Road Trip Precipitates New Life


It is often said that there is more fun and excitement when you do a road trip with someone else.  Well, in my case, that is proving to be true.  My gal pal and I set off on our adventure in the state of Georgia and we already have a few stories to tell to family and friends, as well as, some pictures to show.  So here goes.

The 90 degree weather is great and we are enjoying every bit of the sunshine so far, having left behind cooler temperatures from our respective home states.  We arrived very late in the night, only to awake our sleeping host at the Airbnb location where we are staying.  The next morning, after picking up our vehicle at the rental location in Midtown Atlanta, we proceeded to set out on our journey.  First incident that happened right out of the gate was my plug-in GPS malfunctioned.  Every time I would enter an address in the device, it would revert to a New York location.  It was disconcerting for a while not having clear directions, but to move in traffic aimlessly for a short while until we could correct the problem.  With no map in hand nor a Map-Quest print-out of directions like back in the old days before GPS, we were helpless, but thank God for cell phones and Google Maps.  To cut to the chase, we managed to reboot the gadget and it has been working fine ever since.

 

Our travels have taken us to popular tourist attractions and historical sites in and around the Atlanta Metro Area.  We’ve visited a few parks including Stone Mountain and watched their spectacular laser show.  Fall festivals are in full swing and we’ve enjoyed browsing the stalls at a few of them.  We’ve also been on a couple interesting tours in the downtown area.  My girlfriend and I after walking in Piedmont Park decided to check out a few blocks in Midtown.  As we walked, we talked about many things and caught up on the different direction our lives have taken us over the years.  In the midst of the evening walk, we entered a fancy hotel to ask for information.  On the way out the door, coming towards us was the familiar face of the man who plays the father’s role in the popular TV Show – Greenleaf.  We walked right next to him, and on realizing who we were looking at, we both turned around as we watched his tall lean frame stride into the bar at the end of the lobby.  I tried to run after him, but my friend grabbed my arm immediately and prevented me from following him.  I am not a groupie or even a fan of the TV show, but we both recognized who we had just passed.  We left the hotel laughing and talking about our near encounter and the possibility of what could have happened if I had escaped my friend’s tight grip and been allowed to say hello.

 

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Community Peeps, in my previous post I said this trip would serve a dual purpose – an adventure, as well as, a precursory introduction to a new life in this state.  A job prospect is already on the horizon and the search for a comfortable abode is underway.  We are having a blast and most evenings I am too tired to think or even write a post.  We are dead on our feet at the end of the day and are eager to rest.  So far, we are becoming familiar with the major roads and dealing with the heavy traffic at rush hour.  It has been an exciting two weeks already as we venture further away from our base every day.  Check out the photos of what we have seen to date.  Your comments are always welcome, so go ahead and let me know in the box below if you have visited any of these places too.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Daxing International Is Out Of The Gate


Navigating through airports should not be a daunting task.  Daxing International, the newest airport in Beijing, is making sure travelers traversing from one end of the terminal to the next, finds doing so as easy as ABC.  The newly built star fish shaped mega terminal is purported to be 700,000 square meters (the size of 98 soccer fields put together, or half the size of Hong Kong).  It rivals its Asian cousin Changi International Airport in Singapore for the prolific points of interest and probably bests it in the category of technology.

Daxing International Airport is currently the world’s largest airport and is expected to handle 70 million passengers annually by 2025 and over 100 million by 2040.  The impressive terminal was opened this week by China’s President Xi Jinping, with many dignitaries, engineers, airport planners, et al to witness the auspicious event.  The original purpose for this second airport in Beijing was to scale back the use of the main airport and ease some of the travel burden experienced at Beijing Capital International.  However, since rolling out the project and the new structure took shape, planners have finally decided that both airports in Beijing will operate concurrently.

To make the travel experience less foreboding, technology has been one of the features that cause this airport to stand out.  From the minute a passenger enters through the doors, they will be on camera.  The facial recognition technology will be operating to process the passenger through the necessary securities and gates in record time.

Beijing Capital and Daxing currently trail Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International in America as the second busiest airport in the world.  Certainly, Daxing International is out of the gate vying for bragging rights and looking to topple the US airport from its perch as the busiest in the not too distant future.  This recent opening is added to the repertoire of structures throughout China that may be considered worth visiting.  I have said this before and will say it again, itinerary planners like myself must include an airport discovery plan as part of the to-dos for clients once directing through such terminals.

Community Peeps, I don’t have a bucket list but if I did, touring Daxing would certainly be on it.  More and more, we are seeing engineering feats that boggle the mind as first world countries build mega structures worth viewing.  The amusing thought to me is, while the plan is to get passengers through terminals as quickly as possible, by way of the sundry attractions (this may be intentional too), they make it more difficult to leave.  In my humble opinion as an occasional tourist and itinerary planner, no longer is travel through these mega airports an in an out process.   What is your opinion on this issue?  Share your thoughts with me in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Thelma And Louise Hackers


Road trips are all about adventure and exploring the unknown in a vehicle.  There is a familiar movie of two women venturing off by themselves, escaping from their norms, moving from place to place to enjoy time on the road.  Even though I have never viewed the film in its entirety but have only seen snippets of it, I’ve gotten the gist and feel a kindred spirit to the two females and the adventurous tug they felt, to also embark on a similar road trip myself along with another gal pal.  You might recall, even Oprah and her best friend Gayle did something similar too.  So, because of a lack of originality, my girlfriend and I have become hackers and have dubbed this trip our ‘Thelma and Louise’ trip.

Our proposed road trip will be in the state of Georgia.  It is not only a getaway but will also serve as an introduction to my new home base.  For three weeks we will meander the highways and byways, visit favorite sites and points of interest, and become familiar with routes and main arteries that provide easy access in an out of the metro Atlanta area.  Since neither of us has ever undertaken such a trip before, it isn’t an understatement to say we are excited and intimidated at the same time.  We do not know what to expect, therefore I am going to beg your indulgence and ask for tips to make these upcoming three weeks a fabulous introduction for me and a vacation getaway at least for one of us 😊.  Give some insight and directions on what we can do to ensure the trip goes smoothly, and how to plan and prepare for the trek. Even though I am an itinerary planner, I can’t claim to know everything and so your suggestions can be very insightful.

Community Peeps and visitors to this blog, we are your modern-day Thelma and Louise hackers who are depending on your input.  Share your road trip experience in the comment box.  Ready or not, we will begin our drive at the end of this month, and I hope it will be all that we envision it to be, with your suggestions, of course.  Your recommendations will be helpful and appreciated.  So, as we hit the road (no pun intended) I hope to tell interesting updates on our progress and encounters each week.  If your tip is used at anytime along the way I will mention it and the name of your blog site in the update.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Check the Cheque


This post will be brief but nonetheless succinct.  The majority of travelers are usually short on the amount of money they have in pocket versus the amount of time they are on vacation.  A fabulous getaway will definitely include bills for: accommodation, meals, entertainment, excursions and shopping sprees.  While it is nice to be able to purchase whatever you want without having to look at the price tag a few times or be overwhelmed by the price, it is still necessary for the budget traveler to create a bespoke itinerary that helps them to keep in check the how, what and where, the budgeted monies that are set aside, will be spent.  Even though many tourists include these dedicated funds as part of their itinerary expenditure for particular purchases, they may discover some inconsistencies that may turn their dream vacation into a nightmare.

A surprise charge, miscalculation, data entry error, or flat-out swindling are all scenarios that can alarm the unsuspecting traveler.  It is therefore imperative to review invoices received in stores, hotels, restaurants, and especially in dimly lit bars.  Take the time to check your order thoroughly before signing on the dotted line or before handing over your credit card.   Peter Lalor an Australian journalist and beer critic was thrown for a loop (thousands of dollars) at what he was charged for a bottle of beer.  Ordinarily, when he buys the various ales to taste and critique, they do not cause him to break his budget limit, but this particular brew nearly sent him to the poor house.  He is still hopeful that the error will be corrected and that he’ll be refunded the exorbitant amount he was charged.  Read of his debacle here.

Sometimes we are in a rush and only become aware of invoice mistakes, whether intentional or inadvertent, when it is too late. Here are a few tips to manage your charges when on vacation.

  1. Designate someone to go over the invoice and handle payment if you become inebriated.
  2. Whatever the circumstance, establish a spending limit and make sure that you are charged correctly.
  3. Calculate your purchases beforehand, include the necessary taxes and gratuities before calling for the check or going to the register.
  4. Be aware of the day’s exchange rate acceptable at your shopping establishments if paying in foreign currency.
  5. Question any differences on your bill immediately. It may be harder to be refunded if an error is noticed a day or two after the fact.

Community Peeps, I try to practice what I preach.  Whether at home or abroad, I always check the charges on invoices.  Invariably, I have found when I don’t, and there have been a few times when I didn’t, I would always realize a discrepancy which was too late to correct.  What has been your experience on this subject?  Were you ever overcharged or charged for items/services you never received on vacation?  Share your experience or additional tips in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Hurricane Dorian At Your Doorstep


In elementary school, we learned a pithy little saying which we would recite every year to remind us what season it was.  It went like this, “June too soon.  July stand by.  August a must.  September remember.  October all over.”  This little rhyme helped children to know the months hurricanes are expected to strike.  Though August is a popular travel month and summer is at its zenith, it is also one of the worst times for weather conditions in the Caribbean.  Storms, squalls, frequent rains and gale-force winds are common occurrences.  Usually by the time we hear of an approaching hurricane, the first letter in the name indicates how many other hurricanes, although not a threat, may have already passed for the season.  At this time of the year, I get a little nervous for my family members, friends and fellow Barbadians (Bajans).

This week my island paradise – Barbados, was on lock down for more than 24 hours, halting air traffic in and out of the island.  Dorian was still considered in the tropical storm category at that time as it came barreling up the Atlantic coast, making a beeline to the 166 square miles of coral and limestone rock I call home.  As usual, Bajans took all necessary precautions to secure themselves, homes and businesses.   Supermarkets and gas stations were overwhelmed with people in long lines as locals stocked up on non-perishable items to sustain them in the aftermath.  Shelters were manned, prepared and ready to receive persons who felt unsafe in their homes or in distress.  The Government Information Service and Meteorological Department gave timely updates on the progress of the tropical storm and expected times when it would make landfall.  Prime Minister Mia Mottley in a press conference urged Bajans to work together and to prepare for the onslaught.  A curfew was initiated and the islanders hunkered down fearing the worse.  The last and deadliest hurricane to strike Barbados was back in 1955 – Hurricane Janet.  Even though it happened more than 64 years ago, folks who experienced it still talk of the strong winds, flattened houses and overall devastation left in its wake.

How has Dorian impacted me you might ask?  Well, all thanks be to God, my family members are safe.  My niece who is an EHS manager with Sandals Resort worked through the night to ensure the safety of guests and staff.  Obviously, beach front properties face the first strong winds to blow in from the sea and every precaution is taken to ensure the safety and evacuation of guests as necessary.   Also, far away from home, four family members, a nurse and a teacher, respectively, along with their sons are visiting the USA on vacation could not return to Barbados due to the lock-down.  Their flight was cancelled, and they are now scheduled to return in September.  This delay puts their jobs in jeopardy, but I am hopeful their bosses will be understanding and accommodating.  I am glad to say, both these situations are mild inconveniences but are not life threatening and for that I am grateful.

Though the people of Barbados are blest and were fortunate to escape the wrath of tropical storm Dorian, it has since gained strength, momentum and become a full-fledged hurricane at the doorstep of other countries and populations.  It is currently baring down on those in the Bahamas and threatening those along the Florida coastline.  I am praying for the safety of everyone.  Especially for those affected residents directly in its path, first responders and emergency workers.  In the meantime, for those traveling here are some tips to remember if caught in this vortex:

  1. You can expect delays or flight cancellations, check with your airline on departure time
  2. Plan to rearrange your itineraries if scheduled to depart or arrive at your holiday destination
  3. Listen to weather updates and accede to directives on safety measures as given by those in authority
  4. Seek help if needed
  5. Know where your shelter is and how to get to it
  6. Have medications and prescriptions filled in case of inaccessibility to a pharmacy for a few days
  7. Keep all your electronic devices fully charged
  8. Prepare a go-bag

Community Peeps, I’ve never experienced a hurricane, nor do I want to.  Having said that, I acknowledge it must be a traumatic experience for residents furthermore any visiting tourist who have had the misfortune to encounter.  If you have been through such an ordeal at home or abroad, please tell us of it here.  Write it and additional tips in the comment box below.  Share how you dealt with the situation and what you did to be safe.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

Grounded For Insensitivity


The flight experience for a seasoned or first time traveler can be nerve racking depending on the circumstances.  What causes most of the fear and trepidation is the dislike of air turbulence and unexpected engine troubles, but there is another anomaly that may impact a passenger’s experience negatively, and that’s the insensitive handling of passengers by flight personnel.

Since 9/11 the travel experience has taken on a new dimension in terms of acceptable or questionable behaviors on board an aircraft.  The slightest disturbance puts everyone on edge and the flight which could have been a relaxing one becomes charged and full of tension.  For the most part, flight crews are trained to deal with disruptive situations sensitively, quickly and effectively.  However, that is not always the case.  Recently a family experienced improper handling while boarding an aircraft.  Read of their ordeal here.  After the incident, the entire crew was grounded.

I have traveled extensively, and this report brought back to my memory two incidences pre 9/11 that I had forgotten.  The first one was on a trip from New York to Florida.  I was traveling with a group of friends to the port where we would board the cruise ship.  On that flight, a young man became agitated.  He started rambling, crying inconsolably and would get out of his seat even when the “fasten seat belt” sign was on.  The stewardesses tried their best from time to time to calm him down.  They were sympathetic to his plight, but firm in their handling of the situation.  He was en route to see his mother but had been informed that she had died.  The distraught man was treated by the stewardesses with compassion and not as if he was a threat to other passengers.  In today’s climate, he would probably be met at the gate by law enforcement officers and escorted from the plane for his irrational behavior on board the aircraft.

The other incident I recall took place at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport.  I was in transit.   Almost immediately after boarding, some men marched down one of the aisles to the back of the plane.  Loud shouting, tumbling and rumbling ensued.  Attempts to stand and look around where quickly squashed by a few of the men standing in the aisle.  We were told to remain seated, and to keep facing forward.  Sounds of scuffling, shouting and pain inflicted cries were heard throughout the cabin, as the flight crew looked on.  The only word I could understand was “Allah.”   Obviously, the male passenger who was being roughly handled had run afoul of the law.  The interrogation lasted for a little while causing the plane to sit at the gate.  Finally, the lead stewardess approached the undercover agents and insisted that either the passenger be taken off the plane or that the aircraft be allowed to leave.   We were already behind schedule.   The passenger was unceremoniously removed by the officers and the pilot taxied from the gate.

Community Peeps, as I said earlier, both incidences occurred prior to 9/11.  If they had to happen in this day and age, I am sure the outcome would be totally different from what they were back then.  Suspected infringements by other travelers and/or insensitive handling by the flight staff can help to exacerbate any nervousness and tension passengers may already be feeling.  Have you experienced insensitive handling by a crew member at any time while traveling?   Share in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Walking Around Times Square


A girl’s day out is always a fun time, but when there is something to celebrate, that makes it all the more special.  To honor the birthday girl we decided to spend the day in Manhattan.  A Broadway show and dinner at the end was the plan, but in New York City you often get more than you bargain for.  We were all excited and looked forward with eagerness of the much talked about musical.   From my perspective, I had forgotten how electrifying The Big Apple is.  To be there in the hustle and bustle of this amazing city added to the excitement we were feeling.

We started out on the day’s adventure with a short stroll through a Queens neighborhood to the subway station for the ride into the city.  A least one of us had not taken the subway since the days of using tokens to enter the turnstiles, and two of us had to be introduced on how to use the vending machines for metro-cards.  It was almost laughable, but we felt like visiting tourists in our very own city.   It was as though we were seeing things for the first time and discovering the beauty of the city all over again.  The underground train ride was smooth and uneventful.

We arrived at the theatre ahead of schedule and decided to walk around a bit to pass the time.  We browsed nearby shops and somehow managed to restrain ourselves from purchasing the tempting items that were for sale.  Again, I had forgotten how artful some vendors can be in trying to entice the mesmerized shopper to purchase their goods.  Time came for the theatre and we headed back to the location.  The show was two and a half hours.  It was not a disappointment and those two and a half hours felt more like an hour.  The songs were familiar, and from time to time I could hear my neighbors quietly humming the tunes.  The story-line was interesting too.  I am not a critic by any means, but it is my opinion and safe to say, that judging from the applause throughout the show and especially at the end that the cast did an excellent job.

After the show, it was time to eat and we chose Italian food, one of my favorite cuisines.  Our birthday celebrant was treated to a surprise serenade and cake.  She was happy.  Stuffed to the brim with a sumptuous meal, we agreed to walk it off and that’s where a whole new “show” began.  We walked around Times Square, sometimes taking photos of ourselves and on occasion for others who stopped us and asked.  We watched in amazement at the sea of people milling around in the area.  It was great just to watch the wonder and excitement on the faces of the families, couples, individuals that we passed.  We could tell most of them were visitors to our city because of their picture taking and selfie posing.  Those who sat on the riser steps at the Ticket Master booth were seated as if they were watching a sporting event or concert.  They were packed in, shoulder to shoulder, in every inch of space with hardly any room for others to climb the steps.  As far as the eye could see, people were standing around gazing at the jumbo screens, watching street artists perform, snapping photos of girls displaying body art among everything else that was going on around them.  If you ask me, and I say this facetiously, who needs Broadway when you have so much going on within the few blocks that is called Times Square?

Community Peeps, The Big Apple (New York City) is an amazing place to visit.  It is vibrant, interesting and holds a wonder that simply cannot be found anywhere else in the world.  We spent more time walking around Times Square than we had planned.  A place that once had a sleazy reputation but now is considered a must-do and ‘the place’ to visit when in Manhattan.  If you have visited this city, please tell me of your experience and if you agree with me about Times Square in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

Protracted Summer-itis


The end of summer is looming but it does not have to be a dreaded time.  Surveys have proven people are happier during the summer months and I can understand why.  It is the best time of the year to take a vacation.  There are more scheduled outdoor activities and events to attend.  Kids are on break from school for a while.  There are more daylight hours to enjoy the things we love to do outdoors, and the weather is warm and inviting except for a few natural conditions that may arise here and there.  On a whole there are lots of reasons why summertime is the best three months of the year.

Having said all of that, you will agree with me that it is quickly slipping away day after day.  Nothing we can do to make time stand still and summer remain forever.  That would be wishful thinking, selfishness and inconsideration to those who love the other seasons of the year.  However, for all those who may already be feeling dread at seeing the summer winding up so quickly, I have some thoughtful suggestions which may cheer you up.

  1. Start planning your next vacation. It is not too early to consider your options.  Plan a sunny getaway for those coming months when it will be cold and dark.  Look around at all the places and possibilities like cruising, short trips to the nearby Caribbean and South America.  Decide now what type of trip it will be, whether an adventurous one or a sedate, relaxing time away with your significant other or alone.
  2. Write it down. This will help to map out your plan and lay the foundation for the vacation of your dreams and how you plan to achieve it.  Seeing it all on paper may help you to visualize all the possibilities.  Keeping a list of vacation to-dos will keep your plans in focus and give you something to look forward to during the colder months.
  3. Set time frames. Put achievable limits on your plans.  Do not leave your itinerary plans to the last minute.
  4. If you have more money you can do a whole lot more for the vacation you want, agreed? Well, create a savings plan.  Open savings account and systematically contribute a decided amount weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.  Create a budget for your holiday spend.
  5. Go shopping. It’s therapy.  As retailers restock their shelves with fall merchandise and are eager to get rid of summer stock, cash in on the bargains that you can use in future travels.  Items such as:  Sandals, straw hats, beachwear and trendy summer fashion that would be totally out of place in the deep freeze.
  6. Having bought a new wardrobe, donate the gently used threads to a local thrift store. This is therapy too.  Charitable gifts will fulfill someone else’s travel dreams.
  7. Set your goals, time-frames and commit to your plans.  Post a copy of your plan in an area where you can see it and be reminded of the approaching date.

Community Peeps, experiencing protracted summeritis helps me to cope through each season until the next summer begins.  Maybe you have other ways of dealing with seeing this summer wrapping up that you would like to share with me.  Please do so in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Room Check Please


I don’t like snakes.  Plain and simple.  None.  Not even rubber snakes.  This week I read of a woman who woke up in her hotel room to find a garden snake on her arm.  At first thinking it was her husband she suddenly remembered he was not there; and opened her eyes to the surprise of her life.  She jumped up flinging the serpent across the room.  Read of her ordeal here.  Now I can’t begin to tell you what my reaction would have been.  Surely some screaming and hollering, then beating the life out of that snake.

Don’t call animal rights activists for me just yet, I actually do like animals but not that close.  It is my practice to thoroughly check my hotel room before settling down for a good night’s sleep.  I look under the bed and peel back the covers for anything that may be lurking in the dark areas, also I check behind picture frames and vanities for large holes where small animals can hide or for hidden cameras.  These things have been known to happen and I do not want to be a victim.  I also do the mirror test again for any spying activity but that’s a different post for another time.

To do a quick search of the room only takes a few minutes.   It helps to put my mind at ease.  To eliminate the possibility that there may be unwanted intruders from the animal kingdom such as centipedes, lizards, millipedes, roaches, spiders, scorpions, etc. is paramount to me enjoying a restful sleep in a relax environment.  Now, you may think I’m being a bit over the top, paranoid, or even influenced by too much television, but the fact of the matter is I prefer that all creatures remain in their natural habitats and not venture into mine.

I can still recall with trepidation the anxiety and fears I felt while visiting a boarding school/orphanage in Cambodia.  After a tour of the school and the orphanage’s living quarters, I sat down with my host at a picnic table under a tree with large shady branches, to eat the meal they prepared for me.  A few of the children would wander in an out of the space.  Some with quizzical looks on their faces.  Of course, our conversation was about life on the compound.  Among other things, I learned that the host’s pet dog became blind because of an attack from a spitting viper found under their bed, and at one time while eating at the same picnic table a snake dropped unceremoniously down from the branches.  Everyone scattered.  I don’t think those stories were told to frighten me.  The host was just recounting a day in their life of always expecting the unexpected.  However, my reaction was to immediately scan the tree and nearby shrubbery for snakes.  Needless to say, I was wary from that moment on.

Community Peeps, you may recall in a previous post (check the blog archives) how I talked of my ordeal in Trinidad and Tobago and my encounter with a few geckos in the room.  How my companion and I spent the entire night watching the geckos on the ceiling to make sure they didn’t fall on us (we had never seen geckos before).  We didn’t sleep a wink but kept the lights on the whole time.   Come to think of it, the geckos were probably more scared of us than we were of them 😁😁.   What has been your experience with any unwelcome room occupants other than your pet?  Please tell of the experience, good or bad, in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

A Couple Close Calls


As I pull my thoughts together to speak of unwanted surprises I had while traveling, a smile spreads across my face recalling my panic and hysteria at the time.  Essential travel documents like passports and visas are needed to enter foreign countries.  An itinerary planner knows to double check, cross check, and recheck papers to ensure there are no mistakes which can up-end vacation plans.  Well, back then, I was not an itinerary planner, but from a couple close calls, I have learned valuable lessons that shape what I do today to avoid unnecessary pitfalls.  Valid passport and appropriate visas are necessary to begin a fabulous holiday.

The first near miss occurred in a place that was far from home.  The country was Cambodia.  In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, I had originally traveled to Vietnam, and from Ho Chi Minh City, I traveled by long distant coach to Cambodia.  As I exited Vietnam, the entry process into Cambodia was smooth.  Passengers had to disembark to be processed through immigration and customs, then walk less than 100 meters between the two countries to embark the bus again.  A headcount was conducted as we re-boarded and traveled the remaining miles to our final destination.

While in Cambodia I visited many places of interest in both Phnom Penh and Krong Siem Reap, but the biggest draws for me were Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom, Royal Palace, the killing fields and the Tonle Sap River.  When all the sightseeing was over, then the adventure began.  It was time to catch the bus heading back into Vietnam for my impending flight home the next day. I boarded the bus but what a shocker it was when the attendant took my travel documents – passport, airline ticket confirmation and returned to tell me I did not have a visa to re-enter Vietnam.

I was numb.  Even though he tried to explain to me what was wrong, my brain was not comprehending anything.  Of course, I had to disembark, and the bus left for Vietnam without me.  To cut to the chase, besides crying, begging and pleading to everyone for help, I did a lot of praying, running back and forth to offices as directed, made phone calls to my bank to release funds, etc.  That day was one hot mess.  My predicament was dire.  I needed to be in Ho Chi Minh City to catch the return flight back to the USA in time for work the following day.  Total strangers worked tirelessly to process the emergency visa which would allow me entry into Vietnam.  Because the bus was long gone, I had to hire a private taxi to drive to the border where another taxi was waiting to transport me into the Ho Chi Minh.  The ordeal cost me a pretty penny but by this time I was only too glad a resolution had been worked out and so I couldn’t argue.  With the emergency visa in hand, both taxi drivers understood I was in a race against the clock and needed to make up for lost time, so they drove like the wind to cover the distance.

The second near miss was because of a calculation error.  More than 18 months prior to planning a surprise cruise for my Mom and sister, I had checked my passport to confirm everything was in order, and on the day I checked, it was.  However, I had failed to recognize that by the time the future departure date rolled around my passport would be nearing expiration.  At the airport, the ground flight attendant informed me that I could not leave the USA because my passport did not satisfy the amount of time for international travel.  The flight was to Barbados.  Because the flight was very early, I thought the attendant was joking and wanted to make sure I was fully alert and wide awake.  She repeated herself and if I wasn’t awake before, I sure was by then.  She explained my passport was due to expire in less than two months.  For a passport to be acceptable for international travel it must have six or more months of validity.  Grasping the magnitude of what was unfolding sent my body into a panic.  People seemed to be moving in slow motion, voices sounded slower and tears began to fall.  My niece, who was my traveling companion, eyes welled-up with tears, but she could do nothing for me.  It was obvious, she would have to leave without me.  The flight departed, but I was determined to correct my oversight.

To make a long story short, acting on the directions from the flight attendant, I headed to the immigration office in New York City and pleaded my case.  I was told the waiting time to process an emergency request was six weeks.  To my mind, that was not an option.  I needed to be on the island the next day to start a week-long cruise through the Caribbean.   All of a sudden, I was left with a few hours to get there.  After much praying, pleading, and explaining the mistake, I was granted a new passport in less than 8 hours.  I can only attribute all thanks and praise to God for answered prayers.  I missed my flight that day, but was able to fly out the next morning on a flight connecting through Miami. I arrived at my destination with just two hours to spare before boarding the cruise ship at the Bridgetown port.  Needless to say, it was a close call to ruining a perfect surprise vacation for my loved ones.

Community Peeps, all’s well that ends well.  I cannot begin to impress just how important it is to pay attention and double check that you have the correct visas, and updated documents before you travel.  Give yourself enough time to make any adjustments.  Kudos and appreciation to all those strangers who came to my rescue back then.  It is forever etched in my mind.  What has been your experience?  Anything similar?  I’d like to hear of it.  Please share in the comment box below.

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Itinerary Planner

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