Category Archives: Thoughts and Words

I am my business – Happy New Year


Hello from LifExchange. I am Shari – owner, operator, marketer and inspired entrepreneur. I am my business. I love to travel and it has changed my life!

The more I think about my new blog series that I have decided to title “I am my business,” the more I begin to realize just how many memories and experiences have shaped who I am. My first lesson learned is a common saying, never take life too seriously.  I thought this was a good topic to begin the New Year.

The first time I tested this lesson while traveling for work was in 2006 – I was headed to Almaty, , then Istanbul, and on to Ankara in Turkey from NY with layovers in Frankfurt (twice) and Vienna. This was my first international business trip with my new job and it was not like anything I could have imagined. After 16+ hours of travel I arrived in Almaty after midnight (not looking or smelling all too pretty). I was greeted at customs by daunting men and women with guns. With some hindsight that is not so uncommon these days but after two layovers, the flight did not end with a warm fuzzy welcome as we were ushered through a long and chaotic customs line. I was with a client (and now friend) named Ashley. Making sure I looked like I was in control, I directed Ashley through customs and we were met by one of our hosts outside of baggage claim with a sign. At a little past 1:00 a.m. we arrived in what looked like a 3 star hotel where my new boss, James, greeted us and helped check us into our rooms. This is where it all began….

Ashley heads to her room and James says to drop off my bags and meet him and our other clients in the hotel bar for a nightcap. Picture this – I walk into my room and my first thought is “What did I sign-up for?”  There is a hole in the ceiling above the bed. Okay, it is a new country; I have to be open to my living conditions. As I lay my bags down I go to use the bathroom. I turn to wash my hands but there is no sink. I feel dirty, grimy and tired and just want to clean up. Do you know the feeling? As I circle the bathroom in a perplexed state, I spot it. The sorta-kinda dish that is used as a sink to catch water is in what looks like a shower. Alright, I am only here three days, I can make this work. I walk back into the main bedroom and reach for a sweater, it is a bit drafty and I am cold. Maybe if I can close my balcony’s sliding glass door all the way I can get rid of this chill….that was my thought as the screen door came crashing down on me, falling into the room.

Not even knowing what to do and with no English speaker at the front desk I head to the bar to see my boss. I found James and said there may be a few problems in my room and I do not know how to request a change. His first thought (which he shared with me years later) was that he had a Prima Donna, a princess as a new employee; what had he gotten himself into? He generously appeased me and came to the room. One look at his face and I knew I was not crazy…this was no three-star room. My paint chipped, mold-smelling room with screen door issues was declared unfit. We retrieved my bags and headed back to the front desk where James found someone to get me a new room. (I learned later I was on one of the few floors not yet remodeled.) Now heading upstairs again, I begin to relax. I think to myself, drop off the bag and go meet my travel companions.  If only it were that easy….

I turn the key and search for a switch to turn on the light. I struggle inside, find a lamp and turn it on but the lamp is not the only item there…I also find a foreign elderly woman at least 65+, in bed with no covers, naked, who looks up at me startled. As I back away and apologize she starts to scream, yell, and chase me. This woman knows no English and she begins to follow me (yes, still naked) out of the room screaming, angry and probably a little afraid. Which is funnier – the nice old women who will tell her friends she was woken from her sleep by the crazy American breaking into her room, or my running down the hall dragging a suitcase, back pack and coat screaming apologies to a naked women who cannot understand me?

As I made my way to the elevator, I did not go to the front desk, I did not inform anyone. I mean let’s face it: someone was going to be searching for a young American woman breaking into hotel rooms sooner or later so I might as well head to the bar and meet everyone else. It is now 3:00 a.m. and I walk into the bar. Let’s be clear, by “bar” I mean small cafeteria-looking square room with a few fake wood tables and a counter to order drinks. I sit down as my colleagues look at me. “Don’t ask” I say, then I order a glass of house red wine.*  As I finish my glass of wine, the hotel front desk worker finally came running into the bar looking for me. I won’t drag this out but after that I was upgraded to a nice room that was 5 x 10 with a twin bed no springs and an actual sink. Now for a little rest before my big day, we had a presentation for over 300 university students at 8:30am the next morning and then 8+ hours of interviews to follow.

I could have dwelled on the awful hotel, the bad service, the fact that a “western” marketed hotel had no English speakers and that I only had 3 hours of sleep before my first 16-hour work day – but I didn’t. I could have let the late night bleed into my trip – but I didn’t.  Instead, I remember drinking and laughing with my new boss over the naked lady running down the hall in Kazakhstan, and I remember the amazing international students I met and hired to come spend the summer in the U.S.  I remember the beginning of a lifelong and treasured friendship with Ashley.  I remember eating amazing new foods such as beshparmak and shawarma.  I went Ice Skating at Medeu (see below for information).  Medeu was the most beautiful outdoor Ice Skating rink I have ever visited.  It was peaceful, it was grand, and with the crowd of families and young couples it was playful, too.

This may have only been the first 24 hours of my trip, but it was also the first 24 hours of my new life.  My passion for people and travel, new sights, and new tastes began in these first hours and started the many adventures that shaped who I am. Watch for my next “I am my business” blog to learn more about my journies and the lessons I have learned.

On this first trip I learned the importance of never taking life too seriously.  I have been surprised as I reflect on my memories with laughter and continued to learn from my experiences.


* While in Almaty I had one of the best wines I have ever tasted.  I do not remember the vineyard (so I know I am no help) but it was a Georgian Wine. 
On a side note we did have time before flying to Turkey to visit Medeu. A must visit if you ever find yourself in Almaty. The ice skating rink Medeu is located 1,691.2 meters above sea level making it the highest rink in the world. This world-known sports complex was erected in 1972. The ice surface occupies 10.5 thousand sq.m., which allows to conduct contests in skating sport, hockey and figure skating. Before this rink was updated in 2011 for the Asian Olympics you could skate around and have beer and cigarette venders sell you drinks while you skated.

I am my business

Hello from LifExchange.  I am Shari – owner, operator, marketer and inspired entrepreneur.  I was recently told that my blogs, newsletters, etc were not personal enough.  I am my business.  I love to travel and it has changed my life!  I woke up one day in a job that did not move me and my wonderful husband said enough, it is time to open your own company.  After a bit of laughing and shaking my head I realized he was serious.

In Ghana
In Thailand

I have traveled to Peru, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Ireland, England, Germany, Turkey, Ghana, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Thailand, South Korea, China, Spain, Morocco, Israel and a few other places in my life’s journey.  He was right, why not help others find their dreams, passion and inner self the way I did.  So LifExchange was born and 1 year later here I am.

In our first year we had 115 students from 8 countries come to the US to Work and Travel.  We have signed-up our first American to go overseas with a company who has hosted over 5,000 Americans and the possibilities for what is next is endless.  But I guess the real question is why.  Why do I believe everyone and I mean everyone needs to travel abroad?

I think there is a sense of both self and community at a global level that is only found with international travel.  For me that “self and community” opened a world of love, laughter, and fun along with a deeper understanding of peace, humanity and the importance of the common good of others.

My plan is to write a series of short blogs sharing how I came to feel this way and some of the experiences that taught me these life lessons.  However I do not want to end my first personal post here so let me share one trick of international long flight travel that has worked for me.

My philosophy on flying.  Any flight no matter how far is just a matter of scheduling like any day in your life and it can fly by.  Example – a 14-hour flight to China may be ¼ a book, 8 hours sleep, a 2 hour movie and then another ¼ a book – presto – I am in my destination.  A 9 hour flight to Brazil – one hour reading, 2 two hour movies, a 1 hours nap, 1 hour for food, bathroom and drink breaks, and 2 more hours of reading.  So simple, the day fly’s by and I am at my destination (no pun intended).  You need to be sure if the flight you have booked does not have personal movies on demand that you buy a cd player and some movies to bring with you.  This is key.  I plan all flights like a day I would schedule for business.  Like life my schedules are flexible and open to change but as a planner this helps me pass the time quickly.  Oh, I almost forgot the one exception.  And this is BIG.  Speak to your neighbor!!!!  It is not planned but you may end up next to the most interesting person, a local to give you advice, a new friend to explore with or a random contact that you find yourself calling for a job 5 years later or the most fascinating conversation you could imagine.  Then again if you have the other kind, you know who I mean, you will be glad you have that movie on hand.  Here is the deal, you never know who is just next door.   Take the time to start your international experience on the flight.  Because this is where your travels begin.

Till next time,

Jim and I in Israel


Top 10 places to visit in Australia this winter – Number 5

Re-posted from our sister page, LifExchange Campus.
With so many places to visit and things to do no one can explore Australia with only a two weeks vacation. Over the next 10 weeks we will share new destinations to be explored on your 6-12 month LifExchange Work and Holiday program.
Winter is almost here in the US. Head down south for another summer and skip the cold.
Australia’s Summer Invites You! Experience Australia’s glorious summer from December to February. Walk along spectacular coastal cliffs from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to Bronte. Day trip from Melbourne to the vineyards, beaches, national parks, golf courses and day spas of the Mornington Peninsula. Taste Tasmania’s finest food and wine on the historic Hobart waterfront or explore food, wine and history in the Swan Valley, near Perth. Follow fresh seafood around the pristine coastline of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula or watch coral spawning en-masse on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. Experience dazzling thunderstorms and blossoming vegetation in the tropical Top End. Or get up close to native Australian animals and ancient Aboriginal history in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, near Canberra. Summer in Australia is also the season for world class cricket, grand slam tennis, vibrant music festivals, NYE celebrations and outdoor cultural events.

WE CONTINUE OUR COUNTDOWN WITH NUMBER 5: Tropical summer in Australia’s Top End

Submit to the powerful pull of nature during the Top End’s tropical summer, which lasts from December to early March. Your electronic calendar becomes redundant in this season of dazzling thunderstorms, overflowing creeks and blossoming vegetation. Wander Darwin’s lush parks and watch lightning dance over waterfalls in Litchfield National Park. Experience the magic of the monsoon in Kakadu National Park and fly over spectacular Katherine Gorge when water levels are at their highest.

There’s something liberating about being on nature’s timeline. Darwin always has an easygoing pace, but it slows even more during summer to match the regular rhythm of sunshine and showers. Locals love the ‘wet’ after the long dry months. Storms surge in over the Arafura Sea and the parks and gardens turn a deep green after spectacular, short-lived downpours. Wander past monsoon flora in George Brown Botanic Gardens and swim in the clear waterholes of Berry Springs Nature Park next to flocks of tropical birds. You can experience Darwin’s outdoor lifestyle all throughout the sultry summer. Sample a fabulous smorgasbord of food in the weekend open-air markets and see nature’s pyrotechnics light the sky from a beachside pub.

The waterfalls of nearby Litchfield National Park make a dramatic resurgence during summer. See the twin torrents of Florence Falls tumble over terraced monsoon forest and follow 160 steps down to the deep, cool plunge pool below. Do the short walk to Buley Rockhole, a series of cascading waterfalls and waterholes, which teem with life after the tropical storms. Watch orange-footed scrubfowl, honeyeaters, figbirds and Torres Strait pigeons foraging for fruit and berries. Swim and picnic alongside thundering Wangi Falls, where marsupial mice, frogs and frill-neck lizards dart around the water’s edge.

In Kakadu National Park, the local Bininj people have charted nature’s cycle over six different seasons. Late December to late March is the Gudjewg monsoon season, when heavy rains coax the landscape back to life. Native birds flock across the wetlands, tropical flowers fringe the rivers and spear grass sprouts across the flood plains. Follow the Yurmikmik Walks to waterfalls surging over rugged escarpments into deep swimming holes. The Boulder Creek Walk, Yurmikmik Lookout Walk, Motor Car Falls and Kurrundie Creek Walk are open all year round. Cruise down the East Alligator River past abundant native birds and animals or take in the scope and scale of this lush landscape on a scenic helicopter flight.

You won’t forget the aerial view of Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park, which sits just north-east of Katherine. These 13 interconnected gorges are particularly spectacular during tropical summer, when the Katherine River is brimming with water. Survey the powerful waterfalls and maze of ancient sandstone from a helicopter or cruise through the gorge’s towering walls. Depending on the weather, you can swim in pandanus-fringed plunge pools beneath Edith Falls, in Butterfly Gorge or Sweetwater Pool. Walk sections of the Jatbula Trail past monsoon rainforest to Crystal Falls or the single drop waterfall of 17 Mile Falls. Follow the Windolf Walk to Pat’s lookout for sweeping views over Nitmiluk Gorge and the summer waterfall of Southern Rockhole.

Leave your daily routine behind for the volatile beauty of summer in Australia’s tropical Top End. This season of brilliant sunshine and drenching rains will leave you feeling as vibrant as the landscapes.

Are you ready to head to Australia? If you are between the ages of 18-30 you may qualify for a Work and Holiday Visa. Pay for your travels, build your resume and make new friends. Contact us now to learn more.

Information provided by © Tourism Australia 2011

Top 10 places to visit in Australia this winter – Number 8

Re-posted from our sister site LifExchange Campus:
With so many places to visit and things to do no one can explore Australia with only a two weeks vacation. Over the next 10 weeks we will share new destinations to be explored on your 6-12 month LifExchange Work and Holiday program.
Winter is almost here in the US. Head down south for another summer and skip the cold.
Australia’s Summer Invites You! Experience Australia’s glorious summer from December to February. Walk along spectacular coastal cliffs from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to Bronte. Day trip from Melbourne to the vineyards, beaches, national parks, golf courses and day spas of the Mornington Peninsula. Taste Tasmania’s finest food and wine on the historic Hobart waterfront or explore food, wine and history in the Swan Valley, near Perth. Follow fresh seafood around the pristine coastline of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula or watch coral spawning en-masse on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. Experience dazzling thunderstorms and blossoming vegetation in the tropical Top End. Or get up close to native Australian animals and ancient Aboriginal history in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, near Canberra. Summer in Australia is also the season for world class cricket, grand slam tennis, vibrant music festivals, NYE celebrations and outdoor cultural events.

WE CONTINUE OUR COUNTDOWN WITH NUMBER 8: South Australia’s aquaculture trail

Follow oysters, prawns, scallops and fish around the pristine waters of the Eyre Peninsula. Self drive or visit the aquaculture farms, fishing boats and old fishing ports on organised tours. See where threatened murray cod are farmed in Whyalla and taste fresh oysters in Cowell. Swim with tuna in Port Lincoln and spot dolphins around the oyster farm of Coffin Bay. Hand pick fresh crayfish in Elliston and feast on freshly-caught whiting, abalone and blue swimmer crabs in Streaky Bay and Ceduna. Along the way, swim and surf from long white beaches, stay in sleepy seaside towns and walk rugged sea cliffs and discover diving hot-spots.

Whyalla is a four hour drive from Adelaide, and even further from the Murray River. Yet it’s here on an aquaculture farm the endangered Murray cod is thriving. See them cruise next to tropical barramundi as you learn about their high-protein diet and the environmental factors which threaten them. Fish from Whyalla’s jetty or wade out to catch crabs during summer low tide. In nearby Fitzgerald Bay, you can walk along pristine beaches and see yellowtail kingfish in the clean sea.

Stop in Cowell to savour seasonal oysters with a glass of wine at the oyster farm. Drive down the peninsula’s spectacular east coast to Port Lincoln, where you can watch oysters, mussels, King George whiting, prawns and lobsters being prepared in the local fish factory. Order a genuine fisherman’s basket here or have a closer lunch liaison on a bluefin tuna cruise around Boston Bay. Hand feed or swim with the valuable tuna fishes or peer at them through the underwater observatory. A tuna tossing competition and seafood banquet are some of the events on offer in Port Lincoln’s Tunarama Festival in January.

North lies the tranquil fishing village of Coffin Bay, where some of the country’s most succulent oysters are shucked. Cruise past dolphins and seals to the local oyster farm or take in the seaside scenery on the Oyster Walk. Continue up the Eyre Peninsula’s west coast to the crayfish haven of Elliston, where dinner is as easy as picking a live crayfish from the tank. Drive past Venus Bay, pausing at Needle Eye Lookout for views over the spectacular, rocky coastline. Dive with dolphins or swim with inquisitive sea lions in Baird Bay. Further west in Point Labatt, you can contemplate the sea lions at play.

Visit an oyster shed and taste seafood from the waters of the Great Australian Bight in Streaky Bay, home to a large population of green-lipped abalone. Further along the coast lies Smoky Bay, where you can taste Pacific oysters on a tour of the aquaculture plant. Next, drive to Ceduna, home to dreamy white beaches and a thriving fishing industry. Learn about the species that are farmed here while dining on an ocean-fresh seafood platter. Pack your fishing rods and four wheel drive to Davenport Creek, also a popular spot for surfing, body-boarding and water skiing. Or continue along the coast to Cactus Beach, where you can ride the world-class waves or angle for fish.

From sleepy seaside operations to mega fish farms, you can experience all levels of the Eyre Peninsula’s lucrative local fishing industry. What’s more, this seafood adventure is also a classic summer holiday, featuring relaxed towns, white beaches and clean, crashing ocean.

Are you ready to head to Australia now? If you are between the ages of 18-30 you may qualify for a Work and Holiday Visa. Pay for your travels, build your resume and make new friends. Contact us now to learn more.

Information provided by © Tourism Australia 2011

Free and low cost Events in NYC this weekend 9/16-9/18

Exploring the world in our own backyard

1.  120 artists and galleries present works in individual rooms at the 4th annual 4 heads art fair at governors island.

2.  Movie Screenings:  dusk: free outdoor movies 9/17 women on the verge of a nervous breakdown (big screen plaza, 6th ave bet. 29th + 30th), 9/18 the good, the bad and the ugly (habana outpost), 9/20 2001: a space odyssey (big screen plaza, 6th ave bet. 29th + 30th), 9/21 the devil wears prada (stuyvesant town oval)

3.  Apple picking an hour or less from nyc:

4.  Thru 9/18: get $20 tickets to off-broadway shows 20 minutes before curtain during ‘20at20’:

5.  Value Deal:  Good till end of day 9/14.  Two movie tickets and a large popcorn at cinema village for $12 ($27 value, limit 3/person)

6.  Sunday, September 18th – The Brooklyn Book Festival is the largest free literary event in New York City presenting an array of literary stars and emerging authors who represent the exciting world of literature today. One of America’s premier book festivals, this hip, smart, diverse gathering attracts thousands of book lovers of all ages.

Plan your Work and Holiday Adventure to Australia in a few simple steps.

Why sign up for a Work and Holiday Program?

Earn money while traveling, build your resume and have new adventures.

Step 1:  Book your Work and Holiday program – Doing it all yourself can cost a lot of money and time.  Use a company that offers a lot of assistance and inclusions to make your time smooth and planning easy.  For information check out the LifExchange, Global Work and Travel Work and Holiday package that includes everything you will need to land a job, have housing assistance and to be prepared as you make your journey.
Step 2:  Apply for your Work and Holiday Visa as early as 60 day before you plan to travel.  You can apply for your Work and Holiday visa online directly with the Australian Government.  The process can take as little as two weeks as long as you meet all the eligibility requirements and have an up to date valid US passport.  To apply online visit:
Step 3:  Organize your flight – Booking your flight is best to do after you have spoken to your Work and Holiday Program operator.  They can tell you when the start dates are for your preferred employment and suggest the best arrival time.  They may also know what airlines offer special deals or fly most often from your departure region.
Step 4: Travel Insurance – Travellers heading overseas are strongly advised to purchase travel insurance. Medical costs can be very expensive when travelling internationally, and many companies will not let you depart on a tour if you do not have sufficient insurance coverage. To ensure your peace of mind and protection in the event of an emergency, we strongly recommend getting insurance.   Travel insurance can cover things such as health, medical, travel (incl. lost luggage and documents), special events, and emergency evacuation.  Click here to request more information.
Step 5:  Learn more about Australia before you head out.  Check out these recommended guides!
Step 6:  Read about other peoples experience participating on Work Abroad programs around the world.  Visit LifExchange testimonial page or read this great article from Matador Network written by a work abroad Australia traveler.
Step 7:  Have an adventure of a lifetime!  Make sure you take advantage of the opportunities to visit local sites, meet new people and most of all HAVE FUN!

Tips to NYC travel

Once you have completed your Work and Travel program successfully you may choose to travel in the US before returning home to University.  For many LifExchange participants NYC is on your list of places to visit.

Here are some tips to assist you with your planning

The Basics:

Buying a metro card:  We recommend you but an unlimited 7 day pass for $29.00.  This allows you to travel 24 hours per day for 7 days anywhere I the city for one cost.  Find out more at the MTA.  Taxis are not cheap – with the heavy New York traffic and the compulsory tip, expect to pay $10 for even a short cab ride.
Accommodations:  For cheap accommodations look up for in home stays, or for a little less visit  Both of these options are cheaper than a hotel unless you are traveling in a group and willing to share a hotel room.  Depending on the dates, Hostels can be found for around $30 – $45 a night, depending on whether you want a private or shared room. Book your accommodation before you travel, especially in peak season.
Food: Most hostels don’t serve breakfast, so a diner breakfast will set you back about $10 – not including the tip. New Yorkers don’t do things by halves – and this includes their food portions.  Try the street vendors, there are a lot of great meals you will find for less then $5.00.  China town and the East village are also great neighborhoods for great finds.  Want to splurge and treat yourself to something great?  Visit Open Table for suggestions and reservations.

Things to do:

The Statue of Liberty – ( ferries for the Statue leave every 25 minutes from 8.30am-4.30pm from Battery Park. Perhaps the most recognizable icon of the USA, expect a long wait with queuing and security checks before boarding the ferry.  The ferry continues on to Ellis Island, where you might find a long lost family member on the Immigrant Wall of Honour.
The Staten Island Ferry is free- and while there is not much to see on Staten Island you will get stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline. This ferry runs 24 hours a day.
Central Park – Probably the only place in the city you’ll find some peace and quiet. It would take a week to view the whole of this park, but try and fit in a few of the highlights during your stay. Strawberry Fields, dedicated to the late John Lennon, is worth a visit and the Jackie Onassis Reservoir is beautiful on a sunny day.
New York Public Library – Worth a visit if only to view the two famous stone lions sitting outside – said to represent Patience and Fortitude. Oh, and it’s free.
Ground Zero- For decades, the World Trade Centre was the most visible tourist attraction in Lower Manhattan. Post 9/11, the site is surrounded by a Viewing Wall, that allows visitors to see the rebuilding that is now underway. The names of the 9/11 victims are included within the wall.

Cheap Stuff

Although New York is an expensive city, there are plenty of things you can do for free or cheap. The city is best seen on foot. In addition to the most current cheap options listed below, check out The Skint for day to day activities and options for great stuff to do in NY.

Among the free things to do are Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island Ferry, most national park sites many of the museums, some guided tours, and all TV show tapings.
 Studio tickets for SNL, Daily Show, Letterman and more
Tickets to other shows taped in NYC are easier to snag and usually for free. Here’s an updated list of shows that tape with a live audience in NYC:
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Colbert Report
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Late Show with David Letterman
Good Morning America
The Early Show
The View
Live! with Regis and Kelly
The Martha Stewart Show
The Rachel Ray Show
The Dr. Oz Show
The Wendy Williams Show
MTV studio audience
Who Wants to be a Millionaire
The Marriage Ref
The Tyra Banks Show
Comedy Central Presents
Other resources:
On Friday mornings during the summer both Today Show and Good Morning America offer free outdoor concerts. Usually no tickets are required.
The automated Twitter feed @DailyTix tweets when new tickets are available for the John Stewart or Stephen Colbert shows.
Free hours at NYC museums, zoos and gardens
Museums with free or pay-what-you-wish hours in 2011
Museum at Eldridge Street – Free 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (normally $10)
Yeshiva University Museum – Free 5 to 8 p.m. (normally $8)
McKim rooms of the Morgan Library & Museum – free 3 to 5 p.m. (full museum access is $15)
Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Free all day (normally $10)
China Institute Gallery – Free 6 to 8 p.m. (normally $7)
Staten Island Museum – Free noon to 2 p.m. (normally $3)
Bronx Zoo – Pay-what-you-wish donation all day (normally $16)
Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust – Free 4 to 8 p.m. (normally $12)
El Museo del Barrio – Free 6 to 9 p.m. (normally a suggested $9)
Staten Island Zoo – Free 2 to 4:45 p.m. (normally $8)
Yeshiva University Museum – Free 5 to 8 p.m. (normally $8)
NY Botanical Garden – Free grounds access all day, but excludes the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Rock and Native Plant gardens and tram tour (grounds-only access normally $6)
Van Cortlandt House Museum – Free all day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (normally $5)
Queens Botanical Garden – Free from 3 to 6 p.m. (normally $4)

11 Safety Tips and other Tidbits for International Travelers

1.     Use the same safety precautions you would at home!  I live in NYC and there are everyday precautions I use when I travel and at home – Avoid walking alone on deserted streets after dark, keep your money in a secured location, carry a cell phone when possible.  Most mobile carriers have international plans or you can buy a prepaid cell phone at many airports to be used for local or emergency calls.

2.     Learn about the local culture – pick up a travel book before you depart home.  Read about the place you are going to visit.  Some great travel guides will tell you where the best local pubs and eateries are.  Don’t just visit the designated tourist site’s, go to a coffee shop and chat with a local to learn more about the city you are visiting.  One of my best travel days many years ago was when I found a group of tourists from Sao Paolo on the same tour as myself in Curitiba.  They were local to the country but we were on the same adventure.  We quickly became friends as they taught me how to order brigadeiros with my coffee con leche and what stops were worth seeing with my hop on hop off bus pass.

3.     Know the local currency and understand the exchange rate.  The quickest way to loose money is not to understand it.

4.     Transportation – Before you even depart check out the public transportation routes and schedules.  Find out if you need any special license or an IDP to drive.  Want to travel by taxi? Find a Taxi Stand – You can usually find a taxi stand on the street in any country in a large city — even if you can’t read the words, you’ll notice taxis congregating near the sign. Generally, only taxi’s authorized to carry passengers are allowed to stop at these taxi stands, meaning the taxi is as safe as that country mandates, and the cab driver licensed. Look for these cab stands at foreign airports, too.

5.     Have copies of everything – It’s a simple rule, but a wise one.  I always find it useful to copy my passport, travel itinerary and tickets, driver’s license, and other pertinent paperwork.  I keep a copy on me and leave a copy with someone I trust back home.  If you have your belongings stolen or lost your trusted friend or family member can fax or email you copies to assist in retrieving lost bags, visiting your embassy for emergency passport replacement, etc. – this can save hours of headaches.

6.    Do you know how to pack smart?  Take advantage of those “hidden” spaces – For example, place small items inside your shoes or the pockets of shirts or jackets you pack.  Pack extra bags in your bag – Packing a duffle bag in your luggage gives you extra space to bring things home with you. It’s also a good idea to bring plastic sandwich or grocery bags for laundry or other items.   Don’t pack what you can get at your destination – many hotels have a hair dryer in every room, along with many toiletry items, so you don’t need to pack them.

7.     Learn the laws and customs of the land you’re visiting – you are responsible for your behavior and knowing local rules and regulations.

8.     Crime can be found anywhere – “It’s about body language, awareness and intuition,” says Robert Siciliano, a personal security expert and the author of “The Safety Minute.” If you look like you know what you’re doing and where you are going — even if you look like a tourist — you’re a lot less likely to be targeted.

9.     Travel with less cash.  Most countries these days have access to ATM machines; pack your debit card.  It is worth the piece of mind of not carrying loads of cash and less hassle then travelers cheques in many locations.  Naturally when you hit the streets in NY, Rio or Rome you will want to carry cash for a little shopping, or street food just be thoughtful about your plans for each day and plan accordingly. Some ATM machines even offer better exchange rates than the airport or your hotel. Just be cautious of ATM fees as they can add up, and avoid using a credit card.

10.     Want to take an extended trip on a budget?  Try a Work and Holiday Adventure. With many countries to choose from this is an opportunity to make some pocket money while living abroad.

11.  Travel is about having an adventure of a lifetime – having new experiences, visiting new places and creating new memories.  I wish everyone a safe journey as you head to your next destination.

4th of July Celebrations

Why do we celebrate the 4th of July? 

Imagine how you would feel if someone older than you (maybe an older sister or brother) kept telling you what to do all the time and kept taking more and more of your allowance. That is how the colonists felt in the years leading up to 1776. Great Britain kept trying to make the colonists follow more rules and pay higher taxes. People started getting mad and began making plans to be able to make their own rules. They no longer wanted Great Britain to be able to tell them what to do, so they decided to tell Great Britain that they were becoming an independent country. (To be independent means to take care of yourself, making your own rules and providing for your own needs.)

The Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and they appointed a committee (a group of people working together to do a specific job) to write a formal document that would tell Great Britain that the Americans had decided to govern themselves. The committee asked Thomas Jefferson to write a draft (first try) of the document, so he worked for days, in absolute secret, until he had written a document that he thought said everything important that the committee had discussed. On June 28, 1776, the committee met to read Jefferson’s “fair” copy (he put his best ideas together and wrote them neatly.) They revised (made some changes) the document and declared their independence on July 2, 1776. They officially adopted it (made it theirs) on July 4, 1776. That is why we call it “Independence Day.”

Americans celebrate that freedom and independence with barbecues, picnics, and family gatherings.  Please find below a list of locations near where you may work that you can view fireworks, join a picnic or create your own.


Enjoy a free concert at 8 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m. uptown at 127th Street at Northside Park. For more information, please call 1-800-626-2326 or the Ocean City Department of Recreation & Parks at 410-250-0125.


Enjoy a free concert at 8 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m. downtown on the beach at North Division Street. For more information, please call 1-800-626-2326 or the Ocean City Department of Recreation & Parks at 410-250-0125.

COROLLA, NC – Outer Banks

The Corolla Annual Independence Day Festival of Fireworks will begin at 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Whalehead Club.  Fireworks begin at dusk but arrive early to enjoy food, fun activities, fabulous music and find a place for your blankets and chairs to settle in for the best fireworks on the Outer Banks! Admission and Parking are free. For more information visit or call (252) 453-9040.


Town of Manteo – Outdoor Pavilion at Roanoke Island Festival Park. 8 p.m. Featuring the North Carolina National Guard’s 440th Army Band. The performance is free and open to the public. (252) 475-1500 or

DUCK, NC – Outer Banks

9 a.m. Duck’s seventh annual Fourth of July Parade will be held on Monday, July 4, 2011 at 9:00 a.m., with an after-event following at the Duck Town Park featuring community fun, music, watermelon, and the awarding of parade trophies. The one-mile parade route is the same annually and begins at the crest of the hill on Scarborough Lane and continues down Ocean Way and then Christopher Drive. Please plan to arrive at least 1/2 hour early to get the best parade viewing spot! (252) 255-1234,,


9 a.m. Parade (starts at the Town Pier)  This year’s theme is ‘HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY TO THE NATIONAL SEASHORE’  (chosen by children at the Wellfleet Elementary School). Fireworks are in Provincetown at 9:00pm


The 2011 Macy’s will begin at approximately 9:20 pm on July 4th, the 26-minute display will be set off from six barges positioned between 20th and 55th Streets on the Hudson River. That’s two full miles of sky, providing for greater visibility of the show for millions more spectators. On the West Side of Manhattan.

LifExchange wishes you a safe and happy holiday!!!!

Outer Banks Adventure

I stepped out of the car and breathed deep. The salty air is different from back home. The sun warms me but the breeze is just enough to cool me down as I walk around and learn these new streets. As a New Yorker it is a different site than the place where I started my day. I am sure the international J1 Summer Work and Travel students visiting from around the world will have this same strange and wonderful feeling. I have never been to the Outer Banks in North Carolina-this long island packed with beach, restaurants and wild nature. It is peaceful now. The locals tell me that the visitors and tourists will start arriving in a few weeks and the towns will come alive like firecrackers for the next 12 weeks. I am not here for vacation-that will be my next trip. Today I am here to welcome the students that my company, LifExchange LLC and the International YMCA have assisted with their visa, job placement and housing so they may have a successful summer season and visit to the US. My first stop, Pathways House, an amazing not-for-profit that has partnered with LifExchange to provide our students with support in terms of housing, transportation and 24-hour on-call local assistance. When I arrive at Pathways a little after mile marker 8 (I am learning that mile markers are very important in the Outer Banks) I walk up to the building and immediately see a sign that says “Enter.” I walk upstairs and find Nancy behind her desk ready to welcome the next student, arrange transport to social security and for the lone student at the group of free computer banks, assist with SEVIS registration. I know right away the students and community are lucky to have her and Pathways International House.
After I settle in I begin my time by visiting the students. Most of the LifExchange/YMCA students from Ukraine and Tajikistan are here, while a few more from China and Jamaica will arrive over the next few weeks-all to work for Dunkin Donuts. The first two students I run into are Alina and Marina. They welcome me into their home. I immediately notice the rumble of the washer going and Marina offers me a cup of black tea she has brought from home, a city outside Odessa, Ukraine.  After tea we make plans for a community welcome dinner for tomorrow night.  The invite list we create will really bring these students together in a new community.  They decide to invite the owners and managers from Dunkin Donuts, Nancy and Becky from Pathways, all the LifExchange students from Ukraine and Tajikistan and myself.  We split up duties and I am in charge of cooking and they are in charge of inviting guests.  After an afternoon at the local Food Lion, Dollar Store and donation from Kill Devil Custard we start cooking dinner.  Anna peels the cucumbers, Melina cooks the pasta and Julia helps with the sauce.  Alina, Nataliia and Max serve dinner a few hours later as the group discusses expectations, excitement and the weeks to come.
On the last night of my visit we all work together to move the students into their new apartment.  With a washer-dryer, dishwasher, 5 minute walk to the grocery store and 10 minute walk to the beach everyone is smiling.  The Grand Opening for Dunkin Donuts Corolla is only a few days away and everyone is excited.  I am always sad when I leave the students for the season.  I know what lay ahead – playful days on the beach, challenging new experiences as they wrestle with cash registers, homesickness and new roommates.  I also know it is the start of a lifetime experience and I am blessed to have witnessed the first steps.
Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Corolla – Student Dinner, housing move in, Pathways House

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