Saturday, December 30, 2017

So long, 2017!

Closing off a year always leaves me with mixed feelings. For one, it makes me feel so grateful when I look back on all the wonderful things I was able to experience and accomplish in a span of 12 months however it’s also accompanied by feelings of disappointment attributable to some of the poor choices I made this year.

Is it possible to find yourself but then lose yourself again? I started off 2017 knowing exactly what I wanted (or so I thought) and I sit here today wondering where that person who was so sure of everything is. It’s scary to think that you can be so sure about something one moment, and then you’re not. I want to believe I can trust myself in knowing what is good for me, but it’s proven to be quite the challenge. Growing up, I’ve always been thought to focus on the positive and it’s honestly the only thing keeping me going at this point; the belief that there is always, ALWAYS, something to be thankful for.

In a lot of ways, 2017 helped me grow as a person, teaching me things in the most un-gentle ways. Franklin Roosevelt once said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” I’m hanging on to a thread of hope that all the storms of 2017 have run their course, and will hopefully allow me to embrace 2018, buoyantly. Happy New Year, my dear readers!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Visiting New York for the First Time! (My Experience + Tips)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK! This city has been one of my dream destinations since I was little, and one I never imagined I'd be seeing anytime soon! I can think of a hundred things, just off the top of my head, that make New York so charming, captivating and so easy to fall in love with, but the pictures included in this post will hopefully speak for themselves!

One of my favorite things about travelling and exploring new places is that it allows you to experience things you never imagined you'd be doing, meeting people you didn't think existed, getting to taste different kinds of food and most especially, learning more about yourself along the way. After spending 5 days in the hustle and bustle of this city, I came home with over 300 pictures (half of which were taken with over excitement and cannot be used lol) and a crap ton of memories I know I'll hold close to my heart for a long time.
Since this was my first time visiting New York, I wanted to share my experience here on the blog, and maybe also share some tips that can help you when you do visit

1) Choosing a place to stay: To be honest, we struggled a little bit when picking out a place to stay. We took into consideration prices, travel time, and the overall safety of the neighborhood. Since most of the places we wanted to see were in Manhattan, it made more sense to stay within the area, so we picked a hotel on Times Square! Subway stations were a 2-3min walk away, Broadway theaters were super close by, Halal Guys was just a few blocks down and there were always people around even in the late hours. I know there are a ton of other options available so I would just suggest to research the places you want to see, and find accommodations close by that will fit your budget. 
2) Getting around: I found that the fastest and most efficient way to get around the city was through the subway! I was a total subway newb and was super intimidated by the whole system in the beginning, not gonna lie! However, Google Maps was the hero wearing the brightest cape throughout this trip! Please use it to navigate, it will make your life so much easier! Thinking about it now, how did people even get around before Google Maps?! I will never understand. Depending on how many days you're staying, I would suggest getting a 7-day Metrocard that gives you unlimited rides (costs about $30). Learn from my mistake and make sure you're in the right station before swiping your card because once you exit, you'll need to wait about 15 mins before you can swipe again! New Yorkers have a reputation for being some of the most fast-paced people which can result to them becoming easily annoyed or rude when interrupted (note: smiling back at them when this happens DOES NOT help, if anything just aggravates them more omg), however, I've found that a lot of them can be kind enough to give you directions, so don't be afraid to ask, if all else fails.
3) Carry cash: Although a lot of places will gladly take credit/debit, some places only accept cash! You will also encounter a lot of street performers all around New York so it's always nice to have spare change to give if they catch your attention.
4) Be prepared for A LOT of walking: Wear your most comfortable pair of shoes!!! I cannot stress this enough! I underestimated the amount of walking I would do here and found myself reaching for my sneakers almost everyday! I actually bought a pair of heeled boots with me on this trip and I kid you not, I probably took 20 steps in them when I realized what a horrible mistake it was! However, if you do decided to wear heels, pack a pair of comfy shoes to take with you, TRUST ME ON THIS.
5) Check the weather in advance: but be prepared for changes. We went during the 2nd week of October and packed only "fall" clothes and regretted that decision almost immediately after landing. It was so humid and hot! However, the forecast did say to expect rain so I was happy I packed an umbrella lol. Also, plan your activities around the weather! If it's a sunny day, make the most out of it by doing something outdoors like visiting Central Park, or seeing Lady Liberty. If it's gloomy out and rain is expected, visit the New York Public Library or Grand Central Station.
6) Get tickets to attractions online: Not only does it save you from the hassle of lining up, but it also saves you money and you get the peace of knowing you have a guaranteed spot! I'll link the websites we used to get tickets for some of the places I recommend:

7) See a show on Broadway: Seeing a Broadway show has been on my bucket list for the longest time and you can imagine how excited I was to be ticking it off! Now there are so many places the Internet recommends for getting tickets, so buy at your own risk! While we were there, we were able to watch two shows: Anastasia (HIGHLY recommend) and The Lion King (personally would not recommend). I got The Lion King tickets a week in advance from HERE and they were a lot cheaper than the actual selling price and the seats were great, so I would definitely recommend checking that site out, just choosing a different show to watch. Anastasia was a spontaneous decision and we got our tickets from the TKTS booth just hours before the show so it was 50% off. The most popular TKTS booth is located on Times Square, just below the red steps. I would recommend going when they open (which is about 3pm) for the best seats. For more info on locations and hours, click HERE.

8) FOOD: The amount of restaurants and food choices around New York can become a little overwhelming but Foursquare, Google Maps and Pinterest helped us narrow down our choices! There were also times where we would just be walking around and randomly find hole-in-the-wall places that carried amazing food! Don't waste your money on the food carts on Times Square! Most of the time, the food is way overpriced and doesn't even taste that good. However, I will advocate spending your money on The Halal Guys food truck! I have tried the one in Chicago which I thought was pretty good but man, oh man, it is nothing compared to the real thing. You can find The Halal Guys in different spots around the city but most people claim that the one on West 53rd is the real OG.

Other food spots I recommend checking out:

This little ramen spot has the BEST chicken ramen I've ever tried!! To this day, I still find myself comparing all ramen to this and nothing has come close!

Jack's Wife Freda
Being from the Middle East, I'm always drawn to Mediterranean food since they remind me of home! We stumbled upon this cafe on SoHo that carries simple Mediterranean food and is wonderful if you're looking for a quick bite to eat.

Cha Cha Matcha
This place is an Instagram lover's dream! Their interiors are so cute and very Instagram worthy. They even have matcha ice cream!!

Sweet Time Dessert Cafe
This beautiful cafe is conveniently located just next door to the ramen place I mentioned earlier! They have a GIANT stuffed teddy bear here that you need to go and see for yourself!!

9) Go early to avoid crowds: Popular tourist spots like the Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, 9/11 Memorial, Times Square etc. can get VERY crowded so it's close to impossible to get a picture without having someone in the background. I would recommend getting there really early in the morning for the best photo op! Times Square between 2-3AM is way less crowded and provides a good photo op as well.

10) Use your common sense: Looking out for yourself has to be your top priority! Avoid areas that appear to be sketchy. For your own good sake, PLEASE don't use your phone when crossing the street!! Always listen to your gut when you feel you're being put in a position that you don't feel safe in. Travelling should be a fun experience for everyone!
5 days was not even enough to cover half of New York and this city is definitely a place I see myself coming back to again and again! Have you ever been to New York? Please share your experiences and recommendations in the comments below! I'd love to read them! 

Monday, December 4, 2017

10 Songs That Remind Me of You

Recently, I've been thinking about how it's both a blessing and a curse that you remember people as the last time you saw them. Something I've learned through the years is that people will go in and out of your life constantly, and sometimes the ones that do leave, take something  of you with them. Lately, I've been thinking of someone in particular, someone I haven't spoken to in years, yet still manages to sneak into my thoughts every now and then. It's times like these that you wonder, did they really ever leave your life? Or does thinking about them just keep them alive in your memories? 

Today's post goes out to that someone who made quite an impact in my life, that years later, I still find myself thinking about them. Some days it's during a movie, sometimes it's when I'm reading a book, but most days, it's through music. Here are 10 songs that still remind me of you.

And tonight, I can't help but wonder, do you think of me too?