Tag Archives: advice

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.

Say "No" now to Enjoy the Fruits of Delayed Gratification

“You can get it if you really want,

You can get it if you really want,

You can get it if you really want,

But you must try, try and try, try and try

You’ll succeed at last.” (Jimmy Cliff)

Getting to many goals involve lots of trying, self-discipline and saying no when we are burning to say yes. Saving a few dollars here and there on a drink or a meal may not seem like much. However, it adds up over time to a nice chunk of change.

Instant gratification has taken a hold of many of us. We can get deliveries at home because it’s easier. However, the fees do add up over time. I am so frugal, I nipped that in the bud. I am saving to go off travelling and exploring new lands which is something I truly enjoy. It is also something that refreshes and rejuvenates me, so I am motivated and practice cutting off some, not all frivolous spending.

What do you spend thoughtlessly on because it’s so cheap? How much would it add up to in a year?

I use to go hard at travelling for a few years but my priorities have shifted. I have travel and other goals, so I plan, budget and execute my spending accordingly. Time is moving fast and with no plan I make wake up at 50 and have nothing to show for my years of toil. That shall not be.

Practice Delayed Gratification and Save for Retirement

Today I was chatting with someone about early retirement. It’s not something I will do but it would be nice to have that option. If I prepare for that then I will be ready for retirement. As we know, public pensions in most countries are on the wane or insufficient to live a satisfying life.

Are you putting away money for retirement?

Do you think you are too young to save for retirement?

We are never too young to start preparing for our golden retirement years. If we want them to be golden, we have to practice a bit of delayed gratification and put money into that pot.

Practice Delayed Gratification to Create Generational Wealth or Financial Health

Parents want the best for their children. For many, this means going to university to prepare for their future. Saving to help children with this sets them up to be more financially secure adults. If they don’t have to take student loans or take less loans then this is a good start. Those cheap tops on sale in our favourite fast fashion shop add up over time. Do we need them or should we save those seemingly small amounts so they can add up?

People who are serious about their financial well being focus on their goals and practice delayed gratification. It is a habit for them. This is a habit many of us could benefit from.

Karl Marx wrote about Commodity fetishism in his Communist Manifesto. It is worth reading about. In our Capitalist world, many people invest in commodities that add no value to their lives and robs them of their money again and again. I am breaking that cycle. How much stuff do I need really?

Build up an Emergency Fund as a First Step

Dave Ramsey, who teaches people how to get out of debt and build wealth, advances the necessity of having an emergency fund. It is basically a sum of money that is enough to cover all expenses for four to six months or more. This is to give you some peace if there is a sudden job loss. For some people with good incomes it may be easy to save this in a short time. For others, we may need to say no to some of our treats and build it up over some time. “Try and try, try and try…”

Can you imagine the peace of mind that comes with having a fully funded emergency fund. Phew!

This isn’t a goal or resolution for 2020. This is a change of mindset, to practice habits that lead to financial health through delayed gratification.

Minding Your Business Contributes to Your Contentment

We don’t need to know everything that is happening in the world at all times. We as people are naturally nosy, I think. Maybe it’s just me.

I know the importance of minding my own business and not prying beyond what others feel like sharing. Respect people’s privacy. Carry each other’s burdens, yes but wait for people to unload when they are ready and in their own way.

I mean minding our own business on a small or large scale really build contentment. Imagine following all the news in the world and taking all the different pathos knowingly and unknowingly. This kind of thing can really weigh on you without you even being aware of it. Sometimes it is necessary to bury your head in the sand.

Focus on your goals and don’t share or over share them with any and everybody. Pour your time and energy into doing things that develop you as a person. Mind your business and be intentional about this. It can be as simple as turning off your phone for a night, reading a book, listening to some good music and eating some scrumptious food.

I know minding my own business is one of the many things that help me to be content. Instead of focusing on what other people think of me and the like, I keep it moving. Everyone has his or own life to live. Don’t let the opinions of others about you and your life cause you to lose your focus.

What is your business? Knowing this in every detail is vital and worth pursuing. If you don’t know your own goals and dreams then how can you mind them?

When tempted to step into other people’s business, remind yourself it doesn’t concern you.

Yes, there are occasions where you may need to help others, use good judgement. This is different from unknowingly being pulled into all kinds of matter because of social media and the like.

Chase contentment and keep your eyes on your goals and your own life.

Have the Conversation and Don't Bottle up Stuff

Sometimes keeping the peace means having a difficult conversation to get some things off your mind. It takes courage but the weight that falls off after the conversation is a thing of wonder and beauty. This is self-care because bottling up things inside cause stress levels to rise. Most of us are wary of approaching someone who has offended us in some way to have that conversation. However, if you are anything like me your attitude towards that person will reflect your feelings. These feelings can weigh on you if it is someone you truly care about or see regularly.

How to Prepare for and Approach the Conversation

Pray. Ask God to give you the right words and attitude to effectively convey your points. If you go into the conversation angry and hostile the outcome will not be good. It’s important to show respect for the other person who has wronged you. After all, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’ Treat others with the grace you expect to be treated with. I know this is the last thing we want to do but doing what we want to do, in the heat of the moment is counterproductive.

Write down the things you want to address. Approach this formally since it helps to ground you. Also know that you will need to be bold and make eye contact with the person. It is also important to meet privately if it is a friend or relative. For coworkers, for example, get a third person in the room. This is important for accountability. Ideally the person should be in a position of authority and neutral to best serve both of you.

If you can, get to the room before the meeting starts and do some deep breathing exercises and pray to keep a calm composure. Remind yourself about how you would want to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot.

How to Engage in the Conversation

Get to the point. Start off with the person’s name, make eye contact and state why you asked for the meeting. Ask to be allowed to say all you have to say without being interrupted and wait for confirmation on this. Then speak calmly and moderately while making eye contact. If you are someone prone to being nervous in such situations keep a pen in your hand to help with this. Twirl it or do something to help you get through.

Allow the other person to also speak uninterrupted and really listen. You may be surprised to know that in many cases they didn’t mean to offend you and may even be unaware that they offended you. THIS IS WHY THE CONVERSATION IS IMPORTANT INSTEAD OF BOTTLING UP FEELINGS. Believe me, I am talking from experience.

Being Afraid of Confronting Others Sometimes only Gives you Stress

Confrontations are never good. We often think of speaking with someone about something they do to us as confronting them. I see confrontation as approaching someone in anger to try to right a wrong. This is something that often causes more issues.

I believe it is important to approach an individual respectfully, to have a mature/grown conversation about something they have done to you. Timing is key, so we often need some time to cool off before we can do this. We encourage kids to talk it out. We know communication is important in intimate relationships to resolve disputes. Why is it then that we learn to be afraid of telling someone they have offended us? There are some things that can’t be let go of easily. A five minute conversation can do a world of good.

I did this recently and it did a world of good for my peace of mind. Interestingly, we both got to find out things about each other that we did not know. In addition, we also understand our boundaries better. This is self-care in action.

Instead of bottling up stuff, try having a conversation to clear the air. Even if the other person isn’t receptive you gain peace and that is paramount.

Develop the Habit of Spending Quality Time Alone; it’s Self-care

“You live alone!? Don’t you feel lonely?”

Many a conversation has this interjection because the person to whom I am speaking, discovers I live by myself. It happens quite often. (Perhaps it’s a cultural thing here.)

Is living alone synonymous with being lonely?

I wonder if people realise that you can live with others and still be lonely. Loneliness and being alone aren’t two peas in a pod.

Some people like being alone and may even need this for their sanity. There are also others who thrive on being with other people and still others who fall somewhere in the middle. At some point we will be alone. Being alone is great for taking time to develop yourself. Here are some positives from spending time alone:

  • You learn to hear your own thoughts and take the time to reflect and unpack things mentally. This gives clarity and helps you to learn important things about yourself.
  • You take time to do things that help you to rest. This is, if you learn to enjoy the times when you are alone. I mean, to just lie in bed and scroll through the internet or read a book or just be. I gift myself this opportunity on the weekend. It’s self-care.
  • Write down some goals and plans.
  • Dance, sing, clean, cook, take yourself out or just do whatever you want to (responsibly of course).
  • Develop a routine to pamper yourself in your alone time. This is self-care.
  • Go on a retreat by yourself to unwind and relax.
  • You can work on creating a peaceful atmosphere in that time as you de-stress.
Taking it slow…

Indulging in self-care doesn’t mean spending a bunch of money. Something a simple as taking a bath or lying on clean sheets at the end of a long day or eating that meal that hits the spot, soothes you. It’s nice to enjoy being alone at times. If you can’t be at peace when you are with yourself how can you be with others I wonder?

Being alone can be addictive. It’s good to strike a balance.

The Importance of Reflecting as you Look Ahead

As a teacher, I talk with my students often, about the importance of reflecting, as they go throughout their time in my class. There is often much focus on looking ahead to accomplish different goals and dreams. There is also merit in taking the time to reflect and look back as we prepare for what’s ahead.

What are some merits of reflecting?

One thing that reflecting does is to show us how we have grown. This can be physically or mentally; let’s focus on mental and emotional growth. I am gratified to see my growth in these areas. I can look back at past relationships, experiences and things that were very hard spots in my life. I have grown through them and learnt how to be a better me. I have developed and honed my critical thinking skills and effectively manage how I react to different people and situations. When you look back at your life, how have you grown?

I am learning to be content with where I am in life. I don’t have all the things I desire but when I see what I have accomplished in the last few years, I have peace. I am reminded that I have what I need and different things come at different times. This also reminds me that I will look back at where I am now and see some changes as time passes by. I tell myself be patient, remain hopeful and keep moving.

I also learn to value the people I have around me now because they may not always be here. I lost my mother a few years ago and I am glad I went to be with her often, though I live on the other side of the world. There is nothing like spending time with those near and dear.

Reflecting also helps me to remember that things may seem hard now but time will pass. Like the other unpleasant things before, they won’t last forever. My response to them and how I handle them is what is important.

I remind myself to be open-minded, flexible and positive despite what is happening in my environment.

Reflecting as you look ahead

Reflect to seek out the positives and negatives that you have learnt from life. Use this knowledge to prepare for the future. Know how you approach and deal with different situations and people in the past. Be proactive and think about how you can make necessary changes to benefit you as you look ahead.

Mistakes are great learning opportunities. What can we learn from some colossal mistakes to avoid pitfalls as we forge into the future? This can be anything from spending crazily at certain times of the year to trying different diets; just about anything. One mistake I made was to have developed the habit of buying clothes just because they are on sale. Have I learnt from the folly of my ways? I sure have. When you live in small Japanese apartments this can be quite a nuisance, so I have cut back on that.

From reading this blog, you have probably noticed that I am passionate about living on a budget and being debt free. I reflect quite a bit on how I spend and think about how I can save and reward myself more meaningfully. Travel is my extravagant hobby, so I make certain concessions for this. I travel differently now than I did a few years ago because though I enjoy it, I have other priorities like saving for retirement. You are never too young to begin saving for retirement.

Take time to reflect to understand yourself more, make some changes to benefit yourself moving forward and to see your growth. There are far more benefits to reflecting on your life as you plan for what’s ahead. I hope you’ll enjoy these as you reflect.

Keep Long Held Dreams Smouldering, Don’t Give up on Them

Do you have a dream that seems to become dormant as time passes?

Is there a dream you have that you are afraid of pursuing because it seems too big?

Has life just come and made you forget to dream or keep going after a dream you have had for a while?

Keep your dreams smouldering. You may have to expand the dream or tweak it in some way but look for ways to feed the fire for your dreams. A dream dies only when we lay it to rest.

Learn to unpack that seemingly impossible dream and look at it with new eyes. How can you shape it so that you can accomplish it step by step. Remember to look at how to build something you dream of and not only think of the final product. Dream, research and plan well to enjoy success. Remember to season your expectations with time – some things take time.

Do you want to go back to school, travel the world, start a business, live abroad or whatever other dreams you have? What’s holding you back from pursuing this dream and breathing life into it? Knowing this, is the first step to bringing a dream to life. Interestingly, many of us never take practical steps to birthing a dream before giving up on it or trying to do so.

There are some dreams though that take hold and won’t give up on us. We try to tamp down this dream and live around it but it is there smouldering. That one may be the very one to pursue. Don’t let fear hold you back or thoughts of what others will think. I know sometimes a lack of finances may be an hindrance. However, we should find ways to cut back and save up to pour into such a dream or find a side hustle to get funds to invest in it. Dare I even suggest borrowing a modest loan with a low interest rate to use for this purpose? Think about it.

Finally, never stop dreaming. It can be a simple thing such as wanting to be more active and outgoing. The dreams that I am talking about here aren’t fairytale things. I am talking about goals, short term and long term that add value to your life. Essentially, at every stage of life we ought to build on old dreams or generate new ones as we grow.

Go ahead, take the first step to bringing that smouldering dream to life. Do the research, set a timeline and map out different paths to bring it to fruition. We often think, “what if I fail, but what if you fly?’