There’s nothing better than making a travel bucket list for the New Year, especially if the previous year was as rough as 2016. After all, 2017 deserves to be kicked off somewhere amazing and uplifting. Our top 10, off the beaten track, holiday destinations for the upcoming year are all impressive — full of much-needed leisure, comfort, and unequivocal brilliance. Some places in the world are irrefutably incredible and don’t come to the forefront as often as they should. Therefore, it’s time to ditch the cliché rat-race of tourist destinations and fully embrace the exotic!
While India and Pakistan take center stage within the subcontinent because of their long history with one another, Sri Lanka is definitely another South Asian gem, surrounded by plateaus and astounding scenery. Kandy is home to tea plantations, rainforests, and the infamous Kandy Lake — it’s very popular among young couples for romantic strolls. The city is especially well-recognized for its Buddhist sites and historic temples. Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Tooth, is one of the most prominent, sacred locations within the region.
We’re used to seeing couples honeymooning in Thailand and Malaysia all the time — however, people can forget about this small, rich, land full of history and culture. Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, has extraordinary mosques standing proud and tall amidst urban malls and posh lifestyles. The palace of Hassanal Bolkiah (Sultan of Brunei), also known as Istana Nurul Iman (the Palace of Faith and Light) is the real eye-candy located in the heart of the capital. This $1.4 billion dollar home is included in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest living residence of the head of a state.
Despite intense turmoil within the Middle East, Jordan proudly boasts first class security and breathtaking views. Visits to Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, are bound to leave travelers in awe. Tourists have the once in a lifetime opportunity to float in the Dead Sea, take a dip into the balmy waters of Aqaba, and unwind in natural hot springs beneath remarkable waterfalls.
There’s so much more to the beautiful continent of Europe than just selfies at the Eiffel Tower. While Lisbon remains the top choice in Portugal with its almost literal “sun sets in the sea,” delicious cheap eats, and colorful trams, Sintra is the real life fairy tale everyone needs to live at least once. Only a 40-minute inexpensive train journey from the capital, this picturesque Portuguese town is set amidst a vibrant, elegant display of palaces, castles, historical buildings, fortresses, and more than 10 national monuments, all in the stunning setting of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
[Palace of the Lost City in Sun City, South Africa. Photo via: Flikr.]
A personal favorite situated in my childhood hometown of South Africa is the Palace of the Lost City at Sun City Resort — a two-hour drive away from the capital of Johannesburg. Inspired by the myth of a lost African kingdom, this heaven on Earth is bordered by flourishing botanical gardens and gorgeous streams, as sculpture-lined alleyways lead between the hotel, its gardens, and golf courses. The Lost City treats its visitors like royalty; from an unbelievably awed arrival to a very unwilling departure.
We all know that Disney and Hollywood take the cake in tourist entertainment within the States, but there’s no better place than Memphis, Tennessee, for music and history lovers. Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home, ranks as one of the best museums within the musical arena of the world. Visitors discover the musician’s residence, where he spent time with family and friends. The National Civil Rights museum is another gem providing some fascinating insight into the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 17th century to the present.
Canada isn’t just about heavy snowfall and Tim Hortons— a haven for artisans and craftspeople, Nova Scotia celebrates the best of the Province; from sports idols to renowned musicians and castle towns to beach wineries. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, it boasts a plethora of parks and lighthouses for some much-needed recreation. Tidal-bore rafting and year-round surfing are a few definite activities to experience, along with a trip through memory lane at one of the provincial museums in the district.
Whenever we hear “South America,” the image of Brazil pops into our heads; however, it’s so much more than Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Ushuaia is a bustling resort of sharp streets and cluttered buildings beneath the snowcapped Martial Range in Argentina. The windswept town is Earth’s paradise for skiers, mountain climbers, and penguin lovers. It’s the gateway to Antarctica cruises and tours to nearby Isla Yécapasela, also known as “Penguin Island” for its penguin colonies.
Summer is incomplete without lounging around the beach. With clear, stunning beaches and extensive hiking trails, no trip to Fiji is complete without visiting Nadi. With a majority of its population being Indo-Fijian, Nadi is a center for Islam and Hinduism within the country. The downtown district is defined by Nadi River and Viseisei Village, along with Sri Siva Subramaniya temple— the largest Hindu temple in the Southern region.
Who wants to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, and sail in the largest coral reef system in the world? If you’re the outdoorsy, adventurous type, then Australia is the answer to your prayers. With Great Barrier Reef as a living masterpiece in Cairns and the Daintree Rainforest lying two hours North of Cairns, Mother Nature has definitely spread its magic all over the turquoise colored city. Oh, and don’t forget to cuddle with those adorable koala bears!
Exploring and writing her way through life, Queenie Shaikh is a biryani addict, latte-art admirer, women’s rights advocate, fitness enthusiast, Harry Potter fanatic and a perpetual nomad, amongst many other things.
These days, the phrase, “love knows no bounds” doesn’t seem to hold true. For many couples, specifically, those in long-distance relationships, the lengthy and complicated immigration process can keep lovers apart for six to 24 months. Well, aside from the thousands and thousands of miles of the deep ocean in between. I’ve been there; I have been an immigration attorney for 10 years and I found love abroad (my wife was living in the UK when we met).
I was flying across the Atlantic every few months so, as you can imagine, dating was quite expensive (though she quite liked the fact that for our first intentional visit, I paid several thousand pounds for a global migration conference as an excuse for flying over).
Marriage immigration is complex and costly. The eligibility and procedural requirements are confusing and require multiple long and complicated application forms over the course of six to eight years: from fiancé(e) or spouse visa through adjustment of status process, the Removal of Conditions Application, and thereafter applying for U.S. citizenship.
To put it in perspective, many immigration applications end up being 200-300 pages long. For you to know exactly what you need can be either extremely expensive — using an attorney, who typically charges $2,000-$12,000 per application (not including government-filing fees) — or time-consuming learning how to DIY. If you opt for the latter, it is quite scary to have to figure out the requirements and procedures and follow up with case status checks in hopes of finally getting some peace of mind that your case is progressing as it should.
The worst part? The grueling wait. Waiting while not knowing how long until you can bring love home; waiting to start a family — the next chapter of your life. You keep hearing people say, “life is short!” and you thought that you finally found a partner you want to spend it with. Unfortunately, life (bureaucratic procedures) get in the way.
The combination of distance and long immigration processing times puts our next chapter ‘on pause’ while we do everything we can to bridge the gap — the gap that effectively challenges our ability to build a ‘real’ relationship. Or did it? Is there a test for this kind of thing? I mean, apparently, the U.S. Immigration Service (USCIS) seems to know what a “real” relationship is and tests ours against some “standard” to determine if it is genuine enough to grant a fiancé(e) visa or spousal green card. What makes a strong Fiancé(e) or Spouse visa application? I’ve experienced love; I am human. What do they want from me to bring my partner home?
I have been a U.S. immigration lawyer for over 10 years and I myself found love abroad and firsthand had to go through the process of bringing my spouse home to the United States. My wife is an NRI who grew up in the Philippines and lived in London where we met (more on how our meddlesome Indian families instigated our “meet-cute” in a future article). Having recently gone through this journey, and having helped hundreds of immigrant couples over the years, it became obvious that there had to be a better way. It should not be expensive, unaffordable, or overly complicated for you to bring your loved one home to become a family.
When we were apart, we did everything from waking each other up in the middle of our respective nights, with the time difference, to one partner falling asleep with the other on the phone. We watched movies together on Netflix. We made travel plans and talked about what the future would look like. We craved each other and expressed our love daily, maybe even hourly.
The future can be uncertain for any couple, but perhaps even more so for those in a long-distance relationship. When one partner is waiting for a spousal visa or fiancé visa, there can be a lot of anxiety and stress about the process and wait times. Even one mistake can set the whole process back months or even years and, if you are not familiar with the process, there’s always the overhanging uncertainty of whether or not the visa will be approved altogether.
In today’s globalized world where borders are becoming less relevant than ever before, largely thanks to technological advances which allow individuals across countries via Facetime, WhatsApp, and Skype chats without having left home, there is more of a need for a streamlined immigration tech platform that helps “modern” couples who are dating long-distance with the help of technology.
The number one reason Fiancé(e) visa or Spouse visa applications are denied is lack of documentation evidencing your relationship/intent to marry. This article shows what evidence you can provide USCIS to prove you have a genuine relationship and thereby strengthen your visa application. OurLoveVisa.com is an immigration attorney-designed platform that provides free tools and features to help couples going through the U.S. K-1 or marriage visa process plan, manage, and track their immigration journey. Many couples going through the K-1 fiancé visa process, or CR-1/IR-1 spouse visa process, have found its relationship timeline tool, which is as easy to use as Instagram, helpful in building their application. The best part: it’s free to use. The OurLoveVisa.com platform was built so you can focus on what is truly important, your relationship!
The long, unreasonable immigration processing/wait times are definitely another topic for discussion and, as time goes on, I will continue to share and elaborate on my and my wife’s joint and individual journeys through marriage, immigration, and closing the gap from our long-distance relationship. In the meantime, I hope the information provided will bring value to you and your journey.
Affinity groups are popular in many American high schools and colleges for students who share a common identity to create a community. Students can celebrate, talk with people who relate to certain issues, and advocate for causes important to them. Intersections of identity like race, gender, ethnicity, culture, sexuality and more, are what affinity groups can be created around. While affinity groups are often celebrated, they are not always supported by academic institutions. There are quite a few instances of affinity groups being banned in high schools, in the US, on the basis that they further divide students by race or ethnicity, limit free speech, and put kids in “boxes.”
However, this is rarely the case as affinity groups are seldom pushed on any students and are usually required to be open to all, even if one doesn’t share the identity the group is centered around. Affinity groups not only offer a community, but also increase awareness about a certain culture and create representation in a school for students who may not always feel seen. They also allow for students to be intellectually pushed as they navigate leadership, collaboration, activism, and how to have respectful discourse.
How can you become an active member of an existing affinity group?
Joining an affinity group can often be daunting, especially as a kid who is new or has been too nervous to join in years past. However, this space should be welcoming and excited for participation! You may start by attending a meeting, an event they are hosting, or being active in any outreach the group is doing.
If you want to become a more active member or leader in an affinity group, planning activities and events are crucial to a successful group. Here are some ideas:
Celebrating holidays is the easiest way to help bond an affinity group and allow others outside of the group to join the fun! For example, Holi is a fun and exciting holiday that many South Asians celebrate. It’s a pretty easy set-up and a fan-favorite of non-South Asians too! Just make sure you are inclusive with the holidays you celebrate (such as celebrating both Hindu and Muslim festivities if you have a South Asian affinity group) and also take some time to educate others on the meaning behind what is being celebrated.
Another simple idea is to connect over movies, TV, and music! For example, showing classic Bollywood and Tollywood films can be a great way for kids to bond over nostalgia and immerse themselves in a culture through media.
Food is the best way to get people to come to anything as well as a super fun way to showcase a culture. Potluck events are fun and exciting, and will probably garner a big turn out at any school! Collaboration can also elevate the range of food you have such as a Pan-Asian or any other regionally-themed potluck. Trust me, your line might be out the door, so this can be a good fundraising opportunity too!
Speakers are a great way for a more serious event that students can learn and obtain opportunities from, especially during notable dates like the AAPI, Pride, or Black History month. Speakers can talk about how their identity has impacted their career, explain how they’re fighting for representation or equality, teach students a cultural instrument or dance, give advice to students, and so much more! Creating student or teacher panels are also another easier set-up that can be incredibly impactful and help your school understand what needs to be done so students and staff feel more heard.
Though not all affinity groups have dance or performance groups affiliated with them, some do and can showcase their talent! Additionally, putting on productions that feature talent from the school as a whole but relate to a certain identity can also be incredibly interesting and another avenue for collaboration. Examples could be a production dedicated to all cultural dance styles, martial arts, drag shows, etc!
Fundraising is usually quite important for affinity groups. Students can conduct ‘bake sales’ of cultural foods or drinks, sell decor or merchandise, or assist in deliveries of food from a local business. Being creative with fundraising can really help boost profit and allow for so much more fun.
Outreach is important
Whether you’re starting your club up again in the fall, need a boost in membership, or want people to come to your event, outreach is key. Some affinity groups have designated members for outreach, but regardless, it’s important to do as much as you can.
Of course one of the best ways to reach other young students is through social media. Having an Instagram or Facebook page for your club can help get the word out about upcoming events or meetings, and members can repost on personal accounts for further outreach. Posting before and after events, and always remembering to take pictures, can definitely boost engagement and involvement with your affinity group. (P.S. it’s always good to have some Canva skills in this case.)
Speaking of Canva, flyers around the school are another great way to get word out. Though it feels like everything is digital nowadays, students wander hallways endlessly every day! Seeing a well-designed, clear, and informative flyer about an upcoming event a few times daily can definitely increase odds of participation.
Making sure teachers and other administrators are aware of an upcoming event or holiday can also be super helpful! Spreading awareness about an upcoming cultural holiday or an upcoming event during a morning announcement or on official online forums administered by staff can be a great way to make sure that people know.
Of course, conflicts are bound to happen in affinity groups but it’s important to be prepared.
At times it’s possible that your affinity group leaders aren’t taking on the responsibility they should, which can lead to less representation in your school, decrease membership, or simply lead to inactivity. If you see this happening, try and step up. Do your best to get your affinity group involved again in the school and actively plan things. This can be done by collaborating with other groups so there is more shared responsibility, talking to an administrator about your concerns, or taking charge of planning an event. Whatever it is, get active and try to find a small way in which your affinity group can involve itself in the school community at large.
Sometimes affinity groups can get a bit competitive or try to step on each other’s toes during the planning of a collaborative initiative. This can be especially difficult if both groups share a larger identity and struggle to make space for each other. Of course, talking to an administrator may be the only way to resolve larger conflicts but make sure you’re being respectful of other’s time and are clear about delegating tasks during planning stages. At the end of the day, both groups share similar goals, so be assertive if you’re feeling the collaboration is not going smoothly and be clear about what you need.
Decreased membership can be a result of multiple reasons. It’s important to identify that cause so you can rectify it. Common reasons may be inconsistent meetings, lack of actual events and activities, uninvolved leaders, toxic group environment, non-inclusivity, genuine scheduling conflict with other clubs and student activities, or lack of new students/freshman involvement. Each of these reasons have their own, unique solution but it’s important to do the work and identify the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask someone why they stopped showing up and consequently shift meeting times, increase outreach initiatives, change leadership, or do whatever else is necessary to rectify some of the problems that’s affecting membership. Quarterly or semesterly check-ins through surveys or in-person talks is a great way to check in with existing members about their experience in the group and take any measures necessary to prevent further reductions in participation.
Inclusivity for affinity groups can mean a lot of things, like being open to all as well as acknowledging other identities within the umbrella identity as a whole. For example, a regional affinity group like a South Asian one needs to acknowledge the culture of different countries, languages, and religions it represents. Though you may not be able to do things like host events for every single holiday, maybe post on social media about a few more. If you are celebrating a certain holiday, include the way it’s said in multiple languages. In addition, make sure you’re being respectful and use your space to educate as well as celebrate. If you’re inviting people to celebrate a holiday, make sure you explain what it means. If you’re offering food, talk about where the food originates from. These things can make a huge difference in how people feel represented.
Affinity groups are important to foster a school environment where students feel heard, represented, and a sense of belonging. Taking the steps to be active in one can truly make a difference, and it’s imperative to support and uplift others as we continue to create more spaces so that everyone gets a seat at the table — even in high school.
In an age where algorithms dictate viewership, Nancy Jay uses her love of dance to propel herself onto TikTok’s “for you” pages. Jay is an Indo Guyanese, Bronx native who began dancing at the age of three. As an influencer and content creator, she amassed a social media following of more than 500,000. Versed in many styles of dancing including Caribbean, Bollywood, urban and Latin, Jay can be spotted in soca music videos such as Linky First’s “Rock and Come in” and “Jeune Femme,” Adrian Dutchin’s “Roll” and by soca king Machel Montano’s “Mami Lo Tiene.”
Many content creators are typecast into the niche but Jay has defied this norm and proclaims she is more than just a dancer.
“I dance, travel, post lifestyle and beauty content. I’m an Indo Caribbean woman who enjoys being myself and promoting my culture. I like showing viewers it is okay to be who they are and embrace what they look like, despite what they see on social media. I did not plan on being a TikToker. As I started posting videos, the love and support I received from viewers was amazing. I have never experienced anything like that before on Instagram, where I started my content journey,” Jay said.
In conversation with Jay, the following answers have been condensed for concision and clarity.
Why is it important for you to create content related to your Indo Caribbean roots?
Growing up, I never felt represented as an Indo Caribbean on television, in movies, social media or anywhere else. My goal as a content creator is to promote the Indo Caribbean culture through my content and be the representation the Indo Caribbean community needs.
Are there unspoken rules about being a content creator or an Indo Caribbean woman on the platform?
Being an Indo Caribbean woman on TikTok can be challenging when you are trying to find your identity and do not feel represented.
Jay explains her frustration with the lack of Caribbean representation and acknowledgment from platforms, as well as her goals as a content creator in this video.
Do you ever experience a block, similar to writer’s block, when it comes to creating content? How do you overcome that?
I have yet to experience a block. However, I do have days where I want to take a break and just relax instead of filming. As a content creator, it is important to take breaks and schedule days to just relax because being a full-time content creator is a 24/7 business. It can be draining and you may lose your sense of reality when you have the mindset that everything is content. I enjoy taking a day or half a day to cook, watch TV or go shopping with my partner without the worry of filming any of it.
How has your social media presence changed your daily life?
When I am in public, supporters approach me to express their love for my content and sometimes ask for a selfie. When I find people staring at me in public now, it’s most likely because they recognize me from social media and not because I look funny.
In May of 2021, I used my platform to reach out to brands and ask for their support in a project I named ‘Nancy Jay Gives Back.’ I put together care packages, using products donated by brands, and drove around the Bronx sharing them with people experiencing homelessness or those in need. Seeing the happiness on their faces upon receiving these bags was priceless. Additionally, I spread some extra joy through dance. I remember one lady telling me she’d never been to a club or party so I told her I’ve brought the party to her and we danced to her favorite genre of music right there on the street.
Jay plans on continuing this project as her social media presence has grown.
How has your family reacted to your social presence?
My family has always been supportive of my talents and the path I have chosen. My first public dance performance was at the age of 12. I performed a fusion of Bollywood and chutney music at middle school events. When I got to high school, I participated in our talent show to a fusion of Bollywood, chutney, soca and top 40. I won the talent show three or four times. I also performed for fundraisers organized by mandirs in Queens, the Bronx, weddings, sweet sixteens and other social events.
My family always came out to support me. They love seeing my content and always encourage me to film and create. My mom in particular tells everyone about my TikTok videos.
While enrolled at John Jay College, Jay founded the first West Indian student organization called “West Indies Massive.” She captained the dance team, taught dance classes and won the talent show multiple times while pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice with a minor in law and police studies.
Any advice for creators who may not have the support of family?
Do not let this discourage you. If content creation is something you truly want to do, stay consistent and eventually your family will support you for doing what you love. Social media is still new to some and the idea of it being someone’s career or business is new as well. I say be patient. Also, talk to them about your social media goals, as perhaps they do not understand the full picture.
What is your dream partnership and why?
My dream partnership would involve acting. I’ve always wanted to be an actress, preferably a Bollywood actress because I know I would kill those dance numbers (haha!). Also, I would love to partner with Sandals Resorts and bring that Caribbean flavor they should be promoting.
Jay has collaborated with major brands like Samsung Mobile, Norwegian Cruise Line, AC Hotels, Disney Music Group, and Dunkin which is paramount for the Indo Caribbean community.
“I am the first Indo Caribbean woman to work with Norwegian Cruise Line as a content creator. Cruise travel is a huge part of my content journey. I love cruising and creating unique experiences and content. While cruising, I connected with the crew while most people typically do not. I treat everyone with respect,” Jay said
“I started a fun series called ‘Cruise Dances with the Crew’ back in August of 2021. There’s a playlist on TikTok with all of the fun dances. Prior to my first video, I had not seen anyone dancing on cruise ships with the crew. I guess you could say I started that trend.”
Nancy intertwined this partnership with her content and further put herself on the map.
Another pivotal partnership for Jay occurred in March 2021 when Dunkin chose her as one of 10 from a nationwide competition to feature her signature drink on the local menu.
How has content creation changed in the past two years?
Within the past two years, my content and style has grown tremendously. My gear list has also grown tremendously. I’ve been a content creator full time for a little over a year now. I have had more time to focus on the presentation and editing of my content.
What else do you want your viewers to not know about you or your work?
I stay true to who I am. Supporters who I’ve met in person can attest that I am the same, in-person and online. I like to keep things relatable, fun and authentic. I am working with a lot of big brands. I try to incorporate dance in all my content to capture my passion, diversity and culture.
I started teaching Caribbean Dance Fitness classes and private dance lessons officially in 2016. Since Covid, I moved everything online. Not only have I helped many learn how to dance but I have also helped build their confidence through dance and expression.
Lastly, I love traveling and encouraging others to live their best life.
Jay is more than a dancer; she is unapologetically herself. She maximizes opportunities and is building a brand that highlights her Indo Caribbean roots – a culture often not highlighted in mainstream media.