Turks & Caicos | Banana Bread & Cocoa Men

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Hello! Here’s a journal entry on my time in the Turks & Caicos. Enjoy!

We’re at the airport waiting for our plane to leave from Turks & Caicos. While I’m extremely sad to leave, this has been a relaxing, interesting and fun vacation. Turks & Caicos is filled with beautiful men and even better views. Gosh, the water is so blue! I could see my manicure gleaming underneath the water.

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Out of everything, I think my favorite part had to be the water. Moving so weightless in the water is one of the most beautiful and invigorating things I’ve ever experienced. From swaying to dancing to just staring at the endless sea of blue, I could stay in the water for hours. It’s so calming and instantly takes all your worries away. I tried to create this feeling of urgency as I was floating, but it just wouldn’t happen. I was just so relaxed. The water would only allow me to breathe and keep my head above water. Every worry and thought just melted away.

The locals were all so kind and helpful. Bartender bae. Lawd, I definitely have a type. A dark chocolate man with a beautiful smile gets me EVERY TIME. Your girl realized how easy it was for her to get back in the grove of flirting. We also met this really nice older taxi man who hooked us up with a discount and took us to a restaurant. I now have a connect in the Turks & Caicos! Ayee! I have no complaints.

This one man yelled from the boat, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord is my Shepard and I see what I want”. Without fail, the islands remind me who the heck I am…. As if I ever forgot. 🙂

Anywho, so omg! I went parasailing! Thank God for the kind cutie on the parasail boat who took pictures for me because Nanny did NOT come through for your girl lol.

20171126_123952While the Turks & Caicos is known for being extremely expensive, we stayed on quite a tight budget and made it work. The best thing about traveling with family is that we work as a team. We had a very successful trip for around $600 for two people… wow, right? Let me explain…

We didn’t rent a car, the resort had free bikes for that we could check out for up to 2 hours at a time. On Sunday, I went parasailing and Nanny just stayed on the boat. For the parasailing and Nanny staying on the boat, the total was $115, including tip. It was definitely worth it. I stayed in the air for a while and the view was beyond breathtaking.

Sunday, we took a bike ride to the grocery store and spent $70 on breakfast foods and some lunch food. Also note, since we flew Southwest, we got to bring 2 free checked bags, so we were able to bring some breakfast cereal, snacks, and water in our suitcases. That definitely cut costs. We had some unexpected things come up so having food for breakfast and lunch was clutch.

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Also, we found this great ice cream and Jamaican food parlor that had beef patties, banana bread and some other stuff for cheap that was fresh. The banana bread was EVERYTHING! It was also my first time having Beef Patties, but they were fresh and delicioso! Haha! The parlor was on the way to the hotel from the grocery store so we were able to get a very inexpensive lunch and move on to the beach.

While the weather can get really hot, the bike ride to the grocery store and shopping areas is a pretty nice one. It was just great vibes.

Coco Bistro was a great restaurant to eat at and the most expensive for our trip. We spent $100 there, but it was well worth it. I can definitely see how people can easily spend over a $1,000 per person on the island. Turks and Caicos has a lot of great options for food, but since everything is imported, the prices can add up quickly, especially with a 12% tax and gratuity.

But anywho, Turks and Caicos owes me NOTHING! I had an amazing time and I look forward to coming back and enjoy this great island…

P.S. A good travel partner is key to a good trip and I just so happen to have a soulmate as a travel partner! My beautiful Nanny!

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Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be glad to help out! Check out my blog about traveling solo!

Signed,

ART simply in Cocoa Heaven

Traveling Solo | You Can Do It Too

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I love traveling. I love traveling so much that I don’t have time to wait for my friends to get on board.

So, let’s talk about solo traveling. First and foremost, it’s the best! Traveling by yourself means that everything is in your hands. Depending on the reasoning of your trip, you can decide on what kind of vacation you want. Do you want to sleep all day? Do you want to wake up at the crack of dawn to get the best view of the ocean? Either way, wherever you are, you don’t have the pressure of being on anyone else’s time, except dinner reservations! Now, let’s talk about how you can make sure your solo trips are that much better!

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Google Maps!

I may be late to the game, but Google Maps is definitely bae when you are traveling. Once you have solidified where you are staying, you can create a map of all the places you want to go around your area. Especially if you aren’t renting a car, safety is very important when you are traveling alone. Creating a private list of your destination with restaurants, activities and shopping places will help you plan out your days better. For instance, if you want to get breakfast, watch the sunrise and go to a museum, you can visualize the path, where you can walk and when you may need to catch an Uber. Google maps is also good at showing you ratings and gives you easy access to your plan right in your phone compared to pulling out an itinerary, etc. Did I mention easy access to reviews!?!

Tripods

Tired of the same angled selfies that only capture part of your face and part of the thing you’re trying to show everyone? You can get a tripod for $20 on Amazon, with a Bluetooth remote. It will honestly and truly change your life. Yes, some people may look at you crazy, but who cares if your photos come out good and you have better memories than an awkward selfie. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with a nice selfie, but let’s upgrade our catalog! Plus, it’s always awkward asking a stranger to take your picture, especially if you’re picky!

Uber Eats/ Delivery is your friend

There is nothing like trying new restaurants when you’re traveling, but as it gets dark, it may not be the best decision to walk around a new city late at night. You can knock off some of the restaurants on your Google Maps lists right in the comfort of your hotel or Airbnb. Yes, this is a risk, but it is also a risk going out super late by yourself. Also, breakfast in bed is a treat and may be cheaper than ordering room service with the added-on fees 😊.

WAKE.UP. EARLY.

As an advocate for sleeping in, waking up early is definitely not my favorite thing to do. However, on vacation, waking up early can get you more bang for your buck on vacation. If you are in a very busy city, waking up early may get you some of the more sought-after attractions all to yourself. Just sacrifice a couple of hours and take a nap after lunchtime. It will be worth it.

Last but not least, HAVE FUN

You’re in a new place and it’s your personal playground. Learn how to roll with the punches and make the best of your situation. There is no point in dwelling on things not going exactly how you planned.

BREATH. ADJUST. OPTIMIZE. Optimize your experience regardless of the obstacles. As long as you feel safe, even a vacation around your hotel or Airbnb can be one to remember.

Signed,

ART simply trying to catch a flight 😊.

Payless, Learn More

Payless learn more

Today, I was reminded of one of the reasons why I love traveling. I was inside of Payless at the checkout line getting some sandals for my upcoming trip when I mentioned I was headed out of the country. This turned into a twenty-minute conversation about traveling. He told me he was a veteran and how he’s traveled a lot. I’m proud to say he was impressed with my travel portfolio #goals!

We talked about the Arabic influence in southern Spain, the linguistic similarities between languages and more. It was refreshing to hear someone talk about traveling with as much enthusiasm as I do. He was now retired and I’m just starting out with this whole adulting thing, but the experiences we shared at complete different periods in time gave us the opportunity to learn something new and connect with complete strangers. It was quite nice.

Traveling has given me a lot, but one of the most amazing things I’m so grateful for is the opportunity to connect, understand and communicate with people out of my inner circle. Walking on the street, the chances of me speaking with this man who had such an amazing story to tell probably would’ve never happened. I may never meet or see him again, but I won’t forget that a couple pair of sandals sparked a great, random conversation with a stranger.

Everyone has a story and you never know what can connect you to someone else. It’s so easy to write others off because they don’t completely align with all your ideologies or thoughts, but you never know what you can learn from someone. By just opening your doors to new experiences, you may discover some gems. Traveling has afforded me the chance to meet some of the most amazing people. Through them, I didn’t only learn about them, but also more about myself.

If you haven’t taken the chance to explore out of your comfort zone, I encourage you to do so. It’s one of the best ways to broaden your horizon to understand this big world we live in.

Signed,

ART simply Undone

7 Reasons Why You Need to Change Your Life and Buy a Flight!

Cues Khalid’s “Let’s Go

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Deciding to travel the world is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Walking through a new city, observing locals and tourists is one of my favorite things to do. I like the idea of getting lost (within reason) and submersing myself into the unknown. Finding corner cafes, hideaway shops, kind locals, good food and amazing deals are some of the fondest memories I have of traveling. While that is some of the reasons I love traveling, everyone has their own story and reasons. So, enough about me, this is why you should get out and travel!

  1. It’s Cheap!

Google Flights, Airbnb, and good friends can make a usual expensive trip, fairly cheap. I’ve found roundtrip tickets to Chicago, from Atlanta for around $70, baggage and extras excluded. Depending on how you like to travel, you can rent an Airbnb room for around $50 a night. Flights to Cuba are as low as $200 depending on your time of travel. I recently booked my next vacation to a tropical destination for less than $200. Finding the right time and place to travel can fit into also anyone’s budget. Crazy, right?

  1. There’s no better time than now!

There will always be a million and one reasons why you shouldn’t travel. However, you just need to find one great reason and make it work. No, don’t get evicted, but there are a lot of trips that may be in your budget if you really look. If it will be a little strenuous on you, I say take the risk. Don’t spend all your life working and not living.

  1. You may learn something new about the world or yourself

I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about myself through traveling. From my patience, tolerance, openness to my quick-thinking, traveling puts you in a new environment that will more than likely test you on some level. You also have the great opportunity to get out of your bubble and immerse yourself in a new culture or way of life. It’s beautiful. Some of the lessons may be good, some may be bad, but as long as you learn something, it’s a lesson worth-while.

  1. The world has so much to offer!

The world has so much to offer you and you’ll never know until you experience it. You could travel to a different city in the state you live or on the other side of the world and find everything you’ve ever been looking for.

  1. It’s fun!

I believe this is self-explanatory and a little cliché, but it’s true! The world is literally a big playground and you should get on as many rides and you can. Get off the tired swing set and go play on a new ride. Even if you return to your beloved swing set, at least you can say you tried something new.

  1. Oh, the pictures and experiences you’ll have!

The amount of beauty that the world possesses is immense and abundant. It’s a shame more people don’t experience some of the great wonders. From the people you’ll meet to the places you’ll see; it will make you question why you didn’t travel sooner.

  1. Did I mention the food?

Forget McDonald’s and Burger King, even my beloved Panera Bread. There are people ready to prepare you the most life-changing meal you’ve ever had. While cooking is great and I’m sure your mother can throw down, your taste buds deserve some of the deliciousness the world has to offer! I could easily name five restaurants that changed my life forever. So, come on, the fresh pasta is calling your name!

Yes, this is only 7 reasons and yes I could probably give you a 100 more, but that’s no fun. I want you to experience this world. I want to hear your stories. If there is any way I can help you (within reason), let me know!

Signed,

ART simply trying to catch a flight

Just Walk With Me

Cuba - Just walk with me

*Cues Frank Ocean’s “Biking”

You ever feel such a calmness in your spirit, it almost feels like you’re having an outer body experience? Walk with me.

We’re walking the streets of Obispo in Havana, Cuba. We’re walking to get a drink from the famous Floridita Bar and souvenirs about five blocks down. There’s people walking with radios hanging from their bags, playing the Hot 100 from 2012. There’s a long line outside of the internet place where people buy their internet cards. A line is a stretch; it’s more like organized chaos.

As the walk continues, I’m asked if I want to see the menu at the restaurant I ate at yesterday, but kindly decline. I hear the angelic voice of the man singing his heart out to the rhythm of the drums. It’s so enticing, but I stay on course.

It’s only a six-minute walk, but since we’re people watching, it seems a lot longer. We’re in no rush.

I see the tourists lined up with their phones to get cold coconut water, but I’m more interested in the people. I’m more interested in the grandmother dancing to the music in the middle of the street with no care in the world. I’m more interested in looking and analyzing all the people who are just living and not vacationing.

Rarely do I see anyone on their phones. Instead, there are kids as young as five hanging out with their friends. They feel safe and no one bothers them. They’re in their own world and I’m fascinated. I’m fascinated because as I was walking early, I seen the inside of their homes that have exposed stone, but none of that matters. They may have all the worries in the world, but it doesn’t show. They dance to the music of the boomboxes. They kick the soccer balls. They laugh. My goodness, they laugh and it fills my heart.

It’s humbling. I don’t feel bad for them. I admire them. Finding joy and happiness in the simplest ways. From young to old, they somehow exude a confidence in satisfaction I rarely see. I feel full of life. I can’t wait to walk back. I can’t wait to indulge myself into their world just for a little while longer. I’ll never completely understand, but I’ll try with an open mind.

Thanks for walking with me.

ART Takes Cuba: The Basics

*Cues Mura Masa “What If I go

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I’ve been wanting to go to Havana, Cuba for a while. I think the fascination started when I realized that I could actually go. I didn’t know too much about the country, but I saw it was rich in culture and quite affordable. I also was intrigued by the fact that the country had not yet been crowded with American tourists. It seemed authentic and I was ready to experience it.

Traveling to Cuba is not as hard as some people may think. When you purchase your flight, it includes the health insurance they require, so the only other thing you need is a visa, which you purchase at the airport on your departure day. The plane tickets range anywhere from $180-$350. It all depends on when you’re traveling and how high-maintenance you are. We took a Delta direct flight for around $300.

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It was only a two-hour flight to the José Martí International Airport, Havana’s main airport. I was surprised it was so close, but also gracious. Once you get off of the plane, it can be a little confusing. You have to go through their immigration process, which can take a little while. NOTE:  Be prepared to take a picture. Unfortunately, you can’t smile.

Money

Once you get done going through the immigration process, you get your bags checked and then you are basically on your way. The first thing you do is exchange your money for CUC, the Cuban currency for foreigners.

NOTE: Exchange your money for Euros or Canadian Dollars. Then you will exchange your money for CUC. They do not accept US Dollars in Cuba, so be prepared to carry cash.

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My suggestion is to take at least $100 per day of your stay, then an extra $100 for any emergencies. Depending on your spending habits, you may not spend that much money, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. There is no feasible way to get extra money, so prepare accordingly.

Transportation

You’ll probably spend most of your money on transportation. It’s about $30 to get from the airport to Old Havana. You can negotiate fares, but this is the average. When traveling in the city, you can spend anywhere from $5-$15 dollars to get where you need to go. I would say I spent about $75-$100 on transportation for my four-day trip.

It’s also nice to ride in the vintage taxis! They don’t have the amenities of the newer cars, but the experience is definitely worth it. The coco taxi has to be one of my favorites to ride. The breeze is great and it puts you closer to the people. 20170513_170226

Accommodations

We stayed at an Airbnb that was $25 a night, that included two beds. The room had air condition, as well as a refrigerator full of drinks that came in handy. The Airbnb wasn’t a private residence as we originally thought, but was set-up more like a hostel. There were four rooms, all separated.  We did have to share a bathroom, but it was never busy. Everyone was really nice, but it definitely helped that we could speak Spanish.20170515_110343

We stayed at Obispo 360. It was right in the middle of Old Havana, which was perfect. They had a terrace that overlooked the street, which was always filled with people. It never seemed to be too loud, but rather lively. Walking outside of the Airbnb, we were put right amid the locals and tourists. It definitely was a gem for first-time visitors. They also offered breakfast on the terrace for $5. I would recommend staying at an Airbnb or Casa Particular than a hotel. The accommodations aren’t quite up-to-date like American standards but comfortable for a vacation.20170514_100453

Food

There is a lot of good food in Cuba that will blow your mind. The issue is finding the really good food because there are a lot of people who get paid to show you menus. You may end up in a sub-par restaurant that will hurt your feelings. One thing that these rather “average” restaurants have, is amazing atmospheres! I danced salsa and listened to a man sing his heart out to us while eating a less than inspiring chicken breast. I’ll say that I remember the man more than the meal, so it’s still a win for me.

Meals can range anywhere from $10-$30, depending on drinks. Please don’t skip on the drink, most of them do not disappoint. Another tip is to do your research before you leave the country on restaurants to try. The Internet is limited and most people get paid to give you recommendations.

Some of my favorite restaurants were O’Reilly 304, Paladar Los Mercaderes and Azucar Lounge & Bar.

Here’s to Part One of ART in Cuba: The Basics. Look for more coming soon!

Signed,

ART simply Undone

 

Unplugged: Finding a Peace of Mind

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This week has been quite peaceful for me overall. Other than doing hair, my other projects have been pretty chill so I have had time to just relax. Yesterday, I came home, ate and watched the entire new season of Chewing Gum. I didn’t even open my laptop until I was fully rejuvenated and it felt great. Today after work I took an amazing nap and now I’m in a very productive mood.

After I woke up from my glorious nap, I opened my phone to find some less than thrilling news articles, per usual. While, I won’t divulge much more information about that, what I will say is that it rocked me a little bit. I’ve been in great spirits lately, and I realized that as I was scrolling through my timelines, I felt myself becoming bogged down.  This has happened one too many times and I’m sure I’m not the only one who can relate so I tell you this:

You need to know what is going on in the world. You need/should care. You should also do as much as you can to make society a better place.  However, it becomes a point where you can almost self-torture yourself by trying to put the whole world on your shoulders. I believe in good people. I believe in fighting for what is right. I believe in doing all you can to make this world a better place. I also believe in making sure that you are okay as an individual. You are no good if you run-down, anxious, fearful or emotionally exhausted. Sometimes you need to unplug. Sometimes you need to make sure that you are okay. Sidenote: This can be applied to life in various instances as well.

If you find yourself immersing yourself in all that is going on in the world and continuously carrying that emotion-burden on yourself, it is time to disconnect from the world and re-connect with yourself. You can’t feel bad for taking some time to yourself. I’ll never forget riding from the airport with my Uncle Ronnie in Colorado. He was talking to me about grades, but something he told me has stuck with me over ten years later. He simply said that all you can do is your best; once you do your best, you can’t feel bad about anything else.

This is not a post about being selfish, this is a post speaking to those that find themselves trying to fight the world, but instead find themselves only fighting their way out of the edge of depression or anxiety due to the fear of what could or has happened.

So, fight those battles that mean the most to you and fight for what’s right, but also fight for you. Make sure you are providing yourself with the mental rest you deserve. At the end of the day it’s your peace that will help you sleep at night, so just don’t forget about yourself.

Signed,

ART simply Undone

Keep Calm, Plans Change: Tips to Successful Trips

Keep Calm

My first travel blog for ART Undone was going to be this comprehensive list of why you should travel and how feasible it is to do so. I was super excited to tell you all about my tips and ways I almost always have fun on a trip. No worries, I will still be publishing that blog later, however, just as I have learned many times before, plans change, even when you plan ahead.

It’s currently 1:15 am and I am sitting in the Orlando International Airport alone. Most of the workers have left except a couple of late night janitors. I was supposed to be in a comfortable king-sized bed catching up on all the sleep that I’ve missed these past two weeks. Instead, I’m waiting for my family to get here due to some technical difficulties.

I would say that I’m flustered, but I’m quite calm unlike the lady I just seen crying her eyes out on the phone. Clearly she was having a worse night than I am. I almost wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything would be alright, but you know that whole stranger thing. Instead, I just observed. After she cried on the phone, she hung up, fixed her face and posture and kept it moving. This occurrence plus my self-observation of being more sleepy than frustrated, I decided to open my laptop and talk about two things: the skill I gained from traveling and the life lesson I learned.

Without a doubt one of the most important skills I’ve learned from traveling is the skill of quick, critical thinking.  With all the fun adventures that come with traveling, people tend to forget the extensive planning that goes into having a good trip. Honestly and truly, it can be a headache. From coordinating flights, transportation and accommodations to staying within a budget, there is a reason why many people pay travel agents to do the work for them. Then once you have finally solidified your plans, there is always the possibility of missed flights, cancelled reservations, towed cars or even having the bank cancel your only debit card in a foreign country. It is not the time to cry and complain, it’s the time to jump into action.

Being able to quickly think of an alternative solution to your plans will decrease the amount of time you would spend crying and increase the amount of time you have to enjoy your vacation. When traveling, you are on timeline. You have a certain amount of time to figure out any obstacles that may occur. The quicker you think of the optimal solution, the more time you can dance in the streets, take pictures, eat good food and relax. Trust me, quick critical thinking and an optimistic attitude will take you far.

Now for that life lesson… If I told you all the crazy travel stories that have happened to me while traveling, you would probably question my sanity and willingness to still travel. However, since I love traveling too much to ever sit at home, I choose to be optimistic about all my travels. Every time I start planning a new trip I go in with a clean slate and a plan to avoid any mistakes I may have made in a previous trip. I go in with plans a, b and c and the mindset that even if something goes wrong I will make the best out of any situation that I can’t control. That’s a lesson that I’ve also learned to take out of traveling and apply to life.

I’ve found that 90% of the time, we allow things that frustrate us to overtake us. Once we have allowed ourselves to get frustrated, our judgment becomes clouded. Trust me, I know from experience. Like that one time I was in Rome at the airport until 1:00 am waiting on my luggage that had been lost not one or two, but three times. Determined to get to my hostel, I hopped into an illegal taxi. Illegal taxi as in it wasn’t a taxi at all; It was an old car with two big Italian men. [Don’t judge me]. Nevertheless, I could have been kidnapped because my frustration had caused me not to think through my decisions. Thank God nothing happened, but things could have ended a lot worse than me yelling at two big Italian men in a dark street at 1:30 in the morning.

So, what do I want you to get from this is quite simple; traveling is like life. When you think you have everything figured out, crap still happens. You can cry, but once you have gotten those few tears out, clear your head and figure out a solution. It is the solution that matters. Once you have found the solution, decide not to wallow in the event for the remainder of your trip, instead focus on how much more you deserve to have the time of your life. Focusing on the negative doesn’t move you forward, it just holds you back. So, what choice will you make? Rather it be on a trip to New York or a decision in life, traveling has taught me that the way you choose to live life is a choice. There are already so many decisions that are made for you out in this universe, I behoove you to take ownership of the decisions you can make and make the best out of them.

And that ladies and gentlemen that is called making lemonade out of lemons J.

Signed,

ART simply Undone

My First Disney Trip

A Disney Trip to Remember

Thursday, March 09, 2017

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes  a memory.”          – Unknown

I am an avid believe in capturing moments for the memories that mean the most to me. These memories usually take place when I’m with friends and family and more than likely traveling. This past week I was able to go to Disney World for the first time ever. I’m sure it won’t be my last. I’m elated to share some of the memories with you!

Signed,

ART simply having fun