Babs Wanderful

I often think of myself of as a little black girl from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Whenever I accomplish a goal or have an experience outside of my comfort zone I am overly ecstatic! I give the six year old Babs a high five and a hug! “We did it! I can’t believe we just did that!” Even though I have accomplished many goals I am always shocked. I am always checking in with six year old Babs to make sure that I am making her dreams come true.

The most important dream: Travel the world.

I have suffered from wanderlust for as long as I can remember. It began when my grandfather told me that he would take me to Kenya. We never went and we may never go together, but he did take my mind outside of my Stone Mountain home and across the world.

Traveling was in mind and seeped into my blood. I knew I had to see the big world around me. I became infatuated with my family’s travels in the continental United States, Hawaii, Scotland and Spain. Because travel was limited as a child (but fun!), I promised myself that I would see the world!

In November 2015, (while in the midst of divorce of which will be another blog) I obtained my passport. The next month I traveled to the Bahamas with my aunt, her Bahamian husband and their three children.

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Since then I’ve travelled to New York, Philadelphia, West Virginia, Charlotte, Denver, Biloxi, Orange Beach, New Orleans, Houston, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic. This winter I will travel to Europe to see England, Scotland, France and Germany.

“We did it! I can’t believe we just did that!”

Well believe it because we are doing it!

The Christmas Spirit is in Full Bloom at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens!

Date night

Family night

Girls night 

Or boys night out

No matter the night the Atlanta Botanical Gardens’ Garden Lights, Holiday Nights has something to offer everyone. 

On weeknights the Gardens open at 5 p.m. until 11 p.m until Saturday, January 11, 2020. You can purchase tickets online for approximately $24 per person. This will allow you and your guests to breeze through the line. Before starting the garden walk, grab an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage before your stroll.  

With your drink in tow, you’ll want to stop first at the Singing Lights attraction. The mesmerizing lights and music will captivate you. Though tempting to spend the entire night there, other attractions await just follow the bright and colorful lights on the pathway. 

Singing lights at Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Be sure to stop for a few group photos and selfies on your way to the s’mores roasting station. 

After your very sweet treat, visit the the greenhouse but take your coat off before you enter. The humidity will keep you warm for a short period in the cool night. 

If you are an Atlanta native like me or just visiting the city, stop to see the Rising Phoenix. This mythical bird is the symbol that represents the literal burning and rebirth of the City. 

Before leaving the Gardens you’ll want to see the display from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland!

There is much more to see when you visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens! I’ll share a few more photos but, you’ll need to see for your self so stop reading and buy your tickets for your night out!

Top 30 Reasons Why Travelers 30 and Over Should Stay In a Hostel!

Hostels

An American slasher film of the early 2000s.

At least that was the first thing I knew about hostels as a teenager.

When I booked my trip to Europe last July, I planned for a backpacking trip. I wanted to travel lightly (as light as a vacation in the winter would allow). I knew that I could not afford to stay in hotels. I was too afraid to stay in an AirBnB with strangers or by myself. My only known option was to stay in a hostel. I knew that I could not feed my fears about hostels, so I purposely avoided the urge to rewatch the 2005 horror film. I also had to get over my perception that hostels were for free-spirited teens and 20 somethings, not for professional women in their 30s, right?

I quickly found out that everything I thought I knew about hostels were wrong. While searching for lodging I came across the ever so popular website, Hostelworld! Quickly, my fears fleeted my from my mind. The hostels were so nice! So modern, so hip and refreshing!

So here are my top 30 reasons why people over 30 should stay in a hostel:

  1. Hostels are a great place for solo travelers 
  2. Hostels make it easy to meet new people
  3. Hostels are very safe 
  4. Hostels offer WiFi
  5. Hostelworld.com features hostels from all over the world
  6. Hostels are great ways to make new lifelong friends
  7. Hostel-mates are very respectful of quiet hours (mine were at least)
  8. Hostels are often located near main attractions or transportation
  9. Hostels are cheaper than hotels
  10. Hostel guests are all ages from 20s to 60s
  11. Hostels can offer transportation services to and from the airport
  12. Hostels are great if you are traveling to multiple cities or countries
  13. Hostels often offer tours, bar crawls, and other activities if you did not plan a full itinerary
  14. Hostels are a great way to find a travel partner(s) for a day or for your entire stay
  15. Hostels often have their own bars
  16. Hostels offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner or snacks
  17. Hostels have kitchens to allow a healthier option for travelers
  18. Hostel staff speak multiple languages
  19. Hostels offer ensuite rooms and rooms without a bathroom or shower
  20. Hostels offer private rooms
  21. Hostels offer lockers for your personal belongings and valuables
  22. Hostel staff make the bed and clean the bathroom everyday (just like a hotel)
  23. Hostels will hold your luggage before check-in and/or after your check-out until you need to go to the airport
  24. Hostel staff keep track of all guests to make sure they return each night
  25. Hostels do not have a curfew (at least the two stayed at did not)
  26. Hostels may provide laundry facilities
  27. Hostels are a great way to immerse yourself into different cultures
  28. Hostels offer private reading lamps, plugs, and USB ports for each traveler
  29. Hostels offer board games, playing cards, and books
  30. You’d be surprised to find how many 30 somethings are staying in hostels. I encourage you to book for your next trip!

Three Must See Bridges in the United States!

Since I started working in the transportation and heavy highway construction industries I have developed an uncanny obsession with bridges. I narrowed down my top three favorite bridges to visit in the United States.

  1. New River Gorge Bridge

Location: Fayetteville, West Virginia

Completed: 1977

I visited the New River Gorge Bridge in 2014 while attending a transportation communications conference. West Virginia never appealed to me as a place to visit, but I hope this blog post will change your mind. This National State Park has some amazing views and adrenaline pumping fun to offer tourists! When you visit the bridge be sure to pay for the walking tour UNDER the bridge. Tourists will get to view the gorge from 876 feet in the air!

2. Hoover Dam Bypass a.k.a. Mike O’Callahan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Location: Nevada/Arizona state line

Completed: 2004

I’ve visited this bridge twice. It simply amazes me that the rocky landscape helps support the footings of the bridge. The bridge overlooks the famous Hoover Dam. Tourists traveling between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon must stop and walk across the bridge. It has a pedestrian friendly path. The designers made this bridge an easy attraction for road trippers. Travelers can pull over into a paved parking lot that has a bathroom – you will need it after a few hours on the road. There are ramps and stairs they take you to the bridge and an area to read the dedication plaques for O’Callahan and Tillman. Tourists can snap aerial photos of the Hoover Dam Bypass and the “Welcome to Nevada Sign.”

3. Brooklyn Bridge

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Completed: 1883

Last but certainly not least! The Brooklyn Bridge is known across the United States of America and around the world! I walked across the entire bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan this past summer. The 136 year old suspension bridge goes over the East River into New York’s top tourist area known as the DUMBO! After walking on this bridge I felt like I really experienced New York! This is a “Must See”attraction in the Big Apple, it’s also FREE!

Honorable Mention: Ben Franklin Bridge

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Completed: 1926

When in Philadelphia make sure to grab a Philly Cheesesteak, rent a bike, and bike across the Ben Franklin Bridge into Camden, New Jersey! It’s worth it. Afterwards stop under the bridge at Morgan’s Pier for a dessert or a cocktail!

A New Era of Travel and Tourism Begins as the City of Stone Mountain Opens New Visitor’s Center

“This has truly been a labor of love”

Some may have an idea, yet only Kim Cumbie, City of Stone Mountain Visitor Center Manager, knows all of the challenges, efforts, and literal sweat it took to open and repurpose the Old Train Depot as the City’s newest visitor’s center. 

The new visitor’s center, now placed in the center of Stone Mountain Village, will serve as a top location for travelers to learn more about this hidden gem of south Dekalb County. 

When travelers walk through the doors of the new visitor’s center they will immediately notice the community’s support. The front desk –  a gift from the Stone Mountain Women’s Club. The bulletin board – covered with coupons and flyers from businesses along Main Street in Stone Mountain Village. Brochures that showcase self-guided tours, stories about the quarry business that helped Stone Mountain gain its popularity in the granite industry and Major General William T. Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. 

The new center serves as an attraction to passersby with hopes to exchange car traffic with foot traffic through Stone Mountain Village. This exchange will literally help the City of Stone Mountain take a step in a new direction as the City explores ideas on how to revitalize The Village. 

Local media coverage and crime distracts from the talent, great good, cozy lodging and tours that the City of Stone Mountain and Stone Mountain Village have to offer. However, the narrative changed today when community leaders cut the ribbon in front of the Old Train Depot. 

The ribbon cutting symbolized an opening to a new and exciting era for the City and Village.

An era that started with a labor of love from those who proudly represent the City of Stone Mountain’s future.

Look Up! You are in the Louvre!

The Mona Lisa.

I had to see her. I travelled all this way to Paris to see one of the most famous smiles in the world. As I navigated my way through the halls of the Louvre, I began to notice other pieces of art work that caught my eye.

It was not the painting of Napoleon Bonaparte, or the picture of Joan of Arc, or the Sphinxes, or the Greek sculptures of the Winged Victory of Samothrace or Aphrodite. No, for me the most spectacular pieces of art were on the ceilings.

The art so far above my five foot stature, required a full tilt of my head and neck to capture every detail.

Who knew that masterpieces with angelic centerpieces, in gilded gold frames would illustrate stories unknown to me. Other ceilings portrayed the strength of the former fortress, as knight’s armor posted in ever corner watched over museum goers. Other ceilings decorated with Cherubs, reflected the religious taste likely of former kings who called the Louvre home.

The art in the room and the art on the ceiling neither complimented nor clashed with each other. Yet the total room provided a full perspective of art of the today and the art of thousands of years past.

I allowed the high-rise artistry to capture all most of my attention. Eventually, I made my way to see the woman who mastered the first “smize.” Needless to say, she was worth the thousands of miles travelled.

Sounds of Travel

I know you’ve been going through some things
I know you don’t even love the same, do ya?
I know you’ve been running on empty, running on empty
The way you move it’s like you could use a vacation

I Know (Big Sean and Jhene Aiko)

These lyrics instantly take me into vacation mode. My mind instantly relaxes. Big Sean and Jhene Aiko verbalize and understand the stress I experience daily. They verbalize my body and mind’s need to break from my norm and jump into my fantasy vacation.

Usually, Sean and Jhene sing to me on the runway as the plane begins to take off. Then Erykah Badu takes over with her melodic rhythm and voice as Window Seat plays through my ears and I gaze out of the window leaving Atlanta behind…for now.

When I am on my plane for a while, taking an early or late flight my six-hour Jazz Chill Playlists by Apple Music will lull me to sleep. This playlist reduces all anxiety especially because I tend to get anxious on flights over three hours or over water.

When the plane lands I usually switch to the music that will set the tone for the trip. When I landed in London my favorite band Queen took the stage in my cerebral concert, rightfully so. They sang Don’t Stop Me Now to remind me of my bravery and excitement to step foot on land that I only saw on television.

On my way to the Louvre in Paris, tears fell from my eyes. I was consumed with gratitude, disbelief, and awe! My entire life, I could only dream and read about the most elite art museum in all of the world and I was finally there! I finally made it. Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Apeshit was the soundtrack to my arrival to the Lurve. As I stared at the iconic pyramid in the courtyard of the former palace now a museum the lyric ” I can’t believe we made it” echoed through my ears and my spirit.

This is what it’s all about people. Music is the soundtrack to life. It is the soundtrack to my travel. When I am back home in Atlanta and lusting over new destinations I turn on the variety of songs that guided me through previous travels. I take a mental break from the stress of the job, the mundane routine in my life, and anxiety through the lyrics of artists who seem to understand me.

Which musical artists produce the sounds for your adventures?

Musical travel essentials

Around the World with Apple Maps

When I am home in the States I ONLY USE GOOGLE MAPS! Google Maps is so reliable. It helps me get around. I also use it quite a bit for my job (I work in road construction).

HOWEVER! As I started my trip to Europe in London, England I needed to get around. Carrying a paper is nostalgic, but not practical at all so I turn to my trusty Google Maps. Though I’m no longer using the Sprint network, but the local VodaPhone UK it should work right?

NO!!!!

It took FOREVER to load and gave me pretty bad directions. I struggled with Google Maps until I met a guy from my hostel who taught me to use Apple Maps. He uses it all the time especially to help him get around. He is an American from Florida studying in Scotland.

So, I begin to use Apple Maps. Needless to say this application has been a complete lifesaver. It’s given me directions for walking, taking the bus and the Tube. It’s helped me get from SoHo to South Kensington.

From 221B Baker Street

to Abbey Road.

From Fleet Street

to the London Eye.

The app is so reliable it continues to give me directions when cell service was spotty, while underground taking the Tube and without WiFi.

The app also gave me step-by-step directions on the phone and directly to my Apple Watch. This is a HUGE plus for me as a solo traveller. I looked less like a tourist and more like local. When I wanted to check the directions I’d just glance at my wrist. When I needed an overview I’d whip out my phone just to make sure I was headed in the right direction.

So next time you travel abroad give Google Maps a rest and use Apple Maps instead!

Travel for FREE-ish by Using Your SkyMiles!

San Juan, Toronto, London, Madrid, Paris.

The Delta SkyMiles credit card by American Express helped me to travel to those cities. I got the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card in 2016. I got it because I was changing jobs and needed a card to pay for my hotels, Lyft rides, and food. Since then I have earned quite a few miles. The SkyMiles that I have earned added to my personal travel goals and benefitted my family. Read more to learn how you can benefit from SkyMiles!

  • Build Credit

This is America (Childish Gambino voice) don’t catch you slippin’ up with your credit! Credit rules in this country and you need it to make major purchases in your life such as a house, car, or whatever high-ticket items that are required for living. The Delta SkyMiles card can help you build that credit so long as you are responsible.

A good rule to follow is only to spend on your credit card what is in your bank account. If you have $50 to spend on dinner instead of using your debit card use your Delta SkyMiles Card at a partnering restaurant and earn miles. Then pay the charge. This is a way you can build your credit and avoid large debt. Trust me, I have allowed my spending to get out of hand a time or two, but this method keeps me from spending too much.

Also, be sure to always pay more than the minimum monthly payment!

  • Earn Miles Easily

Now that we’ve agreed that you will responsibly manage your credit it’s time to start spending/earning miles! Earning SkyMiles is incredibly easy! You can earn SkyMiles when you go out to eat (something I do a lot!) Delta has a program called SkyMiles Dining This allows you to link your debit card and/or your SkyMiles credit card to your SkyMiles Account. You can also earn SkyMiles when you use Lyft! I am not a fan of Uber anyway. I think they have very sketchy people. I prefer to use Lfyt because I trust the drivers and as an added bonus I can earn miles! The other day I took Lyft to meet my friends for brunch and mimosas. The Lyft ride cost me $14 and I earned miles! You can also use your SkyMiles credit card for everyday use such as buying gasoline for your car or groceries for you and/or family.

You earn SkyMiles when you book flights with Delta and when you book lodging with AirBnB.

  • Free Trips! Well Kinda…

Now it’s time to reap the benefits of the all of that spending! After you have chosen your destination whether it is in the United States of America or abroad remember that you can pay for your entire flight or part of your flight using your SkyMiles.

In April 2017, my grandmother celebrated her 80th birthday in Puerto Rico. I paid for my flight and my mother’s flight to San Juan using the Miles and Cash option. I paid $600 for both flights! Typically from Atlanta to San Juan, the flights cost $600 per person!

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In October 2018, I will go to Washington D.C. for my job. Then from D.C. I will travel to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The round trip flight from Canada back to our Nation’s Capital cost 17,000 SkyMiles! I only paid for the taxes and the flight insurance!

I also booked my trip to Europe using my SkyMiles! My multi-city round-trip flight from Atlanta to London, Paris back to Atlanta cost 63,000 SkyMiles! I am going to let that sink in for a while (pause for a moment of silence and reflection).

It was so simple! I saved so much money on flights I can spend the rest on lodging, souvenirs, food, wine, cheese, chocolates, and croissants!

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

It’s a cosmopolitan world” as my grandmother would say. The number of people traveling around the world and buying internationally grows daily. Who wants to pay fees for buying something overseas (see what I did there…I made a rhyme lol).

True enough outside of America, American Express (operative word being American) is not accepted everywhere. However, countries like Mexico and Canada accept the card. It is a safe way to pay for something, the exchange rate is automatically converted and it will not cost you anything! For the countries that do not widely accept American Express, I also have the Capital One VentureOne credit card.

I hope that I helped you learn a bit more about the benefits of getting and using theDelta SkyMiles credit card by American Express!

Happy Spending!

Happy Flying!

Disclaimer: I was not paid by American Express or Delta Airlines for this blog post! I am just a happy customer!

Black Girls’ Guide to Vacationing in the Deep South: Part Two

Nawlins! The Big Easy! The Crescent City!

We finally arrived. When we entered the state I immediately started craving po’boys, fresh seafood, and beignets. Excited to visit the city we wasted no time and headed straight for the swamp! We hopped on a two-hour airboat tour at Airboat Adventures.  Our tour boat guide (I believe whose name was Captain Dan) schooled us on the swamp history, everything from the Cypress trees, Spanish moss, and alligators! The ‘gators were the best of the entire tour, especially when we met Al the Alligator! My mother nearly jumped out of the boat after she discovered this scaly friend had been lurking behind her. 

We headed back to New Orleans proper to check into our hotel at the Westin New Orleans Canal Place. We booked the hotel through Hotels.com for less than $500 for two nights. The hotel was overbooked and we had to change our room from a double to a single. The room the hotel staff assigned us had a wet carpet and a moldy smell. We asked to change the room again, thankfully this room was better, but it didn’t have a trash can. Oh well, at least we got a free brunch and we were in walking distance to the French Quarter. After we showered and changed clothes we called a family friend who is also a New Orleans native. She walked us down the famous Bourbon Street – a small corridor full of naked breast, Hand Grenades, street performers and awesome restaurants. After we had our fill of the entertainment it was time to eat. We settled for Felix’s Resturant and Oyster Bar. These oysters were the best I have ever eaten! I also had a sampler plate of etouffee, red beans and rice, and jambalaya. YUMMY! My mom and I enjoyed our meals at the bar and met three cool kids from Toronto who were visiting New Orleans for an anime event. They shared their appetizers with us. The also bought us shots when they found out my mom was in her 50s and not my sister. The best line of the night was, “Wow, Black people age just as well as Asians!”

Before the night ended we went to Harrah’s Casino to try my luck at the slot machines.

I didn’t win anything.

The next day my aunt landed in New Orleans. She met us at the hotel, we ate brunch then went to the Audubon Aquarium.  After touring this aquarium my family and I cringed at the fact of knowing the impacts plastics and trash have on marine life.

We continued our tour of the French Quarter at Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde. We then prepared ourselves for a dinner cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez. We cruised into the sunset on the Mississippi River. The captain/tour guide explained the devastation Hurricane Katrina had on the city, as well as the importance of the Mississippi River to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

We closed our trip with one last stroll down Bourbon Street. We ate a massive meal at Deanie’s Seafood then watched my aunt participate in a tarot card reading. Needless to say…that was a very interesting experience.

Big Easy Thank you for the music, food, and memories!

Black Girls’ Guide to Vacationing in the Deep South: Part One

Every year around the end of July my mother goes on her annual birthday road trip. This year we took a tour of the Deep South!

Considering the racial climate in the United States you would think African-American women would want to get as far away from the South as possible. Nope, not us. This is our country and we will go wherever we please. We left Atlanta in the wee hours of the night headed to our first stop in Orange Beach, Alabama! Those closest to me know about my extreme distaste for the state of Alabama. So when my mother said she wanted to go I was hesitant, but what can I do? It’s my mom’s birthday!

We arrived at the Gulf State Pier to a pleasant surprise of clear waters, blue sky, and a pure white sand beach! Next, we were both becoming a little hangry (me more than her) so we stopped at Another Broken Egg Cafe down the street from The Wharf. I ordered the vegetable omelet and my mom chose an omelet with cream cheese, crab and all sorts of goodness!

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With our bellies full and hangriness subdued, we took off on our first excursion aboard the Sunny Lady Dolphin Tour Boat. The word “fun” does not justify or barely begin to describe the dolphin cruise! We saw plenty of dolphins, learned about the history of Orange Beach and saw a lady in the water. The captain of the cruise ship made my mom captain for approximately 10 minutes in celebration of her birthday.

After the cruise, we walked around in The Wharf. It is a shopping area full of posh stores, restaurants, a store featuring python jerky and barbeque flavored worms.

Our next stop, Biloxi, Missippi! We spent the night at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino.  We refreshed ourselves and stepped out on the town. We ate awful dinner at the hotel’s buffet. I added crab legs to my buffet, what a huge mistake! The crab legs were cold, the butter was artificial and the other food on the buffet was overcooked. To make up for the disgusting food, we decided to try our luck at the casino. Based on the photo below we did not have much luck there either. My mother’s company and the posh pool made up for the hotel’s shortcomings. I’d visit Biloxi again but I’d stay at another hotel.

The next morning we packed our bags and headed to the New Orleans! I’ll tell you about our time there in the next post – Black Girls’ Guide to Vacationing in the Deep South: Part Two.