We have not had the opportunity to cook like we would like, and have been scouring our favorite grocery store for some of the top Vegan items to eat on the run or for quick meal preparation. As often as we've visited the store, we weren't prepared for all the items that the store carries that we have yet to try. We'll try them in the coming weeks, and will offer our own reviews of our best finds. Here's a short video from World of Vegan of some of the Vegan items that Trader Joe's carry. We're excited to taste many of the foods suggested, as well as some of our own finds, and can't wait to share from our own personal experiences.
Sharee recently submitted her food and travel-related photos from the Amalfi Coast, Italy to Shutterstock. Three of her photos were accepted. This is an incredible accomplishment as she tried several years ago to submit her pictures from Italy, and they were all rejected. Just the fact that one was accepted is a great victory. And just this past weekend, Sharee got her first sale, and the excitement continues. Here's a link to the approved pictures on Shutterstock.
If you are a blogger or in editorial, please consider purchasing a few of the pictures from Sharee's portfolio.
Rhonda and Sharee
It's been a minute since we've traveled to Washington, DC (other than the airport). How about more than 23 years. It was the summer before our Senior in high school and we were visiting relatives in Silver Springs, MD and our dad decided to visit his good friend who was a grounds keeper at Howard University. We were so in love with the place. Or maybe it was the famous group that were students there at the time... does anyone remember the group Shai. We came back a year later during our family reunion, but didn't go near DC. Furthermore, it was more than 27 years since we toured the monuments or even seen the White House (7th grade field trip).
So when Sharee had an opportunity to attend a conference, Rhonda decided to join in for the thrill of it. While Sharee was in meetings, Rhonda took to the streets. She walked to the nearby Smithsonian Zoo, and took advantage of a full-day hop-on-hop-off bus pass, that had her flying through DC's 45 tourist stops. She was able to view the Lincoln Memorial, the Capital Building, and Washington Monument. On the last day, both of us were able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was a half-day worth exploring our history, and there was still no time to see it all. We know many of you have heard about the Museum, and as Nike says, "Just Do It".
While in line awaiting entry to the Museum, we met a young lady a decade younger who was in Washington, DC to defend her dissertation. She was on track to be a Doctor of Health/Nutrition. She was very inspiring to us to continue our pursuits in education, travel, and as filmmakers, and to link up with her when we come back out to Los Angeles where she currently resides. If ever there was confirmation.... Anyways, she's now a Doctor and we're so proud as if we've known her our entire lives.
One final mention about our trip to DC.... the food. It was very accommodating to our vegetarian/vegan needs, and we found several wonderful restaurants to visit. One in particular is Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. At first, you'll think of it as only a hot-dog place, which it is, but they also accommodated our needs with vegan hot-dog and chili. Do you know how long it's been since we've had a hot-dog? With Chili? An interesting note about the place... Former President Obama visited the establishment a few days prior to his inauguration in 2009. Oh the audacity....DC reminded us to be bold, take risk, and prosper.
So over the last few weeks we've been busy working on a short film project that has taken us to the low-country of South Carolina to the heart of Brooklyn, in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy. The time away has kept us from blogging steadily, but we're back to share some lessons learned in business travel.
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.