Podcast Episode – Travel 101: Female vs Male which Gender is Safer to Travel Solo?

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

The other day I was listening to a TED talk that showed a young man showcasing his recent hitchhiking journey across the world. As I courageously scrolled to the bottom of the page and read the comments from video viewers the majority of the comments centered around one main debate. Well if you haven’t guessed it by now, based on this blog title, the topic of contention was the argument of whether or not a female could embark on the same type of spontaneous solo adventure. Could a single female take the same risks that our video presenter was so casually recapping with the audience? Or are there unspoken travel rules that women have to adhere to that men don’t? The presenters’ talk was meant to inspire listeners to travel and engage with others by discarding their scheduled plans and inhibitions, instead it produced fears and questions about whether he was just “lucky” to have made it back alive.

As someone who has solo traveled many places throughout the world, I must say there are many things one must concern themselves with regarding general safety. Everytime I talk with others about my travels, the first thing they mention is how in awe they are that I have traveled by myself. They mention they could never do that, and wonder how i was able to manage it all ….by myself. Whenever I hear this, I’m in awe that they are in awe. As I haven’t had this fear-based mentality when I’ve traveled. I think if i thought about it, I would never travel- anywhere. Especially not by myself. But since I don’t – I GO.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are travel precautions I take whenever I solo travel and I am typically on heightened alert when perusing a new town. There also are certain places that I’m not interested in going due to my own personal reservations about that particular country. Needless to say, I’ve heard guys who have traveled solo who’ve gotten robbed several times, and females who’ve been to more places than those same male counterparts and have only experienced travel mishaps that weren’t safety related. So at the end of the day it’s really a toss up in my opinion of whether it is safer for men to travel solo vs women. A lot depends on timing, location, and the individual.

What do you think?

Podcast Episode – Personal Finance 101

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

Many of us have dreams of either getting out of our current financial situation or being able to do more in life. We talk about what we wish to do. Whether that be owning a home, buying a car, taking a trip or simply saving more for the future. With the myriad of YouTube videos, self help books and advice or should I say opinions from friends and family one can be overwhelmed with how to go about getting to where they wish to be financially. Should I invest more? What should I invest in? How much can I actually afford to save? What about charitable giving? Forget all that, what about these bills?! I can’t even begin to think about a strategy when I’m barely keeping up with the basic bills that are coming my way. I get it.

Trust me. At some point, however, there comes a point when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. And you start to realize, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. So in order to change you must first tackle the mental barriers that are currently causing the biggest duress. Understanding your relationship with money and what “money mind” you have is a good first start. Do you have a fear money mind, happiness money mind, or commitment money mind. There is a great book called Emotional Currency that will help you to first understand your historical and current view of money. If you decide that hey “I’m good” I think I have a solid view of money and it’s purpose – I still challenge you to read the book because it may jog a few things that you may have never considered. I have been taking this journey over the past 2-3 years of truly understanding how I’ve spent my money and what this says about me. I have taken both a high-level approach and a detailed audit of my spending and how seen areas where I can improve. Of course it has all been choice whether or not I stayed the same or changed my financial decision making. Thank God I have been given the internal push to do the latter. Knowing the alternative to not changing has been a key catalyst for much of this drive.

Now is the time. Not next year or sometime in the future, but now. I think the jarring recognition of now is so key to behavioral changes in personal finance (or anything really for that matter). when I reached the point where my current actions weren’t getting me to where I wanted to be…I decided enough was enough….let’s start now! One of the first things I did was take a detailed audit of my monthly bank statements over the past year. I looked to see what and how much I was spending my money on. What I saw that was the most egregious was in the area of food. As a single person with no kids, I saw that I was spending upwards of $3-400 a month! For some of you this is not a red flag but for me I saw where I could fine tune this area and get on a more contained budget. I then immediately set my goal on $50/week ($200/month). In order to achieve this, I knew that I had to grocery shop and meal plan. For all the lazy people or people who don’t know how to cook…I encourage you to learn how/start. Now the food would last me about 5-6 days out the week and that last day I would treat myself to a meal out of the remaining amount (and sometimes less). This new behavior has dramatically changed both my finances and my lifestyle.

The next thing I did was take a look at my monthly housing expenses. This is probably going to be the toughest thing for many people because of the current state of the housing/rental market. It has been said that the majority of people living in America spend roughly 30-40% (I would even say it’s 50% in most cases) of their annual income on just their housing expenses. Many people are unable to do much of anything because the bulk of their money goes to simply keeping a roof over their heads. I get it. Trust me. Last year I spent 12-14k on rent alone on an less than $20/hr wage. My neighbor even asked me “how are you making it?” He had asked me this because at least in his situation he had a roommate to split the bill. My response to him by the way was – by the grace of God! It truly was, I don’t even know how I was able to sacrifice half of my monthly take home to rent and bills and still travel, eat, etc.

Anyways, I knew that after 8 years of renting I was tired. I no longer wanted to sign another lease. So I made a conscious decision to move back in with family in order to save money. Now I know this option is just not available for many individuals for many reasons, but if it is an available option, please take it! And be intentional and communicate with they person you are moving in with how long you plan on staying. While you are there, don’t get comfortable with the free or low rent from your family. Be intentional. If you are undisciplined enough to save in your current bank account, open up a separate one that either auto-deducts or your manually transfer money that you would have been spending on outside rent each month. The goal is to maximize your time there so that in 6 months, 1, 2 or 3 years you don’t look up at your account balance and go “what happened”? I still cannot go anywhere or do what I wish to do …I’m stuck. If you are at a place where you have no wiggle room at all for any of these things…consider selling your material possessions to either bank the money for an emergency fund of 1-2k or to pay off debt. There are many different strategies you can take to start changing the scope of your personal finance. The biggest key is starting now and being committed to being committed. Many of us are good “starters” but our perseverance is lacking gravely. Some of us can stick to the plan but don’t know where to start.

One of the best things about today’s Information Age is that there are many free learning resources that can do both (help you get started and keep you motivated). Instead of watching the latest Netflix series or Youtube gossip…why don’t you search for how I paid off 100k in debt or how to save for an emergency fund? All in all the concept of personal finance is simple: spend less – save more….but in order to do this you have to be ready to finally sit down and be intentional about your life goals. Because more than we’d like to admit our life goals are largely tied to our life finances and our life finances are tied to our mental and behavioral decisions. This is not dreadful though! In fact, it’s actually quite freeing to take a deep dive into the belly of our finances and chart out a strategy. Even when “life” hits you in the gut and you get off track from your strategy. Know that a “deadline” can always be moved. In fact, I would even plan for what some call a “curveball” fund. Meaning, you are planning for life to throw you a financial curveball at some point in the near future. So instead of being surprised or less prepared you can already have this in your sights as you allocate your finances.

All in all, personal finances can be overwhelming at best and depressing at the very least. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can still choose to do things of high value with the money and resources that you currently obtain/manage. While it may take you longer, don’t get discouraged or envious of others seemingly “doing it.” Stay in your lane and stick to your plan. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, read books, compare stories and strategies and see what works for you.

7 Travel Tips You Might Not Have Thought Of

#1. Bring 2 ball point pens

Especially if you are traveling internationally. Most countries still operate on good ole fashioned pen and paper; and when flight attendants start handing out those customs forms inflight they no longer distribute writing utensils (aka pens). Now you could easily ask your neighbor to borrow theirs (that is if they brought one) or you can just wait until you de-plane and spend the time filling out the form at the designated station in the customs area. But who wants to wait? I’ve seen where every second counts once you deplane. The longer you fiddle around trying to get your papers together the greater your chances are of waiting in a line that builds and builds. So save yourself some time and just bring a couple of pens. I say a couple in case one stops working on you in the middle of writing and also in case you want to be a good neighbor and lend out the other pen to the person who didn’t read this blog and neglected to bring a pen :). You’ll also want to bring a pen because you never know when you’ll need to write down information (if you don’t have your phone) or draw directions/make notes on a physical map. I know pens are becoming a thing of the past as we are all moving towards an electronic world, but we are not there yet…fully. So take my advice and remember to stuff a few pens in your bag for your next trip.

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#2. Bring a backup pair of headphones

I’ve never had a problem with my headsets until…..yep you guessed it… until that one time. That one time involved me trying out my new Bluetooth headsets. I had a flight delay on top of a long layover for which I was engaged in a lengthy phone conversation. Once we finally boarded the plane, I proceeded to jump on a flight Wifi to watch a movie and sure enough the dreaded “your battery is low” alert came on immediately. It showed me no mercy as three minutes later, it was no longer “low” but “dead.” Now I had to listen to the chatty cabin while the headset’s recharged. It was at that time that I realized, I should keep a wired back-up pair in my bag just in case this happens again. So I’m here to give you the tip ahead of time so you can keep the listening experience going without interruption.

#3. Checkout the prepaid off-site parking rates at nearby airport hotels

During my last trip, a fellow traveler informed me of an alternate offsite airport parking option that I had never heard about. They mentioned to me that they often utilized the nearby airport hotel parking lot and shuttle service in lieu of the regular offsite airport parking vendors. They said the rate was $4.50/day and that you could pre-pay online here. I have not officially tried this, however it was worth mentioning as a lesser know travel tip! As a bonus option, you can also check Groupon for discount airport parking passes (for which I have personally utilized and can vouch for).

#4. Download airline travel app & Gogo entertainment ahead of time

You don’t want to board the plane, look at the seat back pocket card that gives you instructions on how to access the inflight entertainment (mid-way through the flight) and realize step one is to download the flight app prior to boarding. You really should go ahead and download the app for whichever airline you will be flying prior to checking in. This way you can get a mobile boarding pass, get flight status, and access their inflight entertainment portal. For those unaware of what Gogo entertainment is, it is a third party inflight entertainment application (access to tv, movies, music, etc) that is utilized by several major airliners. You can download it from any smartphone device app store.

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#5. Buy bottled water from restaurants instead of newsstands & “quik marts”

It’s cheaper.

#6. Have a designated pair of “travel socks” to slip on during airport screening

This is pretty self-explanatory. If I had to give a “food score grade” for the airport security TSA screening checkpoint I would give it a 23; and that’s being generous. I unfortunately have been caught a time or two with sandals on and have had to scrape up the filth from that grimey floor onto my newly washed feet. I then had to scurry my way into the women’s bathroom to do a make-shift foot wash and shoe clean. So who want’s to do all that over and over when you can just toss a pair of socks in your carry on or purse and slip them on as you take off your shoes for the security check. Of course those of you who have pre-check can bypass this entire hassle. But hey even if you do have pre-check, it still wouldn’t hurt to have an extra pair of socks on deck for the frigid airplane ride if you plan to wear sandals.

#7. Look at the airport dining options ahead of time

This is really helpful if you are a picky eater or have dietary restrictions. It also helps to have a general idea of who sells what and where they are located in the airport. By scouting out the options you can maximize your layover time. This way you are not spinning your wheels trying to find something to eat. Even if you don’t know exactly how to get to the location, you can at least have the name(s) of the restaurant to ask a nearby worker how to get there. Now this is not fool-proof as I have scouted an airport before via their website, then upon arrival saw that the restaurant had been closed down (and no one cared to update the signage or website). So have a few back-up options in case one or two don’t pan out.

The Delete, Block, and Ghosting Era

Yes, yes y’all – we’re talkin about it! The deletion, blocking and ghosting phenomenon of today. Before I get into it, I want to confess my participation in these shenanigans. Yes, I have been guilty of all three. Sadly. Regrettably. Admittedly. Done them all. Of course not all have been out of spite or conflict avoidance. In fact, most of the blocking has largely been for numbers that I don’t even recognize or repeat telemarketers/robo callers. But I will say that I have blocked a disrespectful guy a time or too as well. Now as far as the deleting that would require me to have first saved your number. Now for me to even get to the point where I feel you have made it to the contact saving phase means that I intend to build some level of relationship. I don’t save random people’s names or people I meet on a whim because I don’t ever think that the encounter will go any further than that moment. It is rare when I feel that it will. Thus I won’t even save your number. I might take it in a note section or save it to my “other” contact section. Now this has backfired a time or two because people seem to assume that I have their number saved for ages and when they send me a random text message (because people don’t call anymore) I have responded with a classic “who is this?” No I don’t lie and say that “I’ve gotten a new phone” or “I lost all my contacts” I simply ask to whom is this message from?

Lastly, as it relates to ghosting – i think ghosting can go hand in hand with blocking but it’s not conclusively cohesive. Sometimes you can ghost someone and still read those messages coming in and simply not respond. To me this is the ultimate sign of disrespect; for which I have tried to limit my participation in this act. Only when I feel that individual has been incredibly rude in some manner to where notifying that person that “I’m good” is counterproductive and futile. I at least respond in some manner, even if I need a day or two to collect my thoughts. But all in all I try not to ghost people, especially because I do not want to be ghosted. But I realize that no matter how much I try the golden rule in this area, people are still going to delete, block or ghost me. For those listening to this podcast and do not know what ghosting is – let me explain. Ghosting can be in two form.

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Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

First it can be receiving a text message and/or phone call from an individual reading it and ignoring it…for an extended and/or indefinite period of time. The second form can be cutting off communication completely by blocking/deleting a person’s number and the other person without notifying that person that you will not be responding to them for whatever reason. Typically this is the ultimate badge of conflict avoidance. When someone does this, rarely it’s because they are “busy” but it’s because they lack the kahunas to communicate with that other person the issues that are prevalent in their relationship with that person. It’s easier to delete, block or ghost someone that to conflict resolve. Because conflict resolution requires skill, transparency, vulnerability, and trust…to name a few. Most people would rather do the easy finger trigger work of pressing a button than pressing into the matter. This is the cultural monster that we’ve only materialized further with the enhancements of technology. No we cannot fully blame technology because that would be using personification as a scapegoat. We as human beings must take ownership in our part of using technology and acknowledge where we have been and are currently guilty of masking our weaknesses behind this mode of communication. I don’t know what your reason for doing any of the three actions mentioned, but if you are brave enough to be honest with yourself and truthfully do some inner assessments you may find that what I have said previously is the case for you.

At the end of the day, no matter how good of a handle you have on these three areas we can all do better – especially when it comes to ghosting people. Have the tough conversation, create closure and respect for the other person. ESPECIALLY, I repeat, ESPECIALLY, if that other person has done no serious wrong to you…but you simply just don’t want to talk to them anymore has to be handled differently. At least give them the heads up or public courtesy so they are not left calculating, thinking, and wondering to themselves “gosh what did I do wrong? Did i say something? What did I do to this person? What is going on with them over there?” You know the endless questions you’ve toyed around in your head when someone has ghosted you. As pride won’t admit, I’ll admit it for you- you wanted to know the answers. Even if you didn’t agree – at the very least you wanted your curiosity resolved. So think about this the next time you are ready to delete, block or ghost someone. I’m not saying there’s a blanket rule to not delete or block someone, but I just think we are too trigger happy now-a-days. It’s become too easy for us to do this in lieu of having a final/closing conversation. Again, I still say asses the toxicity of engaging in because I realize not everyone can handle a “tough conversation” respectfully. But for the people who can – those are the ones I’m encouraging you to re-consider your process.

Now you might be saying, well if we can have a civil conversation then why would I even feel the need to block or delete them. Well some relationship endings don’t have to be all about something disrespectful – maybe you have been wanting to end an acquaintanceship with someone that you have just not been on the same page with but don’t know how to tell them. Or maybe it’s a new person you have been dating and you realize that there’s no need to proceed because you aren’t tracking with the same goals/mindsets. You’ve never had an argumentative conversation so you can take a leap and approach them respectfully and advise as to why you are looking to end the communication. These are the people I’m referring to….get my drift now? Super 😉 I’ve started to practice what I preach in this area and I must say that while I may not be getting back what I put out, I sure do feel better internally. I just feel at peace about the closure that was created. So I’m hoping to encourage someone today to do the same.

Podcast Episode: Choosing to be Content vs Settling

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

Well I don’t want to settle! Yep…I know….you and I may have said this a time or two in our lives. Heck I’m sure divorce lawyers have heard it enough to where if they got a dollar for each time… they could buy an island in the Mediterranean!

Time and time again we wrestle with ourselves in angst because of the current situation we are in as we hope for more or something different.

Maybe it’s a relationship, job or court case for that matter – you say to your gladiator self: fight to the end- don’t settle and lose! Why? Because culturally we’ve tied “settling” to one who is the loser. If you settle then you’ve obviously compromised. And if you’ve compromised then you’ve certainly have fallen to second or last place to a particular person or thing.

But what if every scenario wasn’t about “losing” or settling to life, an entity or a person.

What if you took a different view of it and instead of taking a passive white flag approach you took a more intentional stance to simple choose to be content with the situation.

You consciously choose to say …while this may not be the ultimate place or situation I’d like to be in …I’m going to continue to move forward in this route because of what it is providing for my life.

This provision may be vital.

It may be a means to an end.

Knowing this, you then purposely chosen to continue in that direction for whatever it is you need at that time in your life. You know that the decision to stay the course will not be forever but that you can rest in your current choice to be content with it.

Could you be doing “more” or doing something different- maybe…possibly…but are you going to rack your brain and beat yourself up about it because you’re not. Nope. You’re going to simply enjoy life, do the best you can and appreciate the current situation for what it is.

It’s not giving up if your being intentional and realistic about what that current situation is and what it is doing for you right now in your life. If there’s any settling ….it’s the fact that you’ve settled into peace and contentment about where you are and who you are with.

The only caveat to this is if the current situation is detrimentally causing physical violence and/or negative effects to your health and well being. I am not referring to these situations where people really do need to get out of the situation and not settle to the continual torment of abuse or demise. What I’m referring to are jobs and life journeys that people tend to question whether or not they are settling.

Of course you can still strategize, plan and work towards movement into a more desirable situation.

But even in the planning you are at peace and rest about the future outcomes and possibilities.

Knowing that even if you don’t get “there” that you still did not live a failed life of “settling” just because you did not reach your dream standard of life fulfillment.

 

Leave a comment below to weigh in on your thoughts about this Conversation Starter!

 

Podcast Episode – Travel 101: Can We Be Just a Little More Gracious?

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

I’ve had the opportunity to work in the airline industry and it has become clearer to me the current state of humanity; particularly as it pertains to air travel. Working in a people-focused service position, I have a widened perspective surrounding those who are privileged enough to take flight. Over the years we’ve seen the volatility the airline industry has experienced. From mergers, to major newsworthy incidents including plane attacks, union strikes, and yes even fights onboard the aircraft between guests and airlines employees. With all the hoopla surrounding air travel, I’ve noticed people are becoming less merciful towards others and more demanding of their “rights” as travelers.  One day as I headed to the airport, I decided to try the off site parking and take the shuttle in. It took a while for the driver to come pick me up at my car, but I waited patiently and didn’t give the driver grief when he finally arrived. The driver was visibly and verbally frustrated as others had not been so gracious towards him. When everyone departed the shuttle bus at the airport, I engaged the driver and gave him time to vent his work-day frustrations. Needless to say he was thankful at the end of the conversation as I had cared enough to share his frustrations even if it was just for the five minute ride to my terminal.

While I indeed believe we should hold businesses accountable for their claims of excellent service, we should also realize that there are people ultimately running these businesses. People who have real emotions and make real mistakes. When the mistakes occur, we should think twice about our attitude towards the person who is on the receiving end of the deal who either created the error or is currently trying to fix it. Regardless of fault, we should remember that they are just trying to make it home and earn a living just like you are. This really in truly is the modus operendi that should extend beyond the travel industry into our general interactions with people; but the state of humanity is a whole ‘nother novel that one could spend volumes writing on.

As I’ve had the chance to interact with airline passengers it really saddens me that people are more concerned and upset about why their flight was cancelled, than they are getting to their destination safely. That people are more upset about no upgrade space than they are grateful they are privileged enough to even take a flight to Hawaii. That their seats don’t recline or that god forbid they have a middle seat and actually might have to lift their head up from their smartphone and engage their neighbor if they need to use the bathroom. These are merely a few things that concern me about people’s priorities and mentality when it comes to air travel.

I truly believe travel is a privilege not a basic life need or right. Thee are too many private jet mentalities boarding commercial aircraft’s. If air travel is that essential and crucial to your life that you need everything at your fingertips, then it’s probably best you invest in purchasing your own plane. Because when you carry an Air Force One demeanor with you it will only make the airline industry become more vanilla.  And travel is not vanilla. Travel is cosmopolitan. So let’s all just be a little more gracious when we travel.

Top 10 Tips for Traveling to Thailand

Tip #1 – Learn basic Thai

Things like hello (Sa-wa-dee-ka), how much, what is this? do you speak English? Are some phrases that will enhance your trip by far! Learning a few numbers (1-10 and 100, 200, etc.) will also aid you as you navigate and negotiate in the local markets and with the local transportation.

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Tip #2 – Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

Stemming from the tail end of tip #1, almost everything is negotiable. I say almost everything because there are some things like hotels, formal restaurants, temple entrance fees, and some stores/malls that the price is what the price is. But everything else in the open marketplace is fair game. Even transportation, tuk-tuk and songthaew rides especially. If your Thai game is up to par I’d say go for it. Try and get the lowest price possible, because trust me the locals are trying to get the highest price they can.

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Tip #3 – Use wisdom when partaking in street food

All street food vendors are not created equal. Meaning, everyone does not uphold the same cleanliness or food safety standards that you maybe accustomed to. Additionally, your body may not be able to handle certain foods right off the bat. Work yourself up to experimenting with street food. Give your body some time to adjust to the new environment and new digestive intake. Don’t go straight from the plane to the nearest raw meat street vendor and have a gorge fest. With that said, street food can be a great way to get a cheap meal and cultural experience at the same time. So I do recommend trying it at least once! Use your Thai phrase that you learned and ask “what is this?” if you are unsure.

Tip #4 – Try not to get “templed out”

Yes, Thailand is well know for the plethora of temples near and far. You could literally spend weeks (if not months) just trying to visit each and everyone of them. I’d say do some research in the area that you will be in and see what are the top 2-3 temples that are “must see’s.” You can even make it a “temple” day if you want. But I’d say, stick to that number and then proceed to the next adventure on the list. Don’t get overwhelmed by the many temples and feel like you have to stop at each one. That is unless your sole purpose for the trip was to just to a real life Temple Run.

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Tip #5 – Prepare yourself for a whole new species of insects (Thai mosquitoes are no joke!) …and a frequent visit from the neighborhood gecko too

There is really nothing you can do. No really. When I lived there – I tried all sorts of deet and mosquito spray, citronella, etc. The mosquitoes still found a way to nourish themselves on my preciously innocent blood; and I am not even one to draw that type of reaction either. So be prepared to encounter at least one if not many insect or mosquito bites – especially if you are going during rainy season. Good luck!

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Tip #6 – Try not to bring a roller luggage

Packing your things in a large backpack or user friendly bag that can be carried will help you in many ways. Not only will you be able to hop in a tuk tuk or songthaew easier, but if you have to walk down the street or up some stairs (which there are a ton in Thailand) it will be so much more functional. There is nothing worse than dragging a bag on a dusty road of rocks while trying to navigate a walking space in the mix of oncoming traffic. Just sayin’.

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Tip #7 – Be prepared to walk …. a lot

If you think you will arrive in Thailand and have Cleopatra’s men waiting to carry you around as you peruse through the city. Think again. This is a functional society. Meaning, while there are cars, buses, horse carriages and various other forms of ground transportation there is still a large dependence on walking from point a to point b. This is not a sedentary culture. If you will be anywhere outside of the city expect the functional lifestyle to be doubled, if not tripled. Most people will be on foot walking to and from the market, bus stop, or school. Bring comfortable shoes and breathable clothing as you will probably sweat a lot while you walk around exploring. If you hate to walk or simply cannot walk a long distance be prepared to pony up the baht for personalized motor vehicle assistance. However, keep in mind some locations are difficult to get to curbside in a motor vehicle and require you to walk the rest of the way.

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Tip #8 – …..And for the stray dogs

Now I’ll be sensitive to the dog lovers out there, but I want to forewarn those who don’t quite fancy the random encounter with a stray. There are no leash laws in Thailand, so know that you will more than likely encounter various breeds of dogs either lounging on the curb as you pass by or trotting towards you as you walk the streets. While most go about their business, there are some that will approach you in not the most endearing way. You have been forewarned 🙂 – handle it the best way you know how.

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Tip #9 – While Thailand is pretty safe overall there are some problem areas

The most obvious will be the touristy areas. Bangkok is definitely the top city to stay vigilant and use caution. Anywhere near the border, particularly south of Phuket there has been long standing unrest among locals. It is safe to walk the streets at night, even solo, however I would still exercise the same safety rules you would anywhere else.

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Tip #10 – While Bangkok is the top draw there are tons of other hidden towns and treasures to behold

Don’t just hang out in Bangkok. Explore other towns like Phayao, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Maya Bay (Phi Phi Island), Pai to name a few and really experience the “mai bpen rai” pace of Thai culture.

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Chiang Rai Top Picks:

White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), Black Temple (Baan Dam), Golden Triangle, House of Opium Museum

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Chiang Mai Top Picks:
3-D Art Museum, Night Bazaar, Doi Suthep

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Phayao Top Picks:
Lake Kwan Phayao and Dinosaur Lookout Point

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Street food top picks:

Haianese Chicken Rice, Thai Fried Bananas (below), Khao Soi

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Podcast Episode – The Hidden Cost of Chasing Earthly Comfort

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

I’ll begin today’s Conversation Starter with a look at biblical scripture …

I’ll be reading from 1 Timothy chapter 6 verses 6 through 21 it reads:

The other day i was speaking with a co-worker who was relaying to me her desires to pursue a specific career path. She mentioned that she was trying to get into this particular industry because she felt she would be good at it.

Seems logical…

However, not having any experience in the industry I advised her to start small and explore a few localized options to get her feet wet to see if this was indeed something she should put her energy into pursuing for the long run.

I relayed to her my previous experience within this industry and forewarned her on a few things that she may not have considered.

After conversing with her a bit more, she stated that she felt like she had to be a certain type of person in order to stand out from others trying to do the same thing.

That really she i’snt this person that she feels she needs to be in order to get in this type of industry and “make it”

BUT that she is willing to do it for the sake of gain.

Or should I say perceived… hopeful …gain.

In addition to this, she felt like she was really only doing it because in her words she wants to “move up in this world” and have a “better life” for her and her children, and the punchline of it all ladies and gentlemen she said “well you know so I can just live a more comfortable life.”

How many of us have said this?

I said to her in response to her statement or should I say confession, that it sounds like there is a disconnect between the person you are and the person you are trying to be. And that you need to reconcile the incongruency that lies within you.

This reconciliation is key because it will be a defining moment in your life that will set you on the course of either comfort and compromise or peace and contentment.

I mentioned to her that there are very few cliches that I endorse or uphold as true, but there is one that I’m finding to be quite true and that is the notion that “nice guys (or gals) finish last”…that is, i told her, in THIS world….according to the ways and games of the material secular society.

However, in the world of a different society ….that I personally ascribe to ….the reverse is true- essentially the rules in this world declare that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

I continued explaining what I meant by this by telling her that it is rare that you will find someone who the secular world deems as “successful” as someone who has maintained traits such as honesty and integrity over the span of their “climb”……and I’m not even going to mention the Galatians 5 attributes such as meekness, self-control, gentleness and love.

Yet we exalt these individuals as not only the mark but the the method to live by because they have amassed an earthly empire or level of status that has allowed them to live a life, on the surface, as “comfortable.”

They parade a life that seems as though they can do what they want, when they want, where they want and for however long they want to do it.

Yes, in many eyes, the ultimate reward of comfort.

Yet this “reward,” underneath its layers has more than likely come at a high cost to both themselves and others.

You can simply flip on the news to see the many cases of celebrities and well-to-do business moguls who have overdosed, committed suicide, or are in litigation for taking advantage of something or someone.

Even at a micro-level….when interviewed many “successful” people make claims of regrets for simply not spending enough time with their children, spouses or families.

Now I know what you are thinking….Krystle are you saying that all “successful” people in this world got to where they are because they lied, cheated and compromised their way to a “better life”? Are you taking away all the hard work and dedication they put in to get to where they are?

Well, the short answer to this is – No, not at all.

What I am trying to illuminate, however, is the blind tendency that we often unconsciously measure our lives by ….for which we make decisions that have not been fully calculated or considered.

We ignorantly compare ourselves to the individuals who seem to have the lifestyle and level of comfort we desire.

Once we conclude that our lives are “not enough” or that we “need” more in order to be comfortable – we hop on the treadmill for the chase of comfort.

We put in laborious work for this chase without considering the cost and without equally working toward gaining revelation of the purpose of life.

Speaking of purpose, many of you have heard of Rick Warren’s “The purpose driven life” book that was written in the early 2000’s.

It is a best seller many times over – that for moment in time – inspired millions of people to stop and think about why we are here and for what purpose.

Yet, for some ….the message quickly got lost in the sauce of pursuits of finding purpose in passion and desire.

This pursuit of finding purpose (and comfort) through passion has become a cultural phenomenon that has swept through many Ted Talks, motivational speakers and life-coaching sessions.

But when we search scripture to test this ideology we stumble across passages like Matthew 6 and Psalm 39 verses 4-7 that remind us of the fleeting nature this life promises and the eternally lasting one that is to come.

Psalm 39 states: Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreaths, and my age is nothing before You; Certainly every person at their best state is but vapor. Surely every person walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; They heap up riches, And do not know who will gather them. And now Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.

If I could exchange that last phrase to emphasize this message today it would say… “and now what do I chase after? My pursuit is in You Lord.”

See I cant find one scripture that encourages me to pursue earthly comfort as the means to the end.

What I can find, however, is the promise of The Comforter who promises to be with me during the trials and journey of this life.

Mostly, I am being encouraged by the Word to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’ll say that again….to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Knowing that I may never get to where my flesh desires to be from an earthly standpoint, but that I can find rest, peace and true comfort in the revelation of God and the pursuit of God’s purposes.

Through much study of God’s Word I have seen a consistent thread of truth that has gently nudged me back on course when I have lost focused of this.

And that is the work that is done under the sun is vanity ….and a grasping after the wind.

For all toil and labor for which a person is envied by their neighbor, this too is also vanity.

He/she who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; and what good is it to labor to amass wealth for which there is no guarantee or surety of lasting security.

And when you die you do not know what will happen to it.

What profit has he/she who has labored for the wind? All their days they also eat in darkness, and they have much sorrow and sickness and anger.

Essentially, “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet lose his/her soul?”

Instead… it is good and fitting for one to eat and drink and to enjoy the good of all their efforts in which they toil under the sun all the days of their life which God has given.

Thus, whatever your hand finds to do, do it wholeheartedly and with authenticity.

Go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart.

For God has already accepted your works.

Live joyfully with the people God has given to you.

For THIS is your portion in life and it is a gift from God.

So In conclusion, examine your chase. Is the pursuit you are currently chasing worth the cost?

What is it you will have to compromise for the end gain?

If you have been presented with a better opportunity examine the pros and cons….ask yourself what is my motive?

What is the hidden cost?

Will this pursuit increase my quality of life in ways that are not currently being met? Or will it drive me further from peace, contentment, and the real purpose in life.

Maybe the opportunity looks good on the surface and you feel strongly about it, so you’ve taken that path and now that you’ve dove deep in it you realize it is consuming every bit of you and driving you away from God’s will and the most important things in life….

If this is you…. my question to you today is “do you have an exit strategy?”

Or are you too fearful to let go of the “security”…or should I say perceived security and familiarity?

Know the hidden cost.

Be real with yourself and God.

Ask the Lord Jesus for His wisdom, clarity, discernment and guidance.

Step out on faith today that God will bring you peace and simply fill your life with the promises of Matthew 6.

(Matthew 6:25-33)

Podcast Episode – Follow Your Passion

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Click here to listen!

Transcription:

Those in their late 30’s all the way down to little children at one point or another have heard their parents and culture say to them “follow your passion” – particularly as it relates to work. This mantra starts at such a young age that we force 5, 6 and 7 year olds to decide the fate of their life through what we think is an innocent question: “well (insert name) what do you want to be when you grow up”? This question is asked relentlessly through each stage of childhood all the way to high school graduation. So much so, that not only does it demand an answer – but the right answer. Failure to produce a solid, stable and credible answer puts one short of cultural validity. The by product of this most often becomes personal insecurity and invalidation; because what am I if I don’t know what I want to “do?” We, meaning the global society (but particularly the American context) use purpose as a noose instead of it’s intended driving force which is to produce wholeness (instead of anxiety and self-condemnation). But who even created this cultural mantra? From whom or where did this idea of passion pursuit derive? Especially as it relates to work? While one could argue over its origins, I choose to focus on its momentous ground it’s gained over the past three decades.

It’s easy to see how a post-war and industrial revolution society, who put in long hours of unabandoned loyalty to a particular company for much of their lives now sees how they did not “enjoy” much or let alone any of it. They wished instead they had “chosen” something that was more pleasurable, interesting and utilized their “giftings” more. So looking back, they think had I pursed my passion then it would not have been “work.” I would have enjoyed my life more and been able to wake up everyday excited to do the things that I love – for which I just so happen to get paid for. While, this is a novel idea in theory, the reality of this is still very much a misnomer at worst and a luxury at best. I can’t tell you how many times I have read or heard someone say to me what do you like to do? Find what you like to do and pursue that. Well what if I don’t like to “do” anything?? What if I have interests, but after finding a job that is in that particular field – I realize I hate the company or hate the day-to-day positional duties. And the position that I think I want is either not available to me or I once I get it i realize i don’t want or like this one either?! So what then? Do i just keep quitting and searching for a new job that “fits” my “passion.” What if I realize what i do like, but that I don’t want to do that as a career full time? Does this make me less purposeful in life? Have i fallen short of self-actualization? Having traveled quite extensively over the past decade, I’ve come to have a broadened perspective to many of the subconscious cultural norms that are unequivocally forced upon us.

When I’ve met others in different cultural settings, I’ve seen less of a pursuit of passion and more a pursuit of survival. The goal is for them, what can i do to have a better quality of life. This is the driving factor – with little motivation coming primarily from “passion.” This is not to say that these individuals do not have dreams or interest that they wish they could be doing, but the decision making process as it relates to choice of work derives mainly from a motivation to upgrade the standard of living for which they currently endure. Many of these individuals do not even have the choice of “pursuit of passion”, thus I would assume that the dissatisfaction of a “career” that fulfills their passion does very little to diminish their personal validation. I would again gather to say, if there is any personal failure sensed, it is not because they did not choose a job they loved but because they lacked the opportunity and ability to provide a life that was sustainable for them and their family.

This indeed is a grand assumption and generalization based off my personal encounters, yet I still think it is a worthwhile comparative to consider when we talk about pursuit of passion (as it relates to work). I very much believe that a very small percentage of people have the privilege/luxury of not only pursuing their passions or interests but actualizing them – and for a lifetime at that. If one does ever get the opportunity to reach this stage in life, perhaps it is only for a season; or perhaps it is part-time and not their main line of work. Even as I come to an understanding of the word passion, i realize that passion in and of itself is fleeting. What I’m strongly interested in today may not be of interest or care to me tomorrow. So do i base my whole life on this one passion? Knowing that over the course of my life I’ve had many passions, how can i choose just one as THE one. Having said all this, I have come to the contented understanding that work is work. It is a means to an end. If one so happens to land an opportunity either created entrepreneurially or through another company that is at some level a passion or interest that THAT is a privilege.

For those who maybe never reach that point, that at the very least the most we can do is be grateful for the opportunity to work. Then at the very best we can strive or pursue an income-earning position that affords us a quality of life that supports our basic needs: food, water, clothing and shelter. Through this, somehow we can learn to not base our joy on our work opportunities and find moments of enjoyment in our lives in other ways. Additionally, we can choose to not tie our personal worth and purpose into not being “where we want to be.” Our jobs are not the end it is a means to the end. The quicker we leave the expectations of our jobs being the fulfillment of our purpose and passions in life, the sooner we will be able to have more peace and enjoyment internally.

Sometimes your passion will not immediately collide with your paycheck…heck it may not ever converge. So to make that the ultimate point of your purpose and fulfillment is like playing roulette in the casino.

Additionally, we will be able to see our current jobs for what they truly are – a means to an end (whether that be character development, paying bills, or acquiring new skills to do something else). The job is not the prize, what you extract from it whether good or bad is the pot of gold. So if you want to follow anything…follow the road that leads to the pot of gold!.

Turks & Caicos: Is the water really THAT turquoise? ….My review of the island everyone calls “Paradise”

Turks & Caicos – a British Territory with over 40 islands and cays, yet it’s center attraction is Providenciales; the island I had the privilege of spending two nights on.

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Located east of Cuba, north of Haiti/Dominican Republic, and south of the Bahamas it is a melting pot of locals and expats; largely from the Bahamas and Jamaica. Of course there is a heavy presence of Canadian and European visitors, business owners, retirees, and expats. I also ran into several individuals working on the island whose native homeland is the Philippines. And why not? The economy is doing very well on the island and has been for quite sometime. So the chance to tap into this gold mine is worth the visa efforts and foreign adjustments for many. This is not a unique phenomenon by any means, but it was still very interesting to see the ratio of Turks locals to non-Turks. But I suppose if you study the history of this island, much like many of its Caribbean counterparts, the natives have evolved from Lucayan Indian to Spaniards to African (descent) as a result of decades of conquest.

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Alright, so let’s get into the nitty gritty about why you even clicked on this blog post. My guess is you want to know if I will co-sign on the hype surrounding Turks & Caicos? Well I will….partially.  Yes the water really IS the majestic turquoise color you see in all those photos! From the time you begin your descent to land into PLS airport you experience the wonder of the turquoise waters.

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Now my review of T&C (Turks and Caicos) involve two main factors: #1. I went during “low season” (mid-May) and #2 I went during the week (Tues-Thur). I think this is a critical point because many locals and repeat visitors I ran into explained to me how I snagged a great time to visit. The airport customs was a breeze (less than 15 min wait) and the island was not super packed at all. You could spread out on the beach anywhere and not feel cramped. The whole “vibe” of the island was pretty laid back. Albeit, some of the local drivers can have a bit of a heavy foot and tailgate you as they are used to going about their normal routine. But who could blame them, I mean I get annoyed when I’m driving in my home town and people don’t know where they are going and are holding up the lane with their 20 mph spectatorship.

Now if you decide to drive, which I highly recommend, be sure to have data for google maps on your phone or be prepared to have a lot of patience. I mean it. Because if you ask the locals how to get somewhere, half of the people will shrug their shoulders and say they don’t know and the other half will tell you “oh it’s just over there.” Okay sir, madam where is “over there??” Two other frequent responses you will get are: “oh it’s just down the road – just go straight” or “take a right here, then not at this round-a-bout but the next round-a-bout, don’t go straight but turn right, then go straight til you see three more round-a-bouts and don’t go right but go straight…then do you know the TCI building? …oh you don’t… okay well at the TCI building you’re gonna see a plaza…keep going straight and it’s just down the road from there.” Whew! I cannot tell you how many times I got turned around. I honestly don’t even know how I found the places I was looking for with the many unmarked streets and numerous round-a-bouts. The only consolation was that I kept telling myself it was an island and I could only get “so lost.”

If you are going during low season, I wouldn’t worry about pre-booking your car rental as their are many options to rent. I ended up renting a car for a day and a half at this place called Scooter Bob’s for $49. Far from a luxury vehicle, it did the job which was kept me cool with loads of A/C and got me from point A to point B. It was also better to get a compact vehicle instead of Jeep or something more luxurious as gas prices where $5.45 cent per gallon. The airport car rental had cars for $75/day and I’m sure there are other locations that offer various ranges of deals. The Avis car rental agency at the airport did inform me that they were out of vehicles for the entire month. So if you arrive and this happens to you, don’t fret, just take a taxi to your place, connect to Wifi and Whatsapp and start calling around. But I would definitely get a car and NOT rely on taxi’s to take you around as it is more expensive than to just rent a car. Keep in mind they drive on the opposite side of the road from the States and the driver sits on the right side of the vehicle so if this makes you uncomfortable then be prepared to shell over loads of cash for taxi’s if you want to explore the island. I thought I could get away with not renting a car and manually biking everywhere, but it was way too hot and things are really spread out. In fact, one of the local Bahamian workers spotted me as a “first-timer” because I biked up to the restaurant and he chuckled because he says no one here bikes. Well sir…I can see why!

Moving right along into my accommodations, I stayed in an Airbnb in the part of town called The Bight Settlement.

Driving wise, it was only 10 minutes from the airport and 5 minutes from the official Grace Bay Park. Grace Bay beach and park are globally recognized as being in the top 10 best beaches in the world. When I first arrived in the afternoon in T&C I headed straight there and noticed the water had quite a bit of seaweed towards the shore. I was a bit bummed at first, but then I decided to give it another shot at a different time of the day. Sure enough, the morning of my departure back home, I swung by there and the water was much clearer! Yet the current was strong and the waves were pretty rough.

It’s a good thing I found Sapodilla beach the day before! This beach by far was way better than Grace Bay. Not only was it more secluded, but the waves were incredibly tame and the water was crystal clear (even several feet from shore). You could also swim out for quite a distance and still stand up which made it feel very safe to swim in comfortably. While they do warn you of jellyfish, thankfully I did not encounter any while swimming in the tepid waters. I have been to some stunning beaches around the globe and this beach definitely makes the top 5.

The other great part of this beach is that there are only villas surrounding it therefore you don’t get the crowds from the resorts. Chalk Sound National Park is just across the street along with Las Brisas Restaurant & Bar. I just choose to have one of the locals cook me up a freshly caught snapper and grill it right up on the beach side. Of course, it was still $20 bucks.

Which brings me to why I partially declare that T&C lives up to the hype (food & the PLS airport which needs serious renovation). While much of the local food I ate was pretty good, nothing was overly amazing – especially for the many outrageous price tags! I was only able to snag one meal under fifteen bucks and that was breakfast at Shay’s Cafe & Lounge by the Salt Mills shopping district. I told the owner, the build-your-own omelette and breakfast potatoes was a great value for the taste and portion size. He thanked me and said it was tough to try to keep prices low as all food gets imported from Miami.

Oftentimes I would go to a restaurant and they would tell me “oh we’re out of that.” I even went to one restaurant who informed me after looking at the menu that they were out of fish. Um….I’m sorry what? You’re out of fish?? HOW? And do you know that 80% of your menu contains fish dishes??….. I guess that’s why no one was eating there.

Bonus tip: Eat at Mango Reef in Turtle Cove!

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As much as I anticipated the high prices of everything, all in all I still got out of there with cash left in my pocket – which was a win by all means. Here’s my spend breakdown:

2 nights at the Airbnb: $352.69

Flight: 16k points used + $97.93 taxes

Airpoirt parking (home): $23.40

Cash spent on taxi, car rental, bike rental, food, drink, misc: $250

Total spend: $724.02

Steal of a deal for Turks and Caicos. I was constantly told that during high season resorts and villas are easily $200-1,000/night (resort) / 15-30k week (villas). So yeah, I’ll count my pennies and be happy for my experience in the beautiful country of Turks and Caicos. My recommendation to you is if you’ve been itching to go, do you best to go during the low season sweet spot (April-May). I cannot stress this enough. Otherwise you can find a much more wallet-friendly island somewhere else nearby.  But hey – try it for yourself and #getoutandtravel!