This past December, like many other descendants of the African diaspora hoping to end 2019 with a bang, I went to Accra, Ghana for what the country deemed---in arguably the most successful tourism marketing plan to date---the "Year of the Return". Anchored by the Afrochella festival as well as newcomer, Afronation, the return to Ghana was anticipated to be an opportunity to connect with our roots, party, unwind, and enjoy great food and culture. After securing my *whispers* very affordable flight in November, I was ready. Or so I thought.
Unlike most trips, coordinating all the moving parts in Ghana took a bit more advanced planning, patience, and research than I was used to. But after getting everything in place, I was so excited!
This was being heralded as the place to be for the holidays, where everybody and they mama (or Beyonce's mama) were expected. And Accra delivered! During my three weeks in Ghana, I partied in the jungle in Aburi, crossed the seven bridges in Kukum, visited the Elmina and Cape Coast slave dungeons, ate a traditional Fulani mat dinner, saw the dopest fire-breather performance at Polo Beach Club, ate at the famous Buka restaurant, danced the night away at Bloom Bar, and connected with amazing friends both old and new.
I also encountered a lot of things that, if avoided, would have enhanced my trip that much more. Here are 10 things to keep in mind to optimize your experience if attending "Beyond the Return" this December:
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Follow All Medical Precautions, Both Required And Recommended
One of the consequences of my late travel arrangements were the limited remaining options in finding a yellow fever provider within my budget. After finally settling on an office, I paid my whopping $265, and received my yellow fever card and malaria prescription. But to my dismay, when I landed in Ghana, border control could care less about my little yellow fever card and didn't even open it. I must have been so disappointed that I actually lost it and haven't seen it since. Welp. Funny enough though, during my departure, border control insisted on seeing it. But for the gift of gab, I'd likely still be there trying to convince them why I didn't need to receive another shot just to fly home. But I digress.
While experiences varied, most opted to receive the yellow fever shot in the States, despite its availability at the airport for the affordable price of *drumroll* $20.
Did I know that? No. But now you do. You're welcome. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide where you're most comfortable getting the shot, but once you do, keep your card handy.
After filling your recommended malaria prescription, do yourself a favor and actually take them. I avoided them initially after hearing horror stories of people having nightmares and stomach pain, but, take them. You don't want to end up like me in a pharmacy on your way to a friend's fashion show feenin' for malaria pills like Halle Berry in Jungle Fever because a mosquito bit you in Kukum and the "cold" you thought you had sounds more like malaria, according to WebMD. Luckily, the pharmacists in Ghana are fantastic and wonderfully patient. They promptly tested me for it and luckily, it turned out I didn't have malaria---just a bad cold. But I could have had it. Take your pills.
Don't Nickel-And-Dime Your Accommodations
The Kempinski Hotel, a great option for a stay in Ghana.
Image via kempinski.com
As Americans when we think of budget hotels, we think of a no-frills, no-fuss Holiday Inn which at the very least are clean and at best are quite nice. (The Holiday Inn in New Orleans even has a rooftop pool). Even budget or boutique hotels in Europe deliver quality with the occasional luxury surprise. During my layover in Portugal, for example, I stayed at the most amazing boutique hotel for $52 and was wonderfully surprised by how nice it was.
But in Ghana, budget hotels, aka those under $75 a night, take on a different meaning. For brevity's sake I'll spare you the stressful details. Let's just say some of my very worst days were spent making special requests for running water, dealing with hotel managers who didn't understand that it isn't OK for the electricity to disconnect every hour, or canceling confirmed reservations.
Save yourself the hassle. Spring for the nice hotel.
Listen, I get it, traveling can be expensive, especially if you're staying somewhere for an extended period of time. If you can't quite afford the Kempinski, Alisa Hotel is a great affordable choice, but don't nickel-and-dime your experience. It'll cost you more in the end.
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Pack Your Patience
As a born-and-bred New Yorker, most would assume that I'm used to a fast-paced, hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, and they're right. New Yorkers tend to move at lightning speed, always running for the train or to work and keeping up with our busy lives. As a New Yorker who also drives, I'm equally accustomed to insane traffic, but Ghana was on a whole other level. I can't count how many times I had to just get out of my Uber and walk the remainder of the way. Not a patient person?
I strongly suggest staying very close to where most of your events and activities will take place to avoid getting stuck.
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Consider A Tour Company
As you're planning your trip, you'll quickly see that there are literally hundreds of tour companies ready to take you on every excursion and curate your trip for you.
Usually I would caution visitors against booking tour companies to save a few coins, but in Ghana, a trusted tour company may actually enhance your trip.
Some of my favorite experiences were planned by a tour guide. My friend had used him several times before and not only was he well informed about the estimated travel time and where to go to get the best/safest food on the route, he even knew the manager of the Cape Coast castle who let us in at closing because we were stuck in traffic.
I also really enjoyed some local events planned by TasteMakers including the most beautiful Fulani Christmas dinner hosted at Olma Colonial Suites. The food was delicious, we learned about the Fulani culture and the vibes were perfect. I enjoyed it so much, I ventured to my second Tastemakers event later that week, the Cookout. After being there for an hour I lovingly renamed it Grits in Ghana (Don't try me. My trademark is pending) and deservedly so. The DJ executed dope NYE vibes, the drinks were strong and free, and the space was perfect. In the future, I'd confidently attend any other events they plan. But do your research. Read reviews. Find a company that you trust, think about where you want to go and consider whether a company would enhance your experience.
Choose Your Concert Wisely
So part of the draw to visit Ghana during the holiday season is the festival experience, specifically Afrochella. Known for the opportunity for the flyest and most daring to show up and show out in their best African garb, people come from everywhere to perch up as royalty and be among the lit. However, as a budding festival, Afrochella may need some more time to find their footing, as the actual concert experience was lacking.
Most of the night, in lieu of actual performances, there were DJ sets and well into the early morning hours, a sprinkle of performances from virtually unknown artists. I was really disappointed, after declining friends' invitations to attend Afronation, which by most accounts turned out to be the better concert, bringing out Burna Boy and other fan favorites. I also heard good things about the Detty Rave concert, but unfortunately missed it because of my cold.
Ultimately, even though Afrochella is the original event and may still be worth a visit for vibes, consider your other options.
Prepare For Long Commutes
One of the biggest surprises for me when I got to Ghana was how far away most of the special sites were. Not only was Cape Coast a three-hour ride away, most of the nice beaches (aside from Labadi Beach) including Bojo Beach were at least 90 minutes away from the City Center. The same was true for Aburi Gardens and Aqua Safari, which are definitely must-see destinations. Some places are so far, I highly suggest preparing for a full day trip to each destination and possibly even staying overnight to avoid the traffic. If you opt out of staying overnight, pack on your patience because although traffic in the A.M is bearable, you may not be so chill about it after a day's worth of activity.
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
While credit cards are accepted, cash rules everything out in Ghana. From bargaining for souvenirs to getting into parties or a certain Members Only Club (I see you, Front & Back), having Ghana cedis on hand, will definitely yield better results.
Indulge In Local Cuisine But Be Careful
So, in my veiled non-medical medical advice above, I may have left out one of the reasons I got sick during the trip. When I first arrived, I was so excited I opened my mouth while brushing my teeth and ingested some water a la Charlotte in Sex and the City 2. Now, that may not have been the only reason I experienced "the runaways" but many cautioned me against ice in my drinks and indulging in sauces. I didn't listen. You do better.
Decide Between Uber Vs. Private Drivers
Contrary to what most people have heard about Africa---Ghana specifically---it is a well-developed country and they do have Uber. However, be prepared for smaller cars and cash payments. In order for your Uber app to even work in Ghana, you'll need to update your settings to cash payments and use a local Sim card. Bolt is another option which usually offers an introductory promotion for reduced rides.
You can choose to hire a private driver if you need a larger vehicle or if you just want to have someone at your beck and call. Just be sure to estimate the price of rides in advance and get some referrals from friends in travel groups who have gone to Ghana.
Know Your Intentions For Visiting
Courtesy of Amanda Gayle
Most important when traveling to Ghana is knowing why you're going. Most people visit during the holidays to mix and mingle with celebrities, attend the flyest parties, and meet their African prince and princess. If that's you, do you. Live it up. However, if you're visiting to truly immerse yourself in the culture, opt for more of those experiences and be intentional in seeking them out. One of my intentions in visiting Ghana was to volunteer and impact the youth, so I was so excited to volunteer for Afrochella Reads, an opportunity to visit and spend time with Ghanaian orphans during their school day. It was truly one of the top highlights of my trip.
Volunteering not your thing? Take a cooking class and learn how to compete in the jollof wars. Visit the Shea Butter Museum and discover the source of the ultimate ash warrior, the gift of shea butter. Whatever your interests are, Ghana has so much to offer. The opportunities for enriching experiences are numerous. Once you strip away the glitzy appeal, the rooftops, and the mystique about Ghana, remember that there is a rich culture and local experiences that are way more valuable than rubbing elbows with Boris and Nicole. Focus on being present and make the most of your return.
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Featured Image via Amanda Gayle
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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