Tag Archives: travel

Travelling Anywhere is on the Back burner for a while

It’s enough for me to leave my house from Monday to Friday, ride the train for a few minutes and go to work. I just can’t imagine travelling anywhere right now. For me, travelling anywhere, is on the back burner for a while.

Travelling is a privilege, in the best of times in my view. By this, I mean leisure travels of course. I am very aware that there are numerous people who depend on the travel industry for their living. I am from Jamaica where the travel industry is pivotal to the country’s GDP. I also know of people who work in this industry, who are suffering from the fall out as a result of this pandemic. It is heart wrenching to no end, so I understand why some travelling during this time is important. It is really like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Why I have no plans to travel for this year

The big plan for December 2020 was to visit Ghana for the first time. Everything was set and I had all but booked my flight. Getting from Japan to Ghana would mean at least a 12 hour flight somewhere, with a stopover, then another flight of over 5 hours to get there. I am not the most enthusiastic flier at the best of times, so I do not see how I can comfortably wear a mask for those hours. In addition, how would this affect my already jet lag prone self? It is a lot to wrap my mind around mentally, so that plan is on pause until some point later.

I would so love to go to Jamaica and see family in December. However, I am wary of infections rising in these colder months and what it will mean for travelling with stopovers in different countries. I also do not have enough time to quarantine and be there to catch up with others. Hence, this too is on the back burner and I am sure hoping I can go next year. I am so thankful for all this communication technology because if this had happened 14 years ago, when I just came here, it would have been really hard.

Am I paranoid? I see people I know taking jaunts here and there on this archipelago. Again, travelling anywhere is out for me. Some say it’s the best time to enjoy Japan because the country is closed to tourists from outside the country. I just can’t get up the interest to go off exploring and it may just be that I have explored quite extensively over the last decade here. I am not even eating in restaurants since I am not taking any chances. I am also someone who have always liked making my meals at home. Again, I know there is a valid point that we need to do what we can to prop up these industries…catch 22. I do have take out from time to time to contribute in this way.

Can we travel responsibly in this pandemic?

It is no longer just a case of buying travel insurance and going off to explore on a whim. Well, at least not for me. One has to be hyperaware of their safety to protect themselves and others. This is challenging in familiar spaces much less the strange places we encounter on our travels.

I do think some people can and are travelling responsibly at this time. I am also pleased to see how industry players and businesses are pivoting to ensure the safety of travellers. I however, see pictures of the airport in Cancun, with a bunch of tourists trying to flee the island before the hurricane and I cringe. Thankfully, people are in masks but there is little to no social distancing. I am not ready for the uncertainty that comes with travelling outside my bubble. This is something that each person has to decide on of course. I would love to read some tips on travelling during the pandemic. I have watched some videos but they mostly focus on the flight and getting through airports.

Travelling is firmly on the back burner

This is something I know for sure. Much of this may be because my travel appetite had been quenching a bit over the last few years. I really do not enjoy flying, especially since all the places I want to explore are far away on the African continent. A flight to Jamaica is also pretty far and involves going through all the hiccups.

With all this, travelling for leisure is definitely something that is firmly on the back burner for a while. I am still taking time to follow what is happening in the industry and preparing for when I will fly to Jamaica to see family and friends. This I will not delay indefinitely.

I pray peace and protection for all who are working in the travel industry. I see the airline workers being furloughed and losing jobs. I hope we can all get back to travelling and propping up each other’s livelihoods soon.

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.

Preparing for Very Long Flights

Flying from Japan to Jamaica and vice versa is a marathon. This involves flying 12 – 14 hrs to somewhere in America, then around 4 hours from America to Jamaica.

Though I have taken my share of transatlantic flights to the different continents once or twice a year, I am not excited about the long flights. For me, I have to mentally prepare for the journey. I really wish we could beam from place to place like in Star Trek.

Here are some of the things I do to prepare for very long flights:

  1. I have my own entertainment sorted.Yes, on these long flights you have your own screen with movies, music and the like to choose from and binge on. However, technology fails sometimes. I remember returning to Japan on a flight, a few years ago and the entertainment system was down. I was happy I had my kindle with books and my ipod with music. Thankfully, many airlines have charging ports at your seat so your device will stay charged and ready.
  2. I pack snacks, suff that are comforting. Yes, you get two meals and snacks on these flights but it’s nice to have these. Not everyone enjoys plane food. Munch and enjoy the entertainment.
  3. I choose comfy clothes that are breathable and carry some kind of covering because the air in planes can often be frigid. The blankets you get may not be warm enough. You want to be comfortable enough to lounge as much as you can in the narrow seats to get some sleep. Since, I fly economy, my advice is mostly for those who do the same.
  4. I wear comfy shoes and/or bring slippers to change into on the flight.
  5. I take headphones/earphones, these are necessary to hear what I want to listen to well. The ones provided by airlines are not great quality.
  6. I take some chewing gum, it is supposed to help with clearing my ears of the pesky air pockets.
  7. In the nice little transparent baggy for liquids in my carry-on, I pack lip gloss, hand sanitiser, lotion and eye drops (This is essential if you wear contacts). I use these multiple times on the long flights.
  8. I wrap my hair in a scarf for the duration of the flight. My hair is prone to dryness and the air in the plane is oh so dry.
  9. I have pocket tissues ready because I may need them for whatever reason.
  10. I pack my patience and anxiety because time seems to crawl.
  11. I take some water on the flight ( 2 500 ml bottles). Of course, I buy them after going through security. The small amounts they serve on the flights just don’t suffice.
  12. If you need something to calm you down, see your doctor before. I don’t, I pray and learn to leave I all to God.

I am oh so thankful to be able to leave Japan on a Thursday and get to Jamaica on the same Thursday, all because Japan is 14 hours ahead. I do not like losing a day coming back though.

Regardless of the long flights, it is nice to know that I can go from one place so far away to another place a great distance away in a day. Imagine travelling by ship for many months back in the day.

How do you prepare for very long flights?

View from Cusco Airport after a short scenic flight from Lima

Visiting Shanghai, Xian and Beijing in December

Travelling in these regions of China during the colder months is not for the faint of heart. It gets very cold. I mean freezing cold. I mean frigid, I will never ever be warm again in my life COLD.

One big advantage is that you can walk the many distances from place to place without sweating buckets. There is much walking as you sightsee, especially in Beijing. Also, no trip to Beijing is complete without a trip to The Great Wall, so even with snow flurries falling from the sky, we enjoyed its magnificent workmanship.

Getting to the Great Wall

I think the most convenient way to get there from Beijing is to go with a tor company. There are tours that take you there and pick you up after you are done. If you don’t speak the language then this is a good option. Someone will be on board to explain everything to you and all the fellow tourists on board in English. It is also reasonably priced. I often buy tours on Viator.com when I travel, so check out tours there. (This is not sponsored, just advice from my experiences with them.)

Schedule a full day because it is quite a drive there and back. Also, it is worth walking along the wall and enjoying the scenery and such. I can imagine it being very beautiful in spring and fall.

Yu Garden, Shanghai
Yu Garden Shanghai

You can still enjoy being out about in Shanghai even in the cold in winter. There is much to do and see in the way of cultural elements. Shanghai is known for its shopping but there are art museums, gardens, an aquarium and other things to enjoy. I enjoyed the different Christmas decorations around the city since I was there just before Christmas day.

In addition, the subway is great for getting around, though you have to be prepared to be pushed by many people. It is all a part of the adventure.

Xian, is where the Terracotta Warriors are to be found. It is worth visiting the Terracotta Warriors Museum to see the beautiful work of art on display. Read a bit about the warriors before going, to fully appreciate what you will see.

Enjoy walking around the town and see the city wall, the bell tower and enjoy street food. Soak up the different experiences and see how people are as they go about their daily lives there.

Dress for the weather if you go in winter. It is a great time to visit because you can have many of the tourist sights to yourself.

Things are affordable, so you can enjoy many experiences and stay in mid range hotels at a good rate. There are many options for good restaurants with affordable prices. Also, with some research you can get from place to place by train. I flew into Shanghai then took the train to Xian then another one to Beijing. Then I flew from Beijing back to Japan. We took the trains overnight, so that’s a great way to save on lodging and wake up in another city. BUDGET TIP!

While Beijing was oh so cold, I did enjoy that city most because of its architecture, museums and historical sites. I hope to visit it again in more palatable weather.

Travelling to Siem Reap to Gaze in Wonder at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat displays beautiful architecture and how well this meshes with nature over time.

Being at Angkor Wat is an unforgettable experience. This is why many people go to Siem Reap. Its setting is captivating and one marvels at the level of artistry seen everywhere.

Travelling to Angkor Wat in style with the nice driver

Look how lush everything is. It reminded in many ways about place sin the Jamaican countryside that I had visited. The driver was very funny and engaging. I remember the warmth of the people in this area and also the little kids who speak all kinds of languages. They may have slippery fingers, so though cute one has to watch out.

I just say ‘Wow!’
Nature pushes through and takes back what we introduced to mess with it. It makes something even more intricate.
Preservation in process, this is good since a legacy is being preserved so more of us can go, see and learn about another culture.
Lush tropical beauty. One can spend an entire day just enjoy nature and being restful.
Look how beautifully designed this is. Its ageing features gives it even more character.
Look at the intricate work of art….
Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to do a good bit of walking. Spend a day or two soaking up this wonder.
As pretty as a picture right?

If you are going to South East Asia, add Cambodia to the list. It is an affordable country and the people are warm and welcoming. Be careful though because there are those who may grab your valuables. Travel responsibly and so on…

Discovering the Beauty of Tea in Sri Lanka and Forming New Bonds

Sri Lanka is a beautiful paradise with lush scenery, wonderful people and scrumptious food. I can’t believe I had no plans to visit this awesome place, until I met a friend from there in Tokyo. When she returned home and told me to come visit whenever I wanted, I jumped at the chance. By then I had been to India and knew it was somewhat similar. Sri Lanka, has its own rich cultural traditions and has a warmth all of its own though. Let me wax eloquent about it all.

Jackfruit, my favourite fruit and mango my other favourite fruit are abundant in Sri Lanka. If I am able to gorge on these then I am happy. I was happy in Sri Lanka both times I visited. At my friend’s house, I enjoyed these fruits and others, as well as a smorgasbord of other local dishes that infused joy into my being. Food in Sri Lanka is spicy goodness, everything is delicious.

Learning more about Sri Lanka through its foods

I am always surprised at how common it is for people to eat their meals with their hands. It seems that eating with utensils (especially at home) isn’t as global as some of us practice/believe. It is something I do when I visit places where this is the norm. Since, I was staying with my friend and her family I considered it important to do this. One great aspect of travelling is learning about other cultures in real life. I am learning as I travel, to be more open-minded and respectful of the way other groups of people do things. When you think of it, it is quite eco-friendly to eat with your hands. Curried jackfruit was new to me. Though I enjoyed it, I still prefer eating it raw and ripe.

Seafood is quite tasty and varied in Colombo (this is where I indulged a lot so keep this in mind). We enjoyed eating at some world class hotels and the fare they served was worth every penny. You can eat good food for cheap and you can also splurge and enjoy good food in more classy establishments. It’s worth trying them, within your budget of course.

Sri Lanka
Somewhere between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy

Exploring tea ‘country’ and making connections in Kandy and Colombo


Sri Lanka is a country where travelling on the beaten path still gives great rewards. It isn’t crowded and train travel or transportation is accessible. Also many people speak or understand English, so travelling around is relatively straightforward. I was fascinated by ‘tea country’ Nuwara Eliya, so I took the train from Colombo up there. It is freezing in summer. Thankfully, I had planned for this. I enjoyed a local tour around a tea plantation to see how tea is made. Phew! The thing that struck me was how hard the women worked to pick the leaves. I was left wondering how much money seeps down to them…

Sri Lanka

The entire area is lush and green. There are lots of picturesque spots for the instagram worthy pics. On the way back to Colombo we drove and those roads are winding…the scenery can’t be beat though. It was nice to see the loads of fresh fruits and veggies being sold by the road side. This brought up memories of familiar places in Jamaica.

In Kandy I spent time with my friend’s relatives and learned more about that area. For me though, just chatting with them about cricket and their lives were the highlights. We are still in touch and I visited them on my next trip, without my friend who had to work then. There is something about making real connections that crosses distance and cultures.

Sri Lanka
Royal Botanical Garden, Kandy

Back in Colombo it was time to check out my friend’s church. Can I just say it was the topping on the cake of my experiences in Sri Lanka. We worshipped, fellowshipped and had great fun. They have a lovely tradition of having Christmas breakfast. This was a special time. New Year’s Eve service was also lovely. Thereafter we set off fireworks and chilled into the wee hours of the morning. These people know how to live well. It reminded me of the joy and closeness of a small church, where everybody knows everybody.

I have nothing but warm memories of Sri Lanka. It’s one of the places I know I could visit again and again. It’s a blessing to have had the wonderful experiences I had there.

Travels in Japan: Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a must visit place in Japan. Nagasaki should be the same.https://thisgracedlife.com/2019/06/27/travels-in-japan-nagasaki/

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum showcases the horrors that people experienced after the bombing. Steel yourself for the graphic images. It’s only 200 yen and it has been recently updated to accommodate more people. The entire park is worth spending some time viewing and reflecting on the events that took place there less than 100 years ago. Get to the museum early because when there are many people they may stop admitting people way before closing time. You may have to wait and it maybe a bit crowded.

Visit the Hiroshima Castle to get a taste of that aspect of the culture. It’s 370 yen to enter and it’s worth exploring. The grounds are really beautiful as well. It’s a nice place to sit and enjoy nature for a while especially in spring and fall.

Many people rush through Hiroshima in a day or two but there are many wonders to discover by walking its streets. Okonomiyaki is a staple of Hiroshima and worth trying. Also ride the trams from place to place and see more of the surrounding areas. Payment on the tram can be tricky so watch others or ask the conductor.

Of course no visit to Hiroshima is complete without a stop at Miyajima.

Everybody who visits Hiroshima has a shot like this LOL!

A short ferry ride from Hiroshima is where you will find Miyajima. It’s known for the tori in the picture above and the deer you will encounter there. Spend a day exploring the island on foot and ride up the ropeway to see a view of the city, on a clear day.

Whenever I visit – I have been 3 times- I enjoy trying out the different seafood on offer by different vendors. It’s definitely a place to walk and eat again and again. Go in the back streets, enjoy the different architecture, see how people live and soak up the moment.

Visiting Miyajima after the Hiroshima Peace Park reminds you of how people are living and thriving despite the horrors of the past. You can enjoy nature in many different forms and see another side of Japan that you may not see on the beaten track.

We stayed at a nice airbnb that is centrally located the last time I visited. The other times I stayed in hotels. Shop around and get the best deals. Book months ahead because Hiroshima is always popular. Every visitor wants to visit and many Japanese students go there on school trips at different times of the year.

Things cost generally the same as other places in Japan so plan accordingly

Solo Travel Adventures in Turkey

Turkey is a captivating country with much to do for all kinds of travellers. A few years ago I visited Istanbul and Cappadocia for a few days each. I was on one of my solo travel jaunts to soak up what I could in these cities.

How did I prepare for my solo travel adventure in Turkey?

It all started a year prior to flying over there. I started reading more about Istanbul and Cappadocia, the two places I was intent of visiting. I read blogs about other people’s experiences in these places. I researched the cost of accommodations, food and transport on the ground to decide how much to budget for the trip.

Since I wanted to be there for a week and use my time efficiently, I opted to fly from Istanbul to Cappadocia on Turkish Air. It was a good decision and I am happy I did that. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more to travel fast in order to maximize your time.

Some of what I saw in Cappadocia and Istanbul

The outdoor natural rock formations in Cappadocia are captivating and much fodder for the creative mind. Look at some of these images to get a taste of this.

The centre of Cappadocia is a walkable place and lovely to explore. Stay in a rock hotel to experience something unique to that town. Do a few local tours and go see the sights in the desert like area and or take a ride in a hot air balloon.

As a woman travelling alone I felt safe and of course stayed on guard to look out for my best interest. Ahhh… Cappadocia is so picturesque and a great place to go slow for a few days.

Istanbul is a thriving city with one side falling in Asia and the other in Europe. It is lovely to explore and enjoy the old and new sides of the city. A great way to get a feel for it is to do a hop on hop off bus tour.

I like the liveliness of the city and it’s friendly people. There are those men though who think that a single woman travelling alone is looking for a quick lay. Be alert ladies.

The food is fantastic and the coffee is wonderful. Explore The Grand Bazaar and other markets. The colours, the sights, the sounds are an amalgamation of everything that is splendiferous.

The Hagia Sofia was my first stop because I had been wanting to see it for a while. Remember to dress modestly when visiting.

Both places are affordable and have nice boutique type hotels for less than 100 USD per night. This is a destination where your money goes a long way.

I have wonderful thoughts about my trip there and enjoyed my solo travel adventures in both places in Turkey.

Travels in Japan: Nagasaki

I have been in Japan for years and have planned to visit Nagasaki many times and it just didn’t happen. I finally made it happen earlier this year. It was worth the trek from Tokyo.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – https://nagasakipeace.jp/english/abm.html is a good place to spend a few hours learning about the tragedy that befell the city.

Nagasaki Peace Park is also a place to explore and learn more about the bombing and it’s focus on promoting peace.

Nagasaki Peace Park Fountain

Getting around the city is easy since there is a tram that passes by its many sights. Unfortunately, you have to pay with cash or buy the local IC card. It doesn’t take Suica or Pasmo.

I recommend spending at least two days there to explore all its wonders. There are many historical churches there.

Urakami Cathedral in the distance

There is also a museum to remember the Catholics who were killed for their faith there. The Twenty Six Martyrs Museum is very educational.

Read more here to know how to enjoy your trip to Nagasaki – https://www.keirinkai.or.jp/nagasaki-walks/sights/points_of_interest.html

The quickest way to get to Nagasaki is to fly there. It can be pricey at times but if booked ahead deals can be had. It takes way too long to go their by shinkansen. Another cost effect way to get there is to fly to Fukuoka and then go to Nagasaki by train from there.

Nagasaki is unique and a Japanese city like no other because of its history as a port city. It had a range of foreign influences and this is present in its sites and foods.

I am glad I finally got the chance to visit.

Tips for the First Time Female Solo Traveller

So, you are thinking, going back and forth about venturing off on your first solo trip. You plan, almost book a ticket, second guess yourself because what if…?

Safety is a big issue, especially for the solo female traveller. This is understandable. Be smart about travelling alone and explore your options.

Here are some tips that might help you take the plunge and maybe even become a dedicated solo traveller.

Take a Solo Trip somewhere Local

See this as a trial run. You are still in your home country and you are familiar with the money, time zone, food, language and so on. Venture out alone in the comfort of the things you know. This will empower you and teach you much about yourself as a solo traveller. For example, are you a boss at finding your way around an unfamiliar area? Do you get frustrated and throw in the towel? How do you handle this?

Do solo local trips a few times and get used to going it alone. Taking the first solo trip abroad doesn’t work for everyone.

Solo travel Abroad to Countries on the Beaten Path

Countries that have mature tourism industries are good for first time solo travellers. Much is written in the way of reviews by both male and female bloggers. Read, educate yourself and plan where to venture off to. I didn’t go to countries where English isn’t spoken widely in the early years of my solo travels. This is something to consider.

Stay at Well Secured Lodgings

It may be worth splurging on lodgings with good security so you feel at peace. Nothing spoils a trip like worrying and not sleeping well at nights. Also do some local trips that are officially recommended by people at your accommodations. Use common sense in this as well.

Take Short Trips to build your Confidence as a Solo Traveller

Some people might want to take a short trip before going on a six month solo jaunt around South East Asia. Travelling can be tiring for some people after a few weeks. Reflect on short trips and plan accordingly. Each short trip will teach you something about how to travel alone and enjoy it fully. The truth is that, travelling alone to different places is a diverse experience.

Plan, Save, Research and take the Plunge

Just do it. Start somewhere and go from there. The perfect trip is what you make of it. Be open to having your own experiences and do not try to anticipate having what others blog about. Research and use the knowledge you gain to prepare well to enrich your journey. Solo travel is rewarding. Women can travel alone and enjoy themselves immensely. We live in the information age so it’s quite easy to know where women are treated poorly. There are many wonderful places where we can travel well, focus on these.

If you feel the urge to travel alone, don’t keep putting it off. You will grow for sure and be empowered.