Living Archives - Away Lands
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A Santa Barbara Winter

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The idea of home right now is a strange one. I’ve always called both New York and California my homes. I would be flying ‘home’ for Christmas, and then flying back across the country ‘home’ a week later. Now, when someone asks us where we’re from, I always pause. I want to say New York, but I want to say California too. I don’t necessarily want to say America at the moment, I want to specify that I’m from these places that I’m still proud of. Home had been a place on my own for so many years – a little mildewy beach house with a stream of people in and out in Santa Barbara, a brownstone in Crown Heights before it was gentrified, the tiny studio in the shiny glass tower that Brandon and I shared and made our home. Now all of those places have passed, and now just moved from one to the next to the next, but dismantled and sold off for parts. I have never doubted our decision – almost every day I wake up so grateful to be able to live this life – but that doesn’t mean that aren’t days where I wish so desperately that I could go home. Home to our home. Home to our bed. Home to where all of my clothes and mail and gear and life are all organized into one tiny little place.

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Santa Barbara Christmas at the Four Seasons Biltmore

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After two months of traveling and non-stop working all around South East Asia, we were mostly ready to come back home to California. There are a few things we missed that we could only get here – hand-picked avocados, fish tacos, Corrales burritos, guacamole…. ok mostly just Mexican food. But beyond the glory of tacos, the comforts of being back somewhere familiar, if it this new version of home isn’t really home to us.  But after our new life on the road, we’ve realized that it’s impossible to stay still and be in one place for more than a few days without wanting to explore more, see more, stay somewhere new – so we did just that and drove a little up the California Coast to somewhere new – The Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara. This neighborhood and this beach were both areas that we had been around so frequently, but this hotel, nestled right in to it was a completely new experience – and so incredibly beautiful.

 

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A Perfect Last 24 Hours in New York City

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For eight years – eight glorious, difficult, painful, amazing, crazy years – New York City was my home. I moved to the city so soft and so young, so scared of the world around me and unsure of where my life was going to go. I moved to the city because I decided at 15 that I would, for no other real reason other than I watched a lot of New York based TV shows and it just seemed like something I should do. I moved to the city with dreams of being a fashion photographer, but not a clue how to make that plan happen. There were rough years where I was drowning in anxiety, struggling with unemployment, feeling so completely alone. And then I persevered, and made it through somehow. And then life started getting really good – I met the most amazing people and had the most amazing experiences and grew up. I grew up so much that I started dreaming bigger than New York – this city that I thought had conquered me gave me life, lifted me up and made me believe that I could take on the world. So Brandon and I started piecing together this crazy plan, building this website and our films and then a business. We ran so strongly toward this new future, and it all started finally becoming real. But then it came our day to leave – we dismantled our apartment, sold off everything from our furniture to our plants to our TV and set off for the world. The day we moved out of our apartment, we hopped a flight to Hawaii, and when that dream week was over, we came back to this city for one day. Before heading to California for a few weeks to set up our home base, we had to come back to New York to move our items home. How do you condense eight years into one final goodbye? How do you fit a whole lifetime into 24 hours? Somehow we managed to celebrate our life with one perfect day.

 

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Skydive Hawaii

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We were on our way out to Kaena Point for a day of off-roading, monk seal watching and aerial filming when we passed an airfield that brought back so many childhood memories.

I’ve wanted to fly for as long as I can remember. Soar the world to exotic places, meet new people and humbly welcome myself to these faraway strange worlds. I used to sit at home and build airplanes and airports out of Legos and fly my creations around the house. When I was 8, I discovered Fight Simulator and cruised the world from my computer. Back then, flying and adventure was just a part of my imagination, but I knew I had to make it a reality someday.

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One Week Living The Dream on Lanikai Beach

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I love Hawaii. I really just love Hawaii. Being from California, it was never super exotic, as it’s pretty much the easiest flight you can get to somewhere tropical – but the more of the world I see, the more I appreciate that it is really just a wonderful, beautiful, lush place, even if it is technically still a part of the US. Honolulu has always felt much too similar to Los Angeles to me but for Oahu, the neighborhood of Kailua, encircling Lanikai Beach feels like home.  The day we moved out of New York, Brandon and I hopped on a 6:00AM flight straight to Hawaii, ready to jump in the ocean, hike the mountains, and cleanse ourselves of the chaotic, hellish process that is Leaving New York City. Arriving felt like breathing fresh air for the first time. We had the chance to stay in a perfect little beach bungalow, with stairs from the yard right into the some of the most amazing water. A week living here was just a dream.

 

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Magic at Governor’s Ball, NYC

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About 12 hours before Governor’s Ball’s gates opened on Saturday, Brandon got a text from an old friend saying “I’m working Gov Ball, want all-access passes for tomorrow?” There was no decision to be made, we jumped at the chance – and had such an amazing, unforgettable experience. I’ve been to festivals before, but never with this kind of access. We wandered the back lounges, open bars, and private DJ sets with amazement. We ate free oysters out of canoe filled with ice and drank champagne in plastic cups. We had our picture taken, and lounged on couches outside of the artist trailers. We watched Miguel and Haim and M83 right from the side of the stages. I felt both like I didn’t belong, and like I wanted to feel at home in this life.

 

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Origin Story

 

This spark started exactly two years ago. My insides had rend themselves apart and I was laying in a hospital bed after the surgeon had put them back together. Brandon was still living in LA and couldn’t be next to me, but his face was on my phone and laptop almost every moment of my week there. I left the hospital finally better, knowing I’d have a huge bill to pay – so I opened a credit card to get the miles. It was so easy, it became the start of this game. In the spring, Brandon moved to Brooklyn, into my tiny little apartment, and for the first time in my life, we traveled. We took every day off we could and criss-crossed this continent: Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a wedding in Cabo San Lucas, a Memorial Day drive across Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, a surprise weekend in Bermuda, an anniversary drive up to Big Sur.

Until this, I had spent most of my life drowning in the fear and anxiety of a phobia. Every plane and bus and boat ride was an exercise in panic attacks. I wanted to travel, but it was so incredibly overwhelming that I never really tried. This irrational phobia that controlled so much of my life is difficult to describe, and I’ve never found a comprehensive way to explain the breadth of effect it’s had on my thoughts and my life, every day. I attempted, many years ago, in this essay published on  Thought Catalog. But years of therapy, and the unexpected exposure therapy of being so sick for months finally pushed me to a place where I had climbed on top of my anxiety. I still get nervous, I still panic sometimes, but I no longer let it control what I can and can’t do with my life – a simple decision that took 15 years to make.

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