Mental + Social Benefits of Exercise – PLUS Enter to Win a FREE (2) Month Membership to Fitness App, Wildfire Life!

UPDATE: August 7, 2015

Sorry to keep everyone in suspense but the winners of the 5 FREE Wildfire Life Memberships have been Announced!

Congratulations to Jacklyn Sweet, Nikki Pham, Phoenix Nicole, Shannon Bobo and Jamie Pellington! Have fun ladies!
—–

The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen…

To me, working out and maintaining an active lifestyle is essential element to sustaining a healthy life balance. As a self-identifying workaholic, I tend to struggle with dedicating time to things outside of pursuing my passions and my career, but as a pancreatic cancer survivor, I also know how important it is to be proactive with taking care of your body. Along with the obvious physical benefits of regular exercise, there have been numerous studies highlighting its effects on mental health (see American Psychological Association and the CDC) such as lowering your risk of depression, reducing your risk of cancer, improving your mood and treating anxiety.

For the past couple of years, I have been a regular gym-membership holder, but I’ve always wanted to find fun, new ways of being active. In particular, boxing, pole dancing and lyra (aerial hoop) have always held a special allure, but when looking into classes, I noticed that many of the private studios required either a pricey per class fee or a hefty membership – neither of which I was willing to fork over.

*Editor’s Note: Please excuse the quality of the pictures. I took them all on my phone. Wasn’t bringing my DSLR to the gym…

Then, about two months ago I came across an app called “FitN,” which has since been re-branded as “Wildfire Life,” that allows members “access to thousands of fitness classes at hundreds of studios.” From Yoga to Boot Camp, Spin, Pilates, Boxing, Aerial Fitness (Silk, Pole, Hoop), Barre, CrossFit, Dance, Rock Climbing and Zumba – there are literally tons of options to choose from!

*All of the pictures below were taken at Fembody Fitness Studios – at both the Long Beach + Hunginton Beach locations

As a fitness blogger, I was invited to try Wildfire Life for free for two months, and I have nothing but great things to say about the app! Not only was it easy to use, I really had no idea of just how many fitness options I would be offered. Plus, I finally got to try not only boxing but pole dance, aerial silk and lyra – the latter of which is now one of my favorite exercises! Besides the actual activities, each studio had a great social component, which I take as an added perk. All of the instructors at one of my favorite dance studios, Fembody Fitness (with locations in both Huntington Beach and Long Beach) are super personable and friendly, and as I attended more classes, I got to know more of the regulars, and developed great relationships with them.

Since I had such an amazing time testing out Wildfire Life – which I definitely will continue now that my trial is ending – I want to offer some of my readers the amazing opportunity to experience it for themselves! Therefore, I am giving away FIVE FREE (2) MONTH MEMBERSHIPS TO WILDFIRE LIFE!

Furthermore, for those who don’t win, just for entering, I will give you a special code to receive $50 off your membership! There are no losers here! :)

There are (2) ways to enter:

Entry Method #1:

Enter via Rafflecopter below. Three random winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter after the contest closes on Monday, August 3, 2015.

Entry Method #2:

  • Follow me on Instagram @MsBellaGraham
  • Repost the following contest image with the hashtag #LoveAndBiscottiWildfireLife and tag me in the post
  • Briefly explain how you maintain a healthy life balance, and why you would like to win this contest.

You may also post a picture of yourself (versus my contest image) doing your favorite physical activity. Enter as many times as you like!

I will choose my favorite answer and award two winners with memberships on Monday, August 3, 2015.

*Important Note: Wildfire Life is currently only available in Southern California (San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles).

That’s it! Good luck!

xo, Bella

Disclosure:
This is a sponsored post. I was not paid by Wildfire Life to promote their app, but I did receive (2) free months of membership for testing it out.

Hard Rock Cafe’s “World Burger Tour”

Last month, I was invited to Hard Rock Cafe’s Hollywood location for an exclusive tasting – and was treated to samples from their first ever “World Burger Tour” menu. I had a great time mingling with new and old friends, and snacking on burger bites, french fries and tasty cocktails. Though I don’t eat beef, I’m a huge foodie and lover of a good chicken or turkey burger, so I was excited to taste some of the newest additions to the Hard Rock menu inspired by cultures from all around the world.

Showcasing the flavor and ingredients at Hard Rock Cafe locations across the globe, the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood locations on Hollywood Blvd. and Universal CityWalk gave guests a backstage pass to sample Local Legendary™ Burger offerings and unique burger “acts” spanning across three different continents.

As a global brand, in it’s latest burst of creativity, Hard Rock decided to tailor its menu and embrace the various taste profiles of guests at each of their worldwide locations. Giving chefs at each of their cafes the freedom to create a unique Legendary Burger capturing the local flavors of their city, more than 150 local burgers were created, and then evaluated by Hard Rock’s culinary team – and fan favorites were selected to star on a limited-time World Burger Tour menu. From the Sweet & Sour Burger in Hong Kong to the Marimba Burger in Guatemala, select Hard Rock Local Legendary Burgers were featured at Los Angeles-area Hard Rock Cafe locations all last month, before heading out to other Hard Rock Cafes across the country!


My Favorite World Burger: Tandoori Spiced Chicken Burger from India

Sizzling headliners featured at Hard Rock Cafe’s Hollywood location as a part of the World Burger Tour menu included:

  • Banh Mi Burger – Vietnamese Legendary featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with house-made Vietnamese glaze, pickled vegetables and cucumbers accompanied by a garnish of cilantro and green onions.
  • Bosphorus Burger – Turkish Legendary featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with homemade eggplant salad, fresh and flavorful haydari sauce and pickle slices.
  • Tandoori Spiced Chicken BurgerMY FAVORITE (OBVIOUSLY) – Indian Legendary featuring a dark meat chicken patty seasoned with aromatic spices and fresh herbs, topped with mint mayonnaise and served with a side of cucumber.
  • Sweet & Sour Burger – Chinese Legendary featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with a fried onion ring, bell peppers and grilled pineapple drizzled with house-made sweet and sour sauce.
  • Hollywoodland Burger – Local Legendary featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty on a toasted brioche bun, layered with rich brie cheese, fresh oven roasted shallots, crisp lettuce, and tomato with homemade tarragon aioli.


Mini Banh Mi Burger Bites

  • Lancashire Hot Pot Burger – English Legendary featuring a juicy lamb burger broiled until tender and topped with caramelized onions, crispy carrot frazzles and mint mayonnaise.
  • Cuban Burger – American Legendary from Miami featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with marinated pulled pork, melted Swiss cheese and sweet plantains.
  • Marimba Burger – Guatemalan Legendary featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with a chipotle and jalapeño spiced layer of beans, fresh salsa, Monterey Jack cheese, Cheddar cheese and crispy tortilla straws.
  • Sweet & Sour Burger – Chinese Legendary featuring a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with a fried onion ring, bell peppers and grilled pineapple drizzled with house-made sweet and sour sauce.
  • Legendary Chorizo Burger – Local Legendary burger features an 8 oz. seasoned Angus patty topped with robust beef Chorizo, authentic Mexican fresh cheese and crispy corn tortilla strips, served on Toasted brioche bun with fried whole jalapeno.

As part of the World Burger Tour menu, Hard Rock Cafes also showcased the brand’s world-famous cocktails, including:

  • Mai Tai One On – a South Pacific-inspired cocktail that features a refreshing blend of Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, Cointreau® Orange Liqueur, Monin Orgeat, a splash of lime and orange juice.
  • Pomegranate Mule – a mix of ABSOLUT® Vodka, Monin Pomegranate and ginger beer make this summertime favorite from Russia.
  • Mezcarita – this refreshing and smoky margarita, which hails from Mexico, is a perfect combination of Del Maguey Mezcal, Cointreau® Orange Liqueur, Malibu® Coconut and fresh strawberries.
  • Pineapple Ginger Caipirinha – a Brazilian blend of Água Luca™ Cachaça and pineapple with the subtle hint of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur.
  • Maple Old Fashioned – a twist on a classic American cocktail that features Maker’s Mark® Bourbon, cherries, maple syrup and orange juice garnished with a crisp bacon stir stick.

For locations and more information on Hard Rock Cafe’s “World Burger Tour,, visit www.hardrock.com.

*Images without the Love & Biscotti watermark provided by Hard Rock Cafe

California Market Center: LA’s Hub for Fashion Tradeshows

Bonjour amours!

I am very pleased to announce that a couple of weeks ago I was invited to join the California Market Center’s Fashion Insider Program as one of their official “CMC Bloggers!”

As someone who enjoys being at the forefront of the latest news and innovations in fashion, I was beyond honored to align myself with a hub for the Los Angeles fashion industry and a coveted tradeshow venue for fashion, accessories, gifts and home – all conveniently located right in my own DTLA backyard.

Last month, CMC housed three tradeshows: SHAPE Contemporary, TRANSIT Footwear and SHAPE Athleisure Lifestyle – each of which focused on different brands catering to every price point and market niche.

SHAPE
is LA’s very first athleisure lifestyle tradeshow, and is poised to become the West Coast’s vital resource for luxe and contemporary active, yoga, fitness, swim, casual, and lifestyle collections and accessories.

SELECT presents a curated mix of premium women’s apparel, accessories and footwear brands, and is held within CMC’s Fashion Theater.

TRANSIT
is the premier Southern California shoe show, bringing together a mix of the industry’s most sought-after brands and emerging labels including Frye Company, Vince Camuto, Steve Madden and many more.

Although I visited each tradeshow and was really impressed by many of the brands that I saw, there were a few that I was really excited about, and therefore I’ve decided to share a few of my top picks. Scroll down to find out more!

Swinn:

As a fitness and health-conscious blogger, I always get really excited when I find cute sportswear brands, and I love all of the cute colors, patterns and slogans featured on sportswear brand, Swinn. Learn more (and place an order) from this unique brand here: http://store.iloveswinn.com/

Fyre Company:

I LOVE the leather sneakers and boots from Fyre Company. I’m planning a trip to Europe soon, and these comfy yet stylish shoes are perfect for traveling and catering a minimalist wardrobe. For more info on the Fyre Company visit www.thefryecompany.com/

Chinese Laundry:

Last, but not least, is one of my all-time favorite shoe brands, Chinese Laundry! I’m not allowed to share pictures of their Fall 2016 collection (you’ll unfortunately just have to wait), but take my word for it – it’s amazing! In the meantime, enjoy some of my favorite picks from Chinese Laundry’s Kristin Cavallari collection. Perfect additions to any California girl’s year-round wardrobe ;)

*This is a sponsored post

[CAREER] “Tea Time with Divas & Dolls” Hosted by FashionBombDaily.com Editor Claire Sulmers.

Last month I attended Tea Time with Divas & Dolls,” a professional women’s brunch hosted by Divas & Dolls eboutique and featuring special guest, fashion maven and FashionBombDaily.com editor Claire Sulmers.


Claire Sulmers speaking to the guests Tea Time with Divas & Dolls

With an overall positive mission of supporting socialization and collaborations between “like-minded individuals in a tea party setting,” Tea Time offered “an afternoon of exclusive and intimate conversations, tea and delicious food for young female professionals,” as well as invaluable words of encouragement and support from the event’s special guest.

Always a supporter of women uplifting each other, and cultivating new relationships, I was both excited and honored to attend as a supporting blogger, and I looked forward to meeting not only the other professional women, but Claire Sulmers – who I had recently ran into while in New York for New York Fashion Week.


Moi waiting for the second course :)

Held at Madera Kitchen in Hollywood, all of the guests were treated to a delicious “family-style,” three-course meal – starting with chicken and waffles, and then moving on to blueberry pancakes, a salad and other delicacies – and by the end of the brunch, my stomach was filled to the brim with amazing food!

However, the best part of the event was when Divas & Dolls owner, Breann Cook opened the floor for Claire to speak to all of the attending guests about her rise to success, and how she grew her site, FashionBombDaily.com into a daily destination for the multicultural fashionista which reaches over 2.4 million monthly visitors, and earned a spot on Ebony Magazine’s 2011 “Power 100 List.” Besides the notable accolades Claire has garnered through the site, Claire was also named “Black Blogger of the Month” by Black Enterprise, as well as “Blogger of the Moment” by Teen Vogue. It was truly inspiring to hear about her ascent to glory, and every woman in the room had questions about how they could build and/or better their own enterprises.

For me personally, as an avid reader and self-described “bookworm,” my ears immediately perked up when Claire listed some of the books she was currently reading and/or strongly suggested reading. I’ve always believed that if you admire someone’s career or certain professional moves they have made, you should always ask what they’re reading because it’s the quickest way to align yourself with the mindsets and psyches of a mogul.

When asked about her suggested reading material, Claire listed the following books:

1) The Game of Life (and How to Play It) by Florence Scovel.
*Listen to the audio book for free via the YouTube video below!

2) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

3) How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization by Jeffrey J Fox

What are some of your must-read professional or philosophy books? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

xo, Bella

[Bon Appétit] “Champagne Blues & Brunch” at Steak ‘N Stein

Bonjour Cosmopolitans!

A couple weeks ago I was invited to join a group of bloggers to sample Steak ‘N Stein’s new “Champagne Blues & Brunch” special, and since I’m always in the mood for a good girl-power session via a new brunch spot – even more so if they have bottomless mimosas – I gladly accepted!

When I first walked into Steak N’ Stein I immediately noticed the decor, one because I’m a sucker for interior design, and two because the ambiance was right up my alley. Though it was bright outside, the lighting in the restaurant was dim and sultry, and the dark wood furniture contrasting against the muted red, orange and yellow colors, gave me a sense of being inside a hunting lodge or log cabin. The seating was spacious, which I can appreciate, and the live piano music was a nice touch.

I started off with bottomless mimosas (of course), and I chose to go with Steak N’ Stein’s “Sunrise,” which is pineapple juice, grenadine and champagne – a sweet twist on the traditional orange juice mimosa. Later on I switched to a Peach Bellini (peach purée and champagne), after my food came of course, and the Peach Bellini’s for the record, are not bottomless.

As an appetizer, we all shared the cabbage (which is made with a custom vignette), and which tasted delicious when paired with Steak N’ Stein’s cheese bread. I know, cabbage and cheese bread? Yes, I was skeptical about it too, but the waitress recommended I try it, and it was actually really good!

I opted for a fresh blueberry muffin as my starter, and the California omelet as my main course. Containing bacon, red onion, tomato, pepper jack, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, and topped with big slices of avocado and a side of country potatoes, the large portion more than filled what my little belly could eat. In all transparency, I scraped a lot of the cheese off, not because it wasn’t good, but because of my lactose intolerant status. Dairy products as such as cheese is usually no bueno for me.

To top it all off, I ordered the Banana Foster Bites, and again didn’t eat too much, but thoroughly enjoyed the nibbles of it I did have. All in all, I can say that I had a pleasant experience at Steak N’ Stein. Perhaps it would have been nice if the omelet had contained a bit more of the ingredients than egg, but that’s a very small critique on an otherwise amazing meal.

Brunch c/o Steak N’ Stein

Bella’s Bon Appétit Rating: 8/10

Clearman’s Steak N’ Stein
9545 E. Whittier Blvd.
Pico Rivera, CA 90660
http://clearmansrestaurants.com/steaknstein/

[CAREER] Invaluable Salary Negotiation Tips I Learned At Levo League’s #Ask4More Workshop

“The goal is not to get a deal. The goal is to get a good deal. Getting a good deal is the desired outcome of a negotiation. Agreement is not. Every bad deal is a deal to which you have agreed.” ~Unknown

Bonjour cosmopolitans! Did you know that this past Tuesday, April 14th, was “Equal Pay Day?” According to TIME Magazine, “a new report says roughly 90% of companies will give raises this year, [and more than half of the companies responding to PayScales’s annual Compensation Best Practices Report say their main reason for giving raises is to reward performance; with 20% attributing the increased cost of living as the main reason they give raises.”

loveandbiscotti_womenjobnegotiations
Image courtesy of Phys.org

Whether it’s asking for a raise, negotiating a salary and benefits for a new job; or coming to a terms with a potential client, having the confidence and resources to ask for more will not only help boost your career, but ensure that you are earning the pay you truly deserve.

Therefore, with the goal of helping others reach their highest level of professional excellence, I’d like to share a few negotiation gems I learned when I attended the “#Ask4More Negotiation Workshop” presented by Levo League – a growing community of professional women offering (and seeking) advice, inspiration, and tools to achieve their career goals – last week.

Hosted on the General Assembly campus in Santa Monica, and led by Levo League Los Angeles chapter leader Molly Stires, the workshop focused on equipping women with the knowledge and tools to negotiate their salaries and job offers, and bringing awareness to the fact that according to a 2015 Levo League survey, only 21% of women negotiate their first job offer directly out of school, and 51% did not know that they should negotiate an offer.

I was completely blown away by the advice I received, as well as the tips that I learned, and now I’m paying it forward, and sharing them with all of you. Read ahead to discover tips and tricks that may help you catapult your career, and feel free to leave a few gems of your own in the comments! I’d love to hear what other advice you may have for negotiations.


Image courtesy of SheKnows.com

Quick Negotiation Tips:

  • Never accept the first offer
  • Never be the first one to throw out a number
  • Say what you have to say and then let it sit. The more comfortable you are in an uncomfortable, “silent” space, the better you will do in negotiations
  • Don’t be scared to be uncomfortable
  • Read into the other person’s head. If you know what they want, then you can discuss how you can help them get there – and how you add value
  • Remember the worst thing someone can say is “no”
  • Engage with the other person. Look them in the face. It’s going to be scary, but don’t make yourself “small.” Pay attention to your body language
  • Always leave without “rippling the water”
  • Try not to smile. If you need to, look away
  • Dress Androgynous: Neutral colors, grays, and black
  • Don’t wear any loud, or clanging jewelry
  • Have a mental reason why you are negotiating. Use it to motivate yourself to get over emotional points, and to give yourself an extra incentive
  • Everything is negotiable. If it isn’t money, consider additional perks

Before You Go Into a Negotiation:

  • Always prepare what you are going to say, and make it sound reasonable.
  • Consider your unresolved issues: What are the things that will benefit from me from the sake of negotiation? What are the risks?
  • Understand that most of the time, your risks are perceived. Write them down, and weigh the benefits vs. risks. Pros vs. cons
  • Consider what is most important to other person on other side of table. Get into their head
  • Analyze the areas where you and your counterparts share the same interests. Find a way to meet in the middle
  • When asking for a raise, make a list of projects, tasks, and metrics that you can include in your conservation. Ex. Campaigns that did well, deals you were instrumental to closing
  • Consider other “package” options other than salary. Extra days off, flexible schedules, and telecommuting are other terms you can negotiate

Other Tips to Consider:

  • Training budgets are not always tied to salary caps. If you can’t negotiate a higher pay, consider pitching conferences that you can attend.
  • If you can receive training for free, you are adding to your skill set, which puts you in a position to receive bigger and better things
  • Keep your personal business strategies to yourself, family, and close friends

Negotiation Tricks:

  • When negotiating money, always start with an odd number. Its a psychology trick. The other person will always try to back you down to an even number. If your desired salary is 10k, say 13k
  • Always have a number in mind. What you want and what you will barely take. Think of negotiating as a boxing ring, you don’t want to end up against the ropes
  • Use verbal wordplay instead of throwing out a number. Its a competitive advantage to know where they are starting from. Let them name a number first. Sample phrases: “I’m negotiable,” or “Depending on the range, I’m really just focused on finding the right fit”

For more Career tips, check out other posts in the Career section of Love And Biscotti, and thanks again to Levo League for hosting an incredible workshop!

To learn more about Levo League, visit http://www.levo.com/

My Top 3 Travel Bucket List Destinations

We travel initially to lose ourselves; and we travel next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes, and we travel to learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow down time, get taken in, and fall in love once more.” ― Pico Iyer

LoveAndBiscotti_MissBellaGraham_BrittanyBellaGraham

Last week I had a conversation with a stranger I met in a coffee shop. As two writers drawn together by a love of caffeine and the quiet inspiration found in small cafes, we first began casually chatting about our work, and then the deep-seated passions that drew us to it. For me, my inner quest for knowledge and adventure has always fueled my wanderlust-filled travels, which in turn feeds my writing, and I often marvel at the beauty of actually living, traveling, and writing about my passions.

Therefore, when I heard about Transun’s contest offering one lucky winner a chance to see the Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights) – I was excited at the idea of not only partaking in once in a lifetime activities (such as visiting a reindeer camp, joining a husky safari, and taking a snowmobile ride) – but also about writing and detailing my adventures, and sharing the beauty of a fascinating foreign land with the rest of the world.

In order to enter the contest, Transun is calling for a bucket list of each entrants’ top three travel destinations, and though it was difficult to limit it to just three, I managed to streamline my top picks.

Are you curious about what they are?! Scroll down to see!

1) The Arctic Circle:


Photo Credit: By Bjarne Riesto/Nordnorsk Reiseliv. Courtesy of Fjord Travel Norway

Far before I heard about this contest, I had dreams of experiencing one of nature’s most beautiful phenomenons (the Northern Lights) in the company of someone I love. I can’t think of a more romantic setting than nature’s miraculous, natural allure – and combined with the fact that it’s freezing (and you and your honey will have to huddle together for warmth) – the Arctic Circle offers a unique bonding experience unparalleled by any other couple’s destination.

2) Cape Town, South Africa

LoveAndBiscotti_CapeTown_SouthAfrica
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Architecture of Life

If I were to travel to Cape Town, South Africa for no reason other than to photograph and personally experience the colorful architecture and romantic, cobble-stoned streets of the Bo-Kaap district, I would gladly undertake the cause. However, as the second largest city in South Africa, and the economic hub of the Western Cape Province, I would love to also explore the local culture, shop, and indulge in traditional cuisine via the local restaurants.

3) Riomaggiore, Italy

LoveAndBiscotti_Riomaggiore
Photo Credit: Image couresy of Xpartan.es

Last, but definitely not least, I would visit Riomaggiore, Italy, which sits right on the edge of the sea (the Gulf of Genoa), and is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. With houses nuzzled deep into the cliffs, and resting directly above what looks like the bluest water in the world, I can only imagine the type of serenity which would result from tanning yourself atop a sailboat, and then spending your evenings dining on seafood, and immersing yourself within the local culture.

As I mentioned previously in the post, I would love the opportunity to experience the Northern Lights for myself, and this year, I’ll actually be traveling to London for Fall 2015 London Fashion Week. It would be such an honor to scratch this destination off my Bucket list, so hopefully Transun will see something wonderful in me, and grant my wish! Tweet them your thoughts at @Transun if you’re so inclined, and leave a comment below with your top three destinations. I’d love to hear from you!

xo,
Bella

[Career] Travel Noire Founder Zim Ugochukwu on Black Travel + Digital Nomads

Ever curious about the latest innovations, especially when it comes to pursuits surrounding my favorite niche communities of travel and entrepreneurism, I first heard about Travel Noire – an online website offering “resources for the unconventional traveler [by featuring the stories of individuals from the African diaspora, residing all over the globe, and sharing their love of culture and exploration” – over a year ago.

Since then, I’ve stayed in the mix, following Travel Noire and their founder, Zim Ugochukwu, on Twitter and Instagram, and even witnessed first hand Travel Noire’s scoop of the decade – when according to The Daily Beast, the site shared an “unbelievable fare glitch [which] priced round trip flights on Etihad Airways from select U.S. cities to Abu Dhabi as low as $187, nonstop, taxes and fees included.”

Although I didn’t take advantage of the offer, it was still exciting to hear from all of the lucky travelers who did, and watch in awe as the beacon of light illuminating travelers of color began to shine even brighter than before.


(Having an intimate discussion with Travel Noire Founder Zim Ugochukwu)

Needless to say, when I attended the RISE Women’s Empowerment Tour in Los Angeles last week, I was excited to catch up with Zim and have a conversation about the travel industry’s increasing interest in travelers of color, the future of digital nomads, and other related topics concerning entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Read ahead to check out our interview, and leave your comments below! I’m curious to hear your thoughts as well.

Bella: I’m glad that we got a chance to finally catch up. I’ve been following Travel Noire for awhile, and I was actually up on Christmas Eve right when you guys posted the glitch fare to Abu Dhabi. That was incredible!

Zim Ugochukwu: Did you get it?

Bella: No, I tried but as soon as I would enter all of my information, the flight would sell out. I kept searching for different dates, but I’ve already made plans to do some traveling this year, so it’s only a matter of time before I reach Dubai. However, that brings me to my first question. Within the past few months, I’ve noticed a huge increase in media and brand attention specifically on Black travel. Do you think that’s something the corporate travel industry is now specifically aiming for – in terms of ads and trying to get the Black community to spend dollars? I haven’t noticed much of this type of targeted marketing for people of color until recently. Have you noticed this trend?

Zim Ugochukwu: You definitely see targeting in other areas of media. Right? How many of the leading cast members in a lot of these reality shows are people of color? You think about clothing, you think about shoes, you think about music, and you think about how influential people of color are. But when it comes to travel, there’s a stereotype that people of color only travel to the Caribbean Islands, or Miami, or Atlanta, or Las Vegas, and what I really wanted to do (with Travel Noire) was show these brands and advertisers that its about representation. It’s all about representation. If I don’t see anybody who looks like me in an ad for a country that you want me to come to, its not at the top of the list for me. You know for Greece… Look at that balloon, just hanging in the sky, isn’t that cool. You see it?

*Editor’s Note: Earlier during the RISE Empowerment Tour, every woman that attended was asked to write her purpose/ intention of a sheet of paper, and then tie it to a balloon. Later on, we went outside and had a ceremony “releasing” our intentions into the universe. Zim was pointing to one of the balloons that was still floating in the air.


(Pictures by Love & Biscotti contributor, Asha Catling)

Bella: Oh it is!

Zim Ugochukwu: Yeah, its cool. Anyway, so last year Greece was named as one of the most racist destinations for people of color.

Bella: Wow.

Zim Ugochukw: And I mean Greece is a great place, its a great country, but a lot of people just cancelled their tickets based on that one article that came out. So what we did for the entire year of 2014 was to send writers out, and we had them chronicle their experiences in Greece. We launched Travel Noire TV with video from Zakynthos – which is an island in Greece. Now, to this day, Greece is one of the top destinations for people of color simply because they see people who look like them living there – living daily life on the Greek islands or in Athens – and that one article about Greece being a place that is not welcoming people of color is absolutely obsolete.

With what we did, you’re seeing somebody in real time, and you’re seeing an image of them living it up. You’re asking them about their personal experience, and it’s something that you know they talk about, and they reflect on, and I think a lot of brands are recognizing that if they’re not going to step up to the plate, and if they’re not representing different types of travelers, they’re going to loose.

Bella: Right.

Zim Ugochukwu: Its a 50 billion dollar market. And you know what? Marriott, who has a huge market share in the African American community, is one of the ones who wants to keep that up because they have to stay authentic, and they want to stay relevant. But, if The W Hotel or Star Wood wants a piece of that pie, then they know where to come. You know they know how to talk to influencers and things of that nature, but a lot people are just coming into the fold when they think about travel – and that it’s not only America.

Now, when you’re talking to like… For instance, I was just in Thailand telling this same story – its a different kind of experience. I was sitting in the room with the government, and they a had a beautiful video laid out, with all these people, and all of the tourists were white men. It’s just getting to that level where you understand that there’s a different kind of traveler, and it’s something that we’re working on every single day. In the next five to ten years, you’re definitely going to see a shift in the way that things are marketed.


(Balloon/ Intention Releasing Ceremony during the RISE Women’s Empowerment Tour)

Bella: That’s a great lead in to my next question. I’m marketing consultant, and I’m also a writer. So for the past couple of years, what I’ve basically seen – even in myself – is a gradual transition into “digital nomadness.” At this point, I’m about eighty percent digital nomad, which means I don’t need a physical location, and I read in Forbes that by the year 2020, fifty percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelance workers or independent contractors. Keeping this in mind, and the way business is transitioning, how do you think that this will effect young people that are traveling?

Zim Ugochukwu: I think that… I’m such a huge fan of the movement. I think Tim Ferriss, when he came out with the four hour work week, and some of the other people that I really admire and look towards, I think that in order for corporate companies to keep younger talent – millennials – they’re going to have to be flexible. You’re going to have to build in remote days, you’re going to have to build in flex days, you’re going to have to build in vacation days, and you’re going to have to come up to fold because if you have two jobs that are paying the same rate and the other only requires you to be in the office twice a week, I’m taking that. I’m taking the twice a week job so I can travel, so I can live my life, and so that I can create balance between my family and my work life.

You also have a lot of the hubs that are popping up like Columbia, Chiang Mai, and Thailand that are hubs for digital nomads because the cost of living is so low. In Chiang Mai, you can get an apartment for $300, and the internet is super fast, and people are transitioning to other countries because the cost of living is lower, and they’re able to do more. However, when you’re thinking about working with teams, Asia isn’t as conducive because its a twelve hour time difference. So if you’re trying to communicate with your team, you’re either staying up super late at night, or you’re waking up super early in the morning. So you’re finding that a lot of people who are in that six to eight hour range, the end of their night is the start of the work day. So I think that as we move into this remote workforce, it’s only going to work in our favor.

As millennials, I think there was statistic a couple of years ago, and I don’t know if it’s still accurate today, but by the time a millennial is 32, they will have had nine jobs.

Bella: That’s so true. I read that too.

Zim Ugochukwu: So if we’re already transitioning jobs because we want to live more meaningful and more purposeful lives then travel is going to naturally fit within all of that.

Bella: Speaking specifically in terms of people of color, and in terms of the Forbes’ article, when I brought that statistic up (fifty percent of the U.S. workforce transitioning to freelancers) to one of my mentors, he said the problem is that a lot people of color are going to be left behind or simply out of work when this happens. He said that having to be completely in control of your career and budget, as opposed to getting a job and showing up for work, is going to create huge obstacles for the minority group. What are your thoughts on this?

Zim Ugochukwu: Yeah. I mean, it’s still a new concept. The idea that I don’t necessarily have to be somewhere expected, and I can set my own term and agenda, but at the same time I still have to be responsible for my own work. That’s still fairly new, and when you think about the workforce today, its very roped, its nine to five, clock in, clock out, and this is my job. There’s definitely advantages that haven’t been afforded to people of color and I think that, I don’t know. I mean I could go into the answer for days and days and days. And its not one simple answer. You know it goes way back, its a lot deeper than both you and I realize…

Editor’s Note: Right at this moment, Zim and I had our conversation interrupted (very politely of course), because Zim was needed back at the RISE Empowerment Tour to take pictures for the panelist’s group photos. It’s probably a good thing that we were, because as Zim mentioned, the last topic at hand was and/or is probably a lot bigger than we both realize, and we probably could have talked about the current state of affairs of people of color for hours. Though short, our conversation was very succinct, and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to have a meeting of the minds.

With that said, I would love to hear from you readers regarding what you just read. Do you have any thoughts about the transitioning freelance workforce? Or perhaps the growing worldwide, digital nomad community, or even the travel industry in general? I’d love to hear from you!

xo, Bella Continue reading