SPPR Retreat: 7 Years of The Suite Life

We love summer for a lot of reasons but our yearly company retreat tops the list! This year, Soda Pop PR invited the team to #RetreatYourself with a luxurious and relaxing stay at The Nomad in DTLA.

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The team holed up in one of the Nomad’s gorgeous corner suites to bond, share wins and challenges and talk about company growth as we head into another exciting year. As usual there was a great deal of inspiring conversation, laughter and fantastic food.

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Soda Pop PR retreats always include an epic swag bag. This year, our resident artist Sami Davis designed custom goodies to pair with Realm’s pitch perfect Strong Female Lead tees.

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After a day living the suite life, we checked into our rooms and swooned over the hotel’s attention to detail. A love of great design is something we share as a team and the Nomad is next level home inspiration!

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A Soda Pop PR retreat isn’t compete without a team dinner. Amid all of the busy days, it’s so important for us to slow down and connect on a personal level. The only thing better than taking the time to just hang out with the women we work with every day, is to hang out with them over cocktails and amazing food! After a rooftop cocktail and a quick game of “Never Have I Ever” on The Nomad rooftop, we headed to Dama, the Scopa team’s new concept which pays homage to a couple of our favorite things about Havana, Cuba.

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As we celebrate another year of Soda Pop PR, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of our clients, partners, friends and family for continuing to support us over the years. Dyan started Soda Pop PR 7 years ago with the goal of doing good work with good people and as a team we are so proud and grateful to uphold that legacy today.

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Cheers to year seven and many more,

Team Soda Pop PR

 

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SPPR Travels: 5 Things You Should Do in Samaná, Dominican Republic

Beautiful beaches come standard with most Caribbean islands but if you prefer to be a traveler rather than a tourist, you might want to skip the Bahamas and opt for a less talked about island. SPPR Account Manager and avid wanderer, Colleen Dunn, recently spent a week in the Dominican Republic town of Samaná where she drank piña coladas out of pineapples and ignored TLC’s advice on waterfalls. Here are her five must dos in this underrated coastal town.

Stay in a Treehouse

Get off the beaten path of all-inclusive Punta Cana resorts and fulfill all your childhood dreams by sleeping in a treehouse. We stayed at tropical hideaway the Dominican Tree House Village which features a collection of breezy open-air houses completely surrounded by trees. It was insanely gorgeous and delightfully free of crowds and surprisingly, bugs. The nature immersed hideaways feature comfortable beds, electricity, plumbing and outdoor showers making it a unique step above glamping and the resort comes complete with a rope swing adorned waterfall and all-inclusive rum cocktails. It’s owned by an American but staffed mostly by locals which makes it a good option if your Spanish isn’t great but you don’t only want to hang out with other Americans.

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Drink Mama Juana

Did you really go to Greece if you didn’t have Ouzo or Colombia if you didn’t take a shot of Aguardiente? In the Dominican Republic the liquor to try is Mama Juana. This concoction is made of rum, red wine and honey soaked in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. It’s common for a household to keep their Mama Juana for decades, constantly adding to it to keep the bark and herbs from drying out. In addition to giving you a buzz, Mama Juana has all kinds of positive health effects depending on who you ask: curing the flu, digestion, circulation issues and serving as a detox for your kidney and liver. The liquor’s most lauded benefit is as an aphrodisiac and people often add conch to increase these benefits, or in the case of one bakery who offered us a sip of theirs, a small octopus!

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Zipline

There’s nothing like flying through the trees so make sure to put Samaná’s 12 line course on your to-do list. The first (and highest) line is 1,000 feet long and by the time you get to the bottom run you’ll be flipping upside down and spinning like monkeys.

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Visit Mama’s Beach

Adventure and Instagram worthy views aside, you came to the Caribbean to lay on the beach. There are nearly a dozen options in Samaná but our favorite was El Valle. This secluded stretch was a short bike ride from our tree house and an immediate favorite for its lack of crowds and availability of chaise lounges. More importantly, there’s Mama. Mama is a toothless Dominican woman who sells amazing fried chicken and piña colada filled pineapples five feet from the crashing waves. It should be at the top of your to-do list. Fair warning though, they call her Mama for a reason so don’t try to go swimming when there’s a riptide. She’ll come out from behind the stove and chase you out of the water.

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Hang Out with Locals

This is one of my top five tips for every trip anywhere and always results in my most memorable experiences. The best thing we ate in the Dominican Republic was Tres Leches that a local purchased for us from the back door of someone’s home after taking us to a shop of candy colored magic positions for love, wealth, strength and anything else you could think of. For best results on your own travels, ask a native where their favorite place to eat is or just head to the local market. The local market is the apex of many cities or at the very least an interesting window into the diet of its residents. In Samaná you’ll find local fishmongers and farmers selling bananas, pineapples, pink salt and even snake belts.

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SPPR Retreat: Six Years and Ojai Vibes

The Soda Pop PR retreat is a summer highlight and this year’s festivities might be our favorite yet! To celebrate six years, our team spent a few days soaking in the laidback & creative energy of Ojai. The uber cool airstream hotel Caravan Outpost served as the perfect backdrop to help us unwind and open up.

 

We kicked off an inspiring discussion on connection, growth and getting out of our comfort zones with this fantastic Ted Talk. Our retreats are a great time to think big as a company but also, to bond on a personal level as we delve into the dreams and challenges that shape each of us individually.

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It’s not a Soda Pop PR retreat without some custom Wylie West Creative swag! Our friend Boo put her talents to work on a custom “Troop SPPR” logo for us and gift bag goodies from Shop Summer Camp brought the Ojai vibes home with lavender, sage and rose quartz. We may have been partial to the rose quartz for the pink but its heart-opening abilities paired perfectly with copies of Daring Greatly, a bedside reminder about the strength of vulnerability and importance of staying connected.

If there’s one thing you can say about a Soda Pop PR retreat, we know how to have FUN. We brought in a personal bartender to mix up local orange and lime margaritas for a magic-hour photo shoot. For dinner, our private chef prepared a campfire grilled steak, chicken, salmon fajita bar followed by cast iron peach cobbler.

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As the stars came out at the end of the night, Troop SPPR sat around the fire to connect over music, each of us sharing songs that have shaped us and soundtracked our memories over the years.

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At Soda Pop PR we are grateful to work with such smart, creative and kind people both on our team, and on the teams of our wonderful clients. As we reflect back on our year, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of our clients, partners, friends and family for their continued support. You inspire us and we are happy to know you.

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Cheers to year six and many more,

Team Soda Pop PR

 

* Special thanks to photographer Daybreak and Dusk for all of our beautiful retreat photos.

 

 

Food for Thought with Krista Simmons

This week we sat down with talented travel writer and video producer Krista Simmons to talk about three of our favorite things: food, travel and the pursuit of creativity. She travels the world creating content for publications including Travel + Leisure, Departures, New York Magazine and the LA Times and just started a new venture as her own boss at Fork in the Road Media. Read on for an inside look at how video content and social media impact food and travel writing and the dream meals of an international foodie.

Krista Simmons

  1. How has traveling the world changed you the most? 

    I’ve always said that traveling is the one thing that you can spend money on that actually makes you richer. It’s changed my life in so many ways, but what I’m most grateful for is that it’s given me a deeper sense of empathy. Experiencing other cultures has given me a sense of compassion towards how others grow up and the issues they face (especially as women). It’s taught me a deeper appreciation for the privilege I was born into. Simply having a US Passport is a real blessing in this day and age, and I always try to remember that in the way I view the world both at home and on the road.

  1. How have you seen food and travel writing evolve in recent years? 

    I loved watching the evolution of 360 degree storytelling. Food and travel are such visual subjects, and it’s really inspiring to see how stories can be told in a way that gets viewers excited to hit the road and try new things. A few years back, it was a total uphill battle to convince editors that video and social were important. Fast forward and now it’s the most lucrative part of my business, so much so that I’ve started my own media company called Fork in the Road to tell these digital stories in a meaningful way.

  1. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a travel writer or content creator? 

    I always say the only way to do something is to do it. It’s so important to carve out time to nurture your creative side. It’s not an easy road, but it’s absolutely one worth taking.

  1. What’s the most underrated place you’ve ever traveled to? 

    I honestly am all about traveling to the under-the-radar spots with bubbling culinary scenes that no one knows about. I’d so much rather be sitting on a little plastic stool slurping up curry in Yangon, Myanmar than a patisserie with a line out the door in Paris. I am always after what’s new and next. It’s exciting to know that you can help bring light to those places and stories, and hopefully bring business to deserving people who haven’t yet been discovered by my audience.

  1. What would be your ideal food day if distance was no limit (breakfast, lunch and dinner)? 

    If I had one of those fancy PJ’s, I’d zip around the world for a three part tour. Breakfast I’d be back in Shanghai for soup dumplings with my younger brother Danny. We had such a blast shooting there together. For lunch, I’d be somewhere in the Sri Lankan tea fields stuffing my face with string hoppers and coconut-laden sambol alongside the locals. For dinner, I’d end up at Etxebarri in Basque Country with my girlfriends, looking out at the bucolic landscape while enjoying one of their perfectly prepared wood-fired steaks and a great glass of rioja.

SPPR New Year’s Goals: 2017, Let’s Do This

Everyone loves a clean slate and at SPPR we’re filling ours with a to-do list of fun projects and foodie goals for the New Year. Read on as the team breaks down our plans to eat, read and travel our way through 2017.

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(Photo c/o Oh Happy Day)

Dyan:
To Go: Sun Valley, Idaho. My husband and I have been talking about exploring a new winter destination for our annual ski/snowboarding trip for years. Aside from the picturesque setting, abundance of runs for beginners and an outdoor ice skating rink, it also has a rich history (Hemingway was a fan, he completed For Whom the Bell Tolls while staying at Sun Valley Lodge!)
To Eat: My dream would be to plan monthly trips to different cities with the sole purpose of trying the best culinary classics and hot spots in each location.  Realistically? I’d like to hit up the Roberta’s Pizza Pop-Up before closes. I’m also looking forward to my friend Steve Samson’s new restaurant Rossoblu which is scheduled to open soon!
To Read:  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I’m a fan of his podcast and this book summarizes the best tools, tactics and learnings from his most notable guests. It’s over 700 pages and meant to be digested in small, manageable doses. It’s safe to say, I’ll be reading throughout the year.
To Do: I purchased a journal over the holidays with the goal of setting aside time to jot down my non-work thoughts and creative ideas. I have dozens of notebooks but they all contain work plans, meeting notes, to-dos, etc. Creative writing was a passion of mine in college (I’d die if you found any of my old journals, so “My So-Called Life”) and I’m eager to pick it back up.

Kelly:
To Go: Sedona! Since my husband recently got his pilot’s license, we plan to do a weekend getaway to this beautiful place neither of us has been to before.
To Eat: Erven in Santa Monica
To Read: I was gifted Big Little Lies, so I hope to read it before the TV series comes out
To Do: My goal is to shop my local Sunday farmer’s market more often in 2017. Shopping local is so important and in California we have an abundance of delicious, fresh food, I need to take advantage of it!

Becky:
To Go: Back to Italy; Our new client Lucini Italia has me missing the land of pasta and olive oil.
To Eat: Belcampo; I met the founder Anya Fernald at an event last year and have vowed to treat myself to an organic, highest-quality-you-can-get steak (or at least a Belcampo Burger) at some point soon.
To Read: I bought J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy a few months ago and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I have so much love for J.K. that I’m feeling guilty for putting it off.
To Do: Refresh my living space. I’ve had the same couch since my husband and I were dating and the same dining room table my parents passed down to me after college. It’s time to make some big girl furniture purchases.

Colleen:
To Go: I am hoping to make it back to Paris this year and spend my days writing in coffee shops and haunting Shakespeare and Company.
To Eat: I know I lose all of my LA foodie cred for this, but I still haven’t been to Gjelina! Definitely need to remedy that in 2017.
To Read: One of my all-time favorite authors Joan Didion has a new book coming out (in 61 days, not that I’m counting) so that is at the top of my list. Also, Infinite Jest. I swear this is the year that I finally finish David Foster Wallace’s epic and exhaustingly long masterpiece.
To Do: In light of our recent election results, I’m committing to take a more active role in opposing injustice and supporting causes doing good work.

Deidre:
To Go: 2017 is all about the U.S.! I have some fun trips lined up, including: Nashville, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco and NYC to name a few. Fingers crossed for an opportunity to go abroad – I’ll even be happy with Mexico if I can make it happen.
To Eat: There are so many in LA I am eager to go to! Especially wanting to hit up the celebrity hot spots, like NOBU Malibu, SUR and AOC.
To Read: The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive
To Do: I really hope to attend another Ellen taping! If not, attend a late night taping like Jimmy Kimmel, learn to meal prep/ spend less money on food and get outside more!

Camryn:
To Go: New York! I’d love to visit my younger brother who’s out there for school.
To Eat: I’ve really been wanting to try Maré on Melrose. You have to use a secret entrance!
To Read: A Gentleman in Moscow, a gift I received through our SPPR holiday book exchange.
To Do: Go to a cooking class!

The Importance of Taking Time Off

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Recently, we’ve read a few interesting pieces about “vacation shaming” in the workplace. As publicists, we understand the hesitation to travel when you have a demanding job. It’s hard to take a break from work that you’re passionate about and many people worry that they don’t have enough vacation time or that their company will not approve time off. At the same time, getting outside of your comfort zone is necessary to stay inspired which in turn makes you better at your job. Our advice? TRAVEL. NOW. DO IT! Here are 4 reasons why.

1. Good for your health: Studies show that vacations are just as important as exercise. They help cure burnout and chronic stress that’s epidemic in today’s 24-7 culture. The catch, it takes two weeks to take full advantage of these recuperative benefits. If two weeks away sounds like crazy talk, consider traveling during slow periods. Our boss lady Dyan likes to travel during Thanksgiving when things tend to slow down in the media world. It’s also the perfect time to travel to Paris and Italy if you like to avoid crowds and travel on a budget like we do.

2. Refuels your work: For us, this is reason enough to travel. Our jobs depend on us staying fresh and creative. Visiting cities like Paris, Florence, or Rome and truly immersing ourselves in the culture of these cities – touring the Louvre, seeing the David and St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, spending the day learning more about The Roman Forum and Colosseum, eating gelato, pasta and drinking wine daily – inspires us and provides a jolt of creative thinking.

3. Personal Growth: There is a saying that you can be comfortable or you can grow but you cannot do both at once. Travel forces you to get out of your comfort zone and appreciate the world through other people’s eyes. When you experience other cultures, you learn new ways of doing things and deepen your empathy for the individuals you meet. Expanding your worldview through firsthand experience strengthens decision making and interpersonal skills which are an asset in any industry, as well as your personal life.

4. You’re not alone: Don’t be a “work martyr.” It can be unnerving to let coworkers and clients know you’ll be away. You may experience (or imagine) some surprise or even resentment. But setting boundaries for your time off and trusting your team members to help you while you’re gone gets easier with time. At SPPR, it helps to build vacations into our plans at least three months in advance to be extra prepared. In the end, your teams and clients will benefit from your renewed energy and perspective post-break.

Safe travels,

Team SPPR

Six Ways To Travel The World This Summer Without Spending A Dime

Our resident wordsmith Colleen Dunn uses her powers for more than just pitching prowess, she’s also a freelance writer for Uproxx. This week she rounded up six ways to travel the world without spending a dime. With the Memorial Day holiday officially kicking off summer, we know your wanderlust struggle is real this week. Read on for travel inspiration.

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People offer a lot of reasons for not traveling more often, with lack of funds usually topping every list. At Uproxx, our basic argument is that traveling is more worthwhile than most of the other crap we spend our money on. Still, even though we firmly believe that travel is cheaper than most people realize, we have to admit it isn’t free. Usually.

This summer there are some sneaky ways to snag yourself a one of a kind travel experience without having to tag along on your parents’ annual cruise. Whether you’re the outdoorsy type, an eco-warrior, or a potential au pair, here are six ways to choose your own FREE (!) travel adventure this summer.

Be a Wildsam Fellow

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Hip guidebook company Wildsam is looking for travelers to take a 10-day research trip this summer as “Travel Fellows.” The goal of the program is “1) to discover and document the broad and diverse narrative of the US; and 2) to inspire a deep sense of curiosity in our Travel Fellows.” The WildSam fellowship was inspired by The Federal Writers’ Project, commissioned by the U.S. government during the Great Depression to send writers, artists, photographers, and journalists out to share the American story.

Last year’s Wildsam Travel Fellows documented the cultural heritage of New England and the Desert Southwest with interviews from locals, explorations of tiny back roads, and hundreds of photographs. Each of the two travelers selected for the program receives a stipend to fully cover travel expenses.

Apply for the program here before May 25.

Find Your Park

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In celebration of their 100th anniversary, The National Park Service is offering free admission on 16 days in 2016. Which means you can hike through caves made of lava tubes, experience the hottest area in North America and go sound bathing at no cost this summer. And that’s just in California.

Check out one of the 127 national parks that normally charge an entrance fee for free on August 25-28, September 24 or November 11. We’re betting you can track down a friend with a tent for the more camping friendly park options like Joshua Tree and Yosemite but if not, there’s alwaysCouchSurfing.com.

 

Work Work Work Work Work

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Work for trade opportunities abound for the traveler who isn’t afraid to use a little elbow grease. WWOOF offers young vagabonds the chance to work on organic farms around the world in exchange for free housing and food, making you a friend to the environment as well as a savvy penny saver. Opportunities usually require around four to six hours of work per day, at least two days a week. So it’s not insane.

If farm life isn’t for you, there are plenty of other volunteer and cultural exchange opportunities on Workaway or HelpX. Experiences vary from working at a hostel and teaching yoga, to helping build a house, splitting coconuts, and walking dogs at a South American animal sanctuary.

Be A Summer Au Pair

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Put those neighborhood babysitting skills to good use as an international au pair. Websites like Au Pair World connect you with families looking for live-in childcare that will give you the opportunity to improve your language skills and get to know a new culture while living with a host family. Not only will your room and board be covered, you actually get paid for this one. You’ll have more luck looking for a family in the Northern Hemisphere right now — in the Southern Hemisphere summer is not until January and they’ll be more likely to want a long-term au pair placement right now rather than a few months of relief from their out of school and under-foot children.

 

Home Exchange

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If you’re a pet lover, TrustedHouseSitters.com is about to rock your world. The website will connect you with a place to stay for free in return for caring for someone’s pets while they’re out of town. It’s basically Airbnb but you have to walk the dog in the morning. If you own your own place, trading homes with someone is another way to score yourself a free place to stay while traveling. Yes, like Kate Winslet in The Holiday and yes, you’ll totally fall in love with the person you house trade with. Use HomeExhange.com to browse options in 150 countries.

Get In Touch With Your Roots

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You’ve probably heard about Birthright Israel trips. What you may not have heard of is Birthright Armenia, a volunteer internship program which reimburses travel expenses to people of Armenian descent who commit to two months interning or volunteering at approved organizations including hospitals, news agencies, government offices, and environmental NGOs. Meaning this travel opportunity is also a cultural goldmine, not bad on your resume, and will probably make your grandparents really, really proud. Win-win-win.

Similar programs include Heritage Greece, ReConnect Hungary, or the Love Boat Study Program for youth of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

 

Article originally appeared on Uproxx.