Monthly Archives: March 2018

WHY WE LOVE BIG CITIES – I DREAM OF NY, I DREAM OF EUROPE

For a little over a year, I have been living in Los Angeles. I haven’t yet warmed up to the city to the extent that I feel comfortable to call it my home; yet, when I first arrived to Los Angeles I absolutely loved it. Why? The beaches, the weather, the mountains, the proximity to both ocean and snow, the diversity, the food, you name it! The creativity! There are so many people that come to this city with a vision of making their dreams a reality. So many artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers. I felt surrounded by people that understood my desire for a creative life. Yet, I haven’t been able to call it home.

After a long inner search, it finally dawned on me. I miss that constant novelty I got in New York City. Where all I had to do was step outside my door without worrying about a car or parking and I knew I could find a world of possibilities. An adventure awaited. LA is a big city, and unfortunately, not the best example for public transportation. There are great pockets to the city. But having to drive to them takes away from the spontaneity that I personally crave.

I am drawn to travel. I dream of a European home. Weekend trips to different cultures by simply jumping on a train; different architecture, different languages spoken. European cities are built for the human scale, for walking; for experiencing architectural beauty every few steps. I see that in my future, but for now, my craving goes to the concrete jungle in the East Coast. New York still holds my heart, even with all of its imperfections (aka. the subway at rush hour).

Turns out, my craving of novelty is a very basic human need. We are biologically disposed to want to be in locations with variety, with differences, with complexity. We all have different ways of fulfilling this need. Perhaps many don’t even realize why, or how to fill it. There is even research that suggests humans are healthier when we live among variety. That the cities of the future, especially here in the US, that are built for the bottom line, could cause even more depression – among other health issues. Boredom increases cortisol levels more than sadness.

Imagine the cumulative effects of working and living in the same dull environment. Day after day.  Ughh.

Yes, I realize this took a dark turn. It all started with a sunny happy description of Los Angeles. The wonderful city of Los Angeles. I truly do think it’s beautiful. It does need to work on it’s infrastructure for better public transportation. With so many artists in the city, I don’t think it is living up to it’s best potential just yet. For now, I am here to point this out, but I see myself moving back to New York City. After all, I know I have unfinished business with that town, and with that, be closer to my beloved Europe.

Cheers!

What do you think? How do you look for novelty in your life?

WHY OFFICE WORK IS OUT AND TRAVEL WORK IS IN

A few days ago, out of sheer curiosity for my own past – prompted by my love/hate relationship for Facebook memories – I decided to scroll through my own profile. I went deep. Scrolled past photos of friends who I haven’t seen in a while, funny videos I had shared, political articles, and a post about remote living. I stopped short. Around two years ago I has shared an article from Fast Company about co-living spaces for digital nomads. I remember at that point the idea of living a location independent lifestyle by working on my computer and being able to move around freely was the stuff of dreams. I thought travel while working usually required a company sending you out on business trips. I hadn’t realized that in out internet age, traveling freely while working, was not only for a selected few, but millions were already on this path.

Here we are in 2018 and I feel reconnected with that idea. I have become increasingly aware of the digital nomad lifestyle; and with that, I have also become aware of the fact that I am most definitely not alone. Today, 82% of millennials have said that they are more loyal to their boss if they have flexible work options. We are just not all wired for the 9 to 5 work schedule!  For example, at the time I write these words, it is 3:05 am in Los Angeles (where I currently reside). Not to say I normally find myself writing at 3 in the morning; but many creatives types find themselves in the night owl category.

The 9 to 5 work day was created to maximize efficiency at the time of the industrial revolution. The idea was: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, and 8 hours of sleep. Makes sense. Thing is, the world in quite different today than it was at the peak of the industrial revolution, and we shouldn’t have to adhere to those norms. My internal clock most definitely does not want to adhere to those norms, and shouldn’t have to.

Fortunately for me, and for many entering the workforce today, the rules are changing, and they are changing fast. Companies are adopting the remote work philosophy, and there are many other companies that operate completely on a remote workforce. In fact, by around 2030, the Millennial majority will likely have done away with the 9-to-5 workday entirely.  Insert happy dance.

Photo by Nubia Navarro

This is exciting for many obvious reasons. To me, since travel and discovery are some of the things which most exhilarate me, I don’t want to just be able to control the hours I work, but to be free to choose my location. After all, many of us humans are still nomadic at heart, we have been nomads for 99% of our existence. Nomad lifestyle, count me in. It is not my desire however, to move locations every few weeks, but to be able to see the world without being limited to an office space; and by having to waste another hour on commute to the office where I would sit on my laptop and use the internet.

My generation wants to get to know the world outside of a two week allotted vacation time. We are making it happen. There are more and more companies each year that are born based off of that desire. Companies like Roam, WiFly, Remote Year, and Hacker Paradise cater to digital nomads. Some are designed to help people jump-start their digital nomad career, others are for more established remote workers.

As of now, the future seems promising, and I am excited for that seed that was planted in my head over two years ago. Even though it has taken me until now to start searching for real solutions and ways to accomplish it, I am certain it will happen for myself, or any of my fellow wannabe citizens of the world.

Cheers!

Would love to hear your thoughts! Anyone else a digital nomad?

The New Way to Plan Your Trip To Brazil

It was winter in Boston. Cold, windy, icy, oh yeah… and I was diligently going to class every day, freezing my hand because I just had to hold a cup off skinny vanilla latte in my hand even if I didn’t have gloves on – I was always losing my gloves. The decision had been made, I was going to Brazil for spring break. Sao Paulo to be exact. I dreamed of escaping the February snow and arriving in the tropical Brazilian city. I had worked out the numbers, all I had to pay for was the occasional meal and my plane ticket. I was staying in my friend’s home in Sao Paulo, therefore I was getting to travel like a local, with a local. Perfect. I’ll soon be clubbing in Sao Paulo, beachin’, shopping, and eating pao de queijo (my mouth waters just thinking about it).

After all of that imagining, daydreaming, and talking about my plans, I unknowingly convinced my roommate Patricia to join me that week. I was excited. I never thought she would come with me, and my Brazilian friend was happy to accommodate us both. We would have such an amazing time! Right? For the first time, my Venezuelan passport afforded me an advantage over Patricia’s American passport. I could freely travel to Brazil without the need for a visa. Patricia, could not. She had to pay a 160 dollar fee for a tourist visa, and go through all of the bureaucratic pain of waiting. Waiting in a line, waiting for approval, waiting, waiting, waiting. I understand that quite well, after all, that is the process I had to go through when changing my status here in the United States, or visiting for that matter. Quite annoying.

Photo by Raique Rocha

We were two weeks away from our trip and Patricia was scrambling to figure things out. Guess what happened. It was too much of a pain to go to Brazil, she went to Puerto Rico instead. Where Patricia happens to be from. I went to Brazil, and did all of the things I mentioned. Although I did quite a bit more clubbing than I expected.

Even though the application process to travel to Brazil with a United States passport is complicated, and I imagine it turns away a few tourists from countries requiring visas; turns out, Americans still represent the second largest source of tourists for the South American nation. The first being neighboring Argentinians.

It seems Brazil is aiming to boost its tourism. In a smart move, the country created an electronic visa program. Now tourists can apply to their visa online. An E-Visa; which costs 40 dollars. Quite a difference from the 160 dollar fee. Since Brazil implemented this earlier in the year, it has seen an increase of 80% in visa applications for Americans. Not too shabby.

Of course, there are still quite a few people that would like to see the visa waived. Why is it that with my Venezuelan passport or most European passports there is no need for a visa? Simple: Brazil has a reciprocity clause. If you require it of them, they will require it of you.

Since I went to Sao Paulo I haven’t felt the need to return. If I needed to go through the process of getting I visa, I wouldn’t even think about it. The city reminded me of my own tropical city of Caracas. Maybe a tad less dangerous and a lot bigger – but the feel of the place was the same, and the temperature felt the same. Maybe one day I’ll go back and explore Rio and it’s beaches. For now, the world is quite big and I can always visit somewhere else. Brazil is working on becoming a friendlier destination for tourists who need visas. Perhaps other countries should take their cue from them.

Cheers!

Would love to hear your thoughts!

U by Uniworld, Cruising for a Younger Crowd

I haven’t been on a cruise ship in years. I always enjoyed them but I have found to prefer local discovery, while enjoying great accommodations and locally-inspired food. I like to feel as if I am part of the city I’m visiting, instead of an outsider looking in. Even though cruising can be incredibly fun, the journey was more about the cruise than the spots we were visiting. Oh, and anyone my age was definitely in the minority.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon the name U by Uniworld. You guessed it, it’s a cruise. A river cruise to be exact. I have never taken a river cruise, nor have I even thought about it. Which is exactly why these two 120 passenger ships exist: to bring in an audience strictly from the ages of 21 to 45 (sorry mom!).*

I needed to know more, so I went on a binge of information; on which I found that the two ships are respectively named A and B. Beautiful and original right? I think it’s charming, in a way. The A travels through central Europe, visiting cities like Amsterdam, Budapest, and Cologne. The B, with a sleek black exterior, offers a Parisian experience, exploring the Seine – perfect for a foodie.

View this post on Instagram

What. A. View. 😍 #TravelforU 📷: @bystephwu

A post shared by U by Uniworld (@ubyuniworld) on

Other than the fact that only a certain age group can get onboard, the main difference I have found, one which appeals to me the most: the local experience. The ship takes you through major and trendy cities, and lets you explore like a local. Nights out clubbing in the city are included. What? Yes, that hasn’t happened in any ship I have boarded before.

Let’s not forget about the fact that apparently, if you are a foodie, you will be very happy with the food onboard. Given that each meal is uniquely inspired by the places the ships are sailing through. I am sold. I am sold. I am sold. Oh yeah, and there are rooftop yoga classes, and mixology classes on board. I am sold again.

U by Uniworld opens with its first public trip this April 2018. So there is still time to be one of the first passengers. I wish I could go this year! Maybe next, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. I am all for river cruising now.

Cheers!

Elizabeth

Would love to know what you think! Leave me a comment below or contact me!

*Since writing this article, the company has removed the age restriction

Airbnb’s Growing Pains and Luxury Travel

It seems like Airbnb is growing up, just like brands usually do… or, well, people.

My parents like to travel in style. They prefer to stay in hotels where all their needs will be met. They will most definitely not stay in a stranger’s home. Luxury hotels are usually a preferred choice. Who can blame them? On the other hand, I – aka their millennial daughter – don’t mind other accommodations as long as they allow me to stay in the city I want to visit.

There is a little caveat to that; if I can stay in a luxury accommodation, I most certainly will. I love a good hotel! And even though I have thought about it plenty of times, I have actually never stayed in an Airbnb. For someone who loves to travel so much, sometimes I can’t even believe I haven’t tried it yet.

It shouldn’t surprise you though, because apparently, most millennials will rather stay in a hotel as well; with Airbnb being an option after exhausting the possibility of a full-service hotel or staying with family. In fact, only 23% of millennials polled in a study by Resonance Consultancy said they prefer staying in an apartment/condo short-term rental.

Airbnb wants to shed the idea that they mainly cater to couch-traveling solos (which is definitely an exciting way of traveling, but not for everyone). Now they want to appeal to market niches like family vacation and business travelers. They are expanding into the luxury space with Beyond Airbnb and Airbnb Plus. They are growing up essentially. I understand. I am also beginning to crave traveling mostly in luxury, just like many people my age.

Photo by Chevanon

Will that mean a change for Airbnb? Will their brand and what they represent change? Perhaps. Their goal is to become a one-stop-shop for travel (including booking airfare). They have a long way to go though, most luxury travel agents still don’t trust booking their clients on Airbnb, even their luxury properties. It’s a bit of an uphill battle but they will have to prove themselves, let’s see how this goes.

What do you think of Airbnb? I would love to know. Comment below or contact me!

Documentary Review: “A World Not Ours”

“The old will die and the young will forget”

These are the words attributed to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He was referring to Palestinian refugees and assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians would never try to return to their homes.

In the documentary film “A World Not Ours,” filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel shows us that this statement is certainly untrue. The young Palestinians are now old refugees and they still hold on to the idea that Palestine will once again be their home. The young Palestinians however, are trapped in a sort of limbo. Being stateless is their lifestyle, and they only become nationals of a country when the FIFA World cup comes around every four years.

Fleifel’s film is sentimental and takes a very different approach to documenting the refugee crisis. A very personal approach given that some of his own family is still trapped within one kilometer of Ain el-Hilweh; the refugee camp home to over 70 thousand people in the south of Lebanon.

Ain el-Hilweh, Palestinian refugee camp housing over 70 thousand refugees

“To me, going to Ain el-Hilweh was better than going to Disneyland” remarks Fleifel in a voice-over. He says that it took him years to realize that the people in the camp were not there by choice. Through old home footage of children playing football in the streets, and celebrating the FIFA World Cup, he outlines his skewed childhood views and contrasts them with footage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the disillusionment of those who are trapped at the camp.

He interviews his friends, uncle, and grandfather, which in turn humanizes the faceless statistics about the plight of the refugees. His friend Abu-Eyad puts our everyday conflict into perspective, when he remarks that he would like to “go on a mission’ and blow himself up, because he sees no future for himself – trapped in a place where his everyday life has absolutely no meaning.

Abu-Eyad in his home, in Ain el-Hilweh

“Palestinians really fucked us over, I wish Israel would just massacre us all…” says Abu-Eyad while contemplating his future.

This film was filled with contrasts. The music was upbeat, yet the feeling inside the camp was one of helplessness. Is this how human life should work? They belong to no state so they are not allowed to live a fruitful life? The immediate answer should be no. That is not however, how thousands upon thousands of refugees view their life. Just like Abu-Eyad, they see no future, and they see no meaning.

You can watch the trailer here. Also, don’t hesitate to comment, or contact me to let me know what you think!