travel

second anniversary trip to Mexico.

I can’t decide if it feels like way longer or way shorter than two weeks since Matt and I took our second wedding anniversary trip to Cancun… but it definitely feels like one of the two extremes. I hit the ground running work-wise as soon as we landed back in New York so I could prepare to launch the podcast without dropping the ball on any of my other gigs, then Matt was away last weekend for a bachelor party while I had a friend in town, and this whole time we have been sweating bullets with crazy summer weather here in Brooklyn. With everything we’ve had going on, it’s hard to believe we even went on a trip!

But we did! We did go on a trip, and it was great.

I know the all-inclusive model isn’t for everyone, but we’re huge fans of it, and I was really excited to find a great last-minute deal on Expedia for a resort called the Excellence Riviera Cancun (only in my dreams is this a sponsorship… I just want to share the love!). You never quite know what you’re going to get when you book a trip like this, but I’m happy to report that the place beat all of our expectations and we can’t wait to go back. As much as we loved being at a honeymoon hot spot for our actual honeymoon in 2016 — we went to Sandals Antigua — I’m always anxious about being the only non-honeymooners at one of these resorts, and that wasn’t the case on this trip. It’s probably silly, but I think I would feel a little bummed if every. other. couple around us was just coming off of their wedding… even though it’s obviously magical in its own right to be celebrating an anniversary.

Since life has been such a whirlwind lately and I haven’t had the chance to share any of the details of our time away, I thought I’d wrap up this week with a belated recap of our anniversary getaway! Let’s start with the good, the bad, and the ugly (AKA the best, worst, and most hilarious parts of the trip) and then finish with some photos.

The Good: There was a moment when we were sitting in lounge chairs on the beach one afternoon, drinks and books in hand… and then an acoustic cover band started playing live right at the spot where the resort met the sand. It couldn’t have been a more perfect moment!

The Bad: (This is about to be one of those situations where I take something good and spin it so it’s something bad. Ready?) We needed more time! I know it feels like vacation is never long enough, but I genuinely think that we could have used an extra day or two this time around. Matt and I haven’t been on a beach-y, totally relaxing and luxurious vacation alone since our honeymoon, and while I’m grateful we were able to steal away at all during this very busy period of our lives, I very much regretted that we didn’t figure out a way to extend it just a liiiiiiiitle bit. One more night would have done the trick.

The Ugly: Unless we have a reason to be otherwise, Matt and I are generally pretty casual travelers, and it didn’t occur to us that the resort might have a dress code since that’s not something we’ve run into on previous trips. We pretty much assume that as long as you’ve changed out of your bathing suit, put on some real shoes, and made yourself more or less presentable, you’ll be allowed to eat anywhere you want! Welp, not so much at this resort. There were a few select restaurants where long pants (even jeans!) were apparently required for men, and we were asked very politely to leave one place when Matt showed up dressed in chino shorts, a button down shirt, and loafers. All I could do was laugh and make a mental note to insist that he pack pants next time!

And now for some photos! I never take as many pictures as I want to when we travel because I am focusing so much on disconnecting from my phone, but here are some highlights…

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Sooooo…. can you tell I’m already counting down until when we can go back?

Do you have any summer trips planned? Tell me more in the comments below! 

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a weekend down the shore.

If you’re worrying about the grammatical correct-ness of the title of this post, don’t. “Down the shore” is Pennsylvania/New Jersey/(probably some other places, too)-speak for basically any part of the Jersey shore. You don’t go “to the shore.” You go “down the shore.” Don’t ask me why. 

Growing up in Pennsylvania, most of the kids I knew spent some time at the beach every summer. Most people went somewhere in New Jersey, though there was a small group that frequented Delaware. There are tons of beach towns to choose from, and every family seemed to have their allegiance to one. For us, it was Ocean City, NJ, a place I’ve been visiting (literally) every summer since I was born.

There are few places that stick with me the way Ocean City does. I know my way around there better than I do here in Broolyn, and maybe even better than in my hometown. I can navigate by car, on foot, or by bike. It’s probably the only place in the world where I can point you north, south, east, and west without thinking about it for too long. As I’ve grown up, Ocean City only feels more and more important to me.

My family does our big trip there every August, and one of the bummers of getting older is that I’m no longer able to stay with them for the full two-week duration of the vacation. (Responsibilities, ugh.) We try to get down for shorter visits as often as we can at other times of the year, and Matt and I managed to sneak a quick trip down this past weekend. We’ve both been working our booties off the last few weeks (you can read more about my recent case of overwhelm here), and even though we have a big anniversary weekend trip planned at the end of the month, it seemed absolutely necessary that we escape for a little down time ASAP.

I don’t have that much to say about it except that I’m really glad we went.

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I’m not someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the weather forecast, so (naturally) I discovered just two days before we planned to go that it was probably going to rain all weekend. By that time, Matt and I were both so committed to the idea of the trip that we probably would have gone even if they were predicting an early June snowstorm. As my dad always says, “A rainy day at the beach is better than a sunny day at home.” So true, Dad, so true.

We ended up with better weather than expected — so much that we actually spent most of Saturday on the beach reading. It was a little too chilly for full-on sunbathing, so we left our bathing suits behind and wore t-shirts and sweats instead. Somehow, even while bundled up, we still managed to get sunburned! Go figure. I was just so grateful to be outside with my book and my husband and the smell of the water that I didn’t even consider that there could be so much sun coming through all the hazy clouds.

We weren’t quite as lucky with the weather on Sunday, but we kept the relaxation going with more reading (duh), marathons of The Office, and visits to some new (to us) restaurants in the area. Start to finish, our whole trip was only about 17 waking hours or so, but it felt way longer than that, which I’ll take as a sign that we really needed the down time… and totally got it, too.

What are your most relaxing places? Tell me more in the comments below! 

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pre-summit feels.

I didn’t become a work-from-home-ing freelancer because I like spending time alone, but I can’t say that spending more time alone didn’t seriously appeal to my introvert soul when I decided to do it. I’m lucky to have met some of my best friends when I was working in my corporate job, but I knew back then that I would become an even better friend to them once I was able to transition our relationships out of our cubicles — especially when it became clear that I was no longer a great fit for those cubicles.

These days, I’m admittedly alone a lot. I’m in constant contact with plenty of editors and sources and I have face-to-face meetings with people a few times a week, but there are days that I don’t actually interact with another human being until Matt gets home from work. Working from home is most definitely not for social butterflies, my friends, but most of the time, the quiet doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been pretty content doing things on my own, and thanks to the magic of texting, Gchat, and social media, I’m never far from a friend : )

The fact that I spend so much of my time alone makes it that much of a bigger deal that…

I’m leaving for a summit today.

Yup, a summit. Like, the kind where there a lot of people. And icebreakers. And the possibility that I might be expected to share parts of my story with total strangers. 

(Even before I was a constantly-alone writer type, that whole “sharing with strangers” thing wasn’t really for me.)

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I know from my fellow creatives and solopreneurs that there’s a lot of value to gatherings like this, so when one of my biggest social media and podcasting crushes Amber Lilyestrom opened registration for her Ignite Your Soul Summit in Portsmouth, NH, I thought it would be a good place for me start putting myself out there in a new way. I texted my friend Brittney Lynn (you’ve heard me gush about her before) to see if she would be open to going, too, and within 24 hours we’d both purchased our Early Bird tickets and were planning our takeout and trash TV lineup for our nights sharing a hotel room. Brittney and I have been close since we connected through blogging and Instagram back in October, and I’m so excited to officially meet her! I feel like we already know each other so well, but I’m anxious to find out how tall she is (I know that sounds silly, but it’s one of the only things I really don’t know about her!) and have wine and sushi together.

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All of the photos that Brittney and I have together so far look like this. Definitely planning to change that this weekend!

Honestly, if not for Brittney, I’d be having all kinds of social anxiety heading into this weekend, and even with her as my friend and security blanket, I can’t help but feel a little nervous about all of this. Even a year and a half later, it’s hard for me to confidently share with people what I do (hello, imposter syndrome!), and now that I’ve added a few more projects to my plate (hello, podcast-to-be!), it’s that much more confusing. I know that if people are going to take me seriously, though, I need to take myself seriously… and if they’re going to be open to me, I need to pay that forward proactively.

I decided to take the train to minimize the stress of air travel, and I’m actually really excited to use that time to get some work done, read, and decompress as I get ready for the summit. I was an Amtrak regular back in college when Matt and I were maintaining our relationship from a few states away, so I have a weird sentimental attachment to trains, anyway.

Wish me luck! I’m sure I’ll be sharing a lot of the weekend on my Instagram stories, so tune in if you want to check it out. Even with my nerves, I feel really grateful to have the chance to experience something like this, and I’m excited to see what’s in store.

What are you up to this weekend? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

…AND don’t forget that there are still a few days left to enter the April giveaway! All you have to do to be eligible to win a Color Intense Lipstick from Beautycounter is comment on this post or this photo.. The winner can pick the shade of their choice! Be sure to get your entries in by midnight on Sunday 4/29. I’ll announce the winner right here on the blog on Monday 4/30. Good luck! 

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things i’m working on.

Matt and I are home from Chicago after a weekend of friends and cold temperatures! If it wasn’t so far away from family and so chilly for so much of the year, I think we would seriously consider making that our next move. Having spent a very formative summer at Northwestern University between my junior and senior years of high school, I have a lot of really significant memories of Chicago, and as an adult, I see even more how much the city has to offer. It’s a little (maybe a lot) more low key than New York, but has a similar diversity of neighborhoods, plus so many things to do and see. We’re heading back there for a wedding in August and I’m excited to have a chance to explore even more when the weather is warmer. I’ve heard that summer in Chicago is the very best! I already have a list of things I want to check out on our next trip : )

As fun as the trip was, it was also the kick-off to a hectic few months of travel and events for us, and as my plane started to land at Laguardia, I couldn’t help but find myself starting to stress over the state of the calendar from now until May. Most of what we have coming up is good, but chaos is chaos, and for me, it’s important to spend some time really getting my head right before starting an especially busy time. With that in mind, there are a few things I’m working on that I think will help me keep my cool as we enter the craziness of spring (if only we could get some spring weather, too!)…

I’m working on having a better attitude about social media. I’ve been so focused recently on setting boundaries with my phone that I’ve gotten away from the fun parts of Instagram, which is a platform that I genuinely enjoy. I want to put less pressure on myself and strike a better balance.

I’m working (as always) on improving my pitching skills! I need to get back in a better routine of reading more content from different outlets so that I can come to my editors with fresh and creative ideas.

I’m working on giving myself more time to unwind in bed with a good book at night.

I’m working on being a clearer communicator with pretty much everyone in my life. I need to do a better job of telling people what I need.

I’m working on reintegrating workouts outside of my half marathon training into my routine. Running is going great so far this year, but I’d like to find time to work in some lower-impact activities, too.

I’m working on getting back into Pinterest! I fully revamped my profile and would love for you to give me a follow here.

I’m working on comparing myself less to other writers. Social media does not help with the whole comparison game.

I’m working (with Matt) on getting date nights back on the calendar, especially as we head into this season of craziness!

I’m working on learning to see some things in my work as experiments. They don’t always need to be perfect, as long as they help me learn how to do better next time.

I’m working on overbooking myself a little less during the week : )

I’m working on saying “I’m proud of you” less, because I read somewhere that — even though it’s a nice thing to hear! — it also kind of makes someone else’s accomplishments about you, and I just thought that was sort of interesting. I want to find other, better ways to communicate the same feeling.

I’m working on worrying less about the specifics of the future and instead having faith in the bigger picture of what’s to come.

Did you miss last week’s announcement about the March giveaway? 

There’s still time to enter… and you should, because Hannah Howard‘s Feast is better and better with every. single. page.

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I want you all to have a chance to win a copy of your very own! The details about the the book (which happens to be Hannah’s debut) are available here, and all you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner this coming Friday 3/30, so don’t miss your chance to enter ASAP!

And finally…

Some of you tuned in last week for Brittney and my free webinar. It was so great to have you! We had about 50 people register and Brittney and I loved the opportunity to share the basics of storytelling as it relates to PR and getting media mentions for small businesses and side hustles. GREAT NEWS! We have another free webinar planned for TOMORROW, Wednesday 3/28 at 8 p.m. EST. Part two of the series is called Partnering for Press: Why You Need to Cultivate Authentic Relationships with Journalists + How to Get Started and you can register (for free!) right here for more helpful PR tips and for a peek behind the freelancer/entrepreneur curtain. Can’t wait to see you there!

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weekend in charlotte.

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend and that your week is off to a great start, too. We’ve been back from our little southern getaway for a few days now, and I’m excited to share some of the details!

First of all, if you’re planning a trip to Charlotte any time soon, I would highly recommend the Airbnb we stayed in. It was walkable to lots of bars and restaurants (although we learned that most people don’t walk as many places as New Yorkers do — oops!) and a 15-minute-or-less drive to pretty much anywhere else we wanted to go, from the center of the city to cool neighborhoods like NoDa (my personal favorite). Honestly, the space was more than we knew what to do with — we had two bedrooms and two bathrooms — but since we’re used to living in such a small apartment, getting to spread out a little bit was really part of the vacation! You could easily fit six or eight people in this Airbnb, and Matt and I agreed that if you have plans to visit Charlotte for a football game or something similar, it would be absolutely perfect, especially since it had an awesome front porch that would be great for a little pre-game beer and snacks : )

We snapped this pic in the living room of our Airbnb, actually! I’d hoped for more photo ops during our visit and that didn’t quite pan out, so I insisted on a selfie before our last dinner out.

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Here are a few more highlights of our trip!

(Fair Warning: Most of them involve food. Hey — we were just trying to get a feel for the culture of the city! And isn’t food love in the south?)

  • Driving through the Dilworth neighborhood and eyeing up all the beautiful old houses from the car. It’s basically everything you ever imagined that a beautiful Southern city could offer.
  • Exploring NoDa and brunch at the Crepe CellarNoDa was the closest thing to Brooklyn that I saw while we were visiting Charlotte — funky artists selling their work on the sidewalks, cool paintings on the building facades, funky stores, and cool bars. A friend recommended Crepe Cellar to us for brunch and the four cheese savory crepe I had there may have been my favorite bite of the trip. We also stopped by Amélie’s French Bakery & Cafe to get Matt his coffee fix — another suggestion from a friend!
  • Reading and relaxing in Freedom Park. So much of what we enjoyed about our weekend getaway was the weather. After a long few months of cold temperatures here in New York City, it was such a treat to enjoy a little sunshine and 75-degree air! We grabbed our books and spent a few hours on a bench reading.
  • A night out in downtown Charlotte, starting with dinner at Sea LevelWe ate dinner outside (did I mention that warm weather?) and tried oyster shooters for the first time (yum!). After that, we took a little field trip to the Howl at the Moon piano bar because we thought it would be fun to listen to some live music, and we got way more than we bargained for. If you follow my Instagram Stories you know exactly what I’m talking about… there was a banana-themed citywide bar crawl happening all across town, and we spent the evening watching hundreds of people in banana suits belting out the oldies on stage. It was amazing.
  • Breakfast at Sunflour Baking CompanyThe multigrain bread I ordered with my breakfast sandwich was quite possibly the best bread I’ve ever tasted. And Matt is still talking about the fact that he didn’t get to go back here to try a chocolate chip cookie!
  • Checking out the U.S. National Whitewater CenterGiven the timing of our visit, I’m not sure that we saw this landmark at its best, but I can imagine that it would be an awesome place to explore in the late spring and early summer. You can buy a day pass and have free reign of all of their adventure activities and ropes courses, and they also have a beer garden smack in the middle of it all.
  • Getting a great deal on a denim jacket at the Gap outlet store. I don’t usually like to shop on vacation, but we had some rain on Sunday afternoon and decided to check out the Charlotte Premium Outlets on our way back from the Whitewater Center. By the end of last summer, I’d more or less worn out my trusty old denim jacket, and I found a new one for $40.
  • A feast on our final night! I had one of the best Italian meals of my entire life at Fiamma restaurant (hands down!) and we — of course— made an ice cream stop at Golden Cow Creamery. Did you really think we’d last a weekend in another city without checking out the ice cream scene?
  • Trying the steamed bagel sandwiches at Owen’s Bagel & DeliI have a blog reader to thank for this one (thanks, Victoria!). I can’t quite explain why these steamed sandwiches were so much different than other bagel sammies I’ve had in the past… but they were really different and really good.
  • Getting through the Charlotte airport so. fast. I know this sounds a little silly, but I can’t say enough about how easy it was to travel through this airport. At the last minute, we decided to switch our tickets onto an earlier flight, and we made it from the rental car dropoff through to our gate in 25 minutes flat.

Thanks for letting me share the highlights of our trip with you!

One more thing…

Don’t forget to enter the February giveaway! This month’s winner will take home a $30 gift card to Barnes & NobleAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post (linked here!). I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner this coming Friday 3/2, so don’t miss your chance to enter ASAP!

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gratitude diaries #9.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I typically don’t like to wait until Hump Day to make an appearance in this special space, but after a round of what I thought might be the flu over the weekend (don’t worry! false alarm!) and the quasi-day off that followed as I recovered and had Matt home with me for President’s Day, I’m feeling ever so slightly off my normal schedule right about now.

We’re also just 48 hours away from our weekend trip to Charlotte! I haven’t really spent any time there (except in the airport, of course), so if you have any recommendations for things to see and do, please feel free to share them in the comments below. We don’t have a lot of plans at the moment, and if it stays that way, I might not even mind! I’m just looking forward to exploring a new city, enjoying some warmer weather (and the spring wardrobe that comes with it!), having some good meals, and getting in some quality time with Matt. Charlotte is such an easy and inexpensive flight from New York City, so it’s the perfect destination for a mini getaway to help us get through this last stretch of winter. I’ll definitely be documenting our adventures on Instagram, and I’ll be excited to share some photos of our trip when I get back, too!

In the meantime, I think I’m a little overdue for a quick round of Gratitude Diaries (check out my last entry here). Here are a few things I’ve been especially thankful for these days:

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  • The Olympics, because I never get tired of watching skiing and snowboarding and figure skating (especially figure skating). I was particularly grateful for the Games this past weekend when I was feeling too crummy to read or leave the couch.
  • Warmer weather, because even though I’m pretty sure that the crazy jumps in temperature are to blame for my being sick in the first place, it’s pretty amazing to be able to leave the apartment without my heavy coat even for one day. Don’t worry, fellow Northeasterners — I’m fully prepared for the inevitable cold front to come and am under no illusions that spring is actually here for good.

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  • The “Here to Make Friends” podcast, because it’s making this already hilarious season of The Bachelor that much more hilarious… and is also great company for riding the subway.
  • Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread, because, well, just buy it. And eat it by the spoonful for dessert. And get back to me.
  • Running, because for the first time in a few years, I’m feeling really healthy as I finish up the first few weeks of my training program for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and it’s a great reminder of why I love doing it in the first place. It doesn’t hurt that I’m binge watching The O.C while I’m on the treadmill, but that’s neither here nor there.
  • Wonton soup, because it’s the ultimate fix for any sickness. On Saturday, I ordered two quarts from our local Chinese restaurant, and it lasted me through the rest of the weekend.
  • Haircuts, because even if you only get a trim (and I was seriously tempted to do a major chop last week), it can sometimes be exactly the ego boost you need! If you live in New York City, I totally recommend Jade at Sam Brocato Salon. She really talked me through a hair identity crisis last week, and she did an awesome job, too.

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  • Quiet time at night, because ever since Matt started doing work at home in the evenings, we’ve been forced to turn off the TV (except, occasionally, the Olympics) after dinner, and I’ve loved all the extra reading time! I’ve been blowing through books recently.

What are you grateful for lately? I’d love to hear more in the comments below : )

And be sure to come right back here on Friday to enter the February giveaway! I’d hate for you to miss out! 

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mill valley + more.

I’m back in New York and back in the swing of things (well, almost), and so happy to finally be taking the time to gather up the photos from the back end of our California trip and tell you more about what we did. I had every intention of sharing an update on our Mill Valley and Marin County adventures last week, but I was so busy enjoying the trip and keeping up with other work that it just didn’t happen. Sorry about that! Actually, though, I’m only kind of sorry, because it felt great to be a little extra intentional about staying in the moment and making good memories with Matt. Plus, now that I’m officially a few days removed from the trip, I can reflect on and appreciate it that much more.

I mentioned in the recap of our days in San Francisco and Monterey that we weren’t totally crazy about downtown SF and that we were craving the down time we hoped we would find once we left the city and got to Mill Valley, where we’d booked an Airbnb for ten days. If you haven’t heard of it (and I hadn’t before we planned this trip), Mill Valley is a great little town in Marin County, about 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Thanks to advice from my friend Angela who lives in the Bay Area, we chose Mill Valley as our home base for the bulk of our time in California because it seemed like it was accessible to a lot of the other places we wanted to check out while we were in the area. We also found this awesome Airbnb that was within walking distance of the actual town of Mill Valley — which has tons of bars and restaurants — and was at the base of some great walking trails. Seriously, everyone, if you ever decide to go to Mill Valley or Marin (and you’re going to want to after reading this post), I would highly, highly recommend this little bungalow. It was our first experience with Airbnb, but it was an excellent one. This place really made us feel at home!

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I could go on forever about all of the great things we did, so I’ll try to choose a few highlights : )

Hiking Muir Woods: One of the things on Matt’s bucket list (which I didn’t know until recently!) was to see California’s redwood trees — and we got to see plenty on this hike! We explored the tourist area around Muir Woods, then hiked about seven miles on a winding series of trails. Luckily, we ran into a former park ranger near what we thought was the end of the trail, and he told us about a beautiful summit just 100 yards ahead. The hike would have been really fun even without that inside scoop, but the amazing view was definitely the cherry on top. We finished our day with burgers and shakes at Super Duper in Mill Valley. After a full day of hiking, I probably could have had three shakes! We did some other hiking and explored other trails in the Mill Valley area, but Muir Woods was definitely the best.

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Stinson Beach: We specifically planned this as a non-beach trip, but you can’t go to California and spend all that time driving up and down the coast only to never park yourself on the sand for a while. One night, we packed up a beach bag, picked up a bottle of rosé (and a bag of marshmallows because, yum!), and drove to Stinson to read and watch the sun set over the ocean. As a lifelong East Coaster, I’m totally impressed by that west coast sun slowly dipping its way into the water. It’s magical!

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Dinner with friends in Menlo Park: Angela and I (and Matt, too!) went to high school together, but we somehow managed to spend four yours in the same building without realizing that we were meant to be friends! We reconnected recently thanks to blogging and social media (check out her blog here), and when Matt and I decided to plan a trip to Northern California, Angela was a huge help in putting everything together. Thanks to her husband Kendrick, Angie moved out to the Bay Area a little over five years ago, and we really couldn’t have organized this adventure without her. I was so. happy. that we were able to connect in person during our visit. Angela and Kendrick invited us to their home in Menlo Park for dinner, and we had the best night catching up and meeting their ten-month-old, Gio! It’s so rare as an adult to meet people who you so automatically connect with (at least, it is for me), and I definitely felt that last week with the Ribeiros. It was a highlight of our trip and we’re so grateful to count this family among our friends.

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Biking on Angel Island: We rented bikes in Tiburon and took the ferry to Angel Island, which is known to have some of the best views of the Bay Area. Matt and I love to bike, but we’re far from experts at it, and thanks to a combination of crummy rental bikes and unpaved roads, the biking portion of the trip wasn’t totally flawless — but the experience was totally worth the hiccups. Due to the horrible fires in wine country, the visibility wasn’t great, but we still got some amazing photos and loved taking in the whole San Francisco area from above.

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Pasta Class at Cavallo Point Lodge: I knew I wanted to plan something special for Matt while we were in California to help kick off the celebrations for his birthday (he turns 28 on October 23!), but I’m the furthest thing from a good liar, so I was taking a big risk when I booked a cooking class for us on the last night of our trip, knowing that I’d have to keep the secret for two whole weeks while we were living in such close quarters. Somehow, I managed to play it totally cool, and on our final morning, I told him when we woke up that he would need to be ready to go somewhere by 5:30 that night. Little did I know that the place where I booked the class — the Cavallo Point Lodge — happened to be one of the most beautiful places we visited the whole time! The Lodge is a hotel located in Sausalito with an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge and idyllic grounds. We got there early so I could surprise Matt in time to grab a drink and watch the sun set. After our drink, we went to our cooking class, which focused on filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini. We had so much fun! I wish I had more pictures, but we were so busy cooking (and then eating, duh), that I could barely grab my phone. This was seriously a night to remember, and if you live in the area or are planning to visit soon, I would definitely recommend stopping at Cavallo Point, even if it’s only for a drink.

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Outside of these highlights, I could go on and on about all of the sweet little coffee shops we visited and delicious meals we had, but then I’ll be totally gushing, so I’m going to have to stop.

Because of the wildfires raging in Napa and Sonoma, we (unfortunately) didn’t get to see wine country, and our thoughts go out to all of the families affected by the disaster. Given the newfound appreciation we have for Northern California after this trip, we feel sadder than ever knowing that so many good people and so much beautiful land was hit so hard by the flames.

That’s a wrap on California, friends. Thanks so much, as always, for following our journey!

 

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tips for traveling with your s.o.

Matt and I have always been pretty good travel buddies.

On one of our very first dates, we took a somewhat spontaneous road trip from Hershey, PA to Washington, DC. Four hours in the car together each way, still basically strangers, not even sure what kind of music the other person really liked listening to or what kind of car snacks would make them less annoyed by traffic. We managed to get through those trips with only minimal awkwardness, which was an early sign (to me, at least) that there could really be something to the relationship.

Since then, we’ve taken countless long drives together. I’m pretty comfortable as the navigator, while Matt’s great in the driver’s seat. Eight and a half years later, I know that he likes listening to country music (or, more recently, podcasts*) and that a purple Gatorade and Clif Bar is his ideal driving food and drink combo.

More recently, we’ve started taking longer trips together, too. It took four years for us to get on a plane together, but since then, we’ve had a chance to explore some amazing places, especially in the last year or two. I feel lucky that we’re pretty naturally compatible when it comes to travel, but we’re still always learning how to do better, and since the trip we’re on is the longest yet (you can read more about the first few stops here), we’ve definitely picked up a few more best practices over the last few days. Here are a few (Matt-approved) tips for traveling with your significant other that we hope will help minimize tension and maximize fun!

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  • Share luggage space. We haven’t always done this, but for our last two trips, we’ve been more flexible about maximizing our joint carry-on and checked bags by squeezing both of our stuff into the spots where it makes the most sense — even if it’s not “my” or “his” bag. Admittedly, I can be a little territorial, so this was hard for me to come around to, but it’s allowed us to save money on luggage fees and to pack more of what we want.
  • Don’t overbook yourself. We find that it’s best to leave as much flexibility in our travel schedule as possible. Typically, we start a vacation with a list of things we want to see and do, but we don’t usually have them scheduled ahead of time. This allows us to get a feel for the area and ease into travel mode for a day or two before we start sketching out a plan. Leaving some margin in your schedule also gives you a chance to have a little extra downtime. As much as we love seeing cool sights and trying great restaurants while we’re away, we also find that some of our favorite moments on vacation happen when we’re casually wandering around town or watching movies in the hotel. Those moments only happen when you build in some extra free time!
  • Over-communicate. Let’s be honest — I’m pretty much an over-communicator no matter where we are. BUT, a little extra communication is even more important when you and your S.O. have invested time and money into a vacation that’s meant to be special for both of you. Early on in this trip, for example, I had a feeling that Matt and I were maybe prioritizing different things as we started to plan our itinerary, and I could see that it might cause tension (at least on my end!). We talked about it right away so that we could avoid a bigger issue later on — and it worked!

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  • Understand what’s most important to your S.O. and let them take the lead on it! Friends, it’s taken me a long time to learn this one. One of Matt’s favorite things about travel is exploring great restaurants and trying new foods. I love a good meal as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make or break a vacation for me, and it’s not always where I’d choose to spend the biggest chunk of our travel budget. In the name of compromising, I’ve learned to let my husband research (read: obsess over) restaurants and make most of the decisions about where we eat. It really excites him! Since food isn’t as much of a “thing” for me, this is a place where I’ve learned to step back a bit, which gives him a chance to vacation the way he likes to — and I can speak up when it counts for me, too.
  • It’s OK to do your own thing. Matt and I live in a 700-square foot apartment in New York, so we’re not really phased by sharing small hotel rooms, but we’re also introverts, which means that if we don’t get a little quiet time for ourselves here and there, we aren’t exactly our best selves. We’ve learned over the years that it’s really important to grant each other the occasional hour of alone time when we’re traveling. Time to exercise or nap or take a quiet walk is super important, and we always come back together ready to enjoy our trip even more. It’s not the mark of a bad couple’s vacation to spend some time alone!

I’d love to hear your tips for traveling with your significant other! Leave them in the comments below.

**And if you’re a podcast fan like us, I have great news for you. My friend Brittney’s new podcast Day In the Life just launched TODAY! Check it out here on iTunes. It’s a super cool peek into the lives of some awesome people. You’re gonna love it! 

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san francisco + monterey.

Hi from Mill Valley, California, everyone! Yesterday, Matt and I checked into our Airbnb in this amazing little town about 15 miles north of San Francisco. We’re just a few hours into this leg of our trip and loving it already — but more on that next week! First, I want to share a little bit more about the first few days of our travels…

We landed in San Francisco late Saturday morning and got settled at our hotel (The Marker, which we liked a lot!). Since we’re city dwellers who do a lot of walking in our everyday lives at home, we tend to like exploring new places on foot whenever we can, so we threw on our sneakers and took to the streets! We’d heard a lot about the Mission District and all of the great places you can find to eat there, so we headed in that direction and stopped to have lunch at Gracias Madre. I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, but the menu looked pretty good, and I’ll never complain about chips and guac : ) Within a few minutes of being seated, we figured out that it was a vegan restaurant, which threw Matt for a bit of a loop, especially! The meal was delicious (can someone teach me to make sweet potato tacos with pumpkin seeds, please?) and I think it may have even opened up Matt’s mind to trying vegan dishes in the future. Maybe. From there, we walked to Mission Dolores Park, where we found a spot on the grass to people watch (or, if you’re me, dog watch) for a few hours.

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I wasn’t crazy about how we spent the rest of Saturday night (dinner was a serious flop for me — I don’t want to dish the bad stuff here!), but my body was (and, four days later, still is) on east coast time, so it felt pretty great to get back to the hotel and crash.

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early with a list of other things we wanted to check out in the city. We set out toward the water and spent most of the day walking along the bay and then straight up a very steep hill to the famous Lombard Street. For me, the best part of the day was the early morning! We walked to the Ferry Building, grabbed breakfast from Cowgirl Creamery, and sat by the waterfront looking at this view while we ate!

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Visiting Ghirardelli Square was another Sunday highlight. Matt and I split their original hot fudge sundae for lunch, and it was by far some of the richest chocolate I’ve ever tasted.

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Shoutout to the guy who most definitely had too much to drink before he walked past us sitting on this repurposed ski lift and insisted that the moment called for a photo. He has a good eye! These are seriously some of my new favorite pictures (well, maybe not the one with him in it).

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Monday was a big day for pictures, because we spent the whole morning driving down Highway One to our second hotel in Monterey, then the afternoon making a loop around Pebble Beach (I posted some of those photos here). My entire camera roll is pretty much photos of incredible blue water from the window of our rental car, plus some shots we took at the Pigeon Point Ligthouse. They’re all too pretty to delete!

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Monday night, we drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey for dinner. For my fellow Jersey shore folks, the Wharf was basically a miniature boardwalk, with a higher proportion of seafood restaurants and a lower proportion of T-shirt shops. I’ve never seen anything like it — every. single. restaurant was giving away free samples of New England clam chowder to everyone who walked by. I guess that’s what you have to do to keep up with the competition, right? The strategy worked on us because we were sold on the chowder at Crabby Jim’s and ended up sitting down there to eat.

Tuesday was our busiest day yet, and it was a big one for me because I finally got to see the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When I was really young, my grandmother visited the aquarium and brought me back tons of otter souvenirs — a book, a shirt, and a stuffed animal — and I became totally obsessed with them. It’s been a bucket list item for me to go visit the otters myself ever since. I’m not going to say that I teared up when I saw them up close for the first time, but I’m, not going to say that I didn’t, either. They’re such happy, interesting animals, and it was great learning more about what the aquarium is doing to keep them safe and rebuild their population.

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After I’d recovered from all of the otter excitement (just kidding— I still haven’t recovered), we drove back into Monterey and had lunch at The Poke Lab. I’ve been wanting to try poke for, well, forever, and it didn’t disappoint!

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We had a few more spots we wanted to see south of Monterey before heading north to Mill Valley, so we jumped back in the car and drove to Big Sur. So many more incredible photos through a car window added to my phone! Guys, California is seriously beautiful.

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To finish up the day, we went to Carmel-by-the-Sea, took a walk on the beach, and explored the area a bit. Every time it feels like there can’t possibly be another adorable California coastal town, we find one more! It’s unbelievable.

As you can probably tell, these first few days were really busy. We saw a lot, drove a lot, and (admittedly) ate a lot. We covered a ton of ground and hit pretty much everything that was on our wish list for the San Francisco and Monterey areas. But it was a little exhausting! To be perfectly honest, Matt and I weren’t totally crazy about San Francisco, so we were happy to move on to the more low-key Monterey — and we’re even happier now to be unwinding in Mill Valley. I’ve more or less stayed on my east coast schedule, because I’ve been waking up super early every morning to work (I’m still working my scheduled Bustle writing shifts, for example, from 6 to 12 PST twice a week). I’m really grateful that I have the flexibility to keep up with my work while also enjoying this quality time with Matt, but I’m also ready for some good sleep! Thanks to our cozy new digs, I’m feeling like I’ll definitely be able to make that happen over the next ten days. I can’t wait to share our Mill Valley adventures with you next week.

In the meantime, for more details on our travels, follow me on Instagram stories!

 

 

 

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back to where it all began.

Matt and I are heading down to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited! I went to college in D.C., and a lot of my closest friends from school still live there. Earlier this year, one of Matt’s best friends from college (who I’ve since stolen HAH!) and her (new!) husband bought a house outside the city. I can’t wait to check out their home and to catch up with some of my very favorite people.

Sometimes, I really find myself doing a double take when I remember that my friends and I are now in our mid-twenties (creeping up into that late-twenties category, too, yeesh!) and spread across the country in different cities, living our crazily different routines and digging roots in new places with new people. It’s always a treat to get a little glimpse into what those lives look like, and to be reminded of the fact that time and distance are really not a factor in your most significant relationships. Plus, you know I love any excuse to jump in the car with Matt, put on a great podcast, and drive down some new roads. (And maybe — just maybe — I’m also kind of planning the weekend around getting my favorite s’mores milkshake at a diner near my friend Gail’s apartment…)

D.C. was such a special place to go to school. While I wasn’t always crazy about my college specifically (that’s a topic for another post!), it was a pretty incredible experience to “come of age” (that’s a weird expression, but it fits here) in a city that was so vibrant and alive. When I think about the fact that I was 17 years old in my suburban hometown one day, and the next was set loose in Washington, D.C. among cabs and motorcades and inaugural crowds and a seemingly infinite number of bars and clubs, I can’t help but laugh. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I firmly believed then that I did — and, luckily for me, I found the most amazing friends to explore it all with.

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Thinking I was the coolest on a night in D.C. senior year (at least then I had four years under my belt!). Doesn’t everyone have totally humiliating pictures like this?

Going back to Washington is also meaningful for me and Matt because it’s the place where our love story really started. We went to middle school and high school together, but it wasn’t until he and a mutual friend of ours came to D.C. for the Fourth of July the summer after our freshman year of college that we really even got to know each other (picture a high school of 2,500 students, a super cool soccer player, and the well-liked — but pretty introverted — editor of the newspaper)! It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was something more than friendship between us, and since I was working in Washington for the summer, Matt made a bunch of trips down to visit so we could figure out if that “something” could sustain long-distance once the school year started again. (Spoiler alert: we decided it could, and it did!)

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Our last visit to D.C. together… in 2013! So long ago!

After that first year, we spent most of our time together in Pennsylvania, where Matt’s college and my family’s house were just a few miles apart. Still, D.C. is where it all started, and since it’s been a long time since Matt and I visited the city together, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the Washington milestones where we have some of our earliest memories. Here are a few of those places…

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The very first picture I have of the two of us — and I’m so happy it’s in D.C.
  • The Lincoln Memorial: On that first Fourth of July, my friends and I took Matt to watch the fireworks from just under the famous monument. We try to go back (or at least drive by) whenever we’re in town, even though I know it’s kind of a tourist-y move for someone who lived there for four years.
  • The Kennedy CenterI really wanted Matt to think I was a total Washington insider, so on one of his first visits, I took him to the Kennedy Center late at night. Fun fact (for my non-D.C. pals): even if you’re not going to a show there, you can go up to the very top of the building. It’s my favorite view of the city.
  • Good Stuff EateryOne of my best memories from that first summer is when Matt drove me back to Washington after our “official” first date at a Dave Matthews Band concert closer to home. I knew that four hours in the car together would be a make-it-or-break-it moment! Happily, we learned then that we love taking road trips together. When we got back to D.C., I told Matt that I’d been dying to try a milkshake from Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill, and since he loves ice cream even more than I do, it was an easy sell!
  • The National Mall/World War II Memorial: Said milkshakes in hand (I think mine was Toasted Marshmallow), we walked down to the National Mall (can’t you tell I was trying to show Matt that I was so not a tourist? L-O-L) and wandered around. It started POURING rain and we (of course) didn’t have an umbrella, so we just hid inside the World War II Memorial. We were the only dummies out there in the downpour, so it was just us tucked into the beautiful monument late at night.
  • VapianoIn college, my friends and I thought this place was the. absolute. coolest. You could go there and customize your own pasta dish — and we did… often. That September, my mom and my grandmother were coming down to visit me in Washington for my birthday. Matt and I were barely “official,” but he so wanted to spend my special day with me that he coordinated with them and caught a ride to come see me. He spent the weekend with the three of us (keep in mind that this is a guy who’s one of three boys and was very much a fish out of water with three ladies). To this day, it’s one of my favorite things that my now-husband has ever done for me. I took Mom, Nana, and Matt to Vapiano for my birthday, and later that night, Matt told me he loved me for the first time. : )
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For my 19th birthday, my mom got me Lehigh-themed presents so I would be ready to cheer at Matt’s soccer games.

Thanks for indulging me in these memories! It’s always fun to think back on that special time — and to dig up these photos, of course. We look like SUCH babies. I can’t wait to get back to D.C. this weekend and feel even more sentimental. Hopefully, I’ll have pictures to share (newer ones, with better fashion)!

…AND don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a necklace from The Shine ProjectAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Monday 7/31, so get those entries in ASAP!

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