Alaska is a state I’d wanted to visit for a long time. So when I found out about a flight that was somewhat affordable, I figured I’d pounce on it while I had a couple extra coins. I went from October 4-9, 2018 (arriving home October 10) and frankly, I wish I’d stayed longer. The nature and the history alone took up more than enough of my time and I wanted more time to explore. But alas… real life and reality.
Anyway, here are a few photos from my mobile phone. I took most of my photos with my real camera so sorry, folks… without a proper computer/laptop, I can’t share those at the moment. Those photos are even more amazing. (NOTE: all or most of the following photos are unedited and unfiltered.) However, whether by mobile phone or regular camera, photos don’t do this state any justice in showcasing its incredible beauty.
The state has some good food.
I look forward to visiting again, hopefully sooner rather than later. And I hope you enjoyed this short post. May you soar into 2019.
So nice, I visited twice… in 5 months. First time was in March of this year for my birthday, but I was sick and couldn’t fully enjoy it as planned. The 2nd time was in August and I definitely enjoyed myself. Here are a few photos from August.
P.S. I prefer Portland, Maine over Portland, Oregon.
P.P.S. Until I get a proper computer or laptop, I’ll stick to short posts like this to showcase my jaunts. I have a few more in my drafts that are well overdue; stay tuned.
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
The day after we returned from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, we went on a desert safari that took place in the evening. (Step-dad stayed in since his stomach was still hurting.) Travel Friend left Dubai – as he was departing via Abu Dhabi airport to return to the States the next morning – and met us in Abu Dhabi to go with us on the safari. Another travel group member (Travel Friend 2), who was in the United Arab Emirates at the same time as us, drove from Dubai and wound up going with us at the last minute. We had a good time.
We went on the evening desert safari with the Abu Dhabi Desert Safari company in Al Khatim Desert. There isn’t much to say; hopefully the photos speak for themselves. (I didn’t include all photos; I didn’t want to post photos of anyone just in case they prefer privacy.)
Toyota Land Cruiser.
Lots of dune bashing.
United Arab Emirates country flag.
Falcon eating prey.
Joined by guests.
After returning from the safari, step-dad was up & about, feeling better. Even though we didn’t get back until a little after 21:00, our host (an expatriate who’s also a travel group member) surprised us by taking us on a bit of a tour of her part of the city. (Travel Friend 2 went straight to the airport after the safari to catch her flight home.) There isn’t much to say here either; hopefully the photos speak for themselves.
Night view – Emirates Palace.
Emirates Palace – fountains (right).
Emirates Palace – fountains (left).
Night view – Corniche.
Night view – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre.
Falafel (Lebanese food).
Shawarma (Lebanese food).
By the time we finished eating, it was almost midnight so we called it a night. Tomorrow was our last full day there, Travel Friend had a red-eye flight, and we (the 3 of us) had a couple of things to do before our departure.
I’m grateful for: seeing my sister & stepmother this past weekend. Having Friday off to visit them. All of the gluttonous food I ate while there. A weekend of relaxed fun. The ability to travel again for the first time in over a year. Employment. Being true to myself. Ridding myself of toxic people online (and offline).
I’m creating: a newer physical body (hopefully). An improved & stable life (hopefully).
I’m enjoying: the silence.
I’m thinking about: how I can help a loved one medium- to long-term. Calling someone back about my professional hours because they haven’t called me back yet. My next professional steps. Whether or not to sit tight at this job for a bit longer; don’t want to upset my current semi-stability until necessary. Getting a ticket to go back to England to handle unfinished business (hopefully November, if the price is right). Visiting my stepmother & sister again in a couple of months. At least one leisure trip to take later this year (hopefully). That recent tarot reading (yes, still) because it was that insightful.
I’m reading: the same book from the last post. Should finally be able to get a Kindle by the end of this month.
I’m looking forward to: relaxing a bit this weekend.
I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracing: being independent & self-sufficient again. My professional credentials (slowly but surely). My debts. My boundaries. Embracing myself.
Around the house are: bags of recycling due for pick-up tomorrow.
In my kitchen: some pasta that aunt made. Some pizza that uncle ordered (and I haven’t touched).
I’m planning later in the coming week to: research another professional credential. Call the person back about my professional hours. See what kind of Kindle I want. Check flight prices to London. Attend that doctor’s appointment. Continue working out. Buy a measuring tape to keep track of inches lost (if any). Find a book-bag/backpack to hold my gym clothes, instead of my current flimsy bag. Cook – haven’t done so in over a week. Group gathering with a Facebook person who became a real life acquaintance/friend to a few of us in the Facebook group.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: If we are to have true peace in the world, we must find it within ourselves. DailyOM
– the people who were kind enough to give. They may have said “No… how do we know she’s not lying about this?” or “No… she’s probably gonna use the money for something else”, but they read my story and trusted me enough to help. That humbles me even more than usual.
– the many people who’ve provided non-financial support. Priceless.
– being home for the holidays, as I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving at home since 2009 (lived in England soon afterwards). It’s good to simply call or see people, instead of Skype-ing everyone and hoping that they’re available with a 5 hour time zone difference.
– having a place to lay my head every night. I don’t have a fixed abode, but I always have at least 3 places to lay my head at night and sadly, that’s more than what some people have.
– knowing the difference between family and relatives. Trust me, there’s a difference.
– the same above about friends. The list gets smaller almost every year, but at least the genuine ones are still here.
– having bare necessities handled by those who love me.
– having a couple of interviews. I’ve applied for countless jobs, and I interviewed for 2 full-time jobs and 1 part-time job. Hoping to hear something from some employer by next month; if not, I’ll have to keep on trying.
– perspective. Little by little, I’m gaining more of it when it comes to some things, including things I never thought would happen to me.
That’s all I’ll say for now. For those of you in the U.S. with me, enjoy the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving.
Montenegro is a tiny country situated in southeastern Europe. With a little over 632,000 people, 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 it was a day well spent.
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).
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.
We took a short break on the way to a guided tour. Check out the view.
Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe (Island of St. George). 12th century monastery.
Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe (Island of St. George) from a distance.
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.
Katedrala Svetog Tripuna (Cathedral of Saint Tryphon). 1,204 years old.
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.
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.
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.
6. There are a few enlightened Caucasians in the world who fully acknowledge systemic & institutionalized (or overt) racism/prejudice.“What do you mean?”, you say. Follow me for a moment:
As a person of color growing up in the most racist country on the planet (based on my personal experiences travelling and living abroad), everyday life is often colored by, and viewed through the lens of, race. Honest conversations about race & privilege – historical, current, and future – are rare in the United States. Conversations about race (and sometimes privilege) usually turn ugly and more often than not, those in the majority (or those who identify more with the majority) don’t understand where people of color are coming from. (Some don’t care to understand, but that’s another topic for another day.) I admit that when I first arrived here, one of the first things I asked my colleagues of color was “So… how racist are the White people here?” I admit that because I’m willing to look back, personally and for this blog’s purposes, and see how presumptuous that question was. But understand that coming from where I’m from, race & privilege are part of our daily lives.
I’ve been very lucky to work with, and meet, non-American white people who are open to these sorts of conversations and have them in a frank, honest & calm way. I’m not saying that there aren’t racists or racism in this country. As a matter-of-fact, stop-and-search (as it’s called in the United Kingdom, like stop-and-frisk in the U.S.) and outright racism especially in suburban & rural areas are just two of a few problems in this country when it comes to Black and minority ethnic groups. I’m saying that I have been lucky to work with & meet British (and other non-American) white people who are more open to discussing these issues. It is refreshing, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m ambivalent about returning to the U.S. for good – the United Kingdom is the lesser of 2 evils for now.
7. Contrary to popular belief, the United Kingdom – like the rest of Europe – is not a (socialist and/or liberal) utopia. As a matter-of-fact, with the recent benefits reforms and other changes now afoot, the United Kingdom is looking more like the U.S. as time goes on.
8. I appreciate having access to universal health care. There are some in the business classes who want to privatize the NHS (Wikipedia), and while it isn’t perfect (what health care system is?), I prefer it over U.S. health care. Health care is a right, in my opinion, and shouldn’t be a privilege. It’s a shame that those in the business classes want to take that away from people.
9. British humor is different from American humor. It’ll still take me some time to fully understand it, but the little I understand so far is pretty damn funny.
10. Aside from tea, which I’ve always loved, I now like a few different foods and/or food combinations. I like chutney on sandwiches, digestives (even better with chocolate), condensed milk in my tea, and my renewed love of bacon. Now granted, I need to cut it out because I’m not in the best of health :-|, but those are just a few things I’m now used to.
Consider this part 2. I think I have enough for a (last?) part 3; I could do more parts, but I don’t want to bore anyone. To be continued…
3 years ago (06.28.2010), I landed in the United Kingdom as a new expatriate (after a few road bumps). I dreamt of living abroad ever since childhood, when I’d look at my atlas for hours at a time. I’d daydream about the places I wanted to see, envision where I’d live one day. (For many years as a kid, I wanted to live in Nauru or a remote place like it.) I had child-like fantasies of meeting my pen pals – one in France, one in Germany, one in Ghana, and one in Guyana. But at the end of the day, I always thought this was it – just daydreaming. I thought it was impossible never thought it’d come true, but sure enough, it did. Even now sometimes, I think to myself
I can’t believe I live in another country. WTF was I thinking? Will I ever do this again? Even after all this time, it’s still so surreal.
I blogged very briefly on the 1st anniversary of my move, but never made time to write anything for the 2nd anniversary. Now that I’ve been here long enough to feel a bit settled in, this post will be more “meat & potatoes”, than the 1st anniversary post. (Depending on how long it is, I may break it up into a couple of posts.)
So what have I learned so far?
1. No matter how many times they tell you, your relatives are not gonna visit you. In general they mean well, but for whatever reason(s) – no matter how many times they say it – they never make it. And with the current economic climate, it’s hard to be too angry at them about it. For example, one of my relatives wants to visit in September or October, but the cheapest ticket I found was U.S. $893.00. It’s actually cheaper for me to visit home than it is for them to visit here.
2. No matter how many times they tell you, your friends are not gonna visit you. And I don’t mean acquaintances or flaky friends either… I mean real we’ve-been-friends-for-years friends. Please see comment #1.
3. Did you have friends in your new country before moving there? Well, if you keep those friends after moving, count yourself lucky. You’ll be lucky if you see them once per year. I know someone who lives in the neighborhood next to mine. When was the last time I saw the person? 2011. I reached out countless times – phone calls, texts, e-mails – but no response, so I sadly gave up trying. I don’t stay where I’m not wanted. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only person to whom I reached out with no response. Hopefully you have good enough friends in your home country to sustain you (or be like me, join Meetup, and gain a few starter acquaintances).
4. You may not make real friends in your new country. Meetup has done a world of good for me overall; I’ve written about its positive aspects on this blog. In my experience though, it has been difficult to make real genuine friends despite trying. In the same vein…
5. You may not find romance in your new country either. I can count the number of men who’ve expressed even a bit of interest in me on 1 hand in 3 years. I’m not exaggerating, so please don’t reassure or chastise me. Goodness knows I tried putting myself out there (and those who know me well, know how difficult that is for me), but such is life. I’m used to it, and I’m over it. (I always wonder, though, how in the world people get coupled up here. Mind=boggling.)
Because I accidentally published this without finishing it, I’m gonna break this up into 2 or 3 posts. (Don’t worry… it’ll be a mix of positive & negative. I don’t wanna turn anyone off from becoming an expatriate.) Consider this part 1. To be continued…