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_2375I 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 a 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 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. 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 a drive by to Wet Willies or Fat Tuesday. I chose the latter. Their drinks are overpriced, I think $20 a pop, 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 get away when you just need a change in scenery and a break from it all. FullSizeRender (28)FullSizeRender (29)

 

Restaurant Review: Burger & Lobster

Burger & Lobster 39 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

Burger and Lobster is one of the most genius restaurants I’ve been to in a very long time. I have nothing but great things to say about this place. Yippie, I think I have a kinda sorta almost favorite new restaurant.

Okay, to start everything, as in all meals, on the menu is $20. This makes things so easy. The menu is super simple. There’s burgers or lobsters and that’s pretty much  it, there’s your menu in a nutshell. With each meal, there’s a side of  fries and a salad that comes with it. The salad and fries are delish. The burger is so juicy and the lobster…Oh my, I love seafood, so this is a win for me any day, but the butter sauce they give to go with the lobster is so tasty.

The dessert, I wasn’t too keen about, I had Greek vanilla yogurt and it was okay. Drinks are reasonably priced at $12. The service was fantastic. The decor is industrial, really high ceilings and hanging lamps along the bar. Also, there’s a huge tank filled with lobsters when you first walk in, poor little things 😦

Overall, I had an excellent experience here and I am looking forward to coming here again, and again!

Maximizing My Summer Saturdays

Dear Summer, you may never be the same again.

I don’t want to be one of those reminiscent adults crying about missing childhood. I’m really not. There’s a certain freedom that comes with adulthood, one that I greatly appreciate. But the other day it hit me–gone are the days of two-month summer vacations, double dutch, and staying out until the street lights came on. While maintaining a full-time job, it’s hard to enjoy summer like I used to. My summer time fun, is limited to two measly days during the weekend which goes as fast as it comes. That’s barely enough time to explore and be consumed in adventure. The second I let my hair down, I’m faced with the reality that it’s Sunday and I must prepare for the upcoming week.

Recently, I decided to take control of my summer. Yes, I still have to work Monday thru Friday but Saturdays are my days where I maximize my day–I call it double trouble. I leave my house around noon and don’t return home until 1-2AM the next day. Essentially it’s like two days of activities and new experiences packed into one. This past weekend I had a double trouble Saturday and it turned out to be one of the best days i’ve had in a while, here’s how it went down:

2:00PM Brunch at a new restaurant

The Cecil 210 W 118th St, New York, NY 10026

Summer is all about exploring. The weather is great and there should be nothing preventing you from going out. After a 100-Black Owned restaurant list came out on I Dont Do Clubs, my friends and I set a goal to tackle some of these restaurants. The Cecil in Harlem is one of them and I finally decided to make the long trek uptown to try it out. To read my review of this restaurant, click here.

4:30PM A walk around the Harlem Neighborhood

Harlem is filled with Brownstones and restaurants. The stroll to 96th street was pleasant. We discovered a huge pool in Central Park and the actual tattoo shop of the Black Ink Crew, which is a show on VH1. A major bonus was that some of the cast were just hanging out on the stoop of the shop.

6:00PM Brooklyn Museum First Saturday
August at the Brooklyn Museum is Caribbean Heritage Month. Every year, the museum pays homage to the West Indian Culture that dominates Brooklyn. When I walked into the museum, the first thing on my agenda was to get tickets for the Short Film/Webseries Ackee and Saltfish. The viewing started at 8PM, but tickets always go on sale an hour before and the lines are long. After I snagged my tickets, I discovered a reggae concert happening outside. I don’t know who the artists were, but they were singing Soca and getting the crowd hype. Around 8PM, I proceeded to the screening. Ackee and Saltfish was funny! It follows the life of two millennial girls living in London as they touch on issues of gentrification and snagging Lauryn Hill Tickets. I thought it was too short–I wanted more!
After the screening, I went to visit my boyfriend Basquiat. I have grown to love and admire his work. I wanted to see if I rediscovered anything new and fresh.

After watching his documentary Radiant Child, I understand some of his work according to the point in his life he was at. You can see how his art progressed from 1981, when he first started, to the paintings in 1983-1987, that could go for over 3million dollars now.

The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibit was next on my list. The exhibit was well done and took you on a journey of the history of sneakers starting from the first pair. I love how it paid homage to both hip hop and sports. Sports may have been the reason for sneakers being made, but hip hope grew its popularity into the cult culture it is today. I will be sure to write more about this exhibit in an upcoming blog post.

Finally, I discovered the much anticipated FAILE: Savaged/Sacred Young Minds. This exhibit, raises questions about our relationship to consumer culture, religious traditions, and the urban environment by blurring the boundaries between fine art, street art, and popular culture. It will blow your mind! More on this in an upcoming blog post.

11:00PM Soda Bar and Lounge

629 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

On the walk to Soda we stumbled across some books on the stoop of an apartment building. I walked away with The Black Book, a book of beautiful and well executed photography. Before heading into Soda, we stopped in the ice cream shop across the street to charge our phones. Ample Hill Creamery is known to have some of the best ice cream in Brooklyn. I figured since we were there I could try the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ice cream, but the staff told me to come back in 30-minutes because it was too hard! Maybe next time. Soda was fun. We spent the rest of the night talking and dancing to all the classics. When “I Need A Girl” by Diddy came on, the nostalgic memories of past summers flooded the minds of everyone in the room. After all the days activities, I got home around 2AM.

If you’ve been feeling like summer isn’t what it used to be, maybe you’re right! We are adults now, and with adulthood comes responsibility. But we can’t let adulthood win! We have to learn how to make the best of our summers even if we think we don’t have enough time to enjoy it!

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20 Reasons to go to Chicago Now!

1. It’s so Clean:

I know writing conventions tell me I should start with something really cool and interesting, but one of the first things I noticed about Chicago is how clean the city is. Unlike NYC where there’s garbage overflowing on every corner and people littering like it’s the local dump, Chicago locals take pride in their city and abide by the signs encouraging them to upkeep their surroundings.

2. The People:

The people in Chicago are friendly. As a native New Yorker, born and raised, we tend to be aloof and on guard at all times. Actually, I have a story to tell: I was walking into the Chicago metro one morning and someone said “Good Morning” to me. I ignored him. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me, but he was. He made his presence clear by saying good morning again, with a smile. My heart melted and I replied back to him with the same kindness he showed me. I am not used to people talking to me in NYC so it was a bit of an adjustment to warm up to him. I realized, there’s some people in the world that are just friendly and want nothing from you. That was one of the many takeaways from my stay.

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3. Magnificent Mile Shopping:

I wasn’t sure what would be the big deal about Magnificent Mile. It’s just shopping right? Wrong! My breath was completely taken away by this beautiful strip. It’s every shopper’s paradise. The stores are huge. Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, super-sized Zara, Guess, Forever 21, you name it, Chicago has it. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was in the flesh. Of course one of the most sentimental moments I had was going to the American Girl store. I know I am old enough to have my own kids, but it was my childhood dream to come here and I felt blessed to finally receive the opportunity to. So there you have it, magnificent mile shopping was so good, it brought tears to my eyes.

IMG_11784. Sports:

Chicago Bulls. Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago Bears. Chicago Cubs. Chicago White Sox. Any of these teams ring a bell? I almost forgot I was in the town of Michael Jordan.  I was supposed to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field the weekend I visited but it rained. The tickets are super cheap starting at $20 bucks. Unfortunately the locals I talked to had nothing great to say about their teams.

IMG_11095.The Beach:

In the midst of the amazing city, Chicago has a beach. Just to give some perspective it was less than 7-mins walking distance from my hotel and my hotel was located in the midst of their Downtown District. I went to Chicago during Memorial Weekend, and this was the first day the beach was open to the public. It seemed like the perfect picturesque view. Tall Sky Scrapers, overlooking the beautiful Lake Michigan with locals and tourist alike sunbathing and playing volley ball. I almost felt like I was in the American version of Dubai.

6. The Food:

Chicago has some good food. I had an array of delicious dishes, ranging from Jamaican to Seafood, but the food I enjoyed most, was the Deep Dish Pizza. First let me say OMG. Then I can proceed to describe this beautiful creation. It’s definitely deep dish, much bigger than I anticipated. The tomato sauce is covered on top and the delish cheese is layered throughout. I added sausage and peperoni and waited over an hour to get this pizza made, but it was worth it. I bought a small pie for about $24 and it lasted for a whole week. I made sure to bring it back on the plane with me because it was too good to discard. Whoever created this is genius. I went to Giordano’s but people later told me Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is better.

Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza Chicago7. Lake Michigan:

Lake Michigan is Chicago’s pride and joy. The lake is massive and a beautiful teal blue, it’s surrounded by tall immaculate buildings along Lake Shore Drive. One of the activities I did was take a tour along the lake. I took an architecture tour of some sort, although, I was told the tour would encompass fun facts and attractions. The water is cold (it splashed on me and my camera at one point) but adds eloquence to the city.  I shudder to think what Lake Michigan turns into during the winter months.IMG_1099

8. The Architecture:

I was amazed by Chicago’s architecture, and this is definitely a feature that the city is proud of. There’s a hybrid between the new and old buildings and Chicago once housed the tallest building in the world (Willis Tower) before the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai. Now the Willis Tower is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, since the Freedom Tower was completed this year.

IMG_11409. The View of Chicago:

The view on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower is phenomenal. I went to the Sky Deck at night and was captivated by the glistening lights and bustle of the city. From the deck I could see the stadiums, the lake and other buildings on the horizon. After waiting on a long packed line, I got to the transparent box aka the sky deck that feels like you are walking on air, 103 stories high. If you are afraid of heights this attraction will freak you out!

10. The Chicago Theater:

I didn’t get to see a show at the Chicago Theater but I did pass by this gem and it’s amazing. I almost left Chicago without seeing this but as I was walking to the train station, headed to the airport, I saw the theater lights in the distance. With my suit case in tow, I walked almost 10 blocks and was enamored by the Chicago Theater sign. So happy I could cross this off my bucket list.

IMG_135611. Chicago Stepping:

Taking a Chicago stepping class was important to me. Chicago is the birthplace of this artistry so I thought it would be awesome to take classes from the best. I found 2-dance classes but their beginner courses seemed to take place on Tuesday’s. Check out Crosstown Steppin and Steppers USA if you’re interested. However, there’s a steppers group in NYC that taught me the basics and I took the course for about 6-months. It was so much fun.

12. The Art Institute of Chicago:

The Art Institute of Chicago is the #1 Art Museum in the World, which was even more reason for me to add this to my itinerary. I went around noon on a Sunday. There was a long line outside of the museum, but I got in within 15-minutes. Ticket prices vary based on if you’re an in-state resident or not. Of course out-of-state residents pay more. The cost for entry is $23. I decided to start at the top floor and work my way down. I started in European art, since it’s my least favorite and progressed into impressionism. Surprisingly I enjoyed the European Art exhibits. I then made my way to the exhibits I knew I would love including modern, contemporary, photography, and African art. I must say, this was one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.IMG_1257 IMG_125413. The Museums:

 

I had to give the Art Institute its own reason to visit Chicago because c’mon it’s voted the #1 Museum in the World, but that shouldn’t take away from the other museums housed in this amazing city. I also had the chance to visit the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the  DuSable Museum which is an African American history museum. I came across the Chicago Cultural Center as well which across the street from Millennium Park. The museums in Chicago are superb. Make sure to research the days where entry into the museum’s are free, although some museums just ask for a donation. What I didn’t get a chance to see was the Hull House, which is a staple in American history.

14. Navy Pier:

Navy Pier is a sort of amusement park in the heart of the city. There’s a Merry-go-round and Ferris wheel as well as places to eat like BubbaGump and Margaritaville. There’s also the famous Garett’s Popcorn and Giordano’s.

Navy Pier-Travelbyky15. President Barack Obama’s Home:

Before Barack Obama became president and moved into the White House he lived in the Kenwood section of Chicago. Although you cannot go inside of his home (it’s highly secured), you can admire his humble beginnings from the outside.

16. The Bean (Cloud Gate):

Like every other city in the world, Chicago has the go-to attraction that signifies you’re there. In Paris it’s the Eiffel Tower, in NYC it’s the Empire State Building, in Chicago, its Cloud Gate. Cloud Gate or the Bean is a silver sculpture in Millennium Park that reflects the whole Chicago skyline. It’s made out of stainless steel and people love to go there to take pictures and admire the shape of this bean-like structure.

The bean17. The Music:

When I was in Chicago, I couldn’t help but listen to R. Kelly-Step in the Name of Love. It was on repeat. In my mind, that was the soundtrack of my trip. It made me happy. There’s music all around you in Chicago. Homeless men singing the blues, young men drumming on containers and dancing to the beat. There’s also a lot of jazz and blues clubs including Kingston Mines which plays classic music that takes you on a trip back in time.

18. Love Jones and other classic movies filmed in Chicago:

Love Jones is my favorite movie and the primary reason I visited Chicago. I wanted to see where Darius chased after Nina in Union Station and where they had their special date nights. Yet there’s other classics that were shot in this city including My Best Friend’s Wedding at the Drake Hotel and the classic movie turned series on Showtime Soul Food.

Love Jones

19. It’s Kid Friendly:

Chicago has so many things to do with children. There’s the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Children Museum, Shedd’s Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. I also walked by the Maggie Daley Park which I thought was so fabulous. Maggie Daley was the mayor’s wife who died from cancer (I learned this from a local), the park was created in her name and it is fabulous. It’s located in the center of the city along Lake Shore Drive. The backdrop is the city skyline and the playground is imaginative.

20. Chicago Photography and Street Art:

The art in Chicago left me speechless. What I loved most is how Chicago’s art incorporates culture and diversity. I went to see the Dandy Lion Exhibit that sought to show black men in a different light other than the stereotypical “thug-like” exterior they supposedly give off through photography. The aim of this exhibit is to re-articulate Black Masculine identity. The subjects dressed nice but were overall well-rounded and complex individuals. I also got the chance to check out the Love for Sale exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, which was epic. Overall, the street art in Chicago stopped me in my tracks. Beautiful installments, sculptures, and graffiti art are sprinkled throughout the windy city.

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Ky Takes Chicago Part III

I took time in the morning just to relax. It was Sunday, so I read my bible, prayed and sat in silence—completely left with my thoughts. I was at peace. My first stop would be the Art Institute of Chicago. My plan was to get there by 10:30am when it first opened but once I got outside on Magnificent Mile, I was entranced by the liveliness around me.

I decided to walk to the American Girl Place. When I was around 10-years old, my mom planned to take me there for my birthday. I was so excited. However a few weeks into planning, she realized she couldn’t afford such a pricey trip. For me it was one of those childhood heartbreaks. I acted like it was ok, but I was disappointed. When I got to the front of American Girl, I just cried. Growing up, my mom wanted to give me so much but financially she was limited. I felt so blessed to know God had exalted me to a position where I could make some of my dreams come true. It was the most therapeutic tears I have ever shed. I walked in and acknowledged all the beautiful dolls. There were hair salons and restaurants for the dolls and mini clothing boutiques for their clothes. Mother and daughters surrounded me. It was special to say the least. I proceeded to some big girl (window) shopping at Neiman’s before heading to the three museums I wanted to tackle:

  1. Art Institute of Chicago
  2. Museum of Contemporary Photography
  3. DuSable Museum

AMERICAN gIRLAmerican GirlIMG_1189After my tour of Chicago’s museum I planned to have a nice dinner to conclude my weekend. I got dressed and went out to the Wild Hare. In the movie Love Jones, Darius and Nina spent the night dancing to live reggae music at this spot. I wanted to recreate the same scene or feeling. When I first got to the restaurant there was a soccer team enjoying beers and a few couples on date night. I asked for a table for one and enjoyed a delicious Jerk Chicken plate with an ice cold drink on the side. The music was epic, old school reggae that reminded me of my childhood (My mom and dad loved this kind of music). There was one last thing on my itinerary that I did not get done—The Chicago Theater. I wanted to ask my cab driver to drop me there but it was getting late. Eh, maybe ill come back in the future to see it.

The Wild Hare The next morning on my way to the train to get to the airport, in the distance I saw a sign that said CHICAGO—Wait was that the theater? With my suitcase in tow I walked about 10-blocks along State Street until I was close enough to see it for sure. My trip to Chicago was officially complete.IMG_1356

A Love Jones Lover Chicago Bucket List

Have you ever watched the movie Love Jones? It’s by far one of my favorite movies. Larenz Tate and Nia Long play Darius Lovehall and Nina Mosely, a couple who live in Chicago and go through the ups and downs of a pre-social media relationship. The two have a love for the arts and poetry and an undying passion for each other. Chicago is the unofficial main character of this movie as the places they frequent include Grant Park and the Wild Hare. I was inspired to go to Chicago because of this movie. I wanted to recreate all the moments Darius and Nina shared together. This has been one of my travel goals for years and it would finally happen. One Saturday when I was sick of dreaming, I booked my ticket for memorial weekend. I would bring my professional camera with me to channel Nina and my mac computer to channel Darius. It would be the perfect infusion of what I love to do write and take pictures for a whole weekend.

A Love Jones Lover Bucket List

The Sanctuary

The Spoken Word Lounge, 1200 W 35th St., Chicago, IL 60609

The Sanctuary is a cool-cat nightclub where the hottest poets in town share their spoken words and deep thoughts. The smoked-filled room makes for the perfect introduction into the poetic mind of Darius Lovehall as he shares with the audience his “Blues for Nina.” Unfortunately, the Sanctuary is just an illusion and doesn’t actually exist. But there’s a huge spoken-word scene in Chicago.

The Wild Hare

2610 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60614

Darius and Nina’s first date went down here. The Wild Hare is a Caribbean-inspired bar lounge located in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago. It’s particularly popular because of the live music that starts every night at 9PM. There’s a diverse crowd, from athletes wanting to enjoy an ice-cold Red Stripe to lovers conversing in the dimly lit corners of the venue. The walls are adorned with bright yellow, green and red hues and flags hanging from the ceiling. You can’t go wrong with the jerk chicken platter and a side of Jamaican beef patties. The Wild Hare’s mouthwatering menu is only enhanced by the sweet sounds of Bob Marley blasting through the speakers.

The Buckingham Fountain

301 S. Columbus Dr., Chicago, IL 60605

The lighting of the Buckingham Fountain is perfect for a romantic smooch. The fountain spouts everyday from 8AM-11PM, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not named after the palace in London.

A Bookstore

Myopic Books 1564 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622

The scene of the crime… Darius is caught with another woman amongst the books here at one of Chicago’s oldest and largest used bookstores in the heart of Wicker Park. Definitely not a high point in the movie, but dramatic!

Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP)

600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605

While the location isn’t featured in the movie, the essence of photography is peppered throughout, which makes MoCP well worth a visit. Although the museum change exhibits about five times a year, the current exhibition, Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity, is a must see. The photographs in this exhibit are reminiscent to Nina’s work (if she really existed).

Chicago Stepping Class

Steppersusa.com

Darius and Nina showed off their chemistry while on the dance floor. If you’ve never heard of stepping or you’re just intrigued by the art, consider taking a beginners steppers class while in Chicago. Classes are $10-$15, but you won’t be disappointed.

Black Stone Hotel

636 South Michigan Ave. (lobby entrance on East Balbo Avenue), Chicago, IL 60605

The Black Stone Hotel has definitely been upgraded since the filming of the movie but still has its original charm. Go for a drink at the bar and see if you can snag a peak into the very room where the Annual Steppers Ball took place.

Chill along the shores of Lake Michigan

63rd Street Beach 6300 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60649

“You only get one true love… two tops.” Lake Shore Drive is the perfect spot to take in Chicago. Take a walk, think about the one that got away and how to get them back.

Love Jones

My First Experience as a Solo Traveler

Alone. Not by choice. My boyfriend (at the time) and I got into an argument. We parted ways that weekend. I was on my own in a huge city much like my own, but it was not NYC, it was different and I would be doing a disservice to Chicago if I compared the two.

Alone. I never anticipated Chicago being a trip for one but God always has other plans for us, doesn’t he? After settling in my new hotel, I decided to wear my hair in its natural state to represent the sudden burst of freedom I now felt. It was liberating to say the least. The first thing I did was explore Magnificent Mile. I walked outside of my hotel, conveniently placed on the corner of Ohio and Mag Mile and proceeded down the strip admiring the tall buildings and the shopping. I was in Chicago for sure. There were stores for days—Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Guess, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Neiman Marcus, H&M and the list goes on. I decided to take a boat tour of Chicago along Lake Michigan followed by a trip to “The bean.” I looked around at all the people swarming towards the bean with their families and friends and at that moment I wished I could share this time with someone—but I couldn’t so I did what anyone else in my situation would do…I found someone who had a nice and friendly demeanor and asked if they could take a picture of me—I was alone in Chicago, but that didn’t take away from the fact that I was still a tourist. I met two middle-aged women who were more than happy to take my picture. They complimented me on my natural hair, in awe of what I did to make it look the way it did and went on about their day. I felt exhilarated. My fear of being alone in Chicago wasn’t completely gone, but I loosened up. I would make the best of this trip and enjoy the wonders of solo travel.

The next morning, I woke up and had time to reflect. I sat in silence. I prayed. I talked to God. I was able to write. I planned out my itinerary. I talked on the phone. I did everything I wanted to do in MY time. I planned to do a museum day. I would visit all the museums in Chicago that were on my itinerary. Three museums in one day. As a matter of fact, 3-museums in 5-hours, since I didn’t get to my first museum (The Art Institute of Chicago) until noon and everything closed at 5PM. I say this all to say, I was on my own time. I didn’t have to answer to anyone else but me. I was accountable for how my trip would go. This was the day that my fear of being solo in Chicago completely left me. I no longer feared someone would notice I was alone, or that I would be kidnapped. I let go of everything and lived life. I enjoyed my time walking through the exhibits of the Art Institute, interpreting art from my perspective and not the perspectives of others. I enjoyed taking pictures of pictures at the Museum of Contemporary Photography and watching the Dandy Lion video over and over again without being rushed by someone else. I loved learning about the history of African Americans at the DuSable Museum and getting caught in the rain, looking for the bus on the way back to the hotel. It was beautiful. It was liberating. It was such a necessary experience to push me out of my element. That night, I decided to take myself to a nice dinner. I wanted to visit the Wild Hare with my boyfriend and dance the night away to reggae music, but things did not turn out as such—so guess what, I visited without him. I arrived to the dinner around 7:30PM and I was surrounded by other couples on date night but that didn’t faze me. I asked the hostess for a table for one and ordered my jerk chicken plate filled with cabbage and rice and peas. I had an ice cold drink to go with my dinner and danced for a few hours to old school reggae music. When it was getting late, I took a cab home and got back to my hotel around 11PM. The next morning I took the CTA Blue Line train and found my way back to the airport. Overall, it was such a beautiful trip.

My first time as a solo traveler was an experience. I am not going to act like it wasn’t scary because it was. I don’t like being alone, especially in a hotel room by myself but now, I understand that this time alone was exactly what I needed. I had time just to spend with myself. I had time to think and evaluate my life decisions. I was surprised by my own strength because I could’ve just remained in the room, stagnant since I was alone, but instead I was empowered. I got up and did everything that was on my itinerary. I am now more open to an experience like this.

10 Tips to Conquer Solo Travel as a Woman

  1. Be Bold. Do not be afraid of conquering the city you are visiting. Make sure you know everything you want to get done and go for it.
  2. Prepare. Before I started each day, I had an idea of the things I wanted to do and how I would do it. I also googled what time everything opened and closed, and planned my daily itinerary based on my research.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, directions or for someone to take a picture of you. Just make sure who you ask makes you feel comfortable.
  4. Try to get home at a decent time.I wouldn’t advise staying out until the wee hours of the night especially as a woman traveler. Safety First!
  5. Treat this new city like it’s your own and you deserve to be there. My friend gave me advice to act like I was out and about in NYC and once she said that, my whole mindset about the trip changed. I wouldn’t be so cautious in NYC so why should I be afraid here?
  6. Enjoy time with you. Take time to breathe, read or even sit in silence when you’re on your solo trip.
  7. Don’t be embarrassed to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner by yourself. Again be confident. You may get stares, which is expected, but people will ultimately respect your independence. However, it’s okay if you just want to take your food back to the hotel. #NoPressure.
  8. Meet Up. If you’re going to a new city solo, see if your friends or family know of anyone you can connect with or if there’s any events or meet up groups happening.
  9. Treat Yourself. Maybe it’s a cupcake or a new outfit but make yourself feel special…you deserve it.
  10. Little White Lie. Never tell someone you are alone. Safety First!

Chicago Travelbyky

Women In Travel Summit 2015 Part II

Manicures and photobooths!  I managed to arrive in heaven. Well, not really but this was all the pampering a girl needs to be happy. During the break I was torn between attending a bloggers revision workshop or a holistic scheduling break out session. I chose, How to get ish done and still have time to do yoga (The holistic scheduling session). I learned some pretty cool techniques, but most, I was already familiar with. When you have a 9-5 job, and manage two blogs and one website like I do, it’s imperative to hone your time management skills.

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IMG_1503 IMG_1506Cashing in on You was the next talk and it was absolutely empowering.

One of the questions asked was What would you do differently if you knew for sure that the only real currency you have in life is you?

When you start to think like this, you begin to take risks. If the only currency in life I had was me, I would have to do three things better:

  1. Network
  2. Make lasting relationships
  3. Get rid of the fear of rejection and take more risks.

Even though this was a hypothetical question, this is really a great way to put things into perspective. I need to start thinking of myself like currency and know my worth, because I have tons of value. Heck, I am a goldmine. You, who are reading this, whoever you are and wherever you may be should do the same.

Other Takeaways from Miss Catrice:

  1. Know why you do what you do and why you are the best at doing it
  2. Be very clear about your brand
  3. Do not be afraid to stand out

The stand out tip resonated with me most. It’s very important to be the person that stands out. Whether it’s a bright blazer, crazy hair, an amazing broach, always have a conversation piece on hand when a new opportunity presents itself at a conference or maybe even an event.

Follow @catriceology for some more personal and professional branding tips.

IMG_1517 IMG_1521My next break out session was about the boring and monotonous world of SEO. SEO is search optimization, and if a blogger want to find success, their website/blog should come up on Google’s 1st page and not its 22nd.

Three tips I learned was:

  1. Making Google like you is all about creating amazing content that people love and share
  2. Publish up to date and real life content that people care about
  3. Brainstorm the common terms and phrases you think people use to search the broad topics of your blog site

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Shortly after a delicious lunch, my last break out session of WITS15 day one would commence. I was torn between “Press Trip Travel,” which I believe would’ve been totally beneficial to me or “Meeting the Global Challenge of Educating Women Through Media: Soulful Travels with Grannies on Safari” I chose the latter and I am happy I did. Grannies on Safari did something to my soul. They were so cute and they have amazing chemistry. Most of all their session was almost like a call for action for us travelers to do more for others abroad. There are women across the world in Africa and India who can’t go to school because they don’t have sanitary napkins to wear while on their periods. That should never be the case. We have to use our platforms to bring awareness to these issues and help our sisters (and brothers) reach great heights in their lives even if they are miles away.

Grannies On Safari have a show on PBS and you can Click here to visit their website.

IMG_1526With Day One of WITS 15 down, I was feeling overwhelmed. I needed to connect with the many people that I met that day, but I also needed to take more action. I have more than one platform, one is even geared towards the empowerment of women and even though I’ve made progress with all my platforms, this conference made me realize, that my work has just begun. I needed to make more of an impact. Do more, heck, maybe even rebrand. That night, I had a feeling of non-complacency. If I learned anything from this conference it was that change and growth were on my horizons.

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Women In Travel Summit 2015

The night before Women In Travel Summit 2015 (WITS15) I planned out my whole schedule on Sched, which is a genius app for organizing your schedule and calendar. I was able to sync all the activities I would do for the weekend on my Gmail calendar, which alerted me every time I had a workshop coming up. I was all packed and ready to head to Boston for a weekend of connecting with other women travelers like myself. I hoped to leave with new friends and lasting connections yet I had very little expectations for what the weekend would bring. I love going into a new experience with an open mind and heart.

photo-17I realized I was in Boston when we drove past the harbor leading up to the Engineering School at Boston University. Beautiful town homes lined the stoned streets, it was so charming. The first event on the Sched calendar was an opening party at the We Work South Station. I decided to have dinner with my mom and grandmother instead, whom I brought with me to tag along and enjoy the city while I was at the conference. It would be the only time I had to hang with my favorite ladies before the conference really got started.

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IMG_1484 Saturday morning, I woke up refreshed. I got dressed in what seemed like a standard conference outfit; a dress, tights, boots and a cardigan. Everyone knows you can’t attend a conference without a cardigan. I checked in and was super excited when I was told that the amazing travel bags that were on each chair in the conference hall was for us to keep. I was torn between the red and the black. The red was vibrant, but the black was practical (I went with the bold red). I was overwhelmed and quite excited when I saw how many beautiful women were in attendance at the conference.

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IMG_1600Where would I sit? I found a seat next to lovely women, as close to the front as I could possibly get. I love sitting in the front, it keeps you alert at all times. Breakfast was continental and consisted of bagels and delicious muffins. The opening speech came from an amazing woman, traveler and entrepreneur, Asian Fusion Girl also known as Dina. Dina’s story was raw, and relatable. Dina grew up internalizing the negative words of her mother who told her she wouldn’t amount to anything (her father was a bit more supportive and compassionate). She used these words to fuel her life to great heights. While in college she decided to pursue a career in music. She got on a plane to Brazil to connect with her uncle who had a connection at MTV in Sao Palo. What came out of her spontaneous trip was a record deal. However she ended up winning a huge legal settlement, when she heard the music from her demo tape on a commercial that was broadcasted throughout Brazil.

IMG_1491She decided to travel with her new found fortune. While in Italy she met a man who she gradually fell in love with. He was filthy rich and treated her like a queen. They traveled the world on his private jet and didn’t find it necessary to carry luggage, as there would always be clothes waiting for them at each location. He eventually asked her to marry him, but not before she invested some of her money into the stock market and was making huge returns; Dina was deemed the Girl with the Golden Touch because it seemed as if everything she touched turned to gold. Her fiance asked if he could invest some of her money and she didn’t think twice about it. After all, he was wealthy and such a boss. She admired what he did and how he handled his business.

One day when everything in Dina’s life was perfect, she received a call from her lawyers, frantically saying all her assets had been frozen because her fiance got busted for his illegal doings. She lost 90% of her assets. After going through all forms of depression she decided to travel the world and give the 10% she had left away to people in need. This woman walked right into her purpose. She opened up kitchens to feed the lower caste people of India and helped save 3-12 year old girls from being trafficked in Cambodia. She eventually picked herself back up, so overjoyed by her travels and began thriving in business again, initially with her blog Asian Fusion Girl.

I was so moved by Dina’s speech. Her honesty and transparency set the tone for the rest of the conference.It was at that very moment when I realized the type of conference I signed up to be apart of, and I was so happy I did. There were people out there that travel with purpose and I would learn more about giving back while traveling as the conference went on. Yet, this felt like a space where as women we could be empowered. We could be uplifted. We could share our stories. I was absolutely excited about what the rest of the day would bring.

The Perfect Brooklyn Saturday

As bad as I wanted to sleep in, I knew it would be best if I took advantage of the 50-degree weather and embark on a really cool Saturday in Brooklyn.

Around 2PM, I met up with my friend for brunch at Woodlands. Woolands is a relatively new restaurant in Park Slope. I’ve seen this place, but never thought twice about actually dining here until today. I was intrigued by the rustic décor and savory menu. I opted for my usual, scrambled eggs but asked for a side of Belgian waffles. They ended up giving me one red velvet waffle, which was a pleasant surprise; this waffle was moist, fluffy, and melt in your mouth good. I would definitely come back here for brunch again, the unlimited mimosas until 4PM, sealed the deal.

Woodlands Restaurant

After brunch we took a nice walk to the Brooklyn Museum, which was the highlight of the day. Target First Saturdays is a guaranteed good time. From its arts&crafts, musical performances, and films followed by discussions, this is the go to spot for every Brooklyn native new or old. Now that this event has received so much notoriety (or Brooklyn got more populated, who knows?) you really have to make sure you’re at the museum before 5PM to avoid crowds. In addition to the museum’s typical exhibits including Egyptian and European art work, today was a special day- Basquiet and Kehinde were both on display. The depth of both artists and the meaning behind their artwork defies description.

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Tips By Ky:

If you’re in the Brooklyn area, please show these two exhibits some love, especially if you’re into non-conventional urban, depth and expressionist art.

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks April 3rd –August 23, 2015

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic Feb 20th –May 24th 2015

Weekends By Ky: Boston

Boston is uncharted territory for me and I literally didn’t know what to expect. I thought to ask around and got mixed reviews. My intern just returned from Boston on a college tour and exclaimed “Some of Boston’s buildings resemble warehouses.” My boyfriend, who went to school in Boston said “ Its not much to it besides sports, bars and seafood,” and my boss, well his words of advice were “You have to try the ricotta cheese cake at Modern Pastry in the North End.” Honestly, from the mixed reactions, I had little expectations but decided to come to my own conclusion.

My mom and grandmother were my companions for this trip. We got off the Greyhound at Southwark station around 6:45PM Friday evening and caught a cab to the Revere Hotel located in Downtown Boston’s theater district. What I immediately loved about Boston was how much it reminded me of my college years; there were so many young people (most likely students since Boston is home to some of the best schools in the country).

IMG_1766IMG_1467Check-in to the Revere Hotel was very accommodating. I had business cards sent to the venue and the staff was able to get them delivered to my room, despite the mail room being closed for the night.The Revere Hotel is a funky boutique hotel, with colorful and abstract pieces of art. It was very easy to call this hotel home for the weekend because of its cozy feel. One of the first things I noticed upon entering the room was the pillow menu, (A pillow menu?) now that’s accommodating. It gives you the option to choose the type of pillow you want, hypoallergenic? Anti-Snore? Or how soft or hard you want it to beIMG_1582 IMG_1761 IMG_1762 IMG_1472IMG_1586 IMG_1473 IMG_1474IMG_1476We decided to eat dinner at Legal Seafood. I had the New England Clam Chowder. It was pretty good, but i’ve tasted better. My entree consisted of mashed potatoes and cajun shrimp. You can’t go to Boston without trying the Clam Chowder and Boston Cream Pie, it’s almost obligatory.

IMG_1481IMG_1488IMG_1487The rest of the weekend, when I was not at my Women In Travel conference (which is what brought me to Boston in the first place), I spent trying to get a feel for the city. It snowed all day Saturday, but on our last day it was sunny (cold, but sunny). I had a 2-hour break to explore. We went to Modern Pastry to try the delicious cheesecake and pastries. We then walked around the neighborhood, admiring the quaint town homes and narrow stone streets. We came across some noteworthy landmarks including the Paul Revere Statute, Old North Church and The Massachusetts State House. We stumbled across an historic chocolate and printing shop where I was able to see how chocolates were made and tasted during the revolutionary period. Boston was charming to say the least. It’s the perfect getaway if you want a change in scenery and to learn a little about American History.

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According to Ky: 6 Things to Do in Boston

1-Try to attend a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party

2-Be adventurous like me and tackle the freedom tour without a tour guide

3-Join the debate; Do you prefer Mike’s Pastries or Modern Pastries? Take your pick!

4-You must try Boston Cream Pie and New England Clam Chowder while in Boston, it’s a must!

5-Visit a museum. I didn’t get a chance to do this, but I would’ve loved to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of African American History

6-Visit the Cheers Bar from the famous TV show, where everybody knows your name.

Ky’s Verdict:

Boston is beautiful and filled with so much history. From it’s quaint homes to it’s historical landmarks, this is a city that I would definitely visit again. I have to admit, and I am going to be honest here, after hearing stories about the race relations in Boston, I had some reservations about how I would be welcomed as an African American woman, nevertheless my experience was quite the opposite. The people are very pleasant and accommodating. I didn’t feel like an outsider at all. I was welcomed with smiles and small talk by the locals. The customer service was amazing. I really enjoyed my weekend here and I am happy I didn’t let the opinions of others deter me from my travels. This is why we should all travel, to break down misconceptions and to learn.

Weekends By Ky: Harlem

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Harlem. Harlem is so rich with history and I knew my boyfriend’s neighborhood was in the heart of it. I googled “Things to Do in Harlem” and discovered that Harlem was founded by the Dutch, hence it’s name, which is also a municipality in The Netherlands, (Haarlem). Harlem is also the birthplace of the Renaissance, which was historically important for African Americans in America. A time of rebirth for our people to be great, artistically and professionally; many of the great black minds in history resided in Harlem. Fortunately for me, I was in the midst of it all. I decided to take Chase, the dog, for a walk around the neighborhood. We started at the Schomburg and walked up the block to Strivers Row. I could just imagine all those aristocratic blacks doing great things in an adverse America. I saw a sign that said “Private Road-Walk Your Horses” I literally stepped back into time and it felt as if I discovered unforeseen treasures. Did Harlem natives notice how historically rich their neighborhood was? I plan on exploring more of Harlem’s rich history in the near future.

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Weekends By Ky: Philadelphia

So often we look across the world to experience history and culture and never in our own backyard. This past weekend I decided to visit my friend Brittany in Philadelphia. We spent the first night having careless fun which included fish tacos at a Mexican restaurant and Korean Karaoke. The following day I felt a little under the weather, so we got a bunch of snacks from the grocery store and watched Law & Order Criminal Intent all day. Finally she convinced my sick self to get up and catch a movie which we did and it was awesome.Luckily for me, I got a double deal. We went to see the movie on the UPENN campus and I got to experience life as a Penn ivy leaguer, well sort of. That night, Britt made delish spaghetti and I called it a night early.

Kydee WilliamsThe next morning I felt so much better. We got an early start and headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art. I ran up the Rocky Balboa stairs, like I was the champion himself. I had no idea about the significance of those stairs as it related to the movie. I saw people line up just to get a picture with the Rocky statue and I eventually put two and two together. We headed straight to the museum and luckily for me my Penn State credentials granted me access to the museum at a discounted student rate.

Kydee Williams Kydee WilliamsThe museum was amazing, filled with a lot of antique furniture, portraits of George Washington and breath taking artwork. What captivated me most was the medieval room which was an exhibit filled with military armory from the middle ages. Always assuming that this part of our history was some what fictional, it was interesting to see the steel army wardrobe of the past on display.

IMG_7615 IMG_7616 IMG_7618Kydee WilliamsOutside of the museum was The Oval which is a seasonal local festival. Brittany and I watched performances and drank apple cider while sitting on a haystack. We enjoyed taking in the amazing sights of this beautiful fall afternoon.

IMG_7606I felt fulfilled as I headed back to New York. Who knew that the Philadelphia Museum was the first museum in the United States? I didn’t. Not only did I experience culture, and a lot of history in a short 2-days, but this weekend seemed longer than ever. I was totally ready to head back to work and finally have something great to say when someone asks me the quintessential “So how was your weekend?”