This fucking pandemic

On perhaps the most perfect night of the year, I arrive to Jess’s house. It’s early evening, which means in the spring, it’s still light outside.

The winter in Las Vegas has come and gone.

I powered through it fighting the temptation to call it a day when the sun sunk behind the Spring Mountains at the ungodly hour of 4 p.m., casting the Valley into darkness.

I’ve always rebelled against the early hour of sunset in the winter in Las Vegas. That, and the unforgiving dry stick-your-head-in-an-oven heat in the summer are the two worst natural aspects of Las Vegas.

The summer, I can live with.

But, the winter and its dark and short days are harder.

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Even when I lived in London and the days were relegated to less than half shrouded in a cover of clouds or at best an icy cold winter sun, I managed. Maybe it’s because it was London and living in London was one of my dreams.

Las Vegas? That’s a different story.

Winter 2019 – 2020, I made it through easier than most.

I was in and out of the city starting in October, going from Thailand to Vegas to New York for my James Beard Dinner back to Vegas for my James Beard Dinner followed by the holidays and then living and breathing the vegan dining month I created and run in Las Vegas (this year marked its expansion into two new markets, too, so there’s that).

Then, it was on to Madrid and Paris. Then, just as the hour hand ticked back to old daylight life, I was in New York and Chicago.

I barley had a chance to register the late afternoon sunsets and hibernation in my living room in front of my gas fireplace before the daylight was brought back to me.

Then, when the pandemic happened, I became brutally aware of every ticking minute.

I watched from my couch as the sun crept behind the mountains later and later and suddenly it was 7 p.m. but it was still light out and my brain and body were confused, because holy-fuck-I-was-home-all-day-and-still-it’s-nearly-bed-time.

As the days stretched longer and the shutdown continued, I began a deep dive into me.

Sitting with Jess — six feet apart because I’m not messing around — on her front porch is the first time I’ve seen her in two months. The last time was when I was at her house filming her making a meal for Vegans, Baby.

She’s an accomplished chef and in the year we’ve known each other, we’ve gone through so many life changes together.

Relationships.

Careers.

Career-defining moments.

Cities.

Drunken-morning-after-milestone-events eating a terrible breakfast followed by just-past stumbling-regaining-our-composure-strolls through crisp fall days in Central Park.

Tonight, a lifetime has passed when we stand in our own bubbles of airspace.

I want to hug her. My arms have hugged exactly one person in two months. My arms know and miss embracing another warm body.

We instead smile and acknowledge the weirdness. The fucking pandemic.

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We sit outside on plastic Adirondack chairs drinking wine as the last gorgeous night of spring displays her greatness.

Ducks waddle down her street, a cute coupe out for their nightly exploration of tufts of grass and puddles.

A hummingbird flits in and out of the yard.

The sun begins to set and the puffy clouds turn a cotton candy pink.

We talk. Catch up. Recall our lives pre-COVID. Pre-shut-down.

My brain kicks into the “if only” mindset as we sit together.

If only …

I had appreciated that meal at Esther’s Kitchen the night we were there drinking $40 bottles of wine and dipping fresh, homemade sourdough into tickle-the-back-of-your-throat olive oil.

I had taken the time to be aware. To be present. To have gone through New York and the Beetlejuice Bar knowing I wouldn’t have the option to go back anytime soon.

Savored being at an event where I could whisper in someone’s ear.

Cherished a moment of intimacy.

Sitting on her front porch, that same wave that has washed over me regularly since the pandemic happens again: I wasn’t grateful enough.

I was grateful after it was gone.

I miss hugs. And lingering dinners. And the excitement of a new crush. The anticipation of a first kiss. I miss making plans. I miss friends. I miss going to a grocery store without a goddamn mask.

But, I don’t miss the tightness in my chest. Feeling like I needed a minute.

Just. A. Minute. I would tell my mom on the phone. I just need a fucking minute and I can’t because I have to work and I have to make enough money to pay my bills.

The pandemic removed those pressures from my life. I suddenly had more minutes. I had no money, but neither did anyone else.

I had time.

And space.

And daylight.

And an empty calendar.

I. Had. Me.

This fucking pandemic has brought out the worst in people. I won’t even get started on the entitlement, the selfishness, the reckless advice being dolled out from armchair experts (ok, shit, I did get started).

It’s also brought calm, And mountains of gratitude. And self love. It’s made me appreciate my life. My breath. The strength my body gains each day as I move deeper into yoga poses. Cuddling with the animals who live with me. The smells of garlic and onions cooking in a pan. Being able to write. The time the sun sets. My friends. My world.

Yes, it took a pandemic to put a pause on the go-go-go of my life and force a hard re-set. And yes, I come from a place of utter privilege that my experience is one of blessings.

Tonight, with Jess, there was a feeling of old life. Of comfort. Of being in a pre-pandemic world that evolves around love and friendship and trust.

I’ve had this rare insight into myself the past few days. A renewed desire to write and write and write and take no prisoners.

It took a fucking pandemic, but here. I. am.

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There's more to Las Vegas than The Strip. Looking for day trips from Sin City? Here's five day trips to enjoy from Las Vegas.

On a Normal Life

Water is cascading down from the ceramic-tiled roof of my apartment. Under the gray summer sky, even the terracotta orange of the tiles are muted. And the rain, with its plump droplets and thunking onto the sand-colored stones below my window, has a whirr about it. A gentle humming that hums along with my heart. Which has been racing a lot lately. Racing overtime.

Yesterday marked six years since I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Six years since that first definition, that first identity of myself (aside from travel blogger and publicist) which defined me.

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5 Day Trips that Will Make You Love Las Vegas for Different Reasons

Las Vegas is a lot of things. It’s a desert town rooted in the tourism industry. It’s a mecca for foodies; a hotbed of night clubs; a gamblers go-to. But, it’s also a place to use as a launchpad for checking out what’s outside of the mega resorts, hip Downtown and ‘burbs, so Expedia.com asked me to share my insiders tips.

In fact, Las Vegas boasts some incredible spots that aren’t far from vacationers’ hotels, but an entire world apart from what people know and expect of time spent in Sin City. To get you ready for your unique Las Vegas vacation, check out the many hotel options at Expedia.com.

Where to head on a free day in Las Vegas?

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A reflection of life two years at home after traveling and living abroad.

Two Years of Home

A reflection of life two years at home after traveling and living abroad.

December 15, 2015.

I remind myself regularly of this date. When I’m up at night, my brain whirrs as I count the days, weeks, months and now years since I turned my back on expat life.

It seems like no time has passed at all, and yet all the time in the world has passed.

December 15, 2015.

It hovers over me at times, gently bringing back memories.

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On Gratitude

on-gratitude

“I’m moving home,” I announce to my parents when I touch down in Philadelphia, fresh off a few days in Las Vegas.

“What?” they both ask, confused.

And, I get it. I really do.

Only few weeks ago I had told them I was meeting with immigration lawyers in Madrid to see how I could get another visa … to see if I could continue living my expat life for another year.

But, then it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks: the last thing I wanted to do was stay in Madrid. Stay abroad. I was tired. Mentally. Physically. Every -ally you could imagine, that was me.

I had tossed the idea around with them a week earlier, after piercing my nose, and the words just flowed out of my mouth with zero censor:

I want to move home.

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Street art in Downtown Las Vegas, a part of Life is Beautiful, but can be viewed year-round.

Street Art in Downtown Las Vegas

Street art in Downtown Las Vegas, a part of Life is Beautiful, but can be viewed year-round.

Las Vegas isn’t a city known for street art. In fact, I’m confident that most people would never even put the two together.

That’s changing.

Thanks to Life is Beautiful, a three-day festival that takes over Downtown Las Vegas, the city is upping its street art cred.

This year’s LIB runs from Sept. 23 – 25 and blends music, art, food and inspiration to create a massive festival that brings incredible acts and garners national attention.

Sure, I love the music. But, what I really love is street art, and the street art in Las Vegas for Life is Beautiful makes me all kinds of giddy.

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Why I Canceled My Trip to Spain

Why I canceled my trip to Spain via solo female travel blogger dtravelsround.comWay back in December, when I was rushing through the process of returning to American life and giving up my Spanish student visa … and life as an expat … I purchased roundtrip tickets for my mom and I from Madrid to Vegas.

“When would you like to return to Madrid?” The agent had asked over the phone. With Google Flights’ trusty fare calendar displayed on the screen, I scanned for the cheapest option: July 25.

“July 25th,” I said, not giving it much thought.

And thus, I had two tickets to return to Europe seven months after I left. The tickets were cheap. Half of what they are if flying return from the States to Europe.

I’ll be ready to hit the road by then.

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It’s a Beautiful Life

Do you fear re-entry? Are you running? A look at how life is different when you're happy.
It’s a mild evening in Las Vegas. Hot, by winter standards if you don’t have desert (or jungle) blood.

The sun has already begun its descent behind the rugged, snow-covered peak of Mt. Charleston to the west of the city. The mountains on the east, the ones covered in trees, are a deep purple. Sunrise Mountain, the naked, red, jagged mound to the northeast of The Stratosphere, glows a dusky pink.

It’s a serene setting, despite the fact I am sitting in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. A beautiful life outside my windows.

It’s home.

Americas Blog Blog Featured Expat Life Nevada

This Roller Coaster

This roller coaster: comparing life to the popular amusement park ride.I stand over my sheet cake from the grocery store. Clad in an oversized sweatshirt with puffy paint splattered on it in pastel colors, I move my gel-soaked (à la 80s one-hit-wonder Samantha Fox), crunchy spiral-permed hair out of my face and readjust my roller skate clad feet to maintain my balance.

Next year, I will be in the double digits, I think to myself.

At nine-years-old, I was already ready to become a grown-up. To own those double-digit numbers like the champ I knew I was.

But, at that young age, at Wheel-A-While with my elementary school friends, that grown-up life seemed a lifetime away.

I’d look at my parents, in their 30s, and think to myself: I’ll never get to that age. It’s SO. FAR. AWAY.

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