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Featured Lifestyle Travel

Munich, Germany

September 20, 2016

When in Germany you must go to Oktoberfest in Munich. My cousin Jamelia’s co-worker, Constanze from the worldwide company SAP and her son Vince, were gracious enough to open up their home to me. I spent 5 days in beautiful Munich exploring the city, museums, architecture, and of course Oktoberfest.

img_0282     img_0284I went to the city center, Marienplatz, where I was immediately greeted by a sworm of couchsurfers. We walked around city center where there actually were many American stores, Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters, TJMaxx, ect. However, I was a mission find a Dirndl for Oktoberfest kick off, which started the following day. After I found my perfect outfit, we spent the rest of the night pre-paring for Oktoberfest which meant drinking a lot of beer. 🙂 We walked around to several different Augustines (very popular beer in Munich) which I actually fancy. It has the perfect amount of hops in it, not to hard and not weak! Now these bar are not your typical American bar. This is more like 2-3 mall food court size bars with full course meals, including whole and half chickens, with potatoes and gravy, ducks, lamb, and so much more.

img_0299 Getting ready for Oktoberfest and to my surprise, my new friend AJ from Paris came to visit me in Munich in Oktoberfest. He lives In Stuttgart, Germany which is only a 2hour drive. So I convinced him to come down for the weekend and he did. He’s my new travel ace! So I walked up to him at the train station in this Dirndl and he just bust out laughing. I thought I was cute lol We head to the festival by train when we get off on our stop we have no idea where to go. So we just follow all the other 1,000 people walking in one direction. And Wha-la we made it.img_0321

Just a quick reminder, it rained the entire week, but from the amount of people outside or in the tents, nobody really cared.

A couple of people that I met the previous day were in a tent and had saved us seats so we headed in that direction. However, they got kicked out of their seats because that table was actually reserved. A quick tip: If you don’t buy reservations for a table, its a good idea to get to the tent early. However, I was not going to a tent at 7am, when drink don’t start until 12pm. It just wasnt that serious for me. So me being me, I asked a waiter if we she brought us a beer outside and we gave her a tip, if she could get us in. OF COURSE, she said yes!!!

Another tip: I have learned that people do not really tip in Europe. So when you offer a tip, its not expected, but appreciated.

So she got us in a tent with about 200,000 other people. Our next mission was to find a table. So we just walked around until we found some people our age and Wha-la they say “heyyyyyyyy come sit with us!”  We probably ended up sitting with the best group of people. Everyone is so welcoming young and old. So eager to hear why your In Munich, or at Oktoberfest or traveling….because obviously I look like a local. haha!! I don’t think I have ever drank such big beers in my life! Oh, and AJ made me drink 2 before we could move. We ordered chicken, which in Germany means a WHOLE chicken, not a leg, or thigh or maybe a leg and a thigh, NO!! When I say a whole chicken, I mean an entire chicken, everything except the head. And ohms god, it was seasoned so well and so juicy!! I could eat it plane. We also had ( pulled apart pancakes and apple sauce), pretty much taste like funnel cake and strawberries, it was delicious!

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After this I was stuffed with beer and food! We went outside at about 10pm. Our tent closed at 10:30pm on this night, and we wanted to beat the crowd, which I’m glad we did. Outside are carnival games and rides for what seemed liked miles and miles. We hung out outside watching people play the craziest games in the rain might I add.

Later that night we went to a club called Jack Rabbit. It was pretty lame to us, although it was super packed. After a few drinks there we headed to Babylon II Shisha, the hookah bar next door which was more our speed. They were playing all the new or current music. We would later learn that this would be our late night spot for the weekend. The bartender kept the drinks flowing and our shisha fresh! Perfect!!

The next day we figured we would get a little culture and knowledge, so we took an incognito city tour with my host Constanze. She drove us around past some of the libraries, historic buildings, buildings built by Hitler, The City Wall of Munich and finally to the BMW Museum.

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This museum was on the top of my list for Munich, of course because I own a BMW and I love my car to death. I learned so much about BMW that I had NO idea of before. Such as BMW started as an airplane engine manufacture not a car maker.

We went back to our new favorite shisha bar that night and then I wished AJ farewells as he was off to Hawaii the next day! 🙁

I would have to say my time in Germany was great!!! Prost!!! 🙂

Time to get out of this rain and back to ….Chasing The Sun!!

Featured Lifestyle Travel

Musées à Paris (Museums in Paris)

September 15, 2016

Of course you have to go to The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Arc De Triomphe, Versailles – Palace of Louis XIV and Musee du Orsay!!!

However, if you have the pleasure of being in Paris on a Tuesday you should also check out these museums, which are free on Tuesdays!

Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris: (10am till 6pm)

Address : 11, avenue du Président Wilson

*Subway: Iéna (line 9)

–Maison de Balzac: (10am till 6pm)

Address: 47, rue Raynouard

*Subway: Passy (line 6)

Musée Bourdelle: (10am till 6pm)

Address : 16, rue Antoine Bourdelle

*Subway: Montparnasse – Bienvenüe (lin 4, 6, 12 & 13)

–Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris: (10am till 6pm)

Address : 23, rue de Sévigné

*Subway: Saint-Paul (line 1), Chemin Vert (line 8)

–Musée Cernuschi: (10am till 6pm)

Address: 7, avenue Velasquez

*Subway: Villiers (line 2 & 11)

–Musée Cognacq-Jay: (10am till 6pm)

Address : Hôtel Donon – 8, rue Elzévir

*Subway: Saint-Paul (line 1)

–Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris: (10am till 6pm)

Address: Avenue Winston Churchill

*Subway: Champs-Elysées – Clemenceau (line 1 & 13)

–Maison de Victor Hugo: (10am till 6pm)

Address: Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée – 6, place des Vosges

*Subway: Bastille (line 1, 5 & 8), Saint-Paul (line 1)

–Musée de la Vie Romantique: (10am till 6pm)

Address:16, rue Chaptal

*Subway: Pigalle (line 2 & 12), Saint-Georges (line 12)

–Musée Zadkine: (10am till 6pm)

Address : 100bis, rue d’Assas

*Subway: Notre-Dame-des-Champs (line 12), Port Royal (RER ‘B’)

–Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace: (10am till 5pm)

Address : Aéroport de Paris – Le Bourget

*Subway : Le Bourget (RER ‘B’) and after: Bus 350, 152, 148

–Musée – Librairie du Compagnonnage: (2pm till 6pm)

Address: 10, rue Mabillon

*Subway: Saint-Germain-des-Prés (line 4)

–Musée de la Préfecture de Police: (9:30am till 5pm)

Address:Hôtel de Police du Ve arrondissement – 4, rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève

*Subway: Maubert – Mutualité (line 10)

–Musée du Parfum-Fragonard: (9am till 6pm)

Address:9 rue Scribe

*Subway: Opéra (line 3,7 & 8), Auber (RER ‘A’)

–Théâtre musée des Capucines-Fragonard: (9am till 6pm)

Address: 39, boulevard des Capucines *Subway: Opéra (line 3,7 & 8), Auber (RER ‘A’)

Enjoy!!!

Featured Lifestyle Travel

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

September 5, 2016

So off I went to Europe. Making sure to check off everything on my “ Before You Go” checklist twice. With a 7 hour flight that left at 9pm, I arrived in Amsterdam at 6:45am (EDT) and 12:45 (CEST). After sleeping 6.5/7 hours on the plane, I was ready to go. To me it seemed like just going to sleep at home and waking up the next day, so I was not jet lagged at all

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After navigating through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which is big but fairly simple. I went through customs to get my bags and off I was!! Taking the train was a little difficult the first time from Schiphol, as there are about 50 platforms and 50 elevators. After a couple of days, its pretty easy to figure out which train number and in which direction you should be going.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my travels!! Amsterdam was simply amazing. The people, the atmosphere, the pubs and coffee shops. You can be so free in Amsterdam-with no judgements from anyone. Amsterdam reminds me of New Orleans, Louisiana. Another one of my favorite places. It’s so free. When I first arrived in Amsterdam I was feeling a little somber. This was my first stop of my travels and the first time I have ever traveled alone. But I got me to thinking about my purpose and why I started this mission. So I got my life together and decided to roam around to look for some food. My host actually stayed in Naarden-Bussum which was about 30 minutes outside the city of Amsterdam. It is a very quite and beautiful place. It was actually quite nice to come back to her home each night or early early morning after all he hustle and bustle in the city. My hostesses name was Erin. Erin and her boyfriend were both very welcoming and very sweet. Her home was an amazing modern space that I absolutely loved. I learned very quickly that steps in Europe are very narrow. And when I say very narrow I mean VERY! I  had to learn to walk down sideways without busting my ass, as they just casually ran down 3-4 inch steps like it was nothing.

Erin’s Home

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As I was saying, I roamed around my first night looking for something to eat and I stumbled upon this bar called Murphy’s which had a ton of people outside. My first thought was “why is everybody outside, and the bar is empty inside”. Well I went inside and they didn’t serve any food so I proceeded to leave. A group of people outside casually stopped me and said why are you leaving so soon. I explained that I was looking for food. Of course, in English and they spoke Dutch and English. So they immediately knew I was a foreiner. This lead to about five hours of conversation, questions, and exchanging of information from night life to Belgian Beer to food to politics to geography and scenic landmarks. IMG_9251 I met a girl named Mercedes who was moving to Barcelona in few weeks later. We talked about my travels and also drank many beers together. We took shots of Fireman (not Fireball) which taste like cough syrup, yuk!!! We were supposed to go to the club the next day, but both of our plans changed. But we hit it off really great and she offered to host me in Barcelona, which was a blessing because I didn’t have a host their yet…. Well I finally ate some food at about 2am, after many many beers. From Day 1, the vibe of The Netherlands started off really great and so it continued….

The next 4 days I spent in Amsterdam. Late Nights & Early mornings. I woke up the next morning and connected with some other travelers via Hangouts on Couchsurfing. I met Saima, from South Africa and Marie, from Spain at the train station. We immediatedly went on a hunt to get some food. Saima and I found a pretty popular dish of fries and sauce with meat on top called Vlaamse Frites, while Marie found some pasta. I’m waiting until I get to Italy to eat pasta, because I am going to eat a lot of it!!!! Then we stumbled upon 3 more travelers Kitta, from Dallas, TX, Siuteesx, from India, and Ben, from Paris. We went to the bar to have drinks and we added Pierre, from Paris, Johnathan, from Peru, another Ben, from Norway, Nicholi, from Paris, and Alex from Canada. From there we had almost someone from all 7 continents. All we needed was Austraila (we filled that gap as the week went on). We pretty much walked North, South, East and West touring, coffee shop and bar hopping for the rest of the day. We walked to through the Red Light District, Blue Light District to get to the club district and partied at Smokeys until about 4am.

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I really hit it off with everyone but especially Kitta. Her host lived pretty far out from the city as well and  she was also from the states so we would meet each morning at Amsterdam Centraal Station and then meet the group. We spent the next 2 days soaking in some information on the history and important attributes of Amsterdam and The Netherlands. We took a FREE Walking Tour of Amsterdam, a Canal cruise, The Red Light-Blue Light district tour all with 360 Amsterdam Tours, Anne Frank Huis and biked south to The IAmsterdam sign.

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The FREE Walking Tour consisted of the tour around the city to enlighten the tourists of the great golden era, by showing them the magnificent and highly valuable masterpieces of great artists, to taking them around the beautiful canals and bridges and showing them what the city really has to offer. From the historic old districts and discovering how Amsterdam started- from a simple swamp harbour village in the 1200’s, to ‘the Golden Age’ in the 1600’s when Amsterdam became the most important trading city in the world. The tour showcased the Royal Palace, the Old & New Church, the Jewish Quarter, Canals, Bridges, the Red Light District, Art & Architecture, Golden Age, and many hidden treasures. It was amazing! Definitely a must do! My only suggestion is to do the tours on your 1st or 2nd day of arrival. It will give you more information of everything the city has to offer to help you plan what other sites you want to get a deeper perspective of and see more of.

The Canal cruise showed a different perspective of Amsterdam, including a look at The Anne Frank Huis at almost eye level from the water. The Anne Frank Huis is the most visited house in Amsterdam, with well over 1 million visitors per year. Anne Frank was a German-born diarist and writer. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously following the publication of her diary, The Diary of a Young Girl. which documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. Anne moved to The Netherlands at a very young age and when the Nazi gained control over Germany, having been born a German national, she became stateless. May 1940, the Franks were trapped in Amsterdam by the German occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked. From then until the family’s arrest by the Gestapo in August 1944, Anne kept a diary she had received as a birthday present, and wrote in it regularly. Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps. In October or November 1944, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from Auschwitz, where they died a few months later and just one month before The Dutch authorities rescued the camps. Anne’s father, Frank’s father, Otto, the only survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved by one of the helpers, Miep Gies, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. 

Anne Frank Huis

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If you look closely you will see that the houses along the canal and in many more places are leaning. The leaning houses of Amsterdam. The buildings in Amsterdam lean forward slightly. It is not sinking nor a trick of the eye after a day of the smoke. The buildings in Amsterdam are built leaning forward on purpose. Even though it might look strange to our modern eyes, designing a building that leans forward, this way to build was a solution to another problem. The problem with these old buildings is that the stairways are always very narrow and steep. These stairways are impossible to use while trying to get furniture or any other big object to your house.These stairways are a consequence of the very narrow construction used in Holland at the time. Which meant you had to pull your furniture up through your window.If you take a look at most old houses in Amsterdam you will see a hook placed on top their roofs. This is used to hang a wheel and use it with a rope to pull things up. While pulling big object up a building, it helps avoiding hitting the building with these objects if the building tilts forward. You will also see that these houses are leaning to the side which is a result of instability of the land in the 15th century.dsc_0964

The Red Light District tour gave a lot of insight on the history of the red light district and how and why this area exist or came to be what it is today. We learned about the Red Light District and all of its secrets with a professional guide. 

img_9347-2I learned about how the sex workers operate in the district and admire the district’s centuries-old churches and architecture at he same time. It was crazy to learn about the history of Amsterdam’s legalized prostitution and it’s church history in the same tour. These two opposites are actually very much intertwined by their locations within the city. Amsterdam and the Red Light District is diverse in so many ways. The red light district being the oldest area in Amsterdam is not only a professional hub for sex clubs with beautiful ladies in their red lit windows, but it is dsc_0896also home to many cafes offering diverse menu options from around the globe to dsc_0883elegant dining spots with great Jazz and salsa music. The red light district showcases the ancient Dutch art and architecture in the form of its museums, monolithic and catholic churches and various beautiful buildings standing strong since the seventeenth century. I toured the Prostitution Information Center, peepshows, Bananabar, and the oldest and best in my opinion, Coffee Shop in the city, Bulldogs. I was able to admire the impressive churches, century ­old buildings, and canals in addition to learning about how the sex workers operate in the district.

All of my tours were amazing and I would definitely  recommend doing them. As I said, try to book them at the beginning of your stay to get the most use out of the information.

During my time in Amsterdam I also rode bikes as much as possible. People ride bikes like we drive cars in the states. There are so many “parking lots” for bikes. Literally parking garages for bikes. I think thats so amazing. I don’t think I saw one obese European since I’ve been traveling. It’s normal to ride your bike 30 minujtes-1 hour-2 hours to get to a destination. I utilized my host bike or renting a bike as much as possible. It really helped to immerse myself in The Netherlands way of life. I loved it!!

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Amsterdam, it feels perfect to be imperfect…Chasing The Sun

Featured Lifestyle Travel

Planning Europe

August 1, 2016

Thereafter, all the previous traveling I did I was ready and itching for something bigger. I had no obligations such as kids and I had saved enough money to do or go wherever I wanted. For about a year, I researched and read a lot of other travel blogs from people who started out similar to me. I also started researching “ways to travel Europe for cheap or for free”. I was very surprised by how many resources were available to help backpackers travel Europe on a very low budget. After about six months I became really serious about my plan to travel Europe for an extended period of time and the more I researched the more resources and discounts I was able to find.

After you have picked your destination, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Flights, of course. “How much is my flight going to cost?” Well if you simply go straight to google flights or an airline website, a roundtrip flight to Europe would easily cost you $1,000. However, being that I had already flew to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and was able to cover my flight, hotel, all tours, transportation and food for under $2,000, I knew that it was possible to travel overseas for cheaper than most think. And thanks to some travel friends and research I was able to find fairly cheap flights to Europe under $600 roundtrip. Yes! Roundtrip!!

The trick to finding cheap flights is all about timing. For me, I knew I wanted to travel during the shoulder season. Shoulder season is  generally April through mid-June, September, and October. It combines the advantages of both peak-season and off-season travel, decent weather, fewer crowds, and a tourist industry that still wants to entertain tourist. I wanted to travel as soon as possible while also keeping a good rapport at work and giving my job ample notice of my departure for this extended period of time. I utilized www.secretflying.com the most and sometimes www.momondo.com, to look for error fares. You also have to shop around and compare many websites to find the best fare. Trust me its worth the time, when it saves you thousands of dollars.

Once my first flight was booked to Europe, which started in Amsterdam. I had to plan my route for the rest of my travels. I decided to go in somewhat of a logical order for me. Amsterdam-Belgium-London-Paris-Munich-Barcelona-Madrid. I had to end in Madrid for the second leg of my trip to Africa which I will discuss later.

In order to save as much money as possible, I decided to stay with host as much as I could, rather than in hotels. I used websites such as Couchsurfing and workaway.info to find host or families that would host me for free. I started contacting host months in advance to make sure my accommodations were set in stone, as that is probably the second most important thing next to your flight. Following your housing accommodations, I would say transportation is the next important. Again, I did thorough research on which routes would be cheaper for me to take within Europe. Plane vs. Train. You can also opt for the bus, however, I decided to splurge a little here because I wanted to be comfortable and get to where I wanted to go fast. Like I said I saved money for a while, so this was 1 thing I was willing to give on because I wanted to spend less time traveling between destinations and more time exploring. I researched the cost of each individual route by plane and by train as well as combined routes or days on the train. I found that, for me it was best to take the train to which shorter time intervals between origin and destination and to fly when the train would take longer. I decided to take the train to any destination shorter than 5 hours, and fly anywhere longer. Flying within Europe is fairly cheap and sometimes actually cheaper than the train. For example, a train from Paris to London is about 112 Euro vs. a flight from Paris to London on a budget airline started at 55 Euro.  The downfall to budget airlines are baggage fees, similar to Spirit Airlines if you live in the US (minus the bad customer service and airline service). I purchased a Eurail pass for my train travels which covered 5 days plus 1 day trip. It allows you to take the train as much as you want on any given 5 days, or however many days you purchase. That’s about $100 a day worth of train travel for half the price.  Remember, I said a train to London from Paris could start at 112 Euro. That does not include your train or tram to your accommodations, only to the main station. So the Eurail pass is worth the purchase, when you use it correctly to get the most out of your money. I like to travel early in the morning to make the most of my pass. You can do this by taking the train to travel from one country to another, travel to your housing accommodation drop off you bags, head out to tour for the day, take the train everywhere you want to go, and take the last train back to your housing accommodations. This allows you to really utilize the train a lot and get more than your monies worth!

Once I had my accommodations booked, I started researching and planning for all the sites in each location I wanted to see. I started with a google search on “points of interest” for every city, which gives you a pretty great breakdown of all the important, worthwhile, popular tourist sites as well as some small others. I did not book any tours in any countries I wanted to visit because I did not want to be tied down to a specific destination for a specific amount of time, if I wanted to venture off the beaten path. I’m a bit of a daredevil and can manage to find my way fairly easily. However, I wouldn’t suggest doing this for first time travelers or if you need every minute-hour of your itinerary planned out.

Now that the bulk of the most important things were done, I prepared a google calendar with all of my flight info, travel dates, contact name, address and phone numbers of my host to share with friends and family. This was really important considering I was traveling alone. It was great for friends and family to have to keep up with my journey but it was also great for me to be able to pull up the calendar on my Iphone when I needed to change or confirm anything.

This was a great growth to the birth of Chasing The Sun…

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

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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