Jolly good time – (2nd) home sweet home.

Last month, I visited England for a wedding. I was there less than a week.

Because of the nature in which I left England 4 years ago, I wasn’t sure what feelings would come up for me. England was my 2nd home. I’d begun building some semblance of a life there – building my career, traveling, visiting my 1st home at least twice yearly, trying to obtain dual citizenship, possibly venturing into the world of (British) dating, slowly growing friendships, etc. – when it was snatched from under me faster than the time it took for me to move there in the first place.

I was left reeling. That shit hurt. It hurt so bad. I had dreams, plans, wishes… and on August 8, 2013, everything fell apart. I cried almost daily. My landlord became a scumbag soon after. Support from work? Yeah… right. On the day I moved out of my flat (I think it was October 2 or 3, 2013), I sobbed the whole time. I left England for good 3 weeks later – October 22, 2013.

To this day, I can’t forget it. And oftentimes, since I left there, the months of August through October are sometimes hard for me because I remember the sequence of events that happened once I got the Home Office letter stating that I was an over-stayer. Time kinda froze.

So with that in mind as I flew to England for the wedding, I expected my emotions to be on the negative side. I got some advice before leaving to go there, from a few people in my small circle, to go with no expectations and cross bridges whenever I got to them. So I tried to do that. And to my surprise, I succeeded.

I had a very nice time.

I recently had medical issues and probably shouldn’t have traveled when I did; therefore, I couldn’t see everyone who wanted to see me, nor could I get around how I wished. But all in all, I truly enjoyed myself. I actually thought about moving back there again… almost. Hell, I won’t even lie… I’m still thinking about it on & off…

Anyway, while there I stocked up on cheese, tea and crumpets.

 

Although I couldn’t see everyone, I saw a few people whom I was meant to see. I won’t show their faces, but I’ll show some of what we ate. 😐

 

I had proper henna done for the first time ever, as part of the wedding.


 

I visited my old neighborhood, twice. The first time, I took a friend there who – believe it or not – just moved to England 2 months ago and wanted to explore a different neighborhood and borough. I took her to the local market I used to frequent.

Vadasz Deli. http://vadaszdeli.co.uk/
Vadasz Deli. http://vadaszdeli.co.uk/

 

And the second time was to visit my old flat. My downstairs neighbors still live there – as a matter-of-fact, they took over my old flat and the home is now fully theirs. After my departure, they didn’t want to risk any troublesome tenants moving in, so they took it for themselves. That humbled me then, and still humbles me now. Anyway, approaching my old door – as well as the street and neighborhood – was emotional.

(That’s a new door, by the way. It used to be a red door.)

 

I ate and conversed with them for a couple hours. Afterwards, I visited my old self-defense class and instructor. I couldn’t participate, but I enjoyed living vicariously through the students. Side note – only 1 of the original students from my class is still there.

 

Urban Krav Maga London. http://urbankravmaga.london/
Urban Krav Maga London. http://urbankravmaga.london/


(I miss class. It’s just not the same over here.)

 

And of course, I attended the wedding. I won’t show faces, but it was a nice one.

I appreciate the family inviting me. They’re like a 2nd family to me; I’ve discussed them here once or twice before.
Looking back, the visit was better than I expected. I saw a few loved ones, nervously returned to my old neighborhood, got my hair done, and brought home some very-missed British cheese, tea and crumpets. I couldn’t handle all of the business I wanted, but the major stuff was done and brought back. I’ll handle the other business (hopefully) next year.

I planned to never return to England again because although most of the time there was alright, the ending was horrible. But now, I’m glad I went, and I plan to return again. To visit or to live? That remains to be seen.

(P.S. By the time you read this, it’ll be 4 years since I left England. I scheduled this post like that on purpose.)

 

Rainbow over London, United Kingdom.
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3 years.

Exactly 3 years ago today, I got on a plane from the United Kingdom to return to the United States for good. 

Even after 3 years, my feelings are mixed.

On one hand, I think of the missed opportunities. I likely would’ve obtained dual citizenship – a top goal of mine before moving there – and my United Kingdom driver’s license (I got the provisional, which lasts 10 years). I would’ve had more earnings potential, working wherever I pleased as someone with years of experience. I think of all the countries I didn’t get to visit while there, and how many I could’ve visited if I was still there now. I think of the slowly growing group of acquaintances & friends I was making, which is difficult enough as an introvert, and the other connections I could’ve made. 

I think of my disrupted routine. My disrupted plans. My disrupted LIFE. Lost wages. Shady job. Shady authority. Shady bosses. Shady colleagues. No help whatsoever from the local authority for which I worked. Reporting to the Home Office like a f***ing criminal, and the employees there wondering what the hell I was doing there, feeling bad for me, because it was obvious that this wasn’t something purposely done. The absolute hell I had to navigate, both over there and over here (but especially over there). Shady relatives. Shady friends. And I become enraged all over again.

Then on the other hand, I look at life for the past 3 years, and I’m glad that I’m home. (Look at “Brexit”, as an example.)

I’ve not been back yet, but I’ll be back soon enough. I have a wedding to attend there. I also still have unfinished business to handle, and some involved will NOT be happy when I’m done. But at least the unfinished business will finally be finished for good. 

Will I ever live abroad again? I don’t know. My inclination is “HELL no.” But who knows. I can say 1 thing though – I’ll never stop exploring the world.

Submitted with mixed feelings,

Spinster.

Slow day (more like slow year).

2015 was a big travel year for me. 2016… not so much.

So far, I have only 2 weekend trips planned, and that may very well be the extent of my travels this year. (My friend is getting married in England so if that happens this year, that’ll be another trip.) I’m back on my own, so I have to handle my responsibilities first. (American vacation time/annual leave doesn’t help matters either.) Hopefully, 2017 and beyond will be different, but for now it’s time to be an adult. 😐

How about you? Will 2016 be a slow travel year for you too (if you travel at all)? If so, how come? Where are you going? And if you’ll be traveling as much as usual, or more than usual, please share here so that I can be jealous. live vicariously through you.

A very late Happy 2016.

Happy 2016. It has been way too long. Life happens.

Last year was eventful, in good and bad ways. Let’s see, where to begin…

  • I traveled 7 times in 2015 (February, March, May, June, July, October, November). That’s the most I’ve ever done in 1 year. United Arab Emirates. Puerto Rico. Houston, Texas. Boston, Massachusetts. Chicago, Illinois. Detroit, Michigan. Portland, Oregon. (I may post a few photos from the different trips. I also have 1 more United Arab Emirates blog draft, that I should’ve completed months ago, that’ll be posted for sure.)
  • I left my job – the first one I got after returning from England – and started a new one in September 2015. You can blame the new job and ensuing commute for most of my absence from the blog.
  • I studied for my professional license exam… and had to reschedule it a few times. I’m now set to take it this spring. There were a few things that came up which forced me to push it back. Would you like to know 1 of the reasons why I had to push it back?
  • Because we got bed bugs. Yes, a f***ing g**damn bunch of bed bugs, in the beginning of summer 2015. I won’t even go into the horror & trauma they caused me. I now hate bed bugs even more than roaches.
  • Along with a new job and long commute, I was apartment hunting. I now hate New York’s real estate market. I didn’t even have this much trouble finding a flat in England, and that market is probably as expensive & popular as the market here. Not having a car to drive to all of these apartment viewings, made the search even more exhausting, grueling & tiring.
  • I had to stop going to the gym after I started the new job because of the commute, so I’m back to where I was when I started. But I’m starting again in a few days (if not sooner) since my commute is much shorter now.
  • I completed a Couch To 5K program before I started the new job though, so that was a bonus. Since I’m starting over, I’m gonna re-do the program because as a result of doing it, I began developing a like/love for running and I want to get back to running again.
  • It took long enough, but I finally found my own place. (My original commute was killing me, so I had no choice but to look for a place closer to the new job.) After over 2 years of living with family, I’m slowly but surely getting back on track. I’m forever grateful to them, but I’m also very glad to be back on my own again. I’ll also be forever grateful to those who helped me post-England.

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. How are you doing, dear readers?

Teaser photo: El Yunque National Forest - Puerto Rico.
El Yunque National Forest – Puerto Rico.

Life and Death While Traveling: Are you covered in the case of an emergency abroad?

This post is from a friend of mine. Excellent information about emergencies abroad and travel insurance. Pay attention.

4 Deep Around The World

If you follow the journey of 4 Deep Around the World, you know I’m a huge advocate of international travel. I constantly promote taking advantage of  every opportunity to see the world. World travel is the new “it” thing that’s taking the world by storm. This is evident by a simple peruse of the multitude of travel related Facebook groups and travel deal websites that have developed in recent years.

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United Arab Emirates – Dubai in 36 hours or less.

Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I’d be there, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates. While booking & planning, I initially planned to spend 2 days there – hopefully enough to get a feel for the city. I changed my mind and decided that less than 2 days should suffice, and I’m glad I made that decision. I’ll explain why later.

We left Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon for a short jaunt to Dubai for a little over 24 hours. Dubai is 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi without traffic, and easy to reach by bus or car (rental, taxi, etc.). We took a cheap Greyhound-style bus for 25 AED one-way.

Emirates Express.
Emirates Express.

It took us longer than 90 minutes because there was a dust storm that caused multiple accidents; we saw at least 30 damaged or destroyed cars on the roadside. 😐

Upon arriving to Dubai, we took a taxi to Citymax Bur Dubai. There wasn’t much time to spare before we had to leave to head to Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world for our evening viewing.

We planned to meet afterwards with a travel group member, but Dubai Mall (located next to Burj Khalifa and the largest mall [by total area] in the world) is so big that we couldn’t find him, and my phone died. We (minus step-dad) were also supposed to see other people from the same travel group for a party. But by then, I’m exhausted & sleepy from jet-lag and walking around; we’re annoyed about not finding the person in that humongous mall; and we were hungry. So we returned to the hotel instead. I messaged the travel group members to explain what happened, we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants (Indian Claypot), and stayed in until check-out time Sunday afternoon.

Another person from my travel group met us at check-out. He knew where the Gold Souk was, so he led us there.

NOTE: The United Arab Emirates heavily regulate their precious metals, so unless one buys jewelry on the street (NOT recommended), one is assured that the gold (or other precious metal[s]) is of top quality.

While me and my friend walked around, step-dad and Travel Friend sat down. Step-dad didn’t tell us right away that he wasn’t feeling well (typical man), so I got annoyed when I found out. Luckily, Travel Friend had a hotel room nearby and step-dad rested there while the 3 of us went to eat. (To make a long story short – step-dad loves spicy food but this time, the food at Indian Claypot was extra spicy and tore up his stomach the next day. I bought him a couple of medications, but bread, crackers & ginger ale did the trick and he was better by the next evening.)

Shameless plug – if you travel, especially abroad, make sure that you buy travel insurance. Annual travel insurance is cheaper than per-trip insurance. Along with step-dad getting sick (thank goodness it wasn’t worse), 2 members of my travel group died in Panama a little over 2 months ago. Their deaths gave me the needed push to buy travel insurance from now on.

After we ate, we hung out a bit while step-dad rested. We left Travel Friend’s hotel a little after sunset to return to Abu Dhabi; we’d see him the next day. We got a taxi to the bus station, where we caught a bus back to Abu Dhabi and stayed with another travel group member for the rest of our stay.

______________________

Dubai is a lively city and reminds me of Manhattantimes 10. 😐 For me – a born & raised New Yorker – to say that, means something. I can also speak for my friend and step-dad (also born & raised New Yorkers) when I say that while we think Dubai is a beautiful city, it was quite overwhelming (especially as an introvert) to be around so many people, lights, and tall/large buildings & structures. So as I said in the beginning, I’m glad that we stayed for only a little over 24 hours.

Stay tuned – desert safari next

United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi part 1.

The day was here. It was only less than 2 months before that I’d purchased the tickets…

Xmas Day 2014, the middle of the night. It was 04:00 and I wasn’t sleeping well for some reason. I decided to get on social media and I saw what I thought was a joke – glitch fares for different flights going to select cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I hesitantly checked. Lo & behold, the prices were real. I nervously clicked the “submit” button. I was so excited that I sent a text to my close friend saying (something to the effect of)

“Listen, I just bought a ticket to the Middle East for (insert low dollar amount here) round-trip. When you get up, text or call me and let me know if you want in. It’ll be my treat.”

I dozed off, then the phone rang a little after 08:00 or so. My friend called to say

“Are you kidding me? HELL YEAH I wanna go!”

I laughed, got back on the internet and to my surprise, the glitch fare was still there. I bought her ticket while we were on the phone, then said

“Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, happy birthday, Happy 4th of July, don’t ask me for shit for at least a year.” 😐

I then tried buying a ticket for my oldest nephew, who’d told me that he has wanted to visit the Middle East (Dubai specifically) for a long time, but the website said he was too young (15 at time of purchase) to have his own ticket. So in other words, I should’ve bought his ticket with mine. (He came over later that day for Xmas lunch/dinner and told me that he’d have missed a lot of school if he went. I’ll plan around his school vacations next time.) So I said to my friend

“Since I can’t bring (oldest nephew), I’m thinking about who else I can treat…”

I knew my uncle couldn’t go, and my aunt is too fickle & fidgety to sit on an hours-long flight. So even though I wanted to take them, I knew it’d be a no-go. The first person that came to my mind after them – my ex-stepfather. Although he and my bio mother divorced ages ago, he has been a good presence in my life. (I still call him my stepfather.) So I called him and he was on the road with his wife, driving down South for Xmas vacation. I told him what was up, he immediately said “Okay”, and I bought the ticket.

“Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, happy birthday, Happy Father’s Day, Happy every holiday.” 😐

I was so excited, I didn’t sleep for about 24 hours after that. 😐

I booked accommodation and a couple major attractions over the next few weeks. 02.18.2015 approached quickly and soon, off we went. We had a layover in Chicago for about 90 minutes, then a 13 hour flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi – crossing many time zones and not arriving until 02.19.2015 in the evening. Since we arrived late, I didn’t take many photos that evening, but I took some beginning the next day. Check them out below.

After our first 2 nights in Abu Dhabi, we headed to Dubai for about 36 hours. Stay tuned for my Dubai post, then Abu Dhabi again, next…

Opinion piece – The Next Great Migration.

This is a New York Times opinion piece making the case for more Black Americans to consider expatriation. As someone who has been there and done that, this wasn’t a surprising read to me and is mostly relatable.

No country is a utopia, let’s get that straight. But it’s easy for me, a former expatriate, to understand the reasoning behind this opinion piece. America is in a tie, in my opinion, with Australia for being the most racist/prejudiced country on the planet. Any deeper-thinking and feeling person (who happens to be Black American) would want to leave a country in which we were enslaved in the past and still fighting for equality in the present.

Enough of my jet-lagged rambling. Take a look at this, and feel free to comment.

New York Times opinion piece – The Next Great Migration http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/the-next-great-migration.html?smid=pl-share&_r=1