While looking back at Pride Month this year, it’s needless to say that things were celebrated a bit differently. Instead of parties and parades, justice was at the forefront of the conversation. And although some missed dawning on rainbow fits and dancing in the streets all day, others realized that old ways were better replaced with a new sense of urgency and action.
In order to aid the movement, oHHo teamed up with the Freehand Hotel to create gift bags to those fighting for freedom and justice on the front lines of NYC. Coordinating the collaboration was Sales Account Director of the Freehand, Abbey Rader. Amongst her many duties in the hospitality realm, Rader also opened up on her personal goals of becoming a yoga instructor and finding her own path. Read more below.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a single, mid-thirties sales professional that spends a lot of my time traveling for work or out at events. It seems lately that there is always a birthday, wedding or shower to attend in myfree time. But when I can, I love my yoga practice, youtubing the latest diet trends, planning for my next trip, and doing tarot readings for my friends.
How has COVID changed the way you choose to live your life?
COVID has been a BIG CHANGE for me! I do quite a bit of entertaining, networking and attending conferences in my “normal life”, which typically entails terrible food, little sleep, and a lot of alcohol. Prior to COVID, I found myself often overstressed, which I then compensated with going back out with my friends. It was a vicious circle and while I was still a high performing individual, I was tough on my body and that wasn’t the path I wanted to continue down. Since I did choose to quarantine alone, I found myself having no choice but to slow down and re-examine some things. I also found myself extremely stressed in a new way that required immediate and drastic change. I have finally made the switch to an all vegan diet, I completed a sustainability class with the University of Copenhagen online (and am applying it to my current organization), and I decided to finally complete my life goal of becoming a yoga and meditation instructor. Yoga and meditation have carried me through what is without a doubt the most difficult time our world has faced in my lifetime. My friends were always commenting on how well I was doing being alone all the time and how weird it was. I took it as a compliment that I was doing all the right things. I still enjoy a glass of wine here and there but I can’t tell you the last time I did a shot, and that is okay with me!
You’re currently training to become a yoga and meditation teacher, what has been the biggest challenge in this pursuit thus far?
Honestly, even with all of the new found free time that I have—it’s still time. I am extremely dedicated to my career and helping those around me so making the time to sit down and do homework when my brain is exhausted at the end of the day has been really challenging. Yoga instructors have to learn the full anatomy of the body, ancient Sanskrit and how to keep you safe and loved in a space full of strangers. It also requires a daily practice of at least one hour for the next two months, which can leave you feeling sore and emotional.
What’s the significance to you of knowing exactly what you put into/onto your body these days?
It is so important to me! I have a very sensitive stomach and system in general and because I am doing SO much for work and SO much homework, exercise and yoga in my down time, one wrong move can put me out for a day or two and throw me completely off-course. Headaches and stomach aches used to rule my life and now I see how easy it is to eliminate those symptoms if I am reading labels carefully…one being ibuprofen—I have a personal vendetta against. I always thought “hey this will cure my headache” and never researched or took the time to see that it was burning a hole in my stomach simultaneously. I like to use herbal remedies first and foremost. They are equally as powerful, if not more and don’t come with a host of side effects. If a health professional recommends a prescription and its warranted, I will absolutely take it but I always ask for the herbal solution first and ask them to be mindful of my choice to lead a healthy lifestyle.
As a strong believer in herbal medicine, what’s one product you absolutely swear by?
How do you use CBD?
Right now, I have been using it when I just need a little extra to help manage anxiety, muscle aches or headaches. I actually went directly to a local store and stocked up on CBD creams, oils and pills when they gave us our stay at home orders and everyone was rushing home. In my life outside of COVID-19, I travel all over the world and in one trip, I could find myself in 3 different time zones within a couple weeks. That literally happened in February. In a 10 day span I was in Bangkok, Amsterdam, Prague, Dublin and back to the states. I think this is where I should mention that I absolutely love my company and my job…how cool was that sentence? Every country I visited had CBD readily available anywhere I went. This is an absolute lifesaver when you need to get really good sleep and your body clock is completely out of sync. In Prague, I even found gum that I grabbed and chewed on the plane ride back to Amsterdam. It’s so neat to me that most other countries have really embraced this simple herbal remedy that seems to fix everything.
In which ways do you translate your personal goals (yoga/meditation) into your business (hotels) goals? Is there a connection between the two? If so, what have you learned from both?
Yoga and meditation is something that I have practiced along the way as well in my travels. There is not a more perfect place to meditate that the middle seat smushed between two men that can’t keep their elbows to themselves. You can easily do 20,000 steps walking a conference and they are often cement floors or a thin layer of carpeting over cement floors. When my body is aching at the end of the day, a little CBD, yoga flow, and 5 minute meditation can make you fresh for the next day. Skipping those exercises would set me up for a tired, worn down next day, which is not an option.
How has the Freehand approached Pride this year in relation to past years?
It’s our responsibility at Freehand to create safe experiences for our guests and staff so I decided to forego planning anything that would cause extra bodies within the property. We typically have a Pride party, amenities and multiple local partnerships for activations throughout Pride month. My favorite part is working with NYC Pride/Heritage of Pride, who are the most incredible group of people and they work so hard to show up for the LGBTQIA community—it’s truly an honor to know and work with them. Because I know that this year was still stressful for their team even without the events, we partnered with oHHo and NYC designer Lyz Olko, to create custom dyed Freehand Pride tote bags and stuff them with CBD oil tasting kits to send out via good old fashioned snail mail. We hope they come in handy and their team enjoys the chill vibes coming their way!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to get into the hospitality industry?
Start at the front desk if you can. A good front desk agent or manager can deliver bad news with a smile, solve a multitude of problems that might pop up, they learn how revenue is generated, intercept all phone calls that come into the hotel and are tasked with knowing their local area inside and out. All facets of the front desk are applicable to any other position that you could go to next. I was able to easily jump into accounting and help them collect funds from guests and vendors and decided that wasn’t for me. I went back to the front office and managed the night staff which consisted of housekeeping, engineering, front desk and night audit. By the time I realize the money and good hours were in sales, I had walked the hotel and sold it to so many individual guests it was second nature to me. That was my path and you have to find yours!
Tell us more about your global sustainability initiative.
So this is still very hush hush but as I said before, I was able to complete a course in Sustainable Travel during my weekends home in self-quarantine. My leadership team has graciously allowed me the opportunity to apply what I have learned and find a suitable sustainability solution and I could not be more excited. This is something that we truly care about as an organization from the top down and we are dedicated to doing our part for the environment. My leaders have been instrumental in guiding me on this project and I could not be more proud to be a member of this team. You will have to keep checking our instagram and website for updates!