Category Archives: culture

How To Live In The Now – social media, content and unplugging

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We live in a world of now, now, now, gimme, gimme, gimme.

How did we become so obsessed with now. We don’t even have time to focus on the futuresome, it seems do not even care about the past, we just want it all and we want it now.

We are so in need, in lust for the now that anything else makes us impatient.

We are surrounded by the ‘instant’ – Twitter, Facebook. Vine. Insta(nt)gram

I primarily connected my figurative life line to social media in 2007 as a way to connect with my family and friends at home in London and across the globe, an easy way to share what I was doing and get the social reach easily to everyone I cared about when I was on the run and didn’t have time for a call or to write a letter  – technology has allowed me to face time with my Mum while I am out shopping to get her buy in on a dress I like or some shoes I’m contemplating adding to the collection. While I am connected to my family, I am also, now, so conditioned to getting everything out there right now – real time sharing, real time experiences.
I want to know if I’ve won – now. I want to know what people think – now. Who is liking my status, who is viewing my blog, what is my friend in another part of the world doing right now, I want my food order in 3 minutes.  I need the information and I need it now.

Capturing the moment

Capturing the moment

Don’t get me wrong – I love social media and what it has enabled us to do as individuals and as a global community, I like a fast pace, I like to have everything at my fingertips, but I’ve become so motivated by instant gratification that I’m not stopping to smell the flowers. I’m not taking in my life – the memories. Yes; every inch of the memory is captured in 140 characters or a heavily filtered and edited photo stored in a virtual cloud for the future, but am I living in that moment? Or am I merely capturing it?
Am I really listening or am I merely hearing?
Am I missing what’s really going on around me, now, because I’m so obsessed with the now.

My husband has created a social (media) experiment for us, mainly me, but us – can we, one day a week, tune out, shut down and turn off – can we leave our iphones, our ipad and our computer alone and just live in the moment, see the world through just one lens.

It’s time to take my moments. To realise that to really appreciate the now. I need to stop, inhale and absorb. Otherwise, my life will have flashed by in a series of uploads, tweets and posts.

Life is too short to not really LIVE in the now.

For more on our figurative life lines and our constant connection here is a great article on Huff Post – Disconnect: A New Movie Sounds the Alarm About Our Hyper-Connected Lives.

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My Life in Travel – An Interview With Myself

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My flight last weekend had me reading  The Independent – Travel Section – I enjoyed reading the article so much, I thought I would make my own ‘My Life in Travel

First Holiday Memory?

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney Land, when I was 3. I remember standing on Main St, waiting for the parade. The Flying Dumbos my first ever ‘roller coaster’ and getting ice cream in Vegas with my parents.

Havana

Best Holiday?

My feelings have always been split between Cape Town and Havana. I’ve blogged before about how incredible my experiences were in both cities. I’ve made the connection that both Cape Town and Havana have similarities: extreme poverty and governments that either were, or still are troubled but beyond those issues, are two cities and countries that are beautiful. Cape Town has it’s beautiful coast, vineyards and such motivational history that empowers you to do great things and to think beyond your four walls – you can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Cuba’s people show such generosity, honesty and warmth. The decaying architecture has a charm that I don’t think I will ever find again and I cannot begin to recount the incredible evening I spent in the presence of members of the Buena Vista Social Club, sipping Havana Club daiquiris and enjoying a Cohiba.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Britain has some beautiful scenery and wonderful sites and things to experience, but hand on heart, my favourite place in the UK, has to be London – my home town. London has so much culture. I discover something new every time I’m in the city. The architecture is so diverse – from 500 yearBig Ben old structures to incredible new buildings such as the Shard. London continues to impress me – and I feel that I love it more and more with each trip home that I make. One of my favourite things to do when I am in London is to enjoy the fashion. Although shopping is a lot more economical in the US, I don’t think you can beat the variety and selection of style and fashion that London has to offer. If you are thinking of a city holiday in Europe, London has to be on your list, from history and culture, to fashion and food – London has everything you need in a vacation.

Quick tip: Make sure you tour London by night – it’s incredible.

What have you learnt from your travels?

  1. Always budget for more than you think you will need
  2. If you can, don’t scrimp (point #1 helps with this) – it’s usually a once in a life time experience, and you don’t want to regret what you didn’t do, so you could save a few bucks.
  3. Remain respectful at all times. Always leave somewhere in the same or better condition that you found it in.
  4. Lastly – If the locals do it, it must be good – enjoy the local cuisine and embrace the culture that you have chosen to experience.

Ideal travelling companion?

Some travels call for your best girl friends (weekend shopping in NY or a girls trip to Vegas), others call for some Mother-Daughter or Parents-daughter time (I adore my time with my parents – especially, since we live so far apart) and for the rest of the time I can’t think of a better travel partner than my incredible fiancé. We always manage to laugh through the stressful times (delayed flights, dragging heavy suit cases across airports, parking lots and hotels and hairy flights) and enjoy the good times together. I cannot wait for our honeymoon together.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Yes, yes and ehhhh not so much.

I love the beach and seeing the ocean, but I need more than just catching rays to make my vacation time count. I love experiencing new cultures and learning all that I can behind the local area or region.  However, saying that…if my time is limited – I’m all about lazing by the pool, enjoying the spa and taking in the views. Nothing is more calming and relaxing to me that hearing the waves crash against the beach, or surrounding myself with gorgeous scents and flowers, mountains and peaceful environments.

As far as the adrenalin junkie goes – I will leave that to others.

Hilton Los Cabos, Mexico

Greatest travel luxury?

Time! Since I have moved to the States, I have really learnt to appreciate my time off. It has become a luxury that I adore.

Holiday reading

I have good intentions when I go on holiday. I pack 2 or 3 books, but unless I have no other distractions the reading just doesn’t happen. I have now started to use the Kindle app on my iPad to avoid lugging around heavy hardbacks that I won’t actually read unless I am on the plane. I actually read a lot more at home than I do on holiday now.

Currently reading: The Thank You Economy’, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Where has seduced you?

Marbella, Spain. It’s stunning. Mountains, palm trees, ocean, fresh food and beauty every which way you look.

Better to travel or arrive?

Unless I am fortunate to fly first class, then it’s always better to arrive. I have so rarely been on a flight in the last year that has been on time, if it hasn’t been cancelled – so I’m all about ‘just get me there’.

Worst travel experience?

I think the worst travel I have ever experienced was as a teenager – travelling around Eastern Europe. As a student the history that I got to walk through and places I explored were fantastic and so crucial to my learnings, we went to Belgium, Luxembourg, Prague where we stayed in a haunted, converted prison, Berlin and on to Krakow to visit Auschwitz. An experience I can never forget.

What made it my worst experience was that we travelled all across Europe by coach – sometimes over night, cramped in to a coach with 30 other girls for hours upon hours upon hours. Definitely not the luxury standards I had become accustomed to. 😉

Best hotel? La Quinta Resort & Spa

I have been very lucky, at a young age, with my parents and as an adult now, with my work, to be able to stay in some incredible hotels in some wonderful locations. My all time favourite hotel is one that I discovered outside of my parents and work and I make it a goal to make sure I get there at least once a year, although I wish it was every weekend.

Which hotel, you ask…. my all time hotel destination of choice is La Quinta Resort & Club. The resort has everything I love about Spain and California rolled in to one. 5* luxury, Waldorf Astoria name tag and old world Spanish charm with golden era Hollywood history. Adobe inspired casitas, in-room fire places, small swimming pools dotted around the resort, on property restaurants & bars and an incredible spa.

I should probably insert here, that I work for Hilton Worldwide, yet my opinions about the resort are my own and I am not taking any kick backs for waxing lyrical about how heavenly I find the hotel. (same goes for my image of the Hilton Los Cabos – above)

Favourite drive?

Pacific Coast Highway, California. Nothing beats driving along the coast in California. It’s iconic and far from a letdown from Northern California and the 17 mile drive all the way down to San Diego.

Dream trip?

Good question – we are working on that right now as we discuss where to go on our Honeymoon. Koh Samui, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Greek Islands, Bora Bora, Maldives or Fiji – I’m dreaming big.

Favourite city?  Chicago

I have a passion for Los Angeles. I feel like it’s my home away from home. Scrap that – it’s my adopted home. I never feel more like I belong than when I am in LA. The ocean, the sushi, the wide, palm tree lined boulevards, full of world class people watching.

After LA which is a given, I do love Chicago. Having never been there until a few years ago, I have been making annual trips since 2008. A real city with a buzz about it that warrants a mention. My top hotel for style, views and rooftop dining and drinking is The Wit, A DoubleTree Hotel (another obligatory disclaimer that this is my personal opinion and I am a Hilton Worldwide employee). If you happen to be in the Windy City the rooftop is a must.  With my sushi obsession, I have to add in here that Sunda is incredible for sushi and cocktails. I hear that brunch there is good enough to write home about.

Where next?PCH - Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, of course!

My Personal Ryder Cup – US vs Europe

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Having spent 10 days back home in Europe I have things to be grateful for in both home land and my chosen land of residency so I thought I would do a quick comparison. If I was savvy enough or just less lazy I’d make it in to a snazzy little infographic but I’m not so I won’t.

Bottle of Diet Coke in Europe  1. Soda vs Fizzy drinks – of course they’re the same thing with a few vital differences: a) In most places in Europe a diet coke comes in a beautiful glass bottle – the real deal, no soda gun syrupy mess here. A sparkling iced bottle of….wait, scratch that…. A Luke warm bottle of soda served with, if you’re lucky 2 ice cubes and a slither of lemon. Which brings me to point b) If you dare to ask for more ice like I do, (you get the famous scene in Oliver Twist: The boy asked for MORE…the boy will be hung) you are lucky to get an extra cube. And c) In most places you will pay $4 approx for each bottle of diet coke. No free refills here. On yer bike son.

2. Air Conditioning – Stepping off the plane in the UK was a thing of beauty. having left Dallas in a haze of 30 something consecutive days above 100f the wall of crisp 60f was so refreshing that my thoughts of lame British summer’s washed away as I wrapped myself up in my pashmina and appreciated all that is London in August.  That was until we got to Spain. Gorgeous beautiful Spain. Picturesque. Stunning at every turn.

Amanhavis

Hotel Amanhavis, Benahavis

Beach - San Pedro, Marbella

San Pedro Beach, Marbella

It’s great until the summer sun has taken a toll for the day and you want to cool down….and nowhere has the AC cranked. I’m sure the Spaniards think that a drop in temperature from 90 outside to 85 inside is a relief from the heat but this AC spoilt brat needs 70. I then wondered, did the Spanish have it right. Is it better to dress like it’s summer and galavant in cheek hugging shorts and bikini tops and embrace the heat or live like we do in Texas with the air somewhere between a constant 60 – 70 and jaunt in to work in our trousers and long sleeve shirts pretending summer doesn’t exist until we step outside and sizzle in the heat of our long sleeves and wool trousers. I know one thing for sure: My bikini definitely won’t ring up the bill at the dry cleaners.

3. To tip or not to tip – In the UK I was always used to the 10% tip if service was excellent, in the US it’s 15% if the service was mediocre. If you’re in Spain 5% is the expected tip. The Mr. Was quite appalled to start with. But where Europe tips less – they make up for it in solid wages for employees and there is, of course the benefit of free healthcare, education, etc.

4. – It’s taboo to talk toilet but just this one small note in Europe vs US bathrooms/loos  America – what’s the deal with the toilet stall door having the gaps between the door and the door frame? I don’t like the idea of people poking their nose in my business, literally. UK – why no seat covers? Even my trip to the Harrods ‘luxury bathrooms’ complete with the “room” attendant had me frustrated with lack of people’s cleanliness. Even the room attendant was blaspheming under her breath about people’s obvious inexperience and inability to aim straight. A simple toilet seat cover would resolve most of these problems. I’m glad they don’t charge you £1 anymore.

5. My daily work out – when I lived in London I never needed the gym, why? Well when you work and spend time in the city you walk, skipping the tube and just walking for 30 mins instead of sitting in the traffic or crowding yourself in to the tube was actually a peasant experience at the end of the day. Living now in the States for 5 years I’ve lost that. Everywhere is a drive. Even if you could walk you still drive. Why would you walk when you have a car? Admittedly NY or Chicago is different to Texas or LA but I can’t walk anywhere in Texas to actually get somewhere. I’d be walking for hours. Not to mention walking in the heat? No thank you. I do miss city life. I enjoyed walking around London for a few days. You miss so much in the car. And who wants to miss out on things while you’re in your car cursing at the guy who just cut you off.

So who wins? Team USA (I hear chants of “we’re number one”) or Europe…. I’ll let you decide.

Have Passport, Will Travel

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I am definitely not someone who is shy of travelling (note – I may live in the US but i still use my UK spelling), or who was sheltered from flying growing up – I have been fortunate to explore some great parts of the world. My parents gave me many opportunities and experiences as a child to see different countries and cultures. From Paris to Prague, Cape Town to Cuba, Lisbon to Limassol, Krakow to Korea Town and New York to Naples.

I cannot imagine a life where I didn’t want to travel, I certainly cannot think of a time where in my life I didn’t want to take a vacation. Not because I want to escape my home or country, not because, for example, England is so expensive – but more because I, like many Europeans,  have a lust for different cultures. A desire to see the world – experience new things and step outside of my comfort zone.

I love to step off a plane – breath in the smells of a city. (I still love landing in LAX – there’s the California smell that hits me and it incites so many happy feelings – it could be the ocean, the warm sun or it could just be the smog, but it brings back happy feelings). I love languages – as a language falls on my ears, I enjoy it – I take it in and instantly start to let it swirl in my mind, translating it, to try to understand what is going on around me – to take the words I hear and make sense of them through Latin, French, Spanish and Italian – it’s a fun challenge for me to work on while I am immersed in it. I plan and look forward to the cuisine –  I day dream about the manchego cheese, ripe olives, gazpacho and fresh fish in southern Spain. Deliberating about our honeymoon – should we go to Tokyo to have genuine sushi or Vietnam for fresh Pho?  Local foods and cuisine intrigue me. My dining experiences in South Africa were by far the best meals I have ever had. Ostrich carpaccio, springbok and langoustines – my mouth waters thinking about the variety of incredible meals available in Cape Town.

What I enjoy the most about travel is the people and stories. What is the country or city built upon? The history. Why does Spain have the ‘Mañana, Mañana‘ attitude? How does the life of a Cuban compare to mine? What created the huge race division in South Africa – and how is the country building its way back? Is the West Coast (of the USA) really the best coast? Is everything really bigger in Texas?

I am still continuing to learn my way around the world and I still have much, much more to learn and hope that my learning’s will never end.

I am glad for my passport, be it British or American, I am glad for my freedom and the opportunities that are coming my way.

I shall continue to explore and live by the motto – Have Passport, Will Travel.

First Day On The Job

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As with any first day on the job, I am a little apprehensive about putting my thoughts out there. Granted, yes, I do it all the time. I’m a social media addict. I’m represented on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and of course, the newest trend – Google+ I do NOT have a problem over sharing my life. This is just a little different. I get more than 140 characters – and will be judged by more than just my Mum…so, lets just say, I’m suffering a little stage fright.

If you don’t know me here are some details to digest while I get my thoughts together for my second day:

I have  British, New York, California and Texas drivers licenses and an accent blended from all of the above!

My work and my life allow me to explore new places, experience great hotels, try out new restaurants and deal with the silliness that comes with all of that. So this is where my insight and tid bits will be coming from. The good, the bad, the wonderful and the down right ugly (which typically involves my frequent faux pas as a stranger in a strange land)

Feel free to help me out with tips and criticism for the new girl in the office.