Jetsether Nightmare | Lost Passports

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Last month I shared my Playa Del Carmen travel guide with y’all, and while I had a fantastic time, the first two days were pure chaos because I had lost my passport. Let me just lay out this disclaimer, I am a VERY responsible person. I don’t lose anything and rarely ever forget to do something that I’m supposed to, so losing my passport was never even a thought to me.

I landed in Mexico, sorted through customs and stopped at the duty free liquor store for a bottle of Don Julio in order to begin my birthday turn-up. All I had to do was make it through the last checkpoint and my driver would be outside waiting for me. But of course, I get pulled to the side for a random inspection at the last checkpoint and once I zip my luggage back up, I realize my passport was gone. I immediately feel sick to my stomach. I’m not playing, I could’ve thrown up. So I force myself back through security to ask if anyone had turned my passport in. That was utterly unsuccessful as Mexican security shrugged their shoulders at my questions and shooed me out of customs. I know I just got here but I’m thinking, how in the hell am I supposed to get home? How? How? How?

Luckily, the lady at the front desk of our hotel was willing to jump through hoops to help me figure it out. Within a few hours of checking in, she had called the nearest U.S. Embassy and Consulate, the closest police department since I would need a police report, and a friend of hers who drove a taxi to get me where I needed to go because of course I had no cellular service. Unfortunately, by the time I figured out what I needed to do next, the American Consulate was closed, which meant I had to wait until the following Monday. Fine, I was set to leave that Monday (my birthday) so I would’ve had to suck it up and spend all day braving a line at the nearest consulate trying to get an emergency passport before my 6 p.m. flight. But guess what? That Monday was a Mexican holiday and the Consulate would be closed! ohmygod. I’m never getting home. Let me clarify what this meant… I was going to have to extend my hotel stay, change my flight, miss another day of work during an event week and spend $250 + photos on an emergency passport. Easily an additional $1000 I’d have to spend on a mistake I made and not a pair of shoes. Why me God? Whatever lesson you’re trying to teach me, I get it. I was SO stressed y’all.

Luckily, the following day the sweetest woman from Minnesota contacted me on Facebook telling me she had found my passport and was trying to get it back to me. She literally changed her profile picture to say “Courtney, lost passport?”. We coordinated and I was able to pick it up just in time to make my flight home on Monday. They even greeted me with a birthday card. Won’t He do it? *sidenote we’ve kept in touch and Ann is such a cool lady. She travels often and is a writer too. She even wrote about this exact passport story.

In hindsight, here are some things that would’ve helped me in the event that my passport never turned up that I suggest for anyone traveling abroad –

  • Create a contact card to tape inside of your passport that has every form of contact available. Your telephone number, email addresses, social media handles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram too). That way if someone does find it and contacts you on any of these, you’ll be able to check every time you connect to wifi. Once I got home I saw Ann had also tried to contact me on LinkedIn and Soundcloud just based off of a Google search.
  • This may seem extreme, but travel with a paper copy of your passport. It makes the replacement process much easier since the only identification most people travel with is a drivers license and not a birth certificate or social security card. I made enough copies to place in the front pocket of each of my suitcases so I’ll have one no matter which luggage I take.
  • On the back of your passport copy, have the number to the U.S. Passport Agency. Even if you don’t have any phone service, the front desk at your hotel will be able to call outside of the country on your behalf. They can tell you (in English!) where to find the nearest consulate or embassy, what time they open, what you will need before you arrive and where to find it.
  • If you don’t already have a Passport, when you go to take your passport photos – request copies. They require passport photos in order to get an emergency passport. So instead of having to run around an unknown place looking for a place that takes passport photos, you’ll have two ready to go. Keep these in an envelope with the copy of your passport and you’ll be able to breeze through losing a passport.
  • If you’ve lost your passport, don’t panic about long replacement lines or scheduling appointments. All U.S. consulates and embassies take walk-ins for emergencies and will be happy to expedite the process if you can show them a travel itinerary.

Safe travels!

New Orleans | Travel Guide

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New Orleans is such a charming city. I never paid much attention to it since it’s only 5 hours from Houston but every time I visit I’m reminded of why it’s such a special place. If you ever want to go anywhere where it’s appropriate to be intoxicated for 72 hours straight, New Orleans is the place to be. The people there are the sweetest and it’s a pleasant reminder of how living a simple life can be truly gratifying. It’s so lively and colorful with everything a walk or short car-ride away. You’ll walk past live music in the streets and the most unique people from different walks of life.

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One of my best friends had plans to attend a wedding there so we turned it into a road trip since Easter allotted us a three-day weekend. We used Airbnb to book a house just a few days before we arrived and it worked perfectly for us. We got there early Friday afternoon and had plenty of time to enjoy the French Quarter.

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Jambalaya with sausage, collard greens, fried okra and cornbread.

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In love with the french style architecture used on these homes. Double doors, lanterns, porches and elaborate railing.

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Bourbon is probably the most popular street in the city and while it’s a lot of fun, we found some gems off of Frenchman and Magazine Streets that also give you some good bar and shopping options. If you visit, you have to stop by Razoo in the daytime. They played the best music and my friend may or may not have made $80 in 30 seconds from dancing on stage. Must have eats are Bourbon pizza from Vieux Carre on Bourbon and the wings from Willie’s Chicken Shack.

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Preserved Banksy graffiti

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Photos: @FarranManuel

What are your go-to gems in the city?

Monday Motivation | Do What You Love

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

This week will end the first quarter of 2016 and I’ve been busier than ever before. It’s still surreal to me how quickly time has been passing, but more-so how much more quickly it escapes you when you’re spending every day working towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself. With that being said, I hope that you’ve spent the last 90 days wisely – because I’m waiting on you to be great! And if for whatever reason, you didn’t take advantage of these past three months, now’s the perfect time to read this post about 90 day plans.

I mentioned in a previous post how 23 was a huge year of discovery for me, and during that time I was searching for answers everywhere. Daily, I was making sure to live my life and make the most of my days, but mentally I had a lot to sort out. I was traveling as often as I could in hopes that I’d see the world through different eyes. I began practicing the law of attraction and changing my thoughts. I was reading book after book trying to understand myself better. Is this normal? Am I crazy? Is it healthy for me to have such expectations for myself? How do I pinpoint my purpose? How can I help someone else? Looking back it was a great thing, but living it daily was tough.

One of the most effective books I read that year was “The Power of Now”, that my homegirl Oprah suggested as one of her “Supersoulful Reads“. The book explains the theory of “fear and love”, how the two cannot coexist and the necessity to live in the now. Like Jim Carey says in the video, every decision we make in each moment are based either out of love or fear. This changed my thinking substantially. I realized how many decisions I was making out of fear, instead of love. Worrying about what would happen if….. Or doubting whether or not I could really have what I wanted in life. We waste so many right now moments creating scenarios in our head that only amplify the things that we’re afraid of. We also waste a lot of our lives not going after what we truly want because we don’t feel like it will work out, it’s not possible or it will take too much to achieve it.

This week, insist on saying F*CK FEAR and take a step towards doing something that you’ve been wanting to do. And if you think you’re doing good, decide to be better. You will be so happy that you did. The end result isn’t a deciding factor when you’re making choices of love in each moment. You can’t change yesterday and tomorrow may never come, but you have the chance to fulfill this day and I hope that you choose to do what you love.

Weekend Deals

Happy Good Friday y’all! I just touched down in New Orleans for the weekend and I’ll be posting a Travel Guide on the blog for you all next week before I head out of the country. But before then… I wanted to be sure and share some bomb holiday sales that I shopped this morning. Enjoy your weekend!

ASOS has 30% off of $150 with code MARCH50. I got 11 items for $150. My secret is shopping categories from “low to high” and stopping once I reach items that cost $20.

I buy a ton of my work clothes here. J Crew has 25% off of a purchase of at least $125 with code SHOPMORE.

Nordstrom Rack has 25% off of all clearance items, which is the perfect time to buy these pants I wore on this post.

Added two DVF wrap dresses to my work wardrobe at 25% off with code FRIENDS25.

All sale items are an extra 30% off at Club Monaco with code MARCH30. I purchased this dress for an upcoming vacation and have a major crush on this Spring skirt. I would’ve definitely bought these pants had they had my size, womp.

I’m stuck on florals this season which is why I added this blazer to my collection for 40% off using code BRSPRING at Banana Republic. That 40% is off all items, all weekend.

I always get cart crazy when I shop Forever21 because everything is so inexpensive! I couldn’t pass up this utility romper, especially because I can pair it with sneakers or heels. I also have this swimsuit cover up in my cart, this jumper that would pair perfectly with a strappy heel, and this top that’s everrrrrything. Someone please buy this plunge jumpsuit, since they don’t have my size. I’m also thinking about buying this long-line button down to pair with denim shorts this summer.

Brand Building | Content Marketing

Content marketing concept in word tag cloud on white backgroundOne of the best things about my profession is how it ties into my own personal brand. Because I technically build and maintain brands for a living, it makes it easy to tie what I learn in a corporate environment into what I’m establishing for myself.

The most effective thing I’ve been having to incorporate into our ongoing public relations efforts is content marketing. Content marketing isn’t what we’re used to. It has nothing to do with printed mail-outs, or even promotional emails. It’s a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and keep a clearly defined audience. If you have a brand, this pertains to you – even if you’re not necessarily selling a product.

Marketing your brand will require you to be where the right people are looking at the right times, as well as communicating and engaging with what I call your “tribe” or your consumer. I’ve learned that content marketing costs much less than traditional marketing thanks to many free social media channels, but it will cost you time. Here are some key things to focus on when delivering content to your audience –

Deliver the right message, to the right audience, at the right time

Take time out to really brainstorm who your audience is and cater to them directly. You’ll find that it’s so much more effective to satisfy your definitive tribe as opposed to trying to spread yourself thin by creating content you think everyone might enjoy. Everyone doesn’t matter. You want to build a community based specifically on people who need what you have and need not to waste time worry about the “others”.

Talk about what people care about, not just your business

Engagement will rise when we touch on hot topics. Whether it’s presidential debates, celebrity news, or natural disasters – there’s always a way to incorporate current news. I work in the engineering industry, so I’m constantly have to make engineering relevant to what’s going on right now. “There was a flood? Well here’s how this new engineering technology that we used in this master-planned community could’ve prevented that.” Catch my drift? That’s not only quality, but relevant content as well.

Keep in touch and nurture relationships by engaging with your “tribe” in their communities

You’re not ever too good or too busy to reply to those who take the time out to engage with you. Make it a point to reply to messages, respond to tweets and interact with others. No matter how many followers you gain, you will see consistency in those who always like, share and comment on your posts. Be sure to support what they do too by clicking links they ask you to, sharing their messages, or taking a little time out to comment on what they’re doing.

Develop an online presence that’s as good as the information or product you’re offering

Get out there! Show your face, your products, your brand on more places than just your website. A vibrant, engaging website will never be enough if no one is visiting it. Make sure that you’re using the appropriate platforms to bring people back to what you want them to grasp.

Think about the end goal of the content you want to create before creating it

A lot of brands mess up by saying things just to say them, often watering down the prospective effect their posts can have on consumers. Yes, consistency is important – but not as important as good quality content. If you’re stuck in a creative slump but want consumers to remember you exist, try reposting something old that’s worth being revisited.

Get comfortable with a high level of personalization

It isn’t enough for you to create email blasts anymore or do mailouts with stickers in place of where someones name should be. People expect real one-on-one engagement. Try your best to personalize messages, newsletters, and replies even it takes a little more time than usual.

What are the best channels to distribute your content?

Men are more likely to use LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+; while women are more active on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Who are you marketing to and are you using the appropriate channels to reach your audience? For example, an engineering firm wouldn’t do well on Pinterest because we’re structured and not creative. Meanwhile, a DIY business wouldn’t get much engagement on Google+ because it caters to businesses close to whoever is doing the search. You only want to play where your content isn’t being shared in vain.

Market your content and extend its social life

The average social life of content lasts up to 3 hours on most social media platforms, but only 18 minutes on Twitter. Don’t be afraid to highlight your sale, your product, or event multiple times throughout a span of a few days. There’s a good chance a large percentage of your tribe missed it. What’s the worst that can happen? An unfollow? Well bye then! LOL

What content marketing rules do you all live by with your brands?