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.

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.

coloRADo

As you probably know, I have done my fair share of traveling.  I’ve been fortunate enough to see many places.  And Colorado is on the short list of places I want to live.  In fact, I think I’ll be moving there in the not-so-distant future.  Anyway, here are a few of my favorite places in my favorite state:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Boulder


Garden of the Gods


Mountains


Rocky Mountain National Park


Who wants to move to Colorado now?!
 

How I manage to travel while maintaining a demanding job

One of the most frequent questions I am asked by people I’m friends with on social media but am not close with is: Do you work? Ha. Well, yes, in fact, I do work. Actually, I work at large corporate law firm. And to put it lightly, biglaw isn’t really known for its flexibility. Despite the fact that I’m not gone as often as I seem to be and I work pretty crazy hours when I am home, I do think I manage to pull off having a bit more flexibility than the average biglaw associate.

Once people realize that I have a demanding job, they typically ask how I balance my job with travel. First let me put out a disclaimer: I know I saw this all the time, but really – I post a lot of old pictures. I usually take short trips (I just take a ton of pictures and continue to post them for long after I have gotten home). And when I’m home, I often work weekends and late nights. Having gotten that out of the way, although there is no one correct strategy to living life while maintaining a demanding job, here are a few pointers I have:

  • If you want your job to be flexible with you, be flexible with your job. The partners I work for give me a larger degree of flexibility because they know how hard I work. When we have had deadlines approaching, I have spent entire weeks working past midnight, sometimes until as late as 4am…and then showing up by 10am for the next workday. Because of this, when I ask for some time off, my partners are more flexible with me.
  • Get comfortable with last minute planning…and last minute canceling. Most demanding jobs are unpredictable, which makes planning a vacation 5 months in advance a little bit difficult. For long vacations like South America and Asia, I generally do plan months in advance and communicate my plans as soon as I make them so my bosses have plenty of time to prepare for me to be out. However, by far the vast majority of my travel is made up of shorter (generally weekend or weekend plus a day) trips. I need to be available on weekends when client work demands it, so sometimes I end up doing work from my hotel room and my vacation turns into less of a vacation. Oh well. I have gotten on a flight on a Friday, landed for a layover, read an email that I needed to be at work Saturday morning, and gotten on the next flight back home, without ever having made it to my destination. And guess what – I didn’t say a single word about it to my bosses. No matter how safe I try to be in my planning, inevitably things will come up and I will need to cancel trips. It’s unfortunate and I lose money every time, but I’ve decided that it’s worth it.
  • Shorter trips are the way to go. Do I enjoy spending 10 hours on a plane to spend 2 days on the west coast? Not really. I would much rather spend 4 or 5 days in a place that I’m flying across the country to be in. But I can’t have it all my way. I try to pack as many things as possible into very short trips. Usually I do pretty well 🙂

Life Lessons from Traveling Alone for 6 Weeks

Six weeks ago, I boarded a plane to Iceland without a return ticket.  The preceding year had been a difficult one in terms of career-related stress.  It was my last year of law school.  I took 19 credits my last semester, the maximum allowed by the American Bar Association.  I also worked full time at a large law firm.  It was the first time my law school had allowed this.  Previously, full time students (12 or more credits) were not permitted to work more than 20 hours a week.  I often worked more than 40.  On top of that, I was studying for the Virginia Bar Exam.  During this whole time, I was not as financially comfortable as I was accustomed to being.  Prior to attending law school, I had a career as a consultant.  I had to sacrifice my salary for a much lower paycheck…and the same mortgage, car payment and other bills.  So what did I do?  Rather than adjust my lifestyle, I chose to work more.  I turned to Instagram advertising and beer/liquor promotions.  Which brought even more stress.  I’m good at suppressing stress and just pushing through it, so I don’t think I even realized how stressed I was at the time.  However, in hindsight, it had been affecting my health, my relationships, my work ethic, and my personality.  I just wasn’t myself.

And so I left on this adventure.  I wasn’t sure exactly what the next weeks would bring, how long I would be gone, or what I would do.  I had been so consumed with working and studying that I neglected to do any real planning.  I did had plans to meet up with friends in various places.  Well, things never go as planned, now do they?  I spent five days in Iceland with my friend, but ended up spending the remainder of my trip alone.


Despite this change in the only plans I had made, I ended up having the best six weeks of my entire life.  I’ve never learned so much about myself and the world we live in, reached such a high level of self-awareness, or felt so genuinely happy.  I could try to explain the experiences I had and the things I felt, by my writing could never do them justice.  No words could adequately describe the feeling of despair I felt as I was lost in Norwegian fjords in the middle of the night, followed by a great appreciation for the beauty of nature when I unexpectedly saw the northern lights as I was searching for my way, and finally a feeling of satisfaction and confidence after I spent all night hiking in the dark and finally found my way back to the parking lot.  Or the feeling of awe I felt as I wandered through the tundra in Greenland with no real destination and no other humans in sight.  Or the connection I had with Greenlandic sled dogs as I pet and played with them for hours every day (warning – these dogs can be vicious, and I wouldn’t recommend running up and petting them).  I can’t explain what happened.  I can’t adequately describe my experiences.  But maybe I can describe how I changed.

Accepting Things for What they Are, How They Are

I used to get really bothered when things weren’t the way I wanted them to be.  I’ve never been one to give up easily, and I took that to an extreme.  I would obsess over everything that wasn’t perfect or the way I wanted it to be.  I would expend endless amounts of energy trying to fix things.  At a certain point over the last six weeks, I stopped caring as much as I did before…in a good way.  I can accept things for what they are now.  Several things that had been really bothering me before I left are no longer the issues they were before.  I am either content or only slightly annoyed with them now.  I no longer obsessively try to fix them.  I’m so much happier like this.

Knowing Which Relationships Matter

I am so much more comfortable with who is in  my life now – and who is not.  I’ve realized that I now have some of the most genuine, good-hearted friends I could ask for.  I know that I have people who care about me and would be there no matter what.  I appreciate these people more than I did before.  Before I left, there were people I missed because they are no longer in my life.  Now, I see why they are gone, and I know it is for the best.  A couple of them have contacted me while I was away.  The interest I previously would have had in reconnected with them is gone now.  I had an ex reach out in the last week of my trip and say he wanted to see me and see how things went.  Before I left, I would have absolutely agreed to this.  Now, I know that he is nothing that I want.  I’ve realized that his interests in designer clothes and eating at the most expensive restaurants just don’t mesh with my far more laid back lifestyle.  He cares way too much about what other people think, and these days, I want nothing to do with that.

Understanding Myself

Spending so much time alone has led to a much deeper relationship with myself.  When there’s no one else around, you get to know yourself in a way you didn’t before.  You are your only company and while your good qualities shine, your flaws come out and stare you in the face like never before.  I felt this particularly in Greenland, where I had limited access to wifi, and therefore limited communication with my friends and family.  I was my only company, and this made it pretty difficult to ignore my flaws.  But self-awareness leads to self-improvement and this alone time has helped make me a better person.

Knowing What I Want

Part of getting to know myself better has been learning what I really want.  Sure, we all know generally what we want in life, but I now know what matters the most and what my priorities are.  I’ve thought about my career.  Although it is stressful at times, I love what I do and I need the mental challenge in my life.  However, I also love the mountains and being outdoors.  Although it is the idea location for my career, I’m not sure how much longer I can be in DC.  Life is all about balance, and I’m working on finding the balance between a satisfying career and being where I want to be.  I know what goals I have for myself.  I want a successful legal career.  I also want to climb mountains and travel the world.  I’m not sure how well the two fit together, but I’m going to do my best.

Finding Happiness

I think I’ve always been a relatively happy person.  I have a great life, and I certainly recognize that.  However, before I left, stress was consuming me.  I wasn’t relaxed enough to enjoy the great life I had.  All of that changed.  With every hike, my stress faded.  I saw new places, met new people, and learned more about the world.  I developed a new mindset and appreciation for life and the beauty of the world.  I feel extremely grateful for the amazing life I live and I’ve never been so happy.

I spent a lot of times on trains my last few days, slowly making my way back home.  I did a lot of reflecting on my time away.  I found myself smiling at the memories I made.  I found myself crying tears of sadness that this amazing adventure is over.  But I also found myself crying tears of joy that I’ve been so fortunate to experience life so well.

Six weeks may not seem like a long time, but everything feels different.  I left with a clear head, better relationship with myself, and greater awareness.  Most importantly, I discovered a deeper sense of true happiness.

A Relaxingly Active Week at Moa Alm Mountain Retreat in Austria

Balance.  When I think back on the week I spent at Moa Alm, balance is the first thing that comes to mind.  If you’re looking for a vacation with balance – in every sense of the word – Moa Alm Mountain Retreat in Austria is the place to go!  I just spent a week at Moa Alm and I left feeling balanced, relaxed, and rejuvinated.

Moa Alm has different themed weeks, so what you get depends on the week that you choose.  The general concept is the same for every week, but certain weeks cater to different types of travelers and focus on different activities.  For example, there are family weeks, adult weeks, and mountaineering weeks.  I went on an adult week.

First, let me do my best to describe the concept at Moa Alm – a relaxingly active retreat.  “Relaxingly active” may seem a bit paradoxical, but let me tell you that the combination of yoga, hiking, free time, and planned activities is just that.  Every morning starts with yoga and breakfast.  There is usually one planned activity, like a hike, for the day.  You are free to participate in as many or as few of the planned activities as you want.  Dinner is served every evening.  While you will have your own room and plenty of alone time, there is also a social aspect to the retreat.  Activities are done as a group and meals are eaten together.



The Balance between Relaxation and Activity

Moa Alm accurately describes itself as “relaxingly active”.  I could not agree more with this term.  Every day starts with yoga taught by Barbara.  Barbara is an excellent teacher and does a great job of catering the practice to the ability of her students.  I had an ankle injury, and she made sure to give me different poses to try whenever a posture bothered my ankle.  We also went on a hike every day.  The hikes varied in duration and intensity, based on weather and what we felt like doing.  Afternoons and early evenings were generally left open, and we were free to sit on the property and enjoy the scenery, read, hike on our own, go downtown, or anything else we pleased.  While there were plenty of activities to keep us busy, there was also sufficient downtime to relax.

The Balance between Alone Time and Group Time

I came to Moa Alm alone.  I wanted to spend some time alone to recharge, but I didn’t want to be completely isolated.  Moa Alm offered the perfect balance between alone time and socializing with the staff and other guests.  I spent several hours every day alone.  I went on several hikes by myself and had the time I needed to recharge.  However, I also spent time with the other guests and the staff, so I didn’t feel lonely and isolated.  We all ate meals together and hiked together.  We talked about our jobs, travels, and life experiences.  Everyone was extremely friendly and had interesting life stories to share.  We all had a lot in common and got along really well.  I exchanged contact information with and keep in touch with some of the people I met at Moa Alm!

The Balance between Guiding and Letting Us Go on Our Own

While I find overly-guided tours to be too much, I don’t like to be completely alone to figure out my plans.  Moa Alm offered group activities, which we were free to participate in or not.  Additionally, the staff were happy to help us plan things on our own.  Hikes were generally planned at dinner the night before with the managers Hubert and Barbara.  It wasn’t overly standardized and planned.  We could all say what we were looking for (like challening, flat, waterfalls, etc.), and Hubert and Barbara chose hikes that met our requests.  They shared interesting information about the animal and plant life as we hiked.  I had been traveling and hiking before I arrived at Moa Alm and I desperately needed a pedicure.  I told Barbara, and she helped pick a spa and made an appointment for me.  I also wanted to summit a mountain in the Alps.  I had no idea which mountain, so I told Barbara and Hubert I was looking for something not too technical that I could do in a day.  They gave me several suggestions, and I picked the mountain that sounded the most appealing.  They then gave me a map, went over my route options, warned me about the weather, and told me everything I needed to know.  I hiked on my own, but was well prepared with minimal to no effort doing any independent research thanks to Barbara and Hubert.

The Balance between Healthy and Indulgent Food

The cooks are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  First, let me go off on a little tangent about how well they accommodated my diet.  I am a strict vegan.  I was so busy before I arrived at Moa Alm that I forgot to tell anyone of my dietary restrictions until about an hour before the first dinner.  And I still ended up with a delicious, three course vegan meal.  Wow – talk about being accommodating!

The ingredients used at Moa Alm are as natural, local, and organic as possible.  But there are desserts too!  Like cake.  A lot of cake.  I loved knowing that I was eating high-quality food but it was also nice to indulge a little and eat some cake – it is a vacation, after all!

People Who Really Care


Undoubtedly my favorite thing about Moa Alm is how passionate the staff are.  It really does make all the difference.  Everyone at Moa Alm cares about the retreat and all of the guests.  They love what they are doing and it shows.  They are more than willing to go above and beyond to make sure guests have a good time.  They all have interesting backgrounds and life experiences and are easy to relate to.  Even though I went to Moa Alm alone, by the end of the week, I felt like I was with a group of friends 🙂

I Can’t Wait to Go Back!

I had such a good time at Moa Alm.  It is by far the best retreat I have ever been on.  I can’t wait to go back…and I definitely will!  I’m thinking that next time I may try a mountaineering week.  If you’re looking for a relaxingly active week in the mountains, go to Moa Alm.  You won’t regret it!

Don’t Listen to Generic Advice. Do What’s Right for You.

In my last post, I wrote about how I balance a demanding job with my lifestyle.  In this post, I’ll explain why I choose to do that, and encourage you to live life your way.

I’ve read countless articles encouraging people to quit their jobs and travel the world.  To not worry about bills or jobs…and let those things “work themselves out”.  I’ve seen that mentality work for many people.  However, there is no cookie-cutter answer, and this approach can be horribly wrong for many other people, myself included.

I could never drop everything to travel.  There is nothing wrong with doing so, but it just couldn’t work for me.  First of all, I have career ambitions.  Second, I need the mental challenges that come with a demanding job.  And third, my lifestyle simply wouldn’t be possible if I sacrificed my professional income.

First, I am an extremely ambitious person, with life goals that include both adventures and career achievements.  I can’t prioritize one of these over the other because they are both important to me.  If I dropped my professional career to have adventures, I would never meet my career goals.  Unfortunately, law isn’t one of those professions that you can just leave for a few years and come back to.

Second, I enjoy intellectual challenges.  I love that my job provides me with mental stimulation and I am constantly learning.  Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to be learned from experiencing the world…but this is a different kind of knowledge.  I’m not saying that it’s less valuable or less important, but it is different, and it would not satisfy me.

Third, while I definitely enjoy camping, have no problem taking an overnight bus in South America, and can totally bum it in a hostel for a few nights, I must admit that I enjoy the finer things in life.  I own a condo in a nice area, I drive a relatively nice car, and I have a bit of a Starbucks addiction.  I’ve also just never been one of those people who is good at budgeting.  I would much rather find a way to make additional money doing odd jobs and afford the lifestyle I want than to cut corners and not live the lifestyle I want.

All of these things mean I need to maintain my professional job.  It’s right for me, and that’s okay.  I will still continue to have adventures and explore the world when I can.  It may not be as often as it would be if I followed the now-popular advice to “drop everything and see the world while you’re young”, but it will still happen.

At the end of the day, you need to do what is right for you.  Mainstream advice that oversimplifies things may not be the right answer.  Think about your own life, your goals, and your priorities.  Then make your life decisions accordingly.