United States 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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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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The Best Hikes in Oahu, Hawaii

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In terms of what makes me really happy, my favorite things in life are being outside, being somewhere beautiful, doing activities, and getting physical exercise – so it should not be a surprise that I am obsessed with hiking. My dad was a huge hiker and insane backpacker when I was a kid – I remember  him going off on trips for 10 days covering a hundred miles, and coming back with no toenails. Every summer we would go camping in upstate California or the Sequoia Forest – and as a kid I hated hikes. I didn’t play sports (exact words from baby Amy “sports are stupid!” ((Not much has changed))) so keeping up was always a struggle. My dad’s trick was to pack gummy bears, and bribe me with them every few minutes. As I grew up, I discovered the satisfaction in hiking – and after so many years of living in the city, I craved it. When I would go home to California, going up a hike was always one of the first things I would do. Now in our travels, I’m always looking for mountains to climb, waterfalls to find, crests to tip-toe towards, sometimes on my hands and knees because I am far from fearless. Oahu is just made for this – the mountains, the views, the lava rock that is perfect for gripping, I don’t think I have ever been anywhere better.

 

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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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