10 Things You Can Do On A Staycation

When I went in for my staycation at Movenpick Bur Dubai, I was mostly excited about staying at a hotel for a couple of days because, I mean, hotel life is better than all life (of course). But once I came back home, I realized everything else that was so awesome about it and therefore, today's post.

So when you can't really do a full-blown vacation OR you have the money but not the time OR you just need a quick recharge, then staying at a hotel for a couple of days in your own city is the magical solution and here are 10 things you can do to make a staycation super fun.

I've also listed an 'indulge' and a 'budget' option with the points where applicable so you can choose to spend more if you want or just not spend anything on top of the room cost (There's also a bit of costing for a couple of similar stays at the Movenpick right at the end).

1. Get into your hotel robe and just hang out in bed. You don't have to do any of the home chores that you usually have on a daily basis. No matter how much I plan and try to keep my weekends free, there's always something that has to be taken care of. At a hotel, there's absolutely nothing that you have to worry about, which was just INCREDIBLE for me.

2. Create an experience. I'd made a playlist before heading to the hotel and then our room had such an incredible sound system, that just hanging out and listening to music felt SO good. I (naturally) also took my bed mist along with a relaxing balm (you put it on your temples) and just chilled.      

3. Order in dessert and read a book/catch up on a movie. I sometimes have a book on my list that I just can't get started on because of random distractions. Having this time to yourself is the best way to pick up that book you've been wanting to get into. There's a watchout though: if the book is incredibly good you might not want to put it down (it happens) and may eat into your entire stay. If you're afraid of that, what you can do instead is to take one of your favorite books along, and re-read the parts you love. With dessert, of course. The same for movies: If there's a movie you've been wanting to watch or a show you wanted to get started on, now's the time. N and I watched Ocean's Eleven and Twelve - both fun and not requiring much brain power. Also, ordered in ice cream in bed (Movenpick for the win).
Indulge: Order in dessert on room service
Budget: Take your favorite chocolate from the grocery store with you to the hotel so you have inexpensive snacks on you

4. Order in breakfast/room service. Obviously. I mean, room service is king.
Indulge: Order in a big breakfast or any of the other meals.
Budget: Not the same thing but you can order in an inexpensive pizza (I'd love to have takeout pizza in a hotel room). Also, the the next best thing is to wake up in time for the complimentary breakfast buffet which is mostly built into your room rate. And complimentary breakfast buffets are always the best.

5. Try out new products. I'm a lazy person in general. I'll buy something and then not use it for weeks. For the staycation I decided I'd do things I'd been putting off so I took along a face mask I'd bought sometime ago and hadn't tried out. So this is a good time to pick up something you haven't tried and have a go at it. Try out a new nailcolor, a lipstick you bought but never touched. And you don't just have to stay restricted to beauty products - some app you wanted to check out on your phone, a video tutorial online, anything you had put on the side for when you 'have the time'.

6. Take a relaxing bath. I'm a big believer in baths (I just don't do them frequently because you use a lot of water so once in a couple of months feels okay). Hotels have awesome tubs and you should totally take out an hour and get one for yourself. I took my own bath products along because I wanted to be prepped like a ninja (all you really need is bath foam, bath salts and a bath oil) . Bath salts relax you like nothing else (trust me) and it's one of the best things I did during my stay.

7. Dress up. While 50% of my staycation was spent in my pjs/hotel robe, I also dressed up for the rest of it. Did my hair, put on some makeup, got into decent clothes. It just felt good. Also, a great time to get pictures together.
Indulge: Go to the hotel salon and get a manicure or your hair done.
Budget: Do it yourself, lulz.

8. Try out a new restaurant. I often end up going to the same places to eat so trying out one of the hotel restaurants was so much fun. We went to the Indian restaurant in Movenpick called Chutney and I actually really loved the food (had masala bhindi and qorma). The interior was really nice and they even have a live band playing Bollywood music as you eat.
Indulge: Try out any of the restaurants in the hotel that you haven't ever gone to before
Budget: Don't want to spend on a hotel restaurant, then go for a walk outside and eat at a nearby place. Movenpick Bur Dubai was next to all these cool, low budget desi places like Emly Chilli, Billo, etc. Or just try out something new from the minibar or a new tea from the complimentary selection. Just trying out something new is exciting no matter how big or small.

9. Go to a new cinema/mall. If you feel like stepping out for a bit, go to a cinema or mall you haven't been to before. We went to watch The Magnificent Seven in a mall we'd only been to once very long ago and it totally felt like we were not in Dubai. I kid you not, N and I both lost perspective multiple times during out stay about where we were. It actually works.

10. Have a conversation. Regardless of who you're going with - your partner, kids, best friend, parent - just sit and have some pointless conversation over tea or coffee. I'm always thinking about things I'll probably never end up doing (there's always an imaginary event happening in my head) but I enjoy talking about them anyway. Talk about places you'd love to travel to, what would you do if you suddenly had a million dollars, things you want to do for fun over the next few months - stuff you might not find the spirit or energy for in day to day life.

Other than all that, we didn't do some things that could also be so amazing like going to the gym (lol, I'm lying), the pool, the spa. Good stuff.

We didn't have kids to worry about but if you're up for it, the hotel also had a babysitting service so you could take a few hours on your own and then do family time. You could also split up kiddie time between the spouses (if you're not a single parent) for a few hours to enjoy some me-time if you want.

Also, if you can't manage a hotel, do it at home. You'll have to work extra hard at mentally separating yourself from your usual context, but I don't like saying impossible to anything, so you can make it work. But if you can save up for a quick getaway to a hotel in your own city, that's obviously the best.

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Budget Estimate for Movenpick Bur Dubai (based on October 2016 rates)
Room Cost: AED 440 per night and upwards (we were offered the Executive Room which has a higher room rate) 
2 Day Stay Cost (2 persons): AED 1000 and upwards for bigger rooms (including taxes)
Average food cost (4 meals): AED 1500 (if you dine at the hotel)
Average total cost: AED 2500 (could be less if you use an offer) 

- Most hotels have offers on package stays like for 3-nights. Check them out so you can pay less and enjoy more. You can also build in meals.
- Pay a little extra and do a late check-out around 6 pm
- Get a hotel which is not in your neighborhood. Our hotel was on the other side of the city, where we go very infrequently. Just being in that area felt like being in a new place. (By the way, staying in a hotel and not stepping outside also creates the illusion that you actually traveled. True story.)
- Clean your house before you leave for the hotel so when you come back, you don't hate your life (dirty dishes have the power to induce mood disorders).

Until next time.

Outdoor Plans List

Wadi Shab in Oman where I went on a road trip with friends in 2011 and it was breathtaking
Happier/cooler months are coming and somehow this year I'm so pumped to get outdoors and stay out as much as my lazy self will allow (being super active 24/7 is not in my genes). I've prepared a list of things I'd love to do - I'm in Dubai but you can do most of these anyplace where the weather's cool and the spirits are high. Some of these things I've done, some will be for the first time, my enthusiasm for both categories is unmatched.

So since there are limited weekends and the list is long, I'm hoping to attempt about 25% of it? Let's review.

1. Go for walks in our neighborhood a couple of times each week
2. Hang out at the park with food and a book
3. Wake up to catch the sun rise, get breakfast afterwards 
4. Also, catch a sunset from an interesting spot
5. Go overnight camping in the desert, sleep under the stars
6. Have lots of chai dates on the marina at night
7. Go cycling
8. Sleep one night in our tiny balcony
9. Go on a tiny road trip with friends, make pitstops, eat, explore randomly
10. Go hiking somewhere outside of Dubai
11. Go for a walk on the beach, then have burgers
12. Check out some old areas of Dubai
13. Read books and have snacks in the balcony
14. Explore a couple of outdoors cafes or restaurants I haven't been to
15. Go to a farmers' market

Most of this is slow stuff which I enjoy doing more than other things but no regrets. 

So incredibly excited, bros.

Adulting: What We've Learned

What do I even look like lulz. I think I'm 26 here.
Women learning to do things entirely on their own - I'm the biggest champion of that. Not all of us get to do the living-independently thing though, which is not a dealbreaker and you can eventually end up in the same mental space as someone who has gone that route. But the pace of stuff you pick up and how quickly you adapt to being with yourself, is unmatched when you're on your own. Adulting is good fun.

Atiya & Amna (lifestyle interns) have lived away from home in their own unique situations and since I've done the same too, we decided to have a conversational kind of post where all three of us share our respective 'adulting' situations and what we learned during that time. If you've ever considered being on your own as an option or thinking about doing it for a bit, fingers crossed this post gives you some interesting perspective. Let's do this?

Disclaimer: All of us apologise in advance for the terrible photos. We did not know better.

When and where was I 'adulting'? 2013-2015, Columbia, Missouri, USA
What was your living situation? Three months with roomies in a 3-bedroom house, 21 months in a studio apartment.
How old were you? 24 - 26 years

Living alone meant a lot of bad selfies taken in awful lighting
Here is a list of things that will happen when you move into your first apartment: You will eat cereal in the dark because you haven’t bought lamps for your new place yet. You will melt a plastic colander because you turned on the wrong burner (why you placed it there is another mystery altogether). Your heart will break throwing out good fruit and vegetables because you thought you should be super fancy and try that recipe you found on YouTube. You will pick up the phone and just dial Dominos. True story(ies).

I got a scholarship to go to a country where women live alone and they're pretty much prepared to live that way. Being by myself, cooking my own food, keeping my space clean taught me one of the most valuable lessons one can learn in their early 20s: How to be comfortable with one’s own solitude. And the lessons I learnt from that experience, now apply to my life even when I have come back to Pakistan and live with my family.

What I learned
1. I am alright with doing things on my own. Because I used to run to the nearby store for milk and eggs, doing the same at home does not phase me.

2. I can handle myself if I'm alone in public. Very recently, I ended up in a park in a Karachi with about 45 minutes to kill. I read a book not at all bothered by the people who were in the park, staring. 
L: As a student of magazine journalism, the magazine and breakfast shot was my aesthetic / R: Further proof of said aesthetic
3. I learned to enjoy my solitude. Coming home to a quiet and empty apartment was therapeutic. While preparing for the rest of my night I would embrace the silence, learn to be comfortable with listening to podcasts while doing the dishes, getting up on Saturdays to make pancakes. Many people would say to me doesn’t it get lonely and I would say not at all because I did not see it like that. I was alone yes, but not lonely.

4. I learned to be less dependent and needy for others. And that is one of the best things about adulting. I would make an attempt to put on pants and make lunch plans if I had been inside for too long but I wasn’t desperate for companionship. It was always there.
This place was my life. Lots of alone time spent here (before my friends realized I was the ultimate movie buddy)
5. My father said something once that always stuck with me. During my early 20s I spent an intensely lonely time. My sister was away or college and I would come home to an empty bedroom. I spent a lot of that time reading and watching shows. It was another kind of learning to be by myself because of the absence of a sibling. In that time my dad said: “In order to be good company, this loneliness is necessary.” This little bit of advice has stayed with me ever since. I think my “highest” point (which my mother would call the lowest) came when later I spent a five week long winter break holed up in my apartment literally Netflixing and chilling. Because it was below zero degrees and I did not know how to work my heater (yet) I was under three layers of blankets and consuming books and Orange is the New Black. My mother worried that I had not seen company for days but to be honest I didn’t mind at all. To be fair social media got me through this time because I was tweeting and instagramming constantly so it felt like I was connected to my friends back home. But overall, when I look back, I got to know, very intimately, the only person that matters: myself.

Random, pointless questions

Person who was your lifeline:
Miranda Metheny, my first friend from my program. She picked me up from the airport and remained my go-to person for everything.
Go-to food: Dominos Pacific Veggie Pizza
Favorite adulting hack: Tinned chickpeas will get you very far in life
Usual sleep time: 2 am (I was watching True Detective! Or completing assignments)

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When and where was I 'adulting'? Lahore from 2011 to 2014
What was your living situation? Hostel living
How old were you? 21- 24 years
Totally stole that flower crown
Moving out to a hostel was such a good idea until the first night when this senior student shouted in my face to get the hell out of her sight. So much for new beginnings. Hostels can be noisy and uncomfortable. Ours would often struggle with sanitation or enough room for the people living there. But living in conditions that I was not used to, with other girls who weren’t my friends taught me some very valuable lessons.

1. I loosened up. I used to be shy, introverted and really bad at interacting with people. And a lot of that did not fare well with me when the senior girls at the hostel ragged all the freshmen 24/7. See, in the NCA hostel, you get ragged for the entire year. Not just the first few days, the entire year. This one time some seniors asked us to rehearse the most vulgar swear words that most of us didn’t even know the meaning of. A girl started crying, some protested, but being pulled out of my comfort zone somehow just helped me loosen up (I also learnt to stop being so uptight when I heard someone else swear).

2. I discovered how resilient I was. The hostel conditions were very poor and we had to deal with the water crisis and crazy heat waves without ACs. I remember it was so hot in the summer that my friends and I would take our blankets up on the rooftop and sleep on it under the stars. Around 5 am it became chilly enough for me to roll the blanket on top and continue sleeping for the next two hours till it was time to go to class. There is something so beautiful and memorable about that moment. Nothing can recreate it. I felt so sad about the conditions we lived in, but I also felt gratitude for the resilience within us to solve anything that came our way. 
Kudos to instant noodles for never letting us go hungry
3. Living with people made me less selfish. I didn’t mind sharing the same spoon I ate with. I even let my friends borrow my clothes, something I would have never done because I was previously so uptight.

4. There are many stereotypes surrounding a commune where there are all women, be it a school or a hostel. They are all wrong. What I learned in my four years is that here is a sisterhood which is always welcoming and for a short bubble of time it is that feeling we all crave: home. We bunked classes for each other, stayed up all night talking, shopped at weird hours for bug spray and so on. Being woken up by Pitbull blaring in the room next door wasn’t my kind of fun, but getting back by cranking up Avicci was the perfect revenge (then the power died so jokes on me).

5. There is something humbling about living with girls from all areas of Pakistan, ethnicities, class and backgrounds. I learnt how to be confident in my own skin, accept my flaws, own up to my mistakes and get a new perspective on life and situations. I learned to always look at both sides of a conflict, and most importantly mind my own business when a situation had nothing to do with me. 
Back when we didn’t know what a 'resting bitch face' was so we actually smiled because we were happy
Random, pointless questions

Person who was your lifeline: Kanzul Zaidi, my roommate
Go-to food: Bunpluster (egg and shami bun kebab) and tea
Favorite adulting hack: A sandwich toaster. Super fast snacks with ingredients thrown together - no need to cook, easy to clean. Fool proof.
Usual sleep time: 4 am (my friends were addicted to playing cards and would continue till one of us grew a conscience)

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When and where was I 'adulting'? Karachi, through 2005 to 2011
What was your living situation? Multiple apartments, some years with roommates, some years alone
How old were you? 21 - 27 years
Me, working hard at the office. Bestest friend, stealing my sandwich.
I've documented my Karachi living alone situation quite a bit on the blog so I won't do this to you guys again. But I'll talk about the things I learned during that time that have lasted me forever.

1. Being your own SOS call. I believe in depending on people and I'm not the person who thinks that everyone should be alone and do everything by yourself blah blah. But I do believe that one should know with absolute affirmation that they can take care of themselves if there was a need. I truly learnt during my time in Karachi to sort my messes out myself. I had some incredible shit happen to me and it would throw me off, frustrate me, and then I'd remember that I trust myself and I'd handle it. This confidence gets me through everything in life.
Decentz at-home activitiez: Scrabble.
2. Managing money. Paying for everything yourself and then having responsibilities to financially care for others, is something that teaches you a lot about how to handle your money. The first year I found myself struggling with cash, one time in debt, and generally not in control of my finances. I quickly learnt how to manage my money, never go into debt/loans and help me do everything that I wanted to do - for myself, my family and the future.

3. Midnight deliveries are magic. True story.
In a shady cab in Turkey on a work trip with work friends. Yus.
4. Negativity will touch you if you let it. I'm a fairly positive person. I don't complain, whine or find issues with most things. A big reason for that is specifically because I've seen some seriously screwed up things during my time in Karachi and faced some very questionable behavior and it just toughened me up. I quietly learned to never let it get to me because I had one thing in mind: my life and where it was going. A lot of people ask me how I handle negativity because of the blog now - I've handled way worse in real (you can imagine a single girl voluntarily living alone in an apartment in Pakistan, not even a paying guest situation, is a crime equivalent to manslaughter). It's not right - I will never say negativity is acceptable - but on a personal level for myself, I decided very long ago that any crap coming towards me is never about me, it's always about the other person. We all handle some kind of negativity in life, no matter where we come from or what we do, and knowing this simple thing works wonders.
Had a few friends over and N decided to make some magical coffee in the microwave for everyone. One cup at a time, like this.
5. You control your life. When you're alone, you can do anything. I could hang out with anyone, I had no curfews, you can really do anything you want to do. When you suddenly don't have the discipline of your parents or the structure of a typical life that family or living in a unit gives you, your life is in your hands to shape however. My dad emailed me once (he sent me so many emails, god) that he trusted me and I could do whatever I wanted but I should always be careful. I carry that email in my heart till today. Despite having all the liberties in the world, I always knew the kind of person I wanted to be. I controlled my life, I focused on my career, I worked hard, met terrible people and ditched them, met great people and I hung on to them. Having liberties can be an asset or a cancer. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. I always remembered to use my freedom to my intellectual and emotional benefit and never to indulge in anything that wouldn't add to me as a person. 

Random, pointless questions
Person who was your lifeline: Now-husband, then in the format of close friend/trusted human. And bffs Sumika and Mustafa.
Go-to food: McDonald's
Favorite adulting hack: If you need anything, just go to Gizri. I don't know if that still works, but I went there to find everything from an electrician, to a plumber, painter, emergency lock breaker, cheap frames maker, moving guy, everything. I had a problem, I'd just drive to Gizri and ask around.
Usual sleep time: 2 am (terrible, I know)

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Atiya and Amna are all about the good life. From books, sci-fi to pop culture and fashion, you can find them always talking and joking over a cup of tea. Find them on Instagram at @atiya107 and @amnaabbas and their blog at @blogthegoodlife. To read more about these girls, check out the meet the interns post.

Tell your adulting story? Until next time.

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Note: The winner of the Italy 3 nights giveaway is Zoya Shahzad Paracha.

Timeout: DIY Embroidered Patch Jacket. And More.

1. So much laooo for this patch jacket. Will accept volunteers who can do this for me, thanks.

2. Great packing hacks. I'm a personal fan of roll-the-clothes one, it actually packs in double the stuff than the usual fold-and-stack.

3. These DIY costumes are ridiculously adorable. I hope and pray for a time when I can wear these on a regular day and go do groceries or something. 

4. Self-help book recos on Apartment Therapy.

5. Have you heard of coffee in a cone? Apparently, it is, or going to be, a thing. Sigh.

Until next time.


Lame posing at Movenpick Bur Dubai earlier this week when I went for a quick timeout with N. I got the flu right after (spousal privileges, don't jealous) so life was pretty uneventful after that. Hoping to get some personal stuff done this weekend, like sort out the guest room (I think I'm lying/you'll find me on the couch).

Tried out this Indian Healing Clay yesterday that the whole internet is raving about. Didn't notice anything so far (obviously, since it was the first time), but I shall do a full review if I also fall truly, madly, deeply in love with it. It's very easy to use: just mix the clay powder with water or raw apple cider vinegar and apply (I used ACV). You can buy from here in Dubai, if you're feeling like an impatient puppy.

Ordered these mugs from Urban Outfitters and they arrived this week. And what a massive fail it was, you guys. The mugs are so freaking huge, I could sit and have a bubble bath in them. Totally not conducive to chai drinking procedures. So we've dedicated them to soup drinking (since we're having soup for dinner nearly every night) and one of them was chipped so I put a plant in it. Hashtag improvise.

Tiny flatlay I made for Aeropostale this week. That's a boy's tshirt because no section is off-limits for me. Also, special shoutout to the shoes that come in three colors - nude, black and white. I love them, you should get yourself a pair.

Project Runway's new season is here and I have a show to watch on my own again, woohoo. Still shaken after the cancellation of Devious Maids and Mistresses so this is like rehab for me.

Have a great weekend, guys.

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+ There's a giveaway open for a 3-night stay in Sotto Le Cummerse, a hotel in Italy, and if you haven't entered, here's your chance.