Blog Posts

Preparing for Another Trip to Haiti 🇭🇹

I’m preparing for my 6th trip back to Haiti this month. As I’ve been packing for the journey, I stopped to realize that I haven’t wrote about any of my wonderful times in Haiti. The beautiful island is often reduced to a less desirable vacation location, however I beg to differ. Haiti has so much more to offer and people should really give it a chance.

On my upcoming trip I’ll be in country for 10 days with my fiancé Dimy. We plan to road trip up from Port-au-Prince and then down south before flying out of PAP at the end of the journey.

Within that time frame the goal is to:

1. Go to my fiancé’s visa interview in Port-Au-Prince

2. Road trip to Cap-Haitien for 4 days

3. Road trip to Jacmel for 3 days

4. Fly out to Atlanta just in time for the holiday.

How We’re Getting There

The fun part about this all is the planning! I’m currently connecting with folks who are well versed in Haiti Tourism to ensure I have a good source of information to write from. I’ve rented a SUV/jeep for the bumpy terrain we’ll encounter moving through the country. I booked some local hotels and home stays for all the locations, and our tour guides are in the works. Flying from PAP to CAP is an option and only takes 30 minutes. But for this trip we wanted to see all the beautiful landscapes from the ground.

La Citadelle

Upon arrival in CAP, we plan on seeing La Citadelle which is a UNESCO historical park site. Citadelle is considered the largest fortress in the Caribbean and is a marker of the free world!

Sans Souci

We also want to see Sans Souci while in CAP. It was the palace of the self-proclaimed king, Henri Christophe, after Haiti won it’s independence. It was affected by an earthquake in 1842, but “It gives an idea of the Haiti that ‘almost was’…”

Bassin Bleu

Lastly, we will visit Jacmel and see the famous Bassin Bleu! A beautiful location about 12 km from Jacmel. There’s a hike trail that leads to the different swimming holes and waterfall.

My hope is to share an easy and direct way for YOU to experience the beauty Haiti has to offer. I hope the follow up post after my return will inspire you to see Haiti in a different light. I also hope it will inspire you to be curious enough to consider exploring Haiti when planning your next trip to the Caribbean.

 

How Love Found Me While Abroad 💙

The topic on how my fiancé and I met comes up quite often due to the fact that he’s not here in the U.S. with me permanently just yet. So I end up going into this long story about how Love found me while I was traveling. Hence, why I decided to write this post about it. From the travel groups I’m in on Facebook, Love Abroad is a hot topic.  It’s a funny story how it all happened for me because the last thing I was looking for was love.

I was on the beautiful island of Haiti shooting a short documentary called Ansanm Nou Fo (Together We Are Strong). Ultimately the project was for a class, and I took advantage of the opportunity to shoot something overseas. Visiting Haiti had always been in my heart, and it’s so crazy how it all went down. I originally planned to shoot in the U.S., then my story fell through last minute, and with how perfect the universe works, I met the subject of my film at my dad’s church on a random Sunday I was home visiting.

I know what you might be thinking, the main character of my documentary ended up being my fiancé, nooooo. LOL. However, through shooting my main character, I met a man named Dimy Marcelin. Dimy was one of my translators that accompanied me throughout my stay in Haiti. On top of guiding me around the compound and village of Vignier, Haiti where my main character lived, he also took me to many other near by towns/ villages in Ouest (west) Haiti.

Over the course of almost a month of me filming in Haiti we grew closer. Over time after I left we talked every single day, and to this day 2.5 years later we’ve never gone a full day without talking or texting each other. Our love story is almost too perfect on the surface. Don’t get me wrong we’ve had our arguments and such, but despite that and the distance our love has prevailed. As a filmmaker, sometimes I feel like our story would make a cute little short film. Who knows.

Dimy is not only a great partner, but he’s a protector, a great friend and the BEST travel buddy I could ever ask for. He also speaks Creole, French, Spanish and English. So I’ve been in very good hands throughout all our explorations of South America. I could keep typing or I could just show you the video below. The video is probably better. It’s a good look at many (but not all) of our travels together over the past couple years.

So how did love find me abroad? It found me in the form of a wonderful man I could’ve only wished for. It found me during a time where I told everyone I was destine to be “forever alone.” I even branded Forever Alone Incorporated amongst me and some other female friends for fun. Like it was real y’all. Throughout the beginnings of our relationship I kept asking myself “is this real?” Yes, it was/is real and I’m happy I can write and share it with you all. Remember Dimy’s face, you’ll see a lot more of him as mine and our travel journeys continue!

Have you found love while traveling? Let me know about your Love (or even crush) Abroad story below!

An OFFLINE Navigation App for Driving Anywhere

If you plan to drive while abroad or in your own home country, there’s an app you should download. Not only does this app help you navigate, but it can be used completely OFFLINE! Like no data or roaming necessary. The app is called Maps.me and I found it through a couple who road-tripped from NYC to Argentina.

So let’s talk about how it works.  I’ve rented a car while overseas before and despite having an international plan, internet connection can be a mess! What could be worse than your navigation going out of signal in the middle of no where? And no one wants to pay $20 to the car rental company for a navigation system add-on either.

So I decided to downloaded maps.me, and I used it on the drive from our hotel in Antofagasta, Chile to the Hand of the Desert . What I learned is that in order to use the app offline, you must download the map/maps for the area you are looking for. Chile was broke into 4 parts (probably because the country is so long).  Once you do that you can navigate to anywhere within that map area through searching for it, inputing the address, or through bookmarks you’ve set.

With the map area downloaded, the route set, the data turned off, and excitement to see this cool Hand in the middle of the desert, we set off. Everything went super smooth. Dimy and I jammed to Stromae and Lupe Fiasco as we journeyed 45 minutes into the desert.

The bam! We arrived. Safe and sound. We chilled took our photos and eventually headed back to the hotel.

If you’re not already convinced, here’s a full rundown of why Maps.me is the real MVP.

1. It’s FREE

2. It works offline with NO internet or data as long as you pre-download the map areas.

3. It doesn’t use a lot of battery power like Waze or Google Maps can.

4. You can find nearby hotels and hostels within the app.

5. It’s perfect for off the grid adventures.

But what is all the good without some room for improvement. Ways the app can be better in my opinion would be:

1. Add possibility for voice search like how Google Maps has.

2. Show more options for alternative routes.

3. A little work on better user interface designing within the app.

As we all know, there’s no perfect app, but I do agree based on my experience that Maps.me can be useful to anyone wanted to save their data when navigating.

If you know other useful apps for navigating abroad leave them in the comments below so I can check them out!

Exploring Northern Chile Pt. 2 – Arica

There’s no place like the long skinny country of Chile🇨🇱. Furthermore, I’m sure many people don’t know that Chile has an African descent population living in the North in the city of Arica. Arica is a coastal city that sits close to the Chile-Peru border.

To continue on from my last post, after my fiancé Dimy and I traveled from Santiago up to Antofagasta, our next destination was to get to Arica. Instead of flying, for this trip we decided to take a bus. Clearly this is because I initially underestimated the length of the country. I was like, “Antofagasta doesn’t look that far from Arica, we should just take the bus!” WRONG!

The distance between the two cities is a little over 400 miles. To fly it takes 2 hours, to drive/ bus it is 8 hours. Not much to look at either because literally the whole 8 hours you’re in the Atacama Desert, with the exception of a short stop in Iquique.

When we arrived in the town we took a local taxi (because there’s no Uber up there), to our hotel. We stayed at a cute little place called Hotel Samaña which I loved! Afterwards we rested a bit and prepared to go meet with an organization of Afro-Chilenos that I reached out to previously called Oro Negro. I coordinated with a woman named Marta who was one of the head leaders of the organization.

So it comes time and we head on over to Oro Negro and upon arrival we are welcomed by Marta and her husband. It’s a surreal moment because after all the travel, we finally made it. She sat us down and we chatted. I basically interviewed her and asked all the questions I had running through my head about their community.

There are around 12,000 Afro-Chilenos in Chile, most of which are right there in Arica. Along with sharing the culture and traditions of the community, Oro Negro was also rallying to have the Chilean government officially recognize them on their census. Now this to me was fascinating. It was so refreshing to see people within this identity group where you can easily or not so much see their black features so PROUD to be of African descent. To see a group of folks who could’ve easily suppressed their African heritage wear their Black roots so proudly was utterly beautiful!

Along with the pride also came what all people with more melanin encounter, discrimination. Marta told me she had a situation where a taxi driver told her, “Go back to your own country,” in which she replied, “This is my country.” Let alone, it must’ve been difficult to belong to a community that the government didn’t really acknowledge.

On the other hand, they are still fighting anf making much progress to be seen and identified by the Chilean government. To provide a bit of context, Chile is the LAST Latin American country that doesn’t acknowledge its Afro descendant population. They had a campaign out this year to notify Afro-Chilenos how they should identify themselves on the 2017 census.

So how exactly did Chile end up with Afro Chileans? Well Marta summed it up by saying that it dates back to slavery and war. When Chile won the War of the Pacific, they acquired what is modern day Arica. The African slaves were freed and mixed with the locals over time until they completely merged and became Afro-Chilenos. Their African heritage influences much of their lives. The food, the music, and their celebrations! However, their Latin roots are also just as important to them. Each year they have their own Carnival to celebrate both the Afro and Latinx sides of their roots.

Needless to say, I’d totally go back to Arica, Chile. I actually would love to film there one day. Marta and Oro Negro were amazing! & I’d highly suggest you connect with them if you do go. I bought a copy of her book (fully in Spanish) that dives even deeper in to the history, culture and traditions of Afro-Chilenos.

I hope this post has been insightful, and I’m curious if you would ever consider traveling to Arica, as well.

Leave a comment below! < 3

Exploring Northern Chile Pt.1 – Antofagasta

Chile🇨🇱 is a country I don’t think I would’ve found myself visiting if it wasn’t for my mere love to explore the diaspora of black people around the world. Additionally, I don’t think I would have been to Chile 4 times if it wasn’t for my fiancé living there for a year and a half.

Nonetheless, each time I’d visit, Dimy (my fiancé) and I would explore somewhere new. We decided on Northern Chile, and planned to fly north from Santiago and make our way up to Arica, Chile where the Black Chileans lived. But, this post is about our first mission, which was to fly to Antofagasta.

What’s so special about this city you may ask. Well, for one northern Chile in general is quite different due to the fact that most of the upper part of the country is desert. Antofagasta and Arica live in the Atacama desert which has been found to be the driest place in the world.  I found out they had this really cool humongous Hand in the middle of the dessert called “Mano del Desierto” and wanted to get a chance to see it.

When we arrived in Antofagasta, it was indeed quite dry. We rented a car and were on our way to our hotel. The city is beautiful and right on the ocean.

We checked into our hotel and proceeded to drive into the desert. One of the coolest things about this experience is the fact that I’ve NEVER seen ocean and desert co exist. But here, in Antofagasta, you will get the wonderful ocean on one side and then you look to the other side and see desert… hella cray! So we drove for about 45 minutes until we arrived at the wonderful work of art.

The hand is 36 feet tall, wayy bigger than we expected and it is literally, LITERALLY in the middle of no where. On the drive we didn’t pass much of anything so you’re straight drivin’ into the desert to get here.

When you do arrive it’s such a nice pay off. The history behind why this hand exists is that it is supposed to represent injustice and the victims lost during the Chile dictatorship. We spent about an hour here. The ambience just called for us to stay. Standing in the middle of nowhere basically in silence. It was an experience I think we’ll never forget.

I’m all about exploring places that get less attention. Usually when people visit Chile they stay in Santiago, which is fine. However, if you’re looking for a cool place away from a lot of tourist, and you’re up for seeing something different, I’d suggest checking out the far north or even far south!

That’s it for now. Check back next week for Part 2 of this post with the details on how we made it to Arica and our encounters with the Afro-Chileanos.

Why to Register Your Trip with the U.S. Embassy

I was completely late in the game to find and sign up for STEP, and to be honest, I didn’t really even see the need at first. I was like ” I’m a traveller, I don’t need any alerts on the places I’m going” yada yada yada. What I soon realized is that regardless of how well versed I am as a traveller, the embassy still knows more than me (clearly). Plus, the fact that they know the dates of my travel means that if anything goes down while I’m overseas, they’re already on the look out for me.

Looking at what’s recently happened with how Hurricane Irma terrorized the Caribbean in the tail end of summer when many people are traveling, I’d say that should be enough of a reason to make sure the embassy knows where you are when abroad. Then there are other situations like terrorist attacks or disease outbreaks that all us wandering souls should be aware of.

On the STEP website some of the benefit’s they list about enrolling with them and registering your trip(s) are:

– Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.

– Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

– Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

Another good aspect about STEP is that even if you are not traveling, you can sign up for travel alerts and warnings. This can be beneficial if you have family out of the country or you’re thinking of planning a trip to another country and want to stay on top of any warnings that might pop up.

So signing up is pretty self explanatory. You create an account and they will ask you for the dates and which countries you plan to visit.  I registered both my trip to Chile and Peru and it was really simple. I actually got an email from the embassy during the time I was in Chile, but not because anything was wrong. It was randomly about some town hall forum for U.S. citizens residing in Chile to discuss Social Security benefits in the future. Anywho, the process is easy, and it’s better to be safe than sorry if you’re livin’ it up overseas and something disastrous happens.

The App That Will Save You Time At U.S. Customs

I don’t know about ya’ll, but one of my biggest issues with traveling is TSA, and Customs. The process to deplane, go through customs and get the hell out of the airport usually takes forever when re-entering the U.S. Compared to a lot of the countries I’ve traveled to, our border is pretty intense!

So, at a time where you’ve travel for x amount of hours and all you want to do is get home and rest, how can you speed up the process of getting through customs quicker. Well, traditionally, the cool kids would go and apply for Global Entry. Global Entry is great once you get it, but the process is lengthy. You have to pay $100 for the application, which includes Pre-TSA check once you’re approved. You have to wait about 3-4 weeks before being conditionally approved, then depending on where you are, your interview may not be for a few months!

Here’s the trick. Wanna get through Customs quicker? “There’s an app for that,” and it’s called Mobile Passport. Literally, download this app, type in your passport info and take a selfie under passport photo guidelines (against a white wall, no glasses), then boom!

Sounds wayyy to simple right? Well I tested it out after returning from South America.  I already had my profile set up, so as soon as my plane landed I hopped on the app. You answer the same questions you do at the kiosk in the airport and then the app gives you a QR code. I got off the plane and headed to customs. The coolest thing about this experience was the fact that the mobile passport line was shorter than than global entry line! How bout dem apples. I will say that although I breezed through, I did get randomly selected to have my carry-on double checked, but that’s a story for another article.

Overall, I think it’s worth trying. If you arrive at US Customs and there’s no line either way then so be it, but on days where those lines could be an hour or more wait this is definitely a beneficial app to have handy!

Why My New Job Won’t Stop Me From Traveling

Ya girl is a fresh grad school grad and already employed, and it’s been quite interesting trying to adjust to the full-time schedule and trying to travel the world.

So I moved back to LA because that’s where the opportunity was and I started to wonder to myself whether this new decision would affect my travel. I work 50+ hour weeks in the film industry now! I started to think about how lucky I was as a student to have a schedule where I had 4 day weekends, EVERY weekend.

These thoughts were truly depressing, and I started to think that this full-time job would force me to give up traveling. I finally started to see the concerns of others who have told me it’s impossible to travel. Then for a month, right after starting my new job, I kept itching for travel and couldn’t seem to make anything worth the trouble for weekend trips. How devastating it was to start a travel blog and then not be able to travel.

After a month, now here I am and I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how I can make both of these things work. #WeekendWandering is about to be in full effect until this position ends in January. There are definitely still restrictions, I can’t hop on the next flight to Africa, but if you compromise a little bit and know how to plan correctly it can be done.

  1. Plan trips around 3 day weekends or holidays
    This is the best way to maximize your time away. That extra day really does make a difference and makes your trip much more worth while. Plus when you add in travel time, you will need that extra day.
  2. Don’t travel more than a 3-4 hour flight away, especially if you are crossing time zones
    Unfortunately for me, being on the West Coast is great, but also terrible when it comes to traveling. You can lose a whole day if you’re traveling east solely due to the fact that they are 3 hours ahead! Clearly if you have a week off this doesn’t apply, but for the quick weekend trips this is important. That was a hard pill to swallow, but I also had to realize that I haven’t explored much of the North Western regions of the U.S. I’ve never been to Mexico, and although I’ve been to Canada, I haven’t been to Vancouver. So that is already 3+ trips I can take.
  3. Planning is so key 🔑
    As it is with any kind of budget travel, to get the best deals and again make that weekend away as worthwhile as possible, you MUST organize yourself and plan. You can wander all you want once you get there if you’d like, but all the other logistics must fall into place.
    Pack light so you have maximum movability and then you don’t have to worry about budget airlines too much since all you’ll have is a bag you can fit under the seat. If it’s a popular holiday, be sure to book far enough in advance so you’re not paying through the roof for a flight. Hop on Airbnb early so you can find the good and cheap options in the area you’re going to. Try to choose places you absolutely want to see and start planning out your schedule of when you will go there.

It’s totally possible y’all. I realized I applied this same logic when I took a day trip up to Seattle. I planned to leave early that morning, rented a car when I got there. I drove to 2 sight seeing areas and then met up with a friend locally that took me to see even more stuff. We had dinner at Pike Place Market and then I was off to my Airbnb (that was $25 btw) to check in. I took a Lyft to the theater to go see Lupe Fiasco (free cuz I got the hook up like that) and then ended up walking to eat and back to my Airbnb that night. Woke up, went back to the airport and was back in LA…all that in less than 48 hours.

My new job is great, but it won’t stop me from traveling because it’s just in my blood to see the world now! I can’t help myself and without it I might fall into depression. So as they say, find a way or make one. Finessing Travel is what I call it, and if I can do it, you all can too!

How I Started Traveling

A question I tend to get often is, “Brittany you’re always gone, how did you start traveling so much??” Well, as I ponder back in time, it was in 2008 when my mom decided to plan a trip for her and I across the country. We started in Cali and went way out yonder to the south, east, Midwest, then back home.

Our major city stops were: Atlanta, Orlando, D.C., NYC, Pennsylvania, Chicago, then back on home. Now when I say cross-country, it was literally us driving to all these places and we were on the road for about 3 weeks! I was entering my senior year in high school at the time and this was longggggg before I took my first flight, so the experience was beautiful. Driving through all those states, seeing the different landscapes and natural beauties of what’s right here in my backyard of the USA. Prior to that trip, the furthest I had ever gone was to Little Rock, AR where my dad’s family is from.

I got to see MLK’s house in ATL, Disney World in Orlando, all that touristy stuff in NYC, and sentimentally for me I got to see the house my mom grew up in out in little Erie, PA! Not to mention the drive back through places in Idaho and Nebraska where we seemed to be the only black people within a 100-mile radius, or the beauty of the freakish looking Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It set a spark in me that, although was suppressed for about 3 additional years, never died.

When I was 20 I got on my first plane…ALONE, and boyyy was I freaking out! Up until then I have vowed to never get on one, because although planes are supposedly “safer” than cars, I knew in a car crash I had a chance to live (I still stand by that argument regardless of how many planes I’ve been on since then). The trip was from Atlanta to NYC to visit my college buddy Michael who lived in Harlem with his mom. I got to see the real NYC. Like NYC away from places with lots of tourists and fanny packs. I think that’s kind when I fell in love with Brooklyn. If I ever lived in NY, I’d live in Brooklyn…but like the real Brooklyn, not the terrible gentrified Brooklyn they’re trying to make.

Then after that trip I flew back to LA, still terrified, and the rest is history. Since the semester before grad school, I’ve always scheduled in a trip for myself somewhere new every break I had as a student. Summer break, winter break, spring break, every time I had a trip, and each time I planned ahead, saved money, budgeted and went. Now I’m just like most of the millennials. In debt from loans to pay tuition, but if I wait until my loans are payed off to travel I’d never see anything! My loans payed the ridiculous tuition costs at LMU, and my job payed my living expenses and funded the saving account.

Everyone’s situation is different, but even if you saved a dollar a day you could take a trip somewhere in a year. Keep reading and I’ll continue to share how you can start to make travel happen for yourself in the near future.