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Last-Minute Getaway to Indonesia: Bali & the Gili Islands in 10 days

It’s not often that the stars align for a last-minute bucket-list adventure, but in October, we hit jackpot with the winning combination of last-minute time-off and award-points availability. And just like that, we were off on a last-minute ten-day trip to Indonesia.

For many, the name “Bali” conjures the images of a tropical paradise made famous 20+ years ago. However, we had been amply forewarned that undiscovered waters are far in the past. Now, only a three-hour flight from Australia, Bali’s southern beach areas are over-developed and over-crowded with tourists that never leave the resort towns to explore or experience the rest of the island. It’s akin to an Australian Miami. There are plenty of snobs who have claimed that “Bali is spoilt.” Equipped with that warning, we planned an itinerary to find the oasis beneath the tourist façade. And Bali did not disappoint.

Knowing we’d be fresh off of 27+ hours of flights/layovers, we laid out the following game plan: unwind with a few days of relaxation, get active with a few days of exploration, and finish with a few more days of relaxing before journeying back to the NYC hustle.

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Nusa Dua

First stop: unwind and relax after too many hours of flying to Indonesia. Luckily, there is no shortage of beaches within 20-30 minutes of the Denpasar International airport. However, we’d been warned about the beaches in Bali. As all Bali beaches are technically public beaches, most are over-packed with throngs of holiday goers and an increasing amount of garbage. So we did our research and realized we had two options: find a great resort with a secluded beachfront or go to one of Bali’s off-the-beaten path options. We ended up doing both, starting with the first option so as not to add additional driving hours after a long-international haul.

We can’t say enough good things about the St. Regis Bali Resort in Nusa Dua. It was, in fact, the most luxurious stay either of us has had, and an indulgently relaxing place to kick off our trip. When we landed at the International Airport, the St. Regis had arranged for the airport staff to pick us up at our gate and whisk us through both immigration and customs, so that we didn’t have to wait in the hours-long arrival lines for foreigners. The resort is beautiful – with a large open lobby that shows off the manicured resort property all the way to the ocean. The service is second-to-none. The beachfront is kept immaculate and the staff from the swim-up pool bar also serve beach guests. There are two giant pools that snake through the property – a regular pool with giant billowy cabanas and a swim-up bar adjacent to the beach – and a salt-water pool “river” that snakes through the property. The on-property restaurants were good, the cocktails were excellent, and the staff can arrange for any type of activity – we went parasailing. We spent a very-out-of-character two days not stepping foot off the property and loved every minute of it.

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Pool & Daybeds at the St. Regis Nusa Dua

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Parasailing in Nusa Dua

Ubud: Bali’s cultural center

After settling into vacation mode in Nusa Dua, we made our way to Ubud. Ubud is known as the cultural center of Bali, and is also central geographically, so we decided to use this jungled city as our base for the middle part of our trip.

Our very first impression of Ubud was…not great. We were dropped off in the center of town, and we were absolutely taken aback by how touristy the city felt. The narrow, decrepit streets (and even more narrow sidewalks) were crammed with backpackers and trinket shops. Our first-impression was uninspired. But, after a few days, we realized that the city’s notorious beauty was quite literally behind the tourist exterior. Once we stepped off the streets, even into a restaurant, the shop would open to the back revealing serene backdrops of rice paddies. Do yourself a favor, when you see the Starbucks, walk through it – the back opens up to the most gorgeous temple on a pond of lotus flowers – almost completely hidden from the view from the street.

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Lotus Temple hidden behind the Starbucks…

What to do in Ubud:

  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces – breathtakingly lush and green

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  • Go on an extreme swing over the rice terraces – not for the faint of heart!
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Totally terrified on this swing!

  • Campuhan Ridge Walk – a ~15-20 minute light hike/walk with lush, sweeping hilltop views, that will take you right into town. Artisan shops and cafes dot the path, so give yourself time to meander and shop. Our favorite was Wayan Rana, whose minitature paintings were a must- and he gives art classes from his studio. We loved this!

 

  • Try the famous Kopi Luwak, the most expensive cup of coffee in the world (definitely worth a taste) on a coffee plantation. Also known as “cat shit” coffee by my family, it’s made from coffee cherries eaten by wild civet cats…whose digestive systems remove the acidity. A pound of these beans goes for $100-500!
  • Go to the gorgeous Yoga Barn property for a yoga, meditation, or other holistic wellness class (or stop at the café for some delicious food & great ambiance)
  • Shop! There are dozens of artisans – painters, wood carvers, batik printmakers, sculptors, jewelers, kite makers, etc. – we recommended having a driver (there are no shortage of taxis everywhere!) take you to a few of the crafts villages outside of downtown, where you’ll get to see the craft process (and get better prices).
  • We hiked up Batur, the volcano ~2 hours drive from Ubud. While the sunrise views were beautiful, each of us had done enough sunrise hikes to note that this would be one we might skip. Be forewarned, you’ll have to leave at 2am to arrive in time for sunrise. Bring serious sneakers or hiking shoes – and LOTS of layers, it gets seriously cold. It’s a real hike, but doable. If you’re short on time in Bali (or have done other sunrise hikes in your travels), you’re not missing much by skipping this one.
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Sunrise atop Mr. Batur

  • We also went to a Balinese healer in a nearby village. It was a unique experience. Definitely do your research before you go – this is a good place to start.

 

Eats!

Ubud has no shortage of great restaurants. A few of our favorites:

  • Balinese Home Cooking is a must. Balinese people live in compounds made up of multiple family homes for various generations of kin and several gardens centered around a family temple. None of this is visible from the street, as these compounds are behind high-walled fences. The family-run Balinese Home Cooking invites you into the family compound, where you’ll get a rare glimpse into modern traditional Balinese life, set in the family’s beautiful gardens. The food is incredible and the prices are unbeatable. The owners are keen on encouraging cultural exchange and will come by and answer questions about how Balinese families live.
  • Waring Babi Guling Ibu Oka 3. Made famous by a raving Anthony Bourdain, this roasted suckling pig joint is an Ubud institution. Just the best. Go early as they run out quickly. Once you’ve visited the original, which is sparse, try out Ibu Oka’s sister’s ambient downtown restaurant, Rai Pastis, which opens up to rice paddies, and gets Ibu Oka’s pig daily as well.
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Christian beyond excited for this roast pig

  • Mozaic. Everyone told us about Mozaic, and it did not disappoint. This was fine-dining at it’s best. The restaurant tops Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 restaurants in Asia and is rumored to be gunning for Indonesia’s first Michelin Star. We ordered from the multi-course pan-Asian menu, made from local ingredients, and sat in the heavenly twinkle-lit garden. The cocktails were inventive, the food was the best we had the entire trip, the service was top-notch. And while expensive relative to the rest of our meals in Bali, it was worth every rupiah (and let’s be honest, it wasn’t any more wallet damage than a meal in NYC).

Where to Stay in Ubud

Do yourself a favor and stay just outside the city, avoiding the noise and traffic of downtown. We stayed at Villa Saraswati a mile north of downtown and located along the Campuhan Ridge Walk. Owned by a retired Australian couple, Villa Saraswati was heaven – and they thought of everything. It’s a 5-room, adults-only villa, and has won Trip Advisor’s best hotel every single year. The rooms all have outdoor showers, the pool is beautiful, and the staff is helpful and lovely. They provide rides into town or to the top of the ridge walk and were extremely helpful with restaurant reservations. I’ll admit that we daydreamed about buying and living in the property more than once – it’s that wonderful. Couldn’t recommend it any more highly.

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The pool at Villa Saraswati – perfect after a long day of touring in the sun

Up North: Amed

The Gili islands are only accessible from Bali by boat – and so we knew we’d need to get to one of the coastal towns to make the trip. We spent an evening in Amed, in Northeast Bali, which has world-renowned diving – and is especially famous for a Japanese WWII shipwreck, only a few meters from shore – one of the only wrecks accessible for beginner divers. If you’re going through Amed, we recommend the 25-minute drive to the Lempuyang Temple to see the Gates of Heaven, an awe-inspiring “split gate” style of Hindu Balinese architecture. We stayed and ate at Baliku Dive Resort, which was clean and well-appointed, with terraces that overlook a magnificent sunset over the sea. Be warned: there are dozens of steps to get to any of the rooms – not for the faint of heart.

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Gates of Heaven at Lempuyang Temple

The Gili Islands

We settled into the last leg of vacation in the picturesque Gili Islands, situated just off the coast of Lombok Island, Indonesia. There are three islands in total: Gili T (the largest and party island full of young backpackers), Gili Air (quieter with a mix of nice bars and restaurants) and Gili Meno (the smallest and quietest of the three). We choose Gili Air to get a mix of seclusion with options for grabbing a bite or a drink. The speedboat took ~1.5 hours from NE Bali to the Gilis, which are only about 3-5 minute boat one from the other.

Gili Air was off-the-grid paradise. Motorized vehicles aren’t allowed. No cars – and no motorbikes. To get around the island, your options are a bicycle or horse-drawn cart. The island itself is tiny – it took us about 10 minutes to bike the diameter from one side to the other – and would’ve only been about 45 minutes to go around the entire perimeter.

In Gili Air, we found the white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters that many mistakenly attribute to Bali. And while it took a little additional traveling, it was absolutely worth it.

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Gili Air is off-the-grid paradise (and see how close it is to Lombok in the background?)

Where to stay in Gili:

The Mandana Suites and Villas is Gili’s only boutique hotel. Newly constructed, it was a breath-taking accommodation. We took full advantage of our room’s private plunge pool and outdoor shower. The Mandana also had the best breakfast we had the entire trip.

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The Mandana was a gem

Where to Eat & Drink:

  • Warung Sunny – the best Indonesian food we had on the Island, and different from the Indonesian food we had in Bali (like the rest of Indonesia, the Gilis are Muslim, and so the food traditions are slightly different). The chef also does cooking classes here!
  • Mowie’s Bar for sunset drinks and live music
  • Pockets & Pints – if you need a break from Indonesian food, this new pita-pocket sandwicherie is a must. They also have dozens of fun games to borrow during your meal.
  • Musa Cookery – Baja-California-style vegan café, perfect for coffee, bowls, and light fare
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Sunset drinks in Gili Air

What to do in Gili

We mostly took this time to recharge but if you are into SCUBA diving or interested in getting your license, being in Gali is the perfect place and time to do it. We recommend 3WDive; the highly professional instructors were lovely, helpful, and just a lot of fun (I had no interest in doing scuba and ended up LOVING it!). The diving here is spectacular and this is a fairly inexpensive place to get your PADI. While we didn’t get certified we were able to go on a few dives to “discover SCUBA diving.” We spent an afternoon under the sea with a dozen giant turtles. Simply incredible.

 

Final stop: Seminyak

We spent a full day traveling from Gili to Seminyak (speedboat to a bus…that gets caught in a LOT of traffic near the coast), but we wanted to stay near the airport our final night to break-up the traveling. Seminyak, one of the more luxurious resort-towns, is filled with great restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. We had no shortage of recommendations from friends. As our luck would have it, I came down with a virus, and so we did none of the aforementioned. The silver lining is that we were staying at the majestic Oberoi Hotel & Resort. If ever there was a place to spend your final 24 hours doing nothing but unwinding and relaxing before a long international flight, that hotel would be a top contender. Not quite what we had planned, but no complaints from me (And if you’re looking for Seminyak recommendations, send me a note and I can pass them along!).

All in all, our 10-day itinerary had just a little bit of everything from relaxing to exploration- and we got to explore Bali & the Gilis beyond the standard resort-only trip.  While Bali wasn’t entirely what we expected, we fell in love with some of its more-hidden charms, and were so thankful for this last-minute escape.

 

 

 

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6 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent

Chances are you’re familiar with Google Flights. The flight search engine does everything you assume it would, like locate flights based on your ideal outbound time, inbound time and number of stops. After all, it’s the same technology that powers both KAYAK and Orbitz.

The site also includes a whole host of features that aren’t so easy to imagine, probably because they’re so unimaginably amazing. In some cases, this online tool can beat out any human travel agent. Don’t believe us? Check out these six tricks below.

1. Don’t know where to go? Search for a general region, and see a map of specific flight prices.

Just Google “flights to Europe” and click the Flights tab below the search box. A map of the entire continent will pop up, along with prices. You’ll be able to compare how much it would cost to fly to London versus Paris — and you can even filter the options by type of airline, duration of flight and price you’re willing to pay.
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2. Or go with “I’m feeling lucky” to let Google plan your dream trip.

What “I’m feeling lucky” does for search, it also does for flights. Click on a map within Google Flights, pick your departure spot, and click the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button tolet Google choose a destination based on your search history and what’s popular. You’ll also see a bar graph letting you know when flights will be at their cheapest.
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3. Google will tell you which flight is the best bang for your buck.

The “Best flights” box tells you which flights are the best combinations of price and speed, so you won’t have to decide whether a layover is a good idea or if a nonstop is worth the extra buck. Google also highlights its top pick in green. It’s like having your very own travel agent say, “If I were you, I’d do this.”
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4. It’ll also show you the lowest price for any given day on the calendar.

You can see prices for your trip on every day of the month, with the cheapest days highlighted in green. A bar graph at the bottom lets you know how prices will likely drop or rise over time.
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5. Automatically see swaps that will save you money.

If you search for a flight that has a similar yet less expensive option, the “Tip” bar lets you know how much money you’ll save if you’re willing to fly earlier, later or from a different airport. Then you can weigh the cost and decide!
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6. Once you find a potential flight, let Google monitor the price for you.

If you find a flight you like, then hit the “Save This Itinerary” button and let the Google Now app track its pricing. You can hit the app on your phone to see how prices are changing, and Google will email you if they dip dramatically.

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30×30: One new thing every day until I turn 30

When I started college, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish by age 30 – things like take an around-the-world trip, run a marathon, travel cross-country, learn a new language, go on a big trip all by myself, and get a graduate degree (amongst other things).

Bucket list items: visiting the Taj Mahal [2007], running my 1st NYC Marathon [2009], climbing Machu Picchu [2011], getting my MBA from Columbia Business School [2013]

Bucket list items: visiting the Taj Mahal [2007], running my 1st NYC Marathon [2009], climbing Machu Picchu [2011], getting my MBA from Columbia Business School [2013]

In 30 days, I turn 30.  What now?  The Mundane list!  In the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday, I’m attempting to do one new thing each day.  I’m not  talking about big, bucket-list items, rather (mainly) small life-hacks:  things like finally enrolling in Global entry, figuring out a good personal contact management system, and seeing the snow leopards in the Central Park Zoo.  30 items, some mundane & others more exciting; when I turn 30 next month, I’ll start the decade knowing that my personal finances/communications/apartment/health/life are organized & ready to rock.

One new  thing per day , for the next 30 days until I turn 30.  30 by 30.

  1. 30×30 DAY 1Enroll in the Global Entry travel program (wish I had done this before traveling to 50+ countries).  TSA pre-check, here I come!
  2. 30×30 DAY 2: Get my digital life organized with a personal assistant app (EasilyDo)!  Between email programs and apple contacts and calendar invites & maps, it’s tough to keep everything straight, so I installed EasilyDo, a personal assistant app.  For example: it automatically posts birthday messages to friends’ facebook walls (I  select who), merges duplicate contacts,  keeps track of my boarding passes and flight information (ready to go day-of – no more searching through emails!), and many, many more tasks.  Check the website, but I’m totally obsessed.  It has saved me 59 minutes and 30 seconds since installation (it keeps track)!  That’s nearly 2 full Kardashian episodes!Screenshot 2013-12-18 10.33.29
  3. 30×30 DAY 3: ‘Un-baby’ my Facebook feed.  If yours is anything like mine,  your Facebook feed been hijacked by overzealous new parents who treat you to the details of every diaper change.  No more! Rather is a plug-in that will replace babies (or anything else you want -I  didn’t actually choose all babies, but rather  “sponsored posts” “movember,” some baby-related things, and “politics”) and will replace it with kittens (ok, I chose kittens, you can choose anything i.e. “bacon” or “beaches”).  Check out the first successful replacement [Goodbye, Progressive Insurance ad!  Hello, Kittens!
  4. 30×30 Day 4: The lazy person’s guide to cleaning out their closet.  Every so often, I go through my closet and get rid of an item or two here or there; I drop off too-tight work pants at Salvation Army or put a pair of old boots on Ebay  but there are always that require more thought or work  than the average sweater & so it just sits in my closet for years. Here are some solutions I love: For the truly lazy amongst us who want our stuff sold for us  Thread Flip has an amazing White Glove Service that will  send you a UPS label & then take care of all the rest (photographing, researching, listing)!  It’s free to do and you receive 60% of the sales price.  Have an ugly bridesmaid dress taking up real estate in your closet?  NewlyMaid will send you a prepaid mailer & will donate (to Clothes4Souls), recycle, or upcycle dresses – ecofriendly & easy!  And lastly, for some reason, I always hold on to bigger ticket items such as coats, but the last few frozen days in NYC reminded me how little good those coats are doing sitting in my closet.  For those of you in NYC, New York Cares has an incredible Coat Drive every year, with locations on nearly every block.  Sure, it’s not a prepaid label, but going the one block  in winter weather to donate my old coat reminded me why it was worth the walk to do so.
  5. 30×30 Day 5: Get drinks with The Cutest Boy from high school.  You all know who I’m talking about.  Everyone had one.  Most likely, he was the cute upperclassman when you were a freshman,  the captain of a varsity sport, and your 14-year old self ‘like, totally’ swooned over this ultimate teenage crush.  I like to think of catching up with this friend as a present to my formerly smitten 14-year old self.  And no, dear readers, there’s no app for that.  
  6. 30×30 Day 6: Digitally backup & securely store the contents of my wallet. I’m in a constant battle to not leave my credit card at the bar, my wallet in the cab, etc.  Until now, luck has been on my side, but I’ve been wanting  to backup the contents of my wallet: everything from my credit cards to driver’s license & health insurance card – just in case.  I bought oneSafe, the rave-reviewed password manager, which not only saves passwords (how many times have I had to reset a forgotten Twitter account or search for my airline miles login??), autofills, and syncs across devices, but also will scan credit, ID, and other cards…I downloaded it this morning & within 5 minutes I had a digitally backed-up life.  Oh, and security?  It’s not only double (or triple) passworded-, but it’s literally unhackable.  
  7. 30×30 Day 7: NYC Photo Booth Bar Crawl for the birthday of a friend who loves cocktails & paparazzi , we’ll be starting at the Ace Hotel and working our way through some of NYC’s best speakeasies, dive bars, and lounges that have photo booths…stopping in for some photographic evidence at each. [Full credit to RW for the idea & the itinerary!] .  We made it to 6 of the stops: The Ace Hotel (Flatiron), The Tippler (Chelsea Market), The Standard (Meatpacking), Crocodile Lounge (East 14th Street), Otto’s Shrunken Head (East 14th St) – photo booth was out of order, PDT (ok, ok, there was no photo booth there, but it was a great place to end the night)Photobooth bar crawl
  8. 30×30 Day 8: Visit the 9/11 Memorial For a variety of reasons, I just haven’t gone .  So it’s my plan to  finally  visit this evening. However, they make it very easy to visit.  Visitor passes are available online for $2 a person for a specified entry time – no worrying about waiting, timing, or cost. And this week (through December 31st), the memorial is open late for extended holiday hours.  
  9. 30×30 Day 9: Send out holiday cards  I’ve never been ‘grown-up’ enough to get my act together for holiday/new year’s cards.  And let’s face it, it would probably just be pictures  of me & my cat anyway.  Thanks to Paperless Post, it’s not too late for me (sitting here on Xmas Eve) to send out beautiful New Year’s cards online.  I love how easy it was to import my contacts from gmail as well as the beautiful designs (many are free!).  And no, the cards are not  of me & my cat.  
  10. 30×30 Day 10: Unplug on the first day of vacation.  One full day: internet free.  No email, no googling information, no online weather, no spotify, no apps, and certainly no instagram or facebook.  I’ve been unplugged before, mainly on vacations in countries that have limited/no internet (ahem Burma! Cuba!), but rarely by choice, and never with the intention of making a vacation truly a vacation from the start.  Great reminder to be a little less connected for the remainder of vacation.  Except, of course, to post this.
  11. 30×30 Day 11: Learn to play tennis!  That’s it, first tennis lesson in the books!  Absolutely loved it & can’t wait to take another!2013-12-27 15.24.51
  12. 30×30 Day 12: Compile my travel Wish List 
    Having recently realized that I have enough miles to book a true “bucket list” trip in the next year-ish, I’ve started thinking seriously about where the next adventure should be.  While I haven’t booked anything yet,  here’s the  list (and I can think of dozens more!) in no particular order:

    • South Africa
    • Tanzania (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, & Zanzibar)
    • Balkans: Bosnia & Herzegovina/Montenegro
    • New Zealand
    • Costa Rica
    • Central Asia: Russia & Uzbekistan
    • Laos
    • South of France
    • Egypt
    • Rwanda
  13. 30×30 Day 13: Go to a pro football game  Dolphins vs. Jets!
  14. 30×30 Day 14: Back up all my photos (past & future!). After losing all my photos from my around-the-world-trip (aside from the ones on this blog!) by getting hit with a double-whammy failed-external hard-drive + laptop crash, I vowed never to let my photos go un-backed-up again.  Fast forward, and here we go.  I wanted to ensure that I not only backed up my photos from the past 2.5 years, but that going forward, any photos I add will automatically be backed up.  Combining two apps that I already frequently use [Dropbox + iPhoto], here is the genius blog post showing step-by-step instructions so that I will never lose my photos again.
  15. 30×30 Day 15: NYE in Miami!
  16. 30×30 Day 16: Use the 1 Second Everyday app to capture…wait for it, 1 second every day.  My friend posted a video of his last 130 days of business school, with 1 second every day stitched together with this app.  And it was awesome.  So, cheers to capturing 2014.
  17. 30×30 Day 17: Financial Check up Part 1:  Organize my finances.  New year, new goals and one of mine is to get my finances in order before turning 30.  From the basics of creating a good monthly budget based on my income, fixed costs such as rent and discretionary spending (restaurants, travel, & shoes!)  to figuring out the best way to pay down my business school loans & maximizing debt payoff in relation to retirement savings, I started using Learnvest.  Learnvest has an amazing dashboard.  Today, I started with the basics of importing my financial information (credit & bank accounts, student loan accounts, etc.), which automatically files each transaction into appropriate folders (so I can easily click and see what i spent at, say, Cafe Grumpy, last month).  I also began to input some big picture monthly budget items as well as some of my big picture goals for the next few years (payoff graduate school loans, appropriately save for retirement and life).  Tomorrow I have my free call with one of their financial planners which will be a great complement to my amazing financial planning team @ Gassman Financial Group.  Once I have some plans in place, the dashboard will help me see in once quick glance, where I am, what I need to be doing, and how to stay on track.Screenshot 2014-01-02 15.18.33
  18. 30×30 Day 18: Finances Part 2: Start making plans for  retirement, savings, mba student debt.  Now that my financial dashboard is set up (and I have a great snapshot of all my accounts as well as awesome auto-budget based on filed purchase), I began a few of the LearnVest free bootcamp programs including the 10 day “retirement in style” plan and the 3 day debt bootcamp.  Each day I get an email with a few steps that take about 15-20 minutes.  Will keep everyone posted on how it goes!
  19. 30×30 Day 19: Track my activity & sleep  Using the Jawbone UP (thank you Kate H for letting me borrow yours for the day!), I’m tracking my levels of activity as well as my sleep patterns (particularly given that I get an average of 4-5 hours per night)…stay tuned for the report!
  20. 30×30 Day 20: Ask a career ‘crush’ to coffee.  There is one person I’ve always aspired to meet &  today I shamelessly tweeted at him to try and get 20 minutes on his schedule…(@yaelsnyc)
  21. 30×30 Day 21: Learn to filet a fish.  
  22. 30×30 Day 22: Learn to code. Since I began tinkering with my company’s website a few months ago (easier to make changes myself than continuously go to the web developer!) I’ve wanted to begin to learn to code.  Using Code Academy, in 30 minutes, I learned the basics of HTML & CSS & made my own website.  (Ok, so it’s not so pretty, but you get the idea).  Really easy, really fun.
  23. 30×30 Day 23: Sit in an audience for a live TV show!  Today we’re going to one of my favorite cooking shows, ABC’s The Chew with Mario Batali & Carla Hall (and others!).
  24. 30×30 Day 24: Sound like a grown up. Stop using verbal fillers. When it comes to these verbal viruses (e.g. like, um, uh, right, you know), I’m especially  guilty of using “like” to indicate what someone has said, to modify adjectives, and to make approximations.  These speech disfluencies not only break the flow of speech, but they undermine the speaker’s credibility and authority, weaken messages, and distract listeners.  I’m only halfway through the day, but I have committed myself to being more conscientious than ever of my speech – this article is helpful in identifying alternative phrases to use & tips to stop using verbal fillers.
  25. 30×30 Day 25: Tackle a new recipe: make my Mom’s Challah.  Growing up, I came home to a house filled with the smells of baking challah every Friday afternoon.  Between the baking, the braiding, the everything…I’ve never attempted to make it.  Until now.  And now my kitchen smells delicious.  My Mom’s recipe, braiding instructions, and bracha here: challah copy
  26. 30×30 Day 26: Actually learn how to use Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote for a few weeks as a notetaker.  I love being able to search through notes and the auto-syncinc between  the version on my computer and iphone, but I still didn’t quite get the “Evernote-is-the-best-thing-ever” obsession that many people have.  What I realized is that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what the productivity app has to offer.  Here are the two best articles, one with some tips and tricks from Business Insider and the other is how “stop using Evernote wrong” and make it “stick.”
  27. 30×30 Day 27: Get my fortune told.  Neon signs for palm reading, tarot cards, and astrology readings are as ubiquitous in Manhattan as the Duane Reades and Starbucks cafes that adorn every corner.  And I have been curious.  I figured there were two ways to go about this: one was to treat “discovering what my future has to offer” as a serious matter, making the proper investment of research and money as I would a big electronics purchase.  Instead, I decided to go the “under $20” route of the place I pass every day on my way to get coffee.  Oh, and it was awesome.  Is it bad luck to share your fortune like it is to share birthday candle wishes?
  28. 30×30 Day 28: Try a new cuisine: Laotian! Thank you to everyone who gave me restaurant suggestions on Facebook.  We went to Khe Yo in Tribeca which had fabulous food, drinks, and ambiance.  And now I have many other places to try in the coming weeks (including Malaysian, Uzbek, Serbian, Singaporean, Filipino, and a few others!).
  29. 30×30 Day 29: Switch to online banking!  If nothing else, my Learnvest bootcamps on savings and retirement (see Days 17 and 18) have taught me that I’m missing opportunities by leaving my money in a Citibank account.  After checking bankrate.com for the different rates and fees, I decided to open an online savings account with Barclays, which has one of the highest APYs in the country (11x the average savings account), and will be opening several other sub-accounts to separate out different savings goals.  And now, I feel like I’m almost a grownup!
  30. 30×30 Day 30:  Say “yes” all day on my 30th birthday!  What an amazing day with people I love.  And aside from a last-minute invitation to Sundance, which I just couldn’t make happen (although I tried!), I said “yes” to everything else, all day.

And thus concludes the 30×30 project as well as my almost-year of living publicly (since enlisting the help of my online community and social media  to overturn the insurance ruling about my cancelled spinal fusion in June).

Stay tuned for more adventures…

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We’re featured by New Limits Health!

We’re being featured on the New Limits Health Website which is coaching & training business with programs that focus on personal fitness, nutrition, motivation, work-life balance, stress management, and marathon & triathlon training.

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In February 2012, I travelled to Nicaragua with Johno, the founder & a friend from business school, in what is now the New Limits Health Healthy Living retreat!   I posted pictures & thoughts about our relaxing, wonderful time practicing yoga, learning to surf, and eating incredible (& healthy!) food in Maderas Beach here on the A Broad Abroad blog which was also featured in the CBS Bottom Line.

Be sure to check out the events page at New Limits Health for information about upcoming retreats.

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The Fall 15: A Broad @ Home, 15 Things to do in NYC this Autumn

Following a fun & successful Summer bucket list, I’ve created a List of 15 Fall Fun activities to try to get to before the weather becomes too cold & the holidays descend upon us…

autumn-nyc

Do

Storm King – this Hudson Valley sculpture landscape, an hour north of the city has been on my radar for years; when better to go & explore than on a crisp Fall day? 

Then She Fell – on the heels of summer’s Sleep No More, this is another immersive, though more curated, theater experience with Lewis Carrol & Alice in Wonderland as the backdrop, limited to 15 people per show 

David Sedaris at Carnegie Hall – my favorite humorist at a space I’ve always wanted to go to sounds like a winning combination to me

Nitehawk Cinema – first run + repetoire movies, a menu designed by Saul Bolton (owner of Saul in Boerum Hill, BK) that you can eat during the movie & cocktails pre & post?  Looks like I need to take that L train to Williamsburg this fall.

Amateur Night at the Apollo – How it is that I didn’t get here in my 10 years living uptown astounds me. 

Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation – Pending Thanksgiving plans, I’m hoping to catch this holiday ritual, held the night before Thanksgiving near the Museum of Natural History

SLT– now that I can finally exercise again, I want to check out Strengthen Lengthen Tone, which has been described as “if cardio, strength training, and pilates had a baby.”  Can’t wait to try it with my favorite yoga instructor, the incredible Goldie Oren http://goldieyoga.org/classes.html

Eat

Annisa – Anita Lo’s classical French restaurant with a slight Asian influence has been on my list of places to try since it re-opened following a kitchen fire in 2009

NoMad – in the theme of checking out what’s in my new neighborhood, I can’t wait to check out Daniel Humm’s restaurant in the lobby of the NoMad Hotel

L’Artusi – this Italian-inspired West Village restaurant is one of two holdovers from the summer list

ABC Cocina – Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s newest, Spanish-inspired, restaurant at the Flatiron interior decor shop.

Taco + Table tennis Mondays at Salvation Taco – Despite its Murray Hill location, I’ve been keen on checking out the April Bloomfield taqueria.  When I found out that every Monday night there is a doubles ping-pong tournament, I was completely sold.  N.B. I just learned out to play ping pong in the past week or so, but that won’t stop me any more than Murray Hill will.

Drink

Dead Rabbit – The other summer holdover…which I will get to eventually.   With 72 cocktails and a list of superlatives and accolades as long as this list, not to mention a dear friend who works there, how can I not?  (Framed alternately, how have I not yet?)

Pearl & Ash – This should probably go in the dinner list, as the food looks as incredible as the wine & cocktail list, but this newly opened restaurant in the bowery is heralded by the New York Times as “the city’s most exciting place to drink wine,” so we’ll keep it on the drink’s list for now.

Hill & Dale – LES cocktails made with care set in old-world décor celebrating analog entertainment

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The End-of-Summer Recap & 15,000 Views!

For me, the advent of autumn ushers in nostalgia alongside sweater season; perhaps it is a combination of back-to-school (another year older!) + the Jewish holidays (another year over!).  This fall is no different, and with a big birthday looming on the horizon, I could wax poetic for a while.

But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll acknowledge that A Broad Abroad hit 15K viewers last week (!?) and publish the results of my Top 20 NYC Summer Bucket List:

GO & DO

 Sleep No More:  The immersive, highly-interactive theater experience loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in several stories of an old warehouse in West Chelsea theatrically redone as an abandoned hotel, the McKittrick.  Our group of 12, separated from the start, all had intensely different experiences following different actors throughout the evening, which we then recounted over incredible live-music and cocktails at the bar after.  Highly recommended.  Wear sneakers.

sleep no more

Imran Qureshi installation on Met Roofdeck – this large-scale installation consisted, essentially, of red acrylic splattered on the Met Roofdeck to represent recent bombings in Lahore, Pakistan.  Needless to say, I didn’t quite “get” the art part of it.  However the Pakistani cocktails (oxymoron?) were delicious and the views of Central Park and the city skylines as awe-inspiring as ever. Below, Liz with what essentially was a vodka sno-cone.  Yum.

Met Roofdeck

Met Roofdeck

Liz & a vodka sno-cone

Liz & a vodka sno-cone

Moma – Rain Room – “A field of falling water that pauses wherever a human body is detected, Rain Room offers visitors the experience of controlling the rain.” (MoMA website).  And yes, we waited for hours for this.  Totally awesome, totally worth it.

MoMA Rain Room

MoMA Rain Room

Punk Costume Exhibit @ The Met – An interesting look at the history of “Punk” through fashion, both high and low-brow. 20 minutes start to finish, making it my kind of museum exhibit

EAT

DiFaras – On an unsuspecting corner in the ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, is what The New York Times, Anthony Bourdain, Zagat, and Frommers call “the best pizza” in NYC.  Each pie is handmade by the 78 year old owner, Domenico DeMarco.  It can be a 1-2 hour wait from the time you put in your order with his daughter (more if he takes a nap!), which makes for great people-watching as your explore the neighborhood.  The entire place smells of fresh basil and the pizza is worth.the.wait.  Tip: Go early, not hungry.

DiFara's pizza

DiFara’s pizza

Hester Nights @ the Eventi Hotel – this weekly summer gathering of artisinal food vendors in the  former food wasteland surrounding Penn Station is a welcome change of pace.  Live music, streaming movies, and several great options including Portuguese pao de queijo, asian dumplings, inventive tacos, and Filipino desserts.  Every Thursdays, Summertime only.

Hester Nights at the Eventi Hotel

Hester Nights at the Eventi Hotel

Cronuts @ Dominique Ansel Bakery – Is any explanation needed for this one?  Worth.the.wait. YUM.   Tip:  Also get the incredible DKA pastry and enjoy breakfast in the garden in the back of the bakery.

"coconut cream filling with a little lime, cinnamon sugar, and coconut frosting with toasted coconut."

“coconut cream filling with a little lime, cinnamon sugar, and coconut frosting with toasted coconut.”

ABC Kitchen – your standard farm-to-table concept executed perfectly.  Nothing not to love.

Smorgasburg – More options to choose from than room in my stomach, which only means that I’ll need to go back.  The DUMBO market had the added benefit of sitting outside by the carousel and enjoying the view of the water and the bridge.

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DRINK

Select summer fridays @ Le Bain – a great way to kick off the weekend on a roof bar (on top of the Standard hotel) that looks out onto the Hudon & lower Manhattan.  Kick back on a lawn chair in astroturf and enjoy the DJ and the people watching.  One caveat: drinks were slowwww to arrive.   

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La Birreria roof deck @ Eataly – cold beer, hot day – need I say more?  This roof deck on top of Flatiron’s Eataly would’ve been better had it not been the middle of the July heatwave (no fault of it’s own), but the house beers were excellent and the staff jovial (or was it heat-stroked delirium?).  Tip:  Come early to beat the throngs of after-work drinkers.

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Gallow Green roof bar @ the Mckittrick hotel – far and away one of the most enchanting places in NYC, this rooftop bar (with live gypsy-jazz-esque music on the weekends) serves up incredible cocktails in a transportive atmosphere with a speakeasy feel.  So wonderful, I went back again and again and again all summer.  Perfect for a date.  Tip:  make a reservation online ahead of time.

gallow green

TOTAL:  12 of the 20 places on the wish list (see the entire list here)

Now…to write a Fall To-Do List?  What should be on it?  

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Abroad @ Home – My Top 20 List for NYC this Summer

Summer in the City + List making.  Could there be a better combination for a type-A adventurer like me?

The inspiration for this comes from one of my best friends who publishes an annual list of the 100 things he’d like to do in NYC each summer  (Follow his adventures  here).   Given that the recovery from spinal surgery  will somewhat truncate my summer in the city, 100 items seemed too ambitious, so I decided on a Top 20.

Shakespeare in the Park (photo credit: NYHabitat)

Shakespeare in the Park (photo credit: NYHabitat)

In no particular order:

Do
Governor’s Island (did summer 2014)
Brooklyn Flea

Moondance at Hudson River Park

MoMA PS1: Warm Up
MoMA – Rain Room
The Met – Punk Costume Exhibit
Sleep No More
Imran Qureshi installation on Met Roofdeck

X Shakespeare in the Park X

Eat
L’artusi

Hester Nights at the Eventi Hotel

DiFara’s 

Cronuts @ Dominique Ansel Bakery

ABC Kitchen
Smorgasburg

Drink
Select Summer Fridays at Le Bain
Gallow Green Roofbar at the McKittrick Hotel
La Birreria Roof Bar at Eataly

The Dead Rabbit

Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club

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