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REFLECTIONS ON MY 27TH BIRTHDAY

DIVE IN

Thoughts. 

These are just rambling thoughts in my final days of being 26. 

Good ideas are never enough. Good intentions are never enough. Action is everything. If your friend is trying to chase a dream, please support them in any way you can. Ask questions. When I ask "how are you?" I really do mean, "HOW ARE YOU"? Tell me what's going on in your life - is your sister ok? Are you still thinking of quitting? Did you ever finish building that clock? You will never be happy with yourself. Fully. There's always more to be done, and much more to be wanted. That's ok. That's how we keep motivated. Stop being so wishy washy. People will walk all over you. Once they do - there's no turning back. It's hard to change people's opinions of you. Don't. Don't ever sacrifice who you are. It's what makes you special. Yes, it is cheesy and it is 100% percent true. I believe it whole heartedly. Unless you're a douche. In that case - check yourself. You can never be fully happy with anyone. No one is. Accept that. Stop moaning. No one wants to be around someone who is negative and complains all the time. No one is perfect, and I don't believe I'll ever be either. Please don't force your expectations on others all the time. Most of the time it will cause you more agony than the person you are forcing it on. Make friends. Be friendly and don't be afraid to lose them. Sometimes you will have an amazing connection with someone, and think those same feelings will span across countries and time but it will just fall flat. Focus on the ones that do stay. Those are the special ones. Rereading your work will always slow you down.  Just keep swimming. "Passion" is not discovered. It is earned. It is not an explosion of fireworks like on the 4th of July, but rather a long, slow burning fuse that will eventually one day, hopefully, maybe come to fruition and become lights in the sky. Everyone has a secret talent. Try to find out what it is. I take my family for granted, and resent myself for not being a better daughter, sister, niece, cousin. I love seeing my family, and have always regretted not having a larger family as a child. Now I do, and it makes me warm inside every time I see them. I think if you are home with your parents, and they are downstairs, you should urgently shout, "MOM, DAD!" When they respond, you should say, "Nothing, just wanted to say, I love you". Call your parents.  Ask your parents about their childhood. It will fascinate you. The loudest people are often the loneliest. They just want to be noticed, loved, appreciated. Try not to be defensive. Instead, ask them about their day. Give them a hug or check in with them regularly. It'll make the world of a difference.  If you are intimidated to speak to someone (generally older like a boss) - ask about their kids. Stop saying "like". Hugs are always a good way to greet and say goodbye to someone. If you lend someone a book, never expect to get it back. Think of it as sending good karma into the world. Always greet people with excitement. I believe some friendships are magical. Some people just get you, and you will love them for the rest of your life. These rare souls get you in a way that no one else does. You know who you are. Some people are meant to only be in a chapter of your life for a reason. Perhaps those friendships are no longer in your life, but know that they were in your life to shape you in some way. Remember the fond memories. One day, after enough time has gone by - write them about those times. I think it would be nice. I like to be asked about my day. My life. My going ons. My hopes and dreams. My favorite blue suede shoes. I'd like to talk about them too. I can't just be there for you. Put yourself first more often.  It's a red flag when a boyfriend/girlfriend/friend/family member doesn't ask or get to know you. Try to be a good and motivating influence in all your relationships. If a friend is feeling lazy and asks, "should I go to the gym?" Say "Yes". Please push them to chase their dreams. Please push them to call the girl. Please be good. Please. Ladies. In the workplace, speak up for yourselves. You deserve to be there. Humans, speak up for others when you see something is wrong. I hate seeing an old person stand on the train. Educate yourselves. Try reading the same article on CNN, Al Jazeera, and the Times. Surround yourself with people that motivate you. Make you laugh. That you look up to. If you're in a career where there is no superior, or someone in a role that you'd like to be like, you probably should go.  If you have a hilarious friend, tell them all the time how much they make you laugh. I bet they'll love it inside. Complain less. Find solutions. Listen to Urban Flora in the shower with a candle. It will soothe your soul. Turn off your phone, and just sit and admire the world around you. It's beautiful. These are thoughts I have right before I turn 27. 

 

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AIRLINE TRAVEL HACKS - TIPS FROM AN AIRLINE REPRESENTATIVE

AIRPLANE TRAVEL HACKS.png

 

Earlier this week I got on the phone with an airline to fix a little hiccup. I had ordered a ticket for my friend and typed in her married last name, not realizing her passport still had her maiden name. If we had showed up to the airport with the wrong ticket name, DESPITE having her state IDs, blood samples, family tree, mother's word, video of birth and her passports showing that she was the same person, she would have still been in a pickle. The name on the ticket MUST match the passport or else you're not getting on that flight. 

If this happened at the airport, getting through to the airline reservationist may have taken too long on the phone and we might have missed our flight from being on HOLD for so long. The reservationist can fix it on the phone, but time is always an issue at the airport. So, always make sure that your name matches the ticket. 

While I was chatting with my reservationist, I asked her for some tips flyers should know. Here is what she had to say.

 

TAMMY'S CARDINAL RULES

 

1. ALWAYS BE ON TIME. 

AT LEAST 2 HOURS BEFORE AN INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT

Going through customs and baggage check is unpredictable. I'm sure there are plenty of times you've made it through the gates, but it is not the airline's fault if you showed up too late and you miss your flight. Get to the airport AT LEAST 2 hours beforehand and save yourself the stress.

2. BE NICE TO EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER.

IT'S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO, ITS HOW YOU DO

When speaking to the representative on the phone, they have the power to help you. Be respectful. Be kind. If something has gone wrong, yelling at them won't change anything. Remember they are trying to fix something for YOU. Yelling just impedes the process. Also, depending on availability, they can waive fees and bump you up or simply put you on a seat next to your friend on a crowded flight. Thanks Tammy:)

When talking to gate agents, wait till the end to board the flight. 

"I will wait until everyone boards.  At the very end, when they're giving a seat assignment. I say to the agent, How are you doing today? You need a drink? Coffee? I' m gonna need a better seat. Can you help me out?" 

Sometimes you have to beg to get what you want. 

3. NEVER WEAR HEELS TO THE AIRPORT

  

YOU ARE GOING TO FALL

It sounds like a herd of cows coming through the terminal. It is horrible.  If you have to run, YOU'RE GONNA FALL. 

 

Do you guys have any other tips for the airport? Comment below! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REFLECTIONS: ONE YEAR LATER

Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ithaca with #mycovry sunglasses! Can you see the reflections in my glasses?

Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ithaca with #mycovry sunglasses! Can you see the reflections in my glasses?

 

A year ago today, I was hopping on an airplane about to embark on the biggest trip of my life. My plane was headed to Cartagena, Colombia and I was about to travel mostly alone across 10 countries from South America to Europe. It would be one of the biggest trips I had ever done in my life.

The trip took my life for a turn that I had never envisioned. It led me to a love for travel, a thirst for adventure and a passion that I had formerly never known for anything. I learned that I love to write. First, about my silly adventures.... Waking up to a stranger massaging my feet on the beach in Colombia. Almost getting robbed alone in Peru. Exchanging money illegally in a back alley in Argentina. Then as time progressed, about ordinary people on extraordinary journeys... Modern Day Explorer. The whole time, I never knew where this little website would take me. 

Today, one year later, I'm super excited to be teaming up with Covry Sunwear, a sunglass line started up by two lovely female entrepreneurs - Florence Shin and Athina Wang. I have loved these sunglasses since I first wrote about them in my beginner writing days. I love when people chase their dreams and find success. Florence and Athina did just that! They had an idea 2 years ago for sunglasses that actually FIT and launched a killer Kickstarter campaign. They've been featured on Fast Company, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and today are selling these bad boys left and right. To get your own pair visit www.covrysunwear.com. I'm rocking the Castor Matte Blue in the photo above. 

Be sure to follow me on social media! I'll be showcasing some great photos with#mycovry sunglasses chasing frozen waterfalls in upstate NY! 

 

This is a sponsored post, but clearly I'm obsessed with them (i.e. the post I wrote about them in my beginner writing days) so everything is my opinion:)





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MODERN DAY EXPLORER: A BRAND NEW SERIES

I'm incredibly excited to share a new series that I have been working on for the past few months called MODERN DAY EXPLORER. Each piece will feature an ordinary person on an extraordinary journey. I started the series because I disagree with most of the world of travel writing nowadays. It seems like traveling has become a fad. People don't travel to discover anymore, they do it to get a dozen likes on Instagram. When reading about countries, they shouldn't be condensed to a Top 10 list, sanitized and dumbed down for consumption. I want to share stories of the people who travel because for them, traveling is about discovery, for adventure, for becoming better people, for understanding the world a little better. I want to be inspired by the very people that walk these roads. 

The first of the series, is the incredible Alexis Stember Coulter, an advertising producer who has always kept her two passions of photography and travel in the forefront of her life. She is an amazing storyteller, and the type of person who makes you feel as if you can take over the world after you chat with her. I hope that you find Alexis story as inspiring and compelling as I do. Click on the image above to start reading.

Do you know of anyone with an incredible travel story? Please SUBMIT using the contact page for a chance to be featured in an upcoming piece.

 

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LAST MINUTE VALENTINE'S PLANS

BE INTERESTING

They'll forget the Pre Fixe dinner you took them to, but they'll always remember the time you sat  so close to the sax player you could count his wrinkles. Here's a little guide to some fun and unique activities for Valentine's Day tomorrow. 

LISTEN TO: Alina Baraz and Galimiatis: Urban Flora

TIP: Don't forget to send flowers to your mom. She should always be your #1 lady.

 

Want Laughs?

The legendary Comedy Cellar has opened up a new venue right around the corner from each other. Both will be having Valentine's Day shows with special guests. Last year I went and Bill Burr showed up! A $24 cover charge and 2 drink minimum will keep the laughs coming all night. 

 

Want Romance?

Visit ZINC BAR  in NY's West Village for their Valentine's Day Concert. Many a couple has fallen in love under the velvety allure of Bossa Nova and live jazz concert performances in this intimate piano bar. 

 

Want Sexy?

The Pink Slipper Room's Valentine's Burlesque show in the LES. Prepare for a night of rambunctious and sinfully tasteful performances. 

 

For the whole family:

Valentine's Day this year happens to fall on Chinese New Year! Visit Chinatown to participate in the Lunar New Year Parade! The firecrackers start at 1pm on Mott street.

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REFUGEES ALONG THE WATER: A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF SYRIANS IN CAMP MORIA, GREECE

WORDS: CHAU MUI / INTERVIEW & IMAGES: ADELINA FONTES

The aftermath of refugees arriving by boat along the coast of Greece


ALONG THE WATER IN CAMP MORIA


Adelina Fontes is currently stationed in Camp Moria as a volunteer in the island of Lesbos, Greece. Prior to the refugee crisis, Lesbos was a popular tourist spot for it's beautiful beaches. Today the hotels are still fully booked, but instead of fanny pack ridden tourists, it's filled with refugees who've traveled for hours by boat and bus in the hopes of starting a new life across Europe.

Adelina Fontes (L) and another volunteer in Camp Moria

Adelina Fontes (L) and another volunteer in Camp Moria

"THIS IS JUST THE FIRST STEP OF THEIR JOURNEY"

The term refugees is a broad one, and surrounds more than just the Syrians. The current refugee epidemic categorizes Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis as "Priority Refugees". In Camp Moria, they are the only ones able to get paperwork to enter Europe. 

Economic migrants such as Moroccans, Pakistanis, Algerians and others escaping economic turmoil are caught in limbo on the island. Unable to get paperwork to enter Europe, migrants pretend to be Syrian, but are usually caught by Frontex, the European Union's border patrol.


INSIDE THE UNHCR


One of the most notable branches of NGOs (non govenmental organization) on the ground is the UNHCR (United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees). In Greece, every single refugee must go through the UNHCR in order to get paperwork to continue their trip. Over 1,000 refugees are stationed at the UNHCR at any given time, but resources and workers are limited. Food is provided once a day through organizations like "Good Samaritan" and "Save the Children". Workers have limited hours despite the amount of people arriving on shore at night and only recently did they get a 24 hour medic. 

"They don't have enough supplies for the refugees...sometimes we have to sneak food and dry clothes under the fence to them"

 Refugees are expected to wait in wet clothes for hours, even days. Two children died last week from Hypothermia while waiting on line. Hypothermia is the leading cause of death amongst refugees in the camps. Private organizations and volunteers outside of the compound fill the holes that NGOs like the UNHCR can't cover. Independent volunteers like Adelina feed, dress and prepare hundreds of people a day before they make their trek across Europe. Out of a whopping 28 countries within the European Union, only Germany and Austria currently have open doors for refugees. 


Refugees4.jpg

INSIDE CAMP MORIA


It's Winter in Greece. 

 On the ground, volunteers are running out of men's shoes and refugees must wear socks with warming blankets tucked inside. The smell of wet clothes, un showered bodies, vomiting refugees and baby diapers permeate the air. Over 1,000 people stay within the UNHCR compound. When they run out of space, private volunteers set up tents outside of the compound for families to stay in. Economic migrants have stayed here for weeks in political limbo for a lack of better options. They can be fined up to $10,000USD for sneaking into another country.

"We have to tell people to lie and say they are going to Germany or else they'll be forced to turn around"

 From Camp Moria, refugees must either take a cab or bus to the port in Mitilene. Sometimes taxis increase their rates so much that refugees walk over an hour to the port. With the Greek economy in turmoil, strikes happen frequently and refugees are left in the dust. As of January 28th, ferries are on strike until Sunday, January 31st. Only 3 ferries will leave to Athens that day. From Athens, bus routes generally take refugees to Macedonia, where they will show paperwork to make their way to Germany or Austria. 


BOATS


Before getting to Camp Moria, refugees must hire a smuggler in Turkey to take them across the water to Greece. Last year over 600,000 people people entered Europe from Turkey's point of entry. A small number compared to the 2.2 million Syrians, 300,000 Iraqis and 50,000 Afghans who are currently living in Turkey trying to make a new home for themselves. The number continues to grow. Last year Turkey was offered over $3.48 billion USD to tighten us security on it's shores and mitigate the refugee situation. In return, Turkish citizens would have visa free travel to Schengen countries and a deal to join the EU.  

What does tightening up security in Turkey mean?

It means the demand for a boat goes up. Refugees pay approximately $1,000 Euros per person for the trip to Greece. These plastic raft like boats are overpacked (sometimes with over 60 people in a boat made for 30) and sent off to sea in the dead of night to escape getting caught by border patrol. Smugglers send off these boats on their own sometimes, choosing one of the refugees on the boat to man the ship. Last week alone, two boats capsized, 43 people, 17 of which were children, drowned. It seems refugees are paying more to die than to live. 

"There was a boat last week where the adults were up to their necks in water, and they were literally holding up babies above their heads for hours"

Last week five volunteers of Humanity First and Prem Aid were arrested after they rescued refugees from a sinking boat. They were accused of "human smuggling" and now face up to four years in prison. One of the members, Salam was ordered to pay 10,000 Euros to make bail. This is a situation where harsh politics are thrown around in place of drawing humanity from one another. 

Over 3500 refugees died crossing the waters in 2015. 


THE WORLD REACTS


Last week Denmark announced they would start confiscating money and jewels from refugees to pay for their stay. Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei shut down his exhibition  in Denmark over the Danish laws regarding the refugee status. The EU is in talks to set up concentration camps for refugees in Greece. Sweden is considering expelling over 80,000 refugees this year. 

Since 2012, the US has only received 2,000 refugees. This year, President Obama vowed to take in 10,000 refugees. Canada has opted to take in 25,000 refugees. Australia has vowed to take in 12,000 refugees. 

Compare these numbers with some of the other European countries. Germany, one of the only countries with it's doors still open granted 44,910 refugees last year and registered 240,000; expecting more than a million this year. Lebanon has 1.2 million refugees. Turkey, as mentioned earlier has 2.2 million. 

The European Union has been criticized for it's mishandling of the refugees. 


HOW YOU CAN HELP


 The only way we can help is to educate ourselves and keep the conversation going. No solution can be found if no one is talking about the problem. One of the reasons for the backlash in the US for accepting refugees is the fear that many Syrian refugees may be "terrorists" or ISIS sympathizers. This is ignorance. They are being accused of what they are running away from. Maybe if people realized that these refugees are not terrorists, that there is room to help, that we could open the doors a little more.

"Either we rebuild Syria or we start spreading the influx of refugees across the globe and not just Europe."

The conflict in Syria will only continue, and pretty soon Germany and Austria will have to close their doors too as they hit oversaturation. The refugees will be landlocked in Greece and Turkey. Turkey, with it's precarious history with the Kurds is another recipe for disaster. The Kurds have been persecuted for years, even as recently as 1993. The question remains, how will refugees be treated in Turkey and other countries when they are no longer wanted? 

We need the rest of the world to step in and accept refugees so that it's not just on a few countries that are handling the breadth of people. Besides reaching out to your government, you can also donate money and clothing to volunteer organizations on the ground. It also helps to use a little perspective and consider if you were in their place. You can also start your own donation group

I'm collecting warm winter clothing and shoes in the NYC area this week to send to Adelina in Greece. She has selflessly taken off from work and flew over 4,000 miles to volunteer to help the ‪#‎Syrian‬ ‪#‎refugees‬ in Greece. I will be sending out two shipments - one by this Friday 1/29, one by next Wednesday 2/3. If you have donations let me know and I will come meet you to grab them! Email me at chau@chaufornow.com or message me here. Feel free to share and repost.

The refugees urgently need:
- Warm Winter Jackets (in all sizes)
- Socks, folded together (in all sizes)
- Waterproof walking shoes sizes 39 - 43, tied together
- Sweat pants/trousers for men in sizes S/M and warm leggings for women

To send clothing and supplies:

PIPKA CAMP, Neapoli, Mitilene 81100, Greece

Contact: info@lesvossolidarity.org

To donate to Adelina:
https://www.gofundme.com/volunteerinGreece

To follow Adelina's day by day accounts on the ground:
https://www.facebook.com/Life-in-Camp-Moria-1146112582073…/…

To donate to STARFISH FOUNDATION- Help for Refugees in Molyvos
Should you prefer to send us a donation so we can buy needed items on Lesvos and support the local community? 
Your gift is most welcome!
For donations in Greece:
National bank account number: 407/001155-00
Name of account holder: AΣΤΕΡΙΑΣ (or ASTERIAS)
Name of bank: National Bank of Greece
Bank place: Mithymna
For international bank transfers: 
IBAN: GR4001104070000040700115500
BIC: ETHNGRAA

 


MORE READING


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TRAVEL HACKS: HOW TO SKIP THE LINE AT THE LOUVRE (IN UNDER 5 MINUTES)

Paris, France

MY MOM always tells me I'm special, but by no means does this mean that I can skip 2,000 sweating tourists without having some sort of backlash or revolt. (Hold down the serfs) So, as you've probably heard - getting into the Louvre is a big ordeal. It's a whole day thing. The line to get tickets is super long and takes somewhere between 2-3 hours and is a shit show. BUT what most people don't know is that there is actually an alternate place to buy tickets that never has a line..

As you are walking towards the Louvre, there are two large statues. They flank the walkway on both the left and right sides. Behind them, you will find two staircases. These staircases lead you to the downstairs "shopping area" of the Louvre. There's McDonald's, some random stores, a macaroon stand (highly recommend these by the way, much shorter line than the one at Champs D'ylesse) and the Museum Gift Store. It is located on the second floor next to the Hertz car rental store. (If you can't find it, just ask for Hertz). There is a sign that says- "Louvre Tickets". When I went, there was one other guy on line. I bought our tickets (12 Euros/ SAME PRICE) and we got "Priority Access". This means that not only do we get to skip the entire line outside to buy tickets, but we also get to skip the shorter "pickup line" outside of the pyramid. We literally walked by EVERYONE. It took less than 5 minutes. I assume this is how Beyonce feels like every time she wakes up in the morning.

So there you have it. 5 minutes to get in. But beware - it's  CROWDED. 

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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING A US PASSPORT


As we look back on the end of a year, how would you describe your 2015? The Mayans would keep records of history in stone describing commemorative occasions i.e., the building of a new church, the beginning of a new dynasty, the start of a new painting. Today, thousands of years later, we continue to read these Stelae to see what the Mayans were doing.

What would yours say if you had one?

Would your mile markers be exciting? The birth of a new niece. The blossoming of a new relationship. The beginning of a new journey?

Or would they be pretty much stagnant? Happy Hours on Thursdays. Saturday night hookups from Tinder. Talking about that "thing" you've always wanted to do, but never took up.

If for some reason, you find yourself struggling to name something that you really care about and makes you happy, then I recommend you start your search next year by traveling. The first step? GET A PASSPORT.

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

ABOUT GETTING A US PASSPORT

As of January 1, 2016 - passports will cost $110USD for a 28 OR 52 page passport. Get the 52 page passport. 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED (with some variety):

A filled and printed DS-11 form, an actual Birth certificate, Driver's license, Photocopies of both IDs (back and forth) on the same side of the page, $110USD US post office money order, $25USD US post office money order for expedition fee, Passport photo

STEP 1: Submit an application for a US passport. You can fill out the DS-11 form online here.  You can renew, replace, update and apply for a US passport using the same link.

STEP 2: Print out the completed form and visit any post office or passport agency to hand it in. 

STEP 3: Prove that you are a US citizen. You can't just recite the Pledge of Allegiance (don't worry I tried), instead you'll need to show either: A. Previous valid passport if renewing B. Your ACTUAL Birth Certificate (photocopies NOT ACCEPTED) C. Naturalization Certificate D. Certificate of Citizenship E. Consular Report of Birth Abroad

STEP 4: Show your primary ID. A Drivers license , military or government ID, certificate of citizenship or a valid passport will do here.

STEP 5: Make photocopies of both back and front of the IDs on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. NO COPIES ON THE BACK. I know we love trees but the government doesn't! 

STEP 6: Submit a 2x2in color photo of your head in front of a plain white background. NO SMILING and with BOTH eyes open. You can get these photos at any CVS or Walgreens, but hit up your local photo shop to give the little guy a chance, yea? More details here.

STEP 7: Pay the man!  Continue reading below for more details regarding payment. 

Passport Agency:$110USD by credit/debit card, exact cash, US bank personal check or US post office money order that was paid for by a debit card or in cash. An additional $25USD execution fee for in person fee must be paid SEPARATELY in any of the above formats. 

Authorized Passport Application Acceptance Facility aka Post office or some public libraries: $110USD by US bank personal check, cashier's check or US post office money order made out to "US Dept of State". Cash at SOME locations. The additional $25USD execution fee MUST BE PAID SEPARATELY by US post office money order or US cashier's check. Personal checks and credit cards at SOME locations. 


PAYMENT CAN BE A LITTLE TRICKY:

Here are some things you MUST remember. 


Money Orders MUST be purchased from the US POST OFFICE. I bought one from Western Union and was turned away. These must also be purchased with cash OR a debit card. 

Personal Checks MUST be from US bank institutions. Don't try to pay with a bank based in Canada..

An Execution Fee of $25USD will be charged if you are applying IN PERSON at any passport agency or post office. This MUST BE PAID SEPARATELY from the $110USD application fee. If you renew your passport by mail, you don't have to pay this fee.

CREDIT CARD AND DEBIT CARDS will NOT BE ACCEPTED at ANY authorized passport application acceptance facility. This means post offices and some public libraries will ONLY take US post office money orders, personal checks from US bank institutions and cold, hard, exact cash. 

Need a passport ASAP? An expedited fee of $60USD on top of the passport fee can get you passport within 8 business days from submission at a passport agency, or 3 weeks door to door if by mail. 

You can renew passports by mail here

Got that? I know, it's a lot of hoops to jump through. DON'T WORRY, it's worth it. 

FINALLY:

Once this is completed, you should get your passport in the mail within 4-6 weeks. More time if you apply during the summer time. You can check the status online after 5-7 days HERE. 


For Frequent Travelers

 

The option to add the additional 24 pages to passports will expire on the 31st of this year. Frequent travelers who would like to add these pages will have to pay $82USD by the 31st. If you're about to travel in the next two weeks or are getting a visa and are out of pages, you can book an appointment with the passport agency for an extra $60USD expedition fee on top of the $82USD fee within 5 days. For more details, read here.


Have any questions? Feel free to comment below! Getting a passport is the difference between exploring a new country with a friend and sitting at home looking at someone else explore. At the end of the day, two hours and $135USD is worth 10 years of adventuring around the world.

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CHEAP FLIGHT RECAP: THE BEST FLIGHT DEALS FOR BLACK FRIDAY AND CYBER MONDAY

Brace yourself for some of the best flight and travel deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I've been doing some intense snooping and found a handful, but follow me on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates! 

SALES GOING ON NOW!!! 

Avianca Airlines  Flight Deals to Central and South America starting at $469USD. 

Cathay Pacific  Deals up until Dec 4th for travel between Feb 9th and April 30th.  Flights as low as $664USD R/T. Plus get an additional 1,000 Asia Miles for every Black Friday Purchase. 

Emirates Select two for one flight deals for $1,099USD to Milan, Dubai, Bangkok etc..

Expedia.com - With the app receive up to $75USD off your first hotel purchase by Nov 30th. Also deals up to 90% off select hotels on Cyber Monday and 50% off tickets for activities like museums, theme parks and tours! 

Frontier Airlines One Way Domestic Flights as low as $15USD. For travel between 12/7 - 2/10/16.

Hawaiian Airlines - Flights from NY- Oahu for $796 R/T

Interjet Airlines - Round Trip flights from NYC - Mexico City for as low as $204USD. The site is in Spanish, so open it up in Google Chrome. Prices are in Mexican Pesos, so don't be discouraged from the prices!  

Lan Airlines  and Tam Airlines  - Roundtrip flight deals from US to Brazil for as low as $549USD!!!! Sale from Nov 27th - 30th. 

Norwegian Air  - 30% off flights to Europe today! Promo code: BLACKFRIDAY Deals end 11:59pm EST tonight. 

Ryanair Airlines Cheap flights in Europe starting for as low as 2€ or $2.12USD! I found a ridiculously cheap flight from Dublin to Oslo for 40.99 approx. $42USD. Throw in a checked bag each way and it's only 30 more. You've got a flight for 70 or $74USD. 

STARWOOD HOTELS AND RESORTS WORLDWIDE will be throwing their largest sale ever starting today till December 6th with discounts up to 25% off in over 1000 hotels and resorts around the world! 

Tourradar - 60% off group tours today! Sale ends Monday! 

Virgin America  - Domestic flights as low as $39USD one way. 

 

CYBER MONDAY

Alaska Airlines  stand by

While not all airlines have made previous announcements, be sure to follow their Twitter accounts or websites for updates, or you can just follow me @ciaochaumui and I'll do all the hard work for you. 

 

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AN EPIC ADVENTURE IN THE PAINT MINES OF COLORADO

Suggested Listening For this Article: Jacob Russo

Gear: Canon 7D, Go Pro Hero 3+ , IPhone 6S, Osprey Daypack and Hydration Pack, Keen Hiking Boots, Snowboarding Socks, Too much shit

An hour and half outside of Denver, Colorado sits the PAINT MINES. For the adventurer who may or may not be akin to rules, this is a natural playground that involves some heavy scrambling, climbing under huge boulders, praying to God that "127 Hours" doesn't become your reality and some of the most breathtaking, colorful scenery in Colorado. 



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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VISAS, RECIPROCITY FEES AND TOURIST CARDS

VISAS VS RECIPROCITY FEES VS TOURIST CARDS

Here's a quick guideline and summary for you to understand the difference between visas, reciprocity fees and tourist cards before you book your travels. You don't want to be in a position where your bags are all packed, only to find out that you can't fly at the airport because need a VISA. Or that your budget is suddenly through the roof because you have to pay $160USD in visa fees. To find out if the country you are visiting needs a visa, tourist card or fee click HERE on my Countries page. You can click on each country to see more information. 

VISA (some countries, not all require a visa)-

A visa is a document that states a noncitizen's entry has been approved for a certain amount of time and/or visits. Visitors can NOT enter said country prior to entry date on the visa. Each country has different restrictions, so not all will require one and fees will differ depending on what country you are a citizen of. Generally, you'll have to visit the embassy to fulfill paperwork before your trip and show proof of your flight, address of where you are staying, income and include a passport picture and money order to pay for the fee. Sometimes you have to make appointments weeks in advance, and the visa will be sent to you in the weeks afterwards. Brazilian visas are notoriously hard to get and you will need to leave your passport with the embassy for a few days. 

**For the sake of this article, I am talking about tourist visas for American citizens. There are also student, business and other sorts of visas that you could apply for. Cuba, for example does not accept tourist visas from US citizens, but you could always apply to for a journalist visa to get in.

RECIPROCITY FEE -

 (Bear with me this can get a bit heady here) A fee charged by a country to visitors that is in direct response to the charges that the passport holder's country charges the other country's citizens to enter. Argentina's $160USD reciprocity fee for US citizens is equal to the USA charging Argentineans a $160USD visa fee to enter the US. The difference between the visa and the reciprocity fee is that you can pay for the fee online or at the airport upon arrival instead of having to visit the embassy. 

TOURIST CARD -

Simply a small tax fee that you have to pay upon arrival. There is no need to go to the embassy, one can purchase these online, at the border at the airport or it may come included. Mexico charges American tourists $20USD for a tourist card that is generally included in your flight cost or can be paid at the border crossing. 

DEPARTURE TAX -

A small fee the country will charge you that is usually included in your flight ticket or paid at the airport. 

*Generally, if you are on a layover and staying in the airport, you will NOT need to get a visa or pay any of the fees as mentioned above. 

Questions? Comment below! If it all makes sense to  you then in the words of my third grade teacher, Mr. Morano..."Got it, Get it? Goooooooooood."

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QUITTING YOUR JOB TO FOLLOW THE SUN

It's January 2015. I'm sitting in a tiny little Brazilian restaurant named BERIMBAU on Carmine street across from my dear friend, Angela. For the span of a little over a year, we have regularly met over lunch to discuss our shared flounderings through our twenties, love lives and professional careers. "What the eff are we doing with our lives?" is a general staple of our conversations. 

Over the course of lunch, Angela tells me she quit her job and is leaving to embark on an adventure across the country to travel. I couldn't believe the cojones of this girl. For so long, we had talked about it, and finally she was doing it. What she told me that day stuck with me, and not too long after she left, I did too. Who knew how much that one hour lunch so many months ago would change my life today? Below, Angela describes why she left on her trip to FOLLOW THE SUN. You can follow Angela's travels on Instagram HERE. 


FOLLOW THE SUN

By Angela Del Sol
 


Our selfie-obsessed generation is fixated on capturing every single moment and curating an image of self for the world to see. Traveling allows us to step outside of ourselves and let someone else take the picture, widening our perspectives and reminding us that there is so much to life beyond the selfie stick.

I wasn’t feeling entirely content with my life in NYC, so I decided to toss my safety blankets to the wind and follow the sun, my sun. In big cities like New York, the pressure to succeed and survive is high, and it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters as we become blinded by the unattainable markers of success. We begin to define ourselves by what we do rather than what we truly love. After pushing past the fear of leaving all the comforts behind, a stable job, a beautiful home and a relationship- I bought one way ticket to South America. This was a terrifying process but the risk of living one more day just going through the motions scared me more, and with one click I set my sails towards the unknown.

My journey began in my home country of Colombia. It was liberating coming back as an independent young adult to reconnect with my roots. After riding a packed Transmilenio (the transit system), and seeing firsthand some of the negatives of human nature, I made a conscious decision to focus on the positive and tried to not lose the edge that living in places like New York City gives you. I ventured to the center of Bogota, which is known for street art but also has a reputation as an unsafe city.

As I walked down the hundred year cobblestones of La Candelaria - Bogota's oldest neighborhood, I joined a free street art tour where I absorbed the street art created by politically charged artists such as Toxicomano and Juega Siempre. They call attention to institutionalized corruption and remind people about the disappearances of homeless men during the tumultuous "falso positivos scandal." Halfway through our tour we stopped at El Chorro De Quebedo, and our tour guide pointed to what was the oldest jazz club in the city "El Bolon Verde". I was shocked to see the disrepair of it's facade. How can a place of such historical relevance be in such ruin?

As a person that holds music in the highest regard,  I stood on the small street of El Callejon de las Brujas in shock. A man walked out the door and we made eye contact,  I introduced myself and asked him about the building,  because I was interested in painting it. As luck would have it, he was the owner's son. He gave me his number and told me to come back later. My heart beat fast with excitement as I ran to catch up with the group.

 

After painting my first mural in Brooklyn as part of a beautification project for my neighborhood last year, it was something that I wanted to do it again, but this time it was even more special. This time I had the opportunity to give back to my birth city. After convincing the owner of the jazz club to let me paint his building, I raced to accomplish a project that seemed impossible. With less than 48 hours before my next flight, I was determined to paint this mural. 

Having lived half of my life in Colombia and the other in the United States, I’ve felt in a cultural limbo and have a hard time identifying with either culture. This project was an opportunity to create some sort of permanence in a place that was dear to me. Bogota, has one of the most relaxed street art laws in South America and some of the best street artists from around the world come here to paint. I was scared, but I thought that whatever painted would be better than what was already there since it would be done with love.


I met two locals, Mike and Nick that helped me navigate Bogota to find the best paint deals. Upon first glance, these two young men were intimidating - piercings and tattoos, baggy clothes and chains- but there was something about them that made me feel at ease. This taught me to trust my gut and believe in my first impressions, vibes don’t lie.

 
“Judge people by their character and not by their looks. “
 

Yogurt is an essential part of the street painting process.

After prepping the wall, I painted non-stop. I felt completely liberated and time felt suspended in those moments. Any plan that I had before this moment went out the window and nothing mattered other than the completion of my project. I was exhausted but I did it and I must say it was an amazing feeling; it felt like love.


It's been months since I left my traditional life and I have been traveling nonstop; right now I am typing this from a cafe in Berlin, continuing to follow my sun. The more I continue to embrace the fear of the unknown the more the world continues to open up.

 

I've let my dreams be bigger than my fears and my actions louder than my words and I wake up every morning with the intention to live life on my own terms. I think that’s what it means to live a successful life : to have the courage to honor your inner voice and take action on whatever burning desire is inside of you, to live life creatively.  


As I continue to travel across the world map, layers and layers of myself are shed and I feel lighter, more vulnerable. In our society vulnerability is a trait that is not necessarily celebrated but is something we’re supposed to remove from ourselves. For me, being able to shed all of these layers that I create to protect myself allows me to be open to life and to connect with those who are on the same wavelength. It's ok to get lost, it's ok to not know.

 

My values and ideas are constantly challenged by the places I go and the people I encounter along the way. Fully opening to them has broadened my sense of self and my understanding of the threads of connection binding us all. We are all on the same boat no matter where we come from or where we are heading.

We must follow our sun.

 

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DESTINATION 1 OF MY FREE FLIGHTS: FLORIDA ROUND UP

In the first destination of my $0 flight round up - read my guide on Florida as I hit up Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. As I've mentioned plenty of times - Florida is super cheap to visit right now before the winter crowds come. Click on the picture above to read more about my adventures, and cool things you can do should you make a visit. What do you think of Florida? Comment below! 

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