2015: Welcome to ENGLAND! Week 1 – London and the Coast

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Monday, November 30, 2015

  Wow, it has been a while since I have written a blog.  It’s been pretty non stop since the traveling started.  November 11th I boarded a plane in NY to Gatwick airport in London, England.  Pretty scary really, given that I only had a one way, one time passport that was taken from me at the UK Border.  A lot of people think that this trip should be easy for me, but the truth of the matter is, when I left England I was 16.  The only time that I have flown international, and come back to England has been when my mother arranged and paid for it.  My dad, or partner at the time, brought me to the airport, and family was waiting on the other side for my arrival.  I had never counted on myself, solely, to navigate my way using public transportation.  I’d never had to trust myself to make sure that I was okay, and would arrive where I needed to arrive, and needless to say, I was pretty nervous.  All of this is really outside of my comfort zone.

Luckily for me, I do have family in this country, and my first initial destination was to my Aunt’s house.  In some ways, there was comfort in knowing that, and in others there was a different kind of fear.  The last time I had seen my aunt was when I was 15.  We’d had very limited contact even when we were in touch, and next to none for the last 20 years.  My cousins are grown adults, and I knew almost nothing about my Uncle Paul.  Being invited to stay with them in Christchurch was financially supportive of my traveling frugal blog, but emotionally, it was a risk that I really didn’t talk much about.

Hattan Hostel has been pretty successful so far, and I’m extremely grateful for all of Jackie’s hard work on site.  The bookings in Mississippi have slowed down, I assume because it is winter time, but I did expect some traffic for snowbird season.  The weather there is in the 70s.. maybe people aren’t sick of the cold yet.  The price point is as low as it could possibly be, so at this point its time to turn it over to my higher power, and know that there is a reason for it to be vacant.

So far England has been amazing.  Better than I anticipated.  Spending a day in London was something I have done with my dad as a small child, but I don’t remember anything about it.  This trip was with my cousin, and her first time sight seeing the city also.  We woke up around 5am to catch a bus into Bournemouth from Christchurch.  From Bournemouth we took a coach for 2 hours into the City of London, and began our rainy but fun day seeing the sights.  I’ll write a specific guide to seeing London on a Dime once I have finished writing this overall update.

Altogether I stayed in the south of England for a week.  I got to spend quality time with family, see London, spend a day at Durdle Door .. a BEAUTIFUL landscape of cliffs at the Southern end of England, and become acclimated to the British way of life.

The total out of pocket from NYC to the end of my first week in England, flight cost included is:

Flight – $286
Snacks for traveling – $7.25
England socket converter to charge my electronics – $10
Bus from London to Bournemouth – $22
Wok and Roll lunch – $6
Train fare from Bournemouth to Christchurch – $5
Breakfast before London – $4
Lodging with family was free
Food for the most part was free – we brought lunch and dinner with us to London and to Durdle Door
Return trip to London via coach – $35
Sight seeing hop on hop off bus tour of London – $45 (something I usually wouldn’t pay for, but given the rain, it was well worth the free bus rides to each attraction, and the free River Thames cruise that allowed me to get some amazing photos while having shelter to duck under.. not to mention the dry comedy of the boat guide)
Teatime – $4
Shopping for a scarf and hat – $12
Postcards and stamps – $20

Week 1 – $456 ($170 without the flight)

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From “Fuck You” to “Thank You Cancer”

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Six months sober, and divorced… A few days after my final goodbye to my four year old son, I hit my knees.

the second cocktail of chemo drugs caused a reaction and hair loss

 No, I wasn’t praying.. I was in so much pain that my body collapsed into a ball without much thought.  One minute I was texting “sweet dreams” and by the time she responded I wrote back “I think I’m going to the hospital”.  I felt like I was going to DIE; like a gremlin and the monster from the Alien were doing the monster mash right there in my gut.  I panicked, not only because of the pain but because I lived alone.  What if I got worse before I could alert help? One of my fears of being alone coming to life.  I called my friend asking her if she could please take me to the hospital.  She asked what’s wrong and I told her “please just come quickly.” I debated calling an ambulance but I didn’t want the attention of the street.. My self consciousness still winning, even in an emergency.

  By the time she arrived I had slithered down the 18 stairs from my raised house and was sitting balled up on the bottom step counting the hour long milliseconds that it took for her to arrive.  Once at the hospital, it took 45 minutes to be seen, and another 30 to get any kind of pain relief.  They wanted to do testing first.  I can’t say I blame them, I’d hit every emergency room in the area in pain at one point or another, seeking pain medicine to get high. In the moment tho, I hated every last one of them.  Restraining myself from punching holes in the wall felt impossible.  Laying waiting in our little cubical of the ER, I felt the mess starting to kick in.  The edge of the cliff began to get distant, and the doctor came and asked my friend to step outside.  She returned in tears, the doctor behind her looking somewhat apprehensive.  They told me they had found a tumor… A 19cm tumor wrapped around my left ovary and Fallopian tube.  It was the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  I remember the doctor looking at me like I was crazy.  “You didn’t have any symptoms before now?” He asked.  I thought about it and told him that I did have an increase in pain but I assumed it was because I was sober, and I could actually feel pain now, or maybe because I had started walking and my body was adjusting.

Pictures from the initial surgery

A symptom of PTSD is unmanaged dissociation.  Everyone does it on some level whether it’s entering auto pilot while driving,  and you end up wherever you are going but you don’t remember getting there.  That’s the mild side of the unmanaged dissociation spectrum.  Extreme sides of the spectrum are cases are dissociative identity disorder or DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the psyche completely splits into separate identities to perform various roles to the host.  There are many stops along the way of that spectrum, and I fall in at about the 60-70 range.  If you want to know more on this feel free to ask!  The point is,  my ability to separate from the feeling of physical pain was so fine tuned that the magnitude of the symptoms weren’t registering.  There was a disconnect.

  So, back to my story.. It’ll be a miracle if this blog actually tells the story I opened it to tell!
  From there I was rushed into surgery, the tumor was removed, along with my ovary and Fallopian tube.  A week later I found out that it was indeed cancerous.  Another fear.. Both my gran and my mother were killed by cancer on my mothers side, and my dads mother was also killed by that monster, and now it had me.  I won’t go into all the specifics.. Maybe another blog piece, but that was where my faith really began.

It wasn’t in a foxhole prayer, “God, please save me… ” it was real faith.. It was where I stopped bartering with the “if there’s a God” and started accepting the current moment exactly as it was.  I had been working on my third step in AA, “we made a decision to turn our will and our life, over to the care of God as we understood him” and I was almost all in.. The only reservation I had about staying sober was “if I lose my son I’m getting fucked up” and then I’d lost my son, and stayed sober.

Truth be told, I was secretly in love with another recovering alcoholic and I wanted to prove how committed I was to sobriety.  She had so many years sober, and I had only months.  I thought if I could tackle these monsters of reasons to drink, without drinking, we could bypass the “sober for a year rule”.

  I fought, every day, well almost every day.  There were some days when I couldn’t fight, and I had to lay in bed and just rest.  I remember feeling so much anxiety and panic when I would try to lay down and rest.  This video pretty much depicts that part of the fight (i record and document everything because my memory isn’t too great, and i lose time a lot… a big part of my recovery has been trying to piece together and accept that these things will happen, but looking for ways that i can take care of myself to make them less intrusive)

I was so scared that while I was resting, the cancer was taking over. No imagined it to be like a black cloud that I’d dispersed with my light of my sun, but crept back over when I wasn’t looking.  If I stopped, my body would get weak and I’d lose the fight.. And that just wasn’t an option.  Most breakdowns actually served their purpose in bouncing me back for the next round…

I spent many manic nights awake.  I began painting.  I didn’t want to watch tv, and so I started painting and found that I could paint! I had no idea.  I was pretty amazing at it too!!

Painted from a photo of Chicago that I found online
My secret love challenged me to try spray painting after seeing a video of the NYC spray paint artist..


Time lapse Video of 48 hours of learning to spray paint… not bad!

I gladly accepted the challenge, and within 24 hours I was spray painting my way to a masterpiece. 🙂 I remember selling some of those to my friends on Facebook, helping to generate some money towards the mounting costs of prescriptions and co pays.  I delivered pizza part time for Papa Johns in the evenings, and worked the back drive thru window of McDonalds with my AA sponsor and good friend in the mornings.
Having fun on the job 😉
  I bounced between photography and painting when I didn’t have the energy to walk.  In finding the gift of artwork, I saw a reason for being sick.  I would’ve never known I could paint if I hadn’t slowed down.  I remember how I felt the first time I realized that.  I’m crying again now just remembering how intense that feeling of trust in the universe was.  I remember telling the universe that it could’ve been a little more subtle than the big C, but then I thought about all of the times that I could’ve slowed down, and should’ve slowed down, and I didn’t.  Always running running running because I didn’t want to feel, and if I slowed down or stopped then the feelings would come flooding thru me at an overwhelming rate and I didn’t know how to adjust the faucet.  It was stuck wide open and I couldn’t handle all of that so I ran, staying busy.  It’s why I got fucked up to begin with. Thank you cancer.
a dresser from my sons room that became a painting project
  Four surgeries, and five chemos into the fight I began researching what could I do to improve my chances.  I asked questions on Facebook, and you guys responded with juice recipes, plant based diets.. And so I tried it.  I remember I couldn’t eat much at the time, but I kept telling myself “if I’m going to force myself to eat something, it’s going to be something that will help kick this bitchs’ ass! And I’d add a spoonful of peanut butter to a very green leafy disgusting  cocktail, blend it up and drink up.  I remember making music videos and joining the happy days fb group where my newsfeed filled up with all of these reasons people were happy that day.  That’s where I met a lot of you guys!  There was something about knowing people were watching, or at least feeling like they were, that grounded me.  I didn’t want you to see the real me.  I didn’t want you to see the crazy me, so I attempted to hide it, failing miserably with those I got close to, but it served its purpose.  I kept striving to improve, to be a better person, to show all of you how amazing I really am.. Because I didn’t feel it.. And you guys would tell me I am, and for a moment I would feel it… And as a true addict, it felt good so I wanted more.

 I began a bucket list which I named the “remember when list” because it was a list of things I would one day sit on my front porch telling stories of “remember when” to what I’d hope to be, my love.. Sitting next to me, saying “yes dear” 🙂 – that fantasy pushed me.  It set a tone inside of me and I wrote that list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime!! As that list grew, I realized that I didn’t have time to have a job.. Not in the traditional sense.  I started thinking of ways I could make money without actually going to work, and reading nomad blogs, learning how to travel as cheap as possible.  Again the faith came in, as I thought about everything I had already survived, and I saw how each individual storm in my life created a piece of evidence that I would be okay, no matter what.  Dealing with mental illness, never actually killing myself despite many years of feeling that was my only safe place to live mentally… Katrina.. Being homeless.. Heartbreaks.. I had survived  many storms, it’s what I do! In that I found strength and courage.  I saved links, and took notes, learning and forming the vague outline of how I could actually start working on some of these bucket list ideas.  Sure.. I couldn’t go backpacking Europe that day, laying in bed feeling sick as a dog, hurting, and generally wanting to die on some level.. But I could start studying.. Figure out what id need to do.. What equipment would I need? I’d only been camping twice.  I started looking on craigslist, and reading more and more.

What could I sell to generate money? I started painting sand dollars, and furniture, and whatever else came my way.  I sat out on Saturdays at the farmers market, hoping to sell a piece.  I went to galleries and talked to the managers, showing my portfolio.. I read blogs on how photographers make money with their pictures.. And the majority of the money is in portrait photography.. It wasn’t something I felt I was good enough for, having seen others work.  I didn’t have the money for the equipment I really needed, but I took my Panasonic LUMIX camera and did the best I could.. Watching YouTube videos on how to edit portrait pictures.  Touch ups etc.  I had the eye, I just didn’t have the knowledge, but I learned!

Adorable little girl and her mother that responded to a FB ad

I posted questions in fb photography groups, and they came back with all the answers to help me improve.  It provided the money to travel some more, but I didn’t care for it enough to pursue it further.

I took on a couple of website gigs, rehashing skills from my earlier years, and hustled flipping a broke down car.

Changing out the brake calipers – gotta trust the Universe to learn this on YouTube!

There’s never an easy answer to “how do you afford to travel” I just do whatever the moment presents itself with, and I am always provided for.  The Universe takes care of me as long as I allow it to.  I never thought I’d be a paid blogger.. $5-$12 a day, but it’s something! Every little something adds up and creates opportunity for more experience, and with more experience comes more opportunity.  It’s an amazing circle of life.

  Now my hope is to use my blog to not only record doing all this with mental illness.. (Which I really want to write about the transition from traveling to home.. I definitely need a better plan for reentry.  The last few days have been rough and I feel very spacey, ungrounded), but not only that and frugal traveling, but I’ve been writing the story of the travels from a first hand perspective as if the reader is the one traveling.  Once the story is written I want to record it and put pictures and videos to it so that the viewer or reader feels as if they are really traveling the world.

Then I want to donate it to everyone fighting a terminal illness, so that they can dissociate into the story and maybe get a little relief from the reality of the pain and treatment that they are going thru.  I hope it inspires them to fight, to really see the world, or whatever their bucket list things are, and if that’s no longer an option, I hope I get to help fulfill at least one of them by having this experience to share.

  Having said that..
I’d like you help me out by clicking on all the ads you see on this page, clicking back to the blog between each one.  I get paid per reader and per ad click.. And that helps fund this adventure.
I’d also like you to shared story if you believe in me and want to be a part of it!
And lastly, there is a box to subscribe to the blog, if you want notifications of new posts to the blog.
With that.. I hope you enjoyed my story.. It’s what got me to where I am today.. This year I have seen 22 states in the USA.. Fallen in love with traveling, seen my nephew for the first time, seen my first concert, mastered camping, backpacked four cities, opened an Airbnb of my own, become a paid blogger, met sooo many amazing new people, and next month I am leaving to backpack Europe! It’s wild!  If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.  Thank you Cancer!
“It’s a perfect day for a perfect day!”

$135 all included in Chicago… blessed

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I decide to head for the first tourist attraction on my list, backpack in tow, after-all, I cannot check into my airbnb until 5pm.  Who cares tho? $18 a night, how can I complain? Airbnb has really changed my life! Goodbye tents, and hello wifi, electricity, shower, and a real bed!


The John Hancock building, where I have read that you can see all of Chicago from the signature lounge bypassing the $20 fee for the 360 deck.  I set off.  Walking in circles looking for the red line.  The map shows its location, but my gps seems confused and the street names don’t indicate which direction in which to go.  This certainly isn’t New York.  I feel the wind bellowing down the avenue towards me, and I decide that that must be where Lake Michigan is.  I proceed to walk in the North with this assumed directional sense.  Three lefts later, I am going the right way.
Distractions!!!!!
Everywhere…
 Tall buildings leaving my head forever tilted towards the sky.  But as my eyes come in for a landing to quickly ensure my safety they find new wonders upon which to gaze.
Old castle like buildings intertwined with the new skyscraper structures.  Beige monuments, standing short against the backdrop of the glass windows.  The contrast taking me quite off guard.  “You never know what you don’t know, and who knew?”  Holy churches and fire stations.
Bricks carefully laid one by one, the pride completely evident.  The tourist leaps out of me, pulling the real camera out and snapping, spinning, snapping some more.  Photo after photo, eager to share my discovery with the world.  I can see Willis Tower ahead of me.  The Sears Tower I should say, or else my local chitown friends will be sure to correct me.  I look at my GPS, which is now cooperating, and continue to walk around the block, looking for the John Hancock Building.  Around and around I walk, skipping a block, “maybe it’s behind the Willis Tower?” I stop to read about the water tower, that now houses and Chicago Tourism center and art gallery.
The water tower was built to draw water from Lake Michigan, and was the only public building to survive the Great Fire of Chicago.  It’s beautiful.  I continue walking, until I have come full circle, and another block before I realize that the Willis Tower is in fact the John Hancock Building.  #tourist
It turns out that the signature lounge has overly priced drinks, and while it may still be cheaper to purchase a $15 mixed drink than pay the $20 to get into the 360 deck, there’s s special for $21 where you cons visit the deck twice within 48 hours.  As a photographer, the chance to see the skyline during the day and at night is totally worth the extra dollars!
  Breathtaking… This is one of those moments that I wish you weren’t reason my blog and looking at my photos.. It’s a moment that if you can get to Chicago and experience this, I totally recommend it, and I’m writing this blog to prove it doesn’t cost as much as you’ve probably assumed..
This is probably a good spot to get a financial breakdown of the cost of this trip so far.
Parking car in New Orleans – FREE (thank you Gloria!)
Flight from New Orleans to Chicago via Southwest Airlines – $44
Bottle of water in the airport (because my waters were more than 3oz I had to pour them out) – $3 (lesson learned)
Orange line train from the airport to the city $3
Dublin Donuts Coolata (don’t judge, we don’t have Dunkin Donuts near where I live) $4
John Hancock 360 – $21
AirBnB reservation $20/night
3 nights booked ($60)
Total so far = $135 and that’s including the next two nights lodging!
As heavy as this tall backpack is, it’s totally worth it!
Can’t beat that! Well, maybe I should tell the next story about my airbnb 😉
To be continued

Goodnight Day One

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October 3rd 2015 – My first day traveling without my car.. just me, my backpack, and public transportation…

So I woke up in New Orleans, took my $44 flight and spent the day walking miles around Chicago with my backpack.  It’s about 4pm, and I figure it’ll take me about an hour to get to the place I will be sleeping.  Perfect timing since check in is at 5pm and all I really want to do is put this backpack down and get something to eat.  I’ve seen several places but I want to be frugal.  I can cook at the house, I’m sure there will be a grocery store somewhere near.

 

  I plug in the address and use some city transport app I found in the App Store.  It doesn’t really help me out too much, so I check my reservation for directions.  Sure enough, catch the pink line and a few blocks from the Kedzie station I’ll find the place.  Should be easy.  After walking completely the wrong way, and finding navy pier, a lady walking her dog eyes me at the bus shelter looking completely lost trying to figure out if any of the buses that stop here are going anywhere closer to somewhere that will help me.  By this time I am tired, and walking isn’t feeling so much fun.  She asks me if I need help, and I tell her what my goal is.   She kindly directs me to the red line, and then tells me she’s walking that way so she’ll walk with me.
  As we walked we talked.  She asked me where I was from, and what I was doing in Chicago.  I told her my story about fighting cancer, and mental illness, and how now I just want to live, which for me means seeing the world.  She tells me about her son who is fighting prostate cancer.  She tells me that they aren’t supposed to outlive their children.  She’s already lost one child to suicide, and now her son is fighting for his life.  She’s happy to hear there is hope, and thanks me for my story.  She seems positive that he will win his fight tho.  She asked me if I’d thought about becoming a motivational speaker, and I have,  but when I think of them, I think about people traveling to rooms full of people, place to place, now trying to sell a CD, or a book, or something.  How whatever brought them to be the inspiration has probably taken a back seat, and spreading the message, and profiting from it has probably become a full time job, once again propelling money to the front of the goals list.  It’s so easy to fall back into that trap. I don’t think that’s for me.  I’m content with writing these blogs, and hopefully touching some other people’s lives that are struggling in their own fights, or living inside their 9 to 5 boxes, dreaming of the day, but never allowing it to be today.  I remember that feeling.  It was “normal” everyone did it, because after all that’s what we are supposed to do.  Get a job, take care of our family, create a safe home, and fill it with things that show we are successful.  I am so deathly afraid of falling back into that lifestyle.  Motivational speaker is certainly not for me.  I thank her for confidence in my message, and we part ways at the corner, next to the red line.  I felt emotional.  I felt that my soul had connected with this stranger, sent to me in a time of frustration and fatigue, to guide me “home” for the night, and in return I gave her the gift of being heard.  I thought about how personal the things she told me were, and I felt the release of some of that weight leave her.  I smiled, entering into the subway.
  Once I got into the train, I checked the map to figure out what stop I needed to get off and transfer to the pink line.  I was almost there.  Pretty proud of myself for handling the first day out of the pen so well.  20 steps up to the street from the red line, a block or two to walk and I’m at the pink line.  It’s amazing how much further you can go when you think you are done.  I got to the foot of what looked like Mount Everest, up to the train line overhead.  36 steps later my legs felt they couldn’t go any further if I needed them to.  I board the train and offered a seat.  I take the seat and count the stops until mine.  Counting down I get to “3 to go” and there’s a young man a little ways down the cart? (Is that what they’re called?)  He starts talking to a kid standing next to my chair in the doorway.  His dad is sitting with his little sister on the other side of me.  “Hey shorty, you still doing good in that school?”
“Yea” he says, looking tough, as his body language seems to prepare for what might come next.
“Don’t mess it up, that’s a good school.  My boy went to college from that school.”
“Nah, I’m doing good. “
“Aight, don’t make me run up on you to check your homework” he said, stepping off as the train came to a halt.  I smile to myself.  I notice that the neighborhoods are starting to deteriorate.  I’d been informed that “oak park” was a “good” neighborhood, a safe neighborhood.  I get to my stop, and step off.  The houses are boarded up, graffiti everywhere, and just an all around run down looking place.  I check the map again to make sure I’m in the right place.  I’m not in oak park.  I’m in Little Village, which looks mighty close to my original reservation, that I thought I had changed to Oak Park.  I think about what my friend said about my safety, check in with myself, and feel very present and capable of taking care of myself.  It’s right around 5pm, and still light outside.  This is the adventure right? I’m not going to know people in Europe wherever I go to guide me to the good neighborhoods and keep me safe from the bad.  It’s pretty typical that the cheaper places to stay are in the poorest of neighborhoods.  The reviews looked good.  “The Europeans seemed to make it work, I can too” I think to myself, and start walking the few blocks to the house.
  After two, I find a convenience store.  I decide to go in and see if they have a can of soup or something easy to heat up.  I’m sure I’ll go to sleep early.  As I approach the door, two men are leaving.  They’re Latino and dressed in wife beaters and jean shorts.  They feel familiar.  One holds the door and instructs me to enter first since I’m a woman.  I thank him but insist that they leave first, as I am carrying a huge pack and probably can’t fit past them without taking a shelf out.  I smile to myself, recalling the love on the train, and the love at this door, and the realization that I’m allowing stereotypes to create fear inside me, and all of these people are humans.  “They’re just humans trying to make it like the next person.  Has the south really segregated me that much? ” I get a little pissed at myself that this is even an issue.  I’ve never been raised with racism in my heart, and I don’t consider myself racist, but the fact there is fear within me that I may be robbed or taken advantage of, certainly pisses me off.  I check my automatic thoughts and reprogram myself.  I am safe.  I’m not hurting anyone and no one is targeting me.  Just be your loving self and the same will be returned, just like anywhere else.  I hate that I don’t know this instinctively anymore.
  The store doesn’t have anything to really heat up besides ramen noodles, and a can of beans.  I keep walking and see a couple of Mexican restaurants.  I’m sure the food in them is probably really good.  Little mom and pop shops usually are, no matter what the nationality is.  I get up into my room, set the backpack down, finally, and sit.  Harrison gives me a quick tour and I sit once again.  I don’t want to move.  Two hours go by, and it’s gotten dark outside.  My stomach is rumbling, and I know I should probably go find something to eat.  The Mexican restaurant is closed, so I hit another little shop, pick up cereal, milk, peanut butter and bread.  “This should tie me over.”
  I spend the night talking to Harrison about his wild ideas to expand his airbnb, and share some of mine.  He has the same excitement as I do about it.  A group of us hang out on the rooftop patio, listening to the trains and the sirens.  We share stories about who we are and what we are doing in Chicago.  I meet a new German friend, a new airbnb host friend, and a woman staying long term trying to make it in the big city as an accountant.  This is what it’s all about.  Human connection.  Expanding the limitations of what I know, and have learned so far in life.

Growing My International Comfort Zone

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September 24, 2014 (2 years ago in Miami Beach, Florida USA)

It’s amazing how quickly my comfort zone is expanding.  I am no longer afraid or self conscious about saying hello.  It started with a passing stranger, a quick “good morning” and a smile.  The return smile enhanced my day, the returned shocked “hello” even better.  It’s funny how many Americans here are shocked by the pleasantry that is displayed in the South, even here in Miami.  Sure, there are upper class people, some of whom look like they are scared to be infected by poverty, just by acknowledging a blue collar person, but for the most part, people are friendly, and will return whatever is projected to them.  Yesterday I entered the W hotel to find an ATM machine.  I immediately felt out of place with the obvious wealth of the place, and fort knox, security guarded entrance.. the one of a kind cars parked in the front, and various other “toys”.  As I walked around, somewhat lost, it was my own self conscious, “less than” thinking that separated me.  I eventually had to ask for help locating the cash machine, and was treated quite pleasantly, guided to the machine and wished a healthy day.  Another encounter that I discovered a new path to self worth.

In the hostel, I am meeting some amazingly beautiful people from all over the world.  Last night I asked Jette and Yana if they’d like to join me in a walk to a little spot i’d found the day before, where the Miami skyline looked quite beautiful.  I wanted to see it at night, and take some pictures.  Ironically I forgot my camera with all the talk while getting ready.. I forgot all that is involved in getting ready for girly girls. 🙂

I should’ve known when Jette (from Denmark) let me know that she is traveling to celebrate her weight loss, and how beautiful she is, and feels.  She is a princess who loves Pink (which i noticed as she picked out every pink travelers guide from the tourist rack).  Yana (from Israel) hasn’t  claimed to be a princess, but definitely wins the award for the most time spent in the bathroom of the 12 of us.

As we walked, we found a limo, and wanted pictures of us infront of it.  As we rotated and snapped the camera, the limo driver lowered her window and offered for us to climb inside, so of course we did!

 

We spent about an hour at the waters edge, watching the building repeat the dancing lights girl on the side of the building, and admiring the reflections of lights in the water.  The breeze was very welcomed as it was particularly humid last night.   It was “a romantic spot” Yana kept saying as she played with an Old English sheepdog, out with his owner.  We laughed as we each three talked about our own cultures, and the differences in them.  I listened tentatively as they exchanged travel stories.  Mexico certainly made it to my list while India became ruled out for me.  The way the culture was described sounded way too touchy feely towards women, especially if traveling alone.  Maybe one day I will face that fear, but no time soon.  Yana added it to her list, but only if she traveled with a group.  Maybe that had been an invite.. I’m not sure.. my Passage to India was already closed.
This morning I met someone who arrived in the night from Sidney, Australia, tho we didn’t talk long enough to exchange information.  I’m sure we will fix that this evening! Then I met Vecchiato, from Venice Italy.  🙂 She was very friendly, and thought she knew me from a previous hostel stay.  One day I will meet this twin of mine.  We exchanged information right away as she invited me to visit her when I travel Europe.  I look forward to getting to know her more, as she seemed really cool, and laid back.. knowledgeable about traveling.
Tomorrow Jette and I are leaving for the Keys.  I’m a little nervous about having a travel partner as I have learned I enjoy my space and freedom, and struggle with using my voice to achieve my goals rather than cater to others.  I’m feeling under the weather, full of a head cold, and camping on the beach, and being in the water may not be the best idea for me.. but then, maybe it is a good thing I won’t be traveling alone?  Universe… I’m sure you know what you are doing.
Well, time to clock in for work.. need to stack the bank account a little as funds are beginning to slide the wrong way.  I’ve been having technical difficulties with the app that dispenses the deliveries to me, and stayed pretty laid back about getting it fixed.. the result has been a decline in income, but I’ve still profited each day I have been here, so I can’t complain.
MAKE IT A GREAT DAY EVERYONE!!!

14 nights, flights, buses, trains, metros and apartment for 2 in Paris.. You won’t believe the price!

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Bonjour! 

I get asked all the time about trips people want to take, and how to take them as frugal as possible.  So I have decided to start offering packages for trips that I’ve already researched for myself.  What do I get out of it? Bonus miles towards future free flights.  If you don’t mind allowing me to bank your miles, I’ll show you THE CHEAPEST way to see some of the amazing things that I see on my travels.  
First up is a romantic 2 weeks in Paris at Christmas 2016 (well, November 28-December 12,. But just think of the bragging rights on Christmas Day!) 

This package has a few different options, as I understand that not everyone is ok with carrying one backpack of belongings and commuting as far as I am comfortable with doing.  Hopefully my blog eases some of the fears around that tho.  

The cheapest option is $1570 

Roundtrip tickets for 2 from Miami to Paris 

14 nights in a private apartment on the outskirts of Paris 

2 transit passes for 2 weeks of unlimited buses, trains, and metros to get you anywhere you wanna go in Paris and its suburbs 

This is an example of one of the apartments, as opposed to a room in a hotel. 
It’s really a no brainer.  I’ll book everything for you, order the passes, the flights, the apartment and deliver you a package with detailed information of free and frugal things to do while in Paris to keep the budget down.  

Due to the special on these particular flights, and the apartment availability this offer could end at any time. I know where I’ll be 😍

Email me to book your Christmas Paris vacation!

$220 all expenses paid Chicago vacation.. How?

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So here it is!!!  This is the number one question that I get asked, and I finally have a day where I am not having a million adventures, and I can sit and write the financial side of everything I just did, as promised.  This will blow your mind, and I’m not just saying that to keep you reading. Trust me, I did it, and it blows my mind!

New Orleans to Chicago – $220
Income from my Airbnb + $0
Chicago to NYC
NYC to DC
DC to New Orleans in $

It all started with an email. 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 ciew 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 been there with an alternate reason, and a time constraint.  So I go my list of “what do I need to survive if I go to Chicago” list.  Shelter, food, a way home.  Next step, I load myAirBnb 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!!!