Have you visited a destination and thought "I wonder if I can afford to live here"? Numbeo allows you to plug in your current city and the new city of interest, and statistically compare various areas of costs of living. For example, the cost of living in my area of SC is $3700/mo and to have the same standard of living, it'll run you $7022/mo in NYC. New York was higher in restaurant, transportation, and housing rental costs. Yet, on the flip side, they paid almost 160% more in salary than South Carolina. Another example is the cost of living at a level of $1855/mo in Cartagena, Columbia. All major categories are lower in Cartagena. However, you would earn 78% less, so you'll need to be prepared with US dollar savings.
What destination have you visited and you would like to know it's costs of living?
Sharee & Rhonda
Have you ever been to a new city and found it hard to find a specific cuisine? This is specifically the case if you are a vegan or vegetarian, and not sure if such a restaurant is in this city you're visiting or if the option is available at a local restaurant. If you are familiar with Yelp and it's helpful recommendations, then you'll find this post pretty cool. Using an app creator tool, I came up with a simplified app to capture such recommendations around the world. This is especially helpful if someone is visiting your city, as well as in your own travels. So how does it work? Simply click on this link, and hit the top tab left tab to submit your favorite recommendation either in your city or another city you've been to. Make sure to note the name, address, and give the restaurant a rating. Uploading a picture is optional. Then hit the submit button. You'll then hit the top right tab that allows you to view listings. You should see a marker noted at each destination submitted. Thanks for going along with this app, and I hope you'll find it useful.
When we first went on an international trip to Italy in 2009, we were both surprised by some of the differences in American and European eating habits. We then found that those differing habits were similar to our experiences in both Asia and Africa. We thought we'll highlight a few.
#1) Portion sizes- Americans have large food and drink portion sizes. Don't be surprised to ask for a regular or large beverage in a European country, and it's the size of small cup in America.
#2) Costs of food- The costs of vegetables and fruits in America are high, and processed food and fast food costs are low. In other countries such as Italy and S. Africa, it's the opposite with fast food chain prices almost double the costs in America, and most of the countries in Europe banning processed foods.
#3 Anti-Social- Americans are known to eat their meals in a hurry and leave very little time for socialization. In France, it's common to have a 3 hour lunch break with several people.
#4 Alcohol- The legal age to drink alcohol in most of the countries we've visited is 18, with it common to drink wine at home starting at a much younger age (wine goes with everything, including breakfast).
#5 Quick & fast delivery foods- Fast food and restaurant chains can be found most anywhere in America. And in many cases, they offer a delivery option. However, in many of the international places we've visited, there were very few local fast food restaurants or places that offered delivery options.
In our travels, we've learned to go to the local grocery store, purchase fresh foods, and cook, if applicable. If we do go out to eat, we've learned to be prepared to sit for awhile as most foods outside of an American chain fast food or restaurant, were prepared fresh. So it's a great time to sip a glass of wine, and enjoy each other's company in real-time conversation.
Have you noticed any differences in eating habits between America and another country you've visited?
We were able to take some candid photos during our time in Italy with Travel Noire. Known as a Discovery Photos, it was a fun experience with photographer Ashleigh Reddy of Stayreddy Photography. Rhonda took her photos on the property of Mamma Agata and Sharee took hers at Villa Cimbrone Gardens. Amalfi Coast forever in our hearts!!
When it comes to travelling with luggage you're either team carry-on or team checked luggage. During one of our early travels, Sharee's luggage was "lost" on a domestic flight. We said never again will we check our luggage until we learned that many international carriers offer upward of two free checked bags. But then we both "lost" our luggage en-route to Paris. Sigh. So now we have pledged team carry-on unless the flight attendant ask for volunteers. Sometimes they'll ask if we want to check our luggage to the final destination and other times we'll pick it up at the jet bridge at the next stop. Thus, far we have had success with both options versus checking the luggage before going through security check-point. In either case, we always take with us on-board necessities such as our personal purse (including money, passport, keys), shoulder bag with at least one day change of clothes, and a laptop. By the way, our luggage have always been found, and the airlines are really good at offering us additional reward points and out-of-pocket expenses for the trouble. :-)
In recent news, some airlines are no longer accepting carry-on bags in the main cabin if you are an economy passenger. This means we'll either have to upgrade to economy plus or higher. United Airlines and American Airlines fall into this category. So far, we haven't heard anything about Delta changing it's policy. Carriers such as Spirit and Frontier have always had a paid service for any carry-on. If you use either of these airline providers, it's best to purchase that service up front because the costs is steeper once you get to the airport. Our personal favorites are Southwest and Jet Blue that not only allow you to bring a personal item and one carry-on luggage, but they also allow for up to two free checked luggage.
It has also come to our attention that being minimalist is ideal when it comes to packing your luggage. So many times we have traveled with just a carry-on and still not wear everything in the bag. Also, there can be weight or height restrictions, so know each airlines limit or be prepared to pay. In addition, we offer the following suggestions:
1) Pack one shoe of each kind (ie, 1 walking shoe, 1 dress shoe, etc)
2) Wear you heaviest attire (jacket for the cold plane)
3) Place smaller items such as socks and undergarments into shirts or dresses, roll them tight, and pack neatly in your luggage
4) Identify laundry facilities at your destination, and use them as needed
5) Bring half as many shirts as you think you need, and a quarter the number of pants
So what are you- team carry-on or checked luggage?
A lot can be said of having a traditional 9-5 job. It not only makes practical sense, it makes financial sense, right? I mean, a steady paycheck is ideal. And those vacations days. Why use them when you can cash in on unused time at the end of each year. Yet, from an early age, we saw the value our family placed on travel. Family reunions and family vacations were held in the Summer. No school. No work. Our parents were genuinely happy when they traveled. No more talks about the stresses of work or school. It was time to visit some place new or see love ones. Spring breaks, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were even more excuses to travel. But what about the in between? That's when I realized that travel can be a lifestyle.
To be fair, not every job lends itself to travel. When both of us started our full-time jobs, we were hesitant to take on professional development training. So when professional development funds were offered and training could be found on not only the east coast but the west, it was an easy sell. You mean we can travel more than around the holidays and summer vacation? Yes, you can. So often times we piggyback on the other's travel by joining in. Sharee has traveled to training in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Puerto Rico, and forthcoming, Washington, DC. Rhonda has had training in Greenville (SC), Savannah, Memphis, and Nashville. Great opportunities to network professionally, but also a great time to bring family and friends along.
Volunteering has also made a way into our travel lifestyle. We have volunteered at several film festivals and sporting events that has allowed us to travel to Sundance Film Festival (Park City, UT), SXSW Film Festival (Austin, TX), Tribecca Film Festival (NYC), Super Bowl 50 (San Francisco, CA), and the College Football National Championship (Phoenix, AZ). Because of our volunteer roles (no pay), some of the expenses we have incurred have been written off our taxes (check with your tax paperer for details). Next on our list is to travel on an international mission trip through our church organization.
Outside of planned travel, sometimes, we just want to get away. Google flights is really good at finding last minute flight deals in the coming days or weeks that doesn't require a lot of planning. In addition, airline and hotel 2-3 day sale promotions sometimes do the trick. Rhonda got a great promotional deal to DC on Southwest that was half the price of a major carrier flight. Another helpful reminder is to pad an extra day or two before or after our travels when the rates tend to be lower. Not everyone needs to be back to work on Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday is just fine.
A final way to make travel more of a lifestyle is to take a stay-cation every once and awhile. You don't have to go very far. There are plenty of activities and places to go in your own city. Again, the mental break from work does wonders, and the commute is ideal. The travel experience is rewarding as you balance life, the responsibilities of work, and play.
We used the popular app Whatsapp during our most recent trip to Italy. It proved to be very helpful as it allowed us to communicate with family and friends at home without incurring any international charges or utilizing any data. All we needed was WiFi, which was free and readily available in most public locations, and in our private accommodation, and for the other party to download the app onto their phone as well. It can be downloaded on most phones (Android, iPhone, Windows), and also features a handy group chat that has allowed our travel group to remain in contact since our return.
The fact that Android users like ourselves can use it to communicate with iPhone users, makes it worth it. It's just like placing a call at home, and there is very little lag time despite the call being placed over the internet.
A tidbit is to make sure your phone remains on airplane mode the entire time during your international stay and turn on your WiFi manually. This is more common for short-term travel where internet is readily available versus long-term travel whereas it's advisable to purchase either an international plan (AT&T international plans have a minimum of 30 days) or an international chip for your phone. Another suggestion is to switch to T-mobile (if you aren't already with them) which allows for all calls made internationally to be free.
Of course email is still a popular way to keep in touch, as well as social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Have you tried Whatsapp? Are there any other communication apps that you use to keep in touch with family when traveling internationally?
The highlight of our trip to the Amalfi Coast was the yacht experience. We took to the open waters on two seperate yachts that accommodated up to 8 persons. The entire journey was an hour each way. Sometimes we rode fast, and others times slow. Often close enough to take pictures of the many picturistique towns we were passing by. Most notably, the town of Positano that is often dipicted in pictures of the Amalfi Coast.
The time flew by as we took pictures, sung old school hip-hop, and drank champaign. For the couple on the trip, it was the cummulation of week one of their marriage after a small private ceremony in Rome the week before. For others, the trip was their birthday gift to themself, and it felt good for their soul to be "free" as they approach their mid-thirties. For many, the entire week of experiencs were unparallel to any travel they've ever been on, even if they've been to the region before.
As we stepped foot in the town of Capri, we were considered instant celebrities of some sorts. Our precense created a stir as if we were VIPs, and our pictures were snapped by random people as we headed to the top of Capri. Many in our group traveled to the top via the funicular and few used the chairlift. Capri is famed for it's Blue Grotto where the waters, surrounded by a cave, naturally glows electric blue. It's an astonighing view from the the top as we piered down to the waters below.
After a few hours of taking pictures, eating pizza, and drinking lemon granitas, we set foot back on our yacht to the town of Amalfi where we originated. On our return trip, we laughed until our stomachs hurt and even cried a little, as our entire trip was coming to an end the next day. This was a day we'll never forget!!
We had an opportunity to tour a lemon farm near the village of Ravello. We started out atop the hill and found ourselves at the bottom. Another hike!! This one at least had a wonderful smell of lemons during our mile downward truant through the farm.
Lemons are an economic staple for the residents of the Amalfi Coast. Many families owned and operated lemon farms, and currently take part in a co-op agreement that sells their lemons all over the world. In the past, it was the men who cultivated the land and picked the lemons, and the women who transported the lemons from the terraces into town to sell to offshore fisherman. Today, the operation is more shared equally amongst the men and women, and there are more automatic techniques of cultivating (including watering the lemon trees), transporting, and packaging the lemons.
We later toured a lemon co-op packaging facility that is able to transport and ship the lemons all over the world, and draws the neighboring lemon farms a nice profit. In addition, the facility is able to make another by-product of lemons- limoncello. A nice blend of 97%+ alcohol, lemon skin, water, and sugar, is all it takes to make this alcoholic beverage. We were able to drink variations of limoncello, including chocolate and strawberry.
As we left the lemon factory to head back to Ravello, we were tickled to find traditional Italian musical instruments on our seats. We don't know if it was the alcohol or the joy of the noise we made, but we had a jam fest heading back to our abode. La dolce vita!!
Several of us from the group decided to spend our free day in the larger town of Amalfi. We were given several different directions, and came to an agreement that a short 20 minute walk from Mamma Agata's would be ideal. The 20 minute walk turned into an hour hike, and we got so frustrated at one point that once we found ourselves on level ground, we literally ran to the middle of the road to stop a bus to pick us up. After catching our breath, we settled down and enjoyed the 15 minute ride by bus to the Amalfi city center.
We then enjoyed a relaxing lunch outdoors serenaded by Italian musicians. It was during our departure from the restaurant that we met Kat. Apparently there was an altercation between a man with a "troubled mind" and a little boy. We were so insulted by his treatment of the little boy, and not understanding Italian, we tried to intervened. This upset the man even more and Kat came to our rescue. Realizing we were Americans, she said just enough in Italian to get us safely away from the man before his insults would lash back at us.
Kat is from Nashville, Tennessee and journeyed to Italy on her own. Yes, a solo journey. She has been to Italy many times (most recently the previous September), and was hoping that her twin sister would join her. However, her sister was unable to make it and Kat went on her own. She recently turned 33 (four ladies on the trip turned 33 in the last few months, what we affectionately called our "Jesus Year") and was on a 30+ day journey that was to take her along the southern coast of Italy all the way to the northern parts. When we met, she had just finished a 7 mile hike of the Path of the Gods (I guess we took a short cut) that took her to the Amalfi city center. In fact, she was so fearless in her journey, that she even rented a car to make the drive up the coast. Hmm....anyone who has been to Italy know that driving along these coastal curves and mountains is insane. This brave tactic and her audacity to do it alone was very inspiring. Many people will say she's crazy, but this southern hairdresser and hockey fanatic knew her purpose. Often times family and friends can't make a trip, but does that mean don't go? It helped that she met up with Italian friends she knew along the way, but she also took the time to help a few new friends that happen to be Americans.