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. 😉
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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. 😉 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.
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 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!
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! 🙂
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!
PS – Click here for my travel Greece Guide!
So I know this post is totally late after the holidays but I’ve been getting a lot of messages regarding what products I love and use. I decided to make a quick list of all my favorites things I think are worth the buy! 🙂
Clarisonic Brush – I LOVE my Clarisonic and I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially those of you who love wearing makeup on a daily basis like me. I’m a makeup junkie, but foundation tends to clog my pores if I don’t wash my face really well, so I bought a Clarisonic a few months ago. The brush’s bristles gently remove all dirt, oil, and makeup residue from your skin. I use a makeup remover pad to wipe away the top layer of my makeup, and then I use the Clarisonic brush paired with a facial cleanser to scrub away the excess dirt and oil still stuck in my pores.
Click here to check out the Clarisonic.
Chunky Knit Blanket – Fun fact about me, I LOVE my throw blankets and I think they make any apartment or home extra cozy. I own about 10 of them, and drape my couch and bed with them. They add such a comfy feeling to any room, and this brand is one of my favorites.
Click here to check out the blanket.
Tommy Hilfger Boots– I recently bought myself a pair of these and I’m in LOVE. They are super comfortable, warm, and so cute. I’ve been wearing them a lot with black sweaters and leggings and they add just a pop of color. They’re also really good to style in fall or winter season, which is important living in NYC 🙂
Click here to check out the boots.
Sephora Perfume Sampler – I personally love switching up my perfume every week and I don’t want to spend hundreds on individual fragrance bottles, so this set is perfect. It gives you a great range of “test” perfumes that each last about a week, and they’re so cute and tiny that you can fit them into your purse easily. My fave scent from this collection is the one by Elizabeth & James Nirvana. It smells bold but not too sweet.
Click here to check out the perfume set.
FujiFilm Instax Mini Camera – I carried this camera around with me this year and took the most adorable, spontaneous shots! This is the perfect camera for those of you who love printed “vintage” photos in an instant. I love being able to just snap a photo and have it print a second later. I pinned all of the little pictures to my bedroom wall and I made a collage out of them. This also makes a great gift for anyone who loves photography and doesn’t have an “instant” camera yet 🙂
Click here to check out the camera.
Let It Glow Beauty Box – This box is filled with amazing high-quality goodies. It is worth the splurge in my opinion. I love beauty boxes that honest bloggers have curated because it makes it that much easier to know what’s good out there! I love Marianna’s choices and this box makes a perfect gift for yourself or for a friend.
Click here to check out the beauty box.
I am in love with cute bodysuits because they can go with so many different outfits! I also think they are super comfortable. Typically, I’d wear a black or white bodysuit with denim jeans, or with a mini skirt. I just ordered this one from Revolve, I think it’s adorable and I’ll wear it with a lot of different things. It’s still available in all sizes so get it while you can! 🙂
Click here to check out the bodysuit.
Anthropologie Candle Set – If you didn’t know this about me, I am OBSESSED with candles. I own about 20 different brands from Anthropologie and I love making my apartment smell like a cozy heaven. That’s why these candles are amazing! They come in 4 different scents and smell so so good.
Click here to check out the candles.
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation – I have a ton of you asking me about my skin and what I use for my foundation. I love medium coverage (not too light, not too heavy) and I have been loving this foundation recently to do just that. It’s a soft matte foundation that covers up everything super well and it has a really nice finish.
Click here to check out the foundation.
Classic Denim Shorts – I own about 30 pairs of different jean shorts. They go with everything!!! These are perfect for everyday basics if you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm. I typically pair my jean shorts with a cute bodysuit and high-top sneakers or comfy wedges.
Click here to check out the shorts.
UNDER $50 things I LOVE
Constellation Layered Necklace – soooo cute and a subtle statement piece.
Cute Plaid Scarf – perfect to compliment any basic outfit and it’s on sale!
Mini Chain Backpack – perfect for carrying the essentials (phone, wallet, makeup). I bought this on sale a week ago and I LOVE it! It’s adorable and good quality for the price.
Elizabeth & James Dry Shampoo – this dry shampoo is my FAVORITE and I can’t buy any other brand after using this. It smells like delicious floral perfume so I don’t even need to wear actual perfume.
I hope you all enjoyed this post! These are just a few of MANY things I love. I also love the ability to support other brands, bloggers and companies. Let me know what other “things” you’d love to see – more fashion, beauty, fitness, etc. in the comments! 🙂
So I decided it would be easiest to have a permanent blog post thoroughly answering all of the repetitive questions I get asked. That way, you can bookmark this and come back whenever you have a question that someone may have asked me before 🙂 I try to respond to as many of you as my fingers will allow me to over instagram but it gets super overwhelming, messy, and often glitchy within the app itself.
I hope you enjoy this and feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments if you have any!
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
- What filter and applications do you use for your pictures on instagram?
I use Lightroom to edit all of my photos, and then I add small touches with the in-app instagram photo editing tools. I use my own custom filter I created with Lightroom for my photos. When I first began posting on instagram, I used apps like AfterLight and VSCO, which are amazing apps to start out with. VSCO is free and you can purchase all of their filters in the app, and AfterLight is $1.99. If you are on a tight budget and just starting out, I recommend using one of these apps to gain experience working with editing tools and filters. If you are looking for a more advanced way of editing to match my exact type of feed aesthetic, Lightroom would be the best choice for you. It costs about $120 to purchase for your computer so it’s definitely an investment if you want to become a blogger, photographer, content creator or just to improve your work significantly. You can learn how to use it through Youtube, which is probably the quickest way to pick up on it and start editing with it.
2. What camera do you use to take your pictures?
My first camera was a Canon 70D. I know a lot of you are just starting out, and so I always tell people I use this camera because I still do! It’s my backup, but it’s still an amazing camera and it’s fairly lighter than the one we shoot with now. A year ago I upgraded to the Canon 1DX which is quite large, heavy and intense. I love it, but it’s best if you’re a pro looking to do more video content. I think the Canon 70D is perfect for starting out!
3. How do you grow your instagram following?
My 10 best tips to grow your instagram following can be found here on this blog post.
4. How do I reach out to brands?
Reaching out to brands has become easier than ever nowadays, especially because most brands have their own instagram pages. I simply send them a direct message and ask for their email so we can discuss collaborating. A lot of pages feature a contact button that you can directly email the brands as well. If you are writing an introductory email to a brand, be sure to link your page in the email you are sending and always offer them something of value. For example, if you are just starting your page and would love to try a product for free, offer them an instagram post in exchange.
5. How many followers do I need to work with brands and get paid?
This all depends on who you are, what your content is like, your engagement, and your type of audience. The amazing thing is, brands want to work with influencers of all sizes, big and small. Some brands actually prefer smaller influencers (5,000 followers-50k followers) because they often have a higher engagement and connection to their audience, and they also charge less for a post! Don’t be afraid to reach out and make an effort to work with brands just because you are not as “big” as other people are.
Also – I would focus on creating good content before reaching out to brands. Brands like to see that you are putting in a little effort into your page to make it look pretty and to make your audience active. Once you have built up a solid foundation of content, start reaching out to brands for free products. The key is to give a little before you get paid for anything. I didn’t get paid for the first 2 years I was working on my instagram.
6. Where do you live?
I live in New York City. I was born on Long Island which is about an hour train ride outside of the city.
7. Is it expensive to live in New York? Why did you choose to live there?
It is very expensive to live here, but it helps if you have roommates of course. You are paying for the location and the experience. It is amazing to have restaurants and little bodegas on every corner open 24 hours. There are hundreds of coffee shops, cute boutiques, markets, and parks to hang on every few blocks you walk. The city just feels so vibrant and energetic at all times and I feel like it has helped shape who I am a lot. You have to get used to it for sure, but I love it!
8. Where are your favorite places to take pictures in NYC?
Some of my favorite places to take photos are:
- St. Cloud Rooftop in the Knickerbocker hotel
- The Press Lounge at ink48 hotel
- The Roof at Public Hotel
- FlatIron and Madison Square Park area
- Times Square at night (the lights are amazing)
- Grand Central
- Jimmy at the James hotel rooftop
- Nomo Soho and surrounding area
- Top of the Rock and Bar 365
- Bryant Park
9. What are you passionate about other than being an influencer?
I love to sing. It’s been something I’ve doing since I’m 5 years old. I love performing and even though I get nervous in front of crowds, I’ve gotten a lot better at speaking and showing who I am in front of people as I’ve gotten older. I also love to write. I think writing and expressing yourself is such a powerful, beautiful thing.
10. What is your job? What do you do, how do you make money, etc.?
You can read all about my job and what I do on this blog post here.
11. Did you go to college? What did you study?
I graduated from Binghamton University in 2015 with an English degree and minor in Global Studies.
12. Did you know you were going to become an influencer?
I honestly had no idea what was in store for me when I began my social media career. I used instagram as an outlet during college. I didn’t go out too much, and I liked to do my own thing. I was always low key and simple, so when I started my account, the only people who knew about it were a few of my closest friends. Then, as it grew, my college wrote an article about me in their newspaper and suddenly everyone knew me on campus as the instagram girl. It was pretty crazy, and strange because people started to make fun of me. Back then, instagram wasn’t as popular yet and everyone was just like, what is this girl all about?
13. How do you stay on track to achieve your goals without giving up?
I wouldn’t want to look back in 30 years and regret not pursuing my dreams. I know in order to be happy with my life, I need to at least try to pursue what I love. Failure isn’t an option anymore in my head. Anything is possible with the right skills, mindset and attitude. If you remind this to yourself daily, you’ll realize that it’s the truth! This is the truth I live by and it helps me push forward even when I fail.
14. What’s the worst failure you’ve ever experienced and how did you learn from it?
I lost a lot of money at a time in my life when I was careless. I felt like a failure. I had gotten scammed essentially, from someone that I don’t know online, and I felt so pathetic in that moment. I cried a lot that day to say the least. It’s okay to feel upset or disappointed, but don’t let those feelings stop you from bouncing back and starting over. Take a lesson learned out of your failures and use those failures to teach you how to succeed. I see everything as an important lesson, whether it’s a big or small mistake, it always helps to view it from that perspective.
15. What are the best places to eat in New York?
Some of my favorite spots include:
- Joe’s Pizza for pizza
- Cafeteria for lunch and American eats
- The Smith for continental food
- Momoya for sushi
- La Pecora Bianca for coffee and small breakfast bites
- Two Hands for brunch
- By Chloe for vegan eats
16. Where is your favorite destination spot?
My top favorite is Greece (Mykonos and Santorini)! I went this year for the first time and it was so insanely beautiful. I can’t wait to go back.
17. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an influencer?
The top 3 tips I always give to people who want to become an influencer is:
- Understand what you want to be known for. This was something I had a lot of trouble figuring out throughout my career as a social media personality. I started out with fitness, and then transitioned over time into more travel, lifestyle and just being myself. I think if you stick to what you’re good at, you’ll succeed.
- Invest your time into your content. Content is key to growing a fan base and making people want to keep following your journey. I used to wonder why my engagement was so “low” and no one would comment on my photos. It was honestly because they sucked and I had no idea, hahaha. I had to dig through people’s accounts and research what worked for them. I had to research how to improve my photography skills and how to edit properly. It takes time.
- Be active and engaged with other influencers. There’s no better way to start than by being active in the community you want to be a part of. Instagram makes this easy. Leave unique and supportive comments on your favorite influencer’s photos. Send a hundred DM’s until you get a reply. Some influencers will read, respond, and even message you back. I know that I do! 😉
18. How old are you?
I am 24 years old, and my birthday is in less than a month! I always thought 25 was SO old, and now I’m like, wait…I’m just getting started with my life! It’s okay to set your own timing and path. A few of my friends are getting married already, and my brother’s both have kids! I know those things will come for me at a later time, but for now, I just want to feel free, and pursue my dreams. I’m much more career focused than relationship & “settling down” focused right now, which is not a bad thing. I think 25 is YOUNG. With social media, I can relate to the younger generation, and I can be a role model for them. It’s all about perspective 🙂
19. What are your goals for the future?
My future goals is to be an even more successful influencer by reaching more people and connecting with them, and showing people that it’s possible to achieve any dream you set your mind to. I also want to be a successful singer and go to the Grammys. I have a feeling 2019 will be the year. 19 is truly my lucky number! <3
I’m going to end this post on number 19. If you have any other questions for me, feel free to write them in the comments!
In today’s day and age, the term “influencer” is more frequently used than the term “celebrity”. People are turning to their favorite influencers to look for a more personal and instant connection–someone they can actually relate to, trust, and build a social media “friendship” with, so to say. Influencers are known for their relatable content and often are well trusted because they are there to be themselves and influence by being everyday people, just like their followers. But, as time goes on, I’m noticing that more and more people are interested in becoming influencers not to build a brand for themselves while being genuine. Instead, people are focused on being “social media famous”, which is far from the reasons I believe influencers developed their own space in the first place.
I feel like the new thing is to “be an entrepreneur” or a social media “influencer”. It’s become almost like a trend to not work at a 9-to-5 job and sit in an office cubicle. While having my own career as an influencer is a blessing that I’m truly grateful for, it’s not nearly as “luxurious” or as easy as it seems. Most people looking at my instagram assume I make thousands of dollars a day, can travel wherever I want, and work with any brands I want to work with. So let’s break down the truth – because this is far from it.
The truth is, a prosperous career path does not come easy to anyone. You can be given certain tools or leverage, for example, coming from a wealthy background or having a famous parent, but if you don’t have the passion, the work ethic, and the skill set, the tools you are provided with are pretty much useless. In fact, I’m so thankful I didn’t have any sort of leverage to begin with because it taught me how to work my ass off and be strong mentally in the business world.
I spent all 4 years of my college life building my following on social media without a dime in my pocket from it. At the time (about 6 years ago now), Instagram was still extremely “new” to brands, and they would laugh if you asked them to pay you for a post. The influencer space did just not exist yet. On top of going to the gym at 5 AM, attending 7 AM classes until 3 PM in the afternoon, completing all of my assignments which usually took up most of my night, and going to practice for the a-cappella group I was a part of, I spent the remaining few hours I had left in the day marketing my brand and building a following for myself. I gave up my social life for my phone, which a lot of people thought was an “addiction”, but to me it was my future business. I was pushing out content on my Instagram daily and working as much as I could allow myself to without getting burned out.
Since I was not making any money from social media yet, I didn’t have money to spend on anything really other than college related things like my meal plan and books. I didn’t spend much on food, let alone travel (I actually rarely ever traveled, I don’t even remember if I did at all). My parents never ever spoiled me with money like some of the other people at my school. A lot of kids my age growing up had their parents’ money to spend on drinking, going out, driving nice cars, looking fashionable, etc. My family didn’t have that type of money, which actually taught me a lot about how to have a strong business mindset. I was by no means poor, I always had a bed to sleep in, food on my table, and a great education throughout my life, but I didn’t have parents to be financially dependent on. That, to some people, can be seen as unfortunate–but to me that was such a blessing because it TAUGHT me how to become a business woman and make money for myself doing what I’m sincerely passionate about!
So how did I start and BECOME an influencer? This is no easy question to answer, and there’s really no short version of this story. Building a social media brand for myself took me over 6 years, tons of patience, hard work, lack of sleep, and sacrificing the “fun” in my college years. While most people spent their nights going out to the college bars, I was in my dorm room working on my instagram page, looking at trends, researching how to grow my audience on social, and networking with other content creators who were building their accounts just like I was.
For the first few years I was working on my instagram, I received nothing more than a few free boxes of yogurt from a food brand and some free workout clothes (which at the time was extremely cool to me!) But after a market started to develop, fitness companies were reaching out to me, asking me to promote their products for $100-$400 per post, depending on what it was. Fitness companies took advantage of the instagram market the earliest, and were paying creators like me daily to promote their companies. After years of working hard to build an audience for myself, I was getting paid up to $400 per day to promote products, which was awesome at the time, and I was able to save a lot of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the value of my brand because the whole influencer space was SO new. I don’t think any creators at the time (at least that I knew of) really understood how much value we had. IF I HAD KNOWN THE VALUE, I wouldn’t have promoted these companies. We were just doing this because we loved it and were having fun building our platforms, and I was finally making money while doing it!
As more time went on, I learned a ton about the social media market and the power of digital advertising. It was then that I decided to create my own fitness guides and sell a product I actually believed in and knew was effective. I was super nervous to release my own program, but it felt right at the time because it was something I actually was passionate about. I always kept it super real with my followers, and I was as connected as I could be to them. I was always interactive with people who engaged with me, and I felt that the power of a social media community was only going to become stronger and more powerful as time went on. I was so excited that I was able to help people become healthier while also creating a brand for myself. I went on to sell my own products for about 2 years, using instagram as my main marketing tool, until my life and my brand took a turn into a brand new direction.
After meeting my boyfriend Meir after college, we decided to team up and work together. We spent time marketing my products through social media together, but over time, I realized I wanted to venture into more of a lifestyle and travel brand and not be tied down as a “fitness” influencer. Everyone knew me as the “fitness” girl, and to me, it put so much pressure on me because I feel like I’m so much more than just a girl who works out in the gym and sells fitness guides. I never wanted to be limited to a category, I wanted to just be myself and be free from that title. I was so torn on how to transition my brand into something different, especially because I didn’t want to disappoint or let down my followers who were so loyal to me and my fitness image. At some point, I decided I’d have to make that leap into the lifestyle / travel space if I wanted to be happy, and those who loved me for me would stick around and understand.
It took me over a year to transition my brand into something much bigger than just fitness. I spent months strategizing how to incorporate more of my travels and everyday life without scaring my audience away. I know a lot of people definitely unfollowed me, but I know some of them eventually came back and re-followed me too. I answered every message I had from girls who looked to me for fitness inspiration and were distraught that I decided to change my image. I made sure I was still making an effort to show people I’m exactly the same that I was before, but I’m just showing more of what makes me truly happy. That was all I could do. And it was the best decision I ever made for myself.
Meir helped me re-focus my brand and my goals, and I am forever thankful that he walked into my life. He was always super passionate about photography, and when we decided to work together, I knew we were going to make an incredible team. He has such an amazing eye, and is so naturally gifted with the camera. We strategized how we were going to push out content and change everything in an authentic and personable way, and after almost 2 years now, we have achieved more than I could have ever imagined! We have been fortunate enough to travel often, live in New York together, work with some of our favorite brands, and most importantly do what we LOVE! 🙂
Despite the fact that our job is such a blessing and all I could ever want in a career, there is a huge misconception that it just “happened”, that I got “lucky”, or that we, as influencers, don’t work hard. We just snap pretty pictures and call it a day. But this couldn’t be more far from the truth. Influencers are some of the hardest workers I know. They built a personal brand with a loyal following that LISTEN to what they say, which is pretty incredible in itself. Most of the influencers I know have also spent years building their following. There are a tiny percentage of people who blow up overnight from the internet, but 99% of the time, people don’t become overnight sensations. They work HARD to get to the top in their field. Influencers spend hours a day planning their shoots: from their outfits, to their hair, to the location, to finding the right photographer, to collaborating with other people, to finding the right brands to work with, and the list goes on and on. Yes, we are a fairly “new” community, but we are powerful business men and women who take our jobs just as seriously as any other business people would. So yes, we deserve to make money from our platforms because it is our line of work.
TRUE OR FALSE INFLUENCER EDITION
- Brands approach us first and want to pay us immediately to get promoted on our page. The truth is, it’s more of me taking my time to pitch brands, reach out to brands, set up personal meetings with brands, and email brands. Sometimes brands don’t have that much money to spend, or they take months to choose their influencers. Brand partnerships actually take a LOT of organizing, planning, time, patience and contracts before proceeding. It rarely happens quickly.
- Influencers make thousands of dollars per post. This depends on each individual influencer and what they offer in terms of exposure, return on investment, and uniqueness. Some influencers do make this type of money, but some influencers do posts for free and pretend they’re getting paid (yes, that’s true). I don’t discourage smaller-tier influencers promoting brands for free, simply because it builds a resume and can show brands that you have experience creating good content for companies like them. It builds trust and credibility in the long-run.
- Influencers have stylists, managers, and people who do and plan everything for them. In some cases, yes this is true. Large-scale influencers sometimes have a team of people assisting them with brand deals, styling, photoshoots, blog posts, etc. which to me, is amazing and inspiring. Having a team means your business is growing, which is always a positive thing. However, most influencers I know (even the big ones) do not have a team helping them out at all times. They usually have a photographer helping with their shoots, but most of the work is done by the influencer themselves.
- We get everything for free – travel, clothes, makeup, you name it. While a lot of brands love gifting us influencers, I would say 80% of the products I own and experiences I’ve had are on my own budget and paid out of my own pocket. I always appreciate gifts from brands, but I typically prefer choosing my own things, planning my own trips and styling myself the way I want. I like investing my own money back into my brand. I think this goes for a lot of influencers as well.
- We take pictures for a living. Yes, we do, but it is SO much more than that. Being a digital content creator is a strategic job. It’s knowing what to post, where to be, what to say, when to post, being relevant, connecting with people, and communicating your message through a screen. It’s a full time job to say the least.
The next time you scroll through your feed, which will most likely be right after reading this article, I want you to consider the amount of work that really goes into building a social media presence. It may seem like a lot of fun (and it is), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it takes time, patience, and a ton of execution. It was definitely not an easy or short journey for me to get to where I am today, but I couldn’t be more grateful for all that this process has taught me.
There’s a lot of places that I can say have truly left me mesmerized, but Greece made me an entirely different level of speechless. If I could only put into words the amount of love I have for Greece in one blog post, my life would be just a little bit easier 😉 Unfortunately, that’s impossible. The beauty of this country was something like I’ve never experienced before and I am counting the days until I travel back.
Meir and I traveled to 3 different main islands in Greece.
Breakdown of our itinerary:
- New York -> Athens -> Mykonos
- Mykonos -> Santorini
- Santorini -> Athens -> Zakinthos
- Zakinthos -> Athens
- Athens -> New York
As you can imagine, we were definitely all over the place and packed in a ton of different sites to see over the course of 10 days, which is the perfect time to see everything. By the end of the trip, I was a little burned out and we actually did end up getting sick (more on that later in this blog post!) but overall, I feel 10 days was ideal.
First stop: Mykonos. We left New York and took an overnight flight to Athens airport. When we arrived in Athens, it was 9 AM, and the perfect time to start our adventures. I don’t even think I slept during the flight to Athens, (it is SO hard for me to get a good sleep on any flight) so I was pretty tired but my excitement and my adrenaline rush kept me going throughout the first day! We took a quick connecting flight from Athens to Mykonos an hour after we landed at the Athens airport, which is definitely the easiest and most painless way to make the first day smooth. It sounds like a ton of traveling, but since it was early when we arrived, we still had the entire day in Mykonos to explore, unpack our belongings, and get some amazing photos for sunset hours 😉
When we finally arrived in Mykonos, we headed straight from the Mykonos airport to our hotel, Cavo Tagoo Mykonos. When we arrived, we were SO taken back by how gorgeous this property was. The entire hotel is painted and decorated white and gold, featuring huge golden doors to greet you and such friendly, welcoming staff. The hotel features a large swimming pool overlooking the ocean and it is a 5 minute walk from the main Mykonos town, which was super convenient during our stay. When we saw our room, we could not get over how magical it really felt to be there. The rooms were also decorated in stunning white and gold decor, everything was immaculate, modern, and super cozy.
We ended up wanting to stay an extra night with Cavo Tagoo because of how beautiful it really was, and they ended up surprising us with the most insane dream suite of the entire hotel. It had 3 large bedrooms, two upstairs and one downstairs (yes there were multiple levels in this suite!), with enormous glass panorama doors overlooking a private swimming pool, a jacuzzi, which both led out to the ocean view. The living room had a huge communal table for us to work and eat our dinner and dessert (which we ordered in from the room service!!) and a surround sound music system to play our favorite unwinding music as we worked and relaxed together at sunset. When we woke up in the morning, we immediately opened our suite doors out to the pool and took a sunrise dip, and filmed some video footage while having Greek coffees and eating our breakfast. This experience was truly one of a kind, and I could not be more thankful for it.
The Mykonos town was on another level of perfection. I have never been to Mykonos before, but Meir has in the summer, and he said that September there was SO much better and less crowded/touristy for sure. If you are looking to travel to Greece, we recommend going later in the year, towards September or even October after the “rush”. We were able to navigate the town easily, and explore with our cameras without feeling too overwhelmed by other people who were there visiting and taking photos as well. The streets are just so cute—everything of course is painted white and blue, and there are little fashion and food shops on literally every corner. The beauty of Mykonos and Greece itself is that there are so many different spots all on one street. We passed pastries and coffee shops, book stores and clothing shops, and then busy seafood restaurants, italian restaurants, etc…it is just so diverse and magical. Every step gave us a new experience.
Second stop: Santorini. We decided to take a 5 hour “quick” ferry to Santorini from Mykonos. Mykonos has a port where you can jump on a ferry, which is the main means of transportation for many. Although 5 hours seems like a lot, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. When we finally arrived in Santorini, we grabbed a cab to our first hotel, which was sitting on top of a cliff in Imerovigli. This is such a quaint and peaceful little town in Santorini, with not a lot of tourists, at least when we were there. Our hotel was a wellness spa and resort called Andronis Concept. It featured its own farm and garden, with animals and fresh fruits and vegetables, a beautiful spa and a private gym, overlooking the most stunning views at sunset hours. We loved it because of the amazing views overlooking Oia—which was across from our hotel, miles away but it was so amazing to see all the lights and the sky glowing at sunset. Our room featured its own hot tub with such gorgeous peaceful views, and the breakfast there was UNREAL. We woke up to fresh fruit platters, freshly baked croissants, cereals, french toast and Greek coffees (need I say more?). It was truly just something out of a dream.
It was close to one of the main towns, Thira, which is a cute area: surrounded by more blue and white streets, restaurants (we had some amazing pizza)!, and clothing boutiques. We spent the day in Thira exploring, shopping and eating. PS – I highly recommend renting an ATV for the week in Santorini if you decide to travel there. Everything is spread out and it is A LOT of walking, so we decided to use an ATV to transport around the island for majority of our trip!
After our stay in Imerovigli, we spent the next 4 days in Oia, which was my favorite part of the entire island. There are so many different kinds of people, shops, food spots, boutiques, bars and the most beautiful places to capture every single moment. We were in love the moment we arrived. We spent the nights shooting sunset overlooking the city lights on top of a famous photography spot, on the very edge of the island. Everyone at night gathers around in the town for the sunset and watches as it sets down below the sky, and burns a bright, stunning orange as it dissipates. I was blown away by the beauty of it all—everyone just standing, watching in silence and snapping photos peacefully, as the sky changed its colors and faded into night. The people all around us began to clap once the sun had fully set, and I was just amazed. This was by far one of the most breathtaking moments I’ve ever experienced.
We stayed at 3 different hotels while we were in Oia — the first hotel was called Astarte Suites, and it was a very small, but charming place. It sat directly in the cliffs, and had so many steps in order to get to the property, but the views were so worth every moment of walking! It was definitely great exercise to say the least 😉 The hotel greeted us with glasses of champagne, and we enjoyed the amazing ocean views from our suite balcony. The second hotel was called Santorini Secret, and it was situated right directly in the middle of Oia which was super convenient and nice because the walking was minimal to get anywhere. We did enjoy this, as the hotel had a gorgeous private swimming pool overlooking the ocean, and amazing food (we ordered the spaghetti and ate it by the pool, it was so delicious!), however we DID experience an ant infestation in the morning in our room and we were not too happy about that. There also was not a shower in our room, only a bath, which for some people might be an issue. I am always going to be completely 100% honest about my full experiences anywhere, so yes, it was beautiful but there were some issues during our stay.
The third hotel we stayed at was called Astra Suites, which was so so amazing and the staff couldn’t have been more accommodating. Our suite was overlooking the gorgeous island of Santorini, and the water was such a deep beautiful blue. We had an enormous private suite, with a private jacuzzi and we ordered room service at night as we watched the sky light up. The hot tub was also amazing to just relax with Meir and enjoy our night together.
But…the third hotel was where things started to go downhill for our trip. Everything was truly incredible really up until this point for us, until we both had gotten some sort of food poisoning there and we were in bed sick for the entire next day. We both had fevers, chills and nausea, and we couldn’t work or walk anyway. Meir had it much worse than I did, and he spent the day in bed taking medicine, sleeping and not eating a thing. I felt so terrible, but the hotel was SO understanding and sweet, and they made us hot soup and gave us plenty of water and medicine to take care of us, which I was so thankful for. I ended up feeling a bit better and taking care of Meir as he slept, and we stayed in the room the whole day. Luckily, it seemed to be a 24 hour thing, because the next day we both did feel somewhat functional again and still got to explore a bit, although we definitely took it easy.
After we recovered, we took a ferry back to Athens from Santorini and spent the night there. We had about 12 hours in Athens, and we stayed in an Airbnb. We found a healthy vegetarian spot near our place and ate there for both lunch and dinner, although we both still felt kind of queasy from being sick the day before so the eating was minimal. We got to see the Acropolis and shoot there for sunset while it was lit up, which was really amazing. I loved looking over the city and seeing everything lit up, bright against the darker shades of the sunset. There is a famous photo spot to get these amazing views, and we found it from searching on Google Maps. A ton of tourists were there to shoot the sunset too. Luckily, we were able to snap a photo when no one was around us 😉
From Athens, we flew on a 5 AM flight to Zakinthos, which is a much less touristy island on the other side of Greece, far from Mykonos and Santorini. Zakinthos in my opinion was my least favorite island, and seemed pretty run down compared to the others, although I think this was Meir’s favorite! It was his birthday, so we wanted to do something special and explore as much as we could for the 24 hours that we had. We rented a car from the airport and we went on our way, with no real plan. We drove through the mountains (there is so much rocky terrain, and everything is so elevated!), where we were. The main town has its own little harbor, and as we drove out of it, the roads turned into hills and we were suddenly surrounded by pure green. It felt like an entirely different country. The air smelt so fresh and clean, and our surroundings were just pure nature. I was so exhausted at this point that I slept half the time in the car while Meir drove around, but about a half hour into the drive, he woke me up to a crowd of goats grazing in the middle of the highway! They were eating grass and just chilling casually on the road, staring at our car as we slowly drove past them. I was freaking out with excitement because I LOVE animals. I just thought they were adorable and I kept trying to take videos of them on my phone, but none of them really came out so great (haha!)
After driving for what seemed like hours, we found the road that led us to one of the most famous spots on the island, Shipwreck Beach. This was probably the most incredible place I’ve ever been, strictly because of the WATER. The water was such a rich, piercing, deep blue that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else in this world, I promise you. The water was sparkling from below as we climbed the mountains and the path to see the views from above. My mind couldn’t simply wrap around the fact that water could be so saturated, it looked completely fake to me. I thought Meir was about to cry of happiness of how gorgeous the view really was as we snapped photos and drone footage. This was my favorite part of Zakinthos, for sure, although at this point of our trip I was so burned out that I felt I almost couldn’t even appreciate it enough.
The rest of the trip was not exactly the smoothest experience. After grabbing lunch, we ended up parking on a hill and another tourist slammed into the back of our car. We ended up spending the next 2 hours in this spot, recording the details and speaking to the police, as both of our cars were rentals. I think at that point all we could do was make jokes and laugh about it. We were still recovering from being sick and then we had gotten into this little accident, so I felt that we didn’t get to experience Zakinthos the way we had hoped for, although there were still a lot of memorable moments and scenic views along the way :). We ended up crashing at a hotel that was super close to the airport, and from there we flew back to New York. I was definitely ready to go home, but the second we left I knew I’d be back to Greece next year.
The experience we had overall was just truly unforgettable. I am so thankful and blessed to be able to have experienced such beauty, and I can’t wait to visit again.
I would love to hear if you are planning on visiting Greece, or if you have already been there and about your experience! 🙂
Follow along on our instagram! @effortlyss