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Welcome My name is Tess. I'm a 9-5 New Yorker and traveler. My hobbies include destroying suitcases, photo-bombing tourists in Times Square, and taking long romantic ADHD walks around the globe. Welcome!

Jan 24, 2012

Traveler's Rabies

Our view from The Empire State Building's 86th floor.
New York is amazing when it turns off the dark

There are thousands of  native New Yorkers that haven't been to many of the city's trademark destinations - no matter how close they live or work to them. So a coworker visiting from out of town  was the perfect excuse to do some sight seeing. And also because my next travel excursion is still months away this seems like a fine way to scathe off "Travel Bug Rabies"

  Oh that ish is real. perhaps you've had it too? If you're not sure please see below.  This is a real prognosis for an unspoken condition - which is why companies give vacation days. Because if they didn't - just think Apple, Foxconn, and mass suicide.

One contracts the virus by going on vacation and having the time of their lives. Once the victim returns traces of the virus remain in the victim's memory bank and camera often permanently altering their emotional state. Passport stamps can often identify how many times a victim has been infected.

symptoms are as follows:
  • Foaming at the mouth from the mere sight of an airplane.
  • Mental black outs to warm tropical places while seated in your cubicle at work
  •  Feelings of rage and envy upon encountering tourists 
  • Searching Kyak.com for ticket prices to places you imagine yourself going.  
  • Watching endless episodes of Anthony Bourdain globe trotting on The Travel Channel - and wanting to strangle that MuthaF%#! 
Now look at the pics while nurse my travel junkie itch

My crew braves the cold for a photo-op
promptly afterwards we went to BBQ's on 42cd st - the ultimate in tourist trap dining.

The Empire state building is located on 34th street.
The tours start @ $22

Jan 20, 2012

How Did You Get That Job Anyway?

These African immigrants don't let  English hold them
back in NYC..

Vendors talk fast and get that cash!

 In the city that never sleeps, “sightseeing” bus tours are considered a quintessential part of the tourist experience. These buses hit every popular tourist attraction. From the Empire State building in Manhattan, the Apollo in Harlem and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn to name a few. And all trips originate in Times Square

Need a bus ticket? Not a problem! Just look for the African man in a yellow or red jacket.
Sounds horrible? Not really, because African immigrants have in fact cornered the market on the ticket vendor jobs for tour bus operators. On every corner between 42cd & 50th streets these guys conduct more transactions than a "street pharmacist."

Abdul shows tourists where to hop on the tour bus
 Still, I am always baffled when I see tourists trying to communicate with these vendors who often times speak even less English than they do. Actually It’s quite comical to hear a Swede and a Nigerian making English - it's like plucking unwanted body hair - just painful.

The fact that the seller has an even thicker accent than the buyer just doesn't seem fair? Like, how the hell did you get that job if you can’t speak English?
So what's the story with these African guys and why do they seem to be the only ones working these positions when there are so many unemployed English speaking New Yorkers?
This job is nothing short of a hustle.

Louis, a native from Ghana who has lived in the states for seven years explained it like this, "When the first African man came to the city, they go to the tour company for a job." Louis's family from Ghana has since joined him in the states.  And while his story sounds a bit folklore-ish he's made me curious. 

With 53 countries on the continent of Africa, the ticket agents inform me that most workers are from Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria & Burkina Faso. “Some don't even speak good English," says Louis. “But whenever there is a new arrival, there is someone to help him.”
Not bad, considering most Americans I know would just point you in the direction of the nearest homeless shelter.  Louis's coworker then offers his sentiments, "It's the culture. We eat together, help with families, we share everything it's the culture we're from,"

Tourists gather around as the tour packages are explained

At 6ft 3in, Abdul cannot be missed in his yellow City Sights jacket. He is from Guinea and has been here for nine years with his brother. He tells me that 99% of the ticket sellers are African.  "When I come here a friend asks if you need a job.  You have to go through the training then they [tour company] give you working papers."

Training you say? Well, after a quick Google search I found that these positions are not listed on the Grayline employment page.  And CitySights employment page lists no open positions – why come? Who knows if these are commissioned positions or salaried. But something tells me that these African guys have the inside track nonetheless.  

You would have to be willing to brave the brutal & beautiful weather

Jan 6, 2012


I have to admit that I have considered blowing all that I deem a typical lifestyle to flee abroad with a dirty pack back in tow.  Am I insane &  the only one?

Have any of you seriously considered just up & leaving behind the only life you've ever known to start from scratch?  Where would you go and what would you do for money? Are there drawbacks to pursuing the expat life?  And of course it helps if you're unattached.

Certainly, the fact that I watch an unhealthy dose of House Hunters International fuels my delusions of dirty back pack grandeur. This show features people, who gone on a two week holiday to some exotic land and two years later *BOOM* they're buying a villa sprawled across acres of land which overlooks beaches or mountains on $60k USD or some ish.

$100K could get you this house in South Africa

I mean for $100k I could live HERE in a condo in the metro area of South Africa near the beach, with 2 bedrooms 2 baths and a garden patio. This seems surreal, considering what $100k would buy me New York (which would amount to squat. - not that I even have $100k).

My money would get me this in South Africa

....Then after  I "Pimp My Hut"
I'd be living in style on the Transkei Near Mandela

During a visit to Trinidad & Tobago, I met a German girl whose intention was to quit her job so that she could travel for a year. However when she gave her two weeks notice, they offered her a paid six month leave of absence. The company said that her travels would make her more "Worldly" and an asset to the company- Go figure?!  Three years later she left behind her life in Germany and relocated permanently to Tobago.  

But Germany may be on to something - In another instance, a former classmate (and German native) moved to Nairobi, Kenya to work for Ushahidi, after finsihing her studies in New York. Because she is still a student, Germany foots much of the cost of her international endeavors. 

The housing market is good in Nairobi, Kenya


 The question then becomes; who can do it and how? Aside from soliciting funds from strangers on Kick Starter or Indie Go Go, can you convince someone to pay you for Globe Trotting? And what would be your pitch? Here is mine:
Hi I'm looking for an opportunity that allows me to travel internationally year-round soaking up new experiences in food & cultural enrichment and whatnot - on your dime not mine!

Sounds like a gig on the Travel Channel right?  - but let's face it, those gigs are male dominated. Here's an idea; how about a trio of  New York girls of color on a Travel Channel show. They could venture to the 7 wonders of the the world. 

 A Black, a Hispanic and a Bi-racial girl walk into the Taj Mahal ....  sounds like the opening to a bad bar joke right......think about if it was a travel series!  Oh the possibilities.  Please feel free to use my random banter to fuel your own make believe cable series. and fill in your own fictitious characters. You'll find that the possibilities are endless!!!

Jan 2, 2012

Roaming Rome - part 2

Hey 2012!!!

 Everyone gets a clean slate with the New Year. In the last Roaming Rome post, I ran my trap and said that I would follow up with the rest of the best of Italy pics. And since I have the attention span of a fruit fly and my ADHD flares up at random, let's just get right to it shall we?  And at the bottom are some tips for travelling to Rome.

Pons Cestius
Dear Italy, I would be considered a cheap date in Rome because it's such a Romantic city.   
a long walk on the Cestius over the Tiber river followed by a glass of hot wine in the chilly weather (An Italian must)
and I'd be saying "Ti amo' to just about anyone.

Dear Italy: your FIAT game is crazy! You don't believe in full size vehicles because it just ain't practical!In New York we would still put rims on a fiat and a flashy paint job sort of like.......


Another Church...just 3 blocks from my hotel.

Dear Italy: I quickly found out that public consumption of alcohol is legal and one never has to go too far to repent for public indecency - coincidence? 

 She is not the Mailman!
Dear Italy your nuns stroll the streets, take buses, shop in the markets, and drink espresso just like
common folk! How surreal, but I like!

Dear Italy the average tenement building in Rome would be a hi-rise condo in New York. Clearly NYC buildings could use some Roman-Botox or just a whole darn face-lift perhaps?

Dear Italy when you said ruins you didn't lie. These darn things are everywhere!
Believe it or not this is still more or less in the downtown area.  Literally you can get to just about everything by bus or metro well within 1 hour. Most Romans just walk.  Rome is so New Yorkish
Dear Italy The Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum) was a scenic 25 minute walk  from my hotel. Which means that back in the days inebriated Coliseum party goers could pretty much stumble home. Now that's economical planning!   

Dear Italy I don't recall Spartacus puffing on Marlboro's? Please tell your photo-op gladiators no smoking on the job.  Grazie!

Shops on Via Cola di Rienzo and Via Ottaviano
Dear Italy, your shoe shoe game is off the hook! Leather seriously does grows on trees. The downside -  my inability to remember that 69 Euros is like $91 USD. So instead of giving myself the currency conversation blues, I simply pretended that I too get paid in euros.

.....More Ruins

Victor Emmanuel II Monument - Il Vittoriano

A 10 minute bus ride from Termini Stazione, the history of this site goes something like this... Man has a vision, man gets commissioned to build vision out of marble in honor of Italy's first King -Victor E.

Money runs out, the city then foots the bill for the completion, man dies before building is complete. Once completed, a humongous statue erected in king's image and likeness. But man who died building marble monstrosity gets shafted. Citizens of Rome loathe the building because of bad curb appeal - The end.

 Oh and there is a fabulous FREE museum inside. Want to know more follow the link above.  

Dear Italy ...you truly are a classic beauty

Some helpful tid-bits if you decide to Roam Rome 

I am the average 9-5 worker like most of you nothing fabulous about my profession except for those vacation days. So I didn't do anything that you too couldn't do.

If you're considering packing a bag & blowing across continents here's a few things to consider if the wind drops you in Rome. And if you have any questions please send it on over - I'll be sure to answer before you lose all interest!
Ciao bellos

  1. If you're looking for cheap accommodations with convenience, there are a plethora of B&B's near Termini Stazione, the central transportation hub of Rome.  I stayed @ Maryellen & Giovy's.  It's 50 for single & 60 for a double per night. There is also a tasty bfast spread included with the cost of the room. 
  2. The hotel is 5 minutes walking distance from Termini Stazione. The area hosts many authentic eateries, money exchange stores, B&B's and Internet cafes en route to the Stazione. Giovy's also offer maps of Rome with all tourists attractions listed and they will gladly tell you how to get where you need to go. Giovy is extremely friendly and helpful - you need only ask and her English is very good. Don't trust me? well read the reviews
  3. Do not exchange money in the airport as the rates are horrible. Also aviod excessively using ATM's as those exchange rates are brutal as well. Bring cash and use the money exchange shops for the best rate.
  4. There are shuttle buses from Fiumicino Airport that will take you to other central locations for 7euros per ticket and about a one hour ride. The shuttle dropped me at Termini from there a short walk to the Hotel. 
  5. It pays to know Spanish - this is the closest language to Italian & therefore many of the words transition smoothly upon Italian ears. Just throw in some expressive hand gestures - imitation is the best form of flattery.
  6. Keep your eyes open - when navigating public transportation, bus stops have legends of which buses go where and there are occasionally info booths with service person who can guide you as well.  subway have legends that list all the stops so you'll know when and where you arrive. (like the newer NYC subway cars).
  7. Bring flats & sneakers and go light on the fancy foot ware.  If you plan on doing the tourist bid, then pass on the dressy heels. Italians aren't impressed by your attempt at fashionable footware - they are the originators of it. Opt for fashionable flats and a pair of pumas or Nike's. Italians love their funky colored sneakers which oftentimes are as expensive as high end shoes.  
  8. EAT EAT EAT - go ahead try it all  - it's very reasonably priced. Italians know that food brings people together so they won't singe your pockets to feed you well.  opt for smaller restaurants off the beaten path like in the Trastevere area (by bus or train). They are gems to the community.
  9. Lost? Ask another foreigner -  Rome has a healthy population of immigrants whom usually speak several languages in addition to Italian. So if you're lost remember the Africans speak french and English. The South Americans speak Spanish & most Asians/Indians speak a fair amount of English as do the Italians.  So no worries this city is self explanatory.
  10. If you're a single gal no worries Rome is a safe city- even after dark when the streets come to life you'll still feel at ease. Don't worry about beating off lusty Italian boys with a bat, Romans are polite and friendly.