Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Notice anything different?

Nope, not my hair. Been wearing the short natural chop since forever. 

It's the blog title. A Black Traveler's Blog is the blog formerly known as "The Black Traveler's Blog". A little change that means so much. Here's why:

1-Not all black travelers are alike. Just as all cloud are different, we are all shades of Black. We come from all walks of life, and have different experiences, we share a few wanderlust things, but not all of them! There is no way we all will visit the same cities, sleep in the same hotels and require the same advice as the next tourist of color. (I've stated this before: if you are the jet-setter extraordinare, kudos, but this blog is not for you.) 

2-It's pretty much all about me! Many of the stories are about my experiences as a budget traveler and travel writer. While I will report on destinations and travel-related services like this is the news, much of what is shared here is my take on things. Nothing more. It ain't gospel. 
Different clouds, same gas. Get it? 
3-It might be about you. And if you see yourself in any of the posts, great. I do want to relate to somebody out here in these Internet streets. I just can't relate to all of you, and that's fine, too. You shouldn't want anyone to be everything to everybody. That's a hot mess right there and we don't need any more hot messes online. 

So enjoy the rest of 2015, be safe going into 2016 and stay tuned to more from A Black Traveler. That's me...might be you, too. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hey Steve, wanna get away?

Move over Santa; your toy-giving is not as newsworthy this year. Tis the season for "oops, my bad, girl!"

Okay, so Mr. Harvey no longer needs an escape from the December 20, 2015 gaffe. He has recently been asked to return as host of the Miss Universe Pageant. But make no mistake (no pun intended), last Sunday night will go down in history as the day the world stood still. 

It was the catastrophe that rocked social media and water cooler chatter on a worldwide scale.

It was time to get away. 

I know a good time out from life does wonders for me whenever the eff-up fairy pays me a visit. I get time to reflect on the good, bad and the WTFs that comprises this life, and I'm usually a better person for it. 

But where would Mr Harvey go?

The Philippines, not Philippians.

Colombia, not ColUmbia.

There's always Manila!
Six cities and 12 towns make up what is known as Metro Manila, the heart of the Philippines (it was also made famous for the Muhammed Ali knockout back in the day!) Located on Manila Bay in the South China Sea, Manila is large enough, to hide Steve from any paparazzi. Among its historical landmarks, Manilla's Intramuros includes a dividing wall, ancient dungeons and gunpowder rooms. During a tour of Intramuros, visitors would want to stop by the San Agustin Church, one of the oldest churches made of stone. During the week guests are welcomed with a courtyard fit for any wedding and a museum for art enthusiasts and novices alike.

Then, there's Bogota...well...
With a capital as bustling as Bogota, it's possible that Steve could vaykay low key in Colombia. The capital of Colombia, complete with the hottest dining, museums and food festivals galore, has something for all types of travelers, from girlfriends who want to paint the town -- the historic district of La Candelaria or a shopping spree on the North Side are among the top to-dos when visiting --  to solo trekkers who want to escape the public eye.

And to add my two cents into the almost week-long conversation:

Steve will be fine. As of the publishing of this content the Miss Univ organization has asked him to sign a contract to return to the pageant next year and the following two  years.

Miss Colombia will be fine. Let's face it, she's an attractive 20-something who is obviously educated, ambitious and talented. Girls like her go far with looks alone. Sorry for sounding sexist and salty but many of y'all know it's true.I hate to tell her to get over it (go here to read how she is not getting over it) but if the crown fits...
Girl bye.
Miss Philippines will be fine. She has her crown and a greater fan base than before. Whatever her platform is I'm sure we will hear all about it in 2016, between the latest pre-presidential election follies.

Who am I'm concerned about? The families of the vehicle crash victim, Jessica Valenzuela and the nearly 20 others who were injured the night of Miss Universe. With Christmas a few days away I pray for their strength and comfort during this time.

As I step of my soapbox for the day, I wish everyone the merriest Christmas ever.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My year in travel: where to find the best boutiques in America.


The other day I reflected on my year in travel. You may cue the crickets now. 

As a travel blogger, there probably wasn't much to blog home about this year, but as a regular Jane I've had the time of my life! I loved what small towns are doing to make their downtowns and other areas more tourist-friendly, like adding escapes from strip malls with the introduction of some of the best boutiques in the US (I mean lots of boutiques, including some mentioned here have opened across the country in 2015 ). You just can't get enough window shopping done.


And if you think you ever could get full off of peeping, check out a music festival next year. Stop into a pop-up shop, a temporary make-shift shopping portal where you can buy clothing, accessories and in some cases, get your hair done! I especially like how you're guaranteed to find the hottest fashion trends and natural hair and body products during the Essence Music Festival. Never fails. 

This year, MeYe Label (pronounced MYLabel) opened shop, "Exchange Room" to the 100,000 of Essence Fest attendees in New Orleans. Owner MiMi Irvin brought along vintage pieces that couldn't be found anywhere else that weekend. And they weren't that expensive, either. "I have always loved to shop for edgy yet sophisticated styles on a budget," Mimi writes on her website. 

Major brands also take advantage of the pop-up idea. Shea Moisture and Miss Jessie's  are notorious for parking a truck or pitching a tent at any given music concert venue. I still have my Miss Jessie's gift bag from the Atlanta Jazz Festival last spring! Not that the live music wasn't on point, but the parting gifts I still use today were icing on the cake for sure. 

I cannot mention one of the biggest natural hair care brands without expressing my condolences to Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie's. She passed away suddenly in December 2014. I applaud the surviving founder -- Titi's sister, Miko -- and her staff on a job well done this year.

Now what does any of this have to do with travel? 
We ladies know there is no getaway without shopping! We shop before the trip and during. Exactly where do you think your souvenirs come from, the sky? Product owners get it, shoppers love it, so why not add boutiques into your travel itineraries next year? who knows, your shop may just be listed as one of the best boutiques in America.

Small-town travel has simply been done right this year. From outdoor concerts to food festivals, if you had access to a car, you had access to quick getaways that are far enough to leave your cares in the rear-view mirror. 

Please note: this is not a sponsored post. I do not receive anything for mentioning any stores or sharing links. All praises are mine but I could use a new pair of boots though.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lessons from a Caribbean all-inclusive: How to be thankful when there isn't much to be thankful for

Once in a blue moon, wouldn’t it be super cool if there was a way to own your feelings of ungratefulness without someone telling you to get over it, just pray about it and move on?

Because there are people in worse predicaments than you and that all will be "alright", right?

You’re in luck, reader, you're in luck. 

But wait: it's almost Thanksgiving and it's time to forget about the year that sucked. (Well at least it pretty much did suck for me, at least since June, but more on that a bit later.) It's time to count the few blessing you have, like if you can read this, then you're blessed enough. Right?

It is time to think about those little good moments, like the time that one pink rose refused to die outside my front yard in the dead of summer, during the Carolina drought from hell. 

Go rose, I thought. You just go...

Or like that time my 83-year-old father read, with stadium-wide pride, my article -- the one on Myrtle Beach  -- on my Samsung tablet.

But then there's so much to be sad about, from the violence overseas to the racist killings here in the US (as I write this, I finally mustered the courage to watch that dashcam video out of Chicago...speechless.), to my losses of four prominent family members -- my only surviving grandparent, my grandmother on mom's side; an aunt on mom's side; two aunts on my dad's side -- to that time my travel writing career was almost put in jeopardy back in June:

It was supposed to be an early summer getaway-slash-writing-opportunity for TyLand Travels travel blogging services. In Virginia Beach. In early summer, when the weather is just right. I'd thought it would be a great way to see the family from both sides, on better terms. At that time, we'd lost Grandma and Aunt Elois, one of dad’s sisters. The trip to VaBeach was a much needed one for sure.

And I have people living nearby so it only made sense to have everyone come by the beach house. This house is just steps from the beach, and it was cute. However, since I've been told not to communicate with the owner anymore and since she has some sort of beef with me that she refuses to address (puts race card away for the holidays), she won't receive one more piece of content promoting her property on blacktravelersblog.com. Not one more sentence. 

To make a long story short, and because I probably shouldn't get into too many details here -- don't want the travel writing community to make any assumptions about me when they don't know the whole story -- I was accused of leaving the house in shambles. My dear family and I were made out to be animals out for blood! Come on: I had seniors with me, and anyone who knows about "Big Momma" family figures knows that leaving someone's house in a mess would never fly. And then there’s that whole professionalism thing; why on earth would I allow anything like trashing a house to threaten my career?

Never mind the fact that we cleaned the house the day we left, watered the lawn a couple of times, and have it all on video. Nobody wants to hear about that though. 

It had me paranoid for a few weeks. What would everyone think of me? Will I ever find another writing gig? I fell into what I believe was a mild state of depression. Well, it wasn't that mild, now that I think of it...

So I am giving you the chance to let it all out, all the ungratefulness, as I will in 3...2...1...

How can I be thankful when there isn't much to be thankful for in 2015?!

Wow that felt good.

I promise, I am going somewhere with this. It is my hope that instead of me telling you why you should be thankful, you figure it out on your own. To me, that's the best way to be thankful. Instead of searching for gratitude, let it find you. 

And yes; it is completely possible to be thankful when there isn't much to be thankful for. It's called reflecting. In my case, I find myself reflecting on a trip I took back in 2005 to the Dominican Republic.

Now before you comment on the issues between DR and Haiti and how I should have visited Haiti instead of giving my money to some all-inclusive chain property outside of Santa Domingo, first of all this was 2005 and I had no idea what was going on back then. And DR isn't all you might think it is once you hit the southernmost part of the country, Boca Chica.
Dominican Republic. Don't let the look of serenity fool you...
Located just outside of Santa Domingo, DR, Boca Chica seemed to be another quaint Caribbean town, with an all-inclusive resort fit for any Travel Channel show. I believe the hotel is no longer there -- The Hilton Caribe -- but trust me, I'd visit again if it wasn't for the homelessness discovered only a few feet away. 

I couldn't understand how a place that earned possibly millions of vacation dollars in a year could have poor families living just outside. But there folks were, Dominicans on old bikes, and on foot with footwear that have seen better years. And there were the innocent children too, who were clearly malnourished. But they were happy! 

Thinking back on that trip, and how I admittedly ran past it all in my sight-seeing and making a beeline back to the all-inclusive in time for dinner, I discovered that yes, life could definitely be worse. And that you can choose to be happy! 
A Dominican hard at work. This picture doesn't begin to highlight the Boca Chica struggle.
And that's how I've quickly come to be thankful when there isn't much to be thankful for this year. Again, I won't tell you to be thankful, but I will suggest that you allow a way for thankfulness to make its way into your heart through reflection.

If it happens before Thanksgiving, then cool.


Friday, November 20, 2015

New to traveling? Here are 3 blogs guaranteed to make you pack your bags.

Hey, jet-setter. I see you filling up that passport book with stamps for days. Haven't seen your own bed in weeks? Visiting one country after the next with backpack in tow? Great, but this post is not for you.
So go grab that friend who just can't seem to go anywhere (we all have at least one!). Have them read this post so that they too can pack their bags.
Or, perhaps this is you. Scared to leave home because of the money you'd be forced to spend. Scared that you’ll end up at the wrong place at the wrong time surrounded by violence. Or, for some reason, you just can’t be bothered with the details of price shopping and securing the best deal for your money.
I’m here to tell you that travel has more to offer than a chance to escape your day-to-day. There’s the health benefits: studies have proven for years that travel is a major stress reliever. I know it helps me recharge and be a better me when I return home for sure! There’s also the chance to learn new things: from food sampling to historical monuments, there is nothing like a vacation when it comes to receiving education on various cultures. By the way, one doesn’t have to travel abroad to learn new things. For example, last month I drove up to Greensboro, NC and stopped by the Civil Rights Museum, for a history lesson on slavery and the prominent families – local to Greensboro and nearby towns -- who were involved in it. 
That same weekend, I drove down to the A and came across these finds at the College Football Hall of Fame:
College Football Hall of Fame visit. Credit: TyLand Travels
College Football Hall of Fame visit. Credit: TyLand Travels
So, don’t give up on getting away.

Before you start your online flight search or before you contact the nearest travel agent, check out these three sites that will make you the traveler you’ve always wanted to become:
http://www.nomadicmatt.comNomadicmatt.com is managed by Matthew, or Nomadic Matt, the author of the New York Times best-selling book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. He says he wasn’t always a traveler and didn’t start traveling until he turned 23 (I was just about the same age, come to think of it.). But he was able to gather dos and don’ts that he now shares in his book, and on the blog.
http://thebudgetnistablog.com
Let’s say you just don’t know how to fit a decent vacation into the budget. Let Tiffany, the Budgetnista show you how to pay down debts, save a dollar here and there and change your way of thinking about money. In addition to the help found on her site, Tiffany launched the LIVE RICHER Challenge where women (sorry guys; perhaps the lady in your life could take the Challenge in order to help you!) achieve seven financial goals in 36 days.  So far, 18,000+ women in all 50 states and 60 countries have saved over $3 million+ and paid off over $250,000 in debt. If that’s not enough money to travel 1,000 times over, I don’t know what amount is.
http://www.oprah.com
So, maybe you’re just not feeling bold enough to do something different. You’re stuck in rut like water sticks to Spongebob Squarepants! You need a soul jump-start and for that I recommend Oprah.com. You already know how inspiring she is on OWN and how “Oprah said” something on her long-running talkshow that prompted you to get up and make moves. Let her blog put the fire back under your belly so you’ll be ready to grab life by the horns, and by the carry-on.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
What to do next
After a weekend of exploring the three sites listed above – budget travel tidbits from Matt, budgeting advice from Tiffany, aka The Budgetnista, and the kick-fear-in-the-rear guidance only Oprah and her team of experts could provide -- you’ll probably be a bit overwhelmed. I hope instead that you will become excited about the chance to travel next year, instead of putting it off, once again. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Love the pie, ma'am. Now, where should I travel to next?

There is no secret that I loathe the cold and it should come to no surprise that I want to live the cliche writer's life--sitting on the porch of beachfront property typing my heart out.

Eating a whole sweet potato pie in two days...yes, two days. Okay, less than two days.

For now I'll take Charlotte. The fall temps are reasonable and my heating costs aren't anywhere as bad as last year this time. I know, we still have to get to winter. However, nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina during an average fall season, where in  people-watching you'd notice one 9-to-5-er sporting a jean jacket, maxi dress and sandals while her co-worker is cozily dressed in a over-sized sweater, black leggings and leather-like boots.

Since I'd rather get by with maxi dresses, sandals and no jacket, I have to find a quick warm getaway, after the holidays. January-something. Florida seems to be the most reasonable destination on a whim, although I'm sure I could scoop up a cruise sale too.

Wait: am I being too egotistical for my own good? The escape state of Florida is popular during the chilly months. Thousands of guests flock there for the same reasons I would,right? Am I being reasonable in thinking I could pull off a quickie budget getaway at a time when "everyone and their momma" wants to head down I95?

But, there is so much of Florida I have yet to explore:

The Keys
The Picturesque 126 miles of the Keys make for a perfect break from the bitterness that is the dead of winter. Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West join forces to prove that there is beach life in the U.S that rivals the Caribbean like nobody's business.  

Tampa
When I think of Tampa I think of options. The cut is much more than Busch Gardens. This is a metropolis fortunate to have it all, in sunny Florida.

Panama City/Panama City Beach
Do white beaches exist in the continental U.S. Of A? Absolutely! For decades the area has attracted college kids during spring break, between March and April. So I guess I'd better make my way there as early in the year as possible

Sure, I should set my sights on some other country or US region (Vegas, anyone?). But why not check out what all the sunshine state has to offer? It's only a few flying hours from me, after all.

And if you think for one minute I'm not flying anywhere anymore, for fear of ISIS, dices or rices, please. I fear no evil; God is with me.

Not one to make light of tragedies, I ask that you please pray for the families of those who lost their lives to terrorism, all over the world. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Travel check-in, and 10 quick facts about yours truly

So where are you heading to this month? Me? Nowhere.

I find myself winding down and giving the luggage a rest around holiday season. Sure, I'll take a quick ride up I-85 to see the folks in Caswell County, but that's about it. In the meantime, check out where ten of my fellow travel writers are heading to this month, while I re-evaluate my life, live vicariously through others and get inspired.

Tiia Öhman of Fangirlquest.com: Flying to Florence, Italy on 27th! Our travel blog concentrates heavily on film tourism and so called scene-framing photos, so this trip is mostly about Hannibal (the TV show) and the game Assassin's Creed. Of course, I'll be visiting some traditional attractions too.
Carole Terwilliger Meyers: I'll be going to Bali.

Carole Terwilliger Meyers: I'll be going to Bali.

Tina Seidling: Macau on the 24th of this month.

Vanessa Schade of Travellingcolognian.com: I am heading to Jordan in the Middle East this upcoming Friday. Jordan and Syria have been on my travel wishlist since October 2010 and I planned to visit Jordan and Syria in Fall 2011 or 2012. Then the Syria war broke out and I realized that it won't be possible to visit that country for quite a while, but Jordan always remained a dream destination of mine. .

Hannah Jahnke of GettingStamped.com: We are heading to Staniel Cay, Bahamas this month.

Jennifer Dombrowski of Luxeadventuretraveler.com: Regensburg, Germany for Christmas markets and to learn to brew beer.

Amanda Ponzio Mouttaki: Istanbul, Turkey to eat!!!

Bob Ramsak :To and from Beirut to work at the marathon, and to research and conduct interviews regarding the ongoing Syrian refugee situation there.

Dave Briggs of Davestravelpages.com: I'm going to Santorini this weekend. I am visiting to see what one of the most popular Greek islands is like during the off-season period, and to do a little hiking. www.

Paula McInerney of Contentedtraveller.com: We are in US and Canada (from New South Wales) for two months.

Current (Facebook) situation; this is my profile pic of the moment. By the way, I am searching for the brilliant shirt designer. Shirt designer, you had me at this message! Please contact me at tylandtravel@gmail.com.

And now 10 random facts about moi, because...

Since I'm staycationing and what not, I figure now is as good of a time as any to tell you about me. I mean, you already know why I started this blog, but what do you really (care to) know about me?

(Okay, okay! So I am blogging today to fulfill a blog challenge in my group Black Girls Blog, and today we are sharing 10 facts about ourselves, and only one of them mentions travel. So read. Get to know me. And come back in a few days for more travel-related stuff.)

1. Seriously, I don't take myself too seriously.Almost to a fault. My RBF (Google it) usually suggests otherwise though.

2. Travel is a way of life. I have lived in 3 states in under 15 years - North Carolina, New York and Maryland, where I was left to die.

3. Sarcasm is my second language. (Read #2 again. I wasn't really left for dead, but...never mind!)

4. Narcissist is not a word I'd use to describe myself, but I long for the day where going topless on North Carolina beaches is allowed.

5. Ever read those memes on being an introvert? All of it is true.

6. And while the Aquarius memes are also true, I don't subscribe to the notion of "well I was born during this time so that's why I act this way." Horoscopes are merely for entertainment to me.

7. #6 may surprise those who really know me; I'm a proud free spirit. (Read #4 again)

8. Yet, I am afraid to date anyone who doesn't believe Jesus is the Son of God. I hear voices telling to run. Don't play with my Jesus.

9. Yes, I'm a native New Yorker, but I went to High School in NC. This means, according to most NYers, technically I am not a NYer, but I will represent Queens like an old LL Cool J video.

10. I am the proud parent of one child. A daughter. She's heading to college next year. When I talk about her my emotions take over something awful. If I brag about her for more than 10 minutes, I may cry.

I promise, the travel chit chat returns soon.