I cannot believe it has been (dare I say it) three months since my last update! That is definitely a first for this blog. But when I look back at how busy life and work have been this year–since I returned to be based in the Dominican Republic–I realize the old saying is true. No news is often good news. And in my case, it’s all great, both personal and workwise.
But first, wait! I’m writing this update right now from the bright, beautiful city of Willemstad, capital of Curaçao.Part of Dutch territory, Curaçao is far south of the Caribbean, outside the hurricane belt, with neighbors such as Aruba, Bonaire, and down further, Venezuela. It basks in beautiful, bright turquoise Caribbean
waters–coveted for snorkeling and diving–has that Creole swing, some Latin flavor, and more culture and history t
han you’d imagine. Life here is most certainly dushi (as they say here, “sweet”). From the echoes of kizomba and bachata in the streets, the colorful colonial architecture, the Euro-style shopping and sidewalk cafes, and the melodious sounds of papiamentu, which is often blurted my way–I’m loving the quirky culture and lifestyle melange that is Curaçao.
I’ll have a separate post all about Kòrsouwhen I return home.
In the meantime, aside from settling in and thoroughly appreciating my colonial neighborhood in Santo Domingo, here is some of what I’ve been working on or have coming up in the pipeline (and why I’ve been way too busy to pitch consumer lately):
My publisher and I have just wrapped up the final manuscripts for my third edition of Moon Belize and second edition of Moon Belize Cayes, both releasing Fall 2017. Working on two books simultaneously was a challenge, but we did it. You can already pre-order your copies. In full color as always, and this year with a special front-of-book Top 10 Experiences section in each book.
In February, I landed a very big, and very exciting tourism client out of the DR and US. I have already met twice with my client and strategized with them on the new writing and editing project which will likely stretch a full year, perhaps even two. I know, so mysterious, but I will reveal as soon as I am able.
I’m thrilled to have been assigned as AFAR’s local expert for not just one (Jamaica since 2013) but now five Caribbean destinations. I’ve begun revising and writing the AFAR digital country guides for those destinations. I am solely responsible for selecting the content, with the approval of my assigning editor of course. There’s a lot of work to do in the next months stretching into the end of summer. I will also be in charge of updates for these destinations for the next three years. My editor thanked me for being “AFAR’s tropical expert”–can you imagine my smile? Two of them are St. Lucia and Curaçao.Stay tuned for the rest.
I have an article in the works for the July print issue of JAXFAX Travel Marketing Magazineabout the recent DATE 2017 tourism conference in the Dominican Republic. JAXFAX is a bi-monthly travel trade publication distributed to over 90% of US travel agents. My trip to DATE was sponsored by the DR’s Hotel Association or ASONAHORES. (*In the meantime, check out my impromptu photo op at DATE 2017 with the DR’s President Danilo Medina).
Two of my feature articles were published on Moon Guides’ newly redesigned website, part of a marketing effort to promote my new edition of Moon Dominican Republic. I am thankful my book has been getting rave reviews and has ranked in the top three on Amazon since its release, creeping right up to Lonely Planet (and a total sidebar: remember that I am based in the DR and have visited often for several years–I don’t just come for a couple of months to do a book then bounce away for years, so I think I deserve this, ha!). Here’s my recent article on Monte Plata, and an article on Carnival traditions in the DR.
I have a big, innovative tourism-related project in the works–I will be setting it up behind the scenes during the summer for it to be ready in high season 2018. That’s all I can share for now, but I am excited, anxious, antsy and grateful all at once. It’s not the Sun & Stilettos Tours–those had to be postponed because I learned that I need to give more advance notice for travelers to plan; I am also potentially partnering with a lodge to redesign this offer. But this project I’m working on is probably the biggest leap I have yet made, aside from you know, moving to the DR and signing my first apartment lease in years. Stay tuned.
I took part in an interview feature for Legal Nomads’ Thrillable Hours series, profiling lawyers with alternative careers. It is an honor to be part of Jodi’s award-winning blog, especially since Jodi and I left the law at the time, end of 2008.
That’s all for now. Aside from work, the early part of this year has been one of personal stretching–choosing to settle in one place for the first in years, making time for my personal life (such a blessing), while on the flip side juggling the difficulties of work travel and being away from family for months at a time. My aunt recently passed and that has been difficult being away from loved ones during this time.
All in all, the journey is the same: keep experiencing days to the fullest, and working towards creating a best life now, for tomorrow is not promised.
Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning writer, photographer, guidebook author, and blogger specializing in the Caribbean region. Her work has been published in major travel publications, including CNN, AFAR, Delta Sky, Lonely Planet, Shermans Travel, and BBC, among others. A self-professed "culture-holic," Lily left her native Ethiopia at age one, fast developing a passion for the expat life. In 2008, she ditched her US corporate law career for the road and created Sunshine and Stilettos— a travel photography blog showcasing authentic ways to experience the Caribbean, through culture and nature. Lily has since partnered with multiple travel brands and Caribbean tourism boards, and also authors major print guidebooks on three Caribbean destinations, including Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. She is the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization and Jamaica Tourist Board.