Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lucy's Here in Houston

Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia is making its world premiere here in Houston. The exhibit runs from August 31, 2007 to April 20, 2008 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Hall of Special Exhibitions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Best Radio Station in the World!

Every year when I go down to the Virgin Islands I get excited because I get to listen to this station! 104.3 The Buzz broadcasts from St. Thomas, USVI and covers the Virgin Islands and PR. Why don't they have stations like this in Houston?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hurricane Warning for Caribbean

The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane warning for the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Martinique.

Hurricane Dean presently is located about 330 KM east of Martinique and is moving west at 23 mph. The center of Dean is expected to cross the Lesser Antilles early Friday morning. Maximum sustained winds are near 100 mph and is currently rated a Category Two Hurricane.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Entertainment: Shirley Heights, Antigua

Sometimes it can get a little boring in the Caribbean just lounging around on the beach, drinking Pina Coladas, occasionally getting off your towel to jump into the water, eating out at restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Some ole, same ole.

Well, suppose you are in Antigua and a little bored with it all and looking to get out of your boring vacation routine. If this sounds like you, maybe you should check out Shirley Heights.

Shirley Heights on Sunday nights is the place to be in Antigua. People from all around the world gather at the peak of this lookout located in a National Park to experience magical sunsets, Antiguan food and drinks (Beware the punch! Don't say I didn't warn you!) and excellent steel bands and reggae music!

There is an $8 entrance fee, but they give you a ticket for your first drink free. In addition, the food there is excellent, so come with an empty stomach! It's usually a little slow around 5 pm but it's perfect light to see the beautiful island and yachts down below in English Harbour. As the sun sets, the crowds pick up and things get exciting! Ask your hotel or tour guide about Shirley Heights while you are in Antigua. You will have an amazing time!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Luxury Travel: Featured St. Barts Hotels

Tom Beach Hotel is my absolute favorite hotel in the Caribbean. Located on St. Jean beach on the island of St. Barts, Tom Beach Hotel is a luxurious hotel that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Created by Carole Gruson and Thierry de Badereau, the founders of the popular restaurant Ti St-Barth, Tom Beach Hotel is another successful St. Barts venture. Colorful and relaxing, Tom Beach Hotel is luxurious enough to boast a discerning and selective clientele, but scaled down to a fun loving and open minded group instead of a stuffy, Boca Raton sort of guest. This hotel only has 12 rooms, which makes it feel even more comfortable.

Of course, the hotel has a bar and a restaurant, La Plage, which is the sister restaurant to Ti St-Barth.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Travel Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions answered in mine and Kristina's book, Do It While You're Young: A Travel Guide for the Modern Girl.

What kind of luggage should I take?

It all depends on where you’re going and what you need to take with you. For the most part, you’re probably not going to need near as much as you want or think you will need. You’ll probably want just one medium sized suitcase (or if you’re backpacking you’ll want a good backpack). Then you’ll probably want a carry-on bag if you’re flying as well as a day bag or purse. This is probably all you will need. See chapter 8 about for more info about packing.

Isn’t it unsafe for young women to travel?

Absolutely not! As with anywhere you go in your own city, you need to take precautions for safety. We’ll discuss common safety practices that you can and should do no matter where you are in Chapter 8.

How much time to I need to travel?

It depends. If you only have a few days to get away and relax, that is fine. Whatever it takes to get you out there and experiencing the world it fine by us.

If you have more than a few weeks, that just means you have more wiggle room. Some people take months off to travel and others take years. It just depends on you and your resources (money!)

A big group of us want to travel together? How is that going to work?

Well, it may take a little more planning on everyone’s part to get the logistics right, but it is definitely doable.

Set rules and guidelines before you go about deciding on destinations and how to mediate disagreements. It is so much fun to travel with friends and the memories can be shared for a lifetime!

Shouldn’t I wait to travel until after I have retired?

Why would you do that? Why wait until you no longer look hot in a swimsuit to go tropical beaches or you no longer have the stamina to hike to the top of a mountain peak?

Will traveling now be a bad career decision?

If your employers frown upon employees who are interested in learning about the world around them and don’t like the characteristics of people who travel such as determination, ambition, self-motivation and organizational skills then, yes, it’s probably a bad career decision.

Won’t I feel lonely?

It is possible that you might feel lonely on occasion. Once you get out and start exploring you will get over that quickly. You will make new friends and, if you have to, your friends and family are only an e-mail or phone call away.

What if I don’t know what to do?

Believe in yourself! You will figure it out! If not, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help or research for information in a book or online. The great thing about traveling is learning to rely on yourself. For many of us, traveling is the first time we really get to learn independence and it can be so much fun!

What if I don’t know anyone?

Talk to people! The surest way to make friends when traveling is to talk to them, ask them questions and make yourself available. Just like how you make friends back home.

Am I too young?

There may be instances where you are too young. For example, if you are in a country where the drinking age is 21 and you are 18, then, yes, you are too young. Luckily for you, and don’t tell your parents we told you this, the drinking age in many countries is 18 or measured by if you can see over the bar!

Other than that, no way! If you can read this book, for the most part, we believe you are old enough to travel the world.

Am I too old?

Of course not!

Where should I go?

Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless! In chapter 3 we will discuss possible destinations.

What if I get lost?

Well, that is highly unlikely in this day and age. There are GPS systems, online maps, and who knows what else. We don’t think you will get lost on accident. At least not for very long. And we do recommend you get lost on purpose!

What if I get sick?

Before you leave home make sure all you vaccinations are up to date. Pack your prescriptions and if you can, bring extra just in case. We also recommend travel insurance. Often times you will return home having never used the insurance that you paid for. There may be a time that you do need your insurance on the road and having taken the precaution to invest in insurance will save you a lot of hassle, worry, time and money.

You should also be aware of the food you eat and what you drink. In countries that are famous for their unsafe water buy bottled water with sealed caps and be wary of ice made with the local water.

What if I don’t speak the language?

Take a language dictionary if you think you will need it. Sometimes locals will know a little English and will be very pleased to practice on you! If you cannot speak with the locals, try to be polite and courteous. Use gestures (the nice kind!) and be mindful that smiling is a universal language. Remember that speaking loudly will not help them to understand you any better!

What about my friends and family back home?

We will give you tips in Chapter 10 on how to keep in contact with friends and family while you are on your journey.

What if I don’t have enough money?

With a little bit of savings and some creativity you can find a way to stretch that budget. We’ll give you more tips on how to save money and to make money while you are on your journey in chapters 4 and 5.

Think and Get Paid to Travel

I know most people addicted to travel would love to find a way to get paid to travel. Some people have found their niche in the travel world as tour guides, pilots, boat captains, buskers or photojournalists among many other professions. The most popular type of travel job seems to be writing.

Figuring out a profitable way to travel and make money is difficult obviously, otherwise loads of people would be doing it already. I believe the best way to get paid to travel is to find out what other people are doing is to model the idea and then try it yourself. For those interested in travel writing, here are some links of interviews or website of people who get paid to travel and their very wise and realistic advice on travel writing.

Ricks Steves interview on being a travel writer in Transitions Abroad.

Rolf Potts offers advice on how to become a travel writer.

Jen Leo offers tons of advice for travel writers on Written Road.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Thinking About Antarctica?

Norwegian Coastal Voyages has a special going on right now:

Book this 13-day program starting at $4,999 on board the MS Fram before August 31, 2007 and receive FREE airfare with a savings of $750 per person. Offer is good for new bookings only. Offer is valid on select dates. Click here for more information.

Upon your arrival in Santiago, you'll have some time to appreciate this cosmopolitan city while staying at a luxury hotel, before embarking on your exploration voyage. There is only one way to fully experience the frozen landscape and history of "The White Continent," and that's by expedition vessel. With the aid of our expert guides, who provide lectures onboard and off the cuff during landings, you'll have an educationally and enriching adventure.

Do You Really Need All Those Bags?

Not knowing what the future holds in store for you makes it hard to know what to pack. Most people pack way more than they will ever need. Seasoned travelers will tell you to lay out everything you think you want to take with you on your bed. Then, halve it and that is how much you should really take. There are plenty of what-if scenarios, but believe us when we tell you that what-if scenarios rarely happen. With that in mind here is some advice on making the most of what little space you have in your suitcase.


•Passport (for international) or Government-issued Photo ID (for domestic flights)
•Any Visas or money for Visas, entry, or exit fees
•Airline tickets
•Hotel Information: Address, Phone Number, Reservation Number.

Luggage: What kind of luggage are you going to need? It depends on your travel circumstances. If you are going to be staying in one location for your entire trip, the type of luggage you will want probably will not matter. If you are backpacking, of course, you are probably going to want a sturdy, heavy duty backpack. You can find backpacks at REI ( or Bass Pro Shops (

Clothing: There is no need to bring your entire wardrobe with you on a trip. As tempting as it may be, resist the urge and try to pack smart.
What to bring will heavily depend on where and when you are going

•Always bring a pair of pants. You never know when it will cool down at night or you will be in an air-conditioned building all day. Also, if you visit certain countries you will need to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt as a sign of respect for the culture.

•Bring a couple other items like shorts, Capri-length jeans or pants, skirts that you can mix and match with your tops.

•A variety of tops is your best bet for dealing with changing weather conditions. Choose a couple of tank tops, t-shirts, and even a couple of long sleeve shirts. Layering is key in most places. Keep in mind that some countries require women to never show skin. In places like Italy, if you want to get into a basilica they will turn you away if you have bare shoulders. So plan ahead on days you may go sightseeing.

•Always pack a sweatshirt or hoodie for nighttime or cooler days.

•If rain is predicted, a waterproof anorak can keep you dry without making you too hot due. They usually fold up quite nicely for easy packing.

•Always pack a week’s worth of underwear. If your trip is longer, plan on doing a load of laundry. At last resort, you can always hand wash them in your hotel. Don’t forget bras too!

•Socks are key for keeping feet warm in cold weather and keeping feet dry and blister-free in hot weather. Bring a week’s worth and follow the washing rule for anything beyond this.

•Bring a swimsuit or two if you plan on doing any water activities. If you plan on being in the water frequently, having two may be better so you can let one dry while you wear the other one. Also, if you’re doing active water activities you may want a one-piece suit so you don’t have any wardrobe malfunctions.

•Never underestimate when you will need a swimsuit. Even in places like Antarctica, there are warm hot springs!

•Don’t forget a cute cover-up or wrap for your afternoon by the pool. Wraps are multi-functional anyway, so be creative!

Shoes: Yes, shoes are great but your new adorable gold sandals do not need to make the trek to Austria in winter. Pack smart in this category as shoes take up more room than you think. If possible, wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane.

•A pair of athletic shoes will probably come in handy sometime during your trip whether it’s hiking in the Andes or using the hotel’s workout facility. If you plan on doing anything adventurous, shoes like this are highly recommend and sometimes even required for safety reasons.

•Bring a pair of inexpensive flip-flop sandals for protecting your feet from heat and bacteria in gyms, pool/spa areas, public showers, and hot sand at the beaches.

•If the climate is colder, snowy, or rainy, bring a sturdy pair of waterproof boots. Shearling boots are also great for warmth, but make sure they are protected with Scotchguard.

•If you are going near an ocean, lake, or river, consider getting a pair of mesh-type shows that allow you to walk in the water but also protect your feet from sharp rocks and slippery surfaces.

Jewelry and Accessories: Traveling does not mean you have to put a halt on accessorizing just find items that can work with multiple outfits. Bring one or two belts (perhaps, brown and black) and keep earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings to a minimum. Also, keep any flashy jewelry (even it is cubic zirconium) at home.

•Always remember sunglasses, even in snowy destinations, where the sun can reflect through the clouds off the ice and onto your face.

•If you must travel with your expensive jewelry, NEVER check it with your luggage unless you have insurance because once in goes through customs you’re never going to see it again.

Toiletries: You can rely on the hotel for the basics, but if you’re used to a certain brand, you may want to bring it yourself. Also, don’t stress out too much as you should be able to purchase the item, or a local variation, at a local store.

•All the basics for your hair: shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, styling products, brush/comb, hair ties and clips.

•Body and face lotion.

•Sunscreen for your body and face. Be sure to use it everyday!

•Dental care: toothbrush with case or travel toothbrush, toothpaste (bring a large one and share it with the group or opt for a small tube), dental floss, small bottle of mouth rinse.

•If you wear contacts be sure to bring enough for your trip and an additional week’s supply, solution, and a case. If glasses are part of your routine, bring them in their case with a small repair kit.

•Make-up: foundation, powder, eye shadows, eye liner, mascara and lash curler, blush, lip gloss/lipstick. Bring only what you usually bring, not your whole arsenal! Also, check out the packs of make-up that include eye, lip, and cheek product in complimentary colors...great space saver!

•Deodorant is always a must! Baby powder works too.

•If you are a fan of perfume, bring smaller bottles or samples from department stores.

General tips for toiletries:

Plastic bags for everything!

•Look for screw tops over pumps as they are less prone to spills.

•Before packing, gently squeeze the bottle and then lock the top. This will provide an air cushion for the product and it will be less likely to explode in your suitcase.

•To save room buy empty travel size containers to keep things like shampoo, conditioner and lotion in. It will make a huge difference in space. Enough to add an extra pair of shoes!

•If you’re backpacking, you’re not going to need a lot of toiletries, hairdryers, curling or flat irons. When in doubt, leave it out!

Electronics: Electronic gadgets can definitely fill some time during your trip and can also help you make the most of your experiences.

•A camera is a must. Whether it is disposable, 35mm, or digital, you will want to capture the sights and scenery of the places you have visited. Be sure to bring the necessary extras: batteries, chargers, film, memory cards, and most of all, protective cases with straps.

•A video camera is another gadget that can allow you to bring your trip home. However, take into consideration that this is an expensive piece of equipment that has to be carried and protected at all times.

•Consider a camera-video combo if you’re in the market for something new. Two-in-one is a definite space saver!

•Bringing a laptop computer is completely optional and typically, not recommend unless explicitly needed (study abroad). For those Internet-fanatics, rest assured that most countries are flooded with Internet cafes.

•Pack a set of binoculars if you will be going anywhere to look for animals or birds.

•A portable DVD player with a couple of your favorite DVDs can be a great distraction for the perils of air travel. Although most laptops can play DVDs, a portable DVD player costs a lot less and tends to be smaller. Don’t forget chargers!

•MP3 and CD players are great for long journeys. Also, make a note that most airlines have in-flight music now. Check their websites to see if anything peaks your interest.

•Cell Phones are good to bring so that you can make calls when you are at domestic gateways. Once you’re international, most US phones will not work, however, some carriers still get service that will give you the local time.

•With any of the above items, be sure to check out the voltage of the outlet as well as the type of prongs that go into a wall. To use an item you bought in the United States, you will need two converters to use it abroad: one for voltage and one for the wall. Look for a pack that contains multiple prongs so you can use it for all your travels. Even if it looks like you can plug it in but you know it’s a different voltage-DON’T! You risk blowing up your appliances and maybe even blowing out the breakers!


•Ear Plugs: Even if you do not normally use them, a seat near the engine or a crying baby will make you glad you had them.

•Eye Mask: This can block out a bright movie screen and let you have a good night’s rest. Also can come in handy in your hotel.

•Flannel Pillow Case: Makes that airline pillow a little more like home. Also can be used at your hotel in lieu of that starchy white pillowcase.

•Toothbrush/Toothpaste: If you have a flight with meal service or when you will be going to sleep, this can instantly give you a wave of freshness, especially if there is a cute boy sitting next to you.

•Slippers/Socks: Depending on what type of shoes you wore on the plane, bring slippers and/or socks to keep your feet warm. Slippers will also make that walk to the bathroom that much more sanitary.

•Entertainment: Be sure to bring magazines, books, music players (CD or MP3 players), paper and a pen, and other items to entertain yourself. Never rely on the in-flight movie!

•If you wear contacts, bring your glasses, contact solution, and your contact case with you on the plane. As unglamorous as it might seem, your eye will thank you for sparing them of the dryness and pressure.

•Zippered Carry-On Bag: Nothing is worse than when you are flying and your carry on spills under your seat or in the overhead compartment with all your belongings inside.

•Water! Especially when flying, anything else you drink will either dehydrate you or make you sick.

•Layer your clothes. If you are wearing a tank top, t-shirt and have a sweatshirt you add/subtract as needed. Sweatshirts are sometimes even better than pillows!

•Lotion: Traveling dehydrates your skin and you will smell better after that 14 hour flight!

I love Atlanta!

I just got back from my annual trip to Atlanta, GA. Every time I go I wonder why I don't live there. This time was no exception. My best friend, Rose, took me out to some great coffee houses, restaurants and venues while there.

I love the Spicy Chicken Pad Thai and Edamame at Doc Chey's Noodle House.

We also visited Octane Coffee House which was voted the best coffee house in Atlanta for 2007 by Creative Loafing readers. They were having a nut tasting while I was there. Yes, as in pecans, peanuts, most other kinds of nuts.

Another great coffee house that I went to last time I was in Atlanta and returned to this time as well was JavaVino. This coffee house also doubles as a wine bar. Every other Sunday they have wine tastings featuring wines from various regions.

We had dinner one night at Apres Diem, a coffee house and bistro. Food was delicious and the atmosphere was very trendy. I recommend the Nicoise Salad.

My last morning there we had breakfast at Highland Bakery which had a nice rustic, loft-y, bright and airyness to it. I had a delicious omelette with spinach and goat cheese along with coffee with soy milk. I felt healthy.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Travel Bags for your carry on!

Kiss My Zipz has some colorful and fun zippered plastic bags that fit the TSA 311 guidelines for carry-ons.

Bag Features

* Set of 5 bags w /same design
* clear, plastic bag
* quart size
* blue print & zipper
* extra-thick
* Meets Airport Security Guidelines for carry-on items

It Can Happen Anywhere!

Today was just another day in the fight against Houston crime as I, Jerri Stephenson, fought the bad guys fist to fist and came out pretty much a loser.

You know how when you're driving down the street and pull up to a red light where a disheveled man or woman is standing on the curb asking for money or any help possible? Well, they are all over Houston and I'm tired of giving them my money. I'm sure some of them make more than I do. In fact, I know they do! They should be giving ME money. Today I resolved to help them in other ways... I decided to give them granola bars.

I stopped in at Krogers on my way home today to buy granola bars which I have decided to hand out to the people standing on the side of the road. Now, I can no longer avert my eyes, while feeling ashamed and pretending I don't see the people standing by my driver's side window asking for help. I will help them. I will give them nutritious chocolate chip granola bars.

While in Kroger I decided that if these people are hungry they are probably thirsty and hot standing out there all day in the Houston heat and humidity. So I decided to buy a 24-bottle case of Ozarka water to give them water as well. As I'm walking out to my car in the parking lot with the case of water bottles in my arms while in my head patting myself on the back for how smart and good I am to be so helpful I notice some suspicious guys hovering around my Jeep. As I walk closer I see that they have knocked out the window on my rear driver's side window and are reaching into my car for whatever they can reach.

They see me walking toward them and begin to quickly jump into their getaway car which is backed in beside mine. They have the doors open and one of the guys is getting into the back seat quickly on the side closest to me. Not really knowing how to confront these guys who have broken into my car I do the next logical thing: I throw the case of water at the head of the guy closest to me and begin pounding him with it! He fights me but I keep hitting him as hard as I can with the water until finally the drivers start driving off and I fall back onto the pavement into the glass from my window. I watch the guys drive off and reach for my phone to take a picture of the car and license plate only to realize I don't have a picture phone!

The guys are driving a maroon Buick but instead of a license plate it just has a "Carmax" sign for a license. I think to myself, "how convenient."

I don't know what to do next because my hands and arm are bleeding so I realize I need to call 911. When the police woman arrives she shakes her head in disbelief as I tell her what happened. I can't tell her what the guys all look like because I was too busy pounding one of the guys head with water bottles! Another car was broken into the day before she tells me but there are no witnesses. I tell her that I guess I wasn't afraid because the guys looked like "normal" guys. Not like "thugs" or criminals. She says that if the guys had broken in and stolen anything it would have been a simple misdemeanor but because I actually fought the guys and was hurt it became robbery and assault which is a FELONY! She writes up the report and says to me, "There are two things I want to tell you: What you did was incredible brave and the bad guys don't always look like thugs. They could have stabbed you, shot you or pulled you into the car, taken you with them, raped you and killed you." In other words, you were incredibly brave and incredibly stupid!

So, the good news is I caught the guys in time that nothing was stolen. The bad news is it's probably going to be about $1500 to replace the window and my insurance deductible is $1000.

So after all the drama is over and I'm on my way home with my broken window and a bloody arm, I pull up to a red light with a guy sitting on an upside down bucket on the side of the road. I roll down the window and with my still bloody arm I hand the guy a granola bar and bottle of water. He looks at it, throws it on the ground and asks me for a dollar!