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JetSet Diva of the Month

Meet Monique…our JetSet Diva of the Month!

Botanical Gardens in Swaziland

Botanical Gardens in Swaziland

Monique and I both attended Crossroads School, an extremely small college prepratory high school in St. Louis, MO. I recently learned of her trip to Africa and after viewing what must have been about 500 pictures (I’m just playing, maybe it was 200 pictures…and just MAYBE I looked at all of them) in the Kodak Gallery, there was no doubt that she had to be featured as our JetSet Diva of the Month. Please read her ‘virtual interview’.

Recently you visited South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland… How did you choose such a beautiful land to visit? I always wanted to go to Africa for my dream trip, and I’ve actually been to Tunisia, northern Africa, but it was nothing like everyone imagined Africa to be. One of my good friend’s was sent to Lesotho for her Peace Corps assignment in November 2006 and that’s when I decided that I would go to the southern part of the continent and I had at least 2 years to plan.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve Park

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve Park

Did you immerse yourself in the culture? What are the glaring differences in everyday life between Africa and the USA?
I immersed myself in the culture immediately because I stayed with two of my friends in a hut, with no running water for 3 nights. We had to fetch water and boil it to use it. I used an outhouse for a toilet. I definitely made use of hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and Ponds facial wipes…LOL. I visited the village school where my friend taught and hung with the students there. The students who attended the school ranged in age from 9 to early 20s, which was definitely a major difference from the states.

What are some of the other places you have visited domestically and internationally? Which is your favorite location and why? I visited too many places domestically to list, but the west coast is definitely one of my favorite places. Internationally, I’ve been to Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Andorra, Tunisia, Germany, and Italy. Of those places, it’s toss up between Spain and Italy. I think I’m a little bias towards Spain because that’s where I studied abroad in Barcelona for 3 months, so I was more comfortable with the culture, language, and people.

Coast of the Indian Ocean

Coast of the Indian Ocean

When planning a trip, how much do you consider affordability and what tactics do you use to keep your trip on budget?
I’m a very fugal person, so cost is always considered. There are a few key ways to keep cost down on a trip…
1. LODGING: If you can, visit a place where you know someone (friends or family). Having a free place to stay for a few nights could save you money. If you don’t anyone in the place you’re visiting, look into hostels instead of hotels. You can get some of the same amenities for cheaper.
2. FOOD: Buying groceries and preparing my own food has saved me hundreds of dollars on my trips. You can always eat PB&J, a granola bar and a piece of fruit for lunch. You can have a nicer dinner that way.
3. MONEY: Exchange a small amount of money in the beginning. Sometimes when you have more money, you tend to spend it. If you have a limited amount of money you will be less likely to buy unnecessary things. You can always use an ATM or a credit card and get a better exchange rate.
4. SOUVENIRS: This is always gets people in trouble. I know family and friends tell you to bring them something back, but gifts can seriously hurt you. Think of creative, thoughtful, and cheap gifts that people can’t get back home, and they’ll love it.

What is your dream destination?
Before my trip, it was Africa, but since I’ve been now I would have to say India or Japan now.

What are your next vacation plans?
I’m thinking of doing Carnival in South America in 2009. We’ll see how that works out!

Final thoughts…
1. Pack light in one big travel pack. I never had to worry about my luggage being lost or having to wait in baggage claim because I traveled with an oversized travel back pack.

2. Make copies of all travel documents so you don’t have to carry them around with you when you go to places like a beach, club, or any activity. Leave copies back home too.

Give us your best shot(s) (a photo from your travels) and the story behind it.
I love these pics of the giraffe!! I took them on a safari through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in the Kwazulu-Natal area of South Africa.

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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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