Summer 17 is Ova! Here's Why I'm Declaring Myself A Staycation Queen!

Summer 17 has come and is almost gone and I haven't done much of anything. Typically summertime brings me lots of energy with it's long days, early sunrises, and late sunsets. I have always declared summer to be the time when I can get a lot of things done, sight see, eat lobster rolls, and frolick on the beach or parlay at some outdoor event. This summer was different. I haven't made time to engage in any of my summer rituals including having regular ice cream dates and runs at the local park. This summer I was on my grind.

I'm on a debt-free journey and so I vowed to sit my arse down somewhere instead of spending unnecessary money. I found ways to have fun without breaking the bank. I also worked more hours which left me in need of more time to relax and recoup my energy.

So what exactly did I do this summer?

Well I had two trips with my family. One was a family reunion to Biloxi, MS and the other was a trip to D. C. Both were short and sweet and were well within my budget. I'll recap those trips in future posts.

When I wasn't working, I was finding ways to explore my state. If you're on a budget and looking for things to do on the low, take a peep at my list and see what may work for you.

  • I went to Yelp events. I'm a Yelp elite which means I have access to their featured events at local businesses. These events are free or at low-cost ($10-40) and give me an opportunity to meet new people. Yelp is a free app/website which allows their users to rate a business by using stars and writing a narrative. To become elite, all you have to do is start writing Yelp reviews and get nominated by a fellow Yelper.

  • I had happy hour at local restaurants. Going out to eat can get pretty expensive and I am not a big fan of waiting to get a table. So Happy hour is where it's at. I can get away with trying several items on the menu, plus a drink, for about $25 or less.

  • I took pictures for the blog. I really love this blog, it's been challenging and rewarding. I'm finding my writing voice and learning the tools to edit, upload, and post content. So I visited my local parks, downtown areas, hiking trails, and eateries for inspiration. 

  • I played with my six-year-old nephew, J. He gives me so much joy and reminds me that life is meant to be lived. We played super heroes, read books, had cooking lessons, and went to the park. He reminded me that I could enjoy life by doing the simplest things. 

  • I gave myself spa treatments at home. Facials, pedicures, and scented baths are all do-able. One of my favorite self-care activities!

  • I explored New York City! Living in CT means I’m only a 2 hour drive or train ride from the city, yes! This summer I attended several events where I networked, socialized, danced, and laughed for free or low-cost.

 

This summer may not have been as lit as i wanted it to be but I took care of myself, I dumped some debt, met some dope people, and I spent some quality time with my family. I hope you found some ideas of local activities you can engage in that are affordable and rewarding. Let's chat about your summer. Leave a comment below!

My Runaway Experience Re-Ignited My Love for Travel

In early May I made my way to Bali for travel with The Runaway Experience for their Wellness Series. I was looking for my “Eat, Pray, Love” experience because I realized I needed time for peace, clarity, and self-care. I spent 8 days in Northern Bali on a family owned retreat property with a group of beautiful women who were all looking for some R&R. The days were filled with yoga, good eats, lots of talks, laughter, and random dance parties. I enjoyed every moment of it.

The Runaway Experience is comprised of a couple, Kalisa and Jeff, who came up with the grand idea to create curated travel experiences in which the participant’s only job is to pack their bags. The trip had an itinerary for each day and transportation (besides the flight), food, activities, lodging, and non-alcoholic drinks were included in the price. From start to finish, Jeff and Kalisa were available to answer any questions and ease concerns about the trip. What sets them apart is the time they take to build rapport with participants and that they have personally experienced every detail of the trip prior to rolling out the trip.

Let me give you the rundown. Each day began with my roommates and I watching the sunrise, followed by Yoga with Koya Webb, meals, and 1-2 scheduled activities. The activities included yoga in a buddhist temple, hiking the land to a major waterfall, visiting the local market, learning Balinese dances from local youth, and a visit to the holy springs and hot springs. The best part about Bali is the exchange rate. Many of us were able to get massages everyday for less than $20. I also bought some cute sarongs, bracelets, bags, and a harem jumpsuit from the local market which I definitely got for a steal. There's a little girl out there named Dora who is destined for a career in marketing because she swindled me out of a few dollars. lol.

The yoga was awesome! I had done yoga before and found it to be healing and helpful at releasing tension and stress. But this yoga experience was different. Koya taught me that yoga is a practice, my practice, and I don’t have to be an expert to do it. She empowered us to listen to our bodies, breathe through the discomfort, take rests when needed but focus on building our resilience and getting what we needed from the practice. Every day we spoke words of intention and ended the practice by gathering in a circle followed by a hug. The hugs are important because I am not a hugger. I give great hugs but I don’t receive them well. But I actually wanted to receive the hugs! Lol. They gave me an added sense of power, strength, and support that I needed to receive at the time.

Before I went to Bali, I had jokingly said I wanted to do a headstand which I semi-attained (it was a shoulder stand) at the end of the week!! It was amazing. Koya’s teaching style reminded me that life is what you make it and by pushing past our perceived limits and trusting ourselves (with a little bit of support, when needed), we can accomplish anything! I’ve been doing yoga 3-4 days/week since my return.

This experience definitely re-ignited my passion for travel, which had been instilled in me by the many trips nationally and abroad my Mother made sure to send me on. I began planning my next steps and attempted to persuade Jeff and Kalisa to make these countries their next travel destinations so I could duplicate this awesome experience. They reminded me to savor life experiences because having a dope life depends on me *points to self*.

My favorite part about this experience was the connection I made with Jeff, Kalisa, and the other ladies. I went as a solo traveler but left with new friends, some dope freaking pictures, new playlists (thanks Jeff!), and an experience I will never forget.

There are so many more stories and lessons I learned on this trip but they cannot all be put into words. So I’ll just drop those dope pictures I mentioned above and encourage you to check out The Runaway Experience at www.runawayexperience.com and subscribe or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

If you could leave a comment below so we chat some more about this experience or similar experiences you've had, that would be great!

Photos courtesy of my iPhone, @runawayexperience, and @alexbaengueava

8 Things I Learned About Traveling Internationally

A few weeks ago, I embarked on my first international solo trip to as an adult. I traveled to Bali, Indonesia for a wellness retreat (read about why I picked Bali a few posts back). Prior to the trip, I spent many hours reading travel blogs/articles/Instagram feeds about how other travelers prepared for their trip. I knew I wanted to fully explore and enjoy the area as I have no clue when I may return to that part of the world. Here are some things I planned prior to the trip and what I learned along the way.

A selfie with an obligatory snap filter prior to boarding my flight. These are individual crochet twists which I ended up taking out halfway through the trip because they were too hot in the Bali sun.

A selfie with an obligatory snap filter prior to boarding my flight. These are individual crochet twists which I ended up taking out halfway through the trip because they were too hot in the Bali sun.

 

1.     Coordinate with local friends or associates to re-connect

I had the pleasure of going to college with several students who were from other countries. A few of the ladies I connected with are from Indonesia, most live in the states so I didn’t think to ask any of them if they would like to meet. That was until I saw my college friend post she was in the same airport I would be flying into the very next morning. Ugh! She promptly scolded me for not informing her of my travels and I instantly regretted not reaching out to her when I booked the retreat. So take it from me, if you have any friends who live where you are going, be sure to reach out to them. They will be able to show you their home from their perspective.

2.     Inform your bank of your travel and use cash

This is key. Most banks have built in fraud protection for your accounts so they will automatically flag your card and place a hold on it if transactions show from a different location than normal. A few minutes of your time can save you a headache of not being able to use your account overseas. Check with your bank and notify them you are traveling (whether in the states or overseas) and the approximate locations you will be traveling to. If your bank is like mine, you don’t have to spend time waiting to speak to a representative over the phone, you can send them a quick message to inform them of your travel and they will make a note on your account. Many vendors take credit cards and allow you to pay with an exchange rate.

 Also, use cash when you can. I found it helpful to have some USD changed into local cash for use at markets, activities, and for tipping.

3.     Check out the country’s visa regulations if you have a long layover

Some of the ladies I met at the retreat told me how they left the airport and was able to spend a full day in China. I was totally jealous once I heard this and wondered why I hadn’t thought to stay overnight in Singapore or China (I had layovers in both of these countries). Most countries in Asia allow you to clear immigration for a short stay without applying for a visa-typically less than 30 days. Check the country regulations prior to your travel and you could see more than one area during your vacation.

4.     Jump on a free tour of the area

I had a lay over at Changi Airport in Singapore. Their website shows they offer two tours- one for 3 hours and another for 5 hours- you can attend free of charge. Be mindful these tours may be first come, first serve and have specific rules for attending so check the website or ask airport personnel for more information. I didn’t make it on a tour this time around (read about how disappointed I was here) but this experience taught me how to better plan and maximize my lay over time.

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5.     Pack snacks and a water bottle

a.     Airport food is expensive and if you’re on a budget, like me, then you may want to save the bulk of your money for when you reach your actual destination. I packed granola bars, protein bars, took extra snacks from my flight, packed nuts and dried fruit. I also brought a refillable water bottle with me to use so I could save on buying bottled water. The retreat had filtered water so I was able to refill daily.

Snacks at a store in Hong Kong airport. I definitely bought some of my favorite chocolates which I can only find overseas.

Snacks at a store in Hong Kong airport. I definitely bought some of my favorite chocolates which I can only find overseas.

6.     Use an airport lounge

a.     Oh my gosh, baby, this was a hidden gem. I downloaded an app called Loungebuddy which tells you the available lounges at your airport destinations and the amenities they have. I knew I needed to have a shower, wifi, and food. I chose a lounge that provided me with all of that for 6 hours for less than $40. Not every lounge has a purchase option so you have to look this up for you go and pick a lounge based on cost, amenities, and the available hours you can use. It was very important to me to have some time to rest and take a shower (after a 16 hour flight, a shower was necessary and rejuvenating). The app is free or you can purchase online.

7.     Lost in translation is real

Prior to the trip, I knew many people in Asia knew English or at least understand some of the basics. One thing I forgot is that there are not many Black folks in that part of the country. I found myself getting ready to do the whole “what you looking at?!” face and then I realized I was the only brown queen walking around. I quickly put myself in check and reminded myself to smile. I was in a foreign country and would like to make it back home. Lol. There was a clear infatuation with my hair which I wore in twists for the first part of my trip. I had my natural hair out after that Bali heat got to be too much for me. Anyway, it can be tough having a language barrier but with apps, a translator, and a little patience, you can find your way.

8.     Be Prepared to go with the flow

Ish happens. There were activities I wanted to do that I was unable to do for a number of reasons. I had to remind myself to go with the flow, I was on vacation, there was nothing set in stone. Whatever I did not get to do this time could be done when I return. It was not the end of the world. 

Opportunity is Knocking, Say Yes

“We would like you to be highlighted for our spring newsletter. Could you send us some information about yourself, a short bio? You can also add information about your career and the current class you are teaching here.”

I received this email a few months ago to let me know the school I’m an adjunct professor at (it’s also my alma mater) wanted to showcase me in the spring newsletter. And the question I asked myself upon reading this was, “Why?” You see, I have this problem with accepting compliments and being honored by others and organizations. It’s not that I don’t think I’m deserving of the accolades but I don’t think I have done anything significant to warrant being the “staff of the month”. Yet, there is this desire, deep down inside of me, to be acknowledged. At my full-time job, they are accepting nominees for the annual staff awards and I wonder why I have not yet been chosen. Haven’t they seen the job I do? Why do they call me for feedback or assistance if they won’t give me this award?

Have you noticed the running conflict of my thoughts? I wonder how many of you have felt the same as I do…and where the heck does this come from.

I would like to think there is some existential or psychoanalytical way to explain this internal conflict but I won’t bore you with that. Is this impostor syndrome? (If you've never heard of this, here is an article from Start UP Bros to explain impostor syndrome and what you can do about it. ( https://startupbros.com/21-ways-overcome-impostor-syndrome ) 

Why can’t I just accept the people who do recognize me and leave the rest? I think of one of the first times I encountered this conflict. I was honored with Student of the Month for the district in my home town. My Mom was so proud. At the time (I was a pre-teen), I wondered why was I so special compared to the other students. Of course, there have been other incidents in my adulthood but seeing that the picture with the Superintendent and my favorite teacher in Elementary school still sits on my Mom’s bookcase, it reminds me I was special. I am special. I have always been.

“You Are A Badass!” be Jean Sincero, my current read, tells me to use positive affirmations and say “thank you”. I am doing some real badassery things that I had no clue about. I am making an impression. I am showing up. And in my moments when I lack commitment and my mind wanders off to never never land, someone is watching the works I have done. They are thinking to highlight me in their newsletter, they are asking me to speak to their class, and they are seeking my opinion. They are my friends who tell me to “start that blog!”, “you’re my style guru”, “I know I can talk to you because you listen without judgment”. I hear these things and it warms my heart in the moment, but then I think this is what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to show up for others. And as I write this, I realize showing up for them is accepting their gratitude and allowing them to appreciate me without rejecting them.

So I sent in my short bio for the newsletter, I say “yes” to speaking to the students of their classrooms, and I secretly hope I will be given that staff award because I able capable of and should accept the accolades I am blessed to have come my way.

 

Here are some of my favorite quotes

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It's Okay to Rest

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials." -Lin Yutang

I’ve developed a bad habit. My friends constantly comment on this habit and ask me why do I do it. They tell me I’m crazy and that they don’t envy me. I’ve developed the habit of busyness. Why is this a “bad” habit? Because I am finding it more difficult to enjoy the moments when I have down time. And this is so not cool. I sign up to work on my days off from my full-time job. (I’m on a debt free journey so we will get into this in another post). I have three jobs. I find things to do around the house. I join groups, I meet with my friends, I work out. I very rarely rest.

My sister told me a few months ago, “I can’t keep up with your schedule. You make me tired.” Honestly, some days I AM tired. I keep my schedule so packed that I now need my iPhone calendar and a planner to keep up with all of the things I need to do. The busier I get, the more my mind goes, and the less I am able to relax. And most of the time, the things I find myself doing can be done at other times. It’s like in school when the teacher used to give us “busy work” to fill up the time.

So today, on my only day off for the next 10 days, I decided to chill. To allow myself to relax and not find things to do. I picked up my brother and my teenage nephew and we went for ice cream. I took a nap. I went for happy hour. I rested. Heck, even God took a day off for rest! If God did it, so can I! He even commands we rest. lol. So If you’re like me and have a super busy schedule, make sure you schedule in some me-time and recharge. Your mind, body, and loved ones will thank you for it. 

What Do You Know About Mental Illness?

May is Mental Health Awareness month and as a clinical provider, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this on the blog. I have been helping people who have been diagnosed with mental illness and substance addiction for almost ten years. One thing is for certain, there are a lot of people in need and very little consistency with educating society about mental illness. It seems the only times we hear about mental illness is when a celebrity is in the spotlight or when a tragedy happens. Why is this the case? Mental illness is not cookie cutter, it is not a one size fits all, it shows up differently in every person. One of my passions is to help people in need of mental health and addiction care by providing a safe space and foundation for the road to recovery.

 

Here are some insights:

You are not alone

Mental illness and substance addiction are more prevalent than you may have known. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and about 10 million adults live with a serious mental illness. Often, these conditions begin in childhood or adolescence.

 

Depression is the leading cause of disability

When I was starting out, a psychiatrist explained depression was a silent disease. Many people with depression continue their daily activities (work, life obligations, family responsibilities) despite what may be happening in their mind and body. People are depressed but we may not know it until the depression becomes more severe. That means, there may be someone in your life who is having a depressed episode and you may not know it. Depression can be experienced by anyone, at any point in their life. There is no rhyme or reason.

 

Addiction and mental illness can go hand-in-hand

Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring disorders is when a person experiences both mental illness and substance addiction. It is up to the provider to evaluate the patient and figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. Did the person use substances to cope with their mental illness or did the mental illness come as a result of their substance use. Given both issues impact a person’s neurotransmitters in the brain and are considered to be a disease, this can be difficult to assess. One thing is for sure, we have to get the person clean and stable before we can effectively address any other issues.

 

We have to educate about suicide prevention

With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death (www.cdc.org) in the United States, there should be more conversations. People often don’t talk about suicide until it is too late. The Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, has explored suicide, the effects a death by suicide can have on family friends, and the depression which can contribute to suicidal thoughts. Suicide is preventable and people can get help. Here’s a great resource if you feel or know so someone who has thoughts of suicide or self-harm: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, they can speak with you online, by phone, or by text. You can also reach out to your local crisis line or emergency department.

 

You can recover

Not to be cliche but there is help available. Although the current administration has cut funding from programs and mental health treatment, there are a host of support groups and advocates who are helping people recover from addiction and mental illness each day. An important aspect of recovery is that it needs to be defined by the person. A doctor, therapist, nurse, family member cannot tell you what it looks like for you to recover. You have to feel it and know what it means to have hope about your life. Recovery does not mean life will be perfect, it means you are able to cope and build resilience, you use your supports, you check-in with yourself, you do things for self-care. Recovery is inevitable if you believe it.

 

Here are some additional resources to educate yourself about mental illness and addiction:

http://americanaddictioncenters.org/

 

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth



Stay tuned for more posts about mental wellness, what I am doing for self-care, and what you can do to support someone in need.

What Do I Mean By Simply Being?

How did I come up with simply being? I was thinking of a blog name with my friend Charms and this was one of the top five. I knew I wanted there to be a focus on mental wellness and self-care and I intended for the blog to show my life journey and the lessons I am learning. I wanted to learn what it meant to live, to breathe, to be. And as I reflected on what that meant, it occurred to me that I very often make things more complicated than they need to be. More often that not, things are just not that serious. They are pretty simple until my mind takes over and decides to annihilate and process things to death. So what does it mean to simply be?

Simply being is more than just existing. What if you allowed yourself to truly feel and honor and accept where you are right now? How would that feel?

On my way to Bali, I had a layover in Singapore. When planning my flight situation, I had planned to layover somewhere, use an airport lounge to clean up, and visit the city.  Singapore seemed like a great place to do that. I had 16 hours of time to explore the airport and join in a 2 hour tour. I prepped my Nikon and exited the plane determined. 

I had checked a bag on my first flights and I found out shortly after getting off be second flight that I would have to go through immigration to get my bag. My last flight to Bali was on a different airline and they could not just simply transfer my bag. I could only clear immigration once. "Damn, I hope I can still go on this tour," I remember thinking. I went to the airport lounge and had six hours to kill. I listened to music, watched Netflix, had water and food, took a shower, and just lounged. All the while I kept thinking, "I hope I can go on the tour." 

I left the lounge determined to manifest this thought. I finally found the counter to register for the tour and there was a line. I immediately started to prepare myself for not being able to go on the city tour. It was a first come, first serve basis. I was called to the counter, I explained my sitch about the bag, the woman began to take my name and her phone rang. 

"I'm sorry miss, this tour is full. What time does your flight leave? Can you do the next one?" 

Well no, I couldn't do the next one. You need at least 6 hours in your layover and I didn't have that. I said thank you and walked away. I had planned to do that tour for three months. I wanted to see a new city. Missing this tour could have been a damper to the whole trip. So I walked for a bit. And then I said to myself, " I'm disappointed I didn't get to go on the tour." And bam, that simple acknowledgement freed me from the weight that was on my shoulders. Freed me from the feeling of not only disappointment but of rejection, sadness, lack. And then I was able to find the positive. I always think of something doesn't work out as a planned then maybe God is protecting me from something. I still got a stamp on my passport, i had many hours left to rest and relax, and I could find other ways to fill my time at the airport.

I was reminded of an important lesson. Things may not always work out as I desire them to but there will always be something on the other side. By honoring where I am, I have freedom to choose how I feel and how I deal with what comes my way. And all things work for the good.

My First International Solo Trip!

I have been meaning to go on a vacation since like forever. I even toyed with moving overseas to teach for a little bit. To say I need a change in environment is an understatement.  I need to get the heck out of dodge! This ish right here is for the birds! I had the itch and I decided to make it a priority to find some time for rest. 

My last international trip was 3 years ago when I went to Barbados for a wedding. Since then, most of my trips have been to visit family or weekend getaways with a significant other or friends.  Needless to say, my passport doesn’t have many stamps in it so I knew I had to do something. My sister had insisted we go to the Caribbean but none of the deals were working out for our budgets or our pockets. I had decided to put that trip on hold and focus on other things. Until one day I came across a post on IG by one of my fitness gurus.  “Come with me to Bali” it read and provided a link to a website called, The Runaway Experience. *insert heart eyes emoji face*

So I clicked the link and the most beautiful and awe-inspiring photos came onto my screen. There were trees, bungalows, an out of this world view, and a ginormous in-ground pool featured in the pictures. The site let me know I had three options for an 8 day stay in Bali hosted by The Runaway Experience owners. I could choose to focus on self-care, fitness, or food and nutrition. I really wanted to choose fitness and do all the cool exercises with my fitness guru but something about the self-care trip was calling my name. Then I saw the price tag. This trip was out of my budget, hell it was nowhere near the prices I was looking to spend when I was researching that trip to the Caribbean. So I prayed, “Dear Lord, if this trip is meant for me, please make a way for me to pay for this out of pocket. I need this time away.” And for a straight week I looked at those pictures everyday and prayed that same prayer. I annoyed my coworker daily by talking about the trip and inviting her to think about Bali whenever the shift got boring or we were overwhelmed with work. After a few days she says to me, “If you don’t go to Bali then I will! I need you to go so you can share the experience with me when you come back!” That sealed it for me. I sent an email of inquiry to the hosts right then and there! I had a short phone call with the hosts and I found some wiggle room for the deposit in my budget and the rest is history.

 

So here I am anxiously counting down the days until this adventure. Why go alone? Well I’m not, there are a group of people who are going on this trip with me. I get the opportunity to explore the world and make new connections while doing it. Tell me who is the freaking MVP!?!?! *raises hand*

 

Stayed tuned for more posts about this trip, how I prepared, my overall experience, what I wore, and more.