Tag Archives: opinion

The awakening that is Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem, Palestine

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I woke up looking forward to my venture into Bethlehem. I had been in Jerusalem for 3 days now and after several walking tours and meetings with state officials, I was looking forward to experiencing something more.

Before visiting Jerusalem, I was very much like the average American traveler and their first time in Israel. I knew about its significance religiously and I knew a lot of the struggles politically. I also knew whatever was already shared online; that it was beautiful and exciting and a wonderful place to visit.

What I didn’t know much about was what laid on the other side, in the West Bank. In fact, what I did know was shaped by American discourse and that narrative told me that this was a place of danger. Terrorism stemmed heavily from these parts, as did the terrorists themselves. In talking to anyone at home about my visit to the West Bank their first question was, “Is it safe?”

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The Story of an Iranian Refugee: My Sister

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The discriminatory and un-American immigration ban set forth by the U.S. President has targeted and impacted many innocent people and has lead to the detention and deportation of families, professionals, students, and other hardworking members of our communities, legal residents and Green Card holders. The ban heavily targets immigrants of Muslim countries.

Though this feel very personal, I did not want to come on here to explain why I have joined protests and supporting groups that are fighting against this bigotry. 

Instead, I wanted to open up the platform for someone else, a former refugee herself, to share her story and the story of many others targeted by this ban.

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Letting go

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This morning I woke up at 3:30AM to drive my 19-year-old son and his girlfriend to the airport.

They were heading on their very first international trip alone, together. It’s her first time out of the country, his first time traveling abroad as an adult without us.

As I showered them with a check list of last minute items, made them confirm 4 times at least that they had their passports, gave them all the things to watch out for and be careful of, I could hear the excitement and nervousness in their voices and it made me smile.

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How to prevent your teen from driving drowsy

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‘Tis almost the season for festivities, gatherings and all that is good as we prepare for the holidays and having our college teen back home.

It’s also the time for exams, which means long nights of studying and even longer drowsy days. This is a fact. What is also a fact is that chances are your teen, like mine, will try to drive somewhere in this low-attention state.

Most parents, and certainly many teens, don’t really think much of driving a short distance while a bit exhausted. However, the number of teens who do this is rather high and quite dangerous for the rest of us. In fact, new research conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), revealed that 56% of licensed teens have admitted to driving when they felt too tired to drive their best, 32% are driving drowsy at least sometimes and nearly 1 in 10 teens have completely fallen asleep at the wheel while driving. One in every ten. Those are scary numbers.

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November was hard, but it also changed my life

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It’s the last day of November 2016 and what seemed like a hopeful time at the start of the month has become somewhat filled with uncertainty for so many. Who knew 30 days could pack such a punch?

However, this isn’t my first rodeo. There have been a lot of really tough times – which honestly have felt even tougher because they have been so much more personal in the past. I have allowed myself all the emotions that come as a result of these past few days (ahem, the election), but I also quickly was able to identify what I wanted my role to be and how I wanted to approach it all. For all its crappiness, November has brought some really positive changes too.

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Letting go of the parental wheel, to help your teen be safer behind the wheel

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One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as a parent was learning to let go once my oldest hit those teen years. Of course, any parent will tell you that “letting go” is something we are always doing, but when they become teenagers, and especially when they get their license, letting go is both heart wrenching and more necessary than ever.

Our teens need more opportunity to learn to navigate the world on their own, mistakes and all, without the hand holding and the constant check-ins. But it’s even more important to consider how our concern as parents can actually make it more dangerous for them, especially when they are driving.

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It took me a year to write this, and just as long to return to me

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It’s been a little over a year since I gave a keynote speech at TBEX Florida. As far as my speaking career goes, keynoting at TBEX was a highlight for me. The topic, where I shared with the audience a very vulnerable experience during a press trip, had more to do with confronting my own insecurities, realities of the stereotypes I face regularly as a plus-size woman, and finding the courage and strength to move on to my goals, rather than specifics about the press trip itself. It was so well received and touched so many people who felt I had spoken to their own realities that comments and feedback were coming at me for many months afterwards. Giving this speech was therapeutic and empowering because I opened up and spoke about issues that I face and struggle with as a professional travel blogger and as a member in a space that doesn’t really acknowledge people like me and instead rewards and celebrates limited beauty standards, youth, and sex appeal over quality of content, experience, and knowledge. It was incredible to come off that stage having exposed all my vulnerabilities while simultaneously sharing how I overcame them and triumphed, and then to be surrounded by men and women of all ages, shapes, and walks of life who told me their own stories and thanked me for sharing mine – it was, to say the least, an incredible high.

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My kid is an independent driver…now what?

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My oldest son will finish his freshman year of college this year and it already feels like he’s been at it for years. There are certain things that I have learned to not stress about as much anymore – like will he figure out how to cook himself a healthy meal, without burning down the dorm? Will he be distracted by the fun college activities too much to focus on the serious stuff? Will he shower…I mean, for the benefit of his roomies, at least?

Yup, I don’t worry about those things anymore. He’s managing it all really beautifully, enough so that sometimes I forget he is still not fully matured.

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When you are a nature-lover, and of color, in America

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Recently, I decided to take my boys out for a day of hiking. There are some short hikes around the reservation near our home here in  New Jersey, but I wanted something a bit more challenging, so we headed an hour away to Pennsylvania to explore the trails along the Delaware Water Gap.

It was a gorgeous day, a nice break from the humidity and intense heat we have felt so regularly this summer. The kids and I were in high spirits and we were excited to explore nature. The radio kept playing all our favorite songs and we cracked jokes. There was no traffic and the drive was easy.

Then I spotted it. A pick-up truck had merged in front of me and across its back cabin window was a large sticker that took up almost the entire glass. It was the confederate flag. I felt my body get tense. I honestly don’t know if we had crossed the border into PA yet, it really didn’t matter. I was heading into rural America, alone, with my kids.

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Remembering Priorities and Tips for Avoiding Burn Out

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I finally finished unpacking two suitcases that sat on my bedroom floor from trips that I did back-to-back with very little time at home. This is the dream life of many travel bloggers and writers I know. It is definitely not mine.

For the past couple of years I have traveled an average of 2-3 times a month. My reason for traveling so much is to get work. To stay busy and always have something to deliver. But somewhere in 2015 I found myself feeling very, very tired. And towards the end of 2015, I found myself less excited about having to pack yet another suitcase.

It was time to rearrange my priorities and avoid burn out. The following is the thinking process for assessing what I needed to remember before I could figure out what I wanted to do. We all have different experiences and journey, but I found that stopping to remember how I got here and why I do this was important. I follow this up with tips for avoiding exhausting yourself out of what you love.

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