IBIT post: anatomy of an airfare.

Check out this blog post from I’m Black & I Travel. Here’s an excerpt:

Why does international air travel cost so much? A breakdown of a single transcontinental flight reveals just how much you pay in taxes and fees — and why.

Read more here >>> Airlines: Anatomy Of An Airfare http://imblacknitravel.com/airlines-airfares/

Take off.

Take off.

Montenegro 06.29.2013.

Montenegro is a tiny country in southeastern Europe that’s bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia & Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the southeast. With a little over 620,000 citizens, its population is one of the smallest in Europe. During my short trip to Croatia, I had the privilege of going on a day trip to Montenegro, and I had a nice day.

From our base in Dubrovnik, the Croatia-Montenegro border is about an hour away and, therefore, easy to reach by car or tour bus (we used a tour company).

Croatia-Montenegro border.

Croatia-Montenegro border.

Montenegro has a storied history, but those of us familiar with the country’s recent times may know about the turbulence it experienced during the 20th century, especially toward the end of the 20th century. I won’t go into it on this blog, but you can read about it on Wikipedia (more accurate than many Wikipedia links). Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia on 3rd June 2006 and reached European Union candidate status in 2010. Montenegro used German marks for currency at one point – it never had its own currency – but now uses the euro.

Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, which affords it a nice coastline – 183 miles (295 kilometers) – with temperatures averaging over 80º Fahrenheit (27º Celsius) during summer months. It was hotter than average when I went. Our tour bus drove along the coast, and the photo below shows one of the first towns we stopped in to take photos. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was close to Herceg-Novi, near the Croatia-Montenegro border.

Lots of water.

Lots of water.

We took a short break on the way to a guided tour. Check out the view.

Our guided walking tour was in the old town centre of Kotor, Montenegro, situated on the Gulf of Kotor. It’s recognised as a World Heritage Site and chock full of history. It’s now popular with cruise ships; when we went, there were many ships, boats & yachts docked in port. Since Montenegro shares the Adriatic Sea with Italy (among other countries), visitors interested in history will notice the heavy Venetian influence embedded in Kotor’s architecture and overall atmosphere.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

And check out the view from the top – an outside restaurant & bar.

After leaving Kotor, we drove along the coast to Budva, which is making a name for itself as a Riviera town. Before we got to Budva city proper, though, we made a quick rest stop to photograph the following beautiful sight on the Riviera – Sveti Stefan town-hotel.

The Budva Riviera is popular during the summer months; there’s plenty of sun, sand & sea mixed in with casinos & vibrant nightlife. Montenegro, in general, is popular with Russians, and this is more so with Budva. There are signs translated into Russian, and Russians finance a sizeable amount of house (and other) construction projects along the Budva Riviera.

I couldn’t get many photos of Budva because my main camera died :-| but at least I have memories. For you the readers, however, here’s a snapshot of my late lunch in Budva.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can't find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can’t find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

We made our way back to Croatia soon after Budva.

I enjoyed myself, especially in Kotor since I like history and old structures. I’d consider returning to Montenegro on my own, staying for no more than 2-3 days to explore historical sites. If you’re more into sun, sand & sea vacations, consider staying anywhere along the Budva Riviera for longer than that.

10 Beautifully Simple Things You Forget To Do In Your City

Spinster:

It usually amazes me when someone from here tells me that I’ve visited places here that they’ve never visited before… and they’ve lived here all or most of their lives (!!!). Here’s a short & simple guide for those of you who don’t explore your own hometowns. You may think your hometown is boring or worthless or useless, but maybe if you take on these simple suggestions, you’ll re-discover your city in a new light.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

1. See the classics, the trademarks, the shining emblems of what makes your city yours.

Don’t be afraid to be a tourist now and again. It’s funny how we get so caught up in wanting to prove that we are natives, that we belong, that many of us go our whole lives without ever seeing the statue of liberty when we live only a few minutes away.

2. If you don’t live in the crux of the city, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, pretend you do for a day, and do as the locals do.

Eat like a local. Shop like one too. Consumerism can get the best of us all, so you have to remember that there are always fantastic little spots tucked away in secret if only you take a little time to look. When I was growing up, I used to tell my parents…

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3 years (part 3).

(If you didn’t read the other parts, here you go: part 1 & part 2.)

Last but certainly not least, what else have I learned here so far?

11. If you can make it in another country, you can make it anywhere. Add a bonus if you live in a big city within another country. Becoming an expatriate is not for the faint of heart. Many people can’t make it for many reasons. That doesn’t automatically make those people weak, so don’t assume that that’s what I mean. What I do mean is that some people have illusions about what it’s like to expatriate. I’m sorry to break it to you, but Eat Pray Love is not real for anyone except Elizabeth Gilbert (or other [Caucasian] people who can afford it, and since the economy has been garbage for the past few years, maybe they can’t either). So if you can put aside your bullshit illusions, accept what you aren’t familiar with, and be as patient as a saint, maybe then you’ll survive with just a bruise or two.

12. I need to live in or near a big city. I already discussed this here.

13. I appreciate living near the European mainland. It’s easier & cheaper to get to other cities & countries; sometimes it feels like the center of the earth for that reason. Even for me, getting home is as simple as a direct flight without any layovers or plane changes. It’s unfortunate that I’ve not taken as much advantage of this as possible, but real life got in the way. I hope to take more advantage of this next year; I’m well overdue for a long trip somewhere far away.

14. You’ll have to do almost everything (if not everything) on your own. One of the annoying things about living here is the amount of red tape one has to cut through to get anything done. For example, if you need a technician to check your boiler and the expected wait time is 1 week, just go ahead and add an extra week to your wait time. You may as well buy a book for dummies and check the boiler yourself because you’ll get it done quicker that way. There’s another way that people get things done around here – either threaten to cancel a service like I did or raise hell until you get what you need.

15. No matter where I am on this planet, I’ll look back at experiencing expatriation with indescribable feelings and a wiser mind. I’m glad that I made my dream come true.
———
There are more, but that’s it for this series. I think too much sometimes, and I don’t want to make this any longer than necessary. Thanks for reading.

Keep calm and drink tea.

Keep calm and drink tea.

While each expatriate’s experience is unique, have I missed anything that you’d put on your own list?

On the road again.

It has been a while since I’ve taken a proper trip anywhere. Don’t get me wrong… going home is always great, but it isn’t a vacation. The last time I went anywhere besides home was a little over a year ago, when I went up north to the Lake District for a short weekend. (I still need to write about that trip. *hanging head in shame*) Oh yeah, there was also that day trip to Bristol that didn’t turn out quite the right way.

Despite my current financial challenges, I knew that it was well past time for me to go somewhere. So just like with Portugal, I paid for this trip little by little, and I’m going with the same travel Meetup group. (For now, it’s easier that way because the group founder made the arrangements – flights, accommodation, side trips [included or optional], etc. – and due to being so busy, I didn’t feel like doing tons of research for deals like I normally do.) This is a trip I would’ve taken last year but unfortunately, finances held me back worse than they do now. I’m glad that I got a 2nd chance.

So by the time you read this, I’ll be heading to Dubrovnik, Croatia (Wikipedia link) for a few days, with a side (day) trip to Montenegro. Since I don’t have the best track record with writing up my trips (*hanging head in shame again*), I’m considering blogging about this trip with photos – a few words about each photo, while hopefully the photos will speak for themselves. Photo-blogging isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s easier, if you understand what I mean.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Take off.

Take off.

City girl.

(My From Above post inspired me to write the following post.)

I’m a New York City girl. I was born & raised there, it’s part of my identity, and it reverberates through my heart & soul. No matter where I go, it’ll always be my first home.

So when I began receiving e-mails some years ago from different agencies & organisations, recruiting Americans to work overseas, I refused many of them. Why, you ask? Among other reasons, I just couldn’t see myself living that far away from a city centre. It was only when I was ready, and only when I received e-mails from bigger places, that I decided it was time to make my move.

So here I am, solo, almost 3 years later. Although I know people here, they either don’t like doing the things I do and/or they’re flakes. Also, although there are lots of couples here (which is a feat in itself, in my opinion), dating in this country is different from dating back home. Since moving here, no one likes me, no one approaches me, and despite my many efforts at being open to dating/relationships here, nothing ever happened. As a result, I do things solo 98% of the time.

This is where being a city girl comes in handy. There are so many things to do here, I can get on solo with no problems. For example, in the From Above post, I went to the food festival on my own. I asked a couple of people if they wanted to go, and they either never responded or they flaked out on me at the last minute… which is why I often don’t bother inviting people with me anywhere. Since my friends are back home and they’re the only ones who like at least some of the things I like, I just do things on my own over here. What better place to do that than in a big city? (And as I’ve said countless times, thank goodness for Meetup.) I know I wouldn’t do well solo if I was far outside of a big city. I probably would’ve moved back home by now, honestly, if I lived that far away.

¡Viva la revolución!

¡Viva la revolución!

So for me, living in or very close to a big city suits me best. I need access to many different venues & activities, and a big city usually has these things easily accessible to its inhabitants & visitors. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate suburban & rural areas for escaping from the negative aspects of city life, including stupid self-entitled neighbours with loud, crying, whining ass children noise & rude people. But even in a big city, I can find (and have found) a quiet place to call home.

So expatriates, in what environment did you grow up? In what environment are you currently living, and which one do you prefer & why?

See? There's peace & quiet & greenery here too.

See? There’s peace & quiet & greenery here too.

Reblog/Re-blog: The Neurotic’s Guide To Relocating To A New City

Thought Catalog:

This post sounds about right to me. Personally, I found myself nodding my head in agreement while reading this. Fellow expatriates, take a look. Do you identify with the original post, or was yours a different experience? Feel free to comment & share.

Side note: This post somewhat ties in to the next post that I’ve already drafted (and briefly mentioned in my Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above post). Please stay tuned.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

The reality is (I promised myself I wouldn’t use the phrase “In this economy”) a lot of people have to relocate in order to achieve their desired career/lifestyle/lack-of-total-poverty. This is as frightening as it is exciting. Yes, a change of scenery can be refreshing and can totally alter one’s perspective and approach to life, but it can also make one feel alienated, vulnerable, and generally #dark.

There are some very real stages of acceptance in the transition between cities/lives. I’ve recently gone through this myself, having relocated from Montreal to New York City, but so far so good.

Keep these grounding mantras in mind and you might get through it all right. Not like, “everything works out like it does in the movies” all right so much as “avoiding a panic attack and/or emotional meltdown” all right.

You will want to see all of your friends who live in your…

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Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few Of My Favorite Things.

For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)
________________________________

My maternal grandmother died over 17 years ago. Although it has gotten easier with time and the pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the longing, the memories, the love… even the pain, no matter how dull… never go away. She was a major part of my life. We (her grandkids) saw her almost every day, as she lived down the block from us and watched us after school sometimes while our parents worked and made their way home in the evenings. We’d play in front of her building, not too far from her sight of course. Our old neighborhood is far from savory, so after calling us to get in before the street lights came on, we were inside with her and/or down the hall at my god-sister’s house and/or upstairs at my play cousin’s house (her god-daughter).

Before I moved over here, my aunt J surprised me & gave me one of my grandmother’s possessions as a parting gift. It pained her to do it (she shed a few tears), but she wanted me – the oldest grandchild & only granddaughter – to have it. I was, and still am, humbled by it and keep it on my dresser. I’ve even used it once or twice. What is it, you ask?

Her old school powder puff. (I have other items from her, but this one sticks out the most.)

Grandma used this powder all the time, whether she was making a quick run to the store, or going on a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey (Wikipedia link) with her sisters (my great-aunts), or visiting Panama (Wikipedia link) or Barbados (Wikipedia link) or (insert anywhere here). I vaguely remember her putting it on, standing in front of her mirror as she finished getting dressed. I loved hugging & kissing her after she dabbed the powder on her neck & chest because she smelled so sweet! She’d fuss at me a little – “Don’t mess up my face (make-up) & clothes!” – but she knew full well that she loved her granddaughter’s hugs & kisses.

I still think about her, miss her, and love her beyond infinity. I wonder how our relationship would be if she were still alive. Grandma liked travelling a bit, so I’m sure that she’d visit me over here for a while and, later, fuss at me for making such a fuss over her.

(Panamanian accent) “You don’t worry about me! I’m not that old, I know where I’m going. I want to explore this place, it’s so big, my goodness!… Yes, I know it’s like back home but still, it’s big!… Just give me the spare keys so I can find my way around… Yes I’m sure, dammit! You’re not too grown for a pop in the mouth. Your mouth fresh!… Yes, I’ll be fine… Yes, I’ll call you… No, I won’t lose the spare phone… Alright alright! Ay yi yi, dios mio, yes I’ll behave!… I love you too, babes.”

If any of you are from the Caribbean or Central America or South America (hell, almost anywhere worldwide) and you have grandparents or older parents who visit you when you’re an expatriate, they stay long time! My grandmother would surely stay at least a month.

I laugh just thinking about it… but that’s how I picture things in my mind if she were still alive. I’d prefer her to be here in body & mind, but at least I carry her spirit with me everywhere. And it only takes one whiff of her powder to reminisce and treasure the memories.

You are forever missed & loved. Que en paz descanse pa’siempre, Grandma. And thank you, aunt J.

The crack in the cover tells a story.

The crack in the cover tells a story.

Grandma's essence.

Grandma’s essence.

Tell me about your favorite things in the comments section.

Re-blog: Cleaning Out The Clutter In Our Homes And In Our Minds.

Spinster:

I’m agnostic, but can definitely identify with the overall theme. I have an injury which has kept me from doing lots of things (including extensive blogging – about 20 drafts still waiting for me) and as a result, my house isn’t in the best shape. Well, last night I finally folded all the clean laundry that’d been sitting on one of my couches for months, and I felt accomplished. Now I just have to put them away, which will be easy, and iron a few items.

It’s also very important to declutter one’s heart & mind; carrying around so much emotional & mental clutter (outside of genuine mental health challenges) is harmful to one’s overall health. As an expatriate, this can mean the difference between some resilience by adjusting to one’s new country and returning to one’s home country. Just take a look at the tags on this post to see what I mean, then read the original post.

Originally posted on Simply danLrene:

I have always read that when your surroundings are cluttered, it makes it harder to relax and thus makes your pain worse. This had a lot to do with son and I getting rid of so much stuff and going for simplicity in our home. When something does not have a place and I do not mean on top of the pile in the corner, but an actual place for it, then it is time to get rid of something. We make a policy if we find something at a yard sale or in a store, then we will get rid of something to get it.  It truly does make it easier to have serenity in your life when your home is not cluttered. Guess that is why we do the spring cleaning each year…..to clean out the clutter.

What about the clutter in our minds?  Have you ever thought…

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THE DISPLACED Q: As an expat, do you ever get confused about which team to support at the Olympics?

Spinster:

This is a really good post that I’ll have to elaborate on at a later date. My short answer is that I cheer for my home country as well as my resident country, and a few other countries. Stay tuned for my elaborations; I’ll write them little by little so that they may come sooner instead of later.

Originally posted on The Displaced Nation:

The long-anticipated Games of the XXX Olympiad, also known as London 2012, are now in full swing. Some members of the Displaced Nation team are looking a tad bleary eyed after staying up late several nights in a row to watch their favorite events (gymnastics, anyone? or how about some synchronized diving?).

Maybe we’re getting grouchy from the lack of sleep, but we’re beginning to engage in some surprisingly heated debates — surprising given how much we looked forward to the arrival of the Games.

Or perhaps it’s not surprising given that most, if not all, of us residents have confused, hybrid nationalities…

In any event, here’s my displaced question for YOU: What if an athlete or team from your native land ends up competing with one from your adopted country?

Now pay heed, because this could be important.

I studied in Cardiff, Wales, where this sort of thing can…

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