Sunday, January 26, 2014

Here Is The Plan

My trip will start in Colombia where I will be staying for three months as I take intensive Spanish classes, enjoy the salsa night life of Cali the city that's been dubbed "The salsa capital" (I love salsa) and absorb the local culture. I already have a friend in Cali and we plan on sharing an apartment together while splitting the cost.

Next stop will be Ecuador then Peru (I have been here before but only spent a night in Lima before going to Cusco on my way to Machu Picchu so I hope to see more second time round). From Peru I plan to go to Bolivia then Chile. I have been to Argentina before (Buenos Aires and Iguazzu) so I may go back to see more but that depends on how things work out. My first visit to Argentina was not the best for me personally so I am a bit hesitant to go back but who knows.

I would like to check out Uruguay, don't know much about the country but hey! why not go there and learn something right? I have the same sentiments about Paraguay. These two countries are toss ups, I may or may not visit them but only time will tell.

Lastly of course I would like to go back to Brazil again because the first time round I only got to check out Rio and the Iguazzu falls (I managed to see both sides, the Brazilian and Argentinian side). Brazil is a huge country and there is a lot to see but Salvador is one place I have to visit.

That is my plan so far but things could change depending on circumstances. I am so relaxed about my plan and not rigid at all, if I get bored with a place I will just move on to the next. For me this trip is not geared toward seeing everything or making sure I experience all the "must do/see" things in South America, I just want to take my time and travel lazy. In the past I have always had this check list of things or places I needed to see when visiting different countries but now since I have many months at my disposal, I will take my time.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Busy Busy Busy!

This girl right here has been busy finalizing her plans for her major trip. As the days leading to my departure keep getting fewer, I realize how much I still need to get done and sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed. Actually come to think of it, maybe I am just stressing for nothing because as I look at my to do list which by the way keeps evolving and is not the same as the initial one I had earlier; I realize how much I have got done so far and it's not too bad.

My Passport was running out of pages so I had to have more pages added. Turns out my Trips to Senegal and the Netherlands were blessings in disguise because prior to the trips I had 6 blank pages on my passport but in order to have pages added, I needed to have 2 to 4 blank pages. I did not even know it was possible to add pages to my passport since I assumed you had to fully run out of pages then get a new passport but thanks to the internet and it's vast knowledge, I found out otherwise! So my trips to Senegal and the Netherlands consumed two of my blank pages and I was left with 4, the maximum needed to get pages added! I tell you, that was a close shave. I already sent my passport to get pages added and I am waiting for it to get back to me.

I had wanted to open a Charles Schwab account because they don't charge any foreign transaction and ATM fees while abroad. I have a checking account with Wells Fargo and their ATM fees are usually $5 per withdrawal plus they charge fees for any foreign transactions. Who wants to pay these fees when there are ways to avoid them right? Well, as luck would have it turns out my Capital One 360 (formerly known as ING) account doesn't charge foreign transaction fees nor ATM fees although they told me that if a local bank in a different country had their own fees, they would have no control over that so I would have to pay the local bank fees.

I have also had all my doctor's appointments scheduled in January since I want to take advantage of my insurance before it ends at the end of this month. I got my teeth checked and cleaned, my eyes checked and had the necessary travel shots taken. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that I don't have any unexpected health issues that would hinder my travels. I also finally settled on a travel insurance plan with World Nomads. I had been shopping around and they come highly recommended so I will try them out. I am not taking a chance traveling for that long without insurance.

My driver's license is expiring in March so I was able to get it renewed last week, I should be getting it in the mail pretty soon. 

I bought packing cubes on amazon to make my packing more organized. I have never used them before but I will try them out and see how convenient they are.

Phew! so yeah, all these stuff has been keeping me busy but I still have a few more things left to do: I need to file my taxes since I want to be right with uncle Sam before I leave, I need to sell my car, donate some of my clothes, open a safety deposit box to keep important documents.............I am sure tomorrow I will add on to this list. Anyway, this girl will try to take everything a day at a time and not stress so much.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Some Have Vision Boards, I Have My Fridge

A good friend of mine once told me that she liked collecting fridge stickers from places she had traveled to, I liked the idea so I started doing the same. Whenever I travel I always make a point of getting a fridge sticker in addition to any other souvenirs I may get. These stickers may be linked to an activity I took part in during my travels or a specific site I may have visited, I get inspiration to travel more and see more whenever I look at my fridge with all these colorful stickers.

When I set my mind to travel all over South America I stuck a map of the continent on my fridge as a form of inspiration. Whenever I get discouraged and think maybe I can't achieve my dream, I look at the map and get inspired. I trace the path I want to take through South America visiting the countries I am interested in checking out and I get excited at the prospect of undertaking this journey.

Some people have vision boards for inspiration but I have my fridge:)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Love my Support System

It sure feels good when you have a support system to encourage you and cheer you on. These are a few encouraging messages I got when I announced that I finally quit my job and I was really taking a leap toward following my dream:

Friend #1
That is awesome, you have to be fearless sometimes and go down the road less traveled, very proud of you, you will be fine.....this is a turning point in your life enjoy it

Friend #2
I learned last year that fear is a very powerful thing and if you let it control you, you never grow, i was so fearful of changing jobs, working far from home because of my many fears....but when i decided to do it even with the fear i was amazed and was so upset at myself for having wasted so much time with my unfounded fears. My son has survived the change in schedule, he is so much bigger now anyway and doesn't need me as much, at my new job I am learning so much and growing everyday. 2014 will be so much better I am sure, so lets keep being fearless. We only live once.

Friend #3
I'm so awed by what you are doing and how you have prepared.Congratulations for quitting a job you are not happy in. This is it! You go girl, eat life with a serving spoon. Everything will work out perfectly fine. 

Friend #4
You are making the right decision, what does your heart tell you? there you have the answer. Everything will be fine. If you don't go you will think about it the rest of your life wondering what would have happened.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Quit!

Yup! today I gathered enough courage and finally told my supervisor that my last day at work would be the end of January as I was leaving my job to travel for an extended period of time. It actually went smoother than I expected and he seemed to take it well.

I was so nervous prior to talking to my supervisor and I kept doubting myself wondering if I was actually making the right decision. Was I ready to quit? would I regret it? do I have enough money saved up? I had all sorts of questions running through my mind but the sense of relief I felt imagining never having to do my job again was enough assurance for me. I knew I was doing the right thing.

The deed has been done and there is no turning back, I am actually going through with this.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Back to Reality

My trip to the Netherlands was very short and I wish I could have stayed longer but I have responsibilities to come back to so I had to make do with the 3 days I could spare. It was nice spending quality time with my friend and just taking it easy and since I have been to the Netherlands a number of times before, I did not have the urge to do the usual touristy activities, I was content in just hanging out and taking it easy.

My vacation is now over and I am back home to face a major decision. Quitting my job. I am nervous and scared but the thought of not having to deal with certain responsibilities related to my line of work makes me feel excited about the choice to quit my job. After 8 years of working as an Accountant in various companies (corporate and non profit) I feel burnt out. I don't want to do it anymore and for a long time I have known that being an Accountant is not for me but you know how it is - you get comfortable and settle for the familiar because you are scared of stepping out of your comfort zone even though it makes you unhappy.

Now I am more than ready to step out of my comfort zone and see what other opportunities are out there for me. Tomorrow will be my first day back to work and it will be the day I set up a meeting with my supervisor to notify him of my decision to resign from my job. I am nervous and excited at the same time but I have to do this. Aii Dios! back to reality............

Thursday, January 9, 2014


My trip to Senegal has come to an end and I am now heading to the Netherlands to spend some quality time with a good friend. My summation of Senegal is: Great food, friendly people, rich culture, great music and dance. Ooh! and I almost forgot, chaos! having grown up in Kenya I can not say the chaos came as a huge shock to me, there is a certain level of chaos in developing countries that toughens you up a bit so I wasn't fazed that much.

Traffic was crazy and road rules (what's that again?) did not seem to exist, I actually got bumped by a car on my first day in Senegal. This one driver was backing up without looking and before I knew it I felt this bump on my arm that was  more startling than painful. I was shaken for a few minutes but later on I was able to laugh about it.

All in all, my trip was good and I can not complain. The biggest highlight of the trip was of course seeing my friend getting married and being part of the wedding, I just love weddings!

I managed to check out Goree Island which was a slave trading centre back in the days. Seeing the holding cells of the slaves and hearing the history of the slave trade was depressing to say the least but I am glad I got to see Goree. The tour guide who was showing us around was telling us that because Goree is a UNESCO World Heritage site, they have tried to leave the Island as it was hundreds of years ago to preserve the history so any development in the Island is prohibited. I got to see the door of no return but thank God I was able to return!

Goree Island

Overview of some of the houses at Goree

Door of no return
Friendly folks
I also got to see the pink lake which unfortunately wasn't pink on the day we visited. The lake is pink due to a bacteria that's present in the lake, the bacteria produces a red pigment and that's what gives the lake a pink color. Apparently it had been raining so that's why the  lake was not pink at the time of our visit, sucks! but I did get to see salt in  it's most natural form. I wish I knew I could have got some in a small bag or something. When we were at the lake there was a french pharmaceutical company that had apparently come to buy the salt. The company from what I heard end up selling the salt at crazy high prices in France, I wonder how much it costs them to buy the salt in the first place, hmmmm?

Salt in it's natural form at the pink lake.
During the excursion to the pink lake we got to drive along the beach and on the sand dunes. It was quite an experience! I have to say driving on those sand dunes was scary as hell, I kept thinking I would get thrown off somehow. It was a lot of fun though.

Hanging on tight!

Heading along the beach from the sand dunes
The African Renaissance Monument was another site I got to see. I had seen the monument in pictures and had heard that it was larger than the statue of Liberty so I was pretty excited to see it in person. We got to the monument late at night and one of the guards let us in which was pretty cool. I didn't even know you could go in! If you look closely at the man's head you can see some sort of band around the top of the head, when we went inside the monument we went up and got to observe the city below from that band on the man's head.

African Renaissance Monument