What I've learned from The Ritz-Carlton team

If you have read me for some time now, you know I fall in love with the most creative, innovative brands around the world. But, after a while, it looks like you've seen... well, everything. Of course, that's not true, but just a feeling of linearity. 

Yes, I love hotels more than anything in this world. Yes, you can get bored from time to time and take things for granted. Yes, you can feel tired of luxury or too much attention, to say the blunt truth. 

After fifty 5-star hotels in less than a year, the images in my head started to get fuzzy. Of course, I remember moments and feelings. But the lines are merely confusing. 

This was not the case with The Ritz-Carlton. In fact, I was so blown away by some things, that I talked about these hotels till I made everybody crazy.

Yes, it was a dream come true (who in the world wouldn't want to stay at The Ritz?!). Yes, my ego played a huge role. But the after taste was very different. I felt humble and powerful at the same time. 

And for the first time, I am ready to share what I've learned from The Ritz-Carlton team:

1. Hospitality is a state of mind. 

Every hotel I've visited offers comfort, wonderful design, and great services. 

The Ritz-Carlton plays in another league. 

They have the best beds in the world - so good that when I got home, I was interested in buying a mattress like that. They work with an amazing brand from the USA and sell those beds, pillows, and blankets. And yes, a $2000 mattress like that it's worth every penny! 

The design of the rooms is not flamboyant, nor has too many details. Everything is created for pleasure, for fun, for a good life inside and for you to feel like home. 

There is nothing you could want and the Ritz-Carlton team couldn't do it.

The food is out-of-this-world.  

And the people are the most important!

2. Collaboration is the most powerful instrument of the new world. 

They are all great communicators, they know how to do it with awesomeness and ease. 

I've been a witness in an intense scene (at The Ritz-Carlton DIFC): a very difficult, demanding client, wanting more and more special attention. And a smart and relaxed team member, with just one compliment and a smile made that client dancing in the club, and walking very satisfied and happy. 

3. Diversity is not a rule or a necessity, but the normality of a life well lived. 

They can hire anybody - there are a lot of very talented people everywhere in this world. But they create stories and emotions, hiring people so different in cultures, beliefs, races, religions, orientations, and traditions - that you can feel an entire cultural Universe opens in front of you. 

I've met in Dubai people from UK, UAE, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Italy, and USA, in the same team. And the glue between them: kindness, openness, acceptance, respect, and love. 

4. Vulnerability is an asset, not a liability. 

I've never met hotels' employees so vulnerable and open to share their personal stories, their moments of doubt, their pleasures and preferences, their strong opinions about anything. Of course, with smiles, kindness, and respect. They make you feel included, relaxed and very welcome. 

I've met a beautiful young woman at the club, with a perfect chocolate skin and a sweet smile, and we were both looking at the full moon. She told me that she sees a playful rabbit shape on the moon. I loved her for that!  

I was blown away by every single member of the Ritz-Carlton team. No small talk in there, but smart, warm conversations that melted my heart.

5. The good energy is real. 

Have you ever entered a space and instantly felt good? This powerful energy may come from many places and in different shapes: from nature (flowers, water everywhere), from the people (acceptance, kindness, goodwill), from the power of a soul business and from the management. Peace, joy, and frankness make the rules. 

6. The world of my dreams. 

For the first time in my life, I've seen the world of my dreams in front of me, a world where I want to thrive. 

And it's not enough to dream of this world, but to create it. And these people already made a step forward. They understand that change starts with just one smile. 

This is the world I want to live in: diversity, possibilities, respect, kindness, open-minds, collaborations, energy, expansion, vulnerability, love, ease, and joy. 

* Even Steve Jobs was inspired by the amazing Ritz-Carlton: 

And I will visit The Ritz-Carlton hotels all over the world, to learn more, to be a part of this powerful change. 

We had to lose ourselves to find ourselves

Dear friends, I am very happy and honored to present you a traveler, a dreamer, and a wonderful woman in love with this world. My friend, my student, and my inspiration: Ingrid. And she has some magical stories for you! 

"It was a hot humid tropical night, we were holding hands and walking as fast as we could given the circumstances (wearing flip flops on a side unpaved road), jumping at every unfamiliar sound and following the only light available, created by the moon. Six kilometers felt like 600 and the fact that we were there for the first time in our lives made our minds imagine all sorts of terrible things that might happen to us, in that middle of the night, on a small island in Vietnam, in a forest walking towards the beach.

It's incredible what the human mind can do when feeling under pressure. At a point, two guys on a scooter passed us by, looked at us, only to come back after a few minutes. That's when we thought "this is it, we're fucked!", 2 girls and a guy walking in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. We were almost certain we won't get out of there without being at least robbed. But nothing happened, the guys did not return with others, like we were imagining, no one came and we continued our run towards the beach. We were hoping to find at least a bar or a terrace open on the beach, or someone to help us get a taxi.

And finally, the white beach guarded by a line of tall palm trees, bathed by the moon, was in front of us. I'm not sure you ever felt a deep relief I felt at the sight of that beach, I could now breath even if up to that point I did not even realize I was not breathing properly. But that did not last for long because there was no bar, no restaurant, not a single man in sight. And what now? What do you do when you find yourself in this situation? 

It's the fight, flight or freezes physiological reaction one has to stress or in response to a potentially harmful event. You don't choose your reaction under this circumstance, your brain chooses for you. And we were 3 brains involved. I wanted to stay on the beach until sunshine, my brain was telling me to freeze, in this lovely place. And I almost managed to convince the other two, but everything changed once we saw coming towards us, a pack of 6 dogs who did not seem particularly friendly. Flight it is! Without even discussing it too much, we started walking back into the woods, heading back to the hotel, the whole 6 kilometers.

From agony to ecstasy and right back to agony again in just a few minutes, each of us went through opposite feelings and realized how the mind can play tricks on you so easily and how strong it can be. When we approached the village, at every dark house there was at least one dog barking and protecting his territory from us, until we finally managed to reach our final destination. We could have argued, we could have placed blames, but we didn't. We were just happy to be there because, at some point, each had lost hope and regained it. 

That was not a dangerous place, but it could have been and this trip has thought me one important thing: no matter how close something looks on the map, don't leave without being prepared and without having the right circumstances. 

We had to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves and come out as new and better persons the next day, while we managed to relax under the burning sun, on that same beach where we cried and almost surrendered to anguish and despair only one night before. 

The cool breeze swinging the palm trees' branches brought a feeling of serenity and gratitude, for we were lucky, happy and free, on a small island in Vietnam."

You can find Ingrid on her blog - Ingrid Zen MomentsFacebook, and Instagram

Thank you!

Welcome to Sri Lanka!

My lifetime dream of visiting Sri Lanka had finally come true. Last month, Vlad and I were treated like the kings of the island for an entire magical week. I have a lot of memories, photos, and stories, and more important I have more reasons to come back. Because one week is not enough to explore and discover the fabulous universe of Sri Lanka.

1. We had two perfect flights with SriLankan Airlines, from KL to Colombo, and then to Dubai. The airline team spoiled us with amazing traditional food, cocktails, Ceylon tea, beers and fruit juices and we took some great pics with them. Memories in the sky:) 

Thank you, Iulian & TAL Aviation Romania for making this possible!

2. Colombo is a colonial-exotic city, with crazy traffic and generous people. We chose Cinnamon Lakeside, a 5-star hotel in the center of the city, with a beautiful apartment and a stunning terrace with views over the lake. Every morning, I've watched dozens of pelicans flying and landing on water - a landscape to remember! 

3. The sunsets range from soft pink to purple, and the air is full of sea and Frangipani scents. Magic! 

4. Local food and the chefs are surprising. From fresh seafood to the elegant cocktails at the club, and to the traditional dishes at the restaurants - everything is absolutely delicious!

5. The Ceylon Green Tea is the best in the world!

6. Colombo is a hot, mesmerizing city. From the craziness of tuk-tuks to the kindness of people, from the amazing food to the wonderful colonial hotels, from the heat of the afternoons to the starry nights, we loved everything in the capital of Sri Lanka. 

7. If you travel by car, like we did, please ask the driver to stop along the way, and see these wonderful statues and temples of Sri Lanka. 

8. From Colombo to Bentota (one of the biggest resorts on the island), is an easy 2-hour ride. Here, we stopped at the Bentota Beach by Cinnamon, to refresh and drink a traditional fruit juice.

9. When we left, we found out from our driver - Jagath Chandra (an amazing storyteller) that it's a holiday in town, so we've stopped at a beautiful temple and participated in a Buddhist ceremony. 

10. Back on the road, we saw along the way some out-of-this-world beaches, with white soft sand and turquoise waves. 

11. We arrived in Hikkaduwa at noon, and we checked-in at Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon, a wonderful all-inclusive resort, on the beach. For three days, we relaxed in this magical garden, we fed the squirrels, and we listened to the ocean. In the evening, we either went to the Tranzfuse Pool Bar or stood inside, on our sea-view terrace. 

12. In the south, you will find the Yala National Park and Cinnamon Wild Yala Resort. Take a jeep safari to the park, you will have the adventure of your life. 

13. Sri Lanka is a well-known destination for weddings and honeymoons. You can have a ceremony on the beach, in the mountains or a wedding in the wilderness. 

14. Before our flight, we've spent 2 hours at the Serendib Lounge, in the Bandaranaike International Airport - it's an exotic, relaxing space with kind and smiling people. Here, we had amazing food and drinks, and even a shower. 

15. After an amazing week on the island, we took off into the sunset, had a wonderful dinner in the sky and landed safely in Dubai, with memories for a lifetime. 

All photos are made by Vlad Semen, with Sony A7S. 

You can read here more stories about Sri Lanka.

Thank you!!