Over the years, I've taken a number of solo trips abroad and closer to home. While I enjoy the freedom that solo travel provides me, I've arrived at the conclusion that I'd much rather travel with friends or my partner. I think everyone who can travel by themselves at one point in their life should; there's nothing quite like having to rely completely on your own wits day after day. But really, if I'm going to spend the money and time on traveling I'm going to do it in the way I enjoy the most: with my friends and loved ones.
The months of December and January rocked the communities of northern Ventura and southern Santa Barbara counties. A wildfire raged through the hills and communities, tearing through areas that hadn't burned in almost a hundred years. It burned 281,893 acres, making it the largest fire in modern California history, and its seventh most destructive, destroying over a thousand structures, including a large apartment complex several blocks from my home, and two people lost their lives. You'll still find signs around the cities declaring "Ventura Strong", "Santa Barbara Strong", and "805 Strong."
Our trip was already planned before I got pregnant, so it was either throw away almost $800 in flights or go through with the trip. Thankfully, we were traveling to a place within the United States, a relatively short flight away (approximately 5 hours), and was covered by my insurance. There was even a Kaiser clinic within a half-hour drive of our vacation rental.
People are anxious during these early weeks and with good reason. Miscarriage is a reality and far more likely in the early months than at any other time. We had our first ultrasound before the trip and heard the babies' heartbeats. Our OB gave us the go-ahead for the trip, so I was relatively comfortable with the risk. However, this didn't stop me from having fears about a miscarriage thousands of feet over the blank Pacific.
Earlier this month we spent a week on the big island of Hawaii. We spent most of our time on the sunny Kona side of the island, but that does not mean we ignored the wetter Hilo side. Larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined, Hawaii offers plenty for the casual and adventurous travelers alike.
I'm on the search for the best tacos in Santa Barbara, and I started my quest at two of Santa Barbara's favorite taquerias: Lilly's Taqueria on Chapala Street and La Super-Rica Taqueria on Milpas Street. Both popular taquerias (you'll often find a line out the door at both) serve their tacos on soft corn tortillas, but I think that's where the similarities end. But who has the better taco in Santa Barbara?
San Francisco is a great food city. There's plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants helmed by celebrated chefs. Locally sourced ingredients feature heavily on most menus, and you can find excellent examples of cuisines from all over the world there. It's a city where like to spend money on food, and dining out is a form of entertainment. But is it possible to eat well and cheap in San Francisco?
Earlier this month, I rode the Coast Starlight, an Amtrak bi-level Superliner, from San Jose to Seattle. The entire route goes from LA's Union Station to King Street Station in Seattle. Each way, the trip from San Jose to Seattle takes around twenty-four hours and costs about $111 each way. Certainly, it's a longer ride than flying and costlier, but there's a certain romanticism attached to train travel. The slow and steady chug of the wheels, the sweeping vistas that in a car you're passing too quickly to truly absorb. But there are other reasons to take the train beside great views.
I love reading negative reviews on Yelp, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, etc., especially restaurant reviews for places I've enjoyed eating at. A feeling of self-righteousness fills me: well, I had a good experience there. You must have done something wrong, ordered incorrectly, or just plain don't have good taste if you didn't enjoy it. My favorites are things like, "I went to a super popular brunch place on Sunday at 11 am and we had to wait forty-five minutes even though the hostess told us it would be forty minutes!!!! One star!!!" or "There were no healthy options at [restaurant known for its decadent menu options and has all menus available online for preview]. I couldn't eat. One star."
There are the typical tourist activities like Pike's Place Market and the Space Needle, which you can read more about here. But together those won't take more than half a day. There's food tours, underground city tours focusing on the seedy underbelly and dark past of Seattle, and the colorful Chihuly exhibit right in the shadow of the Space Needle. Here are my recommendations for what to do in Seattle.
I visited two new countries (Croatia and Hungary), four new states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin), one United States territory (Puerto Rico). quite a few new cities, and visited a bunch of friends. The last time I totaled it, I had taken over twenty flights and went through at least sixteen airports. Here are the thirteen best moments from those travels; they're not in any particular order.
Located in south Los Angeles is Exposition Park. The 160-acre park and future site of the summer 2028 Olympics is home to the John C. Argue Swim Stadium, Banc of California Stadium, the future Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, California Science Center, Exposition Park Rose Garden, California African American Museum, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
If you find yourself in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a great way to spend a few hours is to explore the collections from A to Z at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The hours are Monday & Wednesday through Saturday 9-5, Tuesday 9-8, and Sunday 12-5; the cost of admission: $10 for adult non-residents and $5 for children non-residents).
Located on the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan in Leelanau and Benzie counties near Empire, Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the United States. A visit to the dunes in summer, spring, and fall is good for camping, swimming, picnicking, canoeing and kayaking. In winter, visitors can snowshoe, cross-country or downhill ski, or snowboard.
Currently, my city is on fire. While wildfires are not a new thing for me (being a lifelong California resident), this one is unbelievably close; we're one block outside the mandatory evacuation zone. Electricity continues to flicker in and out, but we have water and gas. As of this afternoon, the fire has burned 45,000 acres, 150 homes, and one facility for people with mental health concerns and chemical dependencies. Grant Park burned, the botanical gardens burned, and a large apartment complex up the street burned to the ground at around 4 a.m. We've been up since three-thirty this morning awaiting news.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park preserves mainly forest and riparian areas in the San Lorenzo River watershed, including a grove of old-growth coast redwood. Established in 1954, this 4,623-acre park is located near the town of Felton in Santa Cruz County and includes the non-contiguous Fall Creek Unit.
I love California. It's got great weather, countless natural wonders, and a diverse mix of cultures that is hard to find anywhere else. What it doesn't have is fall. The weather does cool down, the air gets crisper, and the leaves do change color, but when compared to the colors of the northeast and midwest, it's a pitiful display. This October finally brought me fall in all its vibrant glory with a road trip through the northeast.