6 Instagram accounts to follow for travel inspiration in 2019

Pool at Tensing Pen_Negril

Need some travel inspiration in 2019?  The Instagram feeds of these black female travelers are guaranteed to light a fire in your belly to get up off your couch and go explore the world. But before you click follow, be warned: you’re also likely to catch a serious case of wanderlust envy!



Jessica Nabongo is a go-getter millennial on a quest to be the first black woman to travel to all 195 UN member countries and observing states, including the Vatican and Palestine. Born in Michigan to Ugandan immigrants, she left her six-figure pharmaceutical job with Pfizer to wander the globe in her 20s, and she hasn’t looked back since. She says capturing scenes from everyday life is her favorite thing to do because sharing an honest portrayal gives dignity and humanity to the people living in the countries she visits. That single-mindedness of purpose helps her to highlight aspects of a place that many other photographers often overlook or simply miss.



Lee Litumbe is the talented creative behind Spirited Pursuit, an online brand dedicated to the enthusiastic pursuit of travel, adventure, and new cultural experiences. She was raised in the US, but is Cameroonian by birth, and she decided to quit her corporate finance job to move back to the motherland so she could travel deep within the African continent. In her view, Africa needed more Africans to showcase all the beauty it has to offer. And she’s right.  There’s so much more to the world to see than Europe, Southeast Asia and The Americas!@



Asiyami, who has Nigerian heritage, started her Instagram account when she was 21 because she was drawn to images of an aesthetically pleasing and beautiful lifestyle but realized she couldn’t find many people online that looked like her. Seeing the platform as a place where she could help shape the narrative, Gold set out to create a feed that gave a different perspective to women of color. Now, a mere six or seven years later, this visual storyteller, artist, photographer, and artistic creator is an established player in a constantly evolving industry.



Aisha Sylvester is an island girl from Trinidad and Tobago who is just as comfortable navigating busy city streets as she is rounding up cattle on a Midwestern farm. Her trips have taken her to long-haul destinations like the Czech Republic and Budapest, in addition to ones closer to home like Grenada and the San Blas Islands of Panama. Last year, she started a new series on her blog called Island Girls in Transit to inspire other Caribbean women to follow their own wanderlust dreams. Subscribe! It’s a really cool way to get to know another group of great female travelers.



Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon is a Miami-based travel writer who “ventures to the beach and beyond to share the diverse culture, lifestyle and people of the world’s favorite warm-weather destinations.” Her work has been featured in top-tier travel publications like Travel + Leisure, Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Telegraph, but she’s still very much a down-to-earth person. Showcasing the Caribbean is her top passion, and she does it vivaciously… and in vivid color.


And of course. there’s me.


I am a routine-averse Gen Xer who travels with limited vacation time and on a budget. Sounds familiar? I collect passport stamps when I’m not working hard at my 9 to 5 because I love to explore new lands and learn about new cultures. As someone who was born and raised in the Caribbean (Jamaica), it took me a while to realize the world was much bigger than the diaspora enclaves in the US, England and Canada. What’s more, it finally dawned on me that you didn’t have to be a pilot or flight attendant to visit off-the-beaten track destinations. I now blog about my trips in my spare time because I want other Caribbean nationals to see the world can also be their oyster.

If you’re still on the lookout for other accounts to follow, you can also check out a similar post that I did in 2016 here.

The Ultimate Caribbean Christmas Playlist

If you’re a Caribbean national who couldn’t make it home this Christmas, or are an intrepid traveler of the region who is stuck in snow wishing you were lounging sun-kissed under a palm tree right now, grab a pen. This playlist is for you!

I am 100% positive it will invoke whimsical memories of sun, sand and sea, because I polled some of my closest Facebook friends to find out their favorite Yuletide songs. Their recommendations are below in no particular order:

The Great John L – Green Christmas (Virgin Islands)

Joseph Niles  – Have A Merry Christmas (Barbados)

Daisy Voisin – Alegria Alegria (Trinidad and Tobago parang)

Stephanie Hava – The Christmas Collection including Mary Did You Know ( Jamaica)

Hector Lavoe y Willie Colon – Aires de Navidad (Puerto Rico)

San Jose  – Se Va El Caiman (Trinidad and Tobago parang)

Boney M – Mary’s Boy Child (Euro-Caribbean)

Alston Becket Cyrus – Calypso Noel (Saint Vincent)

Carlene Davis – Santa Claus Do You Ever Come to the Ghetto (Jamaica)

Bindley Benjamin – Santa Looking For A Wife (Trinidad)

Baron – Caminante (Trinidad and Tobago parang)

Dean Fraser – Frosty The Snowman (Jamaica)

Home T 4 – Rock it for Christmas (Jamaica)

Jacob Miller & Ray I – Natty Christmas, Full Album (Jamaica)

Rikki Jai – Neighbour Neighbour (Trinidad and Tobago)

Byron Lee & The Dragonaires – Christmas Soca Party Medley (Jamaica)

Lord Kitchener – Drink Ah Rum (Trinidad and Tobago)

Susan Macio – Trini Christmas Is The Best (Trinidad and Tobago)

So head over to YouTube or iTunes and listen to these soothing, rhythmic sounds of the islands while you sip ponche de crème, ginger beer or sorrel. Of course, I also expect you to be eating heaping servings of two or more of the region’s traditional holiday menu items. That’d be mouthwatering delicacies like baked ham, crab and callaloo, curried goat, roasted chicken, jug-jug, gungo rice and peas, black cake, cassava pone, pastelles, and much more.

Caribbean Christmas music

A comprehensive guide to some of the coolest 2018 Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday Deals

As an avid traveler, one of the things I’m always grateful for during the Thanksgiving holiday is the wide range of discounted travel opportunities that pop up online. Unlike the crazy, busy, and often herd-like experience that’s become a norm at retail stores, there’s no need to camp outside overnight, get up at the crack of dawn, or join insanely long lines to snag your desired deal of the day. Nah, that romantic trip to Paris or that package deal to Austria for The Sound of Music Tour are only a click away.

If you’re looking to score some sweet markdowns on accommodations, flights, and package deals for your next vacation, I’d advise you to bookmark this post and use it right now. Remember, availability is limited, and restrictions apply.

[All Black Friday through Travel Deal Tuesday deals were sourced from Fortune.com, cnbc.com, yahoo.com and cnn.com. Prices are quoted in US dollars]


Cathay Pacific is offering great fares on travel to Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Australia and New Zealand. Prices start at $593 return.

CheapCaribbean.com has advertised up to 70% off all-inclusive vacations in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas, Los Cabos, and Cancun/Riviera Maya. Prices start as low as $349 for three nights, including flights.

Norwegian Air plans to take 15% off its fares between the USA and Europe. They’re promising to get you from New York to Dublin, Ireland, from $114 one way; Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona, from $205 one way; and from Chicago to London Gatwick from $140.

Scandinavian Airlines will fly you from the USA to cities like Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland from as low as $399. They also have flights to other places like Amsterdam and Paris from $499 upwards.

South African Airways has posted a gratitude fare sale of $699 valid for travel from New York to Johannesburg and Washington Dulles to Johannesburg. For $729, passengers can fly from Washington Dulles to Accra and get to Dakar for $725.

Spirit Airlines will whisk you to many domestic US destinations for $53 one way. Roundtrip purchase is not required.

WOW air – the budget travelers’ dream – is offering two promotions: “Purple Friday” and another on Cyber Monday. With flights starting at $69 one-way flights, you can jet from Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Boston and Los Angeles to Iceland, then pay $99 one-way for flights from those cities to Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin and London.

Note: If you’re not interested in any of the abovementioned airlines or destinations, the booking app, Hopper, and the New York Times reported that the best deals were offered on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving last year. That means you need to check out your fave carrier’s site on November 27 this year. And if the discount seems too good to be true, don’t be surprised if no meals are served and you end up paying extra for everything.


Expedia – in addition to their $100 off coupon on select flights for Black Friday, Expedia is offering an extra 75% off coupon on select hotels and more.

Hotels.com is offering an electronic scratch-off lottery in addition to its up to 40% off sale. The mystery coupon promotion allows consumers to score discounts on accommodations ranging from 7% to 99%, and it begins at midnight on Friday, Nov. 23 and runs through midnight on Monday. Nov 25.

Priceline is letting its email subscribers benefit from Express Deal coupons for up to 50% in savings on hotels. 1000 lucky subscribers will also have a chance to win a 99% discount on lodging on Cyber Monday.


Not really feeling up to scouring the internet to find great deals for individual components of your trip? There’s no need to be overwhelmed. You can look to tour companies to take the hassle out of it for you.

Intrepid Travel is encouraging customers to collect experiences, and not just things, on the trip of a lifetime by offering 20% off 1,000+ of its trips. You must book by November 28.

Friendly Planet Travel’s Cyber Monday sale offers discounts on more than 70 packages to 50 countries, including must-see spots in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Combined with their early booking discounts, you could save up to $1,900 per person.

G Adventure Tours has joined the post- Thanksgiving party, too. They’re touting savings of up to 35% on more than 500 different tours, including an Inca discovery in Peru, Galápagos Islands explorations, cycling in Vietnam and Moroccan desert adventures.


If you found this post useful, feel free to PIN and share. 

At last, the truths behind what travel has taught me revealed!

I just read an op-ed Rihanna wrote for The Guardian to shed light on the need for global education advocacy, and as the offspring of two teachers, I must admit I was pretty impressed. Understanding the value of a good formal education and being committed to putting in the work to get one, wasn’t an option growing up in my household; it was a must. So, to see the passion this Caribbean-born entrepreneur, philanthropist and international superstar has for assisting kids who may be denied an education because of social, economic or political reasons really moved me.

Among several important points raised, BadGal RiRi mentioned being grateful for the education she’s gained from traveling the world. That admission caused me to think of my own life experiences, and the extent to which travel has been an integral part of my personal evolution.

Below I’ve summarized five key things I’ve gained from my sojourns over the years:

A deeper sense of gratitude for my Caribbean roots and upbringing

I grew up on the island of Jamaica – a beautiful place without question – but also a country with its fair share of economic and social challenges. However, despite our ups and downs, every Jamaican I know walks around with some measure of braggadocio and an ebullient sense of national pride. But as much as I can laughingly acknowledge that even in our “bruk pocket” state we usually act like we’re the best thing since sliced bread (especially around Olympics time), I will also confess I didn’t fully grasp the full impact that Jamaican culture had made on the world until I left its shores.

Whenever I’m abroad and tell people I am Jamaican, I’ve encountered nothing but love and, in some instances, seen entire attitudes change. Believe me, from taxis in Dubai to plane rides going to South Africa, and explorations in Greece, Italy, South America and in between, I’ve discovered that our food, accent, Red Stripe beer, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt are tried and true connectors.

A greater appreciation for, and understanding of, the world around me

Every time I visit a new country or city, I get a better sense of how broad the human experience truly is and the tiny space we each occupy in this world. Because of  that, I consider it a blessing and a privilege that I have been able to visit places I previously only read about in my high school text books, or was introduced to by a magazine article, movie or travel show. It’s always such a pleasure to see and experience them in real life! What’s more, sometimes it’s only after a visit that elusive details finally make sense. For example, I always wondered why people made such a point of washing their feet before entering homes in the Bible stories I heard growing up, but after visiting Cairo and seeing how dusty my own were at the end of the day, it just clicked.

Travel has also expanded my mind because it allows me to observe and participate in new ways of doing things, try foods that are foreign to my palate, and see man-made landmarks, historic sites, and architectural designs that never fail to blow my mind.

At the core, people have more similarities than differences
For the most part, I think socialization shapes our predispositions, and those biases then end up coloring our interactions with others. But ultimately – whether we are from the Western or Eastern world; have trust funds or receive measly hourly paychecks; are born black, white, Asian or Latino – we ALL just want to be acknowledged and loved. I’ll never forget a lesson I learned in one of my college communications classes that said, “meaning lies within people, not words.” That’s why I attempt to get to know the people wherever I go, and try to approach each new destination with an open mind, as well as an eagerness to learn about customs and cultures that tend to be different from my own.

The knowledge that “problems” are relative
I never realized all the things I took for granted until I visited some places where possessions, services and freedoms I’d come to expect as the norm were not as commonplace. I’ll readily admit there have been times when I am home that I’ve wanted to cringe, cry, or throw a fit when I felt things weren’t going my way. But at the end of the day, I typically end up swallowing a chill pill because I know there are people out there without basic amenities like running water, a reliable roof over their heads, a decent paying job, and three balanced meals a day. When reviewed within that wider context, my challenges often pale in comparison.

How to be more adaptable and resourceful
Travel can be extremely unpredictable because it often takes you outside of your comfort zone, so I have had to learn to adjust quickly to unfamiliar situations. If my favorite breakfast foods aren’t available, or I find myself at an attraction that is closed because of a national holiday I knew nothing about, then I make do with the next best thing and keep on moving.  Similarly, if I lose my way (which is rare), I keep going and ask questions until I figure it out.  The truth is, it’s more rewarding to be flexible and resourceful than to be constantly frustrated. Life is too short to waste it on regret or recriminations!


What about you? Feel free to tell me what you have learned through travel.

4 basic style essentials for the fuss-free traveler

If you’ve been following my blog or social media channels for some time, you’d have noticed that I am very low maintenance. However, even though I’m all about that fuss-free life, I am still a huge fan of good style. I’ll be the first to admit that the daily wardrobe, hair care and makeup rituals other people go through alternate between intimidating and confounding me. But despite sometimes feeling like a square peg in a round hole, I’ve still managed to figure out a few turn-key accessories that help me achieve a look I can be proud of when on holiday.

In case you’re still on your own style journey discovery and need some suggestions, these are my four go-to essentials:

A hat
My hair is relaxed, it doesn’t do well with too much direct heat application, and it refuses to keep curls for very long. To complicate matters even more, it becomes a bushy mane whenever excessive moisture is in the air. That means if I don’t have a hat or some other head covering like a cap or beanie handy, I usually end up resorting to a ponytail or bun to save the otherwise inevitable bad hair day.


Dope sunglasses
I rarely wear makeup, and if you don’t believe that, ask me to tell you the real difference in functionality between eyeshadow primer and base and I’d have a better chance of scoring an A+ in an advanced quantum physics class. So, to avoid drawing unwanted attention to my uneven skin tone and any circles or shadows below my eyes – especially when I wake up early to take pictures – I put shades on. They can jazz up an outfit in a heartbeat, so I try to pack at least 2-3 different types for every trip.


As I mentioned above, Lady Makeup and I aren’t ever going to be good friends. As a result, the biggest concession I make is to add a pop of color with lipstick, because it is easy to put on and wears off by itself if I forget to take it off. Foundation, blush and eyeliner on the other hand? No, they’re definitely not that easy. I only get dolled up with the full regalia for special occasions or if I have help.


A nice bag/tote
The right tote can double as an efficient travel bag and fashion accessory, depending on the one you select and the look you’re going for. Whether the goal is sporty, comfy, contemporary and chic, minimalistic or something more, you can achieve that based on bag texture, color and size. I have a thing for light brown leather, as long as it dosn’t break the bank like the one below.


Now that I’ve shared my tips, feel free to divulge some of yours.



The benefits of traveling solo

People ask me all the time if I’m not afraid to travel solo. Usually, the three most common questions I get asked are:
Don’t you get lonely?
– Aren’t you afraid?
– Do you feel safe?

Most persons are curious because they are considering jetting off by themselves and aren’t sure what to expect or how to go about it. Others ask with admiration in their gaze, so it’s easy to guess they think people who explore on their own are just #TotallyBadAss. But since I always keep things real here, I’ve got to admit that a select few come at me with coy smiles on their faces and barely masked pity in their eyes. Why? Because they feel solo travelers live a joyless life that is lacking in close family bonds or friendships, lacking in love, and ultimately, lacking in substance.

Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m here to tell you solo travel can be very fulfilling. I have traveled with family, friends and loved ones, and will continue to do so as I’ve always enjoyed those trips immensely. However, I’ve also gone on trips alone and repeatedly had amazing experiences. There is no rule to stop someone from mixing things up and taking a holiday either way, depending on what’s most convenient.

If you’re trying to decide if you should let go of your inhibitions and just go for it, I encourage you to keep these benefits of solo travel top of mind.

Florida beach_Solo Travel

Trip planning is easier
You know what things you want to see and do, the type of accommodations you like to stay in, the dining experiences you enjoy, and the budget you have to work with. That means you get to side-step dramatic disagreements and lengthy decision-making emails or phone discussions as there’s no need to check in with multiple people to gain consensus. An added bonus is that you get to decide on the perfect timing of your getaway because there is no need to align time off.

You have total freedom
Part of the challenge of traveling with a buddy or in groups is that you don’t always get to be spontaneous or decide your own schedule. Whether you like to sleep late and skip breakfast, get up at the crack of dawn to go watch the sunrise, or do walking tours instead of soft adventure expeditions…on a solo trip, the ball is completely in your court. There are no mood swings, no guilt trips, and absolutely no drama. It’s just 100% pure self-indulgence!

It’s a great confidence booster
When you visit a foreign land, overcome cultural and language barriers, successfully navigate a totally different landscape, conquer a new public transportation system and still come back with amazing travel memories, you’ve undoubtedly stretched yourself. And going outside of your comfort zone always leads to personal discovery and growth.

You meet interesting people
When you’re traveling with a significant other, friends or a group, sometimes you end up being quite insular because the bulk of your interactions are with each other. It’s different when you’re on your own. People introduce themselves to you all the time, invite you to join them at their table if they notice you’re eating alone, or you simply make the extra effort to talk to people you don’t know. I can’t tell you how many persons I’ve met that way  – on tour buses, at an attraction, or over a shared meal. And believe me, some of their stories are just epic.

So seriously, there’s no need to be afraid of traveling alone. If you truly find yourself terrified of taking that first step,  ease your way into it by booking a small group tour. You’ll start the trip with strangers and likely leave with a bunch of new friends.

Looking for more inspiration? Forbes just published a list of 33 Best Trips And Tips For Solo Female Travel


Editor’s Notes:

In case you want to know my answers to the persistent three questions I get asked, you can see them below. I tend to give a variation of the following responses:

Q. Don’t you get lonely?
A. No. I get so immersed in the novel experiences, I don’t really have time to feel lonely.

Q. Aren’t you afraid?
A. Sometimes before the trip, I may feel a little anxiety about the unknown. But I’ve always believed that the fears I don’t face become my limits, so I get past them. Because fear is temporary, while regret lasts forever.

Q. Do you feel safe? 
A. Security, whether at home or abroad. is always a priority. The key to achieving that is to keep sharpening your instincts and routinely taking basic precautions to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Easy hotel room hacks you need to learn and bookmark right now

Did you know your hotel room key card, which we’ve been taught to place and leave in a slot on the wall to power the lights in our room, may not be needed for that purpose after all? Neither did I. At least not until earlier this year when I read about London resident Katyagar Moonagon who showed her Twitter followers that using another card with the same shape and size was possible. She came up with this innovative solution when she wanted to charge her battery pack while eating dinner (downstairs), but needed her keycard. Naturally, her tweet went viral. 

Cool, huh? That bit of news got me wondering if there were other hotel room hacks (i.e. tips and insider tricks) I could be unaware of that could change everything I thought I knew about vacation stays. So, I did some research and put this short list together.

Convert your AC unit into a room humidifier.
You can add moisture to the sometimes unbearable dry air in these no-open-window-allowed rooms (that can parch your skin and make your nostrils burn) by placing a wet towel near the room’s air conditioning unit and waiting for a little breeze to kick in. Give it a few minutes to circulate and you’ll soon be breathing easier.

No iron? No problem.
Whether your room lacks an iron, or you just lack the energy to pull out a board and press that rebellious, wrinkled shirt or dress into submission, don’t despair. All you have to do is hang your creased item of clothing near to where you’re living your best life (while singing and dancing to Despacito)) in your piping hot morning shower and— ba ba boom — the mist acts as a natural steamer that zaps the crushed look in no time.

The heated towel rack (or A/C) moonlights as a clothes dryer.
If you’re away from home for more than a week and did not travel with two or more suitcases, at some point you’ll have to do laundry. Before you spend a fortune using the property’s dry-cleaning service, throw yourself into a little light hand washing party and then use the heated towel racks to dry your clothes. If there are none, hang them by the a/c instead and crank it to almost frigid.  That works like a charm!

Want to binge watch a few movies? Well, go big or go home.
Did you know you can use an HDMI cable to connect your laptop to your in-room television to get that big screen experience without the on-demand movie cost? Just sign in to your Netflix account and hook yourself up to that flat screen, baby! After all, their tag line doesn’t say “watch anywhere” without good reason.

Make your own curtain claps.
Are you one of those people who can’t sleep well if there is even a slither of light filtering into the room? If that’s the case, grab a few pants/skirt hangers from the closet and use them to clip the edges of the drapes together to get the room to your acceptable level of dark. Many people vouch for this trick to get a night filled with satisfying zzzs.

A simple trick of plastic proportions.
Ever notice there’s a plastic bag in your ice bucket and a free shower cap on the bathroom counter that you may not use? Both of them can come in handy if you need to wrap up a wet swim suit before stowing it in your suitcase, or if you need something to act as a divider between your clothes and dirty shoes. Having access to that plastic makes you a better packer, my friends.

Use your television as a charging station.
When you travel internationally you often see power outlets that look nothing like the ones we’re used to at home.  If you don’t have the right plug adapter with you (keeping in mind there are about 15 types of electrical outlets in use worldwide), things can get a little tricky.  Fortunately for us, manufacturers are now making televisions with a USB slot on the back we can use to charge small devices like phones and camera battery packs.  All you have to do is take off the plug, attach the cord, turn on the TV, and…VOILA, the power juice will flow.


What hotel room hacks do you use? Please share them in the comments section below.

Easy hotel hacks you need to learn and bookmark right now

Dreaming of a life of full-time travel? Appealing, yes, but it’s not for everybody.

Despite my love of travel, and as tempting as the internet makes the jet- setting life of top social media influencers seem, there’s no denying the full-time, always-on-an-airplane hustle is not right for me. Of course, globetrotting is appealing, and the idea of potentially working with rad  travel brands and landing all-expense paid trips to countries on my insanely long bucket list sounds like music to my ears – if I could do it in my spare time. But the ‘travel is your job’ reality that involves rigorous and exhausting flying schedules, intense pressure to always be creating and sharing content, and the 24/7 need to project a camera-perfect self? Nah. I’ll respectfully pass… please.

You see, I fell in love with travel because of what it makes me feel. And I fear I’d lose that emotional place I go to if work responsibilities and deadlines begin to dictate and define my trips. When I boarded my first international flight from Jamaica to New York City all those years ago, it ushered me into a larger-than-life space I had previously only read about, dreamed about, or seen on TV. The wonder of my new surroundings – skyscrapers that seemed to touch the sky,  frenetic and dizzying traffic, cart vendors serving up tasty-looking street food, and the foreign accents – made an indelible impression on this then wide-eyed six year old.  Because of that, I never want to lose the rush that visiting a new destination brings.

However, in deference to the gals and guys slaying it in the game right now, I thought I’d poke some fun at myself by giving some other reasons why I know I wouldn’t make the cut as a full-time traveler. Kayaking at Sunset

I like my sleep, and an unhurried pace.
Do you think all those amazing photos of bloggers standing alone at popular tourist traps like the Pyramids of Giza, Chichen Itza, The Great Wall of China, The Eiffel Tower and more happen organically? Oh, no. They take careful planning and scheduling, which often involves waking up extra early to arrive at a location ahead of the crowds so you can set up, AND hopefully get, a clear shot. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on vacation, I like my zzzs, setting my own sightseeing agenda, and going at my own pace. In an ideal world, I roll out of bed at eight, shower, then head down to the hotel breakfast buffet to secure my bacon and eggs before service ends.

Also, although writing blog posts, editing and uploading photos, and managing multiple online platforms might seem easy. It’s not. The people who do it well and are successful, put in super long hours. I function best with eight solid hours of consecutive sleep. Colorful stall in Cusco market_Lima

I’m a VERY imperfect girl living in a seemingly perfect virtual world.
Camera perfection takes precision, and admittedly, that’s not one of my strong points. Sure, I take pride in my creative output, but the people in today’s travel space have taken things to a whole other level. For every swoon-worthy photo we see on Instagram that features an exquisitely posed ‘candid’ in front of a dramatic landscape, iconic landmark or vivid color block, tons of behind the scenes prep work goes into it – from hair to make up and multiple styling decisions. Me? I’m a dab some lipstick on, grab a hat and go kinda gal. Plus, I love fashion almost as much as the next person, but some of the elaborate outfits I’m seeing in the most unnatural settings makes me go…whoa! Seriously, who wears long, cascading dresses or palazzo-style pants that would totally rock it as resort wear to a local market, or slip into a miniskirt to go romping with wildlife? With the likelihood of messy, greasy and bacteria-prone floors ready to embrace your hemlines (eeek), or the real possibility of wardrobe malfunctions brought on from unrestricted movements and breezy days spent outdoors, that person is definitely not me. [Vivid evidence of that is displayed in the photo shared above.]Jamaican country life

Patience is a virtue, and one I certainly don’t have much of.
Perfection also takes patience. Lots and lots of it. I mean, like taking time to scout ideal photo locations and plan your clothing, wait for the right lighting, and capture dozens of outtakes to get the money shots. I’ll try a couple of snaps to aim for the best angles and light in my photos, even slip an extra shirt into my bag for a quick change, but after a few minutes of concentrated effort, I’ll settle for realism because I prefer to have time to actually see and do fun stuff. The increasingly elaborate setups I’m seeing in some of the mushrooming travel feeds are mind-blowing in terms of the time they must take to execute. That’s crossing the line from vacation to stressful work in my book. Pisac_Peru

I strain at the bit against doing the obvious.
Thankfully, the social media/blogger industry still has a few bold trailblazers out there leading the pack with originality, but more and more I’m finding a sameness to the locations and style of photos being shared. I’ve never been good at group think. Tell me, how many pictures of ornate Bali gates, free-flowing swings and rice paddies can you see without getting a gag reflex? Of course Indonesia looks epic in every photo, and I plan to visit it myself someday, but surely there are other less trafficked destinations out there to explore. I say bring on more Croatia and Japan and New Zealand, or anyplace else on the road less travelled!

Oh, and as cute as the stand on tip toe, clutch your hat, and show the back your head pose can be, when you see it a hundred times a week it gets tired pretty fast, wouldn’t you agree? I’ve got no beef with people who throw it in now and then (in fact, I do it myself with sometimes clumsy results – see above), but I’ll be honest and admit how much more I enjoy seeing pictures that are less obvious or practiced. I prefer variety in everything I do. Florida beach at sunset

I’m old… Gen X kinda old.
More than anything else, I think my ‘advanced age’ may be my biggest hurdle to Insta-fame (not that it’s a real goal of mine as I state in this post). Now don’t get me wrong, you can see from my pictures that I’m not close to the geriatric category (yet), but this industry is primarily led by hotshot millennials. Many appear to be fairy-like creatures with flawless, youthful skin and effortlessly slender body types that slay in almost anything. Hear me good: I’m not hating on them because I too was young once. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

These travel influencers also have an inherent propensity for social sharing because they grew up in the Internet age. For someone like me who is closer to envisioning a future retirement party than remembering my college graduation celebration, I don’t have an innate desire to tell the world everything I’m doing and my hand isn’t permanently attached to my phone. What’s more, a good night out for my generation means a nice dinner and a gallery showing, play or cultural performance, not copious chugs of craft beer or shots and then clubbing. Now, who’s gonna sit at home and watch mundane Instagram Stories or Snapchat shares of that? No one. Exactly!

Lemme keep things all the way real. There are other reasons a 365 days a year nomadic lifestyle holds little appeal. I’ve got pension and health care planning to consider first. In addition, my middle-aged, always fighting a sluggish metabolism body isn’t poppin’ like it used to (in my dreams at least, because I can’t say for sure it really ever did), so the sexy swimsuit shots by the infinity pools or palm-fringed beaches of the world aren’t really going to materialize on my channels. And it’s no secret that flirtatious and sensual images help drive the numbers game. On that front, I can’t and simply won’t deliver. C’mon, who wants to deal with issues like belly fat and embarrassing episodes of dark brown hair dye cascading down your back when you step into a public body of water? My friends, those are the things you have to think about when the desired six-pack needs to be painted on and gray hair is beginning to sprout like annoying weeds in your scalp! (Go ahead and laugh, guys. Trust me, you won’t hurt my feelings.) In all honesty, my beach photos are likely to feature a cover up, and chances are you won’t EVER see me fully submerged in water.

And I could go on and on, but that’s it for this week’s installment of my kinda crazy! I hope someone got a chuckle or two out of this post because I sure did.  Girl watching Florida sunset

Ways you can save money to travel

Lately, my direct messages via Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp have been blowing up with comments and questions from former colleagues and associates, as well as friends and family members. The question on everyone’s lips is, “how are you traveling so much?” It’s honestly taken me by surprise because it doesn’t feel like I’m on the road that much, although admittedly, I do have a penchant for using my passport.

“I want to travel with u,” was the most recent ping last week, which eventually led to a quick, catch up phone call about a bunch of things, as well as musings as to where I was going next. That person and I keep tabs on each other through social media, but we hadn’t actually spoken in about two years.

“When I grow up, I want to be just like you,” is another comment I get fairly often. For the most part, I know the sentiment is well meant, but on a few occasions I have definitely felt a few snarky undercurrents seeping through. In the Caribbean, we call that kind of thing drinking hater-aid. [Side note: People will draw all the positive energy out of you if you allow them to. Don’t!]

But perhaps the message that touched me most, and the trigger that started me thinking about writing this post, is this one I received towards the end of January. Text message re travel inspiration

Enter (still to be created) melting heart emoji.

I share my stories and pictures to encourage other people to travel because we learn a great deal about ourselves and others when we step outside our comfort zones. So, if you’ve also been bitten by the travel bug (an incurable malady) and want to know how you can put aside money to travel, this is my three-step plan. Feel free to use it, too.

[All currency quoted is in US dollars.]

1. Save consistently.
How many times have you heard the phrase “it’s not what you make that matters, it’s what you save?” More times than you care to count, I’m sure. Well, it’s true. Every little bit matters. Since everybody has a different level of financial responsibility, I won’t attempt to give you a percentage guide here. The important thing is picking a number that’s feasible for you and sticking with it, then balancing consistency with spending restraint. If you’re thinking that’s easier said than done, it really isn’t. I’m making less money than I was five years ago, yet I still have been able to visit new countries within the same timeframe. That’s because I maintain a set monthly savings goal so that I have the comfort level of a financial cushion if anything unexpected happens, and then I set aside funds for travel.

2. Live within (or below) your means.
There are so many ways you can do this without affecting your true quality of life. For example, I recommend buying or renting a home in a community that doesn’t tap out your monthly income. That means you can go for nice; it just doesn’t have to be luxury. (Travel goals aside, it’s also reassuring to know you can afford to live in a place for a while even if your job situation changes suddenly.)

Ladies, I’m going to ask you to think carefully about whether or not you need the latest designer clothes, accessories and cosmetic products as soon as they come out. The truth is, you really don’t.  Yves St. Laurent, Diane von Furstenberg, Rihanna Fenty Beauty evurrythang, and  other moguls like them won’t miss our extra dollars lining their already plum pockets, thank you very much. No, they’re able to fly anywhere they want to go via their private jets, while you and I are gonna have to settle for keeping each other company in coach.

And guys, take this from me, you won’t be any less dreamy (to the right person) if you don’t lease the latest SUV or snazzy sports car and upgrade it every three years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out here saying you need to be taking the bus forever either, bae (wink, wink). At the end of the day, we just have to walk in our truth.

I’ve been BMW convertible obsessed for a while now, but I’ve avoided a hefty car payment and  insurance premium by driving a 10 year-old, unsexy as heck Japanese vehicle that’s still in pretty decent condition.  I’m sure that saves me anywhere from $500 – $600 per month. Also, even though I don’t like cooking, I’m preparing more meals at home these days versus dining out. Believe me, all those daily $10-15 work lunches, $80+ three-course dinners with wine pairings, and lengthy happy hours add up! Cut back a little bit and you’ll see the gains. You can easily save $200-300 a month on lunch alone by that small lifestyle change.

3. Aim for little or no debt.
This goes beyond simply balancing your checkbook at the end of the month. I curtail any of my potentially excessive shopping habits like avoiding shoe stores as much as possible. By leaving my credit cards at home, I also force myself to pay cash when I succumb to temptation.

In addition, I recommend consolidating your credit cards – more than two bank cards is asking for trouble – and paying off your balances as quickly as you can. Interest is designed to line the pockets of creditors, not ours. Plus, money spent on late fees is a waste. Those dollars could go towards an AirbnB stay, or pay for the entrance ticket to your next must-see attraction.

See, that doesn’t seem undoable, does it? If you agree, help me spread the word by pinning and sharing this post. Saving for travel can be as easy as 1, 2, 3…

How to save money for travel

4 websites for finding great flight deals

If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for a good flight deal. But as with anything these days, there are a gazillion websites offering to save you money and give you more vacation bang for your buck. What are some of the best ones to bookmark or sign up for, though? It’s subjective, of course, but here are some of my faves: 

Google Flights
Powered by the biggest search engine and data housing company in the world, Google Flights is great because it has access to tons of information. What’s nice is it doesn’t only find you very affordable options, it also allows you to search by date range and vacation interest. You can type in the time-frame in which you want to travel and the departure airport, and then it gives you suggestions for various locations. And it is FAST! 

Google ITA Matrix
This search tool uses the same software as Google Flights, and its best asset is that it gives you the cheapest fare. However, flights may not have the most convenient connection times, and sometimes the fares quoted don’t include meals or you can run into issues like hidden baggage fees. So read the airlines’ fine print carefully. Perhaps the best thing about it, though, is the ability to search for transfer flights and open-jaw tickets (i.e. connections through multiple cities). The only other bummer is you can’t book a ticket through ITA Matrix directly. Find what works for you, then note the suggestions and use that information to book directly with the airline or an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia or Priceline.

If you relish true spontaneity, this is the search tool for you. Airfarewatchdog‘s specialty is monitoring airlines for flash sales and discounts, and it has racked up quite a reputation for finding glitch fares (i.e. significantly reduced fares due to a computer error). To make things easy, the site allows you to register for email notifications based on your target location and desired travel dates, then it sends you a message when the price drops. The caveat here is that many of these deals are last minute, so if you must have your vacation time cleared way in advance of your trip, this one may not work for you. 

Skyscanner, like Kayak and Priceline, is a fare comparison site underpinned by the meta-search function. Perhaps because it is a British company and has agreements with more overseas partners, it tends to have better options on international fares. The other two mentioned are great for domestic fares (US).

Bags packed? Let’s go!