Journey with Jo

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hey travel family!

As you know, I take an overwhelming majority of the photos you see on my blog and on my Instagram all by myself. Last year, I shared a tripod/selfie stick I use in a previous post, but since then, ya girl has upgraded!!

Watch my video below to see the recommendations of the 3 tripods I typically carry with me. Here is also a direct link to YouTube.

The links to the products are inside my video, so please watch or open up a new window to find the direct links to buy any products you're interested in.

Drop a comment below if you have any other questions or if you decide to purchase!!

Monday, July 22, 2019

This past June, I decided on a whim to go on a cruise, all on my lonesome. I didn't have any summer plans set in stone and realized that I needed to get out of the country.

To maximize the amount of places I could see, I decided to search for a cruise. Now, to be very honest, I've never been a big fan of the sailing hotel. Having gone on 3 of them before, I'd always preferred trekking out on land and having the option to move how I wanted. And being that I do my trips a-la-alone, the price tag associated with going on a cruise solo was something I never wanted to dish out. I mean seriously, why charge someone double the price for going somewhere by themselves! If anything, being that much of a badass deserves a discount! Right???

But after doing some research and seeing that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), had special cabins (and rates) for solo travelers, and not having to pay for double occupancy, I just knew I had to try it out. 

I opted for the 7 Day Western Caribbean Cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway, leaving out of Miami and sailing to Honduras, Belize, and two ports in Mexico. I specifically chose this itinerary, because I've never been to Honduras or Belize, so this was a great opportunity to do so. 

The thing that I, undoubtedly, am the most pleased about is the way Norwegian catered to solo travelers. Some of those things included:

1. Solo Studio Accommodations 
There is a certain section of the ship, that houses the Solo Studios. These cabins are specifically designed to lodge one person. Albeit smaller than a regular inside cabin, I did appreciate the window that was in the room. 

A tour of my solo cabin

I know a small room, without an ocean view isn't appeasing to most, but for me it was fine. I'm only in the room to sleep and bathe, so it didn't bother me to not have extra square feet to walk around.

Just enough space for me to sleep and get my nightly journaling in
2. Solo Lounge
At the end of the hallway, there was a lounge, specifically for solo guests. It was a chic, two floor getaway that came completed stocked each day with snacks, beverages, and a bar.

Snack & Beverage Station/Seating Area

Lower Level of Lounge

Our board for daily announcements/schedule of activities
There is also so nice seating area and a TV for use. I thought this was a really nice "extra" and I was able to meet different people while coming in from time to time to grab some snacks.

3. Solo Staff Member
In addition to the lounge, there was also a dedicated person from the entertainment staff who was assigned to the solo travelers for the week.

Each night, at 5:30PM, all the "solos" convened in our lounge to meet with Merlina, our wonderful host who hails from the lovely island of St. Lucia. At this time, she went over the most popular nightly activities, shows and events that were happening. What I loved about this was, it was not necessary for us to reserve seats for shows that required advance notice. All we had to do was tell Merlina, and she put our names on the list, without worry.

The solo gang with our lovely host, Merlina
This was also helpful, because it allowed for us "solos" to be sat with one another at these events. It was a real treat having her able to arrange that for us.

Additionally, after spending 30 minutes at our daily meetup, we all (those who wanted to) went to dinner with each other. It felt really good knowing that I wouldn't be at a dinner table alone each night. Now of course, I don't mind, and have done it dozens of times on my travels, but having the chance to sit with people, get to know their stories, and catch up on the day with each other was super refreshing.

Beyond the way Norwegian ensured the solos were well taken care of, all the other amenities of the ship were fantastic. There were top notch, Broadway shows each night, a comedy club, a casino that may or may not take all your money, and interactive events.

Speaking of interactive events, I even participated in a lip-sync battle.

I hope I made Whitney proud

Another dope thing was that I really made some great connections and met people from all over the world, literally. Amongst our solo group was a man from South Africa,, a female doctor from Miami, a woman from Botswana, a man from South Carolina, and two other women from New York (one from upstate and the other, the city).
My South African Buddy

Travel friends from South Carolina & Botswana
I also have to put it out there, and am very pleased, that all of the solo women in our group were beautiful, strong, talented, educated, Black Women. I truly believe the travel gods arranged that. That kind of thing doesn't happen a lot in the travel world.

Cheers to my solo friend for celebrating a milestone birthday on the ship!

Hanging out before dinner
These were honestly some of the kindest and funniest people I've ever met. I'm so thankful that this was my "crew" during this week and couldn't have hand picked a more eclectic, wholesome group of people to be around. 

If you're thinking about doing a cruise solo, I would highly encourage it. I am also putting a huge-superbig-shameless-plug to do it with Norwegian. I've not been on many other cruise lines, but from talking with avid cruisers and also from doing my research prior to making a choice, it seems like Norwegian has the game on lock when it comes to making a person traveling by themself, not seem by themself.

I know for some people, being alone isn't the easiest thing to do, especially on a cruise setting where everyone is either with their significant other or family. This is where I believe Norwegian sets themselves apart from others. You don't have to feel alone and can opt-in to spending time with new people that have also came with themselves only.

All in all, I had a fantastic week, filled with laughter, making friends, first time experiences (scuba diving anyone??), and the opportunity to see the world.

Treated myself to an all week spa pass was one of the greatest choice I made!
Driving a jeep in Mexico

A short snippet of my time Under De Sea

I hope this post inspires someone to take the leap and book that cruise, especially if you're someone that has thought about it. And if you haven't, you too, go ahead and do it! We have one life to live and missed opportunities don't have to be if you decide other wise!

Peace & Love Always!

P.S. Through this process I was able to connect with a lovely representation on NCL that can assist with getting the best rates. If you're interested in booking, reach out to me so I can connect you!

Monday, June 24, 2019

What a journey life has taken me since I've last posted on here!

Life, as it always does, dealt me with some of the highest and lowest of times, in the span of a few months, but one thing I always am is grateful. Grateful for everything I go through, because I know for a fact, it is for a reason.

As many of you have asked about, and seen, I've taken a substantial break from hitting the friendly skies. For me, a break is anything longer than two months (how blessed I am to be able to say that). Even though it's been a while, being still and not exploring the world has taught me a ton about myself.

1.) Local Journeys Count
During my time not being airborne, I was able to take a few trips, not too far from NYC. Prior this, I was always in the frame of mind that I had to get the passport stamped to feel like it was a true trip, but not anymore! 

Hitting the streets of Philly (a 90 min. drive from NYC)

Hiking the trails of Breakneck Ridge, in upstate NY
Not only is it better on my pockets to travel local, but I'm still able to immerse myself in what that city has to offer.

2.) The Real "Followers" Remain
There was a point and time that I was not posting any photos to my feed, let alone stories. I was living my life and Instagram, was honestly the furthest thing from my mind.

I think it's a good practice to step back and take social media detoxes, as you deem fit, because sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming and/or time consuming.

But the thing I noticed while I was gone, is that so many of y'all showed so much love. I had a crazy amount of DMs of people simply checking in. Simply to see how I was doing, asking if everything was OK, or inquiring about the next trip/blog post. You all had no idea how comforting it was to have that type of outreach. 

Such a nice message to wakeup to, in the midst of my hiatus
It's one thing to have people hit you up and show love everytime you post something or upload to your stories, but it's a whole nutha thang for you to get hit up when you're not posting a damn thang! Let that marinate...

3.) I Love Traveling
Now this one could quite possibly go without saying. You may be thinking, "Duh Jo, we know you love traveling, it's obvious." Yeah, that might be obvious, but as with most things that you love, you recognize its importance in your life when it's not there.

These past 9 months of not taking an epic journey has really solidified the presence that travel has in my life. If I don't know anything else, what I know for sure is that a definite void has been placed within me from not being abroad. 

This is a void, I now realize I absolutely cannot go without for a long period.

During this time I went the G-R-I-N-D. 

I became a whole professor and got a major upgrade in my status as a teacher to a K-5 math coach for my school. Professional growth is just as important to me as my personal one. Those goals couldn't be accomplished without me dedicating myself to my craft and spending time to hone my skills.

Again, know that the universe put me in this season for a reason, but what I also know is that with every season, lessons are taught and growth happens.

So with that being said, the journey shall be continuing and solo travel is back on the horizon in T-MINUS 5 DAYS :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

If you’ve read my blog post, Solo Travel Over Everything, then you’ve heard me mention some of this before and if you haven’t read it, read it now!

Excursions! My travels would be much more, how do I say this ummm, BORING, without them. Excursions are an easy way for me to do something I enjoy, in a foreign country and to make personal connections all in one. 
Walking through Medievil Spain during an excursion in 2017 
As the lone ranger on the majority of my travel itineraries, it’s imperative for me to do things that bring me joy while away. The options for things to do this day and age are limitless, so being able to cater to the many sides of my being (adventurer, foodie, lounger, humanitarian, etc.) is an absolute treat while I’m on vacation.

There are two main sites I use to book these: AirBnb and Viator. I love them both for many different reasons and here’s why you should as well.

AirBnb has a separate platform within their site called Experiences. This allows you to have a certain encounter with a local that has something to offer within the city you’re visiting. It’s just like an excursion, but much more intimate and isn’t something that would take up your whole day.

For example, while visiting Cancun this past June, I booked an experience in which I took a cooking class at a local restaurant. The host was a native of the Cancun area and had personal ties to this specific restaurant. My experience included being able to be in the cooking/prep areas with the cooking staff in which they showed me how to prepare the most popular items on their menu. 
The amazing chefs that showed me the cooking ropes
Canc├║n, 2018
It concluded with me consuming it all, while having a wonderful conversation with the host, in which we got to know each other and found out that we have a lot of commonalities. And the best thing about this experience is that I was the only one! So I got one on one access to the staff and a whole bunch of leftovers to take home with me :)

The most recent experience I did was a hiking trip about an hour outside of Madrid. Myself and my best friend were accompanied by four other travelers on a 3 hour excursion that gave us a chance to be in nature and to see some great views of the Spanish countryside. Our host, Marco, was an excellent guide and he brought along a four-legged friend with him named Bob.
Marco & Bob
Spain, 2018
The cool thing about Marco is that he goes to a local shelter and brings a different dog out with him on these trips so that they have the opportunity to get some fresh air, stretch their legs, and be outside the shelter for a few hours. How cool is that???

Again, I love “Experiences” because it truly gives you the opportunity to do something you love in a smaller group setting. And another thing is that it’s offered literally everywhere, all over the globe. 
In Los Angeles, on an 'Experience' that took me on a walking tour in the Venice Area
I plan on trying a few at home, in NYC, before the year closes out, because I know it will offer me a chance to do something new and cool in my own city. Check out excursions here.

Viator is a site I’ve been using since I first started my avid #solotravellife. I previously blogged about this as a reason that makes solo travel do-able. This platform offers your more grander tours/excursions/trips. Things like a full day tour of a city, a dinner boat cruise, a hot air balloon tour, or early morning access to a museum or temple are things you’d find on Viator. 

Some of my greatest times while away, I accredit to Viator. For example:

  • a 10 tour multi-city tour outside of Rome that included with an Italian grandmother making lunch in her family owned vineyard
Part 1 of our several course meal in Italy
July 2016
  • a catamaran tour in Barbados filled with wonderful soca music, a delicious buffet spread, unlimited drinks, snorkeling and beach time
Right before I jumped in to swim with the fish
June 2017
  • an evening cruise down the Thames River (FACT CHECK) with awesome views of the Eiffel Tour
Eiffel views from our cruise boat
June 2016
  • hiking almost 16,000 feet up a mountain in La Joya, Mexico
The elevation was a KILLER, but so glad I did this trip
November 2017

They even do airport transfers in most places, which has the potential to save you some coins depending on where you’re at in the world (because sometimes cabs are more expensive and Uber isn’t available in that particular area). 

I implore you to check Viator out if you’re looking to spend more of your day out doing something, are looking for something super specific, and don’t mind being in bigger groups.

I truly hope this information is helpful to any and everyone that reads this. These two platforms have been instrumental in making my travels amazing and I truly hope it does the same for you!

So, have you used any of these websites to book activities while away?
What kind of things interest you when abroad?
Let me know below and of course thanks for reading!


Saturday, September 8, 2018

This is a post I never really foresaw myself talking about, but as we know art tends to imitate life. I'm overall a healthy person and probably catch the common cold 1-3 times a year, if that. 

Last week, in the midst of traveling to Los Angeles, California for the Labor Day holiday, I got real sick. Like I want my momma and my cats type of sick. I was totally fine prior to boarding, but about 3 hours into the flight I felt an itch in my throat and it was all downhill from there.

Not even 24 hours of being at my destination and I was sitting in an urgent care office with a fever of 101 degrees and goosebumps all over my body. 
Sitting outside of Santa Monica Urgent Care
Strep throat was the evil little culprit and the doctor on duty said I more than likely caught it on the plane, since that was the origin of my symptoms.

Do ya'll see all these goosebumps on my arm? Wild!
Getting ill totally ruined my plans, as I physically was out of commission and could do nothing but lay down and wallow in my travel sickness. All I'm gonna say is thank the good Lord for antibiotics (or the people that made it, rather) because my throat was better within a day of taking the meds.

So, here are 3 quick tips on ways to stay healthy while airborne.

1. Sanitize & Disinfect
This one right here is self explanatory. Germs are every-freaking-where, so it's important to protect yourself, especially at locations that are prime breeding homes for germs.

Once place in particular that you should do a nice clean down of is the airplane. That's right, bring those Clorox (or any other brand) wipes with you and go to town. Wiping the armrests, meal tray, entertainment screen will go a long way for germ killing. If you have a window seat, definitely clean off that window area before resting your head there. 

If you don't have disinfectant wipes, douse a napkin with sanitizer, and wipe that widow area down!

The same goes for when getting to a hotel room in or my frequent case, an AirBnb. Any surface that you frequent should be wiped down, and Lysol spray should also be a friend that you carry with you.

2.) Stock Up on Vitamins
This is an easy way to build up your immune system prior to a trip, especially if you're taking a long flight.

I take vitamins as a normal part of my daily regimen, because being in a room with kids all day, how dare I not safeguard myself again all the millions of germs bouncing off the classroom walls.

Vitamins are also a great way to shield you from the world outside of the plane.
If you're not a person that takes vitamins on a daily basis, consider taking some a few days before your journey to boost your defenses against all the inevitable germs you'll encounter.

3. Stay Hydrated
Water is my BFF in my normal everyday world, and it should be yours too! No shade at all if it isn't your thing, but on a long flight, you should definitely increase your intake of H2O.

After getting some water in, the next best thing is herbal tea (which I always carry with me in a ziplock bag on my travels).
Due to a lack of humidity in the cabin air, our bodies are more susceptible to dehydration. Now this isn't to say that if you don't drink a glass or two of water while flying that you'll get sick or die from dehydro. Not at all. But I guarantee that it will make you feel better and prevent that awful cotton mouth that tends to happen post trip.

So there you have it friends. Now as you know, these aren't the only ways, but what I think help and what have worked for me all these years. Below you'll find some tips from my wonderful Instagram follower-friends on how to not just stay healthy while on the plane but traveling period. 


I hope this post was helpful to you and major thanks to all that offered their input via your responses. 

Have you ever gotten sick while traveling? Any other tips not mentioned here? 

Let's talk about it below and of course, thanks so much for reading.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Let's be all the way real. Who can resist a deal? It becomes even sweeter when it's a deal on a flight. Being a full time teacher means my dates are pretty set around major holidays and peak travel dates for when I take my trips.

Prices are always at their highest during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break, so I'm always on the hunt for a way to save a few coins. 
Hiking in Mexico, during a solo trip that cost me $450 roundtrip during the Thanksgiving holiday
Here are the 3 sites I use to try when trying to get away for the low-low.

1. Google Flights
I absolutely adore Google Flights because there are so many ways you can tweak your search to find something in your price range. 

So lets say my range is $400 for a roundtrip ticket and I want to go to the Caribbean. But let's also say that you aren't choosey and don't have a particular island you want to visit, all you know is that you want that beach view with a Bahama Mama in your hand at all times. 

With GF you can plug in your dates, your departure airport, type in your region, and wha-la! A list of places will come up. From there, you can then adjust your preferences for how much you're willing to pay, non-stop vs. connecting flights, and even adjust your departure/return times.

Just typing in the region gives you a list of options in that area.
         At the top, you see the additional filters you can place to really get the ideal flight for you.

Any region is fair play to type in: South America, Europe, Asia, Midwest (USA), Africa, etc. I really appreciate this, because I'm someone at that isn't really particular on where I go, as I want to see new places every chance I get. This tool is perfect for those with the same mindset.

There are also options for those not locked down to particular dates to get away. Similarly to the type of search as above, you can plug in your region (or leave it blank for more options), but then choose the flexible dates option.

Flexible dates option on Google Flights. Much better choice for snagging a cheap ticket.
This tool provides a better option for a cheaper ticket, because it's essentially feeding you the absolute lowest prices for any given destination. 

2.) Skyscanner
I enjoy using Skyscanner, because of its interface. Albeit, it does things similar to Google Flights, in terms of the ways you can search flights, it present the information in a very user friendly way. 

Doing a search, where your destination isn't specified (literally, you can type in the word 'everywhere' in the destination box) presents all the places you can travel in order from least to greatest ticket price. It also groups the results by country, if there so happens to be multiple cities in that country you can fly to. 

Search results with 'Everywhere' as the destination. You can click the drop down arrow to view all the places within that country (or region) that you can travel to.

Another option on Skyscanner is to search a specific destination  region, or everywhere, but filter the search by the cheapest month. This, of course, yields better options, because you're going to be given all the cheapest prices. 
By clicking the 'Whole month' option, you can then have it show you the cheapest month to travel, or click on a particular month you want to fly out, and it will show all the results based on that month.
The cool thing about this tool is that it searches all the up until the next year. So searching now, September 2018, I can do searches all the way until September 2019. 

I recommend Skyscanner as another tool to compare flights, but again, it presents the information is such a clean way and it's super easy to see all of your options in order of cost. 

3. Next Vacay
Next Vacay is membership based site that sends out email alerts to its users based on flight deals from the airport they designate is closest to them. And when I say deals, I mean DEALS. Steal prices for places domestically, but mostly internationally.

These are usually deals that don't last too long (typically 24-72 hours), but an email is sent to you on where the destination is and the time frame for which the travel is. 

An email I recieved on 8/31/18, for a steal of deal ($275 R/T) during Thanksgiving in Mexico City
The thing I appreciate is that this site is truly a labor of love from a husband & wife duo that reside in Atlanta. In 2013 the husband, Naveen found a $300 flight to India (that normally costs $1500). Since then, they've been hooked to scouring the internet for rock bottom prices and have decided to share there skills with the masses. Read their story and how the site works right here, it tells you all about them and more details on how the site works.

Quick 'How it Works' Blurb
I've used Next Vacay several times over the years when there were offers I simply couldn't refuse ::ahem:: a $300 one way ticket to Sweden during Christmas, yes please take my money! 

Next Vacay costs a mere $25 per year but you do a free trial month before committing to the yearly subscription. In my opinion, they are being super modest by charging such a low fee for this service. The amount of money saved by just booking one trip through a deal they can find for you far supersedes twenty-five bucks.

Another example of a daily email.

Yes, I really had to put it in all caps, because it's just that good. I'm telling you, you won't regret it.

So there you have it folks, my top 3 sites for saving money on flights. So talk to me...

Do you use any of these sites or are any of them new to you?
Do you plan on checking any of these out?

Also don't forget to drop me a line on here, Facebook, or Instagram to let me know if you have found a deal.

Thanks so much for reading and if you like what you read, please share it with others via the easy buttons below!

Take care and happy traveling!!

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 on the 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