Fly one, apply one (lesson that is)

Hey there friends, it’s great to catch up with you! I’m here in Jakarta on my way back to the States for my favorite day ever, Thanksgiving. And while I’m in the mist of the first chunk of my upcoming 27 hours of layovers/stopovers, I figured what better time to talk about all the things that went right on this leg of the trip..and the things I’ll re-think for next time.

So the itinerary of this major chunk of the #Cescapades went a little something like this:

  • 10/25 Bus from Indy to Chicago
  • Fly Chicago to Amsterdam (13 hour stopover)
  • Fly Amsterdam to Nairobi
  • 2 days in Nairobi
  • Fly Nairobi to Zanzibar
  • 2 days in Stonetown
  • 2 days in Matemwe Beach
  • 1 day between Nungwi and Stonetown
  • Fly to Nairobi and immediate safari pick up
  • Safari in Maasai Mara (3 days)
  • Safari in Lake Nakuru (1 day)
  • 1 night in Nairobi
  • Fly to Amsterdam
  • Fly to NYC (13 hour stopover)
  • Fly to Chicago (36 hour stopover)
  • Fly to LA
  • 3 days in LA
  • Fly to Tokyo (13 hour overnight)
  • Fly to Jakarta (15 hour overnight)
  • Fly to Bali
  • 6 days in Bali between Kuta and Ubud
  • Fly to Jakarta (10 hour layover-not by choice)
  • Fly to Tokyo (16 hour stopover)
  • Fly to LAX (4 hour layover)
  • 11/25 Fly to my bed in Indianapolis

Yeah. That’s a lot for one month.

And so let’s talk about the things I did right. Well, first of all the price was definitely right. The round trip flight to Africa was COMPLETELY free thanks to my Chase Sapphire Rewards Card. I used my points to book what would have been a $600 great fare for only $480 worth of points! Major score! And my flight to Bali came in right around $500. There was a flight deal for a RT flight to Jakarta in and out of LA for just over $400. The domestic flight from Jakarta to Bali was about $60. I booked a good deal on Virgin from Chicago to LAX and I had enough points thanks to my Delta card to book a flight from LAX to IND for free. The flight from Nairobi to Zanzibar was about $250 so I paid $1240 if you include the potential cash back from Chase, but really only $750 out of pocket. More on this stuff later. But overall, it was a really good deal!

Although I would have taken twice as long everywhere I went, I’m glad that I gave myself enough time to get adjusted to the new cities without having to be overwhelmed. Europe was so fun to do and see, but I was literally moving to a new city every two days and truthfully, I was exhausted by the end of it. I’m so thankful I had a little breathing room in this trip! And even thought it wasn’t my home, being able to be in the States was nice! I did laundry, I recorded a 5 Minute Call, I got to see tons of friends, it was great to reset!

TIP #1: When a great deal shows up to a place you’re not particularly interested in going, check and see where you can get from there. Cheap flight to Europe? Check out the routes to other cities you want to visit! Find a good rate to China/Japan? It’s easy and cheap to get to Thailand from there. And the same goes for departures. Is there a cheaper flight from a city near you? Could a $20 Megabus ticket save you $300-500? Thinking outside the box can keep your money inside your wallet ūüôā

TIP #2: It seems obvious, but pay attention to your flight departure and arrival times. An overnight flight not only saves you from wasting a full day of vacation, arriving at the crack of dawn can also save you a lot of the traffic hassle that comes in the middle of the day. And the redeye means you don’t have to spend money on your hotel room that night. Sometimes those factors, plus any savings on the flight really add up.

Now there are certainly a few things I would have changed up if I could. Starting with the lay/stopover. A layover is anything shorter than 4 hours domestically or 24 hours internationally. Airlines usually allow layovers for free and will charge around $100 for stopovers. On the way here, there was nothing I could do about the stop in Tokyo, it was part of the flight. But I do wish I had purchased my second flight to Bali for the same day. And perhaps if I had done more research on my connecting airport, Jakarta, I would have known that. Jakarta is a big city, but along with the big city action comes the big city traffic. The airport is between 90-120 minutes to the city and landing at 6, going through customs and trying to get to my hotel, checked in, and in a cab to the downtown area was just too much work! I would have rather saved the money I spent on my hotel in Jakarta and spent it on a hotel in Bali a day earlier.

However, I did a good amount of research about my hotel choices in both Tokyo and Jakarta and I was pleasantly pleased with both of them. Both had airport shuttles, free breakfast and wifi, and were extremely comfortable for one overnight.

TIP #3:¬†Play the layover game if it works for you. I’m excited to get to see Tokyo for free thanks to this itinerary! If you have time that you can sacrifice from your intended destination, you can actually fit in a free stop on the way there and maybe even a different one on the way back. I recently found a flight from LA to Phuket, Thailand with a 20 hour “layover” in Australia for under $1000! Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Tip #4: However, be realistic about the journey to and from your hub. Certain airports, especially some “budget airline” hubs in Europe can be REALLY far from the city so just make sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of time to be back to the airport with plenty of time!

I’m quite the planner. Before even starting on this trip, I had a fully color coded (in ROYGBIV) itinerary with each continent chunk, hotel addresses, confirmation numbers, notes and more in a file on my computer! It was and is my bible for these 24 weeks. But I wish I left myself a little more flexibility in Bali. It turns out the hotel I booked there was ok, but I wanted to discover more. And since I had paid for it in full in advance, I ended up paying for another place in Ubud although I had a fully paid place in Kuta. A similar thing happened in Zanzibar. The days leading up to my stay were filled with political unrest on the island. The ruling party had been outvoted by newcomers and the possibility of a re-vote brought the possibility of riots breaking out basically in front of my hotel. Frazzled and worried, I decided to book a separate hotel for a few days just in case anything happend. Nothing did, and I loved the second place, but again, there was money down the drain.

Tip #5: Try to book only refundable hotels. Or better yet, ones that allow you to check out early. Or if it’s a big hotel that you expect to have rooms, only book a few nights and then try to extend. They’ll almost always give you the price you paid for the first nights so it’s a good way to go!

But no matter how much your plan or prepare, there are things you just can’t predict or fix. Although I built in 4 hours of time in Jakarta between my arrival from Bali and departure to Tokyo, I could have never imagined that the airline would email me at 10 pm to let me know that they had changed my flight to leave an hour later. Because I had been through the baggage claim process and had experienced the lack of timeliness on the part of this certain airline, I decided it was best not to risk it. And although leaving 7 hours early meant I had to sacrifice on more $6 massage from Bali, not missing my connection makes it totally worth it.

Tip #6: Make sure you know what protection you have. Rules differ country to country, but generally speaking, if you’re going to be put out by something the airlines did, there should be some consideration for your needs. When this airline tried to tell me they wouldn’t put me on an earlier flight, I demanded they speak to their supervisor. And when he did, it was clear that I had permission to change my flight due to their schedule change. Same thing if they have technical difficulties and have to ground a flight overnight or leave you on the plane for an extended amount of time. Know the rules! And request compensation for the hassle. The worst they can say is no!

More tips to come, for now, I’m going to enjoy the last of my $10 massages here in Indonesia!

 

#journeyon

 

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The funny thing about home

KARIBU!

Welcome, they said. The warm smiling faces that greeted me upon arriving in Kenya were so genuine. Welcoming me to their country. I have many friends who have visited different parts of Africa, many of them Black, and hearing stories about their feelings upon arrival gave me a certain¬†expectation¬†about how I would feel touching down in the motherland. And with this expectation came also so nervousness. I had no idea what the feeling was-maybe it was because it’s the farthest I’ve been from America. Maybe it’s because it was such an unfamiliar land. Maybe it was just gas…but I was ready to come HOME. Or at least feel like I was connected to the land by a force stronger than that which connected me to America. So I walked off the plane and set foot onto the African soil, but just like Diana Morales, I felt nothing. But it was just the tarmac, I told myself. So I walked into the airport, stood in the visa line and when my passport was finally stamped…nothing. But it was hot and there was a long wait. So I gathered my things in anticipation of the great powerful feeling that awaited me outside in the warm African sun. I emerged from the airport, and was greeted immediately by a row of drivers waiting to pick up their passengers. Now was the time, I thought. I¬†searched for the man holding the sign with my name. Welcoming me, Cessalee, home to Africa. But he was late, and I went back inside to wait and I have to tell you. I just didn’t feel like home.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely fallen in love with Africa. I started my trip with two days in Nairobi where I kissed a giraffe, got nuzzled by an elephant, held a crocodile, named an ostrich, and got to visit a museum filled with living history and stories of true courage. Then I continued in Zanzibar where I went scuba diving in the Indian Ocean and had fresh fish cooked for me in a park. I sat on a beach and took my first Maaselfie, had tea with a cheetah and got raspberried by a lemur. A zebra gave me a rose and I gave a command to the king of the jungle and he followed. Then came the safari in the Maasai Mara followed by Lake Nakuru where I danced with an African tribe, watched multiple animals mating in the wild, and learned that even the cheetahs aren’t safe when there’s a lion around. I watched a kill, I saw day old babies being taught how to live, I saw elephant skulls that had been there for years. I truly saw and experienced so many wonderful things in Africa, I’ll have to do a separate post just about my itinerary!

But the only thing I didn’t do was feel like I was home.

It’s ironic because I don’t really have a “home.” I last lived in NYC in 2012, right before I left to start tour with The Book of Mormon and since then, I’ve been on the road for work or on the road to travel. I do have a storage unit or two in my hometown and my parents have the key, but a home…well I don’t currently possess one of those. And part of this #Cescapade is elongating the time before I need to drop back down from my wanderlusting cloud and find a job, in a city and make some moves to have a home.

When I talk to people about my trip, everyone thinks it’s pretty cool to be traveling so much and so far and mostly alone. And everyone has a comment or opinion about some place I’m going. It’s dangerous, it’s beautiful, don’t forget to haggle, it’s the best, you’ll love this bar or this hotel, make sure to do this excursion. And I am definitely the kind of person who soaks that up! I always keep a notepad to jot down the suggestions I get¬†and truthfully, I’m the same way when people tell me about their trips. But this time, I think I allowed myself to get too wrapped up in how I expected to feel. I truly thought that whatever my friends experienced in coming to Africa would be my feelings too. Even more than the places on my list, I was most excited about the feeling I would get. This grand feeling of belonging. And that didn’t happen.There are people all over this world and someone has been everywhere. You can take tips and suggestions about where to go, but it’s up to you to decide how you feel. And it’s ok if it doesn’t feel like home, or however you expected it to feel.

So¬†I’ll tell you what I did feel. I felt comfortable, I felt safe. I felt beautiful-in a country where everyone looked like me, the things that make me special stood out. My hair is a HOT MESS most days, but I got more compliments on it here than I ever have in my life. It made me feel like there was value in my skin, in my body, in my being. I loved that. I felt so welcomed by the most kind and warm people I’ve ever met. I can’t tell you how many stories there are of people being kind just because they are kind. And patient. And the scenery…my goodness. The trees, the mountains, the bright¬†colors worn by the people, the buildings, it was just amazing.¬†I’m pretty sure I cried about 10 times just because something was overwhelmingly beautiful. And those are feelings that I couldn’t have expected to have and to me they are more real and valuable than the “missing” feeling of being home.

And just to clarify, when I say it didn’t feel like home, I don’t just mean that they don’t feel like America, although they certainly don’t. But they also don’t feel like my home. The good news is, I have felt “home” before, so I am confident that when it feels right, I’ll decide to stay. But for now, as I say goodbye to Africa, I’m filled with excitement. I can’t wait to visit this beautiful land again and hopefully bring my family back with me. I feel like I have so much more to see and do. But when the next trip is over, I’ll be happy to head back home…wherever that may be.

#journeyon

Free as a bird in Zanzibar

Free as a bird in Zanzibar

Africa sure it pretty at night

Africa sure it pretty at night

Maasai Mara

Maasai Mara

My pal, Luck!

My pal, Luck!

Just a trio of cheetahs!

Just a trio of cheetahs!

The Lion Sleeps tonight

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Sweet little lion cub

Sweet little lion cub

CROC

I’ve been feeling a little guilty. I don’t think I posted ONCE during the European Adventure. So instead of a life lesson, I’m going to give you:

THE COMPLETE REVIEW OF CITIES! (Abridged) PART 1

100 words or so about each place and maybe a picture or 5!

SAO PAULO and RIO, BRAZIL: Not as scary as I convinced myself it would be. Everyone had me terrified that I was going to be mugged and robbed and beaten and tricked all at the same time, especially in Rio. I’m not saying don’t be vigilant and aware, but I wish I had started out with more fun than fear. The exchange rate makes things SO very affordable so I did quite a bit of shopping! You’ll be able to get by with only English, but be prepared to be patient and make sure you have google translate downloaded! Sao Paulo has a palpable energy, kind of like NYC. I loved it. And make sure to visit the Presley Pub in Villa Magdalena and tell them Cessalee sent you. Please take some time to run, sit and/or people watch in Ibirapuera Park. It’s a magical place. And take it easy on the caipirinhas. Trust me. Rio was great for the sights and although I had the guidance of locals, you can definitely wander about and find some great spots for nightlife! Get out of Rio and Ipanema. But please, go to Zaza Bistro. Please. For me. Be open, talk to people but not the crazy ones, and be ready to walk into a samba party at any moment.

COST OF VISITING:  $

FOOD: 4.5/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 4/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 3/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Escadaria Selaron aka Where the Snoop Dogg video was filmed

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Amazing piece at the Afro-Brazilian Museum in Iberapuera Park

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The museum had a replica of a slave ship-a must see!

DUBAI and ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Decadent. Luxurious, Imported. That’s how I can best describe Dubai in particular. It was cool, so other worldly. The architecture is stunning, the extravagance afforded to even the common tourist makes you feel like royalty. Thankfully we visited the souks in Deira and took a trip to the Dubai museum. Otherwise, I’m not sure we would have really done or seen anything authentically Emirati. The cab drivers, the restaurant and bar employees, the tour guides, the yacht crew..no one was a native. It was sort of like they have imported in people to run their city so they don’t have to get their hands dirty. Truthfully the only place I got to see “natives” was in the malls. Abu Dhabi felt like the business version of Dubai. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center is a MUST SEE. Probably one of the most stunning things I’ve seen on this trip. And what trip would be complete without at least ONE all you can eat Friday brunch? We chose Saffron at Atlantis and while I can’t say the food was particularly good, the drinks were a-flowing! Even Mom got in on the action, and we definitely had a good time. If I were to go back, I would love to see the cultural center and Louvre Dubai and Guggenheim Dubai when they open on Saadiyat Island!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$$

FOOD: 3/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 3/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 3.5/5

Sheik Zayed Mosque in Adu Dhabi

Sheik Zayed Mosque in Adu Dhabi

From the outside of the Mosque

From the outside of the Mosque

Brunch at Saffron in the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai

Brunch at Saffron in the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai

Here's to the ladies who Brunch :)

Here’s to the ladies who Brunch ūüôā

Desert Safari with SAADI Tours! We had a blast!

Desert Safari with SAADI Tours! We had a blast!

OSLO, NORWAY: I didn’t get to spend as much time here as I would have liked, but it was great for the two hours I was there! I loved the Nobel Peace Center Museum. The exhibit of Malala and Kailash. So inspiring. The uniform Malala was wearing when she was shot is on display. It’s just so small, she was just so young. And she impacted the world. The Targets exhibit is pretty moving as well. It argues that if we have enemies, we are also enemies. And depicts the realities of war training throughout the world. Pretty moving stuff. The other thing I love about Oslo is how easy it is to get from the airport to city. You can take the FlytoGet which is super convenient and about $30 bucks..or you can take a train that takes 3 more minutes for $14! Baggage station to Central Station in under 30 minutes! Just ask the people to help you. They don’t offer up that info, but are happy to give it if you ask! It is a pretty pricy city. Cabs were definitely a lot more than you’d expect elsewhere to be prepared for that!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$

FOOD: N/A (I only ate at Joe and the Juice, a tasty chain with locations throughout Europe)

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 4/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

A lovely day in Norway!

A lovely day in Norway!

The Nobel Peace Museum is a MUST!

The Nobel Peace Museum is a MUST!

Gnomes and Trolls!

Gnomes and Trolls!

It truly is beautiful here

It truly is beautiful here

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: OOOHWEEE! This place was awesome! Definitely needed one more day there! Tivoli Gardens was pretty cool to visit. I got some roller coaster time in and got to see a rather strange show in the park! The Little Mermaid was ever so slightly underwhelming but I’m glad I got to see it. The grounds of The Kastellet were pretty cool and I highly recommend popping into as many churches as you can. I did head through Christiana to get to the opera house and it’s so crazy to think that a city sans law exists as well as it does. Truthfully I didn’t get to close, but it was really something to see. And don’t think you’ll get away with pictures. They will literally smash your camera on the ground. I went out to the Carlsberg Brewery and it as one of the better tours I’ve seen of a beer brewery. This self guided tour is¬†a¬†great way to learn about the Jacobsen family who founded two Carlsberg breweries and eventually brought them together. I would highly recommend the Copenhagen Card, I didn’t get it but almost everywhere I wanted to go took it. I think I would have saved a good deal of money. Speaking of money, it didn’t strike me as a super expensive place, it’s definitely on my list of returns!

COST OF VISITING:  $$

FOOD: 4/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4.75/5

Copenhagen from the water

Copenhagen from the water

A view from the RoundTower

A view from the RoundTower

Take a visit to Tivoli Gardens

Take a visit to Tivoli Gardens

The roller coasters are still run manually

The roller coasters are still operated manually

BEER!

BEER!

Denmark!

Denmark!

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS: This is another place I need to revisit. Luckily I have a one day layover coming up so I’m definitely going to take full advantage. I took a canal tour and even if there was no guide, it would have been magical. It feels like you’re lost in a maze that you don’t actually want to escape from. I think Amsterdam gets a bad name for being a hotbed of Red Light Vixens and Pot Smoking Hippies, but there is just so much more. Farmer’s markets are everywhere, great food, good beer, lovely canals to explore via boat or to admire via coffee shop..it’s just really awesome. Add in some great music and friendly locals and I’m sold! (Not to mention, the men here are pretty hot. Just saying)

COST OF VISITING:  $$

FOOD: 4/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 4/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4.5/5

Amsterdam is so lovely!

Amsterdam is so lovely!

The best airbnb of my entire European adventure!

The best airbnb of my entire European adventure!

The best

The best “coffee shop” in all of Amsterdam

Even the Red Light Ladies need a little Jesus now and then

Even the Red Light Ladies need a little Jesus now and then

The sun shines on A'dam

The sun shines on A’dam

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: I liked Brussels. As a food lover, I had my work cut out for me as I apptempted to do all of the important things in Brussels in under 24 hours. At one point I had a Belgian Waffle, topped with Belgian chocolate in one hand, some frites with two sauces in the other, while looking at Manneken Pis and drinking a Chimay. Thank goodness I’m not gluten free! In a strange turn of events, I also ended up at a lovely Ethiopian restaurant, Toukoul, ¬†near St. Katherine’s and they took such great care of me, it was a most wonderful way to be introduced to Brussels! I really wasn’t there long enough to give you a full review, but my highlights definitely included the food, the skate park des Ursulines, the look of disappointment when people finally made it to Manneken Pis, the food, the square, the no-car Sunday, the abundance of delicious beer, and most definitely the food! I will be back, Brussels!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$

FOOD: 5/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 3.5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

There is an abundance of beauty in Brussels!

There is an abundance of beauty in Brussels!

Delicious Ethiopian food from Toukoul

Delicious Ethiopian food from Toukoul

There he is, in all is Pis-ing glory!

There he is, in all is Pis-ing glory!

BELGIAN FRITES!! Nom nom nom!

BELGIAN FRITES!! Nom nom nom!

Mmmm...chocolat!

Mmmm…chocolat!

FRANKFURT, GERMANY: Frankfurt is busy! Upon arrival you get almost an American-sort of vibe from the locals. People move fast and they definitely have somewhere to go. Sort of like New York but smaller, and lots more smoke. There are a lot of really cool things to see in Frankfurt and I had an excellent tour guide so I think I got the best of the best..but it still just wasn’t my thing. The food was good, the beers were big, but there was just something unwelcoming about the city to me. Of course that was juxtaposed with the most welcoming and lovely people I met through Alex, his mom and grandmother. We went to a small Apfelwein (Apple wine) tavern near his house and it was like we had entered another dimension. The owners, a pair of Middle Eastern brothers who specialized in pork products, knew and loved Alex’s family and as much as they welcomed them, they welcomed me! We had a few hours to kill before my flight and had an absolute ball! So maybe next time I’ll go for the Apfelwein festival in August and stick to the¬†taverns and stay out of downtown!

COST OF VISITING:  $$

FOOD: 3.5/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 2.5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 3.5/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 3.5/5

An ode to the walk-man!

An ode to the walk-man!

Architectural perfection in the train station

Architectural perfection in the train station

Even the malls are meticulously designed! This one has the longest escalator in Europe

Even the malls are meticulously designed! This one has the longest escalator in Europe

Alex's mom-such an awesome lady!

Alex’s mom-such an awesome lady!

This little lady is quite the firecracker!

This little lady is quite the firecracker!

BAD DURKHEIM, GERMANY: I loved this little town and wish I had more time there to explore! Bad Durkheim is the home of the largest wine festival in the world, Wurstmarkt. And while it literally translates to Sausage Market, it’s much more than than! It was a perfect preview to Oktoberfest. I was expecting the typical American wine festival with some wine tents and people offering tastings and pairings in small glasses and pinky-up sipping. Nope. Not in Germany you don’t. I got my first glass of wine in a pint glass. Let that sink in for a second. A pint of wine. You can see where this night is going. In addition to the wine, there were tents full of folks having a grand old time. Very rarely did I see someone “wasted.” I saw people having a great time, dancing, meeting their neighbors, sharing the good times together. And it was awesome. We rode the bumper cars where they do not take it easy on you, and a few of the rides before heading to our hotel that was on the grounds of the festival. In the morning we did a little shopping and while there were few people that spoke English, everyone was more than willing to participate in my game of charades until we could figure each other out! Definitely worth a stop on your next Oktoberfest trip!

COST OF VISITING:  $$$

FOOD: 3/5

FRIENDLY FACTOR: 5/5

EASE OF COMMUNICATION: 3/5

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 4/5

Celebrating our Nomadness Travel Tribe!

Celebrating our Nomadness Travel Tribe!

A perfect way to end a great night!

A perfect way to end a great night!

I can't believe he made me do this!

I can’t believe he made me do this!

Ok, I”m going to stop here for now, because I’m here:

IMG_3110

Zanzibar, Tanzania

But I’ll be back to update more soon! In the mean time, I’ll get back to blogging! I promise, I’ll get back to my once a week schedule…but there’s just so much to do!! See you soon!

Journey ON!