A Quick Summer Stop in Chicago

As you know (or may not know!) I work at Booking.com. I love my job because it means I get to eat, sleep, and breathe travel, which just so happens to be my all-time favorite thing to do. Specifically, I manage communications for the US, which involves strategically and creatively overseeing all of the ads we put into the market. Sometimes I travel to LA or other exotic locations for big, cinematic television shoots, and in other instances I sit at my desk in Amsterdam, sip coffee, and sense check content articles or Facebook posts before they go live. Part of my job also entails of identifying who our key consumers are and what they will react to. If I haven’t lost you yet, this means my job also requires attending and analyzing focus groups. Basically, I’m the creepy person who sits on the other side of the tinted glass window, making comments and taking notes. Focus group participants can’t see or hear me, but I listen in and try to get a read on what they think about Booking.com, our ads, or travel in general. It might sound snoozy, but I find this part of the job ultra-intriguing! Sometimes we put our heart and soul into a piece of creative work, and it gets shredded to bits by consumers in a focus group – yes, this really happens! There are also usually mini-kitchenettes attached to each observation room, so in addition to gaining valuable insights about our brand, I also have access to unlimited snacks and takeout options. What more could a gal ask for?! Where am I going with this? A few months ago, some focus groups we were conducting landed me in Chicago. It’s worth noting here that I also went to Atlanta and NYC on the same trip, but holy-hell Chicago blew me out of the water, and is the only city that gets a full, dedicated blog post ;) Maybe it was seasonal and due to the perfect, balmy weather, but damn, Chicago was pretty!

While traveling alone can be a bummer for some, I absolutely adore it. I have the drive to wake up early and explore, or head out after office-hours solo to discover something new. I think moving to Europe and living alone for a few years had a big impact on how I function – I am much more independent than I was five years ago. I really value Ali-time, and the ability to choose what I do next, or where I want to go without anyone else weighing in. I spend a lot of my holiday days traveling with family, friends, and Kai, but sometimes it’s nice to wander around a new city alone with a book, taking in the sights and stopping to read on whatever grassy green knoll takes my fancy! Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Instagram Style

This past week was cloudy, rainy and cold. Every morning I woke up and immediately wanted to crawl straight back under the covers. Thankfully, my birthday fell smack in the middle of this awful, rainy spell, and added a bit of sunshine to the otherwise dreary week. A perfect excuse to celebrate, just when I needed it the most! Although I didn’t do anything big or crazy this year, I thought I would share a few insta-snaps of the festivities.

Top left to right:

1) It was the rainest week ever, and every morning I trudged to work in my wellies, umbrella in hand!

2) Mid week B treated me to an amazing seven course birthday dinner at ‘t Oude Veerhuys. It was a bit out of town, but the food was fantastic and we had glass after glass of port, leaving us glowing and warm – exactly what was needed on a cold, mucky week.

3) My birthday (pan)cake! Best and cutest surprise ever!

4) In the Netherlands, it’s tradition to supply your own birthday cake! Cupcakes seemed a bit easier to bring into the office, so I whipped up a batch of spiced pumpkin cupcakes with vanilla-walnut frosting. These babies were gone in five minutes flat.

5) Another cloudy day, but the rain stopped for long enough for me to snap these pretty autumnal colors.

Bottom left to right:

1) I treated myself to a bit of birthday indulgence, so of course I had to insta-show-off my new outfit and manicure . . .

2) One of my amazing presents from B. I’m obsessed with Jamie Oliver, and can’t wait to try some of these awesome recipes and share them with ya’ll!

3) My favorite gift from B – a rose gold and smoky quartz pendant. He picked it out all on his own, and I am SO in love with it!!

4) Some friends brought by goodies, including a big bag of fresh walnuts. Cracked this one open to find a little walnut-heart. Cute way to say I’m nuts about you?!

5) This last one is a rogue birthday cupcake that “accidentally” got left at the house. Hey, the birthday girl deserves some sweets too ;)