What Should Be in Your Natural Hair Travel Kit?| Checklist for Packing

It’s the second half of summer’17 and in the spirit of vacation season, some of you may have experienced the cumbersome planning process when it comes to packing as a natural. Weeks before a trip I am usually thinking about how I will style my hair while I’m away. Based on the styles I plan, I can pack accordingly. While I have a tendency to overpack, I never want to cut corners when it comes to planning for my haircare regimen.  However, it is totally possible to pack a thorough natural hair travel kit that doesn’t involve taking your entire bathroom arsenal of hair products. Here’s how to do it:

Think functional

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Leave-In
  • Sealant

These are the main product areas I make sure to have when I am traveling and plan to wear my fro out at some time. Depending on the length of stay, the size of the products I take may vary. If I am only going to be gone for about a week, like with my trip to Cabo, I go to Walgreens and purchase tiny 3oz empty bottles that are TSA approved. I then put product into those bottles and double bag them using a ziplock bag or plastic bag. Short trips don’t require a separate hair product haul, just take what you’ve been using and put them into tiny bottles and you should be set!

Longer Stay = More Flexibility

You have more flexibility if you are checking in a luggage and with that comes the opportunity to add to your list of necessities. I could go a little while without Shea butter for a few days or even a week, but thinking about an entire 4 months without Shea butter would be hard to fathom. Now that I use it for more than just my hair, I would definitely crave moisturizing my body after a long warm shower. Furthermore, I can get by with using water and a leave-in conditioner for a braid or twist out, but an amazing curl enhancing product takes things to the next level. This comes in handy if I know I’m about to have a cute day and want to take some flawless pictures. As of now, Taliah Waajid’s Curly Curl Cream and Shea Moistures’ Coconut and Hibiscus Curling Cream are my top two favorites. With that, Shea butter and a curl definer are added to the list of necessities.

  • Butter
  • Curl Definer

Stock Up on Your Faves

For longer trips, think of products that would be hard to find overseas or whoever you’er going. For example, when packing to study abroad for a semester in Italy, I knew I probably wouldn’t come across my favorite Cantu Leave- In Conditioner. There aren’t sections in the store isles dedicated to natural hair in Europe. It took months to scout out where I could find ethnic stores in Milan and if I was headed to a city with more black people, like London or Amsterdam, going to the hair store was always apart of my itinerary.

After 2 months I finally found a hair store in Milan, after joining the right Facebook groups and getting solid directions on where to find the store. The brands were quite limiting and a simple bottle of leave-in conditioner would cost to the equivalent of $15 USD and for  smaller size than I would normally get. At this point my Cantu leave-in was almost gone but I refused to pay twice as much for half. I had to use other brands I wasn’t quite familiar with and didn’t like as much. In an attempt to pack modestly, I only brought one jar of leave-in knowing dang well I use about 2 every two months. My advice here would be to PACK YOUR FAVES IN BULK. You will thank yourself later.

Another product that’s hard to come by is a sulfate-free shampoo. Even when I finally found the hair store in Milan, and the one in Rome, the shampoos had sulfates and other ingredients I normally avoided. Again, I had only brought one bottle and definitely wished I had brought more. But have no fear, there’s always DIY cleansing methods and ACV became my best friend.

Logistics

  • Shea butter melts even if its in your checked luggage or carry on. Avoid wasting your product by bagging your butter.
  • Tape the lid shut for you bottles and creamy products or IT WILL LEAK!
  • Even after taping, things can get rough when transporting. Put your bottles in bags to avoid loosing precious ounces of your products
  • If you do end up buying products from the markets or grocery stores, make sure you use Google translate app to translate the ingredients to make sure you’re not buying a product with harmful chemicals or ingredients

With that, I hope preparing for your natural hair while traveling is a little easier and you can focus more on the trip itself! In short, think of what you can’t live without and the basic necessities for your hair to be happy and healthy.

-POP

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A Queen in Cabo| Spring Break 2017 in Mexico!

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you… without a dope blog to step to…

After one of the most stressful quarters ever (mainly from having to adjust to the fast past academic lifestyle post-study abroad) I was hyped to get out of the country for spring break vacation. Since being back from Italy, I wanted to explore more of the beautiful places close to home. Spring break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico was the ideal choice because I could experience a new culture, enjoy great beaches, and spend less than $400 on a round trip plane ticket. For 6 days, I got to relax and enjoy the beautiful city of Cabo!

Arriving in Cabo

Figuring out transportation from the airport was a little tricky at first. Prior to departure for Mexico I had done some research and discovered that there’s a bus from Terminal 2 that will take you into the city and the downtown area where the hotel was located. It worked out to where the bus stop was visible right outside the Terminal 2 exit of the Cabo San Lucas Airport. We were allowed to pay in either pesos or the $2.50 USD equivalent.

Getting Around & Things to Do

Cabo was a lot smaller than I imagined. Within the first day, I saw most of the city and could figure out how to get around anywhere by foot. With perfect weather in March, it was desirable to go on a stroll to the Santa Maria beach, which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel.  The Santa Maria Beach was the main party and tourist beach with Mango Deck being the main attraction for springbreakers. Near the Cabo Wabo area was Destiny Massage, which offered a 70 minute massage for only $20 which is unheard of in the USA. It was so amazing and I felt very relaxed afterwards.

 

Nightlife

The clubs in Cabo were all located in one strip and were F-R-E-E THAT SPELLS FREE! With free entrance, it was easy to hop from one club to another. The notorious El Squid Roe was super active and had multiple floors that were all open. It reminded me of several music video scenes. The music wasn’t always popping because it was heavy on pop and EDM type of music but as the night went on there were several sequences of songs that were popping. Sunday night surprisingly was the most lit.

I had looked up clubs before arriving of course, and Pink Kitty was one of the top results but fell short of its status. It was fairly empty but I still had fun dancing to mid 2000s throwbacks with other springbreakers. The club next to El Squid Roe was a top contendor with a more sophisticated layout and with a more variety of songs on the playlist. La Vinquita was another club in the area that played more Latin beats and it was fun to show off my bachata skills!

Food

I could not get enough of Mexican food. I literally almost had fajitas every single day. There was this restaurant near the Marina called Sharky’s. They served delicious fajitas with rice, beans, and chips and salsa for only $7.50. This was also the place where they served liter margaritas for $6! Deals, Deals, Deals! I ate at this restaurant for half of the nights I was in Cabo. The other meals were from various authentic restaurants and I was always satisfied.

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Beef fajita meal at Sharky’s 
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Frida Kahlo photo

Activities

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Fish pedicure

The activities were my favorite part of Cabo! The last two days of the trip were day-long activities of snorkeling and then zip-lining. It is best to book activities in person, as they are much cheaper than online and you have the chance to bargain. Never settle for the first offer or even the first vendor. At the mall, the prices for zip-lining were much higher and for a less inclusive deal.

The snorkeling adventure was super fun because I got to see the Arch of Cabo up close and relax on the way to snorkeling. Because I know how to swim, I expected snorkeling to be easy right away. However, when I jumped into the sea I realized it would be such a workout to literally keep my head above the waters! The water was super cold and it was hard to breathe through the snorkel tube because I was out of breath and heart was beating fast at first. Once I relaxed and slowed my breathing down, things became a lot easier. I could see the tiny fish swimming below my feet! All together, the adventure was 3 1/2 hours long and a time well spent!

Zip lining was the most adventurous activity I’ve done so far! This activity was through a company called Cabo Adventures and featured 7 different zip-lines, including the longest zip-line in Mexico. I can’t believe I glided across mountains in Mexico and even had the nerve to do it upside down! That’s right, I zip-lined upside down. There was one obstacle called the pendulum, where I stood at the side of a cliff while harnessed, and then jumped off like and was swung to the other side. I totally underestimated how high up I really was because as soon as I left the edge, my stomach dropped and I just started screaming. It felt like I would never stop falling! I loved seeing the nature and experiencing the beautiful outdoors. I’m excited to do more outdoor activities in the future!

My goal this year was to travel to another country/content and I’m so happy I’ve been able to accomplish traveling to another country and in the summer will be headed to Ghana!

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Living life!

What’s Life Like Now That I’m Back?

What a beautiful day for a snow day Daizies!

I’ve always dreamed of a day between Sunday and Monday where I could just and my dream came true today! Hoping for a day off shows just how drastically different things have been since coming home. Compared to my 4 months abroad, it is a more intense workload filled with a packed schedule that used to consist of traveling most weekends with school for just a few hours.

Missing the Days of Getting Out of Bed Only for Gelato!

I forgot how hectic school life can be. I have actual weekly assignments, labs, work, ongoing internship search, and midterms to prepare for. With so many responsibilities, I find myself on campus for an average of 8-11 hours per day for 4 out 0f the 5 days per week. Getting back to this routine made me miss being abroad so much. I knew when I was there, that it would be the most stress-free semester ever. I could not open a textbook for 2 weeks and still not fall behind. Can you imagine having no stress for 4 months? I had time. Every hour of my day didn’t need to be organized and planned. At Bocconi University, I had one class each day from Tuesday through Thursday. In total I was on campus for about 7 hours each week. Now, I am on campus 6 times as much.

I miss planning my next weekend expedition. After a week in Milan, it was off to the next place. My weekly tasks consisted of booking hostels, Airbnb’s, writing down directions of getting to and from airports, and planning my day in either Barcelona, Athens, Rome and other amazing places! I miss having an abundance of time and being stress-free.

Dealing With Stress

With time, I have accepted the fact that I have to stay ahead so that I won’t fall behind. Whether, I’m ready for the full workload here or not, I must do the absolute most with studying for certain classes. I am making the effort to read chapters before lectures, go to tutoring for Operations Management, and do the best I can academically. Stress is a natural thing and I realize I am more vulnerable to it when I feel I don’t have enough time to finish what I need or even relax. It can arise from feeling anxious about interviews, graduating, and deciding on a career path. 4 months away from having to encounter such demands was a break well needed. I use the experience of overcoming the anxiety of leaving to go abroad to calm myself down when I’m feeling anxious about future interviews, tests, etc. I recently thought to myself “Is this the hardest thing you’ve done?” If the answer is “no”, then I can get through this next task as well. Leaving on the exchange was the scariest thing I’ve done so far and I use that accomplishment of my fears to find strength that I will make it through whatever is next. Also, taking deep breaths are very effective at all times of the day.

Continuing With Healthy Habits?

Getting exercise and eating a balanced diet have also helped me in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. I noticed that I never once got sick when I was abroad. Normally, I would get a cold every quarter, especially during midterms and finals. Your body is more susceptible to colds and other viruses when you are stressed, not getting enough sleep, or enough nutrition. I knew this was especially true when I found myself with a cold(and later a fever) literally one week into school. I really hate being sick and need as much energy as I can get. I now take daily multi-vitamins to help boost my immune system. I talked about how great grocery shopping was and how healthy I ate in Italy. I can proudly say I haven’t eaten a frozen meal or cup-of-noodles since I’ve been back and don’t plan on it either! I relied heavily on TV dinners, microwavable lunches, pop-tarts, fast food fruit snacks, and cup-of-noodles as my main source of food throughout my college life prior to the exchange. But since I couldn’t find these foods at grocery stores in Italy, my diet changed and I began to eat more meals that I had to prepare and less sugary foods. With this new habit, I don’t crave sweets as much and usually eat fruit as a snack. I tried eating KFC when I got back and couldn’t even finish my plate. I used to be able to eat 5+ chocolate chip cookies at a time, and now it doesn’t taste as good or pleasurable as it used to. It gets hard sometimes to make dinner after a long day and on these occasions I end up ordering Jimmy Johns!

I often would jog around the park behind the dorm when I was in Milan. I continue this now that I am in Seattle when the weather isn’t too rainy. Going to the gym is a lot harder than I expected but I do enjoy a brisk walk every now and then. I still do yoga every morning which is something I’ve been doing for the past 11 years!

Can’t Stay Still!

Once the travel bug hits you it is hard to stay in one place for too long. Studying abroad has been an exciting part of my college experience. While I have only a few quarters left of college, I hope to study abroad again this summer on a 4 week exploration seminar. In the very near future, I am excited to go to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for Spring Break wooohooo!!! I enjoy traveling so I want to do it as much as I can. Seeing new places and cultures brings so much joy and memories forever.

Thrive.

I am officially back and on the grind. I want to not simply make it through each day but I want to thrive while doing so. I believe positive affirmations each day will help me to have the mindset to make the most each day. I put post-it notes next to my bed with positive notes written on them. It’s great to remind myself “I am successful” ” Good news is coming soon” or “Do not worry” throughout the day. I also am setting out personal time for myself each day.It’s important for me to find time to destress and have self-care. It’s okay to take a nap, indulge in your favorite tv show, and get sleep!

It’s great being home with friends and family as well as having access to amazing sandwiches each day. Adjusting to the hustle and bustle of reality was a challenge, but I with God’s help I am making it just fine. I hope to enjoy the little things of life each day no matter how busy life may be.

Top 5 Top 5 Top 5! My Favorite Places From Studying Abroad

2016 took me to some amazing places! In between going to classes, what made my semester abroad so worthwhile was my ability to travel to so many different countries and other cities in Italy. Each new place had its own perks but there were some that stood out the most. I ranked my favorite cities by my overall experience such as the vibe I received while being there, and whether I connected with the city, as well as the food, culture, and beautiful things to see. My list will start off going from 5 to 1. Also, to keep things fair I’m only ranking cities that I visited for the first time on this exchange. This means London won’t be on it since I went as part of my first time studying abroad in 2015. London will always be my favorite places in the world. But for now, let’s see which other places stole my heart.

5. Berlin, Germany

Berlin surprised me with how exciting and lively it turn out to be. At first I was caught off guard with how cold it was but looking back now, 48 degrees isn’t all that bad! Berlin is such a historical city and I learned so much from visiting the museums. I was impressed by every single meal I had in Berlin. A happy stomach equals a happy trip! Also, I wish I had brought another bag because there were so many places to shop in Berlin. I finally was able to see what was so great about Primark. Now I’m hoping Primark expands into the West Coast of the U.S. one day.

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Brandenburg Gate

4. Athens, Greece

Athens was one of my favorite place for food. Being in the birthplace of gyros was exciting to me. I literally ate gyros the entire weekend I was there. With just the two days I was in Athens, I had such a fun time seeing the ancient buildings and learning more about their historical significance in the Acropolis. Athens is another place that had an abundance of sunshine which may contribute to why I enjoyed it so much. In the midst of 30 degree weather in Milan, a weekend in Athens was like a short summer vacation.

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The Acropolis

3. Marrakesh, Morocco

I made it to an entirely different continent on my exchange and my experience was quite exciting. It was my last trip of the exchange but still showed me that there is so much more to the world. Marrakesh was unique because after getting the hang of going to new places, it’s still exciting to learn about a culture very different than the European cities I visited. I didn’t know what to expect with Moroccan cuisine but it turned out to be very tasty. Shopping in the city center was always fun and I found such unique and colorful pieces. The main thing I wanted to do while in Morocco was ride a camel, and I made it happen! Even though my exchange is over, going to Marrakesh left me with more motivation to continue exploring.

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Atlas Mountains

 

2. Rome, Italy

Of all the cities I went to in Italy, I could really see myself living in Rome. I loved Rome for its beauty. Rome is charming, full of things to do, and has an abundance of historical landmarks I could spend hours gazing upon.The Trevi Fountain alone was such a spectacle and of course the Colosseum were among some of the many beautiful places to see in Rome. I discovered a very helpful menu ingredient for ordering the type of pasta I wanted. The word is “bolognese” and this changed my life for the the rest of my time in Italy. I no longer had to eat just pasta with sauce but now I finally knew how to ask for beef to be apart of the spaghetti. But besides the great food, I enjoyed how easy it was to navigate the city. Walking to Vatican City was a workout I probably wouldn’t purposely partake in but it was still doable. I could never get enough of hearing street music and hearing the sounds of different languages.

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The Colosseum

1. Barcelona, Spain

Being in Barcelona was such an uplifting and heart-warming experience on a personal level. Initially, nervous about going on a trip to a new county by myself, this trip turned out to be a special time for self-reflection and celebration. I loved Barcelona so much because of how meaningful it was for me to finally be in a place that I had dreamed of going for so long. I was by myself but felt so whole and completely joyful. The food was amazing. I had this amazing taco that I still dream about today.

I went to Barcelona in early November and the sun was still shining. I could get around better with the knowledge of Spanish I picked up om my 2 years of Spanish in high school. Having a better understanding of the language made me feel more confident and accomplished as a visitor in a new land.I walked miles a day to see the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and caught the amazing view of the city at Turo de la Rovira. I was a Cheetah Girl and sang all around Park Guell and random beautiful streets.I think back to the happiest moments of my life and being in Barcelona was definitely one of them.

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Park Guell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Moroccan Experience

Happy New Year Daizies!

I’m back in the States now and its 2017! But  I can’t forget to blog about my final trip of 2016. After I completed finals, it was a celebratory experience to get away and finally go to Africa! I spent 3 days (Dec 17th-20th) in one of Morocco’s biggest cities, Marrakesh.

I arrived to Marrakesh by plane from Milan. It was the longest plane ride of the trips I had and it definitely felt like it. After arriving, I had to wait in the long passport control line for about 25 minutes. It was dark outside by the time I was actually in the car on the way to the airbnb but I could already tell I was in a completely different place. I loved how the architecture was different but flowed with the culture. The traffic was crazy and walking to cross the street was even more intense.

After settling down, we went for a stroll in the Jemaa el-Fna square. The center of the food area was vibrant and chaotic at the same time. There were promoters attempting to be charming and literally pulling us to their restaurants at times. First meal was an assortment of chicken kebabs, rice, sauce, bread, and potatoes. I already liked this trip because this dinner came out to be $4!

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Yummy and price-friendly dinner

The next day, I went on my first guided tour. It was great to not have to do any planning for once and just be guided through what was needed to see. The tour was through the Atlas Mountains! I woke up bright and early for an eventful day. The weather in Marrakesh was a lot colder than I expected, with some sunshine during the day and then really cold at night. I prepared accordingly by wearing layers because the mountains actually had a significant amount of snow. Our tour guide picked my friend and I up from the airbnb, and we drove about half an hour out of Marrakesh for a short tour of an argan oil cooperative. Argan oil is the most lucrative oil of Marrakesh and is native to the lands. It can be used to treat dry hair, skin, and even used for cooking.

Driving into Atlas Mountains was like slowly driving into a different season. I finally saw snow in 2016 and it was in Africa! It was about an hour hike up and around the mountains with a Moroccan lunch to conclude the trek. The last part of the tour was the camel ride! I was so excited to ride a camel. It was scary at first because the camels were literally roaring when the people were trying to get them to sit down. But once on, it was so fun. My camel’s name was Ayesha and we were quite the team!

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Rolling with my girl Ayesha!

 

My last full day in Marrakesh I saw Palais Bahia, Tomheaux Saadiens, and Jardin Majorelle. Sightseeing prices were great and ranged from about $1-$3. The Jardin Majorelle was especially unique because everything was blue with a hint of bold patterns.

I am so glad I was able to go to Marrakesh before coming back home. I realized once again that the world is so big and there’s still so much I’m excited to see. 2017 traveling, I’m ready for ya!

Mission Milan Accomplished

And just like that, 4 months have gone by. I just finished packing and have one more trip left before I am on my way back home. It feels like I’m packing for another weekend excursion but I’m packing to go across the sea back to the United States! In a way, it doesn’t feel like time went by fast at all. It feels like it was such a long time ago when I came to Milan dazed and confused with how to ride the tram lol!

Leaving home was the scariest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. I knew I wanted to travel and explore the world but taking that first leap was so terrifying. I remember the days before leaving I could barely sleep. My heart would start beating out of my chest and stomach would tighten up every time I even thought of being away from everything I knew for an entire 4 months. I did not know what was ahead of me but I am so proud of myself for stepping out on faith and taking the risk any way. I made it.

Being abroad for a longer time period taught me to be more patient with myself. Things came easy to me the first time I went abroad last year in London. Everything was simple. I spoke the language, I was in a group of 20+ people, and I was only away from home for 3 1/2. This time around, I was completely out of my element. Doing simple things, such as buying groceries, intimidated me. I had to give myself time to get used to things and work through my uncomfortableness.

I spent a significant amount of my time here in solitude and there’s nothing wrong with that. I learned to focus on what makes me happy more than moping around. Time goes by even slower when I had negative thoughts. Whether I had one person to hang out with or none, I made the experience worthwhile anyway.

Seeing a new country or city each week never got old. The excitement of visiting new places is so special and it’s what I’ll definitely miss the most. I saw amazing cities with my own eyes! Sagrada Familia, The Colosseum , Duomo di Milano, Acropolis, the pastel cities of Cinque Terre came to life as I saw them with my own two eyes. I feel so blessed to have been able to travel to all of these incredible places. It has literally been my dream to be able to do this. All things are possible

I come back home content. Milan has been my home for the past 4 months and I’ll miss and the bustle of traveling. But I am ready to come back home and prepare for the next thing in my life. While this chapter is coming to an end, a new chapter begins where I know my strength in doing something where I had no idea what the outcome would be. I overcame what I thought was the scariest thing ever and because of this I can look back on my experience whenever I am feeling nervous or anxious to go for an opportunity in the future. It I know that I am capable taking on any challenge now.

Finally in Florence

My last Italian trip was to Florence! I knew I had to make it to the city of Firenza and especially to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just one hour away. It was a short trip and I was happy to be in the center of the city near Ponte Vecchio. Florence was an easy city to see everything within 2 days. I booked my trip for the first weekend of December to make good use of the free museum day. All of the most famous museums are within walking distance of each other so I was able to visit the Uffizi Gallery as well as the Galleria dell’Accademia. It was a successful pre-exam weekend trip!

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Florence Cathedral
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Ponte Vecchio