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JetSet Diva of the Month

Congratulations to our first JetSet Diva of the Month, Tatiana, The Traveling Diva!
The Traveling Diva
I came across Tatiana’s blog, The Traveling Diva, when we were just starting our blog. I was so inspired by the stories and amazing photographs documenting her travels, that I’ve been hooked on her blog ever since. Tatiana has been a great supporter of Two JetSet Divas, and to show our deep appreciation, it was clear that she be named our first JetSet Diva of the Month. We wanted our readers to get to know this outstanding JetSetter, so we set up this ‘virtual interview’.

Your blog includes beautiful photos and intriguing tales of your visits to Senegal, Milan, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Brazil and most recently India. What are some other places not described on your blog that you have visited? When I was little, my grandma and I would pack our things into her ’85 Riviera and travel cross-country. We would start on Long Island, and end up in California in a week’s time! I remember being in the desert in the southwest and going inside a teepee! On another trip, we crossed the border into Mexico, and had some of the spiciest food I had ever tasted. My mother would take me to California to visit my uncle, and we would go to London often to visit her friends and family. As an adult, I have visited Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, Toronto and Montreal, and several other fun cities in the U.S.

Which is your favorite location and why? What’s your dream destination?
I would say that my favorite destination has been Paris. I’ve been there so many times since I was a girl. I adore Paris, and my favorite past-times have been shopping in the food, clothing, and antique markets where I can find incredible deals and haggle with the vendors. I love the carousels, and I love taking a bike ride down the Champs Élysées and around the Eiffel Tower at night when it lights up. I love taking an African dance class in the Belleville section, and then heading over to one of the cheap Vietnamese, Arab or Indian restaurants for a savory meal. Or sometimes I will buy a freshly roasted chicken and a baguette there at a fraction of the price of what it would cost in other parts of the city. There is nothing like walking through the Barbés section where African and Arab vendors line the streets with exotic spices and produce. I love getting a cup of mint tea from one of the street vendors, and I have been chasing that taste here in the U.S. I can’t find it.

I would love to go to the south of France and to Tuscany. I have friends staying in both, so it should be exciting!

When planning a trip, how much do you consider affordability and what tactics do you use to keep your trip on budget? Many of my friends and family don’t know that when I decide to take a trip, it has actually been planned months in advance. I’m just very secretive about it, until maybe a month, or even weeks or days before I depart. So people don’t realize that, as spontaneous as I may seem, travel takes a good amount of planning and research. I usually buy my tickets from hotwire.com, lastminute.com, or a local travel agent specializing in fares to the area I am going to. I am a very budgeted traveler, so I try to make my dollar stretch.

When I am looking for a hotel, I try to find something that is inexpensive and clean, although sometimes it’s hard when you don’t know the area. I think people should remind themselves that they are going on vacation to view the area, not be in a hotel–I actually spend very little time in my hotels, so luxury is never at the top of my list.

As for food, I try to buy things in America that I think will be expensive in the area I am going to. For many developing countries, any export is exorbitantly expensive, so I bring hair products and toiletries. Bottled water can always be purchased in town, and is usually a pittance, so there is no need to bring large amounts of water in your luggage. I try to set an amount for what I would like to spend each day, but if you are traveling to many places, you may find something in one area, that you may not find in another. For instance, when I was in Jaipur, I found a very elaborate embroidered bed sheet that is native to the Rajisthani state. I had not seen it in Delhi or in Agra, and if I didn’t purchase it, I might not have it today. It caused me to go over budget, but I will never regret it. Know the difference between an impulse buy and something truly unique.

What are your next vacation plans?
My next vacation will be to my family’s native country, Haiti. I have never been there, and I am teased constantly for traveling the world while never having been to Haiti. In 2009 I will visit Japan, and stay there for a year or more possibly.

Any words of travel wisdom you’d like to share?
Keep your money, and your documents as close to your body as possible. I often carry a waterproof neck pouch that hides discreetly under my clothes. I like the neck pouch better than the waist pouch because there is less chance of it falling off your hips from the constant movement, or from pickpockets finding the buckle and loosening it. It also helps that if you need to quickly show your documents it is quickly available. And I always send a copy of my documents to my closest friends, and a family member, and keep a photocopy inside my luggage.

Another tip: Make friends! I have friends in most of the places I visit and some in places I would like to visit. Making friends gives you hookups to hotels and the insider life. You see more, do more, and spend less, when you have a friend in your favorite city.

Give us your best shot (a photo from your travels) and the story behind it.
It’s a toss-up between
stonehenge11.jpg
1: My visit to Stonehenge in England. The complete monument is so small, it could fit in half my apartment. Seriously.

shrine11.jpg
2: My equally entertaining, albeit strange, visit to the English home of local celebrity Margaret Tyler, a retired woman who has transformed her house into a shrine to the monarchy. Here, I am sipping tea with the Queen and Princess Di.

Final thoughts…
I love life, and I always try to encourage others to enjoy it just the same. Part of this is getting out of our normal comfortable bubbles, and seeing and experiencing the world first-hand. I want more sisters to do this, more frequently. There are ways-you just have to set your mind to it, and decide that you will not live in a box! Always ask yourself- “If I died today, could I say that I’ve had an exciting life?” My own answer is YES! Live life to the fullest, and cherish every day as if it were your last!

——
Want to share your travel experiences? Join our online community…and you just might be featured in our JetSet Diva or JetSetter (we’ve got love for the guys too!) of the Month column.

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