Happy December everyone! Can you believe we are 15 days away from Christmas and 22 from 2019? I honestly don’t know how the year flew by! 

I have elected to end the year of empowering women (and men), with my friend Courtney Brandt who is one of my favourite Power Women! I met Courtney a few years ago when I was looking to promote my restaurant through blogger outreach (yes people, she is an influencer).  I loved the instant connection we made as I realised how honest and REAL she is. No fluff, no fuss, she says it how it is, and a lot of our conversations have been about real life topics no one talks about anymore. 

Courtney is a woman of many talents – apart from managing her blog and trying out the world’s best restaurants, she is an author, public speaker, and has a soft spot for animal welfare. She is my horoscope sister, and I believe the world needs more people like Courtney. Enjoy her words below 🙂 

Quick Facts:

  • Name: Courtney Brandt
  • Profession: Author, foodwriter, and speaker.
  • Favourite destination: Amsterdam, Cape Town, and Athens, GA.
  • Horoscope sign: Pisces 
  • Loves: Hubs, newrestaurants, karaoke, and Veuve Clicquot.
  • Hates: Phonies.  Toxicpeople.  Bivalves.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
I’m an American author who has lived and worked in the Middle East for over 12 years (including both Dubai and Abu Dhabi).  I’ve been published with Elite Daily, The Forward Feed, A Luxury Travel Blog, Matador Network, JustLuxe, Travelettes, Citizen Femme, Khaleej Times, Roads & Kingdoms, and Eat this Poem.  I provide global hotel coverage with Northstar Media. I focus mainly on fine dining and hospitality through my blog, A to Za’atar.  I am a Zomato Ambassador and member of the Association of Food Bloggers.  I’m also a contributor to a local television series, What’s Cooking, UAE, and a regular speaker about F&B on Dubai Eye 103.8. 

2. How do you handle difficult times in your life? 
I’m not so good with stress.  Honestly, I almost always overreact – from small things to big events.  As I recognize this is a part of my personality, it’s something I’m always trying to work on (but haven’t made a lot of progress with).  One of my resolutions for 2019 is to do more meditation (I love the Headspace app).

3. What is your secret to achieving the right balance between your career, family, friends and doing what you really love?
I think it’s important to set boundaries and stick with them.  While I’m probably a bit too rigid, as an INTJ I need almost equal parts social interaction and time by myself to recharge.  I’ve been very fortunate to find a partner who respects this.  In keeping these commitments, people will adapt or move out of your life.  For example, in the past, while I’ve enjoyed my work, I also drew a line that I would leave every day on time, and do my best not to take any work home with me.  Former employers had me for 40+ hours a week, and that was plenty.  There should be no apologizing for seeking a balance between career, family, and self.

4. What are your hobbies?
My hobbies have basically become a full-time job!  I write both as an author and about food.  I also enjoy contributing time to K9 Friends once a week.

5. What are your tips for happiness?
Try and be more ‘present’ whenever possible.  This could mean putting down your phone, or just focusing on being more aware of things — enjoy the experiences you are a part of and the people you are with.

6. Who is your role model or someone you look up to?
There are a number of talented authors and bloggers who I think do amazing work.  In the space of blogging, I follow Grace at The Stripe, Jo of Cup of Jo, and Lucky from One Mile at a Time.  The authors I love are almost too many to list, but my love of reading was especially sparked at a young age by Tamora Pierce.

7. What have been the most exciting milestones in your life?
Moving abroad and publishing my first book were both big moments, as was my 10 year wedding anniversary in Vegas.  I think 2018 had a number of smaller milestones I was proud of — first international speaking engagements, first press trip, and being invited to the Google Local Guides Summit.  

8. If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?
While what’s happening with climate change is terrifying, I’d do more to highlight causes for refugees and women’s rights.

9. There are still a lot of cultures and societies who frown upon successful women. Why do you think that is, and how can it change?
Good question!  As a proud feminist, I find it interesting people still shy away from the word.  While I’m not sure the reasons for continued misogyny (especially in 2018), I think education and awareness for the next generation are imperative.  For my both my nieces and nephews, they need to be aware that traditional gender roles and attitudes towards women (especially strong women) should be questioned.  I think it’s important they see women in all sorts of roles – from housewife to executive.  Each path is different but should be respected.

10. What advice can you offer for men and women, trying to balance a career, family and personal life?
As someone who is happily childfree, I think our decision has helped us lead lives that allow for all kinds of fulfillment (and a bit more discretionary income).  However, I think it’s important not to let hobbies and side hustles fall away.  While we have a ‘work self’ and ‘family self’ by not giving up on the small things that make us who we are.

Follow Courtney’s adventures through her amazing blog and Instagram account. You can also purchase her books right here

Disclaimer: Thank you Courtney for this amazing collaboration and please continue to shine for all the women around the world.