7 Days in Cape Town

Reading titles like “One of the best cities to visit in the world” by Time Magazine and Travel and Leisure convinced my wife and I we had to visit South Africa. When we found out, we had enough miles to pay for most of our flights and hotels, we decided to make the 24+ hour trek to Cape Town in February 2016. After spending 7 full days in Cape Town, we know why it’s consistently voted one of the best cities in the world- it truly has something for every type of person from adventure to good food to culture to class.

Here’s what we did each day in Cape Town:

Day 1- Hipster Cape Town:

  • To fight the jet lag, we slept in until 10AM and then took an Uber (Cheaper than in the US and just as reliable) to the birthplace of the hipster movement, Woodstock. And where to all the hipsters spend their Saturday? At the Old Biscuit Mill. It’s an indoor and outdoor market full of arts and crafts, every kind of street food imagineable, and trendy clothes. Grab a artisan coffee and stroll the market for hours eating, laughing, and enjoying the view of Table Mountain.IMG_8525.JPG(Photo: View of Table Mountain from inside Old Biscuit Market)
  • Once you’ve had your share of hipster paradise, exit through the main gate and walk left. As you walk alongside the main drag of Woodstock, you’ll pass by used book stores, coffee shops, boutique cloth shops, and art galleries. IMG_8540 (Photo: View of Table Mountain from the streets of Woodstock near Old Biscuit Mill)
  • From here, we took a quick Uber (locals warned us it was a bit unsafe to walk there) to District Six Museum to learn about a part of Cape Town’s dark history. The museum is definitely rich in history, but it’s a bit small so don’t plan on staying for more than an hour.
  • Since hipsters love a good Instagram photo, we Ubered to Bo Kaap, the Muslim district of Cape Town full of colorful houses. Snap a few photos to show your friends.IMG_8549(Photo: The streets of Bo Kaap)
  • Even hipsters need to eat so we Ubered to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to wine and dine with the richest of hipsters. It’s one of the most beautiful waterfronts with high end stores and restaurants. IMG_8559.JPG(Photo: My wife and I at Victoria and Alfred Waterfront)
Day 2- Adventure Cape Town
  • To further help our jet lag, we decided to go great white shark cage diving super early! The White Shark Diving Company picked us up in Cape Town at 4:45AM. We drove a few hours to Gansbaai along the coast before arriving to the ocean. After some training, we got on the boat and went to find some great white sharks. Sadly, someone has been illegally killing great white sharks and dropping their bodies in the water warning other sharks to stay away. Because of that, we didn’t see any great white sharks, but it was still a fun adventure (and they gave us a vocher to come back for free sometime in the next two years).IMG_8602.JPG (Photo: Out on the ocean looking for great white sharks)
  • We arrived back to Cape Town in the late afternoon so we decided to explore a local neighborhood called Constantia stopping in the highly rated Peddlars & Company for dinner and wine.
Day 3- Historic Cape Town 
  • We woke up early to Uber to the city center to check out some tourist destinations like St. George’s Cathedral where Desmond Tutu can be seen some days and Company’s Garden.IMG_8638.JPG (Photo: The view from the Company’s Garden)
  • 11AM we boarded the ferry to Robben Island. There are three times a day that the ferry goes to Robben Island and your ferry ticket covers your island tour too. After 30 minutes, the ferry arrived to the island and we were ushered into buses to drive around the island followed by a tour of the prison by a former political prisoner. The moment you step foot on the island the theme is reconciliation and you leave inspired. IMG_8680.JPG (Photo: Robben Island once you get off the ferry)
  • Once we were back in Cape Town, we joined the locals in walking alongside the Sea Pointe Pomenade. Walk down to the rocks by the ocean to see a stunning sunset. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a few whales swimming along the coast.IMG_8732.JPG (Photo: The sunset at Sea Pointe Pomenade)
  • To reflect on all we learned today, we Ubered to Bree Street to grab a pint at Door 221 before heading back to the hotel.
Day 4- Beach Cape Town
  • In the morning, we paid a few rand to take the local train down the coast to Simonstown. The trains are not luxurious by the views along the coast are breath taking. If you’re lucky, you’ll feel the ocean spray up onto you as the train buzzes along the water. IMG_8777.JPG (Photo: The train from Cape Town to Simonstown)
  • Once in Simon’s Town, we enjoyed the various coffee shops and antique stores before walking to see the penguins at Boulder Beach. Make you sure you go to the path on the right so you can actually swim with the penguins! IMG_8783.JPG (Photo: Penguins at Boulder Beach)
  • From Boulder Beach, we rented a car to take us to the Cape of Good Hope to see the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Oceans meet. It’s just a short drive with beauty all around you. The Cape of Good Hope itself is very touristy, but worth seeing once. Beware of the aggressive baboons in the parking lot. IMG_8918.JPG (Photo: My wife at the Cape of Good Hope)
  • Once our driver dropped us off at Simonstown, we got back on the train to Kalk Bay. Kalk Bay is the most beautiful beach town outside of Cape Town. Spend an hour or so strolling from shop to shop and be sure to go to the famous Olympia Bakery for a chocolate croissant. IMG_8905.JPG (Photo: Looking up to the mountains from Kalk Bay)
  • As you leave Kalk Kay walking north, stop by Dalebrook, a natural wave pool formed in the rocks by the ocean. The ocean waves come into the pool without the animal life creating an oasis to swim as you watch the trains whiz by.IMG_8899.JPG (Photo: Watching trains go by from Dalebrook)
  • After drying off, we walked north alongside the ocean to Muizenberg Beach for an amazing (and cheap!) steak dinner at Tiger’s Milk.IMG_8908.JPG (Photo: Colorful huts on Muizenberg Beach)

Day 5- Athletic Cape Town

  • Trying to be athletic, we wanted to hike up Table Mountain. We found the hardest hike thinking it couldn’t be that bad and made our way to the starting point at Kirstenbosch.
  • Once we paid the entrance fee, bought hats to fight off the sun, and several bottles of water, we embarked up Skeleton Gorge. Literally, this was the hardest hike we’ve ever done. 3+ hours uphill, rarely letting up. When you weren’t thinking about the exhaustion, the views were beautiful.IMG_8934.JPG(Photo: The view from the hike up Table Mountain)IMG_8947.JPG (Photo: An oasis half way up Table Mountain)
  • Once we arrived to the lodge at Table Mountain, we feasted before paying the fee to take the cable car down.IMG_8943.JPG(Photo: The view from the cable car on Table Mountain)
  • Once we fetched the bus back into town, we paid a few rand to wade in one of the world’s most beautiful public swimming pools, Sea Point Swimming Pool.IMG_8696.JPG(Photo: Sea Point Swimming Pool right by the ocean) 
Day 6- Wino Cape Town
  • We rented a car from the airport just for one day to drive east of Cape Town to wine country. The first stop was Delaire Graff Estate, the most modern winery near Cape Town and the most chic winery I’ll probably every set foot in. Pro-tip: Try the rose and take some home with you. It’s world class and not too pricey. IMG_8989(Photo: The view from Delaire Graff Estate)IMG_8977 (2).JPG(Photo: The vineyards at Delaire Graff Estate)
  • We wanted something more historic for our new stop and found Spier Wine Farm. We walked from house to house before doing a chocolate and wine pairing with chocolate specially made for Spier’s wine.IMG_8994.JPG(Photo: Spier Wine Farm)IMG_9011.JPG(Photo: Photo fun at Spier Wine Farm)
  • After some wine, we were oddly in the mood for an olive oil tasting so we went to Morgenster Estate for some world class truffle oil.IMG_9014 (1).JPG(Photo: The view from Morgenster Estate)
  • We ended our day with the best dinner view at the home of our friends in Fish HoekIMG_9033.JPG(Photo: Dinner view with friends in Fish Hoek)
Day 7- Foodie Cape Town 
  • Our final day called for splurging on the best the Cape Town food scene had to offer. Naturally, we had to start the day off at one of the world’s best coffee shops, Truth Coffee. This quirky, hipster paradise serve artisan coffee and some of the best breakfast you’ll ever have (Try the herby stack omelette!).
    IMG_9046 (1).JPG(Photo: Truth Coffee)
  • After exploring the nearby Greenmarket Square and browsing South African paintings, we grabbed a famous Gatsby sandwich at Miriam’s Kitchen. The sandwich can easily feed two and is packed with spices, meat and French fries. Delicious! IMG_9058.JPG(Photo: Shopping for paintings at Greenmarket Square)
  • Next stop was high tea at the Taj for only $30 per person. $30 for world class tea, a spread of sweets and savory snacks.IMG_9083 (1).JPG(Photo: The sweets spread at high tea at the Taj)IMG_9084.JPG(Photo: High tea at the Taj)
  • For dinner, we joined the locals at an underground supper club called Spasie. If you’ve always wanted to do one, do it here. It’s cheaper than most supper clubs and just as amazing. You’ll dine on several courses and sip some amazing South African wine and meet Cape Town residents. IMG_9107.JPG(Photo: Supper club at Spasie)

We ended our trip back at the Old Biscuit Mill before making the journey back to Washington, DC. We did a lot in 7 days, but we left vowing to come back!

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7 Days in Cape Town

Montreal Recommendations

My wife and I have a goal to leave the US 1-2 times a year to experience a new place, culture, and food. In 2014, we wanted to save money so we drove to Montreal with our roommates from Washington, DC. After spending a week in Montreal and Quebec City, Montreal came out the winner. Here’s our recommendations:

  • One morning we went to a local, coffee shop where all the neighborhood old mean hang out over a cafe latte called Caffe Italia.
  • Many people recommend going to Wilensky’s for their famous bologne sandwich. It was a bit disappointing, but the inside looks like a classic diner.
  • If you want to have the best hot chocolate you’ll ever have, go to Suite 88 Chocolatier.
  • If you need a good cup of coffee and hot, fresh donut holes, go to Chez Boris.
  • One of the best Montreal bagels shops is Fairmont Bagels. Warning: These bagels are not like NYC’s. They are more flat.
  • If you love Chinese food, you MUST go to Qing Hua for the BEST dumplings you’ll have in North America.
  • For amazing French onion soup near the Old City, go to Jardin Nelson.
  • If you want a decent hike with a beautiful view of the city, head on over to Parc du Mont-Royal.
  • The BEST cup of coffee is at Cafe Neve.
  • Resto La Banquise has the best poutine according to the locals. Just don’t order a large portion. A small can feed 2-3 people.
  • Crudessence is a vegan restaurant, but please go here. It has AMAZING food.

If you’ve been to Montreal, I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Montreal Recommendations

An honest year

A year ago, I left my dream job to enter the world of for-profit. After almost eight years in non-profit, I expected I’d learn a lot about sales, margins, and the bottom line. Yeah, I learned (and am still learning) about that, but little did I know I’d learn even more about wholeness, respect, and social good. In reflecting on the last year, here’s what I learned from a business that sells organic iced tea:

  1. To be a good employee, one must be a good person. Every year, Honest Tea wins some award for being “a great place to work.” As a company, Honest Tea truly believes in order for me to be a good employee, they need to help me be a good husband, a good friend, a good athlete, whatever is important to my wholeness. They set work boundaries. They bring in a personal trainers. They flex with us on whatever is going on in life. Not only do employees feel respected, but it does make us want to work harder and smarter.
  2. Respect for all is the basis of humanity. Not only does Honest Tea show respect for organic farmers through their strong mission, but they also treat their staff with respect at all levels. They respect boundaries only asking for what’s reasonable of our time, energy and expertise.
  3. Businesses can help change the world for good. Every year, Honest Tea pays fair trade premiums on our ingredients and give back some portion of sales to social good initiatives. Thousands of people around the world are getting access to health care, technology, etc. because a small iced tea company is trying to set the standard for social good. The more iced tea we sell, the more money is given back to help alleviate poverty (I dig deeper into the positive impact of fair trade in this blog from Compassion International).

Yes, I’m learning a heck of a lot about the business side of social media and influencer marketing (Facebook ads and all!), but I’m also learning a lot about life. Here’s to more learnings from America’s top organic iced tea brand!

An honest year

What I’m learning from influencers

A movement is brewing. A movement to return social media to its roots: human relationships. Each and every social media platform out there was created to help real people connect to other real party. Social networks need real people. They are built on, for, and around real people.

Because of this new movement, a good social media strategy will go beyond social media platforms and include connecting with real people in the strategy. What was once called a “social media strategy” now becomes a “social strategy,” connecting and empowering “influencers” to share your campaign’s key message.

When I think of the word “influencer” I think of people with a large social footprint like Christian author Donald Miller or celebrities like Nathaniel Buzolic. However, Day 5 in my new job at Honest Tea, I went through a social media training about influencers that challenged my thinking around influencers. Yes, an influencer does have an active social media presence, but it goes beyond a gazillion followers on Twitter. Turns out, I want to live my life like an influencer. Influencers are:

  • Authentic:
    • The vulnerability guru Brene Brown says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Authenticity means to be brave, to take risks.
  • Trustworthy:
    • Organization icon Stephen Covey writes, “Trust is the glue of life.It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships together.” It’s so true, right? I can’t have a healthy relationship,to know and be known without trust.
  • Credible:
    • Credibility has little to do with me as a person and everything to do with how I treat people. New York Times bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell, says credibility means to treat people with respect, fairness, and trust. That’s how leaders become credible.
  • Authoritative:
    • Influencers must have authority on a subject and since social media is always changing, you have to be a life long learner. World changed Ghandi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. The day I stop learning is the day I stop changing.

I didn’t need any convincing about the power of influencers, but I didn’t expect to be challenged to live my life like one. #humbled

(And for the record, I think influencers like Donald Miller and Nathaniel Buzolic exhibit all of the above…AND have a huge social footprint).

What I’m learning from influencers

Social Media + Human Connection

This is a reposting of a blog I wrote for Orange Leaders (Original blog here: http://bit.ly/1Efc8jl) about social media and human connection. I truly believe social media is all about human connection. Read the below and let me know if you agree:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about social media it’s this: It’s all about human connection.Virtually every social media platform was first created for and because of human connections. Facebook was started to connect friends in college and grew to connect families and friends. Twitter began as a way to connect with influencers. Social media gives us the opportunity to show up, be seen, and connect with other people. However, the question remains, how does a church connect with real people on social media?

For the last several years, my team at International Justice Mission, a leading human rights agency trying to end slavery, human trafficking, and other forms of violence against the poor, has grown our social media followers from 0 to 500,000 . . . on no budget. We lacked the dollar signs, but we didn’t lack connection. We deployed a strategy based around connecting with our social fans by:

  • Reaching out to new followers. We tweeted at them. We asked them questions. We retweeted them. We celebrated them. The result? An army of loyalists who share our content without being asked. It’s because of our loyal fans that we have one of the highest engagement rates for a non-profit on Facebook.
  • Treating social media as a customer service arm . . . and taking it seriously. Interacting with the vast majority of tweets and Facebook comments. Use the “favorite” button on Twitter if you don’t want to retweet something. It’s a great way to tell your social fan that you saw their tweet and appreciate it. Answer any question asked of you on social media. If someone asked you a question on the streets, it would be rude to just walk by, right?
  • Deploying the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of our content across all social platforms are “gives” to our social fans whether it’s an inspiring graphic, a free resource, or a creative video. These posts demand no action allowing us then to devote only 20 percent of our posts to asking our social fans to take an action. Social media is like a real relationship. If someone you met at a church event only communicated with you when he or she wanted something, you’d start to avoid that person. Social media is the same, which is why it’s important to create the best practice of giving to your fan base.
  • Use Twitter to connect with new audiences. There’s a time and place to create your own hash tag (For example, around events), but the goal of a hash tag is to reach new audiences. Research top daily trends (a great place to start is on the home page of your Twitter account on the lower left hand corner) and use those hash tags if relevant. Also, Twitter gives you access to people you may otherwise not have access to. Research your local celebrities, newscasters, businesses and reach out to them on Twitter inviting them to events and/or asking them to share your content.

Of course, a good social media strategy will include beautiful, inspiring content and leveraging the newest social media technology or app, but at the end of the day, those things are lost without human connection. My favorite author and TED Talk speaker (Google her TED Talks on vulnerability and shame), Brene Brown, says, “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Considering Brene is active on Twitter (@BreneBrown), I know she’d agree her quote applies to social media too!

Social Media + Human Connection

Why I left my dream job.

There’s no doubting the fact that the movement to end slavery and human trafficking is in the forefront of all causes today. The student movement End It Movement and celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Jada Pinkett Smith prove the point and I got to be part of an organization leading the movement: International Justice Mission (IJM).

For 7.5 years, I tirelessly worked at IJM leading their social media and working with their influencers (musicians, celebrities, and others with platforms). My day to day job included posting to Facebook (to a very engaged page, I might add; one with the highest engagement rates in the non-profit sector), tweeting about girls being freed from brothels, and talking to current, top bands and celebrities. On top of this, my tenure had given me trust and klout within the organization. My community was IJM (Not to mention my family; I met my wife there).

On Thursday, February 5th, I left all of that behind….by choice. What?!  Why would I leave such a great job and an even better organization?! The answer: RISK.

IJM’s President and Founder, Gary Haugen, wrote a book a few years ago called Just Courage. Contrary to the human nature of wanting to have a comfortable life, Haugen urges us to take risks in our lives. The goal is not to own a house, be financially secure, and have a safe community. By personality, I didn’t like Haugen’s words (and in many ways still don’t), but as I thought about leaving IJM, I felt like I was supposed to leave to take a risk. I had gotten comfortable with my job, my life. On February 6th, I started my new job in the scary for-profit world at the fair trade, organic iced tea company Honest Tea.

I have no idea how my time at Honest Tea will end up, but that’s the risk. I could fail, but failure is not something life promises we’ll avoid. We are just called to take risks and watch God show up. With that, I leave you with this Gary Haugen quote from Just Courage:

“If you’re wrestling with some sort of decision, reflect for a moment and ask yourself, Am I being brave, or am I being safe? In the end, it depends on whether we think God can be trusted.”

QUESTION: What risks have you taken in your life? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Why I left my dream job.