17 Reasons to Use Your Vacation Time This Year!

VacationTime

Unlike many Americans, I’ve never had a problem taking vacation days. As a matter of fact, when I was a part of the 9-5 set, I’d use ALL of my sick, personal, and vacation days (and then some) when I needed a break or wanted to take a short excursion because…well, why not?

Despite owning a business and being a freelance writer & author, I don’t believe in working myself until I drop. I mean, there’s a thin line between grinding hard and going “Karōshi” (the Japanese term for “death from overwork”), and I intended to stay on this side of the living.

While most people won’t kill over from putting in extra hours at the office, pulling long shifts can reek havoc on your life, cause relationship drama, and generally suck.

But in case you need more reasons to cash in your vacation time and go on a trip (or just chill), here’s 17 reasons to use your vacation days THIS YEAR!

#1 Working too much can kill you, especially if you work overtime.

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Yes, seriously. Via the Guardian: “The research shows a 60% increase in heart-related illness such as non-fatal heart attacks and angina in those who work for three hours or more longer than a normal seven-hour day.”

#2 You don’t really need a new car.

I know you think you do, and I know they’re pretty, but if you have less than 100k (and maybe even 250k) miles on your hoopty, you need to keep the riding that sucker till the wheels fall off. And even then, they probably won’t. Don’t believe me? Via Forbes: “Today’s cars are built to last as long as 250,000 miles or more with simple routine care,” says ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician and Chicago Tribune auto-service columnist Bob Weber.

#3 Working too many hours can actually make you stupider.

You may think you can pull long hours without consequence, but working too much can actually damage your brain. A 2009 study, found “working hours may have a negative effect on cognitive performance in middle age,” including a decline in reasoning and vocabulary.

#4 Mexican food tastes so much better in Mexico (or in L.A., whichever’s closer).

via thebaldchef.net

nom, nom, nom….via thebaldchef.net

#5 You won’t have to yell at your kids to clean their room if you’re in a hotel.

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#6 There are no dishes to wash after dinner (and you don’t even have to cook!).

#7 You can act a fool without caring if anybody judges you (as long as you keep it off Facebook…and Instagram…and Twitter).

#8 You can have a drink (or 3!) with breakfast and not feel like an alcoholic.

#9 Taking a week off will make your boss appreciate you that much more.

#10 You can finally be the one flooding everybody’s Facebook feed with annoyingly awesome photos that make people hate-like them.

#11 You can finally read that book everybody was raving about three years ago.

#12 You’ve already binged-watched Scandal, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black; your weekends are wide open.

#14 Wait, your passport is about to expire, and you still don’t have any stamps yet?

Seriously? Daaaaamn homie.

#15 You’re young, single, and ready to mingle

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#16 You’re not so young, married, and have a couple of kids; who needs a break more than you?

#17 You’ve only got 2 weeks off, USE THEM!

Got more reasons to use your vacation days? Leave them below! 

5 Books That Let You Travel from the Comfort of Your Couch

Travel books

Let’s face it. Traveling can be expensive. No matter how many deals, travel hacks, and coupons you rack up, sometimes you just can’t afford to take the trip that you want.

I should know. I’d love to hop on a plane and head to a number of far-flung destinations, but at the moment, that’s just not possible (unless I go into some serious debt). So in lieu of pulling out my Visa card, I reach for my library card instead.

Books are amazing. They can teach us about a multitude of things—how to make money (so we can travel), getting out of debt (so we can travel), starting a business (so we can travel), being a better lover (so we can have more fun while we travel)—but they can also transport us around the word in an instant. I mean, that’s what I look for in a book. In addition to a compelling story, I almost always choose books that are set in a different location than where I live.

So without further adieu, here are 5 books that will help you travel around the world without leaving your couch.

#1 Passing Love

Passing Love follows Nicole-Marie Handy as she explores the streets of Paris to uncover a family secret. Although she’s always been drawn to all things French since finding a little blue English-French dictionary among her parent’s things, she decides to finally go to France once her relationship with her longtime (married) beau fizzles out. Passing Love takes readers through the alleyways, museums, clubs, and little known sections of the City of Lights (buy it here).

# 2 Americanah

Americanah is a love story that stretches from the collegial streets of Princeton, NJ and trendy lofts of New York, to parlors in London and sprawling estates in Lagos, Nigeria.  The book follows Ifemelu and Obinze as they both struggle to adjust to their new lives in their respective countries. And while they both ultimately achieve success, their paths are completely different, painfully difficult, and extremely enthralling. Americanah will not only make at you look at the immigrant experience differently, but it’ll have you researching flights to Lagos (buy it here).

# 3 She’s Gone

Kweme Dawes’ novel She’s Gone is another love story that is fraught with explorations of class, mental illness, and colorism. It traces the unlikely relationship between Keisha, a Columbia University researcher, and Kofi, the Jamaican front man of a reggae band. The story begins in South Carolina and quickly moves to Jamaica as Kofi and Keisha try to make their unconventional relationship work (buy it here).

#4 Ghana Must Go

Ghana Must Go begins with the death of Kweku, the patriarch of a sprawling, high-achieving, dysfunctional clan, and follows as his brood struggles to deal with his death, and their own rifts. Much like her mentor Toni Morrison’s work, newcomer Taiye Selasi’s novel moves through time and space to transport readers from Accra to Lagos to London to New York and back (buy it here).

#5 Another Country

In my eyes, James Baldwin can do no wrong. Like, at all. In Another Country Baldwin delivers a complicated novel that expertly deals with racism, sex, drugs, art and interracial coupling in the 1970s. Primarily set in Greenwich Village, Another Country follows its characters through the streets of Harlem, jazz joints in Manhattan, and the villas of France (buy it here).

Bonus: Turn It Loose

After she gets fired from her job at the L.A. Weekly, Jaylah Baldwin has to decide whether she’ll try to get a new, lower paying writing gig or if she’ll do something crazy and buy a ticket to London. She chooses the latter and gets way more than she bargained for. Ok, so this one qualifies as “shameless self promotion,” but my first novella Turn It Loose transports readers from Los Angeles to the neighborhoods, pubs, and dance halls of London (buy it here).

Do you read to travel from your couch? Share your favorite books in the comments section below! 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from Amazon if you make a purchase using the provided book links.

7 Travelers of Color Who Will Inspire You to Hit the Road

black travelers

Buzzfeed recently released an article profiling 11 people who have ditched their ho hum lives to travel the world. And while their stories are all awesome (like Ying Tey who was inspired to hit the road after her mother died), their list looks decidedly…pale.

Not one Black or Latino nomad made the list, which struck many of my Facebook friends (several of whom are avid travelers) as strange. I mean, how hard would it have been to profile the Nomadness crew, which boasts over 6,000 multicultural travelers? Or, you know, Google?

But because I’m pretty used to NOT waiting for the world to recognize the accomplishments of those who look like me I decided to put together my own list.

So here are 7 travels of color who will inspire you to hit the road:

Oneika Raymond – Oneika the Traveler

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I’m not sure where Oneika HASN’T been (seriously), but the list HAS to be terribly short. Her blog, Oneika the Traveler, is FULL of travel stories and tips on how to see the world. I had the pleasure of meeting Oneika when I visited London and she was one of the nicest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met—and it shows in her writing. She’s been profiled in the Huffington Post and National Geographic and has filed stories for American Airlines’ Black Atlas and other outlets. If you’re thinking about taking a trip mosey on over to her blog to see if she’s been there first.

Evita Turquoise Robinson – Nomadness Travel Tribe

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Nearly 3 years ago Evita Robinson decided to create the Nomadness Travel Tribe, a Facebook group of wily voyagers from all over the globe, and united them together for one cause: To see the world. Since organizing the tribe, Evita has led trips to Panama, India, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Bali, and across the US in the hopes of inspiring other young people of color to get a passport and see the world. What are you waiting for?

Greg Gross – I’m Black & I Travel

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Need help planning for a trip? Want to know when’s the best time to buy your plane ticket or what to expect from the TSA? Greg Gross has you covered! His site, I’m Black and I Travel keeps would-be adventurers up to date on EVERYTHING they need to know before they head out.

Heather Greenwood Davis – Globe Trotting Mama

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Think having a family means you can’t travel the world? Psh! Heather Greenwood and her family decided to pull their two kids out of school for a year, sell their things, and embark on a trip of a lifetime. National Geographic named them as Travelers of the Year (2013), and the Davis family certainly deserves it. In their year as nomads, they visited 29 countries and documented it all on the awesome blog, Globe Trotting Mama.

Carol Cain – Girl Gone Travel

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Carol is another mother who proves that traveling with a family is not only possible, it can also be pretty easy (and fun!). Carol started blogging in 2008 under the moniker, NYCity Mama, but soon realized that her love of travel was calling her to explore (and write about) more than just the 5 boroughs. Carol and her family—three sons + her hubby—regularly head out on weekend jaunts, summer road trips, and international excursions, and she documents all of their awesome adventures on her site, Girl Gone Travel. 

Bayyina Black – The Planet Blaster

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Need more than pictures to get you interested in seeing the world? Bayyina has you covered. Through her blog and YouTube channel, Bayyina offers tips, tricks, and hacks for those itching to put some stamps in their passport. Be get ready: Bayyina is a fireball, full of spunk and heart. After watching her vids you’ll want to book a trip now. Like, RIGHT NOW!

Nneka – Afros y Paella

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Ok, so technically this isn’t a travel blog per se; Nneka isn’t hopping on a plane every weekend to check out a hot new destination. But as the tagline of her blog Afros y Paella explains, it’s “an African woman’s Spanish journey through food, culture and spirit.” Nneka is currently teaching English in Spain, but what makes her blog so dope is her writing—brilliant, honest, and lush. If she doesn’t make you want to jump on a plane and visit Spain ASAP, I’m not sure what will. In the meantime, get you a big ol’ bowl of Afros y Paella.

Do you love to travel? Who is your favorite travel blogger of color?

Museum Trippin’: Inside the Craft & Folk Art Museum

Craft and Folks Art Museum

A few weeks ago Le Kid and I headed to a homeschooling meet up at the Craft & Folk Art Museum. Although I’d seen it plenty of times on our way to LACMA or the Tar Pits, I never really felt the need to go. But because I’ve been looking to meet more homeschoolers (and because the exhibit we were seeing featured the work of a black artist by the name of Sonya Clark), we decided to venture out.

I’m glad I did. Not only is the Craft & Folk Art museum (CAFAM) larger than I expected (it looks pretty small from the outside, but is actually three stories tall), it was actually pretty cool. And their gift shop? DOPE!

When we first stepped into CAFAM, a large portrait of Madame CJ Walker made out of combs hung near the entrance.

Sonya Clark, Madame CJ Walker portrait

Although we got to tour the museum an hour before they opened and were there to see the Sonya Clark exhibit, we were able to check out some of the other installations as well. Currently, they are showcasing the art of Alaskan folk artists, and we saw some pretty cool paintings, photos, and sculptures. Some were even made of walrus belly!

I wasn’t familiar with Sonya Clark’s work before our visit, but I enjoyed checking out her exhibit which was all about hair.

Sonya Clark's work at the CAFAM

Here’s how the CAFAM described her exhibit:

Drawing from her African-American, Scottish, and Caribbean roots, Clark incorporates both the actual hair of African-American women and culturally associated hair-braiding techniques into textile form and sculptural objects. Her symbolic and innovative interpretation of materials and weaving processes explore the layered historical and intergenerational contexts of racial identity, disenfranchisement, and definitions of beauty within African-American cultures.

Le Kid got a kick out of Clark’s Abe Lincoln with an afro, and I was amazed at how hair could be molded into art (and even necklaces!).

Abe Lincoln with ‘fro!

If you get the opportunity to see Sonya Clark’s work in your city, or if you’re in Los Angeles and want to check out something besides the standard (and sometimes way too pretentious) art museums, be sure to stop by the Craft & Folk Art Museum! We will definitely be heading back.

The Side of Africa You NEVER See

Awesome photo of Nairobi via Afritorial.com

I belong to a slew of Facebook groups, a few of which are travel related. One group, Rare Customs, is planning a trip to Kenya early next year, and like a woman struck by a sudden and permanent case of wanderlust, I WANT TO GO.

Like…badly.

*long heavy sigh*

Truth is, I want to go everywhere. But after looking for something completely different, I ran across the blog Afritorial, and what did I see? A post about why folks need to go to Nairobi. Kismet? Maybe. But now I’ve got the itch and Africa is on my mind.

When it comes to the “dark continent” (insert a mean eye roll right there) you always hear about its wildlife, or see pictures of Western travelers going to shanty towns to be “down” with the people. But we rarely see Africa…ANY part of it…as a bustling, modern metropolis.

Cape Town, South Africa – via National Geographic

What we see is always war and starving babies and desolate landscapes and machetes. Or something.

Why is that?

Why is there often ONE story coming out of the whole of Africa as if it’s one big country (which, hello, it is not)?

Harare, Zimbabwe

If you want to see a “different” face of Africa you’ve got to do more than just Google “Africa”. Typically search engines will only point you toward stereotypical depictions of the continent.

But Africa is so much more than that, and I know this without even getting close to its shores.

Thank God for bloggers. And for sites like the cheeky Africa is a Country, or Afritorial, or Ms. Afropolitan, or AfriPop or any number of others that share the often overlooked parts of the Motherland.

And thank God for Africans who tell their own stories like only they can (peace to Danai Gurira whose commitment to telling African stories came through as soon as I met her).

I hope the wider world eventually catches up and is able to see what Africa is really all about. But in the meantime, I need to hustle up my coins and head to Kenya in January so I can see it for myself.

Want to put $5 on it? Donate here!

Yet Another Reason to Go to France, Pop Up Library Opens on the Beach!

French pop up beach library

Photo via PSFK.com

How dope is this? A pop up library….on the beach?! Yes please!

In an effort to encourage literacy, French architect Matali Crasset created a library right on the sand at La Romaniquette in Istres, France. The portable library is home to 350 books and three shaded seating areas to check out a book.

Photo via matalicrasset.com

C’est magnifique!

What’s your favorite book to read on the shore or by the pool?

h/t Galleycat

Story Trippin’: Champagne Johnny, Part 2

{Missed part one? Catch up here.}

kymani_cherine2Sweat poured from Jaylah’s head as she and Jourdan shook and shimmied on the dance floor. Faceless partners came and went, all trying to strike up a conversation with Jaylah while she pretended not to hear them above the music. Her mind was firmly set on Champagne Johnny, but an hour into her romp on the crowded dance floor he was still nowhere to be found.

For a moment, Jaylah thought about calling him. After all, he’d scribbled his number into “The Book” she lugged around to write down addresses, bus directions, and a string of men’s numbers. But that seemed silly, and a little desperate. Besides, he said he would come.

If it was meant to be, if she was meant to see him again before she left London, he would come.

A voice behind Jaylah broke her train of thought. “Excuse me, love.”

She turned around expecting to see Champagne Johnny’s beautiful blueblack face. Instead a halfway handsome tawny dread was standing behind her.

“Holding court I see.”

“What?” Jaylah tried to mask her disappointment.

“All that dancing. You must be on fire. Can I get you a drink?”

“Sure. I’ll take a Stella.”

Letting strangers buy her drinks wasn’t usually how Jaylah rolled, but it was her last night in the city and she was determined to have a good time.

Jaylah scanned the room for Jourdan who was wrapped in a seductive slow wine on the far side of the dance floor. While the dread was at the bar, her eyes swept the room–just in case.

No Champagne Johnny.

“Here you go, love,” the dread handed her the ice cold bottle. Jaylah put it to her head to cool off. “I’m Ivan. And you?”

“Jaylah,” she said before taking a long swig of her beer.

“Jaaaylaaaaah,” he nearly sang, “You’re American, innit?”

“That obvious?” she grinned.

Back home she would have never called herself simply American, full stop. Always black, African-American, hell, even negro. But the more she traveled, the more she realized that once she opened her mouth, her Americanness trumped all else and nobody seemed to be as quite hung up on race as folks were back home.

“You live here or just visiting?” he asked, giving Jaylah his undivided attention.

“Visiting. Actually, I’m heading back home tomorrow.”

Ivan sucked his teeth hard, “What a shame. I coulda showed you around.”

“Maybe next time,” she smiled.

“Yeah. Right now, though, let’s dance.”

Before Jaylah could object, he grabbed her and gently pulled her toward the dance floor.

Ivan knew how to move. He rested a hand on Jaylah’s hip and swayed smoothly. Jah Cure’s “Searching For A Girl” came pouring through the sound-system, and the crowd slapped the walls of the club.

“Pull uuuuuuuup,” they yelled, demanding the DJ start the tune again. He obliged, firing an air horn that tore through the basement like a rocket.

None of it seemed to phase Ivan, though. He wrapped his arms around Jaylah’s waist and started singing.

“Girl I got a message for you….deep in my heart it’s so true. Don’t play with my love…” he crooned in her ear.

Jaylah closed her eyes and lost herself in Ivan’s raspy baritone.

“I’m not your toy boy….I came to bring you joy…”

Ivan nuzzled his face in the crook of Jaylah’s neck and hummed.

Although she would never dance this close with a man she just met back home, something about Ivan made Jaylah feel at ease. He was easy-going and confident, but not pushy. And although he wasn’t the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on, his smile was so earnest it pierced her.

Jaylah leaned further into him and rested her head on his chest and decided to put Champagne Johnny out of her mind.

She slid her hand up Ivan’s sturdy chest and ran her fingers through his long locks. He brushed his lips across her shoulder. Not quite a kiss, but definitely an invitation. There was more if she wanted it.

Jaylah suddenly felt light headed. She couldn’t be tipsy, not from a few beers. This was something different. Happiness? Fun? Comfort?

“Relax girl. Stop thinking, just dance,” she whispered to herself.

She looked up at Ivan and rested her hand over his heart. He smiled and kissed her forehead. She blushed and kissed his cheek. They continued to dance for what seemed like hours until he grabbed her hand, put it to his lips, and led her to the back of the club. Jaylah leaned against the wall, and Ivan pressed his body so close, she couldn’t tell whether she was still standing or he was holding her up.

Still, he waited. He wanted to kiss her, to taste the inside of her mouth, but he also wanted her to give him permission. Jaylah knew this. She watched his eyes fill with longing. She noticed his body tense and begin to expand with every second she withheld her touch. They stood, looking but not quite touching, waiting for someone to make a move.

His restraint amused her. She thought it sexy. While he waited for her permission, most men she knew would just move in for a sloppy, awkward kiss. Ivan wanted her to make the first move. He wanted her to confirm he wasn’t the only one aching to be consumed.

Ivan wanted her to unlock the craving he felt, but couldn’t quite explain. Sure Jaylah was pretty, but he’d been with a lot of pretty girls. But when he saw her on the dance floor moving like nothing else mattered in the world except her body and the beat, he knew he wanted to taste her…for as long as she’d let him.

Jaylah put her thumb to Ivan’s lips, parting them slightly. He pressed closer, almost unable to wait any longer.

As Jaylah moved in to kiss him she heard Jourdan call her name.

She looked around for her friend who feverishly pointed toward the bar. Jaylah strained to see what was so important that Jourdan felt the need to wreck her flow.

That’s when she saw him. And her heart caught in her throat.

I Love L.A. (most of the time)

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Grand Park and City Hall

I used to really dislike living in Los Angeles, which is totally weird since I’m a native. But  once upon a time I had a full-on love affair with New York City, and after living in the Big Apple for a few years, coming home seemed totally and wholly boring.

But then I realized I was perhaps too unkind to my city.

While clubs close early (uh, 2:00am?!) and you have to drive EVERYWHERE and things are so spread out and the people are….interesting, I realized that once I got over my “LA is totally boring!” tantrum, the City of Angels kinda has it going on.

Although I get a bit of summer event envy while surfing through my friends’ Instagram and Twitter feeds (I mean, who doesn’t live or pass through Brooklyn?!), I am looking forward to L.A. this summer.

Here’s why:

The beach: (which is really not fair to other cities because we Angelenos go to the beach year-round). Totally awesome.

The parties: Between the epic Sunday get down that is the Do Over, to the slew of DJs passing through this summer, if you LOVE to party, this summer will be kinda epic (uh, Hello BET Experience & Beyonce).

The art scene: Although I don’t really understand contemporary art, LA’s got a host of museums and galleries that you can visit. And I love them all. I love strolling through exhibits not knowing what the hell the artist was thinking, but feeling like I’m getting my supreme culture on. It’s fab.

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Levitating mass at LACMA

The ocean: I love the water, and I can’t think of a more perfect day than filling up on some tasty eats while gazing upon the ocean. I mean, c’mon. How dope is THAT?

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Marina Del Rey….

The melting pot: Despite some neighborhoods being overrun with hipsters, L.A. has a wealth of diversity. From Little Armenia and Little Ethiopia (ok, mini-Ethiopia) , to Koreatown and Chinatown, you can literally experience the food and culture of a plethora of communities just by taking a drive.

The Watts Towers

The Watts Towers

The fashion: Ok, this is a selfish thing, but I love being able to wear flip-flops 75% of the year. How amazing is THAT?!

Have you ever been to L.A. or are you from here? What do you love about it? 

Story Trippin’: ‘Champagne Johnny’

Fiction Friday Britni Danielle

I’ve been wanting to use some of my travels as a springboard for writing for some time now, but I just haven’t. Last night, I just couldn’t shake the idea for Champagne Johnny, so I started writing. Let me know what you think of this & if you’d like me to continue. I’m going to pop in…weekly(?)…to either extend this story, or share another. Enjoy & please leave a comment!
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Champagne Johnny

Flirting in London was so much easier than in the States. Perhaps it was because she was only in town for a month and eager to scotch-tape enough memories together to hold her over until her next excursion. Or maybe it was because it was easier being a whore on the road. Either way, it was her last night in the Queen’s city and she was ready to burn a hole in her brain.

Jaylah ran around her hotel room trying to decided between the fuschia dress that showed off the creamy tops of her ample breasts, or the short black mini that exposed a dangerous amount of leg.

After remembering she planned on dancing like a wild 23-year-old dropping an obscene amount of E, she picked the pink number, brushed her hair into a lazy topknot, smeared on her lipstick, and ran out of the door.

After all, Jourdan–Jaylah’s new bestie–was waiting and she didn’t want to waste another minute of her last night in London on minor details like clothes; they were hopefully coming off anyway.

There were more important things she needed to tend to, namely Champagne Johnny, the beautiful man she was pressed up against on a dance floor the night before.

Like all of the other men she met in London, Champagne Johnny was slightly taken aback, but extremely intrigued by her forwardness. He had no choice.

When she asked him, “So do all of the black men in the city love white women or what?” instead of just saying hello, he knew she was unlike any woman he’d ever met before.

“Excuse me?” he said, completely caught off guard.

“Well,  I’ve been here a month and I’ve seen y’all with everybody but black women. What’s up with that?”

Champagne Johnny chortled, “No…not all of us,” he said extending an easy smile. “I’m Johnny, what’s your name, love?”

She noticed the sharp angle of his nose then, causing her to stop and take him in. His eyes were disarmingly generous, the lights in the Mau Mau bar seemed to glide across his sable skin, and the hint of a decidedly un-British accent danced on the tip of his tongue.

“I’m Jaylah. Where are you from?”

“Peckham.”

“No, no. Before. Were you born in London?”

“No. Moved here from Ghana when I was four,” he pointed to her empty beer bottle, “Want another?”

“Sure.”

As he walked away, Jaylah noticed the outline of his strong, sleek back and footballer’s body. She thought his arms were easily sturdy enough to lift her, and he moved with a quiet confidence that said he could own any room if he wanted.

In that moment Jaylah knew: she had to see him naked.

* * *

Jaylah’s heels clicked as she ran down Great Eastern Street to meet up with Jourdan before she got too pissed for having to wait. Although she journeyed to London alone to escape her mess of a life after she was unceremoniously “let go” (that’s how they put it anyway) from her writing gig at the LA Weekly and broke up with her vexingly bland boyfriend all in the same week, she was happy to meet Jourdan in line at the Pret.

Since their chance meeting, the two had become fast friends and had hit up every bar, lounge, museum, bashment, and flea market their too-tight budgets would allow.

“About time you got here,” Jourdan said with a wicked grin. “I was about to freeze to death waiting for your ass. Cute dress!”

“Sorry I’m late,” Jaylah kissed her friend’s perfectly polished cheek, “I was trying to sort out my outfit. You know, decide between showing the legs or the tits?”

“Uh huh, you’re trying to look cute for your man,” Jourdan teased.

An image of Champagne Johnny hungrily kissing her neck flashed through her mind causing Jaylah to smile in spite of herself. “My what?” she held up her left hand, “I don’t see any rings on these fingers.”

“Please. You know he’s coming. I thought I was going to have to pry him off you last night. I’m surprised he didn’t try to get you back to his flat.”

“He tried,” Jaylah smirked, “It might just work tonight, too.”

The pair laughed as they descended the stairs into Plastic People, a basement club known for its dim lights, tight corners, and massive soundsystem. A soulful house remix of Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman” was blaring through the speakers, and Jaylah quickly scanned the room for Champagne Johnny. No luck.

She was disappointed, but she knew he would show. At least she hoped so.

Although Jaylah wasn’t looking for anything serious, especially since she had just disentangled herself from boring-ass Marco, she ached to see Champagne Johnny with an urgency that surprised her.

Girl, chill, she commanded. He’s fine, but damn. Chill!

Jaylah was trying to stop herself from spinning into Crazy Town and creating an entire narrative about how Champagne Johnny was the one , and how years from now they will recount the story of their meeting. Calling it kismet and wondering what would have happened had she and Jourdan kept walking past the bar that night.

“Can you imagine?” she’d say to their friends over dinner, with Champagne Johnny’s arm comfortably draped around her shoulders.

“We could have missed each other. But look at us now!” he’d chime in right on time.

Jourdan tapped Jaylah on the shoulder, snapping her out of her daydream. “Ready to hit the floor?”

“Always!” Jaylah responded, a little too excitedly.

Just have fun, Jay, she thought to herself. You came to dance….not to fall in love.

~~

Want to know what happens next? Read part 2 here! 

Yes, You Can Road Trip Alone

The view of the CA desert outside my window.

The view of the CA desert outside my window.

When most people think of road trips, they usually invision a Griswold-style family vacation where the whole family piles into the car and annoys each other for what seems like an eternity before finally reaching their destination.

While this has been a rite of passage for many families, it has also turned many folks off to the idea of road tripping. Thankfully, you have alternatives.

Back in 2009, I drove the California coast with my then-5-year-old, my parents, and my little brother. I think I was feeling a bit nostalgic and just a little unsure of my ability to pull off such a trip on my own, so we had our own little Griswold-esque vacay. Although we had fun, I definitely got annoyed by my dad’s constant driving tips, and having to censor my language (and music!) with my mom in tow.

Recently, I decided to try something different. In honor of my 33rd birthday, I hit the road for an eight-hour, 500 mile jaunt to Arizona….alone.

Leaving Los Angeles...

Leaving Los Angeles…

And it was GREAT.

Thankfully, the drive from Los Angeles to Arizona is pretty straight forward: you hop on the I-10 and keep driving until you need to get off. That’s literally how it went.

I left L.A. at about 10 am, and after stopping three times to stretch my legs, get gas, and grab a sandwich, I got to Tucson a little after 6 pm.

How did I manage to stay sane for 8 long hours on the road?

Here are my tips for pulling off the perfect solo road trip:

1) Be patient: If you start any trip already annoyed, in a hurry, or on edge, it will be a looooong ride. Before I left I made a commitment to keep my cool, no matter what. Bad drivers? No problem. Traffic? I could deal with it. Random delays? I got this. If you keep your cool while on the road you’ll not only be happier, but I promise you’ll reach your destination sooner as well.

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2) Always have a GPS or smartphone: I’m not sure where I’d be without my Samsung Galaxy smartphone. It not only helped me navigate to my resort, but it also helped me locate restaurants, local attractions, and movie times while I was away. If you don’t have a standalone GPS, make sure you have a smartphone (or tablet) that can help you get where you want to go. It’s a lifesaver!

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3) Have TONS of music: There is nothing more annoying (and more boring) than trying to find  local radio stations while on your road trip. And depending on where you are–which may be in the middle of nowhere–you might not be able to pick up a signal at all. Before hitting the road be sure you have all of your favorite music, audiobooks, or podcasts on hand. Luckily, I have  XM radio in my SUV, so I can pretty much listen to my favorite stations anywhere. And when I got tired of that, I switched to my phone to listen to albums I already downloaded.

Sunset at the Loews Ventana Canyon.

Sunset at the Loews Ventana Canyon resort.

4) Keep the plan very minimal: Part of the fun of a road trip is being able to decide what you want to do on the fly. If you plan out a jillion activities in advance, your vacation will feel like a job. If you MUST plan, pick a few attractions you know you really want to see and leave the rest up to how you’re feeling that day.

Do you love taking road trips? In the comments section, share your tips for pulling off a good one!