when I travel.

Unpack.

I try to unpack whether it’s for the weekend or the week.   I hang up my clothing, spread out my toiletries in the bathroom, put my shoes out and my suitcase away.  I like my hotel room to feel like it’s my own.  I usually walk with my journal, so I leave it on the bedside table and put away all the hotel brochures.  I unpack my electronics and plug them in using one area of the room, so I won’t overlook any when I leave.

Candles.

Candles are a lovely way to fill a room with your favorite scent.  I walk with a candle warmer and place my candle on it when I unpack.  In a few hours, the smell will fill your room with a beautiful aroma instead of a sterile hotel smell.  Be cautious; however, never light candles and leave them, just as you would not do so at home.  I like to use small sample candles.  The trick is to remember to turn off your candle warmer the night before you leave, as your candle will have time to become firm for packing.  Once firm, it can stay in your suitcase for use repeatedly.

A small speaker.

If you require more volume than your device gives, then a tiny speaker does the trick.  There are so many options on the market that are tiny but pack an incredible punch for noise output.  You will listen to your music and get into the mood you desire with your music.  Please remember your neighbors and keep the volume down, especially late at night.

Your pillowcase.

For a luxurious feel, travel with your pillowcase.  For EbonyTravelers, this can be especially helpful for hair care and maintenance.  In my opinion, choosing a satin or silk pillowcase is a personal preference.  Silk is a more expensive option, but the less expensive satin is also a great choice.  Only you will know what is best for your hair type and sleeping style.  The benefit of having your pillowcase is you can use it to store your dirty clothes when you are ready to pack for leaving.

Handicap accessible room.

If possible, request a handicap-accessible room when checking in.  These rooms are typically larger in size because they are designed for wheelchair access, so doors are wider.  Outlets are more accessible, and best of all, it is illegal to charge more for an accessible room, so you’ll get more space at the same price.  Please always be considerate of those with genuine needs and know that your request may not always be honored.

Do you like to feel at home when on vacation, or do you prefer to know that you are away from home?  Please let me know in the comment section below.