48-Hours in Los Angeles

I went to Los Angeles for my friend Sai’s 30th birthday and we did all of the trendy LA things you could do in 48-hours. Sai just wanted to spend her birthday like a local but we added in a few touristy experiences. See some of our itinerary below:

Ky Tip: I fell in love with Chris Brown’s song “No Guidance.” If you want to hear and feel the vibes of this trip, listen to this song while you read this blog.

Hike Runyon Canyon: How accomplished do you feel after hiking that trail? I always feel like this is an obligatory thing to do.

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Brunch at Gracias Madre: According to the website Gracias Madre is described as Meatless Mexican fare, all vegan & organic, plus a big tequila & drink menu, in a chic space. The food was so healthy and they had blankets at the table if you got cold. I fell in absolute love with the ambiance.

Photoshoots Just Because 

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Mama Shelter Rooftop Bar: If I can describe Mama Shelter Rooftop Bar in three words, I would say swanky, funky, and amazing views. Okay, that’s more than three words but you get the point. Why is everyone in LA so cool?

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Breakfast/Brunch at Delilah: Delilah brings a modern approach to the vibes of the roaring ‘20s. Lavish chandeliers hang overhead and olive green furniture offer increased comfort to the guest according to the website, this is very true to form. Apparently, at night there is a dancing aspect but we did not get to see that. However, the music was amazing here. I didn’t like what I ordered for breakfast, the bacon was gross (and this is not their fault entirely) I don’t know why I ordered bacon, I’m trying to ween myself off of it.

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Attend a rooftop day party at EP & LP :

The day party we went to was probably one of my fave experiences. The views of the Hollywood Hills were breathtaking.

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Visit the Museum of Selfies

The Museum of Selfies is a really cool experience, kind of narcissistic but fun nonetheless. Each room was an outrageous setup that encouraged you to take selfies. Of course, selfie sticks are a part of the experience.

In-N-Out Burger: 

In-N-Out Burger is obligatory. You cannot leave LA without a pit stop here. 

Overall, this was a fun and quick girls trip, and I hope some of the things that I listed will end up on your itinerary too!

 

Flirty 30 in Cancun & Miami

I decided to celebrate my 30th Birthday in Cancun at Breathless Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa after being inspired by a photo of Kourtney Kardashian on a girls trip. My vision, was to host a Single Woman’s Bachelorette Party, although by the time my birthday came around, I was no longer a single woman…life!55D8AC43-9F22-4BD2-AC7A-C8FAFA59EEA3In March 2019,  with 10 of my closest friends and family in tow, my dream birthday became a reality.  Breathless Riviera Cancun is the perfect girls trip . Accented by hot pink and purple, the all-inclusive resort has beautiful restaurants, multiple pools/hot tubs, foam parties, tequila tastings and so much more. Each day was filled with a new fun activity to enjoy.

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The club on the resort was our go-to since we did not venture into town (long-story). I had a room with a swim out pool room, and I will never again go back to life without one. Each night my friends hosted a pre-game for us to bond.

The resort is a party from the moment you arrive to when you leave. The music blasts throughout the day and the vibes are high. I really enjoyed Breathless and desperately want to return (desperately). The ambiance, the shrimp Caesar salad, the room service, the drinks, the people. It was my first time in Mexico and it is now one of my favorite places.F789B3F1-3FAA-44FC-B378-72ED1AAEE4C0

I didn’t want my birthday festivities to end so it continued with a layover in Miami. We stayed at the Catalina Hotel and enjoyed life on Ocean Drive. We were supposed to have dinner and a night on the town at Club Liv, but let’s just say I took a nap and didn’t wake up until the next morning. If you’re wondering….the nap was totally worth it. The next day before my flight I had brunch, went to the beach and tanned before I ended my epic Flirty 30 girls trip. It was one for the books.

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Sonesta Resort in St.Maarten

St. Maarten my second time around was ehh :/ For context, I’ve been once before and had fun. I also had a very local experience, staying with my friend who lived there at the time, so she was able to show me all of St. Maarten and Anguilla and it was an experience I will always cherish. But that was before the hurricane that hit the country in 2017 and the island in some respects is still recovering from it.

They say second time’s a charm so when my sister invited me to her birthday in SxM , I was actually excited to have a resort experience this time around. (You know how most people say they want the local experience? I am the opposite, show me the resort and leave me alone, I don’t want the local experience….I’m leaving a very local experience in NYC).

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I stayed at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa and Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. On a scale of 1-5, I would give Sonesta Maho Beach Resort a 2. The rooms were nice and newly remodeled and I can say that for the whole hotel, it’s decent. The casino was noticeably small, but the hotel advertises it in its name. The food was less than ideal and I didn’t particularly care for the service at all. It’s weird and could be me, but I felt like the workers catered more to the Europeans than us fellow black folk. The night-time entertainment was mediocre, and I really wanted the resort to be better.

It’s a family hotel so the pool area was fun but you’re surrounded by the kiddies. We did have one amazing day at the pool though. My cousins and I drank, swam, talked, and laughed until the pool closed down. I am down for whatever during the day but at night, I just want to be in my bed, yes even on vacation.
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My sister had the most amazing birthday dinner at the resort’s Italian restaurant. They literally serenaded her and treated her like the queen that she is. The hotel had a few night spots outside of its vicinity but for the most part, I spent my time on the beach. The beach is stunning.

31AEE15B-D526-4F66-9246-024F0A670B7CFor the well-rounded experience on this resort, I decided to stay at the adult-only hotel called Ocean Point for a few extra days. On a scale of 1-5, I would give this hotel a 3.5. The hotel was a total upgrade from the Maho Beach hotel and both hotels are located on the same resort and share the same beach. There were a few perks. The rooms are more amazing and there’s a singer who sings R&B songs while you’re in the pool, drinking champagne. Hurricane Dorian was also upon us, which kept us in for one of the nights. Luckily, we were able to escape before it got too bad.B500DAF4-9CFB-4F7A-8E4F-5C466CDC7D31Overall, I would totally suggest that you visit this beautiful island, maybe just consider another hotel or maybe not—you may love this hotel. Whatever you decide, support St. Maarten and the surrounding islands like Anguilla and St.Barths.

 

 

 

 

Toronto for Caribana

Oh Toronto! My Toronto Caribana weekend experience was unique from the start. I went to celebrate my friend Taurie’s 30th birthday. Unlike normal people, I decided to channel my childhood road trips and take the Megabus to Toronto. Back in the day, we used to take the greyhound to Niagara Falls when I was a kid and it was such a fun experience, but as an adult, it’s definitely not fun at all. My friend, Danielle, and I got separated and I ended up sitting next to a Jamaican woman who guilted me into sharing my blanket with her – she said: “God would want you to share…” About 9-hours into the ride, something went terribly wrong with the AC and a slew of water, like a storm, started pouring on us. We were soaked for the rest of the ride and it was freezing on the bus.

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When we finally got to Toronto, Danielle and I realized we never asked Taurie for the hotel address. The weekend was filled with plenty more of these hiccups, some that I can laugh about now but I would totally go back to Toronto for carnival. The parties were vibrant, fun, and non-stop, from day-to-night.

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My teenage dreams came to life when Bobby Valentino and Pretty Ricky did a surprise performance at one of the parties we went to. Next time I go to Toronto Carnival, I want to play mas.

 

Road Trip to the Grand Canyon

I’ve been to Las Vegas many times, so on my last trip, it was really important for me to experience the things I’ve never done before…I am over the Vegas strip. Sam and I took a road trip to the Grand Canyon and we had a beautiful time.

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Arizona was a destination that I’ve dreamed about visiting ever since I watched Waiting to Exhale and its beauty still leaves me breathless when I think about it. The views are divine. The colors of the mountains offset by the sunset will make your think that you are in another world.

I desperately wanted to visit the Grand Canyon but guess what? I was terrified. When did I become so afraid of heights? I visited the Sky Walk and cried when I realized that I was standing on glass and could see the depths of the mountains (4,000 feet below to be exact). I was on a mind-trip thinking that the glass would break and catapult me to my….I will not say it. Apparently, the skywalk is strong enough to hold 70 fully loaded 747 jets. I still cried. Sam grabbed my hand and made me conqueror my fear. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos on the skywalk or even bring your cell phone for that matter; they have lockers where you leave your shoes and your belongings.

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I was surprised that there were no barriers around the canyon by the skywalk. There was security but people were trying to take risky photos on the edge of the canyon and it really gave me anxiety. Is an Instagramable photo really worth that danger? However, I did not let my angst ruin my trip. The beauty I experienced in Arizona makes me desperately want to return.

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ATL, Lemon Pepper Shrimp & Stone Mountain

Lemon Pepper Shrimp. Whenever I think of Atlanta I think of food. My trip to the A was primarily to surprise my grandmother and spend time with her in Stone Mountain, GA. However, one of the last nights I was there, we decided to step out for my sister’s birthday to the club followed by a desperate search for Lemon Pepper Wings and Shrimp at 1 AM, which we found at JR Crickets. The only tourist attraction I went to while there was Stone Mountain, which has the most amazing views of the city.

Lake Harmony

My friend Kadia had the cutest 30th birthday party in the Poconos during the holidays that was reminiscent of the Young Gunz “No Better Love” video. She rented a house via Airbnb in Lake Harmony, PA, a cabin of sorts and had some of her closet friends come together for a snow-trip birthday extravaganza. We had a hot chocolate station, played games, cooked breakfast/lunch/dinner for each other, talked around the dining table, went snow tubing and more. The snow tubing fun happened at Jack Frost Big Boulder. Her birthday is still one of those moments that people will see photos of and say wow that’s a really cute idea. I was completely disconnected from the rest of the world but surrounded by amazing people. You should totally consider Lake Harmony for a mini-weekend getaway during the holidays.

Williamsburg Hotel

Williamsburg Hotel is a cute spot next door to Kinfolk 90and Kinfolk 94 in Williamsburg. It has a bar that I would often frequent before or after going to Kinfolk, just to grab a drink. The wallpaper at the hotel has Brooklyn icons such as Biggie Smalls and the Brooklyn Bridge. The library area is my favorite, specifically the pink suede chair. When we do get back to normal and you’re in the area, looking for a cute and intimate spot to have a drink with a friend, this is definitely a great choice.

National Portrait Gallery

I stumbled across the Washington D.C. National Portrait Gallery when my friends and I couldn’t get into the National Museum of African American History and Culture. To my surprise, it was a really cool experience. I was able to see the national portraits for our favorites Barack and Micelle Obama. I was also able to see portraits of Beyonce and Toni Morrison. The museum is free, so when you’re in D.C, you should totally check it out.

Brooklyn Museum Artist Ball

I’ve always wanted to get dressed up and go to the Brooklyn Museum Artist Ball. For the past few years in April, I would pass by the museum on my walk home from work and see that that the museum was having an extravagant party, which social media later confirmed was the Artist Ball.

The Artist Ball is a themed gala event with proceeds going towards the Brooklyn Museum and its platform for artists. The year I went highlighted David Bowie. As someone who cannot afford the gala portion of the event, I paid about $75 to attend the after-party which is always DJ’d by Swizz Beatz. I danced the night away with my friend Kalisha, to music ranging from Amerie’s One Thing to Palance by JW & Blaze. I would probably attend this event again if the theme was really intriguing, but I found the cost to be extreme for a dance party on a Tuesday night (I would reconsider if it was Friday or Saturday). Overall, it was an unforgettable and fabulous experience.

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UNIQLO Free Fridays

Every Friday at the MoMa museum is FREE. I visited a few times and really enjoyed myself. The crowds may be overwhelming but it’s a great experience. Admission is free for all visitors during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, every Friday evening from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. The UNIQLO Free Friday Night ticket permits entry to all Museum galleries and exhibitions. Put this on your post quarantine to-do list.

The Catskills

My colleague from work, sort of like my work mama, mentor, friend, invited me to the Catskills for a weekend at Resort World with her family. I am not a big fan of gambling, but there’s a HUGE CASINO for those that are. I was more interested in the other things I could do at the hotel and there were quite a few. For one, Resort World has an indoor pool that is surrounded by cabanas. There is also a jacuzzi but you have to pay for a daily pass for access to their spa which only $40. We had unlimited access to the saunas, the jacuzzi, and a private pool.

On the hotel property, there is a building where you can do fun activities such as play Top Golf in their Swing Suite, play oversize Connect 4 and Jinga, play pool. You can do all of this while eating tacos and margaritas from Dos Gatos Cantina (their food and drinks are delicious). Surprisingly, my first time at the Catskills Resort World was a blast and I cannot wait to go back.

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Spa Day or Staycation?

Spas are literally a dream come true but I’ve never visited one until the summer of 2018. My first spa experience happened at Premier 57. I desperately needed a vacation and decided to take the day off and go by myself. Unbeknownst to me, there were tons of couples who visited the spa with their significant others, which was awkward to say the least but I made the best of it. Premier 57 is the type of spa you should go to when you need a quick fix of relaxation during the week. I don’t know if I would recommend going to the spa on a weekend because the crowds are the antithesis of relaxation. During my first experience at Premier 57, I decided to pamper myself with a salt scrub. My skin felt so smooth after. I went in all of the saunas, the hydro pool, the jacuzzi’s on the rooftop and fell asleep in the quiet room. I didn’t leave the spa until about 9:00 PM that night and was so relaxed. The sleep after a spa is straight from heaven. Groupon always has cheap deals for Premier 57, which is how I scored my discounted day pass and spa service.

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I’ve frequented SOJO Spa twice. It has about 7 or 8 floors of saunas, pools, hydro pools, cabanas, jacuzzis and more. I really have nothing but great things to say about SOJO. My favorite experience there was the Volcanic Sand Bath.  For an extra 20 bucks, your whole body is buried in hot black volcanic sand. According to the website, the treatment is thought to help relieve musculoskeletal pain and stiffness, as well as benefiting the skin and assisting the metabolism.  Like a sauna or steam room, the process of sweating in the heat detoxifies the body, while the alkalinity of the mineral-rich volcanic sand itself amplifies the cleansing properties.” If you go, visit the dining room for a Veggie grilled cheese, it’s delicious. I still dream about it.

McCarren Pool

I visited the McCarren Pool during the summer of 2018, before my job offered summer Fridays, I created one for myself. I was in desperate need of a vacation and didn’t have one planned until the fall. Hence the idea of a staycation at McCaren Hotel pool came about. At a whopping $97 for a day pass (My day pass did not include drinks, it just included a towel and entry to the pool area), I was able to relax by this funky pool, with a bunch of cool millennials (including my friend Jess), listening to music and allowing the sun soak on me. I was eventually upgraded (one of the workers had a crush on me) to the double pool bed which is about $300 a day. The pool opens around Memorial Day for the summer but with the pandemic, that may change.

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Moon Palace Jamaica

I visited Moon Palace hotel in Ocho Rios, Jamaica in October 2018 for my best friend’s wedding and it was a blast. Moon Palace is a beautiful all-inclusive hotel and was very nostalgic for me because I’ve been there several times as a child/teen (back then it was known as Jamaica Grande).

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When I had some downtime from my maid of honor duties, I spent most of my time on the beach. The water was warm and peaceful. The orange chairs made the scenery great for photos. The people who worked there were attentive, always making sure I was hydrated.

Ky Tip: The Bob Marley’s are the best drinks this hotel has to offer (in my opinion). I want to go back just to have this drink.

There was a jerk hut on the beach as well, where you could order authentic jerk chicken and jerk pork as a snack. To be honest, the food at this resort wasn’t the greatest, but the jerk shack was so good.

I spent some time in the jacuzzi and pool with friends but not as much as I would’ve liked. The pool is extensive. Moon Palace also has a FlowRider, swimming with dolphins and a night club called Club Noir. Club Noir was pretty lit. They play great music but for the most part, it remained empty while we were there, which was kind of cool to have the whole club to ourselves.

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The day before we left, we went on a yacht which took us to a beautiful part of the island where we could dive into the ocean from the boat. I jumped (with a life jacket) and it was so liberating. Jamaica is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND EVER! The captain played music for us and made sure we had a great time. Overall, I really enjoyed this hotel (minus the food) and I think you will too.

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Rosé Mansion

Rosé Mansion is an Instagram dream. I went with my friend Brittany and we spent the whole day taking photos, swinging on chandeliers, jumping in ball pits and drinking rosé from countries around the world. When I went in 2018, it was more of a pop-up. Now, it’s open throughout the year in NYC and they are currently hosting virtual happy hours as a result of the pandemic. I did not get “drunk” and no that was not the goal but I did leave with a bit of a headache. Overall, it was such a unique experience and I took the best photos EVER!

The Impact of COVID-19

I am a homebody. I love being home with my family, talking to friends, reading books and laying in my bed. However, I never imagined a day where I would be quarantined to my home by the government, yet here we are. I choose to look at this as a good thing. A blessing of some sort, to start doing the things that I love again, while being sensitive to those who are truly suffering from COVID-19 and constantly praying for them.

Just as much as I love my home, I love to travel and explore. I love visiting new places and sharing all about it. This was the very reason I started this blog. The busyness of life got in the way of me sharing my travel stories that I’ve had in my arsenal since 2018. TWO WHOLE YEARS! Now, I have no excuse. Although I am still working and (working very hard), I have more time to dedicate myself to my true passions. My love for blogging was overshadowed by my job and life’s responsibilities but I am hoping this situation will bring us all peace. I am hoping it will allow us to be still and refocus on the things we truly love and have been ignoring.

I don’t want my next couple of posts that I share to feel insensitive or out of touch since we can’t go out, but more as a source of hope and inspiration for when we go out again. Let’s all look forward to the days when we will be able to talk to people, explore places and travel again. It may seem like a long time from now but I have hope that we will be able to have social experiences again. I am also hopeful this situation will help us to exercise more love and compassion for one another. Life is a gift. People are gifts and we should not take advantage of each other.

18 Hours in Baltimore

My best friend Myllz made a major move to Baltimore last year and she’s literally been begging me to come so I could explore her new city. For context, I was really bummed when she left Brooklyn. I spent most of my 20s exploring the “New Brooklyn” with her. Going to lounges, finding new black-owned businesses to support, visiting exhibits by up-and-coming artists. Since she left, I haven’t been on the scene AT ALL. So our “Woke and Bougie” group chat, which consists of me, Nikki, Kadia (and Myllz), decided to hop on a bus and surprise her in Baltimore.

Everything was set and planned seamlessly. We would leave work at 4:30 PM and catch the 5:30 PM Greyhound to Baltimore. Then we would meet her at a rooftop bar and yell SURPRISE!!!!! (Her husband, Drew, was in on all of the planning). The only problem was, it was a busy Friday and that 5:30 PM Greyhound never showed up. We waited for 4 hours. Greyhound is not a bus company I would recommend at all anymore (I say anymore because growing up my family and I took it to Niagara Falls all the time and it used to be so fun but now…). They are so unprofessional. They do not tell you how long the bus is delayed for or why. They just leave you hanging and waiting. The worst part about it is that the employees get annoyed if you ask them any questions (Maybe they are trained not to give any information because they were all tightlipped when it came time to provide that information). One employee even said, “If I told you how far the bus was you all would get up and leave and we don’t want that.”

Finally, we just said we would go get dinner and try again another weekend. The next morning we all felt guilty and knew we should try again. What did we have to lose? So this time we booked a bus ticket on PeterPan, which was a way more professional and timely company and drove 4-hours to Baltimore. We left at 1 PM and got to Baltimore around 4:30 PM. Drew picked us up from the train station. Our surprise wasn’t as big as we originally planned because Myllz’ reaction was a little delayed. Once she got over the shock of it all she was so excited and couldn’t wait to show us around her new city.

In 18 hours we were able to accomplish A LOT.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites Inner Harbor, which was actually a very nice hotel. The hotel had a free happy hour and complimentary breakfast. The rooms were like apartments, equipped with a kitchenette, dining room and living room. It’s also a pet-friendly hotel.

Myllz took us on a walk to the Inner Harbor. It’s kind of like the South Street Seaport in New York. Then we went to eat crab cakes and sipped on Frosés at Phillips.

Later that night, we had dinner and wine at 13.5% Wine Bar. I absolutely loved this place. The wine was AMAZING. I didn’t like the food as much as I loved the wine though. My suggestion, order something small like an appetizer or a platter of cheese. I made the mistake of ordering a large plate and was disappointed. This was the first time in history, that I didn’t finish my food and didn’t ask for a to-go bag. We then went dancing at Sangria, which is like a hip hop lounge. Finally before we went back to the hotel, we took a nice walk through Downtown, Baltimore.

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The next morning, we had breakfast at Teavolve Cafe. It’s such a cute restaurant and it’s black-owned. I had a Mango Bellini and a red velvet pancake.

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Then we went to another harbor called Fells Point. We watched the ducks and enjoyed the beautiful Baltimore views. Baltimore is really special. That’s how we spent our 18-hours in Baltimore. I’ll surely be back.

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Have you ever been to Baltimore? What are some of your favorite places to visit while there?

Weekend Trip to Denver

When I told people I was headed to Denver, most questioned: “Why?” I know it’s not the typical go-to destination, but Denver is a major city that’s on the come up. To be honest, I probably would’ve never visited if I didn’t have a conference that I was attending. A few of my Lyft Drivers mentioned that there has been an influx in the rates of tourists since marijuana became legal there.

Denver is like any other city. It’s mostly filled with suburban neighborhoods but has a downtown element that’s charming. As a solo traveler in Denver, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aurora Conference Center, which was located in the town of Aurora. The hotel is only 2-years old but my stay was superb. The color scheme was burnt orange and blue, with hints of wood. It has a pool and a full functioning gym. I chose this hotel because it was near the conference that I was attending.

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Most of the people in Denver were actually quite friendly. I only had one horrible encounter on my third day there, when a crazy (racist) man came into my Lyft and got mad at me because I sat in the front seat. When I offered him the seat, he said he didn’t want it, and threatened to choke me…it was odd. That was the last time, I did a Lyft-Line for the rest of my time there; I almost forgot that I wasn’t in Kansas (aka New York) anymore.

The day before the conference started I decided to explore downtown Denver. I came across a few gems. The first being the Denver Museum of Art. There was a powerful exhibit at the museum, which explored the plight of Native Americans and their culture through the eyes of artists.

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My art museum visit was followed by a stroll down 16th Street. 16th street is a strip of stores and food establishments, kind of like an outside mall. I went inside stores like Victoria Secret, Bare Minerals, TJ Maxx and H&M. After that, I ended up on 15th and Larimer, but it was blocked off due to a food festival they were having.

One of the primary reasons people visit Denver is because of the mountains, however, since I was alone it was not something I wanted to tackle solo. I will be back next year (God’s willing) and will definitely add an exploration of mountains to my list of things to do.

NOLA…Anyone?

I’m just going to call a spade a spade and say New Orleans is one of the best cities I’ve ever visited in the United States…who knew? I visited NOLA for the first time with friends from Penn State Hazleton (kind of like our own little reunion). We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb with just enough rooms and bathrooms to accommodate all 13 of us. Our obligatory first stop was, of course, Bourbon Street from there we explored some of New Orleans famous attractions, but definitely couldn’t tackle all of them, which gives me an excuse to return as soon as possible.

Bourbon Street:

Bourbon Street is a strip filled with bars and clubs of all kinds. If you’re into country music and mechanical bulls, there’s a bar for you. If you love hip-hop and a good turn up, there’s a spot for you too. What I love about New Orleans is that it’s one of the only places where you can walk around and into clubs with a red cup and no one will stop you. When they say you can drink on the street, they mean it (not like I’m an alcoholic but I was actually impressed by this). Bourbon Street is known for its hurricanes as well, but I was more than willing to do the long walk to Fat Tuesdays (633 Bourbon Street) to get their frozen drinks because it was only $10, more than half the price than it was in Miami.

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Swamp Tour

The swamp tour in New Orleans is a must. The tour is about 2-hours long and it takes you deep into the swamp for alligator sightings. One cool thing about the tour is that our tour guide actually brought a small alligator on the boat that we could all touch. The scenery and nature in the swamps are absolutely stunning. No trip is complete to NOLA without doing this.

Ky Tip: Check out Groupon.com for Swamp Tours at a discounted price in NOLA.

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French Quarter

The French Quarter was one of my favorite places in New Orleans. It makes you feel as if you stepped back into time and is one of the most charming locations in the city. There you can take a carriage ride throughout the neighborhood, explore the different artists, restaurants, and bars, or even take a cultural walking tour. I fell in love with this place, especially at night, when I visited the Blue Nile and watched soulful blues artists sing their hearts out.

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Café Du Monde

Café Du Monde is a famous spot for beignets in New Orleans. Beignets is surprisingly good. I didn’t think I would like them but I did. They’re like French donuts covered in sugar. They come out on a plate hot and you can have coffee with them. They’re delish and I brought some back home for my family to try.

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Harrah’s Casino

Casino’s are self-explanatory. If you want to gamble you go…no surprise there. But this casino actually has a delicious buffet and a club called Masquerade, so it might be worth a shot to try out. Outside of the casino was the trolley line, which is a cute vintage trolley that takes you throughout the city for $1.50.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is another tourist attraction near the French Quarter and Café Du Monde. It’s famous for the Jackson Square Park and St. Louis Cathedral.

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Food!!!!

The food in NOLA is freaking good. I tried a shrimp po’boy for the first time and almost licked my fingers off. I also tried alligator sausages, for the culture. Some of the spots we dined at were Cajun Seafood, Ruby Slippers, and Drago’s Seafood.

The Hood

Our uber driver took us on a tour of the hood, because why not? In the hood, we met a motorcycle gang, got frozen drinks for $4 and visited cemeteries. Cryptic right? It’s not. Cemeteries are actually a thing to do in New Orleans.

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If interested, check out my new Orleans things to do. I didn’t get to do all of them, but here’s a healthy list of things to do Kydee Style (AKA Why am I such a dork?)

My Mom’s 50th Birthday in Jamaica

Jamaica is home and I am happy that my family instilled that in me from childhood. Each time I return, my love for Jamaica runs deeper. This year, I went to celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday. We stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe and everything was organized to perfection by Apple Vacations. It was the first time my whole family went on vacation together which was special.

IMG_5921FullSizeRender (30)IMG_5821.JPGOverall, I enjoyed my stay at the hotel. The resort is beautiful and grand. The food is absolutely delicious. The pool is expansive and I love that there are bungalows around the pool that are first-come, first-serve, so no extra payment necessary for them. The resort has over 7 restaurants but you can’t help but be attracted to the buffet, did I say the food was good? We watched the head chef do food demonstrations and learned how to make ackee and saltfish the first day we arrived.

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The resort is lively. Music plays throughout the day by the pool, accompanied by fun activities. I took an amazing yoga class one morning and it was just what I needed to start my day. No resort is complete without a pool bar in my opinion. My favorite thing to drink is a strawberry daiquiri with Appleton Rum. FullSizeRender (35)FullSizeRender (37)A part of celebrating my mom’s birthday was forcing her to take photos to embrace her beauty and her life. Age 50 is such a milestone and I am so happy to have spent it, celebrating her greatness. IMG_3097IMG_3108One of the days in Jamaica, we took a day trip to Negril. For lunch, we had beef and jerk chicken patties from Tastee. IMG_3188IMG_3192Negril’s 7-mile beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The colors of the ocean vary in different shades of blue. We started out at Margaritaville and made our way to Ricks Café. From there, we went to the Glistening Waters (Luminous Lagoon) where the freshwater meets the saltwater and the water illuminates brightly, due to all of the phosphorus in the water, when you disturb it.IMG_5874IMG_5889IMG_5886IMG_5892FullSizeRender (42)IMG_3402IMG_3414 The final night in Jamaica was dedicated to my mom. We had a beautiful dinner in her honor at the Garden Grill Restaurant, which is a steak house on the property and listened to a reggae band play Bob Marley during the nightly entertainment. Traveling to islands is harder to depart because it’s aesthetically more pleasing and overall more relaxing. I love Jamaica and cannot wait to return. FullSizeRender (46)

2017 American Black Film Festival in South Beach, Miami

Miami in my late twenties was not the same experience as it was in my early twenties. But this time I was there to network and gain inspiration from the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), so my experience was more work and less leisure.IMG_2375 I stayed at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel with my friend Brittany. I attended some of the panels but for the most part enjoyed my time on the beach, for some much needed R&R. South Beach is crowded but the beaches are beautiful and one of the only beaches on the East Coast that I actually enjoy.FullSizeRender (19)FullSizeRender (20)ABFF 2017 was good. One of my favorite sessions was the Master Class in Producing with Stephanie Allain and Mel Jones, where I learned how to initiate, produce, and fund a project. John Singleton also made a surprise drop-in which was both unexpected and exciting. FullSizeRender (23)IMG_2388FullSizeRender (17)ABFF was sponsored by Shea Moisture, so Brittany and I decided to be models for the brand in one of the festival’s lounges. FullSizeRender (24)This recent trip to Miami made me realize I’ve outgrown it a little.For the most part, I stayed on Collins Avenue, which was where my hotel was located because Ocean Drive is not what it used to be. Back in the day, it used to be the mecca of South Beach. Now it looks rundown and ratchet.  Of course, no trip to Miami is complete without going to Wet Willies or Fat Tuesday. I chose the latter. Their drinks are overpriced, I think $20, and you can’t drink on the street anymore. I hid my drink in my purse and told the bouncer “You didn’t see anything….right?” He smiled and let me go. In spite of everything, South Beach is the perfect weekend getaway when you just need a change in scenery and a break from it all. FullSizeRender (28)FullSizeRender (29)

 

I Toured Sachsenhausen….A German Concentration Camp

I could not leave Germany without a history lesson. This lesson was a hard one to swallow, as I decided to visit a Concentration Camp. My friends and I did a guided walking tour of the Nazi concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. We met the tour guide in a central location in Berlin and from there embarked on a 1-hour journey to Oranienburg, Germany via train. When we arrived in Oranienburg, the first thing I noticed about the neighborhood was how quaint and unassuming it was. The houses were colorful and the sun was shining bright. You would never think just a few blocks away, a place like Sachsenhausen existed.

IMG_4853.JPGIMG_4858.JPGAs we inched closer to the gates of the concentration camp, anxieties from all 17-people on the tour began to rise. The tour guide used the opportunity to tell us that the beautiful houses that we walked by were the homes of German soldiers who spent their days murdering and torturing innocent people. They had the privilege to come back to their homes (right outside of the camp), with their picket fences and perfect families.  My mind began to race before even stepping foot into the camp. How could people be so sociopathic and evil?IMG_4859.JPGIMG_4857.JPG There were an estimated 20,000 concentration camps in Occupied Europe. At the Sachsenhausen camp there was a classification system based on the triangle that prisoners had to wear on their clothes. For example:

  • Lilac Triangle: Jehovah Witness
  • Red Triangle: Political Opponents of the Nazis
  • Black Triangle: Anti-Socials – Become better Germans and more keen to Nazism
  • Pink Triangle: Homosexuals

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Finally, we entered the gates which read in German, “Work will liberate you.”

IMG_4890We visited the barracks, which were extremely small rooms but would hold 250-people in it. Three people were required to sleep in one small bed. The prisoners had to deal with typhus fever, starvation, and rats. They ate stale bread, sausage, and artificial coffee. The Nazis knew just enough calories the prisoners could eat to keep them active and alive. Some of the prisoners, with skills that the Nazis could benefit from, were put to use. One of those being the counterfeiters, who were able to forge money, jewelry and more for the Nazis. IMG_4899.JPGIMG_4896.JPGIMG_4906.JPGIMG_4911.JPGIMG_4918.JPGIMG_4923.JPGWe learned all about the torture techniques of the Nazis including visiting the gallows. Of course, if prisoners tried to escape they were either gunned down or electrocuted by the bob-wired gates. Some of the prisoners thought they were visiting a doctor but a needle filled with poison would be injected in them. Finally, we visited the gas chambers and the ovens. The Nazi’s at this camp killed 500 prisoners every 24-hours and burned them in the ovens.IMG_4933.JPGIMG_4934.JPGIMG_4946.JPGIMG_4942.JPG As you can imagine, the tour was powerful but very overwhelming. At one point, I almost fainted because of the evil that I was learning human beings were capable of. To be within the confines of such death, torture, and hatred can take a toll on you. Hate is vile and it’s sick. It has no place in the world, not then and definitely not now. Even though the Holocaust happened over 80-years ago, you still get a sense, in these camps, that you’re surrounded by death. The air feels heavy and overpowering. The camp is very eerie and isolating. I was surrounded by friends but still got a sense of aloneness. I felt fear. I felt sadness.

I walked away from this experience with a strong sense and responsibility to love others more. To smile more. To not be so divided by trivial things. We’re all humans. We are all equal. We need to love one another no matter what.IMG_4935.JPGKy Tip: Click Here for a link to some of the best Sachsenhausen walking tours in Berlin.  

Hallo Berlin!

I only went to Berlin for one reason and one reason only…ART. Okay, now that I think about it. Two reasons, art, and history. I’ve heard that Berlin has a huge hipster culture as well, so I was curious to find out. This was the most spontaneous trip I’ve ever taken. Usually, I have well-thought-out itineraries but this time I just wanted to go with the flow. Ironically, I never did make it to an art museum or any formal museum in Berlin for that matter but my time there was still very rich. Street art covers the walls of Berlin, especially the most famous wall of all, The Berlin Wall. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, making clear, that the Cold War and the divide between East and West Berlin,ended in the country.  It was an amazing time in history and the Berlin Wall is a stark reminder of this. You can walk the Berlin Wall for miles and miles; every time you think you’ve reached the end, you realize you haven’t. The wall is filled with beautiful and colorful artwork promoting peace, unity, and pride in Berlin.

IMG_4694.JPGIMG_4702IMG_4703In addition to the Berlin Wall, we visited Brandenburg Gate. There was a marathon going on at the time, which made the area around the gate impossible to get close to (another reason why the museum was off-limits..we couldn’t get through the marathon), but it was still an experience nonetheless.

IMG_4788IMG_4793Our hotel was located in Alexanderplatz, so we frequented it’s large public square often. During our casual walks in the vicinity, we couldn’t help but notice the Fernsehturm, which is a large television tower constructed between 1965 and 1969.IMG_4680 Checkpoint Charlie Museum was filled with excitement for us. One of my friends actually kissed one of the soldiers there…AHHH! They were quite frisky if you ask me. Apparently, Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.IMG_4818IMG_4822IMG_4831 River Spree, which flows through Berlin and as far as the Czech Republic, was the perfect time for reflection. Sometimes I need these moments of serenity to express gratitude for my travels. The only reason I am here is because of God and I give thanks to his power and plan over my life.Travel By Ky BerlinIMG_4761.JPG Some of the people in Berlin are not very warm and fuzzy. It also didn’t help that we had no knowledge of the German language. However, using a map and our phones we were still able to maneuver our way around their train and bus systems.IMG_4849IMG_4776 Like I mentioned before, I wanted to get a slight taste of hipster culture in Berlin. We tried to go to a reggae bar/beach club called Yaam but it was not a popping night…at all. My girls and I got dressed up looking like some dance hall queens only to be greeted by Rastafarian men chilling, smoking, and getting their drink on. It was weird and I could’ve sworn I saw a rodent crawling on the roof. That was enough for me to run for my life. All of the rastas were confused AF by my sudden exit. But I heard this place is pretty cool on a good day.

Ky Tip: 

  • I read a really good piece about Berlin on Travel Noire that inspired me to want to go. You can read it here. I don’t think I experienced the essence of this city which is unfortunate. If I was to ever go again, it would have to be with someone who knows the city like the back of their hand, because it’s expansive.

Amsterdam…We Meet Again!

The first time I visited Amsterdam, I fell in love with the city. I was only there for a long layover, but it was enough for me to know I wanted to return as soon as I could. You can read about my first Amsterdam trip here.  Two years later, I did. This time for a week and I can honestly say, it’s still one of my favorite cities. Amsterdam is charming. From its canals to its industrial architecture, it feels like a city that fuses nature and tradition with innovation (if that makes any sense at all).

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Like anyone visiting Amsterdam, the first stop was the coffee shops. I had a pumpkin spice latté with not one, not two, but three cakes. The cakes were delish. It didn’t hit me initially, but as I was walking back to my friend’s apartment, it had done the deed. We had plans to take a weekend trip to Berlin, but because of our coffee shop pit stop, we ended up missing our Mega Bus (or Flix bus as they call it in Europe) by 20-minutes. I was convinced the bus left at 11:52pm when in fact it was 11:25pm. That was the absolute worst feeling ever. The feeling of defeat and paranoia is a recipe for disaster. I won’t bore you with all of the details of how this night ended.

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The next morning, feeling more like myself (a little), we rushed back to the bus station, only to discover, it would cost us twice as much to get to Berlin. Whatever it took, as we had a hotel reservation and a friend meeting us there. We hopped on the bus and embarked on a 9-hour ride to Germany. Sherma and I caught up on sleep, talked and played games to pass the time. Every so often we would jump out at rest stops in random spots in Germany to smell the German air. We even ate German Burger King.

Of course, people stared at us, especially as I complained about having to pay 0.60 euros to use the bathroom. When we finally got to Germany, our taxi driver started out being a mean grump but he ended up being a nice old man, who had a contagious German laugh. We settled into our hotel and roamed the streets, coming across a beer garden where we cheered to a good time and positive vibes in Germany.

Ky Tips:

  • Mega Bus (Flix Bus): Yes, you can take a bus to Berlin from Amsterdam and you can actually travel to a lot of places using Flix Bus. These buses are a fraction of the cost that it would take you to fly but as you can imagine, you need time.  Most people hate coach buses. I actually love them. One of the things I did notice while coming to and from Berlin on these buses is that everyone wants their own row. For the most part, no one sat next to us, but we were one of the first ones on the bus and claimed our territory before anyone had the chance to. 
  • Public Restrooms in Europe: Paying to use the public bathrooms is a thing in Europe and it really makes you appreciate the luxury of walking into a restaurant or even Target and not having to pay to use their restrooms in America.

 

I Lost My Hearing while Traveling in South Africa

It took a long time for me to tell this story. But after a year and a half, I think it’s time to share. As a travel blogger, it’s important to be transparent about the good, the bad, and the ugly of traveling. The situation I’m about to detail for you hindered my travel and my travel writing a bit but it also made me stronger as a human being. My desire to write this past year wasn’t as strong as it was when I first started and hopefully by the end of this blog post you’ll understand why. This is a long and graphic story so readers beware.

Something happens to you when you get sick while traveling. All of a sudden, traveling doesn’t feel as adventurous, spontaneous, and exciting as it did when you first started. It feels scary and uncertain, like taking back an ex after he cheated. You love him, but your heart is broken by the betrayal. In my case, the betrayal was getting sick while I was in South Africa. I don’t know how I got sick. It could’ve been the lady who sat next to me on the way to Abu Dhabi and placed a bag of her bloody tissues (from her nosebleeds) on my leg while I slept or the coughing man across the aisle, on the way to Johannesburg.

Side Note: Traveling is not as glamorous as the photos make it seem.

All I know is, I got sick on the second night that I was in Johannesburg. We were headed back from a wonderful dinner, eating different meats from The Carnivore restaurant when I felt an itch in my throat and a chill. That night, I took a shower in hopes that I would feel better, but I got worst. There was a small chance that I caught the flu. As sick as I felt, I pushed through. I didn’t want the opportunity of being in South Africa, an absolute dream destination, to pass me by.

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Unbeknownst to me, you should never fly on a plane when you’re congested and sick. I had an upcoming flight to Capetown and I had to take it. While the flight began to land, my ears felt like it was exploding. The pain was excruciating. I thought I would be able to swallow and get my hearing back, but after we landed it never did come back. I had one great night in Cape Town, unable to hear in one ear but amazing nonetheless. As soon as I got off the plane, I headed to Mzoli’s which you can read about here. From there, my friend and I explored Capetown, had Cuban cigars and just lived it up. We were in South Africa for God Sakes.

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The next morning, we hiked Table Mountain. Halfway up the mountain (ie. 1500 feet) I felt like I was going to die. Doing what no one else in the history of this mountain has ever done, I decided to walk back down. I was getting sicker by the minute. I asked my Uber driver, who I flagged down randomly, (he literally picked me up from the side of the road… using hindsight I understand how crazy this was) to take me to a pharmacy. I picked up some medicine in hopes that it would alleviate my sickness. When I got back to the hotel, I FaceTimed my friend who told me I looked terribly sick and urged me to see a doctor.

IMG_1998.JPGAfter our conversation, I rested but soon enough, we had another tour scheduled to visit the Western Cape and Boulders Beach, home of the African Penguins. In the tour van, my body continued to grow weak. I tried to keep up with the others, but I was dying inside. When the tour was over, I was scheduled to meet up with my other friend who was staying with me during the trip. We had a new hotel that we would be staying at and I said my goodbyes to my friends, not knowing I would never be the same again. When I arrived at the new hotel, I asked the front desk to get me a doctor ASAP. I almost collapsed at their desk. Someone helped me to my room and I took a shower because my fever was getting worse. I felt like I was on fire. Upon my friend’s arrival, he urged me to go to a doctor. The concierge told me the price for the doctor to come to me and it was out of control. I planned on just seeing how I felt the next morning.

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By now, I was in South Africa for a week, and I had three more days to go. When I woke up the next morning, my pillow was covered in blood and mucus. It seemed like overnight my ears started to drain. I’d never been so frightened in my life. I didn’t even know your ears could bleed (ears actually can’t bleed, the blood was coming through my ears from somewhere else, I later learned). It was time for my friend to take me to the hospital. My hearing was gradually deteriorating and I was so weak my friend had to carry me. When we arrived at the first hospital, there were hundreds of faces staring at me. Some were ailing in pain, others sat patiently, waiting for their number to be called. We walked into a small room where a frantic doctor and nurse, overwhelmed by the crowd of people waiting to be treated, told me they could not help me. They said they had so many other sick people and there was no way they would get to me. These are the times, you appreciate America and its health care system. As messed up as we think it is, other countries are far worse.

I walked out of there so faint, that I couldn’t stand on my own, let alone try to find another hospital. My friend took me back to the hotel and went on a search for doctors, pharmacies, and anyone with knowledge that could help me. I continued to sleep and my ears continued to drain blood. It was absolutely disgusting. My friends back home suggested that I go to the U.S Embassy in South Africa and tell them about my situation. Thank God it didn’t have to come to that.

After all of his research, my friend finally found a doctor for me. This doctor was very different than the one that I went to the day before. His practice was located in a very upscale neighborhood in Cape Town. To put it into context, my friend and I were the only black faces in the vicinity. The doctor told me that I had a severe ear infection and that my eardrum ruptured while landing into Capetown. This is where I learned that flying while congested is very serious. I honestly had no clue. He put me on meds to hold me over until I got back to the States.

I remained in bed for the remainder of my stay. My ears gradually started to get worst. I was beginning to lose hearing in both ears (only hearing the mucous swishing inside). Walking made me feel dizzy and nauseous. My friend had to carry me everywhere or walk very slow. I vomited every 10-steps. I also had to keep cotton balls in my ears and replaced them every 5-minutes because of the draining.

Traveling back to the States was a nightmare. That 20-hour flight with a layover in Abu Dhabi was hell on earth. Sometimes I thank God for his mercy over my life because I wouldn’t wish what I experienced on my worst enemy. When we finally landed in New York, I went straight to bed and the next morning my mom rushed me to Urgent Care. I couldn’t walk without throwing up and I also walked very slow, like a baby taking his/her first steps. I still had a fever and was uncertain about my fate. Eventually, the doctors gave me strong medicine, stronger than what I took in South Africa and referred me to an Ear doctor.

By this point, I could hear nothing around me. If people screamed, I couldn’t hear them. When I went to the ear doctor I learned that 50% of my hearing was gone. They did hearing tests on both ears and the verdict was bad. The doctors worried that they would have to operate if my ears didn’t get better. After a week, my hearing was still gone. The medicine they put me on was not strong enough. Before his last resort, which was surgery to drain my ears, the doctor put me on steroids.

After 2-weeks, I started to feel slightly better. I was still struggling to hear, but my ears gradually began to pop, and when I say gradually I mean gradually (to this day they still pop and I do not have 100% of my hearing back, probably around 90% but I praise God every day for what I do have). After 3-weeks of being out of work, I was finally able to return. Everyone couldn’t believe my story, nor could I. My boss was nice enough to pay for me to get to work and go home in a taxi every day because he knew I still had trouble walking and balancing. Finally, one day, I could hear clearer than I did the day before and each day after that, it progressively got better.

There was one specific time that stuck out to me the most. I was on the elevator just coming from the ear doctor, in which he gave me bad news, that I could not go back to work and the initial medicine he put me on did not work for me. I was sad and defeated but also afraid to go home by myself because I couldn’t hear anyone if they talked to me (my aunt who accompanied me to the doctor had to go to work). I put in my headphones to give off the façade that I was listening to music. When I got into my building elevator, instinctively, I took off the headphones and not thinking, stood by the floor buttons. Someone asked me to press a floor for them. I didn’t hear. They asked again and I still couldn’t hear. So I pointed to each button until the person, bewildered by my actions, said yes, I’d chosen the correct floor 19. I cried when I got home. This is how deaf people feel every day. They’re present, but they are missing such a vital sense and others might judge them as being incapable or non-functioning. I cried because of the privilege I’ve had for so long, not even questioning what someone who is deaf might be feeling, how alone and isolated they might be. I became more aware. I became more grateful.

I finally felt like myself again exactly a week before my 27th birthday. I decided to celebrate like it was 1999 (literally, I had a 90s brunch) because what I’d been through was grounds for a party. God is good. I now understand that this is something I had to go through. It was humbling. It made me more compassionate. And believe it or not, even though I couldn’t hear the outside world, I heard and talked to God the whole time. He knew what he had in store for me and how he was going to change my life, he just wanted me to be still and wait for him. I thank him for this time in my life. As scary as it was, he spared my life so that I could tell my story today; a story of resilience in the midst of adversity and strength. It was hard not hearing, but I learned so much during that period.

Getting sick and losing my hearing while traveling changed my life in a way that I’d never expected it to and being able to share this story now, helps me to heal. A lot of people ask me if I would ever go back to South Africa, and the answer is yes, in a heartbeat. I love everything about South Africa; the culture, the people, I can go on and on. I don’t blame South Africa. I blame my ignorance of flying when you are sick or congested. Be very aware of this and avoid it if possible. Now, whenever I travel, I make sure I am prepared for anything and I mean anything.

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Animal Encounters in South Africa

Visiting South Africa was the first time I encountered wildlife beyond the zoo or the aquarium. It was one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve ever had and wanted to share some of the amazing photos I captured. My favorite animal of all time is zebras, so to be so close to them was a dream come true. I hope these photos bring you as much joy as they did for me.

IMG_3903IMG_4103IMG_3964IMG_3987Zebras South AfricaAfrican Penguins