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!!

My Stay at the Inn at Gig Harbor

During my last trip to Washington, I did something new.  In the past, I’ve always stayed in Seattle or ventured off to the national parks.  But there is so much more to see in the area!  This time, I decided to visit a small town called Gig Harbor, on a peninsula right outside of Seattle.  Gig Harbor is close enough to visit for a quick overnight trip from Seattle.  Despite being so close to Seattle, Gig Harbor feels like a different world.  It’s quaint and filled with history and culture.  If you’re looking for a place to get away and relax, I can’t recommend Gig Harbor enough!

Below are some photos from my stay at the Inn at Gig Harbor

How to Get to the Wave in Arizona

After receiving a handful of Instagram messages asking how to get to the Wave, I decided to it would be helpful to write a blog post on it. Going to the Wave requires a permit from the Arizona BLM.  There are 20 persons allowed to visit the Wave per day. There are three ways to get a permit:

  1. Apply for the lottery online four months in advance. 10 permits are available through the online lottery.  The online lottery is the least risky way to try to get a permit for the Wave.  The lottery is done on a monthly basis and is open four months before your desired trip month.  For example, right now (October), the lottery is open for February permits.  The lottery has been open all  month and will close at the end of the month.  Then the lottery will happen and permits will be issued.  You can only submit one application per month and the lottery fee is $5 USD.  It is non-refundable; you don’t get it back if you lose the lottery.  You can select up to three date choices.  Use the this link and the following path to apply for the lottery: Coyote Buttes Permits – Apply for a Coyote Buttes Hiking Permit – Apply for Lottery Here
  2. Check for cancellations. Your chances aren’t good with this option, but on the rare occasion there are cancellations or open dates, you can check the Coyote Buttes North calendar four months in advance.  I’ve never seen a cancelled permit available online, but it’s worth checking.  Check hereCoyote Buttes Permits – Apply for a Coyote Buttes Hiking Permit – Check Calendar
  3. Apply in person the day before your desired trip date.  10 permits are available in person the day before your desired trip.  To apply for a walk-in permit, go to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah (745 E. Highway 89 in Kanab Utah across from Walkers gas station and Wendy’s restaurant) from 8:30-9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time -Utah- (9am Daylight Savings Time in summer) to submit your application.

Read more about how to get permits at the BLM website here.

Tips for Traveling as a Vegan

As a vegan who travels often, I have found myself seated with a plate of food I can’t eat more often than I would like. Attempting to communicate dietary restrictions when abroad can be frustrating and at times ineffective. Here are a few pieces of advice based on what has worked for me:

  • Learn the word for “vegan” in the local language.
  • Also learn the words “no,” meat,” dairy,” and “eggs”. Some people won’t understand what vegan means, even in their local language, so knowing how to explain it can be very helpful.
  • www.happycow.net is a great resource and will allow you to find vegan, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly restaurants in many places around the world.
  • Googling can also be helpful.
  • Chain restaurants can be nice. I’d much rather eat local, but if I have a choice between Starbucks and who-knows-what from a local restaurant, I’ll take the Starbucks, where I know what is vegan. 
  • Stick to meals that are difficult to hide potentially problematic ingredients in – for example, while rice won’t contain any animal byproducts, bread and noodles can have eggs, dairy, problematic flour, etc. 
  • Bring bars just in case. Pro Bars and Clif Bars are my favorite. 
  • Don’t forget to special order your airplane meals! Make sure you do this in advance, as airlines often won’t bring vegan meals on a flight unless one has been ordered.
  • If you’re going on a guided trip, communicate with your guide in advance. Explain exactly what you can and cannot eat.

 

Ten Things You Should Know before Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro 

The roof of Africa and the easiest of the seven summits: Mount Kilimanjaro. I quickly realized that Kilimanjaro has a bit of a mixed reputation. Some people will assure you that it it’s no more than an easy hike – everyone’s mountain. Others stress that altitude is altitude and at 19,341 feet, nothing is easy. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. The first few days were easy – almost too easy. But summit day was tough. Not so much because the hike itself was tough, but because after an hour of sleep, hiking at midnight when you can’t feel your extremities and you’re losing oxygen isn’t fun. Here are ten things I think you should know before climbing Kilimanjaro:

  1. You need a guide. It is a legal requirement to have a guide to climb Kilimanjaro. You don’t have a choice, so prepare to hire a guide. 
  2. Your guide choice matters. I’ve heard horror stories of guides rushing people with altitude sickness up the mountain. Then I saw it. I saw climbers who couldn’t stand on their own being pulled up the mountain by guides. I guess companies want their success rates to be higher. Remember that you lose good judgment when you have altitude sickness, so having a bad guide could literally be life or death. Find someone who you trust will take you down the mountain if you’re feeling sick. I would also recommend going in a private group. It’s a more personalized experience and I think everyone’s needs are catered to better. I went with three friends and we were all very glad we had a private group. 
  3. Slowly is better. Your body needs time to adjust to altitude, and the way you feel can change quickly. Don’t risk it. Climbing Kilimanjaro is expensive. If you’re paying the money, you want to summit. If you don’t know how your body typically reacts to altitude (disclaimer: no one knows what causes altitude sickness and even someone who has never gotten it before can go to altitudes they have previously been to and get it), then choose a longer route. I did the 7 day Machame route. I think that was a good amount of time. 
  4. Mental stamina is key. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a marathon, not a race. The guides will tell you “pole, pole” meaning “slowly, slowly”. Listen to them. Knowing that the trek was going to be 7 days was tough for me. I hate camping, so I started counting down the nights right away. I was very focused on the end goal and sometimes I just wanted it to be over with. Learn to love the process. That’s something I struggle with, but want to work on. 
  5. Pack appropriately. You’ll be trekking through quite a few different climates. At the bottom, you’ll be hot and sweaty in a t-shirt. On summit day, you’ll probably be freezing no matter what you’re wearing. Bring clothes for every environment and bring lots of layers. Weather changes quickly. 
  6. You’re going to smell. Horrible. You’re going to smell horrible. And so is everyone else. There are no showers. Do everyone a favor and bring some wipes. 
  7. It gets cold. Especially at night. Yeah, I learned this one the hard way. I wasn’t paying much attention when I packed my sleeping bag and accidentally packed my summer sleeping bag instead of my winter sleeping bag. Big mistake. By the third night, I was freezing and couldn’t sleep. Luckily I learned a few tricks that kept me warm later nights. If you find yourself cold at night, stuff your sleeping bag with clothes. Try to eliminate any air pockets. Bring hand warmers and toe warmers. If you’re really cold, throw a few in your sleeping bag. Ask your guide to fill up a water bottle with boiling water, wrap the bottle in your winter coat, and put it at the feet of your sleeping bag. If you’re really prone to getting cold, bring an emergency outdoor blanket (one of the thin foil ones) and wrap it around your sleeping bag. 
  8. Bringing Diamox doesn’t hurt. I don’t like taking medicine unnecessarily. But I also don’t like dropping $3,000 to not summit a mountain. I got Diamox from my travel doctor and brought it just in case. Someone at the hotel I stayed at before I left told me that people who take Diamox have a 30% better success rate. I felt fine and my oxygen levels were high. But then I thought about how quickly things can change with altitude. I didn’t want to risk not summitting, so I started taking Diamox on our third day. I’m not sure whether I needed it, but I didn’t have any issues with altitude. I’d like to test how I do without Diamox, but not when the success of a $3,000 trip is on the line. 
  9. Injuries and deaths do happen. Yes, deaths. They are relatively rare on Kilimanjaro, but they do happen. I saw a dead person being carried down in a stretcher the day before our summit. I didn’t know he was dead at the time because I was far enough away that I couldn’t tell there was a sleeping bag covering his face. I assumed it was an injury, but later learned it was a death. The man had gotten dizzy, fell, and hit his head on a rock. He died instantly. Remember the risks associated with what you’re doing and take precautions to minimize those risks when you can. Take injuries seriously. Don’t push through injuries that shouldn’t be pushed through – that can lead to more serious problems. You’re at the mercy of the mountain. Remember that. 
  10. Tips are nice. Your guides, cooks, and especially your porters work hard. If you’re satisfied, tip them. Especially your porters. Imagine carrying all of that crap up and down the mountain. It’s tough work.