One Canal, 379 Islands, and Uber: My 48th Birthday in Panama

I know it’s been a minute since I blogged, but it’s safe to say I have gone through some MAJOR life changes in the first two quarters of 2019. I will spare my Travel Junkies and Wanderlust of my “Transformation” and focus solely on Panama.

First off, as my diehard followers know, July 21st is my birthday, and each year, I find a Caribbean or beach location, to allow me time to reset and commune with GOD. Again, it’s something about the water.


I originally was supposed to go to Brazil and HAD secured a fantastic deal but was asked by a friend if they could join me I TOLD her NO!! Everyone knows this is my YEARLY Solo Trip. She would not relent, so against my tradition, I gave in, I mean HEY it’s been a challenging year. Unfortunately, with the slightest delay, you know you can lose a DEAL, and so Brazil was no longer in my budget. So back to the drawing board, and the travel pointer landed on Panama, and yes, my friend came along.


Here were some things I researched before arrival. July is rainy season/offseason, so the price was reasonable. Although rainy season, it only rains for a brief amount of time, and it’s almost predictable around lunchtime, so don’t let that stop you from going in July. Spanish is the “preferred” language, so you better brush up on it. I am proud to say, I speak it better than I comprehend, but I knew we would be OK. Trust me, they will kindly ask you to speak Spanish and rightfully so. Many did not speak English except for those in the hospitality, tour, and restaurant industries. There is always a translation app. They accept the US Dollar, and most credit cards were approved; I will tell you the glitch with American Express though later in this blog. The flights to Panama on Delta are early morning and early evening. I realized that the stormy rain generally occurs in the early afternoon EVERYDAY, so this made sense. Our direct flight out of Atlanta was delayed by two hours, so we didn’t arrive until 1:00 AM CST. We had booked through Expedia, so our Hotel and Transportation were  already arranged, and our driver was friendly and there with a sign at the time of morning. 😊


We stayed at the Wyndham Panama Albrook Mall. Although a 30-minute drive from the airport and fifteen-minute drive from downtown, it was in the MALL!!!! so let’s just say, it was a win-win. It also came with a rooftop pool, two restaurants, free breakfast, and a Starbucks right outside in the mall parking lot. Not to mention the Food Court had everything from American Cuisine to Spicy Latin, and there was a Casino in the mall as well. We walked to the supermarket which you can reach without even going outside as it is attached to the hotel. There is a refrigerator in the room and a microwave on the main level.


Day One: As always, we do the Hop on Hop off Bus to get a lay of the land. The cost was $35 for two-days. There is a running joke of the bus is on Panamanian time (they are laid back, and the bus was NEVER on time) The bus was also a two-hour loop, so it allowed us to see where we would want to go on our own. We stayed on board and still got amazing pictures and even greater notes.


Friday Evening, we did the Panama Bar Crawl. So we hopped in an Uber and headed over to Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is also known as Old Town in Panama City. Here is the historic district of Panama City, and it has incredible views of Panama City. Wear comfortable shoes as there were a few hills and a lot of cobblestones. Casco Viejo is unique in that you can walk down one street and it looks like Italy, the next China, then Columbia, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. For $25, you get together with total strangers in Casco Viejo to explore four bars – one club – five drinks – and a WHOLE LOTTA Fun. I guess because it was my birthday weekend, the group that showed up was 18 of us, 13 of which looked like me and was from DC, Atlanta, New York, etc. and Man oh Man did we cut up. Two of the bars were swanky and had rooftops, and the scene was GROWN & Sexy. The skyline looks like Miami. One of the rooftop selections was Tantalo. They are listed as one of the BEST in Panama, and the group left the rooftop and ended up ordering dinner downstairs at the restaurant. The portions were massive, and not one complaint was had. I would highly suggest you add this to your “MUST DO”, even if you don’t drink, trust me; the folks complained the drinks were not at all strong. But this is a place you may want to come back to just for dinner, or during the week when the rooftop isn’t as crowed.

Day Two: We took advantage of the mall and UBER. Uber is AMAZINGly cheap. I promise the most I ever paid was $5, and that was a 17-mile drive. Most of our trips were $3-4 So with that, we opted not to use our second day free on the Hop-on Hop-Off, and just Uber back to Casco Viejo. As I mentioned above, there is so much distinction from street to street, bring your camera, and prepare for some wholesale shopping. I got a Panama Hat for $2 in one of the wholesale shops in a section that looked like Chinatown.

Now that you have worked up an appetite, you can walk less than six blocks and dodge traffic to visit the Fish Market called Mercado de Marisco. This is a Seafood lover’s paradise. I do NOT like seafood, but thoroughly enjoyed the free tour, and the English speaking “unofficial tour guide” whose sole purpose was to get you to visit the restaurant that he was assigned to. He provided an overview of the restaurants, a free sample of Ceviche (I am assuming from the restaurant he worked for) and then took us to the “actual” fish market. There were aisles and aisles of seafood, and since it was the weekend, the locals were shopping and buying it up. You can’t get any fresher than this, according to my friend this was the best ceviche she has ever tasted! I trust her since she devoured both hers and mine. If you can get past the smell, this is an adventure in itself.


That evening I ventured over to downtown to meet a friend I spotted on Instagram that was also in Panama City. Her hotel was gorgeous and had multiple rooftop areas. They had the Manny Pacquiao fight on a projector, great music, and with a glass of wine and even greater conversation; it made for a fantastic start to my birthday. At 5:00 AM, yes you read right, I hopped back in an uber to my hotel. I love to travel and even more encouraging, and uplifting conversation from people that “get it.”

Day three: my birthday, we booked a trip to Isla Taboga “Island of Flowers.” This trip was $65/person which included a roundtrip via speedboat (took about 30 minutes), two chairs, one umbrella, an English-speaking tour guide once we arrived, lunch of fish or chicken a drink and dessert and scuba diving gear. Yes, we took uber there, and because there was an event going on Sunday, the premium cost was $7 each way. It does not rain in Taboga, and the temperature and water were perfect. Be prepared to pay 50 cents to use the restroom, and $2 if you want to shower, but other than that it was a carefree day. There was a lady giving massages, but by the time I wrinkled up and got out the water she was gone. As a FYI, Saturday is the worse day to go to the beach as the locals get there early and populate it. Sunday was a close second, but the tour guide found a less populated area with a great view. It rained on the way back but stopped by the time we arrived in Panama City. The uber wait was over 30 minutes because of the events going on down the pier.


Day Four: we shopped at the mall, and let’s say the 70% off at Adidas every day pushed my luggage to the limit. And this was not an outlet, so the digs we purchased were brand new. We hit the casino, had lunch for $7 (by the way we ate at this same pizza shop every day for lunch when we were local) at the mall. For that same $7/day we got a medium pepperoni pizza and a 20-ounce coca-cola to share, that pizza was so good!!! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We attempted to chill at the rooftop pool, but the pool was packed, so we just laid out on the rooftop on the furniture in preparation for day five.


Day five: we did a tour to San Blas Island. San Blas Islands are made up of 378 islands about 49 of them are inhabitable. We used San Blas Island tours, which was rated #1 with trip advisor., the cost was $120/person RT which included picking us up at our hotel, the 2.5 hour trip to the port, visiting of three islands, and lunch with a drink, you will need to pay another $20 once you arrive in San Blas. Prepare yourself for a long day. Our day started around 5:30 AM, and don’t end until around 7 Pm. Bring plenty of off bug repellent, skin so soft, anti-mosquito creams, etc. I have been home one week and still look like biblical proportions of the mosquitos there attacked me, this is also the only day, we got rained on, but it was for about an hour, and it was a little scary until my friend started singing Gilligan’s Island theme song. I touched a starfish on the starfish island, jellyfish, row boated, swam with fish, kissed a turtle (well not really). These were some of the most beautiful people I have ever met, and the chicken they cooked taste better than my momma’s….real talk…all money collected goes to the island, as most do not have electricity, trash removal, or even hot water. The islands consist of the natives known as the Kuna’s. Slather up with your protection creams and make this “must-see and do” you will not regret it.

That evening, we showered and headed to the Panama Canal for dinner. You didn’t think we would come all the way here and not visit what some argue is one the seven wonders of the world, did you? The restaurant Atlantic & Pacific Co, Panama City, was less than four miles from our hotel. Yup, we took an uber, did not have a reservation (but highly recommend it) and with some research saw that the best time to go was after 5 pm. One reason was it looks great as the sun is going down. We requested a seat on the terrace and arrived around 8 pm. There was already an active ship coming in, so imagine my excitement. The food was over-priced, and nothing to write home about, but the experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so it was worth the $16 cheeseburger. In 90-minutes we witness three ships, watching the locks open and close, inspections, and the phenomenon of watching the ship lowered to get to the lock and watching the water fill back up and see the boat go back to sea level and back out to sea.

Day six: 4:45 AM pick up from the hotel and off to the airport. No lines, and there three VIP lounges should you have a priority pass membership that comes with your AMEX platinum card. Please have the card with you or the app on your phone, I felt the lady at the counter thought I was lying and after downloading the card didn’t even apologize for her rudeness and assumption, but I digress. So as promised the drama was American express. My uber account is attached to my AMEX card, and I could not figure out why I was unable the first 24 hours to secure an uber, but my friend was able to. After I called American Express, I learned that American Express is not the “accepted” card in Panama for uber, because trust me, Adidas burned a whole in that card…lol, so I added my visa and there were no further problems.


Panama was a budget-friendly, beach filled, culture bursting treat for my birthday. Although it was not my first choice, it ended up being the best choice.

“Ma’am, Are You Traveling By Yourself?”

I promise you, one of the questions I get tired of answering and get asked the most both home and abroad is, “Are you by yourself?” Unfortunately, many black women and a few black men get asked this question more times than we care to answer. I guess because I have been “doing it” so long that I am just immune to it, but the real question is, why do we have to travel solo?


It is not to brag, but I have been to almost every U.S. State, several Countries, and a handful of Continents. In my travels, there has been one thing that both amuses me and makes me sad all at the same time; it’s seeing countless black women traveling solo. As unpopular as most of my friends and family may think it is, it is actually sadly common, particularly for single and successful women of color. You don’t believe me? I belong to several, yes several single, black travel sites on Facebook and Instagram. Here, you will find the most fabulous pictures, stories, suggestions, and cautions before you (Single You), plan your next getaway. I find that I word search where I would like to go in these sites steps before I arrange travel. But again, why?

I sat next to an amazingly handsome, single Latino male on a flight recently to Cartagena, Columbia. He was a pilot, and we hit it off as soon as I buckled into my window seat. We started with the usual pleasantries, and within five minutes, he asked, “Are you traveling by yourself?” and as always with a forced smile I replied, “Yes sir I am.” I’ve come to realize that when I look around the plane, if there is not a couple traveling together, there is often a group, but the solo thing, well it has always been “My Thing” but I also noticed over the year although some of us do it by choice, many it becomes their reality.

For those that don’t know, I’m in my 40’s, single, and don’t have any children. Now, don’t cry for me Argentina, I have and continue to live an amazing life, and that’s a whole different blog 😊, I say all that to say, that when I speak to other solo travelers, their story is similar are close to mine. Some have children, and they are now grown. Others take group trips but will also reserve a solo trip in that same year for their “self-care,” but it still cannot go unnoticed that we (single black women are the biggest solo travelers).

My first solo trip was close to 20 years ago after I was going through a divorce. I went to the Bahamas to get my mind right and get over my funk. I realize that not only was I am an amazing person, but I also enjoyed my own company. Honestly, the first two or three trips I hated the stares when I went to have dinner by myself. I hated the thought of having to “protect myself.” And worst of all, I hated the single traveler surcharge that cruises, hotels, and travel sites penalize s with merely because we are a solo traveler. As time when on, I started using it to my advantage. I made it clear I was solo. Men made sure, I got to my room safely, and women that worked at resorts offered me package deals that would not be a distraction and added me to odd numbered groups to assure I was not by myself. I’ve never met a stranger in my life, so meeting new people was never the problem, my circumstance just made it a necessity.

Now to be clear, I have traveled with friends in the past, but nine times out of ten they too are single black females, and I don’t know about you but every NOW and THEN I enjoy the company of the opposite sex, but they are not always readily available. Not making it a stereotype, but most of the men I know, can’t swim, don’t enjoy International Travel the way I do, some don’t even possess a passport, making it even more challenging to find a travel buddy. I know married women who have told me they take solo or girls trips because their husbands do not like to travel. What I see on more than 99% of my trips are European couples, European families and single black females. Even on this recent trip, on the Delta flight, I was on, there were only two black women on the entire oversold flight.

I don’t predicate my life or happiness on others thoughts, fears, and perceptions of me being a solo traveler. As a matter of fact, for me to enjoy all that this world has to offer, it’s the only way. Do I have fears? Sure. Do I get nervous walking around in a strange Country? No more than I do in a peculiar U.S, city. I learned real early to avoid looking like a tourist, speak as much of the language as you can (I keep a translator app on all my phone and electronic devises), and make every trip a Great Adventure!!


So, to answer your question, “Are you traveling by yourself,” the answer is YES.


So…. Last year I deceived to find out where I was from. I took two different DNA test and came back with two different results, there goes that theory. Anyways, one said without a shadow of a doubt I was from West Africa (Sub-Saharan) that could be anything from Senegal to Cameroon.

Helen Lawrence 100%

  • Sub-Saharan African  80.3%
  • West African 75.2%
  • African Hunter-Gatherer 2.9%
  • Broadly Sub-Saharan African 2.2%
  • European               18.9%
  • British & Irish           6.3%
  • Broadly Northwestern European     7.0%
  • Broadly European    3.0%
  • Broadly Southern European      2.6%
  • East Asian & Native American   0.5%
  • Native American        0.4%
  • Southeast Asian          0.1%
  • Broadly East Asian & Native American   0.1%

These results were from 23 & Me. The next one said I was a mixture of Ethiopian, Nigerian, and Turkish??? Lawrence is a German last name, and yes I know the slave masters gave us a NEW last name and tried to strip us of our identities and royalty, but that’s another topic and blog for another time. OK, I’m back…didn’t mean to get so deep, I was really confused because “HELLO” Ethiopia is in Eastern Africa, oh well, I said all of this to say, that I made a vow that once I found out WHO I WAS, I was going to visit those areas to ingratiate myself in my TRUE and Authentic Self and Culture. Since I am still confused because most DNA test also do not include your Native Indian breakdown, I knew it was safe to say I was still in search of who I REALLY AM. What I know for sure is I come from amazing parents, grandparents and ancestors from all other the globe, and that I am a Perfect Combination of what GOD created me to be. So, in the meantime, my travels and discovery will be limitless and explorative. I knew my first trip to Africa would be this year, but where to?? I chose Egypt…LOL

I have had Egypt on my “To Do” list for many years. From both a Biblical and Historical standpoint I knew one day I would make my way there. At the beginning of the year I was laid off from an employer that I worked at for nine years. My last day was two weeks before the Super Bowl and to be honest I wasn’t devastated, but I was a little disappointed. My team makes it to the Super Bowl, and I had to “ADULT” and decided if spending $5,000 to go to the Super Bowl (flight, hotel and at least 200 level ticket) was fiscally responsible. I mean I got a handsome severance, I have always been disciplined and amassed saving in multiple accounts, and hey how often does YOUR team get to a Super Bowl (unless you’re a New England Patriots fan)? The Eagles had not been in 14 years, but I decided that I needed to pick between the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in February, or Egypt for my birthday in July (both came with extreme temperatures on opposite ends) so I picked Egypt over my EAGLES. The good news is that the EAGLES won the Super Bowl and I was able to attend the first Super Bowl parade for my Team and City. Here it was June and I still had no job, my unemployment benefits were running out, and I had not been anywhere all year, so this “Wanderlust” was going through some serious withdraw. So, with no job offers, I did what any sensible person would do….I booked two trips for July 😊, one to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the July 4th holiday, and the other for Cairo Egypt for my 47th birthday, and in true Helen style, I went Solo and First Class for both.


I have been to every US State at least once (work mostly afforded this) with the exceptions of Alaska and South Dakota, 25 Countries, and enough frequent flier miles to start my own airline. Approximately 95% of those have been International SOLO trips, because for me, that’s my preferred way to travel. I am accountable for me, myself, and I. Being adventurous I also decided to stay at my 4th Airbnb and coming from a bourgeoise Hilton Girl that is saying a lot. After careful review and narrowing it down, I found the best place in Cairo for me, with Pyramid views, enough room for 8 people and a HOST that topped all past Host. My host Mahmoud affectionately known as “Mo” was extremely responsive, planned my trip from pick-up, to additional flights, to a 4-day cruise in between, and back to the airport for a 3:30 AM departure for my flight back to Atlanta. It was go hard or go home.


I left the night before my birthday; the flight was 15 hours with a brief layover in Rome. I didn’t sleep the entire flight, and that’s not the norm for me. I’m the girl that falls asleep before the cabin door even shuts, but this time, I just could not. They served dinner, dessert, I watched two Nigerian Movies (my favorite) and got up 3 times (something I have to force myself to do), yet I was wide awake. Upon arrival in Rome, I checked into the Sky Club Lounge (y’all thought I was lying when I said I’m bourgeoise) freshened up, had lunch and said a Happy Birthday prayer, before my connecting flight in two hours. “Thank You Father for 47”.


When I arrived in Cairo, I was a little nervous. Not because I was in a predominately Muslim Country, not even because I was traveling solo, because truth be told I was familiar with both, but I was not sure what to expect I guess. As I came down the escalator the first thing I noticed was a well-dressed man holding a sign with my name on it. He whisked me through getting my Visa and Immigration while others were looking at me like “who is that girl?”  He spoke amazing English and during the ride gave me a car tour, being sure to point out all landmarks and answer all of my questions, and I had few; like in the first 20 minutes, I didn’t see one female driver?? My greeter and driver let me know they just recently started letting women drive, remember in the Muslim culture, women are more caregivers and quite frankly not expected to drive. Now here is this professional, executive, single black female who does EVERYTHING for herself in a Country where that is frown upon. CHECKED & NOTED…After about an hour drive, observing the clear bifurcation between the haves and the have nots, I was in front of my HOME for the next week. If you have ever done an Airbnb in other Countries, the outside is generally not the best aesthetically, and can make you a little nervous, but Mo was standing outside to greet me, and had a gentleman take my luggage up as we walked together to the elevator. Lord please let this place look like the pictures.

The pictures online did not do the apartment any justice, the place was amazing. It could sleep up to eight, a full kitchen with a stocked refrigerator, ice-cold AC, a balcony with the three pyramids in my view, and most importantly HOT WATER for the Shower. Later that night Mo’s wife and mother prepared me the most amazing birthday/welcome to Egypt meal fit for a Queen. They do this for every guest I’m told, but I’m going to pretend it was all because it was my birthday LOL. What isn’t the norm is later that evening Mo took me to sit outside with the locals to smoke some Shisha and discuss my packed itinerary.  Because I was solo, Mo was my personal tour guide and his good friend was my personal driver for the Cairo portion of my trip.


My first full day started with the Pyramids of Giza & Sphinx. They were MASSIVE in person and I count it a blessing to be standing here at what is still considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I was also excited that I finally was able to check this off my bucket list. I rode a camel, and had an impromptu photo shoot courtesy of my Brother Mo. Next, we ventured off to Sakkara, what I didn’t know if this is where the very first Pyramid ever built was and I was able to venture inside the tombs of Teti and Kagemni. Time for lunch, to know me, is to know this is an area I am NOT adventurous in, but I tried a local favorite Kofta. It is a mixture of minced beef or lamb with spices, rolled onto a skewer and barbecued over coals. They look like and taste a little to me like Jimmy Dean Turkey breakfast sausage.


Now that our stomachs were full the next stop was to Memphis the ancient Capital of Egypt to see the biggest statue of King Ramsses II. The last two spots were visits to a papyrus painting shop, where they showed me how the paints are applied to papyrus paper. Here is the popular Judgement Day:judgement day

Afterwards, I went to a fragrance shop that made their own oils and perfumes. Let’s just say I spent more than I planned, and one of the four oils I purchased was guaranteed to heal my knee pain, and another would get me a husband LOL. I haven’t opened any of them yet.

I slept in the next day because I had a flight to Luxor. Mo set me up for a 4-day cruise on a 5 Star Cruise Ship (called floating hotels by the locals). I was met by my English-speaking tour guide, Omar who immediately along with my personal driver, took me to the Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple all before the sun went down. In between, he also took me to find an Egyptian style dress to wear to one of the nightly theme parties, it cost me a whopping $6 USD and I have to say I was cute 😉

my dress


During the next few days I visited The Valley of Kings, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Edfu Temple, KomOmbo Temple, and continued to sail to Aswan. On the last day was a visit to Phialae Temple Island, and the High Dam then the unfinished Obelisk. I asked my tour guide if we could modify the tour (at this point I was all tombed, pyramided, and templed out…LOL) I had read about the Nubian Village and I had to go. With a few phone calls, we hopped on a motor boat and about 30 minutes later we were there, and I’m so glad as this became one of the highlights of the trip. The Egyptians here speak Arabic, but they also have a Nubian language, they looked more like me, and I got to touch a crocodile. The plan was to hold him, but he was NOT as cooperative as he was the day before, and let’s just say momma didn’t raise no fool, I knew how and when to leave well enough alone.

I arrived back to Cairo that evening and once again my FAVORITE driver was at the airport waiting on me. We brushed up on the 10 Arabic words I learned on the cruise and he tried to teach me a few more. The next morning was a tour of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. I guess we went on the most popular day and time because it was overly crowed. Mo told me Friday is the weekend and many go to Mosque for noon prayer. Because I was not a Muslim, I had to observe the prayer but could not enter the mosque at this time. We took a trip to the downtown market place, it was a combination of Canal Street in New York; South Street in Philly and the Underground in Atlanta. You can get clothes, food, household items (Mo brought me a beautiful top spread/throw in Purple). We sat and enjoyed both a Coke for me and a fresh pineapple drink for MO. He continued to educate me on the Muslim culture and what I would see at Noon. He excused himself and participated in the noon prayer, in the street. To watch the men and women worship on one accord was moving. I have always been a spiritual person, and I LOVE true authentic WORSHIP, and this day was beyond anything I had EVER seen. Imagine hundreds (and I am not exaggerating) of people praying on one accord, over 100 degrees, many could not make it in the Mosque, so they worshiped in the streets. Imagine, young and old, you don’t have to be a Muslim to appreciate what I saw this day. Once the prayer ended, tourist were then permitted to enter the mosque. We traveled to another mosque instead; The Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali. This place was beautiful inside and out. The view from the outside of the mosque was even more breathtaking.
cairo tower



We were slated to visit the hanging church, instead we opted to ride to the top of the 70 story Cairo Tower. I pulled the Canon back out and we went to taking pictures. MEET MO Ladies and Gentlemen, your FUTURE Tour GUIDE, HOST and BROTHER (because I know many of you want to go and can and should.

Now a sister was wiped out and hungry. Mo saved the best meal for last. In true authentic Egyptian style, I was treated to and devoured the Egyptian favorite, Kushari or Koshari. This dish is made with rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar; also add in some chickpeas and crispy fried onions and a squirt of lemon or lime juice.

I don’t know if I ate it too fast or ate too much, but when I got up that next day my stomach was not as happy as it was when I ate it LOL, but it was worth it. On my last day, Mo and I had Shisha that night, amazing conversation, and I promise you he is my new found brother. I had a 3:00 AM flight, and my driver was friendly and alert at that time of morning. Mo brought me a papyrus paper art picture that I was eyeing but was trying to be frugal. I cried like a baby when he surprised me with it, saying I wanted to do something nice for you, plus it’s your birthday.


They say people don’t have to be nice and when they are, they don’t have to be nice to you.


shkra lk ya sadiki   (Thank You my Friend)




Calling For More Faith in 2018

20171230_090529As I sit on the veranda of my Christmas/New Year Air B&B in Ocho Rios Jamaica, aside from the amazing view of the Port and Beaches, GOD continues to look out for your girl. You know that meme that says, I don’t look like what I’ve been through? Well that is an understatement.

faith lady

2017 has been a complicated year. I was finishing up my Doctorate, yet I manage to take a trip Every month (a goal I set the previous year). I was forced into a new position on my job which would literally eliminate most of my bonuses, yet I took four trips in my birthday month (Cuba, Houston, Cabo & Iceland). I preached and taught less at my home church, yet spoke, hosted, song and was a Conference/Keynote Speaker three times outside of my church and 90% of it outside of GA. I guess it can be said that my “FAITH” has brought be safe thus far….

A dear friend of mine asked me, “Where is your book”? when you gonna write a book. I politely told her, God has not purposed that in my heart. She then said, “Well what has HE purposed”? Never one to back down, I said, “What would I write about”, being “Single, Saved, but Unsatisfied”? or should I tackle, “How to stay Saved in a foreign land”? If you are new to Heyyy Helen, you may not know that I have a great passion for Faith, Fashion and Football, but I also enjoy another “F” and it’s frolicking from City to City, State to State, and last; but not least, Country to Country (including Islands and Continents). At the time of this post I had already been to seven Countries in 2017, and can NEVER get enough. But back to the book..I was being sarcastic but I know there is something in me, I actually think I’m a great story teller (hence my blogs, when I sit still to do them 🙂 I also know that folks see what I want them to see, and not necessarily what they need to see. I say that again to reiterate that I thank GOD that I don’t look like what I’ve been through.

For every trip there was a sacrifice. For every materialistic thing you see there was me questioning GOD. (Yes, the preacher Questions God). There is pain behind every smile, but there is also PEACE that GOD showed me this year. He desires more from us, but I will stay with me…He was asking for MORE of me. Not just because I was a preacher. Not just because I am a child of GOD. Not even because He continues to do exceedingly and abundantly for me, but because HE SAID SO, and it was that clear when (with no forewarning), GOD was shifting things in my professional and personal life. In both areas HE wanted a different response and reaction from me, a level that showed Peace and that I Trusted HIM. I tried this approach (with success) recently and now laugh at how long it took me to simply do what HE told me to do.

2018 is going to be the year of purpose for me. What has HE purposed you and I to do? Was it a book, a business, or even going back to school. Were you supposed to give more, travel more, volunteer more? Heyyy Helen has a purpose, and I vow to TRUST the Process in 2018 and not let Fear block or overtake my Faith. No resolutions guys.. Just Vision, Purpose and Faith.

faith over fear

My Take: One Birthday; Two Very Different Places… Los Cabos & Iceland

I started taking solo vacation about 19 years ago while going through a painful divorce, it was my way of “attempting” to move on to the next chapter of what would be my new life. I felt the best time was going to be my birthday. Since my birthday is in July, and the best time to vacation (not the cheapest for sure) I would make this a yearly treat to myself and would do it SOLO. In these last nineteen years I have only missed two of these annual retreats due to illness and hospitalization. In 2016 I decided one vacation was not enough and took two. Last year was Aruba for me and Toronto for me and two friends to experience Caribana. Not to be outdone from 2016, this year I did Cuba for the July 4th Holiday, and for my birthday Cabo San Lucas Mexico and one week later Reykjavik Iceland. Here’s my take:

Los Cabos aka CABO

In Cabo I stay at the Breathless Resorts and Spa. This Adult-Only/All-Inclusive resort was absolutely amazing. If you’re looking for an adult atmosphere, but like to let the inner child come out occasionally, this my friends is your place. Poolside activities all day long, drink and food service at the pool is included. A rooftop club with themed parties in the evening, and room service. How could I forget the amazing view of the Marina on one side of the resort or the El Arco (famous Arch of Cabo rock formation) on the other. I walked on morning for 30 minutes on the beach in my shell-top Adidas (not smart but I burned calories), to get the best 90 minute, full body massage for $20 USD. Breathless charges $300 for 50 minutes… WINNING. Because me and these Run DMC Sneakers were not up for the walk back, I caught the water taxi to see the Arch for $15, and they liked me so much they dropped me off at my resort…FAVOR. I even found some young kids who saw me struggling with my impromptu Selfie Stick Photoshoot, yes you have to learn tricks when you travel solo, and they offered to take my picture and helped me back down off the rocks I climbed.

Aside from the resort, I met many amazing people both staff and vacationers. I think what resonated the most was I was the newbie to Cabo. Many of the people I met had been to Cabo before, I see now why they return. The gentleman on the plane next to me comes annually for a Guys Golfing Trip. I enjoyed the nightlife, authentic Mexican food (which I have always loved and I am by far the pickiest eater you will EVER meet J ) grown folks, shopping and the much-needed R&R. I had a ball solo, but I can’t wait to return for a Girls Trip!! Shout out to the two new friends I made and hope to plan a future trip with Ayanna and Letisha. You ladies made me your third wheel and we rolled hard. Thanks My Sisters XOXO

cabo outside

Reykjavik Iceland

Then there was Iceland. You may ask, what in the world possessed me to go to Iceland? Well I have always thought outside the box, and I loved seeing pictures of the Blue Lagoon. Iceland is NOT I repeat NOT cheap, so planning is essential. Many do this as a layover trip to save money on their way to Europe.

I booked my flight, hotel and transportation through Delta Vacation. My flight out of Atlanta was delayed 4 hours causing 5 of us to miss our connecting flight out of Minneapolis. This is when having status with Delta paid off. There is only one flight that leaves Minneapolis to Reykjavik daily. When we landed they handed us a pillow and toiletry kit and said we would have to sleep in the airport. No Ma’am No Sir…. I called Delta, spoke in my 7 voice (not quite 10 but they knew I wasn’t about the malarkey…LOL) and 20 minutes later my trip was rebooked to make up for the lost day and I was escorted to the Crown Plaza for a good nights sleep. I worked from the hotel that morning, had the hotel hold my luggage and take me to the Mall of America in the afternoon, and spent two hours in the Delta Sky Club prior to our 10:30 PM flight. Not bad for a girl with a plan and a gift to jab. My biggest splurge is I opt for First Class Seats, because although 5’7” I have long legs…let me stop playing I’m a Bougie Traveler J. This is a 6 hour flight from Minneapolis and New York and they are 4 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

The weather was in the low fifties when we landed the next morning and trust I did my homework. I packed layer type clothes as you truly can experience all four seasons in one day. I stay at the Radisson Blu which was not to my standard, and the Hilton was already sold out. But I made the best of the subpar accommodations. Food in Reykjavik is very expensive so I packed snacks and the Radisson did provide a full breakfast included with the package. I ate a HUGE breakfast and took fruit with me every morning for my excursions. I also packed my American Snacks and my insolated water thermal that kept my water ice cold all day. The water in Iceland is some of the BEST and safest water you will ever taste, they sell bottled water but frown upon it.

I have to admit this was the first trip I took that involved climbing, walking, and everyday physical tours. I promise you between eating on a budget (Dinner there on average is $70/person) and all the excursions I came home 10 pounds lighter.

I booked my tours/excursions through Viator a Trip Advisor Company and not Delta who was almost twice the amount. You can also rent a car, but a car rental for 5 days was $600 and yeah, ummm, no I was cool with the English Speaking Escorted tours, with free Wi-Fi and plenty of laughs. Unlike Cuba, credit cards including American Express were the preferred payment method, so I never did any foreign exchange to ISK currency.

My tours were the popular Golder Circle, Blue Lagoon, and Southern Iceland Tour, Black Sand Beaches and Kerid. Because I went in July there is about 22 hours of daylight so the Northern Lights was not visible. Most hotels have the black backing curtains, because you will never know when to go to bed with only 2 hours of darkness in the Summer.

I am hoping the pictures tell a better story, as I am really enjoying photography the more I play around with my camera. I am glad that I did not plan any activities on the date of arrival, but with my flight delayed I had to jump right into my tours. First was the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon and Kerid.


This was the first of five stops. This National Park is the nearest and dearest to Icelanders. Great for hiking, picturesque views, and by far one of the most popular landmarks for tourist. It is said that the first Christian based Church started here as well and in 1928 a law was passed that Þingvellir will remain a protected area and shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation. Three guys in their early 20’s almost got left from our tour group, but once we got them in check, they were the first one’s back on the bus for the remainder of the tour



Second was Gulfoss also known as the “Golden Falls”. It is said to be THE most popular, and I must say with the great weather and sun we had that day, it was the most beautiful. There was more downhill walking than up, and our tour bus dropped us off at the top and met us at the bottom so we wouldn’t have to walk back up the hill.



Less than 10 minutes from Gulfoss, the locals pronounce it GAY-SER. Here is where we had lunch and you come to see the hot springs. The largest of them erupts as high as 230 feet every 10-15 minutes. You must be careful as the water is very hot, not to mentioned the not so sweet smell of sulfur may make your nose hairs singe. I order 5 hot wings here and a Coca Cola (they love water and Coke in Iceland) which cost me 1850 ISK~ which is $17USD. See what I was talking about.

Kerid Volcanic Crater

This is a newly added attraction to the Golden Circle Tour. It can be found in the Western Volcanic Zone of Iceland. I guess the part that was interesting was parts of this huge crater appear to have volcanic components while the low water level at the bottom and observable vegetation brings argument that it was not a Volcano. An amazing place to hike and take pictures. We were pulled over by the Icelandic Police to see if all tourist had on their seatbelts and that there were no ashes in the ashtray of the tour bus.


Blue Lagoon

Although touristy, it was on my bucket list, and my MAIN reason for wanting to visit Iceland. If you didn’t know, The Blue Lagoon was built in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant. Many years later, people would come to bathe in the unique water and apply the silica mud to their skin and noticing an unbelievable improvement when they removed it. The water is over 100 degrees and feels so go when the outside temperature was in the 40’s. It is the MOST visited place in Reykjavik. I would strongly urge you purchase your tickets in advance, and know they will try and nickel and dime you for everything. I purchased the cheapest ticket, brought my own slippers, robe and towel (which you can). You can rent if you want, just know summer entrance for the pool was $80USD, so forgive a sista for penny pinching after that. I purchased a Slurpee like frozen non-alcoholic drink that cost me $5 USD. Some tours will purchase your ticket for you but I found that they paid the same thing I did. Oh BTW if you are a shy person, you may want to work on that, you are required to bathe WITHOUT your bathing suit prior to getting in the pool, and you are waiting in line naked with all shapes and sizes. There are lockers and attendants to assist. It is very busy, and the line to shower can be about 15-20 minutes so the last thing folks are worried about is how much cellulite is on your thighs LOL


After the Shower, 11 full hours of tours and the ride back I was ready for bed!!

Southern Iceland Glaciers Waterfalls & Beaches Tour

Same morning routine. I ate a HUGE breakfast, took some fruit with me, packed my thermal water bottle, and layers of clothes, it rained on and off but you will get wet at these waterfalls regardless because they are all massive.


So we bypassed Seljalandsfoss because there were too many buses there and went straight to Skógafoss. This waterfall is about 200 feet high and was pretty to look at. Normally you can get an incredible picture of you, the waterfall and a rainbow, but the clouds this day would NOT allow ME to be GREAT so it didn’t happen, but still remarkable.

Sólheimajökull & Mýrdalsjökull Glacier Walk

Here is where me and GOD had a great conversation. Here I was the only black person on this tour and probably within 100 miles, and I was glacier walking. Not just walking but climbing. I was scared, insecure as I saw others do it with ease, and downright uncomfortable. I got emotional when I made it to the top and saw others turn around or could not finish. I got even more emotional because when I got to the top and looked back, I saw how far I got and it became Spiritual for me. I didn’t give up, I was tired, afraid, and cold, but I made it. I didn’t look like the others and got stares occasionally while in Iceland, and even more on this tour, but I finished the task at hand. I could hear previous trainers in my head like Reco and Patrick saying “I know you not crying”, and “I know you not going to quit”, it all made sense when I got to the top. Thank You Jesus for ALWAYS pushing me to GO GET IT



Here is where we stopped for lunch and I was able to see my first black sand beach. I ate my fruit on the beach and remained in awl of what I seen thus far. I took my shoes off and walked in the black sand. Also there was a large out store Vikurprjon Wool Factory if you wanted to purchase souvenirs. Again Iceland was expensive but this Factory had the most reasonable prices on wool, hiking boots and apparel.

Vik Black Beaches

Vikurprjon or Vik for short was the most beautiful of the beaches. Interesting fact, all the beaches have black sand in Southern Iceland so you can’t say meet me at the Black Sand Beach, they will easily say, which one? Everyone flocks to climb the rocks and take pictures. On this day the Puffins were out. They are a strange bird in watching them fly. They they look clumsy and flap awkwardly and they are colorful like Kellogg’s Toucan Sam. They also fly in clusters getting in each other’s way.



Finally we made it the main attraction. Seljalandsfoss has a 197 foot drop and you can even go behind it. It was raining so hard for this one, that I stayed on the bus, but here is the one picture I took. I hate we rode past this one because it was too crowed in the morning, so we saved it for last. It is the highlight of the Southern Iceland Tour.

So my take was and remains, get out and do something different, see the World, and don’t let anyone tell you where to go and what to see. Take the limitations off of, I’m a Woman, I’m Black, I’m Single…because guess what? I’m all the above. Travel to me is appreciating the EARTH and Fullness thereof, and since GOD created it surely, he would want me to appreciate it ALL