Two Perfect Summer Days in Vail

I had always thought of Vail as a winter destination, so when I was invited to spend three summer days in Vail, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can now confidently say that Vail is an excellent summer destination, offering fun mountain activities and stunning views. I will definitely be back.

We stayed at the Sonnenalp, which is a gorgeous, conveniently located hotel with four restaurants, a golf course, and a spa. I could have spent three days at the hotel alone!

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Arrival Night Dinner – Bully Ranch

Bully Ranch is one of the restaurants in the Sonnenalp. We got in late, so it was easy and convenient to have the restaurant right there. The restaurant has a cowboy vibe and the portions are large and filling.

Breakfast at the Sonnenalp

Staying at the Sonnenalp, heading downstairs for breakfast is easy. The buffet is filled with options – from hash browns to waffles to smoothies to açaí bowls. Yum! I enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice every morning. It didn’t hurt that the breakfast room looks out over the pool and hot tubs – what a view!

I loved that as a vegan, there were plenty of options for me. I had freshly squeezed orange juice, mini açaí bowls, and dairy free oatmeal to which I added raisins, cherries, chia seeds, almonds, goji berries, and soy milk.

A Day at Piney River Ranch

We spent our first day at Piney River Ranch and it was wonderful. Everyone at the ranch is so friendly. It’s such a hidden gem.

We had lunch then went horseback riding with NuNu. The horses were incredibly sweet and well taken care of. NuNu was knowledgeable and her love for the horses was apparent. She talked to us about the personality type of each horse and matched us with horses based on our experiences and personalities. We had a great ride and she even let us go on a little trot! Plus, the view of the mountains was fantastic.

After we finished riding, we went for a canoe ride on the lake. The stunning mountain backdrop combined with the serenity of the isolated lake made for an unforgettable ride.

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Although we didn’t get to stay at the cabins or glamping tents at Piney River this time, I highly recommend staying for a night or two if your schedule allows. We already have plans to go back next summer and stay overnight!

Dinner in Vail

Vail is a cute town with a European vibe. We walked around after our day and ended up eating at Tavern on the Square. We started with freshly made artisan bread that was fluffy and delicious. They even had a vegan menu, so ordering was easy for me. The food tasted fresh and the restaurant had a cool vibe. Our server was friendly and talkative. He gave us great recommendations for our trip.

Second Morning

We started our morning with a quick walk around the town then had breakfast at the Sonnenalp again. It was just as good as the first day!

Rock Climbing with Paragon Guides

We spent our second day in Vail rock climbing with Paragon Guides. We requested “easy climbing with good views” and Jim, our guide, delivered. It was clear that Paragon put safety first – we wore helmets and although we knew how to climb, Jim explained all of the safety equipment. He also checked with us the night before and made sure to bring food we liked for lunch the next day.

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We talked with Jim about some other tours Paragon offers – including mountain biking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and multi-day backpacking. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing Paragon again!

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Climbing photos by Caroline Foster

Dinner at Matsuhisa

We had dinner at Matsuhisa, an upscale sushi restaurant in Vail village. We enjoyed cocktails, wine, and sushi in a hip environment. Our waitress was very helpful and gave us great recommendations. There were plenty of vegan options (yay) and the food was delicious. The portions were perfect for sharing and we got to try a bunch of different dishes.

It was an excellent finish to an amazing trip, and we can’t wait to get back to Vail!

 

What’s in My Backpack – Photography Gear

I should start with the disclaimer that I am NOT a photographer. But I’ve been asked by a few people what I use to take and edit my photos, so the list is below, with examples of photos I have taken with the gear:

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photo by Rex Kuhn

 

Sony

Sony Alpha A7II Mirrorless Camera Body

Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS E-Mount Lens

Sony SEL1018 10-18mm Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

What I use it for: All of my adventures when I’m looking for something lightweight.

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photo by Rex Kuhn

 

Nikon

Nikon D750 Camera Body

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Tamron AFA012N700 SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Wide-Angle Lens for Nikon F(FX) Cameras

Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC G2 for Nikon FX Digital SLR Camera (6 Year Tamron Limited Warranty)

What I use it for: I learned photography on my Nikon, so at this point, I’m still more comfortable with it. I use my Nikon whenever weight isn’t an issue, or when I’m taking zoom photos because my zoom lenses are for my Nikon.

 

Drone

DJI Spark with Remote Control

What I use it for: Aerial photography…but only where it is legal, of course.

 

GoPro

GoPro Fusion

What I use it for: 360 photography

GoPro HERO 5 Black

What I use it for: Underwater photography.

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GoPro Dome

What I use it for: Over/underwater photography.

 

Editing

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan

What I use it for: I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos.

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My Audible Summer Listening List

I’ve always been drawn to books. I like things that make me smarter. I like being exposed to new ideas. I like thinking. I like the quasi-meditative state my brain enters when I’m reading. I like the way I feel refreshed after finishing a book.

When I was younger I read all the time. Then I went to college and I didn’t have much free time anymore. I was busy taking as many credits I could squeeze into a semester, working, and having a social life. Things didn’t change once I graduated either. I got a job, went back to school at night, studied for various certifications. I lost the time I once used to read. I always told myself I’d get back into reading one day, but I always make myself so busy that I rarely have time to sit down and read a book.

Then I discovered Audible. Audible allows me to get through all the books I want to read – except I don’t need to actually read them. So I can live my busy life and still get my healthy dose of books. Listening while driving. Listening while hiking. Listening while running. Listening while on the metro on the way to work. Listening on the plane. Listening while my eyes are closed. I LOVE Audible and I’m so happy I’m able to go through books like I used to.

If you’d like to sign up for a free 30 day trial, to go to audible.com/christinexploring

Below is my summer listening list (thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions!)

Call Me by Your Name – Link to Audiobook

Deep – Link to Audiobook

Into Thin Air – Link to Audiobook

Into the Wild – Link to Audiobook

Born to Run – Link to Audiobook

North – Link to Audiobook

The Hidden Life of Trees – Link to Audiobook

Sapiens – Link to Audiobook

Born a Crime – Link to Audiobook

The Defining Decade – Link to Audiobook

Grit – Link to Audiobook

A House in the Sky – Link to Audiobook

On the Road – Link to Audiobook

Turtles All the Way Down – Link to Audiobook

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Link to Audiobook

The Alchemist – Link to Audiobook

Salt – Link to Audiobook

I’m so excited to listen to such a wide variety of books suggested by you. Please send me more suggestions!

Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Havasupai Packing List

I’ve had a few people ask me what to pack on a trip to Havasupai, so I put together my suggested packing list. Hope this is helpful!

  • Overnight backpack: the 10 mile hike to and from the campsite isn’t easy, so don’t overpack and make sure your heavier items are closer to the bottom of your backpack.
  • Daypack: a backpack you can carry around during the day. If you have an overnight backpack with a removable top, even better!
  • Water bladder: there is a spring at the campsite where you can fill up.
  • Water bottle
  • Water filter: if you’re going on long day hikes and don’t feel like carrying all of your water for the day.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sun hat
  • Hiking shoes
  • Water shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking poles: the hike in/out is hilly and rocky, so poles can be helpful.
  • Bathing suit
  • Shorts
  • Long durable quick-dry pants: especially if you want to do a long hike with river crossings.
  • Short sleeved shirt
  • Long sleeved shirt: to shield from the sun
  • Socks (bring a few pairs)
  • Tent or hammock
  • Sleeping bag
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Food: snacks, and meals if you want. The village that sells food is two miles from the campground.
  • Cooking system
  • Camera
  • Solar charger: if you want to keep your electronics charged

Enjoy your trip! If you want to see some pictures from Havasupai check out my Instagram.

Five Things I Wish I Had Known about Being an “Influencer”

If you’re on social media these days, it’s hard not to envy the curated depiction you see of other people’s lives. Social media influencers – people who make money off of their social media presence – share highlight reels of their seemingly picture-perfect lives.

I’m one of these influencers and I am constantly bombarded with messages like “must be nice to be able to do what you do”…”you’re so lucky”…”I wish I had your life!” Hm. Do you though?? Most people don’t realize that I work a demanding full time job as a lawyer in addition to blogging and social media posting. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. But it’s not easy. I spend a lot of time behind a desk and being an influencer isn’t always as easy as it seems. Here are five things I wish I had known before I started.

  1. Building and maintains a following takes work. Caveat: it “just happens” for a select few people. I’m not one of them. And most people aren’t. Most people who it did “just happen” for were in very unique circumstances at the time that they grew. For me, it was completely intentional. At the time, I was working at a law firm for $25 an hour while I was in law school. I had a few other part time jobs as well. Unfortunately for me, these jobs didn’t allow me to keep up with my mortgage the lifestyle I had gotten used to as a consultant. I was seriously struggling financially. One day as I was going through my newsfeed on Instagram, I saw someone include #ad in the caption of their post. I was immediately curious. I perused the Internet and quickly learned that people were in fact getting paid money to post branded photos on Instagram. I loved to travel and thought this would be the perfect way to supplement my income. I did my research. I changed my Instagram account from private to public. I changed my name. I studied what the big accounts were doing and I mimicked that. It worked. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took about a year of hard work for me to gain a substantial following. Even now, I notice when I neglect social media for awhile because I’m busy with life, I start to lose followers and my engagement goes down. Was it worth it? Yes. But was it easy? No.
  2. Traveling for a client isn’t a vacation. Stay in a nice resort. For free. Take beautiful photos depicting an extravagant life on the property. Go on tours for free wearing the cute free outfit that you got. Sound easy? Probably. Well let me tell you that it’s not. Trust me. I have a college degree and two graduate degrees. I’m a CPA and I passed the bar exam. I work as a lawyer at a law firm. I say all of this so that when I tell you working as an influencer isn’t a joke, you understand my credibility. There is a lot of pressure to get “epic” photographs, often in a short amount of time. Clients have high expectations and and if you don’t deliver, your reputation will be affected. But guess what. You can’t control the weather. If it’s rainy every day of your trip and you promised your client 10 high quality photographs, you better deliver. So you need to be able to improvise and be creative. You need to be comfortable with minimal sleep. And you need to get used to your vacations not really being vacations anymore.
  3. People won’t take you seriously. This is probably the most frustrating for me. I have worked damn hard to get to where I am in life and when someone calls me “lucky” it minimizes the effort I have put it to get to this point and is downright insulting. I know that for the most part people don’t realize this, so I try to be understanding. To a certain extent, yes, I am lucky. I was born in a country that allows me to travel the world with relative ease. I realize that not everyone has this privilege. I was raised by loving parents who gave me everything I needed to succeed on my own. But those 2,000 hours a year that I bill to clients at the law firm I work at – those aren’t luck. They hard work. So are all the hours I put into negotiating with clients, creating social media content, and writing blog posts.
  4. Daily life won’t look like your Instagram feed. I am baffled by how many people think that social media influencers entire lives look like their Instagram feeds. Instagram is a highlight reel. It is a collection of someone’s most picturesque, curated moments. It is not everyday life.
  5. Jealousy will be hard to resist. Many influencers are friends with each other. It’s easy to compare yourself to your friends. Who has more followers? Who gets the better sponsored trips? Who has better engagement? Don’t fall into that trap. It’s ugly. I’ve seen friendships end over it. I’ve even had a friendship of my own end because someone was jealous of me. And it hurt. Focus on yourself and be the best that you can. It will serve you better in the long run.

My Stay at the Hilton Dead Sea

I received a complimentary stay in exchange for writing this post.  As always, all opinions are my own.

I have always loved taking advantage of the natural healing powers of the earth. I use natural and organic products and I am a vegan. The Dead Sea has been a dream destination of mine for ages. The minerals in the water have been known to help with many skin problems. The salt in the water helps heal scrapes (don’t go in with a serious wound though). And the low elevation makes the Dead Sea one of the easiest places to breathe in the world because of the high oxygen level. My dream came true and I spent a few days at the Hilton Dead Sea.

The hotel has a vibe that feels close to nature. The decor is simple, fresh, and natural. All of the staff members are incredibly kind and helpful. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax, and let all of your worries slip away.

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We even got specially made vegan food, including these adorable desserts:

The Hilton Dead Sea almost feels like a wellness retreat. Our days started with breakfast and relaxing by the pool. Later in the afternoon, we would walk down to the Dead Sea for a soak, mud massage, and salt scrub. Then we would eat dinner, go to sleep, and repeat.

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Did I mention that the mud massages and salt scrubs are free for guests? That’s right, a daily treatment on the beach is included with your stay.

When I left the Hilton Dead Sea I was mentally relaxed. It was just what I needed. My skin was the softest I can remember it ever being. My face had a glow. My pores were smaller. The Dead Sea is like magic. And the Hilton is the perfect place to stay during your visit.

My Stay at the Grand Hyatt Amman

I received a complimentary stay in exchange for writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

The Grand Hyatt Amman is a gorgeous luxury hotel situated in the heart of Amman. It is conveniently located within walking distance of many sights in Amman, a short drive to the airport, and close enough for a day trip to the UNESCO world heritage center of Petra. If you’re looking for luxurious accommodation where you can see the best Jordan has to offer, the Grand Hyatt Amman is the place to stay.

The first thing I noticed when I reached the Grand Hyatt Amman is the high level of care for guest safety. The security is top notch and I immediately felt safe.

The lobby is warm, inviting, and comfortable. It’s the perfect place to sit down, relax, and read or talk.

The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The hotel worked with the Jordan Tourism Board to set up a day trip to Petra with a wonderful guide.

Restaurant staff were friendly and very helpful with making meals suitable for my vegan diet (including dessert!).

After a few weeks filled with flights, early wake ups, and tours, there was one day I just wanted to relax. Lucky for me, the Grand Hyatt has a lovely steam room, sauna, and whirlpool in the spa area. I spend the day enjoying these facilities.

I highly recommend the Grand Hyatt Amman to anyone traveling to Jordan!

Egyptian Pyramids with KKday

I received a complimentary tour in exchange for writing this post. This post contains affiliate links which I may receive compensation for.

I visited the pyramids in Egypt with a guide set up by KKday. KKday made the process seamless. Our guide picked us up in a comfortable car and handed us waters before telling us all about Egyptian history. We reallllllly wanted Starbucks (typical Americans) so our guide found the nearest Starbucks and made a stop for us. Talk about good service!

We stopped at the Nile River on the way to take a photo. When we got to the pyramids, our guide gave us a safety briefing and told us everything we needed to be aware of. I’m glad I was warned not to leave my expensive camera on a tripod to take selfies! Our guide even told us which places were good for buying souvenirs. We walked around and our guide explained the history of the pyramids to us. He was so knowledgeable! He was also very patient with our obsessive photo taking and had no problem re-taking the same photo 20 times until we were satisfied 😉 We went to the Sphinx after the pyramids and our guide took us to the best photo spots and explained all of the history.

I loved that the whole trip was catered to our preferences. Our guide was great about finding out what exactly we wanted to do and making it happen. KKday was extremely helpful throughout the process and made setting up a tour with a local guide in a foreign country easy.

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My Stay at the Cairo Marriott

I was invited by the Cairo Marriott to experience and share about the hotel for a weekend getaway.

The Cairo Marriott isn’t just a hotel – it’s a historical palace rich in history. The palace, originally called Palace Al Gezira, was built in 1869 to serve as a guest palace during the Suez Canal inaugural celebrations. The palace hosted several noteworthy weddings and other important ceremonies throughout history. The hotel’s meeting rooms were once bedrooms. Much of the furniture and decor has been preserved. You really feel like you are in a palace.

The hotel staff are friendly and accommodating. We are vegan and Saraya Gallery made us a delicious vegan dinner.

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The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable. And of course the location is excellent! The hotel is conveniently located near the historic sights around Cairo – including the pyramids, Sphinx, and Nile River. There is a lot to do around Cairo, and the Cairo Marriott is the perfect place to stay to immerse yourself in history.

Finally, for those of you who are worried that Egypt is an unsafe place to visit, it is not. Before visiting Egypt, I was admittedly concerned. Once I arrived, I felt 100% safe. In fact, I felt safer than I do in many European countries. Egyptian people are kind and friendly.

My Stay at Calimera Habiba Beach Resort

I received a complimentary stay in exchange for writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Before I visited Calimera Habiba, I didn’t know that Marsa Alam exists. It’s a small, hidden gem on the Red Sea in Egypt. Marsa Alam isn’t crowded and it’s a divers paradise.

If you find yourself in Marsa Alam, Calimera Habiba is the place to stay! The staff are friendly and attentive. The rooms are spacious. The beach is amazing. And the dive center next door is awesome.

Aside from diving, there is a 4×4 tour company across the street and the desert dunes are so much fun!

The front desk was extremely accommodating and arranged all of our activities for us. We just said what we wanted to do and within an hour, they had it booked. Talk about good service!

We are vegan and the restaurant managers were quick to come up with delicious vegan options for us. After we went to our first meal, every server knew about our dietary restrictions and was prepared to cater to us.

I can’t recommend Calimera Habiba and Marsa Alam enough!!