IDEAS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL IN THE MOUNTAINS

Living by the beach / ocean, I often find myself craving an escape to the mountains. As a skier, I always try to hit the slopes in the winter, but the mountain towns and resorts in the summertime are SO lovely – plenty of fresh air, open spaces, ample hiking and lots of outdoorsy activities. Here are some ideas for mountain getaways close to home for summer 2020 – all ideal for a socially distant vacation.

1 – COLORADO – Ski towns, like Vail, Breckenridge, Telluride have plenty of resorts to choose from and make for great summer destinations. One of my favorite Colorado mountain towns is Aspen, and I was fortunate enough to visit there last September. The weather was perfect with warm days and cool nights. Plus, aside from the ample hiking and nature, the town of Aspen has a ton to offer, with local shops, parks and great restaurants. My top picks to stay in Aspen are The Little Nell, part of Relais & Chateaux, and Hotel Jerome, part of Auberge Resorts. Both are intimate boutique hotels, well-located in the center of town for easy access to everything. With many of the larger events and conferences that typically happen in Aspen cancelled for 2020, this is a great time to visit sans crowds.

For a more remote vacation, check out Dunton Hot Springs, a Relais & Chateaux resort several hours from Denver, consisting of little cabins in an abandoned mining town. For families, I love Gateway Canyons Resort which has plenty of activities onsite to please the whole crew.

West Fork Gym

2 – WYOMING – Wyoming is one of my favorite states! I think it perfectly combines the casual atmosphere of the west with the luxury of fine resorts, plus jaw-dropping nature and extreme adventure activities. My husband and I actually got engaged in Jackson Hole and it truly is the place to be in Wyoming; and in my opinion, one of the best towns in the country. There are a number of resorts here due to the ski mountain, but also the proximity to Grand Teton National Park. In Jackson, “Amanjunkies” must stay at Amangani for ultraluxe accommodations and a stellar view. For those who’d rather be right in the center of town, boutique Hotel Jackson is the perfect blend of modern and rustic, with cozy mountain-style yet tech-forward rooms and a jacuzzi on the roof; or try the historic Wort Hotel, dating to 1941.

Over in Teton Village (at the base of the ski mountain), you can opt for a more conventional resort atmosphere at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, or go for apartment-style accommodations with a stay at newcomer Caldera House – a very small boutique resort with two and four bedroom apartments – perfect for multiple couples or a family. Jackson Hole is a fabulous base for your vacation, but National Park lovers may also opt to start or end with a few days in Grand Teton or even up in Yellowstone on the Wyoming-side. Overall, Wyoming has had very low numbers of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and the national parks and wide open expanses make this an easy place for socially distanced travels.

Newberry Living Room

3 – MONTANA – Montana is perfect for a family or multi-generational ranch-style summer escape. There are several top resorts to choose from, each with slightly different things on offer, but all with plenty of activities and no need to venture far from the property once you arrive. The Resort at Paws Up has a mix of accommodations, from multi-room cabins to glamping tents (this resort invented glamping!),which make this property my #1 pick for a family vacation in Montana! Rates are steep but are all inclusive of meals, accommodations and transfers. Plus their nearby Island Lodge at Salmon Lake is a great complement to the mountain vibe. Horse lovers and fishing enthusiasts will love the true dude ranch feel of Ranch at Rock Creek in Big Sky Country. And couples looking for a kid-free escape should head to Triple Creek Ranch, an adults-only Relais & Chateaux property.

Miscellaneous

If your’e visiting Yellowstone, you should also consider Sage Lodge which is the nicest luxe resort within easy driving distance to the park. All of these hotels have standalone accommodation options meaning you don’t have to worry about elevators or passing other guests in shared hallways.

Montana Luxury Resorts | West Yellowstone Hotels | Sage Lodge

4 – UTAH – Salt Lake City is an airline hub on the west coast, so aside from great nature and resorts to explore, the state of Utah is really easy to get to from most other US cities. For extra ease, fly into SLC and head to nearby Park City, just 40 minutes away. Either enjoy the many resorts in this ski town, including the newly opened Waldorf Astoria Park City, or head outside to Auberge Resort’s The Lodge at Blue Sky. The latter just opened in 2019 and similar to many of the other hotels we’ve discussed so far, offers plenty of activities on-site and great socially distanced accommodation options. The former is taking plenty of safety measures including requiring reservations at the pool – so you’re guaranteed a spot and no waiting required. Driving west to the adventure capital of Moab, you’ll be able to go whitewater rafting, jeeping, canyoneering, and hiking in Arches National Park. Those looking for a true nature escape, should try glamping at Under Canvas Moab, while those looking for a bit more luxurious accommodations, should check out the cabins at Sorrel River Ranch. Although if you have enough time I’d recommend combining the two!

And if you’re really looking to get off the grid and splurge a bit, look no further than Amangiri, near the famed slot canyons of Utah. Their much-hyped Camp Sarika (a brand new tented retreat) opens this week – each canvas-topped pavilion with their very own plunge pool!

2 Bedroom Mesa Pavilion - Camp Sarika Accommodation - Aman

Please contact me if you’d like to brainstorm a US getaway this summer!

9 IDEAS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL ALONG THE WEST COAST

1 – OREGON – Oregon is one of those states I think we often forget about. But there’s much to see beyond the eclectic and foodie-centric city of Portland. Just an hour from there, you’ll find the up and coming Willamette Valley made famous in recent years for its Pinot Noirs. Lay your head at the beautiful resort, The Allison Inn & Spa, and spend your days visiting wineries and hiking. If you’re looking for beach, you need only head a few hours Northwest to the famous Cannon Beach with its sprawling sand and iconic basalt rock formations. My pick there would be the Stephanie Inn. For a longer trip, perhaps even pair the two!

Stephanie Inn: Incomparable Oceanfront Getaways - ShareOregon

2. LAKE TAHOE – I’ve visited the Lake Tahoe region in summer, fall and winter and its absolutely beautiful every time. Check out this guide from a recent trip to Lake Tahoe – it has my best picks on where to stay, where to eat and what to do. For a longer trip, I’d recommend splitting your time between the Ritz Carlton on the North coast and Edgewood Tahoe on the south – giving you two distinct home bases to explore all the lake and surrounding region has to offer. Lake Tahoe is easily accessible from the Reno airport and perfect for west coasters looking for a bit of hiking and nature but who also want to swim and enjoy the water.

3. WINE COUNTRY – Napa and Sonoma – it’s a no brainer right?! There are SO many incredible resorts in the California wine region and many of them are set on large tracts of land. Two of my favorites – Meadowood (in Napa) and Farmhouse Inn (in Sonoma) are perfect for social distancing. The former has all freestanding accommodations and a sprawling estate. The latter is a very boutique property with only 25 rooms. Both also have fabulous concierge teams who can assist you in planning private visits to nearby (and off the radar) wineries to minimize interaction with crowds. I visited both just a few months ago – check out my blog post here for more information.

4. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – I’m a National Park junkie and one of my great travesties is that I have yet to visit Yosemite! Now that I’m a true Californian, this is really high on my list, especially after watching Free Solo last year. While Yosemite has a lot to offer in the way of rustic accommodations, by far the “top” hotel is The Ahwahnee Hotel (formerly the Majestic), a historic property just a 5 minute drive from the Yosemite Valley Visitor’s Center. For a trendy option, consider Autocamp Yosemite – a collection of vintage airstreams, glamping tents and cozy cabins – modernized with the most instagram-worthy furnishings.

CA Yosemite Skyline

5. BIG SUR – Starting in San Francisco, head south to Half Moon Bay (~45 minutes) for a stay at the cliffside Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. Enjoy a night or two of spectacular sunsets, s’mores and their signature bagpipes, before you resume your drive south to Monterey and Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). In Carmel, I recommend a stay at Bernardus Lodge or Carmel Valley Ranch. And as you head further south, you’ll get into the heart of Big Sur with its dramatic coastline and staggering cliffs. Here you can stay at the legendary Post Ranch Inn or opt for a few nights at Ventana Big Sur. You’ll finish your trip in San Simeon where you can visit the Golden Age’s Hearst Castle. If you opt to continue south, take a pause in San Luis Obispo (SLO for locals) or go straight to Santa Barbara (see the next bullet!).

6. SANTA BARBARA – Picture your typical quaint town filled with local boutiques and casual, innovative restaurants – now add the Pacific Ocean at your doorstep, dozens of winery tasting rooms (hello urban wine trail!), and the HQ to a nationally-renowned ice cream brand (McConnells here we come!) – now you have Santa Barbara. My favorite hotels in this town are full of casual elegance, nodding to the area’s past as a hub for Hollywood’s Golden Age. Hotel Californian has been beautifully reimagined with a flair for Moroccan design. It’s location in the heart of the city can’t be beat as you can easily walk everywhere. And don’t forget about the rooftop pool! For a little more privacy, head into the hills for a stay at Belmond El Encanto – overseeing all of Santa Barbara, or San Ysidro Ranch, tucked away among lush gardens.

Belmond El Encanto Exterior View

7. LA BEACH TOWNS – With so many wonderful fabulous resorts to choose from up and down the coast, it’s easy to skip over LA. But the sprawling city is home to several beach towns which have much to offer, in addition to proximity to great restaurants and shopping. In North LA, you’ll find two fabulous spots in Malibu – Nobu’s first hotel – Nobu Ryokan, and the Malibu Beach Inn, a member of Leading Hotels. Both are directly on the beach and perfect if you just want to hideaway and enjoy the ocean. For a more relaxed yet buzzy, head south of LA to Terranea – a large sprawling resort along the picture-perfect cliffs.

Room Balcony

8. ORANGE COUNTY – Further south in Orange County, you’ll find plenty more oceanfront resorts ideal for a bit of an escape from everyday life. In Laguna, head to mainstay Montage or Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, or opt for a more boutique chic stay at Laguna Beach House or Hotel Joaquin. Up in Newport Beach, you can’t go wrong with a private casita at Pelican Hill Resort – great for golf lovers as well!

Lobby Lounge Ocean View

9. SAN DIEGO – As a San Diego resident, I’m a bit partial here, but July and August are truly wonderful summer weather in San Diego. You’ll have plenty of sun, ideal beach days and no humidity in sight. While San Diego offers plenty in the way of accommodations, it can be tricky to find something right on the beach. For the most iconic stay, I’d opt for Hotel Del Coronado and the Beach Village is worth the price tag if you want the most updated accommodations and private beachfront access. L’Auberge del Mar is another nice option in the North county for ocean views. And just a bit inland from there, you’ll find two beautiful spots – Rancho Valencia and the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Each property has acres of beautiful gardens and private casita accommodations and is only 15 minutes’ drive to the coast. Plus Rancho Valencia, a member of Relais & Chateaux, is well known for its incredible food, as well as its spa and tennis facilities. If you end up out in San Diego in September, consider the newly remodeled Park Hyatt Aviara, set to reopen that month after an extensive renovation.

Sunset with pool and turret

8 IDEAS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL ALONG THE EAST COAST

This summer may look quite a bit different than originally planned, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get out to explore! With many hotels re-opening this month and next, domestic travel remains a great option for a little break from home this summer. Starting on the east coast, below are some ideas for locations (and hotels!) conveniently located to hubs on the East Coast – perfect for a short hop flight or a road trip!

1 – RHODE ISLAND – Given it’s size it’s easy to overlook Rhode Island, but it’s a perfect New England getaway for the summer. If you’re looking for a livelier atmosphere, I’d suggest Newport – a quaint town with cute local shops, delicious seafood restaurants and the iconic Cliff Walk. Among the fabulous properties in Newport, is the Chanler at Cliff Walk, The Vanderbilt (part of Auberge Resorts) and Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. If you’re looking for a more low key vibe, then I’d suggest heading to the southern shore of Rhode Island, where you’ll find three sister properties, each with easy beach access, boutique accommodations and endless New England charm: Watch Hill Inn, Ocean House, and Weekapaug Inn. Watch Hill Inn is right on the water and boasts just 21 historic rooms. Ocean House & Weekapaug Inn are both Relais & Chateaux properties so you know they have incredible cuisine along with a fresh & luxurious coastal design. These latter two also have access to several cottages which offer extra privacy for larger groups or multi-generation families looking to getaway while still social distancing.

Beach View at Sunset

2 – VERMONT – Vermont is one of my top favorite states in the whole country. I grew up visiting family in the quaint town of Woodstock, developed by the Rockefeller’s. I love the peaceful white winters, but the green summers are equally as lovely. There is a ton of space and lots to do – from hiking trails to swimming in the lakes, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, etc. The most iconic address in Woodstock is the Woodstock Inn, which I’ve detailed previously on this blog. For a more remote hideaway, look no further than Twin Farms, a Relais & Chateaux property in nearby Barnard, VT. Aside from a handful of rooms in the main house, the accommodations are largely private cottages spread out among the sprawling property. Meals are all inclusive and you’ll find plenty of activities on site. Plus, aside from internet in the homes, you won’t find a good cell signal within 10 miles of the place… perfect for those needing a true off the grid escape. Check out more details on Twin Farms here.

Main House Entry

3 – MASSACHUSETTS – Aside from the Hamptons, no place in my opinion evokes that laid back summer vibe more so than Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard. From the historic homes, to the picturesque beaches, summer here is postcard perfect. In both destinations, home rentals are a great option, but there are some wonderful hotels as well. The Chatham Inn is also a Relais & Chateaux property (are you sensing a theme here?) that is family owned and has just 18 rooms. Recently remodeled, the property is open year round (unusual for the Cape), but summer is its time to shine with plenty of activities and great outdoor dining options. And over on the vineyard, check out the Harbor View Hotel – new to Virtuoso, this family-owned property dates to the late 1800s. It was also recently beautifully refurbished to its former glory and ready for guests!

Harbor View Hotel Exterior

4 – LONG ISLAND – Long Island is where I grew up and what I consider to be home, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. If you’re not from NY, chances are you haven’t spent much time on Long Island, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and just 1-2 hours from the city, it often feels a world apart. At the very tip of the island, you’ll find Montauk with its iconic lighthouse and plentiful nightlife. Chances are you’ve heard of the original Gurney’s, which is famous there and renowned for its summer beach & pool parties. Over the past year or so, this property also underwent an extensive renovation, and opened up a sister hotel, Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina. A little further west from Montauk, you’ll get into the Hamptons where home rentals reign supreme. But don’t overlook Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Part of Small Luxury Hotels, this renovated 19th century mansion is the perfect base for your Hamptons stay. If you’re in the mood for a more wellness focused escape, check out Shou Sugi Ban House – a brand new boutique wellness resort in Watermill with 3+ night immersive wellness experiences. And for a more relaxed vibe, you might head to the rocky north shore of the island, where you can stay at Sound View Greenport. Formerly a roadside motel, the property was recently renovated into a year-round resort with an eye for design. Many people don’t realize that Long Island boasts a booming wine industry and the North Fork is the hub of it all.

This New Japanese-Inspired Resort Lets You Escape The Hamptons ...

5 – UPSTATE NY – Upstate NY is vast and there are many remote areas you can visit. In the lake district of the Adirondacks, you’ll find the former vacation home of the Rockefeller’s, The Point. Known for its nod to the past with formal evenings (even black tie on some nights!), this hideout is about as private as it gets. For a more family friendly option, head over to Lake Placid Lodge where you’ll find plenty of lake-side activities to enjoy for the whole crew. And in the Catskills, you might check out Troutbeck in Amenia. A member of Design hotels, this property feels like the perfect upstate compliment to Brooklyn.

Exterior Veranda

6 – MARYLAND – Maryland is so much more than just Baltimore! And for those that haven’t ventured past the Inner Harbor, you might consider heading over to Annapolis or St. Michael’s. The latter is home to the Inn at Perry Cabin. Privately owned and a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, this colonial era property has 78 rooms, 7 boats (great for sailors!) and an on-site 18-hole golf course.

Inn at Perry Cabin | LinkedIn

7 – CAROLINA COAST – Heading down south, the Carolina Coast is another wonderful option for the summertime. The beaches off of North Carolina in the Outer Banks are miles long and absolutely pristine. Plus you’ll find tons of fresh seafood and local flavor. I love The Sanderling in the OBX hub of Duck. Directly on the beach, this large resort has on-site dining, activities, multiple pools and a great spa. It caters to family and couples alike, with designated areas/pools of the hotel for each demographic. Down in South Carolina, you can enjoy the fantastic lowcountry cuisine and culture in Charleston, or head outside the city to the private Kiawah Island for a stay at grand dame hotel, The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The Sanctuary also manages dozens of homes around the island for those looking for a larger and more private space to stay.

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort | Charleston Area CVB

8 – SOUTHERN MOUNTAINS – The mountains in the southeastern US are equally as lovely as the Northeast, albeit a bit hotter in the summertime. In Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll love Primland, a Virtuoso property with plenty of activities (from hiking to hunting to biking) as well as several private home/cabin accommodation options. Just over the border in North Carolina, you could venture through the quaint towns of Boone & Valle Cruces, or head a little further West to Asheville, home of the Biltmore Estate. If you’re a National Park junkie, you might consider a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – interestingly, the most visited national park in the United States. You’ll have the option to stay either on the North Carolina or Tennessee side of the park, although I’m partial to the latter because just about 45 minutes from the park entrance you’ll find the iconic Blackberry Farm and it’s new sister wellness retreat, Blackberry Mountain. If you just want to get away and truly spoil yourself, you’ll never want to leave!!

Exterior

THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF CANCELLING A TRIP

I’ve been avoiding this topic for several weeks now. The current health pandemic has realized my worst fears as a travel advisor – a cancelled trip – and multiplied it over and over again. For the past 2.5 months I have cancelled or postponed not one, not two, but 23 client trips (& counting…). My weeks have been filled with reviewing cancellation penalties and regularly updating T&Cs for tour operators, air lines, cruise lines and hotels, waiting on hold for hours, pushing plans to new dates, and negotiating refunds and credits. Though this is a necessary part of my job (and part of the reason you may consider using a travel advisor in the future!), it certainly is not the fun part of my job. The fun part is dreaming up incredible trips with my clients, and then turning those dreams into a reality. Along with postponed weddings, graduations, and proms, travel tops the list of disappointments from coronavirus. Of the 23 trips I’ve had to cancel or postpone on behalf of my clients, many were in the works for months, carefully researched and planned and much anticipated. My clients are disappointed and I feel that so much, not only because of these 23 cancelled/postponed trips but also because of my own.

On top of that dreaded 23 number, I’ve also cancelled 5 of my own personal and work trips over the past few months: in March, a family & friend visit to NY, plus a staycation to celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary; in April, a long weekend in North Carolina to celebrate a friend’s wedding and visit with extended family; in May: a conference in Buenos Aires followed by a fabulous FAM trip to Bariloche (long on my bucket list!) and; in June perhaps the most difficult of all… an epic Arctic cruise with my family that we have been planning for one whole year.

This last one just got officially cancelled last week, and even though I knew it was likely to get cancelled for some time, the finality of it still stung. One year ago, we came up with the idea to do one big adventure family trip before my brother and I start our own families… one last big hurrah before we add little ones to the mix. The arctic was my choice – it was exotic and adventurous yet not actually all that difficult to get to. Since booking the cruise a year ago, I have spent the last 11 months carefully planning our pre-trip stay in Oslo, booking all of our flights, and selecting our dining options for each night of the itinerary. I never imagined that we wouldn’t be going…

Of course COVID-19 has touched SO many aspects of our lives. There has been plenty of anxiety, uncertainty, illness, unemployment… yet also, extra time at home with our family, picking up hobbies that we always felt too busy for (baking, reading, puzzling), long walks in our neighborhoods and people coming together in all sorts of ways to support each other. In light of some of the more horrific stories about people fighting for their life in the ICU and millions losing their jobs, it feels petty almost to mourn the loss of a great trip. What does that matter in light of everything else going on? But, I think our feelings are still valid. We are travelers… it’s what brings us passion and life and it’s OK to feel sad that you cannot do right now what you love the most. It’s OK to feel disappointed, yet still grateful for your health and family and everything else you do have right now. And it’s also OK to look to the future and start dreaming of travel again, because one day, we’ll certainly be able to make up for this lost time.

THE BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH A TRAVEL ADVISOR

Many people are shocked to hear that travel agents still exist… what with the credit card companies and their points systems, the rise of the internet with the OTA booking engines, and the Airbnb revolution, travel agents are often thought of as dinosaurs. The reality is that all of those things have drastically changed the travel industry over the past several decades but rather than eliminate travel agents altogether, they have redefined the role of the travel agent into travel advisor.

Previously, a travel agent was needed for any menial travel-related transaction (issuing a ticket for a simple domestic flight, for example) and so that’s just what most agents were – transactional, a means to an end, or “order takers,” simply completing whatever booking the client requested without offering much in the way of advice or expertise. The newly emerged travel advisor is much more service-oriented: we are consultants, professional planners, advocates on behalf of our clients. And travel advisors certainly still have a role in the travel industry; as much as any other service provider has a role in the luxury high-end of almost any industry. Sure, you can do your own tax return with Turbotax or you can work one-on-one with an accountant; you can plan your own wedding taking DIY to the next level or you can hire a wedding planner. Similarly, you can either research and book a trip on your own, or you can opt to work with a reliable travel expert. The choice is completely up to you, but there are a few benefits worth considering that come with working with a reputable travel advisor:

1 – Expertise: Travel advisors are professionals and travel is their trade. While you may read travel magazines and follow influencers on Instagram, I guarantee you don’t spend 8-10 hours a day learning about new destinations, working on itineraries, and sharing information amongst thousands of industry colleagues, or take regular familiarization trips. And of course, if a travel advisor has been to a given destination they have a lot of insider info, but even if they haven’t, it’s not a deal breaker – we have preferred partners to collaborate with in every country, and most likely we have a colleague willing and able to share their first-hand experience as well.

2 – Industry Connections: Related to the above, travel advisors are constantly networking with sales reps for airlines, tour operators, hotels and cruise lines. We know these people personally – whether we met at a conference, socialized at a networking event, or just attended an online training for their property or product, we have their email and cell phone number. And depending on how much time we’ve spent together, we may also know the names of the kids and pets. In a world that has become increasingly automated and digital, I believe there is immense value in the human connection. It means a lot more when a property receives an email from one of their travel advisor contacts about a client’s upcoming arrival versus an automated confirmation from an online booking engine… of the two, who do you think is getting the room with the better view?

3 – VIP benefits: Most travel advisors are independent contractors, meaning they have their own business, but they are affiliated with a larger host agency (like Travel Edge) that is part of an industry consortium (such as Virtuoso). Let’s think about a hotel in Cabo, Mexico for an example. As a client you may book one weekend at this hotel this year – two room nights. As an advisor, we may book 3 clients at that property this year, totaling 6-10 room nights. At the host agency level, the number of room nights goes up further, and at the consortium level, even higher. When you are booking through a luxury travel advisor, you are tapping into that collective buying power. You are no longer Joe Shmo from New York, you’re a client of ATLAS + VALISE, a Travel Edge client, a Virtuoso client. All of these new titles come with extra benefits: complimentary room upgrades, free breakfasts, special attention and welcome amenities, etc. Now you could argue that you can get many of these benefits from your credit card company as well – and depending on your credit card, that may be true, because your credit card company is simply operating a travel agency. However, there is still a hierarchy to these extra benefits. Clients booked through preferred partner agencies are at the very top of the barrel and first in the VIP line.

4 – Customer Service: Another huge benefit of working with a travel advisor is the 1-on-1 human connection between you and them. Clients have my cell phone number and I am VERY responsive on email – you won’t be waiting on hold or sitting around wondering how to get in touch with me if you have an issue. Now yes, of course I sleep and workout and I’m not working 24/7, but when clients are traveling I am checking in constantly to ensure all is going smoothly. If there is an issue, I’m just a quick phone call away.

5 – Customization: As part of our commitment to customer service, travel advisors go above and beyond when it comes to customization. The first part of the process involves a kick-off conversation where we spend time getting to know you, what you like and what you don’t. When we work on a trip for you, nothing is cookie cutter and everything is curated specifically to your requests. Before I became a travel professional, I regularly researched planned and booked all my trips, but I have to admit, when it came to an exotic destination (Machu Picchu, Tanzania, China), I often felt unsure where to start with just online resources and thus would gravitate towards small group tours. Now if escorted tours are your jam then more power to you (and travel advisors can still assist by helping you weed through all the options and finding the one that’s right for you, plus advising on booking terms, managing payments, and coordinating flights and pre and post options), but if you’d rather travel solo as a family or with a group of friends (yet with excellent guides and seamless logistics), then a travel advisor has the vetted and trusted partners in every country around the world to make that happen for you.

6 – Time Savings: Planning a trip can take hours and hours of research, then of course when you finally go to book the hotel you decided on, it’s not available for your dates and you have to rework the whole itinerary. Travel advisors manage this process for you. As mentioned above, we are constantly training and learning from our global partners and from each other. We’re also constantly working on client itineraries so while everything is customized to you, when it comes to a roadtrip through the Southwest or a villa rental in Tuscany, we’re not starting from scratch – we already have a starting point and experience in this. That saves you a whole lot of time!

7 – No Stress: You hire a travel advisor to ensure the logistics are seamless. Chances are you worked hard to earn the money for this vacation, and this is your time off from work to relax, to reconnect with family, to rediscover the world. The last thing you need is to be stressed about finding a taxi at the airport or figuring out what to do on your first day in Paris. Whether you want to plan out every step or merely have a curated list of options for each day, advisors are there to assist and eliminate the stress however it may present to you.

8 – Help in Times of Crisis: This is perhaps the most relevant reason right now to work with a trusted travel advisor. When the current COVID-19 crisis started, travelers who booked with online travel engines, or even with their credit card agency, were unable to get through to a human on the phone and talk through the options for postponing or cancelling their upcoming trip. They were at a loss and left to fend for themselves. Clients of travel advisors were contacted proactively, they received timely and regularly updated information on the status of the virus, cancellations, credits, revised terms & conditions. We have been working around the clock over the past two months to ensure all our clients returned home safely, that trips were cancelled as needed and that clients were refunded or credited any money due.

These points represent the inherent value of working with a travel advisor. Do we charge fees for our services? Yes we do, just like any other service professional. But frankly in comparison to the cost of your trip, the fees are minimal and the benefits you receive far outweigh them.

SUSTAINABILITY, CONSERVATION & TRAVEL

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my stories last week highlighting Jane Goodall as one of my personal heroes. Jane Goodall is a scientist and researcher, but also a noted conservationist and environmental activist. Her focus on animal conservation and preservation of the environment are two things I care deeply about, and also two things that are often perceived as misaligned with luxury travel. In watching National Geographic’s documentary, Jane Goodall: The Hope, which premiered last week on Earth Day, I felt there were two major takeaways as it pertains to Jane’s teachings and legacy:

Watch Jane Goodall: The Hope TV Show - Streaming Online | Nat Geo TV

1 – Small Changes Make a Big Difference. Jane encourages us all to take small steps to make a difference. When we hear about the often devastating impact that humans have on the natural world, it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed and to wonder whether tiny changes (like reducing plastic usage in our home or buying grass-fed, free-range beef) will make any difference at all. But Jane teaches us that we are all part of a movement. With each tiny change we make and require as consumers, that change magnifies and reverberates up the supply chain. There is still hope.

2 – We Must Collaborate to Enact Change. In 1992, the Jane Goodall Institute built a chimpanzee rescue center in the Congo in partnership with the Conoco oil company. Later, she worked with research labs in the UK to discuss the treatment of chimpanzees used as test subjects in lab facilities. She was scrutinized by other environmental activists for both of these actions – ‘what was she doing fraternizing with the “enemy”‘? But Jane notes an important distinction… what good could she do by refusing to engage with entire groups of people? How could she change their behavior if she didn’t work with them, partner with them, educate them?

In a similar way, our joint passions for environmental protection and luxury travel don’t necessarily have to be in conflict. We have the power to demand more sustainable practices from travel companies and to support the ones that take leadership in this arena, thus reinforcing the need for others to integrate this focus into their daily operations.

Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre - Jane Goodall ...
Photo: JGI

Virtuoso, which has focused on sustainability for quite some time, just this year announced a new “Sustainability Community” where likeminded advisors and partners can work together to bring incredible, sustainable travel experiences to clients. The community also provides a forum to highlight some of the incredible work that hotels, airlines and tour operators are doing to evolve the industry, and to share these efforts with their peers.

Why should you work with the Virtuoso travel network? - Virtuoso

I was so incredibly moved to see the volume of travel companies that joined this new Sustainability Community – it definitely gave me hope for the future! While I won’t go too in depth explaining all of the wonderful initiatives these companies are taking on right here, I thought I’d share an example of three of my personal favorite hotels that are taking extraordinary steps towards a more sustainable travel industry.

1 – Kokomo Private Island Fiji – Located on a private island in Southern Fiji, this 5-star luxury resort was built with sustainability and self-sufficiency as a key goal. The property has an incredible farm growing fresh produce for the kitchens. They also have bees and chickens for fresh eggs and honey – reducing the need to import these food items from other islands, which would require more boat traffic and gasoline. They also feature local fish in the cuisine and practice sustainable fishing. Recycling on the island is of the utmost importance to minimize waste; and for fresh water, they have invested in cutting-edge desalination technology. In addition to the sustainable design, the hotel and staff practice conservation: partnering with the Manta Trust to protect the native manta rays of Fiji and restoring coral reefs and mangroves around the island.

2 – Pacuare Lodge – In the rainforests of Costa Rica sits Pacuare Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the world. Knowing the importance of rainforest preservation in Central & South America, the owners built the lodge without cutting down a single tree on site, utilizing lumber from a reforestation project operated by local farmers, and thatched roofs crafted by local Cabécar Indians using palm leaves collected in the forest. The hotel has also purchased 840 acres of primary rainforest along the river in order to protect the land from development and to offset the atmospheric carbon created by the vehicles used to operate tours and transfers – allowing them to offer completely carbon neutral tourism. And lastly, the property itself is run 100% by clean energy, with solar power used to heat the water in the bathrooms and a water turbine used to power electricity throughout the site.

3 – Edgewood Tahoe – Located on the southern shores of Lake Tahoe, Edgewood has a sustainability mission integral to their operation: “To be stewards of the land, guardians of the Lake, and solid corporate citizens of the communities in which we operate.” With the goal of land stewardship and minimizing their environmental footprint, the hotel undertook several key environmental projects in conjunction with its sustainable construction: (a) they treated and removed 500,000 lbs of sediment from Lake Tahoe via enhanced wetlands and deepened filtration settling ponds (with a goal to continue this practice each year of operation); (b) they realigned nearby Edgewood Creek, allowing for native fish passage and a spawning habitat, and (c) they acquired and demolished several obsolete and environmentally unsustainable properties on their property, restoring the land to its natural state, thus preserving it for future generations.

There are many more stories where these come from and inspired by Jane’s recent documentary, I will be making an effort moving forward to share more of them here on my blog and on social media. If you are interested in focusing on or incorporating sustainability into your next trip, please always let me know and we can cater your plans towards partners and/or locations that share our passion!

THE BEST MOVIES TO INSPIRE TRAVEL

1 – OUT OF AFRICA – Originally released in 1985, this iconic drama is based on a memoir written by Karen Blixen about her life in Kenya in the early 1900’s. Meryl Streep’s fabulous performance, the romantic soundtrack and spectacular panoramas of life in Africa will captivate you.

Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa (1985)
Source: IMDb

2 – CRAZY RICH ASIANS – Also based on a book, this 2018 film plays off the extravagance of the wealthy elite in Singapore. The book and film delighted audiences around the world and as a result, Singapore has become a must-visit destination for many. When you do plan your trip to Singapore, you can even take “Crazy Rich Asian” themed tours of the sites featured in the movie.

Constance Wu and Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Source: IMDb

3 – PLANET EARTH – An oldie but goodie… We’re all trapped in our homes and in need of a good virtual escape. Planet Earth can take you around the world to appreciate some of nature’s finest miracles.

Planet Earth (2006)
Source: IMDb

4 – THE DA VINCI CODE – If you love a good mystery thriller, this film adaptation of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code is perfect for movie night. You’ll be unraveling a masterfully woven puzzle while digitally gallivanting around Europe’s iconic landmarks with Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Source: IMDb

5 – MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – I saw this movie in the theatre with my friend who specifically told me she was happy to see any movie so long as it “wasn’t about time travel.” Spoiler alert – I picked incorrectly, but my friend and I still loved how Woody Allen’s film evoked the true timeless magic of Paris.

Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Mimi Kennedy, Alison Pill, Rachel McAdams, Tom Hiddleston, Audrey Fleurot, Sonia Rolland, Léa Seydoux, and Nina Arianda in Midnight in Paris (2011)
Source: IMDb

6 – AMELIE – If you studied French in school, you’ve undoubtedly seen Amelie. If not, you may have missed this foreign language film. But don’t be deterred by the subtitles and overall quirkiness, it’s an absolute delight!

Audrey Tautou in Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)
Source: IMDb

7 – SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET – This movie came out in 1997. I was 12 and thought it was the best movie I’d ever seen (meanwhile my brother was bored to tears…). I was just so captivated with the scenery, culture and magic of Tibet! One day I will make it there (sadly, I was supposed to visit in 2008, but our trip there was cancelled due to the political unrest at the time) – until then, I’ll be watching this film again.

Brad Pitt and Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk in Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
Source: IMDb

8 – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – A quirky Wes Anderson film that romanticizes the historic era of Europe’s grand dame hotels.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) - IMDb
Source: IMDb

9 – INTO THE WILD – John Krakauer’s novel based on the wandering life of Christopher McCandless was adapted into a film by Sean Penn in the early 2000s. For anyone craving a nature escape, this cinematography of Alaska’s wilderness is the perfect prescription.

Into the Wild (2007)
Source: IMDb

10 – WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE – I watched this movie recently on a plane and I think I cried through most of it. It’s about a woman who has lost her way in life and sets off on a lone adventure to Antarctica to find herself again. I truly believe that travel gives us perspective – it changes us, it re-centers us – and we can live vicariously through Bernadette until we can set off on our own again.

Cate Blanchett in Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2019)
Source: IMDb

BONUS: HARRY POTTER SERIES – Sometimes we just need a complete escape from reality and I can think of no better place to go than Hogwarts.

Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Taylor, and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

MY FAVORITE BOOKS THAT INSPIRE TRAVEL

At the time I’m writing this post, we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all homebound and many of us have had to postpone long-planned trips with great disappointment. Before we can travel again, we have to find ways to satiate our wanderlust while staying in our homes – and the answer, my friends, is through books, TV shows, and movies. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be rounding up some of my favorites in all three categories that help inspire travel. To kick it off, please check out the list below of my favorite novels, historical fiction works and memoirs that can transport you to another place.

1 – The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – I first stumbled upon Kristin Hannah when her historical fiction novel set in WW2, The Nightingale, became immensely popular. Her next work, The Great Alone, follows a young girl coming of age in the wilderness of Alaska. Kristin is the type of writer who has the ability to craft a story that slowly works its way into your soul until you feel as if you know the characters personally. And in today’s difficult times, a story about survival and perseverance is particularly poignant.

2 – Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – I fell in love with this book when it came out in 2017. Min Jin Lee’s saga guides us through the lives of four generations of a Korean family living in Japan. Though the account is at times difficult, Lee’s writing will take you on a journey back in time through Asia.

3 – Into thin Air by John Krakauer – Despite having zero mountain climbing experience and absolutely no desire to scale Everest myself, I still have an indescribable allure to the mountain. John Krakauer recounts the events of the 1996 Everest disaster in his book, Into Thin Air, which was adapted into the movie Everest. While I enjoyed the movie, I love the detail in Krakauer’s book. I may never make it to Everest myself, but Krakauer made me feel as if I was standing at the top of the Khumbu ice fall right there with him.

4 – Hawaii by James Michener – Anyone familiar with Michener knows that his books are a commitment. With over 900 pages, this novel, first published in 1959 (the same year Hawaii became a US state), is indeed a saga. But if you’re planning to visit Hawai’i after this pandemic ends, why not get a jumpstart on your research? Michener’s novel is a beautiful story incorporating both historical facts about the formation and development of the Hawaiian islands, as well as the folklore and traditions of the native people.

5 – Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie – OK so clearly I have a thing for history and historical fiction… but if you’re a fellow Russophile, you’ll be fascinated to learn about the life of one of Russia’s most famous leaders, Catherine the Great. Massie’s account is incredibly researched and historically accurate, but reads like a page-turner and you won’t want to put it down.

6 – Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink by Jane Goodall – Many people don’t know this, but Jane Goodall is my biggest hero. Her independence, confidence and the barriers she broke as a woman in a male-dominated field are incredibly inspiring. Today, she is a world-renowned conservationist, a non-profit leader and an incredible writer. I’ve loved all of her books, but this one from 2009 is particularly uplifting (something we all need right now!). It tells a variety of stories about conservation efforts around the world and how endangered animals are coming back from the brink. If you’re a wildlife lover and missing nature right now, this is a great read.

7 – Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor – You’ll know Sue Monk Kidd from her standout novel – The Secret Life of Bees. Traveling with Pomegranates is a totally different type of book, but still excellently written. This memoir of Sue’s travels through Greece and France with her daughter, Ann, documents each woman’s path to self-discovery through travel.

8 – New York by Edward Rutherford – Rutherford, like Michener, is known for his deep-dive sagas. His historical fiction account of New York City is just phenomenal – weaving together families in the city from the time it began as an Indian fishing village, through to the events of 9/11. With New York the center of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, this story can serve as a reminder of how NYC has persevered through time, and the magic you’ll find on its historic streets when they’re open for our return.

9 – Circling the Sun by Paula McLain – So many fabulous novels can transport us to Africa – from the safari to the cities. I loved McLain’s Circling the Sun which is set in Kenya during the British governance of the 1920s.

10 – A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle – While not quite a year, I did spend a summer in Provence in the south of France during college. We visited quaint chateaux in the countryside surrounded by lavender fields, shopped at the local farmer’s markets and drank rose in the warm evenings (long before it was trendy!). Mayle’s memoir will have you packing your bags for a villa in France as soon as we’re able.

I also did a little informal poll on Instagram for other favorite travel books, check out the list below for some recommendations from other ATLAS + VALISE followers:

  • Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  • A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

Happy reading! And if you have any other suggestions, please comment below!

TAHOE SKI TRIP

A few weeks ago, before this COVID-19 pandemic had us all homebound, my husband and I snuck up to Lake Tahoe for a couple days’ skiing at Northstar California ski resort and The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.

GETTING THERE

If you’re not based in the Bay Area or within driving distance of Tahoe, you’ll want to fly into Reno-Tahoe International. From San Diego, it’s a quick one hour twelve minute flight on Southwest Airlines. From the east coast, it’s a little trickier since Reno is a small airport. Out of NYC’s JFK, JetBlue operates seasonal direct flights a few days a week. Otherwise, you can make an easy connection on American Airlines through Phoenix or on Delta through Salt Lake City.

The Lake Tahoe area is quite large; the coastline of the lake itself has a 72 mile circumference, and there are a variety of ski resorts to choose from, all positioned various distances from the airport. For this trip, we stayed in North Lake Tahoe and skied Northstar, which is just about an hours’ drive west from the airport. If you plan to hop around to various ski resorts, I’d recommend renting a car for the most flexibility. If you’re planning to stay put at Northstar and enjoy the Ritz and the nearby town of Truckee, I’d recommend just getting airport transfers, as the parking prices are quite steep and it works out to be about the same cost (if not cheaper!). We used Reno Tahoe Limousine and they were great!

SKI-IN SKI-OUT

The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is a ski-in, ski-out lodge located mid-mountain at Northstar. I stayed here once before in the autumn and while we loved the mountain setting, at the time we wished it had been a bit closer to the lake (which is the main draw for this area spring through fall). That said, in the wintertime this hotel is the *perfect* location. You are literally on the mountain, they have a ski rental shop on-site, and a slope side ski valet that will store your skis, poles and boots overnight. Once you finish breakfast, it takes about 10 minutes to get dressed, geared up, and ski down to the nearest chairlift. The convenience is just so incredible – it takes all the hassle out of skiing!

NORTHSTAR

As far as ski mountains go in the Tahoe area, Northstar is one of the more family-friendly options. It’s not massive, not insanely steep and has a nice mix of blues and blacks to please any range of ski levels in your group or family. They also have a wonderful ski school and tons of private lessons with pick-up right from the hotel (if you’re staying there). While views of the lake are fairly limited to one peak, you do still have them! And there is a small snow tubing facility on the mountain as well.

Heavenly, on the south side of Lake Tahoe, and Squaw Valley, on the west side of Lake Tahoe, are next up on my Tahoe to do list!!

RITZ CARLTON LAKE TAHOE

The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is as fabulous as Ritz Carlton’s come. The rooms are well furnished with all the amenities: juliet balconies, gas fireplaces, deep soaking tubs, robes & slippers, oversized King beds and seating areas, as well as plenty of storage space for your bulky ski clothes. I also love the combination of rich wood and warm-toned fabrics that perfectly accent the snowy winter backdrop and give you all the cozy ski lodge vibes.

CLUB LEVEL

For this most recent stay, we opted for King rooms on the Club Level of the hotel, and I cannot recommend this enough, especially if you are skiing with a group. First off, the spread they put out five times a day is everything you could ever want. The breakfast buffet is not just a bagel and fruit – they have eggs, sausage, pancakes, and even an omelet station on Sundays. It’s the perfect “ready-to-go yet hearty” breakfast option when you’re looking to get up, fuel up and hit the slopes. At lunchtime, you can escape the crowds and overpriced food on the mountain and cozy up with a bowl of soup, a salad bar, sandwiches and freshly made quiche in the lounge. (Bonus – you can then easily go back to your room to add or shed a layer if needed before heading back out!). Between meals, they offer numerous snacks – popcorn, trail mix, nuts – and a never-ending supply of cookies. In the evening, they set out hors d’oeuvres, and post-dinner, they have your sweet fix waiting for you. To top it off, all day there is an (all inclusive) self-service bar with wine, beer, soft drinks, prosecco, liquors and even cordials in the evening.

So while in the summer or fall, you may be out and about exploring more, for a ski trip, you’re relatively on site, which makes the club lounge incredibly convenient. And honestly, the incremental cost is worth it for the value. I also love that the lounge can serve as a meeting place for a group or family that are staying in multiple rooms.

WHERE TO EAT

We kept things fairly easy on this trip, so aside from all the “free” meals we ate in the Club Lounge, we also enjoyed dinner at:

  • Manzanita – Located in the hotel, modern American cuisine with a steakhouse vibe.
  • The Living Room – Spread out in the main lobby around the large central fireplace; the casual comfort menu is perfect for a more chill evening.
  • Pianeta Ristorante – Quaint and cozy Italian spot in Truckee with delicious homemade pasta. *Tip: If you don’t rent a car, the Ritz has a complimentary shuttle to and from Truckee on the hour.

Now that we’re at home for the foreseeable future and most ski resorts are closed for the season, I am so grateful that we were able to squeeze in this ski trip last month. I highly recommend Northstar and the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe for a luxurious and stress-free ski trip. Please contact me if you’d like to plan a stay for 2021!

OUR NEW NORMAL… MY THOUGHTS ON COVID-19 AND A BIT OF HOPE

I first heard about the coronavirus in early January, when news started emerging from China about a highly contagious virus that we knew little about. It felt like the next Ebola/Zika/SARS scare – while frightening, it was far from home and easy to avoid. I quietly thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have any clients traveling to China within the next few months and went on my merry way.

Fast forward a few weeks and the virus had started spreading throughout Asia. Travelers planning to visit Asia over the next several months were uncertain… the infection rate outside of China was so low and there were no travel warnings for other Asian countries; it felt like the media was over-emphasizing the threat to capitalize on our own fear and tendency to panic. Fast forward another few weeks and Italy became a second hotbed for the disease. Suddenly all my clients traveling to Italy over the next few months (a lot more people given the popularity of Italy for spring break and summer vacations!) felt concerned… should they still go? Was it safe? Was the virus contained to just northern Italy? What would happen over the next few months?

I continued to walk my clients through the facts – sharing CDC travel warnings, WHO advisories, news and updates from suppliers on the ground – as well as options on how we could postpone or cancel trips and by what date in order to minimize financial penalties. This stage was challenging for two reasons: (1) the future was so uncertain – we were getting new information daily, and often the hysterical coverage in the media was in direct contrast to the calm and matter-of-fact updates and policies we were receiving from partners and companies in impacted countries and (2) insurance was no help… This latter part was perhaps hardest for clients to hear yet also understandable especially in light of the current situation we’re in now. Most travel insurance (unless premium Cancel For Any Reason coverage is purchased) does not allow cancellation of a trip for fear of a viral outbreak – this is excluded under the force majeure clause. Of course, this type of unprecedented and unexpected situation is exactly why travelers want to purchase insurance to protect their trip, but if it were a covered reason to cancel, the insurance companies would likely now be bankrupt. This post isn’t meant to delve into the ins and outs of insurance though so I won’t go into too much more detail here.

Every morning for the past several weeks, I have woken up and hoped to see better news, to feel a turning point coming – the uncertainty and anxiety among so many travelers was palpable and it was turning my fun job into an incredible stressful one. Every time there was a further restriction, I kept thinking… “This is it, this is the bottom, it can’t get any worse.” When Trump instituted the European traveler ban and the sports leagues cancelled all major events, I honestly didn’t think there was anything left to cancel. But apparently I was wrong…

Now here we are and most of us have had our lives completely upended. In the beginning, the travel industry felt disproportionately impacted by this global health crisis – there was fear of the virus itself and then fear of quarantine and being unable to get home that had a lot of people reconsidering their trips. But now, we’re all in the same boat. I don’t think there is a single person or business I know of that hasn’t been severely impacted by the virus we’ve come to know as COVID-19. We’re told to stay at home, restaurants are closed, bars are closed, travel plans months in the making are put on hold… and we have no idea when this is going to end. It feels unbelievable – not only because none of us have been here before, but because the enemy is invisible. We look outside and we see sunshine and a beautiful day; we step outside and everything is closed and eerily silent and empty. The panic now has spread from fear of dying to fear of quarantine to fear of unknowingly spreading the virus to someone we love (someone who is older or immune-compromised and may actually die from it, or at least be extremely ill) and now to fear that we are not prepared medically for an appropriate response. There is talk of a shortage of hospital beds and ventilators… we’re hoarding toilet paper of all things!

On September 11, 2001, I was in high school on Long Island. I had friends with parents working in the city, some in the Twin Towers. The terrorist attack felt like it happened in my backyard. We all left school early. We tried to donate blood but the blood banks were full. Soccer practice was cancelled for a week due to the smoke and dust blowing out from Manhattan. It felt incredibly scary… and as if everything else we had been worried about before (that upcoming English test, whether your crush liked you back) was all inconsequential. But a few weeks later, after the funerals and complete shock of the incident started to subside, we went back to our daily lives. Planes took off again, we returned to work and school. For a lot of us, life was put into perspective, but slowly we got back to “normal.” This situation is different…. we have no idea when we’ll be able to go back to work, or go out to eat, or hop on a plane to see our family, let alone reschedule that bucket-list trip we were planning for the better part of a year. For those that rely on variable income – there is fear over making ends meet and when the next paycheck will come in. For those that have a stable income, there is still fear over the stock market and how the volatility over the past weeks will impact retirement plans or even job security. No one is immune to the pandemic evolving in front of us – whether a wedding had to be postponed, income is lost, a family member gets sick, or a myriad of other things – we all had life going on and now we have to put it all on hold.

While the situation has left me with a lot of anxiety and stress, I can see a sliver of a silver lining. In a society where we are constantly connected and on the brink of burnout, grasping at every new wellness trend for a break, the universe has now forced us to take one. We officially have permission to stay at home, read a book, cuddle up with our loved ones, and feel grateful for the little things in life that we have. I also hope that when we come out the other side of this situation, we’ll be stronger for it. Like 9/11 – we came together, there were stories of incredible heroes and sacrifices of humanity… we can do that now.

Once I have the last of my client and personal trips cancelled through early May, I’ll be ready for a break myself – to read a book, binge watch a good show, take my dog to the beach and just spend some quality time with my husband. And when things start to return to normal, I’ll be itching to get back on a plane and explore the world, as I’m sure will so many of you. I pray that the extreme measures we’re taking as a society will help us to move swiftly through this frightening time.

Virtual hugs to you all!

Jenny