Friday, August 10, 2018

Havana - Oh Na Na

Let me be completely transparent and honest - because I don't want anyone to regret purchasing a flight to Havana.  I love Havana. I've been there twice and will probably go there many more times and will eventually begin to explore cities outside of Havana.  Everyone I know who has been to Havana (and other areas in Cuba) love it. 

But it's NOT for everyone.

There is poverty. There is limited internet connection. It is still a communist country. There are no fast food restaurants. Sometimes it smells.  The buildings are old and crumbling. The cars are old and the smell of gasoline is strong. Most individuals don't speak English.


You will be frustrated.  You might wait a long time for your food and/or drinks.  You might get lost.  You might not be able to figure out the currency conversion.  You will get asked to pay for that picture with the old woman smoking a cigar.  You will have to maintain the same "street smarts" about you that you have no matter where you go.

BUT, u will be wow'd at the vibrancy of the city. At the friendliness of everyone u meet. The music will engulf you and you will want to dance - day and night. You will learn the history of Cuba and you might fall in love with it's story. 
The heartbeat of Havana is unlike anywhere I've been. I woke up everyday excited about what I would experience that day because I didn't know what to expect.

I never felt unsafe. I never felt unwelcome. I ate and drank well. I laughed. I danced. I explored. I talked to locals about their experiences.  About their history.  I talked to them about their economy.  About how they feed their kids on the monthly supplement they receive from the Cuban government.  


I cried.  I cried for the people of Cuba and their fight for independence because I realized that it's very similar to my fight.

No, Cuba is not for everyone.  It's for those travelers who want to be stretched and taken out of their comfort zone.  For those who are seeking an experience unlike any other.  For those who want to experience a culture unlike their own. 

If you have questions about Cuba, let me know.  I have a lot of friends who have been to Havana and a few friends who have traveled around the country.  I even have a friend who is transitioning to a full time life in Havana!  So If I don't know the answer, I will get it.

Click HERE to see pics from my 2016 trip.

Happy Travels Everyone!

Angela











 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Note To Self....SAT DOWN!


Sooooo - if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably already know I did too much in 2017. I mean, I was celebrating my "Year of 50" and it was more than I could have ever imagined.

I started the year off in Puerto Vallarta (my yearly family trip), and then I went to Barcelona and Rome, and then I headed to Greece (Athens, Santorini and Crete), and I finished the year off - and my actual birthday - in Jordan (Amman, Mt. Nebo, Wadi Rum, Dead Sea, Bethany Beyond Jordan, and of course PETRA) and Egypt (Cairo and Luxor).

Whew....I'm tired just thinking back on it all.

Going into 2018, I had a few things lined up: Playa del Carmen in January (yearly family trip), Singapore and Malaysia in February, Haiti in April.....I looked at my travel budget, and BAM..it hit me. Not only did I really enjoy my 2017, but I was OVER EXTENDED!

I honestly hadn't paid too much attention to the amount of money I spent to celebrate my "Year of 50", I was just enjoying life, being in the moment, YOLO, and all of that; but when I sat down at the end of the year to reconcile my travel account, I realized that I had already dipped into 2018 cash! #OhMy

I was shook and I had some decisions to make: do I continue #SpendingAhead and hope my travel savings account could keep up, do I travel on credit, or do I simply CANCEL some of my upcoming travel plans?

I knew I couldn't continue spending from my travel savings account when what was coming in couldn't cover all of what was going out. I couldn't even cover hotel costs and the flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur with the cash I had in the account, which would mean using a credit card - which would mean another monthly payment - which would mean less money going into the savings account - which would mean using a credit card for my Haitian trip - which would mean a higher monthly payment - which would mean less going into the savings account - UUUUGGG
HHHHH, it's a vicious cycle. One that I couldn't see myself living, and eventually losing sleep over.

I had to have a conversation with myself, and myself said to me: SAT DOWN! It hurt, I won't even lie; but I went ahead and cancelled my flights to Singapore and Port-au-Prince. I shed real TTT (TravelThugTears). But it's what I had to do. #TravelButDontGoInDebt is my motto and I don't believe in coming home from a vacation and being hit with the burden of paying off credit card balances incurred on vacation. It kinda takes the joy away and for me, the memories will be wrapped around "how much was that excursion?". So I don't do it.

I have since recovered, emotionally.  And my travel savings account is rebounding nicely. I took a quick trip to Havana (which is very affordable) for a friend's wedding (couldn't be missed) and in a couple of weeks I am headed to Cartagena. I have a flight to Madrid in August and was planning to travel around Morocco. I'm not so sure that will happen.  I'll be sure and let y'all know if I make that trip!

Until next time travel friends!

Angela
Founder
2 Girls & a Bikini

Friday, January 19, 2018

What the Travel Gods taught me in Greece...


Ok so....I've been doing this travel thing for a few years now.  And for each trip, I plan a detailed itinerary.  Now, I don’t necessary feel the need to stick to everything on that itinerary; but I do like having a plan. 

My itinerary will always include items like my hotel info, transportation info, confirmation numbers or any tours booked, and information on all of the sites I would like to see/things I would like to do.  It’s always very detailed - the Greece Itinerary was 3 pages long!  As a matter of fact, I’ve been told that I should sell my itineraries because of the time and energy I spend creating them (I’m still thinking about that).

Anyway…..my Greece itinerary was no different.  We (my sister and I) traveled to Athens, Santorini and Crete.  The itinerary had all info needed and I was feeling confident that I had “dotted all of my Is and crossed all of my Ts”.  I had planned many itineraries, even itineraries for friends/family members for trips I wasn’t going on.  I am a beast at Itinerary Planning!

Each day was planned, including free time and beach days.  We flew to Athens, did everything on the itinerary, had an amazing time:  BAM.  We flew to Santorini, did everything on the itinerary, had an amazing time:  BAM.  We took a ferry to Crete, got into a taxi, showed the driver the itinerary with the hotel address (another good reason to have a detailed itinerary) and he said “that will be about €100”!  WHAT?!  #RecordScratch

You see, I hadn’t done my research.  I assumed Crete was just “another Greek island”.  I didn’t realize that it was actually the LARGEST and MOST POPULOUS of the islands.  The island is 160 miles long and its widest point is 37 miles.  It’s actually the 88th largest island in the world!  I.Had.No.Idea. 

So there we are at the ferry port, it’s about 7pm, and our hotel is 40 miles - or approximately €100 - away.  Now we had to make a decision.  Do we walk away from the reservation we had already paid for and try and find another hotel closer to the port?  Or do we just pay the taxi ride and stick to the itinerary?  My Itinerary Building Ego tells me to stick to the magnificence that is the itinerary.  So off we go….

We arrive safely to the hotel in Agios Nikolaos and while it was not bad, it was not Heraklion and that is where our activities for the next 2 days were.  So we walk around the town, get some dinner, and decide to book a hotel for the next night in Heraklion.  We also decided to take a bus back to that area because spending another €100 for a cab wasn’t going to work.  We had to chalk up the second night hotel because it was prepaid – but fine – sunken costs.

We arrive at our Heraklion hotel the next day before noon and now we are back on track.  We continue on with planned itinerary and everything is good with the world.

The next morning, I went online to look at our flight back to Athens and I for some reason I thought it said 5:05pm but the itinerary said 8:05pm.  Could there be a typo on the itinerary?!  I tried to get someone on the phone from the airline but there was no local number to call and the “Chat with a Representative” option was closed.  So we decided to simply be safe and arrive at the airport early.

We spent our last hours in Greece relaxing on the beach – which by the way cost us €60 RT in a taxi because, well because we are beach boogie and we wanted the “best” beach in the area.  Get back to the hotel, grab our luggage and head to HER airport.

We arrive at the airport tanned and happy, only to find out that our flight back to ATH did not leave from Heraklion airport.  As a matter of fact, our airline didn’t even have flights to/from HER!  As I’m standing there, listening to a very nice lady at the information booth tell me that I needed to get to Chania International Airport (CHQ) and that it’s at least 3 hours away, I could feel my Itinerary Ego falling away.  Ahhhhh – the Travel Gods were laughing hard at this point.  I would never make it there for a 5:05pm flight.

My sister and I considered simply purchasing a flight on another airline out of HER for a cost of $174, but instead we sat down, called the airline and confirmed our departure time.  It was 8:05pm – YEA ITINERARY!  We grabbed our luggage and headed out of the HER airport.  We jumped into a cab, told the driver where we needed to go, he told us €150.  I laughed and told my sister “I got it” and we were on our way (after a stop at the ATM). 

During the ride, I quietly thanked the Travel Gods (American, Delta and United) for the flight time mix up because without it, we certainly would have missed that flight, causing us to miss our flight the next day back to Chicago. 

I realized that in Crete alone, we spent over €300 in taxis because of my assumptions:  that it was a small island, that everything was close, that there was only one airport on the island.  I didn’t do my typical research.  I didn’t look at any maps.  I didn’t use my resources (friends, the internet, Facebook groups, etc.).  I told myself “you got this” but Crete actually GOT ME!

Whew – Lesson Learned.  And while I will still create detailed itineraries because part of the excitement for me is in the planning, I won’t let my ego stop me from taking the time to get all the details I can about the destination I am traveling to.  I won’t let assumptions cause me to take shortcuts that end up costing me the equivalent of a flight to another destination.

Me and My Sister on our ATV ride around Santorini!

By the way, Greece was amazing!  The history in Athens, the sunset in Santorini, and even Crete turned out to be enjoyable.  Check out all of my pictures on my Facebook page by clicking HERE! 

Get out there and go my friends!  There are some good deals floating around.


Angela Myers
Founder, 2 Girls & a Bikini






 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My MVP

I have a wall of cork in my closet.  It's my "Memory Board".  It's different from a vision board because it holds things I want to remember, things I want to hold close.  And since I see the Memory Board on a daily basis, things that make me smile.


There are post cards that I mailed to myself from a favorite destination on the board, as well as tickets into shows or attractions.  There are pictures of people and places.  There are train passes and boarding passes.  A mini book my daughter wrote me.  my ticket into Angkor Wat.  Anything that invokes a positive memory can make it up on the board.

Sometimes I take things off the board and spend time with it and the memory.  I laugh.  I cry.  I remember.  I put it back on the board.

But there is one thing on the board that I value most:  My Mom's Passport.  It's my MVP (Most Valuable Possession).  I look at it often and admire her stamps.  It doesn't have very many stamps in it because my Mom passed away before she could make all of her travel dreams come true - and that's what makes it so valuable.  It serves as a constant reminder that NOW is the time.  Time To Go.  Time To Do.  Time To Be.












It reminds me that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.  That I can't wait until (the kids are gone, the condo is paid off, retirement) to go to (Angkor Wat, the Colosseum, Greece).  It reminds me that time is the most precious thing I have. My Mom's Passport is my Passport to live my dreams.



What are you waiting for?  #TravelOften

Angela Myers
Founder
2 Girls & a Bikini

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

When FAR AWAY Isn't Really FAR!


Hey Travel Friends!

I recently attended a baby shower that was about an hour drive from my home.  Let me tell you that as I've gotten older, driving has become my LEAST favorite activity.  I would have rather taken an UBER, but that wasn't practical, so I gassed up the convertible, picked up a friend and hit the road.

The drive took us through some ritzy neighborhoods, and while I was enjoying the conversation and looking at massive homes thinking "Who Lives There?", an amazing structure caught our attention. My friend exclaimed:  It's The Bahai Temple!  We were both in awe and immediately agreed that after the baby shower, checking out the Temple was a MUST.

Now, I wasn't very familiar with the Bahá’í Faith; so I have to admit that during the shower I did some reading.  I learned that the temple is one of eight dedicated temples of the Faith and that it is the OLDEST surviving Bahá'í House of Worship in the world (Wikipedia is your friend).  During my reading, I learned that literature of the Faith directs a House of Worship be built in each city and town, and emphasizes that "its doors must be open to all regardless of religion, or any other distinction". 

It goes on to say "that the spirit of the House of Worship must be a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God  without denominational restrictions", and that "holy scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith and other religions can be read or chanted inside in any language; while readings and prayers may be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments may be played inside.Furthermore, no sermons may be delivered, and no ritualistic ceremonies practiced."

WOW…I was excited.

We entered the visitors’ center for a moment and then walked out onto the grounds.  Holding a conversation got difficult as we were both in amazement.  The Temple, composed of a concrete mixture of cement and two types of quartz, is a domed structure with nine pillars.  The intricate detailing and architectural elements of other structures from around the world took me to another place.  I completely forgot that I was 45 minutes from home!  

Walking inside I immediately felt calm.  I felt peaceful.  I felt the Spirit of God.  It was all around me.  I wrapped myself in His light as I read one of the beliefs of the Bahá’í Faith:  there is one God whose existence is beyond our understanding.  He is the Creator of everything, and although we may call him by different names – God or Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, or the Great Spirit – we are speaking about the same loving Presence that has supported and guided humanity throughout history.

I sat for a moment in complete surrender to God.  Full of gratefulness.  Thankful for the silence.  Thankful for the moment to just be.

And as we walked out of the building, full of words that were unable to describe the experience; we both knew that this was not a one-time visit.  We both knew that we would be back.  Back to this place that felt far away - but isn't really far at all!

Angie
Founder, 2 Girls & a Bikini



 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

DIGIT....


How I pay for my travels seem to be a common topic of discussion among my friends, so I thought I would let you guys in on one of my favorite travel tricks:  DIGIT!
This is language directly from their website:  Digit is a journey aimed at refreshing the interactions between humans and their money.  Bad financial habits create unnecessary hardship that derail us from living our life to the fullest. We believe we can help people avoid some of these hardships by combining recent discoveries in behavioral psychology with technology.

How does it work?  Basically you give Digit permission to make withdrawals from your account and put it into your savings account.  It’s not a set amount of cash, it will be random amounts of cash that they “set aside” for you.  Here are some things you should know:

·    Digit will “analyze your income and spending, and find money it can safely set aside for you”.  I gotta tell you, sometimes the amounts are small but other times the amounts can be larger.  But you will always have control.  You can text them and tell them to Pause Saving, or Speed Up/Slow Down your savings.  It’s completely up to you.  Once they took over $20 out of my account a few days in a row and I was like WHOA…a quick text and that was taken care of.  Here is what my Savings Journal looked like recently:


So some of these amounts are larger than typical, but I have mine set to “save more” because I knew I was planning for something.

·    They will never overdraft your account, they “never transfers more than you can afford”.  They actually have a no-overdraft guarantee.

·        You can access your savings anytime!  A quick text message telling them how much you would like to transfer back to savings and voila, your money is back in your checking account the next business day.

So how do I use digit?  Usually I use it when planning for my longer trips.  I will allow the savings to build up and I don’t touch it – at all – for any reason; not even for a shorter trip (I use my travel account for smaller trips).   Now I’m not talking about saving for the flight.  This is the cash I use for things like excursions, train tickets/flights to other cities/countries during the trip, food or even AirBnb/hotel costs.  For instance, below was my digit balance yesterday:

 

I will transfer $700 back into my checking account next week and start booking excursions for my upcoming trip to Barcelona and Rome.  I will also use this cash for food.  This is a MUCH BETTER option (for me) than using credit cards.

And there you have it.  One EASY way to save some cash for your travels!  Now #GetGoing!

Angie, Founder
2 Girls & A Bikini
 
 

Monday, March 27, 2017

My 2016 Travels

Someone recently asked me for my favorite travel picture of 2016.  So I started strolling through my 2016 folder and realized  I don't have a favorite!  So I mentally took a trip down memory lane:  London, Guadeloupe, Bahamas (2x), South Korea/Vietnam/Cambodia, Playa del Carmen (of course) and Cuba.  And for different reasons, I loved each one of those trips!
In London, my niece get her first passport stamp.  I went to Guadeloupe with a good friend and her family to celebrate a birthday and it was a week full of laughter.  In the Bahamas (the first time) I watched a friend marry the love of her life and (the second time) was a short cruise with a friend who really needed a break.
The trip to South Korea/Vietnam/Cambodia with my brother was a dream come true for me and I cried watching the sun rise at the temples of Angor Wat.   Cuba was a last minute decision and turned into a wonderful surprise.
The best part?  I have NO travel debt - just memories.  Sweet, Sweet MEMORIES.  And that's what it's all about.....

See all of my 2016 Travel Pics on my Facebook Page!


Keep Traveling Friends~
 
Angela
2 Girls a Bikini


 P.S. - Want to know how I manage to travel debt free?  Read the blog I wrote about it:  How I Afford to Travel.