Where did the time go?

How are you surviving 2020 so far? Did you jump right in with all the intention to take on #allthethings and #alltheresolutions?

Did you take our advice and start planning for the year?

Me – I feel like I’m still playing catch up, and not quite ready for the new year.

Because last week my youngest turned two years old. And the day after I celebrated 11 years with my hubby and I’m sitting here wondering to myself how in the world did that all happen?

Let’s start with the anniversary – because that’s a doozy. 

I got married to a soldier in a Georgia courthouse 11 years ago, Sunday. We eloped so that I could move to Germany with him.  

That’s right. I got married in January and by March I was on a plane headed out of the country for the first time ever. I was from a small town in Kansas and married this man and flew halfway around the world only to have him deploy for a year to Iraq just months after I got there.  

I was alone. I was unemployed. I was not really sure what to do with myself. So I traveled.

Did you know that’s when my love of travel really started?  I made friends and we got up and went. To Poland to shop for polish pottery. To Paris where we rode around on Segways and took food tours and walking tours. We went shopping for pottery in France. We ran all over Germany and took down so many flea markets that my house is one Kathe Wolfthart chimney decoration away from being a German tourist trap. 

And all that travel with my friends – it made me brave. And the connections and bonds I made totally saved me. And the people I traveled with? 11 years later we are still planning annual vacations to get together.

When my husband came home we just kept going. To Ireland, France, Italy, Montenegro, Spain. Every chance we could we were on the road somewhere. 

And from all of that we built this life. Travel is where we really found each other again after he came back from that deployment. 

Flash forward two kids later and now my youngest is two AND we have a seven year old and I can’t help but wonder where did all of that time go?

What I do know is that I feel so incredibly blessed to have taken advantage of opportunities when they were presented to me instead of waiting for a better time. Because if I had waited I wouldn’t have been as brave. I wouldn’t have seen and experienced as much. And, for all I know, my life would have been much much different than it is today.  

Someday I’ll go there. 

Someday I’ll see that in person.

We can always say, “someday.” Well there are 7 days in a week and someday isn’t one of them. 

So make 2020 your year of trying to turn your “somedays” into an actual day. 

And if I can help, you know I’d love to!

Until next time, happy wanderlusting!

XO Krystal

 

Who run the world? (Girls!)

2019 brought on a boom of articles like Taking a Trip With Your Girlfriends is Good For Your Health, According to Science. We talk over and over again as to why you should take a Girlfriend Getaway

We know it’s good for us, we know it’s why we need to getaway. And it’s no wonder that in 2019 the fastest growing demographic for travel was Single Women and Women Only Travel. 

And, here at Serendipitous Traveler, we. are. here. for it. 

When Serendipitous Traveler was founded, it was founded with the ideal that all women deserve a vacation. Women are the caretakers of everyone, even when on vacation.  I mean, Mom’s, when you take a vacation, do you really feel like you were on vacation

NO!

But why don’t we take vacations with our friends?

  • Because women will traditionally put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. 
  • Because they feel guilty about spending the money on themselves.
  • Because they can’t trust their partners to hold down the fort to get away.
  • Because they don’t have people to travel with
  • Because
  • Because 
  • Because

And to that we say phooey

Because if women practiced real self care instead of superficial self care (i.e. a long weekend away to refresh and recharge versus a bubble bath where someone is knocking on the door every three minutes) then we really could run the world.  

So here’s our response:

Women will traditionally put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. 

When you put your needs on the back burner, the only thing you end up being is resentful and frustrated. And that serves no one.  Now I’m not advocating for you to flip the switch and become a narcissist. (And if you do, please don’t join us on on of our Serendipitous Squad trips).

But if you are taking care of you, you show up to take care of others even better. And you do it from a happy, wholehearted place, then you are setting the example for your own family to show up happier and more wholehearted as well.

And can’t the world use a little more of that?

NEXT!

Money

Man, people would rather talk about puke before they talk about finances.  And for many years, I was very much the same. Ignoring my finances and putting my head in the sand was really the only safe way to deal with the scariest topic I could think of – money. And spending money on travel can, at times, feel frivolous.

But let me challenge you there.

I believe that we should be living a life by design, not default. And if we aren’t intentional about our lives, including money, then we are letting life happen to us. And, once again, that serves nobody.  When someone stands up at your funeral, I doubt they will tell many stories about how pretty your tchotchkes were. But they will tell a great story about time they spent with you. Quality time, fun moments, endearing conversations – that’s what we want to be remembered for. And we can’t create these moments if we are too afraid to take the time to plan them out and schedule them.

I had a college professor that started every class with the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And nothing could be more true when it comes to our finances and travel.  So plan out your travels. Talk with a good advisor to see how much your travel is going to cost, and figure out and make a plan for what you’ll need to do to make it happen.  Trust me – you won’t regret your vacation near as much as you’ll regret that ill fitting top you bought from the factory outlet.  

They can’t trust their partners to hold down the fort to get away.

Excuse me while I pull out the soap box for a minute (I’m really short, you see).

They. Absolutely. Can. Survive. Without. You. 

Do you know how I know that? Because you are amazing, but if you had to leave this world tomorrow, they would find a way. The problem is that it may not be your way. 

And that’s ok.  

They may flounder a little. They may make cheese quesadillas for every meal while you are gone. They may order out. The house may be a little messy. 

But they absolutely will make it. And they may even find new appreciation for you and all the things you do in the process.  

And either way, it’s not a good enough reason for you to not take care of you. Remember the resentful, burnt out part I mentioned earlier. It serves no one. But the refreshed you. The one that laughed until she cried. The one that talked things out with her friends. The one that slept in and let someone take care of her for a change. That woman shows up and makes her family even better. And don’t they deserve that too?

They don’t have people to travel with.

This was the number one feedback I got from women over and over again as to why they don’t take girlfriend getaways. 

So how can we at Serendipitous Traveler hold up our mission when this is a problem so many women face?

Easy – that’s why we are starting to host Girlfriend Getaways of our own. Because if you don’t have a tribe, then you should travel with ours. You can read more about it here and see more information about our group travel opportunities here. We work hard to forward plan different opportunities to make it easy for you to travel and getaway. We hope you can join us!

 

In a world where time is money, why aren’t we all working to be more productive and intentional? That’s why we encourage every woman to plan her getaway, work backwards to save and prepare, and then take the time to put herself first. Because it makes all her days better, more relaxed, more productive, and happier.  

So in the New Year, we have a new challenge to put in front of our female comrades everywhere. Schedule it. Take time for it. And take time for YOU.

The world needs you to.

Because when we are practicing self care and self love we are showing up for our people in our corner of the world even better than before. 

And then who run the world (even better than before)? Girls!

At Serendipitous Traveler we believe your vibe attracts your tribe, and our tribe is the BEST! If you don’t have a tribe to travel with, then we invite you to join our Serendipitous Squad Travel Community! We host trips for women who need and deserve a Girlfriend Getaway. Click here to join our private VIP Facebook Group! Can’t wait to have you as a part of the squad!

The Scariest Thing About Traveling……

Traveling is the one thing found on everyone’s bucket list, yet there are so many people who don’t travel because of a fear they have. Today I thought we’d pick apart a few of these fears and tackle them head on.

Fear #1 – Afraid to travel alone.

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Solo travel, especially solo travel among women, is on the rise, but there are still so many people worried about trekking out on their own.  Women have a special subset of issues to work through on this set – fear of unwanted attention from men being the #1 feedback that I get from my female clientele.  So what’s a girl to do? Fortunately she has a couple of options.

  1. Join a group tour.  There are several amazing small group tours out there that are doing amazing things.  Many, like G Adventures, cap tours at around 10-15 people so you don’t feel like you are being shuttle herded with the masses.  There are a growing number of options for women only groups as well.  Check out our private facebook page The Serendipitous Travel Squad or sign up for our newsletter to keep in touch on Serendipitous Traveler’s upcoming group trips.
  2. Work with a travel advisor to map out your itinerary. Most importantly –  do your research.  The fact remains that some places are more friendly for solo travelers than not. A travel advisor can help you work through the best ideas, safe places to stay, and help set you up with a solid itinerary so you are never out in the wind.  As long as you use a travel advisor, you always have someone that knows where you are and you have someone to check in with as you go.  

Fear #2 – Afraid of something bad happening

I get this fear from solo travelers, groups, couples….basically everyone.  And I get it. Especially if you re traveling somewhere foreign and you don’t speak the language. And there’s always a litany of things that can go wrong. And was anyone else scarred by the movie Taken? Well even if your dad isn’t Liam Neeson, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate disasters while traveling. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Be cognizant of your surroundings.  Pickpockets are there and they like to take advantage of crowded tourist spots. Because tourists are always carrying money and are distracted by the sights around them. So many people get pickpocketed and don’t even realize it until it’s too late. But if you are on guard and cognizant of where you are, you can easily avoid being a target. That means, guys, put your wallets in your front pocket. Girls, travel with a purse that zips up and is in front of you.  If you need a backpack, know that you are walking with a bit of a target on your back and keep it close by. Invest in a brand that is slash proof (we like these from ebags), and again, be aware of your surroundings.  If someone is begging from the front, make sure their partner isn’t digging through your pack from the back.
  • Invest in RFID blocking sleeve, wallet or ID holder.  I was shocked last year when I attended a trade show and a supplier showed me how easy it was to swipe credit card information using an app on her phone. Anyone sitting in a public place can gain access to hundreds of credit card numbers and have something purchased and charged up before you even get back to check the balance in your hotel room.  RFID blocking sleeves, wallets, etc are a cheap investment that can save you a lot of time and headache while traveling.
  • Be wary of public wifi.  In a world where we are always connected, it’s tempting to take advantage of a cafe pit stop and check up on your social channels. When you are traveling, you are probably spending more, so it’s natural that you’d want to check in on your finances or your credit card statement.  Unfortunately, public places are traps for mining your data.  It’s too easy to set up a hot spot and call it “Whatever Establishment You Are Sitting At Free Wifi” and dupe unsuspecting folks.  If you much check your wifi, be sure to ask someone if there is free wifi before linking up. Better yet, wait until you are back in your hotel or spring the few bucks and pay for the data. It will save you more money in the long run.

Fear #3 – Afraid of the unknown

 

You just don’t know what you don’t know.

  • How to get from point A to point B.
  • How to use the subway system.
  • Where to go for dinner.
  • What museum should you visit. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance.
  • What do you pack.
  • How to read your train tickets.

And this is where a good travel advisor comes in. They arm you with information so that not only are you adequately prepared to travel, you are armed with enough information to really enjoy and be wowed by your travel.  After all, if you understand what you are looking at you are getting twice the value. At the very least be sure to arm yourself with a good guide book to get you started.

Travel can be an intimidating experience, but fortunately with the right preparation, anyone and everyone can have an enjoyable travel experience.

Face your fears and get out there!

Until next time, happy wanderlusting!

XO Krystal

 

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Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend items that I personally use and gift to my own clients and just want to share the love with you!

Global Entry…is it worth it?

Applying for Global Entry is an easy process, and once you do you can bypass a lot of hassle by using expedited lanes at the U.S. airports, and when crossing international borders.  You can also combine it with TSA pre-check, making your travel experiences easier.

A lot of clients ask me, “Is it worth it to get Global Entry or TSA pre-check?” And my answer is always this: If your time is worth anything to you, yes!

It’s a relatively easy process, makes going through security at airports a breeze.  Children 12 and under can accompany you through the expedited lanes, making family travel easier.  And (BONUS) most major credit companies* will give you credit reimbursement for Global Entry making it a win/win!

It’s easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Regardless of your age, you must have your own TTP account.
  2. Log in to your TTP account and complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.
  3. After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.
  4. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine readable permanent resident card.
FAQ’s
How long does it take to process global entry?
Processing times vary by applicant, but anticipate up to 11 weeks to process your application.
How long after my application is approved do I have to schedule my interview with a Global Entry Enrollment Center?
You have 365 days from the date of online approval notice to schedule your interview. If you do not complete your interview within 365 days your application will be voided and no refunds will be given. Should you wish to resume application, you will have to start the application process over.
What do I need to bring with me to my interview?
A valid passport, and one other form of identification (Drivers License or ID card)
How long is Global Entry Valid?
Global Entry is Valid for 5 years. You pass can be revoked for criminal offense charges, or if you are charge with a customs and immigration violation.
How do I schedule my interview with a Global Entry Enrollment Center/find a center near me?
Log in to your Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account and from the dashboard select “schedule an interview” button. From there you can select a date and time from a list of available slots.  You will also be shown alternative centers that may have availability sooner. Please be advised that appointments are REQUIRED for all locations.
As always, if you have any questions regarding the process, please do not hesitate to reach out.
*Obligatory disclaimer that you must check with your individual credit card company to see if they offer reimbursement for Global Entry and/or TSA Precheck, and what steps must be taken in order to file for reimbursement.

The Dominican Republic: More Than Just Resorts

I don’t know about all of you, but I am over Winter in a big way. I live just North of Chicagoland, and I don’t care what you say – the Groundhog lied.

Thus I am dreaming of warmer climates and warmer weather, because never again will I make the same mistake and endure another winter here. Next year we are rebooking our Caribbean Vacation in the middle of the season to give us a little reprieve. Currently I’m booked on a Caribbean Vacation with 11 girlfriends to have a little fun in the sun.

Girls Trip on Beach
Enjoying a Girlfriend Getaway on the Beach

When many people think of the Caribbean, they think of great resorts, Jamaica, and Cuba. But what they don’t realize is that the most popular destination in the Caribbean is the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic is on an island that is shared with Hispaniola and Haiti and it sees over 6 million visitors a year. This results in 2 million more than Cuba. This Caribbean destination has a lot more to offer visitors than your run-of-the-mill resort. The Dominican Republic has a lot more to offer than just resorts.

Here are some great things to see on your trip to D.R.

Scenic Locations And National Parks

Lake Enriquillo- Lake Enriquillo is the only saltwater lake throughout the Antilles. It is located in the center of the Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos and is a haven for wildlife. It is one of the largest natural reserves for the American crocodile.

Lake Enriquillo

Eastern National Park- This World Heritage Sites is one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean. Rhinoceros iguanas, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees are just some of the amazing wildlife that visitors will get to experience when they visit Eastern National Park.

Bahia de las Aguilas and Jaragua National Park- The picturesque turquoise waters that line this 6-mile stretch of beach is best accessed by boat from the small village of La Cueva. Its’ marine life and amazing views will make for memories that you couldn’t possibly forget anytime soon.

Jarabacoa- Jarabacoa is best known as an area ripe for ecotourism and the location of the Dominican Republic’s only whitewater river, the Rio Yaque del Norte. The terrain, rivers, and waterfalls make it perfect for adventurous activities like hiking, climbing, and mountain biking.

Samana Peninsula and Bay- This peninsula and bay are lined with beautiful mangroves, caves, rock formations, and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. It is also home to the Parque Nacional Los Haitises. Marine life is present in this area year-round including mother humpback whales giving birth in January and February.

Cultural Locations

Basilica of Our Lady- The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia is an amazing example of modern architecture. This is one of the leading sites of pilgrimage in Latin America as it hosts a huge mass every January 21st.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia

Santo Domingo- This is the bustling capital of the Dominican Republic. It is a mix of its’ Spanish colonial past and the present times. Visitors here can see the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere, aptly named, the First Cathedral of America. There is also the World Heritage Site known as Zona Colonial (Colonial City). Its’ cobblestone streets and colonial architecture make it a site to be seen. For more modern viewings, there is the Plaza de la Cultura where you can see the Palace of Fine Arts, the National Palace, and the Museum of Modern Art.

The resorts may be a great place to stay when visiting the Dominican Republic, but they surely are not the end all be all. If you are looking to get a real sense of what the country has to offer, you will need to leave the resort. Do some research before leaving on your trip so that you can find some great things to see that are near where you will be staying.