🇺🇸Good Morning America… It’s time to wake up! 

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Here I am, back in the good ole U S of A.. It’s 6:45a and I’m wide awake. I’ve been awake for a couple of hours now, adjusting to the time difference I’m sure. I’m laying on my friends couch, the same couch I’ve slept on dozens of times while visiting her in New Orleans. The daylight begins to appear behind the blinds, and I walk to the curtains to take a look at the outside. Drawing them back a little, I realize there’s houses, with yards.. She lives in an apartment complex, and until this moment id never looked out of the window. The curtains always stay closed, and I’ve only known what’s within the walls of her home. Within her apartment complex. A HUGE possum awkwardly makes its’ way along the fence, and I’m kinda shocked by its size. A woman in the yard to the left is sat out in her yard, reading the Sunday newspaper.. Unaffected by the creature that’s just passed her by. To the right there’s a street legal, off road capable vehicle (pictured).. Painted in camouflage, and an American flag hanging, resting over the property. These subtle differences in the way of life here had been lost on me for so long. I thought about the boy that might aim his BB gun at that possum some day.. Or his older brother that might shoot to kill. I thought about how huge the vehicle is, compared to the tiny Fiats and Citroens of Europe. I thought about how many tiny cars are over there, some with their difference in fuel, to cut down the high costs of transportation… And how pricey small cars are in America… Usually purchased because their “cute” and a novelty. I thought about the distance from my friends house in Metairie, Louisiana, and mine in Pass Christian Mississippi.. A good hour and half away. For people in England, and Europe in general.. A trip to visit a friend who lives that far away is planned a week in advance.. It’s budgeted.. and it’s a treat.. Because even in the smallest, economical car… It comes with a price tag. At $8 a gallon, how can it not?
As I looked out the window, I was flooded by the number of things, I never knew I took for granted living here in the United States. Ways of life that had become my normal. I thought about the fact that right now, the United Kingdom is being battered by its 8th named storm of the season.. Lives and landscapes forever changed by natures’ fury, and yet I’m sure most of my friends here in the US have no idea. If it doesn’t impact what we know as life, we don’t hear about it, and go about our days as if nothing else exists outside of our walls. I think about Hurricane Katrina.. And how catastrophic and devastating it was for us… How we couldn’t believe that we were left stranded in our streets for so long.. Why it took our protectors so long to protect and help us.. And how many times since Katrina, I’ve heard it used to make a point.. That if it had been a tsunami in Japan, or or an earthquake in Nepal, for example, we’d have help there the same day.. How we help third world countries but don’t take care of our own homeless veterans. I have to wonder just how many third world countries, tsunami and earthquake victims.. Refugees of war that it is we, as a nation, have helped? I doubt it’s many at all. I’m sure that by the time every “charitable organization” takes their cut to maintain themselves.. There’s little left to provide relief.. It’s just another industry. It helps us feel better about ourselves to throw a couple dollars in a bucket.
The truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know, and the good ole USA does an impeccable job of filling our minds with mindless drama and entertainment, that we don’t have time to step outside of our own world. It’s a doggy dog world, and we are cattle, raised in a farm that demands the disease of more. More clothes, more things, bigger houses, newer cars, more land, more money… Bigger… Better… The good life… Because we are America.. The biggest and the best.. We are proud to be Americans.. Offspring of our forefathers.. All immigrants that fled our bloodlines roots to find this bigger better land of the free. “There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese”… That’s the line in An American Tail that sold me.. As a child, sitting in England.. AMERICA…. I remember feeling euphoric at the thought of the land where dreams come true, anything is possible, and everyone is rich.. The God of all countries.. It’s what I moved here looking for, like so many others.. An escape from the struggle that life is for so many people… Yet no matter how much we acquire, we stay busy on our hamster wheels trying to get more.. It keeps us quite self absorbed, and leaves us little time to think about the rest of the world. When the rest of the world invades our individual lives .. It’s usually thru fear.. Media gives us breaking news of a terrorist attack.. Or a natural disaster .. Our humanity feels bad for the victims.. We wish it weren’t that way “out there” but our animal instinct is too busy trying to make sure we “survive” that we “can’t” do anything about it.
I think about the word “survive” and how it’s had so many different lives within my life. I’ve survived childhood.. School yards of bullies.. A parentless home where we learned quickly to fend for ourselves. I’ve survived decades of mental illness where I’ve wanted to take my own life and on several occasions, I’ve attempted. I’ve survived heartbreak, and moments where emotions weighed so heavily in grief, sadness and anguish that I couldn’t see how I would go on. I’ve survived homelessness and dereliction.. Living in the back of an old station wagon in a junk yard, with no clue where my next dollar came from.. But when $10 dos come my way, I used it to buy diapers and orange juice for my son, because I didn’t need anything that bad. In that memory I can feel the humanity alive and well in my soul, and it’s a feeling I want more of. I’ve survived cancer.. An illness that’s taken the lives of my mother, grandmothers and grandfathers before me.. An illness I never thought I could beat. I’ve survived loving paycheck to paycheck, no matter how much money I earned.. It never felt enough… The struggle really was real… Because I hadn’t yet figured out that I didn’t need all the materialistic things I’d buy to justify all the hours that I worked. I’ve survived 9/11, hurricane Katrina, a broken down car thousands of miles from home, camping alone in the woods where there are bears, road tripping around America, backpacking alone around Europe, drug addiction, stereotypes, my own negative thinking … Life…. I’ve survived life… And until it’s my time to go, I will always survive life! If you’re reading this, then so have you… And so will you … It’s okay to let go of the fear that we won’t survive..


As I look at the monster truck sitting outside, and how much petrol it’s probably drank.. Just to ride around in a muddy field, joy riding.. I think about how far that same petrol could go back in Europe.. As I think about how huge even a one bedroom apartment is .. How open the floor plans are.. And how much electricity we just run.. All the time… I think about how cramped the small island of the United Kingdom is. How the number of people living there is becoming too many for amount of land they have to build on. As I think about the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have been taken in by the different countries of Europe, who are already in financial crisis’ themselves.. I think about the financial crisis we are taught that we are in, here in America. How our lifestyles keep us trapped inside the prison of paycheck to paycheck. The prison of money. The institution of wealth, and all the laws that have surrounded the right to earn money to survive.

 

There was once a time when money didn’t exist. If you wanted to eat, you planted some seeds and grew some food. If you wanted a home, you drew from the land.. Mud and trees,… Or mined stone and built shelter .. Shelter from the elements of life of earth.. I wonder if we were meant to take shelter so far .. Creating the luxurious forms of shelter we all take for granted now.. Even in the most basic apartments.. We have electricity, climate control, instant entertainment on the tv.. Which wasn’t even sufficient, so we introduced “on demand” and Netflix. If we wanted to go somewhere, we walked.. Sometimes for days.. Creating new shelters along the way.. We weren’t tied to our homes, and our bills and mortgages… We didn’t have social security numbers that said whether we could work or not … That dictated who was allowed to thrive.. We traded skill set for skill set.. And worked as communities to provide all of the basics. Each skill was needed and as valuable as the next. There weren’t rich doctors and lawyers.. Doctors became rich because fear of dying is so huge. Lawyers became rich because laws became so many, and money became so valuable.. The more money one has, the more skills they can but, and lazier they can be. We buy our way back to the freedom from the grindstone.. Freedom to once again enjoy our earth.. Freedom to travel.. The richest of us but their own boats, build their own oasis’ in their backyards.. Of their bigger better houses.. They fly first class or on private planes to remote islands .. And in those places they have arrived .. They’ve achieved the goal… But I promise you … They still want more. That feel good achievement.
What would happen if currency became acts of kindness, goodwill to others, selflessness… If money were abolished… If love for one another replaced money… If we all did unto others as we want done for ourselves.. I think we Wouldn’t be as fearful.. As stressed.. As angry… As lonely..
Traveling has opened my eyes.. Not only to what I find out there.. But to what I couldn’t see here at home. We took a wrong turn somewhere along our timeline.. A turn that led us right back to everything our forefathers were freeing us from.
“WE, THE PEOPLE…” I wanted to learn about the actual people that wrote our Declaration of Independence. What were we declaring independence from? This is what I found…



 So basically, the colonists enjoyed their freedom they’d found in being neglected by the British.. When the British came back to rule the colonists.. The colonists fought to keep the freedoms they’d found.. Freedom from being ruled by a country where money dictated the power.. And taxes were used to keep the money and power in limited hands. This is why the most memorable part of the Declaration of Independence is
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Wow! I have to wonder what our forefathers are up there thinking, watching all that America has become. Have we realized their vision for this great nation? Or have we allowed the same greed and thirst for power that governed Britain in the 18th century become our way of life here in the colonies. “All men are equal” yet the likes of Donald Trump is a front runner for Presidency.

While traveling thru Europe, I heard the same repeated message in several countries in regards to America. It’s the country they are most afraid of.. Not Iraq.. Not Syria.. America.. Because in America we have guns. The look on their faces when I tell them I have a gun back home… It’s unimaginable to them. They tell me stories of how we kill ourselves thru school shootings, and mass murder.. How they’re afraid to be a foreigner in our land because all it takes is a second and you could be dead. I can completely understand their concerns. We have the right to bear arms, and we fight daily to keep that right. The reason our fore fathers gave us that right was so that we could fight for ourselves to keep our freedom, should we ever have to. It wasn’t to hunt. It wasn’t to protect ourselves from enemy states.. That’s what the military was for .. It was so that, in the event our government needed to be replaced, we would have the ability to fight for that. Times have changed.
Americans are beautiful people. America, for me, is home. It still is the land of opportunity, where anyone can make their wildest dreams come true. The civilians of this great nation are as good as any other country I’ve visited. They’re completely unaware that our military is out in the world, terrorizing smaller countries.. Being the present day pirates, stealing oil, raping towns and villages, bombing lands and killing people by the millions.. Forcing families to flee and seek refuge, all in the name of “more”. They’re unaware that while they complain about $3 per gallon of petrol, Our allies.. Our nations friends, like France and England, are paying $6-$8 per gallon, but continue to be “friends” so that it doesn’t increase any further.. Sending their military in to drop a couple of bombs in order to share allegiance. The great people of America don’t know that they’re constantly being groomed by the media.. To only know what the government wants them to know.. To create conflict of interests about things like gun control, and foreign affairs.. So that when our government is exposed, we won’t be able to carry out the wishes of our very own Declaration of Independence.
We don’t know that we are no longer free… We don’t know that we are wasteful of precious resources.. That we are noticeably fatter than any other country.. That there’s more to life than Facebook, binge watching Netflix on 60″ TVs, and driving that 2016 convertible off the lot. While people are living in tents year round as their homes, we cringe at the thought of tent camping for fun, and rent a log cabin or an RV instead. We don’t know how good we have it, because the only thing we are repeatedly shown, is the glamorous lives of those who have it better .. The carrot that keeps us going to work for that paycheck to paycheck life so that the rich get richer.


Good Morning America… It’s time to wake up!

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NYC – from the airports

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If you are heading to Hattan Hostel for a frugal $24 a night then you’re probably on a budget.. Transportation can seem overwhelming at first, and a taxi may seem easier.. But at $50-$70 it’s a rip off.. Here’s what you need to know 

Rule 1 – avoid Newark! Getting across the Hudson River is expensive no matter what transportation you use!

JFK Airport – when exiting the airport, follow the signs for AirTran.  It’ll bring you to a station where you’ll board a train to the subway.  Get off at Howard Beach Station. 

  
To exit, you will have to buy a metrocard.  I suggest buying the 7 day metrocard at this point.  It’s $31 for unlimited buses and subways for a week, and well worth it.  You will have to pay an additional $5 for the AirTran.  (MasterCard and Visa is accepted)

Follow the signs for the A train towards Manhattan.  (Blue line on the subway map)

  
On the bottom right you will see JFK .. The top left you will see 163rd and Amsterdam.  This is your stop! Off you get and walk 3 blocks south and 2 blocks west, and you’ll be at 160th and Riverside Dr.

  
On the second map, look at the red line.  That station is at 157th st and Broadway.. And is the best choice to take the subway down to a Times Square (42nd St) or Central Park starts at 59th St Colombus Circle.  The 1 train connects you to anywhere you’re looking to go within the city.  

Laguardia Airport:  when exiting your terminal you’re going to take the Q70 public bus to Jackson Heights, and then take the  E train (blue) to 42nd St, and transfer to the 1 train (red) up to 157th st. 

Be sure to check out my NYC on a dime blog for tips on seeing the sights for as little as possible! 

Follow my blog for tips and tricks on traveling all over the world on a dime! 

Also feel free to share anythin you find interesting .. Thanks!

 

P!A!N!I!C!

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Today is a lazy day .. A day to stay “home” catch up on some photos and on my travel diary.. I really wanna write Italy.. And the blog about meeting Sanjay.. But I can’t freaking focus.. I’ve started about a thousand projects.. And now I’m just tangled.. I’m locked in my bedroom.. Cold.. But my clothes are all hanging outside to dry.. I’ve told myself to wrap up in my covers about fifty times and so far I’ve made it to the edge of the bed.. Moving made me panic so it took a while. I’m pretty sure I have a tooth infection because in the distance.. Where I’m somewhat mindful.. I can feel it. It’s a pressure in my cheekbone.. Near where I have a cold sore so quite possibly it could just be that but it’s near my tooth.. And that’s a trigger.

I’m sure that I’ll get an infection that will go to my brain, and I’ll get sick and be stranded in a foreign country needing medical help… Or have to drag myself, dying, back across state lines.. And hopefully make it to a hospital in NY before I’m completely incapable…

Maybe that’s why I am panicking .. Would make total sense.. For very irrational reasons now, I have a fear of the dentist.. So much so that in the past, I have dissociated, and while doing so, I’ve extracted my own tooth.. Only to come back and be completely freaked out by the blood all over my hands and face.. And the aching in my mouth where half my tooth was now missing. It’s been a couple of teeth now.. And this is certainly something that I need to be mindful of. My panic has dropped for the moment tho, so I’m guessing this is the source .. And I know that I don’t have to extract my own tooth today. I do need to see a dentist.. But that won’t be until I return to the United States, so I don’t need to stress about it right here and right now. My feet are in Barcelona, behind a locked door where I am safe. I can breathe.. I can relax. Chances are that its just a radiation of the pain in my face from the cold sore, and all of this panic is for nothing.
I want to go upstairs to the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash my face, and make sure all is sanitary.. But my history of going to the bathroom during panic and dissociation doesn’t speak well for itself. I usually end up falling deeper into the abyss.. And come out of it full of blood. Gross I know .. These are the blogs that I usually don’t post publicly… And I just confide in a close friend, or no one at all.. But my blog is about traveling the world WITH panic disorder .. PTSD and dealing with it play by play.. If I don’t post these blogs.. How can I help the next person truly know that it’s possible for them to have a fulfilling life even with mental illness??? That’s my purpose .. To help the next person .. So maybe while I’m in a frantic, can’t stop typing mode, I should get honest about where I’m at with my mental illness..
A self checkin ..
Emotionally.. I’m on the verge of .. Well, now I’m crying.. Traveling all over the world is a fucking AWESOME distraction .. But I haven’t completed the three steps to dealing with a problem … Distract, relax, and cope.
I’m distracted every day by some new awe-inspiring place, exhibit, city, food, people, travel deal etc etc .. But I’m constantly going going going .. And when I get home at night I pass out .. Which I thought qualified for the “relax” but it doesn’t … Today my goal is to relax .. I’ve watched an episode of walking dead, but the whole time I was trying to multi task and work on pictures .. Organize my files .. Catch my blog up .. And didn’t get anything done. “Relax” had to be an environment where there’s nothing.. No mental stimulation.. Meditative is probably best.. It’s not to center or to focus on a solution for a problem .. Or see the light at the end of the tunnel .. It’s purely to give myself a timeframe of “peace” so that I can bring my mental, spiritual, and physiological self back down to grounded.. Baseline.. This is the BEST place for me to start a journey of coping.. Whatever it is I am attempting to cope with.
What am I trying to cope with? Blaaaahhhh .. If that isn’t a list of its own..
Heartache, loneliness, issues back home with my house, NYC sending cops to hattan hostel and wanting to shut it down, stressing financially, wanting to be home to just avoid the world, wanting to keep up with my blog, and feeling constantly behind.. Questioning my motives for all this traveling .. Feeling like I’m so busy trying to capture it all so that I can share it with everyone that I’m not actually experiencing it.. Worrying about my health.. Big time worrying about my health.. Worrying that a week home isn’t going to be long enough to truly unwind.. What with everyone that wants to see me, and all the doctor appointments.. And the tests.. And handling business affairs .. I should’ve booked a longer break from traveling .. And I keep telling myself I need to see if I can change my flights but I just never get around to it .. A week in each place just isn’t enough.. Anywhere .. It’s a constant rush to try and see everything and do everything .. I’m exhausted. I still have to finish writing postcards, and find the right kinda mailbox because the ones here are different than the other countries and the post office wouldn’t mail them yday.
It’s noon, and I haven’t even eaten yet .. Blowing my day one of protein every three hours and a healthier eating pattern.. I don’t think potato chips count..
So I need a list..
Eat

Brush teeth and get up

Call Norwegian and see if I can adjust my flights to give myself more time at home

ITS OKAY IF I DONT CATCH UP ON MY BLOG & PICTURES!!! I can do that anytime..

Meditate ..

Watch one episode of TWD without anything else

Check my laundry to see if it’s dry

Go to the store to get veggies for veg soup

Cook a healthy dinner

Nice hot bath

Relax
Tomorrow I can work on my blog and pictures.. Flight to Morocco is at 5pm so I’ll have all day..

Well.. I laid down under the covers.. Warm up first .. I thought I was feeling better but as soon as I moved I panicked again.  The girl who travels the world is panicking at the thought of unlocking the bedroom door.  Facepalm.  Deep breath.. There’s no rush.. So my basics ..

I’m def getting daily exercise ✔️ sun ✔️ I’m not taking any meds.. Healthy eating.. Not so much.. Therapy .. I haven’t checked in with my therapist since.. Malta I think it was.  I havent been blogging much either .. Not the travel blog but my mental wellness blog .. Ones like this one.  It’s definitely showing.  Thing isn’t.. If I find time to write, then I feel like it should be the travel journal because it’s behind.. But no, self care is important, and maybe I need to quit putting “must do”s on myself?? So what if it never gets written .. It still happened.. The only reason I wanna write it is so I can have a book to publish at the end, for what? To make money? Why do I want money? Security.. To do the things I wanna do in life?

“HELLO!!! You’re in fucking Barcelona!!! You don’t need money!!! You figure it out anyway.. Quit stressing that fame and fortune shit.. It’s all a lie.

Remember the little bird.. You’ll be provided for, no matter what.  ”

As soon as I think “I’ll be okay” my mind shoots off to the time I wasn’t okay .. The time that I was savagely raped.  It’s really hard for me to believe that I’ll always be okay, because that day shattered that belief.. Yesterday I felt like I was compromised again.  I was being my usual friendly self and talking to a couple of guys near the arc de triomf.  They told me about a cool ass coffee shop they were heading to and invited me.  Everything seemed legit but my internal alarm was blaring.. SOMETHING IS WRONG.. I was already walking with them, and could see a cop so I felt safe but as we turned the corner, no cop, and not so public as the park.  My inner voice got louder.  I told them I needed to stop and get cash.. Which I instantly kicked myself for.  Now I’d be putting myself at an ATM .. If they wanted to rob me, this was even worse. Just then Amber called me.. Thank God, and could tell something was wrong.  The guys hung out outside the bank while I was inside attempting to use the atm.  I told amber what was going on, and scared the crap out of her in the process.  She told me to call the police, but a) I didn’t know how to call the police, and b) what would I tell them? “Hi, I made two new friends and they want me to go to a coffee shop, but now i’m scared?” I remembered my paypal card was cancelled bc of fraud, and used that to attempt to get money.  It gave me a recipe saying transaction declined .. “Yes!” I exited and showed them the paper.. With no money and no access to money, it was senseless to go to the coffee shop.  Amber stayed on the phone as we parted ways.  I walked back to the park where everyone as and decided it was time to go home.

I don’t always make the smartest decisions.  That’s how I was raped in 2011.  No matter how much I build a portfolio of evidence that I can trust myself.. It only takes one dumb decision like yesterday to put me back into doubting myself. The rape has been on my mind a lot recently for different reasons.  Conversations about having kids, and how I cant.. And how the only time I almost became a biological parent was when I was pregnant from the rape, but had a miscarriage.  Worrying about traveling to Africa where I’ve most likely been misinformed about how they treat women there.  The news about all the violence in the world.  Traveling the world alone as a woman.  Reading a review about a couchsurfing host that I almost stayed with in Rome, and how he tried to take advantage of one of his guests.  Wanting to lose weight, and become more attractive.. The night in the taxi with the guy in malta.

It’s a scary world we live in.. Mostly because of ignorance.. But I can’t let that hold me back anymore.
Okay .. Time to get up and walk thru that locked door.. I have to pee! Lol

Holy fuck it wasn’t locked…

$220 all expenses paid Chicago vacation.. How?

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October 9th 2015

It all started with an email. Well, actually, the dream started while I was on bedrest, following my third surgery fighting cancer.. I was writing my bucket list, and the first thing I wanted to do was meet my nephew in person… the second thing was see the WORLD!!!  I painted a picture I found online of Chicago.. and the dream was born..

chicago

Southwest Airlines had a special going on and was kind enough to let me know about it. Usually I never open spam email, and in fact I have changed my email address to start over on the masses of spam email I would get in a day, and have to fish thru to retrieve personal emails… and yes.. I still use email. It’s my preferred method of contact with my therapist. It respects boundaries, isn’t time sensitive, but keeps the communication open. Since I am traveling, it is hard to maintain my therapy, but it has been a vital part of my recovery, and it feels safer the more doors I have open where I can be open, honest, and real about where I am at. It is too easy to get caught up in the adventures, and before I know it, none of my basic skills to manage my mental illness are in place, and I am once again spiraling out of control, heading for depressed and suicidal fast! Which reminds me, I should see her while I am in town.. I love how that works. BRB
ok email sent!

Soo.. cost breakdown.. Southwest Airlines email.. so I click on my departure airport; New Orleans, and view the flights. A list populates and I scroll down the results to find the cheapest flight, and where it is going. “Midway Intl. Chicago $83 one way”

well, I know that Chicago is a major city, and I can only imagine how cheap the flights to various places out of there might be. I have many friends in the windy city, and I’ve really never visited Chicago on my own, as a tourist with a camera, and just let myself go wherever the wind blows. I’ve always (all 2 times) been there with an alternate reason, and a time constraint. So I go to my “what do I need to survive if I go to Chicago” list. Shelter, food, a way home. Next step, I load my AirBnb app, switch to a traveler (from a host.. for those who don’t know, after I discovered AirBnb I listed rooms for rent in my house so that others could travel for as little as possible, therefore promoting and inspiring more people to travel) “Where am I going?” Chicago! I type in the info, drop my $ range to $0-$30 and look at what comes back. Scroll, scroll, scroll.. $20 a night, a bunkbed in what looks like a hostel type of environment (hostel as in a place to sleep, not hostile) I check the calendar and it has 2 nights available when I get there.. booked. Flight… booked. Holy shit I’m going to Chicago! $79 for the flight, $20 to sleep, shower, change, charge my phone and camera, and the ability to eat for next to nothing… I am in!

I remember an article I read about finding cheaper flights after a flight is booked, and two days later I check out cheaper times to travel to Chicago, if there are any? Sure enough there’s a flight for $44!

I log on, change my flight and receive a credit of $35. I price tickets from Chicago to NY, and find a flight for $59.. I use the credit and pay the remaining $24… I guess I need to start planning for NY TOO!

At the airport, I am packed into one backpack that weighs about 60lbs. Three outfits, camping cooking equipment, camera, journal, chargers, and toiletries. Two bottles of water, couscous (just in case) and a determined mind to do this!

First lesson… bottled water can not go through the security check if it is more than 3 oz, so there went my waters! I paid the $3 at Subway for a new bottle once I was on the other side. I have to drink all of the time. When I get dehydrated, my body panics and panic escalates quickly into an attack where I am unable to function to just get a drink.

Once at Midway, I pay $3 for a train ticket into the city. I have no idea what I want to do first, but time is ticking, so the city it is. Besides, that’s where I need to be to take the pink train to the general area of where I am staying. I later realize that if I had done more research on the metro payment system, I could’ve saved that $3 and just bought the weekly unlimited travel card for $28 (there is a $5 fee for a new card, but by filling out a form on their website, it is refunded… yes I am that frugal! $8 in savings is groceries, cereal and milk, or almost half a nights stay at another hostel, which means a whole new perfect day I can add to my travels. Trading time for savings gives me more time before I ever have to actually go to work. (Which has now been 10 months since I actually clocked into a job anywhere)

This blog is taking forever to write! I feel my concentration slipping, but I want to get it done because I have been wanting to write it, knowing that so many of you want to know.. so yea day one.. I find a list of things to do in Chicago for free, and I start doing them. $12 in groceries when I get to the airbnb. (Thank you Harrison!)

Unexpected expenses included filling prescriptions – $12 and I lost my transit card, so I had to pay another $28 for a weekly travel pass. I did treat myself to a nice formal dinner, and ate at cheaper dine in places a lot more than I anticipated. It is exhausting walking all over a city and seeing everything, not to mention I had pneumonia and didn’t know it, so it’s not surprising I didn’t have the energy to be conservative about food, and preparing my own meals. I also paid $21 for the 360 observation deck. It’s $19 for one visit, and was $21 for two visits within 48 hours. As a photographer, who doesn’t want a night and a day time experience?
After the two nights at Harrison’s place, I found another airbnb to keep me for a night at $35 – a little more than I’d like to spend, but it was a private room, and tho I attempted to find another traveler thru the nomad facebook groups, and various other travel friends groups I interact with, it was short notice, and I had the room to myself, which given I didn’t know I had pneumonia, was probably for the best. Over the counter meds and cough drops, thermometer etc $25 Two days in bed at a friends house (free lodging and amazing company, Thank you Annette!) An amazing free raindrop technique using Young Living oils, and I was up and running for another couple of days! Lincoln Park Zoo, skyline pictures, a free guided walking tour, and before I knew it, it was time to fly to NYC!
Total expenses for a week in Chicago, flight, lodging, food, attractions, and medicine = $220!
Stay tuned for an even cheaper week to and in NYC!!!

RENT A CAR FOR 6 days.. $27!!! Don’t DO IT!

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Today is day three and I am back at the airport returning my rental car. You know, for a frugal traveler… Renting a car shouldn’t even be an option.. But I totally got sold on the follow up email when I booked my flight to Barcelona.

RENT A CAR FOR 6 days.. $27!!!

And it worked.. I clicked .. And even though I knew better from my experience in Ireland,.. I thought about how much of Ireland I was able to see as a result of having that cute little blue car.. And I justified the extra money I knew would surely come at the desk in insurance and fees… And it did!

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Because I don’t possess that evil little piece of plastic known as a credit card, I had to pay a daily insurance rate .. Fortunately, the guys wife was from Alabama, and when I told him I was writing a frugal travel blog, he gave it to me for the lowest price possible. Unfortunately for Firefly, my advice is.. If you’re coming to Barcelona… DON’T get a car!! Here’s why .. Y’all read about my experience losing the car.. So that’s reason number one. Secondly, there isn’t anywhere to park. I’ve spent more gas, driving around looking for parking, than I have actually getting wherever it is I was trying to go. Third.. Gas is expensive here, as it is in all of Europe .. $6 a gallon at least!!! Parking costs 4 cents per minute.. And walking up and down the hills of Barcelona to get to and from your car, once you’ve found parking.. Honestly.. It’s easier to take public transport. When you get to the airport.. Get a T10 card for 10€ at the airports train station. This will give you ten trips which are all good for an hour and 15 minutes if you need to transfer. Three stops and you are in the city center! If you pay per ride it’s 2.10€ per trip.. So this card is a little money saver in itself. Also.. If there’s more than one of you, you can enter the card.. Let it feed thru and leave it there for your friend behind you. It isn’t one per person.. So if you’re going for a weekend.. This works out great! (By the way, this isn’t cheating, I read it in the tourist transit website)

  The bonus of going back to the airport was the people I met on the train to the city center. While walking across the bridge to the train station, there was an elderly French lady who was struggling to walk, pull her luggage, and hold her robe up off the floor so she wouldn’t trip. I offered to pull her baggage for her, doing my good deed for the day. When we got to the station, her son was waiting for her impatiently.. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself about what a jackass he was! They only spoke French, so I helped them understand that they had to take the train to the city and then get a train from there to Paris. Hopefully they made it. On the platform, a guy heard me speaking English with the conductor and pulled me aside for help figuring out what thy needed to do. They were Turkish Muslims, and very friendly! 🙂

I shared my research about the T10 card.. And given that a single ride from the airport to the city was 4.80€ each, the T10 was already saving money!

Yes I’m fat, and I’m going to eat… 

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Don’t worry, it’s not contagious.. You aren’t going to catch it, so you can stop looking at me like I have some disease, or monster with three heads.. TRUST me.. It’s not going anywhere!!! I know this because if there’s one thing I want more than anything in this world, it’s for my weight to get lost!!!  
It’s not easy being fat. I’m pretty convinced, at this point, that the reason my body stores my fat is because of how much I stress about being fat. Our animal brains react to stress with very primitive reactions .. Fight or flight. Whenever I think about attempting to lose weight.. It already begins preparing to be starved, and stores what it thinks it needs to survive. Of course, I’ve never actually starved myself, but it doesn’t access that information.   
So how often do I stress about my weight in one day?
Well, when I first wake up, sit up, and put my feet on the floor, I know it’s going to be painful taking those first few steps. I have developed planters foot.. Or planter faciatas if I want to sound fancy about it. Basically, the arches of my feet have a hard time holding me up, but I’ve noticed it gets better when I do lose weight, and get under a certain level of morbid obesity. Ahh “morbid obesity” what a lovely term that is!! I then get dressed.. While most people get dressed to look good.. I get dressed to hide my fat. No horizontal stripes, add a jacket to section my body into three.. No tight fitting clothes.. Great hair .. Because maybe if my hair looks great on top of my adorable face, they won’t see the tire around my waist? 
Then it’s breakfast time.. I’m usually not that hungry in the morning so I don’t eat.. By lunch time I can feel my stomach growling, and sometimes I’ll eat.. Or sometimes I’ll keep going.. Stretching the zero calorie counter as long as possible, and by 3-4pm I’ll scout out a meal of some sort.  I stress about it while I sit in a public place eating.. I feel like everyone is staring, and judging me for eating… I know this is my shit, and most people are too absorbed with their own world to even notice me.. But I still feel it. 

  
Eating healthy has always been a challenge for me. I wasn’t raised eating healthy food. I was raised on one minute microwave TV dinners. We didn’t have a kitchen in my childhood home. We had a counter behind the sofa with a microwave, a toaster, and a fridge next to it. We lived on ramen noodles, ham sandwiches, spaghettios, and microwave nuggets chips and that little brownie that cooked in the tray. Eventually, we got a slow cooker and my mum would cook a hot pot, or corned beef hash, but cooking wasn’t her thing, and sometimes ketchup didn’t mask that foul taste that she called dinner. On Sunday’s we would go to grans house sometimes, and there we would spend the day, in the kitchen, cooking a Sunday roast, and baking the deserts to go with them. I loved Sunday’s.. Veggies smothered in brown gravy… Friday’s were sometimes fish n chip night.. There was a brief moment where my mum joined a slimming club.. Vera’s slimming club.. And she drug me along with her. It was so embarrassing being the only kid in that community room behind the bar. I remember the pound of lard that sat on the table next to the weigh in scale.. A motivator to shed the pounds. It was so gross.. And I just figured maybe people should stop eating butter?? I was 9 at the time. I started bring cottage cheese and crackers to school, and the other kids would laugh at me. Maybe this is where the “morbid” part was born? 
Other times I stress about my weight … When I sit in a chair and my legs can feel both sides of it.. When I get on a plane and worry about whether I’ll spill over into my neighbors seat, or whether I’ll make them feel even more cramped than if they sat next to a skinnier person…. When I go swimming… Oh how I cringe.. I cover it with swimming shorts and a t shirt.. But the water just makes everything stick and visible.. When I’m standing on a train, and it’s packed.. And I feel like I’m taking up more space than I should.. When I’m walking up steep inclines… When my knees feel the impact of each step down a steep incline.. Every time I get anxiety and I’m trying to decide if it’s anxiety or is this it??? Is this the heart attack that’s sure to come from being so overweight!!?!!  When I buy new clothes and nothing fits, when I wear old clothes so I don’t have to bother.. When I go to a doctor and feel dismissed about really caring about my health… When I think about getting weight loss surgery.. After I’ve eaten, and feel like I shouldn’t have.. When I feel sad and want to binge eat my blues away… EVERY TIME I WANT TO TAKE A PICTURE AND I AM IN IT!!! Traveling around the world, there are plenty of pictures I want to be in.. Fully, not just selfies.. So Basically all the time!!

 
I drink nothing but water for the most part, and I walk about five miles a day.. Pushing myself not to succumb to the laziness that I crave so bad, because it’d be so much easier to just sit and do nothing…  
So yes.. I’m fat.. But I’m not a fat lazy American.. In fact I’m sure I do a lot more each day than most.. I’m a product of my environment.. A product of my animal instincts.. A product of my upbringing.. And a product of years and years of programming and preservatives.. 
More than anything in the world, I want to lose weight… But it’s the only lost I don’t seem to get. 

New York City on a Dime

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So you wanna see New York City, and do it all on a budget.. You’re my kinda person! If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting a dollar that could’ve been stretched further.
Travel – If you’re still looking for how to get to NYC, I can share that I have found Southwest Airlines to have some of the greatest deals, flying into LaGuardia. There are a few things to remember when booking any airfare.

  1. Do not repeatedly google, or search the route that you are looking to travel. There are cookies and bots whose primary job is track these repeated searches and target market “deals” to you. These same bots will increase the airfare because it knows you will definitely book a flight eventually, given the amount of research you are doing on it.
  2. Make sure to click thru all the dates, typically Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly.
  3. Once you have found the cheapest flight (my original was New Orleans to Chicago for $79 which I thought was a steal!) Wait a few days, and then reenter the site thru the promo web address (click here if you don’t have one and you used Southwest) Search again. Sometimes the airline will see that you already have a flight from your cookies, and post the lowest fares again. For my New Orleans to Chicago trip I was able to change my flight to a $44 flight. A credit was applied to my account, and I used that to get to NY!
  4. Buses – My last New Orleans to New York trip I used buses. New Orleans to Atlanta (which I had to stop in to get my British Passport) was $16 on Greyhound. Atlanta to NYC was $25 using Megabus. The trick to the buses are to search at least two weeks before you are leaving. The earlier the cheaper. A man paid $120 to ride from Atlanta to NYC on the same buses as me because he booked 4 days before the departure. As far as comfort goes, Megabus wins hands down. The seats recline further, its a double decker bus. The staff were very friendly on both buses. (I had a layover in DC) the wifi worked (Greyhound did not) There were two outlets to charge my electrical devices, and if you get there early enough to be first in line for your bus, you will have the option to take a seat at the non reserved table, which for a frugal travel blogger is perfect! The first bus ride I opted for the top deck front seat, and had an amazing view!

Okay, so now you are in New York City! First thing you need to do is get a Metro card. I strongly suggest paying the $27 for the unlimited 7 day pass. The reason I suggest this is because you will most likely enter on the wrong side from time to time, or prefer to catch a bus for a couple of stops as opposed to walking. Being a tourist is exhausting, and cab fare can mount up quickly! The NYC transit apps are awesome at routing you from your current location to your destination using buses and subways with accurate times.

Now you are in NYC, and you are mobile, hopefully for under $100!

Lodging

I look at lodging as a place to crash with a roof, a shower, and hopefully an outlet to charge my devices.. that’s all i really need as I’m never in town to lay in bed and watch TV. There is SO much to do and see, no matter where you go in this world… so I use Airbnb.  For the cheapest lodging I usually search “shared” which means I am renting a bed in a room with other travelers. I drop the price down to $0-$30 and search one day at a time.. In Chicago I bounced around three different airbnb listings, but never paid over $30 a night to sleep. Using AirBnb actually inspired me to list my own house so that frugal travelers could visit the gulf coast beaches for an affordable price. It worked so well that we opened Hattan Hostel in Manhattan!

Ok.. so you should now have a plan for where you are sleeping, how you are getting there (the two budget killers) and now to figure out what you are going to do!
It’s possible that with all that you have saved, you can splurge on the attractions.. but if you are like me, and literally living on a dime and a prayer (and thanks for clicking on my blog, because that just added 2 cents to my dime! ) then you will want to navigate your way around NYC without spending too much.
Food – if you’re really on a budget, hit the grocery store, buy some oatmeal, cereal, bread and peanut butter, and try to ignore the amazing aromas as you walk the streets. If you do want take out, make sure you get it up in Washington Heights.. or near where you are staying. The same $1 bottle of water in the Heights, costs $3-$4 at the vendors in Times Square. Try the many delis and bodaga sandwiches.. amazingly yummy, and affordable.

Attractions – FREE MUSEUMS, STATUE OF LIBERTY, SKYLINE PICTURE OPS, BRONX ZOO, ART GALLERIES, ALCOHOL, BOTANICAL GARDENS, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, TIMES SQUARE, JIMMY FALLON SHOW, SCULPTURE PARK, CENTRAL PARK, AQUARIUM, CONCERTS, TREASURE HUNTS!!! and more… there is always something to do!
ALL FREE …


Monday – Times Square is always amazing.. the shows are typically cheaper on Monday and Tuesdays.. also download the Broadway Shows app for cheaper ticket prices!

Tuesday – Brooklyn Botanical Garden followed by FREE beer tasting at Bierkraft, also in Brooklyn
Bonsai Tree in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Wednesday – Bronx Zoo

Thursday – Take the Staten Island Ferry to see an amazing skyline view, then take it back, and hang out in Battery Park, check out the memorials, then take the subway a few stops to the World Trade Center Memorial, Freedom Tower ($32 to go up to the observation deck, and well worth it.. i suggest going up just before sunset, and getting both the sunset views and the night time views when the lights come on) the 9/11 Memorial Museum is also here.

Friday – Check out Central Park.. its beautiful, romantic MoMA (museum of Modern Art.. suggested donations are not mandatory, and $1 is sufficient) 4p-8p or the NY Aquarium after 3pm

Saturday – Wave Hill art workshops 9a-noon and then the Guggenheim after 5:45p

Sunday – The Socrates sculpture Park – amazing artwork in Long Island.
Additionally, the month before your visit, reserve your Jimmy Fallon tickets free! Comedy shows and off off broadway shows can also be found for $5-$15

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Off off broadway show on 13th St
Washington Square Park
As seen from the Staten Island Ferry

All of the photos seen on this blog can be ordered in the form of prints, mugs, tshirts, hoodies.. and all that other souvenir stuff I typically avoid spending my money on.. but if you are going to, why not support my starving artist photographer traveling self??
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