The Side of Africa You NEVER See

Awesome photo of Nairobi via Afritorial.com

I belong to a slew of Facebook groups, a few of which are travel related. One group, Rare Customs, is planning a trip to Kenya early next year, and like a woman struck by a sudden and permanent case of wanderlust, I WANT TO GO.

Like…badly.

*long heavy sigh*

Truth is, I want to go everywhere. But after looking for something completely different, I ran across the blog Afritorial, and what did I see? A post about why folks need to go to Nairobi. Kismet? Maybe. But now I’ve got the itch and Africa is on my mind.

When it comes to the “dark continent” (insert a mean eye roll right there) you always hear about its wildlife, or see pictures of Western travelers going to shanty towns to be “down” with the people. But we rarely see Africa…ANY part of it…as a bustling, modern metropolis.

Cape Town, South Africa – via National Geographic

What we see is always war and starving babies and desolate landscapes and machetes. Or something.

Why is that?

Why is there often ONE story coming out of the whole of Africa as if it’s one big country (which, hello, it is not)?

Harare, Zimbabwe

If you want to see a “different” face of Africa you’ve got to do more than just Google “Africa”. Typically search engines will only point you toward stereotypical depictions of the continent.

But Africa is so much more than that, and I know this without even getting close to its shores.

Thank God for bloggers. And for sites like the cheeky Africa is a Country, or Afritorial, or Ms. Afropolitan, or AfriPop or any number of others that share the often overlooked parts of the Motherland.

And thank God for Africans who tell their own stories like only they can (peace to Danai Gurira whose commitment to telling African stories came through as soon as I met her).

I hope the wider world eventually catches up and is able to see what Africa is really all about. But in the meantime, I need to hustle up my coins and head to Kenya in January so I can see it for myself.

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3 Things I Loved About the Bahamas

The view from my hotel at the Sheraton Nassau Beach

Is it really “better in the Bahamas”? Read on to find out!

I recently got back from a press trip to the Bahamas*, and let’s just say I had a magnificent time! Unlike many of you, this was my first time in the Caribbean and I went in without many preconceived notions about what I’d find.

Because I was traveling with the Ministry of Tourism, I figured my trip would be very “touristy” because their goal was to show off the best parts of the islands in order to get glowing reviews and get y’all to book a trip. I was prepared to be wooed by excursions and endless glasses of rum punch and the beaches, and more rum punch. But what I found–once we ventured off the beaten path–was something even more magical.

If you really want to know what’s “better in the Bahamas…” get out and mix it up with the people. Everywhere I go, I try to “fit in” with the locals. When I was London, I made a point to go to Brixton, and when I was in Paris, I wandered the streets and made it a point to not speak too much English as to be found out. I just like being treated like I belong. While it was difficult to pull off on this trip because we were chauffeured from place to place, I did manage to meet a few amazing Bahamians and it totally made the trip.

So, what were some of the things I LOVED About the Bahamas?

Most people in the country look like me: This may sound weird, but that I grew up in America and most places I’ve traveled to have been in the States and Europe, so I wasn’t used to visiting a country with so many black folks. It was evident as soon as we got off the plane. The customs agents, airport workers, the construction workers at the airport, our driver, the hotel staff. nearly EVERYBODY was black. While there are non-black Bahamians (a lot of the biz owners, British and American ex-pats, etc.), I can’t begin to explain how I felt to moving around in a country in which nearly everybody I met looked like they could be my kin. Visiting the Bahamas made me want to visit Africa. Weird, I know, but true.

The BEST burger ever! From the Sip Sip

The Food: I think I gained about 10lbs. in the 5 days I was in the Bahamas. Along with way too many glasses of rum punch, Bahama Mamas, and daiquiris, I ate…a lot. Although I don’t eat fish, I ate a ridiculous amount of conch and shrimp. The best fried shrimp I’ve ever had in my entire LIFE came from Indigo Cafe in Nassau, and even though I’d never had conch (a shell fish) before going to the Bahamas, I’m glad I did. I ate lots conch fritters (a must), conch chowder, grilled conch, and conch salad. Additionally, the best (and I do mean the best) mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted in my life came at the home of a Bahamian family we met during a people-to-people visit. OMG. It was the PERFECT mix of creamy cheese, pasta, and a little added spice. And I know I sound like one of those crazy infomercials, but THE best burger I’ve ever had in my life also came on this trip. All I can say is, if you love burgers and blue cheese as much as I do, go to the Sip Sip on Harbour Island. Delish!

When you go to the Bahamas, don’t try to stick to your diet…just go and eat and eat and eat (then swim, swim, swim…it evens out, I promise).

Trying on a hat from Junkanoo. It was the heaviest hat I’ve EVER worn in my life!

The People: Most people go to the Bahamas to relax, lay on the beach, and just enjoy the tropical scenery. That’s cool. But after you’ve had your fill of sun bathing and banana-boating, get out and meet the people. During our visit we had the opportunity to learn about Junkanoo, a cultural festival that takes place on December 26 and Jan. 1 of each year, from Mrs. Arlene Nash Ferguson and her husband. The Fergusons run the Educulture center in Nassau and had SO much energy and love for their country and its Junkanoo festival that it was absolutely infectious.

During the trip we also had the opportunity to visit with local Bahamians on a people-to-people visit. People-to-People is a program sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and allows tourists (yes, anyone can set up a visit) to hang out with Bahamians to learn more about the country and its people. Aside from the home-cooked food (which was down right amazing), I met so many cool people who were not only welcoming, but funny, friendly, and eager to share. If you ever visit the Bahamas…leave your resort and hang with the people!

Have you ever been to the Bahamas? What did you love the most? 

3 Tips To Make Travel Affordable (and you can totally do them!)

Affordable TravelDo you know someone who has seen the world (a few times!) and you wonder how the heck they can afford to travel so much? I know I do.

I belong to this amazing travel group, and after noticing that it seemed like just about everyone had been to just about everywhere (and were still going), I just had to ask:

HOW CAN YOU AFFORD IT?!

Previously, when I thought of traveling, the first thing that came to mind was money. Plane tickets can be expensive and hotels are costly, so I didn’t see how people of “normal” means (with no rich uncles or sugar mamas) could afford to pick up and go so often. But after I inquired about how they do it, I got so many great tips, tricks, and travel hack ideas that I could barely contain myself.

While Trippin on the Weekend is about finding things to do in your own city, let’s face it, we all need a change of scenery sometime. I love to see other states and countries like the next person, and it takes a little more planning (and more money) than quick weekend trips.

And although I’m a champion of the staycation, I’m also here to tell you that you CAN afford to travel the world. Yes, I mean it!

Sharing information is one of the best ways to not only solidify the ideas in your own life, but also help others. So here are some of the tips I picked up from some of my more well-traveled peers on how to afford to see the world.

Cut Costs: I confess, I spend money without thinking. Dinners out, new clothes, movie tickets, premium cable. It all adds up. One of the best ways to save money for travel is by reviewing your spending habits and cutting things that aren’t necessary. This year I think I might FINALLY ditch my cable company (and for me, this is scary lol..I watch a lot of TV *hangs head*). The bill just keeps going higher and higher, while finding content online has become easier. I’ve had my eye on a Roku box for a while now and am 75% sure I’m going to buy one and put the extra money toward my travel fund. Other ways to cut costs? Review everything: Credit cards, insurance, phone service, and call the companies to negotiate lower rates. If they want to keep you as a customer, most times they will work with you.

Make Saving Automatic: After you’ve cut your costs, you should automatically funnel that extra money into your savings account (and if you don’t have an account, you should DEFINITELY open one). Making your savings automatic will increase the likelihood that you’ll actually save money because you won’t even have to think about it. And here’s a tip. Do not have your savings account attached directly to your primary checking account (i.e. at the same bank). I have a separate savings account with a different bank for traveling, which means I’m less likely to dip into it to cover everyday purchases.

Make More Money: Let’s face it, you can’t cut your way to more money. At some point, you’ll have to get out and increase your income. And while I’d like to pretend that I live frugally…I don’t. So my only other option is to generate more cash and put it toward traveling. Recently I’ve become (mildly) obsessed with Ramit Sethi’s site I Will Teach You How To Be Rich. In it he has all sorts of tips on how to negotiate a higher salary, or, if you’re self-employed like me, how to earn more income on the side. From side hustles to second jobs…if you’re not good at cutting things from your budget, earning more money is your best bet to reaching your travel goals.

No matter where you want to go, I hope you know you CAN afford to get there. No place should be off limits because of your financial status, but just know you might have to cut back a little more and work a little harder, but you can (and will) get there.

Are you saving for a trip this year? Do you have any additional tips to add to the list? Please, share! 

*ps: Like what you read here? Feel free to donate to the Trippin’ Travel Fund 🙂