Debunking Myths of The Middle East

Be careful not to get Trafficked. Don’t get kidnapped. The men oppress their women. There’s a lot of sex slaves out there!

One of the most important reasons why I travel is to combat ignorance. How can you really know what a culture is all about unless you’ve experienced it for yourself? A lot of the above statements were from people who have never visited the UAE in their lives, but the propaganda they “heard” about the Middle East and how terrible it is, with ISIS roaming around and kidnappers ready to take American girls as captives, led them to assume this would be my fate.

Now imagine if I allowed their comments to hinder me, I would’ve never been able to sit here and tell you that I felt safe in Dubai. At some points safer than I do while living in Brooklyn. I traveled to the Middle East and survived. Yes, there are injustices going on in the UAE including a lack of fair labor laws and poor labor treatment for the individuals working on those beautiful buildings, prostitution, human trafficking and mistreatment of housemaids, but this is the case wherever you go, even in America.

Not all women are oppressed in the Middle East. Middle Eastern women have different standards than some American women. Middle Eastern women wouldn’t dare expose their bodies for the entire world to see. They treat their bodies as a temple, only revealing their treasures to their husbands. They know their worth and walk with confidence in their long black Abaya’s. They wear the best of the best underneath their garments. Christian Louboutin shoes, Alexander Mcqueen dresses. Almost every one of the women has a designer bag. While shopping with their friends they open their Abaya’s and reveal they are decked out in jeans and the latest shirts from Zara. They are just like us.

I learned the importance of being chaste while in Dubai. Always being mindful not to offend anyone by exposing my shoulders, or showing too much cleavage like I would in America. Yet, the profound significance of this was that I didn’t feel less sexy, I felt beautiful. One of the most monumental parts of my trip was being able to put on an Abaya for the first time. I felt honored to imitate the essence of a Muslim woman. I felt like they showed me another way. I was able to walk in their shoes for some time, while in the mosque and it felt empowering. I have such indescribable respect for them.

Thank you Jesus for bringing me back home safely. Unfortunately, we do live in a crazy world and anything could’ve happened to me. I am completely aware of that. However the moral of the story is, you should never let other people’s beliefs of a country hinder you from traveling. You should also never let your own misconceptions hinder you. Go for it. Find out for yourself, and you will be glad you did because whether good or bad, you still will have a story to tell and an experience to share for the rest of your life.

Hyatt  Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

Ready…Getting your ticket

Come fly with me lets, fly lets fly away- Frank Sinatra

Being that this was my first extensive trip, I missed out on the travel points and mileage gains that I would have gotten had I used a travel credit card. These travel cards would have given me credits usually via a point system for the number of miles I traveled. The beauty of these cards is that for frequent fliers it really gets your trips to work for you and your future travel adventures. But you live and you learn.

Falling credit cardsDeals: I found sites like Skyscanner.com to be a great resource for searching for tickets. It gave an overall view of what the average ticket prices were to travel from NYC to Singapore which helped with my decision making . Essentially Skyscanner.com scans for the lowest price amongst airlines that flies into your area of interest and lets you know about the possible connection options on non-stop flights (I sought a connection in Japan). Overall, it gave perspective on what price range I would fall into when booking my ticket. SkyscannerPricing: When booking my flight for travel in May the price range to fly to Singapore was between $1200-$1600 on a mainstream commercial airline. There were less mainstream airlines that fly to Asia for reduced prices, however I would advise researching their track record if this is an option you would be interested in. While Skyscanner was my tool for keeping in mind the expected price range, I eventually used the actual airline’s website to buy the ticket. I found a ticket on Delta Airlines for around $1400, and spent $1700 in total for the flight. Leg room, was where the extra $300 came in, and this turned out to be a very good investment. Spending 32 hours in total on the plane, including a 20 hour flight from California to Japan and a 7 hour flight from Japan to Singapore, meant that at a mere $85 a flight, the cost for leg room was well worth it. This plus some of the other things mentioned in my next post may help you make your next long distance flight pretty pleasant.

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The Wedding Day

The day of the wedding was so relaxing. Danielle, Kirsha and I decided to go to the beach across from the hotel which was absolutely breathtaking. The water was clear and the beach was alive and filled with cool vibes and fun tourist. I wanted to stay in the water forever, but the yacht to the private island where the wedding would take place was set to depart at 6PM and with 3-girls in one room, we needed more than enough time to get pretty.

IMG_6773 IMG_6642 IMG_6648The wedding was beautiful. I cried only 2-times (when the bride came down the aisle with her father and grandmother and when the groom said his vows). When the guest first arrived each of us said kind words in a video that they would watch later. I quoted Boyz II Men “You gotta believe in the spirit of love” One of my favorite quotes ever. After the wedding, all the guests took one huge picture before heading back to the reception. Cocktail hour was by the pool and the reception followed shortly after. Akilah and Rion’s union made me come to a lot of realizations in my life. For one, I was twenty-five and was literally messing with the wrong men and getting into the wrong type of relationships. My friends were getting married! Furthermore, I was ready for growth in my overall life. Snapping myself out of my thoughts, allowed me to enjoy why I was at the wedding in the first place, to celebrate my friend’s union, which we did all night. The reception was fun! We danced the night away to the latest songs and jumped into the pool with our wedding clothes on for the hell of it. The Bahamas was awesome!!!!!

IMG_6658 IMG_6663 IMG_6680 IMG_6684 IMG_6688 IMG_6734 Luckily, traveling back to NYC was a breeze. The only thing I needed to focus on was catching up on sleep. It took about a week for me to get into the groove of things, which also meant I was late to work just about every day when I got back. I didn’t realize how little we slept until I returned…geesh. Overall it was an amazing vacation and I am so blessed that I was able to share this memory with my closest friends. Cheers to #DOUBLEADAY

Before Take-Off…The Bahamas

August 11, 2013, Akilah and Arion invited their closest friends to a BBQ to announce their engagement and wedding date which would be in exactly one year. My friends and I were so excited. Finally, not only were our friends getting married but they were having an amazing destination wedding…AHHH we were adults.

Summer 2014, vastly approached and before I knew it the wedding was drawing near. 4-weeks before the wedding, my ticket was not booked. Life happens; I decided to take a 2-week vacation to Europe for my 25th birthday which set a sistah back. 3-weeks before the wedding my ticket was still not booked. I somehow hoped that the ticket to the Bahamas which was now a whopping $540 would decrease to $500 possibly? I don’t know; wishful thinking. 2-weeks before the wedding, I had no choice but to book with Delta Airlines, which at that point in time I had over 15k frequent flyer miles and ended up spending about $600 for my ticket. I made a mistake, waiting for the last minute but it’s a mistake that I take full ownership of.

Freeport Bahamas

10 Overseas Travel Prep Tips

It’s officially summer folks, which means a lot of us are traveling. Having recently come back from an extensive overseas trip, I have some valuable tips that I want to share with you if you are planning on traveling this season:

1. Passport

Don’t forget your passport. This is probably the most important identification you will have for your trip. Make sure you allow enough time to get a new or renewed passport if need be.

2. Pack Light

With the hikes in baggage prices, avoid overpacking your bags.

3. Exchange your Money before you Leave

The exchange companies overseas will charge fees like you have never seen before. Please avoid them by all costs (pun intended). Also, get a list from your bank of their affiliations with any other bank in the country you are traveling to so you can easily retrieve money without high-cost fees and exchange rates.

4. Research

Do your research on any country you are visiting. I can’t emphasize this enough. A lot of countries all over the world operate differently from us in the United States. There are so many blogs, book stores, google maps, and review sites like Trip Advisor and travel agents out there that can assist with all the information you will need for your upcoming trip. Use these resources; it’s so vital.

5. Itinerary

Probably the most important piece of paper you will have is an itinerary or a breakdown of how your trip should go (even though a few changes may occur). Make sure to have a list of places you are visiting, dates, hotel names and addresses, phone numbers, confirmations, etc. Everything you will need to survive while out of the country should be included on this list.

6. Download Important Apps

There are amazing travel apps out there for smartphone users. On my recent trip to Europe, I downloaded “What’s App” as a means of texting and MagicJack to make international phone calls to my family for free. It’s amazing what you can discover on the App Store.

7. Know the basics

If you are traveling to a country that speaks a foreign language, know the basics words such as hello, good-bye, how much? Where’s the bathroom? So you can communicate with the locals

8. Maps of Train Systems

I think it’s very important to get familiar with different countries’ metro systems (before traveling) so you won’t get lost or overwhelmed. Also using the trains can help save money on otherwise expensive taxicabs.

9. Beware of Pickpockets and Robbers

It seems as if tourists have an invisible sign on their forehead which says “ROB ME.” Some people can spot a tourist from a mile away and with that being said, it’s always wise to be cautious of your belongings, your purse if you are a lady and your passport. You would never want an ideal vacation to go sour because something was stolen from you…what a nightmare.

10. Be Open-Minded

Indulging in another culture unlike your own could be frightening. However, you have to go into an experience wanting to take it to the fullest. Let your hair down and enjoy the lifestyle of foreign cultures. Try different foods, dance in the streets, sleep in, relax and just enjoy life. You never know what you will learn and you may also discover, people across the world are just like you in a lot of ways.

Kydee Williams