Why I ♥ to travel!

On several occasions my friend Keith has asked me why do I travel? "What is the point of it?" Each time he asks I can't help but get a bit miffed and try to come up with an deep philosophical explanation and each time I fall short. Then one day it hit me. Just like any passion, the desire is organic and somewhat indescribable, but I'll make one last attempt to put it into words. Here goes: travel is fun, I enjoy it and it makes me happy!

Inspiration, satisfaction and a plain-ole hand-on-my-hip "Because I want to!," all come to mind when I think about my travel history and travel plans. Everytime I go somewhere, I come back with a new outlook on life and a better appreciation of all that this world has to offer and of my homeland, the USA. A contributing factor to it is my love of photography and the great outdoors.
I grew up when it was a big deal to playing outside.I climbed trees, made mud pies, planted flowers and played in a creek down the street and I think that manifested into wanting to see great works of Father God and Mother Nature such as The midnight sun, black sand, and the Pink Lake first hand. Why do I want to see all of that? Because I want to, because I can, because its fun, I enjoy it and it makes me happy!

I also think part of my desire to travel has something to do with being an American. Americans are the self-proclaimed gold-standard of what the rest of the world should be, but American culture is composed of countless cultures from around the world. For the most part we take ideas, strip it of anything authentic, stamp the American flag on it and call it our own. All things didn't originate in the Great U.S. of A. For example, if you ask the average person about fried food, they'll say it is southern tradition or give some outlandish explanation about slaves, but food historians will say the first documented fried food was a fritter during Medieval Times in ancient Rome.
As the human race, we are divided and characterized by cultures, social norms and race, but geographically there are no boundaries, no borders (well, for the most part). On a trip to New York, my seat mate turned and said to me," The world seems so much smaller when you get on a plane." After my eyes stopped burning and I could no longer hold my breath b/c his was ON FIRE, I thought about what he said and took it as truth.

Now it is your turn. Leave a comment and tell me why(or why not) you ♥ to travel.
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En(spired) State of Mind

I was blogging my trip to NYC chronologically but after hearing this song, I was inspired to make a slide slideshow/video. Enjoy!

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Pack It Up, Pack It In

Before we left for NYC, Meredith posted an entry on packing, which set off a personal mental-firestorm for me. I'm a recovering over-packer - you know her. She's:
~ the woman known for bringing two bags on an overnight trip,
~ the one who carries toiletries she that doesn't normally use at home, simply because they're cute and travel-sized, and
~ the one trip-mates can rely on to bring that extra shower cap, toothpaste, and the full-size bottle of lotion.
Yeah - that was me. I was on the road to a bad-back or shipping box-loads of stuff back home on every trip.

But, a lifetime of travel (multiple flights yearly, international trips, & countless road trips, etc.) plus the disintegrating quality of the travel-experience has forced me to get better. That's right - I'm no longer in princess-mode when it comes to packing. I pack-light, like Erykah Badu said.

I had a strategy for New York - pack what you can carry, carry what you'll use, use what you bring. It required me to reaffirm my faith in list-making. I wrote down, in detail, what I wanted to wear each day. Then I broke it up into categories and quantities, editing and pruning during the days leading up to the trip. Then, I printed it out and stuck to it when it was time to pack. Not easy, but it saved me from dragging luggage the size of a small refrigerator along the NYC blocks. This was really helpful as we were dropped off a shuttle bus in the middle of a busy intersection and had to walk a little ways to our hotel, full luggage in tow.

During the trip, I wound up carrying large totes, like this one, on the city streets to facilitate my shopping and literature-collecting.

I did wind up packing some toiletries I didn't use and wound up rejecting outfits I'd planned, in favor of the more comfortable, functional pieces I'd brought. My only failing was shoes. I brought too many pairs and wound up relying on my flip-flops too often. The city streets and all the walking beat my poor little tootsies up in those flip-flops. But, even in that failing, I learned something. I'm about to start shopping for cuter, more functional travel shoes for walking. I've noticed that Japanese tourists are good for wearing shoes like that.

By trip's end, I was happy with my packing skills, but it's obvious I've got more growing until I'm as savvy as the chronic business-traveler, who's used to getting everything into one bag, not checking said bag, and who prides themselves on being to carry everything him or herself.

Anyway, I'll be posting my recounts of trip goings-on in the next few days. Mer's first ones got me excited to get crackin' on this project.

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July 16th (Part II): Emperial Nation.SI Ferry and Cheese Corn

Thursday evening we made our way to Soho. The World was having a social so we decided to stop by and do a bit of shopping. Emperial Nation is NYC's best kept secret, but I'm about to tell it! It is the hottest urban wear around. Looking for something unique, head over and ask for Gregory!

After a few drinks and a bit of shopping its time to eat! During my research on NYC, I stumbled across a place called Cafe Habana. It is one of those little places that's not listed in the travel books. One way in. Same way out, always crowded. They are known for their Mexican style grilled corn topped with cheese, lime and chili powder.

I was a little disappointed b/c I thought the cheese was hot and melted, but it was Cotija cheese. A hard cow's milk cheese that originated from Mexico. It texture was similar to grated Parmesan cheese, but it was still good!

Last stop of the night was the Staten Island Ferry. Thank God for local family with a car b/c our feet were throbbing. Ironically, she has lived in NY all her life and has never been on the ferry. The SI Ferry is free and gives you a great view of the city. On the trip back when you are approaching the dock it looks like we are floating into the building. I could have rode back and forth just listening to the water. My photos were horrible and blurry and my digital binoculars won't sync to my desktop, so NO PHOTOS!

Thanks for reading! Good Night!

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July 16th (Part I): Greenwich Village

Today was our first full day in NYC. After breakfast{ a yummy, fresh carrot, pineapple, celery juice} we were off to see the city! First stop, Greenwich Village to Strands Bookstore. 18 miles of books, books and more books. Monya was in heaven! Top floor had first editions that were pretty pricey. No photos were allowed b/c some of the books are extremely valuable and fragile.

Next, we took a moment out to say thank you for safe travel { among countless other things} for prayer at Grace Church. The stain glass was beautiful.

Who can resist cream puffs from Beard Papa?

After taking a bit of goofing off a bit in Aldos,we headed over to Washington Square Park and Wall Street.

Next stop..The World!

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July 15th: Welcome to New York

After a year of planning this it is. From take off to touch down my trip to New York was an adventure. Our shuttle dropped up in front of Grand Central Station and less that 100ft away stood our home for the next 6 day. Grand Hyatt New York. You can't get any better than that. After checking it and grabbing dinner at Chirping Chicken, we took a stroll around the block and what did we see...Paparazzi! The red carpet event was in honor of Nelson Mandela.

(left to right) Karolina Kurkova , random journalist, Akon, Keisha Whitaker

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I'm Back in Brooklyn, the Bronx, the Bottom, the Bowery, the Big Apple...

In our unabashed excitement, we're both going to explain why our upcoming NYC trip is a big frikin' deal.
Essentially, it's like this: though we've both visited New York before (multiple times, in fact), we've never seen it in this capacity - as an extended girlie-getaway. The mission (which we've accepted with gusto) is simply relaxation, inspiration, excitement, and supporting each other's adventures. Meredith wrote a wonderful vision statement in our Google-Doc, which I re-read whenever I'm feeling blah or bored. It's reads like the standard business mission statement, but with our own travel philosophy infused.
I've been to NYC twice before - once as a child, and the other as a teenager. Both were short family affairs (my parents, my aunt, a sister or two, and - for the teenage trip - my best friend at the time).

My NYC Debut
At ten, my family went to Manhattan for a Christmas getaway. If my parents were on a budget, I didn't know it. We stayed at The Beverly Hotel (since, renamed the Benjamin and refurbished), went to FAO Schwartz, the Empire State building, and the Holiday show at Radio City Music Hall. It was the type of magical, fantasy holiday tradition I hope to maintain when I have children of my own. I don't remember many other details, except cold temperatures, my little sister Tracee crying a whole lot, and my aunt cracking jokes.

The Second Time Around
The more recent trip was the spring of my junior year of high school. We went just as the city was waking up from winter. We were there for four days and did tourist-y stuff. That was a year before the much ballyhooed "Disneyfication" of Times Square. We went to some tourist traps, saw our first subway rat, and stayed mainly in our hotel's neighborhood. My mom let my then-best friend LaToya, whom I've since grown away from, come along and let us do big-girl things like walk around by ourselves and spend our own money.
I harbor a serious Broadway love affair, which was, at the time, stunted by my having never actually been to see a show. So, naturally, the focus of this visit was to remedy that. My parents took one night to see Chicago on their own. The next day, my mom took me and best friend to see an Annie matinee.
But the best show was once-in-a lifetime, something I feel fortunate to have experienced because of it it's uniqueness. I saw
Bring in the Funk, Bring in the Noise, with the singular Savion Glover, Jeffrey Wright, and Ann "The Voice" Duquesnay. I cringe knowing that no sentence I construct will definitively describe this tour-de-force masterpiece history of black hoofing (that's tap-dance, for the uninitiated). I still have my Playbill, soundtrack CD, and T-shirt. It's my crowning memory of that short trip and since then I've wanted to return and do more. I also mourn Funk/Noise and wish it would return. Where is Savion Glover anyway? According to his Wikipedia page, he's still dancing, working in film and choreography. I'm glad. I wish he'd consider reviving this amazing show..

Why do I ♥ NY?

You can't follow American pop-culture (or high or folk cultures, for that matter), without knowing that New York City is one of it's beacons. Despite the vapid TRL decade we just finished, when Times Square teemed with folks on the street screaming up to the funky-glass windows above, I still admire NYC. What draws me is the clash of grit and grime with elegance and excess. Some days this city is everywhere I want to be. It's not place I'd want to live in forever (the claustrophobe Southern Belle in me will never die), either. Sometimes I feel like a New Yorker, raised in Queens, with grandparents from Harlem, a Manhattan job, and a Brooklyn boyfriend.

I admittedly glorify this city, but I'm still open and aware of it's flaws and sprawling nature. I see the way it's children hanker to move away for open space, fresh air, and affordable lifestyles. They've recolonized Florida and have a good stronghold on North Georgia. But I also see why they never let the New York sensibility die and why my city (Atlanta) tries so hard to emulate it. The city is too much to love, then leave abruptly. New Yorkers take their city wherever they go.

So, Third Time's A Charm
This time around, I'm on my own dime, my own time, and with one of the coolest travelers ever. My hope is that I add new favorite spots to MY New York, and that I see it as an adult for the first time. I'm stoked to bite that Apple, again.
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30 days til take off!

This time next month, I'll be struttin thru Charlotte Douglass Airport headed to New Yawk City. Big City of Dreams! I think I am in for a bit of a shock. Mentally, I glamorize everything! I can plan a weekend at home and make it seem like a lifetime movie. So I keep having to reminding myself, "Merdi, yes it is a vacation, but no it’s not a resort we are going to the city. A big, loud, crowded and somewhat impolite and dirty city!"

While in NYC, Mon and I will celebrate our birthdays. Hers is next Saturday and we’ll be in G’boro visiting the Diva herself, Mrs. Carter and my birthday is Aug 2, but my family will be in town for a memorial service and though I can be somewhat self-in
volved, I think it would be inappropriate to make that weekend about me, don’t you think? So the last day in NYC, we'll get dolled up, catch a cab to a swanky New York eatery to exchange gifts and philosphical expectations for the year ahead while sippin' something sexy and alcoholic!

As far as planning for the trip, I am very proud of my crony and I. Our first time traveling together, I think lack of communication, almost sent us over the edge. Lesson learned! So this time around communication was key! My unofficial motto for planning is "For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned." Monya and I talked about almost every aspect of this trip to make sure we are on the same page. The universe allows us a certain amount of control, so we try to take advantage of it. Our respective interest will make the trip exciting for the other person and the little expectancies that the universe has in store will make the trip a unique experience for us both.

Thanks for reading!

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Tech and the City

Meredith and I are huge "Sex and the City" fans, so expect more plays on the title and plot stuff from the story here. Sorry - we'll try not to wear out the welcome. Anyway, Meredith said, "We need to post something about our use of technology on this trip." So, I'm on that.

On technology, my biggest concern wasn't access, but quick and complete reference. As a library-girl, my job is helping people find information. Most often, in my profession, users want info quickly, but wind up having to return to get more because it wasn't what they really wanted or needed.

Like those users, in New York City, I want to have the answers to as many of our questions as possible in my hands. Granted, part of the adventure is getting lost or making mistakes and finding your way out of them. Yet, I feel more relaxed when I plot and navigate my path on my own, not having to depend too much on the kindness of strangers or dumb luck.

Mos Def has a new album out, which has a track called "Life in Marvelous Times". His meaning is partly ironic, but for our travel purposes, I must co-sign. We really do live in marvelous times for technology and communication. Mer and I don't see each other everyday because we're in different cities, but we're constantly on the phone and web bouncing ideas off of each other. We're both Google acolytes and have been keeping our plans for the trip on a shared Google Doc. It holds our visions or mission for the trip, the budget, maps, and other things.

The largest, meatiest part of the trip-doc is our "Desired Stops/Itinerary" chart. We list the place we wanna go, it's address, a web-link, and the reason it's on the list. Lately, we've added a priority ranking system and I'm working on another addition - a new column that lists each destination by neighborhood. The list has dozens of museums, shops, restaurants, and landmarks we're trying to visit, and ya'll, we add new stuff all the time.

I was feeling anxious and tried to get Mer to agree to cease with the new additions, but she brought up an excellent point. It's better to have too much on the list, than too little. That way, if circumstance wrecks any plans, we have alternatives and choices. When the trip's finished, we may share our final trip document, but in true rebel spirit, we don't want other people offering unsolicited, authoritative advice that could make us miss an unexpected adventure. Plus, it'll take away from the blog-narrative, see?

Our other techy-thoughts were computer-related:

Should we bring a laptop?

What about web-access? Will we have to pay for it?

The short answer: We don't want to lug a laptop around, leave it in a hotel, or have to pay for the web. Both of our smart-phones are Wi-Fi accessible, so we're just going to depend on those, hotel concierge, email, and Twitter for quick access to last-minute info. We've discussed getting a GPS unit, but think that might be too extravagant or may prove uncessary.

We're also going low-tech with my NYC guide-book, a easy-to-hold print-out of our Google doc (which is 12 pages right now, without fancy formatting!!!), and probably whatever brochures and paper we collect while we're in town. We're trying to be green and not bring home a lot of clutter and paper, though.

So, that's the haps on our technology game, folks.

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What shall I pack?

A few weeks ago, I found the cutest T-shirt. It’s pink and green [of course] and it reads, “Carolina Girl. We wear flip flops and pearls.” ♥ IT! This is a shirt I must pack for NYC, but what else do I pack? Comfort is the first priority, but being comely and put together is close behind. Visiting NYC ,the fashion mecca that it is, I am not trying to end up on some urban fashionblog or TV show with my face blacked out as a Fashion Don’t! On the contrary, I’m not trying to fill a suitcase with unnecessary, impractical, trendy [somewhat tacky] garments in hopes to blend in. Way back when [I did watch] The Tyra Banks Show, she did a segment on the subject. It was not helpful [to me], BUT she did get me to think outside of the box. For Japan, I under packed, but it wasn’t that much of an issue, because I took 3 different coats and my hats/scarves/earrings kept me from looking too boring, but NYC in July is HOT. I have 55 days to pack, which should be more than enough time.

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June 27th...Road Trip....No Description Necessary

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Flight Tix Copped

Last night, we booked our flights online, tag-team style. We logged into Delta airline's website simultaneously, searching flight numbers and airfares. We wound up with two round-trip seats for the days and times we prefer. We picked our aisle-seats, clicked "Submit" and - presto - we're officially invested in this trip.

My route is ATL to NYC and Mer's is Charlotte to ATL to NYC. Homegirl's Charlotte flight lays-over in ATL and then we ride the same plane (to indulge her shutterbug urge to take inside plane-pics) . We fly in on a random weekday, go find the hotel, dump our luggage and take over the city.

We chose LaGuardia (LGA) arrival because it's closer to the neighborhood we're staying in (midtown Manhattan). One day, I'd like to see JFK (the other major NYC airport), but you can keep Newark (the step-child of NYC airports). It's soooo blah. I've been inside LaGuardia before, but the convenience thing is key here.

I follow airfare changes and subscribed to Yapta (heard about it from my longtime favorite hometown tightwad, Clark Howard) to follow flights from ATL to NYC for that day. We felt the time was right to go ahead and make the purchase because air fares have been steady for the past two weeks, and will probably increase. I hadn't seen much change in prices and wanted to beat the summer travel rush. So, we put our heads together, made the necessary mouse-clicks, and purchased. There may be some last minute deals we'll miss out on, but it's worth it. There's a certain security to having your flight booked in advance, no?

Why'd we decide on that time and airline? Mer explains it best, "We did our research and everything they had met out criteria. Plus, Delta doesn't charge a fee for baggage. It all came together." I second that emotion, holding my breath that they don't spring in a baggage fee until the summer travel-season has passed. Am I naive?

Ideally, I would have loved to hop a train and roll into Grand Central Station, arriving refreshed after having spent hours lazily napping, reading, and listening to music from a private sleeper-car on Amtrak. I can picture me and Mer popping out of the train-car, smart leather train cases in hand, sashaying down the platform, striking poses and spreading our fabulousness throughout the station. I do love the old-school glamour of train-travel.

But time, budget, and convenience all wrap on the door, and bring me back to a cool, but different reality. Modern ladies jet-set, flying in and out of metropolises with speed and grace. Except for our penchant for hopping into cars and making quick road trips down Southern highways to visit friends and family, plane travel fits me and Mer already. We've done it all our lives and have no time to waste. So, I'll keeping loving the idea of train glamour, while flying into NYC in a little over an hour.

Anyway, yay for flight-plans!
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Greetings and salutations, y'all...

...you coulda been anywhere else in the world right now, but you're here with us! Thanks for that.

So, I'm guest-blogging here because I'm the other half of this travel-duo. Meredith's my best friend, my shoulder to cry on, my partner in crime - all that stuff. I'm side-kicking on her blog because I loved watching her document her first trip to Asia and naturally cheerlead all her other excursions. I've got my own blog - a rambling, scrapbook-ish, little page, with few readers, but plenty of love and inspiration - so I'm already comfy in the medium. But I publicly thank my homie for inviting me over and sharing her blog.

As we plan our excursion, we bounce ideas off each other and share excitement. During one of our exchanges, the idea came that I'd post over here because Mer's blog is dedicated to this subject. She's got a scrapbook blog, too, but this one is specifically for her travels. I'm not the biggest photog, yet, but Mer inspires me with her shots and images. She'll post plenty of pics from our trip, just like last time. I'm more about words and narrative, so I'll probably hit you with play-by-play stuff during the planning and the journey.

Well, here's the specs of our trip:

  • Where: New York City (Manhattan)
  • When: 3rd week in July 2009
  • Rationale: While we have world travel experience and aspirations, we're both young career girls on budgets. Why not travel domestically this summer? Our pockets may not be large, yet, but we don't have to be stuck at home.
  • Goal: To be tourists in one of our favorite cities (we've both return visitors), on cultural safari. It would be serendipitous if we met cute African twins - one a doctor, the other an IT-guy - on our visit, who swept us off our feet, married us at a dual New York Public Library ceremony and reception and moved us into neighboring Brooklyn brownstones. Then we'd travel the world as a foursome (growing our little families), spreading Brown people love wherever we went. ;-)
  • I'll cover the travel and lodging stuff and many other details in days to come. Our planning process is a story within itself.
But for now, here's the take-away: We have the same initials (M.T.) I'm an ATLien, she's a Carolina-girl. I'm a library-lady, she's a health educator. We're college classmates, sorority line-sisters, cute single sistahs who're trying to live the lives we want -the way we want. We're travel buddies with computers, zip drives, cameras, iPods, dreams, and ideas.

Mer and Mon are definitely trippin'.
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Watch out Carrie Bradshaw..we are coming to NYC!

Most people got up this morning and it was another day. Wed. April 15th. Hump day. Me on the other hand was about to drag myself to work and then it hit me..in 3 months..I'll be cloud jumping my way to NYC! New Yawk City! So I had a few extra Good Mornings in me. I have been before. In high school and my family migrated north back in the 50's so I've visited them, but trip is different. This trip is all about me(and my crony Monya) and what we want to see! For 7days the city is ours. From the book fair in Harlem, to the SoHo, Central Park, Meat Packing District,ESB,to rubbing the bull for good luck, we are so there! She is the consummate fan of Sex and the City and after seeing the movie I am as well, so I am going to make sure I am on the look out for who..None other that Mr. BIG!
Then I got to work and it hit me again. May 15th I'll be preapring to head to NYC for a party. Its an over night trip with my cousin Jonise! I'm excited about that. Even though she is only 3 years older and we grew up as sisters, she like a mom. I call her BOSS and I'm BIT{ Boss In Training}. Before the party, I'm taking Boss Shopping :101 at the Woodburry Common Premium Outlets. If you own a credit card, DO NOT CLICK THE LINK!

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Farewell Japan!

February 26th: Today was my last day in Japan. I was determined to see the Tsukiji Fish Market..so once again, I got up at 4:30am. Hoped a cab and 2 trains went to the market.

Things looked alot differnt than yesterday.It was busy! As I got closer and closer i could hear the commotion, but still didn't smell anything. Manuvering my way through ws tricky. Its a tourist spot, but is built for business. First thing watch out for the fok lift drivers they WILL NOT STOP FOR YOU!.Once I got in started walking around it was fun. I am glad I got up for this. It freaked me out a bit b/c there was SO much and they fish almost everyday! That is alot of fish. Round trip was about 2 hours.

Its time to go home
Thanks for stopping by my blog.
I hope it was both insightful and entertaining.
Please leave a comment.
To see ALL of my photos click here!

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Big Momma and the Fish Market!

Febraury 25th: Up at 4:30am to see this famous fish market.Tsukiji Fish Market! After a cab, 2 trains and a 10 min walk...I get there to find this!

So, I spent the day shopping again! Later I met Matt for drinks before meeting Jason and Big Daddy Chris at Big Mommas! Another quaint little place. One way in one way out place, but it was full of soul and hip-hop! Alot of it! Dinner was tasty. She makes soul food with a Japanese flare. I tasted the crab omelet, cabbage roll and the chicken stew. Everything was good and Big Momma is so pretty!

I spent the night packing and repacking. Thank goodness I am allowed (2) 100lbs bags to be checked.

Good Night... and back to the Fish Market!

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Retail Therapy

February 24th: Today started off a bit strained. 4am to be exact, but I regrouped and I got it together. Only 3 more days til my departure and its time to go home.
For the last few days, my mom had been hard to reach, so I channeled my inner Angela Lansbury( Jessica Fletcher), I called my 11 year old neighbor and he spilled the beans..My beloved Uncle William had made his transition and my mom was at the funeral in NYC! Being the matriarch of or family she basically dared anyone to tell me and "ruin" my trip! I was LIVID at first, but I got over it. I just mailed his post card telling him I'd see him in May! My uncle and I had a good relationship. He was going to be 80 in July. He was a smooth cat. A ladies man..Like all the Carter men. He called me the"Family Freeloader" as he sent me some packet change!

Afternoon was all about doing nothing. I finally got some souvenir shopping done.I got my mother a beautiful kimono style robe. Myself a short one and gift for family and friends! Phone charms are really popular here, so I got a few..well 7 to be exact. I stocked up on these peach mints. I had a ball in 100 Yen store..Yep you guessed it THE DOLLA STORE!

Beauty Blogger Jamie would Love this !


Don't sleep..some was really good. Eelman is a great artist.

Look @ the top corner...yea I missed that..expected to see an Asian Carrie..Umm no, it was really SEX and Tokyo City!

I love this picture. No matter where you are kids will be kids!

The Dollor Menu is universal!
Meet Jero: The First Black JAPANESE Enka Singer

The day ended again with dinner and a long train ride home.

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