Browsing Category: North America

4 days in the desert: from the Salton Sea to Joshua Tree

I’ve been off the radar a bit more than usual as of late, and you may be wondering what the heck I’ve been up to! Well, I’ve been a little bit everywhere, more specifically a little bit all over the desert.

48-IMG_1076I’m currently in a busy pizzeria in North Hollywood, overpowered by the hustle and bustle that comes with a city like L.A. that is constantly on the go.

I just spent the last 4 days exploring the Colorado and Mojave Deserts in Southern California, without a recent shower or run-in with civilization, I feel a little out of place. But hey, at least I have some great stories to tell.

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I’ve actually spent a lot of time in the desert recently, with another Coachella Music Festival under my belt, and a week and a half of life in San Diego, I’ve again become accustomed to the dry, relentless heat that comes with Southern California.

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After some temporary farewells (I’ll be back soon y’all!) to some close friends in San Diego, my boyfriend and I took off in our new home: a 1996 Dodge Cargo Van, having no smartphones and using an outdated map from the year before I was born: 1989.

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We first drove up the 101 Hwy, stopping in at one of my favorite haunts in Solana Beach: Pizza Port.

Pizza Port is a little pizzeria that makes delectable pizza and brews their own beer. Oh, and it’s located in one of the most scenic areas of San Diego. What more could you ask for?

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Without a doubt, go there if you are in San Diego.

After filling up on a spicy pie filled to the brim with jalapeños, we continued up the coast and reached The Flower Fields in Carlsbad.

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The Flower Fields is a jubilant place filled with 50 acres of colorful Ranunculus flowers, a relative to the Buttercup. We had a grand time walking around the fields and taking pictures of the diverse colors on hand, and the perfect weather of Southern California.

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With San Diego behind us, we hit the road properly, winding our way through the mountains and the town of Julian, famous for the BEST apple pie in the West.

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Within a couple of hours we had successfully driven ourselves to the middle of nowhere, or in other words, right on track to where we wanted to be.

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Day 1 – The Salton Sea

Think of that standard horror movie that includes a dive bar where everyone stares at you when you walk in, and directs you out of town for accommodation even though they call themselves an inn.

That in a sentence was the Salton Sea that we experienced.

We arrived around dusk and we were the only people camping along the entire eastern shoreline of the lake, so it had the serial killer vibe to begin with.

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In the morning it was a nice view, but we also realized how our first instincts weren’t entirely wrong about being surrounded by death.

There were countless dead fish, and a even a few birds littered around the shoreline, increasing as you crept closer to the water. Also, the sand was made of crushed fish bones. Weird.

The water itself felt slimy, and had a greasy sheen to it.

I don’t know if I would recommend swimming close to shore, or even staying the night if you easily get the spooks, but it would be a scenic picnic spot on your way past.

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It’s a favorite muse for many photographers due to its post-apocalyptic nature and desolation.

Day 2 – Salvation Mountain/Joshua Tree

Leaving the Salton Sea by mid-morning, we backtracked a little ways to see the famous Salvation Mountain in Niland, California, and it did not disappoint.

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Salvation Mountain has a ton of colorful artwork that clearly took a lot of patience and perseverance to construct.

Made with adobe, straw, and paint, Salvation Mountain stands high with its cross and has bountiful bible passages and Jesus love everywhere you look.

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Beside the mountain there is another section to walk through, with crevices and corners of artwork to look at as well as cats that may jump out at you for a little surprise – just ask my boyfriend.

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There were no other people around when we were there. Located in a squatter city with dilapidated motor homes and dust in the middle of nowhere, it was hard not to feel a little creeped out. The repetitive religious fervor and stray cats only added to the effect.

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With that said, Leonard Knight, who created the colorful mountain, is said to have been a fascinating human being by visitors who met him before he passed away last year.

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Even still, I don’t think I would feel comfortable camping in the area overnight.

Day 3/4 – Joshua Tree 

Joshua Tree, are you joshing me? Sorry, I know that was lame. It was what I said all week, so I had to get it out of my system one last time.

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Joshua Tree, the place that U2 wrote an album after, a place that everyone always raves about.

And I can now clearly see why: it’s elegant and moving.

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From our first drive into the southern entrance through the Cottonwood Mountains we knew this was worth coming out to.

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I never would’ve thought a desert could be so beautiful, but Joshua Tree changed that. I had never seen a Joshua Tree before my trip to the park, and they quickly became my favorite (read: only) tree to look at.

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The southern section of the national park is at a lower elevation in the Colorado Desert. Dry, hot, with an abundance of shrubbery, there is only one traditional campsite in the area.

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In the transition zone, there is a change to elevation, a mix between the two deserts – Colorado and Mojave.

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We stopped at the Cholla (pronounced “Choy- ya”) Cactus Garden, and found ourselves surrounded by Teddy Bear Cholla. They were adorable, but not something you’d ever want to cuddle.

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We camped at Hidden Valley and Indian Cove in the Mojave Desert elevation. Hidden Valley was higher up so it was freezing at night in our van, but Indian Cove was much more temperate.

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Even with the lower temperatures, Hidden Valley was my favorite place to rest for the night. It’s in the middle of the park so you have countless hikes and lookouts available to you.

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What I really enjoyed was watching all of the rock climbers that are popular in this campsite in particular.

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Being higher up, the constellations were absolutely stellar – pun intended. It was the first time I had looked up at the stars with no light pollution since coming back from the Southern Hemisphere, and that moment alone really brought home back to me.

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Other highlights of Joshua Tree included Keys View, which looked out over the spanning desert, back to the Salton Sea where we had come from, and even over the Coachella Valley and Indio where I had spent the previous weekend.

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We hiked around the Hidden Valley campsite, climbed huge rocks, found the Skull Rock near the Jumbo Rocks campsite, and even wandered down a trail called the Wall Street Mill that showcased an old gold mining operation.

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On the same trail we found a couple of old cars from the early 20th century left to dust in the desert.

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I can see why Joshua Tree is a place people come back to time and time again, I look forward to going back myself someday.

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Every time we’d look out to the horizon, it almost looked superimposed or like a painting, it was that unrealistic and unique.

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It felt so easy to disconnect from all the worries and stress of technology and cities, because there was so much in the desert to be enamored with.

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It was exactly what I wanted after an overpopulated festival like Coachella that made me question human behavior and the extent of the word rude, even if the music was amazing.

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Joshua Tree was our first National Park on our trip, but it won’t be the last. I’ll be getting lost in many a redwood forest up north.

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I can’t deny it, it feels damn good to be home.

This is the beginning.

I’m sitting in a new cafe in a town I used to call home. Everything is the same yet different.

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Transitioning back to the States, and more specifically California, has been more overwhelming than I thought it would be. Little things I never used to think of now rattle me, and make me realize a lot about my own culture.

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Showing someone who has never been immersed in West Coast culture my old life, that’s only an added challenge.

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Regardless of the unsteady ground I sometimes find myself on back home, I love it here. If you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted a lot lately it’s because I’ve been wrapping my mind around this place I used to know.

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And I think I’m finally there.

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Without a doubt I’m a different person than when I left, but my core personality is still ingrained in California culture, and it’s surfacing again. That spontaneous, beach-loving, carefree person with a touch of oddity, that’s me and California brings out the best parts of it.

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I can’t wait to share with you a piece of home. I don’t really know how to start, just that this is the beginning.

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me and sis

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I still have quite a few posts to catch up on from New Zealand and Hawaii, and they’ll make an appearance here in due time.

I’m heading to Coachella for the weekend, and after that it’s going to be one crazy ride, slowly making my way up the coast of California – including the likes of roughing it in Joshua Tree, the glamor of Hollywood, the chill vibes of Santa Barbara, and all the way through to the family I’ve been missing for so long in the Bay Area with many and more stops along the way.

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This is the beginning of taking my blog to the next level. This is the beginning of a more personal style to my writing. This is the beginning of trying new things on here, such as vlogging about the countless breweries I’ll be stopping in at, or simply making a video montage of the beautiful places I’ll be visiting.

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This is the beginning, and I hope you’ll come along and join in on the journey.

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Cheers to a new life Stateside, and to all those wonderful people I met abroad these past two years. I couldn’t be more grateful to where my life has led me today.

Thoughts on coming home

When I first left home, I wrote this post the day I left San Diego.

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When I left San Diego on a train taking me to LA, which would be my departure city from the States, I remember watching the sun fade under the canopy of palm trees, and feeling like I knew, at least I was 95% sure, that I was doing what was right and leading myself to where I was meant to be.

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I feel that way again now, but in the opposite direction. I have an underlying notion, a hunch I can’t shake, that my life is meant to be at home right now.

In a month, I’ll be walking on a plane that will take me back to the US. I’ve never felt the ache of homesickness as much as I have since I’ve been in New Zealand.

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There are little reminders, a quote, a picture, little things that come back to me and remind me of a specific memory of home, and I get an ache like I’ve never felt before.

An ache that something is truly missing.

I never thought I was someone who got homesick, but then again, I had never been abroad for (almost) two solid years before, with nothing so much as a visit.

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I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my life has lead me to where I find myself today, and that I’ve had the tenacity to keep myself financially afloat while traveling the world.

But, without a doubt, it’s time for me to see home, at least for a little while.

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It was not an easy feat to leave San Diego behind, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it again very soon.

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The taquerias with the best Mexican food I’ve tried in my life, the sandy beaches that are perfect at anytime of the day, but especially at night when you can look up and see all of the constellations lit up in the sky.

The microbreweries, my college friends, sorority sisters, and Taco Tuesdays, even La Jolla, the slightly snobby suburb of San Diego where I went to school, I spent 5 years of my life there and it still holds a lot of fond memories.

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North Park, with one of the best live music venues and hip bars filled with whiskey, mustaches, and black and white movies. A suburb brimming with art, or at the very least, a unique take on society.

Even with all this love for San Diego, I think it would be hard to move straight back to the last place I left, so I’ve decided to try out a new city. You can bet I’ll be spending my brief time in San Diego to the fullest, and seeing it in a new light I never appreciated when I actually lived there.

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Instead, I’ll be going into unknown territory, probably Portland, Oregon, and bringing my Kiwi boyfriend with me who has never seen the West Coast before.

Portland sign at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at night, Oregon
Source

I’ve never lived with a boyfriend before now, let alone moved across the world with one, so it’ll be an interesting next year, but one that is sure to be heaps of fun.

He has been planning on coming to North America to explore the craft beer in the US for over a year now, it was actually one of the first things we bonded over when we were still just friends, and now that we’re a couple we’ve decided to plan our trip together, it worked out quite serendipitously.

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There’s also the case of visas and everything that comes with a multicultural relationship, but his dual Canadian citizenship should hopefully help a bit, we won’t know until we actually get to the States.

It may still be up in the air, but we’re just happy to be able to travel with each other, and hopefully he’ll find a sponsored job in a brewery once we arrive in Portland.

With that said, being able to show someone I love where I come from, where I grew up and went to school, my family and friends, it’s a profound feeling of joy, an experience that I’m greatly looking forward to.

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With the unknown bits and bobs that make life interesting, I sometimes feel that I’m more excited than I should be to be coming home. I have had a lot of time to build it up, after all.

Maybe after spending two years of life abroad, I’ve realized how much I appreciate and love where I’m from in sunny laid-back California, but perhaps I’ve been away long enough to sugarcoat it as well. I guess I won’t really know until I’m physically back home.

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Most people dread the thought of having to go home after an extended time abroad, but I guess the difference is that I’m choosing to.

Just imagining seeing the look on my mom’s face when we see each other again, walking the dogs and playing guitar with my dad, going out for Thai food with my stepmom, drinking a beer with my brother, and laughing at another inside joke with my sister while devouring delicious Mexican food. I can’t help but get the feels.

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I guess those thoughts make me think I’m not building it up in the least, that it’ll be just as good as I think it’ll be, as comforting as a steaming plate of mom’s homemade enchiladas.

The reason for this post is to emphasize how important home is to me, and how honored I feel to be able to write about it for you readers as it’s something clearly very dear to my heart.

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Regardless if you’ve never wanted to visit the States, I hope my writings about Hawaii, California, Oregon, and American culture in general will touch you in some way that’ll make you keep coming back.

I’ll be back to the Northern Hemisphere in a month’s time, full of new adventures, plans, and experiences. You can bet I have a lot of further travels planned along the way to keep things interesting.

Near our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Snapshot Memories of the Week: Coachella

Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves. 

This week my memories go back to Coachella.

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With my return to California coming up in the new year, the 2015 Coachella line-up coming out next month, and the Coachella festival being one of the first things I’ll be doing when I land in Southern California (sorry family I’ll see you soon after!), I figured it was about time I reminisced about my first year at the festival, three years ago when I was still living in California (holla 2012).

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If you can believe it, Coachella was the first major music festival I went to. Being a music lover my whole life, I found it surprising that I didn’t get to my first festival until I was 21.

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Sure, we had a big music festival after every year at my university, called Sun God, but this was a HUGE music festival! One where Tupac holograms rapped, and I danced my ass off to the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Nero, Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia, Martin Solveig, and Dada Life, just to name a few.

Swedish House Mafia basically lit the whole stage on fire
Swedish House Mafia basically lit the whole stage on fire

It’s a festival where I saw my two favorite artists of all time, back-to-back even: Bon Iver & Radiohead.

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Bon Iver, sigh, probably some of my favorite 30 minutes ever
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I was close enough to even see Thom Yorke’s barefoot feet while he was performing

Coachella was the first realization of how much I love festivals. It set me off wondering if music event management was something I possibly wanted for a career. It’s the reason I spent my whole summer in Australia traveling around the country volunteering at any music festival I could get into.

Meredith Music Festival, Australia
Meredith Music Festival, Australia

The aspect that surprised me so much about Coachella was the acoustics. Alright this is my music nerdiness coming out, but even with the heaps of concerts and small local festivals I’ve attended, I have never heard better acoustics than what I heard at Coachella.

Forget acoustics, worst tattoo spotting was the best.
Forget acoustics, worst tattoo spottings were the best.

Even after going to music festivals abroad, Coachella still has the best sound system set-up I’ve heard. It probably had to do with the insanely talented artists present as well, but everything about the music was simply perfect.

The Black Keys
The Black Keys

The weekend we went was unbearably hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) for 3 days straight of camping in the desert. They had a water gun station in the middle of the festival, called the Do-Lab, where you could go to a stage basically to just get sprayed ridiculously wet by milatary-esque water guns.

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Do-Lab shenanigans

I went with a group of girls I was close to in my sorority, and none of us had ever camped at a music festival before so we made a few rookie mistakes.

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Most notably, we forgot to bring a canopy for the much needed shade while we were just hanging out at the campsite. This meant we were woken up by 8am each morning in a pool of our own sweat from the already scorching hot sun.

We also only had baby wipes and bottled water as our shower (the shower lines tended to be over 2 hours long with no shade in line). But honestly, it’s all part of festival life, and if you don’t embrace it then there’s no point in camping in the first place.

One of the hilarious memories I have from camp life is when one of the girls opened a bottle of water and poured the whole thing over her head to cool down, only realizing after that it was actually a bottle of silver tequila I had snuck in with our water pack. Whoops!

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I should admit to the fact that in the past few years Coachella has had a bit of a bad rap. As most music festivals these days, it has turned into more of a fashion statement than a music-lovers escape. I see both pros and cons with this. I enjoy fashion as much as the next person, especially boho festival fashion, but when that starts taking precedence over the music, that’s when I just don’t get it.

There are some people these days that just go to Coachella simply to be seen, it has become such a huge festival and everyone wants to say that they’ve been. That’s all fine and dandy, but let me just say if you are one of those people, good on ya for trying something new, but don’t forget about the music. It’s a set-up of 3 incredible days, multiple stages of every genre, and as I said the BEST acoustics, don’t let that go to waste.

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Even with the seemingly change of focus to the festival, I’m still as excited to go to Coachella 2015 as I was back in 2012. The music is what I’ll always come back to, and already from the artists that are rumored to be in attendance this year, I can tell I won’t be disappointed.

This time I’ll be changing it up and staying at a swanky hotel in Indio instead of camping at the festival, and basically just splitting a room between 4-5 people, so we’ll see how different it is compared to camping. In any case, you can bet I’ll be excited to write about my experience going to this coming year’s Coachella.

The aspects that first come to mind when I think back to Coachella are the famous ferris wheelhot and sweaty picturesthe stages, and the art installations (or the yellow submarine campsite).

The Ferris Wheel

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Hot & Sweaty

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The Stages

Stages

Art Installations

Artinstallations

Snapshot Memories of the Week: Austin, TX

Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves. 

This week my memories go back to Austin. 

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Austin, Texas. My first trip to the South and the live music capital of the world.

I was feeling restless after coming home from a summer in Europe with no immediate travels in the works. It was the middle of winter, and I had saved enough money at my first bartending gig to spend it on a trip somewhere in the States during the holidays.

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It didn’t take me long to choose Austin, Texas. I’d always wanted to check out the South (although Austin I’ve heard is much different from the rest of the South), and Austin’s fascination with live music made it a shoe-in.

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I was fine with going on my own, maybe taking a long Greyhound ride to get to Texas and spending a week exploring the city by myself.

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On a whim, I invited my boyfriend at the time, and he said he would love to see the city with me, an avid musician and music lover himself, it sounded like a perfect way to use our winter vacation.

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We jumped on a plane to save time, and stayed in the HI Austin Hostel to save money, exploring the the Texas capital for about a week. Austin is a fairly walkable city, but it was also convenient to bus into the city and wander from there.

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My favorite aspect about Austin was the fact that even though it was winter, and therefore the down season, there was endless live music to be found. We would just walk down the main drag on Sixth Street, wandering from bar to bar, following whatever music we were in the mood for that night.

We listened to tons of live music that week, anything from indie rock, to country folk, to jazz, and even stumbled into a dueling piano bar one night.

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A cool thing about Austin is the bat population that famously exists under the “bat bridge”. We were in the wrong season to see all of the bats while we were there, but Austin apparently has a huge bat population, especially under this one bridge near the city.

Although unique, I thought it was a strange thing for a city to have at the time, but after spending a year in Australia with a crazy bat population in most cities, I find it the most normal thing now.

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In addition to exploring the music-centered nightlife and the bat history of the city, we also had a fun time traipsing through the Zilker Botanical Gardens, checking out the University of Texas, dipping into the retro shops on South Congress, and walking through the State Capitol building – there were even Texas Rangers that walked through the door while we were heading in!

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One of my favorite memories from the trip was going to a restaurant called Rasta Pasta near the university. Run by a Jamaican staff, it served delicious Rastafarian pasta, which I had never heard of before, but it was simply great.

Did I mention that Austin is a little bit on the hippie side? It’s very much like my hometown of Santa Cruz in that sense.

Of all the aspects I remember about this trip, the ones that have stuck with me the most were the presence of the color orange (also the local university’s color), the great food to be found in the many food trucks, the colorful street art, and the beautiful autumn foliage, even though it was in the middle of winter.

The Color Orange

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Food Trucks

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Street Art

StreetArt

Foliage

Foliage

Austin was my first taste of the South, and it made me want to to back to explore all the goodness this part of my own country has to offer. I could definitely see myself living in Austin someday, at the very least I’ll be heading to Austin City Limits and SXSW in the near future.

Snapshot Memories of the Week: San Diego, CA

Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves. 

This week my memories go back to San Diego. 

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San Diego is a hard place to represent just in snapshots. I spent 5 years living there, and often times didn’t take any pictures of the key aspects that meant the most to me.

Cactuses and desert like conditions in San Diego
Cactuses and desert like conditions in San Diego
Llamas in Oldtown San Diego
Llamas in Old Town San Diego
A walk to Blacks Cliffs
A Walk to Blacks Cliffs

It’s a place I went to college and received my degree in psychology and international studies, where I fell in love with my college boyfriend, where I joined a sorority (more on that later), and had countless sleepless nights going out on adventures with California burritos in hand and the beach within throwing distance.

Graduating seniors at UC San Diego
Graduating seniors at UC San Diego
UC San Diego Campus
UC San Diego Campus
Okay, not technically in San Diego - but a great road trip from the city to taste the best apple pie of your life - Julian Pie Company
Okay, not technically in San Diego – but a great road trip from the city to taste the best apple pie of your life – Julian Pie Company

There are many pictures I did capture, and that is what I bring you this week, but as I lived there for so long, I never viewed the place as a tourist.

Mount Woodson
Mount Woodson
Margaritas for my 21st in Del Mar, San Diego
Margaritas for my 21st in Del Mar, San Diego
San Diego Harbor
San Diego Harbor

I never made it to Sea World, never took pictures of the many suburbs I explored on my weekends, or the ornate and beautiful Balboa Park. I never took pictures of my favorite cafes and taquerias. I never captured on film how much I loved hanging out in Bird Rock on a hot summer’s day, iced green tea in hand, and how gorgeous the city looks at night while crossing the Coronado Bridge.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters - The Best
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters – The Best
La Jolla, San Diego
La Jolla, San Diego
Pacific Beach for a night out on the town
Pacific Beach for a night out on the town

I never took photos of the many delicious craft beers I could find at any bar I went to, or how profound the friendships became that I made throughout college. How freeing it felt to go skinny dipping at Blacks Beach in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, how the best beach weather is in the dead of winter, and finally knowing the true meaning of hot and humid summer nights.

Stone Brewery
Stone Brewery
UC San Diego Campus
UC San Diego Campus
UC San Diego
UC San Diego

Instead, I have pictures that will do their best to convey to you a place that I can’t even begin to describe myself, a place I still get butterflies to go back to, I love it that much. I have pictures of sunsets/sunrises, beaches/cliffs, palm trees, and food/craft beer mainly (although I still don’t know how I never took a picture of a burrito, I consumed SO many while I was living there).

Bird Rock, San Diego
Bird Rock, San Diego
Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain
The World-Famous San Diego Zoo
The World-Famous San Diego Zoo

These four categories are how I would describe San Diego to an outsider, as well as maybe adding in an awesome live music scene, it’s a good introduction to one of my favorite cities in the world.

Blacks Cliffs
Blacks Cliffs
My Apartment for 2 years
My Apartment for 2 years

After what will be 2 years away, I look forward to starting off my West Coast USA Road Trip in San Diego, and finally taking the time to see it as a tourist.

Sunsets/Sunrises

San Diego

Beaches/Cliffs

Beaches and Cliffs

Palm Trees

Palm Trees

Food/Craft Beer

Food and Craft Beer

I can’t tell you how many songs remind me of this place, and how much it means to me that I can share a piece of it with you here.

I never knew a place named after a whale’s vagina could be so cool.

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Craft Beer 101

Craft Beer 101 - The Atlas Heart

It seems like everyone is talking about craft beer, hops, and malts these days. Or is that just me?  I first got into craft beer in college, a friend introduced me to big hop American IPAs via Stone Brewery and I was sold from my first sip. My Coors Light party days from freshman year were long gone by the time I started working as a bartender at the craft beer pub on campus my senior year.

I was blessed to go to school in San Diego, California. Not only does it have some of the best year around weather in the world, beaches, and people, but one of the best microbrewery scenes in the nation.

San Diego

Stone Brewery was the first brewery I ever visited, and it still holds dear memories for me of birthday drinks, getting lost in conversations in the rock gardens, and munching on the beer mac & cheese.

Getting lost in Stone Brewery

In Melbourne, I worked in a craft beer bar hidden away in the lawyer district of the CBD, and started my education of the best craft beers in Victoria and all of Australia.

Deja Vu Bar (Melbourne, Australia) Photo Cred: http://craftypint.com
Deja Vu Crew

In Sydney, again, I worked at a craft beer pub, one that was voted the best craft beer venue in all of Australia in 2013. A 3-story bar, with plenty of staff, and beer nerds galore, I fell even more in love with the craft beer scene in Australia.

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The Local Taphouse (Sydney, Australia) Photo Cred: www.barsandnightclubs.com.au

As much as Kiwis like to say Australia has no good craft beer, I’d beg to differ. Although the craft beer scene in Australia isn’t as developed as what I’ve found in New Zealand, I found some of the most unique beers I’ve tried in my life in Australia, including one brewed with a whole chicken. Just look up Bacchus Brewing in Queensland and you’ll see what I mean.

Currently, I’m working as a manager at another great craft beer bar in New Zealand, and I couldn’t be happier to be progressing my knowledge in the never ending field of beer.

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Kendall, Sam, and I at the Bruhaus (Wellington, New Zealand) Photo Cred: http://jetsettingfools.com

I’ve become quite comfortable in American, Australian, and New Zealand beers, and can recommend and describe pretty much any style now and how it differs by country. For instance, the one thing I’m not a big fan of in terms of New Zealand beer is the big hop characteristics found in NZ Pale Ales. For me, if I want big hops, I’ll turn to an IPA, but that’s because I grew up with American style pale ales, which tend to be more subtle than their Kiwi counterpart.

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Liberty Citra Double IPA, drank in Bebemos. One of my favorite beers in New Zealand.

My beer journey in the past few years led me to take a Craft Beer 101 class last Saturday. I was able to attend the class for free in the name of “work”, and I loved it so much that I thought I would share what I learned. Although I know a lot about beer, I’m also lacking on a lot of the history behind how styles originated, this class taught me heaps about the background of beer culture.

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Getting ‘Murican with Behemoth’s APA

The class was held at a bar called Hashigo Zake, a place that calls itself a “cult beer bar”, and one of the best bars to get to know New Zealand craft beer if you happen to be in Wellington. The class was taught by Steph and Phil, who were friendly, knowledgable, and hilarious instructors that work at the bar. They have a whole series of classes about beer, including one on hops, yeast, and an advanced beer course. I would highly recommend even taking one of their classes if you have an interest in craft beer.

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Craft Beer College

Maybe you’re a beer nerd to the core, maybe just a casual beer drinker, or perhaps you just want to show your smarts at a party of hipsters. Here are a few basic facts to know and share about styles:

English Bitter

Essentially the birth of pale ales. The English bitter style came about through a change in malting techniques, which shied away from the intense roasting that used to be a part of brewing any beer. Beer used to be a sludgy, dirt black, thick liquid before a change in malting styles came along. This change allowed for a lighter beer in color to be produced. A more unique aroma and a better color boded well for the growing popularity of beer.

Wheat

A style that usually has more protein and yeast that is oftentimes left in the beer, especially for traditional German Hefeweizens, which is where wheat beers get their cloudy appearance. Wheat beers have a very unique aroma compared to most other styles because of the type of yeast used. The aromas you usually find are banana, clove, and even bubblegum. A Belgian style wit (wheat in Dutch) usually has less banana flavors and instead more spices of coriander, citrus and cloves. Wheat beer tends to be described as being the most refreshing, although the same can be said for Pilsners.

Pilsners

The default conception of what beer is. When most people think of the definition of a beer, they think of pilsners because that’s usually what they grow up with or what they’re first introduced to. The style itself is actually rather new, in fact, newer than the country of New Zealand. The style was created in the small town of Plzeň in the Czech Republic. The town wanted its own thing to bring the community together and make them stand out from other towns, so they decided to create their own beer style. My kind of town.

It’s a very deliberate style that was engineered to make the “perfect” beer in a lot of different ways. It’s a clean, focused beer, and a great step up from the murky dark beers that were popular at the time. It’s more pale than an English style, but much more aromatic and tends to have more hops.

Pilsners sometimes get a bad rap in the craft beer world, because a lot of big corporate beer companies use the style loosely to produce watered down beer that doesn’t have much of a flavor. Granted, pilsners can be seen as boring because they don’t have all the crazy flavors, malts, and hops that some of the other styles have, but it’s a great introductory style to get someone into craft beer, or if you just want a lighter style to drink for the night.

IPA

India Pale Ales are big and bold. America has mastered the big hop IPA, and it has become popular again in New Zealand, especially in the last decade. There has been a lot of theories behind how the style began, but it’s safe to say that the style acquired its name from its beginning popularity with the East India Company traders.

Some theories say the brewers in England added extra hops so the beer would withstand the long voyage to India, others say that Indians and the traders simply had a fondness for the taste of new found big hops. Whatever theory is right, I’m glad that the IPA came about because it had a great impact in the craft beer world, and is probably my favorite style to date.

Fun fact: If you smell certain IPAs you may get a whiff of something you used to smoke in college (or maybe still do), because hops are closely related to Cannabis. The beer that has smelled the most like weed to me is Le Freak by Green Flash Brewing Company, you know those Californians…..

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Stouts & Porters

A black ale that doesn’t have a massive hop presence. Although a lot of people like to condone stouts and porters to all tasting like Guinness, there is just as wide a variety of black beers as there are of lighter ones.

The name for porters came about from the porters in London drinking a lot of black beers, which they would oftentimes drink instead of water. Stouts were generally thought of as a porter with higher alcohol, called stout porters. Guinness technically was the first stout because they were the first brewery to drop the name porter in the style.

Now the important part is the different between porters and stouts, which a lot of people get confused. Stouts have roasted barley, are generally more robust, slightly dryer, and tend to have a coffee bitterness in the aftertaste. Porters are slightly sweeter, and produce more of a chocolate flavor.

Belgian Strong

As my coworkers can vouch, it’s hard (for me) to drink a whole night on only Belgian beers, they’re called strong ales for a reason! And ridiculousness seems to ensue after a few too many of these babies.

Belgian strong ales are brewed with live yeast that eat up all the sugars and create a high in alcohol beer. The style started with monks and the popular Belgian brewery, Trappist, which was originally just a monastery. The Trappist monks would sell beer to rebuild monasteries after World War I. The monks quickly became very good brewers when they discovered the wealth they could gain for the monastery through beer.

Chimay Blue was originally brewed by a monk for a Christmas dinner. Clearly, they were serious about their good beer.

Barley Wine

Not all that common, but definitely a style that is incredibly unique and an adventure for the tastebuds. It’s usually very alcoholic, falling around 10-12%, the one we tried in the course was 18.9%. Wowza.

It was originally created by the English to compete with French wine. As with any ever present competition with the French and the English, barley wine was brewed to be bigger in everything compared to the French.

A generous amount of hops and sweetness (and ahem, ethanol) are considered to be the characteristics for this style. The Mikkeler Big Worster we tried in the course just tasted like straight alcoholic butter to me. I’m not a huge fan of barley wine, but to each his own.

Here’s the list of beers we tasted in the course:

Feel free to try these and let me know what you think, and if you think they follow the general guidelines of their style. I always love hearing another’s thoughts on interesting beer.

1. Fitzpatrick’s Fitzy’s Special – English Bitter – 4.0%

2. Mike’s Taranaki Hefeweizen – Wheat – 5.5%

3. Mata Hip Hop – Pilsner – 5.5%

4. Parrot Dog Bitter Bitch – IPA – 5.8&

5. Tuatara Black Stout: Toasted Malt – Stout – 7.0%

6. Chimay Blue – Belgian Strong – 9%

7. Mikkeller Big Worster – Barley Wine – 18.9%

These styles, of course, only brush the surface, but it’s a good place to start for classic beer styles that initiated the whole she-bang. Other favorites of mine include amber ales, American pale ales, and the odd Italian red ale.

Garage Project Brewery. yes.
Drinking American Pale Ales on 4th of July

Have you ever been beer tasting? What’s your favorite style of beer?

If you’d like to take one of Steph and Phil’s Craft Beer College courses in Wellington, head to www.craftbeercollege.co.nz. 

2013, a year to remember

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

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My favorite quote from 2013, and one that I find pretty relevant to my life these days as a hopeless wanderer. 2013 was a year of change, new beginnings, and a lot of falling headfirst outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to 7 new countries, attended 4 festivals, moved to two different cities, said more goodbyes than I’d like to remember, yet have made countless more friends and opened a variety of new doors in the process. 2013 was in a word, epic. I don’t think I’ve grown more in a year previously than I did in 2013, I have a feeling 2014 is going to be even better and more adventurous. Here’s a glance at what my year of travel and spontaneity included.

January – New York, Oregon, California

I started this travel blog just before the New Year, my first posts consisted of my travels around the States for the holidays and reminiscent anecdotes from my summer in Tuscany. I started the New Year off with a bang partying under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City for New Year’s Eve.

View of the Chrysler Building at night

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“Last June, I walked across the stage at my college graduation with the words the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams“ glued to my cap. I found the quote appropriate, not only because my college at UC San Diego is called Eleanor Roosevelt, but because those words are what I hope to live by as a recent graduate.” – The Future Belongs to those who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams

February – California

The month of the most change for me in 2013, this was one of my final months in San Diego before moving to Oz. I pierced my belly button, donated most of my belongings, cut off a foot of my hair, and broke things off with my longterm boyfriend.

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me and aaron

“There has been a lot to think about with my departure date coming up so soon, and my whole trip itself becoming more real than it has ever felt before. I’m proud of myself for embarking on such an endeavor, one which I wouldn’t of had the confidence or the bravery to pull off as little as four years ago when I first started college. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling selfish and even guilty sometimes for leaving certain people behind to chase my own dreams of traveling, knowing that I’ll miss out on so much in the process of fulfilling what I want to do with my life.” – Walkabout: La Jolla Edition

March – California

My final month in San Diego, I left two jobs and an internship behind and said my final goodbyes to my friends and my life in the beloved place I called home. Even though bittersweet, I was also extremely excited to take on my Aussie adventure, knowing how much it would benefit me in the long run. I lived in the moment, appreciating all those who had touched my time in San Diego, and enjoyed all that the seaside city had to offer. I also made sure to eat as much Mexican food as possible, I even had a burrito on the way to the airport.

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“I’ve realized the only way to love the life I live is through passion, optimism, and spontaneity. So, this year my travel resolutions will revolve around just those things, letting go of the negative aspects in my life in the process.” – Travel Resolutions 2013

April – California, Melbourne

My big move to Melbourne and my first month in Australia was a whirlwind of new experiences, tram rides, footy games, new friends, the best coffee, and learning how to live like an Aussie and adapt to colder weather.

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“The sun is gleaming through the palm trees, I’m riding alongside the ocean, the orange sky as my canopy. What a way to say goodbye to this cherished place I’ve taken for my own, a place I call home even with these restless bones.” – On leaving everything behind to follow you dreams

May – Melbourne

I celebrated my 23rd birthday and bundled up to settle in for the long hall for my first Aussie winter and my second consecutive winter coming from California with opposite seasons. I explored what Melba had to offer during the winter months… it was heaps. From museums, to hidden coffee shops, to live gigs and warm dumplings, I loved spending winter in Melbourne.

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“There are few things I love more than layering up in a warm sweater, finding a cozy cafe, and getting lost in a good book while sipping on my daily caffeine intake. Especially, when the coffee is as good as it is in Melbourne, and the cafe atmosphere just as phenomenal. I try and hit a different cafe every day because there are too many good ones to choose from.” – 7 ways to spend the winter months in the city

June – Melbourne

In June, I moved across the city to a new apartment and met my new roommate, someone who would become one of my best friends in Australia. I found a second job to help save for Southeast Asia, started volunteering at a yoga studio, and used my rusty culinary skills from my time in Florence to improve my cooking. I basically lived at the Queen Vic Market and the Carlton Gardens, my two favorite spots in the city.

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queen vic

“Moving abroad is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and I’m actually doing exactly what I want to do with my life right now, which is a feeling I’ve never completely felt before with all the pressures of adolescence, and the “correct” path of going to a 4 year university instilled in my American mindset since I was little. It’s the first time I’ve broken off the path of what society deems to be the ‘American Dream’, expanded my perspective of what my life could encompass, besides just worrying about hitting all the generic milestones at the appropriate ages. That in itself is an invigorating realization. And as long as I keep living a balanced life, no matter where I might call home today or tomorrow, I’m going to be just fine.” – Be Free

July – Melbourne

My favorite month in Melbourne. I had been there long enough that it finally felt like home, I loved my job as a bartender in the city, one of my best friends from back home came to visit, I had a solid group of friends, and a couple winter romances as the cherry on top. Perhaps it’s proof that the most fleeting moments in life are usually the most beautiful as my departure to Southeast Asia in August was coming up soon.

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“Comparing where I was when I arrived and only had two friends in the city, to where I am today just a few months later, the changes are extraordinary. I’ve somehow built up my own friend base, a support system from scratch in a completely foreign place. I must say, that is one of the most reassuring realizations you can make in life; that you can start over anywhere and be more than okay, you can be genuinely happy.” – Life is a journey, not a destination

August – Melbourne, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam

My last couple weeks in Melbourne before heading over to Southeast Asia. I drove the Great Ocean Road, went wine tasting in the Yarra Valley, said my round of goodbyes for the second time this year to a city that I had begun to call home, and visited Sydney for the first time. In Southeast Asia, I traveled around to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam with my British friend I met in Europe a couple summers ago. We had our feet cleaned by fish in Malaysia, laid on the beaches of Bali for a week, explored modern Singapore, and fell into the hectic pace of Ho Chi Minh City.

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“It was one of those surprisingly sunny days in Winter that Melbourne is fond of having every now and then. My friend and I decided to spend the day exploring more of the Royal Botanic Gardens in the city, because it was just one of those days you had to be outside for. We had a picnic at a place I deemed my own ‘500 Days of Summer’ spot, it was truly a perfect day in Aussie land.” – The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, a way to spend an afternoon

September – Cambodia, Thailand

In September I fell in love with Cambodia and the Khmer way of life, went through scuba certification on a deserted island in Cambodia, ate some bugs in Bangkok, rode an elephant, played with baby tigers, learned how to cook authentic Thai food, and had an amazing time in the southern Thai Islands at the Full Moon Party.

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“It’s the people I meet on my travels that keep me trekking on and grounded when I feel lost, disillusioned with what I find in certain places. A chance connection on a night bus with a Welsh guy, having an enlightening conversation at midnight about our lives on the opposite sides of the world we grew up on. A friendly English girl who became our roommate in Chiang Mai. The fun groups of guys we met at the Full Moon Party. And of course my travel companion and partner in crime who has been with me since the beginning of Asia.” – Moments from the road

October – Vietnam, Melbourne, Sydney

The last stretch of Southeast Asia consisted of traveling down the coast of Vietnam. I loved the old way of life in Hanoi, immersed myself in the beauty of the limestone cliffs in Halong Bay, traveled to Hue, and lovely Hoi An, and found myself in Ho Chi Minh city again before flying back to Melbourne.

I spent a bittersweet week in Melbourne, doing all of my favorite things in the city and seeing all the friends I had missed for the past two months, before I moved for the 2nd time to a new city. My first couple weeks in Sydney weren’t the easiest and I didn’t feel quite at home as quickly as I did when I first arrived in Melbourne, but I found a job my first day, made heaps of new friends, and have since meshed much better into the Sydneysider way of life.

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“There’s no magic place where all the bad aspects of life go away, but, of course, there can’t be the good without the bad as comparison. That’s what makes life so complex and interesting, the hurdles you come across, make your best days just that much sweeter. There is no such thing as a new beginning. Even when you start over in a new place, you’re still going to be you, you’re still going to have the same baggage that has made you into the person you are today, there is no escaping who you are to your core. I’m finally understanding who I am as a person, and what I want out of my life now, and even that alone has made my time in Australia worth it.” – Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy

November – Sydney

I took this month to explore Sydney as much as possible on my days off, going to a lot of festivals and art exhibits around the city, and simply enjoying the raw beauty Sydney has to offer on any given day.

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“There are two things I’ve noticed about Sydney since moving here: There are a lot of people jogging everywhere and doing group exercises in one of the many parks, and there’s always some sort of festival or event going on in the city. In other words, it’s basically LA without the famous people. I’ve particularly been enjoying the latter – although I’m hoping to join the former with the communal exercise (yoga!) as I’m settling into my life here and now have a more manageable work schedule.” – Celebrating inspiration at Sculpture by the Sea

December – Sydney, Byron Bay

December whizzed by in a matter of minutes it seems. Between countless out-of-town music festivals I was volunteering at, to the realization that my time in Australia may be coming to a close in April, sooner than I’d like to think, I kept myself overly busy with work, creativity, and hanging out with as many friends as possible. It was perfect to end the month disconnecting from all things social media and camping in Byron Bay to ring in the New Year at Falls Fest.

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“When I was walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I thought back to when I was 13 and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time with my dad at one of my many basketball tournaments in San Francisco. When I think back to where I was at that age, a decade ago now, it’s remarkable the changes I have gone through. From an anxious, hesitant little girl who had no idea what was ahead of her, to where I am today, I hardly recognize that person anymore.” – Walkabout across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

I’m still brewing up some solid goals for 2014, but I do know that I want to travel to at least 3 new countries: New Zealand, Fiji, and probably either Canada, Japan or Mexico…(suggestions welcome). I also want to see Hawaii this year to sleep on the beach, hike a volcano, and surf at sunrise.

Happy 2014, I’m ready for you.

Watch me –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDSazU1fvsg

Postcard from Santa Cruz, CA

I visited my hometown this past weekend for the last time before my travels, and to say a temporary goodbye to my family and friends. In order to celebrate my last views of Santa Cruz and to serve as a reminder to why I love this place so much, here are a few photos of what home means to me.

“What a life I lead when the sun breaks free, as a giant torn from the clouds. What a life indeed when that ancient seed is a-buried, watered, and plowed.” – Fleet Foxes

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What’s your favorite photo from Santa Cruz?

Exploring my own backyard in Julian

Last weekend, I convinced my roommate to take a road trip with me to Julian, CA. I invited a few other friends, and next thing you know we had a full car and were cruising along on a beautiful Southern California day up to Julian to indulge in everything apple related.

I’m talking about the apple pie capital of the world, and it has been an hour and a half away from me this whole time I’ve lived in San Diego! I’ve been wanting to visit Julian since I heard the words apple and pie in the same sentence, and even more so in the last few months of checking off my San Diego bucket list. Unfortunately it’s hard to take those kind of road trips by yourself when you don’t have a car, and even harder to convince college students to spend their precious study time and money on gas when the words Vegas or Big Bear aren’t included.

It was one of those quintessential perfect days, it almost felt like summer until we got up to the snowy parts. Julian is an unassuming tiny town tucked away in the mountains that has the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the best I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tried a lot of apple pie. If you love apple pie as I do, or just want to feel like an American for a day, this is a must visit destination for you.

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We stopped by the Julian Pie Company, and I had the original apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. It was one of the best moments of my life when I took that first bite. Afterwards, we walked around downtown Julian which consisted of a couple blocks of old western-style stores, and eventually made our way down the street to Julian Hard Cider. We talked with the owner, bought and shared some cider tasters, and I eventually decided on the cider with blackberry and blueberry infusions (“the black and blue”), it was delicious.

As we made our way home, with the sun shining its last rays, I realized that this was one of my favorite days I’ve had in 2013 so far. I also realized how many more days I want to spend this year simply exploring new towns and indulging my taste buds, the simple life of travel and exhilaration of experiencing new things. In my opinion, the secret to happiness.

To listen to our soundtrack for our road trip and exploration of Julian, click here