Of late, my traveling experiences have been strange fruit to me. No longer a search for the next party, or the quick escape from my stressful life, my travels have become adventures.
I don't know where/when it started, perhaps in school as a young girl? Or did it begin when my parents traveled from Haiti in search of an improved way of life? I'm not certain what fueled my natural desire to explore. Wherever it began, it is increasingly becoming a growing need. I want more and more. The older my children get, the more I feel the need to visit faraway lands, to see what else is out there.
I can't just blame it on work -- the need to provide for my family, to seek out other means of creating income. It has become a yearning that is almost uncontrollable. Any time the opportunity presents itself (long weekends, time off from work) I am already planning my next trip. I have learned to travel such that my sleep is not affected. I have not been affected by jetlag, my work schedule does not get disturbed, and my clients are not neglected. Thank goodness for the Internet and great partnerships.
Traveling has become my drug and the Internet my supplier. From CheapTickets, Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotels.com and many other sites, I surf in search of the next journey. Being a freelance artist and a business owner provides me with the luxury of picking and choosing what jobs I take, and when I work. The comfort of having absolutely great working partners as I like to call them -- assistants, artists that are tied to a specific location. Their stability, dedication, and passion for their craft mirrors mine and makes it easy for me to run around and play.
My most recent escapade began in London, a city I am no stranger to. I have been back and forth since the age of 17, when I was accepted into one of its legendary colleges (and foolishly turned it down due to fear of the unknown). It was probably that decision that now makes it so hard for me to say "No" to anything. Once I realized the opportunity I lost, I promised myself I would never give up a chance like that again. Sometimes it's worked to my benefit, while other times it's been my financial downfall. But even with the financial losses I have suffered, I have experienced tremendous joys.
This latest adventure landed me back in London, Paris, and my new obsession Ireland...the land of green pastures, castles, and Guinness. I found the people to be warm, friendly and helpful. As a woman of color, I am often concerned how the locals will receive me when I travel to new places. Given the treatment my ancestors have endured historically, and presently, I like to be prepared. I never take it for granted that I will be accepted, welcomed or at the very least not ogled. But I do have to admit, since President Obama's election, it seems the views have been a little more positive. As soon as they find out I am from America, it's as though the black man in the White House is a passport of acceptance for me and a direct connection to the President. I smile and acknowledge the compliment. One local pub had a cartoon drawing of President Obama drinking beer. My host and hostesses expressed to me what a big deal it was for the President to have visited Ireland.
My welcome may not have been as elaborate as President Obama's, but it was good enough for me. From the moment we landed, to the greeting at our hotel, Bewley's (where the staff was simply perfect). The taxi ride, the bus drivers, the waitstaff at the restaurants, and even people on the streets, as we walked around and searched for tourist hotspots were immensely helpful. This was such a sharp contrast to the response at my previous location, Paris. Although I have traveled to Paris several times, each time I find it more and more difficult to stomach some its people. They seem to be distant, short, abrupt, and almost upset by the presence of guests, visitors and non-French speaking people. Thanks to my broken, bad French, I quickly, and with great difficulty mustered up some words to survive my stay in Paris.
Don't get me wrong, we met some amazing people in France -- the shop owners in Sannois with their fine vintage collectables, the wonderful family-owned restaurant (also in Sannois), the sometimes flirtatious men who were brave enough to approach us. The fabulous fashion shows we attended by Elie Saab, Cesare Paciotti, and reconnecting with Patrick Demarchelier made it an unforgettable trip. Paris at its best has some of the finest architecture, best wine and cuisine, awe-inspiring museums, and fashion that is quite graceful. However, other than that, Paris was really not my cup of tea. Will I visit it again? More than likely, yes, as it proves to be very promising for me from a business standpoint.
London on the other hand, I love love love. Since my very first trip, the place continues to speak to me, and I never tire of it. And Ireland has definitely captured my heart. These are my personal experiences and I wholeheartedly encourage you to create your very own. So pack your best frocks and stilettos, and convert your dollars to euros and pounds. The opportunity to explore is at your fingertips, and wonders await all those who seek adventure.