Two years ago, Santa came through in the form of a glitch fare to Johannesburg, South Africa with Etihad Airlines.
I called my sister from another mother and told her she and I needed to hop on this once-in-a-lifetime deal because I didn't know how long it would last. From May 13 to May 19, we explored Jozi and later that week Cape Town. We spent a total $450 for our flights. Of course the experience was fun, but there were resources that put me in the know about these flights before others.
In 2015, I became known as a "the traveler" in my circle -- a name I still feel like I don't deserve -- but it has always been my goal to rack up miles. My excursions included a work assignment at Disney World and quick weekend getaways to Charlotte, North Carolina, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The biggest thing I've learned this year is that being a great traveler is not about getting your hi-res photo featured on a dope travel Instagram page.
You have to put in the work to get to your destination first. Applying the following rules to the traveling game should have you flying high in 2019. There is no secret to this. Take it from this jetsetter newbie.
1. Create a travel bucket list.
As they say, write your vision down and make it plain. Looking back at my journal in 2013, J-burg was on my travel bucket list. A year later, I found an amazing deal going there. Next year, I'm marking other international cities. Use a vision board or wallpaper on your phone or laptop to post a photo of the place you want to go. Seeing is believing.
2. Sign up for flight deal newsletters.
My favorite travel newsletter is The Flight Deal. Every day, they send out a list of deals that that are poppin at the moment. They only last about 24 hours, so if you're planning to get on board, buy the ticket as soon as possible. The Flight Deal does a great job at laying out how to find the deal, and if you're patient and determined, you will be able to buy a ticket at a price that will shock others.
3. Sign up for airline flight trackers.
Many people check the standings of their favorite sports team daily. Or they check the prices of their favorite shoes to see if they are finally on sale. Travelers do the same religiously with airline prices.
My favorite flight price tracker is Airfarewatchdog. The site tells me the prices of round trip flights leaving my local airports. Los Angeles is a city I visited for the first time for below average cost this year because I was paying attention. As a matter of fact, I was able to go from east to west twice, because I caught two super cheap flights. Let's apply the knowledge.
On average, a flight can run you anywhere from $200 to $400 between NYC and Los Angeles. How did I know this? Because I chose to get the e-mails to my inbox daily for these flights and I noticed the price patterns.
Keeping this in mind, when I received an e-mail in June with a flight from JFK to LAX $150 roundtrip on American Airlines, I immediately hopped on it. That's $50 below normal and was within my budget so I moved with the quickness. I had connecting flights in Dallas, but I didn't mind. I had never been to Texas, so it gave me time to explore their airport. And even though I was only there for two hours, I learned two things: people were friendly and their food options were the best I've seen in any airport!
4. Follow social media pages of airlines.
Sometimes airlines offer glitch fares as a marketing tactic. I follow JetBlue on Twitter. In February, I saw that they were running a promotion for super cheap flights between colder cities and warmer cities. They had a flight from New York City to Los Angeles for only $60-something dollars roundtrip! Because the website was hit with a crazy amount of traffic as word spread, I had trouble booking the flight and the price unfortunately went up. When I finally booked it, it was $180. Still not bad, especially since it was a direct flight.
5. Know your search tools!
When I have no flight deal to start with, Google Flights is my starting point. To me, their search picks up the best results. They also allow you to see how much the trip would cost if you took it on another date.
I also have to give honorable mention to Edreams, especially for international flights. For example, when I was booking my flight from Jozi to Cape Town most sites would return prices that were $200-$300. But when I used Edreams, they returned flights for $115 RT.
Skyscanner is great for the more open traveler. Let's say you're not concerned about the destination and more about going somewhere that you can get the most bang for your buck. You type in your departure city and select "flexible" for your destination. They will then list current prices from your destination to multiple cities.
6. Multiple cities? Book flights together
Sometimes you can save by booking multiple cities together. For example, I'm traveling to Jozi in March, and for some reason a one-way flight showed up as $800 in Google flights. I was not accepting this, especially when you can get a roundtrip flight for the same price. Being that I am continuing my travels, I decided to book a later flight to Madrid at the same time. After finagling things, I booked New York to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Madrid for $675 total.
7. Pack light.
This is an art I am still working on. I'm getting better at it. I never ever wear the amount of clothes that I pack. Many airlines are making money off checked baggage these days so packing light will help you save money and have less of a headache.
8. Use Ebates.
When possible, you can receive a percentage back for hotel stays, vacation packages and flights by going through Ebates.com a coupon site. If you plan to book any part of your trip through Orbitz, Priceline, Hotwire, BookIt, etc. you can receive a percentage back for the price you paid. They don't process the money until after your stay or flight. This is an amazing money-saving opportunity.
9. Stay with Airbnb.
I've been using Airbnb since 2013. There have been horror stories in the news. But I've had many great experiences from hosts using the app and the price point you can get for a 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom apartment trumps high priced hotel costs. I love having access to a kitchen when I'm traveling for quick meals and to save money on food. For safety, your best bet is to always go with a host who has high ratings and reviews. Don't go with a host who is brand new if you're not willing to take that risk, and always communicate your concerns before you book. The cool thing about staying in an Airbnb is that your hosts can give you up-to-date local knowledge to make the most of your trip. Also, they are sometimes cheaper than hotels.
10. Join a travel community.
There are many different travel groups and various travel Facebook groups, you can join to learn more about your dream destinations and connect with like-minded travelers. By joining a travel group, you can type, “Hey guys anyone in Los Angeles? What are some good cost-friendly sushi restaurants to check out?" and know for sure you'll get great responses back. From traveling newbie to traveling veteran, everyone is welcome.
11. Don't be too bougie to sleep on the coach.
I'm blessed to have friends and family in different cities throughout the country. It is the reason why I was able to stay in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C. for free of charge this year. But of course don't be that friend that freeloads. Return the favor, if they're looking to travel to your city soon. Or buy them back some groceries or offer them gas money. It's just the right thing to do.
12. Always have a plug.
In Johannesburg, my friend and I met a blogger on line for a day party who is my point of contact when I return to the city next year. We kicked it with natives at all the cool spots thanks to a friend of a friend who agreed to take us around while we were visiting. My friend and I also found a whiskey bar in Charlotte that had the most amazing sweet potato tater tots on earth by asking a bouncer at a club for a recommendation. If possible, see if someone in your circle knows someone in the place you're visiting. If not, always ask a local resident for advice when you get there. It definitely plugs you all the way in to the city you're visiting!
Also plan ahead. There are travel planning apps like TRIP, which allows you to view what events are going on in the city you are visiting, as well as the best places to go and restaurants to visit.
Of course, these aren't the ONLY hacks out there. Always do your research and be patient. Your traveling adventures await you in 2019!
Featured image by Getty Images
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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