Feature: Travelogue

10 04 2017 - Travelogue

Travelogue: Cross-Country Train Travels, USA

By far, out of all my social media moments this year, the one I got the most questions, comments and DM’s about was my cross-country train trip across the USA. And I’ve been meaning to answer them all, for months now, but there’s something about turning your life upside down, that makes it hard to write about the specific moment it happened. At least right away that is.

7 months later,  I have a blog post for you.

13 years ago I sold everything I owned, and moved across the country, from LA to NYC a week before I was to start grad school. It was the first week in January, and I had never seen snow falling before, (California girl). As I was carried from JFK to the East Village, in a taxi that was driving so fast, I thought we were levitating, I looked out the window. It was snowing. Actually, I was caught in one of the worst blizzard’s NYC had on record. But, I didn’t know the difference at the time. As we flew through the streets of New York, I stared out the window. Specifically, I remember flying through the West Village. All of the Christmas lights were still up. I felt like I was trapped in a snow globe, looking out at a movie. Everything felt, looked and smelled so different, that it was hard to believe that I was actually a part of it. It felt like a dream. I couldn’t fully believe, in that very moment, I lived in New York City.

13 years later, I stood in my empty apartment in Greenpoint, after I sold (nearly) everything I owned. The next day I had a train to catch at 3 pm. It would be the first of three trains I would take, across the USA, to my final destination in San Jose, California.

Why travel by train?

Part of my choice to leave my life in New York had to do with wanting to slow down. But it wasn’t an easy choice, and it’s one that took me about four years to get up the courage to make. When I did decide to leave, I knew that I needed time to process my leaving. A 6-hour plane ride didn’t seem right to ponder 13 years of life. I needed in-between time. That’s why I choose to travel across the country by train.

How do you book a cross-country trip by train?

I booked my ticket on Amtrak. The site is not as user-friendly as it could be, and their customer service isn’t amazing, but the good news is, it’s easier to book on their site then it seems to be. All you have to do is put where you’re traveling from and then add your final destination. Then the site will show you all the different route options. And you can decide which type of route you’d like to take, based on which parts of the country you’d like to travel through, and how long you want your trip to take.

For me, it was more about the journey, then the destinations, so I choose the shortest, most efficient route to California. I did purposely book a long layover in Chicago because I’d always wanted to go to the Art Institute of Chicago (which was so worth it!). My iternary ended up being: Lakeshore Limited (NYC to Chicago), Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles), and finally, the Coast Starlight (Los Angeles to San Jose).

What sort of seat should I book?

There are several options in terms of the type of ticket to purchase. Coach (which is just a seat in the coach section), two different types of Roomettes (one with a bathroom, one without), a One-Bedroom, and a Two-Bedroom. Not all routes have all of those options, but most do. The Roomettes, One and Two Bedroom tickets are considered first class. This means that you are in the first class cabin. They are private cabins, and you are only allowed instead if you have a first-class ticket. It also means that if you don’t have a bathroom in your room, the bathrooms in these cabins are very clean because they are virtually unused. Riding first class also means that you get all your meals free (more on that in a bit).

For my trip, I booked a Roomette for the first and last leg of my journey. The Southwest Chief was about 53 hours, so I decided to splurge and get a One-Bedroom with a shower.

Pro-Tip

I actually don’t recommend booking anything above a roomette. The shower that I was so excited about was in the bathroom, and so small I would basically have to sit on the toilet to have a shower. The room, although bigger, wasn’t any more comfortable. You can save hundreds of dollars by sticking with roomettes for the whole journey.

What’s it like to travel by train?

Ok, general question, but most of the questions I got in relation to this were related mainly to food, alcohol, and general comfort.

Food

If you have a first class ticket, all meals are included. Amtrak serves three meals a day. Your porter will knock on your door and ask what time you’d like to eat, and make you a reservation for each meal. You have to have a reservation. When you arrive in the dining car, you are seated with whomever else happened to have a reservation at the same time as you. It’s a little awkward to sit with complete strangers and share a meal, but can also be completely fascinating and compelling…. it all depends on who you get seated with!

The food is decent. The burger is surprisingly great.

Not included with the meals, but for sale, is alcohol. (I got a lot of questions about this one!)

Sleeping

Sleeping on a train is surprisingly comfortable. During your dinner reservation, your porter will transform your seats in a bed. The gentle rocking back and forth of the train put me right to sleep, every night.

Miscellany

I learned right away, that while traveling by train, waking up early and going to bed early is the way to go. The most exciting moments for me were waking up at dawn, watching the sun rise while sipping coffee in the dining car, and trying to figure out what state I was looking at, and what states we had passed through in the night.

What to pack

I recommend packing durable basics that don’t get dirty too easily. I wore a lot of jeans and flannel shirts.

Pro Tip

I’m really glad I packed dry shampoo, make-up remover wipes, sanitary wipes, and hand sanitizer.

During the entire trip (which took nearly four days) I kept asking myself the same question, over and over again:

Am I leaving home, or going home? 

The final leg of my journey was from Los Angeles to San Jose. It was by far the most beautiful. Most of the trip is right on the coast. At times you feel like you’re literally on the beach, as sand and seashells are on the tracks. Other times, the Pacific Ocean always in view, you travel up and down the surrounding rolling hills, which at the time, was exploding with Spring’s lovely wildflowers. Staring out at this view, which felt both familiar and new, I felt something deep in my heart stirring… I knew I had finally come home.

I am so glad I decided to take the road less traveled and make my way back to California by train. So many people who live in the USA don’t end up seeing much of it… maybe the coasts. There is something beautiful to me, and fascinating, about seeing everything in between. The places you wouldn’t normally think to go. The farmlands of Indiana, the cornfields of Kansas, the red otherworldly mountains of New Mexico. I couldn’t recommend seeing the country by train enough! If you’re ever thinking about doing it… do. 🙂

06 29 2016 - Travelogue

Travelogue: Chefchaouen, Morocco

Unfortunately, this is not a travelogue of my own, but a series of incredible photographs I discovered via Pinterest of an all-blue town in Morocco called Chefchaouen.  I love learning about fascinating, beautiful places in the world that I’ve never heard of, and this is no exception. It has now been added to the wanderlust list.

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All photos are by Lucy Laucht for Condé Nast Traveler. Be sure to check out the full story here.

04 24 2015 - Travelogue

Travelogue: Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

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Last month I was lucky enough to go on Patricia Pinto and Jacob Kyle’s annual Costa Rica yoga retreat. After attending their retreat last year, I decided I needed to make it an annual thing in my life as well. To say their retreats are life-changing would not be an exaggeration.

Pictured above, the lovely Jessica. All photo’s shown in today’s post were taken by fellow retreat friend and professional photographer Brendan Klein. Finally… not my iPhone pic’s for once!

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This year the retreat was held at Boca Sombrero, which is on the Osa Peninsula- a very remote (and slightly hard to get to) part of the country. The wild, untouched quality of the landscape in these parts is truly special.

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The beautiful retreat space was between the jungle and the ocean- a wonderful combination. We did two yoga classes a day (morning and evening), daily guided meditation, and surf, depending on the waves. In-between it all, we were served amazing food at big communal tables.

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I personally didn’t want to leave the grounds of Boca Sombrero the whole week, BUT I did make an exception to go on an epic river hike…

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And then the surf…

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And the pool…

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The retreat fell on the Spring Equinox, New Moon, an eclipse… oh, and did I mention a volcano erupted? We celebrated these events around a fire, to set intentions for the new season, and let go of what no longer served us. It was a special night.

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The sunrises were epic… I’m so glad Brendan beautifully captured them.

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Thanks to Patricia and Jacob for another amazing retreat.

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The Details

The retreat: if you’d like to join this retreat next year, you can get in touch with either Patricia or Jacob to reserve your spot.

Where we stayed: Boca Sombrero.

Photo credit: Thank you again to Brendan Klein. Be sure to check out the rest of his work right here!

 

04 14 2014 - Travelogue

Travelogue: Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

033114_travel_01It took me about 8 years of living on the East Coast to realize that the most necessary time to go on vacation is in the middle of winter, and preferably somewhere warm. Last year it was Tulum- which was amazing (I was fantasizing about moving there by the end of my trip), so this year I wanted to continue the tradition… but I was craving something more than margaritas, massages and pool time. I wanted to have a more meaningful experience, (not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with margaritas, massages, and pool time!).

So, when my friend Patricia, (an amazing yoga teacher and a big inspiration to me) mentioned that she was going to lead a yoga retreat for the first time (!!!!) I was totally on board.

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033114_travel_03033114_travel_04This is Patricia showing us how to do a pose on the beach. Miss that day.

The timing was perfect, (last week in February), and, although I hadn’t taken a yoga class in over a year, I was excited by the idea of meditation, two yoga classes a day, and surf lessons- all while staying halfway in  the jungle, near the beach, in Costa Rica- a country I’d always heard amazing things about.

033114_travel_05This, plus a bunch of workout clothes, was all I packed.. It felt liberating! Bikini and hat by J.Crew. 

033114_travel_06033114_travel_07033114_travel_08From the minute I landed, I could tell Costa Rica would live up to everything I’d heard (we landed in the middle of majestic mountains). Wild, jungles and beaches, not too touristy or commercialized.. oh, and AMAZING beaches for surfers. A few other tidbits about the country that I adore: Costa Rica has a long history of environmentalism and sustainability (long before it was trendy), and is the only Central American country without a standing army (peace!).

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We stayed at Vida Asana, an eco lodge situated halfway between the ocean and the jungle. A little more rustic than most of my travel accomodations, I quickly embraced my new life: 6AM meditation, 7:30 AM yoga, a breakfast of fruit and homemade juice, pool time, surf lessons, hammock naps…. no tv, music, computers… just great company. After the final yoga class of the day (around 7PM) and a vegan dinner, I usually fell asleep by 9 PM.

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033114_travel_16033114_travel_15One of my favorite mornings… A “walking meditation” to the beach. It was about a mile through the jungle, a dirt road, and a highway from our lodge.

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No filter needed… the sky in Costa Rica was often this magically bright turquoise color…

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033114_travel_19Jacob, the other retreat leader, catches some sun after discussing Buddhism with me by the pool. Such a great afternoon.

033114_travel_20033114_travel_21The Shala, where we did our bi-daily yoga and meditation. Our soundtrack was the jungle (unbelievably loud by the way!).

033114_travel_22Bonfires and hammocks.

033114_travel_23033114_travel_24Nancy, our awesome (and patient) surf instructor. Yes, she WILL be doing a fitness video soon on how to get that body… (sold!)

033114_travel_25033114_travel_26Our last night couldn’t have been more perfect. We all headed to the beach for a sunset surf…

033114_travel_27033114_travel_29If you’d like to go on a yoga retreat with Patricia and Jacob, they both will be updating their sites with future retreat info.

All photos by me, (except for the one of me, above) taken with my iPhone 5 and edited with VSCO cam.

03 04 2014 - Travelogue

Lately

Hello!

It’s been a little quiet here on the blog, despite my best efforts to prep a bunch of posts before I took off last week for Costa Rica. This picture was taken by my lovely friend Patricia on the last night of the Surf and Yoga retreat I had the pleasure of doing with her at Vida Asana.

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Now, back in Brooklyn, back in the cold, and in a new apartment. I feel so refreshed and transformed and I can’t wait to get back into my routine and share things with you all very soon. More details on my experience in Costa Rica to come…

05 28 2013 - Travelogue

Travelogue: New Orleans, Louisiana

052013_t_01Two friends and I headed down to New Orleans a few weeks ago for the annual Jazz Festival (something I’ve been dying to do for years). Due to some botched travel plans, we arrived in the city with less than 72 hours to enjoy it, but it turns out it’s not a hard city to enjoy, even with two+ days to spare. The food, the music, and the warmth of the people we came across made us all want to come back soon for more.

 

04 22 2013 - Travelogue

TRAVELOGUE: TULUM, MEXICO PART III

042213_t_01Ok, last ones, I promise. I read somewhere that one of the most exciting things about travel was both the anticipation before, and reminiscing afterwards…. Well, here’s to that. I hope you enjoy my last few snaps from Tulum, taken this past March.

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04 15 2013 - Travelogue

TRAVELOGUE: TULUM, MEXICO PART II

040813_tulum_21And here we are, back in Tulum again… Happy Monday!

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04 08 2013 - Travelogue

Travelogue: Tulum, Mexico Part I

040813_tulum_01Last month I fled NYC winter (which still seems to be lingering…) for the beaches and sunshine of Tulum, Mexico. There’s something sort of magical about the place. I can’t really describe what I mean, so I hope my snapshots of the little moments that caught my eye suffice for now.

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