Looking back: my first year in L.A.

one year in L.A.

We woke up in the canyons of Utah, braved 115-degree dry heat in Vegas, and paid nearly five dollars a gallon for the last leg of the trip. It was a Thursday, and it was L.A. or bust.

John and I arrived in Los Angeles one year ago Friday. We’d been on the road for 10 days, driving through small towns, big cities and vast deserts. We saw a lot of incredible things, but the most vivid memory of all was when we crossed into L.A. County. The highway was wide, the mountains were high and the setting sun gave it all a dreamy, hazy glow. We had made it. This was “home.”

driving into L.A.

Adjusting to our new surroundings wasn’t easy. Within the first day, we had a stinky iPhone full of air freshener juice and a ticket for talking on said phone as welcoming souvenirs. Thankfully, we had a place to stay, but finding an apartment was frustrating and difficult. Our bank accounts took major blows, jobs were scarce and grad school was looming. It was a lot to deal with at once.

Santa Monica beachcity-smog-2 trails-2

The first year certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has been amazing. I’ve had the chance to meet some extraordinary people working as a journalist and have taken the time to explore the Golden State with short road trips and camping adventures. I’ve woken up in a tent on the beach to see seals frolicking in the ocean, I’ve interviewed rock stars and activists and politicians, I’ve made a ton of new friends at school and through the blogging community, and I’ve had my best friend and partner next to me every step of the way. Being on this adventure with John has made the difficult times easier to deal with and the celebratory times even sweeter.

kisses-2 venice-canals-2 hills

And what’s not to love about L.A.? You could look at the negatives, and a lot of people choose to. I’ve encountered many of them myself, but the good has far outweighed the bad. Los Angeles is such a diverse city, both culturally and geologically, and that has made for so many new-to-me experiences. I needed a culture shock. I needed to step out of my comfort zone. And I needed to live in a city full of opportunities to make me realize just how many are open to me if I go after them.

cassie-walking

So thanks, Los Angeles, for giving me the biggest thrill of my life. Thanks for making me work for it and for letting me reap the rewards. Whether I stay another year, five years or a lifetime, I’ll always look back on the first 12 months as a game-changer.

Happy anniversary, Los Angeles.

 

Summer Road Trip Series: from Detroit to San Diego

I remember the surreal feeling I got every time I told someone I was moving to California.

It’s something you need to keep repeating to remind yourself that it’s real, especially when you’re moving all the way across the country to do it.

That’s why Sarah of XO Sarah fame’s recent move to San Diego was so exciting to read about during the process. It brought me back to the rush of anticipation I felt for so long before my own big move.

To continue on with the Summer Road Trip Series (here’s part one), Sarah tells us about the big move she made last month to San Diego all the way from Detroit—more than 2,300 miles!

roadtrip2

THE INSPIRATION

“This road trip was a quickie! Four days in the car, blasting our way across the states as I moved from Detroit to San Diego. My friend Beth and my rat terrier, Slayer, came along for the ride in my tiny Scion.

Since we were trying arrive in San Diego at a certain time, most of the scenic photos were actually taken out the car window, flying 80 mph down the highway. Detroit to Omaha was fairly uneventful, outside of some killer enchiladas, a hail storm (thanks Michigan!), and massive wind turbine blades being hauled down the highway every hour or so. It was mostly farms and cows and quiet, which we happily disrupted with an Ace of Base Pandora station.”

XO Sarah

xosarah-route

THE HIGHLIGHTS

“In Denver we downed giant salads and met up with Beth’s friend who gave both of us dead-on tarot car readings over beers in the back of a dive bar. The next day we stopped a couple hours into the Rockies to cool off in Grizzly Creek and listened to old-timey bluegrass, which seemed perfect for the scenery.

Driving through the canyons in Utah was my favorite part of the trip. People use the word amazing a lot, but for this it is completely appropriate. I had never seen anything so big and empty.

On the creepy pitch-black drive into Vegas, Beth told me alien abduction stories and we were stunned by the sea of glitter that poured out of the mountains upon our arrival. Vegas from the ground is much more spectacular than Vegas from the air.

I drove the last five-hour leg to San Diego alone (Beth flew home from Vegas) and was drawn to the parched, vacant vastness of the desert more than I expected. Growing up in Michigan there are trees and grass and people everywhere – in the desert from Nevada to California there is nothing but sand and heat and I loved it.”

roadtrip7

roadtrip6

roadtrip11

THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“Now that I’m in California I’d love to road trip straight up the coast to Seattle. I’ve always wanted to see the redwoods, take a photo in front of the Full House house in San Francisco, kill my sugar craving with VooDoo donuts in Portland, and visit Pike Place Market and the Space Needle in Seattle. I’m also planning, now that I have my passport (only took me 29 years!), to get further out of the country than Canada at some point soon!”

roadtrip13

Sarah’s Blog // Twitter // Instagram

Live it up in San Diego, Sarah!

This time next week, I’ll have another cross-country trip to share. But this trip is taking the southern route.

 

Summer Road Trip Series: from Big Sur to Seattle

Summer Road Trip series

The Great American Road Trip was the stuff of my dreams in high school.

When we were teenagers, my best girlfriends and I used to fantasize about taking a Volkswagen bus (the color of which was negotiable) across the country all the way to sunny California. We didn’t talk about what we’d do once we got there—the trip itself would be adventure enough, possessing the same aesthetic as a Free People catalog.

When I finally did take that epic road trip from Baltimore to Los Angeles, the circumstances were a bit different (moving with the boyfriend, headed for grad school, with no way of justifying $80 Free People jean shorts), but the trip was no less magical than I’d dreamed up years before. Driving through the mountains, the plains and the desert all the way to the coast was satisfyingly surreal.

Almost just as surreal as that life-changing trip was then is the fact that it happened a year ago this month.

An anniversary like that can’t go unacknowledged. So I invited a few talented and adventurous friends to share their travel stories for a Summer Road Trip Series. Once a week over the next few weeks, I’ll introduce you to a bold traveler who will tell you all about their road trip—destination anywhere—in their own words and, of course, through their photos. And what better time to start than on the Fourth of July?

Kicking off the series, meet David of Death to the Stock Photo (a site some of my blogger friends might recognize… I’ve used it for gorgeous, free photos!). He traveled more than a thousand miles along the West Coast and saw some beautiful sights along the way.

In David’s own words:

“We started in San Francisco renting a car and driving it down the coast to Big Sur. From there we traveled around the area, then back to San Francisco and up to Seattle. We went north of Seattle about an hour to Deception Pass for camping.”

Big Sur

Big Sur to Seattle

THE INSPIRATION

“The purpose of the trip was that we had crowdfunded it to create really quality imagery for designers and bloggers to use in their work. So each location was filled with shooting everything we saw that inspired us and sharing it with the backers who had been following along.”

coast

David bridge

THE HIGHLIGHTS

“Catching sunset at the Bixby Bridge was incredible. The contrast of all of the elements from the hills to the rocks to the water was incredible and we got to share it with some other people who had been waiting there for the sun to go down. At the end of that night we went to these really private hot springs that only open from midnight to 2 a.m. at a place called The Esalen Institute. The hot springs were under an amazing night sky full of stars and the hot water and crashing waves below were incredibly relaxing.”

Bixby Bridge

overlook

THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I really want to go to Iceland to explore around and see the Northern Lights. There’s a promo called Iceland Airwaves which is tickets to a music festival, hotel, and plane ticket for under a thousand dollars because they’re trying to promote tourism. I’d love to explore that landscape and capture it with my camera. Thailand has always been a place calling my name, as well.”

DavidDavid on Twitter // Instagram // Facebook

I hope David takes that trip to Iceland soon so I can swoon over the photos.

Where is the Summer Road Trip Series headed next? I’ll give you a hint next week, and you can see if your guess is right next Friday for part two.

 

Through the Lens: photos from June

guitar pedals

Once again, another month has flown by, but July marks a special anniversary for me.

In mid-July of last year, John and I hit the road for an epic cross-country road trip. We were headed West by way of the suburbs of Baltimore.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost a year now, which is surreal to say. It seems like just yesterday we were crashing at a family friend’s house scouring Craigslist and Padmapper and Zillow and every other rental site you can think of for a place to call home. We’ve come a long way since then.

But before I get all nostalgic for last year’s big adventure, let’s take one last parting look at June’s adventures.

amp Angel City brewery

John played a couple of gigs, and I even joined him on background vocals for a few songs. We met some awesome people those nights.

LA Zoo El 7 Mares laundromat Silver Lake hills

I got to check out the L.A. Zoo, discovered my new favorite fish taco stand in Silver Lake, peeked into windows and dreamed about the houses in the hills.

This month’s highlight was a road trip to Big Bear Lake, just a couple hours east of L.A.

Big Bear Lake mountains

Big Bear was incredible. We camped there for the weekend and found the perfect site in Hanna Flats campground. The weather was perfect—crisp air and insanely blue skies. The highlight of the trip might’ve been the drive itself. As we climbed up more than 7,000 feet, we rose above a thick bed of clouds. I felt so small in the best possible way up in those mountains.

above the clouds Big Bear Big Bear trees Big Bear Lake Big Bear camping campsite Big Bear Lake burnt trees golden hour Cassie & John

Every time we go on a new adventure like this mini road trip and our last trip to Joshua Tree, I’m reminded of last summer and how I explored so many new-to-me parts of the country for the first time. I plan to always make that kind of adventure a regular part of my life. Being on the road and seeing how insanely different the landscape can be in just a couple hours’ drive blows my mind every time I get out there. I think that mind-blowing factor is good exercise for the brain.

For my fellow road trip enthusiasts out there, I’ve got something special planned for July that I think you’ll enjoy.

I’ve reached out to a handful of travel and photography enthusiasts who are going to be sharing their adventures in a summer road trip series, which will kick off this Friday (the Fourth of July!) and last throughout July—possibly longer. Because you can’t romanticize the Great American Road Trip enough.

So keep an eye out for that this week and join me in welcoming July! What are you looking forward to this month?

My favorite L.A. Instagrammers

Before I had Instagram, I was kind of snobby about Instagram.

I thought it was just a bunch of heavy-handed filters and pictures of coffee. Little did I know there were puppies, selfies… and downright awe-inspiring photos, too.

Now, of course, I’m in love with the medium. Some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow are the ones dedicated to documenting life in Los Angeles, so I’m here to share with you my favorite L.A. Instagrammers. These folks rarely if ever post photos of coffee. (Though—spoiler alert—one does feature dogs exclusively.) Instead, they capture the essence of a California Dreamin’ editorial, whether by snapping photos of a mural under a freeway bridge or of the marine layer coming in from the coast. I also love them for their distinct personalities. Funny how that comes through, even though they’re rarely in front of the camera.

Check ’em out & click the photos to go to their photostream:

@kylieturley

Though based in the city, Kylie spends a lot of time traveling the coast, which makes following this triplet’s account feel like you’re on a road trip with her and her sisters. Speaking of which, I wonder if they have room in the car for a pseudo fourth sister. ‘Cause they look like they’re having too much fun for three people.

@missjulie

Julie’s eye for a well-balanced photo is always spot-on. I love how she uses the rule of thirds and breaks the rule of thirds. Despite all of the vibrant color in her photos, there’s still a strong sense of minimalism about them that is perfection.

@streetasart

Here’s that nitty-gritty, artsy L.A. we all love. This photographer sees the beauty everywhere, whether it be huge building murals or guerilla-style sidewalk graffiti. It goes to show just how much this city is buzzing with creativity.

@plainivory

Every photo Alex posts makes me do a double-take. They depict life in downtown Los Angeles in a not-so-square format with awesome perspectives and subtle filters. This is someone I’d really like to take a walking (and Instagramming!) tour with.

@ruffcutzdtla

I promised dogs, and here they are in abundance. Enrique gave up his corporate IT job to become a professional dog walker, and he documents every excursion. (I wonder if the dogs know how lucky they are to visit Griffith Park all the time?!) Enrique’s photos were the most difficult to pick favorites from, because every snapshot he takes captures the dogs so perfectly.

@slvrlyt

Is it possible for a bike to have a personality? Because I feel like David’s bikes do. An avid cyclist, his entire photostream is dedicated to posing his bikes in creative spots that are just so L.A. Not only do they have personality—but those bikes are damn photogenic, too.

@elinvanatta

Elin’s photos remind me of the classic L.A. images that would always make me yearn to move here before I finally did. They have a total care-free, adventurous and dreamy vibe that I’ve always found appealing. (Who wouldn’t?) When we get a glimpse of Elin herself, she’s always smiling and freaking adorable.

One can never follow too many awesome Instagram accounts. What are your favorites?

 

@wittycassiehere Instagram