DUBAI

Hey everyone!

It’s 9 PM on a Friday night and I’m sitting down to write this blog post about my trip to Dubai. We actually arrived home a bit earlier than expected due to the fact we (my boyfriend and I) caught some sort of virus. Pretty sure it’s the flu. I’m still recovering from it, and half-asleep right now, so excuse any typos. πŸ˜‰

We chose to visit Dubai for a few reasons, but mostly because I’ve heard amazing things from multiple friends of mine. For the last 7 days, we have been exploring this exciting and bustling city. From the insane plane ride we took to get there, to swimming at sunrise on top of our hotel, to the crazy skyscrapers that towered over us, to meeting the locals in the middle of the desert…there were SO many new experiences that I’d never had before. Some of these experiences were incredible and eye-opening, and others were not exactly my favorite. In every blog post and instagram caption, I always aim to be as honest as possible–so I’m here to tell you all the good and not so good parts about our personal trip in Dubai.

The Flight…

The flight to Dubai was INSANE. I’ve never flown Emirates before and as soon as I boarded, my mouth dropped open. A week before our trip, I received a special “promo” from the airline offering to bump us up to business class, and I was ecstatic! However, I had no idea what I was actually in for.

The Emirates business class is out of a dream. There is a separate deck and check-in for Emirates business class/first class, and a separate deck of the 2-story airplane. Right after we stored away our carry-on luggage, we were greeted with champagne and fresh orange juice from the stewardess. The seats have so much extra leg room, and recline into a bed so you can sleep for the entire duration of the flight (which we both did, very comfortably).

The business class lounge features a bar that serves drinks and small snacks for the duration of the flight as well, and a separate seating area near the bar if you’d like to relax. Before our flight, I put in a special request for a vegan option–and they provided us with bread, fruits, and vegetable-based options which was really nice.

The overall experience was truly amazing and made the flight to Dubai such a breeze.

Arriving in Dubai…

Arriving in Dubai gave me such a rush of energy considering I’d never been before and have only heard such great things about this big city. The airport is huge, and really strict with security, so we had to go through a security check upon arrival to the airport. After going through customs and claiming our bags, we found our driver to our first stop — Shangri-La Dubai, which is located downtown.

The Shangri-La is the perfect spot if you are looking for a real city-life feel. The location reminded me of New York in a way, except everything is more spread out. There were a lot of business men and groups running in and out of the hotel at all times, and night-life seemed prominent there. Our hotel room was a superior king room overlooking the city skyline, with a pretty decent view of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world!)

My favorite part about the Shangri-La was the observation deck and swimming pool area, which had the most insane views of the Burj Khalifa up close. It was incredibly breathtaking to arrive at the hotel, drop our luggage off in our room, and start taking photos on the deck right away! The next day, we woke up for sunrise and swam in the pool overlooking the city and the amazing views of the Burj. The hotel was kind enough to also set up a private breakfast on the deck for us, consisting of fruit platters, chia pudding bowls, avocado toast, and juices!

I would say that this hotel in particular did have the most nightlife vibe to it–which is an amazing thing if you love to stay up late. We grabbed dinner one night super late at their Japanese restaurant located inside the hotel and the place felt like a nightclub — loud bass music and lots of people, but really AMAZING food. Meir and I both ordered the mushroom tofu rice bowls and chili edamame and loved it. Personally — we are not huge party people and we like to be very lowkey, so the vibe was a bit out of my comfort zone but I did still enjoy it.

Β 

Our First Night…

The first real night we spent exploring in Dubai was at the Burj Khalifa light show and the Dubai Mall.

The light show was so magical. Hundreds of people crowd outside the tallest building in the world to see an array of lights and pictures appear on the Burj, while romanticized music blasts in the air. There were so many people from all around the world taking photos and videos as we watched.

After the show, we headed into the mall which was right next door. The Dubai Mall is the biggest mall in the world! I don’t even think we were able to cover a quarter of it. There were hundreds of designer shops, big and small, everywhere we turned. There was an enormous food court, stacked with dozens of fast food joints and dessert shops. There’s a hotel inside of the mall and a hospital, as well as an ice skating rink, a full-sized aquarium, and probably a million other things I didn’t even get to see in time.

The Safari…

We ended up doing a safari tour the second night we were in Dubai. The safari was not what I was expecting to say the least, just because we didn’t really get to see much even though we were out the entire day. We drove through the desert, which was definitely a cool experience–but since we were with a large group of people, it was hard to experience everything the way we had wanted to. If you do decide to go on a safari tour, I recommend doing a private one so you can relax and take your time experiencing everything.

The coolest part I would say about the safari tour was towards the end. We visited a site in the middle of the desert surrounded by palm trees and these cozy bedrooms that you can actually stay in overnight. There were a bunch of locals, also known as “Emiratis”, who were making food for everyone, herbal teas and coffees, and playing Arab music. It was nice to immerse ourselves in that “authentic” type of experience for a night. The best part about the night though by far was meeting one of my followers–who happened to be in the middle of the Dubai desert at the same exact time! So random and SO amazing!

The Palm…

The next hotel we stayed at was on the Palm, which is a man-made palm tree shaped island consisting of dozens of hotels. This area has much more of a beachy feel because all of the hotels have their own beachside area. I love the ocean and laying out in the sun, so this was definitely right up my alley.

For the next few nights, we stayed at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray property–which is seriously out of a movie. The hotel replicated an Arabian palace. Everything was so lush and ornate, from the entrance to the pools, to the spa, to the rooms–all of it was so over the top and luxurious. When you walk in, you are greeted by a huge sparkling fountain and golden plush sofas in the seating area. Once we arrived to our room, we were greeted by a HUGE over the top marble bath tub, a giant king sized fluffy bed, and Arabian palace decor.

My favorite part about this hotel was by far the spa–voted one of the best in the world. The women’s pool is a dream–featuring galaxy star ceilings, that make you feel like you’re in outer space while you are swimming through the warm water.

Β 

The Rooftops, Spice Markets and Miracle Garden…

The rooftops in Dubai are inaccessible to the public unless you have a connection. We met with another content creator who lives in Dubai and was fortunately able to give us access to this amazing rooftop with direct views of the Burj. The photos we took there were so stunning. Although it was totally worth it for the photos, getting to these rooftops is never an easy task and required lots of climbing. πŸ˜‰ This night was actually the night I started feeling a bit under the weather, and the flu symptoms started to hit us both.

The Spice Markets were super interesting to go to, and nonetheless very far from where we were staying on the Palm. They were about an hour drive from where we were, and unless you are closer I don’t highly recommend going here as a top destination spot. We only spent about 20 minutes here, and all of the shop owners kept grabbing our clothes and our wrists, telling us to stop and buy things. I’m used to this type of hustle in NYC, but I personally didn’t feel comfortable being there for too long. It was 99% male populated, with nearly no women other than a couple of tourists, in site. If I wasn’t with Meir, I would have felt unsafe.

The Miracle Garden was also pretty far from where we were–but it was worth the trip to see its beauty and to get some amazing photos. The entire garden smells like all different types of flowers, and everything is so colorful and vibrant. The music in the garden was honestly a bit trippy, kind of like Alice in Wonderland, luring you into the different alleys and making you feel like you’re on some sort of spring fever high. I liked it, but I also felt a bit overwhelmed with the hundreds of tourists scurrying everywhere.

The End…

Our last part of the trip was experienced at the One & Only Royal Mirage, alongside the beach. This hotel was one of my absolute favorites. We felt super welcomed right as we arrived and were greeted with the biggest smiles at check-in. Our room was super roomy and beautiful, with a stunning balcony view overlooking the property and the ocean.

Because Meir and I both had a virus, we opted to stay on property for the rest of our stay and relax. The Royal Mirage made this simple for us–and set us up with amazing spa treatments and meals. I enjoyed my first traditional Hammam experience, which is essentially a type of cleansing treatment and body scrub. I wish I could have captured this but it was super private and such an intimate, cool experience. It was actually nice to take a break from my phone and just enjoy the hour spent at the spa for the day.

At night, we decided to go to the night restaurant and lounge called DRIFT to get some more photos at sunset. It was so gorgeous and modern, and they had a huge swing overlooking the city skyline. Unfortunately, we were both pretty sick by this point in the night and after a quick dinner, we went to bed and had to wake up at midnight to catch our flight back to NYC at 2:30 AM.

Overall…

Overall my experience in Dubai was awesome. I had so much fun exploring this city and there were a lot of cool opportunities I’ve never had before — including riding through the desert, shopping in the biggest mall in the WORLD, seeing the tallest buildings I’ve ever seen in my life, and meeting local people who’s families have been there for hundreds of years before all the crazy architecture and nightlife. That being said, I don’t think I would ever live in a place like Dubai. Yes, the city life is something I truly love, but it was a bit too overwhelming for me in terms of the attractions. Everything is so extremely over the top, luxurious and surrounds this idea of wealth and fortune. It’s amazing to visit, but to live in a fantasy world 24/7, I would have to pass.

Have you ever been to Dubai? If so, would you want to visit? I would love to hear your experience or opinion of it!

-Lyss <3

Follow:

Living with PCOS and Why I Went Vegan

Hi everyone! Bare with me since I’m currently in Dubai and it’s 2 AM here. I can’t sleep and this blog post may have a few typos or unnecessary words, haha.

So as (some) of you may know, I have completely transitioned into a vegan lifestyle, and I often get the same questions about it:

  1. Why are you a vegan?
  2. What differences have you noticed after being vegan?
  3. What made you transition?
  4. How long have you been a vegan for?
  5. What do you eat daily?
  6. Do you get enough protein?

After debating whether I should make this post or not, I decided I feel strongly enough about my lifestyle to fully discuss it and be open and honest with my followers. I know a lot of you may disagree or feel strongly about another lifestyle, which I respect. I honestly refrained from writing about becoming vegan simply because I feel that everyone is super quick to argue against it and attack others if they live a different type of way. I am not here to criticize other lifestyles, I am just here to share what mine is about. πŸ™‚

The Short Version of my Story

  1. I’m vegan for a few reasons. I love animals and I have such an emotional connection with all of them and any kind, so I don’t wish to eat them anymore. I also love the health benefits it provides, as meat and dairy always made my stomach hurt and I was constantly bloated/sick after eating them. (more details later in this blog post)
  2. The differences I’ve noticed after being vegan are amazing! I used to have a ton of health issues and now I feel so much healthier. I never get bad stomaches, my skin is always clear and smooth, and my hair is much thicker and healthier. I feel more energetic and happier eating vegan foods.
  3. I had a lot of health complications and that was the ultimate reason I decided to try becoming vegan. After I tried it out, I started educating myself more on the benefits of it and more about the whole process of where meat and dairy comes from, and it made me realize this was the best choice for myself.
  4. I have been fully vegan for a year now.
  5. I eat SO many amazing and delicious foods. What people usually don’t realize is that you can make almost any food in a vegan version. And usually it will taste just the same if not better. Some of my go-to meals include acai bowls, avocado toast, rice with veggie stir fry, veggie cheese-less pizza, quinoa, salads, tofu, veggie burgers, baked sweet potatoes and baked fries, avocado / cucumber sushi rolls, pasta with tomato sauce, etc. The list goes on!!! There’s so many options when going vegan. I eat lots of delicious but healthy carbs.
  6. I definitely get enough protein being a vegan. Green veggies like spinach, kale and broccoli have protein, as long as you eat enough. I also get my protein from things like all-natural peanut butter, cashew butter, hummus (chickpeas have lots of protein!), and my faves for lunch/dinner: tofu, seitan, tempeh, mixed with veggies — all valuable and major sources of protein. Chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are also a great way to get some extra protein in as well.

 

My (Very Personal) Long Version Story – Living with PCOS

From my point of view, I grew up in an Italian household and my diet consisted of meat, fish and dairy foods daily. I couldn’t remember a day I didn’t eat chicken as a kid. Chicken parmigiana was one of my favorite homemade dinners that my mom used to make for me a few times a week. So to say I’ve “seen the other perspective” is an understatement. I also judged vegans and said it was “silly” to eliminate all meat, fish and dairy because there was no real way of getting enough protein from just plants. My doctors convinced me that my diet also had absolutely no factor in my growth and development as a child, which I will elaborate on in the next paragraph…

As a teenager, I experienced a TREMENDOUS amount of hormonal issues that doctors could never pinpoint or give me straight answers about. When I was 12, my skin started to form white patches all over my face that were dry and itchy, and looked very strange. I also developed cystic acne all over my back, which was painful and difficult to control. When I confronted my doctor about these ongoing issues, they assured me it had nothing to do with my diet and lifestyle habits, but they could never tell me what the root cause of my skin issues were. At this age, I knew nothing about hormones and how they control majority of skin issues, especially on your face. All I knew was that “doctors know best” and they would prescribe me the right medication to fix everything.

After those skin issues, came a ton of other hormonal problems. My doctor informed me I would probably get my period by the time I was 13, based on my body development. Flash forward to 3 years later, I was 16 when I got my first menstrual cycle (which is super late) and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. 2 weeks before I got my first period, I was sitting in my bed and I felt a sharp, knife-like pain stabbing at my ovary. I was doubled over in the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life and had no idea what was going on. My mom rushed in and I explained what I was feeling, and she immediately knew what it was because she had dealt with the same issue as a teenager. I had a huge cyst erupting on my ovary. The pain lasted about 30 minutes before it completely subsided.

After this incident, I visited the doctor who performed a pelvic sonogram and informed me that a cyst had burst on my ovary and had caused me that excruciating pain. “Will that happen again?” was the first question I had, and all he said was that some people’s “genetics” will cause cystic ovaries to occur, and since my mom had experienced them, I would most likely experience them often too. I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I was so scared to feel that type of pain again in just a few weeks when my next period would happen. The doctor suggested I go on birth control to control my hormones and eliminate the cyst issue as much as possible. Birth control sounded like a great plan at the time, considering the amount of pain I had went through.Β  I experienced at least 5 more cysts, one equally as painful as the next, before I officially decided to get on birth control to try to regulate my hormones.

After being on the pill for just a month, I already felt its side effects slowing down my body. My PCOS had worsened. I had less energy, I started putting on weight, I started developing more cystic acne on my face, and I looked and felt so unlike myself. I was so stressed out from taking the pills and dealing with how I felt, and balancing school and work on top of everything, that my hair started thinning and falling out. I was a total mess inside and out, but I kept taking it and hoping it would eventually balance everything out. 6 months later, I was about 30 pounds heavier and more drained than ever. The doctor said it was in my head and I was “doing” that to myself, but the hormones are artificial and played with my mood constantly. I was seriously depressed and felt horrible about myself. I decided to go off the pill after months of trying to make it work for me with no positive results.

After gaining a lot of weight and feeling lost, I googled more holistic approaches to treating hormonal imbalances and to suppress the PCOS symptoms. After countless articles recommending me birth control (no thanks), I found a case study from a university on the 4th or 5th search page. It was buried in between dozens of other links recommending medication to treat patients with hormonal problems. The study said that people who engaged in a healthy diet and cut out refined sugars and processed carbs, and exercised regularly, saw dramatic improvements in their PCOS symptoms. By cutting out sugar, and training their muscles daily, insulin levels were improved, estrogen levels were improved, and the symptoms of PCOS were reduced drastically.

I decided I would do whatever it takes to heal my body without medication. I started working out every day, eating wholesome nourishing foods, and I stopped eating sugar (my weakness). I also started eating lower glycemic carbs (carbs that spike sugar super high can alter your hormone levels and affect PCOS so they’re not the best!) I kept up this consistent routine every day for 6 months. Slowly but surely, things started to change. I was less tired, I had shed off the excess weight I had put on during birth control, my skin cleared up, my hair was growing thicker, and I felt just BETTER. Still, my period didn’t come for those 6 months, and I thought maybe I would have to go on birth control again or try a new medication in order to get it. I kept pushing back the idea of the medication because I was so against it – I knew it wasn’t the “answer” for me, somehow. I kept believing I was going to heal my body naturally.

After another month or so, I suddenly felt nauseous during class. I left class early because I was feeling so sick, and I ended up going to sleep as soon as I got home. The next morning, I woke up and I had gotten my period – naturally. For the first time ever in my life, my body just worked all on its own. I was in total shock and disbelief. How could this happen?! I thought, but I knew exactly how it happened. I had taken control of my health and with time, my body had healed itself through a healthy diet and a consistent exercise program. I was ecstatic.

To make a very long story short, after I got my period, my body continued to get it at the same time every month from that point forward. My symptoms of my hormone imbalance were gone– no moreΒ  fatigue, no more cystic acne, no more weight gain, and I most importantly felt more and more like myself. My cysts on my ovaries disappeared. I continued to work out daily and maintain a healthy diet and with that, I felt stronger and more powerful. I felt like for the first time in years that I was normal.

Every time I get my period now, it still makes me grateful and appreciative to know that I’m healthy, my uterus is functioning, my hormones are stable and, I’m going to be able to have children someday. Through this entire rollercoaster of my health, I decided going vegan and maintaining a vegan lifestyle is the best way to stick to a clean, balanced diet filled with lots of nutritious vegetables and protein. It works for me and it makes me feel amazing, so I enjoy it and I’m proud of it.

Needless to say, I don’t have anything against others’ lifestyles. I feel that although it is my job to share my story to the people who follow me, I don’t judge or look down upon others for choosing other lifestyles or habits. This was not a post to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do. All I can do on my end is inform and share my personal experience, and for those who want to take something from it, that’s great! Even if this story about my health and my journey transitioning into this lifestyle can inspire or help one person, I know writing this very personal post was worth it. πŸ™‚

Xo,

Lyss <3

 

Follow:

Jamaica Travel Diaries – My Travel Experience

JAMAICA TRAVEL DIARIES – My Travel Experience with Sandals Resorts

This photo was taken at Sandals Resorts, at their overwater bungalow property which opened just a few months ago.

JAMAICA TRAVEL DIARIES

When we arrived in Jamaica, Meir (my boyfriend and business partner) and I hopped off the plane and were welcomed with the pleasant feeling of the sun beating down on our faces. Coming from New York City and walking into pure sunshine is always such a great feeling. We really felt our skin just taking in all the vitamin D haha. One of my favorite parts about travel is just walking off the airplane and being greeted by a new country.

A driver from the Sandals Resort property greeted us with a huge smile, and we followed him to the private car that would be taking us to the resort. Since Meir and I are both vegan, they had vegan spring rolls and drinks waiting for us in the car. As we ate and chatted with our driver about Jamaica and its different areas, we drove through tons of hilly roads and passed through the main town, where life was happening. We drove past a Starbucks, some seafood restaurants, clothing shops, and a KFC which the driver said was the most popular food spot in all of Jamaica. “The line for KFC is out the door every weekend,” he told us as we drove by.

It took about 2 hours to travel to the other side of the island, where the resort is located. The resort is more secluded and tucked away from everything else in Jamaica, which I thought was nice–especially for couples who are honeymooning and want a more private place to relax and enjoy their vacation. Despite the hilly roads and twisting turns that our road trip consisted of, it wasn’t too bad of a drive from the airport.

This is where we had a romantic private sunset dinner overlooking our water bungalows and the ocean on the South Coast of Jamaica.

After arriving at the resort, we were offered freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, tropical rum, and shortly after escorted to our overwater bungalow. Our room was a spacious villa featuring a king bed, a giant rainforest style shower, a giant outdoor bathtub, and a diving deck to jump from into the water. We had a butler that assisted us with anything we needed, such as setting up activities and our meals for us daily. One night we took a photoshoot in our outdoor bath tub, and the other we set up this amazing dinner during sunset hours – all of which the butler helped us organize.

My overall HONEST review of the Sandals property – 7/10

We were only able to stay 3 nights at this property, but it was definitely a great weekend getaway! Some things that could have been improved based on my experience as a travel blogger: the butlers were a little too overwhelming in terms of assisting us. I understand some people want a butler to assist them with everything from start to finish, but in my opinion they were a bit too much. There were several moments throughout the trip that we wished for privacy and they were just on top of us. The other feedback I have for improvement would be that the water is very different from the overwater bungalows in a place such as the Maldives. If you are looking for that crystal blue clear water, it is not at these bungalows in Jamaica. Furthermore, everything is so spread out within the resort that you have to take a golf cart from one end to the other if you wish to get around without walking far. It’s a very large property, especially if you are staying at the bungalows.

Once again, we did have an overall great time and experience and I would recommend this property. The staff was more than accommodating, the on-site bar was lots of fun and all of the guests loved it, the food was great, and most importantly, we got some amazing content! πŸ™‚

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have been to this resort, and if you haven’t been, would you want to go?! Do you have any other great hotel recommendations or things to do in Jamaica? I would love to hear!

Xoxo,

Lyss

PS – Click here for my travel Greece Guide!

 

Follow: