My First Voluntourism Trip to Africa… I’m Ghana Miss Y’all

my first trip to Africa... I'm Ghana Miss Y'all! #travel #explore

Things have been a little quiet around A Tipsy Gypsy Life, and for good reason. I didn’t want to spoil a surprise that I wasn’t certain was going to happen! This year, I promised I would personally explore a legitimate voluntourism venture and report back to my little spot on the interwebz, but with less than a month to get vaccines, a visa, and international bank transfers, I had my doubts. Before the drumroll, let’s catch up a little. 

Where Have I Been This Summer?

After my exhilarating trip to Hawaii, I spent some time over in the scorching Southeastern U.S.  First, I had the opportunity to watch my cousin get his Eagle Scout award in Tri-Cities, Tennessee. It was such a lovely party and needless to say, I was beyond proud of his accomplishments. Tri-Cities is a gorgeous little area in Eastern Tennessee that comprises of Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol. The communities are nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a stunning little portion of the Appalachian Mountains. If you make it over, be sure to get in camping and a visit to Dollywood, located a little under 2 hours drive away.

After Tennessee, I went straight to St. Petersburg for a few days of rest and relaxation. While visiting my hometown, I had to stop by the gem of the city- the Dali Museum. The collection never ceases to amaze, and the new building is the perfect setting for a post-tour rosé. I highly recommend grabbing the free audio tour- Dali had a mind worth exploring.

Last but definitely not least, I popped by New Orleans for a few days of sunshine and comfort food. No matter where I travel to, waltzing around the French Quarter on a Saturday is still one of my favorite past-times. Of course I had my favorite dish, pecan-crusted gulf fish, and a monsoon (or two). If you get the chance to visit, be sure to get at least a few of the city’s best drinks. Not much of a drinker? No worries, the food is what keeps people crawling back, anyways.

And the whole time I was worried because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make my trip to (drumroll please)….

Ghana in August!

As we’ve discussed once or twice, voluntourism is a little like U.S. lawyers- it’s either really, really good or really, really bad. Good intentions can so easily be twisted to long-term negative impacts, like displacing locals from jobs. A wonderful documentary I highly recommend is “Poverty, Inc.” The film offers a staggeringly honest look into the industries that have fueled the global poverty cycle.

Luckily, I put it out in the universe that I really really really wanted this voluntourism experience in August, and of course, you always get what you expect. From August 3-23, I’ll be working with local media professionals in Accra, Ghana to make a portfolio as part of New Lens Travel. Not only does the fee go to the expert leading the individual session, it also funds a youth newspaper. As of now, I’m between a blog editor, head of news at a radio station, and the creator of an online satirical publication. I’m ready to learn a thing or two.

While I’m in Ghana, I’ll be posting about everything I can get my hands on, from food, to nightclubs (yes, they have a rocking nightlife!), to nature explorations. If there’s anything you want to know about Accra, let me know and I will scope it out. That’s what travelers do, yeah?

Fun Facts About Ghana

I’m not going to lie, I knew literally NOTHING about Ghana prior to hooking up with the founder of New Lens Travel. Here are just a few of the things that excited me about the trip. 

They Speak English!

My Spanish is “get by-able” but not comfortably conversational. And any other languages? Maybe one day. But not today. And tomorrow doesn’t look too good either.  Although I love the feeling of disorientation in a new country, creating a legitimate media portfolio might be a little difficult if I can’t communicate! I’ve been told Ghana is a perfect entry country for a first-time visitor to Africa, but each community in each country is extremely unique. How unique? Ghana’s official language may be English, but they have over 250 additional languages and dialects!

Chocolate Galore.

Everyone has their weaknesses, and mine is definitely chocolate. I’ll shamelessly eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thoroughly believe at least 30% of my joy in life comes from chocolate. And just my luck, West Africa produces significantly more cocoa than the rest of the world. And most importantly? Ghana is the number 2 exporter world wide. Unfortunately, the country gets a measly portion of the $100 billion industry. I’m planning on visiting a cocoa farm, time-willing, in hopes of supporting a legitimate, slave-free cocoa production and learning the tricks of the trade getting to know the people who make my favorite treat.

The Capital City Is On The Coast.

Y’all already know I’m a little mermaid! Even though I am *slightly* nervous about hanging out on a beach when I know it tends to be the target of plenty of terrorists attacks. As I’ve said before, I really am a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to traveling, but that’s why we do it… Right? Not only do the beaches mean sunbathing and swimming, but the tropical weather makes for perfectly plump fruit like mangoes!

How has your summer been? If you’re not in this hemisphere, how’s the weather down there?

Magnificent Day and Weekend Trips from St. Petersburg, Florida

magnificent day & Weekend trips from St. Petersburg, FL #travel #explore #summer

One of the best ways to get a in-depth view into a destination is by renting a car and seeing what the place has to offer. It allows you to have adventures you wouldn’t be able to via public transport, and most importantly, to where the people live, work, and play. A trip without a sincere conversation with a local is a pure tragedy to me. You just fill up on gas, ask the attendant where to get something to eat and a good place to hang out, preferably with drinks, and get to know the town. For those who don’t want to ask around, it’s your lucky day because I so happened to have lived in St. Pete for 13 years and I’ve compiled a list of the best day and weekend trips from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Hate road trips? I’ve compiled my best tips from over 30,000 miles of road trips right here. 

Day Trips

0.5-2 hours drive from St. Petersburg

Clearwater Beach
0.5 hours
Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, FL 33767

Free

For some reason, Clearwater beach has always managed to maintain a sort of drunken, party vibe. For as long as I can remember, college aged partiers roamed Clearwater beach. I still don’t know where all these people come from, since the metro really isn’t that large, but they are there, shotgunning brews and doing body shots. At night, hit up a local beach club. Or watch the movie “Spring Breakers”. It’s basically the same thing. But really, it’s one of the most soothing, pearly white beaches in the world. Enjoy.

Fort De Soto Park
0.5 hours
3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg, FL 33715
$5.00 toll
Technically located in St. Pete, but on the edge of the county, sits over 1,000 acres of beach-y state park. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this used to be free! Families would enjoy the seclusion, dogs were allowed, life was good. Apparently some people cant handle their shit and these rights were revoked. No glass bottles, dogs must be leashed and remain in dog park areas, and camping must be prearranged. Can’t complain too much though, we must take care of our planet, right?

Florida Aquarium
0.5 hours
701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
$24.95 + tax
Yuuesss. My pride and joy. Growing up in Florida is legitimately experiencing another world. So many animals and bugs and plants and fruit and most importantly, the beach. The Florida aquarium does a wonderful job at gathering all the important local nautical creatures, and well as a plethora of creatures from around the world. The coolest part? You can dive with sharks!   Tickets are a little under 25 USD for a full day’s worth of adventure.

Ringling Museum
5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243
$25.00 + tax
The Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus has been around since 1918, showing elephants and acrobats. The Ringling side of the company ended up settling down in southwest Florida. One of their lifetime hobbies? Collecting art. The property has enormous Greek sculptures and a variety of paintings. My favorite part is by far the house on the water. You can visit their stunning estate and frolic in Mabel’s rose garden. Don’t forget to stop by the famous Munchies 420 cafe in Sarasota for a fried Twinkie, but only if you have worked up an appetite.

Busch Gardens
10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612
$109.00 + tax
1 hour
Roller Coasters. Wild lions. Dragon Land. Busch Gardens is one of the happiest places on earth (deal with it Disney!). If the fact that it’s ran by the Anheuesr-Busch family (yes the brewery empire) isn’t enough to get you there, I’m not sure we’d be friends … Kidding, the rides are the best part. Roller coasters to please even the most brave adventurer. My favorite is the Montu, a gift from heaven that flips you upside down 7 times. Not for the faint of heart!

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
1.5 hours
6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606
$13.00 USD

Mermaids! That’s all I have to say… But since it is one of my favorite places in the world, I’ll say more. Florida is blessed with fresh water springs, and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park has some of the best.  The water is crystal clear, with reflections of emerald and cyan from the natural vegetation. The ticket also gives you the opportunity to see Florida mermaids! Mermaids were discovered living here around 1947 and have been performing plays like the classic,  “The Little Mermaid” ever since… Spoiler alert! They use small air tubes to stay underwater.  My grandma was a mermaid here. And in real life 😉

Edison Plantation
2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901
$20.00 + tax
2 hours

One of the best parts of growing up in Florida was the school field trips. We would go on boats, visit dolphin rescue centers, and the NASA center. But my favorite of all time? The Thomas Edison and Ford Plantation!  The Estate is located in sultry Ft. Meyers, 2 hours directly South of St. Pete. Not only is it famous for having housed Edison and Ford while they invented and tinkered, it has a world famous tree. Have you ever seen a banyan tree? You know, where vines grow from the branch, anchor the the ground, and turn into roots? They can get to be hundreds of feet and cover over two city blocks. Yeah, fkn amazing right? The one at the plantation is the 3rd largest in the world, around 120 meters.

Weekend Trips

3-7 hours from St. Petersburg, FL

 

Sanibel Island
112 Periwinkle Way,Sanibel, FL 33957
Free
3 hours

Hopefully I don’t receive abuses for giving away a little local secret, but Sanibel & Captiva Island has been the favorite getaway for St. Pete families for decades. Both destinations are extremely peaceful, as mostly elderly people live in the area. There are no big cities, no lights to distract from the stars. I would highly recommend for families or anyone looking for a really old-Florida feel. Even though I really encourage you to only take photographs, Sanibel is known to have some of the best shells in the state. Rent a bike and roam the 15 miles of beaches then get in the warm water! The temperature remains quite neutral for the majority of the year, perfect for snorkeling.

Miami
Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Free
4.5 hours
When the lazy old-time Florida vibez start to relax you beyond repair, head over to Miami for a weekend of sun and luxury. Not only are the beaches nearly Caribbean status, the city doesn’t seem to sleep and liquor sales go all night long. If you’ve never been a club, I highly suggest stopping by Set just for a little taste. If you haven’t though about it, you need to add visiting a Miami spa to your bucket-list! I’m pretty into massages, and my life was forever changed at the Lapis Spa in the Fontainebleau Hotel. , The final must-do is a non-negotiable after a night of clubbing- coffee. The real gems are the Cuban coffee stands around Miami Beach- perfect kick of caffeine + sinfully sweet. Love it!

Key West
Whitehead St & South St, Key West, FL 33040
7 hours
Free
People are always shocked when I have to inform them that the drive from my parent’s house to Key West isn’t that short at all. It’s the most Southern point in the continental U.S., about 7 hours with no traffic, but beyond worth it! The coral, turquoise, and canary houses are the perfect compliment to the clear skies and water. Duval Street is best described as Bourbon Street’s little cousin- pretty badass, but still tame comparatively. Kids are more than welcome at all hours, but expect a little near-nudity… Now I was a pretty open-minded child, but I do vividly recall being shocked at the amount of booties showing around Key West. Probably appreciate it more with age. Don’t forget your Key Lime Pie! Swear it’s the best in Florida. And no, the key lime is not named after the Florida Keys- its just a type of small lime.

 

 

Not convinced? Read the 10 reasons you must visit my hometown, St. Petersburg, Florida.

10 Reasons You Must Visit St. Petersburg, #florida in #2016 #explore

10 Shameless Ways to Stay Sane While Traveling

 

How to stay sane while traveling || a tipsy gypsy life #travel #happy

shamelessly sleeping in Jakarta

As my girl and I approach our 9th hour of a flight delay, we keep coming back to the fact that we aren’t that bothered by it. Not that I don’t want to be in Bali, trust me, I do. But there was a volcano that erupted ash so safe is always better than sorry, right? Enjoying yourself is a huge part of traveling and sometimes we get so caught up on checking of lists and whatnot that we don’t even enjoy ourselves. Here are my 10 tips on staying sane while traveling.

1) Slow Down

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you want to spend a whole day in your hotel/hostel reading and eating chocolate do it! Here are my favorite books for travel.

2) Ask Questions

People are so helpful when you’re sweet, so do it with a smile.

3) Take Care of Yourself 

Drink water, eat well, move your body. A mini workout in the morning does wonders. Simple as 30 squats, 20 push ups, 2- minute plank. You can do it!

4) Write Write Write!

Better to take your emotions out on your journal than a flight attendant, amiright?

5) Take a Train

This will force you to slow down and absorb your surroundings. Pop in some headphones, pour yourself some wine, and watch the world go by.

6) Keep in Touch with Friends and Family

We have email, texting, Skype, snapchat… No excuses, love!

7) Remember Why You’re There

Maybe you want to find yourself, see unique landscapes, or meet new people. But never forget your people are rooting for you to have the time of your life!

8) Treat People Like People

You know the friend that always bitches that people are rude to her? Then you watch, mortified as she snaps at a waiters? Don’t be dat gal.

9) Learn How To Say “Who Do I Need To Talk To…”

In a kind tone. This one is really tricky and it varies by culture. I’ve noticed in America, when an airport personnel tells you no, they usually just don’t have the authority to say yes. Something gentle like “I know you’re’ doing everything you can, and I appreciate it, do you know anyone around that might be able to help us further?” And if they’re hesitant, move to the next employee and repeat the question. Like I said- this can be tricky and seems to be mostly a way to deal with traveling in American.

10) Treat Yo-Self!

If you plan on backpacking in hostels, put aside a little money for a night in a decent hotel when you start feeling like a creature.

 

 

Overall, remember the only thing you can control is yourself. Don’t take everything so seriously, and enjoy the fact that you are doing something incredible!

 

Do you have any tips for staying sane while traveling? What are your favorite travel books?

 

10 Road Trip Essentials

With summer in full swing and having just returned from one of my own, I thought “what better time to discuss the woes of road travel”. Okay, road trips are actually fun if you do them right. I’ll repeat-

ROAD TRIPS ARE FUN IF YOU DO THEM RIGHT

I’ve made the 11-hour drive from my city to my hometown more times than my dignity would like to remember. There have been some rough road trips and some smooth rides. Below are my essentials for a successful road trip.

10 Road Trip Essentials- With summer in full swing, what better way to celebrate than with a kick-ass road trip. Follow these 10 Road Trip Essentials to make the most of your trip. || a tipsy gypsy life

Waze – Such a clever little app. Drivers alert each other of speed traps or road hazards. Then when you drive by, the app requests you to confirm or deny the hazard.

Jumper Cables– Something we should have in our cars at all times, but doing the double check now will save you heartache later…

Sunscreen– Surprised? You shouldn’t be! We tend to get more sun on our left side from driving as is, no need to amplify that with a 10 hour drive. Save yourself with an SPF of at least 50 if you are traveling during the day.

Freshen Up Kit – Stopping at a rest stop to brush your teeth does WONDERS for your dignity. I prefer a toothbrush and toothpaste but crest wisps would do…I thoroughly believe a clean mouth is the key to feeling human during travels.

AUX Cord– if you have Bluetooth set up in your car, you’re excused. Otherwise, you WILL get sick of the repetitive stations that litter our country.

Water– Lots and lots and lots of water. Stay away from anything with caffeine unless you want to stop at every rest stop for the rest of the trip. If you really have an energy issue, drink one (ONE) 5-hour-energy or similar drink.

Proteins + something to snack on– Standards tend to disappear during a long road trip. Ding-Dong for breakfast, 4 red bulls for lunch, you get it. I personally love almonds or peanuts to keep full. Sunflower seeds are a delicious way to entertain yourself… and it does get that bad.

Pandora– All your music variety in one place etc etc etc ….but wait! There’s more! You can also set the station to, say, Aziz Ansari and get stand up comedy clips.

Baby Wipes– Oye, talk about a lifesaver. Wonderful to use on your face for a little freshen up or you know, the only sliver of bathing you’ll get for a few hours. Using them to keep the car clean is another bonus.

Car Charger– The only thing worse than getting a flat tire is getting a flat tire and not being able to call the AAA you pay decent money for. Because you don’t own a car charger… Even though they only cost about 10 doll hairs… and you can get them at nearly any gas station.

A Good Night’s Sleep– But seriously. Driving while tired is actually more dangerous than driving drunk. If a guilty conscience wouldn’t keep you from DWE (driving while exhausted), then at least try to remember that somebody, somewhere loves you.

What about you? What is your favorite road trip tip?