Saturday, January 30, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures in Fiji--A Jewel of the South Pacific

I recall meeting with one of my former colleagues at a University where we were both Professors. We were talking about obesity and how it is viewed culturally in the U.S. vs. some other countries. I began to tell her about this wonderful place called Fiji, where the women dancers, as an example, for the most part, are large, in terms of weight, in comparison to what the U.S. considers the standard of beauty, in terms of size.

She interrupted me, in a very condescending way and stated, leaning forward and placing her hand on my knee, "Oh you mean Fuji." I looked at her thinking to myself, another White person thinking Black people don't travel and need to be schooled about places in the world. I moved back and gave her a look, knowing that I had just experienced a microaggression as described in my book on cultural competency, which promptly led her to remove her hand from my knee. I summarily informed her, albeit politely, that I did not mean Fuji, but Fiji. I then explained to her that Fiji, the place that I had visited with my husband and two children, is an archipelago consisting of 330 plus islands inhabited by people, of primarily African descent, that are referred to as Melanesians.
I corrected her by stating that she, I believed, was referring to the word that perhaps she had heard in relationship to film or the mountain in Japan, that I had also visited. She looked at me with a blank stare of embarrassment at which time I reverted to our previous conversation about obesity and the beauty of Fijian women and the people overall.
You see Black people do travel, which leads me to my discussion of Fiji. It is a place of warm, gracious, predominantly Black people. We traveled there from Miami and broke up our trip by stopping in Los Angeles before heading to the Airport for our connecting flight, via Fijian airlines. There, we began to see Black people with Afros, waiting to board their flight. We looked at them and they looked at us, noting our differences and our sameness--the reality that we were all Black, but from different places and cultures. Our smiles connected us and when we reached the island of Viti Levu, in Fiji, as we walked around our hotel and ultimately visited one of their villages, we were greeted heartily with the word, Bula (the Fijian word for hello), with the biggest smiles you can imagine. 
Before going there, I had a lengthy discussion with my younger brother who, while a Columbia University student, spent much of his time studying abroad in Europe and Africa, and subsequently, continued to be a world traveler. He informed me that the Fijian people were African. He had not traveled to there but read about them and desired to go there. One of my other White, Professor colleagues argued that Fijian people were not African but rather Melanesian. He had not been there either. I listened to both of their positions and decided I would find out. I would go with my family to Fiji and ask the people myself, and so I did.
The Fijian people are very gracious and the gentleman that we met who ran the kids program at the beautiful Sheraton Fiji Resort, where we stayed, was named Moses. Moses organized games and playtime for the children and chatted with us when we picked them up from their activities.
He was delighted to see Black people, from the U.S., and invited us to his village to attend the wedding of one of his family members and to visit the local school. We were thrilled to do so! I asked him if Fijians were of African descent and he laughed and replied "of course!" We went to the village and I had the privilege of sitting with the men, along with my husband and children, during one of their meetings, which was generally not permissible as women do not sit with the men when meeting with the Chief of the Village. But because I was a Professor, I was permitted to do so. It was at that time, that the Chief shared important information with all of us, in Fijian, as translated by Moses, after I asked him where were Fijian people from originally. He explained that the people of Fiji are indeed of African descent, from East Africa, as they had traveled on ships called druas to Fiji and settled there in their early history.
Although there are some who consider this to be Fijian lore, I have no doubt regarding the accuracy of their understanding of their history as everything about them appears to indicate that they are of African descent. I valued and appreciated the connection between them and my family during our visit--one group of people of African descent to another. We attended the wedding and participated in our first kava ceremony.
While in Fiji, besides the wonderful time spent getting to know the Fijian people, we enjoyed scenery so beautiful that I couldn't imagine leaving. The water was warm, crystal clear and vividly blue. The food was fresh and delicious including lots of seafood, rice, bread, coconuts, curry, fruit and general deliciousness. The people kept telling us to eat because they thought we were too thin! That was remarkable and enhanced my desire to stay there forever. There wasn't a great deal to do there, but that was the joy of it. We went snorkeling, which was exquisite--the best that I've ever experienced anywhere in the world, and enjoyed an excellent day cruise to visit other islands. On that excursion, we tried kava again with the Fijian people and other guests on board. We also spent a great deal of time in hammocks, I had a wonderful beach massage and we traveled around daily absorbing the loveliness of it all. We marveled at their crafts, particularly their skills with coconuts and masi (Fijian bark cloth) and purchased some hand carved statues and a mask for my collection. My husband and son wore lapas (cloth worn in a skirt-like fashion), as is the custom of the men there. We also took a ride on a shotover jet, which is a very fast jet boat ride and a highlight for our children and us!

To find out my overall opinion of Fiji and to see my latest travel tips:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/50-countries-and-counting_5_b_9091244.html

Monday, January 25, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures in Egypt and South Africa--Bucket List Must-Dos

 I have always had an interest in traveling to South Africa and Egypt. I was deeply interested in learning about the impact of the apartheid atrocity and I was intrigued by Winnie and Nelson Mandela. As for Egypt, my younger (by five years) brother, who is now deceased, had lived there as an exchange student while in college. I was supposed to visit him there but I didn't make it before he returned home. He told me so many wonderful things about it, including Cairo, the Pyramids, the Sphinx and so much more, that I knew I would get there as he told me that my life would not be complete without this experience. It became a bucket list item that had to be accomplished and so it was, with my husband and son.Below are some highlights of these two amazing trips. I highly recommend both travel options as you don't want to miss seeing these phenomenal places.
South Africa This trip was truly outstanding! Johannesburg is a formidable city of great magnitude, beyond what I had expected. We roamed through the city, marveling at all there was to see from the people to the shops and the energy of the city. Normally, I prefer not to travel via arranged tours, but there was so much to see that we took that route for this trip. It was a private tour, so it was just the four of us (my husband and I and our son and daughter) and a driver. All details were arranged beforehand, which made the trip easier to manage.
We had the sad but deeply enlightening experience of visiting the island where Mandela was imprisoned and saw his prison cell which was heart wrenching.http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2013/12/nice-pauses-to-pay-homage-to-nelson.html We also went to Soweto to visit the home where he once lived (now a museum of sorts) which was in stark contrast to the home that we saw that he lived in while President. We also visited the Soweto museum. Our visit to Capetown was very interesting, as well as our enjoyment of a day and night safari at Kruger National Park. The night safari was a little scary as we ran into a herd of elephants of which one of the males came charging toward us. Luckily, all ended well but I don't think I would participate in a night safari again. For a portion of our trip, we also stayed at the Palace of the Lost City which has a large tidal wave pool! This hotel is tremendous in size and scope. Additionally, the food in South Africa, overall, is fantastic. Be sure to visit Wandie's Place in Soweto which was our favorite food spot http://www.wandies.co.za/. The seasonings used in food preparation there are great and all was delicious. So if you visit, be sure to eat heartily!
Egypt, by far, has been one of the most wonderful experiences that I have had in my life. Seeing the pyramids caused a visceral reaction for me. They were so huge, mysterious and interesting that I felt emotional as I stood before them. The Sphinx was also a site to behold. We (my husband, son and I) cruised down the Nile for a week, on a lovely cruise ship, stopping to see numerous great, temples throughout the voyage. We also made our way to Abu Simbel to see the Temple of Ramses the Great, which was mind blowing. Our hotel in Cairo, which was a Marriott was absolutely perfect including the ambience, the pool, the food, the rooms and everything about it. http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/caieg-cairo-marriott-hotel-and-omar-khayyam-casino/ I highly recommend this hotel as a selection.
The temples and tomb visits were intriguing because by looking at the drawings on the walls, made by the Egyptians during antiquity, my knowledge that the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and their Queens, children and the people of the land then, were, in fact, Black people, was solidified. This is also confirmed by timelines, which reflect when other groups, such as Europeans and Arabs arrived in Egypt. After all, Egypt IS in Africa! This is easily proven with any map or globe! Lastly, the Cairo Museum is also an experience worth every moment. Give yourself time as it is huge and be sure to pay a bit extra to visit the mummy room. There you will see mummies of Pharaohs and others and understand the incredible skill set involved with mummification. I wrote about this some time ago so check it out here:http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2010/08/african-hair-in-antiquity-hair-of.html. Egypt is a trip that is definitely a must do!
For travel tips, advice especially for Naturalistas and updo tips for seriously hot travel weather and photos of Egypt, visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/50-countries-and-counting_4_b_9055854.html

Thursday, January 21, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures in Glorious Africa, Part I--Kenya, Senegal and Cabo Verde!

There are many misconceptions about travel to Africa, which is a beautiful continent with many wonderful places to visit. After all, it is the Motherland! My first trip to Africa was to Nairobi, Kenya in East Africa, which was fantastic! Subsequent journeys to the continent, on three different occasions, included my husband, our daughter and our son as we visited Senegal and the Cabo Verde Islands (which is where my husband's family is from on his maternal side). We started with Portugal (Europe will be covered in a separate post) on this trip, as we wanted to begin with the colonizers, as one of our goals was to understand the impact of the slave trade and to explore family history. Next, we visited South Africa including Johannesburg, Capetown, Soweto and Robben Island, where Mandela was held as a prisoner for a significant portion of his life. Lastly, my husband, my son and I visited Egypt, which was outstanding and one of the best trips of my life. In brief, it is challenging to give thorough coverage of these experiences but I am thrilled to be able share some highlights of glorious Africa (North, South, East and West)! In this first parti, I will cover Kenya, Senegal and Cabo Verde!
I traveled to Kenya alone and stayed at the Hilton Hotel, which is close to the Convention center in Nairobi and the Maasai market. I went to Kenya to give a presentation at an international health conference. The people were absolutely gracious and warm throughout my entire trip. Beyond my work, I traveled on several excursions including a safari at the Maasai Mara, which was as great as I imagined it would be. I also visited a Maasai village, which is a beautiful experience. The people were so regal and everything about their culture intrigued me. I purchased a blanket and other wares from them that are all special pieces in my home. A visit to Lake Nauru National Park was spectacular as I saw 100's of Flamingos in one place, which was just breathtaking. Shopping for Kenyan crafts, etc. was a cultural joy as I selected masks for my collection, beautiful jewelry, fabric and dresses and other hand-made pieces that will always remind me of Kenya. The Karen Blixen Museum and Giraffe Manor was a special treat as I had the opportunity to stand very close to a giraffe and touch it, which was very cool (http://www.nahdytravel.com/tours.php?active_page=safari&safari_idea=15). My experience in Kenya left fantastic memories and began my desire to see more of the continent. I looked forward to returning to Africa and did so with my family.
Senegal My trip to Dakar Senegal with my husband, our daughter and son included a brief voyage to Goree Island, which is a UNESCO world Heritage site (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/26). It began with a visit to the Maison de Esclaves (House of Slaves) where we each stood in the "Door Of No Return." This is a necessary but heart-wrenching experience. I believe that it is important as it provokes thoughts and feelings about what it must have been like to be taken from West Africa, across the Atlantic ocean, to the awful situation of slavery, never to return home again. Maison de Esclaves is a museum, which renders an experience that does not bring joy but true understanding of a horrific tragedy that impacted negatively, the lives of so many African people, which sadly was the fate of my ancestors.
Dakar, Senegal is awesome in so many ways including the people, the food, and the artisanry--just everything about it. I also enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city, as the vibrancy of the people is always present. You see it in their attire, their beautiful smiles, welcoming attitudes and their businesses as they tend to their daily activities. Our hotel in Dakar was on the ocean and was perfect for our stay. It accentuated my romantic notions of the beauty of Africa as I stood once again looking at the ocean recognizing the importance of having this experience with my family. Visiting a small village outside of Dakar was a highlight also as we had an opportunity to spend time there and to get to know the people and their humble lifestyle. It was a wonderful experience overall!
Cabo Verde Islands
Cabo Verde (aka Cape Verde), is a West African nation, which consists of ten volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It is known to many as an exporter of hurricanes. Our trip to Cape Verde consisted of a visit to three islands there, which are Sao Vincente, Praia and Sal. For many Europeans, Cape Verde is a vacation spot. It consists of pristine beaches, fantastic food, beautiful scenery and lovely, kind people. My husband's maternal grandparents and other relatives were born there. In Praia, the capital city, we saw the home of the famous, now deceased singer, Cesara Evora known as the "Barefoot Diva" (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/a-local-life-singer-cesaria-evora-was-called-the-barefoot-diva/2011/12/17/gIQAp2710O_story.html). In Sal, our hotel was on the ocean and there we had the opportunity to meet the Cape Verdean soccer team. We ate delicious Cape Verdean dishes, that I had come to know through my husband's family, including Manchup, which is the national dish (http://leitesculinaria.com/9998/writings-manchup-cape-verdes-national-dish-is-a-savory-mix.html), jag (rice and beans) and other traditional specialties. This trip was especially important for us, as my husband had the opportunity to see the homeland of his mother's family and our children now know what Cape Verde is like since they had heard so much about it growing up and it is part of their lineage. I enjoyed each island that we visited. We had to take a small plane to get to each one and my favorite of all was Sao Vincente (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g482854-Sao_Vicente-Vacations.html). We stayed at a hotel in Mindelo, which was perfectly quaint. The beauty of this island was such that I decided then, that living there someday for a time, to write and get to know the people more would not be an implausible option. No trip to West Africa should take place without visiting some of these lovely islands. The history of Cabo Verde is also incredibly interesting! (http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ad50).
So this concludes Part I. Stay Tuned for my next post, which will take us to South Africa and Egypt! You don't want to miss either of these amazing places! Until then, below are some travel tips to ponder. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures, On the Road, in the U.S. and Canada

Who makes a decision to pursue a doctoral degree at Columbia University, Teachers College, as a young married woman with a two year old toddler and another baby on the way? That would be me. The next question must be "what were you thinking? " Well, I guess I was thinking that I was superwoman and I could do it all and quickly learned that I am not. It was so challenging that in actuality if you ask me how I did it, I would have to say it is all a blur. I relied a great deal on the support of my loving husband and my mother. He was my rock and she was an angel mother/babysitter/food preparer, goddess. If you have people that believe in you, you can do anything! My babies were wonderful. I already had our daughter, who was two at the time, and our son was born, just before my first semester was to begin. I put a time frame on this endeavor, telling everyone that I would complete my doctorate in two years and I did. I had taken a break for two years, after completing my Master's Degree at Yale University, and felt that I handled that pretty well, worked a bit after and being a wife and a mother came naturally so why not mix it up? And so I dived in, head first, of course, dragging my body along for the ride.
Little did I know that one day, in class, when one of my Professor's announced that he had received funding from AAA for the development of a survey that would require a doctoral student to travel to ten locations: eight states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada, I would end up doing that too. He explained that all expenses would be paid and data used from the study would lead to completion of a doctoral dissertation. "Is anyone interested?" he asked. I raised my hand so quickly and so high that I knew it had to be involuntary. My brain said yes and directed my body to follow suit and I was the only person in the room that responded. "Ok," the Professor responded. See me in my office after class so we can discuss your participation. Then he proceeded with the lecture. I sat there thinking, but my babies, husband, travel, suitcases, breastfeeding, life! What have I committed to? I was screaming with excitement and fear on the inside, while appearing outwardly calm.

We met, I became a Research Assistant and also learned that this role would pay for a good chunk of my tuition and I would get a stipend. It would also facilitate my plan of finishing in two years. Yes! The travel would be done over a period of six months and my husband and mother agreed to pitch in to help with the babies as always, stepping it up even more. I would work harder than ever, to get this done. I literally lived out of a suitcase at that time. I traveled to Providence, RI, Omaha, Nebraska, San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA, Pittsburgh, PA, Miami, FL, Grand Rapids, MI and Alberquerque, NM in the US and Edmonton Alberta and Hamilton Ontario in Canada.
I was met by a AAA representative in each city. My only requirement for each trip was that upon my arrival, I would be taken on a tour to include the inner city of each location upon landing. I required the inner city because I wanted to see the people and the living conditions, as although I had taken on this project, at the core of my interest was culture and health disparities--the gap between the health status of Black and White people in America and the role that socioeconomic status plays in that scenario. I am writing a book about the latter now and others on cultural competency (http://blogs.jblearning.com/health/2012/10/04/special-author-event-dr-patti-rose-at-books-books-in-coral-gables-fl/) as the gap still remains a problem. The survey from my research for the travel proposed by my Professor would ultimately be used to assess the drinking and driving attitudes of Young Drivers. My Professor, Dr. James Malfetti, Sr. became my mentor and guide throughout this process, which I knew was a blessing. He was truly a brilliant, professional and heightened my learning experience with his wisdom. Although he is no longer with us, I am so glad that I had the opportunity to thank him for helping me to accomplish my goal of acquiring my doctorate and graduating in two years so I could get back to my family.

My husband joined me on the California portion of the experience as two of the locations were Los Angeles and San Francisco.
We had a blast, as I visited high schools, in between fun to conduct my research.
I enjoyed every state that I visited and realized the vastness, beauty, similarities and differences of every location. Some of the highlights were Alberquerque, New Mexico where I was very intrigued by the presence of Native American people and developed my love for turquoise jewelry, handcrafted and intertwined with silver and other traditional, native American art pieces. I loved San Francisco, although it was colder than I thought it would be, and I realized that I don't like sour dough bread but love dungeness crabs. I was shocked by the contrast in Los Angeles as I collected data from students at a high school in a high socioeconomic status neighborhood where there were lamborghinis and beyond in the parking lot and a school in Compton where I collected data from students in a trailer, which was their classroom. That is just not right, I thought and that resonated with me deeply. I found Nebraska interesting because I was shocked when I saw Black people there. I don't know why but I hadn't envisioned that until I remembered that Malcolm X was born there and then I appreciated it more.

To see the rest of this story, details on other great locations, beyond my dissertation research destinations,  along with  travel tips, visit this site:
Naturalistas, just believe in yourself and you can and will achieve your dreams!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures -- Number Two -- Honeymoon In the Bahamas

When I was a young girl, I decided that I would get married in the Triangle Church, which was actually entitled, St. Albans Congregational Church, in St. Albans, Queens.
I was not a member of this church nor was my family but I just thought it was so beautiful that someday, I would have my wedding there. I have always been big on deciding what I want to happen, seeing it in my minds eye and then manifesting it through repeating my desires and visualizing. It sounds hokey but I later put this into action through vision boards and I find it amazing that this process truly works. I also decided that I wanted to honeymoon in the Poconos. When I reflect back on the latter choice, it makes me smile because my dreams were not solidified in terms of international travel. I had been to Canada and Aruba but my travel ideas were still small.
When it was time for me to marry, after meeting my wonderful husband while we were both students at Yale University, soon after we graduated, I fulfilled my dream of having a beautiful wedding in the Triangle Church.

As we planned for the wedding, I shared with my best friend at the time, the Poconos honeymoon idea. She laughed and said, "You can't honeymoon in the Poconos. You should go to the Caribbean. You don't have to go far. What about the Bahamas? That will be so romantic." That definitely seemed like a great idea so I shared it with my then fiancé and he loved it. The plan was on. We chose Nassau, as it was a popular spot, and once again I was dreaming of crystal blue water, white sand beaches and the joy of traveling internationally.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/50-countries-and-counting_b_8896258 Our wedding was beautiful, followed by a lovely reception, which included all of our family and friends, a champagne fountain and other libations, delicious food, a lovely cake and gifts galore. I was now Mrs. Rose, a married woman, and off to my honeymoon with a young man whom I loved with all my heart. We arrived at the airport, with luggage in hand and excitement beyond my imagination, ready to check in and board our plane (there was no TSA then). However, upon proceeding to check in for our flight, we were advised that the rules had changed ten days earlier. We needed a passport, birth certificate or baptismal record, or another form of ID, none of which we had on us. This situation was unbelievable! We called our travel agent (yes, they were very active then -- no online bookings) and he panicked advising that he had forgotten about this change and said he'd re-book us to fly out the next day. Immediately, I began to cry, comforted by my husband and we left the airport. I called my mother and my best friend Valerie, who tried to console me. Valerie rushed to my mother's house and they had all of our wedding gifts on display on my mother's dining room table, for us to open, when I arrived in an effort to try and bring back some joy. My mother had my birth certificate ready for me.

My husband's hometown was in Connecticut, in a small city called Norwich. We would have to drive there (It would take us 2.5 hours). When he called his parents, they told him they could not find his birth certificate in their house. They would have to go to their church (they were Catholic) to get his baptismal certificate. We headed there with earnest. I was a bit calmer because all seemed resolved and my husband assured me that our honeymoon would be just as wonderful, a day later. We arrived at his parent's home and he went to the church with his mother. To make a long story short, they came back about an hour later and Jeff's mother was in tears. My husband had a look of shock on his face. It turns out that there was some confusion in locating his baptismal certificate at the church when the priest couldn't find it. Jeff's mother then recalled that the reason was because the priest should look under a different last name. My husband was surprised and confused and then it happened. They found it and he learned that...
For the rest of the story and travel tips (especially tip number 3 for Naturalistas specifically), check out--http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/50-countries-and-counting_1_b_8908314
Believe it and you will achieve it Naturalistas!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

50 Countries And Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures--First Stop Aruba!

When I graduated from Jamaica High School (which is now closed and I'm sad about that, which is another story for another time), in Queens, New York, it was an exciting time in my life. I had been accepted to college and would leave home in the fall. My graduation gift from my parents was a suitcase and a trip to Aruba with my best friend at the time, Valerie Wilson. We were so excited. It would be only my second trip out of the country as the first was to Canada, Montreal specifically, on a bus. That trip was also fun. It was just a bunch of folks from the neighborhood on an organized bus excursion, with tours and such but as I look back, it was not my ideal travel experience. However, I did have a wonderful time with my neighborhood friends on that trip. I'll give you the skinny on that story in a future post when I cover Canada, as I traveled there several times later in my life.
As I began this venture of writing about my travels, I decided to find pictures that my friend Valerie and I took in Aruba. It was so long ago, so I began an intense search, which took hours. After high school, Valerie and I stayed in touch. She organized, along with my mother, my bridal and baby showers and was in my wedding. Over the years, we moved and lost touch and I often wondered how she was doing. As I was rummaging through my house to find some of our pictures from Aruba, I also went online to see if I could find her, as I prepared to write this piece, and sadly I found her obituary along with her husband's on-line. They died three years apart, she in 2014 and he in 2011. I was devastated. I met him a few times, when they first met, and Valerie was very excited about him. They were a cool couple together and she later became Valerie Distant when they married. Valerie is so important to my travels because it was with her that I took my first international trip by air and when I realized that travel would become a key aspect of my life. My next trip, after Aruba, was to the Bahamas for my honeymoon with my husband. This trip (the subject of the next installment of this series) was also recommended by Valerie so stay tuned because you will not believe where we were planning to go before she intervened and advised us otherwise and what happened before my husband and I left for this trip. In any event, at the time that I traveled to Aruba, it was still part of the Netherlands Antilles. What I remember most are the trade winds and the Divi-divi trees, in which the wind was so strong that the trees seemed to be in a permanent sway. This tree is Aruba's trademark. Although I am a steadfast naturalista now, at that time, I had a perm and short hair, and it seemed that every time I came outside in Aruba, the wind would blow so hard that having any kind of do was not an option. I didn't care. The water was blue, the weather was warm, we were on the beach, having an international experience and I was thrilled. We took a boat ride where I went on jet skis for the first and last time in my life. That was a fun thing to do, but I was terrified after falling repeatedly, which Valerie found hilarious while I was a wreck. Nevertheless, Aruba was amazing and the travel bug bit me. My skin was already cocoa brown but when I returned home from Aruba, I was darker and I loved it. I was only there for a week but the sun had bathed my skin creating a darker shade that everyone, back at home, noticed immediately when I returned. There were so many questions about where I had been and excitement when I said Aruba, that I knew I had done something worthy of repeating, over and over again, namely travel.
I have since returned to Aruba, for a conference, and it's a bit different from when I went there the first time. It wasn't quite as touristy then as it was when I went for my return trip, although the hotels on the beach were lovely both times. Valerie and her family had vacationed there many times so she knew the exact hotel to pick and I trusted her judgment. We had a buffet breakfast every morning with an array of fresh fruit and choices of all kind of deliciousness. We joked about the pace of service as we felt it was a bit slow but then realized we were enjoying Caribbean time, which was more relaxed than the hustle and bustle that we had become accustomed to in New York. I was fascinated by the fact that the people spoke Papiamento. This language is comprised of Spanish Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, Arawakan and African languages, which was absolutely intriguing to me. I also loved that the cheese and milk were from goats rather than cows, which was a little nuance that, along with the language, was different from anything that I had ever experienced. Everything about the experience was enjoyable to my senses.
So my recommendation from my first international travel experience, by air, is to begin your travels as early in your life as possible. I wish I had started as a little girl rather than as a teenager because I felt I had so much catching up to do. Realizing this, when my husband and I had our two children, we started traveling the world with them when they were around ages 5 and 7, with their little knapsacks on their back and their small personal suitcases. They were worthy travel companions, which I will discuss as this series continues. As a young woman of 18 years old, I was fascinated by my trip to Aruba and it began my journey into culture and diversity and my insatiable love for travel. So, RIP Valerie Distant. I thank her for starting me on this journey and I hope that her journey beyond this world continues to be filled with adventure and excitement. I also thank my parents, who have also passed beyond this world (may they RIP) for giving me the gift of travel, which started beautiful travel experiences for my family, and me which continue.
Below are some tips on how you can begin your travel journey, if you have not already, which I hope you will find useful. Tips will follow throughout this travel series, with more detail each time. To see travel tips visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patti-r-rose/50-countries-and-counting_b_8896258 Believe it and you will achieve it Naturalistas!