During this past year I have experienced highs, lows; gains, loss; frustration, pure joy; and everything in between. I learned 5 Lessons in my Year of Bliss and I'll share them one by one over the next few weeks before we enter year 2020.
#1 Give Yourself Permission to Take A Break
There were many days where I was on the computer researching grants for my non-profit; surfing on the internet for businesses to reach out to; and reading/responding to emails from 7:00am to 11:00pm at night. I was WORKING, WORKING, WORKING! And it seemed I never got anything completed. I later learned to give myself a break.
Art Therapy - Give your brain a break with creativity. Several weeks ago I did this. I went to old travel magazines and cut out pictures of destinations I've traveled to and have not traveled to. I grouped them into beach themes; continent themes (Africa); and taped them to the walls in my bedroom. Now on my bedroom door are the words “Grab Your Passport” and when I enter I see all these fascinating destinations abroad. Grab paper, scissors, and color pencils; jewelry; and create a twinchie (see picture above) with affirmations on them. Two by two squares from the paint store will work. Another suggestion is to sign-up at your library's Art Studio if they have one. This is a free space at your local library where they have some art supplies for you to draw, paint, and just create. Contact your local library to see what supplies you may have to bring.
Visit Family/Friends - Take time to visit people during the day. If you are able to take an extended lunch break eat with a friend; visit a family member who maybe sick; or spend quality time with an older relative/friend who does not receive many visitors.
Read a magazine – Essence Magazine is my go to. It takes me literally the entire month to read the articles. As soon as I finish that month's issue, the next month's issue is in the mailbox.
Binge on Netflix – I did not check my email or social media one entire weekend. I was able to watch 16 episodes of the CW show All American on Netflix.
Take a Nap - I always say I'm going to take a nap, but often do not. Does that happen to you? These naps do not have to be long. Twenty to thirty minutes of rest and stillness. The internet is "Off" and cellphone on "Do Not Disturb" so you will not be tempted to answer “the buzz, buzz” of an incoming text message. Or if you are at work and able to – Close your office door – and take a nap. A former colleague brought her yoga mat to work and slept on it during her lunch break.
Take a mini-vacation – Take Friday off from work. Don't read or answer emails. You don't have to travel 6+ hours away across the country or abroad. You can travel 2-3 hours away to the other side of your state. Depart on Friday and return on Sunday. The different scenery refreshes your mind and creativity as you prepare for Monday morning.
Take a day/half day off from work – What do you do during your day? It is up to you. Try one of the many tips mentioned in this lesson; go to all your doctor appointments; car oil change; or take care of that one item you keep pushing off, such as, going to the post office to submit your passport application or the DMV to obtain your "Real ID". How often should you do this? One recommendation is to take one or two days off per month, especially, when many US residents do no use their Annual /Personal Leave by the end of the year.
All of these suggestions benefit our mental health. So take a break!! The work will be there when you return, and you'll be more refreshed and focused! Have you used any of these suggestions before, or is there one you'll like to try?
Imagine This Scenario:
It's the 3rd day of your 6 day/5 night vacation. You enter your debit card into the ATM and your card is DENIED. Shock and confusion as you know you have $500 in your account for food, excursions, and souvenirs for the entire trip. Or do you?
What many people do not realize is that hotels or cruise lines can withhold $200-$300 on your debit card from a week prior to a week after your trip. Eating ramen noodles for the last few days or missing out on an excursion due to limited funds while on vacation is not fun.
Cons of Debit Cards
- Your hotel reservation can be denied if you do not have enough money in your checking account prior to travel
- You will have $200-$300 less in your account to pay on food, excursions, and souvenirs
- $200-$300 will be on hold days prior to and up to a week after your trip.
Tip: Have additional money in your checking account to pay your bills the week prior, during, and a week after your trip
Pros of Debit Cards
- Peace of mind that the trip is paid in full upon your departure
- No interest rate
Cons of Credit Cards
- Interest rate
- Additional money added to your credit card balance
- Expired or overextended credit card (Bring a back up card.)
Tip: To not pay interest, pay the credit card in full at the end of the month
Pros of Credit Cards
- Very little is withheld (as low as $1)
- The money charged can go towards Airlines mileage or cash back
- You can still pay in cash upon your arrival and nothing is charged to your credit card
Rhonda is team credit card. All the money in her checking account has a designation: Mortgage; Savings; Investing; and Other bills, including paying all her credit cards in full each month. Having $200-$300 less on her vacation by using her debit card is not fun. Sharee concurs!!
Are you Team Credit Card or Team Debit Card? Why?
Follow IG, Facebook, & Twitter @TakeALeapTravel
Rhonda W. & Sharee W.
It's November 1, 2019. Mornings are crisp; skies are blue; leaves have vibrated colors of orange, yellow, and red; and birds chirp in the air. The Holidays are soon to arrive. Time moves on. A year ago, October 31, 2018 I had taken the leap of faith of leaving my full-time employer to pursue both entrepreneurship and the world of non-profit.
The non-profit, Take Flight Project began in November 2018.
The travel consultant business, Take A Leap, LLC came into full fruition in February 2019
My next step is to enter year two and meet – and DEFEAT - these challenges head-on.
Have you ever made a life altering decision such as leaving a job or a relationship? How did your first-year go?
I shared in our Manhattan Tales blog post last week a series of true events that happened enroute to NYC a few weeks ago. After being on the ground a mere 10 hours, it was time to head back home to South Carolina. As expected, the bus was completely full of passengers making the trip down South. Unlike the trip to NYC, we were assigned specific seats. Rhonda and I like to sit behind the driver. However, with the assigned seating, we were more than half-way towards the back of the bus. I thought it would make for an uncomfortable trip, but with it being late at night, everyone pretty much went to sleep. We left on time at 10PM, and our first stop wasn't until about 2AM. The trip was pretty uneventful as we drove into the night, through the DMV area, and into North Carolina, and then South Carolina. After dropping off a great number of passengers, we were then allowed to spread out and change seats at will. It wasn't until we left Florence, SC that another tale begins.
We just turned off of I-95 South onto I-20 West heading to Columbia when a policeman pulled the bus over. I was surprised by the stop in that I didn't think we had been speeding. Up to this point, we were a mere hour from Columbia, and was on track for an on-time arrival of 11:30AM. The police addressed the bus driver and then asked him to open the luggage storage area below the bus. The police and a dog completed a thorough search of all the stored luggage, and even came on board to check our personal possessions and ID. One young man was search outside of the bus for illegal drugs, but was released to return onto the bus. This took all of 30 minutes, yet we were still on track of making it back to Columbia by noon.
We had just reached the Columbia city limits when traffic was stopped at a standstill. There was an accident further up the interstate, and the driver was detoured to an unfamiliar road. Some of the passengers tried to steer the driver to a more direct route to our final drop-off location, but with his limited English, he couldn't understand the directions instructed to him. He pulled the bus over in an empty parking lot, and using his own phone GPS, he found the best possible route to the drop-off spot. We arrived at 12:30PM.
So the lesson learned during our bus trip to NYC and back: pack a lot of patience and best believe, you will not depart or arrive on time. This is no different than what we have experienced with air travel. We have had airport delays, missed connections, and late arrivals more times than we can count.
Have you ever experience significant delays in your travels, whether via plane, bus, train, or automobile?
Recently, Rhonda and I had a small period of time to go to one destination, return home, and head to another destination. Normally flying would make sense, but our budget was tight, and we didn't want to pay for a flight and hotel when we would be on the ground no more than 12 hours. So sis and I decided to take an inexpensive bus ride to New York City. We were enroute to NYC to attend the New Filmmakers Film Festival to screen a short film that we produced two years ago called Own Your Stupidity. The movie has been on a streak of film festival runs in New York City and forthcoming in Detroit, and we wanted to make at least one screening this Fall.
So the tale begins:
There were two buses heading to New York and both had meeting locations near each other. We initially went to one location, but was told to try another location across the street, just to be told to go back to the first location. Mind you this was during rush-hour traffic, and it took several minutes to drive back. We were so nervous about being late because the ticket said we had to be at the bus site no less than 30 minutes before departure. Needless to say, the bus left 30 minutes later than planned. After a few hours of traveling through North Carolina, we found ourselves rerouted back into South Carolina to pick up stranded travelers. In fact, we were back in not only South Carolina, but aso back at the starting location. One woman was so frantic after waking up from her nap to see herself back in familiar surroundings, that we were delayed another 15 minutes to calm her down. Apparently she needed to be in NYC by a certain time, and it was apparent she was going to be late.
All the while, the driver(s) were speeding through the night to make up for lost time, just to be constantly berated by some of the passengers. This was detrimental to the safety of all the travelers, and there were periodic concerns that a fight was going to break out at anytime. Fortunately, that never happened.
It was also during the trip to NYC that we learned of our great-uncle's sudden stroke. I remember looking towards the Washington Monument, and then looking further up to the heavens to pray to God. I remember crossing multiple bridges and viewing the expansive water. Water has always calmed me down, especially with such unsettling news. My heart was heavy but I still found optimism of what would typically be a disastrous trip. My great-uncle was unselfish in his love to help people. Much like the Wanda bus company who not only returned to pick up stranded passengers in South Carolina, but also another set of travelers in Delaware who's NYC bound bus had mechanical failure. It wasn't about the tardiness of the bus arrival to New York, it was about helping those in need along the way. Life is a journey. Be kind!! Help strangers!! Love everybody!!
Have you ever traveled to a location, and it didn't go as planned? Did you come out of it a better or bitter person?
I was at an event recently whereas I was told that there would be a vegetarian option. Needless to say, the salad was load with bacon and ham. No biggie, I'll eat the dessert. I was then informed by one of the organizers that I, along with two other attendees, will be provided a meal from a nearby local restaurant. Being familiar with the location, I knew that the restaurant had very limited vegan/vegetarian options. The other two attendees were not familiar with the restaurant and quickly became skeptical. After some discussion with the hostess and kitchen staff, it was determined that the choices would be slim because many of the vegetables on the menu were either cooked in chicken broth or had meat in them. I chose a pescaterian dish with grilled fish, mixed vegetables, and kale salad; one chose a chef salad (the kitchen staff removed the chicken strips); and the other event attendee chose a large order of kale salad.
Needless to say, there are plentiful of apps and search engines to find vegan/vegetarian restaurants, but very few "last minute" options when eating out at traditional restaurants and fast-food chains. Upon my initial search, the apps were very limited. I expected them to share with me the menu options at popular restaurants that are vegan/vegetarian. But to no avail, there was limited information as these apps are supported by customer reviews. This was discouraging to me. So I came up with a list of options to do when you are considering a restaurant and not familiar with their menu. More importantly, you want something to eat other than a salad.
#1) Call ahead and speak to the Chef or head cook. Find out the options, and if applicable, have a meal already specially prepared prior to arriving to the dining establishment.
#2) Check out the menu on line before you visit the location. You may find that they have a seperate menu for vegan/vegetarians or symbols to indicate it is a specialty meal.
#3) Order sides. Often I find the healthiest options from the side menu such as sweet potato fries, mixed vegetables, and baked potato. Consider combining 2-4 vegetables on a plate as a meal.
#4) Substitute some of the common ingredients to make it vegetarian/vegan friendly. At a burger place, I'm always looking for the black bean or veggie burger option. I also remove the cheese and mayonnaise, and request avocado, if they have it. Tofu is also another option to look for in the entree selections.
#5) When eating at Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, French, and Italian restaurants some options includes eggplants, artichokes, vegetable soups, vegetable spring rolls, pasta, hummus, veggie platters, and vegetable fried rice. In a traditional American or BBQ restaurant, seek out the sides items as noted in #3. To make it vegan, request no mayonnaise, butter, eggs, or cheese. Indian, Ethiopian, Jamaican, and Mexican restaurants also have viable vegan/vegetarian options that centers around vegetables, rice, bread, and beans.
Do you have any other tips on eating vegan/vegetarian at local or popular chain restaurants?
Created by NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, Audacity Fest is the largest gathering of black and brown travelers from around the world to build on ideas, meet travel influencers, and experience the world via site activations. The weekend fest included panels, music, celebrity appearances, food, vendors, and a community of like minded travelers filled with love. Memphis was 2019's gathering spot and it didn't disappoint.
We ate at several restaurants including Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale St; Flying Fish on 2nd St; Fam on Madison Ave; and Blue Plate Cafe on Court Ave. We also feasted on a tofu kabob, rice, and vegetables from the Stickem Food Truck during lunch at the festival location at Beale Street Landing. Seafood and fish was the winning combination during most meals, but we balanced it out with a tofu dish from the food truck and a vegetable rice bowl from fam on our final evening.
There were a multitude of panels jammed packed within 8 hours to choose from. Between the two of us we attended the following panels/workshops: Remote Working Lifestyle; Travel Culinary; Budget Travel Hacks; Social Media to Curate Trips; Volunteering Abroad; Studying Abroad; Sustainable Travel; Solo Travel; 6 Figure Blog; Black and Burning Man; Learning A Language; Year of the Return; Travel Therapy; and Content Creation. Whew!! We ended our evening attending a play at hotel for Audacity Festival goers. AfroRoma: A Love Story is Pan-African love and travel narrative written by Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis aka Dr. Goddess. It tells the story of an African-American woman who travels to Italy to study the African Diaspora, and she falls in love with a Senegalese man. It was the inaugural reading of what will be a featured play reading in Ghana in December 2019.
During these sessions we met so many wonderful people that we consider newfound friends and future travel buddies. A few worth mentioning are Dr. Nadeen White of The Sophisticated Life; Rashell Evans of Statement Junky; Diamond Butler of Global Kids; Tiffany Heard of Tiffany Travels; and Dr. Goddess.
Audacity 2020 has been announced and it's back we go to the city that's becoming almost like home- New York City!! We'll share details when the tickets open, and there's a feeling it's going to sell out since more than a quarter of the travel influencers reside in the NYC area.
Are you planning to attend Audacity Fest 2020 in New York City next Fall??
Rhonda and Sharee
IG, Twitter, & Facebook @takealeaptravel
Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler- "Let The Good Times Roll"....This past July was a month like no other in New Orleans, Louisiana, commonly referred to as NOLA. A tropical storm that is often reserved for the fall season erupted in the area, and was determined to spoil our Washington Family Reunion. However, despite the dozen or so family members unable to make it, and multiple airline delays for those coming from the Northeast, we had more than 60 family members from SC, NC, TX, and NJ show up and show out. Many of our planned activities were cancelled, yet the hotel was very accommodating with food and beverage services, as well as a few restaurants near our centrally located hotel. We also found out that the Casino never closes, even during a storm. LOL!!
Despite the approaching storm, we found plenty of local attractions near Hotel Indigo on St. Charles St, our home abode for 5 days. We got in early to NOLA and found a cute dining spot near the hotel, Avenue Cafe, where we ate smoked salmon on a bagel, and a mimosa for a drink. The remainder of the day was family arrivals. We immediately jumped on the phone the next day seeking a tour company willing to accommodate not only our group, but one that wasn't closed because of the impending storm, as our original tour group company cancelled our reservations. We found Aventures Tours, and William was nice enough to accommodate our family on two vans as we ventured through the city. Even with the darken skies, NOLA is a magnificent place to visit with it's extraordinary history. Make sure to view our pictures below for some the sights including a wall that was put up to keep the river water from coming into the city; the infamous Cafe Du Monde; and a statute of Mother Teresa placed in one of a dozen or more cemeteries that we passed by during our tour. We ended our first full day with a Cajun meal at Please U Restaurant near our hotel. We were thankful that they were able to accommodate such a large group.
The remainder of our days were spent near the hotel getting reacquainted with family members and watching Madea movies, although a few family members found the doors of Harrah's Casino opened when everything was closing down. Some even got lucky!! A few of us walked along St. Charles, and found out we were a mere mile from Beyonce and J-Z's New Orleans home (pic below). And the late night owls found a bar nearby with karaoke. Most of the family that were driving departed early on day 4, and those that remained got to venture back out to the city for another beignet at Cafe Du Monde and lunch at Cajun Seafood. Unfortunately, a few stayed in NOLA because of a late airline cancellation back to to the Northeast, but as family do, we welcomed them into our hotel room overnight for the ultimate family sleepover.
It was on our very last day that we were able to finally go to Mardi Gras World. We found a discounted coupon code on Groupon, and after a short trolly ride, we found the location. We were simply amazed at the artistry that went into the float designs, and the size of the structures. Check out the King-Kong and Fiery Furnace displays in the images below.
Have you ever went to a destination and was caught up in a natural disaster?
Rhonda and Sharee
I had the opportunity to spend Memorial Weekend in Chicago to attend a work training conference with my sister, Rhonda, as a tag-a-long- :-). We both had a lot of fun exploring the city by foot and at times on the CTA train.
The areas we visited were alongside Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. As we took our leisurely stroll toward Chicago's Navy Pier we were astounded by the number of colleges in the vicinity, including DePaul University, Columbia College Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Roosevelt University. The area is also very family friendly. We saw many families on vacation, and the streets were relatively safe as we saw cops on every corner. Especially near the train stations, as I had to meet my sister at a nearby station after a late night flight into the city.
Once we got to the pier we ate at Giordano's which is famous for it's Chicago stuffed deep dish pizza. We didn't partake of the famous pizza; nevertheless, we enjoyed a scrumptious spaghetti lunch.
Chicago should definitely be on your list of cities to visit. And for those in the Columbia, SC area, flights were less than $145 round-trip, and we booked 2 months out. You can't beat that price with a stick!!
Have you visited Chicago? What were some of your highlights?
A random discussion (so it seemed) with one of my graduating high school students landed Rhonda and I with a rare find. Rare Variety Cafe that is. The vegan restaurant is located on North Main near Columbia College campus, and has been in business 6 months. The area is known for having one of the lowest per capita income in the city, and a plethora of health disparities that are of major concern in the primarily black community, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. What the business partners have done within the span of less than 4 years is remarkable indeed.
Using their own personal funds to open the restaurant, Ronnie Willingham and Keith Alexander are rarities themselves. Ronnie has been a vegan for over 22 years and an auto detailer by trade. Keith is a former 5th grade teacher turned multi social entrepreneur. Together, they not only opened Rare Variety Cafe, but are one of only 3 HUBs designated in the state of South Carolina with a special grant from the USDA to aid local farmers with distribution of their surplus fruits and vegetables to the underserved populations in the state.
With their own personal funds and money from the grant, they have been able to source produce from local farmers, and create their own garden on the premises of the restaurant. In addition, they will operate a summer feeding program supplemented with the produce from local farmers; open their own grocery store next door; and with a recent purchase of a bus, they will be able to educate and train people to set up their own community gardens. Their platform is all about "Farm to Fork"...growing your own produce, and eating it at your own table.
The pair have hired local teens to assist them in the kitchen. The teens will also have a hand in setting up community gardens all across the state. There are also personnel to help in the garden adjacent to the restaurant. The garden is loaded with a variety of herbs, tomatoes, and greens. Rhonda has taken on a consulting role with the business partners, and will aid in establishing their business strategies so that they can operate all aspects of their business seamlessly.
Oh.... and can we say the food is DELISH!! The southern fried cauliflower taste just like fried chicken. The curry-jackfruit stew is better than any pulled pork I've ever tasted. Both are pictured below. We also tasted Ronnie's newest creation, the E-Burger, which is made with chickpeas and mushrooms. We would show you a picture, but we both ate our burgers so fast, the camera couldn't keep up. Additional menu items can be seen in an image captured below. It's definitely a place to visit. You'll thank us later.
Rare Variety Cafe hours are Wednesday - Saturday, from 11:30am-8PM. They are located at 4622 N. Main in Columbia near the Columbia College campus main entrance. You'll see a beautiful mural with a picture of George Washington Carver and one of his infamous quotes "Where There Is No Vision, There Is No Hope". Parking is near the mural.
Rhonda & Sharee Washington