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  1. Magens Bay Review
    Tuesday, April 15, 2014
  2. $10 Flights to Europe?
    Friday, April 11, 2014
  3. Which US Virgin Island Should I Visit?
    Monday, April 07, 2014
  4. Living the High Life! Airline Clubs in Terminal
    Monday, March 03, 2014
  5. What The Hell is That Noise?
    Thursday, February 27, 2014
  6. Citi American 100,000 Mile Offer! It's a Biggie!
    Tuesday, February 25, 2014
  7. Cruisin' for a Bruisin'
    Tuesday, February 11, 2014
  8. Wonderland
    Wednesday, January 22, 2014
  9. What you don't see may scare you!
    Tuesday, January 14, 2014
  10. 2014 Revolution
    Thursday, January 02, 2014

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Magens Bay Review

If you're planning on a trip to the US Virgin Islands in the future, you'll want to know everything you can about the many beaches to visit. Having visited all 4 islands, it's safe to say we've seen our fair share and while we all have our favorites (sometimes 5 or 6 of them), you can't really go wrong with any choice that you make. I know that there are many people who visit the USVI as a part of their cruise packages, and for those, you'll really want to do your research to find out where you can get the most beach in the least amount of time. But if you're smart, you'll go all out and avoid the cruise entirely and visit every beach you can. From sunbathing to snorkeling to swimming and tourist traps, I'll give you the best overall information I can to help you make the most of your time. The first beach is Magens Bay, St Thomas.


Udder Delite- Great Pit Stop Before Magens


Located on the North Central coast of St. Thomas, Magens Bay could be one of the most picturesque postcard beaches in the world. Chances are you have seen this beach, whether it be in movies, commercials or simply in your dreams as you fall out in your office on a stressful Wednesday afternoon. Magens Bay is very easy to find once you get your island bearings down and there is some signage, but like most signs in the USVI, they are identified by routes, rather than street names. You'll know when you are close when you make the sharp turn by Udder Delight. If you're a bit thirsty, go ahead and stop for some fantastic rum shakes and some not-so-good ones for the kids. No rum ya know? Maybe, if you're lucky, you'll catch some locals in a high stakes game of dominos. They take it seriously around these parts as you'll find out from the locals. Back on the road and down the hill for a half mile or so through some protected land, you'll see the entrance for Magens Bay. There is a fee here for visitors, local and tourists, but don't be scared and turn around, it's worth it. And for the amounts, $4 for adults and $2 for kids, you can't really go wrong here. Extensive Mangroves and Palm trees line the mile long beach. The sand is a perfect shade of white that stands as the ideal entrance to the blue waters of the bay. The water is typically calm at Magens Bay, so it's the perfect swimming location. You won't find too much in the way of snorkeling here, but if you've visited Magens, you rarely want to lose sight of the view anyways. What you can't do underneath, you can do plenty above. Magens provides many amenities that the other beaches of St. Thomas don't, such as rentals of kayaks, paddleboards, and many other fun activities that can stretch a few hours into an entire day.Maybe you can just watch a few iguanas soaking up the sun behind you or maybe swiping your pizza when you're not looking. 


Magens Bay from the Top of the Mountain Shop. BVIs in Background


Food is easy to come across here as Magens is equipped with an onsite beach bar and cafe. Don't expect anything out of the culinary outskirts here, just typical fare to keep you from having to go too far for food. The gift shop is a bit high priced but when there's only one, it's to be expected. Chances are, like most of the places in the Caribbean, there's a local Rasta who's got the goods you need and maybe some you don't when it comes to souvenirs. With a belly full and drink in hand, you're ready for the day you dreamt of, turquoise blue waters lapping the shore as you look out on Outer Brass Island. An uninhabited island that seems to fall right into place as you look across the bay. The shores along the bay seem to swallow you up as you drift further and further into the day. If you're lucky and decided to spend your trip in St. Thomas and not one of those gastro-intestinal traps they call cruises (not a fan if you can tell), you will not only have the opportunity to enjoy your entire day without looking at a watch, but it's entirely possible that you will open your eyes to find you are the last remaining person on the most beautiful beach in the world. Sit back and enjoy the view for a few more minutes, because the no-seeums will be coming out soon and they will let you know when it is time to go. They always do!


One of the Best Views in the Caribbean



Magens Bay Review      1-10(Best)

View- 10
Water sports- 8
Snorkeling- 3
Beach- 10
Restrooms- Yes
Fee- Yes
Crowds-  Often during cruise dockings
Food- Yes


$10 Flights to Europe?

Is this even realistically possible? That's the thought I pondered when I received this email alert almost 2 months ago. I didn't even bother blogging about it at the time because I felt the whole idea was preposterous. But...I did salvage the email for the future just in case I wanted to reference it. So here we are. After many days of staring at this ridiculous "bait and switch" email that I received I decided to say a few words about it. What kind of dumb, insane, no-sense, thank-you-can-I-have-another, bump on a log do these guys think I am? My guess is, the exact one they are looking for since I'm linking this concept to all of you now. $10? Really? Ryanair's $10 Europe Offer has all the makings of a world class idea that everyone will offer in the future, right? I mean, with oil prices at record lows and the airlines dropping prices and making additional leg room for everyone (laughter here), this is surely on the mind of every airline CEO out there. Isn't that the reason US Air and American are merging? To cut all of our prices? You bet it is.....n't. Much like my early postings of Spirit airlines a few years back, what you don't see up front will surely haunt you in the backside, and I'm not talking about the uncomfortable seats. The warnings are out there about the uncomfortable seating on Transatlantic flights already so what in the hell will you end up with on Ryanair, two bricks and a board? In the essence of figuring out exactly what kind of fees would be introduced, let's look at the obvious. Baggage, of course. Credit Card fees? Sure. Refreshments for that long haul. You betcha. So what if you don't pay the fees on everything and you simply want the $10 flight as promised. What would be in store for you? 



"Welcome aboard Ryanair. We're glad you chose us for your journey to Europe today. Before we get started on your pre-flight instructions for our elite travelers, I'd like to go over a few things to our American Cheapskates who are bumming a ride to Paris today. Pay close attention as your seat wasn't equipped with printed instructions of safety. Don't bother looking for an armrest as you'll be sitting on a bench seat from a '78 Camaro. Last one in your row gets the hump! No need for seatbelts. We didn't use them back then anyways, but feel free to slide your hand through your seatmate's belt loops in case of a sudden drop. In the rare case we experience a water landing, we would recommend gathering the empty water bottles from first class or in a worst case scenario, find yourself a very bosomy lady and hold on for dear life. We'll be coming through the cabin shortly to offer refreshments to our paying customers and for those of you who have chosen the eco-route, we'll be passing out tic-tacs as we expect you probably don't have money for toothpaste anyways and we'd rather our special customers enjoy the flight without any unpleasant odors. Our movie list can be found in the pocket in front of you for those looking for entertainment, but if you're still clenching your money through the last fiber of your buttocks, we have a handheld Donkey Kong game that will be passed among you. Batteries of course will be extra. Magazines are at your disposal but for our $10 crew we have picture books as you were obviously not smart enough to read how stupid you were for believing these flights would actually exist. We hope you enjoy your flight and look forward to serving your needs in the future. 

Which US Virgin Island Should I Visit?

It was never a journey that we set out to make but one that we did and completed anyways. A visit to each US Virgin Island. The chain includes St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix and for those keeping count, a fourth inhabited island named Water Island. If you have never visited the US Virgin Islands, you have truly missed out on what could be the jewels of the United States. Yes, remember that! You do not need a passport here! One thing the United States has is an incredible variance of beachfront to admire, but very little compares to the property that surrounds the VI. With crystal clear water at every turn and miles of unpopulated sand, it's hard to find a true comparison on the mainland in terms of landscape and scenery. And for those who have made it their dream to get to the Caribbean someday, the USVI will certainly quench that thirst and make it a reality. 

Many venture this direction and a majority of the time it happens through cruises that stop by the port of Charlotte Amelie. This usually becomes the first taste for many folks on what to expect from the VI but it usually doesn't end up being the last. With prices pretty inexpensive to get here, the biggest and most difficult decision for many is which island to choose. Below is an attempt to explain the different islands from our family's perspective and the key highlights. What I can tell you on the front end is that no matter which island you choose, it will not be the wrong one. 

St. Thomas 


Magens Bay, St. Thomas

Why not start with the obvious? This is the island that literally puts the USVI on the map. With the capital of Charlotte Amelie as the welcome mat, you soon realize why this port has the highest cruise traffic in the world. Privacy is attainable on this island, but it takes a bit more work to find it. With a daily traffic jam of thousands of cruise ship passengers cramming the slender streets, it can be a daunting task to find your relaxation point. But If you wait until about 5:00 on any given day, you will find it! A trip to the Magen's Bay tops many a list and the cruise traffic is quite heavy there but as the sun starts to set, you may soon find yourself as one of the last beachcombers. St. Thomas is also well known for its duty free shops and if that's your game to rack up on some souvenirs or more eccentric goods as jewelry and such, you will not go home unhappy. The deals are plentiful and the rum flows easily from place to place. The scene on St Thomas is more of what you would expect from a cruise port. With beautiful beaches and hawking goods around every corner, it may be difficult to find the true vibe of this populous island but you will surely feel the essence of the caribbean port itself. Traffic can be a bit snarled and the terrain if you are driving can be quite suspenseful, but as long as you do what the locals say, " Drive right, Stay left" you'll do just fine. Markers on the road will get you where you need to be, but always be prepared for a bit of adventure because the chances are good you may get lost. But look at it this way, with water bordering every edge, how lost could you truly be and don't be surprised if you find the best beaches this way...and quite honestly a beach all to yourself. If the roads are a little scary for you there are a multitude of taxis that can transport you all over the island, but you better be aware that island time invades all modes of life here. Two things you can be sure of around here with regards to time. The sun will come up and it will go down. All other times in between are subject to interpretation. 

St John


Trunk Bay, St. John

Quite possibly the most beautiful of the four islands but it depends on who you ask. With 80% of the island roped off as a National Park, the beauty is intense and not hard to find. Once you leave the confines of Cruz Bay and head down the road a bit, the postcard views of what every island traveler hopes to see in their life becomes a reality. Countless beaches dot the coast with each one more beautiful than the first until you reach the overlook of Trunk Bay. The first time you see this view will be one that you carry for the rest of your life and the view from below is just as magnificent as the one from above. Have your snorkeling gear ready as this is the spot where you can follow one of the only underwater snorkeling trails in the National Park Service. But, believe me it isn't the best one. More on that later. St. John, much like St Thomas has a few treacherous roads but with the help of a jeep ( preferable in some spots) you can get from one end of the island to the other in a mere 30-40 minutes as you gaze in awe. A completely different vibe than what you experience in St Thomas, St John has a more American feel to it. A steady stream of college students find their way here as well as a host of wannabe deadheads still holding onto the Jerry dream. Hey, I've done the Dead thing so I can say that with no recourse. Many people will also say that it is safer than St. Thomas, but I would guess that's more due to the size and limited population than the island itself. Take an adventure and head past Coral Bay to the world renowned Vie's jerk chicken stand. One word of caution though. She's not always open and after two tries with no luck, we're still waiting for our first taste! It's a pretty laid back vibe in St John if that is what you're looking for and the ferry to get there, passenger or car isn't that much to spend for what you get in return. In fact, the ride itself is part of the fun, as long as the rocking boat doesn't get you a bit seasick, a certain family member experienced this. Sometimes, that last rum punch stings, especially when it's coming back up. All in all, St. John is a true paradise and it strikes you as odd when you realize it's part of the US. What a jewel!

Water Island


Honeymoon Beach, Water Island


The smallest of the USVI chain, Water Island only has about 200 residents, there are only a few cars there and the ones that are there are probably the only ones allowed. This is golf cart island living here. Looking for slow? You found it. Only a few miles from the hustle and bustle of. Charlotte Amelie but feels a hundred miles away. This is island time at its finest. We found ourselves on the silky sands of Honeymoon Beach, with no one around. No one. For that reason, Water Island has found a place in my heart as the favorite of all the islands. If you've had enough of reality, step onto this beach for just a few moments. No news, no work, no problem. With a food shack set up on one end and a bar on the other, how could you go wrong? Now keep in mind they open and close when they please, and when they do? They please! Just be careful not to miss your ferry back to the mainland as you could be stuck overnight and have to do it all over again. Oh...the humanity!

St Croix


Sandy Point, St. Croix

Maybe the most mysterious of all of the USVI and for no real reason other than the fact that it is a cool 40 miles from the others. What does this mean? We'll it means that you have twice the area of St Thomas with only a third of the people. Plus, cruise ships seem to bypass this paradise for the more confined waters St Thomas. Silly captains! But what you miss in visitors, you gain in island, and there is a lot of it. This is the island where you can find your true inner peace. With miles of untouched beaches and hidden trails to isolated sands, the island can literally be yours. A whole day could pass before you see another human walk by. For some, maybe this isn't what you think of when you look for that trip to the Caribbean, but you soon will. The only thing better than standing on a beach with the views that St Croix delivers is standing on them by yourself. The best picture to ever be taken is in your own head. Photos simply can't do justice to the magnificence here. St Croix has a few other things going for it. They have a vibe to them and a culture. That's something that, even though they won't admit it, the other islands lack. The Crucians are a proud population and they are more than happy to identify themselves as Crucians. It's a way of life and a proud tradition. St Croix also has more accessibility than the others as the roads are mainly flat and even have a few highways where you can press the gas to 55 or more. Granted it's only for about a mile at a time, but hey, it's the islands for God's sake! And then the payoff, unlike the other islands, you don't have that down-island view like you get in the others when you're staring down the BVIs. But what you do have is Buck Island and what you get with Buck Island is the other underwater snorkel trail. And if you thought Trunk Bay had it going on, prepared to be blown away! Sure there are better reefs in the world and Australia and Belize can rival most, but this the US! What did you expect? I guarantee you didn't expect this. Bring your underwater camera along for the trip as you will need it. St Croix isn't for the people looking for a nightlife or crazy resort parties, although there are a few. St Croix is for those who want to know what the other Virgin Islands once were and to get a taste of the old Caribbean life. Believe me, it tastes good. Leaving this coral island, we admitted as much. This is the place to be. It's under the radar and we, as well as the Crucians we met, like it this way. 

All in all, there is something for everyone in the USVI except stress. Carve out a piece of your own history and make some memories in the Virgin Islands. It's a world away but you can access it without a passport. Soon you will know what it's like to be an islander, even for just a week. The United States Virgin Islands, our islands, our home. At least we're working on that part of it. 

Stay tuned to my blog as I will be giving a snapshot of the many beaches of the USVI. There are many and they are incredible in their own ways!

Living the High Life! Airline Clubs in Terminal

Sometimes you have those moments of clarity when you realize you have been doing things the wrong way for a long time. I have those often so it's nothing new for me. One of these moments came when I was traveling recently and had a chance to experience the US Airways Club and Admiral's Club in Philadelphia. As part of my new Citi American Executive Credit Card which offers a great deal to accumulate 100,000 points, I receive Admiral's Club membership which also grants me entrance into the US Airways Club as part of the impending merger between the two. I guess I must have been naive as to what you actually get in these clubs within the airports. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised.
 
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the courtesy of the attendants that are stationed there to let us Executives in and to keep out the riffraff. I'm already feeling pretty good as you can tell. First they sent me into a room where I was decontaminated from the germs that I picked up along my travels through the concourse. A quick seat in the lounge to get my hair styled was nice as well as a puff of cologne to help me smell good. I was even measured for a fine Italian Suit, not sure what that's all about but I'm game! As I leave this room, I'm feverishly anticipating what's next. As I walk out in to the common area, I see what I've been missing all this time. Greeted by a patron with a full bottle of Cristal and a cigar, I ease over to the couches that have just the right amount of shag on them. As my rear slowly sinks into the cushions, I sense that this will be no ordinary wait on my departure. I could smell a fantastic scent permeating every cell in my body and simply couldn't believe it when my own personal Hibache chef appeared in front of me and asked what my pleasure was this evening. Jokingly, I responded that the only thing I needed was some music and dancing and my stay would be complete. Within seconds, an army of the Solid Gold Dancers began weaving through the crowd. (Always wondered what happened to them?) And as if that wasn't enough, Michael Buble was filling the air with an endless stream of symphonic crooning to Posse's on Broadway (my theme music as I make my way from spot to spot in the club). If not for the airplanes slowly taxiing by, I would have never guessed we were in an airport. Every now and then a passenger would look my direction and the absolute jealous look of devastation would soon follow as they caught a glimpse of my bare white butt flashing their direction. As I make my way through the club, the other patrons cheer as they witness my best bull dance and we all join in a raucous game of who can land the biggest spit on the flyers below. On my way out the door to brave the elements, I receive my complimentary swag bag chock full of goodies that only people named Mortimer and Bartholomew usually receive. It was a day that would end all days.

Only it wasn't real...kind of guessed that, huh?

In fact, the only reality of this story is the kind attendants. That being said, this little oasis is a nice alternative to the people watching concourse traveling I usually experience. The club does, in fact, have amenities that make you feel a bit pampered. I'm sure all clubs are different, but in this particular club on this day I was treated to free beer, wi-fi, and even some Mushroom Soup with melted Brie. Not bad on a cold day. Along with some very comfortable seats and televisions all over the place, it felt more like a hotel lobby than an airport. But the best thing of all? Nice clean bathrooms that don't reek with the stench of a million travelers. And the whole, "Don't leave your bag unattended?" Doesn't exist here. It's safe and nobody is going to think twice about it. It's simply a much better way to fly and it helps the time pass quite easily. Here's to hoping there are many opportunities in the future for me to enjoy this experience. Hibache would be nice though. I'm just sayin'.






What The Hell is That Noise?

Every so often I surprise myself with my actions, especially when they are not ones that I am proud of, but sometimes necessity takes over. The following example probably represents the best and worst of traveling passengers who are doomed to coexist in their journeys. The story starts off in the Nashville International Airport, where I find myself waiting for a flight to Philadelphia for a long weekend trip to see family. Waiting for that initial boarding call, I notice a man who is obviously under the weather. You know the one I'm talking about, don't you? Of course you do because everyone in the terminal seems to be pointing this gentleman out. It isn't just that he appears sick, the noises that emanate from this man give him away immediately. It's that noise of clearing sinuses that can only be compared to the mythical reverberation of the Chupacabra or if you remember the redneck that gave Steve Martin and John Candy the ride in the back of a pickup truck in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It seems to echo into the nether regions of Concourse C as the boarding begins. Silently, all passengers look at each other with that trembling fear of, "Oh Please God, don't let this man sit near me." 



Now first let me explain myself and give you some background. I'm not a germaphobe but I have had my tendncies in the past to avoid hacking sick people at a moments notice. I've somewhat mellowed in this department as I realized that even the greatest of efforts to ward off sickness seem to fall flat. But on a plane? A traveling tube of somewhat filtered DNA? That old-style mentality kicks in and I look to the heavens for forgiveness and redemption. As the line slowly filters into the test tube with wings, a great sigh of relief envelops all the passengers when we hear the best word ever on a flight. "Spread out folks, plenty of room on the flight today." It was as if a repellent was sprayed onto this gentleman and we were the fleas bouncing off. Not a soul sat within 3 rows of this coughing and nasal-cleansing passenger. And for the next 2 hours, we enjoyed our pleasant trip to Pennsylvania. 

As you know, life can throw some curveballs your way and just as fast as the good can happen, so can the bad. Fast forward 4 days. I'm sitting at the gate for my Nashville departure when all of the sudden I hear the painful bellow of mucus vibrating behind me. No, it couldn't be...it isn't....and then, as I turn my head, I'm met face to face with the ONE! How could I have met such a fate?  I quickly snap myself out of the disbelief and lullabye melody of a lawnmower slicing through jello sounds I hear from behind and move to the other side of the gate waiting area. Crisis averted. The world is good again. Time to board and I shudder to think of the poor sap who will now place their health in God's hands as we enter the plane. As I quickly stash my belongings and start to take off my coat for stowing in the compartment, a face appears above the rows of seats, and soon the mating call of the nasal discharged Chupacabra echos the dreadful words, "Looks like we're traveling together. Want me to stow your coat above?" Quickly I think to myself of what my response should be...."Uhhh, no...but thanks! I'm a bit tired and I think I will use the coat to get some shuteye." With a smirk, he settles into his seat next to me. It might as well been covered with the paper you'd see in the patient rooms at the doctor's office as he quickly morphed into Snotty McSnottster. 

I'm not the rude guy on the plane, never have been. If the conversation is good and seems sincere, I'll chat. But this wasn't that time. I could tell he wanted to talk as he started to ask questions of what I do for a living, where I lived, and so on and so on. But unlucky for this guy, my germ prevention stance went up like an eruption of a volcano, answered quickly between his snorts and draped the coat over every orifice to prevent contamination. It was as if I was Harry Potter and my coat was the invisibility cloak. Maybe he won't see me if I'm under here. Hell, I wasn't even tired, but for the next two hours I sat in a cramped position listening to the ungodly sounds of drainage making it's way from top to bottom. Knowing that to prevent this toxic air from invading me, I should take refuge under the air dispenser above me at full blast, I position it perfectly. Just enough to ward off any potential wanderers of spit. And then it happened. The only exposed part of my body, my hair suddenly stops blowing from the breeze above me. As if someone just called my Momma something, I jerk up to see my infected seatmate turning my air off. Are you friggin kidding me dude! My response in my nicest yet take notice way is, "Can I help you?" To which he says, "Oh, you want this on?" Uhhhh, seriously? Are you going to take away the only Kryptonite I have? As the air again turns on, I see the last glimpse of him for the next hour and a half. With nose cocked up ready to suck in the sour taste of his snot, he disappears beyond the fabric of my coat.

It was a bunch of protection for an event that never should have happened. Why? Because I found out that he wasn't even in the right seat! Foiled by a fellow passenger that simply didn't want to disturb the guy next to me. No good deed...

My question is, "Am I wrong?" Should I have just "sucked" it up and talked to this germ factory for two hours and ignore my protective instincts? maybe this guy had much to offer in terms of dialogue. Maybe he had a story to tell. Maybe....?  I don't like to be that guy, but on this day I was. But, at least I wasn't that guy, because in the end I know that all people, including myself, get sick and have to fly. But there's no reason to break the sound barrier with your nostrils and don't start up a conversation with someone if you know you hold the keys to a few weeks worth of misery for the recipient. Ugh, Spring can't come soon enough!

Happy travels to all and to that man in Row 18? Go see a doctor! 

Citi American 100,000 Mile Offer! It's a Biggie!


I don't mention too many airline rewards offers on this blog so when I do you can guarantee it must be a good one. That's what prompted me to spread the news of the Citi American Airlines executive card. With a bonus of 100,000 miles after three months of spend, I simply couldn't pass it up. Must be a catch for an offer so high, correct. Oh yeah, there is. In order to get the 100,000 mile bonus, you must spend $10,000 in three months time. There's basically a few ways to achieve this before you stop reading from anguished laughter inside. You could truly be what the card says... an executive. Well, I would love to nominate this generous title on myself but when I say I'm an executive, it's more along the $10,000 spend-in-a-year kind, not three months. But that's just me, your situation may be different, and if so, na na na boo boo, etc, etc. You could also be in the midst of splurging on an addition to your home and know that you will indeed spend this amount of money in the short term. If this is you, congratulations! This could be the easiest bulk accumulation of miles you may ever see! But, for the rest of us, including myself, it's just not typical and is extremely far fetched to think I could ever spend this amount of money in such a short time frame, so I had to turn to the only way I know how and that was to manufacture some serious spending. For those of you that are new to this term, I would suggest looking at some earlier entries on this subject. It is a concept, that once you have it down to a science and moderate stress level, can net you some huge bonus miles among other things. 
I knew from my own situation that I could manage at least $3,000 in manufactured spend each month. That's been pretty consistent with my other bonus mileage offers over the last year. Barring any unforeseen circumstances or doors closing on the spend tools available, I'm already looking at $9,000 in spend, none of that being everyday spending. Throw in a final payment on my kids braces and we have the amount needed. Seems easy enough, except there is one other key item that I left out. The annual fee. Hold onto your butts. This Executive Card will run you a cool $450 per year, and no, it isn't waived over the first year, but there is a bright side to this dreadful tidbit. Citi will grant you a $200 statement credit, and unlike other card offers, there doesn't seem to be a restriction on what you spend. Essentially spend the $200 and get it back. The other sweet item to this offer is that you will be able to gain access to the Admirals Club from American Airlines, plus the option to use the US Airways Club as they merge over the next year. I'm a newbie to this whole "club" thing and actually got to experience it myself this past week while on a layover in Philadelphia. Oh, sweet Jesus. I now know how the other half travels and it doesn't compare to the slogging from terminal to terminal we've been used to. Plus, all members of your immediate family can join you...so even better! So, to sum up: Spend $250 on the annual fee after receiving the $200 statement credit, get Admirals Club membership and 100,000 miles. Btw- that's enough miles to carry my family of four to any location within the 48 continental states, round trip! Or, two of us to Europe and back! Worth it? That's for you to decide, but if you're a travel junkie like me, this could be the best offer of the year. 



The link provided here for this credit card is generally given to Club Members, but as you can read from my approval and many others who have taken "advantage", there have been no issues to report. The linked page does ask for an Agent Referral Code and Airport Code but I was able to leave this blank and had no problem being linked to the application. I will say that my application was initially flagged and I was asked to call the customer support number to answer a few questions, but within minutes I had an approval. From what I have read on this topic, it seems to be the norm. So, if you can manage the spend and want the miles and club access, give it a whirl and have a vacation for a small amount of money. But, as always, you know yourself and your spending habits. Don't ever take credit card debt lightly! With every story of rewards due to credit cards, there are countless more that don't have that happy ending. Be smart! Live within your means and travel beyond them!

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

It's a well-known fact that I am not the biggest proponent of cruise ships. It really doesn't even have much to do with the nasty stomach bugs that traveled through two cruise ships at an alarming rate a few weeks ago. Or the one that tipped over. Or the one where the engines caught on fire. Or the one... Well, I think you get the picture. My reason has been and always will be "Why?" I recently came across a news story that Royal Caribbean is installing large digital screens to give cruisers the virtual view of the ocean even when they are below deck. So, you're on the ship in the middle of the ocean and you're still watching television. Not just television, but the view you would be seeing if you spent just a bit more money. 




If you've kept up with me and my blogs from the past, you'd see that the trip you think is out of reach can actually come in cheaper than a cruise.Shoestring Dream Trip - The Plan The way my cable goes out on a weekly basis, I'm sure as hell not interested in hanging my head over the balcony to get a concussion from the wall that is really there. We have sunk (oops) to a whole new level of entertainment. I'm confused on the merits of traveling by cruise. I mean let's just get to the bare bones about this here. I know there are some travelers out there who place much stock into spending their time on a boat with a couple thousand of their closest friends.I'm simply not one of them. I've listened to the arguments. They usually include the following:
  • I can see many islands in one trip - OK, I get that, but why would you just want to spend one afternoon at Maho Beach or Trunk Bay. What these cruisers haven't experienced is to be the last one at Magen's Bay as the sun sets and it's you and a couple dozen folks taking it all in. No fighting over activities, lines for food. Just you and a view. And guess what. I don't have to wear a watch because I couldn't give a rat's ass what time it is so I don't miss the shuttle. Just remind me what day I'm leaving.
  • There's so much to do with the pools and slides- Hmmmm, kind of like the YMCA but with an ocean view, huh? That's sounds enticing, I guess. Somehow, drifting off in the biggest, clearest pool in the world sounds better. They call it the Caribbean. And trust me, it's cleaner than that pool you just stepped out of.
  • I get free Wi-Fi! - Yeah, because who doesn't want to stay connected when in the tropics.
  • The entertainment is awesome!- Yes, that could be true, but guess what. These islands you're in such a hurry to get off of have entertainment too, but most cruisers wouldn't know it because they boarded their ship 3 hours earlier.
  • It's Cheap!- Do you drink? It ain't cheap then. Next question.
  • I got to eat with the Captain!- So did Jack and Rose. That didn't turn out so good. 
I'll be the first to admit that watching the crew of the Love Boat made me want to be on that ship, hanging out with George and Weezie Jefferson and watching Charo shake her moneymaker in everyone's faces. Cha Cha Cha! But as I grew and as I traveled, it simply became less of an interest. Having been on some of these islands where the cruises dock, I can't grasp why anyone wouldn't want to keep that anchor from drawing up and spend the rest of their time watching the sunset disappear between their sand-swept toes. But, I guess as long as they do, I will always have that luxury of having the greatest beaches of all time to myself. That is once the shuttles leave.

Wonderland

"I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then." 

 

My mind reverts back to a young woman named Alice, full of curiosity, adventure and a willingness to show the world that there is more that meets the eye. It's such a powerful phrase and one that many people can identify with in one way or another. We never know what lies ahead in our lives. The trials, the tribulations and the overwhelming need to re-route our destiny as we move forward in this world. Defining our lives can only be done in an instant. Everything after that instance is being redefined. What if life was predestined for us? Would it be that interesting or would we silently trudge on through the mundane knowing full well how it would all turn out. If life was offered to us on a silver platter, fully engaged in all things good, would we turn it down if one thing kept us from being who we envisioned ourselves to be? It's these moments when I feel it's good to assess what life really means to all of us. Uncertainty is an uncomfortable state to be in, but one that holds more promise than anything you could imagine. It's the moment of being in the delivery room while a new family member emerges to the light of smiling faces. The same can be said for those moments when you find yourself on the opposite side of an operating room, hoping to be the first smiling face that is seen, if only to reassure that although life is different now, it's still beautiful. Throughout life, we will change. Complacency is always an option, the easy option. The harder choices are the ones that lead you to forks in the road. Where decisions are made and set the stage for the rest of your life that follows. Are you an observer or a participant? From the impactful life-changing decisions to the less than worrisome choices of where will I take my trip this year, it all depends on where you stand. What keeps us from going where we want to go and doing what we want to do? Money, time, resources? Usually, it's just ourselves. When we make the tough decisions on where to spend our money and how we want to live our lives, we must keep in mind that this particular instance will never occur again. Alice was right. We will never be the same, but that doesn't mean we can't be better than who we were. Family and travel pretty much go hand in hand. You really never know what you are going to get in the end and there is always a curve that you simply can't see what is around the bend, but you know that there's a good chance it could life changing, or at the least, awe inspiring. People who travel live differently than others. There's never a place that is too far. There's never a place that is off limits. And if the day comes when we can't seem to make that trip again, even just down the road, we feel as if we lose a bit of ourselves in the process. 

"Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" Alice asked.

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to." The Cat responded.

"I don't care much where-" Alice said.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."


It also doesn't matter much how you get there, just as long as you arrive. Each day you travel, you live that much more. Each day you live, you travel that much more. And when your travel is complete, your canvased memory will provide enough paint to recapture all that you have seen. Believe this, your travels never end, they simply took a different route. It's up to you when you want to sign your painting, just be sure you've left time to put on the finishing touches. That's what makes your painting a masterpiece. 


To all the Alices in the world who live to travel another day and to all of us who know them, your new journey has just begun. And so the adventure of life continues...


 



What you don't see may scare you!

For many travelers, the resort in an underdeveloped country may be the only spot they see. I've for some time, been a proponent for getting out and seeing the countryside if possible. It's a chance for our family to really see what a country is really all about. I remember as we took our first visit to Jamaica, never getting off the resort to experience the culture. By the time we made it back to Nashville, I had this picture of Jamaica being the penthouse of all things paradise. Ya mon! Irie Mon! The second trip was a bit different as we hired a driver to take us to all the places that we couldn't see. The small towns tucked just out of view for the tourists. Our family getting out of his car to feast on some beef pies in a little town proved to be a bit anxiety-driven. Yeah, being the only white folks in a massive crowd of locals can be a bit crazy, but that wasn't really what grabbed my attention. It was the lack of resources, utilities, even trash cans and sewers. Wherever it fell, that's where it lay. Pretty simple decision to a larger problem. It's like using a telescope and focusing on the beautiful lava streams of a volcano, yet just out of the frame we all know lies destruction in it's path. It's that looking through the glass that distracts our interpretations of what is real. 
Such was the case in Belize. Beautiful, warm, inviting, English speaking and some of the most gorgeous scenery you could find. But there's much more that meets the eye. Belize is not a rich country. Far from it. As a matter of fact, a majority of the population lives below the poverty line. You can get glimpses of it from your tours into the mainland and even in the touristy town of San Pedro in Ambergris Caye. Yet, right next to our resort? Could it be that close? Renting some bikes from our place, we asked about riding up the coast. So...you're not riding into San Pedro. No, we wanted to get a glimpse of the sister resort just up the coast. It wasn't as if they were trying to push us the other direction, but you could sense a bit of reservation on where we were heading. Told throughout the week not to go too far for safety concerns up the coast, we wondered how bad it could be? What we saw was more than a safety issue. It was downright depressing. Literally piles and piles of trash as far as you could see, or at least to the borders of the next resort. Now, I'll give them a bit of slack in that we were there in low season, so several of the resorts were closed. That being said, we were astounded with the amount of trash washed up on the shore. Snorkeling out in these blue waters and pristine reefs made you wonder how a population could damage their greatest asset so much. Even when we first arrived at the ferry in Belize City to take us to the the resort, we encountered a bay full of trash just bobbing around with nobody willing to retrieve it from the water. For a country that relies on tourism for any income has a pretty big sore under their bandaid. What lacks in places like this are the laws to prevent such devastation to the ecosystem but even more, a simple pride seems to be lost on the crown jewel that lies just off their coast. It's a situation where, unless, the government truly gets involved, the pleasure of viewing the largest living reef in the world will soon fade. 






So what can we do? Simply make sure we don't contribute to the disaster that lurks off shore. Sometimes it's easier to simply throw trash to the side when so many other folks are doing it. I will say that we saw some locals shoveling the trash out of a few parts of the water, but it would take a very long time to get all of it. I would suggest that one thing we could do and should do is go there. Belize relies on our money to fix what is ailing its shores. The more we visit, spend money and contribute to their overall economy, the better their chances to make an impact. And, why wouldn't you want to visit? It's an unbelievable location that is fairly cheap to get to and can rival any reef location in the world. Pack your bags and hop on a plane soon. Central America will surprise you and make you rethink what you Belize is paradise. Just use a trashcan please!

2014 Revolution

As we enter 2014 I can't help but think about how fast life truly goes by. As we all see from year to year, new challenges arise. New job or a new family.  There are all sorts of things we go through as humans and one thing that you can count on is that the people you see on a daily basis are going through the same things. Sure, maybe the details are not the same, but highs and lows are common for us all. That's why optimism of a new year is always worth it. We will always strive to do more, to see more...to live more. Maybe you looked back at this time last year and felt, "I had such high hopes for this year, but then this happened or that happened." Guess what? Life happens and it will happen again. But here's the thing to keep in mind. You have more control than you think and in those times of lucidity that you SEE the good in your life, you should really embrace it. Life was never meant to be easy, but it was meant to be enjoyed, no matter the cards that are dealt you. Believe me, there is always someone worse off than you. Are you having health issues? Chances are good that most of us are as well. Work giving you a headache? Join the crowd. Kids driving you crazy? Sure. At the end of the day, most of us just want to know that we're not alone. And the reality is that you are never truly alone. That being said, what prevents you from being the best individual you can be? What keeps you from pursuing the things that matter most to you? Why can't you also take that trip that you really NEED to feel alive again. Is reality getting in the way?It's a fear that keeps us from being the true person we always wish we could be. It's the difference between those days that you feel unbreakable and the days where you feel overly fragile. It's a fine line that separates the two and until you find how to straddle that fine line, you may feel suffocated and without hope. 

I find that as my age increases, so do the pressures of life. It's as if our brain forgets how to handle adversity. Each year I look back at the previous one and think to myself, wow, that was a really tough year. But, if I really think it through, I would realize that those "things" happen every year. It might not be a bad idea to go ahead and expect that at some point in this coming year, you will have to battle adversity. I'm pretty darn close to saying to hell with the whole worrying crap. It really does me no good. It's more along the lines of how our young minds used to translate stress. By saying eff it and moving on. Maybe that's why many of us are not smarter than a 5th grader because we think just a bit too much instead of just going with the flow. 



I don't know about you but I have my New Year's resolutions ready to go. We'll see how many of these make the February cut but I'm looking at simplicity this year. Cut the fat, both literally and figuratively. I sat down a few days ago and looked at the past year and discovered some things in my life I could have prevented if I would have only tweaked how I processed things. I won't get into these with all of you, because well, I would hope you couldn't give a rat's ass what I plan on doing with myself this year. That being said, I hope you learn to live life more fully in your own minds. We only get one shot and a wasted year is a lot of time to watch go down the drain if you don't heed the call of life itself. I've watched a few people over the last few months who have had mortality dangled in front of them like a piece of fruit. It made me reflect on my own situation and our family's decision to not wait for the fun things in life. There simply isn't enough time to hold off on doing the things you want to do. I've done the things I HAVE to do in life. I went to school (kind of successfully), I voted when I needed to ( probably never worked out in my favor), I pay my taxes (sucks) and I obey the law. (Ok, that one has had its moments I'm sure.) What I'm saying is that all the responsibilities that we must do in life...I've done. There's more to come, but for now, I'm keeping pace. And that's good enough. I try not to be consumed by my work (or my blog as you've noticed). Work is not my life. It's a means to an end. A way to pay for all of the fun things we want to do in life and have been doing. I'm taking risks by credit card churning, but when you experience the reward. It's all worth it. To think that my life is already charted out would be a major mistake on my part. Every morning is a new opportunity to remake yourself, even when the most mundane tasks are laid out in front of you. Maybe trying it with a smile would alter the entire makeup of your day. Or , if you think like me, maybe that dream trip that you've put on the list for retirement could actually benefit you more at this very moment. Right now, their are people on that mountain you want to climb. Right now, there are people floating on that pristine water in the Caribbean where you pictured yourself so many times. Maybe the resolution you're thinking about so much in the next few days should be a revolution. Maybe it's time we all decide who the boss really is. Because when you lose your sanity over the everyday things of life, you lose it for much more than yourself. Each day you decide to not live in your moment, it passes. And it will not come back. So, it makes it even more important that we sit back and embrace this feeling that we all seem to experience in the new year. And then comes the real trick. To keep it going for the 11 months that follow. It's a difficult task but maybe that should be your final resolution to your revolution. Don't give up on all the goals that you set. You make them in clear mind so don't let the times of despair knock you off the path. Get up, dust yourself off and make 2014 the best year ever. 

My soapbox is vacant, so here's to all of you to step up and take it for yourself. I hope you have a great new year and look forward to more rubbish coming your way. It's what I do and I'm damn good at it too!