2016 Year-In-Review

2016 Year-In-Review

One of my all-time favorite trips in May 2016: staying at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy. Totally obnoxious champagne on boat shot. But what a day! 

One of my all-time favorite trips in May 2016: staying at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy. Totally obnoxious champagne on boat shot. But what a day! 

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I've done a wrap-up on this blog for the past five years. When I look back at these ridiculous, challenging, beautiful adventures - traveling all over the world, a marriage, a divorce, a new love, a new job - I feel endlessly grateful and honestly, tired. Travel is my passion, my life, my work, my beloved job and industry but I really want to slow down a bit. 

I want to sit and read the New York Times every Sunday. I want to meet friends for dinner in Manhattan and return gratefully to Brooklyn. I want to walk in Central Park and Prospect Park on beautiful days. I want to feel grateful for every minute I am on the Brooklyn Promenade because I can't believe I live so close - this is my dream neighborhood in NYC. I want to explore New York like I used to when I first moved here - with that giddy sense of new-ness - through Chinatown, Little Italy, the Upper West Side, all over Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. I want to make plans for the future - I've been such a stunned deer-in-the-headlights the past couple of years - either moving at warp speed to avoid feeling hurt, or waiting for someone else to make decisions. The future I had planned for since I was 20 disappeared when Andy and I split up and I'm still finding my way out. 

I know I will still travel. I would be lost without it. I will still travel more than most people I know. But I want a little more serenity, a little less airport madness, and more time to figure out what I want as I get older. I'll turn 35 this year and while sometimes it feels like I've been flitting around the world carelessly while all my friends have been having babies and saving for retirement - I am so grateful for this life (except for the Twilight Zone presidential election, which continues to be worse than we all thought). Can I do all of this and maintain minimum status on an airline? That is the goal. 

By the way - if you know anyone cool in Brooklyn, let me know. It's one of my resolutions this year to meet more interesting, creative, funny, kind people that live in Brooklyn and to build my community here more. If you say it loud, it is more likely to happen. So there you go! 

Wishing you a beautiful 2017. 

And in (mostly) chronological order - 2016 at a glance. 

New Year's 2016 in Myanmar - The Strand Cruise

New Year's 2016 in Myanmar - The Strand Cruise

The highlight of Chiang Mai for me - Royal Park Rajapruek

The highlight of Chiang Mai for me - Royal Park Rajapruek

Rice planting at Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai 

Rice planting at Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai 

Unforgettable - a day at Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai

Unforgettable - a day at Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai

A great place to stay in Bangkok - the Grand Hyatt Erawan

A great place to stay in Bangkok - the Grand Hyatt Erawan

January snowstorm!

January snowstorm!

Connecticut wedding with some of my amazing extended family

Connecticut wedding with some of my amazing extended family

Work trip to Terranea Resort outside of L.A.

Work trip to Terranea Resort outside of L.A.

Dreamy trip to St. Barth's

Dreamy trip to St. Barth's

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Visiting my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona during orange blossom season!

Visiting my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona during orange blossom season!

Easter Dim Sum with (some of) my siblings + Hayley!

Easter Dim Sum with (some of) my siblings + Hayley!

Work trip to Seattle

Work trip to Seattle

The absolutely stunning Park Hotel Vitznau outside of Lucerne, Switzerland

The absolutely stunning Park Hotel Vitznau outside of Lucerne, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

Grand Hotel Tremezzo - Lake Como, Italy

Grand Hotel Tremezzo - Lake Como, Italy

Fell in love with Fire Island - my first time there.

Fell in love with Fire Island - my first time there.

No place makes me feel like this place does - East Hampton, NY 

No place makes me feel like this place does - East Hampton, NY 

Hello New Home - Brooklyn Heights

Hello New Home - Brooklyn Heights

Weekend at my aunt & uncle's lakehouse

Weekend at my aunt & uncle's lakehouse

Recovering in Aspen post-Virtuoso Week 

Recovering in Aspen post-Virtuoso Week 

Aspen

Aspen

My favorite cake in the world - Original Sacher-Torte in Vienna!

My favorite cake in the world - Original Sacher-Torte in Vienna!

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

The beautiful Schloss Fuschl hotel outside of Salzburg, Austria

The beautiful Schloss Fuschl hotel outside of Salzburg, Austria

Will never forget this sunset swim in the lake! 

Will never forget this sunset swim in the lake! 

Sunset in Salzburg

Sunset in Salzburg

Favorite cocktail - Mr. Pink's at the Baccarat Hotel 

Favorite cocktail - Mr. Pink's at the Baccarat Hotel 

Ballet at Lincoln Center 

Ballet at Lincoln Center 

Upper West Side drinks - love our friend's rooftop!! 

Upper West Side drinks - love our friend's rooftop!! 

WOW view from the Rothorn in Switzerland 

WOW view from the Rothorn in Switzerland 

Rainy day view from the amazing Beau-Rivage hotel in Geneva

Rainy day view from the amazing Beau-Rivage hotel in Geneva

Back in Lucerne

Back in Lucerne

Annual fall-in-Connecticut trip with my aunt

Annual fall-in-Connecticut trip with my aunt

Metropolitan Opera

Metropolitan Opera

Fall in NYC

Fall in NYC

The River Cafe - eternally wonderful

The River Cafe - eternally wonderful

Thanksgiving with my family in L.A. - Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica

Thanksgiving with my family in L.A. - Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica

View from the Carlton in Cannes - ILTM! 

View from the Carlton in Cannes - ILTM! 

Beautiful Munich

Beautiful Munich

Family party in Franklin Lakes

Family party in Franklin Lakes

First copies of the new NatGeo book with my foreword

First copies of the new NatGeo book with my foreword

Christmas Day - Art Deco Hotel Montana, Lucerne

Christmas Day - Art Deco Hotel Montana, Lucerne

New favorite place - Lenzerheide, Switzerland

New favorite place - Lenzerheide, Switzerland

Felucca ride, Cairo! 

Felucca ride, Cairo! 

The Egyptian Museum made my heart beat faster.

The Egyptian Museum made my heart beat faster.

Cairo 

Cairo 

New Year's Day 2017 

New Year's Day 2017 

7 Luxury Travel Trends for 2017

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For the past few years, I have attended the International Luxury Travel Mart (ILTM) in Cannes, on the south of France. It sounds super glamorous (and it is) but it's also a lot of work, work I absolutely love. Press talks, interviews, meetings, events, lunches, dinners - see an example of a day of press talks below! I have gotten sick every time afterwards, because I get about three hours of sleep a night. That said, it's amazing. I covered it for National Geographic - 7 Luxury Travel Trends for 2017 - and it was the most popular piece on the site the day it was published! 

Behind-the-Scenes Filming for National Geographic Travel

Just me hanging out by myself on a picnic...

Just me hanging out by myself on a picnic...

This summer, I filmed a short video on Quebec City for National Geographic Travel. It is less than three minutes long, but it took two 16-hour days to film. Here's the final video.

I really like how it turned out, and it's mostly thanks to my videographer, Hai-Lam Phan. We worked really well together, and he understood what was important to me (therefore, I was super comfortable with him), while knowing what would work best on camera.

I'd wake up at 6:30am, attempt hair & make-up, then meet Hai and our local assistant Annabelle in the lobby. Most of all, I was obsessed with showing only really great places - places that a visitor would love.

I eat a lot in the video. No human can eat that much food, no matter how delicious. We'd film a bite or two for camera. We filmed at this super popular local bar - you have to find engaging, fun people to talk to and show on camera. A lot of people (more than I thought!) absolutely do NOT want to be on camera. We found a great group of guys-hockey players!-and then an amazing group of women, students at the local university.

What I love most about filming is it gives you greater access to people. My favorite moment of the video is when the mother kisses her son at Cafe St-Malo and says "My son" - I tear up every time! She started the restaurant and he has been working there since he was a toddler.

Canadian hockey players!

Canadian hockey players!

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!

My Dublin: Queen of Tarts

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I had one free day in Dublin before I met up with National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow. And it was a doozy - pouring rain. I did the Hop On-Hop Off bus tour on the green bus, and on my 8th visit to the city, I was glad to  finally do it. It is the best overview of the city and if you get the right charming Irish guide, truly funny.

Afterwards, I had a few hours to kill. Sometimes the rain can be quite atmospheric and I wander around with a book in my bag that I want to read (and....sometimes spend more time on Instagram). I always dream of finding the perfect coffee and cake shop to crack open the book. Like a British chick lit book come alive.

You guys.

Queen of Tarts is that shop! There are two locations, a five-minute walk from one another. I love the newer one on Cows Lane. Everything is made fresh each morning and the vibe is just so relaxed and lovely. If you see the Queen of Tarts herself, Regina, say hi. She went to culinary school in New York and returned home to open her dream shop. After my first visit, I knew we had to shoot it and write about it for our National Geographic project.

Here is the final report - 10 great foodie spots - check it out if you're headed to Dublin. We worked so hard to come up with this list, visiting so many places and talking to a ton of locals. I am in love with every place on that list. And it's a mix of fancy and casual - includes an ice cream shop, a coffee shop and a wine bar.

Just order the carrot cake at Queen of Tarts. Trust me.

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