For Colored Girls Who Embrace the Twist Out When the Creamy Crack Isn’t Enough

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As recently as two years ago, I was addicted to the creamy crack. Like, I had been addicted since five years old, and I was more than a few decades from my first perm. I figured out how to cope while traveling overseas with a perm — I got a dual voltage flat iron. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve found.

I never thought I would be perm-less. I even wrote a blog post about it and how I would NEVA EVA EVA leave the land of the chemically straightened. However, a year and a half ago my old school beautician pointed out that my hair was thinning, and that my edges were not full and luxurious like Shirleen’s.  My beautician suggested that I go longer between perms. Nothing like the thought of permanently losing your hair to motivate you to let those chemicals go!

Long story short, I let the perm go kicking and screaming. Before I knew it, I was celebrating a year without a relaxer. I hardly had a celebrated “hair journey”. It was more like tripping up the path to get my hair to a healthy state.

Anywho, last year I had a trip to Greece planned. There would be a few opportunities to go swimming, and I thought I had better have a plan in case my hair got wet because honestly, I had been “dry swimming” for years. You know, immerse yourself up to your neck but don’t let even a drop hit your hair. I experimented with twists about two months before my trip. I am so glad I did because what went down in Athens just wasn’t fair.

The day I flew out and headed to Greece, my hair was silky straight. My beautician had outdone herself, slinging that hot comb like it was a paint brush.  She got my hair ALL THE WAY TOGETHER. However, my silky smoothness lasted not even twelve hours after landing in Greece because I chose to take a walking tour of Athens the day I landed.  It rained the entire way through the three hour tour.  The.  Entire.  Time.

Of course I had my umbrella.  I’m a Black woman.  But my umbrella was no match for the Athenian rain, or Greek humidity. When I got back to the hotel, my hair looked like this.

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No, I hadn’t just been released from the hospital for the criminally insane. But yes, I thought I would have to be committed since my panic level skyrocketed from zero to ten instantly.

Luckily for me, before I had left home I put back that extra pair of sandals and instead packed my mousse, rollers, and hair lotion. A sista went to work with her tools and the hotel’s hair dryer.  I pranced out of my room forty-five minutes later with a lovely twist out. When I went down to dinner, I felt less Mr. Glass and more myself.

In retrospect, I’m glad I embraced my hair in all of its crunchy, frizzy glory. It’s like I embraced my true self; my natural self. My earlier experiments gave me the opportunity to love the natural state of my hair, and not despair if it was something other than straight. We sistas are dynamic and versatile. Once we embrace our hair in all of its natural glory, we become even more of a force to be reckoned with.

So for those sistas on the fence about what is beautiful when it comes to our hair, what is acceptable at work and in society, and who will only consider straight styles; let this trial lawyer encourage you to embrace your native hair. The twist out just may be your best friend when the creamy crack isn’t enough.

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Whatchu Know About Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­gochchwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch?

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imageLlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.  Say that three times fast.  As a matter of fact, try to say it just once.  The name means “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the red cave”.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, or Llanfair PG for short, is a village in northern Wales that is right across the Irish Sea from Dublin, Ireland.  Llanfair is actually located on the Island of Anglesey, which Wales’ largest island, approximately 25 minutes from the port at Holyhead.

Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, which means the “Mary Church by the pool near the white hazels”, was the original name of the village.  However, villagers changed the name in the 1850s to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.  Why?  Seeking to increase train traffic and tourism in the area, the village people thought changing the name would make the small community a treasured pit stop.

The village did not become the mecca the villagers thought it would, although the community did became a pit stop.  However, they did manage to achieve the distinction of having the longest town name in the United Kingdom.  And according to the village’s website, the 2002 Guiness Book of World Records recognized one of the linked url’s as the longest domain name in the world.

There’s not terribly much to do in Llanfair except shop in the decent-sized James Pringle Weavers shopping outlet.  A small perk of visiting the shopping outlet?  You can stamp your passport with a stamp that has the *entire* name of the town wrapped around the Welsh dragon.

Actress Naomi Watts is a native daughter of sorts.  She was born in England, but lived for several years in the Llanfair home of her maternal grandparents with her mother and brother.  She lived there long enough to learn how to pronounce the name flawlessly.  Other nearby famous residents?  Prince William and Duchess Kate, who lived in Anglesey for several years as newlyweds and young parents while the prince completed a tour of duty with search and rescue.

The next time you find yourself in Wales, head for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and stamp your passport.   You’ll have proof that you visited the little town with the U.K.’s longest name.

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Cobblestones and the American Girl

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I eagerly boarded the plane for my first trip to Europe several years ago.  Packed in my luggage were two pairs of heels.  I just knew that I was going to luck up and be invited to a glitzy party.  That’s what happens when one goes to Europe, right?  Yeah, in the movies.  I wasted precious packing room, and ended up with overweight luggage before I even left the U.S.

Leave the high heels at home unless you know you are going to party.  If you are thirty and under, by all means take an extra suitcase with heels in it because the party scene is calling your name.  If you are over thirty-five, save the luggage room (and weight) to bring back a good bottle of wine.

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The cobblestones atop Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest, Hungary are representative of the cobblestones found throughout Europe.

Ladies, cobblestones are not our friend.  Think of a paved brick road with gaps between the bricks.  That’s what cobblestones are like.  Now imagine walking down that paved brick road in your finest shoes.  Lastly, image how you will cry once you get to the end of said paved road and your heels are scuffed and ruined.  Take my advice and take only one pair if you must, to be worn on even pavement.

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You’re not missing out on much by leaving the heels at home.  True, Europeans dress better than Americans as a general rule.  It’s easy to spot the American from miles away. We’re the ones wearing the sneakers and yoga pants, ensembles most European women wouldn’t be caught dead in outside of the gym.  However, the only place that I really saw women dressed to the nines, designer heels included, was in Vienna on Kohlmarket.  It’s still a mystery how the women walked so saucily on the cobblestones without so much as a slip or caught heel.

If you’re an American traveling to Europe, do as the French do and opt for fashionable comfort.  Ditch the heels and add a classic scarf or understated jewelry.  You can be beautiful and stylish without the risk breaking your neck on Europe’s historically uneven cobblestone streets.

 

Light Bulb Moment #15 — Get Your Shoe Game Together Before Going on Vacation

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Flip flops are cute for the beach, but not much else for a serious traveler.  I recommend that before you go on vacation, make sure you have a plan for your shoe game.

If you’ve read my post about Cobblestones and the American Girl [link], you know that cobblestones will most assuredly tear up one’s heels.  Not only do you risk scraping and breaking your Loubotins, but you risk the danger of falling and injuring yourself as well.  (Make sure you always purchase travel protection [insert link]).  It’s important that women pick out comfortable (and cute!) shoes to wear while traveling abroad.

Men just because 95% of you don’t wear high heels doesn’t mean that this post doesn’t apply to you.  Forget about wearing your 10 year old Converse that you wear everywhere because that’s what you always wear.  Put some thought into taking care of your feet since you’ll likely be doing a great deal of walking.

Packing experts recommend that you pack no more than three pairs of shoes total, and that you wear the bulkiest pair on the plane rides to and from your destination.  This is solid advice.

Depending on where you’re going, really nice dress shoes may be appropriate.  I highly doubt it, though, because you won’t be getting invited to the palace for dinner no matter how cute you think you are.  That’s one pair.

A pair of flip flops that can double as both shower shoes and slippers, depending on the level of accommodation you have, isn’t a bad idea.  Plus, flip flops on long plane or tour bus rides are very comfortable.  Unless the air conditioning is set on polar, in which case your feet will freeze.  That’s a second pair.

choose wiselyFor the third pair, choose carefully.  The third pair can be comfortable sneakers, or casual hiking/shoe boots, that can withstand a ton of walking.  It can be a pair of flats for a woman.  Sports flats are a good idea, and can go from casual to sporty if the look is right.  Another idea is a very comfortable pair of loafers for both men and women.

I had to purchase a pair of shoes in Vegas a couple of years ago because I hadn’t followed my own advice.  I left home and my shoe game was not on point. I lucked up on a pair of Clark’s loafers that cost $75.  Paying $75 for shoes may have been a pricey necessity in Las Vegas, but those shoes more than quadrupled their value when I wore them all over Italy.  They were much more comfortable than the sneakers, or the sports flats, that I brought along.

The  bottom line is “test-drive” the shoes that you want to take with you on vacation. Nothing is worse than really sore feet, or swollen ankles, because your shoe game is off. Pick a Saturday and run all of your errands in them.  Or, break them in at an amusement park.  If after 12 hours of constantly wearing the same shoes your feet feel okay, then those shoes may be a winner.  If not, leave them at home.  Your feet, ankles, back, and legs will thank you later.

Light Bulb Moment #14 — Eat Local, Save Money

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I travel solo often.  Even on organized tours, I often wander off on my own during free time.  When it comes to meals, I learned a great tip long ago from the Boogie Down Bronx Twins — eat local and save yourself some cash.

I was talking with a colleague recently who talked about his long-ago trip to Venice.  He described a restaurant right near St. Mark’s Square which had different prices depending on which section you sat in.  The closer to the water, the more expensive the prices.  His meal would have been less expensive if he had sat in the back.  Regardless of what he spent, he probably spent much more than he should have.  The restaurant that he described sounded familiar.  I think I passed it on my way to a better, less expensive option further into the city of Venice.

I’m not necessarily frugal, so this blog won’t be filled with many tips on how to save.  However, food is an easy cost to control.  The best way to do that is skip the hotel restaurants and the tourist areas.  If you wander even a few streets over from the tourist areas, you will find clean and (usually) safe places to eat for a fraction of the cost.

I meandered along the lanes in Venice, hoping to stumble across a bar that I heard Hemingway used to frequent.  Failing to find the bar, I continued down lanes and over bridges.  I took random twists and turns (don’t try this if you get lost easily; I don’t), and allowed my whims to lead me.  I ended up at a vice nice pizzeria and enjoyed a salad and glass of Prosecco for a fraction of the cost I would have paid closer to St. Mark’s Square.  Do you want to know what the bonus was?  It was uncrowded and quiet.  I had time to rest, relax, and recharge. When I made it back to St. Mark’s Square to rejoin the tour, I was in much better shape than my fellow tour takers who had to wait a long time for overpriced food in restaurants smack dab in the tourist area.

The next time you find yourself in a foreign country, save yourself some aggravation and cash and get away from the tourist areas.  You might save enough euro, pounds, francs, or rubles to bring a souvenir back for me.

Eat Local Save Money

 

Light Bulb Moment #13 — Call Internationally For Free

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When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I had fallen in love with the idea of having an inexpensive international phone on your person while abroad.  I still take my international phone with me because cell phone plans don’t always work abroad.  However, I’ve found more high-tech gadgets to add to my arsenal.

Smarter_Mobile_IconWhat’s App is a phone app that allows you to call and text other What’s App users for free.  It’s free to download, and the calls themselves are free.  This app allowed us to communicate daily with our teenaged son who traveled abroad last summer to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Lichtenstein.  The only caveat for this app?  It only works over Wi-Fi.  I lost my mind with worry for the three days that my son did not contact us.  Turns out he was high in the Alps where Wi-Fi was non-existent.

 

What’s your favorite free app to use to communicate with friends and family across the world?

 

Shut Up & Travel — Day 7, Plan a Fantasy Trip for Fun

By now you should have

Your assignment for this week?  Take one of the travel destinations on your list and plan as if you were going.  How else are you going to know how much you need if you don’t sit down and plan?

Google airfare from your city to the place you would like to go.  Research cruises and plug in the numbers as if you’re going.  Drool over that brochure advertising two weeks hiking the Alps, or climbing Mount Kilimangaro, and calculate how much it would cost.  Tour providers are always willing to talk to prospective customers, so call them up and ask about the fine print and potential hidden costs.

Personally, I’ve calculated that it will cost two arms and a leg (plus a kidney or two) for me to take my dream trip — traveling on the Orient Express from London, all the way to Istanbul.  If I had to pay for it now?  Fuggedaboutit.  However, in the words of Luniz, “I got 5 on it.”  Meaning, I have an arm that I could put towards it right now.

After you complete your assignment this week, let me know what you come up with.  I want to hear where you’d like to go, and how much it might cost.

 

Only God Can Judge Me — Selfie Shaming & the Art of Solo Travel

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I’m a woman of a certain age who used to think that selfies are extremely narcissistic. I mean, how many times do we need to see you posing in a bathroom or in your car? Could you not get someone to take a photo of you? Or were you so irresistible to yourself that you thought we would agree?  And don’t get me started on the “candid” selfie pictures.  Please raise your hand if you agree that selfies are for narcissistic people.

I was the Queen of Selfie Shaming.  That is until I found myself traveling abroad,  solo.  I quickly tired of asking strangers to take my photo, hoping that the result would be a winner.  And really, if I asked someone to take my photo more than twice because they didn’t get it right, wasn’t that being a bit obnoxious?  It was either learn how to take my own picture, or forever lose out on documenting me in the moment surrounded by gorgeous scenery.  The road to Selfie Freedom was neither short nor painless.

I was the Queen of Selfie Shaming.  That is until I found myself traveling abroad, solo.

The first sign of trouble was at the Royal Naval Observatory in Greenwich, London.  Although I wasn’t technically solo on that trip, I still occasionally needed someone to take a picture of my daughter and me together.

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Acceptable picture taken at the Prime Meridian Greenwich, London.

She and I stood in line for ten minutes to have our picture taken at the Prime Meridian — the line that divides the eastern and western hemispheres.  As Americans often do, I offered to take a picture for the woman in front of me if she returned the favor.  I am positive that the photo I took of her was great.  You know why?  Because I tried.  The photo she took of me and my daughter?  A head shot!  This was obviously not the picture we were aiming for when we asked her to take our photo.  By the time we really looked at the photo, we had lost out spot.  So, my daughter and I got back into line.

We had better luck the second time.  The father of two in line behind us patiently endured my nicely barked orders and took several careful photographs of us.  And guess what?  His photos showed the Prime Meridian and us straddling the line!  Eureka!  I realized then that relying on others to take quality photographs of me might be a problem.

Ish got real the next year in Italy. I enjoyed the time I spent away from our travel group more than I enjoyed time with them. I got “lost” a lot and completely enjoyed my own company.  Being a loner on tour naturally means that you’re left to your own devices when it comes to capturing pictures of yourself in the moment.

I attempted my first true selfies on St. Mark’s Square in Venice.  Since I was using an actual camera, I learned to view my reflection in the lens before snapping the pic.  The first few photos were comical.  Do my pores look fat to you?

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Finally, I achieved something akin to okayness.  As the trip progressed, I practiced here and there and gained the confidence to at least swat away the selfie hatred emanating from passers-by and take a few self photos.

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The dude in the gray shirt is COMPLETELY judging me.  And, too much of my gums are showing.  #Retake ~ St. Mark’s Square, Venice.

In the words of Tupac Shakur, only God can judge me — and my selfie motivations.  All you other muthasuckas?  Get out my business.

The day my selfie cherry completely disappeared was a sweaty, thigh killing, and almost heart stopping glorious day spent climbing the streets of Positano on the Amalfi Coast, trying to get back from the beach to a roadside cafe with a killer view that I had seen on the bus drive in from our hotel in Maori. The scene was impossibly beautiful — the Mediterranean Sea shaded from teal to glittering blue, yachts bobbed serenely in the harbor far below, sun worshipers adorned the small, rocky beach, and the houses and buildings of the town cascaded from dizzy heights to the Bay of Naples far below.

In the words of Tupac Shakur, only God can judge me — and my selfie motivations. All you other muthasuckas? Get out my business.

Once I huffed and puffed up to the top of Mount Crumpet, I spied the cafe and scored a seat right by the railing.  After I ordered my survival meal — bruschetta and a glass of vino — I became determined to take photos of myself.  A group of Italians seated at the table in front of me noticed my efforts.  I understood not a lick of what they were saying.  I did, however, understand the word “selfie” and the disapproving chuckles.  Seriously, is there no Italian word for selfie?  If you’re going to shame me, at least coin your own Italian phrase to do so.

Undaunted, I tried several times until I got this result.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Except for that railing in the background.  Oh well.  Early days.

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Earnest selfie effort at Caffe Positano on the Amalfi Coast.

By the time the tour entered the last city on the itinerary, Rome, I was hitting the dregs of my budgeted money.  A sista had to prioritize her ends at the end, so I ignored the newfangled thing called the selfie stick that I saw every Roman street vendor and souvenir shop salesperson hawking.  However, for MONTHS afterwards I kicked myself that I didn’t buy a selfie stick near the Spanish Steps for 10€, or look for one earlier on the trip.  I became convinced that a selfie stick would have set my feeble first selfie photos off right.  I could have made the Cafe Positano picture that much better by using the selfie stick and posing to avoid the railing.

I didn’t think much more about selfies, or selfie sticks, until I took my next trip across

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Buying my first selfie stick on Montjuic in Barcelona, Spain.

the pond.  I scoffed at the $25-plus price tag that airports asked for a selfie stick, and hoped I could find another 10€ holla.  It wasn’t until my fourth day in Barcelona that I made the trip to see the city spread below me from the heights of Montjuic.  An Indian gentleman was selling selfie sticks, and I almost pushed other tourists aside to get to him.

I had my choice of black, purple, blue, or red.  I chose black because, after all, I wasn’t trying to draw that much attention to myself beyond the usual selfie shaming that I knew would go on every time I used it.  My salesman took a candid picture of us as he showed me how to work it.  I was officially in solo travel heaven.

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I was doing tricks with my selfie stick, like…

I switched between my regular camera and my cellphone.  I would videorecord with one, and snap pictures with the other.  I became the Annie Oakley of the selfie stick as I quickly assembled it and stuck my cellphone into it, always ready to catch a special shot that could only be taken from the extended arm of the selfie stick.  You would have thought that I was a soldier cleaning my weapon the way I disassembled the cellphone and selfie stick and stowed them away, all in five seconds flat.  My photography graduated to an entirely new level.  For the first time ever, I could politely refuse strangers’ offers to take pictures of me because I could take them myself and have them turn out exactly the way that I wanted.  #SelfieFreedom

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One of my greatly improved pictures.  Avila, Spain.

Did a few of the people on my tour scoff at me because I had a selfie stick?  Of course they did.  However, by the end of the trip, they were asking me how it worked and wished that they had purchased one, too.

The problem with buying a selfie stick at the top of Montjuic from an enterprising young man is that it eventually stops working.  I noticed that the button I would press to activate the shutter on the cellphone began to migrate to the side, right around the time we made it to Salamanca.  And it didn’t migrate back.  I used the selfie stick faithfully all throughout my trip, and it lasted about two days into my week-long Caribbean vacation two months later.  The button on the stick stopped working and I had to call the time of death.

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I will never forget how it served me well all over Spain, and somewhat in Aruba.  I will be forever grateful to it for helping me to fully embrace the freedom to take the pictures I wanted, when I wanted.

The next time you see a single person taking a selfie or using a selfie stick, don’t judge them.  That’s God’s job.  True, they might be a narcisstic jerk.  Or, they just might have achieved a Tupacian sense of Selfie Freedom and want you, muthasucka, to get out of their business.

 

 

 

Light Bulb Moment #12 –Dry Cleaning Hangers Are Handy

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As a professional, I have the financial burden joy of taking my suits to the dry cleaners routinely for cleaning.  I accumulate a ton of hangers, which I used to just recycle or throw away.  Not any longer.

When going on a trip that will involve swimming, or the need to wash out clothes and hang them up, I always pack hangers.  I tend to over pack, and find that I need just 3 hangers.  If you’re a minimalist packer and plan to wash every couple of days, you might need more.

I like the trouser hangers with long necks.  The flat portion of the hanger is great for hanging heavier items like wet swimsuits or shirts.  The clamps are ideal for drip drying things like compression socks and pants.  And of course you could always throw the arm of a brassiere over the loop neck of the hanger if you’re short on space.

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Similar in style to the hangers I prefer.

Shut Up & Travel — Day 6, Can That Loose Change

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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Ancient words of wisdom attributed to Chinese philosopher Laozi.

“The legacy of a fabulous trip begins with chump change. — The realest advice given freely by Whileawaythehours.

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So you want to try to travel and just expect that a wonderful, super cheap trip somewhere is going to fall into your lap?  You might win one of those vacation contests you keep entering, but probably not.

I hate going on vacation only to come home to a huge bill.  I’m an organized tour girl, so I like to pay for my trips in full (including tips and day trips when possible) before I get on the plane.  I can use credit, but have lived by the sage adage that if “you can’t pay cash for it, then you don’t need it.”

The best way to reach your travel destination without creating a huge credit card bill? Plan for it and save in advance.  That’s where the loose change comes in.

Only you know your financial situation.  You may be able to save $50 to $100 per month deliberately.  Banking the cash you save by cutting out one to two of your beloved trenta mocha lattes per week may be the path you take.  Or maybe you only give $15 out of that $50 you plan to give to charity each month, and stash the rest.  The point is, the choice us up to you.

Your goal by the end of this month?  Figure out a way to monthly save 5% towards the trip of your dreams.

Tell me how you save money for travel.