Short on time in Memphis? You’ve gotta try these four things.

Beale Street lit sign

Are you flying into Memphis stoked about your new adventure but a little concerned you’ll be short on time to explore the city? Don’t stress. I was there for a three-day weekend and still managed to have a blast, so you can too.

Since I knew I wouldn’t have much time to run around town, the first thing I did was ask my cab driver what were the top three things I just had to experience while there. Without skipping a beat, he recommended “the river, the music, and the food.”  Well, regrettably, with a full day devoted to an event I was attending, I didn’t have time go on one of the many river rides, some of which take you all the way down to New Orleans. However, I did treat my stomach, my ears and my hips quite generously.  How so, I hear you asking. We’ll get to that in minute, hunnie. Just keep reading!

These are my top suggestions for things to see and do if you’re short on time in Memphis:

Eat, eat, EAT

Barbecue at B.B. King Jazz Club Memphis

My driver wasn’t exaggerating when he said Memphis was known for its food, and it’s by no means just a one-hit culinary wonder that solely serves up sumptuous barbecue. Whether you like chicken, steak, pulled pork, or delicious soul food, Memphis has it all in abundance. I’m 1000% serious.  You cannot leave without first filling up your plate and then devouring everything in sight – at a restaurant or two.

The Rendevous, an old-fashioned eatery in a large basement dining room, is known for its hearty servings of ribs and sausages in a vinegar base, topped with dry-rub spices.  Central BBQ is another hot spot, but their specialties are wet ribs and nachos. For some home-cooked styled meals with tummy-rubbing sides like mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, beans, candied sweet potatoes, cornbread and more, 99¢ Soul Food Express, Alcenia’s and Gus’s Fried Chicken come highly recommended. Feeling for lighter, breakfast and brunch fare? Blue Plate Café on South Court Avenue may be just the answer for you. The service is friendly and brisk, and they serve warm maple syrup with their pancakes. Yum.

Immerse yourself in the music

Live ,usic in Memphis

When one town can offer up world-famous entertainers like Elvis, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Otis Reading, Isaac Hayes and more over time, that’s got to be worth looking into, right? Music sits on you like a second skin and feels as natural as the air you breathe in Memphis. You can take the historic route and visit one or more of the many venues that chart the musical journeys of the city’s beloved hitmakers, or you can immerse yourself in the present and enjoy the soulful sounds of many talented musicians that play live music daily.

For a foray into the area’s ties to rhythm-n-blues, rock n’ roll, gospel and jazz, visit either the Stax Museum, Sun Studio, Blues Hall of Fame, Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Graceland, or the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Then time travel to today and head to Beale Street to sway your hips to the blues. There are several places to choose from, like Blues City Café and Rum Boogie Cafés Blues Hall Juke Joint, but as far as I am concerned,  B.B. King’s Blues Club is where it’s at. There is a $10 cover charge to watch the show even if you’re dining, but the food, the drinks, the melodies and the atmosphere are definitely worth it.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum

Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King was assasinated

The National Civil Rights Museum, housed in what used to be the Lorraine Motel, is a riveting and emotional learning opportunity for ALL people (not just during Black History Month), and one which is especially poignant for people of African descent. The self-guided tour starts with a brief film and subsequent exhibits are arranged in chronological order to relay key milestones of the American Civil Rights Movement, going from slavery up to 1968. It is also the location where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. 

I found it hard to believe that his end came so violently after a life devoted to peaceful protest, especially seeing that only four short years before he had penned his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Bimini (The Bahamas). The entrance fee to the museum also includes access to the boarding house across the street, which shows you the window from which the sniper fired the fatal shot.

Check out the street art

A Day in the life mural_Memphis

Like almost everything else in the city, the art and culture scene is poppin’ too. In addition to interesting galleries, there are tons of colorful wall murals with varying sizes and themes, so if graffiti art is your jam and you are short on time in Memphis, check out this Downtown Memphis Mural Guide to pick your Instagram backdrop spots ahead of time.  Most places are super easy to get to with the trolley, walking a few blocks, or via the bus or a cab.

Have you been to Memphis? What else would you recommend?

5 nature photos to inspire your next trip

Geological rocks of Meteora

What captures your attention and provides the optimal sensory elements that help shape and define your greatest trip memories?  Is it the food, the architecture, the local art and culture, music and nightlife, or the people you meet? And, including some or all of the above, are you also besotted with dramatic landscapes and the opportunity to leave with beautiful nature photos destined to be framed as your next prized pieces of wall art?

My sister CJ (and best travel buddy) will be the first to tell you “impressive man-made structures have their place, and they’re several iconic landmarks scattered all over the world matching that description.” But for her, the pièces de résistance, the vacation takeaway masterpieces so to speak, always lie in nature.

We’ve been to more than a dozen countries together and she inevitably comes back with images of landscapes, seascapes, clouds, plants and animals. She takes other pictures too, of course, but her beloved nature photos far outnumber anything else.

So for this post, I asked her to help us see the world through her Samsung Galaxy 6 lens and describe what drew her eyes to each scene.


Jamaican countryside

Nestled in the hills of St. Elizabeth there is freedom.  Freedom from the trappings of commercialization and bustling streets that create a cacophony of intrusive noises.  This lone home, enveloped by lush vegetation and surrounded by lung-friendly, pollution-free air, sits atop a hill like a beacon.  Untouched land, friendly people, and rich culture showcased Jamaica at its finest.

South Africa

insects in south africa

Cape Town is steeped in history and known for its popular V&A Waterfront as well as prominent landmarks, but one of my favorite places to visit, other than my safari and Robben Island tours, was Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.  Found on the eastern side of the famous Table Mountain, it is home to several spectacular species of flora and fauna and the immaculately groomed grounds are presided over by a bust of Nelson Mandela, which is near the entrance.

The aromatic and abundant plant life is a potent elixir for the cutest insects. This little fellow was oblivious to all the tourists milling around as he hung out all by his adobrable and lonesome self.  Clearly, there was sonly one thing on his mind…”Gotta get the pollen! Gotta get the pollen!”


Meteora rock cliff

Taking a bus tour can often be mundane and long, but when that trip is transporting you from Athens through the northern highlands to Meteora, there are beautiful natural landscapes and geological sites to behold.  The feeling of catching your first glimpse of the giant monolithic rocks on which several monasteries were built is not something that’s easily described. It is an emotion best experienced in person.


Paradise Beach_Tulum Mexico

Tulum, Tulum, Tulum. What’s not to love about Tulum?  Found in the Quintana Roo region of Mexico, the area is home to the ruins of the Mayan walled city, and it once served as a port for Coba.  Today it is a treasured UNESCO Heritage Site. 

I’ve been around beaches all my life, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of this gorgeous shoreline bordered on either side by turquoise waters and craggy rocks. Not only do you get to stroll through the impressive ruins, you can kick off your shoes and dip your toes in the soft, squishy sand if you are not short on time,

Southwest Florida

PineIsland Sound_Florida

Famous for its shell-lined beaches, Southwest Florida is also known for absolutely amazing sunsets.  No two light shows are ever alike because they were ‘painted’ by the greatest artist ever known. He is Elohim.  It was a perfect evening when the lone bird took flight and a few, friendly dolphins frolicked in the ocean below.    

Those are some of my sister’s top picks. Do you have any tips on other cool spots for beautiful nature photos that you’d like to share? Please drop their names in the comment section below.

5 Nature Photos to inspire your next trip

6 Fun things to do in St. Thomas, USVI

Often referred to as America’s Paradise, The United States Virgin Islands is a group of breathtaking islands nestled in the eastern Caribbean, a little over 1000 miles southeast of Miami and 1,500 miles from New York City. Each of the four main islands has its own claim to fame, but St. Thomas, the capital, is home to a busy cruise port and airport, so it’s usually the first stop on any wanderluster’s journey.

Earlier this year, I jetted there to enjoy my fair share of fruity drinks, turquoise blue waters, jaw-dropping views and small-island hospitality before hopping over to Scrub Island Resort to celebrate my birthday. With only two days on the ground, I had fun, but activity wise I didn’t even scratch the surface.

Below are my suggestions for 6 fun things to do in St. Thomas, USVI if that country is on your bucket list.

Laze on the beach

Laze on the Beach_St. Thomas

According to this St. Thomas Beach Guide, they’re about 40 stretches of sand or intimate coves to choose from. Some of the most popular ones are Magens Bay, Secret Harbor, Brewer’s Bay, Coki Beach, Sapphire Beach, Hull Bay and Lindquist Beach, among others. I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about a palm-fringed shoreline that unleashes my inner do-nothing-at-all-but-lay-under-the shade-or play-in-the-water beach bum. But if you’re hankering for more action, you can easily rent gear to go snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing or stand up paddle boarding.

Go on an island tour

Hiring a taxi to go on a guided island tour is also a no-brainer.  The island’s stunning scenery is dramatically showcased from its hilly peaks, and with its vast mountain ranges, there’s no shortage of mind-blowing views along the winding roads. Of course, you can rent a car and see the island at your own pace too, but if heights scare you, or you have a limited time to sightsee, having a knowledgeable driver is the way to go. That way, you never have to worry about getting lost, and you get to ask questions about the country’s history and culture.

Drink a banana daiquiri atop the highest mountain

Mountain Top, a popular tourist attraction located at the highest point on the island, draws tons of visitors each year because of its coveted observation deck, duty-free shopping and the lure of its signature drink: a Cruzan rum inspired banana daiquiri. Local folklore says the recipe was created by a famous British sea captain who sailed from Barbados on a quest to find the ultimate Caribbean cocktail. Apparently, his search ended there when he mixed the local rum with additional sugar cane extract and ripe bananas from a nearby grove to concoct his perfect drink. Go test it and see what you think. Insider tip:  Try to visit on a non-cruise ship day when the crowds aren’t overwhelming, and people aren’t acting bat crazy.

Take a safari ride

The local buses are called safaris, and I suspect they were given that name because they resemble the open-air vehicles you usually see people driving on African safaris.  You can use them to sightsee much like you’d use a hop on and hop off bus in one of the big European cities. There’s no all-day or two-day ticket system, though. There are two routes – divided by Tutu Valley – and if you’re riding anywhere west of there, say from Charlotte Amalie or Havensight to Tutu, the fare is one dollar.  From the east, which has beaches like Coki Point and Secret Harbor, it’s also a dollar to Tutu. Longer rides, with multiple legs on the trip, can cost more. But basically, you can get to most of the island and back to your hotel for under six dollars.

From what I could tell, the safaris are all independently owned, and while consistent, there is no master schedule re times of operation, or any officially marked bus stops.  Just ask a local to point you in the general direction of where they stop, and wave them down as they approach.

Sample the local fare

Image Source: hlsvi.com

I’m a big supporter of sampling local cuisines when I travel, so as far as I am concerned, no trip to the Caribbean is complete without treating yourself to waterfront meals that delight your taste buds – especially if they are built around boat to plate seafood prepared with only the freshest of ingredients. For my first evening out, I ate the most amazing fish meal at Hook Line & Sinker, a small eatery tucked at the end of a narrow street in the center of town with yachts and majestic hills as the backdrop. The service and atmosphere were great too. But there are several options. Just ask your front desk agent or a local for recommendations.

For great local breakfasts, Delly Deck in Havensight Mall got rave reviews, Mafolie Hotel & Restaurant is known for its American Caribbean cuisine, and I was told Island Flavor in Crown Bay is where to go for some real island grub.

Island hop

Thanks to proximity and good transportation options, it’s very easy to take in the natural beauty of St. John or experience the charming history and culture in St. Croix while in the US Virgin Islands.  Tortola, the capital of the British Virgin Islands is also a short and inexpensive ferry ride away, and from there you can easily get to even more islands. A roundtrip boat ticket from St. Thomas to Tortola costs US$65, and as part of the price, you are allowed what airlines would call one personal item. Carry-on bags are an additional $5 each.  Since they are a different territory, US citizens will need to show their passports at the port of entry, and other nationalities may need a British visa. Everyone pays a $10 environmental fee on arrival, plus a $20 departure tax (per person) at departure. Kids under 5 are exempt.

Editor’s Notes:

Official Language: English, which is often mixed with patois (PA-twah).

Currency: US dollars.

Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time (Daylight Savings Time is not recognized).

Passport Info: No passport is required for U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the mainland, but you must have a valid driver’s license.

Where to find art and culture in Kansas City, Missouri

Did you know that both Missouri and Kansas have a metropolitan area called Kansas City?  Well, I didn’t realize that until three years ago.  Before then, the Wizard of Oz was my only visual reference of Kansas, so when I looked around on my drive from the airport, I expected to see flat plains, large rolls of hay and an austere, dull landscape – maybe even a random pair of red shoes and a scarecrow. But nah, it wasn’t even close.

Known for its popular barbecue joints, chic rehabbed districts, growing number of microbreweries, World War 1 Museum, and contributions to the evolution of jazz, Kansas City, Missouri, is trendier and filled with more outlets for arts and culture than you’d think. In fact, in 2012 it was named one of America’s top cities for hipsters by Travel + Leisure.

Venues for art and culture

Art Alley

If you’re into the budding street art scene, head over to 17th and 18th Streets near Locust and Cherry to see wall murals that are big, colorful and bold. Freelance artist Jason Harrington is credited with starting the movement to spruce up the buildings in the area, but paintings are done by people from all over the city. The art changes regularly, so each trip there is likely to unveil new murals.


The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Named in honor of a founder and editor of the Kansas City Evening Star, William Rockhill Nelson, and Mary McAfee Atkins, the Nelson-Atkins Museum houses close to 40,000 works of art from all over the world. In addition, outside there is also a sculpture garden that showcases an amazing collection of 35+ pieces by many of the 20th century’s finest artists. Installations include monumental bronze works by Henry Moore and the Instaworthy shuttlecocks by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Admission is free, but you pay for parking.


American Jazz Museum

Are there any jazz lovers here? After a day of browsing what I considered to be one of the coolest places in Kansas City, I discovered that the 18th and Vine District – not just New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago – was also the base for many pioneering jazz greats who performed at nightclubs that fueled a creative and vibrant music scene in the 30s and 40s. Yes, maestros like Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner, Jay McShann, Count Basie, and a ton of other jazz icons added their flava to the town’s musical history in a time when separatism was still the order of the day.

If possible, plan your visit late in the day on a Friday afternoon and stay for the Indigo Hour at the onsite jazz club, Blue Room. It features soul-stirring music from local R&B and Neo-Soul musicians from 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm, with no cover charge.


Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

For a foray into the performing arts, check their calendar of events and schedule a visit to the impressive Kauffman Center. It’s both a cultural and architectural icon in the city, and it attracts a wide variety of entertainers and performances from around the world. Shows range from ballet and contemporary dance, to Broadway plays, music concerts, opera, comedy shows, and more.


Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Kemper Museum features modern and contemporary works by artists who are well-established, mid-way in their journey, and newbies on the up and up. Staying true to its mission of enriching lives through the display of art in a free and welcoming environment, it also offers access to special exhibitions, installations, workshops and lectures.  If you get hungry while browsing the venue, no need to worry. Just saunter into their elegant snack bar, Café Sebastienne, where art, culture and cuisine combine to provide you with a multisensory experience.


And that’s my list! All my favortite places to find art and culture in Kansas City, Missouri, at your fingertips.

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Kansas City arts and culture venues

Why this sand-free towel has me all shook up

Jumping for joy with Tesalate sand free towel

Two months ago, I’d never heard of sand-free towels, let alone know such a product did, in fact, exist. But after getting one and trying it out, I’m all shook up. (Read that in Elvis’ singing voice. Mm mm mm, mm, yay, yay, yay.)

Because, yeah. While I love frolicking with waves that hit my feet and using the sand for my seat, I don’t like leaving the beach covered with a million grainy particles clinging to my ‘eRRything‘.  Nor I am a fan of involuntarily carting sand into my car and apartment, which leaves a mess that’s a ton of work to clean up. After a fun beach day, who has time for that?


Exactly! That’s why I find the trendy, sand-free towels from Tesalate so disruptive and revolutionary. They’re made from a groundbreaking fabric called AbsorbLite™ that, unlike regular beach towels, doesn’t have looped microfibers that trap sand. After sitting on the towel or drying off with it, all it takes is a few good shakes to get it joyously grain free.  

But don’t go anywhere yet. I’m spilling all the tea. Here are some other reasons why I’m a goner for these crazy-sexy-cool, sand-free towels:

They’re not just functional, they’re pretty, too

If you’ve been scrolling through your Instagram feed lately (as most of us do), you’ll have noticed it’s been declared a hot girl summer. And as any hot girl knows (present company included or excluded…HA HA), a slaying combination of the right beach tote, cover up, hat, shades, swimsuit and towel can have you serving up some fierce LEWKS.

Beach scenes with MyTravelStamps

With close to forty bold, colorful prints to choose from, Tesalate has got you covered all day, any day – literally and figurately.

They are lightweight and compact

If space in your beach bag or suitcase is a premium, these towels are perfect because they’re thinner and lighter than conventional terry cloth towels.  Plus, they feel cooler on your skin in warm climates, and they fold down and fit into a neat, sleek-looking pouch that makes it easy to carry around.

They are super absorbent and dry quickly

Tesalate’s avant-garde textile technology also prevents its towels from collapsing into a wet, soggy mess at the end of your beach day because it absorbs water quickly. It can comfortably soak up to 33 ounces or 1 liter of good ole H20. So, splash around like crazy and then grab the towel and shoot your best shot.  You’ll find you can blot your body dry gently, instead of being forced to do a vigorous wipe down.

Another cool feature is the small loop I noticed sewn into the corner of my towel. It comes in handy if you ever want to hang it up on a tree or shrub to dry in the breeze.

They tend not to get the dreaded mildew smell

Maybe it’s due to the thinness of the fabric, but Tesalate towels don’t seem to get that musty, mildew smell as quickly as you would get with thicker brands.  If you’re on the road for a long period of time or can’t get to do laundry right away, that’s a highly valued thing.

They’re versatile

Finally, can I just tell you all that this towel (or snazzy cover up) goodness isn’t confined to the beach? You can use it for yoga, at the pool, to set the scene for a garden picnic, and even as a makeshift blanket on the plane or in your hotel room. The standard size is 60cm x 80cm / 63 x 31 inches, but they also have a larger Towel for Two option (160cm x 160cm / 63 x 63 inches) which makes it easy to get cozy.

Hello, what are you waiting on? Head on over to their site now and check those towels out, grab a drink from a cool beach bar, and then be sure to meet me at the shore.

Sand free beach towel review


Note: This post was written as part of a brand collaboration with Tesalate, but all views are my own.

How to minimize gas and bloating when you travel

airlplane_reduce gas and bloating

Just as the flight attendant made the final “please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the captain turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign” announcement and silence had returned to the cabin, the vile, can’t-take-them-anywhere gases that had been waging a full-blown war inside of me for the last fifteen minutes erupted with the staccato sound of military-grade machine gunfire.

Oh, noooo! This cannot be happening.” My mind screamed in utter mortification and panic.

I – even more so than my surprised seatmate and the cute toddler sitting in the aisle across from us who abruptly stopped playing with his metallic Crayola coloring pad and markers to turn and stare – wanted to immediately duck and take cover. But sadly, there were zero places to hide. So, I did what any sane person would do in that moment. I clutched my stomach and started writhing and groaning as if my entire abdominal section was being ripped apart with a chain saw. Because, embarrassed as I was,  I decided then and there that even if I had to mosey into The Maldives on a stretcher, there was no way I was standing up and walking off that plane if I had to look anyone in the eye.

Okay, real talk. I’ve never been to the Maldives so that scenario didn’t really happen, though others have been close. [Ha ha…gotchu!] But now that I have your attention, if you’ve ever found yourself having to unzip your pants, roll down your tights, or struggle not to annihilate your fellow passengers with foul-smelling gas on a flight, this post is for you. Take notes, because I’m about to share some valuable insider tips on how to minimize gas and bloating when you travel.

First…what causes excessive gas and bloating?

According to several medical sites, having gas in your system is a normal part of the digestive process.  However, excessive gas can be caused by different reasons. Consuming food and drinks that tend to induce bloating or gassy reactions is the most common, while water retention, sudden changes in your diet, inactivity, inadvertently swallowing air, having anxiety or stress, and getting older are others.

How to avoid gas and bloating

Don’t overeat. Sometimes simply eating too much and too fast can cause bloating. You can avoid going through the discomfort of that by chewing more slowly and stopping yourself before you feel full.

Avoid foods that are gas producing.  Everyone has a different reaction to the various food groups, and most people already have a good idea of which ones cause them to experience gas or bloating. But just in case you don’t, the common culprits are soy goods, processed carbs (like bread, pasta, biscuits, rice and wheat products), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collard greens, bok choy, arugula, watercress and radishes), and dairy products (especially if you are lactose intolerant like I am). Lentils and beans are also powerful sources of gas ‘ammunition’ and in addition to milk, they are my personal brand of kryptonite.

Skip soda. When the flight attendant comes down the aisle with the food trolley, skip the soda and any other carbonated beverages like champagne, sparkling water, seltzer and beer, please. The bubbles in them are filled with gas and when you drink those liquids, guess what fills up your digestive track? Belching helps get rid of some of it, but once the gas lands inside your intestines, it stays there until it gets out …some other way.

Pack healthy snacks. Portable plant foods that are high in soluble fiber make good snacks because they keep you feeling full and also help you stay hydrated because their water quotient is high. Think strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber and oranges, and the like. You can pair them with hummus or guacamole dips and nuts like sunflower seeds or hazelnuts. Pistachios are some of my faves! Click on the image below to see my go-to brand.

Leave the sugar-free gum and candy at home.  Too much sugar can cause you to retain more water and feel bloated, so to minimize gas and bloating, leave them at home.

Don’t use straws. When we drink with a draw, we also are inadvertently ingesting extra air into our stomachs. With no where to go, that additional gas can cause trouble, so before you board your flight with that cup of juice, leave the straws in trash bins at the gate.

Keep moving. Walking through the aisle periodically can aid with digestion as food moves through our digestive tract in rhythmic contractions and moving about helps that process along by keeping the intestines working more efficiently.  An added benefit is that it also reduces the possibility of fluid retention and blood clots from deep vein thrombosis.

Stash anti-inflammatory teas in your bag. Growing up in Jamaica, our home remedies included mint and ginger for almost any ailment.  In this instance, they’re useful too. If you’re not a fan of either, other teas like turmeric, green tea and chai also have pain relief properties that can help in these types of situations.

Take probiotic tablets. Probiotics are live microorganisms that you get through fermented foods or supplements.  They help balance your “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep your digestive system working the way it should. Note: Always check with your doctor before taking any medication.

And those are my tips! Do you know any other tried and true methods to minimize gas and bloating when you fly? If so, drop them in the comments below.


Minimize gas and bloating PIN

The Amazon links included in this post are affiliated, which means I earn a small commission if you purchase them. Err…did I say small? Well, I actually meant TINY. lol.

8 Incredibly easy tips to save money while traveling

While the bulk of my rock bottom budget travel days are behind me, I can still remember being a broke college student trying to see the world, so I know (and still use) a few tricks to help me save money while traveling.

Headed somewhere soon and find yourself a little short on spending money? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Here are 8 ways to save money and adhere to your daily budget allocation once you’ve arrived at your destination. Feel free to save this post and then tag your travel squad. (At least the ones that aren’t 100% flaky!)

1. Make use of your hotel’s free continental breakfast and then grab an apple or wrap a muffin or sandwich for lunch too.

2. Skip the international phone plan and use tools like WhatsApp or Facetime to communicate, once you tap into free Wifi.

3. Eat locally whenever possible and visit a grocery store to stock up on fruits and snacks for day trips. Or get a place with a kitchen and do all your own cooking.

4. Stay close to the central area you wish to see and walk and take local transportation over taxis whenever you can.


5. Ditch the hotel or vacation rental plans, swallow your pride or bench the ‘I value my independence’ streak for a few days, and ask to stay with friends or family who live in the area. By doing so, you’ll save a ton of money.

6. Try to avoid using airport ATMs. Their fees are usually on the upper end of the local range.

7. Look for Free Things to Do lists on community calendars in local newspapers or check your destination’s main website. Sometimes you can get lucky and find free public performances or ‘pay what you like’ contribution-based walking tours or museums to enjoy.

8. Volunteer while you travel. Very often those types of trips are very rewarding, and they include room and board.

You can see other practical cost saving tips here on ways to save money while traveling.

How to use your vacation days wisely: The ultimate guide to traveling with limited time-off

When I relocated to the United States a few years ago and started my stress-inducing job search (another day, another story), one of my biggest culture shocks was finding out that most persons start new jobs with only 10 days paid time off (PTO).  Having just left a management position in the Caribbean where one of the benefits was five glorious weeks of down time, I had to figure out how to fix my new and alarming conundrum – quickly!

I’m an unapologetic travel addict with incurable wanderlust, so I’m not going to pretend coping with limited time off is easy. But I’ve found that while there is a will, you can find a way. It just takes healthy doses of strategy and ingenuity. With a little help, you can do it too! Below are all my tips on how to use your vacation days wisely.

Request days off around public holidays

At the beginning of each year, I check which days public holidays will fall on and try to plan my trips around the ones that will help me maximize my time most. The best possible scenario happens when a holiday falls next to a Friday or Monday and I can combine the weekend with the holiday, then add two, three or four days off. That way, two days stretch to five, three convert to six, and four days + the holiday+ two weekends magically becomes nine. 

However, be sure to note federal and regional holidays only, okay? As fun and indulgent days like National Bubble Bath Day (Jan 8) and National Chocolate Ice-cream Day (June 7) are, I suspect PTO requests for them are not going to cut it in your human resources department. [Oh, the shade! I can see the eye-rolls even now. lol]

Use time zone differences to your advantage

Source: Bing.com

If you’ve never heard of the International Date Line, look it up because it was designed to minimize time zone confusion for travelers. What it basically says is that when you travel west, you subtract one hour whenever you enter a new time zone. On the other hand, every time you go east and cross another time zone boundary, you add one hour. So, the key to maximizing your vacation days is figuring out the time difference between the city you’re in and the city you want to visit. In general terms, you gain more sightseeing time (on your day of arrival specifically) when you travel west of where you currently are.

For example, if you live in New Orleans and want to plan a quick four-day weekend away, you get more time on the ground if you fly out west to San Francisco as opposed to say Montreal or Washington D.C. that are both in the Eastern time zone.

Learn to love red-eye flights

If sleeping on planes is not a challenge for you, always try to reserve flights that depart late at night and arrive early in the morning. As inconvenient as they sometimes are, they definitely help you use your vacation days wisely! Not only do you save money on the ticket (which is usually cheaper as demand isn’t very high for that odd hour), but you also save on the accommodation cost for the night you spend in the air. Plus, you get to experience the destination from the moment the country or city starts coming to life in the morning.

Stay in a central location

If you’ve done your research and know exactly what you’d like to see and do on vacay, you’ll get the most mileage out of your vacation time by staying in a location that’s centrally located to your must-see attractions. Bus or car rides for day excursions, while exciting, can eat up several hours in a day, especially if you only have a short window of opportunity to sightsee. That’s why booking an Airbnb or hotel room in walkable cities and places with well-regulated and readily available public transportation networks is never a bad idea.

Book a short cruise

Even though I personally am not a fan of cruises, I must admit they’re a great way to travel with limited vacation time because you get to see more than one destination while away. With its bundled pricing, you avoid having to stress over sticking to a daily stipend as your room, meals, entertainment, and transportation from one port to another are all included. What’s more, you get to unpack only once and from that moment on, you can dress from a closet rather than a suitcase.

Piggyback off your business trip

Adding a few days before or after your business trip is another brilliant way to use your vacation days wisely. By extending your stay when you travel for work, you get the added benefit of a greatly reduced holiday since your flights and partial hotel stay are already covered. The tricks of the trade include scheduling your meetings for a Monday or Friday, asking your lodging and car rental firm to extend their company rate to you for the personal segment of your trip (while keeping the bills separate of course), and being efficient with your time.

Become very familiar with your company’s vacation policies

Even though vacation days are usually set, the more familiar you are with the policies, the easier it will be to find loopholes that can possibly gain you extra time here or there. For example, you can volunteer to work on weekends or late nights in exchange for comp time, use any job-based leave days you’re allotted first before you delve into personal PTO, or ask about the possibility of working remotely. Yes, it’s never too late to resuscitate your my dream of that 15-day trip through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam by negotiating for additional time instead of a pay raise if bonuses are non-existent or flat-lining. 

And those are my expert tips! Whichever methods you choose to employ, the bottom line is, don’t be a part of the statistic (a depressing one, in my mind) that says more than half of Americans leave their vacation days on the table.

How to use your vacation dats wiselt

How travel can change your life: everything you wanted to know and were afraid to ask

How travel changed me_ Travel transforms your life

(A version of this article was originally published in Island Origins Magazine)

If you’ve ever wondered about the impact travel can have on your life, well, you’re about to get some answers.

But first, are there any Fresh Prince fans up in herre? Bienvenido a mi page, fam!

Now, this is a story all about how
Travel flipped my life upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
So, just sit right there
While I tell you how I became the queen of booking Cheap Air...

{Insert multiple CRINGE EMOJIS while I recover from how cheesy my attempt at being the Will Smith level of cool was.

If you’re still here, thank you! Hey, enough shenanigans, right? Let me get on with the business of telling you my story.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time indoors. Unlike my sister who was an outgoing tomboy and my brother who was a natural at sports, I was reserved and accident prone, so I found my refuge in books.  Thanks to a childhood filled with fairy tales and literary classics, I minimized the usual skinned knees and bruises brought on by outdoor play, because I would curl up on my sofa and vicariously experience exciting escapades that were far way. 

However, that affinity for interior spaces began to dwindle after a trip to New York. Suddenly, as a wide-eyed six-year-old, I was catapulted from a plain-ink-on-parchment world to a vibrant, larger-than-life place.  The city’s sensory overload was palpable, so it whet my appetite for more.  

Even now, travel has a spellbinding effect on me that continues to grow. It has validated the power of dreaming and turned me into a go-getter.  It’s also helped me embrace differences by routinely exposing me to new languages, cultures and traditions. Plus, it’s been an unfailing guide to discovery and knowledge. 

If you’re wondering how travel can change your life, I encourage you to give it a try. Here’s why: 

Your dreams take flight

How travel changed me_Dreams take flight

Think about how much more we all could achieve if we freely granted ourselves the permission to dream. I’m not referring to fanciful desires like winning the lottery. I mean dreams that inspire. Aspirations that give your life purpose and help you set tangible goals. The soul-stirring type that kicks you deep in the gut, and propels you to get up and go.   

Decades ago, if anyone had told me a little ‘country girl’ from the tiny island of Jamaica would get to visit fascinating corners of the globe, I would have laughed and told them no. Now, I’ve gradually ticked off countries like Greece, Peru, Holland, Dubai, China, Egypt, South Africa, and several Caribbean islands from my bucket list because I took practical steps to do so.  

You learn the power of intentional action

American author John C. Maxwell once said, “dreams don’t work unless you do,” and it’s true. Visioning is great, but no matter how big or small the goal, none of us will get what we want in life without taking intentional action towards it. Planning for vacation is just one example of that.  All it involves is making travel a priority after life’s essentials. 

My three-step plan is: 1. Save consistently.  2. Live within (or below) your means. 3. Aim for little or no debt. It’s not about what you make, but about what you save. Always strive to be purposeful about making decisions that don’t tap out your monthly salary, so you can free up disposable income. Before every big-ticket purchase, ask yourself, “is this a need or a want?” It will work wonders for fiscal restraint. 

You unlock deeper insights about yourself from greater self-discovery  

How travel can change your life

Travel takes you out of your comfort zone, teaches you a lot about yourself, and opens your eyes to the broader human experience. No two trips are ever the same, which makes you learn to adapt to unfamiliar situations. Even if things aren’t going your way, past experiences assure you things will eventually work out. 

Being away from home also adds depth to character and widens perspectives. By regularly interacting with diverse groups of people, you observe new ways of doing things, realize all the little gems you take for granted, and discover that inconveniences you used to see as big problems are actually minor. 

Ultimately, I’ve found that regardless of geographic or cultural backgrounds, people just want to be acknowledged and loved.  When that happens, a light bulb goes off and you realize that the cost of what you spend on a trip is chump change to what you gain. In fact. the most valuable transactional currencies are warm and hospitable smiles, an open and non-judgmental mind during local interactions, and irreplaceable memories that last a lifetime. 

Now, it’s your turn to share. Has travel transformed your life in any way?

Boy, BYE! 9 clever photography tips to make your post breakup life easier

Photography tips ot make your post break up life easier

When a relationship ends, the breakup can hit you in one of two ways. You either feel relief for finally having the courage to say goodbye to a cheating, deceitful or abusive ex, or your emotions shatter into a million pieces after realizing that your previously swell “plus one” flame has fizzled from hero to zero in one irregular heartbeat.

So, now that your romantic journey is over and you’ve landed in Splitsville, USA, what do you do? Lock yourself in your house for a while and cry your eyeballs out, of course! Or you play Adele, Sam Smith and Taylor Swift style breakup songs on 24-hour rotation while you gorge on indulgent foods and search for separation advice on Reddit. But after a while, the pity party must end. To heal a broken heart, get over a bad breakup, and move on with your life, you’ve got to create an ex-free environment.

Photography tips to help you get past a breakup

Usual breakup protocol includes blocking calls or changing your number, deleting old text messages, ghosting mutual friends for a while, and getting rid of pictures with your ex. But what if I told you there are ways to avoid having to go on an immediate Facebook and Instagram purge, especially when it relates to the matter of epic vacation photos? I don’t know about you, but it’s incredibly hard for me to destroy evidence of my time in a sweet location, and it’s even more painful when it’s a destination I’d been dreaming of visiting for a long time.

That’s why I’ve studied the techniques of some image-savvy social media accounts that will keep our ‘Gram and Facebook feeds intact.  Even better, these photography tips are guaranteed to elevate our social media game while ensuring that looking at old photos will be a little easier to handle in the event of a post vacation breakup.

Now, enough yapping from me. Check out these rad photo-taking tips and try them out on your next trip!

1. Use the angle and location of natural light to your advantage. Shoot into the sun, and play around with the lens flare for special effects.

In this example, you can’t really see the guy’s face, can you? That’s the idea.

2. Show the back of your heads.

This style places greater emphasis on the destination or details in the background than the person who’s sharing the scene with you.


3. Set up a unique perspective shot, preferably one that positions the other person far, far away. 

In this fun image, one half of the dynamic duo isn’t very visible and looks more like a bite-sized snack.


4. Only show parts of your torso in the frame.

This could be two sets of feet hanging over the edge of a boat or cliff, or limbs intertwined in a hammock on the beach.


Murad and Nataly Osmann have made a name for themselves by holding hands in their shots. Take a page out of their #followmeto playbook, and capture images of yourself holding bae’s hand in front of stunning scenery or notable landmarks.

5. Pose in profile, and go for maximum landscape impact with a long-range ‘tripod selfie’, or ask someone (who looks trustworthy) to take your picture from a distance.

The key is to ensure facial features are not very distinguishable..

6. Up the wow factor by getting playful at sunset – in silhouette!

7. Suit up with protective gear and go deep. 

As you can see, diving gear does a great job of masking identities when underwater.


8. Use a direct overhead angle (maybe even a drone) to get a bird’s eye view of your desired scene.

Additional tip: Accessories like hats help with anonymity.


9.  Play the ‘Instagram Boo’ card and have him/her take lit pictures of you solo! Then to be fair, extend the favor too.


Do you have any other photography tips that have worked for you that I missed? Please share them in the comments.