Category Archives: life

Visas, Travel Privilege and Expenses

Sometimes you want to visit a particular country so much but alas you don’t qualify for a visa. When you are from a developing country with a weak passport this happens and does so quite often for some people. The burden of proving, that you are a person of moral character, who will not become an illegal migrant, is virtually nigh on impossible for some people applying for visas in some countries.

If visa applications were free or even refunded in part this would not be so bad. Imagine spending over a US$150 to apply for a visa, paying for pictures and transport to an embassy to hear that you don’t qualify. On what basis you may ask? Well, this particular individual doesn’t qualify because she is single and works in a job that is not seen as professional. The one making this decision doesn’t even open the individual’s passport to see that she has visited other developed countries and returned home.

Many decisions for a visa seem to be made in an arbitrary manner. There are people who are unemployed, unmarried, not in school and have no so called ‘ties’ to their country who are granted visas. Then you have professionals who have served in their respective fields for over a decade, earn good salaries, have cars and houses and refused visas multiple times. These are not made up stories. These are people I know well. It is a frustrating experience I am sure.

Visas cost time and money. None of the money for the application fee is refunded. You often can’t appeal a decision. No plausible explanation is given in many cases. For many people from developing countries, applying for a visa to visit a developed country is like buying the lottery. They don’t have the freedom to go and come as they please. You may ask why not travel to other countries? Fun fact: many people need to transit through a developed country to get from destination Y TO Z in some cases. For example, if friends or relatives in Jamaica want to visit me in Japan they may need to get a transit visa for one of a few developed countries to do so. The most affordable routes are via these countries. There is the option to go through Mexico, which is visa free for us but you may be looking at an additional 500 dollars or more for airfare. How ironic, that those of us from developing countries pay more to see the world.

Is a transit visa not easy to get you may ask? The process for getting a transit visa is the same as getting a non-immigrant visa. For some countries the fee might be a little less but all the documents are the same. I have dedicated my share of time researching, planning and applying for visa for a lot of places. Don’t believe that living in a developed country, makes me a shoo in to get visas for other developed countries all the time. In some cases, even other developing countries can be a pain.

What is Involved in Applying for a Visa to the Average Developed Country

Money – Visas can range from $US50 to over $150. This is why some developing countries charge visitors from developed countries for visas as well. Visa free reciprocity is a beautiful thing and I take advantage of it as much as I can. As a Jamaican I have gone to quite a few countries in Asia, Africa and South America visa free. It really makes planning a trip so much easier. You also need pictures, so that’s money. You also may need to travel to the embassy. You also may need to have flights and hotels booked (this is no guarantee to getting the visa). Also, you often need to show a bank account with a healthy balance and a bank statement that reflects the status of your account for six months or so. Bank statements aren’t free.

Time – If you need to visit an embassy for a face to face interview, you need to take time off work. You need to take time to read the application form well and prepare all the necessary documents. Things like the size of pictures, how clear they are and how recently they were taken is very important. I have had to go to a studio to get it done to meet certain specifications. You may also have to get a job letter and that may take time as well.

Angst – It is hard to make firm plans before you get a visa. This means you may not be able to take advantage of flight deals and the like. Also, even when you get a visa it may be for a limited period, so it’s hard t plan in a concrete way. Oh yeah, having a visa is never a guarantee that you will be allowed into a country. Many visitors take this for granted. I guess this applies to all travellers.

For those who have experienced this let me know if I have forgotten anything.

Travelling to Visa Free Countries is Best but

the developed countries make themselves so attractive, how do many of us not have a desire to see all the natural and manmade wonders?

Anyway, once one passes that stage then you come to realise, if you are like me, that you can enjoy many great places in the world visa free on a Jamaican passport: Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, The Philippines, Indonesia, Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and quite a number of other countries and territories. Thus, I have made it my business to focus on travelling to visa free countries and saving myself the angst of all I mentioned above. It is quite liberating. My advice to others from places with passports that require visas for certain countries, think about doing this too. Try visiting some visa free places and enjoying travelling this way. Alas sometimes you may need a visa to get to them but some transit visas are easily procured by airlines in certain regions.

Don’t let visa refusals from certain developed countries dampen your spirit of adventure. It can be a blessing to push you to enjoy and discover other less popular places.

How to Budget, Organise your Money and a live a Financially Healthy Life

Change how you view and spend money

If we earn more than we need for the necessities we should be saving consistently. This is sometimes a struggle for some people because of the relationship they have fostered with their money.

It’s not enough to pay all the bills then spend what is left. Organising what is left after the bills are paid is a apart of living a financially healthy life. This is why having a budget and following it is important.

We are never too young to start saving for retirement.

We are never too healthy to save for illnesses.

We are never too securely employed to plan for rainy days.

Catch my drift? It often takes a mind shift to start budgeting, sticking to it and putting away money for the future (near and far). The money we earn is not merely to pay our bills and feed our temporary wants.

See what you earn as a necessary ingredient to help you attain different goals – debt free.

Organise your Budget in a way that gives you Freedom

Find what works for you.

Having a lean budget where all wants are not catered to does not work for many of us. It isn’t realistic.

Adjust savings targets for different goals as time passes or just because you want to.

Budget in your treats, the things that help you to live and enjoy yourself. A budget is not something to cause stress. For example, I budget for recreation every month because that is important to me. This may look like going out to eat with friends, doing so alone, going to an event and things of that nature.

Also put away something in the miscellaneous category because stuff comes up.

Reconcile your Budget as you Spend

Keep track of payments, all of them. Everything from gum to rent/mortgage. Line up all the items and check that what you plan for is what you are spending. This becomes habitual with time. I like to do this after paying each bill. I also use cash for things like groceries, lunch and utilities. I keep them in their own envelopes and return whatever is left after each transaction.

Using cash for some purchases may help to keep you on track. Some people use credit cards to get points I know. The goal should be to use it within the confines of what is budgeted and pay the sum off each month.

Develop the Habit of Saving

You truly pay yourself from what you earn by putting aside some money into savings. Each amount you add to your savings, helps you to develop this healthy habit of saving. This habit contributes to a financially healthy life. As I said in the opening, if you earn more money than you need to cover the necessities, savings should be a priority. Budget for savings.

At first it might be frustrating and if you are a spender you may be tempted to just use it all. A good way to motivate yourself is to have a list of short term and long term goals. Write down a desired amount to save over a period of time. Make it something like a challenge for yourself. You can put this on a poster or app and have countdown each pay period. I believe that once you start meeting different gaols you will become addicted to this practice.

Budgeting is something to talk about with families, friends and others. Share the value of this habit and help others to live financially healthy lives.

Don’t Get Caught up in Social Media and Lose Yourself

How many times do you watch a Youtuber share an item and find yourself searching somewhere online for it? I have even gone into a store looking for said item.

I have gone down many a rabbit hole and wasted money because someone or a number of people spoke glowingly about a product. To be fair I have also had good recommendations.

They key is to know what is useful and to ignore the rest. This isn’t easy because many of us humans are visual people. Yep, this can affect us without us really even being aware of it.

I mean we may become uncomfortable with our bodies, our wardrobes, our jobs and so on and so forth. I think this is a major issue for young teens, who are trying to find their identity. It also affects us adults because we all want to present our best selves out in the world.

We must remember to guard ourselves and not lose who we are amidst the trends and influencers on the different social media platform. Unhappiness with who we are and what we look like among other things, can creep up on us and overwhelm us.

This is also true for those of us who create content through blogs, videos, photos etc. It is easy to get caught up in doing what other successful creators in our niche do, just to chase success. Remember why you started and keep reminding yourself.

Would I like to make money from blogging? Of course!

Is this the only reason I blog? Of course not!

Will I learn from others to showcase my pieces better? Probably

Success for me with this blog means posting regularly and editing posts. It’s true, that’s enough for now and probably for a very long time. This is freedom for me because I have a job that offers me a salary that covers my needs, wants and whims. Moreover, I love said job and serving my students.

When I look at my blog stats and see only a few people read my blog and fewer comment, I sometimes catch myself getting anxious for more. I then mentally smack myself into remembering my goal (see above).

Social media is great. The different platforms offer so much to both creators and viewers. I like that we have so much to choose from and that so much knowledge is being shared.

We would do well to remember to carefully monitor and manage what we take in and reflect on how it affects us negatively. It’s important not to lose ourselves through what we consume and over consume on social media platforms. Remember most people only show a perfect snapshot of themselves to craft that narrative for viewers. Proceed cautiously.

Being Grateful is a big part of Self-care

How often do we stop and count our blessings? Do we stop and say thank you to God for another day? Being grateful is a part of self-care.

Expressing gratitude for all things great and small in our lives help us to be content and mentally well. Discontent comes many times when we focus for too long, on what we don’t have. The things we yearn for but can’t see how to get them. Also looking too long at the lives of others and wanting what they have blinds you to your blessings. This is a joy stealer.

I often talk to myself at these times and remember the things I have that I am grateful for: relatively good health, family, friends, a job, joy, a place to sleep, life and so on. It is easy to get lost in the illusion of perfection we see in others especially on social media.

This world and its wants, make us feel as if we never have enough or that if we do not have certain things by a certain age we are less than. I am making myself learn to take my eyes off the world and fix them on what God’s words say about me. I focus on life-giving words to remind myself that I am not a puppet, to be tossed about by every flight of fancy that the world throws my way. I practice being grateful for the small things and big things as well as everything in between. I also actively pursue peace and contentment in my life. This is self-care in action.

I am grateful for something as simple as taking a shower and stretching out on my bed every night. After a tiring day, that is just wonderful!

A good way to practice gratitude is to jot down a few things each day that you are thankful for. This has a way of shifting the focus from what we lack to being content with what we do have.

Cultivate a grateful day, one day at a time and help your mind to be at ease.

Water your Relationships

Life gets busy and we get busy with life.

Time flies, and if we are not intentional then days and months will fly by without giving quality time to those dear to us.

Make time to be there for your family, friends and loved ones:

  • Call them regularly, make a schedule and honour it. We make time for what’s important. For many people texting isn’t enough.
  • Meet people, make time for this and give them all your attention at that time. Put the phone down and live in the moment. Life is fleeting and looking back at these times is great comfort when someone dies.
  • When someone comes to mind, stop and reach out, it may be your last opportunity to connect with him or her.
  • Pray for those who are important and others who you are led to do so for, of course.
  • If you live abroad like me, budget, save and prioritise going to your ‘home’ country to see family and friends. Pour into your relationships, near and far.
  • Remember people’s birthdays and special days. Take the time to send them a proper message, a gift or spend time with them celebrating. This is a part of living a rich life.
  • Don’t start dating someone or get married and forget your other friends – single or married- who were there for you.
  • Know when to put the needs of others above your own and give of your time, attention, money and emotions to water the different relationships in your life. This is rewarding and worth the effort. Try not to count how much the other person does or doesn’t do. Don’t crush your natural flow.

Water all relationships to enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life. I am off to hang out with a friend and enjoy this. Take time to do this often as well.

How to Keep Moving When Life Smacks you Hard

  • Cry out to God in the good times and bad times. God promises never to leave us or forsake us. If you have a habit of leaning on God then you will know of his faithfulness and have the assurance that you will get through.
  • Don’t ask ‘why me?’ Seek to see what you can learn about yourself and try to see tough situations as opportunities for growth, to become more resilient and to learn to persevere. “The race is not for the swift but for those who can endure.” I remind myself of this often.
  • Share your burdens with a friend or two. These are people in your life who are present, know how to pray with you, speak life into you and also know when to tell you to stop feeling sorry for yourself and give practical advice to get you moving ahead.
  • Seek professional help. See a pastor who is a trained counsellor,a psychologist or other health professional. Invest in your mental well being.
  • Think of practical things you can do to dig yourself out of the hole. If it is a financial smack down then you may have to cut back on some luxuries and/or get a second job.
  • Grieve, let the emotions out because suppressing them may not help. Cry, scream, put on some music, dance, go for a jog, clean like mad, do what works for you to get the negative energy out.
  • Change course. If something isn’t working and you keep trying then try another way or another thing.
  • Motivate yourself. Give yourself some pep talks and push and push.

Whatever it takes keep moving, keep trying, never give up on yourself and don’t compare your journey with others. Try to stay focused. What’s yours is yours, keep working for it.

Stereotyping Others says more about you than them

We as human beings have a habit of seeing each other as a monolith. A solid representation, a meaning we impose based on what we think we know from certain stereotypes of a person or group.

Someone is a geek, a nerd, nice, mean, bitter, angry, snobbish, flighty and the list goes on.

We do this automatically most times and rob ourselves of valuable encounters that will help us to grow and learn more.

How often do we pause and think about our own reaction to others after stereotyping them?

Why do we Stereotype others?

Perhaps we feel threatened by something we see in them, so we use this to make ourselves feel better?

Is because we think we know so much about all groups of people, based on our exposure through the media, relatives, friends and the like?

Does stereotyping others help us to brace ourselves for an encounter?

What exactly is the benefit of administering negative or positive stereotypes on others?

The irony is that it’s often the negative and nasty things in us that causes us to stereotype others negatively. It is never from a good place.

How do you react to Being negatively Stereotyped?

It is a weird world that we live in. Certain stereotypes of me as a black woman crop up as I travel to many countries in Asia. Blackness isn’t desired unless you have a certain fetish. Everyone wants to be white and this is evident in the whitening in almost all skincare products in shops. It’s a common past time to refer to me using animalistic terms of which gorilla seems to be a favourite. I have visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Taiwan, China, The Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and I live in Japan. I can count on three fingers the countries where I was simply viewed as a person.

I am stereotyped as African (we all know the negative stereotypes sadly, for a diverse number of people from 54 nations), a soon to be murderer, pickpocket, concubine and others.

I am an English teacher and among others (see above) in Japan. Some people will stereotype me based on this coupled with their love or hatred for the language.

In parts of Europe I was a trollop. Someone to subject to cruel hand movements beckoning me for my services.

In other places, I am stereotyped as rich because I am a traveller.

The stereotypes never seem to end.

Stereotyping is what we do

No one likes to be on the receiving end of negative stereotyping but it’s what us humans do. We are conditioned by the forces around us and our very natures to do this. Does this mean it’s ok? Of course not.

The problem isn’t stereotyping. It is allowing these stereotypes to cause us to be mean to others or to give others undue favours.

It would be nice if everyone would get the chance to prove himself or herself before the stereotypes morph into absolute knowing.

Ultimately, we can only navigate our lives amongst these stereotypes and use opportunities we get to to help others become more knowledgeable.

Resolve to be Joyful though Single

Trying to meet an individual, who you can cultivate an intimate, God centred relationship with, is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. It can wear you down and steal your JOY. Don’t let it.

It’s quite normal to want to get married and build a life with someone.

It’s ok to have moments of frustration and impatience.

We are humans after all. Waiting year after year and not seeing our dreams and hopes realized in this regard is indeed jarring.

Some may ask or pester you repeatedly about why you are single or about when you are getting married. My favourite response is to ask them, to point me to the store where I can find a husband.

We are more than our singleness.

If you are putting yourself out there: socializing in different places, exploring dating sites and such, you are doing what you can.

Live your life while doing all this:

  • Join with other singles and do stuff: dinner, movies, karaoke, travel and whatever works for you.
  • Encourage yourself with the fact that God is faithful, he sees you and is really in control of your life.
  • Travel solo and explore new or old familiar places.
  • Do some online courses and or go after further education opportunities.
  • Blog
  • Give of your time and talents in different avenues.
  • Be still and learn to enjoy your own company.
  • Date but don’t settle out of desperation. The cliche makes sense – it’s better to be single and happy than married and miserable.

I don’t know about you but I am content with my life. There are some triggers. I think all singles have their unique triggers. It pays to know them and circumvent them where possible.

Keep hope alive, have different goals for yourself as an individual. Get out and spend time with others, eat, drink, laugh and make merry. Create an oasis in your place and practice basking in the wonderfulness of it all. Embrace feeling sorry for yourself sometimes. We are humans and that happens. Don’t dwell in that place though because we are more than our single status.

Guard your Self Esteem as you date Online

You are putting yourself out there. It takes guts to know that people view your profile and move on. You do it too, we all do it. It’s not personal, keep reminding yourself of this. It is part and parcel of online dating.

Remember we all have our preferences

Nothing is wrong with us. We are not for everyone and it is best if those without a genuine interest keep scrolling or swiping etc. Do the same and know this is fine since you have no malicious intentions.

Waiting is a part of the process of online dating

Online dating isn’t a magic world where the one suddenly connects with you as soon as you sign up. It doesn’t work like this. Some people make a connection soon and others wait and wait. Go into online dating knowing that it may take some time to connect with who you desire. You may also still meet the person in real life and not online, we never know. Take the pressure off and take it day by day. It’s not that something is wrong with you. It is a part of the process.

Block and report people as needed

Don’t allow people you meet on online dating sites to speak to you out of turn. We don’t allow this in our daily lives, why put up with this online? Block and report the person if needed. Do it the first time and don’t feel bad. The people online are the same as those in society, so there are people of every ilk. Know this and proceed with caution.

Know what you want and proceed accordingly

Ask the right questions to get at what you want. I don’t feel you should have to lower your expectations to meet those who reach out to you. Please don’t feel bad or less than because who catches your eye may overlook you. Keep it moving and stay hopeful.

Take breaks to live in the real world and connect with those in your life

It is easy to make online dating sites into a mini world. You wake up in the morning and log on then come home and do the same. If you do this day after day without making any good connections it can affect your self esteem. Remember to keep up with people in your life. These are your people who are there for you. Let them love on you and you love on them. See online dating as a small part of your life, where you put yourself in a space to meet who you are seeking. It shouldn’t be all consuming. Go out, be with family and friends, live life while dating online.

The Blessing of Singleness

If you dwell on it singleness may feel like an albatross around your neck, forever dragging you down into the pit of despair.

All the social media platforms show everybody else finding love, dating, marrying, having babies and living life. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the life of others that you cultivate lack instead of nurturing joy.

Single people of whatever age please, let us be joyful and happy. Life is brief and we have so much to be thankful for. Stop, think and bask in the many blessings of singleness you enjoy. I know there are single people in different circumstances. Some may believe life would be better if they were in a relationship. This may or may not be the case. Celebrate where you are now.

If you have the financial means to do so and want to travel, research and go travel solo. This is something I am blessed to do and will share more about.

Volunteer at church, different organizations, mentor some youths and use your time to serve your community. This is a great blessing to others and yourself.

Another blessing of singleness for those without children is being able to go to bed whenever you want and also sleeping in. This is blissful! Don’t take it for granted.

Remember all the times when you just get up and go do whatever you want. Yup, that’s another blessing of singleness.

We are programmed to believe, that if we don’t get married by a certain age our lives are less than or that we are worth less than others. Shake that off and carve out a life that is joyful and fulfilling.

I believe it is important, to be hopeful to meet my God ordained spouse, while enjoying my time of singleness. Enjoying knowing yourself more and more, building skills, forming relationships and immersing yourself in worthwhile experiences.

As singles we are blessed and being content while waiting is a blessing.