Aysia Woods, Founder of Art of the Journey & Events by AW, is a professional people-gatherer. Ahead, Aysia shares her story and top four tips on how travel has affected how she hosts her events…
I’ll never forget it. I was sitting on a perfectly aged, velvet love seat by myself in the most beautiful Parisian apartment. My previous love seat partner had meandered away to refill her plate, so I was left to absorb what was happening around me with no distractions. Music was playing. It was just loud enough to accurately tap a foot or bob a head, but quiet enough to blend into the atmosphere. There was food being served on nearly every surface – on the tiny coffee table in front of me, on the kitchen counter, on the chest with the lamps. One window was open and the Eiffel Tower was in plain view out of it. I heard lots of cheerful clinking of metal utensils on ceramic plates and wine glasses on tables. I remember thinking the hosts will be washing dishes for the next week, but it was well worth the fabulous party. Everything was buzzing. It’s one of my favorite memories.
I feel lucky that this was not the only event magic from abroad I’ve experienced (this was during my short-term study abroad trip to Paris as a junior). Throughout the years, I’ve dined on pasta in Rome, lived with a farming Kiwi family in New Zealand, partied in Cape Town, and had delicious food adventures in Panama City, to name a few. Each experience has taught me something new about how people around the world treat their guests and create a memorable time. Pulling from my adventures, I’d like to share with you the top 4 ways travel has shaped how I host my events today. Let’s get into it!
Always glass, never plastic.
This is a tidbit I’ve picked up from Europe. Can you already picture what I’m referring to? Those quaint, Instagram-worthy cafes scatted throughout France or Italy that seem to have too many dishes on the tiniest table? Whether a cup, plate, or bottle, glass feels endlessly nicer to the touch than plastic. It’s a small detail, yet has the power to make a meal feel more elevated and luxurious. Double points if there is flat water in a tall vase to pour into glass cups!
Offer guests a snack and a drink.
Whether hosting a book club or a friend has spontaneously dropped by my apartment, it’s nice to offer them a little something tasty. After all, they just completed a trek to get to you! While you might be thinking, “Aysia, this is basic. This is called being polite,” you’d be surprised. I find in the States this happens sometimes, but in other countries I’ve visited, like South Africa, it is considered rude if you don’t offer a bite. I tend to keep cookies, chips and dip, or fruit on hand to whip up a quick snack platter when desired. I also have a variety of teas and coffee (though I don’t even drink coffee) for people to relax with. It’s a nice touch.
Take your time.
Americans have a fast-everything culture that diminishes the quality of our social interactions. From Central America, to Africa, to Europe, I’ve noticed people eat and enjoy their company slower. There is no checking the time every ten minutes or rushing to get home by 9:00 pm on a weekday. People savor every bite and share stories until their hearts are content, regardless if it takes one hour or four. At my events, I work to not unnecessarily rush a great conversation or meal if there’s no real reason to.
Let your guests take the first bite.
When I was in New Zealand, my host family would set the table, say grace, then wait for me to dig in before they would. They did this the first night, second night, and every dinner for the week I spent with them. It made me feel so special and I try to extend that same honor when guests stay at my place! Not to mention it’s also a good strategy to see if your meal is a hit or not.
Hope these few points have been insightful and given you new ideas. Remember, people will always remember how you made them feel, so strive to make them feel truly pampered!
Aysia Woods is the founder of Art of the Journey, a women’s social group, and Events by AW, through which she provides event consulting and services. She is originally from Philadelphia, but has called DC home for the past 8 years. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.
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