Chin.Deep.In.Life.

Wander Often. Wander Always.


Macedonian Sunset 19′

If you have followed my blog for a while, you know I like to travel. You also know, it’s been only two years since I upped my game. Since 2017, I’ve been to fifteen countries. In a few months, I’ll be off on a three-country Central American adventure, and later this year back to South America. I’ve climbed Macchu Picchu, went back to the Motherland, marveled at Ancient History in the middle east, and spent a week with retired elephants at ENP
Prior to 2017, I traveled when I could. Now I make it a priority to travel at least twice every year and visit multiple countries during the trip. I was a travel agent for a short time, before settling into my current vocation. I planned affordable family-friendly vacations. My first post for 2020 listed some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, one of which is travel. I’ve put together some helpful and timely group travel tips. In a few months, I will dedicate an entire month’s worth of posts to travel/vacations. Stay tuned!
Memories of family vacations last a lifetime. Even though everything is getting more expensive, you can still create those unforgettable travel memories for your children. One way to afford vacations is to travel in groups. Going on a trip with close friends or extended family members cuts travel costs dramatically.

Consider these tips:

  1. Save on the costs of traveling to your destination. Depending on how far away the desired destination is and how many people are in your travel group, consider renting a van.
    ⦁ Renting a van allows all of you to share the costs of the gas to get to and from your destination. Even if you’re traveling with just two other couples and no kids, you can save big when you all travel together.
  2. Rent a place to stay as a group. If you’re traveling together in a large group, consider renting a large place to stay together at your destination. For example, did you know you can rent entire houses when you vacation? Or even large condos that accommodate 10, 12 or even more people?
    ⦁ Everyone will be more comfortable. You’ll have the convenience of a full kitchen. Many times, these homes rent by the week, include swimming pools, and many other amenities. Yet, the costs will be far less than staying at a hotel.
    ⦁ When you rent these types of accommodations, you will save money by splitting the cost several ways.
    ⦁ Sharing this cost will cut both your food and lodging expenses and make your trip more affordable.
  3. Chip in together for groceries. Shop at a local Sam’s Club or BJ’s Club to buy in bulk. As you know, one of the big expenses, when you’re on vacation, is meal costs. If your accommodation has a kitchen or at least a kitchenette, with a microwave and refrigerator, you’ll cut your vacation food costs in half or more.
    ⦁ Eat out for a couple of special activities when you’re out and about all day. Otherwise, save money by eating at your home away from home. This vacation is more affordable than you thought. Your food bill on vacation won’t be much higher, than your food bill at home.
  4. When you dine out, take look for restaurants where kids eat free. It’s money in your pocket when you don’t have to pay for your kids’ meals.
  5. Babysit each other’s kids. When you travel with other families, take turns babysitting, so each couple gets a night out alone during the trip. There are no babysitting costs and everybody’s happy. Depending on the ages of the kids, there might be a responsible teen who’s happy to hang out with the kids and babysit.
  6. Get group rates when you take part in tourist activities. Many tourist attractions will reduce their admission rates for large groups. Take advantage of this money-saving opportunity!
  7. Before you leave, check online, to see if the attractions you want to visit have “free days.” Many museums and some amusement parks offer a day during the week when you can visit without charge.

Even though your budget might be crunched, consider traveling as a group with your friends or family members’ families. Always take trips with people you are close to, and whose company you truly enjoy! Nothing will spoil a vacation more than being stuck with someone whose values and belief systems are vastly different than yours. I know.
Enjoy cut-rate deals on vehicle travel, house and condo rental, bulk groceries, and some tourist activities when you travel in a large group. Yes, you can take an affordable vacation this year and enjoy your friends and family members at the same time.
Many people prefer to wander by themselves. Solo Travelling Made Easy was written for you! Here is what you can look forward to in the coming months; February- diet and lifestyle, March- financial wellness, April- time management, and May vacations and travel.
Thank you for being here! The internet offers a plethora of choices. I am grateful you made this blog one of yours. If you find my posts helpful or know of someone who can benefit, share the love!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Fix Your Focus


Are you constantly wishing you had more time? Truth is, you probably have plenty of it. You’re just not focused, and not using your time wisely. Everyone receives 24 hours each day. There’s a reason why some people accomplish much more than others.

Reasons you never have enough time, and how to free it up

You fail to prioritize. What’s the most important activity you must do in order for you to accomplish your objective? If you’re not asking yourself this question regularly, you’re not getting the most bang for your time and effort. It’s easy to stay busy and accomplish very little. Once you decide what is important, the next question is “ “What is the best way to accomplish it?”
You waste it. This could be due to procrastination, and inefficient work habits. Make the choice to avoid wasting time, period.
You’re disorganized. When you’re not organized, everything takes longer than it should. You spend valuable time looking for a pair of clean socks, car keys, searching for computer files, trying to pull things off at the last minute.
Disorganized people never seem to have enough time, they’re frequently late with their work. There are countless resources available (apps, calendars, dropbox, project management software, etc.). Use them.
You have too many distractions in your life. Social media interactions, TV, needlepoint, your baseball card collection, noisy kids, clutter, or your prize-winning rose bushes. Remove unnecessary things and schedule. Minimize the distractions you can’t remove!
You don’t start your day early enough. Most of us do little in the evening. Often, we ly around the house, crawl social media etc. Many highly successful people skip these hours, by going to bed and waking up extra early. Your brain tends to shut down by the late afternoon, whether you started your day at 9:00AM or 5:00AM. Give yourself a few extra productive hours, by getting up early and going to bed early.
Failing to keep track of your time. Track how you spend your time every day. Switch tasks when appropriate so everything receives the attention it requires. Keep a simple journal. Make a record of how you spend each hour.
You don’t have a plan for the day. Your days shouldn’t be random or determined on the fly. Plan the next day before going to bed. Spend your day executing the plan as much as possible.
You’re not focused. We’ve been told to “focus” or “concentrate” since kindergarten. Too bad the education system never taught us how. If we sit down to work on something for an hour, how many minutes is our attention truly focused on the task? We probably have plenty of time to accomplish our daily tasks, if we focus. Practice meditation. Practice focusing. Every change we desire takes time. Be patient with your setbacks and failures.

Make the most of your time by prioritizing, removing distractions, and learning how to focus. You have all the time you need if you’re willing to make the necessary adjustments to yourself and your life. You have 24 hours each day. What will you have to show for tomorrow?

Until the next post,

Juan

Show Me The Money!


Where is Your Money Going?
At the end of each month, do you find yourself wondering where all your hard-earned money went? Discovering your financial drains will enable your money to work for you. Funding savings, debt repayment, or other things that are important to you instead of just disappearing into nothingness. A little detective work might be necessary, to figure out where your money is going. The best way to get a handle on your finances is to get everything accounted for, then tackle your financial goals.
How can we identify our money drains and improve our financial outlook? Consider the following tips:

  1. Calculate all income. The first thing to do is calculate all sources of income for your household. Put together a chart listing income sources and amounts for the past 30 days. This will give you an idea of how much money is coming into the household, which is the first step to determining, how much is going out.
  2. List your expenses. List all of your regular monthly expenses such as rent or house payments, car payments, credit card and loan payments, gas, food, utilities, cable, internet and others. Try to list exact numbers, or estimate if your expenses vary. This will give you a good idea of what your basic expenses are.
  3. Track every penny. Spend an entire month tracking every cent that you spend. Write down your beginning balance, and every dollar in and every dollar out. This is the key to determining where you’re losing money.
  4. Interpret the results. Compare how much money you’re bringing in, to how much you’re spending every month on bills, and other expenses. Are you spending beyond your means? Are you allocating money for savings, investments, and retirement?
  • If you have money drains, determine what they are. Are you spending $4.00 on an iced latte Monday through Friday? Is your dining out expenses much higher than you expected? Are you eating from vending machines or expensive fast-food joints at lunch, rather than brown-bagging it?
    5. Put this information to good use. Armed with your written guide (below) to your income and expenses, you can control your finances more effectively. Once you have this information laid out in front of you, it will allow you to fine-tune your finances little by little, until you’re putting more money into savings and less into “money drains” from month to month.
  • Determine ways to reduce these money drains. Can you brew coffee at home to save money every week? Can you cook at home to save money on eating out? A few dollars saved every month in different areas of your budget can definitely add up to your benefit.

Once you determine how much money you have coming in and going out, start directing your money toward what’s really important. Trim down your expenses or find ways to increase your income. Do not spend beyond your means. Your financial future will shine much brighter when you prepare for the future you desire. Use this free Budgeting-A-New-You-Workbook to help you get started!

Next week, look out for simple ways to take back more of your time.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Breakfast to Bed


The number one New Year’s resolution?! It’s no secret: lose weight and get in shape. Many diets over the years have promised weight loss and general improvements in body composition. How many of them actually work – and at what cost? The idea behind most diets is to maintain what’s called a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is eating fewer total calories per day than your body requires in order to function normally.
Most people require around 2,000 calories daily in order to maintain weight. A traditional diet asks you to calorically restrict your intake by 20%, which works out to about 1,600 calories daily. This type of diet only focuses on calories, rather than the macronutrients each food provides. Of course, this method will work for many people, but you’ll be challenged when you run into a plateau in your weight loss. For years, people have been experimenting with the use of high-fat diets, and the potential benefits they can provide to weight loss – and fat loss.
Shortly after my return from Europe to the US almost two and a half years ago, the weight gain slowly inched upwards! One day, I weighed in forty pounds heavier. YES. Luckily for me, my height hides a multitude of sins. There was no one in my closet, sewing my clothes tighter every night. I did not indulge in fast food often and tried to visit the gym several times per week. Still, the weight kept coming. Tired of it all, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I never followed diet fads; they exist for one reason.
My search led me to Keto and intermittent fasting. I could eat my favorite foods, but in ways which allowed me to maintain a healthy weight. The result? I’ve managed to lose about thirty pounds. Menopause can be a bitch, when trying to maintain a healthy weight, and doesn’t help my cause. However, if you’re serious about giving the diet a try, there is hope and help available. Late last month, I published an ebook on Amazon about the Keto diet. It is comprehensive, precise, with all the information you need in one place. Packed with recipes, meal plans, tips to handle the “keto flu” and so much more. Use the links below to preview, buy, or share!            

How could a high-fat diet help me lose weight and more fat? It seems counter-intuitive, yet, a high-fat diet can stimulate your body into a state of ketosis – which is very effective at promoting fat loss and weight loss.
What is Ketosis? On a fundamental level, ketosis is a metabolic state. Your body can draw from various sources of energy when needed. Your body’s primary source of fuel is through glucose (from carbohydrates), but when it isn’t present the body will source other nutrients – namely, ketones. Ketosis is a metabolic state that utilizes ketones as fuel when glucose levels are very low. Eating a low-carb diet may enable you to enter ketosis, effectively burning more fat through your metabolic state.
How Do I Achieve Ketosis? Your body will enter ketosis any time you fast for a long duration. Many experts believe that runners actually enter a state of ketosis during the long run, especially if they’ve been carb-cycling. In addition to fasting and exercise, ketosis can also be entered when you’re eating very few carbohydrates – less than 15% of your daily calories, as your body will source its fuel from the fat your intake rather than the restricted form of carbohydrates.
Does Ketosis Really Help with Fat Loss? With any diet, there is always speculation and instances where it may not work. With that said, the ketogenic diet, or a low-carb diet, has been shown to be very effective in promoting weight loss and fat loss. Recent research has even shown that, along with the ability to promote fat loss and weight loss, a keto diet also decreases the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose. It increases the level of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). All of these effects are essential to your overall health.
Are There Any Downsides? There’s always a downside to any diet that doesn’t favor balance. We know that a high-fat diet can be very effective in promoting weight loss and total fat loss, but it may actually be dangerous for those who are diabetic or have pre-existing heart conditions.
You may also lag behind when it comes to certain types of performance. Fat is not a quick source of fuel, so some people, like powerlifters and cross-fitters, will want to keep fast-metabolizing carbohydrates in their diet in order to perform at their best.
Balance Your Keto Lifestyle. Long-term research on the keto diet hasn’t found any major negative health side effects to healthy populations. In contrast, research has even indicated that this diet does promote weight loss and benefits your internal health. Remember, however, that balance in your life is essential. It’s important to avoid thinking that just because you can eat high-fat foods that you should go around having greasy burgers all day. The purpose of the keto diet is to achieve a state of ketosis with whole foods, healthy oils, lean meats, nuts, and dark greens. There’s no doubt about it – healthy eating leads to a healthy lifestyle resulting in a healthy weight, greater vitality, and increased satisfaction in life.
Sharing my journey, providing information, and inspiration are the sole reasons for writing the book. The numbers on a scale don’t determine our value. We should not want to lose weight or change our appearance in any way, because of societal pressures, but rather for own sense of self, and in some instances improved health. I hope you found this post useful, practical, and beneficial.
Next week, I will provide timely and useful advice, along with free downloadable resources, on time and money management.

Until the next post,

Best,
Juan

 

Promises, Promises



At this time of year, you may be considering whether you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution. Maybe you’ve made them in the past and lost interest over time. Or perhaps you buckled down and followed through. Either way, you’re now facing the beginning of another new year. Even if you’re less-than-thrilled with your follow-through in prior years, the new year brings amazing opportunities to challenge yourself in all kinds of ways. Try these ideas to help you set up your resolutions so you’ll be successful during the coming year:

Select an area of your life that’s important to you. One of the keys to choosing your New Year’s resolutions is selecting a goal that truly matters. Ideally, you can find something you want more than anything. This will help keep you dedicated.
Be specific. The whole idea of making a New Year’s resolution can seem over-simplified. You’ll hear people say, “My New Year’s resolution is to get in to shape” or “I want to work less.”
What do statements like, “I want to spend more time with my family this coming year” really mean? Here’s how to be more specific: For the resolution to get into shape, why not state it in more detail? Consider committing to specifics, such as, “I want to lose 2 inches from my waist and 3 inches from my hips.” Another example of being more exacting might be “I want to increase visual muscle definition in my abdominals and my upper arms.”
Make your resolution measurable. How will you measure your results? For example, spending more time with your family may manifest as, “I plan to work 4 hours less per week in the coming year,” or “I won’t work on Saturdays, starting January 1st.”
Structure your resolution using mini-goals. Consider cutting your overall goal into smaller, separate goals. Select the first mini-goal to accomplish in the process and designate it as your New Year’s resolution for the first 3 months.
Consider this example: You want to lose 30 pounds. You’ve struggled to drop the weight in the past. But you want to get serious now. Here’s one way to cut this into mini-goals: Lose 10 pounds in the first 3 months of the year, lose another 10 pounds in the second quarter of the year and drop the final 10 pounds in the third quarter of the year. In the fourth quarter of the year, plan to focus on maintaining your weight loss.
Be realistic. It might not be possible for you to accomplish everything you want in just one year. But you probably can be well on your way to your goal by the end of the year if your New Year’s resolution is within reasonable standards.

When selecting your New Year’s resolutions, focus on what matters to you. Be specific and make your resolutions measurable. Use mini-goals and be realistic in establishing whatever resolutions you select. By addressing your resolution as a process rather than just a goal, you’re much more likely to succeed. And when you achieve one goal, you’re more apt to set resolutions and accomplish them in the years that follow. Start this year to make each year your best one ever!

According to research, losing weight, financial and time management, traveling, and self-care, are among the top resolutions each. In the coming weeks, watch for posts on each topic with helpful resources to help make this new decade meaningful! I’ve also written another book and will share the link with you!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

About Last Year


Consider how many mistakes we make each year. Mistakes are inevitable, and a necessary part of our learning and evolution. Now, imagine if we could learn from them and avoid repeating them. It’s not just our mistakes, but all the things we tried that didn’t work, and the things we saw other people try that didn’t work. Fortunately for us, more than a few things did work out. All of this knowledge can be applied to this coming year. After doing this for several years, our lives would be pretty spectacular! Since you’re learning so much each year, why not put it to good use? Unfortunately, we don’t change our behaviors very much from year to year. Commit to making this year different.

Apply the lessons of the past to the future

Review the lessons this year has taught you. What did you learn, both positive and negative? What mistakes did you make? What were your biggest wins? Now, consider your family and closest friends. What challenges did they face? What were there successes? What can you learn from them? Do you see a pattern in any of your mistakes? Many of our challenges are caused by making the same mistakes year after year. How can you apply the lessons?

  • Take the best and the worst from your past and learn from them. Make use of that information to enhance your life.
  • Find alternatives to your least effective actions. Maybe you procrastinate too much or consistently show up to work late. What are the changes you want to make in the coming year?
  • Identify those behaviors that support your success. Perhaps you made your spouse feel loved and lost 25 pounds. Those are behaviors that you might want to repeat.
  • Create new habits. Choose habits that will counteract your less-effective behaviors and ensure your positive behaviors occur more frequently. Consider these examples:
    • Procrastination: Take immediate action when you know something needs to be done. Remind yourself of the pain and frustration procrastination has caused in the past, and imagine how amazing it will feel to complete the task.
    • Late to work: Place your alarm on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get out of bed. Choose your clothes the night before. Commit to leaving the house in plenty of time.
    • Spouse: Spend 15 minutes each day doing something nice for your spouse. Remind yourself of what you love about them.
    • Lose 15 lbs: Continue making healthy food choices and working out three times each week.
  • Monitor yourself. If you’re not careful, you’ll quickly slip back into your old patterns of behavior. Change is challenging, and you can expect to face a lot of internal resistance. Avoid being too hard on yourself when you slip. Just vow to redouble your efforts going forward!
  • Celebrate your successes. When you apply what you’ve learned from last year, you can expect some great things to happen. Appreciate them and be proud of yourself. This is the best way to ensure good things keep happening.
  • Reinforce behaviors by feeling good about yourself. You’ve faced some tough times in the past. Take advantage of those challenges! You’ve had some good times, too. Repeat them in the future. Your past is the key to your future. Take what you’ve learned and leverage that experience going forward. It would be a shame to repeat your mistakes in the future.

You can have the best year of your life, but not if you fail to learn from your past experiences. Your results have lessons to teach. Are you paying attention? I hope you found these suggestions most helpful and will find ways to integrate the suggestions into daily living.

Starting soon, I plan on switching things up a bit; focus on one topic each month, post more often, and provide helpful downloads, worksheets, and reports.

Until the next post, Happy New Year to you and yours!

Best,

Juan

Balkans- Conclusion


Blessed Are The Curious- For They Will Always Have Adventures

Kotor, Montenegro: charming, idyllic, picturesque. It was absolutely wonderful to walk around the smaller, quieter, and more relaxed feel of the city. The cobbled streets, small quaint shops, and way of life resembled a storybook! I’ve got this fascination with alleyways- the town square offered more than enough. Our time there was too short. On Sunday morning before leaving for the next country, we needed food for the long, twelve-hour train journey to Serbia. I ventured out alone, into the local market. I am African American, 5 ‘10’, with a two-toned mohawk. Some locals in the smaller cities, such as the one we spent the night before, don’t have televisions and haven’t seen a person of color before. Well, let me tell you, there was quite a commotion. I left them all with lovely smiles and waves.

Serbia! The journey to the country took us through one of the most scenic rails journeys in all of Europe. A mixture of canyons, gorges, and snow-capped mountains provided a stunning backdrop. Our first stop took us to the more laid back, and second-largest city of Novi Sad, and home of the Petrovaradin Fortress. Novi Sad has the largest preserved military base in Europe, is home to the Danube River. The stunning Roman Catholic Cathedral is not to be missed. To put it bluntly, I’m quite surprised by how rude people were in Belgrade! Having come from previous countries with kind, warm-hearted people, I was taken aback. The group collectively agreed this might be the default behavior. It was interesting to hear their side of the atrocities, that took place in Bosnia, and NATO’s bombing of Serbia. Nevertheless, we made the best of it. Serbia has incredibly delicious food!

Macedonia. We spent the longest time here. First stop- Skopje. A city rich in historical culture and Ottoman heritage. There is so much to love about this country and its kind people. I knew I was going to love this city, the moment we walked up to our hotel steps, and a group of young folks greeted us with warm, wide and inviting smiles! Welcome to Skopje!! The birthplace of Mother Teresa! We toured the small chapel where she was baptized, receive her first communion, and God revealed her life’s mission. On display are some of her last writings, copy of the Nobel Peace Prize Diploma, etc. Skopje is saturated with statues! The main square boasts one of Alexander the Great, riding into the city. The street fighters, aka dogs, customarily run after bikes, mopeds, cars… anything with engines, and cause quite a ruckus. Other POI’s are the archeological museum, old train station- the hands of the clock still at time the earthquake hit.

In Northern Macedonia, we stayed in Bitola; boasts a relaxed coffee culture, that is popular in Europe. This ancient city of Heracles, named after the Greek god, Heracles, dating back to the 4th century BC. Archeologists discovered it in the 1930s. Heracles was built by the father of Alexander the Great. It was a once prosperous city; the ruins were excellent, the amphitheater, once used for gladiator fighting is impressive, and of course some amazingly preserved mosaic floors. The 1km long” BSeen” is the most famous street in Macedonia. One of the most beautiful church interiors I have ever seen is at the 170-year-old St Demetrius Church. It takes your breath away

A scenic drive through the beautiful Galicica National Park brought us to stunning Lake Ohrid-one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. Saint Naum Monastery, built in the 900’s, with the original artwork still in place, is the most photographed place in Macedonia. the surrounding it took my breath away. A highlight of this visit was an afternoon boat ride on the lake; enabling visitors to soak in historical settlements reported to be some 3000 years old. The architecture is captivating, as is the culture. We roamed around the city built by Phillip the First, the Father of Alexander the Great, and the home of the Cyrillic alphabet. No visit to Lake Ohrid is complete, without the view of the sun setting over its expanse.

Kosovo. We traveled through Monrovia National Park, as we made our way to our seventh and final country, making several stops along the way. We roamed around the grounds of the thousand-year-old St John The Baptist Monastery, saw pieces of the cross, on which Jesus was crucified, a small piece of John the Baptist’s rib, and was in for a treat, as we witnessed a Muslim wedding. By the time we arrived in Kosovo, everyone was knackered. There is a huge Bill Clinton statue in the center, along with a Hillary Clinton dress shop. For some time, Bill and Hillary were popular names given to children at birth.

The US Army base is one of the largest and most well-paid employers in the country. Kosovo is the poorest of the Former Yugoslavia nations, with unemployment at over 30%. Immigration to countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland remain high. Our hotel was five stars… go figure, the poorest country, offering the best accommodation on this trip. While clearing through customs, the immigration officer chatted me up, wanting to know about my experience. His parting words were “You’ll always have a home here”

I had a glorious time in the Balkans, with the exception of Serbia. The majority of the group shared the same opinion. Two months later, countless photos remind me of how blessed I am, to have had this magical adventure. For the first time, I am able to say I ate breakfast in Bosnia, had lunch in Croatia, and dinner in Montenegro. Travel is fatal to ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and narrow mindedness, sometimes it’s the journey, not the arrival that matters, and adventure is always, always worthwhile.

Enjoy your next one!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Adventure Is Worthwhile


Balkans- Part One

I wore my Fitbit during the 16-day Balkan adventure, over seven countries. The stats are staggering: 199,693 steps, climbed 387 floors, walked 92 miles, averaged 3500 daily calories, and returned home 10 lbs lighter. Whew! I’ve always loved traveling, but only decided to get serious about it, upon my return to the USA, three years ago. As I edge towards my mid-forties, my goal is to visit sixty countries by the time I hit my fiftieth birthday. I am more than halfway there and with a lot of traveling to do, between now and then.

By far, this was the longest, most extensive and tiring trip I’ve taken. I decided to use group travel, with no idea, the company, while it does have a range of ages traveling, mostly catered to an older crowd. Other than myself, there was a 33-year-old from Nottingham, all the others were over 60 years old, with the oldest being 77, an American from Boston. It didn’t take me long to get over the massive age barrier, as I threw myself into the experience, and really enjoyed every single day! We stayed in 11 hotels, took an untold number of bus and train rides, with the longest journeys being 11.5 by train, and 9 by bus. By the last day, I couldn’t care less what happened to my suitcase-I would have been happy if someone took it off me for good.

Slovenia. Our trip started in the capital city of Ljubljana, often called Europe’s green capital. It’s a perfect eco-friendly place! Filled with culture, art, music and German architecture Our guide informed us, it’s one of the richest and most developed of the Former Yugoslavia, and by far THE cleanest place I’ve ever visited. Endless vehicle restricted areas, underground parking, etc. I did not see one piece of trash on the ground! People were incredibly helpful and friendly. A shopkeeper gave me a free magnet after I bought a handmade ring, another immediately altered a belt that was too big. Locals went above and beyond to ensure our time there was memorable. Lake Bled is one of the most beautiful and tranquil lakes, I’ve ever laid eyes on. The view overlooking the city from the Ljubljana Castle tower is magnificent. I found a calligraphist in the church’s chapel making bookmarks; my request simply stated: “Live Your Dreams” Grabbing a bite one of the city’s cozy “Grostilnas” gives you a chance to taste a wide variety of mouth-watering local dishes.

Croatia. The women in the city of Zagreb truly look after themselves- even the elderly with canes and walkers, were well kitted out. Wowsers. Zagreb has a large mix of Austra-Hungarian architecture, with wide socialist buildings. The Cathedral and 13th century St Mark’s church is a highlight. Most tourists spend their time in the more popular cities of Split and Dubrovnik, which made Zagreb a delight to explore, without rubbing shoulders with strangers at every turn.  If you’re ever in Croatia, please plan a visit to the stunning tourist attraction of Plitvice National Park- a pride for Croatians! The park boasts 16 interconnecting lakes, waterfalls, and beautiful wildlife. Dubrovnik, the old city, and World Heritage site, was crawling with tourists. The popularity of Game of Thrones is a huge factor. Locals explained the municipality is thinking of a way to have fewer cruiser ships dock daily. I have this love affair with Cathedrals, and Dubrovnik has a particularly breathtaking one. The old pharmacy, thousands of years old, marketplace, and impressive sweet shops are not to be missed either. Dubrovnik took my breath away!

Bosnia & Herzegovina. Put it on your list. Especially if you like history! First stop- Sarajevo. We arrived at the train station where the time stood still. Ironically, on the day of our tour, it would be the coldest day, with nonstop rain. Other than Macedonia, it was one of my favorite countries on the trip! We visited the symbolical bridge, where the events which took place there, eventually led to WW1. There is a LOT of history here. Eye witness accounts relayed stories of the thousands of lives lost in the siege in the early nineties, the infamous tunnel, built by the Bosnians in an effort to maintain some method of control. The tunnel meant they could organize theatres, schools for their children, etc. The father of our local guide still has shrapnel in one of his legs. He saw his best friend killed before his eyes. Too many nations stood by and watched women and children die in the streets.

Despite what happened here, the resilient spirit of its people is reflected in their kind and easy smiles, eagerness to help, and generous hospitality! Apparently, it’s not unusual to be invited in for dinner/tea, even if you just met. The visit to the tunnel will always be etched into memory. There is a wall lined with photos of volunteers and servicemen, who worked for years, using manual tools. A water pump was the only available type of machinery used. A sweet older lady, whose home still stands with shrapnel in its walls, and is still alive, often waited with water, to give the weary men and soldiers, as they exited the tunnel. The original was about 800m long. Today, visitors can only walk about 25m, due to airport security. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, and Robert De Niro have visited and walked through portions of it. Please visit if you can!

The particularly scenic rail journey to Mostar was fantastic! We traveled through mountains once occupied by the Serbian army. The scenery gave nothing about the region’s dark period away. Cobblestoned streets, old stone buildings, and the famed Mostar Bridge, which spans the Neretva village, is something out of a fairy tale. Traditionally, local men go around collecting money from tourists. Once they get to about 30 Euros, a swimmer, dressed in trunks, jump into the lake below, which is some 23 meters high, to the delight of onlookers. The Genocide Museum sobers, but I was encouraged by thousands of handwritten, kind notes, lining the walls of an entire room. From strangers to visitors and locals alike. I always take time to add notes to places like this, and mine was a simple “Thank you” next to my name, along with one of my favorite quotes “If we judge people, we have no time to love them”. The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is a huge stain on the world. Lest we forget.

One post cannot is enough, to squeeze the beautiful magic of my Balkan adventure into. Naw. I will conclude next week. Happy to answer any questions you have, if you’re considering a visit to these parts!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Solo Traveling Made Easy!


 

Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)

A few days ago, I returned from a 16 day/7 country Balkans adventure. My head has been spinning ever since, and honestly, I am still trying to catch up on much-needed sleep. On average I slept about 5.5 hours each night. But, who needs sleep for an undertaking of this nature? You sleep when it’s all over. What a thrill ride! It started in Slovenia, then onto Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and ended in Kosovo. Yes, I am knackered.

In the coming weeks, I will share with you my experiences. I need to finish gathering my thoughts, and catalog everything I saw, felt and experienced. I traveled through the Balkans with a group of strangers, who later became friends. I’ve also done solo travel. I thought it fitting to share some helpful advice, that has served me well over the years. It’s intimidating traveling alone. There is a fear of loneliness and boredom, staying safe, budgeting, and so many variables to consider. I hope you find today’s entry most helpful!

Traveling solo can be a great adventure. If you travel alone, you’ll get to know yourself better and follow your own schedule. If you’ve been holding back, these tips will make it easier for you to head out alone. You’ll learn how to deal with three of the most common concerns.

Coping with Loneliness and Boredom

You may wonder whether you’ll get lonely if you travel alone. The truth is that learning to enjoy your own company makes solitude rewarding. On the other hand, you can surely find companions if you feel like mingling.

Engage fully. Be mindful of your surroundings. Getting caught up in new experiences as you travel will leave little time for boredom.
Take a tour. A day tour is ideal for meeting new acquaintances. It’s easy to strike up a conversation when you share the same interests with others and you’re away from your usual routine.
Dine out. Look for places with communal tables or ask your hotel to recommend them. Eat at the bar if you feel conspicuous at a table.
Stay at a bed and breakfast. The owners of a bed and breakfast may be happy to talk about local attractions. Hostels are another good choice. There will likely be other guests and maybe even other solo travelers at these types of places.
Frequent local businesses. Visiting the same fruit stall every day will quickly turn you into a regular. Exchange greetings and let them know you appreciate any advice on what to see.
Talk to new people. Approach your fellow travelers or locals who seem friendly and helpful. Trains and coffee shops are two good places to start.
Do volunteer work. Sign up with a non-profit organization and perform group volunteer work. For example, travel to exciting places while building new homes through Habitat for Humanity.
Pursue solitary activities. Visit an art museum or lie on the beach with a good book. Enjoy the peace and relaxation you get from being alone.

 Protecting Your Safety

Security is an important concern for any traveler. Some basic precautions will reduce your risks.

Blend in. Looking like a tourist may leave you vulnerable. Walk with confidence and step inside a hotel to check your map.
Be alert. Observe what’s going on around you. Ask your hotel to advise you about where it’s safe to walk. If you’re near an unsafe area, avoid unnecessary risks by taking a cab to your destination.
Watch your money. You may want to wear a shoulder bag strapped across your body or under a coat. Consider using a money belt or clip. Solo travelers are often the perfect target for pickpockets.
Assess your fluency. Language skills also matter. Ask yourself if you can communicate clearly in case of a medical emergency.
Gather your documents. Put a copy of your identification and health insurance in your pocket. Leave a second copy with loved ones at home.
Check-in at home. Speaking of home, give your full itinerary to at least one person. Call or text them every few days to let them know you’re okay. There have been way too many instances of travelers disappearing on a trip and nobody realizes it for quite some time.
Pack light. Leave your valuables at home. Traveling with minimal baggage increases your comfort and your ability to move quickly.

Sticking to Your Budget

You may run into what’s called “single supplements” on cruises and tours. This is when the venue charges single travelers extra to try and make up for the lack of a second customer. Still, there are plenty of ways to vacation affordably on your own.

Save up in advance. Put money aside gradually. Small amounts add up over time.
Be flexible about timing. You’ll tend to find the best deals at the last minute or several months before your departure. Be open to traveling during the off-season for further monetary savings.
Look for special bargains. Check discount travel sites and look for deals. Some venues may even be willing to waive the single supplement.
Accept roommates. Contact travel companies who specialize in solo travel. Ask to be paired up with another single traveler who is headed to your same destination.

Spend a whole week at a pumpkin festival or browse the Louvre at your own pace. Avoid being intimidated by the thought of traveling alone. Solo travel creates memories you’ll treasure for life.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Foolproof Tactics For Negative Nancies In Your Life


Photo Credit: Mark Adrianne

Recently, a sweet, dear friend reached out to me for advice; how to deal with negative people. I thought about my experiences. Humbled by the trust placed in me, I asked for a little time, to formulate my response. For years, she had dealt with negative nannies, another day or two, won’t make much difference. In my line of work and personal experiences over the years, I had my fair share of dealing with negative energy.

I am sure, you know someone like this.  Since they’re everywhere, it’s important to know how to coexist with them. Negative people can have an impact on your attitude and your day. But that doesn’t have to be the case.  There are ways to mitigate the effect negative people have on you.

Practice these strategies to avoid allowing negative people to negatively impact your life:

  • Understand that you can only control yourself, but you can influence others. You can’t snap your fingers and make the people around you take a more positive view of the world. But you can control yourself and how you choose to react to their negativity.  You might even be able to sway people over to your way of thinking a little bit. Set a good example and be a positive influence on those around you. Accept people for who they are. It’s just easier that way.

  • Be grateful. One way to maintain a positive attitude is to remind yourself of the positive. When you’re feeling run down by the negativity around you, make a quick mental list of the things in your life that you’re thankful for. It will give your mood a quick boost.

  • Remember it’s not about you. Everyone has their challenges and issues. There’s no reason to be upset that someone has a negative attitude. It likely doesn’t have anything to do with you at all. It could be circumstances in their life or their basic nature. Just keep on doing what you’re doing.

  • You have the choice to be positive or negative. You can choose to be affected or not, by the people around you. Focus on yourself and keep your chin up. Take care of your business and let others view the world however they choose.

  • Speak up. Sometimes it can be helpful to tell people to just cut it out. Many people will push until someone calls them on their behavior. Have a frank talk with someone that’s perpetually negative. Maybe they’re not aware of the impact they’re having on others.

  • Spend time with positive people. Recharge your batteries with the positive energy of other positive people. Get away from those negative people and spend time with people full of a positive attitude. It doesn’t take long to recenter yourself when you surround yourself with the right people.

  • Make the most of your time alone. Make the most of the time you have to yourself. Do things you really enjoy doing. Read positive affirmations. Watch feel-good movies. Put your attention on positivity. It can be like armor against negative people.

  • A headphone can be your friend. If the situation permits, put on some headphones or earbuds. What you can’t hear can’t bother you. Consider listening to a positive podcast or music that makes you feel good. If your work situation allows this, it would be silly not to take advantage of it.

  • Stay away. There are plenty of people in your life that are optional. Stay away from negative people that you don’t have to associate with. You have some control over who is part of your life and who is not.

Negative people will drag you down if you let them. Take steps to minimize the impact they have on your life. Practice gratitude each day, and you can maintain a positive perspective. Block negative people out with headphones and stay away from as many negative people as possible.

Negative people are not going anywhere, but you can learn how to deal with them, and still be a positive person. I hope you found these suggestions and tips helpful. Though not a one size fits all approach, like everything else in life, take what you need and leave the rest.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

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