Since we are all generally stuck at the moment, and unable to travel, I thought it might be fun to talk about the places we could imagine ourselves traveling to. This will be the first in a series of blog posts about some of my travel experiences and also some of the places I still dream of going!
“This is what travel is all about, stepping outside of all you have ever known to see, taste, and experience a new place, ultimately gifting you a new perspective of life with each and every trip."
I love love love to travel. My husband, Ryan, and I both do. We haven’t been able to do much traveling since having kids, but prior to kids we traveled as often as we could. Our love for travel was sparked by a rather random decision in our 20s to move from the East Coast to the West Coast after only about a year of dating. He was an electrician in the local union here in Philly and I was a hair stylist. We decided to move to San Francisco where he could get work as a traveling electrician for the union and I found myself a job at a salon in Berkeley, CA. We both said we had always dreamed of living somewhere else and we figured now might be the best time to explore.
After securing an apartment to rent we packed up his truck and drove cross country. That trip alone introduced me to an incredible new appreciation for new places. As we drove cross country we stopped in small cities and towns that we otherwise would have no reason to visit. We were able to see first hand how beautifully diverse this nation is and how absolutely stunning the landscape is as we drove 12-14 hour shifts each day.
As we neared the West Coast I was in awe of how different the landscape was from the East Coast. The drive through Wyoming was absolutely breathtaking with its open plains and mountainous views for miles and miles. We approached Salt Lake City, Utah and I could not get over the rolling hills of highway that stretched into this beautiful and breathtaking city. And then finally we made our way into California. We chose to drive up the coast from Southern California to San Francisco and that drive along the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The views were magical and absolutely everything I hoped they would be.
After landing in San Francisco we spent the next few months taking trips to as many destinations in California as we could. We traveled up north to Lake Tahoe during the summertime. The lake itself was an incredible experience. We did some paddle boarding, hiking and relaxing at our hotel pool that overlooked the mountains. One evening we grabbed some snacks and some local wine and beer and headed to an outdoor concert right on the lake. The view was stunning! Surrounded by mountains, the lake was a gorgeous bright blue/green color. It was a completely different vibe from the East Coast, everyone seemed so relaxed and I could see why. How could you be stressed with views like this?
We would later travel to wine country to visit both the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. They were both equally beautiful and relaxing but Sonoma was my personal favorite. I loved that it felt more small town and less commercial than Napa. We had some delicious meals in the downtown square and also visited the weekly farmers market, which was the farmers market of all farmers markets, in my opinion. They had an incredible selection of local, fresh vegetables, fruits and meats. They had fresh made juices and homemade breads for sale. Stands with gorgeous local flowers and handmade jewelry surrounded us as live music floated through the air. It had the most welcoming and down to earth feel, we joked that we might not be able to bring ourselves to leave.
While in town we also toured several different wineries, shared cheese plates overlooking the rolling rows of growing grapes, and watched the sunset over one of the oldest wineries in the area. It was magical!
Before heading out of town we got ourselves into an adventure that I will never, ever, forget ...and also might not ever agree to do again. We signed ourselves up to zip line through the redwood trees. For those who aren’t familiar with redwood trees, they are, well... freaking ENORMOUS. I am not comfortable with heights but I knew this was a once in a life time opportunity I had to take. They loaded us into a truck and drove us up a huge hill where the first platform was. I was definitely nervous but Ryan wasn’t at all so I forced myself to suck it up. As we got out of the truck and started to climb up the steps to the platform, I realized what I was getting myself into and almost fainted. This platform was built into the very top of a huge redwood tree and it was SWAYING. The platform was SWAYING. I was told it was designed to do that, “You want it to move” they said. “I do NOT want it to move” , I said. But it was too late, I had to do this. Ryan went first which gave me a little bit more confidence and also I was not going to be stuck up there alone, so I was committed to getting down to the bottom as quickly as I could. The instructor told me to hold on tight and reminded me where to put my hands and with that he said, “see you down there!”.
With all that anxiety leading up to it, I couldn’t believe that the minute I was airborne all of my fear was gone. The view as I descended from the top of this redwood through the trees and looking out over the vineyards, words just cant even describe. Of course all I needed was to rip the band-aid off and take that first ride and then every other platform was a breeze for me and so exhilarating. We got to the bottom and we were both on a high, it was such an amazing experience. However, I also quickly told Ryan there was no way I would ever go up that high again… but I was still glad I did it.
We ultimately spent a year living there in California before moving back home and we were able to do the cross country trip all over again, this time taking a different route. My favorite stops on the way home were Palm Springs,CA (where we experienced a farewell earthquake overnight,1 of 3 earthquakes we encountered during our year in California), Phoenix, AZ (where we stopped and spent the night with some friends from Philly who had moved there) and Nashville, TN (which was one of the most fun nights I have experienced – ever.)
It was such a life changing journey from the moment we left Philly to the moment we returned. Since then I have said time and time again that if you have the chance to do it, I think everyone should take a cross country trip at least once in their lifetime. And also if you ever have the chance to move to somewhere completely different from all you have ever known, even if just for a short stay, it is an incredibly invaluable experience too.
This is what travel is all about, stepping outside of all you have ever known to see, taste, and experience a new place, ultimately gifting you a new perspective of life with each and every trip.
Below are links to aerial views of the places with the best views (in my opinion!) along our cross country drive and also some links to our favorite places that we visited while in California.