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And They’ve Done It Again! Global Jetsetters Donna & Paul Traveled to the Exotic Croatia…

If you don’t already know Donna and Paul Scales, let me introduce you. You may have seen their incredible pictures from destinations all over the world. Does the handle “Global Jetsetter” ring a bell? Donna & Paul are living out any traveler’s dream — exploring the most exotic and exclusive destinations on earth. On many occasions, you will be at work – but will find these two in some far away land – wearing their Global Jetsetter branded apparel that includes their famous tagline “Where to Next?” That’s really not just a tagline — they really mean – Where to Next? LOL!

Within the last few years, traveling has become something that more African-Americans are doing in large and impressive numbers and visiting impressive and highly sought after destinations. These two have definitely made indelible and rich memories that will last a lifetime. Not to mention the education they’ve received that can only be achieved by seeing the world first hand. They have seen many things and can tell many stories – and because of this, they are qualified to educate others on how to achieve their dreams of global travel.

“Where To Next?” landed Donna & Paul in Croatia this year. Have you ever heard of Croatia? Moreover, have you ever considered traveling to Croatia? If you’re anything like me, I was immediately intrigued with their destination selection and wondered how many black and brown people would they see? Would they be safe, feel included and comfortable? On a rainy day, I had the pleasure of interviewing Donna about their trip to Croatia. Here are my questions and her responses to my questions about their trip to Croatia.

Would you consider yourself an avid traveler? Yes, I would consider myself an avid traveler these days at the age of 46. I first got the travel bug while dating my now husband when I was 22 years old. My first time flying was when he invited me to Las Vegas for a friend’s birthday celebration. At the time, I truly had no idea that Las Vegas was considered the “desert” but imagined palm trees and perhaps a beach … it was at that moment that I decided to educate myself on geographic locations in the United States. I’ve been traveling ever since and have visited 39 countries so far and counting.

What made you decide to travel to Croatia? That’s a great question! In all honesty, we decided on Croatia because it sounded like a great idea at the time of booking. We also knew that Dubrovnik is the filming location for HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones. Once we booked it and I began to do more research, I discovered Croatia is so much more than the Game of Thrones set. The photos of clear blue water, stunning sunsets, and medieval architecture REALLY peaked my interest, and the excitement started to build.

Did you have any concerns traveling to a destination that isn’t accustomed to seeing Black-Americans? Not at all. When traveling we make it a point to read the travel advisories issued by U.S. Department of State. We also register all of our international travel with Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling abroad to enroll with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A Visa was not required for us to travel to Croatia, which for us, was our green light!

Did you feel comfortable going about your traveler business in Croatia? While visiting Croatia, the people we made contact with were very genuine and very proud! Some of the things we conversed about with the locals was tourism, historic events, the economy, and sports such as basketball, tennis, and soccer which is a commonality amongst our 2 countries. English was the language spoken at all restaurants and points of interest; they also have Uber in Dubrovnik as with most major big cities which made getting around really convenient and easy.

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What was the most fascinating thing about your trip to Croatia? WOW! The easy answer would be everything! We spent 8 days there where we did and saw so much. In addition to the beautiful beaches, food, people and touristy things we did, what we recorded mentally is Croatia has over 1,000 islands along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. Most are small and inhabitable, but what’s sketched in memory is that the pure white limestone for the White House in Washington, DC and other well know world structures came from the island of Brac. Brac Island is known for the famous and crowded white pebble Zlatni Rat beach, often named a top beach in Europe. We didn’t visit Brac Island but I could imagine how beautiful it must be. When it comes to travel, we love exploring and taking photos with beautiful architecture as a backdrop. We now know where the stones came from for our very own gem in the United States which can now be a topic of discussion because of our visit to Croatia. One of my favorite quotes is “The best education I have ever received was through travel.” by Lisa Ling.

I also didn’t know that Croatia was known for its grape growing region which rivals that of Italy and/or California’s Napa Valley! We stayed on Korcula Island (pronounced kor-chula) for 5 days which is best known for its white wines, but they had delicious red wines as well. We explored many vineyards and sampled local wines (Grk, Posip, Rukatac (Marastina) and Plavac Mali), and other local products such as wild herbs and traditional soaps, marmalades, brandy, liquors, and olive oil. We even enjoyed a cooking class where were made tradition Dalmatian pastries from scratch using local products.

Describe your favorite meal while in Croatia. It’s a toss-up between the pasta and seafood; both of which are my favorite cuisine. The pasta was always fresh with various sauces and they offered various types of white fish. Another popular dish in Croatia was Octopus Salad, which I bravely sampled, and Dalmatian prosciutto; a cured meat product made from fresh pork (ham) with bone. The ham is salted with sea salt, smoked and matured for no less than 12 months. It’s also a product protected with a geographical origin indicator. I haven’t eaten pork in 4 years. When the restaurant owner and chef of the establishment we frequented while in Korcula gifted us with Dalmatian prosciutto as an appetizer, out of respect for his generosity, I sampled … actually ate quite a bit of it and I’m glad that I did!

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What’s the best piece of advice that you wish you had received prior to traveling to Croatia? Since we didn’t know anyone that has visited Croatia, the best advice I can give to anyone traveling from the United States is to thoroughly research your travel options. We were able to save $700 roundtrip per person by booking a roundtrip ticket to Amsterdam from the United States; and a roundtrip ticket to Dubrovnik from Amsterdam. Give yourself ample time in between landings times as you’ll need to clear immigration and customs in Amsterdam (or whichever European country you fly into). We also didn’t know the travel time and travel route to Korcula Island. Once we arrived in Dubrovnik, it was 2-hour scenic ride to Orebic … and the views were absolutely breathtaking! Once we arrived in Orebic we took a 15-minute ferry ride to Korcula Island where we witnessed the most beautiful sunset from the water. Upon our arrival on Korcula Island, it was a 45-minute ride to get to the other side of the island. So as you can imagine, that was a lot of travel time that we didn’t anticipate while the excitement about Croatia was brewing; we just knew we were going. My dear friend Kinyatta Gray has always said that I’m the type that’ll “act now and think about it later.” So, on Day 5, to turn our travel dilemma around for the best experience possible while in Croatia, we decided to leave Korcula Island to spend the last 3 days in Dubrovnik. In Dubrovnik, we got to spend a lot of time in Old Town, also known as King’s Landing from HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, where we booked a Game of Thrones tour. We got to dine at some of the best restaurants Dubrovnik has to offer including the Panorama Restaurant & Bar, which can only be reached by cable car. At an altitude, the restaurant offers a spectacular view of the Old City and a wider area of amazingly beautiful landscapes. We also enjoyed Dubrovnik nightlife, including partying in a CASTLE … I mean a freaking Castle … also known as Culture Club Revelin; a phenomenal experience in itself! Croatia is certainly a place to put on your bucket list!

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I know that you recently launched your own brand of travel-inspired shirts and accessories. Tell me what inspired you to launch the brand, and how can my readers find Global Jetsetter products? Global Jetsetter became my Instagram handle in 2014 when I began to travel more frequently. I thought it was a cool handle, or as people now say a “dope” handle. In 2017, a friend of ours started a travel and lifestyle line of their own with statement tees. When asked if they could create one for GLOBAL JETSETTER, but they never got around to it. Fast forward to February 2018 with the strong push and genuine encouragement of a very dear friend, supportive family members and my travel community, I took a leap of faith and launched my own brand, Global Jetsetter, for occasional and avid travelers worldwide. Travel is my passion, so the brand aligns with exactly who I’ve become over the past few years. Please visit our online store at www.globaljetsetteronline.com. Stay booked and safe travels to wherever your next journey takes you!

As this amazing interview concluded, I really had chills running down my spine, Donna’s reflection on their trip and the many sights and sounds they experienced certainly was both motivational, inspirational and once in a lifetime.

I am so proud to know this loving couple who have inspired me and hundreds of others to live, travel and see the world while you can. And folks, a Dreamtrip with Donna & Paul was the catalyst for FlightsInStilettos. I love this couple.

Until next time Croatia…

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50 States, My Son and Creating #Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America

 

I am always interested in stories about women who are movers and shakers, who push themselves to achieve success while balancing the demands of life and by all accounts, are indeed trailblazers.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tai Hall, a mom, multiple business owner, best-selling author of : “#Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America” and an international massage therapist.  If that isn’t enough, she’s also an avid traveler! Personally, I consider Tai the epitome of today’s “go-getter”  and a true “boss”.  So, it’s with excitement that I share a little bit of what I discovered about her during our interview for this blog regarding her love of travel, juggling motherhood and  her businesses.

From her very first trip to Atlanta, GA, to cruising the beautiful islands in the Bahamas, Tai found her “real love” –  which is traveling.  I wanted to know specifically about Tai’s first travel experience and her discovery of her “real love”, and here’s what she said: “My very first trip was to Atlanta about 10 years ago. My best friend relocated to the ATL and we would take turns trekking to and from celebrating birthdays and family events. A close friend of ours invited us on a cruise to the Bahamas a year later and I fell in love with my scuba instructor (lol). He was ALL kinds of fine! We were only docked at Nassau for one night so he and his best friend took me and my best friend around the entire island. We laughed and danced and partied til port call. He and I exchanged contact info via whatsapp and kept in contact. He owned the excursion company Carnival contracted the events for and flew me out at the end of every month for the next six months until I realized I couldn’t handle a long distance relationship. But through that relationship he introduced me to my real true love: traveling. I’ve been hooked ever since. “

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Everyone has that first trip that really sets the tone or creates the yearning for more travel. In Tai’s case, it was her trip to the Bahamas that did it for her! Here’s how she describes her love of the islands of Bahamas: “Bahamian culture was (well still is) so rich and pure. Aside from the tourist attractions,  I fell in love with the minimalistic lifestyle in being happy with the riches of the land; the contentment in family and friends, of music and basic things entitlement robs us of. I ate fruits I had never seen before; tasted beers we could never have in the states. I saw flowers for the first time in person that I grew up seeing as computer screen savers. And the people were so nice! I found myself smiling all of the time-sharing in their love of life with no strings attached. It’s a ‘life high’ that you can only appreciate through experience and exposure.”  After this description of the Bahamas, clearly I should have consulted with Tai first before taking my trips there, I have never tasted fruit  or beer from the Bahamas! But  now I plan to.  How about you?

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As I described earlier, Tai is also a mother of a wonderful son. I am a believer in investing in our children and their interests, therefore Tai’s  fascinating story about her son’s excitement when he learned about all 50 states was nothing short of amazing. Tai actually described what happened when her son learned about the 50 states and how he wanted to explore each and every one of them, here’s  specifically what she said: “My son came home one day from school stoked on a life high because he had just found out that there were 50 states… and he wanted to go see them all. I was taken aback because as a single mom all I was processing was how expensive this was starting to sound lol. He went in his room and offered me his piggy bank to get started. If his selfless heart could give me his last as a token to delve into his dreams… then so could I.  (This is discussed  heavily in her best selling novel: #Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America as it tracks their travels and journey across the country. ) It’s one thing to hear about disparities and cultural differences that people are faced with on a daily basis… but to witness them is a totally different story. To envelop your mind around racism first hand, to experience being treated differently because of the color of your skin, to witness modern-day class-ism and mental bondage in 2018 changes you forever. It’s humbling and refreshing all at the same time, and has also created a platform for me to offer my son a more well-rounded pedigree.”  

As you might imagine, giving your child/children these kinds of life experiences certainly creates well-adjusted, educated, and open-minded children.  Tai describes the influence and impact of providing a “traveling education” on her son like this: “My son is more mature than most kids his age. Maybe not even mature mentally as I will say emotionally. He is extremely understanding and compassionate; empathetic to others. He is kind and loving because of what he has been exposed to. The premise of my book delineates the impact simply moving from the suburbs to the inner city has had on him in expanding his mind to how blessed he is. There are things he has experienced that they haven’t even begun to teach him in school yet but when they get to it he is twice as engaged in the conversations because a lot of it he has lived first hand.” 

I agree with Tai,  what she’s exposing her son to at an early age (creating life lessons and permanent memories) can not be taught within four walls. Understandably, everyone’s life isn’t set up in manner where this can be accomplished, however, for those that are interested in pushing through and carving a path similar to Tai’s and that of her son, here’s some helpful guidance offered by Tai on how to pursue balancing travel, business and motherhood: “You fight for what you believe in; you make time for the things that are important to you. What shopping, drinking, or yoga do for some ‘travel’ does for me. It is my happy place. The ability to get lost in other lands isn’t just a luxury but has become a necessity. Nothing else has the same calming, nourishing, replenishing effect on my mental health like travel does. To step off of a plane — passport in hand… take a deep breath with a new adventure on the horizon; a semi empty camera in tow and a half packed suitcase waiting to be filled with souvenirs and memories? I have to make time for it. I make time to be happy. And my happiness revels in the form of travel. I also take pride in that a lot of people who follow my trips are unable to travel whether its due to economic constraints or physical ones. So e-vite them on my journeys and vicariously live for them. When something means THAT much to you, as well as other around you? You make time to make it happen.

The “how”: When my son is in school I try to schedule my trips on Fri-Mon. I’ll wake him before I leave, leave breakfast in the microwave, and preschedule his über to take him to school. I watch the über’s commute as I board my flight, and confirm with the school his attendance before the flight takes off (or have my parents call the school if I’m already in the air). I’ve also had my neighbor take my son to school for me. My parents live so far from us now they can rarely take him. He catches the public bus home and his aunt or his dad will pick him up from the house when he gets settled; he’ll spend the weekend with them until I get back. On trips when I am unable to schedule it around a weekend,  I have someone stay at my home and take care of him while I’m gone whether it’s a family member, a  trusted friend, or his dad has come and stayed in the guest bedroom while I’m gone. As for work and client –  I actually get a lot of last-minute overseas contracts and have to move client appointments around to accommodate them. There are always understanding. And in moments of last minute travel for pleasure— whether a great deal pops up that I want to take advantage of or I’m mentally drained and need to get away, I move commitments around to make it happen. Those that understand the last minute shifts —  Great! And those that don’t? Great. Either way I’m still going.  I would say start locally abroad in places that would heighten the amount of exposure and experiences but minimize the planning and expenses such as the Bahamas, the USVI, Puerto Rico, Guam, Alaska, or Hawaii as none of these places require a passport (that process can take some time, time that could be better spent traveling) — they get to hop on a plane for the first time as well. Rent a car upon arriving at your destination which gives you control over their exposure instead of being stuck at a resort. Use trip advisor and yell to plan out the best landmarks to visit. Use  Groupon or airBnB to book hotels and save a coin or two. And bring your children in on the conversation! Tell them what the travel destination options are and charge them to research each place; write a book report on each place and ask them which one they would like to go to. My son owes me a book report for every state we travel to; that’s my payment in exchange for the trip. Once the children choose the destination, assign them to choose one excursion, event, museum, etc. each day to venture to. It starts teaching them to think for themselves, explore their likes and dislikes, how to plan! So many life lessons that they will use over and over again for the rest of their lives are acquired through travel. Raising a child doesn’t come with a cookie cutter recipe of what to do. If the goal is to raise happy, smart, healthy children, including travel helps you to creatively cultivate all of those ideals, vesseling knowledge and culture all at the same time.” 

I learned a lot from this portion of my interview with Tai. I truly had no idea that the desire for travel could be likened to the desire one has to shop or dine out frequently;  but it makes sense. I also learned how strongly travel is a part of who Tai is and there’s nothing that will change that. She’s strategically designed her life and practices around making a way to travel — that is pure dedication.  I also learned how Tai’s love of travel is woven into her parenting style. She uses the many components of traveling (planning and executing of plans) to create life managment lessons for her son.   Tai has found that “thing” in life that makes her more than happy – so much so that she’s shared this lifestyle with her child.  It’s important for YOU reading this article to discover what it is in life that enables you to feel fulfilled and like you’re living your best life. It may not be travel for you, like it was for Tai — and that’s okay. Just discover what it is, without comparison to the life of another and indeed live your life out loud — just as Tai has managed to successfully do.

Tai Hall is also a successful international massage therapist and a sought after, successful author of the popular:  “#Lunchbox Chronicles: Raising a Conscious Black Boy in America” you can learn more about Ms. Hall and her novel by visiting her website at: http://thelunchboxchronicles.com.

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What My Mother Means To Me…3 Generations

For Mother’s Day, I asked my mother and daughter to share with me, what their mother means to them. I also did some reflecting and included my thoughts on what my mother means to me also. Each narrative was personally written by the responder. Sometimes it’s not about a gift, it is about expressing, telling, and demonstrating your love for your mother and being able to articulate just how much she means to you. Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Matriarch – Ms. Carroll
“Sometimes when I look in the mirror and see the ever-increasing tiny brown moles growing on my face, I wonder, “did I get these moles from her? At other times I wonder if I inherited my large almost hazel eyes from her…I really miss my mother…but how do you miss someone that you ‘ve never seen before…never heard her voice before, or smelled her perfume or ate her cooking……before? I’ve lived without knowing who my birth mother is all my life, so actually becoming a mother was an amazing experience for me. God always has a way of making up for what’s missing in our lives. Not only did I become a mother, but God has given me 3 surrogate mothers in my life. One has passed away now some 30 years ago, but the other 2 are still with me and I treasure every moment that I get to spend with them when I can. No one will truly ever take the place of my precious birth mother, whoever she is, or was, but I am very grateful to be a mother, grandmother and Godmother. The one thing I don’t have to wonder about is being loved! God saw to that!!”

~ Ms. Carroll

 

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The Daughter – Mrs. Gray (Ms. Carroll’s daughter)
“When I think of my mother, I can remember when it was just her and I and she worked caring for other families’ children while I was in daycare – this was a necessary sacrifice as she was a single mother intent on keeping me in her care and close by. When I was little I’d go to work with her and experience a little bit of her parenting style — which was different as she had more resources at work. I remember the tuna melts tasted so much better at her job because her families ate albacore tuna and had better cheese (LOL). As time went on, my mother continued to make sacrifices for me, often catching the bus from Gaithersburg, MD to SE, DC to visit me because she nor I owned a vehicle at the time, but she wanted to see me and spend time with me. I looked forward to those visits. My mother is one of the strongest and most resilient people that I know. I have watched her experience and endure a number of things that would have completely broken the average woman, yet she has persevered and has kept her head high. She has an amazing capacity to forgive. I have seen her hold on to friendships and family members that I would have been cut off and (still will) as I don’t have the heart that she does. But I’m hoping that in time – I will. My mother is an excellent listener and has provided an immeasurable number of hours listening to her friends and providing much needed emotional support.  My mother gives 100% to what she chooses to do and what she’s asked to do – hence why she’s called upon to lead committees and ministries all of the time. My mother is a caring, supportive and doting grandmother to her only grandchildren. I will never have any more children – so these two extensions of me are it! I adore and worship the ground my mother walks on, and both Ju and I are waiting for the magical age to come so that she can stay with us and be spoiled. That’s only if she doesn’t remarry ( then that will be his job LOL). Once my mother understood me better and hence loved and accepted my spouse, Ju, it was the most pivotal moment in our lives. Her love for me prevailed and her desire to see me live happily ever after — has resulted in me living happily ever after. I admire everything about her and rely on her wisdom, guidance, and acceptance. My mother means EVERYTHING to me. I love you.

~ Mrs. Gray

 

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The Granddaughter – Ms. Gray (Mrs. Gray’s daughter and Ms. Carroll’s Granddaughter)
“A mother is caring. A mother is gentle. A mother is patient. A mother is the most loving, and the most supportive. A mother always knows best. A mother like mine is everything and more. She’s dedicated, hardworking, independent, beautiful, intelligent, insightful and everything else. It’s an honor being the daughter to someone like her. She listens, she takes care of the house, she provides to every need. She always makes herself available when she’s needed. I love her smile, I love her laughter. I love when she’s happy which is usually all the time. She is all around the perfect woman and far too good of a mother. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve her. I have friends who wish they had a mother like mine. They all can see how great of a mother she is. Those friends also remind me of how grateful I am to have a mother so caring & involved. Sometimes I may take her for granted but I never want her to believe I don’t appreciate her. I literally could not ask for a mother any better. She has done no wrong as my mom. She made sure my brother and I were always straight. She pushed us both to be the best we could be. She pushed us to our potential. If it weren’t for her, I’m sure my brother and I would not have made it this far and we wouldn’t be this successful! Every piece of thanks goes to her & Julie. The best set of parents I could ever ask for.

My mom has always been there for me every step of the way with everything. I know if no one has my back, she does. I aspire to be the type of woman she is and I hope I can be half the mother she is to my future kids one day! I love her sooo much! She’s done nothing but steered her children in the right direction and pushed us forward. And for that, I thank you! Thank you for birthing me!! I’m truly the lucky one. There is not one thing I wish she did, because she has literally done it all. The only thing I can think of is that one time when I was younger and wanted a barbie car. LOL. but I got a real car instead when I became of age. love you, mom!

A queen she is. “

 
~ Ms. Gray

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We Love Our Customers At FlightsInStilettos!

Loyal customers are the heartbeat of any business! Embrace this concept and you will always be in business! Cheers to my supportive customers and I can’t wait to serve my new customers in the future!

“There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer.” – Shep Hyken

Love,

Kinyatta

CEO & Creator, FlightsInStilettos, LLC

 

 

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Nothing Could Go Wrong In Hong Kong – Traveling With Alisha!

I’ve known Alisha for at least 10 years – we have worked together for most of those years. I found out very early in our friendship that she enjoyed traveling.

Back then I knew the kinds of trips I had in mind when people in my inner circled discussed traveling. By and large, the primary travel destinations of people (in my circle 10 years ago) consisted of Miami, Las Vegas, NY,  Atlantic City and Los Angeles.

So, one day, Alisha and I were chopping it up and we started to talk about her recent trip. Keep in mind, I wasn’t thinking about traveling globally 10 years ago – so I never considered the fact that others in my age range were, in fact, traveling globally.

I had already imagined where Alisha probably went for her “vacation”. So, I eagerly waited to hear all about her trip to Myrtle Beach!! But guess what, Alisha fixed her lips to tell me about her exotic 1 or 2-week vacation to Greece! In my mind, I was like “whaaaaattttt????” Greece was like a honeymoon vacation – surely not where young women would travel. So, after I secretly regained my composure, I played it cool, and was like, yeah — of course she went to Greece! Silly me…

It was in that moment, that I was reintroduced to Alisha, the avid traveler.

From that day to the present, I have shared that story with many people. And I always describe Alisha to people this way — ” remember the lady from my job who was planning to tell me about her trip and I assumed she was going to tell me about Myrtle Beach – when actually she traveled to Greece?” It’s a classic story.

Alisha traveled frequently to exotic destinations overseas. And since back then I was still afraid of long-distance flights, she agreed to also bring me back my beloved postcards. So between Donna’s postcards (which I hung up on my wall at work) and doing the same with Alisha’s postcards, it gave the illusion that I was the avid traveler! LOL

Fast forward to the present, Alisha traveled to Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong. 10 -15 years later, I’m still in awe of her travel destinations.

While in Hong Kong, Alisha visited the Big Buddha and the Tai O Fishing Village which she says is a “must see” attraction. It requires riding the big lift to get there.

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Her favorite meal was a cheap bowl of noodle soup from a food stand. I love a good noodle soup so I would have been in heaven.

Part of being an avid traveler means that you’re open to accepting different cultural experiences — even the food. I have always been impressed with how Alisha never hesitated to try something completely undesired by the western palette.

Alisha’s travel style is spontaneous and experimental — again being an avid traveler, she’s very open to experiencing life and traditions of the local culture.

Without a doubt, Alisha will continue to satisfy her appetite for global travel and one day soon, I will accept her invitation.

Until next time Hong Kong…

 

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The Big Sister I Never Had – Victoria Dixon

It’s funny when you’re a child, a 10-15 year age difference is significant. Somehow, when you become adults not so much. That’s the case with my cousin Victoria.

Growing up, I was always fond of my cousin Victoria – just too young to roll with her LOL!  She traveled  in the fast line, was popular and knew many people in the DMV.  A socialite then and now! I remember hoping I’d grow up and be shaped just like her.

Our lives went in separate directions; intertwining at certain intervals – mainly family gatherings. Within the last 20 years, age was no longer a factor, I was an adult and had more in common with my cousin since I too was a mother  and had been through some things in life – but we both were similar in the sense that while we stayed in touch with our grandmother mainly,  we made appearances at key family events annually – only.

Over the years, my cousin and I grew close. Real close.  Mostly because she made it a point to reach out to me weekly, for YEARS. I may receive a text at 6am, and when I’d get that text, I knew it was either Victoria or my mom. Victoria would always remember some of my friends she may have met along the way and she’d always ask — “so how’s so & so?”  And I’d always laugh, because she may have been referring to a buddy of mine she met one time years ago that I may or may not even speak to anymore – but she would always show interest and concern about that person and would always ask about them.  I TOO have that same caring spirit. Once I meet you and I like you – I will always inquire about your well-being.  Yup — years later! LOL.

I have shared many things with my cousin over the years and she with me. I trust her wholeheartedly.  My cousin has a heart of gold and when I spend time with her, she reminds me a lot of myself, because I possess that same sweet spirit. And what I have also learned is that we both are on the receiving end a lot of unfair judgment. People often form an opinion of the kind of person they think that we are – based on our outer appearance –  when in reality, we are two of the most authentic kind-hearted and polite individuals you’d ever meet.

Actually, the more time that I spend with all of my aunts and family, I see that kindness and authenticity runs in the blood.

My cousin really has been my rock (she doesn’t realize this) she has supported me and has been there for me like no other.  Just recently, if the “necessary” became necessary, she would have thrown those hands up to defend me. But we divas really try not to go there — it’s bad for the stilettos. But don’t get it twisted by any means.

A recent memory of my cousin was at her last birthday party. I was sooooo excited to be there to support her on her special day. And my goodness, I had such a great time with her squad. But more importantly, I observed my cousin taking great care in the planning of her own party.  She wanted every single detail to be perfect — not for her, but for her guests.  She wanted her guests to be fed the best food, the best cake and she made swag bags, and created a glamorous atmosphere – truly all for her guests. When she felt satisfied that her guests would have a great experience, she then got dressed and enjoyed her party. It was the most selfless act I have witnessed. And my heart grew even fonder.

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Victoria at her last birthday party! Diva!

And last, my cousin came through for me in a HUGE way – in an effort to help support the visibility of my new travel-inspired brand FlightsInStilettos. Again, such a selfless act and she went out of her way, because she just wanted me to be happy. For that act, I will be eternally grateful. Family supports family.

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Victoria doing what she loves – taking pictures of me, Julie and Always Ask Asia

 

Of course, there have been those times when we haven’t seen eye to eye – but not many. My cousin called and made me do something that really I should have done without her making me feel guilty. But she was right and I was glad I went to visit a family member when I did. I sent her the picture as proof and life was good again between her and I. It killed me to think she may have been upset with me and I wanted to make it right.

For these reasons and 40+ years of additional reasons, Vicky is really the big sister I never had. She’s my cousin, but I love her like a sister. I dedicate this to you big sister-cousin! If you are blessed to have this woman in your life, you really have a true gem on your side.

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Victoria and I at her birthday party
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Cousins, Victoria and Shaunita (Shaunita and those faces she makes cracks me up) LOL
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Victoria – there for me on my wedding day!
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Spring Fling in Colorado – Emily & Domo’s 1st Trip!

It brings me so much joy to write about Domo & Emily’s spring trip to Colorado. Domo is my only son, and his 1st trip (as an adult) is heartwarming as he’s creating goals and crushing them. He has always had an adventurous spirit, so I know full well, that this is just the beginning of he and Emily building their travel memories together. Emily, Domo’s college sweetheart is beautiful and equally accomplished. Domo has shared with me that her brain and intellect are her most attractive features. He’s focused on the right things. They met on campus at Towson University. Emily sat with us, as he graduated with his degree in 2017.

They planned this trip to Denver, CO and I remember how they were counting down the weeks and hours leading up to their trip. Both of them were in need of a mini-vacation.

During the interview, I asked Emily & Domo to their summarize their experience in Denver, and this is what they said: ” Neither of us had traveled to the West coast before this trip and weren’t initially sure how to best experience the city of Denver. We chose an Airbnb because we had heard a few good recommendations from friends that had experience with them. For us, this turned out to be an ideal option because we were able to enjoy our own space and the location was only a short walk to the historic art district that led into downtown Denver. We chose to experience the trip more similarly to how the locals would – which gave us the chance to really explore on our own and get to know the community. The overall atmosphere of the city was very casual and more laid back than the hustle and bustle of a city like Washington D.C., despite being so large. It’s a wonderful place to experience a variety of interests from the arts to nature and we more than enjoyed our first time there!

Having never visited CO, but very interested in doing so, I was curious about the must-see tourist attractions that they discovered, and this is what they said: “Since it was our first time together on an out of state trip and in Colorado, Domo and I did a good amount of research to figure out which places were must-sees and luckily we were able to find a wide variety of things to enjoy! Everything from the mountains to downtown Denver was much more close by than we thought so it wasn’t difficult to accomplish everything we set out to do. Our top two must-sees, particularly in the city of Denver, were 16th street mall and Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater. The 16th street mall is an outdoor pedestrian mall that runs about 1.5 miles and has a few hundred stores and restaurants to explore, very family friendly but also a great location for nightlife or for those who want to shop! For those who are outdoorsy and interested in wildlife or scenic places, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is a perfect attraction. The park’s amphitheater is a world-famous open-air concert venue sitting at around 6,450 feet above sea level, surrounded by 868 acres of natural red sandstone formations with various hiking trails. We were fortunate enough to visit after it had just snowed so throughout our hike on the Trading Post Trail we were able to see beautiful views of the foothills dusted with snow and quite a few times had to just stop in awe and do 360 turns to really take in and admire the sights.

Are you ready to book your trip to CO yet? This overview of the must-sees that they researched has definitely sparked my interest in traveling to this jewel of a state.

Now, if you follow my blog, you know that I LOVE to hear about my travelers’ favorite meals while on travel. This was their response to my question regarding their favorite meal: “While we were visiting, everyone we met was so friendly and had great recommendations for food and attractions. However, simply through exploring the neighborhood we were in, we came across a locally owned cafe called “Under the Umbrella” down the street from where we were staying and decided to stop for breakfast. For coffee or tea lovers, I would recommend the Oregon chai latte paired with one of their amazing pastries like the lemon bar or raspberry muffin. For breakfast, Dom tried their green chili and thought it was fantastic for those who like their food a little heat. This spot was a go-to for locals and if we ever return, we would definitely stop by there again!” So there you have it – “Under the Umbrella” and Oregon Chai Latte made their “favorite” list!

I am so completely thrilled that their plans were executed flawlessly and they experienced CO in the manner that they saw fit – thus building their own memories, together. They both bring me joy.

Until next time Colorado…

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Downtown Denver 
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Denver Botanic Gardens
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Emily & Domo in Downtown Denver 
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Red Rocks Park 

 

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Morocco…A Dream Trip for Most, Paul & Donna’s Reality

How many of you have ever considered traveling to Morocco? How many of you have actually accomplished traveling to Morocco? Donna & Paul have. Before I get into the interview I conducted with Donna & Paul about their trip, let me share a little about them. I have known both Donna & Paul for nearly 15 years. 15 good years. Donna and I work for the same federal agency. We used to work in the same building. For some reason on what I  would like to believe was a sunny day (LOL) Donna and I became acquainted.
It was an instant friendship. I can recall the first time we went to lunch and Donna agreed to drive. I remember thinking we’d get off the elevator and walk to her Honda Accord. So, we passed one, two , three Honda’s and had not stopped. Finally, she clicks the remote and I see the lights flashing for a current year 5 series BMW. I was floored. 15 years ago, I wasn’t surrounded by women with their own luxury vehicles. I remember getting in, feeling like yes – I look cute. We’re going to look cute pulling up to Wendy’s (LOL).  Later on, when I was gifted with my first Mercedes CLK-320, somehow it would just magically happen that Donna and I would park on the same row in the garage at work. Soon after, all luxury cars began to park on the same row as us and that row became known as “Millionaire’s Row”. And that was my introduction to Donna, and later Paul. Both Donna & Paul are incredibly special to me because our lives couldn’t be more different, but we have embraced those differences in our lives as established and grounded, friends and women should. I don’t use the term “bestie” for just anyone, but Donna, with her tenacity, live out loud personality, caring ways, and consistency has earned that level of closeness in my life and Julie’s.

True story, Donna & Paul would travel frequently, and my fear of long flights prevented me from traveling as much as they do. So, Donna, (not wanting me to feel excluded) would always bring me something back. What I loved most were postcards. See, I’d hang the postcards in my office. And unsuspecting co-workers would stop by my office and see all of these postcards from all over the world. China, Africa, Hawaii, you name it. Hey if you left my office thinking I’d been to Rwanda that’s on you! (LOL). But, that was her way of sharing a piece of life that I was missing, that she was enjoying, with me. Thank you, Donna.

Donna and Paul took an exquisite and once in a lifetime trip to Marrakech Morocco. Unlike the average American, this couple travels at least 6 to 12 times per year. Say and think what you want, but they are enjoying the hell out of life. I’m pretty sure if you could find a way to do the same thing, you would. Donna is a fellow fashionista, but when she’s in travel mode, she enjoys a more casual look based on the destination. I asked Donna what made her and Paul choose Marrakech Morocco, and this is what she said “Every year my desire is to go someplace exotic for my birthday. When scrolling through my DreamTrips App, my fingers landed on Marrakech, Morocco, and Casablanca. Morocco sounded like a great idea…so why not! I’ve been to a Moroccan restaurant many years ago but never thought I would visit the country and experience the cuisine and culture first hand.”

OMG! Can you imagine just thinking that you want to travel somewhere exotic for your birthday? Some of us are just lucky enough to get 3 people to wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook!

During the interview, I learned that in Morocco, the architecture was nothing short of amazing! Morocco is a Muslim country. While there – they learned that the architectural designs/patterns are all colorful geometric shapes, some with Arabic writing. They do not believe in using the likeness of animals or humans. In addition to the architecture, the landscape was very flat and full of olive trees – one of their largest exports.

So, now to my favorite part – if you follow my blog, (repeat if you follow my blog) you know that I love to hear about the food. Here’s what Donna & Paul said about their favorite meal ” Tajine! It consists of lots of vegetables and dried fruits packed with herbs and sweet and spicy flavors, along with lamb, chicken or beef prepared in a tajine, a ceramic dish used for cooking and even serving, and served with bread. I never thought I would ever eat eggplant or apricots!”

Last, if you’re motivated to travel to Morocco, here’s their recommendation:
“My peak life experience in Marrakech Morocco was visiting the Argan Oil Factory where we saw the making of the Argan Oil from the Argan nut. On the way, we saw goats in trees. I knew that goats could climb, but I’ve never seen “a tree full of goats!”. We also enjoyed a ride through the High Atlas Mountain and a nice lunch at a swank hotel/restaurant at the foot of the mountain. The views were breathtaking!”

It brought me so much pleasure to learn about this dream trip and what was so exciting to me, is that this was about my bestie and her husband living their lives to the fullest – which is what we should all aspire to do.

Until next time Morocco…

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Donna & Paul at me and Julie’s wedding

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Sisters Cindy & Amara And The Vivacious Island of Cuba

I first met Cindy and Amara when I was invited to a Sunday brunch in Washington, DC.

It was an encounter I would not soon forget. I was particularly intrigued by these sisters because they are both stunningly gorgeous, and they possessed a unique sense of style. They were different yet the also possessed similar qualities – they were both extremely sweet and social. We engaged in conversation on a wide variety of topics, most centering around culture. Admittedly, I received quite the education that day on topics of Africa and current events. While I pride myself on surrounding myself with educated and progressive thinkers, clearly I need to have brunch with this entire squad frequently.

Cindy and Amara, both in their 30’s, traveled to Cuba during the “wet” season. They specifically visited two magnificent cities – Havana and Varadero. I feel that we have all heard of Havana, Cuba, but Varadero -not so much. Even though it was supposed to be the wet season, it never rained at all. In fact, it was quite hot and the rain would have been a welcomed relief!

These sisters travel at least once per year, schedule permitting. And this becomes really tricky as they love to travel together but synchronizing their schedules is challenging.

When traveling to Cuba, Cindy shared that they preferred to dress like the natives, and I must say that after looking at their glorious pictures, they did an amazing job. The colors, the ruffles, the skirts, the head coverings…I felt all of it! Cindy also had this to say about their travel style:

“When we were younger, our family would travel twice a year to beautiful 5-star resorts all around the Caribbean, South America, and occasionally Europe.

However, after visiting two 5-star resorts a year for seven years, they became less interesting and honestly, they all started to look the same. We eventually became bored of just laying out in the sun with the occasional water sports thrown in. We realized a long time ago that we were missing a vital point of traveling which includes discovering a country, its culture, and its people. Exploring new cultures and trying new authentic foods is our motivation today. Don’t get me wrong, resorts are a great; especially for the untraveled. But if you’re young and full of energy, I would recommend staying with the locals, partying with the locals, and eating where the locals eat! “

Cindy this is great advice, pending the safety and security of such ambitious adventures. Travelers should be willing to explore and also take the time necessary to be educated about the territory which they plan to explore.

I asked Cindy what made them choose Cuba as their travel destination, and this is what she said: ” With the Cuban thaw in full force, we wanted to visit Cuba before it lost its authenticity; before it became too “touristy.” Cuba has virtually remained untouched for over fifty years so it theoretically allows travelers to travel back in time and experience living history!”

 

I must say that this reasoning totally resonated with me, as I too would love to travel to Cuba in the near future. How about you?

While there are too many things to list that were worthy of falling in love within Cuba, it was hard for these sisters to make a selection, but when pressed to narrow it down, this is what they had to say:

“There was so much to fall in love with in Cuba! If I had to choose it would be the music. Cuba is like living in a real-life musical. You wake up serenaded by the sounds of a Spanish guitar and hummingbirds outside your window. Every restaurant had a live band. Teens would meet up to rumba dance in the streets at night. Elderly couples would breakout in salsa dance mid-day in a cafe. It was truly amazing to experience a developed country that has not been transfixed by technology. Instead of technology, music was their hypnosis and everyone seemed to bond by virtue of it.”

I love this because imagine just for one entire day enjoying distraction-fee and technology-free peaceful moments. Ahhhhh, I can see it now…

Cindy shared that she enjoyed her breakfast on the balcony, which was rather traditional – boiled eggs, fruit, and coffee. She explained that there was too much to do, food was the last thing on their minds. I’m such a foodie, I was waiting to salivate at the thought of an amazing meal. LOL

Last, Cindy and Amara shared that Havana is beautiful but the true hidden gem in Cuba is Varadero. They’d recommend that travelers visit Varadero while in Cuba. The white-sand beach is shallow enough to swim a mile in and still be only knee deep. Further, they stated that the nightlife in Varadero was amazing. Everyone was dancing; not one person against the wall. Their outdoor clubs are free entry but you pay for drinks. Their indoor clubs had a door price but drinks were unlimited.

I completely look forward to experiencing what Cindy and Amara experienced on this beautiful island.

Until next time Cuba…

If you’re interested in being featured on my blog, please send me an email at flightsinstilettos@gmail.com. Sharing your experience may be helpful to someone looking to travel to your travel destination.

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It Takes “Four” To Tango In Turks and Caicos

I’m a lover of turquoise beach water and white sand. I love nothing more than sunbathing on a beach with pristine water, beautiful sunsets and access to endless cocktails. And this is just where Debra, Vanessa, Lance, and Lance’s mom spent 6 days in March. Yes, while you were freezing your buns off and waiting for Metro, these four individuals were luxuriating in paradise.

They traveled to Turks and Caicos during peak season and enjoyed every moment of it. Debra, my friend, travels at least 3-4 times per year because she’s very generous to herself. Before she departs one destination, her mind begins to think about the very next destination. I’m sure that we all do that when the thought of not sleeping in until 9 am or not waking up to the sound of beach waves begins to set it.

Debra’s travel style is highly contingent upon what the weather’s like at her travel destination. But she tends to go for a more casual look and can flex to a more diva style when it’s necessary to become a “diva”.

The beautiful turquoise waters were the #1 factor for this group choosing this destination. While there, they fell in love with the extensive accessible beaches and the great weather.

What I’m going to write about next is my absolute favorite….while in Turks and Caicos, Debra and her traveling companions experienced eating “all you can eat” lobster at Pelican’s Bay. We’re not talking about Red Lobster, lobster tails, we’re talking about large lobsters straight out of the ocean prepared any way you want it — grilled, sautéed, or with a light tempura batter. The option of dipping this delicacy in hot dripping butter or a number of specialty sauces were offered so that they could achieve the flavors of their desire. Debra and her companions tried hard to eat all that they could, but unfortunately, they could only consume three of these enormous lobsters. According to Debra, it was the best $75.00 ever spent! I am a HUGE lobster lover, so without a doubt, I am more motivated than ever to travel to this destination to experience all you can eat lobster!

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Finally, after snorkeling, lounging, partying, jet skiing and eating “all you can eat” lobster, Debra, and her travel companions visited the Chalk Sound Preserve and Middle Caicos. She recommends this attraction to anyone visiting this extraordinary Caribbean island.

Until next time Turks & Caicos.

If you’d like to be featured on my blog to help others learn about possible travel destinations when planning their vacations, please send me an email at flightsinstilettos@gmail.com.