Category Archives: Delightful Solo Travel

This post focuses on dream destinations, pleasures of solo travel, growing through discomfort and the importance of forming new friendships!

PLACEDIA REMINDS ME THAT GHANA ūüá¨ūüá≠ IS WHERE THE HEART LIVES!

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Post Written By Guest Blogger Kweli Kitwana
East Bay, California 
In this article Kweli shares how her volunteer experience and a developing special relationship with a high school student in Ghana continues to impact her life. 
Of all the years of me volunteering in Ghana over the past few years and of all the wonderful experiences that I’ve had while in Ghana, one young woman truly stands out, and she stole my heart. She was a recipient of scholarships from SistaWorks. This honor allowed her to complete high school, however due to the lack of funds, her dreams for pursing additional education seemed to be unattainable.
Placedia is is her name, and I encountered her after she graduated from high school.  As a way of giving back for having received her education from The SistaWorks Program, Placedia returned to her high school to show her gratitude by returning to speak to other students. This visit would be the equivalent to serving as a Career Day speaker.
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As I was preparing her to speak to the current and newly selected scholars, Placedia informed me that she had placed her advanced education on hold because she needed to raise 3000 Ghana Cedis/$670 USD ‚ÄĒ about $55 monthly in fees and tuition. So for now, she is selling water at the local markets with the hopes of furthering her education in the future.
I asked her how much was she able to make monthly selling water. The shocking response was ‚ÄĒ 35 Ghana Cedis/$8 USD. WOW!! That really hit me….when would this young woman ever be able to attain her higher education? ¬†Girls like Placedia, when not able to continue their schooling, will end up married and/or caring for their families and elders. ¬†With this often comes the realization that getting that additional education may never happen causing their dream to slip further and further away.

Immediately, I gave her what I had in my possession as she was leaving that day to go back to her village. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that 157 Ghana Cedis/$35 USD  was all that Placedia would earn after 19 days of selling water!

After I departed Ghana, Placedia stayed on my mind! I finally found her again, and I have since been sending her $56 a month to cover her education at Midwife College.
We write each other often (via email), and I’m learning so much about her.

I also learned that after completing her stint as a government midwife, Placedia wants to continue her education by studying to become a Physician‚Äôs Assistant at a local university. ¬†She hails from the Village of Wiaga ‚ÄĒ part of the Builsa District in Ghana‚Äôs Upper East Region. ¬†Placedia tells me that she is a proud tribal Builsa, and her native language is Buli.
I love writing to Placedia and discussing the enslavement of Africans. She and I recently made a connection around her history ‚ÄĒ The Bulsa people have a proud heritage of fighting against the enslavement of Africans. Historically, they have fought fiercely against enslavers, and when Babatu attacked her people in the 19th century, they were able to stand against him and turn him back!
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That event is celebrated to this day with an elaborate festival called Feok just before Christmas, and it is a passionate celebration which highlights their love of Freedom!
Lately, I’ve been talking to her about African Americans and our connection to Africa. I have taken great care in explaining to her that Blacks in America are not “White People” (a common misunderstanding on the continent) nor are all American Christians looking to do missions based work.
NOTE: ¬†In Ghana and throughout Africa, it is very common for Africans to refer to Black Americans as White. For example, to distinguish me as an American, they would say “the white woman was looking for you.” It is often their way of ¬†assigning class designation, and I also believe it is their way of making it clear that we are Non-African in Ghana.
These small but mighty interactions bring me much joy, and they have helped me to solidify my purpose.

Thank you Robin Joyce Tillotson for constantly reminding women to take care of ourselves and to never give up on your dreams. #thisidoforme#movintowardpositivity#wakandaforreal

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THINGS I CANNOT TRAVEL WITHOUT!!

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In this three part travel series, we have looked at some ways to identify budget airfares, and we’ve looked at a cadre of economical accommodation choices.

In the last of this series, I want to share some things that I just can’t and will not travel without. These items provide great comfort to me while traveling, and when I’m packing I get a kick out of including them in my suitcase and knowing that I am going to feel secure with them while I’m on the road. ¬†So here goes!

A GREAT PAIR OF WALKING SHOES!

You will never catch me without my Riekers. This shoe is heaven against concrete. They are stylish, come in a variety of colors, and they seem to match any outfit (minus ones that need heels). I purchased my first pair in 2015 when I visited 11 cities in France. Two months afterwards, they remained glued to my feet while trekking through Sydney, Australia.

They aren’t cheap, but I have learned that if I’m going to put out good money on anything, it might as well be on a solid pair of shoes — Riekers it is!

A SET OF PACKING CUBES

This is another travel goodie that I can’t be without. Coming in a multitude of colors (I have the lime green set), this nugget makes packing not only convenient, but fun also! ¬†I have a a set of three — one cube accommodates my underwear, socks, pantyhose and pajamas; another cube accommodates all of my tops and blouses; and one that I can use for all of my bottoms.

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I’m even able to squeeze in a toletries bag. Life is easy on the road with these babies! ¬†Once I get to my hotel or Airbnb, I just place the three cubes in the drawers and pull out what I need daily. ¬†My cubes are manufactured by ebags.

TRAVEL BLANKET

Talk about comfort — my Flight 001 Travel Blanket is perfect for when I get a bit chilly on the airplane or on a tour coach. It feels wonderful — its lightweightness is perfect, and it comes in its own pouch for easy transport.

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IPOD AND SONY HEADPHONES

I have loaded my iPod with a variety of jazz, classical and r&b — anything from Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald to Alicia Keys!

Additionally, when I use my Sony headphones to listen to the wonderful array of music, I experience a quality of sound like no other. They make especially long flights (like my flight to Sydney, Australia in 2015) most enjoyable.

TRAVELON CROSS-BODY BAGS WITH RFID-BLOCKING CARD AND PASSPORT SLOTS

Now THIS is the piece de resistance! I am able to carry a bottle of water, my wallet, tissue, writing pen and throat lozenges. There is a slot for my passport, and there is even room for my Samsung smartphone.

LUGGAGE SCALE

My Digital Luggage Scale comes in handy and keeps me from paying over the top luggage fees.  My scale is a life saver, and both American Weigh and Samsonite have nice ones!

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CANON EOS REBEL T5 DSLR CAMERA

During my many years of traveling, I have used a point and shoot camera or my Smartphone’s camera. ¬†I have been pleased with how my pics have turned out, and others have commented on what nice pics I take. ¬†This past fall, I enrolled in a photography course that taught me just how much more I could do with a professional¬†¬†camera, so I invested in ¬†Canon EOS Rebel T5 digital camera!

Although I have been taking photos galore, my trip to Australia in 2017 will be my first trip where I will use my DSLR. ¬†I can’t wait to share the outcomes with you!

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SAMSONITE STRYDE HARDSIDE GLIDER LONG JOURNEY (WISHLIST ITEM)

I don’t own one yet, but I promise you — I’m going to get this one! It’s roomy and perfect for housing packing cubes while still leaving enough room to pack other items. ¬†It spins nicely and will glide alongside you as you walk.

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It also comes in a medium and carry on size.

Needless to say, I am inseparable from my iPad, which also allows me to read a book that I’ve downloaded through my Kindle App.

These are just small samplings of what makes me happy on the road. ¬†What travel comforts can’t you live without? ¬†I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney, Australia! PART 1

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Me at The Sydney Wildlife Center With Erica the Kaola!

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Photos: Robin at The Sydney Wildlife Center; on Bondi Beach; the Queen Victoria Building Clock; the famed Sydney Opera House

 

At the beginning of 2015, taking a trip to the continent of Australia was the furthest thing from my mind. Even though the country was on my bucket list, it was way down on the list — mainly because I knew very little about that continent.¬†It seemed like a whole other world. ¬†I just assumed that I would get there, sometime before I left this earth, not in 2015, however. ¬†I hadn’t even identified a particular area (e.g. Melbourne, Perth, Tasmania, etc.) that I wanted to visit. ¬†The mantra? JUST GO TO AUSTRALIA! JUST GO TO AUSTRALIA!

Ironically, though, my mind always went back to the many New Year’s Eve Day celebrations I watched on television over the past 10-15 years.¬† It is at this time that I, like many Americans, get to watch the New Year arrive first in Australia.¬† You always see the iconic Sydney Opera House, its beautiful architectural sails displaying some celebratory image, along with a fire works show that had you longing to be right there in the middle of all of the festivities.

Even though one could easily visit Melbourne, Perth, Cairns or even Tasmania, Sydney and its many beautiful sites — Darling Harbour, The Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, Bondi and Manley Beaches — was embedded in my subconscious mind to the point where I didn’t even think about other destinations in Australia.¬† Besides, even the name Sydney has a sophisticated ring to it! ¬†Then the most serendipitous happening occurred — I came across an incredible fare (flight, accommodations and excursions) with Qantas Airlines!

At the time the opportunity to visit Sydney came up, I was already a month away from going to 11 cities in France. As ¬†I began to mull this Sydney travel opportunity over in my mind, ¬†each time I would try to convince myself to take advantage of that trip at another time. I said to myself, ¬†“After all, ¬†one major trip (France) a year should be enough for you, Robin.”

I continued to go back and forth, back and forth until…I finally decided the price and the amenities were too good to pass up. ¬†Once again, I began talking to myself “Besides, ¬†you only live once.”

I wouldn’t allow myself to think about Sydney, until I returned from France. ¬†Even though it took me three weeks to recover from France jet lag, I still managed to muster up the energy to create an imminent dream trip that would be taken in less than two months. And a Dream Trip it was!

I must also mention that with all of the traveling that I’ve done, both domestically and internationally, Sydney was my first solo trip!

I know a few people that have traveled solo for many years, and they always touted that they loved these trips because they could awaken when they wanted, eat where and what they desired, be open and available to meet new people, and set their own schedule of daily sites to be seen. I have to admit, this was a new way to travel for me, but I was game!

Here is what I did:

DAY 1: ¬†After getting settled in my hotel room at The Great Southern on George Street, I immediately ventured out for the first of my scheduled excursions — A Captain Cook Sydney Harbour Cruise. ¬†This allowed me to see a panoramic view of The Sydney Harbour Bridge, along with the stunning Sydney Opera House.

I happened to befriend a group of Monks from Thailand, who were as friendly as they were serene and soft-spoken. ¬†We took turns taking pics with each other’s cameras and/or cell phones. ¬†We all stood on the ship awe struck that we were “Down Under” and grateful for having crossed each other’s paths.

I then enjoyed a delicious meal Al Fresco at Rossi’s, also on the Harbour. ¬†The Italian food offerings were mouth watering. ¬†Ironically, the eatery was Russian owned and operated. ¬†It is important to mention that 44 per cent of Sydney’s population is not from Sydney.

DAY 2: ¬†I awoke highly rested and energized to take on my next Sydney site — The Queen Victoria Building (QVB). ¬†After The Opera House, The QVB, was my second most desired site to visit. ¬†Talk about stunning — the architecture, the six domes atop of the building and the elegance of its interior was breath taking. ¬†It was already decked out with Christmas decorations, and each store and boutique was beautifully organized and receptive to its customers. ¬†Because my hotel was only seven blocks from The QVB (also on George Street), I ate breakfast there every morning.

Afterwards, I went back to Sydney Harbour, grabbed some good street food, and listened to the musicians situated at various points there.  Sydney is a great place to people watch, and again, I was struck by the amazing diversity of the city with its huge concentration of Asians.

I struck up a conversation with one of the musicians who hailed from Liverpool, England (the home of the Beatles). He specialized in the music of American folk artists. ¬† He asked me if I had any musical requests, and being a big jazz fan, I couldn’t think of one folk artist or song in that moment. So he delighted me and all the others on The Harbour with tunes from Tracy Chapman, James Taylor and Joan Baez!

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In my next post, I’ll talk about the surprise new friendship that I formed. ¬†Chat with you later, mates!