traveling lightly

one of my primary tenants in life is the value of traveling lightly. i haven’t always felt this way though. it wasn’t until a multi-month european sojourn (it was for school, don’t be too jealous–ok, maybe a little jealousy is warranted, as i spent about six months milling around museums in tuscany and getting paid for it.). the bottom line is, i came to the revelation of traveling lightly as i attempted to haul three gigantic peacock colored suitcases, all on unwieldy rollers over close to a mile of cobblestone. in high heels. and did i mention the contents of the three bags stacked together outweighed me by almost exactly 35 pounds? fun times.

since this unfortunate encounter, i’ve held fast to a strict one carry-on + large purse policy. it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend away or a month or more. one bag and that’s all. edit, edit and edit again. and let’s be honest, this also means i come close to having a panic attack whilst packing. while it does make packing more challenging, it’s also a good opportunity to be creative with your wardrobe and incorporate more small accents like scarves and jewelry. i’m also now part of the comfortable (but hopefully still chic) shoe club, which also happens to take up far less precious space than a bevy of heels.

traveling for special occasions or formal events does make this far more challenging, but happily still doable. especially if you have an accommodating significant other that’s willing to give up a tad bit of space in his bag. (here’s looking at you brad). however, i’m happy to report that while i do feel (more than) a bit stressed while packing and trying to figure out how to make enough outfits, by the time i’m actually off on an adventure i feel well prepared and not in the least weighed down by my luggage. it’s a wonderful thing.

i’m so fanatical about this subject (almost aggressively so–i feel like i should apologize to my close friends & family) that i put together ten of my favorite pieces of packing advice–essential for traveling lightly:

  1.  buy an outlandishly expensive carry-on bag. something you will feel absolutely awful about if you don’t use. this should not only be beautiful, but highly functional. look for at least a few pockets or buy some leather pouches (i’m partial to baggu) to contain loose ends and small items.
  2. always travel with some sort of oversized scarf. it’s a perennially chic option, can be used as a blanket in an pinch and can help vary your basic wardrobe items.
  3. set a color palette and stick to it. this is essential and usually requires a great deal of discipline. it also the only way i know to pack lightly and still look put together.
  4. base your outfits around your shoe selections. shoes are generally bulky and you can only bring about 3 pairs maximum in a carry on. choose wisely.
  5. always always always travel with a foldable flat tote tucked into the bottom of your carry on. you will likely buy something while you’re away and shipping is not always a feasible option. it’s nice to know that if you fall in love with an amazing piece of pottery, you’ll have a way to transport it back with you that’s not too inconvenient. (longchamp has some lovely options that fit the bill–and they last forever).
  6. two words: cashmere slippers (luxe version & a more affordable option here). yes, they are a bit of a luxury item, but they literally take up the tiniest amount of space and make a long flight or a far-flung hotel room so much more enjoyable. worth every penny.
  7. choose multi-tasking beauty products. you don’t need five different hair products and two makeup bags stuffed to the brim. it helps to buy a travel approved clear plastic bag so you can move smoothly through security and not deal with loads of liquids, gels and all the other products you probably don’t really need.
  8. package your clothes as outfits. depending on how much time i have before a trip and how neurotic i’m feeling, i sometimes make index cards outlining the various outfit options so i can easily decide what to wear, as i certainly don’t want to waste much time on this while traveling. sometimes taking photos of outfits beforehand helps as well. one rule you must follow: try everything on together. it’s shocking how much works on the hanger but doesn’t work in real life. do not assume anything.
  9. only bring items that you love. traveling is not the time to experiment with outfits that you’re unsure of or that make you feel even mildly uncomfortable.
  10. bring at least one lounge outfit for around the house or the hotel room. i usually try to get out of this requirement to make room for more “real” clothes, but always find myself eager to slip into some yoga pants after a full day of meetings or sightseeing.

any favorite tips for traveling lightly? share them with me–i’d love to hear them!

images i love right now

April 15, 2015 No tags Permalink 0


eames picnic

one quick trip to tj

November 28, 2014 No tags Permalink 0

i nervously bit my lip. we were waiting for what seemed hours on end for the trolley to arrive to take us to the border for a day trip to tijuana. as a full disclosure, i’ve rarely traveled too far outside of my comfort zone, opting for countries where i speak at least a bit of the language and understand most of the cultural norms. even though tj is less than a 30 minute drive from where we live, it’s a place that i had very little understanding of, a fact i’m rather embarrassed to admit in any public forum. taking a day trip down to tj has been on my list for at least three years now but i kept making excuses as to why it wasn’t the right time. some of the harrowing news around the border in recent years certainly didn’t help to ease my anxiety.

but here we were, the train whooshing by ready to take us to tj. we strolled across the border with ease–goodness, i thought to myself, i assumed this would be much harder. little did i know that was the way back. the ease of entering a foreign country made it feel, well, considerably less foreign–many restaurants are far harder to get into. it hit me that we were no longer in san diego when we were bombarded with a variety of offers, propositions and some of the loudest ranchero musics i’ve ever heard, blaring from speakers set up on the main road. the mood changed quickly once we got a few hundred yards in and began to feel more like a ghost town, or, perhaps more accurately, like a town hit by a zombie apocalypse. there was almost no one on the streets save a few lone walkers here or there. i can’t imagine a more interesting place to set a short film or photo shoot frankly.

we walked another mile into the main areas of the city, where the scene started to turn into something else entirely. i felt like a (semi-anxious) child, taking in a landscape that was entirely different than any i had seen outside of photographs or films. there was so much to look at, from interesting decrepit buildings to the steepest wheelchair ramps i’ve ever seen, as well as amazing vintage typography. once i got over my initial anxiety (and had a few of the most delicious tacos of my life to date) i began to really take in the experience. one more reason to push just a little bit beyond preconceived notions of comfort, belonging or difference.

the trek back over the border was arduous, long and annoying (we weren’t up to speed on the sentri or passport card), but it was all in all an experience well worth repeating again very soon.

another trip around the sun

August 11, 2014 No tags Permalink 0

it feels like my life has come full circle since my last birthday–27 was such a year of change, awakenings, transitions. and i’m happy to report that i’ve made it out on the other side, with a few scrapes, bruises and a whole lot more than i started with it. it’s amazing to me that to gain you have to lose, and at least in my case, to lose big. it’s salvation through complete failure, through falling through the floor in a very public sense.

but now i’m finally a whole person, finding out that i’m more than i ever imagined, than i thought i could be. that i love to be in love. that i love to work–on my own terms. that i love that my life feels meaningful in a way that i never thought it could as i have a bit of an existential bent wedged in my brain. it’s still there but my world is so much brighter, more open, more full. it’s finally becoming real in a way and i’m starting to come in to my own. i’m ready for new adventures, to push myself to the limits and back to center again, to feel a sense of abandon and freedom, to let myself love. to not be perfect or pretend to be. to embrace my idiosyncrasies, my demanding nature, my lack of tolerance for mediocrity, of polite platitudes, of people that make me feel horrible or whose presence makes me dumber.

i learned that it’s ok to fall, but it’s not ok to stay down. so i didn’t.



in the last year i wrote a manuscript. i started my own business and built it from the bottom up, almost accidentally at times. i fell in love. i painted my nails a color other than clear. i saw the darkness and ran into it, embraced it, conquered it and came out on the other side. i had an ankle injury that kept me away from my favorite form of stress relief and pushed me to rest and reflect. i went to paris and spent a cold christmas by myself and celebrated the holiday over a bottle of red wine and the remainder of my manuscript. i sobbed on the phone to my best friend who was about a million miles away ad naseum. i learned how to pay a bill and set a budget.  i missed my sense of safety. and i grew. it’s the year i refused to live in fear any longer, dream bigger, to embrace complexities.

this is my year.

camping (version 1.0)

exciting news: i slept in a tent! for anyone who knows me, this is big news. i’ve never been considered outdoorsy. my idea of outdoorsy fun generally involves dining alfresco or packing the perfect picnic–perhaps light hiking if i’m feeling really sporty. that changed this weekend.

it was the perfect setup really. i couldn’t sleep so i kept haranguing my partner to get up too. it’s really rather logical: if i can’t sleep, no one else is allowed to either. by about 2 in the morning, he had enough of my pacing and clunking about, the loud typing, deep sighing and of course my inquiries of if he was still asleep or not–it started to wear on him as one might reasonably expect.

however, his solution to this problem was a novel one–and altogether quite clever. a decision was made that it would be an ideal time to try camping–it would only be for a half a night and we were both exhausted to begin with…meaning i might actually sleep in a tent, at least for an hour or two. while i was aware that this was all part of a master plan to acclimate me to the thought of spending a week hiking and sleeping in a tent in the sequoias, i was too deliriously tired to argue against it–and frankly it sounded more intriguing than any more late night writing and working.

we almost had it all: a cozy, crackling campfire (on the tv), searching for constellations (via our iphone app), a cool breeze blowing (the vents from the air conditioner hit our tent directly), a toasty sleeping bag and late night conversations. we didn’t have s’mores, so my experience wasn’t quite complete, but it came close. and it was certainly the closest i’ve been to a real camping experience. and it was rather glorious.

plus there’s really nothing better in the morning than waking up at home, stepping out of the tent and being able to enjoy good coffee and a hot shower. we’ll save the real camping for another day.

the future of the past

changefutureit all started rather innocuously with a decision to transfer my extensive photo library over to the cloud in order to free up some precious space on my laptop. the process of transferring thousands upon thousands of photos was rather hands-on, especially if you wanted to keep them sorted and formatted–and anyone who knows me know how i can be just a tad bit obsessive over these types of details. so suffice it to say, i’ve spent an extensive amount of time going through photos of my life from about age 14 onward in the course of a few days.

it’s actually shocking to see a younger looking version of myself–i can hardly identify with the person i was even a few months ago, let alone a few years ago. it’s surprising how much things change–the very things we think are immutable are alarming in their transitory nature. at the core, i still do have a few things that have remained true to my personality and believe over the years of my life, but really very few things fall into that category. i feel more like myself now than i ever have before–perhaps it’s just part of growing up? either way, it is strange to think about this person i was before and the many iterations of her–and moreover, how very seldom things are fixed.

it reminds me of a sign that i’ve had a strong allegiance to over the course of more than 10 years–it’s one i saw originally while traveling abroad and visiting peggy guggenheim’s home turned museum in venice. it reads, in neon nontheless: changing place, changing time, changing thoughts, changing future.  it’s a phrase that’s lived on more than most of myself, or at least, how i think of myself, has lived and is one of the core points i come back to on a regular basis. change is living, breathing, thinking, feeling.

i like to imagine back to that day in venice–where i was in my life journey, my age, what i believed, who i was–it feels like a distant past, like a jamesian novel, rich with memorable detail but decidely not my life. i think back to my imagined future at that time–what i wished for, dreamed of, thought i wanted–and realize how incredibly difficult it is to predict even the smallest of things about our own lives–things that we to some degree control–in the future. my future is so entirely different than i expected or dreamed of during my first trip to venice, but the sign at the guggenheim house remains true to me.

jury duty

i recently had the pleasure of being summoned for jury duty–and i say this without irony or any excess of civic pride. while jury duty is not something i dread in the same capacity as most might (i always thought it might be interested to see how a court case really works aside from the made-for-tv dramatics of it all), it’s certainly nothing i eagerly anticipate either. however, serving my time on a random tuesday in downtown san diego was an incredibly enjoyable and productive experience. it started with the courtesy of every single governmental employee i encountered–from the friendly guards manning the x-ray machine to the perhaps overly solicitous bureaucrat who reprinted my summons for me, the personnel side of things certainly overshot my expectations of a dmv type experience.

once i checked in i took a seat at a small round table in the quiet business area–a room that divides you by a door and a glass window from the rest of the hoi polloi. i squeezed into a table, only to discover my laptop was quickly dying and for a room of 25 business professionals there were only four wall outlets. however, lucky for me, a resourceful older man who had obviously done this before pulled out a surge protector with a multitude of outlets for all of us to share–such a small and simple gesture, but it instantly made him the most popular person in the room (and rightly so). i plugged in and got to work, only to find several hours later that it was one of the most productive days i had in ages–i’m not sure if it was the sense of urgency that i might be called away from the task at hand at any given minute or the change of scenery, but something definitely clicked with me.

a voice over the loud speaker announced that we were released for lunch. i enjoyed a leisurely hour of shopping followed by an alfresco lunch. full, caffeinated and pleased with my purchases, i spent the rest of the afternoon in a state of buzzing creativity, knocking items off my list that had been taunting me for weeks on end and met several lovely people in the process. who would have know jury duty could be such an enjoyable experience? definitely good motivation for me to mix up my locations and working style a bit more frequently–it’s amazing how much environment can positively or negatively effect the work you produce, sometimes in surprising ways.

never have i ever…

i’m amazed by all the things in life that i’ve done that i swore, at one point, i would never do or never ever ever like.

here’s a running list based on my recollections thus far:

  • i live in north park.
  • i got married.
  • i got divorced.
  • i drink wine enthusiastically.
  • i started my own business.
  • i drive a prius.
  • i own a velvet sofa.
  • i eat soup.
  • i consider yoga a legitimate way to work out.
  • i love la.
  • i wear denim shorts on occasion.

fascinating list i know. but honestly, it’s amazing how little you can predict about what’s coming next in your own life and how tastes/preferences/circumstances that we like to fancy are immutable change quicker that we would ever prefer to admit. can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner.

on the edge (but not over)

lately i’ve become acutely aware of my innate and perverse tendency to adamantly (and sometimes stupidly) confront things that scare me, usually much to my own displeasure. it’s a strange compulsion that i’ve had since i was a child and i simply cannot stop myself from pushing the limits of my own being to the very edge from time to time. sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s mental, sometimes it’s physical, but this time it was rather literal in it’s edginess.

it all started a few months ago while i was running with a friend who insisted on scrambling up what could only generously be termed a path up the the rocky cliffs of la jolla. i did this twice, had an asthma attack once and both times felt the strongest sense of dread as i skidded along the loose gravelly rocks in my well-worn sneakers, just a few inches at times from sheer drop offs. did i mention i frequently experience vertigo in looking into the kitchen sink?

so that was several months ago. yesterday it was lovely outside (as per usual in sunny san diego), with warm weather that felt just like summer. i happened to be clad in athletic gear and in la jolla and decided to go for a quick jog on the beach. two and a half hours later i was delirious. but here’s what happened in the interim: i took off at a good clip down the coast of la jolla shores and before i knew it was surrounded by nude men, mostly over the age of 60. it was pretty much the opposite of eye candy in every sense of the word. i had run this route before, but today was different–it was beach weather and the nudists were in full force, playing volleyball, walking jauntily about and were frankly inescapable. i ran faster–i don’t think there’s anything wrong with black’s beach, but suffice it to say, it’s not my scene.

than i remembered the climb, that i could go up what the numerous warnings signs referred to as “unstable cliffs” and avoid running back through black’s beach on the return. it would be good for me i thought–face this fear, on my own and conquer the mountain. it seems whenever i have major life changes ahead i try to push forward with these types of fear-busting initiatives in an unrelated area of my life.  i was also rather jazzed after having a few people like a quote from kerouac that i posted recently (how sad is that?): “because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. climb that goddamn mountain.”

so i climbed that goddamn mountain. and nearly killed myself in the process–or as someone lovingly put it, nearly became a quadriplegic–a state i would prefer to avoid if possible. it didn’t look too bad, i thought to myself from the ground. i already felt a bit faint after running hard in the heat of the day with little more than some oats and a green juice to sustain me. probably not a good idea i thought to myself. somehow this voice in my head frequently gets overridden by sheer stubbornness. it’s not all that charming of a quality, but it’s true nonetheless.  about a quarter of the way in and several near misses, i decided that this was clearly a very bad idea given my low energy level and lightheadness, my well-worn shoes and the fact that i had no one to spot me if i needed help. upon making this decision, i turned around decisively, only to find that the way down seemed even more risky than the way up. i felt mild panic, did some deep breathing and decided i would just have to continue upward.

i climbed on my feet and hands nearly the whole way up, with one or both feet sliding out from under me with the dry gravelly earth no less than a dozen times. while i’m sure it can’t be this hard for everyone, i’m rather uncoordinated and tend to not fare well on this type of terrain as a general rule. about half way up i realized i my breath had turned panicky and i was no longer looking ahead to find the best path, just scuttling up the side of rocks without any sense of planning. this was a good way to die i thought to myself and knew i had to calm down and start thinking about staying on the actual path (what little of one there was at least). i thought about the boy i like and about my dog and my family and friends, how much i would miss them, how grateful i would be to just enjoy my life and drink a lemonade if i made it over this, how i would never ever ever do this again. i thought about the story on the news that sounds like a few others i had heard in recent months about girls falling over the sides of cliffs in southern california. i could be one of those girls. granted, it’s truly over-the-top dramatic, but i was terrified to the point of nearly hyperventilating and my mind was running wild. worst of all, i didn’t even have my phone to document the experience.

somehow there was next to no one on the trail, save for a kind but dorky man in his late 30s who was kind enough to chat with me casually for a few moments, which was essential to me calming down before making the final ascent. i sat down and asked him about his shoes, the silly kind that separate your toes out to build strength in your feet (who cares about strong feet, really? maybe everyone but me.) this tiny bit of human interaction helped–i also was able to watch which route he took for part of the path, which at the time was immensely helpful. i sat and meditated for a few minutes, regaining my breath and a modicum of clarity and focus.

long story short, i made it up the side of the mountain. on the way back, i received a round of applause and a bevy of high fives–it was almost as if these kind beach people knew what i had been through and were congratulating me for my courage. in reality, they were just some fratty boys that i would never acknowledge under normal circumstances, but this time i was gleeful–tipping my hat, big smile and one high five after the next. i made it up the mountain and back on my own–and the lemonade has never tasted so good.

deliberate distractions

it’s without pleasure that i’ve noted my recent aversion to working with purpose on the things that matter most to me. i feel as if i’m hiding from what i know i should be doing–and what i ultimately want to do. i think it’s safe to say that i’m in a transitional phase, on the verge of something potentially great, but not quite there yet. it’s as if i can dimly sense that the destination is within reach, but i still can’t see the path clearly, can’t anticipate what’s around each bend and am feeling my way towards an outcome that still feels a bit blurred and distant.

however, i know i won’t ever get there if i keep hiding from the work that i know i need to do, hiding from purpose and meaning, blanketed by an obscure fear of failing at the very thing you’ve been told your whole life that you’re good at, that you’re gifted, that you’re–wait for it–special. the phenomenon of feeling like a fraud, that the work controls you more than you control the work. that you’re a vessel for something greater rather than the composer of a magnificent symphony. that things, that words flow through you, like a stream in ways that don’t always make sense until many months and several revisions later and the story starts to unfold. it’s an act of faith and frankly one of optimism to write in such a manner, but it’s quite simply the only way i know how to do it. to give up complete control and succumb to the story that controls you.

to banish all fear of judgment, all fear of failure, all fear of somehow being wrong–or worse, being bad. it’s almost like theater, a suspension of disbelief and skepticism, if only for a few hours at a time. it finally feels like it’s time to do the work that is inside of me, to claim the story as my own to tell.