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.

How To Have The Most Kick-Ass Road Trip Of Your Life

Spinster:

Have you ever taken a road trip? If so, how was it? If not, would you consider taking one? Why or why not? Check out this post, and feel free to comment.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

People fuck up opportunities to have great experiences all the time. I want you not to do that.

I’m a road trip fiend and I think I finally cracked the code.

We have a romantic idea of road trips. The wide open road and all your worries behind and having those life experiences that you need to have before you’re old. We ruin these romantic ideas by acting unromantically (trying too hard).

These were my rules for my most recent cross-country road trip and they made it a life-changing experience. For the first time, I had a road trip that was everything it was cracked up to be.

1. Plan extra time

If you feel pressed for time then the whole thing won’t work. The wide-open road becomes another check on your to-do list. What could be a freeing experience becomes a practice in practicality.

Not having enough time by…

View original 1,294 more words

Pin It Forward UK.

Pin It Forward UK 2013

I received an e-mail a month ago from Tina over at Pinterest, asking me if I wanted to be part of the new Pinterest United Kingdom campaign. It surprised me because I didn’t think that anyone paid much attention to my Pinterest boards, but it was a pleasant surprise. Since I like Pinterest, and since a little extra blog exposure is also nice, I said “yes” to participating.

I’m often late (on purpose) when it comes to any & all trends, so when I began seeing people talk about Pinterest on different social media websites, I didn’t jump on it straight away. (This is from someone who didn’t join Facebook until 2008 (I think) and ignored Twitter until very late 2009.) But then, I got lots of invitations to join and since my inbox got filled with invitations, I said to myself, “To hell with it. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised.

Recipes. Do-it-yourself tips. Home decoration. Fashion. Beauty. Health & wellness. Quotes. Food. Food. Food. Did I say food? Travel. Travel. Travel. Did I say travel? Expatriate stuff. Child-free stuff. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s there in living color.

Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things you love. You can “pin” things from around the web on boards you create, on any topic you’d like. I pin about a few things, but for my blog’s sake, I especially pin things about travelling & expatriation. I have a board devoted to cities or countries I want to visit, interesting sights to see, and anything relating to expatriation.

What’s so great about pins is that I can go back to my boards and, say, find a recipe to try for dinner, or dream about a country or city on my travel/expatriate bucket list. The pins also link back to the source so I can get more details about that recipe I want to try, or that country or city I want to visit.

I’ve used Pinterest for a few months now, and it’s pretty decent. Once you see things you like, you’ll start building up your boards & dreams/wishes/fantasies. Follow me over there, and if you don’t have an account yet, start pinning by clicking on my registration link.

While you’re exploring your newfound addiction checking out Pinterest, check out a Pinterest UK trailblazer – Emma Rose Black of Gohemian Travellers (Pinterest page).

Welcome to Pinterest, inhabitants of the United Kingdom. :-)

Pin It Forward UK 2013

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.

Home (sweet home).

Happy holidays.

Happy holidays.

It’s that time again…

I’m heading home for a little more than a fortnight and will be on a plane by the time you get this. I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled to keep you reading whilst I’m away, so please stay tuned.

This time will be a little different, though. This will be my 2nd Xmas at my 1st home while working in my 2nd home. Many of my insights are the same, but there are some that are definitely different. I don’t know how these new insights will affect my time back home, but I’m anticipating the outcomes once I return to my 2nd home. Here are a few of my new insights:

- My friendship group has gotten smaller. It comes with the territory of being an expatriate. Rather than mourning the losses, I’m gonna try appreciating the ones who are still around.

- My definition of friendship has changed. It’s hard to explain and, therefore, I’ll test things out while I’m home.

- My definition of family has changed. A wise friend told her husband that “there is a difference between family and relatives”. That’s one of the best insights I’ve had this year and goes with my edited version – “blood is not (always) thicker than water”. Contrary to popular belief, one can choose one’s family, and that’s powerful.

I almost stayed here for Xmas for financial reasons. But I decided to break away from the usual Spinster and take care of my Self first. I can’t control everything, so I’m allowing the universe to take its course for once. I wanted to go home, so I made choices to make it happen, and I think that that’s what the universe wanted. I’m looking forward to seeing my loved ones & getting some rest/recovering from jet-lag because things are hectic at work & I haven’t had a proper vacation since June. With so much vacation time in Europe, that’s a long time to go without self-care and time off. Perfect timing from the universe.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t). To those of you traveling, I wish you a safe journey to your destination(s) and a wonderful time when you get there. Be mindful/careful and have fun. Relax, take a chill pill… whatever you do, just enjoy.

Nomad.

Although I’m agnostic, I believe in souls, spirits, intuition and energies. As I get older, I’m learning to pay more attention to each of those things (if there’s a difference) because when it comes down to it, I know what’s best for me and need to learn to trust that. So it kinda jolted me into reality when on the way to work a few days ago, a realization hit me like a ton of bricks:

My soul/spirit has been at dis-ease lately. It hit me that a small reason is because I no longer want to go back home.

I never thought that those words would cross my mind. The United States isn’t perfect. I have a love-hate relationship with my country. But I didn’t think that I’d never want to return there.

And it’s hard to grapple with for so many reasons, a few that I’ll mention here.

1. I don’t have any real or potential suitors back home. (I don’t even have any here. Or anywhere else for that matter.) Love definitely isn’t waiting at home (or anywhere else).

2. I don’t have any children or other dependents. This isn’t hard to grapple with, as I’m child-free; it’s just another thing that doesn’t tie me down. I’ve got nephews & godsons whom I love beyond anything that they could ever imagine. But they’ve always been far away from me, so this amount of distance from their aunt & godmother won’t matter much. Hopefully they’ll visit me.

3. For reasons that I’d rather not get into now, I don’t really have any family save for a few family members. If those family members miss me, they can always visit (but they won’t).

4. Friends….. such an overused word, one of the most overused on this planet. Also for reasons that I’d rather not get into now, since I moved here I’ve seen their true colors. Sadly, I’ve had to let some go for good. It’s always been hard for me to make friends and it’s not much different here either, so maybe it’s best to cultivate a few friendships anywhere other than home and leave that behind.

5. Observing home from here has disheartened me, even scared me at times. I’ve stated that no country is perfect (not even Norway, sadly), but from an outsider now looking in, home isn’t giving me warm fuzzy feelings anymore. The political & economic climates, the outright hostility, the stripping away of civil rights/freedoms, the blatant disrespect on so many levels….. home isn’t exactly screaming “Come back! Welcome home!” lately.

It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world & living abroad. Ever since I was a child, having school pen pals worldwide & owning my 1st atlas, wanderlust has always been part of my life. I’d look at the atlas for hours, imagining the mountains & villages & towns & coastlines that I’d see one day. And while I’ve not seen every place that I want to see yet, I’ve been lucky enough to see a few. But however, it’s sad to look at my short list above & acknowledge that there’s nothing for me at home. A tree gets nourishment through its roots. I don’t have any roots to plant at home.

I don’t know if I’ll plant my roots in the United Kingdom. Only time will tell. I may even change my mind about home & return there after all, who knows. I know this for sure at this moment though: I don’t wanna go home & I’ll likely wander the world for the rest of my life. I’m used to doing it all solo, and that’s alright. It just so happens that along with the benefits, it comes at an unexpected price.