Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Little Video Compilation I Made of Africa

Here's a little video compilation I made of some of my special moments in Africa. I may not have brought my laptop on my trip, but I was still able to throw some videos together and do some basic editing on my phone. Had a little too much fun playing with the time lapse feature...

Shot on my iPhone and GoPro and edited using iMovie app on my phone

Music "Africa" by Toto

Places Visited in Video: Penguin Colony in Boulders Bay, Cape Town, South Africa; Sandboarding in Swakopmund, Namibia; Angel's Pool at Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia; The Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Hello, everyone!  I sincerely apologize for my lack of updates as I have had very little time or internet to get anything done!  I will post more details with photos and videos later -- in the meantime, please visit my Instagram page for some fun photo collages.  To quickly catch you up on the last two months... I was on a whirlwind of a trip through the Middle East (5 countries in just 11 days... UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait) and then went immediately to Africa to start my 42-day overland safari from Nairobi to Cape Town.  We went through 8 different countries in Eastern and Southern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa), the whole time camping with sleeping bags and tents under the stars of the African bush.  In my opinion overlanding is the best way for first-timers to get a taste of Africa and then you can always come back to the places you want to spend more time in or missed.  For me that would definitely include gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda, which I unfortunately missed on this trip.  After the safari ended I spent five completely nonstop crazy busy days in Cape Town before flying to Johannesburg.  From there I rented a car and drove down to Lesotho this past weekend and am now back in Jo'burg trying to decide what to do, where to go next...

My main goal for this year is to see as much of Africa as possible and to reach 100 countries/7 continents before turning 30.  I have basically reached my 80th country now and have a little over two months to see the remaining 20... that is really hectic!  I have managed to do all the countries so far on this trip with no visa or a visa upon arrival.  However, on this next leg of my trip to West Africa I was supposed to get my visas not just prior to arrival but actually before leaving the States.  I thought I could get the visas at the consulates here in Jo'burg, but when I went there they said I need to be a resident of South Africa in order to get it here.  I have already bought my flight from Johannesburg to Lagos, Nigeria for next Wednesday, August 26th, but still have no visa.  My plan was to take a bus from Lagos to Accra and stop in Benin and Togo, which are on the way.  All of those countries require visas prior to arrival, however, and the visas cost upwards of $160+ each.  I have been dealing with so many embassies, consulates, high commissions, border officials... so much red tape and bureaucracy that it's wearing me out quickly.

The main reason I decided to come to Africa this year was to go to a wedding in Ghana for an old friend from university.  I wanted a reason/excuse to travel to the continent I'd been putting off for a long time, half-jokingly saying I was waiting to come here with my husband.  Well, I was tired of waiting so I was looking for another reason to go and this was it...

But now it looks like everything is up in the air.  Nigeria and Ghana are both being impossible to work with and won't budget with the visas.  I would have just said screw it and gone to Europe or Asia instead... but now my cousin from Canada whom I haven't seen in 15 years has just bought her flights to Ghana to be my +1 at the wedding and to catch up.  I don't want to bail on her or my friend, so I'm in a really sticky spot.  Flying to Europe would be much cheaper and there are about 8-10 countries that I could easily do visa-free to get closer to my goal of 100.  If I fly to West Africa, there are no cheap flights out of there till much later in September so I would lose a lot of time and most likely not achieve my goal.  My other option is going to Asia to meet up with Simon, a Lithuanian boy I met on safari...

Decisions, decisions.

If anyone has any advice, ideas, recommendations, suggestions, or any input at all, I'm completely open.  I need to make this decision quickly because the clock is running and time is of the essence...

Friday, June 5, 2015

My Indiegogo Campaign Ends, But the Show's Not Over, Folks! A Big THANK YOU!!!

Hey guys, happy Friday!  My Indiegogo campaign has finally ended... after pouring months of my life into this project it feels a little bittersweet that it's over now.  But not to fret, the show must go on... literally!  A big THANK YOU-GRACIAS-MERCI-GRAZIE-OBRIGADA (and many more) to everyone for being so generous and supportive over the past 35 days.  We raised $2,809 which will go towards helping me create and produce this travel show, buying the necessary equipment, hiring the right team of people, and ultimately getting a network to buy it. Keep following my blog as I start the next leg of my adventures in Africa and the Middle East.  Stay tuned!  :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Indiegogo Campaign Update Video

There's less than 10 days left in the campaign... please join forces to help make this travel series a reality!  Let's try to get to at least 10% of the goal!  Thanks for your support, everyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seven By 30: Antarctica Officially Booked

I am one step closer to making "Seven Continents By 30" a reality!  I have officially put down a nonrefundable deposit and booked my Antarctica trip for November!  After doing months of research I decided to go with the Ortelius Basecamp Voyage operated by the Dutch company Oceanwide Expeditions.  I booked through an agent in the UK called Antarctica Bound, who have been really helpful and informative through this whole process.

Going to the white continent is not cheap nor for the faint-hearted.  If you are active, adventurous, and want to make the most of your expedition down south then the Ortelius Basecamp is the voyage for you.  The least expensive cabin on any vessel to Antarctica, no matter what the company or ship, is at least $5500-6000 USD.  This is usually for a triple or quadruple cabin with bunkbeds and they room you with random members of the same sex.  Twin rooms and singles are upwards of $10,000+.  Other than zodiac landings not many activities are offered on most ships, and all activities are at an additional cost -- kayaking alone is an extra whopping $895.  The Ortelius and Plancius basecamp expeditions, however, include all activities in the price... kayaking, mountaineering, snowshoeing, overnight camping on the ice, you name it.  They even offer polar scuba diving, but this requires having 20 or more logged drysuit dives and bringing your own equipment.  You definitely get the most bang for your buck with this one!

Some of the other vessels might be a bit more luxurious and have a jacuzzi or spa, but when it comes to outdoor activities and spending more time with Mother Nature, the Ortelius and Plancius are unmatched!  Who wants to be cooped up on the ship when you are in Antarctica, anyway?!  You can bet I will be doing every single activity and making the most of my once-in-a-lifetime experience on the seventh continent.  Who knows when I'll be able to go back again!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Leaving on a Jet Plane... Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again

It's official, I finally bought my flight to Dubai... I'm leaving June 2nd!  It's completely nonrefundable and non-changeable so there's no backing out - it's set in stone.  There's something quite unsettling yet liberating about that!

I have been following some of the great travel bloggers, including The Points Guy, who taught me about "travel hacking" to maximize my travel rewards credit cards and collect airline miles and points.  I have excellent credit, so I added a few new travel rewards cards to my wallet (Chase Sapphire, Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard, Capital One Venture Card, and Citi ThankYou Premier) that offer 40k-50k bonus points if you spend a certain amount within the first three months.  By the end of this year I should have enough points to fly around the world for free!

Anyway, as for my ticket to Dubai, I used Priceline Negotiator's Name Your Own Price feature - found a great deal with Delta, only $732 return from LA to Dubai.  It's always cheaper to buy roundtrip, so I booked my return leg for November 2nd.  That's five full months!  Considering I have 34 countries to see in that time, I hope it will be long enough!  I will spend the whole summer and autumn months in Africa and the Middle East.  When I return to LA I will have a week or so to gather my warmest winter clothes and then head off again, this time south to Ushuaia, Argentina (southernmost city in the world) where I will set sail for Antarctica to celebrate my 30th birthday with the penguins, seals, glaciers, and icebergs!  Seven continents and 100 countries before 30.  That's my plan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sorry Boys, But No Yellow Fever for Me! ;)

So I finally bit the bullet and got my yellow fever vaccine today.  I can't believe I actually did all of Central and South America and spent three weeks in the Amazon rainforest last year without getting the vaccine or taking any malaria medication!  I am living proof that sometimes there is a lot of unnecessary worry and overmedication, but by all means I am not recommending you to go unvaccinated.  Anyway, this time I needed it because it is a requirement to get into some of the African countries on my itinerary this summer.  Just so you know, most insurance companies don't cover travel medicine, and it can be a bit pricey.  I was considering waiting until I arrived in an African country where it wasn't required and getting the shot there much cheaper, but finally I decided to just get it out of the way now so it will be less headache on my trip.  And hey, it's good for ten years so I won't have to worry about it again for a while.  I did my research and found the cheapest one to be at the Pasadena Public Health Department for $127, which includes the yellow card/international certificate of vaccination that you are required to carry in your passport.  Hope that helps those of you going to a country where this might be necessary :)

Friday, May 1, 2015

My Indiegogo Campaign Is Now Live!

I'm happy to announce that my Indiegogo campaign is now live!  I just launched it two days ago and have already had four awesome contributors, Jordan Blackman, Bruce Frausto, Jason Moskowitz, and Justin Stephens, as well as an outpouring of love and encouragement on Facebook from my wonderful friends.  Thank you so much for supporting my endeavor!  Keep showing the love!  :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday... some travel photos from over the last decade

Here are some travel photos I dug up from past trips over the last decade... more to come later!

Taj Mahal, India 2007
The Great Wall of China, 2007
The Great Sphinx Of Giza, Egypt 2007
Dressed as a Maiko in Kyoto, Japan 2007
Machu Picchu, Peru 2006
Stonehenge, UK 2008
Ta Prohm (Temples of Angkor), Cambodia 2007
Ultralight Flight in the Himalayas, Pokhara, Nepal 2009
Skydiving in Buenos Aires, Argentina 2006
Colosseum, Rome, Italy 2008 
Florence, Italy 2008
Glaciers of El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina 2005
Snowboarding in the Andes, Ushuaia, Argentina 2005
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2006
La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain 2008
Dubrovnik, Croatia 2007
Saint Martin, Caribbean 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Help Me Set a New Guinness World Record!

Melissa Roy’s Travel Map
Hey guys, thanks for reading my first post on my new travel blog.  Saying I love to travel would be an understatement.  Some might even say I have locational ADD -- I can't sit still or stay in one place too long!  I got the travel bug when I did my first study abroad in college -- two semesters in Buenos Aires and one semester circumnavigating the globe on a ship known as Semester at Sea.  Today I have visited 71 countries on 6 continents and there is no end in sight.  I am on a mission to break the record for being the youngest female to visit every country in the world!  I have already called Guinness World Records and submitted my application -- currently they have no official record in place for this category, so I could be the first.

So how many countries are there, you ask?  Well, there are many different lists to go by, some of which include territories, but to make things simpler and easier to measure from here on out I will go by the United Nations list, which currently has 193 member countries.  So out of my 71 that I've been to only 66 are UN-recognized.  Personally, I feel Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Palestine, Kosovo, and many others should count as countries, but for the purpose of this world record I will stick to the UN list.  By November I hope to visit 34 more countries to hit the 100 country mark and be halfway towards achieving my goal.  Then to celebrate this milestone I will go to Antarctica to spend my 30th birthday on the 7th continent with the penguins!

I truly believe travel is the best way to break down stereotypes, prejudices, and narrow-mindedness.  It is the best education you can receive and the best investment you can make towards your future -- which is why it is important to start now!  I want to show all of you that it is possible for anyone to travel, male or female, no matter what your age or budget.  There are no excuses.  Just go for it.  Be fearless.  As a society we have been taught to be afraid of those who are different than us.  Simply by changing your mindset from "Fear Thy Neighbor" to "Friend Thy Neighbor" you will see how quickly your experience will change for the better.  We are a lot more similar than you think.

I invite you to join me as I tackle this lifelong dream of mine and to follow me every step of the way through my blog and social media.  I am planning on taking off in the beginning of June.  On the first leg of this journey I will visit as much of Africa and the Middle East as possible before going to Antarctica.  I am aiming to launch a crowdfunding campaign by the end of this month in which I will raise money to help cover the costs of filming, editing, and documenting my journey as I attempt to break the world record and eventually packaging it into my own travel series.  I am not asking you to fund a vacation - I am asking for help in breaking a world record and the hefty costs associated with producing a travel show.  Through this process I hope to bring attention to causes that are often overlooked.  I will volunteer with a charity named AmaniKids.org -- dedicated to protecting Tanzania's most vulnerable population: impoverished children.  I will have more details on this shortly, but I encourage each and every one of you to show some support and donate whatever amount with which you feel comfortable.  Every little bit makes a difference and you could be a part of history in the making (or breaking)!  So what are you waiting for?!