Category Archives: Health

What Is It About Traveling Alone That Makes You Smile

Satellite image of Hilton Head Island, South C...

Satellite image of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a while since I posted on the blog. I have been working on too many things and constantly think that I have neglected what I enjoy doing and that is writing and sharing my thoughts to those of you who really enjoy traveling.

Recently, I was on the phone with a friend and explained how much fun I had while visiting Hilton Head, South Carolina on my own. The person on the other end of the phone said, ” Oh I am so sorry you had to travel on your own. I imagine it was not much fun.”

I never thought of traveling alone as a sign that I needed sympathy but none the less it seems to me I would like to write about how much fun it can be to travel on your own. First things first always leave an itinerary of where you are and where you are staying. It is the same for camping alone or biking or hiking alone. Needless to say there was a movie recently that put it into perspective how you can get stuck and if no one knows where you are. Well just fill in the blanks you get the idea.

So you are going solo. The positives are so many I do not know where to start. Well it is easy to not have to wait for someone while you are getting ready to leave for your trip. Booking is the same as anywhere else. Find the best price for  your ticket. Rent a car. Double check with the hotel, bed and breakfast, timeshare what ever you are doing and be on your way.

One of the most liberating things about opening up the door to your room is if there are three bedrooms like the condo I stayed in you can stay in all three or just pick one. You can go shopping for food or go out to eat and there is no bargaining of where you should go. You just do it.

Places to see? Be adventurous. I was at the Marriott Surfwatch. They have a few amazing pools. Its amazing how many people just swim up to you and start a conversation. I met a great family and enjoyed wine and cheese with them and then went on my own. I walked on the beach. After a long afternoon I headed out to dinner.

Sit at the bar and enjoy dinner. I met more people who were from all over the country and they were more than willing to share their favorite places to go and visit and eat. I decided after hearing about Charleston I would take a ride and enjoy the day.

It was a quick two hour drive and it was a beautiful drive. Once I arrived in Charleston I did a quick tour of the Southern Museum and looked at the Confederate Soldiers uniforms and other artifacts. Being from the North I was interested in seeing their perspective. Well we all know how that war ended.

I walked through their slave market and it was sobering thinking about all the lives of the individuals at that time. The market now is filled with artists and shops not unlike any other tourist area.

I headed back to Hilton Head and had a great time while I was there. I realized by the fourth day I was saying hello to the furniture and announcing that I was home. It struck me that maybe I needed to connect with some other people and enjoy socializing. Well it did not take long. There are plenty of people who are willing to entertain you if you are open to meeting people.

I am far from shy so it was easy to just sit and talk to people. We covered a tremendous amount of ground and I was content. The subject of Savannah came up so I decided to go to Mrs. Wilkes and have lunch. Oh you do not know who Mrs. Wilkes is? Well I want to tell you that I have been there many times before. She was an amazing woman. Sadly, she passed away last year. However, her family still carries on the tradition. It is the best of the best in Southern cooking. I went to Paula Deans after Mrs. Wilkes and there is no comparison. Its like comparing your best recipe to an imitation. No offense to anyone who thought Paula Dean was the only way to go.

See the secret of finding good eats is asking the locals where to go for a good meal. They will search their memory banks and tell you about some local great blah blah place. Stop them and ask,”Where do you like to go?” Best food found that way and inexpensive.

So the moral of this blog is if you want to travel alone. Do it. Do not let anyone or anything stop you. I love to travel with my son, friends and who ever. The best time you can have is traveling alone. It helps set the reset button on getting to know yourself again. You do not have to travel far. Take a day trip. Walk in the woods. Go to the beach. Go to the lake. Unplug and just hang out in your backyard. Spend some quality time with yourself. Work on healing yourself and learn to like yourself. You are all you have. You may meet tons of people but when they walk away you are left with you. Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life. Denise

The Road Most Traveled

A personal photo of the Sandy Hook lighthouse ...

A personal photo of the Sandy Hook lighthouse taken in October 2004. Viewed from the south end of the lighthouse, facing north. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was enjoying this morning soap from Brazil. Yes it is the simple things in life that make me smile. You know for the last few years when ever I travel I collect two things. Stones and soap. That is right. The first flight was to India. I went with a group to experience Darshan. It was a wonderful experience. I watched everyone else picking up really great things to bring home.  I looked at the ground and picked up the most amazing stones and geodes. I still have them to this day. I have a small collection of rocks from all over the world.

I am not talking about boulders. I mean pebbles that are still there. They are not big enough to be called rocks. Still they are colorful and I did not break apart the road or trail when I picked them up. I live in a very rocky part of  New Jersey where my garden seems to grow rocks on a daily basis. So taking one or two stones from an area is not going to create erosion.

The next favorite part of being in a country is buying soap from where I am visiting. Some countries have incredible soaps. They are light and fragrant. When I have visitors who come and stay with me that is the one thing that I ask for. Please bring me a bar or two of your favorite soap. It is simple and the memories that it brings up are wonderful.

Well I am in search of today. I am going to the Ironbound section of Newark which has a supermarket that may have what I am searching for. The reason I started this post was really to provoke in you what do you bring home from your vacations? Is it something simple like a feather or a sea shell that you found on the shore.

I had a visitor from Finland who stayed with us for two weeks. We went to the Jersey Shore which is amazing number one. She was really taken aback looking at the mountains one day and the ocean the next. She thought that New Jersey was what most people think it is. I guess we like it that way. Who would guess that the phrase the Garden State is still true. Well as we say here “Stay Away”. You would not like the beauty of the ocean and the magnificent coast line anyway.

Back to the post. Oona collected some shells that had washed up on shore. We carefully looked around and she found the most delicate small shells and polished stones. My guest grabbed them as if someone else might take them out of her hands. She smiled and said that her mother would really enjoy them as a memento of her trip.

It is the simple things that make me remember the good in life. When I visited Hawaii last year I enjoyed the coffee and a sun tan lotion call Maui Babe. I ordered it when I ran out. I have fresh coffee “imported” from Hawaii monthly. I know being a part of the US it is not really imported but I dream about Hawaii and the can still see the mountains and peaceful coast when I settle down with a cup in the morning.

So what do you take home with you when you go on vacation. How do you make memories? A book of matches? Its the simple things in life that make me smile.

Peace Denise

Family Emergencies and Travel

One of the worst experiences a person may have to live through is the trauma of hearing a loved is ill, in an accident or has died. Whether you receive the information at home, work or while away the intensity of the loss or change in your day-to-day pattern may cause you to go into panic mode. Some people go into high action and others just stop in their tracks.

No matter what level of emotion you are experiencing there are things that you need to know before that event occurs.

So how do you plan for the family emergency? What are the steps you can take if you away on holiday and something does come up? First things first you need to remember it is never too late to plan.

One thing you might want to consider investigating is international travel health insurance. There are many companies that handle international health insurance.  If you are traveling with family you do not want to be without care. Look into plans that have emergency transportation and air transport back to the States , Canada, the EU or where ever you live.

Investigate by calling your domestic travel insurance number and really grill the person on the other end of the phone. Find out what their time requirements are for reimbursement. What do they cover? Ask hard questions about medical care and air evacuation. Meaning transport back to the States or where ever you live. What is the deductible and what are you responsible for. Medical coverage is really important.  Planning ahead and knowing you are covered is such a relief.

I know when I had an accident with a car I called and spent one hour on the phone. I found out I needed the exact location and time of the accident. Photos were needed. A police report. Then reporting it to the rental car company. Filling out their paper work and making copies of their paperwork. I made lots of copies mailed and faxed the company their paperwork .

I had to call the company to follow-up every few days. It ended up that they paid in full. It took  time on my part and I did not let up. I had everything they asked for including my credit card statement which they also needed as proof of rental. Find out all the details and follow them to the letter of the law.

Look at the countries you are going to visit. Become familiar with their hospital policies and how their 911 services work. If you are going to be traveling in the country far away from  urban services then how about going to your local first aid squad or to the American Heart Association and take a CPR course or basic first aid skills. Being forewarned and forearmed is the best way to approach this.

Now imagine you are the lonesome traveler. You are feeling pretty good about that trip to a tropical paradise. Finally, you are going SCUBA diving. As a diver myself I know how important it is to know your equipment and know your surroundings. Never go anywhere whether its diving, climbing, walking or riding around without having a friendly note or two given to someone nearby that you trust or a trusted friend or family member to look out for you if you do not return.

Traveling alone is great but have some basic first aid supplies with yourself. Include a flashlight, a map (yes they still exist), water and non perishable food. You never know. The reason I said a map is for the obvious reasons. You do not have internet access everywhere in the world. I know for some of you that may be hard to imagine but it is what it is.

Know how to say help in all the languages of countries you are visiting. Learn to say  “I need your help.” “I am lost.” “I am injured.” “I do not speak much_____.”That I would say is one of your biggest weapons concerning emergencies. Learn simple phrases so you are not passed by when you are in distress. It’s just good to know simple phrases anyway when you travel. My most important phrase is, ” Coffee with cream to go please.”

Know where the local embassies of your nation are. If you do not want to register with them that is fine. Just know where they are. Also find out in advance how much currency from your home country you need with you incase you have lost your passport. That is right you need dollar bills to get a new passport. I do not know about Canada or other countries.

Email a copy of your birth certificate and your passport to yourself and family members as insurance incase yours is lost. These are good things to have available and accessible if you are in another country.

If a family member becomes ill in the United States and you are home first thing I would do is call the airline. Let them know what your emergency is. If one person is unwilling to help you then hang up and call back. You will find a person who actually is able to give you a decent price for the flight you need.

In the case of death you may have to prove to the airlines for reimbursement a death certificate. Also in the event of an illness you maybe able to receive a discount by providing a note from the attending facility or physician.

Do not wait until it’s too late. Do not wait until you are facing your ground zero. I am a firm believer in calling the airlines, trains, buses, cruise line and rental companies. Call before you go. Call and ask them what is their protocol. Is there written material they can send you? Have it somewhere safe. Bring it with you or email it to yourself.

You may still be standing their stunned if an emergency arises. However, when you get your composure back you will be grateful that you have the steps, the knowledge and the  plan to get you out of this painful situation.

I know that you are a wonder filled person and plan to enjoy every second of life. I know that you will enjoy every second of life. I also know that there is peace in knowing how to handle emergencies with grace. May you be well. May you and your family be healthy. Most of all enjoy life. Its the best vacation that you will ever enjoy.

Peace

Finding The Best Way To Make Life Work

Hello everyone. Today I am going to discuss how to make a plan for your trips. You see everyday we have the opportunity to live life to its fullest or just let the day whittle away. For myself I have been gathering information for my new book and find it really amazing at how many quotes, ideas and inspiration is just flowing through me, again.

I just got off the phone with a friend who works for Jimmy Buffett. She has been on the road for many years and has traveled to many of the places that I would like to visit. We both shared our concepts on what makes a place an ideal area to visit. For me its the people, the food, and nature. Sometimes its the buildings but always is there a beach or mountains close by. That is my idea of a great time.

So what drives wanderlust in a person? What makes it go from a dream to reality. Well my fellow readers it takes desire. Without the original desire there is no interest to get to your goal. Ah the goal. So how do you go about making your dreams come true? Well there are lots of ways that I know of first do as much research as you possibly can from books at the library to various websites that provide the information that you need.

You can also visit embassies, AAA, or just download what you need. Speaking to friends or people who have lived or visited the places you are interested in is also a great resource. So now where is your plan? Please know that you can do what ever you want to do. You just have to start. That is the hard part for most people. Have the dream and then the execution of that dream.

Start with how much you want to spend then get busy and make that happen. Look at the cost of first class, business class, and economy class. If you are going on a long trip well break it up if you have the time.For example traveling from an airport in New York to an airport in Asia is a very, very long trip.

Give yourself time to enjoy where you are going. Learn that it is ok to take a break stop off in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Hawaii. Spend a day visiting on either way or both ways out. You are allowed to have breaks or (legs) on your flight. Besides it gives you a new place to visit. Maybe you always wanted to see Hawaii or you name it just let yourself be in control of how you journey.

Do not stay loyal to your airlines if they do not give you a great price. I was checking flights to Fiji(NAN). I could go on United and be loyal and pay over $5000.00 for economy. Yes, that is right, economy! So I researched at who lands in the airports that I want to land. That is always a great way to start. Find out who flies in before you waste your time trying to match schedules.

I discovered that Pacific Air flies there. I took the time to find the reviews of the airlines and their service  however, its not receiving great reviews. The price was $1600 from Los Angeles. I looked at using airline miles to LAX(Los Angeles). It would cost me approximately 25,000 miles and $15 round trip. Hugh savings out approximately 20K miles but hey is it worth the $5k in dollars!

If you do not have airline miles then look to see which airlines are having promotions or specials to the places you want to visit. There are plenty of times where you can save a bundle by flying into the airports who offer the special. The only thing it is costing you is time. If you like to save your money for other things than the savings of $50.00 to $400.00 interest you then do your homework ahead of time.I would rather have the money in my pocket and know I have more to spend on what interests me than give it up to the airlines.

Back to the task at hand. Have an idea or a dream to know where you are going. Search out and research. Look at all your options. Decide on how much to spend on your flight, hotel, B&B, transportation and food. This will help you write out a game plan on how much to save weekly to make your dream vacation come true. Do not lose sight of your goals. What are you willing to give up in order to make it happen?

You have heard this all before. Buying coffee daily at $3.00  (figure you have a bagel or yoghert when your buy your coffee right?) a pop is $21.00 a( 7 day) week times 4 weeks is $81.00 a month times 6 months is $486.00. Lets face it on your days off you stop to buy a coffee. Some habits are just habits.

Bringing your lunch to work will save you an additional $8.00 a day so that is times 5 work days is $40.00 a week got the idea for a month its $160.00. Here we go again at 6 months its $960.00. Oh and that $1.00 tip you leave 5 days a week times 4 weeks times 6 months give you an additional $120. So lets add this up by just bringing in your own coffee, lunch and oh I forgot water. That cost is from .99 to $2.00 correct so let’s use the middle number and that is an additional $160.00 in six months. Where can you find a place to visit with the money you have saved. The total is $1686.00. That is correct. Add it up.

So grab a pen and paper or get out a notebook on your notebook and look at the endless possibilities. Imagine what you could save if you made your own dinner 6 nights of the week. The average night out costs between $30 to $75 a person. If you go out at least 2-3 times a week you are spending $90.00 a week on what? Make it once a week or just have appetizers instead of a meal. Drink water and cut out the wine. Go to a BYOB. You will save loads of cash.

Take that $30.00 a week times 4 weeks times 6 months and guess what that is an extra $720.00 for your trip. So lets add it all up. $2,400.00 saved. Your trip is paid for and you will not have a bill. Be creative and look at other ways you can save so you keep the money for your future. Well for another time.

Dream big. Enjoy life. Plan well. Life is best lived with joy.

Peace to you all .Denise

The Way We Look At Travel

Have you ever wondered if you are going to visit the places that you have always dreamed of? Do you look at your wallet and say there is no way I can go to visit this place or that. It’s just a dream and dreaming is all it will ever remain.

I have the following questions for you. Since I enjoy writing about travel and finance there is another topic that is near and dear to my heart. The question of how long will you live?

That is right I went there. One thing about life is that we always assume death is a visitor that will come into our lives but we look at it as a destination that we see in the distant future. We base most of our decisions on the ability to block that out of our minds and look at either the present or a future that may not come.

I am not trying to stir an emotion of fear or morbidity. I just want to state a fact. Recently, I noticed that on many sites that I have been visiting the one thing they talk about in being frugal is to deny yourself and live on a shoe string budget. While it has its merits there is one thing they never take into consideration. It is that you do not know when you reach that magic age of 30, 40, 50, 60 or beyond will you have the strength, energy or health to do the things that you always wanted to do.

2011 I decided to put my dreams on the table and go for the big guns. I enjoyed so many trips with my son that I was almost traveled out. Is that even possible? This year due to changes within my life I have stepped out on my own and have a business that is doing well. I have to say. I will talk about that later.

Looking at my income, expenses and long-term goals I took a deep breath at the cost of my medical insurance and all the day-to-day bills. I must have looked like the RCA Victor dog. My head was tilted as if I was waiting to hear a voice from above. “Take a trip to see Mom.” That is what my inner voice said loud and clear.

So on the web I go searching all the flights that go to Del Rio, Texas. Let me tell you the only direct flight to that Texas town is Continental Airlines. The price from Newark Airport fluctuates. Sure I will look at other airport to depart from. It does pay to leave from airports that are within a 50 mile radius. There may be sales that you have not thought of. I also include in my cost  parking.

Many times I will fly out of Stewart Airport because of the price of parking and time on the Thruway out ways the $24 a day to park in Newark. Honestly if I am paying $60 more for a flight and the cost of the over all trip is decreased even by $40 that is more money for me to save or spend.

The cost of my final destination is also factored in. At times it is just cheaper to fly directly into San Antonio and rent a car for $60 and drive. The only issue with driving to Del Rio is that most rental agencies put a big warning that driving within 50 miles of the Mexico border is not recommended.There is also the border patrol that has a permanent building and stop along Highway 90.

The towns of Ulvalde and Hondo are speed traps. If they say 35 miles and hour just do it. They will pull you over going 2 miles over. It happened to me I received a warning because the patrol man happened to have worked in Jersey City, New Jersey at one time. We spoke for a while. He wistfully spoke about his days in Jersey and all the food I take for granted like Pizza. Seriously, that is what we discussed. After 20 minutes chewing the fat I was on my way. Factor in the 2 1/2 drive to Del Rio from San Antonio sometimes it is just not worth the so-called savings. Remember I have to make the trip back to the airport.

With that in mind many times it is a wash to fly directly into Del Rio and just enjoy the extra hours with my mother. Money is not everything. That leads me back to the original thought I began with. Travel, money and savings.

Life is short my readers. I am not saying go overboard and go into debt. What I am saying is if you really want to do something that is a burning desire that desire is there for a reason. Do things while you are working. You can always make the money back. Start saving right now for that trip to where ever in the world you thought you wanted. Research like mad. Look into all the bargains there are.

For example right now if you wanted to go to Iceland and were thinking about renting a car well visit the SIXT.com site. This car rental agency is offering a great price on rental cars to that beautiful country. Imagine flying to Iceland from Boston for around $675 round trip. Rent a car for the week for approximately $125. Look for bed and breakfasts to stay in or look to friends who might have time shares. Ask them if they would be so kind to help you find a deal. They are able for $75 on top of the getaway packages let you have a coupon to stay at an incredible hotel or  resort. However, if you have a car then you can explore like a native.

That was just an example so lets say there are two of you. If you travel the right way and book a trip 7 months ahead you would be able to pay off your trip in advance including the hotel or bed and breakfast. You need to have around $1000 or so for the week. I think in 7 months of being psyched and going on a vacation diet you can make it happen. You know the show the Biggest Loser. Well how about taking that concept and seeing how much your dream trip would cost and give yourself 6 months to a year to make it happen. This is the vacation diet. You would be the Biggest Traveler.

If you do this week by week  you will be surprised how much money you can save. With my handy calculator that is $416.66 a month. So lets see you would have saved $2499.99 that includes airline ticket for one, car rental and money for hotel plus $1000 of spending money! I never take a credit card out on my trips. I only use it for rental cars. Why go home with debt? Listen can you save $104.16 a week. Ok, let me make is so much clearer that is $14.88 a day. Really that coffee and lunch or dinner out with friends will always be there. Bring them over your house for a dinner. Someone brings wine. Go to the library and take out a DVD and enjoy your life.

Honestly folks. When I last looked no one promised you the future. I know for a fact that life is extremely fragile. Our lives are about fragile as an egg that drops out of our hands and crashes to the floor.

So what are you waiting for. Look up that trip. Go see your family, friends or new and exciting places. Plan and then just do it. Conversely if you have to opportunity now to go then just pay it off in the reverse plan of what I just proposed above. Listen folks my mom like all people well she is aging. The time I have with her is very precious.

What is more important to you? The love and the life you have now? Or the belief that you will live forever and life can wait. I worked as a paramedic for many years and know that life is short. You have no guarantees.

Feel the life flowing through your veins. Dance to the music of the never-ending joy that comes your way. Do not end up waiting until you retire to enjoy life. Live well and stay healthy. Oh yeah I almost forgot I have a new business. I have ventured on my own. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I have a private practice and work with individuals, couples and children. I love what I do.

Feel free to contact me about my blog or any questions you may have. Life is large my friends but our lives move faster than the speed of light. Embrace life. Embrace yourself. You are the most loving person you will ever meet. You are the most interesting person you will ever know. Explore this wonderful world of ours.

My hope for you is that I am adding to your life. Take my tips about travel and try them out. I will continue to share what I have learned along the way. Peace to you all Denise

Travel and Doing What You Love To Do

Hello today I will be writing about travel however I also want to address something that is also very near and dear to my heart. There is a reason I write about about travel, personal development and money. It is because I am writing what I know about and have taken the time to learn. Life my readers is the best teacher in any phase of your life. It takes you out of the classroom and into the world which you live.

When you know you love what you do then you are not working. I have taken this to a new level in many areas of my life. Finding your joy is so much a part of our daily lexicon. For some it makes them say “What?” for others they say, “Ah!” Living life on life’s terms is not that easy when you have a basket full of things that you have to work on. However, if you are able to surround yourself with individuals who are supportive and really have your best intentions at hand you will find that you can move through any situation. Remember everything in life is temporary even our lives are temporary.

I was in contemplation yesterday and realized how I was casting a shadow over my accomplishments and joys in life. When we have something large or small we are faced with it really does “overshadow” our thoughts. It is having the capacity to pull back and recount all the good you have created in your life. Really go to a place when you felt confident, happy, loved or just peace. When you can anchor your thoughts and resume balanced thinking. That simple formula is true. Control your thoughts and you will be able to control your life. Not anyone elses but your own. Have confidence in yourself always.

So how will I blend this into travel today well here it is. How to get the courage to take the trip you have always wanted to on a shoe string budget. There are those of you who are able and have the resources to travel where ever you choose and when ever you choose. I will attempt to unravel the crazy world of travel and how to be your own travel agent and guide.

First decide how much money  you want to spend and how much money you need to save. My first choice does not depend on distance it depends on my ability to take time off and how to continue to have a flow of income while I am away. For those of you who have vacation time available plan your trips on a long weekend. Take off on a flight on Wednesday night take off  work Thursday and Friday and Monday. That will give you 5 days of travel and 4 nights at a hotel or bed and breakfast.

Depends on how good you are with lack of sleep on going back to work on Tuesday you can actually travel abroad for an abbreviated trip and with a little planning you can have the trip of a lifetime. I use all resources. As a AAA member you can have your passport photo taken for 75 cents ($0.75) that is correct people. They have free maps of various countries. You can buy their guide books and that is just a tip of the iceburg of their services.

Travel off season. I love to travel off season. The price breaks are unbelievable. You will not be missing anything traveling to Savannah, Georgia in the spring or the fall. The only thing missing is the heat. Not just heat but the door open to hades heat. I love Hilton Head and Savannah at the end of the season in September. Everyone is back at school and you have the beach to yourself and its still warm enough to go swimming. Think outside the box.

Buy your tickets either way ahead of time or last minute that is the only way to get a great price. Join Farecompare and look at Trip Advisor. I have been a contributing writer lately its fun. Make sure you are reading the review of a traveler and not a planted comment from a rival hotel or facility. It does happen.

If you are renting a car make sure you have a loyalty program attached to collect airline miles. I know I did mention this before but its worth mentioning always. Even in Europe and the UK when you rent a car it is not like the US. Get the full coverage and if  you are able to find the full and I mean full coverage in the discount price go for it. I have found SIXT as a great rental service in Europe. A small car for a week to ten days will cost around 475Euro. However that is with the full coverage. Why you may ask pay for the full coverage.

Well in Europe and the UK every little ding and scratch you are responsible for. That is right every ding and little itsy bitsy scratch and if you chose the waiver you will be billed directly to your credit card. I was standing at Heathrow Airport listening to a woman who was so upset. I had never rented a car in the UK before.She thought it was an outrage that she had an additional 100 British Sterling Pounds added to her bill for a scratch in the windshield.

I was so glad I was behind her in line. I signed up for the full boat. At that time I had rented from Hertz and it was quite a financial lesson. That is what made me research rental car companies thoroughly afterward I now realize that if you are going to travel and move about the country you need to know the strict rules and regulations in regards to that particular country.

So why rent a car? Well I added up the train costs, bus costs and other costs and for myself and my son it was cheaper to rent a car and travel around the country side. Besides it gave us a certain amount of freedom to go and stop and see small villages you are unable to see when you are on mass transit. Parking was not a problem. We usually parked for free at the bed and breakfast or hotel that we were staying in and used the metro system of the area we were in or just walked everywhere.

So that is that for today. Travel smart and plan well. I will discuss plane flights, best seats and best places that are off the travel radar to visit. Why not see things and places that you will hold close to you for a lifetime. Life is worth living even when you are having a bad day. Take care.   Write me anytime Denise

Starting Over

There are many individuals today will find themselves in position that they never thought they would be in. Either a job has downsized or they have been let go. A relationship has changed drastically because of health, aging or ending. A child is grown and you are now in an empty home.

There are so many stages in life in which we do not anticipate happening that we find ourselves standing on the ledge on what we knew and feel like we have been pushed off not knowing where we are going to land.

It can be a frightening and emotionally overwhelming place to be. It is not easy to grasp that life as you have anticipated it to be has changed. In this world of constant change and intense bombardment of information from all forms of media and communication you were hoping the one thing that would be constant is your life.

Well your life as you know it has been altered forever. For some of you it is about your integrity and your belief in yourself. For some of you it is about your ability to control the emotional changes. What ever it is you are going through it will not be an easy journey for a while. I know that going through change is not easy at all. I have been in so many personal changes in my life that it makes me empathetic to individuals who say their lives have been altered by situations out of their control.

What I can say to you is this. Is yes at first this looks like a curveball that you did not expect. Take the time to heal. Find a friend. Seek counseling. Give yourself time to be able to look at yourself and  know you as a person are not defined by your career, family or relationships. You are defined by who you know yourself to be. Everyone makes mistakes. We sometimes hold ourselves to such a high standard that no one in the world can match it.

Learning the difference between healthy emotions and unhealthy emotions is very hard especially if you believe that you are bad-period. What has happened to you may indeed be life altering but you are not bad. You may have done something that is a deal breaker but if you did not do something willfully it is still considered an error.

Learn from your mistakes. Do not blame anyone. Heaven only knows you may be beating yourself up so badly that you are not eating or sleeping. Give yourself time to heal. Go over your past accomplishments and experiences and feel the good and remember who you are.

Time getting to know yourself may not come easy especially if you are reliving the  moment over and over again. This part of the experience is similar to having a head injury you just repeat over and over again your past mistakes or what you might have changed. Life just is. When you can come to terms with the steps necessary to move on take them.

One thing  I know for certain is that people who love you do not stop loving you through hard times. People who believe in you will prop you up. People who are not there for you never were in the first place. Hard lesson in life but it is there. Believing in yourself and forgiving yourself is the way to begin starting over.

You cannot move forward and start over if you stay stuck. Our conscious is there to guide us. However if you are stuck you will not move to the next step in your life.

I will discuss tomorrow how to continue to believe in yourself . Life has many stops along the way. Detours in life are always there. If you feel that your life has fallen apart well maybe it has however its how you brush yourself off and pick up the pieces to move on will serve you better than just dancing on the broken pieces of yourself. You can start over. We all can.

2012 Here We Are

There are so many things about the new year which is very exciting for me and hopefully for you. I have made a decision to share with you many things about my life and travel. Last year I had made many of my dreams come true with travel.  I have already explained to some of you the way the ways you can save on travel. This blog is going to be explaining how I saved my airline miles by using a specific credit card. There are many out there that offer miles however you have to tailor to your specific travel needs. There are plenty of airlines that have alliances or work as teams.

In my case I have chosen Chase cards because I have had a Star Alliance account and used my miles for travel. This year alone I found that if I want to visit a friend in Alaska it would cost me either $367 plus 25K miles and a tax of $7 to make it the grand total of $374. This would be a long day and I would have to have a total of three connecting flights. I would still be able to collect miles one way but forfeit collecting miles on the reward travel. So this is how I went about looking at my trip.

Usually if  you fly on a week day you have a better chance of flying a more economical flight. It is not possible for everyone but this is the ideal. For example if I am leaving a New York City airport on a Thursday and decide to return on a Thursday the full fare as of todays date from Continental Airlines is $1000. Looking at Alaska Air it was $874. Looking at my budget it was not working for me at all. In this economy to pay that price for a week trip just does not seem worth it. Last year I spent $580 for the same ticket. Again timing is everything. Last year I left in March. This year I may be going in June. There is a lot to be said for traveling off season.

So I began the usual routine of looking at both airlines and seeing if there was another airline as part of the Star Alliance that I could use my points or airline miles. I found a flight from Newark one way to Anchorage with two stops and a total of 10 hours for $478 one way and return 25k airline miles. Because I know how to bank my miles this year I have achieved Gold status so even with an economy ticket there is a strong indication I will be placed in first class.

Basically I am looking at going first class for the price of a one way ticket. This past year I have learned a tremendous amount of information about how to achieve point status. You can do this many ways. You as a traveler can fly everywhere and pay lots of money to achieve mileage or you can economize and travel via train and other partnerships and earn segments. It takes 30 segments to achieve Silver Status on the Star Alliance. That allows you to have your luggage  being tagged at the airport as Elite. You have access to the Clubs at the Airport and you have an upgrade of your ticket if there is availability.

Segments are technically given as anywhere from point a to point b. So if you fly direct from NYC to Madrid. That is one segment but approximately 9k miles. So you need 25,000 airline miles to reach this status or 30 segments. So if you fly to Boston non-stop from NYC its one segment and 300 miles. If you take a train its one segment. So there are many ways to accomplish the same goal if  you are looking for Silver, Gold or Platinum status.

Recently, some airlines such as Continental, United and US Airways have added features that can help you reach these goals. You can use a mileage maximizer from Continential to boost your miles. You can double and triple your miles and it does count towards your goal of trying to achieve Status.

US Airways and United help you buy your perks. Economy seating for a year. Free luggage for a year. Other perks can be bought at a price. It is steep so you have to evaluate whether it will work for you.

So how can this work for you all this wheeling and dealing. Well for one thing I visit my mother in Del Rio, Texas quite often. She is elderly and has a medical condition that I monitor from afar. It can be quite nerve wracking at times but it is what it is. I am not in a position to be able to always spend anywhere from $250 to $500 round trip depending on the market for a round trip ticket. I make my way there every 6 weeks or so.

Deciding whether to fly into San Antonio Airport and drive the 2 1/2 hours one way is not as bad as it sounds. However, if I can fly directly into Del Rio then it is a few miles to her house and I could walk if an emergent situation called for it. I always weigh out the cost of a ticket vs car rental. With that being said because I have a Veterans Advantage Card I receive 5% off my airline ticket. I pay with my Chase Card. Rent a car with my airline membership which is tied into the program. Pay gas with the card and have points adding up besides the airline miles. Miles are coming in from everywhere.

Of course you have to be goal oriented and know that this takes work and will spend approximately 2 to 3 hours of researching in order to make it happen but it is worth it to save your hard earned money.

I am not advocating that you buy or find this credit card. I am writing from my perspective and what I use to make my life work. This is template for you to use for  yourself and I will be more than happy to help you if you need the help.

What I am going to let you know is that I am trying to have the best life I can have without going into debt. My budget is my own and I am attempting  to assist you into your goals of independence.

I have been discussing travel and finance. The other issues I will be discussing in the coming weeks will also be about personal changes. As a therapist I know that life sometimes is not fair. It is not easy to make life work when you think life is working against you. I know for some of you it is a temporary situation but when you are faced with challenges they may seem overwhelming it feels like it may never end. This is when you find out who are your friends and who was just there to tag along. The next few blogs will be about life and its adversities and how to work with them and hold on to living the best life you can. You are always free to write me at lovinglightning@gmail.com

Peace to you and be prosperous in all areas of your life. Denise

Wondering How to Make the Most out of What You Have

Recently I came back from a trip to Spain with my son. In a previous posting I discussed the use of my points from One Pass Program and I received inquiry in how that works and how to utilize the point system. I will discuss that in full and through the series of blogs I will share with you some of my secrets to success.
First, what made me look at this way to conduct business for travel? Well, to tell you the truth it was while I was in debt up to my eyebrows that I wanted to be free of debt forever. How many times have you seen websites that promise to help you for free but with the price tag of $4.99 for shipping you will receive this “free” CD or what ever.
Being a really resourceful person with time on my hands I began the slow process of going to the library to look up books on how others made money.
I researched finance. I researched mutual funds, etf, stocks, bonds, equity funds, and other ways to make your money work for you. I even learned how to buy stocks on-line from the company such as GE and have my dividends be reinvested instead of receiving a check. This is called a DRIP (Dividend Re-Investment Plan).
I have my own Denise Mutual Fund and for investments of approximately $125.00 they have increased to $3,200.00 not overnight but over time. Some of my stock have split and I have more stock than I started out with. That is just one small example of how you and only you can fend for yourself.
If there is real interest in this subject I will discuss it further but I am digressing
Back to the story. Here I was sitting with debt. What to do? What to do? There is not an easy answer. I worked two jobs and on occasion a third just to have extra income. I made a detailed list of my expenses and what I needed to live with and what I did not need.

I decided that I needed to be honest with myself and I just did not have the money to go around. I needed clothes for myself and my son. I was tapped out with paying bills and doing without cable, internet and other money wasters at the time I needed to be real. So I loaded up my son in the car and when about going to Good Will and Thrift shops. They became my best friends. My son wore Osh Gosh and I found Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, and other designers I would pass at the store. Washing clothes or sending them to the cleaners was easy. I spent my money on good shoes for my son. I was a member of AAA best little card to have if you are shopping for 10% off shoes at various stores. I was big on 2 fers.

Buying food was a necessity so I thought to myself I bet there are even ways to save when buying food. I asked a store manager if there are discounts that they offer at the store . Food that is still good but not at full price. Well he explained to me that at the beginning of the day there are discounts on meats, vegetables, fruits and bread. So there I was when I was off work I would be there at the opening of the store and head off and pick up my groceries. Saved lots of money

I would also grow my own or go to the farmers market. Buying spices in bulk. There are supermarkets such as Food Basics that offer BIG discounts on name brand food, liquors, wine and beer.

Having BBQ’s and dinners at home with friends saved a ton. Besides how much fun is it to have friends over. Its lots of fun. Walking to the store is exercise and cuts down on buying too many groceries. Doing as many home projects that I could on my own. Coupons and buying only those things I needed. Stocking up on items that were definitely worth the price when on sale.

How did I handle my credit card debt? Well as I stated before I really searched every available resource I could find. The only one that made sense was to “Snow Ball” my debt. I took the credit card with the highest balance and paid it down with making payments twice a month. Anyone can do this. You can set up with your credit card company to keep your checking account on file. You do not accept automatic payments. You have control over when you send the payment. This way you are making 26 payments a year. Yes folks I am right – divide 52 weeks by 2. Technically we are paid for working 13 months if you are paid bi- monthly you receive 26 checks. It was not easy. I took the money out of my paycheck (cried a little) and paid every two weeks. At $120 a payment for a year I paid $3120.00.

Then on to the next credit card. I paid the same amount. It took three years to pay off over $12,000.00 remember you are paying interest that cannot be declared on your taxes. It was worth it to me to be patient. If you owe more than give yourself more time. If you can pay say $150 every other week you will have paid $3,900.00. Pretty amazing. I tell you this you may need a second job. I used the second paycheck to pay all the credit cards.

I know this sounds pretty drastic but, I am now debt free. I have a mortgage and still am looking at a small loan from college for my graduate program but, I am certain in the next 5 to 6 years I will be a homeowner who has no mortgage. Did I mention my mortgage is locked in at 3.5% (OH yeah!!) As soon as you get ready to do this you have to put your credit cards away. Seriously, I lived without credit cards for three years while paying them down. Now when I use my cards they are paid off as soon as they come in. Now I get happy to see my credit cards are another form of saving plan for me. I see my cards as way to travel. I wish started earlier using my credit cards and attached them to an Airline Loyalty program I would have had more free trips than I knew what to do with.

While you are thinking about what I just wrote I want to tell you this as well. The day I began to go credit card free I learned to save and purchase only those things I could afford. It is a really different head space. I bought a car for $6000.00 cash. It had 30,0000 miles on it and I have had that car now for 6 years. I have had to put in brakes, new tires, oil change, windshield wiper blades and a new battery.

My other car is VW Jetta. 50,000 miles price tag $2,500.00. Put some money into it but I have no car payments. My car insurance with my son included is $168.00 a month. No kidding.

You are wasting tons of money leasing and buying new cars. I have not had a car payment in 18 years. I take that same amount of money that I would be paying for a car and put it into savings.

Think about what you are spending money on people.Who is more important than you. When I teach my college students I tell them not to become consumer slaves rather become intelligent consumers and buy what you need.

Back to the airlines. I use Continental Airlines. I am now a Silver Elite Member. Silver Elite allows me to have free upgrades to first class if there is available seating on domestic flights only. My credit card has given me 35,000 points to join with the membership I get free access to the Presidents Club at the airport. I also am allowed 2 free bags per trip plus up to 3 members in my party if I use my credit card to purchase the tickets. Plus lots of incentives for reduction in price at hotels,events and car rentals.

I also belong to Veterans Advantage Program which takes 5% off of my airline tickets to Continental Airlines. WIN-WIN. The credit card I have also awards me 2 points for every dollar I spend on my airline tickets. 1 point per dollar I spend. So here is the magic friends. I buy everything I can on my credit card and pay it off as I go along. I use my credit card like you would a debit card. I make payments as I use the card. I pay out of my checking account. So instead of writing checks to pay bills I use my credit card. Your utility company allows you to pay by credit card. POINTS. Your child is in college and you buy books. POINTS. Food shopping. POINTS. Gasoline.POINTS. Dinner with friends or family. POINTS. Presents for birthdays, weddings, christenings, holidays, bar mitzvahs, Christmas, Chanukah, you name it POINTS. What you need to realize is that over the years you have probably spent enough money to have flown first class by POINTS.

Three years in a row my son and I have flown to Europe for free. We recently flew to see my mom for free. It would have been $505.00 each to fly from Newark to Del Rio, Texas. Look it up yourself on line.
I am telling you there are ways to enjoy life with using what you have. I have searched the internet and found ways to rent a car in Europe with all the insurance they offer and you need to get it I will explain why in another blog but for 11 days for under $400.00. Just for grins and giggles look up the price yourself including all the insurance and look at the tax. I can make a penny scream.

So the secret to travel for the most part are points. When you do not have enough points then book ahead of time and pay it all off before you go on vacation. Book your hotel or condo. Condo is cheaper if you are staying for a week. More about that later on.

There is an interactive chart for mileage if you go to the ONE PASS website. You will see how many points you need to travel It adds up fast points that is if you know how to make the most out of what you have. Peace to you Denise.

The Best Use of Your Credit Cards Part 2

Now I will talk exclusively about how I found the best use of my credit cards and other ways to maximize how you can stretch that dollar. First things first. You need to have a plan on how to get yourself out of debt. That is number one I will talk about that later on in following blogs. I honestly can say I do not have credit card debt. I have a mortgage right now and plan on having it paid in full within the next few years.

I was not always this way. I had credit card debt that made me not want to open my statements. I had money going out everywhere all the time. I cannot tell you how close I was to just packing it all up and moving to start all over again. I was not in a position to move. I decided it was time to get serious. The only difference between me and a person who is successful is what? I am one for research. I went to the library. (Free books, DVD’s, internet, music, newspapers, magazines you name it). I started to read every book I could find on finance, prosperity, positive thinking and successful people. The one thing in common is the desire to be a success. So what did success mean to me. I started to write down my goals, dreams and aspirations. I did not care about how they would work out I just knew they would.

I decided I needed to take action. In all the books I had read and individuals I had interviewed, one thing they had in common. Know where your money is going. So I decided to put on my big girl pants and get serious. How bad could it be. I would take responsibility for my spending and see where I could trim back the fat and begin my way to being prosperous and out of credit card debt. What a shock! I was spending more than I made. It was no wonder I was drowning in debt. So I wrote down all of it. Mortgage, phone, gas,heating oil, electric, cable, internet, cell phone, car insurance, medical insurance, life insurance, homeowners insurance, water, property taxes, food, clothes, gasoline, car repairs, vacation, dinners out, movies, etc.. The list went on and on.My head dropped. There was no way I was ever going to get out of this mountain of pain.

So after I had two cups of coffee and lots of pacing around I decided to stop whining. I created this and I was powerful enough to get my life back in order. That is right. I was going to do this on my own. I just did not understand how money works and with all the research I did I was going to make it work for me.

One of the first things I did was this. I stepped back from my life and said it was good. No one showed me really how to work a budget before. My parents never took the time to really explain how to take charge in this part of life. Basically, no one seems to discuss personal finances with their children. It’s the last taboo it seems.

So, I decided if credit cards got me into this, credit cards will get me out of this. As I was looking at my credit cards I was thinking how to make them disappear. I saw one credit card had an introductory rate of 1.5% for a year with a free transfer. So I gave it a shot. I decided that I would transfer the large amount into something I could work with. That went well. I was paying my credit card weekly. Yes weekly. I put myself on  a strict budget. Little by little I took that giant and like David with Goliath I threw my small stone and the giant fell down. Budget here is the key. I was home at the time and on disability and decided I needed to look carefully at my finances and see where all my money is going.

With a little creative math I gave myself 36 months to wipe out my debt. I transferred money from one credit card to the other for around three years. Always read the fine print in these deals. If you wait until the last month you will be responsible for all the fees and they pile up. So this takes you really keeping track of how you are doing this. I realized that it was important to really put them in the freezer for now and just use cash. It was really hard. Not buying much for three years. However, I dropped certain “must have’s because I deserve it” out of my life. It was not a prison sentence. It was PAROLE!  36 month of my time well spent.

However, if you have a home think twice about a home equity loan. They are a tax write off. That is the good part of a loan. You need to be disciplined if you are going to use your home equity loan to  pay off debt. My home equity loan is at 2.5% that is much better than a credit card at 9.9% any day. Use the same method of paying weekly and you will find that paying $50 a week times 3 years is $7800 paid off your debt. $60 a week times 3 years is $9360 paid off your debt.$75 a week times three years is $11,700 paid off your debt. $100 a week times 3 years is $15,600 paid off your debt.

Inversely use the same method for savings. It works very well. 3 year increments work for me.So back to the credit cards. I then realized. I miss traveling. Those who know me I love to travel. So you can either get a job that provides you with the perk. If not you have to make it work for yourself.

Using credit cards to make it work for you. Well it takes a bit of investment. Nothing in life is free. One thing that is free are the airlines who offer programs for loyalty. I belong to Continental Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Airlines loyalty programs. They work for me. I also have a major hotel chain loyalty program. They are all free to join. If it’s free it’s for me.Think Library folks. It is free internet etc..

I also look carefully at which credit cards offer the best bang for the buck. To me that translates into free airline tickets, free baggage,priority seating, and use of their clubs at the airport. I use the Presidents Club in the airports when I fly. They have free food and drinks. Plenty of comfortable seating. Free internet and magazines.It is a good place to relax before the flight. Some of the clubs have showers, lockers,and use of a business area if you need to fax information. Private office away from home.

Some of these credit cards cost for a yearly enrollment. However, it will pay for itself. For example. The Chase Presidential Plus Credit card offers 35000 points plus 5000 bonus points after a year. If you pay your bills with the credit card you will get one point for every dollar you spend. The key here is to pay everything off at the end of the month so you do not get on the carousel of debt again. For example to travel anywhere in the US including Alaska it takes 25000 points for a round trip ticket. Plus you can stay in the Presidents Club Lounge and have two free bags. The two free bags includes 2 bags per person up to four (4) in your party. So if you buy tickets for all four of your friends or family you get airline points for the tickets, plus double points if you fly Continental Airlines. You save them money by not having to pay for bags and you can invite them to the club with you. Of course they have to pay you back for the tickets. That goes without saying. You also get points for airline miles.

Hypothetically  let’s make up a flight.  Book a flight to Spain the miles you will be awarded as points will equal 9000. They base points on airline miles. You buy your ticket with your credit card $1000. So you are awarded 1000 points plus a bonus of another 1000 points because you used your loyalty credit card. You have accumulated 11,000 points for this trip.

Now if you pay for your monthly bills with your credit card you will be awarded however many points you pay . Monthly let’s say you spend $2500 in rent, mortgage, food, gas, electric, cable, internet, cell phone, repairs, clothes, coffee, etc..you will receive 2500 points. Times 12 months equals 30,000 points for the year . You have to link your credit card to your loyalty program it’s very important. Shop Rite has a program with One Pass which is Continental’s loyalty program. Technically you have accumulated 96000 points in one year. 96000 points  you could use 60000 points for one round trip ticket to Europe. The cost $61 for processing fees. Or have two round trip tickets to Hawaii  40000 points each plus a processing fee or three round trip tickets to the US and the Caribbean 25000 points each.

The more miles you fly the closer you get to Elite status. I have made it there and there are more perks. I am upgraded to first class with  my companion even though I pay economy fares. Big savings there. I am allowed free bulk head which have the more room as part of the perk.

Well that is the beginning I have more to share. So over the years I have really learned to save, budget, use credit wisely and there is much more. From buying appliances, finding the right mortgage and anything to do with life. You deserve the best life ever. Remember that. Write me and let me know what  you think. Subscribe to this blog and I hope you learned something today. Stay Rich in spirit and Rich in heart. Become financially independent.