Just Back From: Oahu

We just returned from an idyllic few days spent on the North Shore of Oahu, the third year in a row that we've made this trip. While I always love traveling somewhere new, returning to the same place again and again has lots of benefits as well. You know what to expect, what to pack and have a good idea of what you want to do, so there's less planning and more time to just relax.

This time we brought our 3 month old baby - his first flight and first vacation (!) - which made returning to a place we know all the more appealing. We fell into an easy routine of early mornings watching the sunrise, lazy days on the beach and afternoons spent reading (or napping) during tropical rainstorms. We indulged in fresh ahi and yummy pad thai from food trucks and slept better than we have in months. 

{For all the scoop on what to eat and where to wander, check out my newly-updated North Shore travel guide}

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, I highly recommend checking out Oahu for a local feel of the islands.  

A Day in the Neighborhood: Outer Sunset, San Francisco

I am slightly biased, but the Outer Sunset might be the best neighborhood in San Francisco. And it's not just because I live here! It's definitely a hidden gem and there is so much to explore. 

Easy access to the beach and lots of good coffee shops are what first sold me, but the addition of new restaurants, bars and shops that have been popping up all over the place is a sure sign that other people are catching on to the secret. Its easy to get to the heart of the city, but when you're out in the Sunset you feel like you're a world away. I like to pretend I live in a small beach town instead of in one of the biggest cities in the country, and most days it feels like that - as long as the weather is cooperating! 

I've put together an itinerary for my perfect day enjoying the neighborhood. Hope it inspires you to come visit! 

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Start your day at Andytown on Taraval & 47th. They have a few locations in the neighborhood but this one is closest to the beach! Window shop at Tunnel Records before heading down to Ocean Beach with your coffee in hand. Watch the surfers from the dunes, then head north on the beach for a leisurely morning walk. 

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Head to Noreiga Street for a breakfast sandwich at Devil's Teeth Baking Company. Their sticky buns are the size of my head and equally delicious. 

Make your way to Judah Street along the ocean-front path. No trip to the Sunset is complete without a stop at the famed General Store. Browse their vintage finds, pick up a candle or get inspired in their back garden. Some of the best outdoor space around. 

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Then, pop in to Black Bird Bookstore next door. They have a well-curated selection of adult books, an amazing kid section in the back and a thoughtful selection of home goods.

While you are probably not hungry after a filling breakfast sandwich, Trouble Coffee will tempt you with some of the best toast around (and that's saying something in San Francisco!), plus their delicious coffee. 

A few blocks up on Irving, you'll grab lunch at Hook Fish Co. Place your order (I usually go with the fish tacos but everything is local and sustainably caught), then snag a seat outside in the sun. 

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Across the street, pop in to chat with local artists Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin 3 Fish Studio and pick up one of their famed "I Love You California" prints. Mollusk Surf Shop is on the corner and is a fun place to browse for beach goods. They can also outfit you with a surf board and gear if you are looking to hit the waves. 

Finish your day with a date-night worthy dinner at Outerlands and enjoy the ambiance, local wines and seasonal menu. This is also a very popular weekend brunch spot if that's more your speed. 

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While you're in the neighborhood, here are some of my other favorite spots worth checking out:

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Japan

Japan is a destination that sticks with you.

After traveling there last fall, I came back completely enamored with a beautiful country and culture. I had the same questions about the language barrier and communication, but in the end any of those challenges were out weighed by the beautiful culture and connections I made with the people. It was extremely rewarding and eye opening to spend time in a place so drastically different than home.

It was a popular destination in 2016 and shows no sign of slowing down in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I've already had several friends travel there in the past few months, so I thought it would be helpful to gather my thoughts -- and recommendations -- in one place to share why this is such a special and unique destination. 

Specific recommendations for Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima can be found in my Travel Notes.  

1. The Food. This should already be obvious to you. Travel to Japan for the freshest sushi you'll ever have, but stay for the many varieties of ramen, udon noodles, gyoza, tempura, rice, Kobe beef and tonkatsu. Go out of your comfort zone and try something new - seafood you've never heard of, many pickled vegetables options, and have fish for breakfast. Don't forget the fabulous pizza and croissants that Japanese chefs have mastered. Be sure to slurp your noodles (a sign to the chef that you are enjoying your meal) and finish everything that is served to you (out of respect for the chef). 

2. The language barrier isn't that scary. Even with limited communication abilities, everyone I met was extremely helpful and friendly. My biggest tip is to rent a pocket wifi (which you can pick up on arrival at the airport) to carry with you everywhere you go. Having access to Google Maps won't make you immune from getting lost, but will dramatically improve your changes of successfully navigating your way and boost your confidence.

3. Train travel. To me, traveling by train is infinitely more enjoyable than getting on an airplane. In Japan, the trains run on time, are convenient and a great way to see the country. Get yourself a Japan Rail Pass before you leave home (they are only available for purchase out of the country) to make your train experience affordable and flexible. Don't miss a ride on the Shinkansen, Japan's bullet train that travels at 150-200 mph. I only got in a car once on our trip from the airport to the hotel on arrival, and honestly we could have easily taken the train and saved ourselves a lot of yen. 

4. Mix of tradition and modernity. Japan does old and new like nowhere else. Simultaneously honoring the rich culture of the past, the country is hurtling into the modern area faster than practically anyone else. It is utterly fascinating. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan city in the world, while Kyoto is home to some of the deepest history. Just check out a modern toilet in Tokyo if you have any doubts. 

5. Respect. There is a sense of decorum and respect that permeates the culture. Whether politely queing up for the train, dressing well on a daily basis, or properly disposing of their trash (seriously the cleanest place ever), the Japanese set the bar on respect. The surgical masks people wear shouldn't alarm you. They are considerately worn to shield germs from others. Even the school children are impressively well behaved. 

6. Stay in a Ryokan. One of the most unique and memorable experiences I've ever had while traveling. Arrive open minded and be ready to try (and eat) anything. Bathing in a traditional onsen is an opportunity not to be missed. 

7. Shopping. From traditional hand made ceramics to electronic super stores, there is literally something for everyone here. I wish I had spent some more time exploring some of the small shops, especially in Tokyo, but that is what a return trip is for!

8. Clean & Safe. Even as one of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo is one of the cleanest places I've ever been. This extends across all cities in Japan (that I visited), including all public areas. The bathroom one of the Kyoto subway stations is seriously the nicest public restroom I've seen. While you should always be vigilant and careful when you travel, I felt safe all day every day. From early morning pre-dawn runs to late night subway rides. One of my favorite customs are the warm hand towels you receive before every meal. That is a small touch that I really appreciate and enjoyed. 

And there you have it! I could easily go on and on about the vending machine situation (kind of amazing) or how to approach the Tsukiji Fish Market, so feel free to reach out with any specific questions. And go book that flight! 

 

 

How to Enjoy A Day to Yourself In New York City

New York City. Where you can simultaneously feel connected to the center of the world and completely anonymous. My love affair with this city is fed by way too infrequent trips to visit. But that may be part of the allure for me. Since I never have enough time to do everything on my ever growing list to check out and see everyone that I’m long overdue to catch up with, I always leave feeling slightly haggard from rushing to try to fit as much as possible in (or over celebrating when I do see dear friends). You can lose an afternoon just trying to get across town, so a poorly planned schedule can seriously throw off a visit.

Last week I was in the city to celebrate a girlfriend’s upcoming wedding and extended the trip by a few days to visit my brother. I ended up with a blissful day completely to myself. Here’s how I spent it:

 

9AM - Wake up late

Jetlag after travel from the West coast is real. I couldn’t pull myself out of bed before 9am.

 

9:30AM - Walk

After checking a few quick emails, I headed outside and was pleasantly surprised with a gorgeous fall day. I love how much you walk in New York, weather you have a destination or are wandering aimlessly.

 

10:30AM - Workout at SoulCycle

Would a trip to NYC be complete without a quintessential workout experience? Don’t be intimidated, come to work hard and be prepared to sweat. And if you can’t take the intensity for 45 solid minutes, the good news is it’s nice and dark in the studio.

 

12PM - Manicure at tenoverten

This salon offers a relaxing, enjoyable experience while focusing on natural products.  The bright and airy location in Soho feels like you are in a friend’s chic apartment, not at a nail salon. A nice pick-me-up and rejuvenating experience.

 

1:30PM - Lunch at Jack’s Wife Freda

After seeing this place all over instagram, I decided I needed to check it out for myself. If you are lucky enough to snag a spot at the cozy bar at the Soho location, warm up with a cup of tea and their famous avocado toast.

 

2:30PM - Shop

Because no trip to New York is complete without some shopping. I spent some time wandering down Elizabeth Street in Soho, my new favorite shopping street, and came across some of my favorite brands. Clare V, Cuyana, Steven Alan, Kit & Ace….among many, many others. I also tracked down my new obsession, the workout apparel Outdoor Voices. Their shop in Soho is just so much fun. I basically tried on everything. Their new colors are so good.

 

6PM -  Dinner at The Mercer Kitchen

This cozy spot in the Mercer Hotel is a perfect place for an intimate, yummy dinner. I am still thinking about the Angel Hair Pasta with mushrooms and parmesan.

 

Welcome! This Is Why I Travel

A lot has been written recently about why now - more than ever - is the time to travel. I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, it is always time to travel.

Travel is one of the most essential elements of my life. Hardly a day goes by that I am not planning - or dreaming - about an upcoming adventure. My wish list of travel destinations is about a mile long, and I'm constantly adding more. I can't stop. But it's not the luxury hotels, hot new restaurant or the days spent relaxing by the pool that I'm obsessing over. Sure, they may slip into the itinerary and I'll enjoy every minute of that along the way. But what I truly crave is the opportunity to experience something unknown - the feeling you get when you are in a different place, maybe you don't know the language or have gotten lost trying to find the restaurant you set out to find for dinner. Slightly unnerving and completely exhilarating. It's the excitement of finding myself in a completely new place and challenging myself to figure it out. To get the best out of each place - the food, the people, the culture, the hikes, the beaches... For me, my most accomplished feeling is enjoying a destination to it's fullest. And I don't mean necessarily seeing every "must visit" tourist destination, but rather exploring at my pace, chatting with locals to discover hidden gems not in the guidebooks - and really uncovering the essence of a place.

Travel helps me appreciate all I am fortunate to have at home, while simultaneously opening my eyes to the great wide world out there. Travel reminds me of how vulnerable I am and pushes me out of my comfort zone. Travel challenges me to be patient, adaptable and go with the flow. Travel makes me compassionate. Travel teaches these lessons, while also making the world a smaller and more connected place. And trying new-to-me (preferably spicy!) foods, discovering inspiration in foreign cultures and adventuring in gorgeous new landscapes are the icing on top of the cake.

Travel has taught me that I am an explorer at heart. I’m looking forward to sharing my discoveries and recommendations here, hopefully inspiring you to take that trip, go somewhere new, and learn something about yourself. Come wander with me!