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Featured Lifestyle Travel

Travel Embryo

January 21, 2015

After I returned from the UAE, of course I was ready to embark on a new journey somewhere new within 24 hours. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because like most of us humans we have to work. While I love my job as a Pediatric Occupational therapist and it gives me much satisfaction helping children with Autism and Developmental delays. There was still something missing. Everyday I felt very productive and accomplished as I observed much progress with my patients day after day. I love the little faces, smiles and laughter I get to see everyday. I love seeing that invisible lightbulb go off in their head when they finally understand something that they have been working on or practicing for days, weeks, months; sometimes even years. However, everyday I still felt somewhat incomplete. I spent the next 2 years working and taking 5-7 day trips to Mexico and the states, to places like Maryland,  Virginia Beach, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and of course, New Orleans. All of these places hold a special place in my heart because of family or friends. So its always nice to go and have a good time. Every time I visit and return home I feel a little bit more whole, more complete, more serene.

This last trip to Mexico was my 5th time in Mexico. I think Mexico is a good international destination for first time international travelers and young adults. My first time is Mexico was in Cancun of course for my high school graduation and with my mom of course. I guess you can say Mexico also has a little special place in my heart. Consequently, this last trip in Mexico I said would by last for a while, as I felt that I needed to see much more of the world. There is so much to see. And this is where my current Rule #1 came to be.

Rule #1: Never travel to the same place twice (The Bahamas, is an exception to the rule 🙂

This rule led me to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, back to the Bahamas, and to the Dominican Republic in May 2016 and June 2016. (Read my post on each destination for more tips and information COMING SOON!)

Rule #2: There will never be a perfect time and there will always be reasons not to go, so now is the time to take the plunge.

There are so many reasons to travel and zero reasons to not!!

You will become richer in culture, diversity, adventure, knowledge, language, experience, opportunity, connections, friends, and gain a whole new perspective of yourself and the world.

Culture

Of course you can read a book. But you will not learn about the culture first hand. You will not get your own physical perspective and perception by sitting in your living room reading a book about Thailand. I think the best way is to travel and submerge yourself into another culture. Once you experience and understand cultural difference from a your own eyes, your perception and perspective of people who are different from you changes. You start to understand why they are different from you, why they wear a hijab, why the conserve energy, why they use a toilet or shower outside, why they attend a mosque, temple or church and you begin to have a better understanding of where people are coming from and why they do things a different way. In retro-spec, people from other cultures think the same thing about you! “Your weird” “Why do you do things the way that you do?”

Adventure

What’s more adventurist than packing your bags to go to a place you know nothing about (besides the books you may have read or the google searches you did)? Nothing!! Traveling has given me some of the greatest adventures and memories of my life. When your somewhere you’ve never been there 1,000,000,000,000,000 things to see that you’ve never seen and that many more people to meet. The possibilities are endless!!

Knowledge & Perspective

There is obviously so much to learn about a place you know nothing about! Its always a great thing when you can insert and digest  new and interesting information. You learn not just about the culture, the food, the language, the people but you’ll meet so many people who will have so much knowledge to give and experiences to share. I really believe if you could spend a 1/2 of a lifetime traveling and gaining new experiences and learning , that you could be more educated than one who spends 4 years in college. In addition to that, once you really start traveling you will not look at the world, object, people or even yourself the same. Suddenly, the new Iphone 7 or latest trend, isn’t so important anymore. After attempting to place all your belongings for 1-2-3 months or longer into one hiking backpack, your life will never be the same again. Whether traveling or moving abroad, you will learn invaluable lessons and make everlasting memories.

Language

Immerse yourself in a new culture, with new food and a new language. Believe it or not, it’s been pretty easy to pick up the basics along the way. If you want to learn Spanish or German, French or Afrikanns, immerse yourself in the language and you will pick up more than you thought was possible with ease.

Experience

As I have gotten older I have transitioned to enjoying and appreciating experience and memories rather than materialistic things. That is not to say that I don’t like nice things, because I do. If given the option between an adventure or going to a place I’ve never been (or maybe I have) and the newest pair of Louboutin heels or Air Jordans, I am undoubtedly going to choose the experience. These experiences will create memories that can’t be compared to materialistic things.

TIP: If money is your issue for not traveling, stop buying materialistic things for 1 year -clothes and shoes you want, but don’t need, Starbucks coffee every morning, restaurant brunch and dinners. Buy essential items, splurge every now and then (or not) and at the end of the year you will undoubtedly accumulate enough money to travel somewhere.

Lesson I learned from my mom: When my mom worked in the corporate world, she would call everyday on her lunch break. Her co-workers would always walk downstairs to get coffee from the Starbucks under her building, but she would never buy coffee. One day I asked her, “Why do you keep walking to Starbucks but never get coffee?” She said, “I’m saving money!” I said, ” It’s only $6″ and she said “Yes, $6 a day is $30 a week (5 working days), $30 a week is $120 a month, and $120 a month is $1,440 a year, and that’s my trip to Greece!!”

Opportunities & Connections

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You never know what you may run into or who you might meet. On my trip to Amsterdam, I managed to start a group of 3 which turned into a group of 15 in a matter of days. 15 people from different countries and we managed to cover all 7 continents. I’ve already made friends around the world and that was only in 5 days, imagine how many connections you can make in weeks, months even years. Now I have even more places to visit and people to see and show me around. Nothing gets better than exploring a city or town with the locals. My best times are always with the locals. You get to see the “real” and less of the Americanized-tourist scenes.

Travel

Myths about Dubai & The UAE

October 25, 2014

 

  • The myth:Everyone is super rich
  • The truth:Everyone is not super rich! It is true that the brilliant rules of the UAE allow a tax free income, but really in the UAE, you see people from all walks of life, making all sorts of money. Maids who work in the homes of locals or expats can notoriously make as little as 1000 AED a month. It is even common to see locals from all sorts of the financial spectrum, some seeming to have a very healthy income, and those who have a modest one.There is most certainly money to be made, but you still have to live to a budget as you would in any country, you’ve also got to really try to stick to it as there are far too many places to spend it!

 

  • The myth:Everyone lives in 5 star and 7 star high rises or compounds
  • The truth:Everyone does not live in 5-7 star high rises or homes, however there are many middle class homes that look like compounds. There are also many apartment complexes.

 

  • The myth:The weather is too hot to live/ do anything here
  • The truth: The weather is hot & humid, but you are still able to live, explore, go to the beach, and tour the city

 

  • The myth:Every woman must cover in Burkas, head scarves, Hijabs
  • The truth:This is one myth that is widespread and comes to the forefront of most people’s minds when thinking about Arab or Muslim-majority countries. The UAE is widely considered one of the most forward thinking countries with regards to gender relations in the Arab and Muslim world. Unlike the UAE’s neighbour, women here are allowed to drive. Women also make up half of the university population and are full participants in the workforce. Emirati women wear abaya (voluminous black gown) and shayla (a head covering) but unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran it is not enforced but more of a national custom. You will even sometimes run in to Emirati ladies who do not wear the shayla or even the abaya. Expat women are not expected or asked to wear abaya or shayla and are pretty much allowed to wear whatever it is they like provided that it is modest i.e. no overt displays of cleavage or short-shorts (unless it is in the appropriate place like a beach). Of course is also truly depends on where you are in the Emirates. Dubai is a lot less conservative than Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi is less conservative than Sharjah. So, the best thing to do is to just adjust your clothing to wherever you’re going in the Emirates so not to cause offence.

 

  • The myth: Everyone drives sports cars
  • The truth:Everyone does not drive a sports car, however I saw many many nice ones, much the same as driving down South Beach in Miami. Although the cars in Dubai were most likely own and not rented

 

  • The myth:Dubai is a country
  • The truth:Dubai is not a country, it is a city of the UAE. Many also think Dubai is the capital, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, which is smaller than Dubai

 

  • The myth: It is not a massive sandpit with oil refineries everywhere
  • The truth: Dubai is very much a city like any other. It actually is probably more up to date and modern in architecture, construction and technology than most other major cities. Abu Dhabi is surprisingly green, as is Al-Ain. The desert that surrounds Abu Dhabi city and Dubai is yellowish with lots of little plants growing all over. You’ve really got to drive out a little bit to find real desert.

 

  • The myth: No meat country, Dubai is a Muslim country, therefore haram (forbidden) meat is banned.
  • The truth: The UAE is a forward-thinking country that has found a way to successfully cater for its expat population while respecting the laws and traditions of its own people. Most supermarkets have specific non-Muslim sections selling otherwise forbidden meat products, and numerous restaurants also have licences.

 

  • The myth: You cannot drink in Dubai & you need to have a liquor licence in order to buy alcoholic beverages from liquor shops.
  • The truth: Alcohol is sold in hotels, most hotels have clubs and bars inside them, and in some stores in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (and other Emirates that have fleeky hotels). Most other states allow the selling of alcohol, but like Abu Dhabi require a alcohol license (although, if truth be told, it is hardly enforced). Sharjah, I believe, is the only Emirate that is completely dry. It is worth mentioning though, that during holy nights or special holidays within the Islamic Calendar hotels, bars and restaurants enforce dry nights.

 

  • The myth: All public displays of affection are banned.
  • The truth: This is false but there’s one thing you must remember: displays of affection with someone to whom you are not married are illegal under the UAE penal law of 1987. You will see plenty of married couples holding hands in the malls and our advice would be, if you’re married, to be respectful of local customs and not go any further than that.

 

  • The myth: All food is imported
  • The truth: It is easy for one to assume that livestock and crops cannot possibly grow in the arid desert climate of Dubai. Indeed, most foods in supermarkets are brought in from all over the world, from Australia to Zambia. However, there has been a significant shift in recent years towards more sustainable produce from local farmlands. More than 80 different varieties of crops are grown in the UAE and in 2012, almost 60,000 tonnes of cow milk and 15,000 tonnes of chicken were produced in Dubai.

What is your perception of Dubai and The UAE?

Featured Lifestyle Travel

Dubai Conception

October 20, 2014

I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai. My sister and I, talked about going to Dubai for over a year. I finally mustered up the courage to book tickets and click submit. That took a lot of staring at the computer screens on many occasions. Prior to going to Dubai, I had only traveled across the US and much of the Caribbean.

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Dubai certainly breathes by the mantra “bigger is better”. This trip was amazing from beginning to end. Lucky we sat in a 2 person row on the way to London, so I was laying all over my sister as she was on me. Reminded me of our adolescent days when we took car rides to Virginia Beach and we were cramped up in the backseat. #Goodtimes We endured a 7 hour flight to London, a 3 hour layover, and 7 more hours to Dubai. The layover was much needed to stretch our body and walk around. Plus, if you have ever been to London, the airport is like a mall with plenty of shopping to do and things to see. I managed to watch movies 90% of the time on both flights to Dubai, however, I can’t say the same for the return. I slept pretty much the entire 14 hours, minus waking up food. I think I was to excited on the way to Dubai to sleep and ready to get off the plane on the way home.

I booked our trip with Gate 1 Travel, which was amazing, being that it was our first really big trip. I didn’t want to have any mishaps and I especially did not know what I would have been booking. Our booking included EVERYTHING, ALL of our flights, Breakfast every morning, 3 dinners, all of our tours, all of our transportation to/from the airport and to/from our tours. In addition, our tours also included a very thorough and knowledgable tour guide who very very informative with the architecture, history, culture and community of Dubai.

Now for starters, let me just start of by saying Dubai is not what most people perceive it to be if they are visiting for the first time. Although there are many Muslim women who cover up in Hijab. What I learned about Dubai is that the UAE is comprised to people from all over the world. It is made up of about 19% Emerati, 23%  Arab and Iranian, 50% South Asian, and 8% from other expatriates, including Westerners and Easterners. Much to my surprise, I also observed many Africans here. Dubai does not grant citizen ship to those that live there, even if you were born there. In order to reside in Dubai you must have a working visa or a school visa. You can not just live there or vacation there for a lifetime, without one of the two. Would be nice though. Arabic is the official and national language of the UAE. Apart from Arabic, English is widely used as a second language. It’s actually pretty easy to maneuver in Dubai, as all the signs are also in English.

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Another thing I learned, is Dubai’s government really cares and puts money back into its communities and people. There are no taxes in Dubai, both working or sales tax don’t exist. You take home what you make. Many of the homes, which they call compounds and that would be consider to be mansions belong to normal “middle class families”. The streets are so clean that you literally could eat off of them, the mall was the same. I thought it was just so funny and interesting that mothers would let their babies just crawl on the floor. Now my sister is the ultimate germ-a-phob and she even said ‘I see why people let their babies on the floor. It is literally that clean.From the airport our transportation picked us up as soon as we received our luggage. We stayed at Crowne Plaza Dubai-Deira, Dubai, which was very close to everything, so our taxi rides were pretty feasible. Our trip started with a fabulous day discovering one of the world’s most futuristic cities with its dramatic skyline. We began at Dubai Creek, cutting through the heart of the city and winding our way from the trading port of the Gulf to the Ras al Khor bird sanctuary on the desert edge of the city.

We drove past the Jumeirah Mosque with its unique architecture and the Dubai Marina with amazing views of the man-made Palm Island (Also known as Atlantis), the artificial archipelago in the Persian Gulf. Of course, we were surrounded by the astonishing aquarium inhabited by thousands of marine species from around the world. Then we continued past Dubai’s signature landmark,The Burj Al-Arab, which is the celebrated sail-shaped hotel.

 Then, we briefly walked through the colossal Dubai Mall to get to one of the sights I looked forward to the most. We climbed 162 floors (by elevator haha) to the very top of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.The view from here is unequal to any panoramic view I have ever seen in the world.
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On to the Dubai Museum, housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, the Dubai World Trade Center, and the bustling alleys of traditional spice and gold souks. The Gold Souq, which is located near the Deira Fish Market, as well as the spice, textile, and perfume souqs reminded me so much of the markets in The Bahamas. If you’ve been to any market in the Caribbean it will remind you of the same, however with much better quality items. We took the Abra Water Taxi along the nearby Creek to catch a better glimpse of the souq, other merchants, and views of skyscrapers from the water. At night we went to the club. All the clubs are inside hotels, due to the drinking laws in Dubai. (Read my post on Myths about Dubai) The club was not what I expected. It was very American lol The DJ played all the hip hop songs as in the states (some old/ new school). The drinks were strong but also expensive. We danced all night and had a great time.

The next day, we had a lazy day. Our hotel had a spa, so we spent the day at the pool, getting massages and relaxing in the wet sauna at the spa. Next to the pool we had a cabana where we ordered food and Shisha. The food was great and the shish was great as well. I had been waiting to smoke Shisha since we had arrived. We spent the afternoon exploring the city again. Walking around downtown, observing the architecture, the people, the culture.

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The following day, we set off on our excursion. I previously booked a 4×4 sand dune bashing, Camel Ride, Quad Bike, sand boarding and Camel Farm Tour, which was absolutely amazing. (See pictures for more info) We selected an early morning tour so we could have the rest of the day to explore other things. Im glad we did, we returned in time to still eat brunch and before the other group left for the afternoon tour. They did not return until about 8pm. My sister and I spent the rest of the day exploring. We caught a taxi back to the gold soul to do some shopping and then over to the Dubai Mall, which remember I said was colossal to of more shopping. Our tour guide informed us that “ if you spent 10 minutes in every store, it would take you 1 full week to see the entire mall!” First, we ate in the food court, which was not only the best mall food court food I had in my life. It was pretty good Indian food as well, and I eat a lot of Indian food. Yeah, so we spent 4 hours in the mall, and only covered probably 1/8 of the mall. It ridiculously big, but who doesn’t love shopping!

IMG_3128IMG_3134IMG_3136On the last day in Dubai, we traveled to Al Ain, the Garden City of the UAE and one of the oldest settlements. Al Ain, a green city with an incredible number of public parks, it is also the birthplace of H.H. Sheikh Zayed, the Former President of the UAE. We took a visit to The Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum, which was the residence of Sheikh Zayed and his family between 1937 and 1966. The tour also included a visit to the most important museum in the UAE, Al Ain National Museum which houses artifacts of ancient times that have been discovered in and around the city, ancient Arabic manuscripts and royal treasures. We went to see a traditional camel market and to the Hili Archaeological Gardens, the excavation site of a Bronze Age settlement that dates to back 3000 B.C. In the evening, we returned to Dubai to enjoy the evening at our leisure. Again we walked the city, stores, and took part in some souvenir shopping with some others from our group members.

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The next morning, we took an 1.5 bus ride with our group. Here we stayed at the Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi, which also had a club/bar terrace and club/bar rooftop lounge. Westarted off the day with a city tour of the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, also known as the Arabian Jewel. Then we drove past Jebel Ali, the largest man-made port in the world before arriving at the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, iconic symbol of Abu Dhabi. Next, we continued along the city’s glamorous Corniche, with blue waters glittering on one side and shimmering skyscrapers lining the other. At the Breakwater, we paused to take photos of the city’s fabulous skyline. Then, on to Heritage Village, a reconstructed traditional “oasis”. Here, we took a journey to the past, to experience life in Abu Dhabi before oil revenues altered the landscape. Many different aspects of desert life are attractively displayed in the open-air museum along with workshops where craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills while women sat weaving and spinning. Afterwards, we stopped at the Zayed House for a fascinating sneak peek into the life of the late Sheikh Zayed, ‘Father of the Nation’. We enjoyed our final night in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates exploring Yas Island, Ferrari World-Abu Dhabi. After eating Indian food for a week, which was always delicious, but we got a little burnt out. So we went to Buca Di Beppo which was inside Yas Island Mall. It was the best Italian I had in a long time, in Abu Dhabi, go figure right! On our last night, we stayed out late with some of group in the hotel at restaurant terrace where we ate and smoked more shisha, then we headed to the rooftop to do the same with the locals.

Being able to make these memories and share them with my sister was an amazing and unforgettable experience. Although I considered myself well traveled previous to this trip. I was sadly mistaken. I met so many people who had visited and traveled across 30-40-50 countries. I thought to myself this is really really possible. I also thought to myself….I have a long way to go. This trip enlightened me to another level.

Dubai Conception…The conception of a travel movement …Chasing The Sun

 

Featured Lifestyle Travel

About Me

June 21, 2014

I created Chassant Le Soleil (Chasing The Sun) as an outlet to connect with others as well as share my travel, lifestyle, memories and experiences. My mother introduced my sister and I to traveling at a very young age. We both for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) from the ages of 5-18, which gave us the pleasure of playing basketball and traveling all over the United States. From a young age, I always loved going to new places, seeing new things, trying new foods, meeting new people ect. At 12, my mom took us on our first trip to The Bahamas @ Atlantis Paradise Island (The Bahamas has a very special place in my heart. Ill tell you exactly why later). My mom had previously already been all over the Caribbean by this time (Bahamas, Mexico, Jamaica, Aruba). She later took me to Jamaica, The Caymen Islands,  Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and back to The Bahamas several times. From as young as I can remember, she was always Chasing The Sun. So you see, my mother had me hooked on traveling at a young age. At that moment, I thought I was well traveled lol. Little did I know that was just the beginning.

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If you know me personally and have ever met my mom you know she was fierce! Her name was Dell Monica. She was my superwoman. And I know for most, we think of our parents as our supermen, superwomen, or our heroes. Very child-like. But for me, she was my entire life. Like I said she was fierce, from the Corporate World, to the rock of our family-both immediate and extended, the giver, the athlete, the adventurer and the daredevil. She always had her hands in several pots but always managed to take the extra time to explore the world and help others. At some point, she thought she was a professional rollerblader (lol) which didn’t conclude so well, I was about 10 years old. One day she was riding her rollerblades down the trails, she hit a steep hill and I guess for reasons beyond me she thought she could conquer it. She ended up crashing into a wooden fence that had sharp sticks sticking out of them. Nonetheless, the went into her leg. It was bad but it wasn’t deadly (from my sisters reaction you would have thought it was though lol 🙂 So she had to get whisked away in an ambulance to the hospital to get stitches. After the aftermath, she just ended up with a pretty pretty ugly and big scar down her leg. This was the first time my heart was a little broken. I didn’t want her to be hurt, or be in pain or even have a little limp. I felt so bad and there wasn’t anything I could do. She ended up being fine, her leg healed and she went right back to rollerblading, skiing, zip lining, and doing any and everything else she could put her mind to.

Fast forward about 10 years, I received a scholarship to play basketball, I’d spent so much time traveling. Life was PERFECT…or so I thought! After my 1st year of college my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. They said she caught it early and had good prognosis to beat it and live a happy and healthy life. So she spend the next 5 years fighting and battling cancer. Chemo twice a week, radiation in between, she never missed and appointment and she still never missed a beat. We had a buddy system with our family and some of her friends, we would all signed up for an assigned day to go with her to chemo. I don’t recall not 1 day, she ever had to go alone. She would beat her face, curl her wig, put on her suit or skirt, go to chemo (never put her computer or phone down at chemo btw) and off to work she went.  From the looks of her you would have never even know she had cancer or she was ever sick (minus her bald head) She was right back to The Adventures of Dell Monica every week. She still traveled as much as she could and still managed to spend 2 weeks traveling through Europe.

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She went into remission a few times (for long periods of time) Of course, each time we were sure she had beat it and it was gone. After college, I moved back home to attend graduate school and to be closer to my mom. Well, 2 years later, her cancer came back. I think at this point she may have thought or know something was different. So shortly after, she received her yearly pension, she told me and my sister to pack our bags for vacation. We spent 8 amazing days back in the Bahamas @ Atlantis Paradise Island. IMG_9231These days were absolutely amazing, we did any and everything we wanted, spent whatever we wanted, ate and drank any and everything we wanted. She didn’t have a care in the world and she didn’t want us to either. It was at this very moment that I knew why.

After the Bahamas, the cancer started spreading FAST! She endured so much pain and still fought to see my sister and I triumph and accomplish so many of our goals that year.  She passed away 2 weeks after I graduated from graduate school. I told you she fought, she literally fought till the end. But not before telling me to live! “Live your life to the fullest, don’t just exist in this world” was her motto. This was the absolute hardest thing I’ve had to and probably will ever deal with in my life. I would like to think that I was always LIVING before, however, this experience and the teachings of my mother have really taught me to LIVE, not just exist, but to really really LIVE and make my mark and my memories in this world.

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One year later, my sister and I went back to The Bahamas to spread her ashes in the ocean at Atlantis Paradise Island. Our very first and our very last vacation together.

I started traveling more and more since my mom passed because traveling was her passion. As I said in the beginning, she instilled this lifestyle in me at a very young age. Consequently, traveling makes me feel closer to her because I know she’s is always with me, across the ocean, in the sky and next to my footprints. I started this blog to share my experiences, lifestyle, life lessons, and most importantly-my memories with you as I Chase The Sun! 🙂

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