an open letter to the girl i hope i remember to be more often.

Hey girl,

I know the kind of image that danced through your mind when you found yourself here today. I know the hotel room and the rooftop infinity pool and the velvety warm air and the palm trees silhouetted against a pink sunset sky sent you right into that hopeless romantic mindset of yours, and I know you were thinking how this didn’t look like a place you experienced by yourself. I know this is the kind of place that is supposed to sweep you off your feet and wrap you up in the romanticism that is so easily found in a tropical Miami night. This is a “table for two, please” kind of night, an evening so gorgeous it begs to be punctuated with good conversation, multiple margaritas, and probably salsa dancing – even if you don’t really know how to salsa dance, it’s just kind of part of the fantasy.

I know you recognized all of this when you walked into this hotel lobby today, solo. I know you were well aware of it all when you went up to the pool and took a seat, by yourself, at the end of the long row of empty pool chairs. I know it didn’t slip past you that you were laying there, watching the sky change colors as the sun melted away, alone. And as cute as all of those lovebird images were, you decided to smile at the idea of them and be completely okay with being half of that equation. You made the decision to live up each and every one of those moments, despite being there unaccompanied.

You unearthed that long, flowy skirt from the bottom of your suitcase, the one you packed just in case a moment like this one decided to strike. You lined your lips in your darkest of lipsticks, and brushed out your hair, and spritzed perfume on your wrists. You felt just fine sitting on that pool chair by yourself, the fabric of your skirt rolling in the soft breeze. In fact, when you relocated to the big bench swing that looked out over the ocean, you stretched out so you took up all the space and thought the bench to be much more comfortable when you didn’t have to share it. When you were looking up places to take yourself out to dinner, you made a mental note of how you got to make this decision completely for yourself. If you accidentally chose somewhere weird, in an awkward location, with crappy ceviche and an even worse wine list, you didn’t have to worry about disappointing anyone. It’s not like your palate is sophisticated enough to detect mediocre wine anyway, if we’re being honest.

As the night carried out, you walked along streets next to large bodies of water, with the perfect breeze, and the perfect amount of moonlight, and the perfect variety of lively mood music, in the perfect weather. The ceviche at dinner exceeded your expectations, and the espresso afterwards was even better. Instead of good conversation, you engaged in a good writing session and if anyone was looking at you weird for wining and dining yourself partnered only with your journal, you didn’t notice, and even if you had you wouldn’t have cared.

I’m proud of the girl you decided to be tonight. I hope you never forget how important self love is, and even though you’ve always been known to love at a bit of an intense capacity, I hope you always remember how much fun it can be to spend some of that love on yourself full throttle sometimes. You have plenty of time to hold your lover’s hand, to take them into consideration while making dinner plans, to scoot over on the bench swing to make room for them. But I challenge you to take yourself on more dates. Dress up for yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror, tell yourself you look beautiful, hold your own damn hand on the walk to dinner if you feel like it. (Seriously, it probably won’t even look that weird, everyone will just think you’re about to pray or something.) Watch how much greater your love for others can become when you have reserved a little bit of it for you, and only you. A lot of times girls think they have to have a counterpart by their side during a romantic evening in order to feel worth it, to feel beautiful, to feel taken care of. I don’t know when we stopped realizing that we can do all of that on our own, but tonight was living proof that it is so possible, and so necessary.

I’m proud of the girl you were tonight, and I hope you remember to be her more often.

Love, Yourself

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i went back to my first love, and i don’t regret it.

I want you to imagine the beauty that is New York City in the middle of September. Imagine looking down a city street, maybe not in the middle of Times Square, but perhaps in the middle of Brooklyn or the Upper West Side. A vacant street bordered with a sidewalk littered with leaves of reds, greens, golds, and oranges. Trees that aren’t yet naked, but have definitely started undressing. A sky so pale blue it’s threatening to break into a shade of gray, but it hasn’t. Not quite yet anyway. This is the kind of weather where you can still brave bare legs, but you should probably pull out those leather boots you’ve been missing in your closet since May.

September in New York City will always be one of my favorite things – right up there with coffee on Sunday mornings, or smoky scotch while sitting fireside, or belting out tone def versions of Shania Twain in the shower. So it’s no wonder I found myself in the middle of it to celebrate the very first day of fall. (Okay, so I didn’t plan that, but it happened that way and I thought it was pretty fricken commemerative.)

When I was younger, I used to travel around with no plans to places I’ve never been and while everything always worked out as I knew it would, there were a lot of scary moments. New York was my first series of scary moments, my first string of exhilirating adventures. I look back at that naïve little 19-year-old girl, and I miss her. I guess every time I come back to this city, a wave of nostalgia washes over me so thick I almost feel like her again. I remember my first night in the city, landing in LaGuardia Airport for the first time, not knowing a single thing about the city or anyone in the entire state. I remember lugging my two massive suitcases into a yellow cab, showing up to my very first old rickety model’s apartment, and walking into a room full of beautiful, tall, skinny girls whose eyes bore into me like lasers. (I’m happy to report they later became lifelong friends and are to this day some of most incredible people I know, but walking into that initially was terrifying. I may or may not have fallen asleep crying that night.)

I remember my first walk around the city to familiarize myself, when I pronounced Greenwich as “Green-wich” and Houston Street as “Hew-ston street” and being totally overwhelmed with the subway system. I remember walking up to fancy nightclubs and restaurants clad in heels and flashy outfits and dancing on couches at bottle service tables until 4am. Sometimes I have to do a double check and make sure I really did do that at a time, because homegirl can’t hang like that anymore, but that 19-year-old girl was really wrapped up in the glamour of NYC nightlife for a minute. Even after I got familiar, my tendency to act on a whim never stopped. I remember heading over to my best friend’s place like I did every day, except one morning I stopped into a Ricky’s Hair Shop in Union Square and bought a jar of Manic Panic purple hair dye on the way. I remember flipping my hair over in his bathtub and dousing my bleach blonde hair with the dye, just for the hell of it. I remember ditching the nightclub one night after 5am and not wanting to go home, and detouring to Central Park, strolling through and watching the sunrise in my little prostitutey outfit. (I was literally wearing fishnets and black eye shadow, in the middle of Central Park, at sunrise, while all the little overachievers were starting their morning jog. SO MANY SNEERS FROM GRANDMOTHERS, YOU GUYS!) And I remember walking to work one day in the middle of fall, kicking the bright leaves in my Ugg boots, sipping my little pumpkin spice latte, fully aware of how painfully basic I was and fully not giving a shit. I just remember looking at my surroundings and thinking, this is the most beautiful life ever. I felt like I was in a movie, like a rougher version of Carrie Bradshaw.

Life is so beautiful in the fall in New York that for a few brief moments, I can’t tell if I’m playing past memories in my head, or some cozy ass movie I remember from ABC Family.

This trip was no exception. Remember how I said I kind of missed the little girl who never made any plans before she did stuff? I flew to New York early in the morning without any plan as to what I was going to do when I landed, or where I was going to stay that night. I landed in New York, pulled up my Uber app, and typed “coffee” in the ending destination. It pulled up a few options, and I selected the cheapest one to get to in Manhattan.

The day consisted of multiple cappuccinos, shopping trips with girlfriends I haven’t seen in forever, buying fruit from fruit stands, and lugging my suitcase the whole freaking way. (Yes, I classically got stuck in the subway turnstiles trying to get my suitcase through it.) By the end of the day, I was laying my head down in Brooklyn in my friend’s beautiful apartment, snuggled up to her kitty. I mused about how much I miss living here and started toying with the idea of moving back, to which she responded, “Do it! Do it! Move in here!” (I’m not sure I’m actually going to do it, but I love how abundant the Universe can be.)

And then I got to wake up in beautiful Brooklyn, right back into that “most beautiful life ever” that I remember so vividly. And I got to take a walk in that picturesque fall setting I described in the beginning, all the way to the coffee shop for a clove latte from a local coffee house (cardinal rule guys: Starbucks is only used in an act of desperation.) And then I got to come back, open all the windows, crawl onto the fire escape and bask in the warm autumn sun with her cat, Junior Gong. Its moments like these that I am so blissfully in the present moment that I swear it counts as a few moments of meditation. (That’s all meditation is when it comes down to it anyway: thinking of nothing but staying in the present moment.) And just like old times, I curled my hair and put on my darkest of lipsticks and joined my beautiful friend to a party in a gorgeous studio space in Soho. I spent too much time standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and reveling in how content I was just being here amidst the sparkling lights that make up the skyscrapers across this place.

I left that night. I jumped onto a bus in midtown and went back to Philadelphia. I swear, my stays in New York from landing to taking off are so damn dramatic and romantic. I am always, always, always going to be desperately in love with this city. I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life making abrupt trips and colorful memories in this jungle, and I don’t think my heart will ever stop flying because of them.

Until next time, you filthy ass city.

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let’s start at the roots.

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog post. I’ve been spending hours in various coffee shops, apartments, airplane seats, and city sidewalks trying to write an “opener” post for this website, and I have about 18 drafts to show for it, none of which I like. It’s easy to write in the moment, but quite another to give myself a prompt – in this case, an introduction to a website that’s a little about travel, a little about lifestyle, a little about health, and beauty, and love, and spirituality, and coffee, and the world, and probably my cat Milo at some point – and gather all of it into some organized little article that makes sense and doesn’t sound forced or just put everyone to sleep.

I sat in a dimly-lit apartment and argued with myself that I couldn’t possibly write there because there was nothing inspiring about the place. I sat in a cozy coffee shop drinking peppermint tea during a raging thunderstorm and argued that it was too inspiring, that I couldn’t focus on writing a stupid introduction when all of my words were coming out in the form of a haiku. Everywhere I’ve been has been too noisy, too quiet, the lighting has been off, the vibe didn’t feel right, I was suffering from writer’s block, and ultimately each time just ended in me closing the laptop and pouring myself a glass of wine because screw it. It will come to me eventually.

I am fortunate enough to live a life rich in travel, experiences, and opportunities, but today I put it all on hold and flew back home to my roots – Golden, Colorado – and after all the places I’ve tried to write in, the words finally started to flow in none other than my dad’s beat-up pickup truck. Then I realized, duh. If you’re trying to write an introduction for something – like, I don’t know, a public diary of your life – go back to where your life started.

The morning started picture-esque as ever, shuffling into my parent’s kitchen in one of my old high school cheerleading T-shirts, a lopsided ponytail, and Christmas-themed slipper socks (even though it’s August) and pouring myself a cup of coffee. I could come downstairs at sunrise and both of my parents would still already be awake and halfway done with their day, I swear. On this particular morning, my dad announced that we were going to take a father-daughter trip to our family cabin in the mountains. At the sound of that, the coffee went from the mug into the to-go cup, the ugly slipper socks got switched for ugly slipper boots, and I was climbing into his truck with him and the family dog, Koda.

With all the new stuff I get to see on a regular basis, the state of Colorado still never ceases to amaze me. One of the greatest, most utterly unexplainable feelings in this world, is standing in the middle of something so big that it makes you feel microscopically small. I love feeling like my surroundings could swallow me up at any given moment. I love feeling my stomach drop when I look out over something so much bigger than anything I’ll ever know. From the time I got into that truck to the time I was crawling out of it, I was taken through a scenic experience of rolling hills, a thousand shades of green and blue and gray and gold, towering mountains that start off in the distance and soon surround you from every direction, rotting wood on old mines coming out from the side of the mountains, gaping bright blue skies with clouds so perfect they look as if they were painted into your real-life view right by Sir Bob Ross himself. I mean, I grew up here and I still stare at this place like a kid in a candy store.

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So we’re at the cabin. Naturally, I was back to my eight-year-old self, taking off my shoes and dangling my feet off the bridge over the river in the back. I picked up shiny rocks and played with bugs I thought were cool. I put the dog in the back of dad’s Arctic Cat and went off-roading over the rocky trails. When it started raining in the early afternoon, I galloped across the property to safety like that kid in 4th grade who made dinosaur noises at you in the hallways while they ran past you all heavy-footed and uncoordinated. (Hi, that kid was me.)

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On our way back down, my dad went to point out an old coal mine that now remains as a long, deep cave in the side of the rock. His only intention was to show me the gaping hole in the side of the mountain and move on, but you guys, it was a long, deep cave that used to be a coal mine. I crouched down and ran on in until I couldn’t see where I was stepping, and eventually my voice started echoing, and the air got cold and heavy, and the dim light on my phone wasn’t illuminating farther than I could step.

I figured I should probably turn around and come back when I had a flashlight to make sure my next footstep didn’t land me on a skeleton or a drop-off or a monster or something. I emerged from the cave, expecting my dad to lecture me about “being careful” but instead he was standing there with his camera, saying, “Hey, go take some pictures of the inside for me, will ya?” I told him yes, if he would snap a photo of me and Koda outside the cave before we ventured back in, and my sweet little old father took about fifteen photos on my phone before yelling, “Well, this button’s so darn small and it’s not making any noise, I don’t know if I’m taking any or not!” Good news. He was. Behold, Chuck’s photography.

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I could not stop thinking all day about how lucky I was to grow up here, surrounded by an essence that swallows me up from every direction, that constant reminder of how small I really am. I love Colorado, and I know it loves me back, because it taught me to realize exactly how much this world has to offer and provided so much inspiration to grow this little nomadic soul of mine from the beginning. I’m not sure that I would have the same appreciation for the world had I not grown up in place where natural beauty and inspiration lay themselves out without being beckoned or prompted. I had so many years to think, if this one space that I’m confined to doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all that’s out there, and it’s this great here, then…*mind explodes*. I think that so-small feeling I fell in love with diminished a lot of fear I would have otherwise had, and I just kind of started jumping into things without thinking about consequences.

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I started embarking on solo road trips all over the state, moving to tiny mountain towns, then to the biggest city in the country without knowing a single person in the entire state, bouncing from coast to coast with no guarantees on places to live or a secure job. I don’t even know how I wound up in a lot of situations I wound up in. I probably could have gotten myself killed a hundred times or so (but I do have a bad ass spiritual guide/guardian angel, so hats off to her.) I trusted people easily and I never made plans for my next move. The more something made my stomach do that dropping thing, the more I was into it. An adrenaline spike was more comfortable than sitting idly somewhere safe, where I probably would have been driven to insanity.

You know that saying how one day, your life is going to flash before your eyes, so you better make sure it’s worth watching? After so many years of making questionable decisions and having the most fun I could possibly have, I realized it would be a little ridiculous of me to stop that any time soon, since I still have a lot of life to watch later (hopefully). I chose an “adult job” to be one that allows me to travel, and I’m continuing to embark on these adventures that will make me feel limitless and tiny and just as deeply in love with the world as ever. I hope you guys enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy living them, and writing about them. And now I know, if I ever need a reboot of inspiration, Colorado is just the place to do it.

Or maybe I just need another cup of coffee. Or both.