Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ISSA SICK DAY...

Last week I woke up at 2am with a headache. No, let me rephrase, a MASSIVE HEADACHE. So I quickly sent my day-job manager (yes - I work) an email letting him know that I wouldn't be in that day. "Issa Sick Day" was the subject of the message. I laid back down, trying to get back to sleep. But my head was pounding and my mind just wouldn't turn off.

I just kept thinking about all of the things that I needed to do: cancel that flight to Madrid, pay my property taxes, get that proposal done, check on my son's financial aid, blah, blah, blah. UUUGGGHHHH. Getting back to sleep wasn't going to be easy. But eventually, around 5am, sleep came.

I slept until almost 9am! I got out of bed feeling refreshed and grabbed my computer. Cancelled the flight to Madrid because I couldn't make it work (read my blog about sitting down). Logged onto the city's website and paid my property taxes (priorities). Went to the FASFA website and gave them my income info to complete my son's financial aid package (don't ask). Went through my Hotmail account (that Junk folder had over 300 emails) and responded to some emails in the 2 Girls & a Bikini account (and it had over 300 emails!).

I also unpacked a suitcase that had held some clothes that I had washed but never put away (don't judge), cleaned my room/bathroom, and by 1pm I was feeling SUPER accomplished. So what do you think I did? I called up some friends who I know work from home or have flexible schedules and guess what? Sick Day = Beach Day!

Yep, I grabbed my daughter and met another friend at another friend's house and we headed to Miller Beach in Gary, Indiana. Gotta pause for a funny story: we drove 45 mins outside of Chicago (for obvious reasons), pulled up to the parking structure, and there stand's a co-worker's daughter in the parking booth! I couldn't do anything but LAUGH....I said "hello" to her, we chatted, I gave her the $7 parking fee and then I whispered "I was not here". LBVS

Anyway, if you live in the area and you have not been to Miller Beach, you should definitely check it out. Miller Beach borders Lake Michigan to the north, Porter County to the east, and is largely surrounded by protected lands, including the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (got that from Wikipedia). The beach is clean and you can see your feet in the water - so it's kinda clear. There were not too many people there (well, it was a Wednesday) and you could walk out pretty far into the water before it drops off to being deep; making it great for kids (but PLEASE keep an eye on your babies near/in the water).

We had a great afternoon. We laughed, we ordered pizza, we listened to music, and of course we took selfies!
By the end of the day, I had forgotten all about the massive headache that woke me up at 2am that morning. I had forgotten about all of the things that were keeping me awake. I needed a reset and I certainly got one. All I remembered was the amazing time I had with family and friends. 

On a beach - of course!


Angela
2 Girls & a Bikini

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