From about this time last year until the present, this year has been insanely good. I count my blessings daily. That came from an insanely bad year-- funny how that works, right?
In December of 2012, I moved to NYC for a change of pace (a.k.a. having a meltdown after 10 years of living in LA and 3 turbulent years of business stress). As a friend in Brooklyn pointed out, "No one comes here for a break. Everyone comes here to do something." I guess she was right because almost unintentionally, my company Flour LA expanded to New York. And very intentionally, and with a lot of perseverance, my first book The Flower Chef sold to Grand Central Publishing. This past March I moved back to La La Land.
In the interim I had been commuting back and forth from NYC to LA for about six months. It was exciting, but also unnerving to not have a home. I had two suitcases at my brother's in NYC, and a suitcase in LA. All of my other stuff was in storage in Arizona. It really is amazing how much we don't need! I have managed to fill up my new home quite well with things I don't need so quickly now that I'm settled in.
So during this past year, when I was bouncing back and forth from each coast, I made small side trips to cities I've never been to in the U.S. Of course my abroad list is quite extensive, but I realized how many amazingly dynamic cities we have right here that I hadn't seen.
After going to a wedding in Miami, I had to go back asap, which I wrote about in this Huff Post story. From there I went to Albuquerque to shoot Creative Living for PBS in the tiny town of Portales about four hours away. And then from there I went to San Francisco and finally got to see Napa. Now Napa is absolutely lovely, but the Napa in my mind is really Sonoma -- sprawling hills of vineyards, a dreamy sunset, giant tasting rooms sitting atop hills. Since I didn't get to see that, I will just have to go back soon!
I also went to Nashville en route back to LA. Seeing that I had a layover in Music City, I decided to finally visit the place I wanted to see the most. Now after countless Nashville marathon binges, I'm convinced that one day I will indeed live in a sprawling mansion on the outskirts and be neighbors with Dolly Parton and Faith Hill. The more of the U.S. I saw, the more I realized how much I hadn't seen. The cities yet to be tackled include Chicago, Missoula, Charleston, Denver, Austin, and Zion/Springdale. Geez that's a lot of places to cover!
I love being around people, even when I'm doing nothing. I'm just a people person, and would rather be on the computer or watching tv next to someone than doing it alone. However, I do love traveling alone on these short trips.
I think three nights alone is the best thing in the world. You can do what you want, when you want, and get to meet people along the way. There's something so freeing about being on your own schedule. Exploring the unknown, alone, in our country is the best way to see it. Get the inside scoop from locals, get into places easier because you're just one person. You know the language, you have a sense of the geography, yet you can still feel like you're in another country because of just how different the regions are. That's the beautiful thing that makes you appreciate mankind and nature at the same time. People are somehow more generous with everything when they find out your traveling alone. It's respected, and admirable. It's taking some time for yourself, taking a bit of risk, and challenging yourself to be out of your comfort zone.
So this year, I'm figuring out how to do more of that. See more. Love more. Be more. The next trip I have planned is to New Orleans, and then Belize for New Years with my friend I met on Airbnb that lives in Norway. We shared an airbnb when we were both in NYC and became instant friends. If I hadn't been there alone, I wouldn't have met my very good friend -- see how that works. We're the best kind of kindred spirits!
After that I have two writing trips planned. First up is Maui, which I'm of course very excited for. It's funny living in LA and having never been there. People in LA find that kind of odd if you haven't since it's so close. I'm going to treat myself right and indulge on an upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines and then staying at the luxurious Fairmont before I embark on a more eco/hippie/meditation retreat. I like to travel like that -- both roughing it and then being a little extravagant. It somehow makes you appreciate both sides of the coin more, and also doesn't break the bank. I'm not going to lie, going to Maui alone seems a little daunting. It's a romantic place right? Stay tuned to find out my experience along with tips and tricks.
In the Spring, I'm heading to Curacao for a destination wedding magazine trip. This is my first time writing for a print magazine, and I'm thrilled about the opportunity. More of that please!
Somehow I'm going to hit up the cities on my wish list in between that, work, and commuting to/from NYC. Mixing work with pleasure is the best, and something I don't take for granted. It's that delicate balance of never really being "off", yet taking a few days to shut the phone off, if possible.
If any of you wonderful readers have suggestions for a "best of" rec in any of the cities I listed, especially New Orleans or Maui, please do leave it in the comments section. I always read the comments, even if I don't comment myself. You may find your suggestion in my next article!
In closing I wish you this; find time for yourself this coming year, and try to sneak in a 2-3 day personal solo adventure before 2014 comes to a close. Make the time. It's the best gift you can give yourself.