Travel Chops (TC): Where are you from?
Courtney: I'm from Atlanta, Georgia.
TC: Where do you attend college and your career goals?
Courtney: I am a graduating senior at NC A&T State University. My career goal is to be an entrepreneur. Exactly what kind of business I'd end up running- I'm still figuring that part out.
TC: You are moving to Japan after graduation. How did that decision come about?
Courtney: My decision to move to Japan was made over 14 years ago, when I was just a child. I could've moved sooner but I didn't know how to. All of the information that's currently easily accessible on the internet either wasn't around when I was younger, or I was unable to find it (because I was so young and didn't know where to look).
TC: What was your perception of Japan prior to your first experience traveling there?
Courtney: My perception of Japan, before I went, was that it was a normal place like America. I did expect it to be different culturally, though. As I interacted with Japanese people and watched YouTube videos, I had a good understanding of what Japan would be like.
TC: What was the reality of your first experience in Japan?
Courtney: My first experience in Japan was everything I imagined and more. All of the things that I had seen on the internet, (most) of my experiences with Japanese people, and the career opportunities I'd hoped would be available to me were there.
TC: What do you do for fun?
Courtney: I enjoy writing, drawing, and running in my free time.
TC: Name 2 of your favorite travel destinations?
Courtney: My favorite two travel destinations have been Okinawa and Fukuoka. Both are in Japan.
TC: What are 2 destinations you have yet to visit?
Courtney: I would really like to visit Busan, Korea and Cebu, Philippines.
TC: What is your advice to persons contemplating living abroad?
Courtney: Do it. Especially if you're Black. I can only speak for my experience in America, but traveling and living abroad is not encouraged in the Black community. To some degree, I understand people's concerns with going abroad, but I think you will learn a lot about your own identity and how to be comfortable in your own skin. Going to a place like Japan would've had a seriously negative impact on me (because I stuck out) if I didn't learn to be more confident. The upside to it is that you appreciate your own people more after being in a place where no one looks like you. Lastly, in some countries, including Japan, there are communities of Black people that are very close-knit because they're such a small minority there. It's like having a family (if you don't come from a close-knit family) or a family away from home.
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With the recent terrorism attacks in Sri Lanka, a question that comes to mind for any traveler to a foreign region: Is It Safe? One place to look for current information is the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Not only is the site used for Passport and Visa information, but it also has a travel advisory section for international travel.
You are provided the general quick facts of information such as need of Visa or Immunization requirements. In addition, advisory levels are set depending on current conditions. The levels range from 1 to 4. View attached as an example. As of Feb. 2019, the advisory level for US Citizens visiting Ghana is a 1. This is the safest level there is, but foreign travelers are asked to use precautionary measures. This means it is not safe to walk alone at night, be wary of thefts such as pick-pocketing and "snatch and grab", and use caution at the ATM. In comparison, both the United Kingdom and Sir Lanka, upgraded their advisory level to a 2. It is advised for travelers to avoid areas of demonstrations and visiting on certain upcoming holidays due to recent terrorism threats.
As an international traveler, the US Government recommends it's citizens to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alert messages and easy access to locate you in case of an emergency during your travels. We have used this during recent travels to both South Africa and European cities, and always felt an extra level of comfort knowing that the government is aware of our travel itinerary.
As it relates to our upcoming trip to Accra, Ghana in December 2020, we will use every necessary precaution to keep everyone safe, including having a native Ghanaian (Tour Ambassador) with us at all times. Ground transportation to and from the airport, as well as to all excursion locations, will be provided. The hotel will be in a central location, and easily accessible to most tourist attractions. One evening you will be provided the option to experience night life in Accra, and everyone is encouraged to walk in small groups (never alone). We'll update you as time nears of any threats or concern, but as of now, especially during this period of 400-Year Return to Africa, we think that traveling to Ghana is a must-do on anyone's bucket-list. Here's a very poignant article about the 400-Year Return to Africa, and the 10-year declaration to get us to "The Door of Our Return" as we plan to visit two UNESCO sites, Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle, both considered Word Heritage Sites of the slave era.
Sharee and I traveled with EF Tours and nineteen Midlands Technical College's (MTC) students, chaperones, and community members to London, UK during their Spring Break recently. The MTC group was combined with fifteen students and chaperones from the University of Western Illinois.
Prior to seeing the play Hamilton at Victoria Palace Theatre we ate at the Bag O'Nails pub. We ate Vegan Fish Fillets & Chips with Garden peas. A true Londoner would eat their peas mushy.
Two Interesting Facts:
Fact #1: "Chips" in London is what the US calls "Fries"
Fact #2: The Bag O'Nails club [not pub] located at 9 Kingly Street hosted an early gig by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966. The Beatles frequented the original Bag O'Nails often and it is where Beatle's Paul McCarthy met his future wife Linda Eastman in 1967.
As we toured London on our free day, we were fascinated with the food. The Twelve Pins pub hosted football night(in the US we call it Soccer). The Juventus football team from Turin, Italy was playing and the restaurant pub was packed with Italians. As we ate our veggie burger & "chips" with curry and Red Wine, the pub patrons were on the edge of the seats, biting their lips, yelling at the tv screen, as the team was so close to scoring, and then erupting with pure joy as Juventus scored. On this particular night Juventus won 3-0 versus Atletico, Madrid.
For lunch during the middle of the week we ate at one of the many EAT. locations. We both had the Spinach & Paneer curry(paneer is a fresh, mild Indian cheese that many vegetarians eat as a main course) over peas & rice.
If you are a FOODIE then you must eat at the Borough market. There were foods from the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Ethiopia, just to name a few. Once we smelled aroma of the food from Ethiopian Flavours, we knew where we were going for lunch. The price of 4.90 pounds was within our budget. No food pictures from this location. The food was gone before we realized we forgot to take a picture. Oops!!
On our final day in London we did what most Londoners do: Drink Tea
One of the student travelers found an awesome tea room, the Highness Cafe & Tea Room, located in the middle of a pleasant neighborhood near the Arsenal football team stadium.
What are your favorite places to eat while in London? Comment below.
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We are in a booth at Ben's Chili Bowl, a black owned restaurant in Washington, DC sitting next to a black family enjoying their food and conversation in the 1960's. Next we are listening to two elderly ladies, one 85 years old and the other 101 years old, talking about traveling while black. Finally, we are in near tears as Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, is in front of us retelling the story of her 12 year old son's death. How she sat in the front passenger seat of the ambulance while her son, Tamir, was in the back of the ambulance because of a gunshot wound inflicted upon by a Cleveland police officer..
We are back in Columbia, SC at the Richland County Public Library. No, we did not leave Columbia and traveled back in time, but in this VR Experience you are sitting at the restaurant table or on a bus heading south, listening to these trailblazers up close and personal. We listened intently to their stories, such as not being able to hop off the bus to use the restroom because of "White only" establishments (hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc) as they entered the state of Virginia and the states below. Blacks were only able to stop at establishments listed in The Green Book.
After viewing this VR Experience we realized not only how privileged we are to travel, but also the need to still be careful. You maybe pulled over in your car simply because of the color of your skin. However, it shouldn't stop you or give you the fear to travel. We don't have the Green Book today, but the opportunity to freely travel to any destination our heart desires. We recently curated various travel itineraries for in-state, out-of-state, and abroad travels. See the sample itinerary below that was adapted from one of the several Greenbookofsc.com regional itineraries. We can customize each tour for your educational, business, church, and/or family needs..
Want to view the Traveling While Black VR Experience in-person. The Central Carolina Community Foundation, newly located in the Bullstreet District in Columbia, SC, will host an experience on Tuesday, February 19 from 4:00pm-7:00pm. This Sundance Film Festival VR documentary is traveling to various venues throughout the country. Be on the lookout for the Traveling While Black VR Experience in your community.
Free 15 Minute Consultation: calendly.com/takealeaptravel
Talk to us about your your personalized travel itinerary needs.
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Rhonda W. & Sharee W.
Where do you currently reside?
Jersey City, NJ
Many people first time abroad is to Europe. Why India? Where did you stay?
It was for a class trip. We stayed at Hotel Ajanta in Delhi and with students at our university's partnering college[near Ahmedabad, the largest city in the state of Gujarat].
How long did you stay in India?
Was this your first time traveling abroad?
What was the passport process to go to India if this was your first time abroad?
The process for acquiring a passport to India was trying. A lot of information was needed to substantiate my identity as I was a first-time applicant for a passport. The visa application was fairly easy. I received my notice of approval the day after submitting the application.
What was the most challenging aspect of being in India?
The most challenging part of being in India was adjusting from an individualistic culture to a collectivist culture. Not to mention differences in living varied greatly.
What were the most interesting or fun times you had?
The most interesting and fun times were getting to know and spend time with the students at our partnering college and partaking in the closing ceremony of the student exchange program by dressing in traditional Gujarati attire and learning their dances and other cultural forms of celebration.
Did you travel beyond your central location in India? If “Yes”, where?
Yes. We visited Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
Where will you be traveling to next or want to travel to domestically/abroad?
Travel abroad, I would love to travel to Africa. As for domestic travel, I would love to take a cross country trip.
Full disclosure - Alyssa is our 2nd cousin. Thank you Alyssa for taking the time to share your first experience traveling abroad. Continue to go see the world.
Have you studied abroad in High School or College? If "Yes", where did you travel to? What was your experience?
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Happy New Year!! We will begin a series in 2019 of introducing you to people who are novice, occasional, or experienced travelers.
First up is creative Sharn Hopkins. Travel Chops bloggers Rhonda and Sharee first met Sharn as attendees at her plays. They later assisted her as filmmakers on her two short films, A Mother's Plea (2016) and Nightmare (soon to be released). They were glad she was available to answer a few questions about her travel experiences.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Columbia, SC
What is your first experience do you recall of traveling beyond your hometown?
I remember as a teenager going to Tampa, Florida to visit family. The farthest I have ventured during those trips were in Orlando to visit more family members or go to the flea market.
Whom do you know in your family who has a passport?
My immediate family...no one. Extended family like cousins but just only a handful.
What are your top 3 travel destinations domestically and abroad?
My top three was Seattle, Santa Monica, and Miami. All three I traveled when I was working. If I had a top three of where I would like to go...domestically, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Chicago. Internationally, I would like to go to Canada, Greek Islands or Lake Como in Italy.
Can you tell us about New Life Productions?
New Life Productions is an independent theatre and film company based in Columbia, SC. We believe in the concept of Edu-tainment which is having entertainment (theater or film) with a message that will educate on health and/or social issues. Sometimes, we do produce projects that are pure entertainment and fun. Also, New Life has an arts education foundation called For the Love of the Arts. The foundation focuses on training artists in performances or literary. We have programs and workshops in schools, community, and penal institutions.
Have you been able to travel through your organization? If "Yes", what destinations have your organization taken you to?
We have performed in New York..Brooklyn. Also, I have traveled to Miami, Winston-Salem, NC, and New York City on behalf of my company.
How can readers of the Travel Chops blogsite and the Take A Leap Travel newsletter follow New Life Productions?
They can visit our website at www.newlifeprod.com or shoot me an email at email@example.com
Travel Chops blogsite and Take A Leap Travel newsletter would like to Thank Sharn for taking the time to answer our questions about travel in the creative field.
If you have a traveler you want us to highlight, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We had the opportunity to visit the area's newest hotel in Downtown Columbia on this past Friday evening. Hotel Trundle caters to small businesses, and kept the locals in mind in its craftsmanship. As such, it not only used locals to customize the furniture, but it also uses them in preparation of food and libations. They offer locally crafted beer at check-in, and have locals cater their "Sip and Nibble Reception" in the early evenings with wine selected by local wine experts and light hors d'oeuvres by local restaurants.
We were invited by Consultant/Strategist Tori West of Talent Impact Strategies to her Holiday Social in the hotel lobby, and it was the most divine experience at the hotel dubbed by locals as "the unique boutique". During the reception, it was a family affair, as we were greeted by Tori's mother and aunt, and provided a crafted gift from the hotel upon arrival. The event was catered by Kiki's Chicken & Waffles, and we partook in chips and spinach tip, and chilled shrimp. After a few lively conversations with the guests, we took advantage of the selfie camera to take pictures, and ended the night with a gift of four artisan chocolates by Bruges Chocolaterie.
It's the season for a multitude of Holiday Social invites. We're so glad we came out to this one to support Tori and her business.
Do you plan to attend any Holiday Socials? If so, what unique locations are being used to host the events?
A few weeks ago Rhonda attended the SOCO Coworking Space in Columbia, SC. More recently Rhonda attended the Clutch Cowork 2 day pop-up coworking space for women entrepreneurs, freelancers, & side-hustlers. The minimum cost to attend the two days was worth it as a recent full-time entrepreneur.
Rhonda, pictured right, with Melissa Brown of @lisab_interiors.
LisaB Interior artwork set the atmosphere for Clutch Cowork.
As Rhonda settled in she was greeted with Smiles by the organizers, including the @clutchcowork founders @jessicaeboyd and @anitamgarrett. At 9:00am female entrepreneurs were already on their laptops posting on social media, writing blog posts, editing videos, and/or updating their websites. A break was needed and we all participated in DeskYoga by @rootedinwellbeing. The first few questions she asked as she led us through various deskyoga techniques were "Why are you here?" and "Why did you sign up with Clutch Cowork?" That was Rhonda's thought for the remainder of the day and even now two weeks later, as she left her full-time employment in October 2018 to take a Leap of Faith into full-time entrepreneurship.
After deskyoga, we ate snacks and drunk Gin's Juice, and then it was back to work our individual entrepreneurship effort. A few of the ladies networked. Several meeting their social media or FB friend/follower for the first time in person and talking about their aspirations and struggles as an entrepreneur. Several of the ladies participated in the two hour speed coaching session that included live video strategist Roshanda E. Pratt @therosholive.
Speed Coaching. Every 15 minutes entreprenurs, freelancers, and side-hustlers were able to ask a coach one question. Questions about personal finance, visual branding, business development, public relations, live video strategy, fitness and nutrition, and more.
As the evening approached more attendees came as they arrived mid-day or after their 9 to 5 job to just be in the room. Food was served prior to the three panel discussions. Food included vegan meatballs catered by @peaceofsoulsc. Yum!!
The evening session had 3 separate panels: Business, mini-keynote by WREN Founder Ann Warner, and Lifestyle.
The first panel was business. The panelist included Barbara Rackes, a serial entrepreneur who had 3 technology companies, a retail store, and the first online retail store in the state of SC; Blogger and writer @booksandbighair who worked at HBO; @ashlyev who wrote children books and interviews women on her podcast phenomenalwomenleading; moderator @sully_vann with @news19wltx; Debi Schadel; and Beth Ruffin.
A few insights: You will get alot of "No"s; volunteer at nonprofits; put yourself in the position; always "ask" questions; women need to develop the courage to put their best attribute on the line; create your own opportunities; find out what is missing and fill that need; use your network; help someone else or their business and someone or a business will help you. For non-profits, you should have a variety of people who will hold you accountable and who care about you and your soul.
A mini-keynote was by Ann Warner, WREN Founder. South Carolina is rated 45th out of 50 states for gender equality. Half of the workforce are female and are more educated. Although South Carolina is ranked 4th in the nation for women entrepreneurship, the gender wage gap is large. Entrepreneurship is high in South Carolina because workplaces are not working for women.
The final panel was on Lifestyle. Content creation and telling your story was said by all. Take care of yourself first. Just start, even if it is one day a month to take off from work. Rhonda asked the question of traveling as a lifestyle. Several of the panelists recommend using your vacation time or take time away from your business for a short period of time to go abroad to see how other people live. They are just like you, but may do some things differently.
Other recommendations by the lifestyle panelists were: Do something out of your comfort-zone as shared by a Caucasian panelist who takes Afro-dance classes. If you have multiple jobs, dance it out in your car between jobs. At times as an entrepreneur you have to not walk by Faith, but Faith crawl. No other story is the same. We need to know our worth. Do something - do it and don't wait. Believe in yourself. Don't let anyone deter you. Don't waste time by asking "what can you do tonight". Be around like minded people - your tribe. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This is Rhonda's second co-working experience. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.
Attendees at SOCO Sessions: Real Stories From Hustlers on the Road
As Rhonda was drinking her merlot wine on a recent Monday while attending a SOCO session on Gervais street, she reflected back to January 2012. She and her sister, Sharee, were in their cousin's Brooklyn, NY apartment interviewing new and upcoming travelpreneurs, Evita Robinson of Nomadness Tribe and Tracy Coleman, Purpose Driven Passports. You can view their interviews here and here, respectively. Rhonda and Sharee were excited and were hooked to the idea of traveling as a lifestyle and not just a vacation.
Fast forward to November 2018, Rhonda, now a full-time entrepreneur, and Sharee, still a full-time employee, are listening to nomad hustlers Candice Han and Susan Shain in a packed SOCO coworking space. Since 2012, the resources for persons to travel and work anywhere in the world have evolved. Candice talked about 2 years ago leaving her life in Los Angeles, CA and practicing her location independent business in New York. After a few months she started visiting other countries, going to a new location every 3 months. Her favorite location was a 400 person village in Costa Rica with a jungle and monkeys outside her door. She loves the freedom to visit new destinations.
A question was asked about sustainability. Susan, as a writer, is 100% referral based and stay in Airbnbs in affordable places. Mexico and Thailand are low cost destinations for which your money will go far. Both Candice and Susan talked about the more you travel, your network will grow, and your business will be sustainable. Candice stated you don't have to pitch new businesses or have meetings in person. You can talk via phone or Skype. Don't be afraid to inform your client that you will never meet me in person. You can make it work.
Another question was asked about leaving family and friends while living abroad. The panelists said you can use facetime, whatsapp(both you and the receiver must download the app), and project fi(free texting & data in 170+ countries at the cost of $35/month). Homeschooling kids was mentioned by both Candice and Susan with resources, such as, World Traveling Family. Rhonda chimed in to those in attendance with kids that they can go to FB and join Wanderist Life FB Community. Wanderist creates amazing experiences for you to live + work + play for one month to one year in an incredible destination. Many who traveled with Wanderist for a year in 2016 brought along their kids.
What is stopping people to choosing the nomad lifestyle? Susan said fear and not knowing people who have done this nomad lifestyle. She continues and said nothing is permanent. Change is good. Candice said what is stopping people is fear of running out of money or sustaining the lifestyle. There are less steps than you think there is and timing.
The final questions were about productivity and wifi. The pomodoro technique was mentioned for productivity. The premise is to work in blocks of time, typically 25 minutes long (called pomodoro sessions), followed by a 5 minute break. You do this throughout your day and you can complete 3-5 goals you set for yourself that day. You must write down your goals of what you want to accomplish each day to be productive. Also for productivity try a traveling mailbox company to scan your mail, deposit your checks, and shred your mail. In regard to wifi, for a list of destinations with quality of wifi go to nomadlist. You can also find coworking spaces either in advanced or when you get to a destination with a quick Google search.
Candice Han said it best, that once you go across that invisible line of entrepreneurship and/or being intentional about traveling, 100% committed... GO, and the provision will come. I summarize it as my title says, "Take A Leap of Faith; Do the Work You Love; & God's Provision".
Do you have the hustle to live the nomadic lifestyle?
Moderator Greg from SOCO Bullstreet, Candice Han, and Susan Shain
Co-working spaces are collaborative work environment of shared space, ideas, knowledge often used by self-employed or independent workers. As a newly full-time entrepreneur, Rhonda had an opportunity to tour Columbia's premiere co-working space, SOCO. There are actually two locations in the area, downtown in the Vista and in the new Bull Street District. Rhonda toured the latter, yet as a SOCO paid member your are able to go to either location. During Rhonda's free day pass visit this past week, she went to both locations, and felt a different vibe at each location. Bull Street had more of a relax vibe, whereas Vista had more of an emerging creative vibe.
As an entrepreneur, it can get lonely and unproductive working at home, and co-working spaces provide the familiarity of an office environment. The connections with the other "co-workers" can be at both the local and global level. There are people that hold membership that live in the community, as well as global visitors who drop in every few weeks at they travel. Everyone is willing to share their expertise, and it was able to easily identify persons who maybe to help in areas of marketing, promotion, and website development, in addition to what Rhonda can offer them.
The culture of co-working spaces have proven to be a growth market that is beyond a phenomenon. They can be found in almost any major US or global city, and travelers find them to be ideal working spaces. A list can be found here. It's also interested to note that successful business such as Uber, Instagram, and Indiegogo started at a co-working space.
Have you been to a co-working space in your community or while traveling?
Rhonda W. & Sharee W.
Rhonda & Sharee Washington