During my three week journey, I went to Santo Domingo, where I stayed with a fantastic lady and her two daughters. I visited Villa Mella, Boca Chica and San Pedro de Macoris, home of most of the Dominican descended MLB players. I interviewed people on the beach, on the street, attended the final (9th) day of an Espiritu Santo funeral in a batey, was a guest on CDN-La Radio’s Haitian-Dominican radio talk show, ‘Dialoga en la Isla’ and was blown away by new insight and information.
I then went to Colombia, accompanied for a few days and was offered tremendous help from my dear friend Tee. We explored Cartagena and journeyed to San Basilio de Palenque, a maroon town established by a slave who ran away from the Port of Cartagena in the 16th century. I then continued on to Bogota then Cali, the salsa capital and where I met new friends and new insight into race relations and the war and displacement in Colombia. A 10-hour bus ride with tremendous views to Medellin before my last stop in Quibdo, in the Choco Region, where I was welcomed by a local woman who didn’t leave my side. I observed the Afro-Colombian campaigns throughout the country as well as the negative reasons why the campaigns are needed.
After a missed plane and bout of a stomach sickness, I have a lot of work ahead but this is a labor of love and I thank you all for your support as I embark on my journey. I am currently working on the rest of the series and conducting interviews in the U.S. The candor and insight will continue to blow you away as it has done me.
Don’t get me wrong, besides the bad there was a lot of good during my Colombia travels; these were the most glaring negatives and frankly, most surprising. Preparation is best when venturing into new territory and I wasn’t, but hopefully you will be after reading.
You will be stared at — relentlessly
Whether you’re an attractive traveler, a person of color in cities with a majority white population, a suspected rich foreigner or just a foreigner, be prepared to be a specimen. As one Bogotaon said, Colombians are obsessed with foreigners, whether that’s a good or bad thing, they will stare at you until you figure it out.
You will be harassed within an inch of insanity
If you are suspected of being the aforementioned, along with staring comes the harassment. Forget it if you are heard speaking English, the rich foreigner is immediately ascribed to you and anyone selling something will never stop. Particularly in Cartagena. We tried many methods to decline, politely declining, ignoring, firm refusal, acting deranged and not one was to any avail. Our refusals were met with 5- to 10-minute pitch lines, curse-outs and stalking.
Continue reading on Examiner.com 10 not-so-awesome things to know before your Colombian adventure – New York International Travel | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-new-york/9-not-so-awesome-things-to-know-before-your-colombian-adventure#ixzz1ZekRYLLF
My reason for venturing off to Santo Domingo was for research, my reason for a swift return is for the warmth; the weather and the people. I felt right at home as soon as I stepped off the plane and into the hug of an excited seven year old. It was the daughter of my host Altagracia. I decided to rent out one of her room on airbnb. I felt to get the most authentic and inside look into the country for my research and for my own experiences, staying with a local was the best way to go. Alta had two daughters and they were amazed by an American coming to visit. Alta lived about 15 minutes from the city center in Sabana Perdida. Her neighbors were just as amazed of an American coming to visit and not opting to stay in a fancy hotel. Alta made sure that I was accompanied everywhere I went, whether it was her or her neighbor, Jhordis, a 14-year old girl that I initially thought was in her 20′s. She took me to all the places I wanted to go.
It is such a tight knit community oriented environment in the Dominican Republic. One looks after the other, who looks after the other. Everyone is their brother’s keeper and…Continue reading on Examiner.com The Dominican Republic: Pure hospitality – New York International Travel | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-new-york/the-dominican-republic-pure-hospitality#ixzz1ZejFfyST
As a traveler, making friends and building connections are essential and oftentimes makes or breaks your travel experience. Travel affords the great opportunity to build a world-wide network as well as make interesting love connections. If you feel you’re not getting love in your hometown or home country, get a plane ticket and the possibilities are endless. I have established connections romantic and platonice in all the places I’ve traveled. I’ve also come to discover that depending on your “look” you WILL be a novelty depending on your locale. I’ve gotten so many concerns about how an individual would be received in certain countries and it truly does depend on the country and the pervasive look of the locals as to how you will be treated. If the country is homogenous, if you are opposite the popular look, be prepared to be loved up and down. In some places, people get their perceptions of a particular group of people from the media and you may be their only encounter. As I always say, everyone is exotic somewhere. Here are my observations:
Continue reading on Examiner.com How Will You be Received in the Country You’re Traveling To? – New York International Travel | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-new-york/how-will-you-be-received-the-country-you-re-traveling-to#ixzz1ZehZXXPE
As I praise solo travel, there are definite cons to choosing to do so. I’ve put together a list of pitfalls I’ve come across as well as the pros of such travel. It’s important to weigh which are more important to you when embarking on your destinations.
No one to take your picture
Any travel pictures I have with me in them were taken by complete strangers. 99% of people oblidge when you ask nicely no matter what language you speak. A simple smile, and point to your camera does the trick, but there was that time in Prague when I was denied my picture and it was a bit maddening. Read More at Examiner.com
Oktoberfest in Munich will be revisited next year. Yes, it was that fun. My only experience with Germany was an 8th grade German class, I was put in against my will because I missed the deadline to register for the language of my choice… which was French. But I digress. The class actually turned out to be quite handy, 11 years after the fact. Oktoberfest was a wild experience itself but walking around town had its own adventures.
1. Germans are no nonsense, and I liked it.
Straight-forward and straight to the point. A philosophy I live by and one I admire greatly. It was in abundance in Germany. A mid-western American woman on the train from Vienna to London said “Germans aren’t known for being nice.” I begged to differ. I said don’t mistake directness for mean-spirit. You Americans are so sensitive. Geez!
Read the rest at Examiner.com
Amsterdam. The city just brings delight the instance the name is uttered. Why? No, it’s not the contraband or the beautiful residents or even the plastic women gyrating among the red lights. This city is the people and these people were my favorite. This city excited me. It inspired me and most importantly, it welcomed me. I had a bit of trouble when I flew in from London to Central Station, Amsterdam. I didn’t write down the address or how to get to the Flying Pig Hostel. So I was unequivocally, assed out. I shlepped around the train station for awhile then I looked up and saw a sign for the Hard Rock Cafe located at Leidseplein. YAS! they MUST have an internet cafe at this so-called Leidseplein! Thank you globalization and modern day American imperialism. I hopped on one of the trams listed on the sign to get to Leidseplein. Hopped off, into the rainy evening and there was an internet cafe…conveniently located in a coffee shop/bar. Oh joy! Ironically, my hostel was a three minute walk from Leidseplein so I lucked out. As I was exiting the bar, a bouncer playfully moved my suitcase to the side. I gave him an unenthused look, he tried to save face by recommending a place for me to eat. He excitedly suggested next door because they had “great burgers” this was met by another unenthused look. I yelled, “You think I came all the way to Amsterdam to eat burgers???” He apologized profusely (this is fun!) he pointed me in the direction of an “authentic” Dutch restaurant and bid me good luck and to not be a stranger (yea, ok, too late) I couldn’t find his fake recommendation and none of the other “pizza” “Italian” “Indian” and “Asian” neon signs appealed to me. I walked around a bit and peered into a quiet restaurant that said “Dutch food” I looked inside and there were attractive blond patrons. Jackpot! This is the real deal! This is what I ate:
After gorging myself, I rolled out onto the street and hopped on the tram and practiced my clumsy Dutch when I attempted to say the street the hostel was on. I then got a clue, pulled out my paper to show the street I was seeking,”Vossiusstraat.” “Ah it’s next stop”, the driver said. I hhaphazardly looked for a euro, he said “no, no, no, it’s next stop.” I looked at him graciously (that euro is a bottle of hard liquor water) I fell off the tram into the cold, rainy, damp, dark night and of course, didn’t know where to go. I asked a lady if she knew where the street was, she pointed me in the right direction. Finally I reached the hostel and I was ready to mingle! Red light district bound! I changed clothes, tied and buttoned up my coat and plopped on my scarves and gloves and hopped on the back of the tram and tried to blend in. I took an educated guess about where to get off. I walked into a casino and asked the doorman where the famous district was. He laughed and said “Red light district is for men” I scowled and said “Why not for women? It’s equal opportunity fun!” He laughed and showed me where to go. I stopped in a bar and started chatting with the bartenders and ended up staying there the whole entire night. These are my new buds:
Continue Reading Faces Abroad: Amsterdam…
For my birthday this year, I decided to gift myself with a 10-day trip to Europe. Solo. 5 cities, 10 days. The aghast response was common, “Oh my God, how could you do that?.” Easy, I booked a flight and boarded it.My favorite reaction was from a New Zealand native living in Switzerland visiting Munich for Oktoberfest, “Awesome!.” And that was exactly the time I had.
I have traveled solo before, during an undergrad study abroad program in London. Me and a few other students were planning our destinations during a week break during the semester. I wanted Florence to be on the list, no one else did. So I did the whole week’s break by myself. That was 4 years ago. This time, Oktoberfest was the initial reason for the adventure and subsequently other cities were added on.
I flew into London and then made my rounds to Amsterdam via plane, Prague via plane, Vienna via bus and finally Munich via train. Why solo? Because I wanted to go, so I did. I mentioned the trip to friends, some were interested but no one jumped on board. Oh well. There are moments in traveling by your lonesome that you feel lonely but they were few and far between. Here are a few tips on how to never feel solo on your solo travels.
1. Talk to anyone who says boo to you
I was on my way to the clubs at Stephensplatz and a stranger walked past me, paused and said “Hola.” I thought it was odd since the official language of Vienna was German. I said “hola” back. The Tunisian stranger thought I was Columbian or Dominican. Within an hour I was salsa dancing at a Dominican owned club yucking it up with a Dominican woman from London who just moved to Vienna.
2. Ask the locals
While renting a bike to ride around Amsterdam I asked the sales associate “hey so what do the locals do?” His eyes lit up and he automatically said “Paradiso.” It was near the bike shop and my hostel, so it was a win. Just one simple question, and I was partying with the Dutch til dawn.
3. Get lost and wander
I got lost in Prague and happened upon a wine festival. I got lost in Vienna and happened upon a bike competition and a beach with a bar under a bridge with amazing graffiti artwork. I got lost in Amsterdam and happened upon two Dutch best friends who, doubled over in laughter when I said Led Zeppellin must have gotten their name from Leidseplein (an area in Amsterdam), told me their life stories over drinks, helped me find my bike, and dropped me off at Paradiso. It’s less about the itinerary and more about the experience. Immerse yourself.
Continue Reading How to travel solo (and have the time of your life)…