Peaking in Hong Kong

Recently, I stayed in Hong Kong for three nights, with only one free afternoon. Major tease. I was there for my third Virtuoso Symposium, a travel conference where I learn so much and want to hang out with everyone.

The skyline of Hong Kong is unbelievable. I live in New York, where the skyline takes my breath away, but it feels like a labrador puppy compared to Hong Kong's. You just can't believe it's real - and you feel its energetic, sultry vibe almost immediately.

I managed to hop on The Peak Tram for a panoramic, WOW view of Hong Kong. We stopped for ice cream with caramel popcorn on top (!) in the blazing heat. I visited several gorgeous hotels but stayed on the Island Shangri-La club level, in a room which made my heart jump whenever I looked out the window.

They do fancy things like change the elevator carpet to reflect the day of the week. This was helpful, as multiple time zone changes had me waking up in a fog shaking around a bit to remember where I was.

Click through the gallery below, if you'd like to see a few photos!



Cafe Martin - My Favorite Brooklyn Coffee Shop

If you come to Brooklyn, please find your way to tiny Cafe Martin in Park Slope. Go around 9am on the weekend. Read The New York Times. Say hi to Martin - he's an Irishman with a wonderfully endearing sneer. Get the best cappuccino of your life and maybe tack on a buttery croissant or a crumbly muffin. I love this place and it's one of my first stops whenever I get home from a trip. This isn't a place where you'll whip out your laptop and get some work done. But it is the perfect place to slow down.

The Ritz-Carlton Naples

When I first started this site, it was called Hotel Belle. It was just as blogging was becoming "a thing" and I knew I wanted to carve out a niche in travel, so I focused on hotels. I'd say this lasted about six months and then my writing/blogging career took off in an entirely different way that I hadn't imagined.

That said, I still am obsessed with hotels. I love amazing hotels. It's part of everything I do. The great ones are some of the most magical places on the planet. I'd rather stay home than stay in a hotel that I don't love.

Last week, I spoke at the Ritz-Carlton regional meeting in Miami, with Johnny Jet & Natalie DiScala. We had a blast. But before I went to Miami, I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton beach resort in Naples (they also have a golf resort, but my passion for golf is...nonexistent).

It's this big, fancy hotel fantasy - the design is Mediterranean but the beach (and humidity!) is very Florida. There's something I love about these huge American resorts - waking up lazily, having a great breakfast with orange juice AND a cappuccino, slathering sunscreen on, dressing up, having cocktails, going for dinner.

I went to their gorgeous spa for the signature Intuitive Retreat. You send them a form beforehand telling them what you're struggling with (who ISN'T stressed in some way?) and they create a program just for you. I soaked in a seaweed bath, got a chakra massage, personalized bath scrubs, and more. I'd go back to the Ritz for Jeanine. She kneads you like a ball of pizza dough, hitting all the right spots. When I left, I was a dazed, floppy noodle - perfect.

Best of all - I got to see some of my family for dinner and brunch.

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What Does Home Mean To You?

Home. It's something I've been chasing for a long time.

I moved around a lot growing up - if we ever shared a bottle of wine together, I could tell you some stories, like living alone in a big, empty house for four months when I was a junior in high school. What came out of the constant uprooting and upheaval was I always desperately wanted a place to go home to.

I don't want to over-dramatize this. I always had a place to live, a great bed with a fluffy duvet, incredible siblings and friends, and call waiting in high school!

What does home even mean? Is it a person? I thought it might have been but now I'm in the middle of an (amicable) divorce. But I think it could be your significant other. Your kids? Your siblings? A mortgage payment? The place your parents have lived for 30 years? I'm jealous if you have that!

On one hand, I have a kinetic soul that is constantly in motion - the part of me that worked so hard to create a job that would allow me to travel around the world, a job that didn't exist ten years ago. I love my job and the travel industry so much it hurts sometimes.

On the other hand, I am such a homebody. I LOVE being home - lounging around on the couch, watching movies, having my family and friends over, cooking, reading in my giant chairs by the fireplace.

This spring, I traveled to South Africa, Zambia, Latvia, Hong Kong, and did an incredible cruise on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia, sailing on the Aqua Mekong.

When I was about to land at JFK, I got this overwhelming feeling. I think you get extra emotional on planes. I felt so lucky to be back and almost in awe that I actually made it back. Sometimes I can't believe my trips.  Just thinking about how many modes of transportation I took in my time away - hurtling through the air in a tin can, a small cruise ship, skiffs, gondolas, subways, cars, vans, buses, tuk-tuks - makes my head spin a bit.

For now, the New York skyline feels like home to me. And walking my dog and a cappuccino at Cafe Martin in Brooklyn. That's more than enough for now.

Travel Women I Love + New RUBY Magazine

UPDATE: Katarina's Kickstarter has been funded! Can't wait to read RUBY magazine!

This is a long one, folks, dedicated to women in travel that I love!

My wonderful friend Katarina Kovacevic is launching a magazine called RUBY. Today, her Kickstarter campaign kicks off. I believe in Katarina so much, as a talented writer and businesswoman (and Arizona girl!). Take a minute to watch her video. I stopped reading "women's magazines" long ago - they repeat the same article over and over (How to lose weight! Must-have beauty products!) and don't appeal to me or any of the women I know around the world.

THIS appeals to me:

"RUBY is an online lifestyle publication that promotes female camaraderie, supports sisterhood, and inspires women to make a difference.

Through skillful reporting and creative storytelling, with careful attention to word choice, RUBY will create an inclusive and supportive environment with one goal in mind: To lay the foundation for future generations of confident, motivated and inspirational women who make it a point to champion their fellow female."

Inspired by Katarina, I wanted to make a list of some of the women I love in the travel industry. I've traveled around the world with many of them, and am thankful to all of them for inspiring so many people to travel - through magazine articles, blogs, TV shows, creative marketing, personal social media posts, and so much more.

TRAVEL WOMEN I LOVE

At National Geographic: Thankful to all of these ladies for a great working relationship that is often ridiculously fun too - Andrea Leitch, Leslie Magraw, Heather Wyatt, Kim Connaghan, Hilary Halstead O'Keefe, Amanda Waas, Laura Robertson, Pandora Todd, Norie Quintos, Susan O'Keefe, Carolyn Fox (no longer at NatGeo, but I wish she was!)

Elizabeth Thorp: Editor in Chief of Capitol File Magazine, Founder of Poshbrood - I love how she's built an amazing career while being an incredible mom to three daughters (and two new rescue labs!).

Paula Froelich: Editor in Chief, Yahoo Travel - I first met Paula while we were on a bike trip in England. You'll find yourself spilling your life secrets, while wanting to hear every story she tells.

Becca Hensley: Travel Writer - She writes in a way that is so wonderfully lyrical, poetic, and hilarious. It ignites all five senses. We've now been to China, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, Las Vegas, and Switzerland together.

Michaela Ruoss: Media Coordinator, North America, Switzerland Tourism - Always at the ready with great advice, a perfect book recommendation, or delicious chocolate. She's also an amazing photographer.

Michaela Guzy: Founder of Oh the People You Meet! - Knows everyone! She is equal parts hilarious and kind with an insane work ethic.

Henley Vazquez: Founder of the game-changing, family-focused Feather+Flip - I admired Henley for years before I actually met her and then loved her even more.

Catherine Karnow: National Geographic Photographer - We had the most amazing time working together last year in Ireland and San Francisco. When she tells a story or you see one of her pictures, you are spellbound.

Misty Ewing Belles: Director of PR for Virtuoso - Misty is infinitely creative and always knows just what to say. I'm waiting for her regular Today show gig.

Lauren Bryan Knight: Founder of Aspiring Kennedy - Based in London, Lauren has my favorite Instagram feed and is a major inspiration for moms to travel with their kids.

Ashley Castle: Travel personality & TV host, AFAR Ambassador - We were meant to meet and plan adventures together after she randomly met my sister in Rome (and we are both A&M grads!).

Ruthanne Sutor Terrero: VP/Editorial Director of Questex Hospitality + Travel, including Luxury Travel Advisor & Travel Agent magazine - She has been everywhere and has a huge breadth of knowledge in travel and media.

Emma de Vadder: Travel PR pro - I've traveled with Emma to the Isles of Scilly in England and had a very memorable train ride from London to Sandringham, not to mention several awesome NYC dates.

Carrie Fitchett: International Tour Director - With Carrie, your stomach will hurt from laughing. She's incredible at pulling groups together, and making unforgettable memories for them.

Kirsten Alana: Travel/Food/Lifestyle Photographer and Instagram goddess - Love her amazing photos & stories on Instagram and our meet-ups.

Jo Piazza: Managing Editor, Yahoo Travel - Her writing is as addicting as Haribo Gold-Bears to me. Look for her new book this spring, The Knockoff, co-written with Lucy Sykes.

Laura Begley Bloom: Executive Editor, Yahoo Travel - I've admired Laura's work for years and loved meeting her in Ireland last fall.

Christine Kirk: Founder/CEO of Social Muse Communications - I always wish I lived closer to Christine. She has one of the best curated twitter feeds, with interesting, relevant content. 

Tami Fairweather: Works with ExOfficio clothing, one of my favorites for great (and cute!) adventure travel clothes - I recently met Tami in Brooklyn and it was such a highlight.

Barbara Sackheim King: Travel Advisor/Founder of Great Getaways - I first met Barbara in Vegas at Virtuoso Travel Week and knew I would love her for life. She has a singular, joyful spirit that is very rare. Plus, she plans incredible trips. I'd send anyone to her.

Sarah Evans Thelen: Co-Founder/Partner of J Public Relations - I really admire what Sarah has built in a relatively short amount of time, one of the best PR agencies in the industry.

Sonia Graupera: Luxury travel & hotel writer based in Barcelona - Sonia showed me the best five days in Barcelona. I think we toured 20 hotels together.

Jean Newman Glock: Travel Writer & Social Media for Signature Travel Network. Managed Smithsonian's travel program for 17 years - one of the best conversationalists and social media pros.

Kim Kessler: Director of PR for Four Seasons Beverly Hills - Great to hang with Kim in Costa Rica and L.A. - makes everyone she meets feel special.

Diana Castello Branco: Director of PR for Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon - In Lisbon, she made me feel like I had an instant friend and gave me the best insider tips.

Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio: Executive VP/Publisher of AFAR Media - I met Ellen in London last fall and could have talked for hours.

Nora Walsh: Travel writer - I loved knowing Nora when she worked in NYC and now love following her adventures living in Argentina.

Kristin Luna: Widely published travel writer plus travel blog, Camels & Chocolate. Every time I read her pieces, it makes me want to travel.

Melanie Brandman: Founder/CEO of Brandman PR - In addition to founding a very successful agency, I also love Melanie's luxury travel website, The Travel Curator.

Carla Tracy: VP at Laura Davidson PR - I loved traveling with Carla in China to the Yunnan Province and to the Three Gorges Dam.

Rachelle Lucas: TV host & Writer. Founder of The Travel Bite - The first time I met Rachelle, we were taking ski lessons in Whistler. The next time, we were eating fried dough in Budapest. 

Kim Cole: PR Director, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale - Loved a weekend spent with her and other great women in Scottsdale.

Tatum Luoma: Owner, TLC Public Relations - I really admire how she balances work and life with two little kids.

Kristen Jarnagin: Senior VP, Arizona Tourism & Lodging Association - Most people in the Arizona tourism industry are funny. Kristen is insanely funny.

Stacy Small: Founder, Elite Travel International - Stacy, a former travel journalist, is now known as one of the most innovative travel agents for her use of social media and new marketing techniques.

Laura McMurchie: VP Communications, Scottsdale CVB - She helped me get my first job at The Phoenician in Scottsdale and I'm grateful to her forever for introducing me to this crazy world of travel and media.

Valerie Lee: Director of PR, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - One of my first bosses at The Phoenician.  Her funny Facebook posts are legendary.

Samantha Brown: Travel Channel star & all-around inspiration - She's the original travel goddess, an inspiring speaker, and has a great luggage line.

Kirsten Magen: VP, Blackbird PR - Another Arizona girl and the absolute best at travel recs and hosting dinner parties.

Kristen Vigrass: President, The Brandman Agency - We've traveled to the Gold Coast in Australia, Laos and Cambodia. Hilarious storyteller.

Elaine Srnka: Editorial Director, Virtuoso - Elaine (another Aggie!) oversees Virtuoso's magazines and editorial strategy and I love seeing her at Virtuoso events.

Terrie Hansen: Senior VP, Marketing, Virtuoso - I really enjoy keeping track of how Terrie and the brand use innovative marketing techniques to continue to expand.

Rebecca Widness: Founder, Widness & Company Public Relations - I worked with Rebecca when I first moved to NYC, and she turned into a friend for life.

Kim-Marie Evans: Founder of Luxury Travel Mom - She and her family adopted me one week I spent on Kiawah Island. I could only wish to be an Evans

Jennifer Forte Cuomo: Founder of JFC PR - Owner of a small, awesome agency, with clients like The Sagamore, one of those grand dames I always love visiting.

Laura Fairweather: Manager, Corporate PR for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts - We had the best long coffee in Cannes last fall.

Tammy Peters: Founder, MediaMixology - It was one of her ideas that made me write about power women in hotels. We usually meet at Cafe Cluny for breakfast and almost stay until lunch.

Erina Pindar: Managing Director at SmartFlyer - She has one of my favorite social media feeds for amazing travel adventures.

Jennifer Greene: VP at Hawkins International PR - We bonded over a love for dogs, spin classes, and old-school restaurants in the Village.

Anthea Gerrie: Travel & food writer - We traveled together in Italy and have met up in London and Berlin.

Alyssa Schwartz: Travel Writer - Super smart and funny - we traveled together in Laos & Cambodia.

Sandra Ramani: Travel/Lifestyle Writer - We were also in Laos & Cambodia together. I wish I had her eye for finding cool products and items from around the world.

Rebecca Soloff: Director of Sales & Marketing at The Mark Hotel - I love seeing Rebecca at events - we've hung out in Berlin and Cannes.

Kelly Nagle: Communications Manager at Santa Monica CVB - Instant friend to everyone - embodies that easygoing Southern California lifestyle.

Monica Poling: Contributing writer for TravelAge West, Founder of Travel Glitter - Love her thoughts on the trade industry, technology, and Japan.

Sarah Fazendin: Co-Founder, Globa.li, a tool that helps boutique hoteliers in emerging markets get more bookings - Powerhouse in travel marketing and great family travel blog, A Week at the Beach.

Maisa Fernandez: Co-Founder, Globa.li (see above) - Sarah's co-founder is equally awesome and has years of travel marketing experience.

Emily Venugopal: Director of PR for The Pierre, A Taj Hotel - The best British sense of humor

Allison Sitch: VP, Global Public Relations at The Ritz-Carlton Company - We met in Cannes for a drink and I could have spent all night with her. Great stories.

Parool K. Shah: VP, Sheila Donnelly & Associates - I met Parool in D.C. when she worked with Ritz-Carlton and loved her style and passion for media.

Lucy Clifton: Managing Director of CUT Communications, Director of PR for ILTM - I first met Lucy last fall in Mexico at ILTM Americas and have enjoyed watching ILTM grow over the years.

Jules Perowne: Co-Founder of PCC (Perowne Charles Communications) - I met Jules at ILTM Americas - she has built an incredible client list as one of the best agencies in Europe.

Nancy Novogrod: Former Editor in Chief of Travel + Leisure - She gave me a shot when I barely had any experience in the industry.

Klara Glowczewska: Travel Editor, Town & Country and Former Editor in Chief of Conde Nast Traveler - I've long admired her work and really enjoyed meeting in Cannes last fall.

Tiffani Cailor: Director of PR for Four Seasons Hotel New York - First met in Costa Rica and have loved our NYC lunch and coffee dates.

Tara MacIntyre: Director of PR for Four Seasons Resort Nevis - A memorable trip to Nevis and lots of hang-time in New York. Wonderful, funny writer.

Kristen Korey Pike: Travel Advisor/Founder/CEO of KK Travels Worldwide - I've loved seeing Kristen around the world at Virtuoso events from Buenos Aires to Berlin.

Jen Murphy: Hotels Editor for AFAR Media - Jen is an inspiration to get up and get moving (check out her Instagram for her adventures).

Szilvi Keszthelyi: The best guide in Budapest - Loved working with her on the Danube and in Hungary.

Wendy Lyn: Best food tour guide in Paris/Founder of The Paris Kitchen - I won't forget dancing at 2 a.m. with her and Pierre Sang Boyer at his newly opened restaurant.

Tiffany Dowd: Founder of Luxe Social Media - One of the first luxury travel personalities and love seeing her at events and conferences.

Vickie Love Greenlee: Travel advisor/For Travelers Only - One of the friendliest faces I see at Virtuoso events.

Kate Birchler: Assistant VP, Tourism Marketing, Macerich - If you want to know where and how best to shop, Kate's your girl.

Stephanie Sanstead: Director of PR, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa - I first met Stephanie almost 10 years ago when we were both coordinators in Arizona!