Earn Money Online With Rakuten and InboxDollars

Make Spare Change in your Spare Time: My Review of Rakuten and InboxDollars

Earn money in my spare time? Like a Bigfoot sighting, having spare time (and money) could be rare event. Who has it?

Think about time spent waiting at the airport, riding the train into work or how about arriving at your doctor’s office on time for your appointment but having to wait over an hour anyways?

What are you typically doing during this time? Playing games, watching videos or even shopping?

Why not get paid to do some of these activities?

I am not promising millions of dollars but if you are like me and wouldn’t walk past a penny without picking it up (maybe pre-Coronavirus?) – this info is for you.
After doing some research, I found a two sites that I am currently using and wanted to share with you.

Rakuten – Easy Money

Rakuten, formally known as EBates (rhymes with “REBATES”), is a company that offers cash back rewards for on-line shopping.
This isn’t a new concept. My grandma would find rebate offers in the newspaper for different products she would buy from the store. She would spend time cutting the offer from the paper, buying the product from the store, cutting out the UPC from the product packaging which was required to send in with the rebates offer.

Of course, she would spend the time to address the envelope, affix a stamp to it, walk it to the mailbox and wait for the check to come in the mail. She would then take the  check, deposit into the bank (this is when I would get the lolipop from the nice Teller). When she had enough, she would save and buy savings bonds. She was a smart cookie.
I did not inherit her patience, but Rakuten allows me to practice the same frugal habits.

I prefer to shop on-line for groceries, hotel reservations, travel stuff and other things that we need. Therefore, it makes sense to receive a cash incentive for purchases we need to make especially when they are retailers we already use like Petco, Amazon and Target.

Given the current pandemic situation, some of us are using these on-lines services more than normal and now is no time to leave money on the table.

How it Works:
By clicking on the links that Rakuten provides (also known as affiliate marketing), they receive a percentage of that “sale” in which they will share a portion with me. You are probably clicking on affiliate links all the time and not realizing that people are earning money through your purchases.
Rakuten was just brilliant enough to offer an incentive for using their affiliate links.
Why didn’t I think of this??

Tip: On top of earning cash back for everyday purchases, if you use a credit card that also offers cash back or travel rewards, the savings can become significant.

How to Get Started:
1. Start by signing up using my Rakuten referral link (see what I did there?)
By doing this, I get $ after you get $ – like pimping you out except legally and less invasive.
You can use your email address, Google or Facebook account to sign up.

Side note: I don’t use my main email account for InboxDollars since I always fear a lot of spam which I have not encountered yet, but just in case.

2.Complete your profile and be sure to set up your “Account Settings”. After that, choose how you want to be paid (via PayPal, check or American Express Rewards).

3.Search for your favorite products or stores to find the best cashback deal which range from 2% up to 20%.

*Be sure to check out the links under “Hot Deals”.
As an alternative to searching, you can install a Chrome or Firefox browser extension which is what I use so that I don’t have to make an extra effort to search for the store or product to see if they are a Rakuten participant.

The browser extension alert will pop up in the top right corner of my browser to let me know a deal is available and I can either activate it or decline.

Rakuten Image
Rakuten nifty pop-up browser extension to help you save money.

I earned $5.13 in January for simply buying groceries. This may not sound like a lot but why leave free money on the table?

InboxDollars – OnLine Rewards Club – More Money

I’ve tried a few sites that offer payment for taking surveys, providing product feedback and for watching videos and InboxDollars is the easiest to use and is actually kinda fun.

They offer various ways to earn such as “Scratch & Win” tickets, answering trivia questions and even sometimes just playing a game. Who knew Mahjongg was so much fun???

You can even get paid for watching, or in my case, playing videos for background noise while I am working.

Payments range from pennies to dollars and sometimes over $20 bucks if you sign up for specific services. I recently signed up for StashInvest.Com which is an on-line savings and investment app and received $20.

How it Works:
Similar to Rakuten, InboxDollars earns their revenue by driving potential consumers to different products and services. There are also companies who need feedback either by collecting it through surveys or product samples. They pay InboxDollars who in turn, share a portion with you. Recently, I earned $1.25 by watching an ad and providing feedback.

How to Get Started:
1.Sign up! Please use my invitation link: InboxDollars.

2.Complete your full profile especially the interests and household section. This way you are matched to surveys that are within your demographic.

3.Get familiar with the site and figure out your favorite activities so you can start earning! Personally, my least favorite activities are the surveys but they can be big earners.

Super easy. If you are using other sites and recommend them, let us know by submitting a comment below!

CaSandra’s Top 7 Favorite Travel Items – 2019

Welcome to CaSandra’s list of Top 7 favorite travel items!

Do you need some gift ideas for that travel, nomadic friend of yours but can’t seem to figure out what to get them?

I am putzing around browsing on-line searching for upcoming Cyber Monday sales and while I have travel on my mind <shocking>, I came up with this blog post idea to put together a handpicked list of my top 7 favorite travel items found on Amazon – my favorite shopping site.

In no particular order:

  1. Rockland Luggage 3 Piece Set

I love pink but if you’re not a fan, this 3 piece luggage set comes in tons of different colors. Great variety and value especially if you just need the smaller carry-on piece! Super cute. By the way, I like boxes…and suitcases so I don’t really need this, but I want it. One can never have enough luggage pieces.

Rockland 3 Piece Luggage

2. COOLIFE Luggage Expandable(only 28″) Suitcase PC+ABS Spinner 

I’m a fan of soft-sided carry-on luggage but if you are looking for something a bit more rugged – here is a plastic hard-shell suitcase made by CoolLife.  They offer 3 different sizes and they also come  with a 2-year warranty. What I like about the plastic hard-shell is that I can put my travel stickers all over it.

The suitcase also comes with a TSA lock, so you can make sure your valuables are secure and safe. I can’t guarantee this lock will keep the TSA snoopers from going through luggage, but maybe?

Prices start at $79.99 (normally about $250 bucks) and also comes in various colors.

Coolio Luggage

3. RFID Blocking Travel Passport Wallet  Tri-fold Document Organizer Holder

This passport holder comes in various colors but I am a fan of the “Tiffany” blue mint color. Current price is $13.99.

I call this one “travel optimized” -It’s roomy and can hold just about everything so please don’t lose it!

RFID Passport Holder

4. RXSQUL International Power Adapter, Universal Power Travel Adapter

I usually blow up power adapters (don’t ask how) so like suitcases, I have many. Price $20.99

Covers more than 150 Countries such as Canada, USA, Mexico, France, Germany, Japan, China, Korea, India, Italy, Brazil, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Etc. and supports up to 6 devices so they can charge simultaneously. Built in smart IC chip can detect the amount of power in each devices and allocate amp wisely for maximum charging speed.

Adapter Plug

Note – this is an adapter, not a converter so it won’t convert voltage. I usually don’t find a need for a voltage converter, but if you need one, check this one out: 
Sokoo Power Converter 220V to 110V for $35.98.

A voltage converter will convert voltage that is suitable for most American hair dryers, phones and curling/flat irons.

Ok – so maybe I do need the Power Converter one because there was that one time that I scorched my hair because my flat iron became too hot.

5. 5 Piece Packing Cubes by Shacke Pack

My son-in-law, Victor gave me my first set of packing cubes and my life has never been the same. Mostly because of the packing cubes, not because he is in it (Just kidding, Victor!).

Even if you’re not OCD like me, you need these. Comes in various colors. I really don’t know how using these help you to pack MORE stuff – but somehow they do.

Packing Cubes

6. Coolibar UPF 50+ Women’s Bhakti Sun Shawl 

There are quite a few things I like about this shawl. It’s big enough to cover yourself up while the freezing on the airplane, it’s sun protective and it’s made out of some type of fiber that is fused with some type of antimicrobial protected thing that prevents the growth of 99.9% of bacteria to help eliminate odor. You can use it a scarf or to tie yourself to your best friend while sleeping in the Sahara so that if one gets kidnapped, so does the other.

Antimicrobial infused fabric is super important when you’re not able to wash your things for a couple of days. Which could happen while traveling.

Current price is $39.00 – and comes in different colors.

Sun Shawl

7. Tide Sink Packets

Speaking of stinky…I always have a few of these in my luggage just in case I’m not able to find a laundry mat or my AirBnb does not have a washing machine. *I rarely stay in hotels and even if I did, I refuse to pay the super high prices to wash my clothes. It’s always good to have a travel clothesline handy as well.

These two items probably don’t belong on my top 7 list, but they are definitely necessary and I really do like clean clothes.

Tide Packets

I really want to continue on for about 10 more items but I will keep it short and sweet. There you have it! Do you have any favorites you want to share? If so, drop a comment below!


~ CaSandra

Top 7 Teeth Tips for When You Travel

Traveling with Your Teeth

While working on another blog post about what to pack in your carry-on bag for a long flight, I got sucked into reading a few things about teeth and general dental care while traveling and felt it was important enough to write about.

Sure, this is an odd subject and not too many people consider the care of their teeth when traveling.

I can’t imagine having to deal with some sort of tooth emergency while traveling and I am pretty obsessed with my teeth. I was one of those kids who had some mangled looking teefers and have spent close to $10,000 ensuring they are straight, healthy, pearly and I don’t suffer from yuck mouth. The thought of something happening to my teeth while traveling gives me a tooth ache. See what I did there?

This is me. Age 9. The beginnings of mangled teeth. Certain family members still have pics of me with a horrible smile and use them for blackmail purposes from time to time.

I should inform you that I am not a dentist and these Top 7 Teeth Tips (geez – say that 3 times really fast) for when you travel are based on a compilation of other sites which I have referenced for you!

1.Get your dental work done a couple of weeks before you travel.

Go get your teeth cleaned and inspected before your trip. If you find out you need a filling, tooth extraction or a root canal, you’ll have to take care of it as long as your flight is a few weeks after the procedure. The air pressure in a flight cabin can do weird things to our bodies and while it may or may not affect you, it’s better to make sure that you are fully healed and all is well after a major dental procedure.

2. Make sure you have your dentist’s phone number with you.

We don’t normally keep our dentist’s number handy but you never know when you might need to contact your dentist, so just in case, be sure you have their phone number. In the event you find yourself needing dental care, you can always call your dentist to also get a second opinion.

See: Sick on the Road

3. Check your dental insurance coverage.
Are you covered while hanging out with the Sherpas?

What about while running with the bulls? Random break-dancing battle or boxing match?

Hector Camacho, Jr. I don’t believe he has ever lost a tooth. Photo Credit: me!

You may want to call and check your dental coverage and if you’re not covered, consider getting some coverage if you plan on doing anything a tad bit risky.

If you do find yourself needing dental work, be sure to keep copies of receipts and records so you can share them with your insurance company for possible reimbursement and of course, records for your dentist.

Don’t have insurance? Google and do some research before you leave!

See: Does Travel Insurance Cover Dental

4. Know what to do if you knock out a tooth.

I’ve never been in a bar fight although came super close one time in Greece when I was accosted by “flannel girl”. I’d like to think that if I was ever in a bar fight I would either lose a tooth or knock someone’s tooth out.

In either situation, this is what you (or they) should do according to the American Dental Association.

Gently hold it by the crown also known as the white part and gently rinse off your tooth, but don’t scrub it.

Then put it back in your socket. (UGH!!!)
If you can’t put it back in your socket, then keep it between your cheek and gums or a cup of milk. You know…in case you happen to have a cup of it sitting around.

Next, get to a dentist quickly! Some hospitals can also provide emergency dental care.
If you happen to be prone to getting teeth knocked out on occasion, then maybe you need an emergency tooth preservation kit. Who knew these things existed?

5. If you lose a filling which is far more common than losing a tooth. 

Common sense reminds us that biting down on something super hard or sticky could cause you to lose a filling but for those of you who like to open beer bottles with their teeth or love that sticky or hard type of candy, losing a filling could be a common occurrence.

Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/@elena-buzmakova-borisova-1425230

In your moment of primal behavior or satisfying your sweet tooth, be sure to know what to do if this happens to you. It’s not usually an emergency, but if you don’t get it taken care of right away, it could cause you to need a root canal. For a temporary solution, use over-the-counter dental cement like Dentemp Repair Kit with Dental Cement – until you can visit a dentist.

I would recommend keeping some of this in your travel kit as this may be hard to find while traveling and I can’t imagine having to translate this!

If you’re reading this while abroad, then you might have a better chance of finding clove oil which can help reduce the sensitivity and pain. Go look in a drug store, grocery store or spice market and use a cotton swab or something else soft to gently apply it to the sensitive area.

Clove oil can also act as an instant breath freshener which you might need right before a random break-dancing battle.

*Just be careful when using too much clove oil as it can irritate your gums.

Hm. I wonder if you could make a spray out of clove oil and use it as pepper spray AND breath freshener!? Dual purpose? I’m going to have to do some more research on this.

Has it been sterilized?

6. Finding a Dentist overseas

Do some prep work before you travel.

Depending on where you are traveling to, dental care may not be easily accessible and you also need to be aware of their cleanliness standards. I do my research in case I decide to get a tattoo in the country I am visiting. Same due diligence applies when researching dentists.

I bet you one of these is an ancient tooth extractor. Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_in_ancient_Rome

Search for dentists and check Yelp reviews, if available. If you find yourself in the dentist’s office/tent/cave, check the cleanliness of the environment and equipment.

Is the equipment sealed? Is there an autoclave? Are they actually using it? *An inspection of this sorts applies in your home country as well!

Here’s a great CNN article with great information about cross-infection in a dental office.

Remember. You want to return to your home country with memories and souvenir magnets, not diseases (of any kind).

7. Pack Dental Floss.

I floss every day. Once, I forgot my dental floss and had to buy some in Paris and it costs me almost $7.00. NOT kidding. Maybe this isn’t a typical price, but I had to have it.

Don’t forget a) to floss every day and b) pack it with you.

Last but not least, smile and “SAY CHEESE!”

Taking Inventory

Taking Inventory

Packing. Yep…got that. Favorite shoes – check! Passport – check! I remembered.

Unpacking – crap. I remembered that. And that. Oh, but I forgot that.
And remember the time I/we did this? And remember when….

Taking inventory. A blog of complete random thoughts.

June 7, 2017

4 days after the London Bridge attack that took the lives of 8 innocent people. 

If you were to take my current feeling of contentment, gratitude and mixed it with bit of “I’m elated.” You’d probably get a bottle of perfume named, “Surreal” that also comes with those funky, bizarre commercials. You know, those commercials that make absolutely no sense and have no “scent” but are visually beautiful?

Yeah, surreal just about sums it up.

Back in 1991, in perfect teenage loopy handwriting, I wrote my proclamation in Rochelle’s year book that one day, I – WE would “look back at our lives, be millionaires and laugh.”
In 1992, while in college…half drunk, slightly sunburnt by the beach sun and starved, we flipped to that back page of her high school year book, read my proclamation and laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

Then sobered up enough to head down to McDonalds to buy that .99 cent cheeseburger Happy Meal and split it. Millionairism – far from it.

Fast forward to 2017. I don’t know how many years later this is…I am too tired to do the math. I certainly don’t eat cheeseburgers any more, but crave them sometimes.

I am not a millionaire. Not in a monetary kinda way anways. I don’t need a million dollars because I have what I need and I want for absolutely nothing. Except for cheeseburgers, sometimes.
At the current moment, I am in between London and New York flying many miles above ground. Slightly cold, but thanks to the fancy location of my seat, I have a comfy blanket to protect me from the elements.

Not everyone gets a comfy blanket as part of their inventory. I’m not bragging, I am thankful.

My thoughts pretty much match my current altitude where not only are we high (not that kind), but at moments, there is a little turbulence. To be honest, I am writing to stay awake and half hope my creativity doesn’t drift away as my words begin to appear (or disappear) on page 2 or my own self-conscious thoughts of what a complete dork I must sound like at this moment. Bear with me while I practice a bit of randomness or as my English lit teacher would say, “stream of consciousness” thought.
It’s what I call, “taking inventory” and my brain just does it naturally sometimes.

Ump! Looky there…made it to page 2.

I spent the last 2 days at an intense DevOps (DOES Summit) conference in London where I heard stories of cultural and technical transformation. I was able to exchange thoughts, ask questions and my ideas were heard by many well-respected people in the industry. Most people don’t understand what I do for “a living”, but I read the most precise summary of what I would call an elevator pitch of what I do…

“I want to improve the lives of 1 million IT workers in the next 5 years…” – Erik – “The Phoenix Project”

Ok so maybe 1 million IT (Information Technology) workers is a bit much, but my goal is to improve the lives of many people, not just focus on IT.
And now let me pause for a moment while I look out the window at the surreal landscape below me. I am not really sure if I am looking at the ocean or snow-capped mountains. Below, it looks like a day time sky with stars. As if the airplane did a topsy turvy and now we are flying upside down.
I’ve had a few topsy turvy moments in my life.

Took a picture and after further investigation which means I zoomed in my pic, maybe they are waves that look like ice chunks from this far above. Either way, it’s unlike any landscape I have ever seen whether water or land. Make that an “earthscape”?

Ocean or sky?

I’ve seen lots of ‘scapes in my life. And ‘scaped lots, too.

The lovely flight attendant just came by to ask if I was still working. I never work. This isn’t work.
But I do contribute my experience and knowledge and desire to always improve my craft to an airline company and in return, they take care of some bills. Maybe I can give a new meaning to the word, “aircraft”?
Or should I say, they pay me to exercise my passion every day. And yes, exercise would be the right word. Sometimes you do have days where you feel like you’re running a million miles, but aren’t quite getting anywhere. And along the marathon route, you get cheers, water and granola bars and sometimes just blank stares.

Not a picture of a comfy blanket, but a picture of not working.

Topsy turvy, ebb and flow and sometimes you just have no clue what you’re looking at. But I love it.

Yep, taking inventory of the moments.

Way before I could sign Rochelle’s graduation yearbook, I would spend hours in the library. I would actually skip class to spend time hunkered down in the aisle of an un-monitored row of books supported by cold, metal shelves. I always thought I would go into advertising. Actually…let me back up…I wanted to be a psychologist, but I wanted to apply that knowledge to a “business” or something lucrative. So I thought advertising could be that perfect, healthy, happy marriage between psychology and business. I would spend hours studying how the mind interprets colors and shapes and how much of that is used in advertising. What makes people tick? What stimulates people to behave in certain ways?

I learned real quick that the word “SEX” was an obviously mind jostler and would emphasize that word in the various posters I would create for student government.
“Wanted….either SEX….to join student government….” Guess which words I emphasized. Guess which words I didn’t.

This stimulates people.

(Another flight attendant just brought me a warmed-up chocolate chip cookie and commented on how much I was working. LOVE him and his ice blue eyes. I asked him to bring me another cocktail when he had the chance.)

Colors, placement…all of it evokes certain emotions in people and evidently, this is based on studies compiled over many years of practices. Fascinating shit.
I’ve always been interested in foreign languages as well. I wanted to be able to talk to as many people as possible in the event…you know… I could travel.
I never wanted to experience sameness. I wanted and craved different and if the “different’ only presented itself in National Geographic magazines or books about people’s minds… or…well…that was my “travel”.

One way or another, I would experience some type of “out of body “experience that would allow me to see the world and people in a different light.
I could see it. I couldn’t smell it or touch it, but I could imagine it. Sort of like those bizarre perfume commercials.
I suppose I was planting my wish seeds many years ago. Or building inventory that later would be consumed.
July 2007, I went on my first overseas trip to Rome, Italy. I earned enough money in overtime to pay for a 6 day trip for me and my 13 year old daughter. I studied the language for a few months prior and planned almost every detail.

Amanda wanted to see Pompeii, buy replicas of name brand purses and sunglasses.

I wanted to take a shower every 2 hours because it was so hot and drink gallons of San Benedetto Ice tea.

We both were awed by all the history, tragedy and secrets that surrounded us. I loved that time with her.

In the early 80’s, my mother placed me on an airplane to visit my grandparents. Sitting up front, I was provided coloring books with crayons that were always too waxy to show real color, plastic wings to pin to my shirt (which was the badge of the “minor flying alone”) and kind smiles from the flight attendants.
No agenda planned. I flew alone on various trips to Phoenix to visit Grandma and Grandpa. I flew from Florida and Phoenix and back many times until I turned 18. From Florida, I would be catapulted to Phoenix to spend hours in the pool collecting vitamin D (and evidently, skin cancer) to return to Florida for school a couple months later. I loved every moment with my Grandmother.
December 29, 2007, my grandmother passed away.

Well. Hell.

I don’t think I ever have ever typed those words before. Just reading those words causes me to stretch. It’s better to stretch and spread those feelings of mourning to the ends of my toes and fingers than to sit still, swell up and cry like a fool.
I miss her brittle nails, little round belly and even that look of disapproval from time to time. Like the look she gave me when I decided to perm my short hair for college and I looked like a damn poodle.
My grandmother was my first passport. I came into her life when she was fairly well-stamped. She may not have had a blue book filled with faded, half-inked stamps from various countries, but she sure did have a full suitcase of wisdom. She ensured that I developed a curiosity for all things so that one day, I would have those seeds that grew into much bigger, greener things.

Certainly not greener as in a million dollars.
I didn’t need to seek out new worlds, I just needed to hold her hand and let her guide me through whatever lesson she could teach me about life.
She led me to new cultures, experiences and even politics.
Fast forward to 2017.

I’ve been to handful of countries which I will never be able to share with her. Yet.
In retrospect and back to the surrealism of it all….I can retrace almost every experience of my life and how it all led up….either significantly or not…to recent events. An inventory of memories.

(The flight attendant just asked if I need anything else. My answer was, “no”. But then I raised one finger and said…maybe one more cocktail?)

The most pressing question of the past couple of days was the tattoo I have on my left wrist.
It’s a series of straight dotted lines that ends with a small little airplane. The tattoo artist (not the one in prison) suggested that I add a loop. No. No one wants to be in a plane that does a “loop”.

No “loops” allowed.

Ever. And especially not in rock fights. Like the time when my 9 year old self lived in Oxnard, California and I got into a rock fight with Fernando right on the corner of Elm Street and San Marino Street. I threw a rock and missed. It somehow “looped” back from him and hit me in the head. Blood came gushing down my face and I chased him. He cried. When I finally looked in the mirror, I could see why. I looked like “Carrie”.
I guess Karma is sort of a loop.

Back to the airplane.

This little icon of a plane was not permanently placed there after my acceptance of my position at an airline company, but was placed on the inside of my left wrist to remind me to avoid any and all corporate environments. Sort of like the “freelancer” gang symbol. But not really.
Yep. I hate the political, corporate life so much I placed a little airplane on my left wrist to remind me to always be free and to always fly. Sorta like…a mind-altering medicine that helps you cope.
After stomping my foot down and claiming that enough was enough, I quit the corporate life and went on my own. I became my own boss (that was tough – imagine, me…managing me) traveled and earned enough to afford me the same standard of living as my “corporate” job but I was also working twice as hard.

6 months later, the invitation to join an airline company slithered its way into my inbox. And just as slitherly, I accepted.

(I think we’re over Canada. 36,006 altitude.)

The very tattoo that served as a reminder to avoid a corporate world, is the very same tattoo that I look at it and think….” Oh shit. Now that’s surreal.” Or maybe serendipitous would be the correct term.

I excelled on my own, but only because I had the freedom to choose my own path for my day and long term goals. I also had to revisit my love for people. As a teenager, I wanted to explore the minds of people but as I grew older, I also formed a calloused disposition to human beings and began to detest them.
For a moment, I thought maybe I was an alien. Scratch that, I wanted to be an alien. Much easier to disassociate that associate. I still think I could be an alien because of my infatuation with Area 51 and the time I had that headache while I was in Roswell, New Mexico.

Fast forward.

I am completely in love with my job working for an airline (which is also known as a my “drug dealer” if you’re addicted to travel). And I am completely in love with the people (most, not all). I suppose I just needed a detox or in keeping theme with this blog title, I had to remove the spoiled inventory to make room for better.
Every person holds a piece of the big, giant jig saw puzzle. We are all certainly intertwined on some galactic, spiritual level.
Each story, flaw and personality trait you recognize in someone else is a reflection of a portion of ourselves. How else would you recognize it if you weren’t already intimately familiar?
Sitting in a simple, rustic pizza place with two of my co-workers, I was reminded of those reflections and pieces that we contribute to create the larger picture of the world. Those couple of hours were more or less, the grand finale of our time in London.

For 2 full days, we interacted with people from various backgrounds and parts of the world. London is good for that. I would consider London the “Hospital of Soul Soothing”.

Corny, I know.

We interacted with each driver who drove us to our same destination every day. From Akbar to Zaysinar, from Somalia to Afghanistan, each of them were a mosaic to be appreciated even for a moment.

Even though that last guy made me nervous when he talked about stealing a million dollars and almost ran the car into a wall while putting on his sunglasses with both hands. But still…
For these 2 days we were enhancing and experiencing our lives while some lives had ended needlessly just an “eye sight view without binoculars” away.

And on this last evening at the pizza joint, the large window parallel to our table served as a movie screen for us for a couple of hours.

People walking by.


In conversation or simply on a mission to move trash to its final resting place.
Lovers in a small argument or tourists who had no clue where they were.
From the goth girl to the business man, to the very attractive blonde who was clearly paid to be on that arm of that guy…it was a sight to witness.
Eventually, we would poke through this movie screen and interact either with a wave or mocking their own behavior, but in a fun, nice way, of course.
Some interacted with us either by a natural glance or by sheer curiosity. Were we goofy? Sure. Did we laugh? Yes.

We’d invite people in to dine at a restaurant that wasn’t even ours…and they came in. That pizza place owed us so many free cannolis!

Just relaxing in a pizza place.

But wow, the people were beautiful. From the man who was wearing the same shade of red, that melted into the matching background to the woman peering from the café across the street.


The man who stopped and relentlessly pecked at his phone with intent, but yet had no evidence of distress or anger on his face.

The texting man.

The chopper gang, the girls with skirts too-short, to the woman who was in near-tears….yes, it was fascinating.

At one moment, an older gentlemen stopped and peered at us just as we were peering at him…We invited him and he insisted on giving us with 10 pounds. He wanted to buy us a drink! Why? Because we were happy which made him happy.

We used the money for cannolis.

Another reminder that the universe will indeed give you ask for no matter how subtle or silly the request.

I truly believe, in your moments of joy and distress, your heart will ask for those very things that you need. I suppose you could say that prayer is the ultimate bar code scanner that will be sure your shelves are full.

Which is why the flight attendant brought me another cocktail and I never received my million dollars.

To those families who are currently taking inventory of all things, this is dedicated to Xavier, Igancio, Alexandre, Kirsty, Chrissy, James, Sebastien & Sara. Victims of the London Bridge Attack. 

People in My Pictures – Italy

People in My Pictures – Italy

I love people. For the most part. Sometimes I prefer them to be far away instead of “all up in my personal space” like on a seat next to me while on an airplane ride or subway. What I don’t mind are having people in my travel pictures as I feel it captures a part of the everyday “life” and is a bit different than the typical building or landscape pictures.

So, here are some of my people pictures from my first time in Italy around 2007. I suppose this is my attempt at a photo essay??

People in my Pictures

I caught this jolly group walking down the stairs from a Univeristy and it seemed this nice, slightly tipsy gentleman was having a grand time. You can see he caught me taking a picture and right after I put the camera down, he yelled out, “Ciao, bella!” because of course, this is what men do in Italy. This picture makes me smile.

Italian Men at the University - GGA
Ciao, bella!

I call this one: “Newstand Man” not to be confused with “Candy Man” and don’t say it 3 times!  One of my favorites because of all the colors and lines of the magazines. Then we see this man pushing his glasses up…

Newstand Man
Newstand Man

Random snapshot of a group while we were exploring the ruins in Pompei. It seems every time they walked past me they were having some spirited debate.

Group in Pompei
Group in the ruins of Pompei

This lovely lady was surprised that I wanted to take a picture of her. I asked if I could “make” a photo of her in my broken Italian and she responded by pointing to herself and confirming it was her I wanted to take a picture of. I suppose no one takes random pictures of bathroom attendants, by why not? I do. And she was lovely.

Bathroom Attendant - Italy
You want to take a picture of me?? Yes. – Italy

I have no idea what this random conversation was about, but if you have ever been near Termini Station in Rome, it can get a bit crazy.  I can’t think of a caption for this….other than…get back in your car because you are in standing in the middle of traffic?

Men in Traffic
You going that way? No…I am staying right here.

No set of pictures are complete without the mom and the baby and of course, the lost tourist, the nun and other randomness.

Mom and Baby
Mom and Baby

Vatican Museum – two workers having a chat while I waited in line.  I strongly recommend doing a group tour if plan on visiting the Sistine Chapel which is part of the Vatican Museum. You can get to the front of the line much faster.

Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum

See the line? The Vatican Museum gets TONS of visitors each year and it’s definitely worth it. You don’t go to Rome, without going to the Vatican to see the museum plus the Sistine Chapel. If you take a tour, you can get to the front of the line and take pictures of everyone else standing in line.

Line at the Vatican
Line at the Vatican

And for the love of God, go to church.

Go to Church, Rome, Italy
Go to Church, Rome, Italy

…because if you don’t, you might wonder where your salvation went. In your purse, the sky or hell…you have no clue?


The End.



When You Can’t Go Abroad – Go to Epcot Center

When You Can’t Go Abroad – Go to Disney World’s Epcot Center

Some people are just not able to go abroad due to job obligations, financial or health reasons so how do you get to experience the world abroad without leaving the United States? You could visit your local Chinatown, but if you have done that already have you considered a visit to Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida?

The place is cool for many reasons, bit more on the educational side as the park’s main focus is human achievement and innovation and of course, the World Showcase that has that has mini-replicas of 11 different nations.

As someone who grew up in Florida, there were no shortages of school field trips to Disney World and Disney World’s Epcot Center. I suppose my cup runneth over because I think I have been there about a million times. I didn’t travel the world as a kid, I mean not many kids do so I suppose this is normal. To a teenager whose only view of the world was either what photos and stories Uncle Mike shared after returning from a Navy tour or by thumbing through pages of National Geographic magazine, Epcot’s World Showcase was a pretty big deal. I LOVED it.

Don’t get my wrong…everything about Disney is a big deal, but being a nerd, Epcot was my thing and besides, I knew I was destined to see the world.

Epcot Spaceship Earth Walt Disney World | by Anthony Quintano
Epcot Spaceship Earth Walt Disney World | by Anthony Quintano | Flickr

My favorite was the Morocco Pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase  – circa 1987. I went to all the countries, of course, but there was just something very cool about the Morocco one.

Morocco Pavilion at Epcot
Morocco Pavilion at Epcot

The Morocco Pavilion was literally like entering a different world. My friend Michelle (not the same Michelle I travel with today as this was 30+ years ago…) and I made reservations at the Restaurant Marrakesh, which I remember the food being really good, but super spicy. The food and the experience were so different than my anything in my little Florida hometown. There were belly dancers and the waiter didn’t seem to speak much English and hell, the fact that we had to make “reservations” was “fancy” for us.

Marrakesh, Morocco | North Africa
Marrakesh, Morocco | North Africa

In the Morocco Pavilion, I remember men sitting on blankets charming snakes, beautiful, vibrant colors in the Bazaar and just a crazy energy. I swear there was even a young Moroccan boy that ran through the Pavilion. Maybe it was just a figment of my imagination? No…it actually wasn’t. I am pretty sure it happened.

*Interesting fact: According to Wikipedia, this pavilion is the only pavilion in which the country’s government aided in the design and sponsors the pavilion. The other pavillions are sponsored by various corporations.

At that age, I never imagined that one day I would go to North Africa and visit Morocco in “real life”. I always think back to Epcot and sorta crack a smile. Sounds corny, I know. Disney really doesn’t spare any expense when it comes to recreating an experience, even down to the cast members who are hired from their respective country to help contribute to the authentic experience.


It’s funny how things come full circle because so far, I have been to 7 of the 11 countries in the Epcot World Showcase. I have to admit, Disney does a pretty dang good job of replicating the countries.
I always tell people, if you can’t travel, at least go to Epcot. You can visit Mexico, France, Norway, Germany, Morocco, Italy, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, China and of course, the United States and get a super authentic experience.

I even asked my friend, Juliet with Wishdrawals – Disney Vacation Planning what she liked most about Disney and she said pretty much echoed my opinion:

“What I love most is how when you visit Disney world you literally enter another world.
There is so much happiness and no worries.
The cast members make every experience a fantastic one because they literally LOVE what they do!”

She’s right. As many times as I have been, I don’t recall any bad experiences as kid going or even as a parent. I will say that it can get super busy around Christmas time and if the Florida heat is not your thing, try planning your visit around September.

And for all the things that Disney has to offer it can get overwhelming, so I would recommend contacting Juliet to help you plan your vacation. She’s an authorized Disney Travel Agent (and addict) and can get you the hook-up on anything related to Disney.

Contact Juliet @ https://www.facebook.com/julietwishdrawals16/

And go see the World!!!

Walt Disney World Resort Entrance - Wikipedia
Walt Disney World Resort Entrance – Wikipedia

10 Tips Female Travelers Need to Know About Safety

10 Tips Female Travelers Need to Know About Safety

Maaaaaaaaan, do we have some sketchy stories to tell about being females traveling abroad! Like most female travelers, we have found ourselves in some very uncomfortable situations. After all, in a country where not only is the language completely different but so are the culture and customs, we are bound to accidentally find ourselves in some questionable scenarios.

But hey, isn’t the strangeness and unfamiliarity all part of the attraction to travel? So we’re not going to stop traveling because of fear, are we? NO. Although some situations can somewhat be avoided, how can you be safe while traveling?

You can’t entirely guarantee that you will be safe and this applies whether you’re in your own backyard or someone else’s on the other side of the world – and I don’t mean that literally.

We’re trying to avoid actually being IN someone’s backyard, as in 6 feet under…

Pompei, Italy - Girls Gone Abroad
Pompei, Italy – Girls Gone Abroad

See how my my mind automatically goes straight to the morbid ending? I blame my mother for this. She refuses to keep a shovel in her trunk for fear it might be used to knock her out AND to dig the hole (true story).

However, the fact that my mind does acknowledge the possibility that something bad could happen is probably what has potentially saved me from some bad situations.

Here is me sharing some of my wisdom. Some of which I stole from Oprah.

1. Never let your guard down.

Just because you are blissfully frolicking through the fields of “somewhere city, somewhere country” doesn’t mean you won’t be a target for a sniper. Maybe this is drastic, but there is no such thing as a “I’m a tourist and therefore untouchable” cloak of safety that magically shrouds you when traveling. You don’t have to walk around with your face smeared with Vaseline and earrings taken out ready for a fight just don’t let your guard down.

You are a tourist and will be a target for something. This is the mindset you need to have.

2. Pretend to be married and that your husband is right around the corner.

*YES – HUSBAND even if you are a lesbian.

This means either wear a fake wedding ring or be ready to slip one onto the appropriate finger if you run into an awkward situation.

One of my many married stories. While walking on a very busy Istanbul street, I was followed by a man who suddenly appeared by my side and a little too close. Michelle was with me so I wasn’t even alone. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if someone is with you.

As he asked me a series of questions, I could feel his hand slide up to the back of my arm. Quickly, I jerked my arm away from him and put my hands behind my back and moved a finger from my right hand over to my left ring finger. He was too busy talking and looking at my (covered) breasts to notice…

I quickly flashed my (newly) married hand in his face and I told him we were meeting my husband who is Turkish (I was making pointing gestures) who was waiting at the corner and to please go away before he got me into trouble. Worked instantly and he actually panicked a bit.

Wedding Ring - Girls Gone Abroad
Wedding Ring – Girls Gone Abroad

Side note: He actually did walk up to a man on the corner and started talking and pointing in our direction, but Michelle and I picked up our pace and got lost in the crowd. Also know as going into “stealth mode”.

3. Don’t be afraid to be rude.  

I learned this from Oprah.

Back in my teen days, my mom would always be watching Oprah around the time I got home from school. I would watch the show with her as this was our way of “bonding” and her way of “parenting”. See…back in those days, Oprah covered some informative and controversial topics and many times, those topics would trigger the start of many conversations.

On one particular show, Oprah was interviewing a woman who had been brutally beaten and raped. The victim talked about how something felt “off” about this person who showed up at her door asking to use her phone, but she didn’t want to be rude so he let him in against her “gut” feeling. Does this surprise you?

Think about how many times you just smiled and were polite as possible in an uncomfortable situation because you didn’t want to be viewed as rude or bitchy.

Side note: Back in my younger years, before cell phones, it was common for someone to knock at your door asking to use the phone.

Oprah talked about how women are conditioned to be nice and how we need to learn that being rude is okay.

Do NOT be afraid of being rude of even appearing to be rude- it could save your life.

4. Trust your intuition. 

Women have it. It’s a gift. If you feel like something is off, then it is. Don’t try to find an explanation for how you feel, just trust it. And see # 3 – don’t worry about being rude or feeling like you are crazy – just go with your intuition.

Check out this YouTube video by Gavin de Becker – The Gift of Fear.

5. Walk and stand like you have confidence. 

Walking straight, head up and with shoulders slightly back which not only helps to make your boobs look bigger, but also makes you appear like you have confidence.

Hey, I know you have confidence, but make sure it shows in your body language. Walk and stand like you own that place and that you will f&%# someone up if you need to.

Walk like a boss - Girls Gone Abroad
Walk like a boss – Girls Gone Abroad

*This also means you don’t walk while fidgeting with your smart phone. Especially because your eyes diverted down makes you a target and someone will stab you for that phone (not kidding).

Side note: If you are lost, find a safe location to check your phone or ask for directions preferably from a store owner or other employee. Not the dude on the street who could be a Ted Bundy copy cat killer. He’s either going to want money for helping you or he’s throwing you in his nearby vehicle.

And this should probably be a 5.5 or a new #6, but don’t ever allow yourself to be distracted by simple questions like someone asking for directions or asking for the time. Or any type of question that needs you to look down at your watch, phone, shoe? etc.

Something learned in Krav Maga – hold your phone up, look them in the eyes – take a pic of the person and happily give them the time from your phone and/or directions.

Here’s some cool stuff about Victim Selection posted on Protective Strategies, but before you click on that, read on.

6. Do not accept drinks from anyone, including women

One night, while at a popular club in London, I was approached by a few women who were super friendly. They poured on the compliments and asked where I was from and all those other standard questions. One girl tried to tell me she was from Kansas – yet she had a British accent. Go figure. They proceeded to escort me to the bar to “buy me a shot”.

Something definitely didn’t feel right and before I could even say “no,” my friend came up and very bluntly told them to “fuck off.” Suddenly, these women changed their demeanor and scurried off.

Bizarre. But my friend, a London local, explained that these “friendly” women are part of a sex trafficking ring who are paid to deliver drunk, preferably lesbian women to men. I’ll cover more of this in a future blog.

So please, do not accept drinks from anyone and be mindful of the quantity of booze you are drinking.

Drinking - London - Girls Gone Abroad
Mind the Drink – London – Girls Gone Abroad

7. Learn Krav Maga

My girlfriend introduced me to Krav Maga and out of all the self defense techniques I have studied, this is the best – by far. Krav Maga is the official hand to hand combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces. You are not taught just a series of moves that will help you win a tournament, you are taught usable moves and techniques for real life situations. It seriously is life (and body) changing.

Warning – this class is not for the dainty types. Only those serious about protecting themselves should join.

8. Know the culture and customs of the country you are visiting.

Come on ladies…do I even need to elaborate on this one? No brainer. Don’t get me wrong however. Not following a custom or culture is not an open invite for assault. Ever.

Blue Mosque - Istanbul - Girls Gone Abroad
Know the Culture – Istanbul – Girls Gone Abroad

9. Act.

One time, in Morocco, Michelle and I found ourselves in the back of a van. A tour van. See where your mind went?? Good, you’re learning.

So while in this van things got awkward. Intuition vibes were going and being rude was not going to work so plan C went into action. Which was me “answering” a phone call from a friend who was waiting for us. A future blog will go more into this – but the gist is, if you need to: act. Act like you have people waiting for you, like you’re a nut, act confident, act like you will slice a throat, if necessary. Throws them off, every time.

10. Share your plans and check in often. 

Just because you have wanderlust doesn’t mean you just up, leave and fully disconnect. Even if you are going on a solo – “find your mind” trip, share your plans and check in every so often even if it’s just on social media. Your family and friends should know where you are at all times.

Side note: Since the original writing of this post, I found a great app for planning your trip. It’s easy to share your itinerary and it’s free! Planapple.

Last but not least, don’t let your loved one read this because then they freak out and worry about you when you are traveling. Then you will be lectured about how you should not go to <insert country>.

But hey, you can’t blame them. They watched a LOT of Oprah.

Meanwhile, God forbid something happens to you, but if it does – it is NOT your fault. Nothing you did, wore or said gives consent or is an open invite for assault on any level. Report it and get help immediately.

Be safe and enjoy the world.

I am Woman, Take My Tour!

“I am woman, take my tour!”

Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa. Ok soooo… Aiysha – the first certified and employed female tour guide in Zanzibar, didn’t say or sing this, but in my silly head I couldn’t help but think of the 1971 song by Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman”.

First two lines of the song are:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore

Meet Aiysha Mohammed, the first employed, certified female tour guide in Zanzibar, East Africa!

Now do you get it? “I am woman..take my tour…” No? Read on….

Evidently, as a woman it is easy to become certified as a tour guide in Zanzibar if you have the skills that Aiysha has, but to obtain employment is a different story.
Zanzibar, with its beautiful year-round weather and amazing beaches has been on my list of must-go places for a while. I hadn’t thought much about Zanzibar until recently, when I stumbled upon a Facebook group called, “Girls LOVE Travel” and noticed a young woman by the name of Aiysha Mohammed.

She had posted a picture of herself with a caption of “First Certified Female Tour Guide in Zanzibar” that captured my attention just as much as her striking smile!

Touring With Aiysha in Zanzibar
Touring With Aiysha in Zanzibar

First Certified Female Tour Guide in Zanzibar? Hmm. (cue background music…”I am Woman”)

Aiysha’s post was something to be proud of and to become the first female tour guide in Zanzibar sounded like this wasn’t something that was “easy” to do.

Naturally, I had to find out more because I am naturally nosey curious.


Aiysha was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions sent to her by a curious American.
CaSandra – “Why did you choose to become a tour guide?”

Aiysha wasn’t aware that there even was such a thing as a tour guide, but because of her English language skill, this helped her to pass the tour guide examination. She learned English in elementary school and speaks it very well.  Originally, she wanted to be a teacher.

CaSandra – “If you only had one minute to describe what it is like living in Zanzibar, what would you say?”

Aiysha – “I can say Zanzibar is beautiful place and peaceful. I feel proud.”
Aiysha has lived in Zanzibar all her life and was only away for about 2 years when she lived in Oman where she worked as a maid. As a lifetime resident, she has plenty to share about Zanzibar’s beaches and lifestyle.

You can get a glimpse for how beautiful Zanzibar is by looking at Aiysha’s pictures on her Facebook Tour Page: Aiysha’s Adventures.

CaSandra – “Why is it difficult for women to become tour guides in Zanzibar?”

Aiysha – “To be certified is not difficult, but to get job as a tour guide is difficult because most tour guides are men.”
Of course, in my naïve mind I am thinking maybe the men just didn’t want a girl invading their “club”…but now that I think about the many tours that I have been on, none of them have been with a female tour guide.

In fact, I don’t really notice too many women in the tourism industry and if they are remotely involved, they are usually selling their hand-made goods to tourists, braiding someone’s hair or they are selling tickets to a museum.

Being a female traveler, I suppose being escorted through a strange city by another female is probably the safer option. This includes drivers of hotel transfers and such, too. I mean…why haven’t I sought out companies primarly owned and operated by women when I have traveled?

*I’m making a mental note of this epiphany and while doing this, I did a quick Google search and found this site called: Equality in Tourism.

I had no idea there was a whole organization that helps to promote equality in tourism. And now I understand the need for it. If a country relies heavily on tourism, then women should be able to share in those benefits. No brainer.

Aiysha's Adventures - Zanzibar
Aiysha’s Adventures – Zanzibar

Onto my next question.

CaSandra – “On the Girls Love Travel Facebook group, you announced that you were the first certified female tour guide in Tanzania and that you went through many challenges? What were some of those challenges?”

Aiysha – “First tour company they won’t want me, they won’t give me clients because they don’t trust women and specially because I’m the first. Men – they was think I’m selling myself, some of my family they was don’t want me to play in that part.”


My heart dropped a bit when I read her response. As a woman who has spent many years in a primarily male-dominated industry, I have had my own challenges, but I can’t imagine how I would feel if someone assumed that I was selling that type of “service”. Ugh.

So, there you have it. Getting the certification is one thing, but she had difficulty in convincing a company that she is not a prostitute trying to sell herself to tourists. I still can’t even imagine what this would be like…so please, if you are thinking about visiting Zanzibar, take a tour with Aiysha to not only show her your support, but because she does provide an excellent service.

A tour guide service and according to her reviews, an excellent one!

Please like Aiysha’s page at: Aiysha’s Adventures where you can contact her about any questions you may have or to book a tour.

And to get a quick overview about Zanzibar, read, “About Zanzibar“.

Congratulations, Aiysha and we hope to see you soon!

Aerial Yoga – Hanging Out At Uplift Maui

Aerial Yoga – Hanging Out at Uplift Maui

When you go to Maui you expect to “hang ten” if you’re brave enough to surf. Personally, I am not into surfing because I am afraid that the surfboard may knock me out or I become a shark snack. Instead, I hung out at the Uplift Maui studio at Hotel Wailea and took an aerial yoga class. No sharks involved.

No, really. I literally hung out for an hour taking an aerial yoga class taught by the amazing Dre, not to be confused with Dr. Dre. The class was awesome! 

I love to be upside down! - GGA
I love to be upside down! – GGA

It’s been a while since I have done anything related to aerial silks or trapeze, two things that I do for “fitness” so I was pretty excited about this class.

If you never heard of aerial yoga, it’s yoga that you do with the help of an aerial sling – think of a hammock or swing that is made of silk. It helps you sort of “defy gravity” and supports you during certain poses. For some beginners, this may actually be impossible to do without help from the sling. Dre refers to the sling as a “dance partner” that you may have to get used to.

Speaking of Dre…

Dre, Andrea a.k.a. Dre, was my first aerial silks instructor who had moved to Maui a couple of years ago to persue her dream of opening her own yoga studio. There was no way I was NOT going to take one of her classes during my visit. Besides, my bikini said it’s time to get back into a fitness routine plus the location for this particular class which was at Hotel Wailea is freakin’ beautiful!

Andrea and CaSandra - GGA
Andrea and CaSandra – GGA

Luckily, I ended up being able to get into her aerial yoga – basic class designed for beginners only because a student had cancelled. Dre’s classes tend to book up pretty quickly!

Dre has always been an amazing teacher. She is very patient with beginners and describes alternatives for those who may be a bit more advanced.

She also has “hawk eyes”. Meaning, if she sees you doing something that might cause you to live out the rest of your days in a wheelchair, she catches it and will quickly correct you. Even after class and you think she’s only paying attention to you while you chat away while others are taking selfies while hanging upside down. She’s always watching – like a hawk.

You can read more about Dre on her website. Girl’s got some creds so you’ll be in good silks hands.

The class – Aerial Yoga Basics

You don’t need any yoga experience to take this class. Dre demonstrates the poses for the class and explains how to get into the sling and all that fun stuff.

We did lunges, planks, things that stretch your back, thighs, hips,  your mind – ok maybe not your mind – and even some handstand stuff. I was quite sore the next day and it felt great!

My favorite part was hanging upside down because I was a bat in a former life.

Sometimes your whole body is in the sling and sometimes only partially. Keep in mind that because you are using a sling and you are putting some weight into it, it may feel a little uncomfortable at first.

Aerial Yoga in Maui - GGA
Aerial Yoga in Maui – GGA

Dre will help you adjust if you feel like you are being pinched or it just feels weird. If you plan on doing aerial yoga often, you will get used to the sling like a dance partner who might be stepping on your feet often.

Location – Hotel Wailea – Maui

I am not exaggerating when I say that the location is paradise. Uplift Maui is located in the wellness studio overlooking the pool area and a beautiful view of the ocean at the adult-only Hotel Wailea.

The round shaped room has a very zen, feng shui feel to it and you seriously have to remind yourself that you are “really there”.

Classes are open to the public but if you are a guest of Hotel Wailea you can receive complimentary classes.

Other Classes

While I only had time for one class, Uplift Maui offers more classes and you can view the schedule and book a class here. You can even book a private lesson or semi-private lesson and don’t be afraid to try a a trapeze or aerial silks class! You’ll be hooked! In a good, safe way, of course.

So if you happen to be on your way to Maui for whatever reason – book a class and tell Dre you read my cool blog and I convinced you to take her class!

Aloha, mahalo and namaste!


11 Useful Things Every American Should Know About Brazil

11 Useful Things Every American Should Know About Brazil

Brazil, the largest country in South America has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a diverse mix of cultures, rich, vibrant street art and not to mention tons of island paradises.
Your packed and ready to go and have all the essentials, but what are some of useful things that every American should know about Brazil?

1.Wear flip flops, but leave the Asics at home!

Brazil isn’t like Europe where flip flops are considered a fashion disaster. In Brazil, flip flops are super practical and make sense for longs walks on beaches and hot pavement. Bring your favorite pair, but be sure to buy several pair of Havaianas. A popular Brazilian brand, Havaianas translates to Hawaiians in Portuguese and are considered a household staple much like beans and rice. They are super comfy and there are plenty of colors to match your pedicured toes.

As far as sneakers, people certainly wear them in Brazil but some brands like Asics are super expensive even compared to American standards so it’s best to just leave them at home. Besides, it’s better to save room in your suitcase for flip flops.

2. Cash is not king so use your credit or debit cards, but don’t let them out of sight.

It’s never wise to carry a lot of cash with you and considering that Brazil is a country that widely accepts credit and debit cards, there is no need to carry a lot of cash unless you plan on buying gas or a lot of pastries. Besides, most merchants discourage the use of cash as they prefer not to have too much cash on-site so that they may avoid being a crime target.
However, unlike in the states where you can just give your waiter or waitress your card when you pay your bill, don’t do this in Brazil. Instead, they should bring a mobile credit card processor to your table and process your transaction right in front of you.

3. Leave the jewelry and extra electronics at home next to your Asics.

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, thieves had a grand old time robbing people of anything in plain sight even in broad day light. Like most countries, robbing people, especially Americans, is a common occurrence. These thieves aren’t always so obvious and even come in swarms of young children who are trained to rob just about anyone for anything. So, don’t be that American who is trying to take pictures with their IPad or is sporting the Beats by Dre headphones. Just leave those at home along with your blingy new engagement ring. Seriously. And on that note, only pull out your smartphone when necessary as those are easily grabbed by any thief whizzing by on their bike.

And if you must bring a laptop, like some of us who must work while traveling, just be sure that when you are finally able to cut the umbilical laptop cord, you tuck it away in a safe place in your hotel or apartment.

4. Don’t be taken for a ride by a taxi airport driver.

Once your exhausted body lands in Brazil, probably Rio De Janeiro (GIG) and you head through customs and gather your luggage, you will be greeted by a mass of people who will ask you if you need a taxi. I know you just want to get to your final destination for that much-needed shower, but don’t give into the temptation.

Instead, walk straight over to the Taxi cooperative stand located right before you exit the airport where you will be able to prepay for your trip. After you provide your destination and receive a ticket, someone will walk you to your cab. Hand your ticket to the driver and you’re all set! By the way, your driver should not turn on their meter as there is no need since you prepaid.
Basically, a cooperative is a group of taxi cab companies who pay for this service.

While this option is a little more expensive, you can be assured that you will not be “taken for a ride” which could happen if you were to ask for a cab by yourself.

By the way, Uber is not allowed at the GIG airport. They can drop you off but you won’t be able to use the service to get picked up. If you want to read a bit more about taxi cabs in Rio, check out this blog post by RioIGo.

5. Learn some key phrases in Portuguese, not Spanish.

Unlike Spanish speakers in Colombia, Brazilians speak Portuguese.
Very few people speak English and if they do, their families either spared the extra expense to send them to private English school or they work in tourism and are probably more than happy to speak with you in your native language. Otherwise, learn some key phrases!

6. Don’t be LOUD!

Every good blog for Americans should remind them that speaking loudly is not only obnoxious, but is great way to be hassled. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that all Americans are rich and in addition to the two types of English speakers mentioned above, there is a third kind which I call the “hassler”.

As soon as they hear English, they will approach you quickly and ask you, “Where are you from?” and regardless of which city or state you tell them, they will probably know the favorite, winning sports team and proceed to give you a high five as if you too are a loyal (insert sports team name here) fan.

Next thing you know they will try to very aggressively sell you something.

7. Use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger

Whether using it for newfound friends or for keeping in touch with family back home, install and use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Pretty much everyone uses WhatsApp in Brazil for texting or sharing videos, but Facebook Messenger does seem to prove better quality sound for phone calls. Be prepared to use both especially when WhatsApp randomly gets banned from use in Brazil.

8. No need to leave a tip.

As an American, I always struggle with this one just because it seems rude to not tip your waiter. However, when you see your bill you will notice that there is a 10% service charge added to your total price. If you still want to tip, I am sure they will appreciate your generosity. By the way, you also don’t need to tip your cab driver or hair dresser – if you just so happen to get your haircut while on vacation.

9. Don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet.

This is a super important thing that every American should know about Brazil. Don’t flush it!

Like most of South America’s sewer systems, Brazil’s sewer systems are not designed to handle toilet paper either so don’t flush toilet paper or anything else for that matter down the toilet. Instead, place it in the trash bin that you will find next to the toilet.

10. Wear Sunscreen

Brazilians can easily recognize the gringos by their sun-burnt skin. Nothing can ruin your vacation worse than trying to soothe sunburned skin and besides, you want to collect memories while on vacation, not skin cancer so please wear sunscreen! Most Americans are not used to the blazing Brazilian sun that shines almost daily so be sure to slick up with sunscreen, even on a hazy day.

11. Instead of beach towel, use a “canga”.

Hardly anyone uses a beach towel on the beaches except for a few of the bright, red Americans. Brazilian woman use cangas which are lightweight, cotton blankets that can be used a dress, sarong or wrap, but also as a beach blanket. They come in a million different patterns and dry much faster than a beach towel. Joy and Journey has a great recap about the Brazilian canga so go check it out!

I hope you enjoyed this list of useful things that every American should know about Brazil. If you have a tip you want to share, please email us at triototravel@gmail.com!

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