california Archives - Away Lands
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Desert Golf & Chill at the Westin Mission Hills

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There’s an irony in that now that we live on the road and are constantly traveling, we spend more time back home in California than I ever have. Eight years of living in NYC meant coming home for a week or two a couple of times a year, and between holidays, family, and friends, it seemed like there was never enough time to do much of anything else besides make the rounds. Now that we are based back in California between travels – despite the non-stop editing schedule, it feels like this is the first time I’ve really explored around this state. From San Diego to the Coachella Valley, it feels like it’s practically the first time I’m seeing most of these places. When Brandon and I first started dating, we drove out to Palm Springs fro a couple of nights and had been wanting to return out to the desert ever since – finally this month we made it happen.

First we took some time to check out Joshua Tree, Desert X, and the famous Superbloom; and then stopped by the Westin Mission Hills for a couple of days of sun and swimming – and my first time ever on a golf course!

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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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Birthday Getaway to San Diego, California

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Following our Santa Barbara glory day at The Biltmore, we took the long drive down the coast all the way to San Diego. Despite being born and raised in California, the times I’ve spent South of Los Angeles have been so few and far between – I don’t think I had actually been to the bottom of the state in about 10 or 15 years. There are so many blogs and articles that talk about “being a tourist in your own city” and I’ve always rolled my eyes a bit at the idea, but it’s true – there are so many things near home that I’ve never seen, never eaten, and never experienced; and it was a amazing to actually take the time to see the rest of this place I call home for a few days.

We stayed at the wonderfully chic and modern Tower23 hotel, on Pacific Beach – a place I loved because the design aesthetic reminded me so much of New York – concrete, hard lines, and great design – and with endless sunset beach views.

 

Five observations about this slightly-more-southern California:

  1. The ocean water is SO much clearer and SO much bluer – I had no idea it could be this nice here.
  2. The craft beer selection at the grocery store was nothing short of amazing
  3. What they call an “easy bike path” is actually a hilly route through neighborhoods, major streets, and with tons of twists and turns
  4. The best burrito in the world is at the smallest hole-in-the-wall Tommy’s Burrito
  5. Visitors get so close to the seals in La Jolla – I’ve never seen anything like it before. I felt awful for the seals, as they barked at tourists that got too close, and obviously felt threatened.

 

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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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There’s Nothing like A California Sunset

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Brandon and I grew up in this little beach town just far enough from LA to have no hint of a big city whatsoever. We were both born in a hospital that overlooked the ocean, we learned to ride bikes on this boardwalk and got pounded in these surfbreaks trying to being cool in middle school. Growing up here, you take it all for granted – the warm weather, the sunshine every day, the ability to walk to the beach, the ease of life, and that there is a sunset over the water every day of the year. It took a number of trips to a number of beaches before I realized – the sun doesn’t just set over the water, the beach at home was just at the perfect angle.

 

I moved out of this little town the moment I turned 18 – first just up the coast, and then out to New York. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and I’m so glad that I made that choice. But there is still an undeniable magic here. Not just because it’s home, but in the ocean and the perfectly breaking waves and the golden sun.

 

 

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