Last summer I visited Destrehan Plantation. It was an impromptu visit and something that I felt a great need to do especially with all of the racial turmoil going on in America at the time. Police brutality was at its height, reminiscent of the civil rights movement, and two unarmed black men (Alton Sterling and Philando Castile) were murdered by officers. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement, the world was able to watch the event live through social media networks. I watched with the world on Facebook - stunned and irate.
We made plans to pay our respects to Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and from there we decided to stay in New Orleans. For the first time, since our tradition of frequently visiting the famous city, we decided to drive which gave us the perfect opportunity to see a plantation.
During our visit, we marveled at enslaved peoples work. I found a greater appreciation of the trials, tribulations, and struggles that my ancestors encountered to build the United States into an economic power. I felt sad for the spirits of our family past as I realized they made the majority of the structures that stood before and never received the opportunity to physically enjoy fruits of their labor.
Standing on the grounds, I felt a sense of belonging and empowerment to have the ability to stand freely where past generations walked and worked in fear. Seeing their living quarters, their names posted with purchase amount next to it made my world view of the country change immensely. Everything was real. It's one thing to read a book and see the pictures but once physically able to see, touch, smell, and feel the images, in reality, shifted my paradigm immensely. It was here that I no longer decided to be silent about my history and there my summer of pursuing justice grabbed hold of me and made me put my keystrokes into live action.
When I met Donald, I told him about my dream to travel the world, especially warm places. He said all of this was possible in due time. I just needed to decide where I wanted to go and when. I knew I wanted to visit a beach to see the shoreline. It's sad to say this, but at the time I was in love with Galveston beach until Donald opened my eyes to the possibility of seeing real blue waters. Not saying that Galveston Beach isn't great but if you been there, then you know the waters are murky.
Donald told me about visiting Puerto Vallarta; the beauty, food, and culture he described caught my attention right away. I could dig leaving the country to go there and experience life as a beginner traveler. I researched the area, and the first thing I noticed online was a hidden beach. I had to see it! There was no way we were going to Puerto Vallarta and not see the beach.
The day I decided that I wanted to speak this into existence.
We booked our flight and I selected the hotel, Garlands Del Rio. I decided on staying somewhere with an authentic culture, beautiful colors, and a castle-like feel.
It was gorgeous! The decor, the staff, the food, the self-service bar, and location was everything!
Food pictures are from different restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
The hotel was the perfect location for us because we like to walk and experience the culture of the locals.
The hotel's location put us in a great area for shopping and getting inexpensive handmade colorful clothes and jewelry that you just can't get in the US.
During our holiday, we signed up for a tour to visit Marieta's Islands. There we snorkeled and made our way to the hidden beach. We were entertained by five handsome guys who gave us the history of the area which included jokes, singing, and dancing. They were the best! The boat ride to the hidden beach took about an hour but the time went by quickly.
When we arrived at the secret beach, we were instructed to put on our life jackets and to prepare to swim for 15 minutes. A visitor at the hotel gave us a heads up about having to swim to the beach. So the night before our voyage, I practiced my swimming and floating techniques. Swimming through the underwater tunnel was mildly difficult due to the surging waves. It was a struggle, but I had come too far to go back. I wanted to get inside of the beach. Thank goodness Donald is an expert swimmer who made sure that I made it.
Finally, we made it to the beach, and the pictures online did it no justice. It was absolutely beautiful! The tiredness from the swimming escaped my mind as I enjoyed the gorgeous scenery with my beau. This is one of my many favorite memories of visiting Puerta Vallarta.
I got my first dose of international traveling last year, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The culture, people, scenery, architecture, food, and language....I am drooling just thinking about it! If you are interested in broadening your horizons outside of the United States, then this blog is for you. I have six suggestions that will help you with planning your journey abroad.
1. You can travel on a budget
There are great traveling deals that can get you to your destination without breaking your bank, and the best people to tell you about remarkable discounts are your friends who are adventurous. When I started looking for legitimate websites with travel rates I was overwhelmed. I subscribed to a lot of mailing lists which later involved constant calls and an increase of emails from travel reps. After receiving a plethora of advertisements, I decided to ask my favorite Facebook group for advice. Luckily, many of the members were travel gurus, and they guided me to Groupon. On Groupon, I found a fantastic deal at Chachagua Rainforest Hotel for a bungalow in Costa Rica with a reasonable price. We researched the hotel on Trip Advisor and it received an impressive rating with great reviews. I showed it to my boyfriend (now husband), and we agreed on our first international holiday together. We used Sky Scanner to find and compare cheap airline tickets to our destination.
2. Passport please!
A passport is your universal identification card that requires approval from the government. What does this mean? You will need to complete the appropriate forms, get an approved picture and mail in your birth certificate. The process usually takes 4-6 weeks but can be expedited sooner. Keep this in mind when you are booking your destination. When completing the paperwork for your passport, you will be asked where do you plan to visit and how soon. Make sure to check the foreign country's government website for their travel requirements as well. Some countries have specific medical requirements for travelers. For more information about your passport click here. When you get your passport, make sure you look after it and don't lose it like I did. Identity theft is real!
3. Transportation and proximity is everything!
Planning ahead is the key to making big things happen. For instance, our trip to Costa Rica included nontraditional planning because we were staying at a hotel in the rainforest. We had to find the nearest airport, consider our arrival time, and driving distance. Thanks to reading traveler's reviews, we knew the best vehicle to rent was a four-wheel drive due to the poor road conditions (many roads consist of rocks & dirt and were incomplete). When we got to the car rental place we discovered that Costa Rica does not mandate car insurance, therefore, we had to pay a large deposit to rent the vehicle. We rented a portable wifi/GPS to guide us through the area. Renting the equipment was a godsend because our two-hour drive extended to four hours due to a bridge collapsing (remember the poor road conditions). The tourist attractions were 20 miles from the hotel so leaving or returning late seemed too risky with the road conditions and sporadic rain. So before you go consider the proximity to the hotel and attractions before arriving, the road conditions of the area and research car rental insurance or hire car services.
4. You need to know currency exchange rates
Currency exchange rates are vital to any traveling you do outside of your country. Knowing the currency rate before you go is critical because you may need to use an ATM, make a transaction, or go to a local bank. The bank should have the currency rates listed. Be mindful that you will be charged a transaction fee at the ATM and a conversion rate as well. Also, some banks require that you contact them prior to using an ATM out of the country. It is wise for you to purchase money in the foreign currency before your trip and keep it in a safe place. Take the time to budget predictable expenses such as food, entertainment, and transportation costs so you're not walking around with a huge bankroll. You will be surprise how much you stand out as a tourist and this can cause locals to take advantage of your pockets.
5. Make sure your wireless provider service works in the area
I am on the thrifty side, and for awhile I was loyal to a non-contract service provider until I traveled outside the US. It was at this moment that I realized the importance of going with a proper mobile network. Thanks to my boyfriend's service provider we were able to navigate through the village whenever the GPS wasn't doing the job. As a precaution print travel details as a backup plan. Having a hard copy of your travel itinerary is beneficial and downloading a pdf file of your information to a USB doesn't hurt either.
6. Different countries have different electrical plugs
Taking pictures and staying connected to the world is everything! However, it's not so great when your electronic devices are dead. Take the time and find out the standard electrical plug used in the foreign country. There is no universal plug so purchasing it at your travel destination will not be cheap. If you have a laptop, you can buy an adaptor online and use your USB port to charge your devices. No biggie if you don't have a laptop. You can still order the appropriate adaptor online. Save your budget and order 2 weeks before your trip to make sure it arrives in time.
Let me know what you think about my short list by commenting below. If I missed anything, please write it in the comment section for those who are stopping by and preparing for their first international vacay.