How to Survive Your Long Layover

On my way out to Nairobi from the U.S., I had 8 hours in the Istanbul airport. I landed after dark and took off when it was still dark, so it was just 8 hours... hanging out... by myself.

And on our way back to the United States, we were supposed to have a disgusting 13 HOUR LAYOVER in Abu Dhabi. Amazingly, Layne was able to sweet talk his way into changing our tickets and getting on an earlier flight - completely free of charge. Don't ask me how he did it; the man could sell honey to the bees. But before we knew we would be saved from the drudgery, we came prepared for a long 13 hours of just waiting around. When you know you're in for a long layover, you have to prepare.

Step 1

Do your research -  Make sure you know what converters you may need if you plan on charging your devices. Find out what services are available at the airport you'll be laying over in. Abu Dhabi had spa services, restaurants, and sleeping pods. They usually have an airport hotel, but it was being renovated. Fortunately, the UAE offers free visitor visas to citizens of certain countries and - cha-ching! - the good ole U S of A is on that list. Our layover ended up being about six hours, and we were able to take advantage of our free visas and get out of the airport for a bit. It wasn't enough time to see much, but we hit a mall and were able to have Shake Shack, Starbucks, and Cinnabon. You know - just the essentials. 

Step 2

Have a game plan - Before we left Nairobi, Layne and I knew we'd spend a few hours out and about exploring Abu Dhabi. But we had 13 hours and it was going to go through the night. It was inevitable that we'd also be spending some time in the airport itself. This layover was just the beginning of our week of travel, and we were armed with hours of downloaded podcasts, music, books, TV shows, and movies. We'd even brought a deck of cards. I also had my fully-charged computer with pictures to edit and blog posts I could work on. We had our sleep aids, eye masks, and ear plugs. We figured we would hit the town for a few hours, head back to the airport and watch some shows for a bit, and then try to sleep before our flight. We knew we'd have dinner outside the airport, and grab breakfast the next morning inside the airport before our flight. 

Step 3

Don't forget to move - It's important to walk around on your layovers. Even if you're not leaving the airport, you need to get your blood pumping to avoid the potential of deep vein thrombosis. This is especially true if you're in between two long flights like we were (5 hours to Abu Dhabi, then 8 more hours to Paris). Explore the airport gift shops, and check out the restaurants. Most airports have plenty of shops you can pop into, and the worst case scenario is plenty of long hallways you can stroll down and people watch. 

Step 4

Keep busy and remember that this, too, shall pass - In the end, it is what it is. Hours spent in a airport, not doing much of anything. Some airports may be worse to be stuck in than others, and even when you try to prepare you may not know until you get there. I would hate to be stuck in NBO for any length of time, but I could hang out in some airports for hours and not be too fussed about it. Come prepared with things to entertain yourself or to work on, and then just wait it out. Hopefully your long layover is worth it and brings you to an amazing final destination, be it somewhere or exotic or just a stop on your way home. 

Pin here! 

Pin here! 

Safe travels!

 

Life Lately...

Been a bit of a whirlwind for us! We left Kenya the first week of February, then hit Paris, D.C., Chicago, and have finally made our way to Salt Lake! We got here earlier this week, and have been busy trying to get settled, tcb, and catch up on weeks of delayed sleep. We're taking just a moment to catch our breath before jumping back into things full force next week and picking up the next inevitable task of figuring out what's next. 

Gorgeous Utah sunsets - thanks winter inversion! 

Gorgeous Utah sunsets - thanks winter inversion! 

BTW... "Jumping back into things full force" is code for more blog posts, so stay tuned. :) 

 

Saying Good-bye

My heart is definitely full right now. Even with being miserably sick for weeks on end, I'm finding it very hard to say good-bye to Kenya. 

The Yum staff threw Layne a going-away party on Saturday night. Like all Yum parties, the staff got hilariously drunk. We don't drink, but it is so fun to watch as they all lose their inhibitions more and more as the night goes on. We played a game where we would make a statement about Layne, and the staff had to guess if it was true or false. If they got it wrong, they had to take a shot. It was hilarious to see what they knew or did not know about Layne, and some of the facts they were absolutely shocked by. There was a lot of food, dancing, and laughing, but the night ended on a very somber note. Joyce - one of my favorite staff members! - invited everyone to make a little speech. Their lowered inhibitions only made the speeches more sincere, and there were many times that I got a little choked up.

The Yum team being their goofy selves a few weeks back on my birthday. 

The Yum team being their goofy selves a few weeks back on my birthday. 

While obviously I have always thought Layne is awesome, this is the first chance we've really had to work together and for me to see him in action in a professional setting. He has this amazing way about him that makes everyone feel special. He brought the staff together with his friendly and caring leadership style, and inspired all of them to take pride in their work and to achieve goals they hadn't even thought of setting before he came around. He believed in them, and took the time to get to know each individual, and it led to almost every single person saying that they love their job and feel that Yum is now their family. His ever-present sense of humor lent itself so well to a leadership style that created unity and teamwork, but he was also really respected for his business acumen and the success he brought to the company. Everyone wanted to do well to please him, and his personality and sharp mind have made a lasting impacting on the business and the staff. I don't know that I've ever had a boss quite like him, though I wish many more were. 

Something else that was a recurring theme throughout the night was our relationship. Before I got sick, I came into the office pretty frequently and helped Yum a bit with their marketing when I had time between my paid work. We hadn't really considered that we were being observed, but the staff noticed the ways we respected, joked with, and loved one another. I put my world on pause to allow Layne to explore this opportunity, and though I was happy to do so, the staff really saw it as a sacrifice. And though there are numerous reasons for why we are returning to the States, they also recognized the sacrifice Layne is making to leave Yum and the life we have carved out for ourselves here. After five years or marriage, these kinds of things are pretty natural to us. We are each other's best friends, and know that everything is give and take. It's not always easy, but we do try to put each other first. It was incredibly rewarding to hear that so many people think we're doing a good job of it. In addition to the professional lessons Layne was able to teach them, I was so honored that they were also able to learn from our relationship and to see things that they want to emulate. 

Basically since their speeches Saturday night, I've been a heartbeat away from tearing up at any moment. There is so much I have loved about living here in Kenya, and I can't believe our time here is coming to a close. It is incredibly rewarding to immerse yourself in a different culture - you learn so much about the world and yourself and people. The opportunities and experiences we have had here have no comparison to the life I had known before. Some of the friends we have made are the sweetest people with the biggest hearts, and we are incredibly lucky to have been welcomed with open arms. So much about our time here stands apart as singularly unique and special. And while living abroad is not without its challenges, I would jump at the chance to do it again. Kenya - our friends, the country, the adventures we have had - will always hold a very special place in my heart. I already want to return to the noise of Nairobi, the peace of the white sand beaches on the coast, and the endless adventure of the safari grasses. Though I know that moving forward is the right decision for us, my heart breaks to leave this place. 

Your Guide to Exploring Egypt

Egypt is an incredible country with countless sites and the world's longest running history. Even if you only have a few days to explore, you should be able to enjoy your time and pack quite a bit in. Here are my tips to making the most of your time in Egypt!

Get a tour guide

We had a tour guide with us throughout the entire trip. The company we used, Emo Tours, really tried hard to make us happy. Admittedly, there were a few mishaps and the guides didn't always provide us with accurate information or plan things the best, but every time the company was there to help smooth out the wrinkles. Despite the (very minor) issues, our guides were super helpful in arranging tickets, travel between cities, hotel rooms, and restaurant recommendations. But the most important reason to get a guide in Egypt is for the hieroglyphics. I don't know about you, but I don't speak ancient Egyptian. Our guides were always so great at deciphering the carvings and inscriptions, explaining the statues and temple layouts, and just generally helping us focus on what was significant about each site that we visited. 

The wall outside the Temple of Phillae in Aswan. 

The wall outside the Temple of Phillae in Aswan. 

Don't forget your guidebook

In my experience, even the most well-meaning tour guide gets the occasional fact wrong. But guidebooks are checked over and over again and you can usually rely on them to have their facts straight. Plus, they're loaded with extra information and tips. And Egypt is place where there is so much information to know, you really don't want to miss a thing. We like to read the guidebook the night before we hit the sites so we don't confuse any of the information or forget it. 

Hieroglyphics at the Temple of Phillae. 

Hieroglyphics at the Temple of Phillae. 

Learn (some of) the language

I don't care where you are traveling - everyone should learn some of the language basics of the country they're in. First up - "thank you". "Please", "excuse me", and "where is the bathroom" are a couple of others that always come in handy. Arabic is not easy to pick up and is gender-specific, so I recommend studying up a bit before you go. 

Preparing for our hot air balloon ride in Luxor. 

Preparing for our hot air balloon ride in Luxor. 

Check your souvenirs

Finding a souvenir in Egypt could not be easier. Small shops and bazaar are literally outside almost every site we visited. But finding a quality souvenir may be a little harder. You don't want to go all the way to Egypt to get a souvenir made in China. But there are plenty of shops that sell true Egyptian cotton, gold, silver, genuine stone, and real papyrus artwork. Also, you can negotiate the prices most places in Egypt so make sure you're ready to haggle a bit. 

Carve out some downtime

Our trip to Egypt was just that - a trip. It was not a vacation. Every day had a strict itinerary and a list of sites to see and things to do. This is fine for a few days, but we had 9 days in Egypt. It was crucial that we found some time every few days to relax and explore on our own. 

Ruins at Phillae Temple. 

Ruins at Phillae Temple. 

Other things to know before you go

Tourism is really down in Egypt right now, but the sites are as wonderful as ever. Some places (Luxor especially) have been hit hard and you need to be on the watch for pickpockets and scams. We had some time one afternoon in Luxor and decided to walk down the corniche to a restaurant overlooking Luxor Temple. Unfortunately, as we walked out of the hotel the drivers of the horse drawn carriages began clamoring for us. When we declined, they then asked where we were going and sent us off in the wrong direction. We walked 20 minutes to a dead end, and were accompanied the entire way by carriage and taxi drivers. They would hand us off to one another, and worked together to keep us going the wrong way. After more wrong directions and another 30 minutes, we finally gave up and got in a taxi, only to be taken the exact opposite way that everyone had told us. We normally love to walk and explore a city, but they really made it impossible for us. My recommendation is to verify any directions with your tour guide or the front desk of your hotel. 

Egypt is also infamously hot. We went in December, and it was still 70 with the hot desert sun bearing down on us. Make sure you have enough water (always bottled!), sunscreen, and lightweight clothing to endure a full day outside exploring the sites. And don't forget your sunglasses. 

El-Mursi Abul Mosque in Alexandria. 

El-Mursi Abul Mosque in Alexandria. 

Everywhere you go in Egypt, you'll see the Muslim influence. With 80% of the population practicing the faith, most women wear headdresses and dress modestly. Both our guidebook and our tour guides suggested that we dress modestly in our travels. While we would not have been barred from entering anyplace (unless we wanted to visit a mosque), it is still a good idea to respect the culture of the country you're visiting. You can find more information about what women should wear here

If Layne was not around, a lot of people would mistake me for being Egyptian. At least once a day I would shock someone by speaking English with my American accent, and they would laugh and exclaim that they had been trying to talk with me in Arabic. They all said I had an Egyptian face. And I guess I did sort of look like everyone else - dark hair, tan skin, big brown eyes. But at the tourist sites, nothing prepared us for the children. Our first day, we were standing on the pyramid and some girls came up to me with their camera and made the universal gesture for "will you take a picture of us?" I immediately agreed, but as I tried to take their camera they handed it off to a friend and came over to stand by my side with a smile on their face. I had no idea what was happening, but smiled gamely. This scene then repeated itself over and over again for the entire trip. Apparently, it is common in Egypt to take photos with tourists. The way our guide explained it, it's a way of showing their friends "look, I was really there. I saw a tourist." There were times I was swarmed by schoolchildren, all trying to take selfies with me. Layne and the tour guide would lose me, and I'd run to catch up after disengaging myself from the mass of arms and cell phones. Mostly young boys would ask Layne and girls would ask me, but Layne tended to say no. I didn't really agree with treating tourists like novelties and emphasizing our differences (it felt really dehumanizing, like I was a statue or a pyramid rather than a person), but then again it made the kids so happy that I almost always said yes unless I was about to lose Layne and our guide in the crowd. 

I happened to spy the exact same vandalism signature on two different temples. Throughout the years, the ancient sites have been used by Egypt's invaders and visitors for all kinds of things. You can even find Christian crosses in a lot of the temples today. 

I happened to spy the exact same vandalism signature on two different temples. Throughout the years, the ancient sites have been used by Egypt's invaders and visitors for all kinds of things. You can even find Christian crosses in a lot of the temples today. 

I know that given the chance, you will love your visit to Egypt. The beauty has endured through the ages, and seeing some of these sites will stop you in your tracks. It is an incredible place to experience, for both its ancient and modern cultures. 

And don't forget to check out my individual city guides to better plan your visit:

Alexandria - Embrace the Mediterranean 

Cairo - Pay a bit extra to go inside the pyramids

Luxor - Don't miss the sunrise hot air balloon ride

Aswan - You must take a sunset feluca ride on the Nile

Times are a'changin'

I don't know exactly how to begin this post... Probably just best to get it out there.

Playing with the kids at the Masai Village. 

Playing with the kids at the Masai Village. 

Layne and I are leaving Nairobi and headed back to the United States. We have absolutely LOVED our time here, but there are a number of reasons why this adventure must come to an end.

Number 1

Layne has accomplished everything that he needed to with the business. I am so proud of him and the amazing things he has been able to achieve here.  He has succeeded not only in turning the company around, but he has also been able to grow Yum considerably and take it to a whole new level. Yum is now in a fantastic position, ripe for the next steps. Layne will continue his work with the company, but he'll be able to accomplish all of what he needs to do now from back in the States. 

Number 2

I have been sick since November. Some of you may recall me mentioning this on my instagram way back when it all began. First we thought it was food poisoning, then a parasite, then pregnancy (!!!!), then ulcers, then malaria. Then they ran out of ideas. Doctor after doctor has failed to diagnose me. After running every test under the sun, they shrug. More infuriatingly, they'll say things like "besides how you feel, you are the picture of health!" and "It's a good thing that I can't find what's wrong with you." It doesn't feel very good when you've been sick a full 2 months and are no closer to finding a diagnosis. 

My every day in all its glory: my bed in the jacuzzi, complete with Tangawizi, bread, Gatorade, Goldfish and - of course - a puke bowl. And on the right, we have a typical breakfast in Kenya. And by typical, I mean the exact same thing I eat every. single. day. If I never see another s'more Pop Tart in my life it would be too soon. 

My every day in all its glory: my bed in the jacuzzi, complete with Tangawizi, bread, Gatorade, Goldfish and - of course - a puke bowl. And on the right, we have a typical breakfast in Kenya. And by typical, I mean the exact same thing I eat every. single. day. If I never see another s'more Pop Tart in my life it would be too soon. 

To clarify, this is more than a little sick. I am almost constantly nauseous, to the point where I can't sleep and can barely function. At night, I jerk awake every few hours, overcome with nausea.  My body demands that I sit completely upright or even stand and walk around even though I'm so weak and tired that I'm on the verge of collapse. I've taken to laying (sitting) awake at night in the jacuzzi tub so I don't wake Layne. Meanwhile, I've had to keep up with my full-time marketing work + the additional contract work I do. It has not been easy, and I basically just waste away in bed all day and work furiously in between fits of nausea so strong that my brain con't focus on anything else. For the past month I've been a little better, but only because I've been on prescription-strength nausea medication and I've restricted my diet to packaged foods. I eat a lot of pop tarts and canned soup, and it's getting old real fast. When you're restricted to a bed and eating a minimal diet, exploring the new country you've moved to shifts from exciting adventure to being a massive challenge. We've had to move trips or cancel them altogether, or we go on them anyway knowing that I'll be limited and have to rest often. We're managing, but it's not a state I want to prolong. 

Number 3

This move was always temporary. My work is in the states, but so is the rest of our lives. We gave ourselves just five weeks to pack up our lives in D.C. and get out here, and there are definitely some strings we left dangling that need to be tied up. Not to mention that a move to Africa completely disrupts some of the other goals we have that we'd been working toward. It has been completely worth it to put it all on pause, but it's time to hit the play button on our real lives again. 

Hard to say good-bye to scenes like this... 

Hard to say good-bye to scenes like this... 

Before this opportunity came along, we had always toyed with the idea of living abroad. Now that we've had the chance to, I know it's something I would love to do again. I have a better sense of what it entails and the sacrifices it demands, but also the blessings it can bring. I know better now what I would look for given the chance to live abroad again, but I feel that - at least for now - our place is back in the States. 

This blog will not end just because we're headed back to the States. One of the benefits of our move to Nairobi was the invigorating energy it gave us to reengage and make the most of our lives and every moment. We have really packed our time here, trying to see and experience as much as we can. For the next few months, we'll be somewhat transient as we decide what's next and where we'll be. But wherever that is, we are committed to making it an adventure. 

I hope you'll stick with me during this time as we slowly make our way to our temporary home, Salt Lake City. Layne's parents have an empty house there that is the perfect place for us to set up camp as we reacclimatize to America and make some more major life decisions. We need a central location where we can both interview, and look for the perfect city to settle down in. Before then, I have so much more to share with you - gorilla trekking over New Year's, another trip to Masai Mara, a visit to the Kenyan coast and the most amazing beach I have ever seen! Not to mention our upcoming pit stops in Paris, D.C., and Chicago as we head further and further west. 

Wish us luck as we take off on our next journey and all of the adventures that await!