I did something kind of crazy this past week. I did what I am always telling others to do and I took a REAL VACATION. Well, not the exotic, bucket-list trip I might be dreaming about--be it an African safari or a month-long wellness retreat to Bali or an Iceland adventure (those are atop my to-do list when feasible). But a quick trip to the mainland for a low-stress, FUN, six-day getaway in the City by the Bay because it is exactly what I needed to recharge from my version of Pandemic life. And it was a reminder that we are ALL in need of scenery changes and a dose of new and different energy. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Maui and living in the State of Aloha. But, with so little freedom to safely travel the past 18 months, I truly wanted to be ANYWHERE BUT HERE.
After four months of working from home, head down at my laptop studying the daily changing air schedules, all the covid rules and working hard & fast to help clients escape their own worlds to go SOMEWHERE after 18 months, I was getting tired. I needed to pay attention to my own need for a big fat break from Pandemic life, and to take it.
A real one. And, not the kind of "break" where I spend hours of my day at the desk answering emails and booking hotels for others FROM my hotel room, but the kind where I actually put a "Be Back August 4th" auto-responder message on my email and a note to text me if URGENT. Everything non-urgent was going to have to wait a few days so I could refresh my Pandemic brain and get off of gear overwhelm.
Important to note: I am GRATEFUL many people are getting vaccinated/taking negative tests as required for entry/departure and traveling to places they feel safe and that what I do for a living is in demand after a year-long sabbatical. I am also realizing that some days I just need to step away and plan a few of my own adventures so that I can stay relevant by knowing what's happening out there, and also because my idea of a soul-fulfilling vacation is exactly like the one I just took. NO trip research was done other than what was right in front of me, and if you're curious, check out my @stacyhopesmall INSTAGRAM because I posted some really cool photos/tips about the Bay Area while there July 29-3 August!
Just as I chose Denver last month as my very first re-entry travel spot, I wanted to again go to a city that I truly Having never lived in San Francisco but visited often, it was a no brainer. Cooler weather this time of year appealed after 18 months on Maui. The dining options are varied and fun and on the healthier side which I always appreciate. I have amazing friends and clients there. I've never NOT loved a weekend spent in San Francisco. Also, Mike Kass, one of my favorite hotel General Managers is now posted at the city's largest hotel, one of the few to stay open ALL Pandemic. I'd promised him a visit, and he promised me a WOW experience in one of his newly renovated suites at the Marriott Marquis (San Francisco Marriott Marquis). (SEE THE PHOTOS BELOW!) Also noteworthy in my decision making: United is now flying the nonstop Maui-SFO on its new 767 planes with Polaris flat-bed seats in the premium cabin, and National had lovely cars for rent at a fraction of the weekly rate I've been seeing nearly everywhere else including Maui. The stars were aligning and I easily found a dog sitter through TrustedHousesitters.com (life changer!). It was a NO BRAINER to take this needed break (seriously, if you CAN do it, do it). Trust your gut and go. (Call me and I will help you figure out the how/when/where!).
I absolutely LOVE spending time in a walkable city that surrounds itself by mountains and water. Sure, there's that homeless issue in SF everyone has been talking about and San Francisco has a lot to do to clean up the streets BUT there is an energy I've always loved about that city that is still there. There are cool coffee shops all over. So many different neighborhoods. Friendly shopkeepers happy to be back to work. The farmer's market at the Ferry Building was buzzing with local vibes last weekend. Restaurants are filled with masked-up patrons and many (including the always-busy and fantastic Foreign Cinema) have a sign at the entry telling you the staff has been vaccinated, which lent a sense of safer fun and a better experience for me. I was able to relax. People choose to live in and around San Francisco because it's often sunny and warm and artsy and hip and fun and casual and unpretentious. It's America's version of Melbourne, while LA is more Sydney... San Fran is so very California and to me, that beats any of the east coast cities I have lived in and visited. I just LOVE it there.
I actually have an infinity tattoo on my ankle embedded with the words Island Time and Cali Girl. I hadn't paid it much attention the past year entrenched in Pandemic life on Maui, but I wrote about its meaning in my book Why Not Me?!?: 12 Lessons a Year on an Island Taught Me About Living My Dreams, and How You Can Live Yours Too. Several years ago, I felt torn between two worlds and I struggled to choose between Maui & SoCal, but realized it was actually an easy choice for me then to do both.
While I moved full-time to Maui last January and feel blessed as hell to have spent the pandemic here, I am feeling the pull towards that "double" life again, and my inner manifester/intuitive channeler/kind of psychic empath knows that it will happen. This time, I predict it will be the Bay Area that gets a piece of my heart and soul and physical presence. Time will tell. Watch this space!
Thanks to several friends who live "out there" about 20 minutes on the other side of the Bay Bridge, I found my PEACE & LOVE & HAPPINESS in the form of a few things I've really missed: 1) Pressed Juicery (don't judge, their Pressed Freeze is the best non-dairy "ice cream-ish like treat on the planet) 2) An Apple Store (we do NOT have one on Maui!) 3) Nordstrom's where I could just pop in and find my choice of favorite jeans 4) a place like the Marin Mart which is Northern California's version of the Brentwood Country Mart and the Malibu Lumber Yard, my favorite spots in LA after a decade+ of living there.
I LOVED the delicious meals I got to enjoy with friends old and newer, and the coffee date I had with Marty Friedman, a childhood friend from Rochester, NY I hadn't seen in decades. Spending QT old friends who share values AND roots was the giant hug I needed and never got ALL freaking pandemic. (Thanks Henry and Dan and Mike and Eric and Avolyn and Nish and Jane for spending ALL that QT with your wide-eyed Maui friend!!). I literally ate my way around the city, and felt a little less guilty about the over-indulgence since no calories were wasted on alcohol. It's now been 264 days since I've touched alcohol, for the health of it, and it was really fun to celebrate with deliciousness ranging from gluten-free/dairy free cinnamon rolls and cookies at Mariposa Baking (Artisan-Crafted | Gluten-Free Baked Goods – Mariposa Baking Co.) to Greek treats at Kokkari Estatorio (Kokkari Estiatorio)) to the best Indian I've ever tasted at Amber India Restaurants below the Marriott Marquis. Can't say I didn't love every single bite of everything I tried at Palette (palette-sf.com) (the wood-fired oysters were the bomb) or at Foreign Cinema, and even the casual lunch I had with Nish and Jane at El Huarache Loco — Marin Country Mart was off the charts YUM!
Apart from staying in the most spectacular suite I've ever seen in San Francisco, with a huge outdoor deck (shown above), and views from every angle, I felt welcomed from the moment I arrived at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. A wonderful GM like Mike (pictured with me below) has the kind of energy that's felt by guests, not just seen. And his team, including Wendy his executive assistant, went over the top to check in with me to ensure my comfort during my stay. SO appreciated in these covid-y times.
The valet guys, as busy as they were parking cars for the hotel's FIRST big wedding in over a year, couldn't have been nicer. EVERYONE was masked. The front desk agent wanted to share with me his favorite local restaurants. The housekeepers seemed genuinely happy to be back at work. Exec Chef David created a thoughtful gluten-free local welcome amenity for me that blew me away and made a point to meet me in person to see if I needed anything. Memorable moments. Even the cashier in the super-busy on-site coffee shop served every guest with a smile. Whatever my friend the GM is doing to instill a friendliness and warmth, it was palpable and I loved every minute of my stay. Which, if you know me, might sound surprising since I am more of a luxury boutique/high-end hotel type--in normal times.
These days, I want to book myself AND my clients into the safe, clean hotels where the BEST GMs in the biz are going to make sure it's a special experience. And, if something goes wrong, they'll turn it around FAST.
I want to know that wherever I am staying on my too-short but packed-full-of-fun-and-food vacation is a safe place, meaning I feel grounded and comfortable and in a convenient central location making it easy to explore the city right out my door. I had not set super-high expectations for this trip, as it was only planned a few weeks ago. But it will go down as one of my favorites, because I did it MY WAY. Lots of walking, eating, seeing special friends and not over-planning. It was honestly one of my all-time BEST breaks from life, and taking this trip was the ultimate PATTERN BREAKER for me. Years of feeling scared (of losing business) or guilty for not working for a few days have given way to me knowing what's in not just my best interest, but in that of the clients who truly value what I do for them...as their spiritually-minded, solution-focused travel agent. I function best when I am refreshed and rested, and by me taking a vacation, that allows me to be my best self and encourage others to travel in ways that brings them a high level of added peace, fun and JOY. Reach out if I can help you plan any upcoming needed BREAKS, big or small, now or in the big picture. I am refreshed and ready for the next round of high-vibe, high-energy travel planning to begin (TOMORROW, I am still technically on vacation for a few more hours!).