So I’m headed to France in a little over one week, and am alternately super-psyched, nervous, thrilled, stressed to the max, giddy with excitement, and worried. While part of me cannot WAIT to board that Iberia flight headed for Europe, my evil twin fears that I’ll spend all those trans-Atlantic hours obsessing about … STUFF.
Will my limited French-speaking skills make me feel (literally) like the “village idiot” when I get to Samois-sur-Seine, the picturesque place south of Paris where I’ll be living? Will I find enough freelance writing and consulting work to keep me challenged—but not so much that I end up overstretched and fall back into my workaholic ways? Will I finally meet a decent man who is what he claims to be—or will the language gap (and his sure-to-be-charming French ways and accent) make it that much tougher to figure it out?
When you decide to pull up stakes and move by yourself to the other side of the world, the tasks you need to handle before leaving home are LEGION….
Continue December 20, 2011
Those of you who follow this blog know how much I love Europe—and that there’s a super-special place in my heart for France, where I’ve spent many incredible times over the past several years, from the north to the scenic south. FINALLY, I’m getting the chance to actually LIVE there … and I’ll be a mere 40-minute train ride from Paris, my favorite city anywhere in the world!!! The plan is to leave the States soon after Christmas and launch my “new life” in France—JUST in time to ring in the New Year ….
Continue December 4, 2011
Late last month, I wrote about the “hair issues” we black women often face when traveling abroad—and promised to offer some tips about handling these when you’re overseas.
When I first traveled to Europe in the late 1990s, visiting a friend who worked on a U.S. Army base in Germany, I was doing the relaxed hair thing, toting multiple curling irons and assorted lotions and potions in my always-overstuffed suitcase. But once I started hitting the road with friends, all those curling irons became a royal pain. What a hassle to constantly be plugging in, moving irons from one room to the other, waiting for them to cool down before you could pack them, etc. And then there was always the issue of “what if it rains?”
Now that I’ve been wearing two-strand twist extensions for most of the past five years, that’s no longer a concern. BUT, I have gotten overseas and much to my dismay, realized that I forgot to pack my favorite olive oil sheen or softening lotion. This, my friends, can be a challenge—especially since overseas trips tend to last for more than just a weekend.
But if you find yourself in a city—especially in Europe—and have arrived sans products, I’ve discovered that black folks and Arabs (who frequently have similar hair textures as ours) often live near the city’s main train station….
Continue January 10, 2010
At the recent Travel Blog Exchange ’09 conference in Chicago, a fellow blogger and I found ourselves discussing why African-American women—even those with the financial means and interest in traveling abroad—don’t do it more often. I often think about this, as I always feel it would be GREAT to see more sisters when I’m running around Italy or Spain either in a group or solo.
For many of us, it’s fear of the unknown. We don’t speak the language; we don’t know anyone in the country we’d like to visit. But in countless conversations I’ve had with African-American women over the years, it comes down to wondering how we’ll be perceived as black people. Even without realizing it, being black in America—whether dirt-poor, comfortably affluent like “The Cosby Show” Huxtables, or “movin’ on up” like the Jeffersons—means wearing the subconscious burden of potential discrimination on our backs like the latest designer dress….
Continue August 9, 2009
Over the years, I’ve visited nearly 30 countries in North America, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Europe (where I’ve traveled so many times I’ve completely lost count).
But I’ve never been to Africa. And as an African-American, that sounds pretty pathetic.
Places on the continent are always on my mental “to-do” list, West African countries like Senegal and North African ones like Egypt and Morocco. But I haven’t made it there yet.
I started thinking about this during President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Ghana….
Continue July 16, 2009
You know what struck me watching the post-election events unfold in Iran this week? How something as seemingly simple as the act of traveling can make SUCH a difference when it comes to intercultural understanding. Thank goodness we in the United States finally have a president who’s thoughtful and respectful of other folks in the world… but there are still some – and largely on the conservative end of the spectrum – who still see the world as “us” versus “them.” I just wonder what our country’s – and the world’s – relationships would be like if more of us traveled to “their” nation, saw how “they” lived, understood how “they” thought.
And that reminded me of a thought-provoking and in hindsight, truly prescient new book I just picked up from acclaimed travel writer (and of course, PBS television star) Rick Steves. In Travel as a Political Act, Steves explains that there’s far more travel than “good-value hotels, great art and tasty cuisine.” While he writes about travels throughout Europe (his travel business’s main focus), El Salvador, and Morocco, it’s his “Mission: Understand Iran” chapter that speaks most to me now….
Continue June 19, 2009
I was thrilled to read last week that adorable young Malia and Sasha Obama would be joining President Barack and First Lady Michelle (and of course, First Granny Marian) in Paris and later London for their first European trip. It did my heart a world of good to know that these charming mesdemoiselles would be serving as America’s junior ambassadors to a continent obsessed with their glamorous parents—and one thrilled to see our formerly “you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us” nation back in the global mix.
But politics aside, I was thrilled for these two African-American girls, ages 8 and 10, both getting a chance to experience what life is like outside the prism of the United States. Granted, these are kids of privilege. Even if their dad wasn’t the leader of the free world, they’re the children of extremely well-educated and worldly parents and had a chance to travel to Africa back in 2006. But as I’ve found over the years, there is NOTHING like foreign travel to open your eyes to the realities of your own country. I just wish I’d had the chance to discover this way earlier in life rather than starting in my 20s. I’ve certainly tried to make up for lost time, visiting nearly 30 countries since then!
Just imagine how different we Americans would be if we started engaging the world as kids the Obamas’ age….
Continue June 10, 2009
For some folks, as the old song by Three Dog Night goes, “one is the loneliest number.” They can’t stomach the idea of dining alone and think that going to a movie theater or party without a “plus-one” (famously played out on an episode of “Sex and the City”) will brand them as permanent losers.
How sad. They’ll never understand the visceral joy many of us find in traveling solo.
I again experienced this fabulous freedom during my recent return trip to the super-charming village of Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Côte D’Azur—better known to many Americans as the “French Riviera.” Talk about a fabulous place for a chica to get away by herself. I’ll chat more later about this fab week-long adventure… but in the meantime, continue reading to view a couple photos that will make you drool. Is this place paradise OR WHAT?
Continue May 8, 2009
I don’t know about you, but I was glued to the TV and news Web sites last week, watching President Barack Obama’s (and First Lady Michelle’s) every move as they took Europe by storm. Pride swelled in me—and tears occasionally welled in my eyes—as I saw these smart, strong, self-confident African-Americans from MY South Side of Chicago interact with and YES, dazzle leaders from around the world, including the Queen of England.
How cool was this, to see these two Americans stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the globe’s most important people and pass with flying colors? And how fabulous was it to see the reception they got from “regular folks”—Michelle with those adorable girls in that London school, the president when interacting with thoughtful young people during those town halls in Strasbourg and in Istanbul?
I wish I could have been on the streets of London; of Strasbourg, France; of Prague when the gorgeous First American Couple made their appearances last week. How heartwarming it was to see regular Europeans—and their leaders—wholeheartedly embrace these two who represent the best of what America can be.
Continue April 8, 2009