Catching the Beads in NOLA

It took me a while to figure out why there were beads draped over the houses, tree, and fences when first arriving in New Orleans. We’d arrived soon after Mardi Gras, an annual carnival-like celebration that New Orleans has become famous for throughout America.

It took me even longer to figure out the reason why drunken souls were so enthusiastically throwing beads off the balconies along Bourbon Street. After a few hurricanes, I thought it was a quirky tradition of the City and smiled alongside others as we caught the beads that were being thrown down to us. I didn’t find out until I was back in the UK that ladies traditionally flash in exchange. 🙂

New Orleans was definitely a party City and full of life. I’m told it’s one of the only places in America where you can drink in the street. It’s also known as the home of jazz and I loved the live music that I was able to catch during my stay.

Road Trip to the Grand Canyon

My team at Automattic, who just so happen to be named Phoenix, planned a meetup in January of this year to Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix in Phoenix!

It’s always been a dream of mine to see the Grand Canyon and I took the chance to loop in a visit a week before our meetup with two of my team mates, Sarah and Brooke.

Day 1: Hello Phoenix

I travelled from London Heathrow and arrived in Phoenix in the evening. I handle jetlag pretty poorly so was grateful that my fellow road trippers were there to pick me up at the airport and that they had armed themselves with my favourite American sweets, Birthday-flavoured Oreos and Nerds. 🙂

Day 2: Sedona

After some toast (we were road tripping with the toast ambassador, herself), we set off for Sedona the next morning.

The views from the road were beautiful and lived up to expectations of the Wild, Wild West. The vast desert landscapes were dotted with cacti and backed up with canyons. We spotted the famous red rock canyon walls of Sedona from a few miles off.

The place we stayed was called the Sacred Red Rocks, it markets itself as a “destination for the spiritual pilgrim” and was truly peaceful. Sedona itself has a hippy, new-age feel. I wish my camera was good enough to pick up the stars as I can’t find the words to describe how clear and beautiful they were in the Sedona night sky.

Day 3: Hiking Red Rock Canyon and Flagstaff

Brooke was the experienced one of the group but Sarah and I kept up while hiking the Red Rock Canyon. 🙂

Although we were road tripping as a group, Sarah was the only one of us who could actually drive. Brooke and I also turned out to be hilariously bad navigators. Sarah troopered through somehow. She had to make her way along windy uphill roads in the snow on the way to the next stop in our trip, Flagstaff, and was amazing.

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Views on from the road on the way to Flagstaff. I had never experienced views quite like this.

Day 4: Grand Canyon or Bust

The big day! We were excited to be setting off to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on the fourth day of our road trip. Once again, it had been snowing pretty heavily and Sarah made her way along tricky, icy roads.

We were, however, greeted with bad news upon finally making it to the entrance of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The ranger quickly let us know that we wouldn’t be able to see the Canyon that day due to the snow.

This was our only chance! We had to make our way back to Phoenix the next day and we were sad at the thought of coming all this way for nothing.

There were two choices: 1. Head back 2. Stay to view what we could of the park. As we’d come all of this way, we decided to stay.

Despondently, we got the bus around the park and then walked up to the Grand Canyon so that we could at least say we’d been. Guess what!? We could totally see it! In fact, I think the snow made it look even more awe-inspiring.

Day 5: Williams and Out

We woke up from a successful trip in Williams, a town nearby the Grand Canyon, and made our way back to Phoenix to get set for our team meetup.

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The Wild Wild West.

Day 6 and Beyond.

Automattic has over 400 people spread out all over the World and working remotely. It may sound strange but, despite the distance, the teams that work together are very close. We spend all day communicating in text, .gifs, and emoji on our internal P2s and Slack channels.

Meetups are our chance to see each other in person. We work, learn, laugh, and bond. Some highlights from Phoenix in Phoenix for me: S’mores by the fire, Old Town Scotsdale, the drama that was #underweargate, and getting our nails done together.

All in all, I had a lovely two weeks in Arizona and am so happy to be able to cross “Visit Grand Canyon” off my bucket list. I also feel incredibly lucky to have been able to spend the time there with such a wonderful group of people. I’m looking forward to the next all-company meetup in September.