Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Travel Tips : How to Beat Jet Lag

I've talked before about some of the biggest travel misconceptions that I hear about and experience, but out of all of them, jet lag has to be one of my least favorites.  Talk to any traveler and jet lag will be at the top of their list for things they hate about flying and traveling.  It goes against our nature to change time zones, to be so tired and sleep deprived and starved for fresh air that you just feel gross when you emerge from a long haul flight.  Over the years however, I've figured out little tricks to help balance jet lag and while it's still always going to be there, you can at least help recover faster than you would without doing anything.  And before I go, let me just say I have been totally overtaken by jet lag more times than I care to count and yes that is me sleeping on an airport floor in the photo above en route to Rome a few years ago after numerous canceled flights and such.  So with that said, I've been there.  I've been so tired traveling that you can literally no longer keep your eyes open, but with only a week to experience a new place, often we have to find ways to combat jet lag quickly so that we can make the most of our trip and here are some of the tips I've picked over the years that help me get over jet lag quicker now than I used to.

Have a time zone plan.
Before leaving on your trip, take a look at the difference you'll be encountering in time zones.  If you're leaving at night and arriving to your destination in their morning, then make sure to try to sleep on the plane (or use sleep aids like Melatonin below) so that you'll be somewhat on the right time zone.  If you'll be arriving mid-day, then wake yourself up on the plane during morning time at your destination so you start getting on time zone while you're still on the plane.

Don't nap when you get to your destination.
It's important to not get to your destination and lay down for a nap right away.  Particularly if you're landing in the morning or mid-day at your destination, plan to be out and about when you get in.  Walking around the city or taking in the place you're at can help you stay awake for a while and you'll get fresh air while you're at it.  Many people want to get in and nap right away and that's a mistake, you want to acclimate yourself to the local time as soon as you can and that means trying to stay awake for at least a few hours after you arrive.

Drink lots of water and eat hearty food when you arrive.
It's really important, while you're out and about the first day you arrive, to drink lots of water/fluids and eat hearty foods to get your body going again after a long flight.  I usually head straight for a meal when I arrive somewhere to replenish my body.  Eating will also get your metabolism going and help keep you awake for a few hours.

Take Melatonin to get through the night.
If you have trouble sleeping on the correct time zone the first few nights at your destination, I'm a big fan of Melatonin for a sleep aid.  It's readily available in the stores as a supplement and will help you fall asleep fast.  It's great to get a full night's sleep the first night you arrive as that will help you beat jet lag really quickly and get you on your local time zone.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How Saudi Arabia Shaped Me

Happy Labor Day to all the Americans!  I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend, I know I am enjoying the 3 day holiday with a lazy weekend at home in Portland.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know somewhat of my background.  I was born and raised in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia specifically and while I've talked about our life there, how it changed the course of my adult life and my passion to see the world, I've not talked much about my life actually there and the lessons I learned there early in my life that have shaped my present.

I recently ran into a couple that is loosely related to Nick's side of the family that live in Saudi Arabia now, on one of the ARAMCO compounds about an hour away from where I lived as a child.  After talking to them and getting to know them, come to find out they know a lot of the same people that I knew growing up, parents of my friends and names they've always heard of that were people close to me as a kid.  It was refreshing to say the least, to be able to talk to them, to have them know exactly what I was talking about when I was shocked to hear of a new green grass golf course in Dhahran (when I was there, they were only oiled sand), to hear that two of the smaller compounds were totally full with residents and to hear their stories.  To have someone know that part of me completely, without even really knowing anything about me personally, is a feeling I haven't had in a long time.  It is rare to speak to someone in my daily life (other than my parents) that knows in depth about that part of my life.  It's hard daily to not be able to show my husband that part of my life, a part that was such a huge reason why I am the way I am now.  So when I can share it, when I can let others in just a little on what my childhood was like in the middle of the Middle East, it makes that burden a little easier.

When I look back on my childhood in Saudi Arabia, I remember feeling completely at home, always feeling safe, an idyllic way of life.  But as I look back on it now, a full seventeen years this month since we moved back to the States, those memories are still what shape me today and the lessons I learned during my eleven years there are the lessons that I hold with me daily still.  So in the midst of so many present uprisings and conflicts in the part of the world that I was born into, I think it's worth remembering that that part of the world still has lots to teach us as well if we'll let it.

While much of the world would be quick to say how much the Middle East hates the United States, I would beg to differ.  Our family was shown nothing but kindness, acceptance and friendship while in Saudi Arabia by Arabs and Americans alike.  My dad was friends with many of the Saudis that we lived around and many of my friends came from nearby countries like Jordan and Lebanon.  And while I know that yes, there is tension between the Middle East and the West, particularly the US, we must also remember that the ordinary people living their lives in those countries we are so quick to judge don't often share all the sentiments that our media would like to portray or that the extremists would preach.  We only ever see the bad, but what we don't see are all the people around the world that are kind and accepting, that showed a little blue eyed girl from the other side of the world kindness and acceptance.

I was always one to be totally fine on my own, even as a kid, I didn't need to be surrounded by friends or have activities planned all the time.  But I think one thing that Saudi brought out in me at an early age was a curiosity with the world.  I am fascinated with cultures and languages and how all over the world we're all just people, living the best we know how to.  A curiosity with the world I think has always been in me, but living half a world away as a kid only strengthened it.  It's still something I hold on to today and something that I hope I always have, a curiosity to better understand our world.

I can't even count anymore the people who, over the years, have said things to me like "all Muslims are terrorists" or used racial slurs against Islam or those who would practice a different faith than their own.  It's something I won't tolerate and those that have made the mistake of making those comments to me will get a response they perhaps weren't expecting if you don't know me.  I won't tolerate ignorance or bigotry, there is no reason for it and those that would put down an entire group of believers in a religion like Islam, or any other for that matter, are going against any faith they pretend to practice or believe in.  I'll never forget a conversation I had with a Muslim friend of mine as a kid.  We sat in the jungle gym on the playground at school and talked about how much our two religions, Islam and Christianity, really had in common, how much we were alike in what we believed.  Saudi Arabia taught me that faith across the world is more similar than different and whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, we all have more in common than not.

My passion for seeing the world is no doubt something that stems from my childhood abroad, a drive to see all parts of the globe, to find out about different cultures and learn different languages.  From an early age we traveled to far off places like Cyprus and Bahrain, Dubai and India.  We spent time as a family seeing the world and while my parents probably wouldn't say they have such an insatiable passion for traveling as I do, they raised my brother and I in a way that we learned about the world through experience.  We learned words in Arabic and embraced local foods and cultures.  My passion for this beautiful world we live in no doubt came from Saudi Arabia, a place I called my home.

I didn't have the typical childhood in some ways, like the fact that we were a world away from our families or that I'll forever have Dammam, Saudi Arabia as my place of birth in my passport.  Like the fact that we went to camel markets on the weekends and I grew up eating schawarmas and drinking Orangina with a label written in Arabic, but my childhood was totally unique.  It is something that took me a long time to come to grips with and to embrace, that I was different.  That my life was different.  That my experiences were different.  Moving back to the States was challenging, to leave that unique life behind was really hard but all these years later I realize now that I never really wanted a normal life.  I've always craved something different, to go against the grain, to choose the life I want and to make it as extraordinary as I can.  I realize now that my unique childhood in Saudi Arabia was the start of my path, a unique journey that I'll always have propelling me forward.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Don't Forget...

Don't forget to sign up today (if you haven't already) to make sure and receive the first edition of the True Colours Insider newsletter!  It will be sent out on September 1st to subscribers, so make sure and sign up today to be on the list!

The Insider will be a way to get monthly travel information that isn't shared on the blog, special travel items I come across or insider tips into some of my favorite cities around the globe.  It will be a once a month newsletter with lots of great travel information and you can sign up to receive it now on my sidebar!  And in the first installment of the newsletter in September, I'll be offering a major percentage off of ad space only for newsletter subscribers that won't be available on the blog.  So head on over to my sidebar now to sign up and the first issue will arrive in your email inbox on September 1st!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Destinations : Puerto Rico & Bruge

We're back today with my monthly series called Destinations.  Each month I am interviewing travelers all over the world near and far about destinations they've been to, what they packed, how they got there and so much more. 

Today I have 2 amazing bloggers sharing their chosen destinations with you.  I'm so excited to welcome Katie and Bailey to share some amazing places in the world with you today!



Puerto Rico

I love how much Puerto Rico has to offer. You get the outdoors (mountains, hills, waterfalls as well as beaches, of course), city-life, history, relaxation, adventure, great food, culture, and more. There is something for everyone, and one great thing about Puerto Rico is that nothing is too far away from something else. We were there with my whole family (11 of us) for my parents' 30th anniversary, who surprised us with a vow renewal on the beach the last night we were there.

We flew direct from Houston to San Juan, and drove to our hotel in Rio Grande, about 35 minutes outside of San Juan.

My whole family stayed at Wyndham Rio Mar Resort, which I actually wouldn't recommend. Too expensive and not enough bang for the buck, among other things. :) 

1. I would recommend to dive into the culture, especially the food. Stop and eat at the street food vendors or hole-in-the-walls, and embrace plantains! 
2. We went in August, and it was SO hot and humid. I'm used to that, being from Texas, but if you're from a less temperate region, I would recommend going any other time. 
3. Lastly, try something different. We were able to visit the famous Bioluminescent Bay and it was amazing, but we also zip-lined, hiked to waterfalls, cliff jumped, and snorkeled as well as doing things like beach-lounging and city-touring. 

Since the climate basically stays the same throughout the year (warm), you won't have to worry about packing for unexpected weather except during hurricane season (June-November). The culture is pretty casual, so walking around in swim suits with coverings is totally acceptable, even in non-touristy areas. Obviously pack swim suits and warm-weather clothes, but you could also pack hiking gear and a nice outfit depending on what you want to do. I basically wore my swim suit, shorts, and a cute casual lightweight shirt every day. Pack sunscreen, bug spray, and rain gear just in case.

1. Visit Old San Juan for sure. The colorful buildings are beautiful and fun, and there are gorgeous forts full of history for you to tour, like the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. 
2. Bioluminescent Bay on the island of Vieques is where you get to see blue-glowing organisms at night, and it is absolutely amazing. 
3. My favorite place to hike was El Yunque Rainforest where you'll find luscious plants and trees and gorgeous waterfalls. 
4. Lastly, basically any beach you find is gorgeous, and be sure to snorkel at some point.

The feel of the island is very laid back. Make sure to explore and find new things to experience, but don't rush or put pressure on yourself. Lay back and just be grateful that you're there!

I blog at the French Pemberley blog where I share travel, photography, and intentional living. I'm a yoga teacher and an advanced scuba diver so I also share tips for creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being someone who has always loved good design, I share a little of that there as well. I live in the beautiful Southwest, but have become a prolific traveler. 2014 will find me in San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Mexico, Maui, Las Vegas, Spain, France, Italy, and Monte Carlo before the year is over.

Today I am sharing Bruge, Belgium.

My first trip to Paris, I saw a brochure about day trips to Bruge, Belgium.  I wanted to take a day trip to Bruge, but did not have enough time. I promised myself the next time I was in Paris, I would make a day trip there a priority and I did! The following year, I was in Paris with my 5 year old (at the time) daughter and we took a bus charter day trip there. Last year found me in Paris again, this time with my husband and our two eldest daughters and we drove there from Paris.  

We did these trips into Bruge as day trips so we stayed at the same resort outside Paris each time.

Bruge is a charming locale to visit so anytime is a good time but if you go in winter be sure and bundle up, it gets very cold there in late fall-early spring. When staying in Paris, it is a full day trip to get there and back but is well worth the day if you wish to get in an additional country during your Paris holiday. Belgium is known for its chocolates and handmaid laces so it is a great place to pick up souvenirs for yourself and for family members.

 A camera for sure, as Bruge is one of the most photogenic destinations in Europe. Gloves, hat and scarf if you are there during cooler months.

Taking a boat ride through the town is a must, which allows you to see all the architecture and bridges. If you have little ones with you, the Chocolate Museum is a big hit. Be sure and visit at least one each of a tapestry, lace and chocolate shop while visiting. The stained glass and architecture of the cathedral in city center is also a must.  

Bruge is a wonderful day trip location if you are coming there from Paris. On its own merit, it is a city with much character and many charming hotels and bed and breakfasts waiting to accommodate you if you choose to stay a bit longer !