the epic settle of 2014

Bye San Francisco! I miss you!

Bye San Francisco! I miss you!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a pretty terrible planner. In fact, in the last 6 months, my departure from the states was the only thing that I actually planned ahead of time, and that was purely out of shame- after broadcasting my emigration from the states to everyone I know, I was going to look like a real idiot if I didn’t go through with it.

So naturally it is safe to assume that my recent move to Barcelona was a bit out of the blue as well. Here’s a little backstory- my first trip to Barcelona was back in 2011, a magical four-day stopover (on my way to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday in Mallorca) in which I spent days wandering the streets and nights feasting on tapas and vino. Then, I was lucky enough to stay with my friend Marta, a native Mallorquina who I met when the gods brought her to UC San Diego to study, surf and snowboard with us for a year.

this beautiful lady standing next to me is Marta

this beautiful lady standing next to me is Marta

A few weeks ago, in between mopping floors, making beds and cleaning bathrooms at my Workaway position in Portugal, I found myself glued to my computer, frantically scouring the webs for an apartment in Barcelona. After a couple of days of cleaning fumes and out of control hostel guests yelling until all hours of the morning, I think I subconsciously decided I had had enough of the impermanence of hostels for a while. In keeping with the theme of the last few months, the universe responded in the form of my good friend Marta. Being the badass that she is, she literally kicked out the two guys subletting her apartment for the summer so I could move in for the month of August. I know, I’m so not nice enough to deserve friends like that.

not to mention Sagrada Familia was a block away from Marta's apartment!

not to mention Sagrada Familia was a block away from Marta’s apartment!

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oh you know, just tagging along to ‘work’ with Marta

A month later, I have an apartment, a job (and a half), and actually have a couple of friends to call my own. I set an intention for every week I was here- the first week was to decide if I wanted to stay, the second, to find a job, 3rd, an apartment, and finally, last week, I intentionally set out to make some new friends.

not one of my new friends, unfortunately

not one of my new friends, unfortunately

So how’d that work out?  I just so happened to stumble into the home base of a company that runs gastronomic tours through Barcelona’s old city during my ‘work’ week. Somehow, I managed to charm them into giving me a tryout, and am now running 3 hour long tours in which I try super hard not to bore people to death. Mostly I succeed, and the promise of food every 30 minutes or so definitely helps.

Next, after visiting what seemed like 842 apartments, I found a cute little place with 2 other girls in the newer part of Barcelona, a district called “Eixample” (pronounced eye-shamp-lah). Again, with my winning smile and sometimes awkward Spanish, I managed to convince the girls to accept me as one of their own.. and THEYRE NEVER GETTING RID OF ME. Just kidding.. they might, eventually.

The friends part is slightly trickier, but definitely looking good- here’s a few tips on how you might force strangers to be your friend in a new city:

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new friends, old friends, and dead friends at the Fiestas de Gracia

1. Couchsurfing.org: Despite having recently gained infamy as ‘couchsexing.org’ (I may or may not have totally made that name up), Couchsurfing events actually seem to have great attendance with a mix of travelers, locals, expats and random unsuspecting people who are just trying to have a quiet drink in their local bar. So far I’ve been to 3 events, and although no new best friends on the horizon, its been an overall good experience.

2. Meetup.com: Good idea in theory, but the only time I’ve tried to attend an event, I couldn’t find the group and ended up making random friends with a completely unrelated group of people and stumbled back to my apartment at almost 4 am. I call that a successful evening, although the “meet-up’ portion may have ended up a bit misdirected.

3. Facebook: there are Facebook groups for everything these days. Want to run with fellow expats every week? Group for that. Do you enjoy painting your face and blowing bubbles in the park? They meet on Sunday mornings. Have a gerbil and want to teach it to fly a kite? There’s a group for that. Seriously though, Facebook is full of weirdos and there is a niche for all of them, even me.

Moral of the story- set an intention, don’t be a lazy-ass, and force yourself out of your comfort zone- in doing so, you may just find a whole new ‘comfy space’ to enjoy! Big changes are only scary if you are scared of them- you can only be disappointed if you have expectations to begin with!

 

 

 

i got 99 problems and beaches are like 12 of them

Just when I thought I felt kind of ‘meh’ about portugal, I headed to the Algarve. For the first few days I was in Faro (the capital of the Algarve, I think its because of the airport), the ‘meh-ness’ continued to grow- with Faro pretty much what you see is what you get.. a city. Faro is touted as a great hub for exploring the surrounding areas- within the city there really isn’twhole lot in terms of nightlife, cultural events, scenery, or beach.. but if you are really into malls you could probably pass a couple lovely afternoons at the giant shopping center conveniently located right across the street from the prison (urban planning fail or win?).

Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one that needed to see the ‘real’ Algarve. Teased with promises of sea caves and word class beaches, my fellow work-trade-er set up a tour for us with a friend of the hostel, and after a rough night in which I learned a valuable lesson about how vodka probably doesn’t belong in sangria, we packed into one of those ridiculously tiny European cars and headed to paradise.

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First we headed to Benegil- one of those places you drive up to and groan a bit inside due to the hordes of tourists and ridiculously overpriced restaurants- but then you arrive at your destination and you’re like.. oh nope, I totally get why everyone wants to come here. No hard feelings, fellow tourists, I also enjoy crystal clear water, soft sand, and amazing photo-ops. Turns out I’m not all that different from the guy wearing Tevas with socks and zip-off pants.

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if you look really closely you might be able to see boobs. I mean, its Europe.

This was when my hangover started to cower in fear.. nothing stops that day after feeling like jumping into super cold water. The main attraction here, apart from the amazing beach, is the sea caves (in the photo above they would be sort of down and to the left). After a few irresistible photo ops we ditched our cameras and clothes at the car and swam out to the cave.

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from above the cave

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I like to think I’m not that person.. but I TOTALLY am that person.

Although the trusty iPhone wasn’t hardy enough to brave the swim (at this point my phone case is literally about to disintegrate.. I don’t know if I can handle the trauma of choosing a new one), our friend/guide/chauffeur brought along a GoPro, so you can thank him for the following photos.

gopro algarve

I’m the one on the right that looks both naked and dead. I promise I am not either of those things.

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yup, still dead.

This was one of those experiences where you literally feel like the world has stopped- after passing out on the little beach inside the cave for an indeterminate period of time, the swim back to the main beach was almost an out of body experience. The cold, clear water seemed more buoyant than normal as I leaned back, sun on my face and forgot about the rest of the world. I probably would have stayed like that for a lot longer, but unfortunately I am only human and humans need lunch.

Still in our bathing suits (cause fuck clothes), we headed to Praia da Marinha for a picnic and more photo ops. This beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in Europe, and in the top 100 in the world. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a beach connoisseur, but lets just say if this were a bottle of wine I probably couldn’t afford it.

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just before I slammed my head into the rock. see ya later brain cells.

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BAHAHAHA I have a rat tail. gross.

A few days later, we were fiending so hard for some more epic coastline that we headed west, signs out, thumbs in the air, and ended up in Lagos. Deemed the party capital of the Algarve, I came for the drunk Australians and beer bongs (<- that is a blatant lie, I would do no such thing). Though the allure of guys with sunburns and super short shorts wore off really quickly, I can’t say the same for the coastline. Also, Lagos is home to my new favorite person Cosmos … that guy just makes everything better.


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Tearfully,  left Cosmos (and his killer tattoos) for the western-most point of Europe.. Sagres!

Optimus Alive- also known as that one time I went to a music festival by myself.

So, remember a few months ago when I was still riding the Coachella high and spent hours researching music festivals all over Europe?* As luck would have it, I managed to actually make it to one! After a week in Galicia with my host family**, I took advantage of the fact that Portugal was literally across the bridge and headed down to Porto (heard of port wine? Thats where the name comes from) to see if the Portguese accent is really as hard to understand as I heard it was. Fact: It is.

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Porto

Anyway, the original ‘plan’ was to head to Porto, drink some wine, take some selfies and take in the gorgeous architecture for an indefinite period of time. That indefinite period ended up being a grand total of a day and a half, once I realized that A) Optimus Alive was in Lisbon this weekend B) tickets were only 53 euros each and C) the lineup was incredible. Surprisingly, no one else I’ve met seems to think that impulsively buying concert tickets is a good habit, so on Saturday I headed to the show by myself but pretty damn excited.

no big deal, just an epic statue in front of an epic building.

no big deal, just an epic statue in front of an epic building.

In a lot of ways, I knew what to expect- weird outfits, people with flags and stuff on sticks so their friends can find them, people digging through your bag, and long bathroom lines. In a pleasant turn of events, drinks were actually CHEAP (2.5 euro for a Strongbow), lines to get in flew by, the venue was easily accessible via public transportation, and they even gave you a handy hat to shield your face from the hot afternoon sun. I was a little confused about the timing of the whole thing, and would probably time my arrival for a couple hours later next time- doors to the event didn’t open until 5 pm (I couldn’t keep it in my pants, so I showed up at like 4:45), and the last show of the night ended a little past 4 am. I guess that’s Europe for ya.

don't worry, there were still crowds, i just did my best to stay out of them

don’t worry, there were still crowds, i just did my best to stay out of them

The biggest and absolute best surprise of the whole day was the fact that I was able to make it to the very FRONT of the stage for 5 out of the 6 artists I came to the show to see. Which in my book is pretty much unheard of unless you plan on camping out at the stage for an hour beforehand and don’t mind dealing with a lot of elbow throwing, pushing, and dirty looks.

i did still have to deal with a few "quacks"… get it?

i did still have to deal with a few “quacks”… get it?

If the opportunity knocks at your door anytime soon, please, I beg of you, go see these bands:

SOHN- British singer/songwriter/music producer. I like to think it sounds like updated electronic R&B, whereas other’s might describe it as ‘not-shitty’ James Blake-ish. Either way, his voice and the music he makes are both amazing.

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CHERUB- Nashville based electro-disco-funk duo. Unfortunately they dealt with some sound issues at the beginning, but managed to kill it- I pretty much lost it when they played a cover of Calvin Harris’s “Summer.” Oh and they are super nice (at least the half of the band I met)- one of the guys in the band came down to the crowd to watch Jungle- super friendly dude, which makes me like their music that much more, although I was a little disappointed when he wouldn’t agree to fire their current manager in order to hire me.

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JUNGLE- This was probably the biggest surprise of the whole day. Six white British guys were definitely not what I expected- Jungle is another group that is riding (or driving?) the disco-funk revival train, complete with the perfect amount of electronic influence. Also a giant plus that one of the singers knows how to rock a mean man-ponytail and leather jacket.

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PHANTOGRAM- I knew that Phantogram was going to be awesome, and they definitely lived up to the expectation. After the first couple of songs I stopped trying to figure out where one ended and the next one began- the rock/electro fusion was just too easy to dance to, and the singer might be my new fashion idol (if I didn’t dress like a dirty hobo most of the time).

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CHET FAKER- The only show of the night I wasn’t able to snake my way into the front for. I has planned to meet up with some new concert friends (new as in met them just before Cherub, so by then we had pretty much exchanged Social Security numbers***). Again, so surprised with how good he was live- similar to SOHN, he has an awesome voice and puts together some really interesting beats.

NICOLAS JAAR- I actually camped out for a bit to be able to watch this set from the front-ish, and then sneakily maneuvered my short self right in against the barrier. I knew that this set was going to be an experience, but I wasn’t sure what kind. Jaar managed to mind-fuck the whole tent with crazy jungle noises, voice changing microphone, and ten minute long songs that wound you up then knocked you over with intense, heart pounding beats. After 12 hours on my feet I think I would have keeled over if it wasn’t for the massive bass. My only complain is to the jackass that threw a plastic cup at his head during the encore- not sure why you would stay til after 4 am to watch him play if the plan is to ruin the end of the set. Good going, moron.

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Once the music shut down at 4:30 am, my one track mind switched from “I could listen to music forever!” to “I need to be horizontal with my eyes closed 15 minutes ago.”  The way home wasn’t quite as smooth as the way there- I may or may not have broken one of the ticket machines at the train station (it erupted in sirens after refusing to take my 10 euro note), and had to take a cab back to my hostel since it was too early for the local metro to start running for the day. Would I do it again though? Oh hell yes. And you’re all invited to join me.

*Also why has no one called me out on the use of ‘holy shitballs’ in a blog post?

**from my year abroad in Spain (2002-2003)

***reality check, I can’t even remember their names. So, if  you are 3 dudes from New York reading this, and you inducted a wolf cub into your wolf pack on Saturday and then promptly lost her, IM RIGHT HERE.

 

 

so far so good.. heres what I’ve picked up along the way

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Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn

I’m a big fan of learning stuff. For me, learning implies forward motion- collected energy coupled with information to help propel you into the future. And I’m not just talking about book-learnin’- the type of learning I’m interested in is all about experience, observation, and feedback. Well, in the last few weeks, my life has been an onslaught of ‘new’- and I don’t plan on stopping that anytime soon.

Here’s some tidbits from what I’ve picked up so far:

Lets start in Brooklyn.

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Like many big cities, New York has a fabulous array of galleries, museums and exhibitions to attend- I did check out the MoMA (tip: Friday afternoons- after 4:15- are FREE to the public. Yes, it is crowded as hell, totally worth it to save the $25 entrance fee)- but I found the best art on the streets.

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Bruce Lee, immortalized in Williamsburg

 

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Hypnotized by Biggie in Fort Green

I picked up some super helpful underground tips- not, like, how to find random password protected parties scented by Parliaments and old PBR, but literally underground. I’ve concluded that pretty much anything goes on the subway. Breakdancing? Hell yeah. Diaper changing? Yup, saw that one too.

Brooklyn also taught me a lot about how to be inconspicuous. If you really want to fit in, the key is iced coffee and awkwardly placed portrait tattoos. If I had a dollar for every kid in jorts with an iced latte and a thigh tattoo of some obscure musician’s face from the 60 I would have a lot of dollars (but not so many pounds! Damn you exchange rate.)

In Fort Greene, I learned that religion is just as subjective as you want it to be. Who needs church when you can go straight to the gods themselves?

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(*Bey and Jay are not MY gods, as I have not yet decided which member of pop culture royalty deserves my utmost devotion. Michelle, on the other hand, has spirituality on lock. Get it girl.)

I also learned a little about predicting the weather. Think San Francisco is difficult to dress for? Put every season into one day and you’ve got New York summer. Which is great if you love to cool off your sunburn with a rainstorm.

Moving on to Washington DC, where I learned that you can do ALL THE ACTIVITIES and still have time for naps in less than 36 hours. *(Thanks Jessie!)

I also found out where the preppiest people in the world live, and exactly what type of man I am not interested in. Since I never took the obligatory DC trip in elementary school, it took me 27 years to learn that he White House is, in fact, white. And quite the popular tourist destination. Luckily, the bars on the gate are spaced just right for a little arm to fit through to take this ‘no one at the White House but me’ photo.

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in real life, it is slightly larger than the tree in the foreground, I promise.

My last days in the US reminded me of the fun of exploring a new city, the comfort of seeing an old friend, and the excitement of not being altogether too sure of tomorrow. Though my confidence is often a little shaky, I honestly believe that wherever I go and whoever I meet, I’ll learn something. And as long as I have that, I’ll keep moving forward.

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blame it on genetics

I am so not trendy enough for New York. Especially now that everything I own fits into a suitcase, a carry on rollie bag, a travel backpack and a regular backpack. I mean, unless you consider dressing exactly like my little brother trendy, in which case I’m killing it. Apparently even though we live thousands of miles apart, genetics really plays a part in how well you can cuff a pair of jeans and sport a pair of sneakers.

 

thats it thats all my friends

thats it thats all my friends

Genetics are a funny thing- the idiosyncrasies we are often blind to in ourselves we see as faults in our siblings and parents.  Traits that seem adorable as a child lose their luster as we get older, and habits we learn from our parents benefit us in the long run, even if they seem like hindrances during our childhood.

I wonder sometimes, if I had been raised by an entirely different family what biological traits would still show up in my personality? Obviously, I would still be borderline child-size with terrible eye sight, but who would I be as a person? Would I still let my mind wander off and forget to pay attention the world around me? Would my daydreams be filled with white picket fences and kids instead of unknown oceans and desert adventures? Who knows, maybe with a different upbringing I would have ended up as a middle school teacher in the midwest, faithfully attending church every weekend with my seven kids.

My dad asked me yesterday if I thought that I got the travel bug from him. The funny thing is, when I was younger, all I wanted was to have a normal family that went on normal vacations and a summer that consisted of soccer and camping instead of flying 18 hours to dress in traditional temple gear to attend a wedding in Bali. The year I spent in Spain in high school was kicked off with me begging a family friend to pick me up from the airport in LA so I didn’t have to go.

(if you’re reading this and going, “WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS SPOILED BRAT” I really don’t hold it against you but honestly, as a kid you really just want to fit in. With the version of nature and nurture that I had, no such luck).

buncha weirdos at a graduation. how sweet is that tie-dye t shirt??

buncha weirdos at a graduation. how sweet is that tie-dye t shirt??

Now, at 27, all of the resistance is hilarious to me. The most exciting thing I can think of is the fact that I honestly can tell you what country I’ll be in a few months from now, or which method of transportation I might be using to reach my next destination. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up settling down in the city of my heritage.. good old Liverpool.

Is the travel bug something that was a non-negotiable genetic dictation from the start or is it something I developed somewhere on a sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok? My parents didn’t grow up traipsing all over the world, and my grandparents, although fairly well travelled, definitely didn’t have the adventurous spirit that I see in my dad and myself. Maybe its not an adventurous spirit at all- its that my dad and I are  both stubborn as hell, and the more something seems difficult, unknown or a little scary, the more pigheadedly we charge in that direction.

Ultimately, the people we share genes with will always be some of the ones we both admire the most and judge the most harshly . Recognizing myself in my family  is both a source of stress and comfort- and a driving force that keeps me moving towards the person I want to become. So, Dad, even with all of the trouble I give you, thanks for the travel bug, my curious mind, and my annoying habit of saying “what?” even though we all know I heard you the first time.

******Any NYC spots I can’t miss? I’ll be here til June 3!*****

 

 

 

the why.

 

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not to brag, but I ran up here- Twin Peaks, SF

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and i can only imagine the next few will pass by in a similar manner. a week left in SF, a week in Southern CA, and then two on the east coast before I begin what can only be defined as the next chapter in my somewhat short but continuously growing life-book. I’ve actually knocked off quite a few of my bucket list items, with more left to go as time ticks away. I have to note that the list that lives here on this site has morphed into something completely different in my head, and although I have only completed 4 or so on the original list, at least twelve items have been crossed off the somewhat more nebulous list I’ve managed to create in my own mind. Turns out, when you put your mind to it, there are probably about a billion stones left unturned in a city you feel like you already have a firm grasp on.

Full moon from Bernal Heights, complete with tree swings to play on

Full moon from Bernal Heights, complete with tree swings to play on

grace cathedral yoga!

grace cathedral yoga!

Oh, the point of all this? Yeah, I’ll get to it.

I’m really trying not to think of my life in California as a an hourglass- time ticking away until I blast east-wards, but its hard to do!  The truth is I actually DO only have X amount of days left and I the goal is to maximize the time left. Not that I’m second guessing myself (ok, maybe a tiny bit when one of those moments hit when I realize I’m REALLY enjoying yourself, but not enough to damage my plans), but I have been thinking a lot about the WHY behind this major life change.What are the external and internal influencers that have encouraged this decision, and ultimately, is this the best thing for me right now?

family vacay to Cyprus, circa 2008-ish?

family vacay to Cyprus, circa 2008-ish? yeah, I’m the TALL one!

So, then, WHY?

1. Family. At 93 and 88 respectively, my grandpa and grandma are a wealth of information, history and love that I don’t feel I have completely tapped into. Largely due to time zones, work/school commitments and the hefty price of plane travel (and unfortunate unavailability of the Floo network.. Harry Potter fans.. anyone? anyone?). I have definitely not spent enough time with family.. probably ever. I can’t wait to spend more time with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and brush up on my British humor and Jewish traditions (read: recipes and Manischevitz).

2. THE BUG. The travel bug is a mean one- unlike a mosquito bite, if you don’t scratch it, it sure as hell isn’t going away. I am going to scratch that motherfucker hard, long and good. (sorry grandma, I know you’re reading this right now!).

i mean, why WOULDNT I go in search of more of this?

i mean, why WOULDNT I go in search of more of this?

3. Languages. Although I only currently speak two, I can feel that numbers three and four can’t be too far off- Portuguese is most likely first up, then probably French or Italian.

4. Spain. The year I lived in Spain was definitely a highlight in the scrapbook that is my life, and not a week goes by when I don’t daydream about returning and throwing myself back into the language, culture and lifestyle. Living with my host family was an experience I can’t begin to explain- coming from such a non-traditional family background to living with a ‘normal’ nuclear family gave me a taste of what that life can be like, and I can’t wait to see them again!

5. Everywhere else. I close my eyes and see beaches, mountains, cobblestone streets, unreadable street signs and hostel bunk beds. The draw of these images in my brain is enough to keep me up at night, and although (of course) not a single plane, train or event ticket has been purchased, it WILL happen. All of it. All the time, and everywhere.

different oceans, higher cliffs, more hikes, please!

different oceans, higher cliffs, more hikes, please!

 

I say this honestly, earnestly and anxiously- keep up with me! Whether you want to plan a trip to Europe (to come visit, duh), just say hello, or let me know you hate/love/want to be featured on the blog- let me know!

I don’t know where I’ll end up, who I’ll end up with, why I’ll end up there or how long I’ll stay, but a few friends joining the adventure (either virtually or in person) will always be welcome! In the meantime, keep following me here- I’ll do my best to keep the blog updated with adventures, recommendations and random ramblings.

 

festival fever, and how to fight it.

 

by attending more festivals, duh!IMG_4980

After the epic weekend that was coachella, I am fiending for more. Apparently only one weekend of eargasms is not enough for this girl, so this week I started doing some research on festivals and outdoor concerts in Europe this summer. I was BLOWN AWAY by how many options there are.  Apart from the big players, ya know, your Glastonbury Festivals and Tomorrowlands, I’ve got at least 15 other choices over the months of June, July and August, and with the Amsterdam Dance Event in October, it looks like I’m set until its time to hibernate for winter. Here are my picks so far (based mainly on lineup and if I could decipher whatever language the festival website was in) .. help me narrow this down!

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Eurockeenes– July 4-6- Belfort, France Lineup highlights: Black Keys, Gramatik, Jungle, MO, M.I.A.

Optimus Alive– July 10-12- Lisbon, Portugal: Frontrunner so far. Lineup highlights: Black Keys, Ben Howard, Chromeo, Diplo, Nicolas Jaar, and more to come! HOLY SHITBALLS.

glitch mob, coachella weekend 1!

Glitch Mob, Coachella Weekend 1

Tomorrowland– July 18-20 and 25-27- Belgium. Lineup highlights: literally every electronic artist I like. (Sold out, but let me daydream a bit about it anyways.)

Positivus Festival– 18-20 July- Latvia. Lineup highlights: Ellie Goulding, Bastille, MO, Junip, Of Montreal

Dance Valley– 2 August- Netherlands. Lineup highlights: Showtek, Paul Oakenfold

Do Lab, Coachella Weekend 1

Do Lab, Coachella Weekend 1

Arenal Sound– July 29-August 3. Burriana, Spain. Lineup highlights: Knife Party, Matt and Kim, Die Antwoord

Mysteryland:  – August 23- Amsterdam. Another frontrunner! Lineup highlights: Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Nervo

Way Out West -August 7-9- Sweden. Royksopp and Robyn, Janelle Monae, Icona Pop, Mo, Darkside, Polica

Wish this lovely lady could join me- great festival partner!

Berlin Festival- Sept 5-7. Berlin. Woodkid, Moderat, Darkside, Chase and Status

Amsterdam Dance Event. – October 15-19. Amsterdam. No lineup yet as far as I can tell, but it sounds like the event is along the lines of SXSW- events held all over Amsterdam in clubs and venues, along with a conference.

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While I work on narrowing this list down a little, I’ll be enjoying my last few weeks in the states. Coming up- road trip to Southern CA and on the 20th of May I’m off to New York City for my little brother’s college graduation (it’s about damn time!) (kidding, I’m proud of the lil guy!)

 

of course, a Coachella ferris wheel shot

of course, a Coachella ferris wheel shot

Any other can’t-miss festivals that aren’t on this list? Any friends want to join in on the adventure? If you missed my last post, I’m working on knocking things off my San Francisco bucket list– any takers for some fun adventures in or out of the states this year?

 

 

 

who am i? a non-existentialist asks herself meaningful-ish questions.

I have been really struggling with trying to figure out what I should write about next- I guess I am experiencing somewhat of an existential blog crisis. Is this a travel blog? Is it a lifestyle blog written by a traveller? A recipe blog that just got super off track? I could  just start fucking with you guys and go all minimalism on you while I work towards getting rid of as much of my worldly possessions as possible… or go back to posting twice a year and leave you all hanging until the next time I jet off into the sunset…

sunset over Chachani volcano, Arequipa, Peru

sunset over Chachani volcano, Arequipa, Peru

But I won’t. I think for now I’ll just keep writing when I feel like writing, about what I feel like writing about. And hopefully you (the nebulous ‘you, reader’) will keep coming back. I promise that when I travel again.. and I WILL travel again soon, that I will share my experiences!

maybe one day I'll buy a van and go on a road trip..

maybe ill go back to the dunes..

So what am I up to in the meantime? Getting rid of items I can live without, drinking a lot of coffee, listening to a lot of good music, doing more yoga, revisiting some of my favorite city spots, spending time with friends new and old, and enjoying the great weather we have had here in San Francisco lately.

Sutro Baths in San Francisco on a gorgeous spring day

Sutro Baths in San Francisco on a gorgeous spring day

 

california in peru.. that was a damn good cup of coffee

california in peru.. that was a damn good cup of coffee

Yesterday was my first day of a work-trade program at a local yoga studio, and I took my first free yoga class this evening from the chattiest yoga instructor I’ve ever encountered. This guy was literally talking about how annoying it must be that he wouldn’t shut up- it was the strangest, most confusing experience… If he was self aware enough to realize that we were sick of listening to him talk, why would he not just SHUT THE HELL UP?

Anyways, it wasn’t all bad. At the beginning of the class, he touched on the concept of being present. This isn’t out of the ordinary for a yoga instructor- It seems to be one of the common ‘yoga themes’ that comes up in classes, but tonight it really resonated.

now if only i could just do this all day...

now if only i could just do this all day… and yes, that is a thumb in the photo.

Here’s my take on it- In this moment, nothing but what you are present to exists. That may be the daydream you are currently in the middle of, the plans you are making for the upcoming weekend, or the memories of a trip you went on last year. However, the time we spend outside of the present moment is time lost- You can choose to be here, now, or live in the dream world of the past or future. The key is to consciously make that decision- will I meet myself in the present, or am I living in a time that either doesn’t exist anymore or has not happened yet?

We are in control of our thoughts, and our thoughts are what form our lives- how we connect to the world. I don’t think its possible for someone to always be present to each moment- life is more complicated than that- but it is a great reminder to slooooowwww down, just for a minute, and really take account of your thoughts. I love to daydream as much (maybe even more) than the next person, and definitely don’t plan on stopping anytime soon- but this is a choice that I make to step out of the present and into my dreamworld. Take a minute today to feel where you are, both emotionally and physically, and let that feeling sit with you for a bit. This exercise is a lot easier when we are in a new or unfamiliar environment (say, I don’t know, traveling in an unknown country), but in our day to day lives we spend a lot of time just sort of going through the motions, completing tasks while our minds are elsewhere- but I think even ‘the motions’ can be exciting and feel different if we recognize them in a new way.

grocery shopping can be exciting!

grocery shopping can be exciting!

Let me know if this works for you, or if you just think I’m full of shit 🙂

where i stayed- Peru

i left Peru for last and longest on this trip for a couple reasons- one, it was the farthest south (so, ya know, geographically speaking it just ‘worked’). two, it was the largest. three, Peru is arguably the ‘touristy-est’ of the three countries visited on this trip, and thus everyone has a strong opinion about what I ‘had’ to do while I was there (the list got long). I couldn’t pick between the recommendations, so I just took them all. And 5.5 weeks, 10 hostels, way too many bus rides and a whole lot of listening to other people’s snoring later, I am ready to provide you with a (somewhat) reliable idea of where you should stay in Peru.

you could always stay here… i didnt. seemed risky.

you could always stay here… i didnt. seemed risky.

It was super hard to leave Cuenca (the last city I visited in Ecuador)- I met some amazing people, hung out with my adventure buddy Val, made some great new friends, and ate more pan de yuca con yogur than I could have ever thought possible. So one sad Friday night, against strongly worded arguments that I should stay, I hopped on a bus to Mancora, Peru.

***side note: if you do this trip, DO NOT LOSE the tiny piece of paper that is your immigration card- they will give it to you at the border, and you may assume that since it isn’t stapled into your passport -like I assume all important documents should be- that you can just forget about it. yeah.. don’t.***

  • Mancora: some of you may have read my post on Montanita vs. Mancora  a while back- the hostel I stayed in definitely played a part in my deciding that Montañita won that debate. Kokopelli Mancora had nice enough amenities- the shower was hot (though about as forceful as a teeny tiny dehydrated baby peeing ever so softly on your head), the beds were comfortable, the internet kind of almost worked, and there was coffee and eggs for breakfast. All sounds good on paper, right? Well, in reality, the staff were mostly volunteers who were only interested in what kind of drink was being offered at happy hour, and the eggs had been cooked into a grayish, blobby mess of dry play doh. All jokes and mean jabs aside though, the hostel itself is in a great location (pretty much across the street from the beach), they have a pool, fun bar area (albeit totally disinterested bartenders), and cheap drinks, and if you stay in more than one Kokopelli location across Peru (there are 4), they’ll give you a little discount. (approx. $11/night with breakfast)
the beach at Mancora

the beach at Mancora, just as crowded as Montañita, but WAY tinier

  • Huanchaco: after escaping Mancora, I was ready for something a little mellower. I had heard rave reviews of the mellow beach town of Huanchaco, about 12 km outside of Trujillo (Peru’s 3rd largest city) and was ready to relax a little after the overstimulation of Mancora. We stayed at Surf Hostal Meri, a bright, sunny space with probably the best breakfast I ate during the whole trip (unfortunately not included in the price of the room, but totally worth it) just across the street from the ocean. Huanchaco is a great place to go hang out for a few days- the beach isn’t as clean as Mancora, but the mellow atmosphere totally makes up for it. After a traumatizing surf experience in Montañita, I wasn’t up for it again, but Huanchaco has some great surf if you can handle the strong current, and the hostel offers pretty much any type of board you can offer as well as cheap-as-hell lessons. In fact, I would have stayed here for longer, but I was rushing to get to and through treks in Huaraz before meeting my Dad in Lima for his birthday! (approx. $9/night)
I actually took a photo of the hostel!! go me!

I actually took a photo of the hostel!! go me!

sunset in Huanchaco- across the street from Surf Hostel Meri

sunset in Huanchaco- across the street from Surf Hostel Meri

 

  • Huaraz: Huaraz was one out of only 2 places in all of Peru where I didn’t stay in a hostel recommended to me by someone else- I found Hostal Alpes Huaraz on Hostelworld, and I figured that I could always find a new one if it didn’t work out! Luckily, my powers of online hostel review analysis prevailed, and it was great. I arrived at 6 am on an overnight bus from Trujillo, and the hostel owner (its family run- the owner will check you in in the middle of the night, his wife will get you breakfast, and their son will sell you a tour) immediately let me into my dorm room (a lot of hostels make you wait until ‘check in time’ to enter your room- SUCKS when you get off a 10 hour bus ride only to be told, yeah, you can hang out on the couch for the next 6 hours). Since it was low season when I was in Huaraz (most travelers head there as a jumping off point for trekking, and there are usually heavy rains through the end of February), the hostel was only about half-full, and I ended up having my own room for 3 out of the 4 nights I stayed there. The spot is located a bit outside of the city center, but at $7 a night, you can suck it up and walk a few extra blocks. I would definitely recommend this place-it is quiet, but not TOO quiet (always someone to talk to) and you can book tours through them too, although I would recommend going straight through the tour operator to avoid any mis-communication. ($7/night for a dorm and breakfast)
view from Alpes Huaraz's rooftop

view from Alpes Huaraz’s rooftop

i had to.. another beautiful photo from the Santa Cruz trek

i had to.. another beautiful photo from the Santa Cruz trek

 

  • Lima: instead of heading towards the ever-trendy Miraflores, I opted to stay in Barranco, Miraflores’s mellower, more bohemian neighbor. I got a great recommendation from one of the girls on my Santa Cruz trek to go stay at Kaminu, a converted family home right in the middle of Barranco’s happening Bajada de Baños. The hostel itself is pretty small- the first time I stayed there (they have since added another room for 4) there were 18 beds. For backpackers accustomed to giant party hostels with people coming out of the walls, this might seem a little too cozy, but I loved it. So much so, in fact, that I stayed there again (and brought 5 people with me)  when I headed back to Lima to wrap up my trip. Definitely not a party hostel, but the beds are great, the morning juice is ice-cold, and the employees are all super colorful characters, not to mention super helpful with things like booking bus tickets and giving recommendations of places to eat and hang out in Lima. Not to mention, they offered me a job the second time I stayed there- which I totally would have taken had my flight not been leaving in less than 24 hours! (approx $10/night for 10 bed dorm with breakfast)

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main square in Barranco, Lima

  • Paracas: Paracas was my little taste of  “what traveling is like when you aren’t trying to live as cheaply as possible.” Thanks Dad, for making it possible for me to have a pisco sour every night and stuff my face with ceviche. We stayed at Hotel Mar Azul, a mid-range hotel in the middle of the tiny tourist oasis that is Paracas. The highlight of this place was the rooftop where we ate our meager breakfast- other than that, this place had zero redeeming qualities. No ambiance, internet didn’t work, and the shower temperatures were spotty at best. After hanging out at the Kokopelli Paracas bar our second night, we agreed that we should have stayed there! Long story short, eff hotels, viva la hostel! (approx. $40/night for breakfast and private double room)
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view from the hotel rooftop balcony- its only redeeming feature

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islas ballestas- one of the main (and only) reasons people head to Paracas

  • Ica: Another unremarkable hostel stay. We spent a night in Ica Wasi Hospedaje, a decent enough, yet pretty much uneventful spot about 8 blocks from the Plaza Mayor of Ica. Ica isn’t really a travel destination in itself, and although I did enjoy the city-unpretentious and very much just a big city- the only sign that tourism is a big part of the economy is a few travel agencies in the main Plaza. Honestly, I was pretty neutral about this place in general, but it was pretty funny explaining to the hostel owners why my dad and I were not going to share a bed. (not actually sure how much it was- I think $18/night for a private room?)
Ica- Plaza de Armas

Ica- Plaza de Armas

  • Huacachina: Although a bunch of people recommended Desert Nights hostel, they didn’t have private rooms available, and I didn’t want to submit my aged (but still in great shape, no walker needed yet!) father to sharing a room with a bunch of degenerates for his birthday, so we booked beds at Bananas Hostel. Huacachina in general is a bit expensive- it is literally a desert oasis and tourist destination for both locals and international travelers, so budget a bit more for this destination than others. There are limited eating and sleeping locales, but it is close enough to Ica for a day trip if you’re on a tight budget. Don’t expect too much luxury though- when we arrived there was no water, and we weren’t able to shower or flush the toilet for 2 days. I can’t say I slept too well here either- the revolving fan in the 4 bed dorm emitted a high pitched squeaking noise every time it turned and one of my roommates snored like he was about to die, so in the middle of the night I took my blanket and pillow and made a bed on one of the couches in the courtyard. Bananas wasn’t bad though- the staff are nice, the food is great (and not too expensive) and they offer great dune buggy tours in the evenings (seriously SO MUCH FUN). (approx. $12/night for a 4 bed dorm)
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Huacachina, from the top of the tallest dune

  • Arequipa: When I first arrived in Huaraz, I met an Australian guy who had spent the last 6 months working as a bar manager at Wild Rover Hostel in Arequipa. Although my natural tendency is to steer clear of any hostel with the reputation of a ‘party hostel’ (and Wild Rover has one of the worst reputations of them all) I took his recommendation and booked a bed there. Yes, Wild Rover is pretty much party-party all the time- you will see the first beers cracked around 9 am, and any night of the week you can expect people dancing on the bar and returning to their beds towards dawn, but the beds are SO comfy, the hostel itself is super safe, the people I met were amazing, and its in a central location only 2 blocks from the main Plaza. I definitely think – as mentioned in previous posts- that the people you meet have a great impact on how you feel about a place, and this was no exception. There was no air of clique-y-ness at all here; everyone had a smile for everyone else, and I got to hang out with some great existing travel buddies as well as meet some new favorites!
the pool at Wild Rover

the pool at Wild Rover

  • Chivay: this only gets an honorable mention, because not a single one of us can remember the name of the hostel we stayed in!
  • Oasis de Sangalle, Colca Canyon: again, can’t remember the name of where we stayed, but it had a pool, little cabanas, and delicious meals- check out my post on the Colca Canyon for more info.
our room in Oasis

our room in Oasis- one of the best sleeps of my life

  • Cusco: the day I got to Arequipa, someone planted this idea in my head that I was going to go to Cusco, rent a car, and drive into the jungle. The second two things didn’t exactly happen. The first one did. I arrived in Cusco with two Argentinian friends, no hostel booking, and the goal of finding the cheapest place possible. We didn’t end up staying in the cheapest option, but we did find a decent place (Sumayaq) for about $6 a night. While basic, it was clean, the beds were comfortable, and they had a kitchen (that for some odd reason you were only allowed to use once a day), but it was lacking feeling- whether it was the fact that there just weren’t a lot of people staying there, or that the guy running the place was kind of a dick, I’m not sure, but either way I packed my stuff up after one night and headed for somewhere a little livelier. Although I wasn’t exactly smitten with Kokopelli Mancora, I decided to give the chain another try and moved into Kokopelli Cusco. This Kokopelli seemed to be what you would call a bit of a tighter ship- the people at the front desk were super friendly and organized, the breakfast was delicious (fluffy scrambled eggs), and the bar was the best kind of shitshow. And of course, it helped that I met some amazing new friends (as well as got to spend more time with friends from Arequipa!). I would highly recommend Kokopelli Cusco- yes, you can find cheaper and quieter places to rest your head, but I bet you can’t find hotter showers with better water pressure, super friendly volunteers and staff, and more beanbags that kindergarten.
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Kokopelli bar

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the hostel is plastered with cool art like this

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courtyard- view from the second floor

  • Back to Lima: if it ain’t broke, why fix it. My second time in Lima, I went right back to Kaminu without even thinking twice about it.
Bajada de Baños (where Kaminu is located) at night

Bajada de Baños (where Kaminu is located) at night

The next place I slept was on my Jetblue flight home, but I didn’t take a picture of that, and wouldn’t recommend it if you’re over 5 feet tall. I gotta say though, kudos to Jetblue for figuring out how to maximize the hell out of your floor plan- anyone larger than me must be absolutely effing miserable on these flights. My tiny legs were a-ok though.

Although I’m back and losing my tan more rapidly than I gained it, I am going to milk this trip for as many blog posts as I possibly can- keep an eye out for my take on llama treatment in the Andes, why I bought a fake alpaca sweater, and how to make people from other countries stop talking to you. Kidding, I won’t write about any of those things. Back to the drawing board for some better ideas.

hold please.

I am in the middle of drafting my “where I stayed- Peru” post, but thought I would interrupt with a few thoughts on returning home (mostly since the Peru part of the hostel recap is taking forever- I stayed at a lot of places.. and I have lots of opinions!)

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the first thing I thought when I walked into my room at home in San Francisco on Monday was.. holy shit, I have SO MUCH STUFF. seriously, coming back to my existing closet after 3 months of only wearing what I could fit in a 65 liter backpack was like stepping into my very own buffalo exchange, but I didn’t have to pay to wear anything and none of it smelled weird. (for you foreigners reading this, buffalo exchange is a second hand clothing store, but with nice stuff).

cause really, isn't all you need a hammock and a pair of board shorts?

cause really, isn’t all you need a hammock and a pair of board shorts?

I’ve officially started the cleaning out my life process. How on earth did I become the owner of so many items that are completely unnecessary to my day-to-day existence? Do I really need fourteen pairs of jeans? For the next few weeks, I’ll be working on minimizing.. because honestly, all I really want to wear is my alpaca sweater and yoga pants. (otherwise known as my travel uniform).

i need to do laundry so i can wear this outfit again..

i need to do laundry so i can wear this outfit again..

I’ve also spent almost every morning at my favorite coffee shop in the Mission. One of the few things that I actually missed about being home was the abundance of deliciously overpriced coffee that we have in San Francisco. I swear, you can’t turn around in this neighborhood without getting smacked in the face by a 3 dollar cup of hand-roasted fair trade small-batch coffee. And what goes better with a Macbook air and a self-serving amateur blog than fancy coffee?

pretty much sums up San Francisco

pretty much sums up San Francisco

Vegetables are freaking amazing. In the last seven days, I have bought and consumed no fewer than four bunches of kale. I think after three months of ‘almuerzos’, consisting mainly of meat, rice and potatoes, my body was craving home cooked food and plenty of greens. I feel great, although I do miss having the option to eat guinea pig or a whole trout for lunch.

after our hike in Cajas, Ecuador

after our hike in Cajas, Ecuador

I felt like I was pretty active on my trip, but there is definitely something to be said for having gym access and actually setting aside time for exercise. It feels great to be back in the groove of getting a real workout in every day, but I am taking it slow and not pushing myself too hard right off the bat. I pulled out the TRX for a workout on Friday and am still feeling it today- but it feels goooooooood. Not to mention yoga… sweet sweet yoga stretches. My hamstrings thank you.

the top of a 1000 meter climb.. talk about a workout

the top of a 1000 meter climb.. talk about a workout

Cant believe its already time to ‘spring forward’! Are we really already 1/4 of the way through 2014? For those of you in the states, how pumped are you to have an extra hour of sun today?

not SF

not SF