Journey with Jo

Follow me as I blog about my various journeys across the globe, making budget travel look luxurious!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

As someone that's on the go quite often, I have a bunch of things I can't do without. As a seasoned traveler, these are some items I'll never leave home without.


Honorary Mention: My Passport
Not on my technical list (because when traveling domestically, it's not necessary), but it's def worth a mention. When you're country hopping, this little book is your only way in and only way out. Hence the reason it's so doggone important. 



When I'm on the road internationally, I always keep in inside of the bag or purse I use when I'm in transit. I never take it out during my daily excursions, unless if absolutely necessary. That way I always know where it's at and it minimizes my freak out sessions trying to figure out it's location.

Now...on the actual list

1. Powerbank (Portable Charger)
Coming in as numero uno, this is an essential travel tool for when on the go. From updating social media, to texting with friends/family, and taking photos, I don't want to miss a beat when I'm out and about. Doing these things simultaneously is a drainer on this iPhone battery.



As someone that is often in foreign land solo, I can't and won't  risk having my phone dead. Not being able to use essential things such as WhatsApp or Google Maps is not an option for me. If you're a traveler or about to become one you better go ahead and get you one of these babies!

Check out this link for the powerbank that I use, which comes in different colors.

2. Baby Lips
I was debating whether or not to put this as number one, because this is one thing I truly cannot live without. Ever. EVER. (One of my students even got me a few of these as my Christmas gift, because he recognized the obsession was real).

This simple lip balm keeps my lips moisturized for hours on end and I love the subtle glisten it gives my lips. I also use it sometimes as a base for lipstick, which comes in handy when I'm using a matte one, because let's be real...matte gets super dry, super quick! (And if you know of a matte that doesn't, please drop a comment below and let a sista know!)




When traveling (and in normal life) I always have 1-3 of these babies in a bag, jacket, suitcase, pants pocket, etc. Because God forbid I loose one and don't have a backup!

Baby Lips comes in a variety of shades, but I use the "Quenched" one, because its clear and gets the job done. It's super cheap on Amazon ($1.99 as an add-on item), so check it out here!

3. Tripod/Selfie Stick
Being alone is not an excuse for me to get a dope picture. There are many times when I don't have the luxury of having someone take my photo. And to be honest, most times it's better I take it myself, because I know what I want/am looking for. 




Hereingoes....dun-dun-da-da...the tripod/selfie stick combo! I love this little tool, because not only can I mount my phone on here, but it also comes with a bluetooth remote for which I can snap, snap away. 

I scout a place I want to get the shot, place my phone on the mount, pose and click the remote hiding somewhere in my hand. It's super compact, lightweight and helps me to get the job done. I'm telling you, this makes traveling alone + capturing a great shot effortless!

If you want to use this stick with solely a cellphone, click this link for the one that I use.
If you have have a GoPro and want to use it interchangeably for that device and your cellphone, then this is the one that you need!

4. Sunglasses
Sunglasses are the one accessory I can't live without and its super simple why. 



I hate the sun being and my eyes, and I love the way I look in aviators (other shapes too, but the a-vee's are my fav). 

I got these pair from Aldo Shoes about 3 years ago (yes, I've held on to these for 3 whole years), but I tend to get all my others off the streets of NYC, where I can bargain for them.

5. Journal
There are many instances where I'll have some downtime while at a beach, restaurant, or waiting for a flight. For me, this is the perfect time to get my thoughts down on paper.



I enjoy being able to look back on my journeys to see what I was feeling, thinking, seeing, smelling when I was writing. It's a great way to get out what's on my mind and gives me memories to last forever. 

I tend to get my journals from Marshalls/TJ Maxx, because they have an assortment of them. It also takes way too long of a process, because there's so many to choose from and it's always hard for me to choose from all the pretty covers they have. 



** Undoubtedly, there are other things I travel with that make my life easier, but these 5 are my essentials and I'm never, ever leaving home without them.

What are some must haves you can't leave at home without when hitting the road?

Let's chat! Let me know below.
Another no-so-shamless plug for this tripod. Who needs a cameraman? Not me!
Location: Bali, Indonesia
xo,
Jo

Saturday, August 4, 2018

I can't believe I finally made it out here! China, I can say that I've touched your soil. Years prior, coming to China was a thought I could never fathom. Believe it or not, I used to be vehemently afraid to fly. Yes...me!

One of my motivations for visiting Beijing...The Great Wall!
Welcome sign inside Beijing (PEK) airport
Growing up, I used to get panic attacks when I thought about flights. Yes, I've had my fair share of flights as a youth, but it was always a struggle. I always said if a flight was longer than 3 hours, then I couldn't do it. I made peace with myself at a young age that parts of the world was going to be off limits to me simply because of flight time. Fast forward many years later, and that time has absolutely no bearing to me on whether or not I will see a certain place.
Riding the subway in Beijing
I didn't have too many expectations prior to coming to China. The main reason for my coming here was as an entry point to Southeast Asia. I decided to go with Beijing, because I figure I could knockout the Great Wall since I'd be coming here.
Cute location right down the street from our AirBnb
Surprisingly (inset sarcasm) I stayed at an AirBnb, located in one of Beijing's residential areas. 
Nearby street in the neighborhood of which we stayed
Everything was fine with this place and our overall trip, until our last few hours in the country, when I was startled by a very disturbing message from our host. Long story short she didn't follow the proper measures to register us with the local authorities, and they found out we were staying there undocumented. 

We had to spend our last night at a local hotel (paid by the host) in order to avoid an unpleasant encounter with law enforcement. 

This situation was crazy, to say the least (and sounds much calmer here than what it actually was). It really put a damper on my last day, because half of it was spent dealing with this fiasco.

Another thing worth noting that any attention I've received while abroad was magnified times 1000 in this country, and it's undoubtedly because I'm black. I'm totally OK with garnering attention, after all, it happens frequently in my everyday life, but the one received here was on a whole other level.

For three days literally almost every person we passed did a double take, tried to sneak pictures of us, or outright asked to take a photo of or with us. Upon asking a local what they fascination with us was, we were told that many of the people (especially in the tourists areas) weren't natives of Beijing. A lot of them were on vacation as well, coming from various parts of the country. It was explained to us that many of these people have never seen people that looks like us, which is why they acted in that manner.

I totally get it. When you finally get to see something in person of which you've never seen before, it's fascinating. However, these people (overall) lacked a sort of couth about themselves. Pointing, laughing, subtle giggles and trying to hide behind others to sneak a snapshot...

It should also go with saying that there were some people that actually had manners and asked politely to take pictures with us.

But it was simply overwhelming at many points and times, to say the least but we made it through :)
Kalina taking a photo with locals
Because of the way our trip ended with the AirBnb fiasco and stared at (or dismissed) almost everywhere we went, made this trip simply OK. I'm more than glad that I came, because I got to see so many historically sights, but it's a place I'd be OK with not visiting again. There are other places in China on my list for sure and I'm certain that I will get there in the near future. 

Check out some photos below of my time in Beijing!
Yummy noodles I had for breakfast on Day 1
Outside the famous Tiananmen Square
Inside the Forbidden City
Just outside the Forbidden City


The ladies I traveled with
Sitting on the side of the Great Wall
Very nice young fellow we met from Hong Kong while climbing the wall

With our tour guide
One of the highlights of my time in Beijing: a tea ceremony
Have you been to Beijing? Any other parts of China? 
Have any desire to visit this country? 

Let me know below!

xo,
Jo


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

As I sit back and think of my life, my journey, and all the things that have led up to this very moment, all I can do is give thanks. I'm very aware that I live an amazing life and I do not take any of it for granted. Any of it. Things always look great when we see things posted up on social media, but one never sees all the things that it took to get there...

I'm writing this post (2:30am Pacific Time), sitting in a Los Angeles hotel, trying to stay awake a long as possible in an effort to tire myself out for a pending 12 hour, 45 minute flight in the morning.

Tomorrow, I embark on a 3 week journey that will allow me to explore four countries in Asia. This is my first time traveling to the continent, and I couldn't be more ecstatic. Being able to put a trip like this into fruition, all by my lonesome, was no easy feat, but alas 'tis time to reap the benefits of months of planning. In the midst of this excitement, there is a prevalent spirit of gratefulness that has overtaken me...hence the reason for this post.

It's an overwhelming feeling I have currently, but a positive one in the same token. This will be my longest trip to date and I'm prayerful that everything will turn out great.

Even though I am taking this time out to publicly express gratitude for my life and the blessing I have, I also want to speak to you. Yes, you. Someone that is reading this post right now. 

There's no better feeling than being in a particular moment in time, super content with where you're currently at, and knowing that YOU were the deciding factor in all of that coming to life. I can say that I've been at in this space several times over my short life, and it's an amazing space to be in.

Whatsoever your goals are...whether they be travel related or not, just GO FOR IT. 

I get so many messages, DMS, emails, etc. from folks expressing how they wish they could have the guts I have to do the things that I do. My response always mirrors a, "you can do it too" mindset, because it's true. I'm no different from anyone. Set a goal and GO FOR IT!

This space I'm in, where everything feels just right & content, I want you all to join me there! Life is fleeting, our time on Earth is so short, it's what we do with the time that matters. 

So book the hotel, buy the flight, put in the request for days off. Log off the phone, turn the TV off, disconnect. Whatever that thing is for you that will bring you to your happy space, start now to make those steps to get there.

I guarantee you won't regret it!!!


xoxo,
Jo


Saturday, May 19, 2018

On my most recent trip abroad to Egypt, I flew with Turkish Airlines. There were other options that would've gotten me to Cairo, both quicker and a tad bit cheaper, of course, but I specifically scouted an international carrier when doing my research. Reason being is that generally speaking non-American carriers provide a better economy/coach experience (in my adamantly strong opinion).  The reason I decided to fly with Turkish, over others, is because I saw the layover in Istanbul, and figured I could get in two destinations for the price of one.
Image result for touristanbul turkish airlines


After doing further research, I was even more sold on flying Turkish. I found out they do free layover tours in Istanbul, given your layover connects there and it is more than six hours. The caveat to this is that it is 100% F-R-E-E. 
Image result for touristanbul turkish airlines
Say no more! Upon finding this, I was sold! 

Depending on the day you are coming in, they have upwards of five different tours to choose from. And if a tour isn't how you want to spend your layover, you also have the option to book a hotel stay, at no extra cost. Seriously, how awesome is this?!?

Flight Experience
Twenty-four hours before my flight, I checked in via their website to choose my seat. I was pleasantly surprised that there were a plethora of seats to choose from, so I confirmed my selections for my two flights and got my boarding pass sent to my phone.

Everything went smooth in terms of getting through everything at the airport. The only thing is that I was asked to check in my carryon because it was over their weight limit, which I believe is 8 or 10kg. I'm not too sure. But it was free to have it stowed, so I had no complaints...one less thing for me to carry around.


So fast forward to the flight, and pretty much the reason why I'm writing this. The experience I had was bar none! To be flying in economy class, I felt like royalty from the time I sat down. Now I must be honest, the aircraft was definitely dated. The seats weren't in the greatest condition and could use some TLC, but the service made up for it.
All settled in and ready for the flight
Each seat had their own personal entertainment console in front of them, with a plethora of movies, TV shows, games, music, etc. to choose from. 


Soon after becoming airborne, the attendants came around to pass out hot towels and menus. Hot towels??? Did I miss something? As a semi-frequent (1-4 times a year) first class flier, I always took the hot towels on an airplane to be a first class thing, but in economy? I had no clue.

When it was time for our meal to be served, the attendant said she would come back with my meal, because I had specified my dietary restriction (pescatarian) online, when I initially booked my flight. She came back a few minutes later with is no doubt the best meal I've ever eaten as a coach passenger. Steamed salmon, white rice, veggies, two small salads, and a fruit. The crazy thing is that I wrote in my notes to the airline, on the online portal that I preferred fruit over a traditional dessert and I got it!
My yummy in-flight dinner

I remember so many times filling out dietary restrictions in vain, because most airlines will still only serve the same two meal options for all passengers, but to actually receive what I wanted...I was truly grateful and knew at that exact moment I had to share how dope they were to the masses.

The other major highlight I have to share is how big my eyes got when I finally stood to use the restroom. It was so huge! I could stretch both of my arms out and still have room type-of-huge. I could do a 360 degree turn and not bump into someone type-of-huge. I could pull out my phone, record a video, and not be afraid to drop it down the toilet due to lack of space type-of-huge.

Don't believe me? Check out the video below!


All in all, my experience on Airbus A330-300 was a pleasant one. And after arriving in Cairo, I eagerly anticipated the return flight so that I could take part in the free layover tour in Istanbul.

Layover Tour
As stated above, the airline offers a super free layover tour in Istanbul (Turkey), given you have a connecting flight there over 6 hours. 
Enjoying a cup of tea while waiting for the tour at the airport in Istanbul
After lounging around a couple of hours from landing in Turkey, my friends and I met at the designated spot to leave for the tour. We ended up paying to store our backpacks at the airport, but realized we didn't have to, as the first stop on the tour was to their office, in town, for which to store belongings you didn't want to carry around. Hey, I now know for next time!
Related image
Desk at airport where you go to confirm your tour/hotel stay
The tour was extremely well organized and our tour guide's name was Sunshine, so you should already know we were in good hands, with a name like that. Below is a snapshot of our itinerary.
The itinerary we followed
This was my first time having an organized tour during a long layover, and I will purposely look for opportunities like this in the future, because it truly was like getting another mini-trip without any bit of effort on my behalf.


Our FREE breakfast spread

Keptah, Kiersten, and I

Freshly roasted chestnuts. I just had to give them a try!

Outside the Blue Mosque

In true travel comfort and style!
Topkapi Palace

Ceiling inside of Topkapi Palace


Our lunch restaurant 

Views from the restaurant 
In short, if you're ever flying international and have a choice, I'd highly recommend flying Turkish. You get great service, they will cater to your specific food needs, and if you have a long layover your options expand well beyond the walls of an airport!

Have you ever flown with Turkish Airlines?
If so, what was your experience like?

Never flown with Turkish? Do you think you'd want to give it a try? 

Flown with any other international carrier that you fell in love with?

Let me know your thoughts below!

xo,
Jo



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Last month I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Egypt for six days with the best sister-friends a girl could ask for. 

I remember way back in August 2017, when I initially booked the flight it started off as a solo trip, but as time went on, and I started letting more and more of my circle know my travel plans, there ended up being four of us on the itinerary, and it couldn't have worked out better.

Being a frequent solo traveler, I'm very particular with whom I travel with, when others do come along with me. I've heard horror stories of many that traveled with large groups or many "friends" and it go awry. I never want to have that issue or for it to be a lingering thought in my head that I'm not going to enjoy myself with the company I'm with, so for that reason I only advertise trips to close friends.

I digress a bit from the title of the post, but I would be remiss to not share that a major reason why my trip was as great as it was, was due the three other women I shared the experience. There's something to be said about being with true friends that you can laugh, cry, encourage, and truly be yourself around that makes these moments in life all the greater. 








Keptah, Kierra, and Kiersten, thank you for your friendship and thank you for your presence. Egypt wouldn't have been the same without you ladies. So this post, I dedicate to you :)

OK, OK, OK... On to the reason for this post!!

Reasons Why You Need to Visit Egypt

4. The Architecture & Views
The title says it all. I have nothing more to elaborate on this so take a look for yourself!













3. The Historical Sights
It's one thing to see read, hear, and see things on paper or in pictures, but it is truly a whole other thing to experience it in person.




One of the reasons why my wanderlust is at such a heightened point at this time in my life is because hearing about things no longer suffices. I need to have my five senses engaged, up and personal, with the real things.




Being able to stand underneath the massive pyramids, see hieroglyphics with my naked eye, walk inside of tombs where ancient royalty were buried, and to even stand on the same grounds as Jesus and his parents were all things I can now make those cross connections with having learned about them previously, but now got to experience it in person. 






2. To Demystify Islamofobia
Prior to going to Egypt, I was very aware that I was going to an Islamic country. This didn't mean much to me, in terms of deterring me from going, but I did receive the side eye and third-degree questioning from a few friends and family members upon telling them of my pending destination. 

Egypt as a country has been in world news in recent years for cases of bombings/attacks. If you know anything about the way news is reported in the U.S.A., then you know that any news about a country that isn't it's own or especially is an Islamic country, isn't presented in the best light. It's always reported with an underlying tone that these places are dangerous and that the people in these places are inherently inferior.

Me, always being a skeptic to anything that comes from media here in this country, have always known better than to take what the news says as accurate. There is a clear agenda they have to push and this I am aware of.

Many people fear going to Egypt, wondering if it safe or if there would be any problem traveling as a woman there and I'm here to tell you that it is totally fine

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE

The people there were very respectful and not ever, not even once did I feel unsafe. Even in the midst of the busy streets and the cars weaving in and out of each other, there was just an feeling of peace in the air that made me feel at peace the entire time. 
Our AMAZING tour guide, Mohamed








1. To Reaffirm Black Excellence
Being in this country, seeing the pyramids, tombs, and hieroglyphics up close and person simply added to my laundry list of reasons why I am proud to be black. It is one thing to read and see pictures of these places, but to see it in person honestly brought tears to my eyes at one point.





The artifacts I was privy to witness were literally thousands of years old and knowing that my ancestors were the ones to create these things just proved how advanced ancient Egyptians were. From the golden caskets, to symmetrical pyramids, and intricately etched symbols in the wall, I was astounded by how much talent was displayed at every historical site we visited. 




It was very clear that the ingenuity they possessed was bar none and it made me proud to know that my African ancestors were the reason behind this. Their resources were super limited but they relied on the universe and the strength of the spirits of those that came before them to create a lasting dynasty, that still to this day leaves many questions unanswered. 








Tomb made of pure gold

Sandals...yeah, we did that first!


But one thing that cannot be denied is the excellence that was portrayed by these dynamic people and we are so fortunate to have these artifacts still here that give us a glimpse into how innovative and well beyond there time they were. Black excellence, indeed!


I highly suggest you add Egypt to your travel plans soon!

Is Egypt on your places to visit? If so, what would you want to see or do there?

Been to Egypt already? What were your favorite experiences?

Let me know below!