Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: 3 Thoughts on Choosing a Travel Partner

When we decide to drop guap, take time off of work, and neglect a long list of to-do’s for a vacation, we are betting on a positive return on our travel investment. Traveling is always a gamble because life is a gamble. And we gamble a lot while traveling.

 

Should I eat the $1 bahn mi off a Ho Chi Minh City street from a cart whose Zagat score would probably be a negative 10?

Should I get into a cab in Mexico City when I don’t speak Spanish and have just finished binging season 1 of “Queen of the South” on Netflix?

Should I entertain a man who wants to “show me his Morocco” when I have no cell service and no “in case something pops off” plan?

 

These are all gambles I or my friends have taken while traveling solo. However, the most frightening travel gamble, in my opinion, is deciding NOT to travel alone and choosing a travel companion. How do you choose a travel partner who’ll be a fun, down for whatever addition to your dream trip? How do you guarantee you’ll get a positive return on your investment?

 

1. Get real

Begin by being completely selfish. Ask yourself, if this were my only chance to do this particular trip, what would I do? How would I spend my time? What would I avoid? Then, be honest. Take these thoughts to your travel companion, providing them with the reasoning behind each of your must-do/must-see items. While being open to compromise is awesome, do not forget that you have personally invested in this vacation and you deserve to live it up your way! If anything, you and your friend can split up for a portion of the trip to cross things off of your personal bucket lists.

 

2. Get close

Let’s be honest: how well do you know your potential travel companion? Do you know what they’re currently struggling with or rejoicing over? Traveling is an emotional experience! It combines situations that are full of stress and anxiety with experiences that are breath-taking and beautiful. So, naturally, there will be a lot of emoting—all.over.the.place. Make sure you know and understand the mental, physical, and spiritual state of your travel companion because, good or bad, whatever your friend is going through will affect your trip and how you travel with one another.

 

3. Get Turnt

Prepping and planning a trip with another fully-functioning, autonomous adult is hard work! There will be disagreements and awkward pauses, followed by a steadily declining bank account balance. Don’t wait for the trip to de-stress—celebrate now! Ahead of your trip, fellowship with your travel partner. Go on a hike, grab a drink, go to dinner—do something to celebrate the beautiful privilege it is to drop guap, take time off of work, and neglect a long list of to-do’s to go on what will hopefully be a beautiful vacation.

 

 

This will also be your last chance to see if you actually like the person you’ve decided to travel with.

Good luck, girl.


About Mavis 

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Born and raised in Bridgeport, CT, I grew up eating pernil with my Puerto Rican homies, greeting my Korean neighbors with a bow, and navigating my way through the rich ethnic and fiscal diversity that is Fairfield County. My transnational upbringing left me with an overwhelming taste for travel, exploration, and learning about cultures outside my own.

I am a community builder, a social justice warrior, a lover of K-pop and Celia Cruz, and a fundraiser by profession. On any given weekday you can find me in CT, writing grants and planning events. But on the weeknd, I grow wings - who knows where I’ll be next?


WHERE I’VE BEEN

Siena, Italy

Rome, Italy

Milan, Italy

Turin, italy

Viareggio, Italy

Florence, Italy

Apt, France

Paris, France

Versailles, France

 

 

 

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Rai, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Mong Lin, Myanmar

Tonpheung, Laos

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Accra, Ghana

Teshie, Ghana

 

 

 

Chau Doc, Vietnam

Beijing, China

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia

Seoul, South Korea

Tokyo, Japan

Taipei, Taiwan

Tokyo, Japan

Falling in love with traveling sola.

Growing up, I never had the desire to travel beyond the borders of New England. My barrio and my proximity to New York were always enough for me. It wasn’t until graduate school that I began to broaden my border horizons. I lived in Siena, Italy for four months, taking spontaneous weekend trips to little cities in Italy of which I had never heard.

These trips were always with friends, or friends of friends, or people I actually didn’t like all that much. As an infant traveler, I never felt safe going anywhere alone, even if the alternative was to spend five days and five nights with someone I could not stand. I credit my parents and all the American horror films where curious people of color die first for this fear.

 

My first solo trip was a gift from the heavens-literally.

A person I didn’t like very much and I were planning a two week-trip to multiple Southeast Asian countries. When it came time to book our flights, a mysterious glitch plagued our computers granting my friend a more direct flight to our first destination and, me, a day and a half layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

I was completely terrified up until I hit that tarmac.

It was then that I realized I could do whatever the fuck I wanted to do. I could spend my time in Malaysia living my best life, with no one’s thoughts, feelings, or dietary restrictions to consider.

I hopped in cab, hired the driver for 50 ringgit (a little over $10), and told him to show me his city. I didn’t even think twice about the bombing that had happened earlier that day a block from where I was staying. Solo Traveler Mavis was less interested in fear and more interested in experiencing all there was to experience.

Batu Caves--dope.

Batu Caves--dope.

 

And I did.

I ate all the nasi goreng, smoked hashish, got a mani-pedi, saw all of the major monuments, went to two art galleries, and sat through the most amazing jazz concert. I literally got my life in a day and a half, on my own time, in my own way.

Traveling solo means you have time for henna on both hands and feet.

Traveling solo means you have time for henna on both hands and feet.

This is a prime struggle plate photo. But the food was so good!

This is a prime struggle plate photo. But the food was so good!

 

This trip was far from perfect- Malaysia was hot as fuck, the neighborhood I stayed in was super scary at night, and my computer had to be wiped after connecting to my hostel’s wifi. Despite all of its imperfections, this trip was amazing because I was fully in control of my itinerary. And though, at times, it was scary, and awkward, and lonely to be alone (dinner’s are always hard), there is no one I’d rather be alone with than myself-I am my favorite person.

 

So, fellow traveler, don’t count yourself out as a travel partner. You may just fall in love with solo traveling, just like I did.

When it’s so hot, your clothes double in size in front of Istana Negara.

When it’s so hot, your clothes double in size in front of Istana Negara.

Going on a business trip – the basics

I have been working for a global company for 11 years. Luckily, I was asked to travel as a part of work since day one. Believe it or not, I had zero experience traveling, either by myself nor for business when I started. 

I am not going to lie and tell you that every business trip was excellent and had no issues. In some occasions, I lost my luggage and had nothing to wear for an early meeting the next day. On another trip, during a face to face meeting, the client had the wrong expectations of my visit and I ended up crying at the end of the day in my hotel room due to frustration.

There are a lot of people that can tell you that traveling for business or work is the worst; but I can assure you that from a professional perspective these have been the most enriching experiences for me, both good and bad.

What advice can I give you?

 

1. Find out what the real dress code is

Ask what the weather is like. Check the internet, but also ask a colleague or client what the weather is like.  Ask not only if it is hot or cold, but also what the dress code in the office is. Believe me, your “business casual” may not be the same as theirs.

One time, I had to meet with the client in their main office at Munich, Germany. I asked about the weather and they told me that it was spring and business casual. I packed a red knee length dress and nude high heels for the first joint meeting. It wasn't exactly bad, but I was the only person in the entire building wearing red….so yea, I felt a bit uncomfortable and out of place. I asked one of the female clients if it was inappropriate. Her answer was “oh no not at all, it’s just that we all wear dark colors…” So with this I am not saying you should change your wardrobe, but it would had been better to wear a darker color dress for the first meeting and then decide on the next day’s outfits.

 

 

2. Always include backup outfit options for your meeting.

You have to travel light. That mean you should not travel with 3 suitcases for a 1 week visit. So you should plan your outfits. Try each of them at home first; be sure all look good and professional. Try your shoes, accessories and even hair and makeup. Then, the most important advice: you should always pack an extra pair of pants, two blouses, and a pair of shoes. Believe me when I say to pack just in case; you never know if the weather will change or if by some reason your business trip gets extended and you have to stay. You can always go and buy something, but sometimes you do not have the time or the money to do so.

 

3. Review the meeting topics in advance and be prepared

I am not going to tell you that you can always say, “I do not have the answer now but I can work on it and get back to you”, but it´s better to be as prepared as possible.

Get prepared in advance of the trip:

  • Take into account that your flight schedule can change in the last minute, so checking while flying may not work.
  • Jet lag can affect you more than you imagine. When I went to Manila from Costa Rica, it was my first time traveling that far. I can assure you I have never felt that bad. The first days I thought I was floating on a cloud and could not concentrate enough. It took me two days to feel on my game to start working with the team.

 

4. Participate in the after work dinners or try to go around the city if possible

 

Sometimes you are not in the mood to go out with your coworkers or the client for a drink or dinner, but it’s also good to share another side of you and establish a good relationship.

If there are no after work activities planned, you should try to go around the city at least one day before returning back home in order to take advantage of your trip. Take some pictures or enjoy their cuisine a bit. Every memory counts!

 

 

 

My final advice is to be confident.

There could be moments or situations that can affect your confidence. As a professional women you may be judged a bit harder than others, but be assured that you are there for a reason.  

Think positive. Always let your work speak for you. I can assure you that with every business trip you will feel different, better, and more confident.

 

Finding my travel personality

How I stumbled and fell into my travel personality and how you can find yours!

I love food, but not all food. I want to get excited about it! I want to see and taste the passion and imagination that went into creating a dish. Obviously, if you put a bread basket in front of me I’m going to eat it because hello? Carbs!  But, how much more exciting would it be to (waste those calories) have a homemade gruyere and truffle popover still warm from the oven? I mean your mouth must be watering, right? 

Ok, back to the point, my husband and I flew across the world to see all the amazing sights and experience all the history that Europe has to offer. Our days were long! We wanted to see as much as possible! That usually meant eating on the go. Grabbing food from a street vendor or small café on our way to our next must-see. Most of these places catered to tourists and are not as authentic as I would have liked. I don’t know about you but I did not want to go to France and have McDonald's. 

My fancy street food

My fancy street food

Paris is the food capital of the world! Do you want to know what our first meal was in the city of love? Two pre-made grocery store sandwiches and a bag of chips from the corner store down the street from our Airbnb. I know, I’m ashamed of myself. In my defense, it was late, nearby, and the only thing open. We didn’t have a plan to experience the culture through the food. This was a revelation for me and has changed the way I have planned every trip since then. We didn’t have, what I like to call a “food-tinerary.” 

 

 

While we were planning our first trip across Europe we discussed the Eiffel tower, the Colosseum, the wine, oh the wine! I assumed we’d have time to speak to locals and get recommendations, look up a place for dinner on Yelp, or just stumble upon incredible food every time we got hungry. That is not how the real world works. You are walking 10-15 miles A DAY and trying to see as much as possible in the short amount of time you have in each incredible city. It’s exhausting and you tend to get hangry. Real Hangry.

So, what should you do?

 

 

 

Plan!

My husband is the planner in our relationship, I am more go with the flow. Don’t be like me! Look up reviews, talk to friends, or visit some of my following recommendations. By planning incredibly, delectable food into our everyday plans it gave us the opportunity to learn about the local culture from a different perspective and unwind from the day. Possibly, more importantly, sit down. 

Your passion may not be food and you may crave the consistency of a burger from McDonald's, but you may be passionate about vintage cars, glass art, or museums. Whatever your passion is plan around that! It will make your trip so much more enjoyable and personal.  

To Cruise or not Cruise...

Pros and Cons from a first time Sola Cruiser

Winter of 2017 has treated us well in New York City but I didn't skip out on the opportunity to fly south and take off on my first cruise. As an explorer, I have equally enjoyed the luxury of a five star hotel just as much as a tent without air conditioning during a safari but for some reason a cruise never appealed to me. I was peer pressured by a friend to book six months in advance although I normally don't plan travel that far out due to my work schedule.

I was still reluctant when I purchased the cruise but the ports of call were my final selling point. This Western Caribbean Cruise stopped in Roatan, Honduras along with a stop in Belize and two in Mexico. Roatan has been on my bucket list for some time so I thought this was a great opportunity to visit the island off of Honduras.

Norwegian Cruise Line which is referred to as one of the luxury cruise lines was the company of choice. I soon learned that people don't really reference the cruise line as much as the ship itself (I didn't get this 100% down until after the trip lol). The ship was the Breakaway; a fairly new vessel completed in 2014. The coolest fact I learned about the ship was that is was actually at port in Rio during the 2016 Olympics for 22 days. It made sense that Rio brought in many cruise ships to help with the lodging demand for the summer Olympics. The Cruise was seven days long and left from Miami.

  • Day One- At sea
  • Day Two- Roatan
  • Day Three- Belize (NCL purchased an island off of Belize so don't recall the port name, sorry!),
  • Day Four- Costa Maya, Mexico
  • Day Five- Cozumel, Mexico
  • Day Six- At sea
  • Day Seven- Back to Miami

Now for my pros and cons! :-)


Pros: 

1. The opportunity to visit three countries!

If you're tackling some type of 30 before 30 or 40 before 40 country visit list, a cruise is definitely an  efficient way to tackle traveling. Honduras and Belize were first for me!

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2. The staff was wonderful.

 I do not know what how they keep their smiles day in and day out but they certainly made my trip memorable. From the orchestrated shows to our housekeeper Elias, everyone was great.

3. The FOOD!

Yes so cliche as this is what is often mentioned but what can I say it was good! I didn't gain any weight as I ate in moderation but did indulge on dessert twice... maybe three times 🤗 TIP- Look into the specialty restaurants on the ship prior to the trip so that you can plan your evenings. These restaurants tend to sell out so feel free to purchase one/two months out. They may cost a little more but they are definitely worth it.


Cons:

1. Not enough time to explore

The Port Calls were just way too short. If you're one to embrace the local culture by finding neighborhood favorites for food and art then like me you may not find it to be enough time.
 

2. Small Rooms

We were three in a room in one of the more affordable room types making it tight but we made it work for us. There were three twin beds with one of them being a bunk. It was not absolutely terrible but a little annoying when trying to nap (a pro/con of cruising versus traditional land vacations where I wouldn't have napped as much)

 

3. Too much lounging

Despite workouts at the ship's gym which was great, a wonderful river tubbing experience in Rio Grande Belize, and Snorkeling around two coral reefs off the coast of Cozumel, I still found there was too much lounging for my liking. The R&R was great for the first full day at sea but by day three I just wanted to do something different. To combat this I could have planned another excursion or just have a shorter trip.

Happy Cruising! Or not :-)

8 Must Have Items for City Travel

I’m going to Milan this Wednesday! Woot Woot!

In true form, I’ve left packing to the last minute. BUT, I think I have this carry-on packing thing down to a science. My top 8 MUST have items for city travel listed below!

1. The Basics

Rather than packing a million different outfits, pick versatile items that can be dressed up and down. Two great pairs of structured black leggings and multiple black tops go a long way. Your statement pieces will dress the outfit up or down throughout your trip.

 

2. The Statement Coat

If you are traveling and sight seeing in the winter, it’s pretty likely that most of your instagram pics will be taken (1) outside and (2) in front of fancy buildings. This is why you MUST have a great statement coat to go along with it. It honestly doesn’t matter if you brought all your best dresses and outfits. This item will really be the star of the show.

Praying that my white statement coat doesn't get stained :) 

Praying that my white statement coat doesn't get stained :) 

My recommendation is to just RTR it. I have an unlimited membership and HIGHLY recommend it. When you subscribe, you can tap into an amazing designer closet of outerwear, dresses, bags, accessories, and more. Wear and return three items at a time whenever you want.

 

3. The Dress Up Jacket

This is the jacket you wear when you're too lazy to get out of your leggings and t-shirt. Just pop it on and wa-bam, instant outfit. My favorite is this Rachel Zoe Lace dress because you can wear it as a jacket or as a dress.

 

4. The LBD

The LBD may might as well be named the TBH. To be honest, I’ve worn this dress a thousand times but who’s counting?! You know the one. The dress that fits just right and you can wear on any occasion. Outside, inside, dress up, dress down. Bring it!

Sightseeing in Medellin

Sightseeing in Medellin

Post-work concert with my mom

Post-work concert with my mom

 

5. Flat Boots

City trips require A LOT of walking so you want to bring a really great pair of boots that are very comfortable. I love these boots for multiple reasons:

  • They are flat and comfy.
  • Since these are over the knee, they provide an extra layer of warmth while you’re out and about.
  • The suede makes them look super stylish.

 

6. The Hangover Sweater

At some point in your trip, you will feel exhausted, jet-lagged, or maybe even hung-over. Bring a comfy sweater that looks good and will help you recover.

 

7. ONE Pair Of Go To Heels

Did you notice how I said ONE? One pair. That’s all you need. These need to be your go to heels for any occasion. They are also so comfortable you can walk miles in them. Well, maybe not miles, but you know what I mean. My go to heels in the winter are these black DVF booties.

 

8. A Hat

Need something to dress up a super basic outfit? Just put on a hat. Haha. But seriously, don’t I look cute with this super basic outfit and hat on? One and done. Goodbye.