Tokyo Bound // Notes on solo travel

tokyoheaderSMWith each passing year of my life I’ve started to push the margins of my independence a little further. The first big push being when I uprooted myself from everything I knew at 23 and relocated across the country to Seattle. Alone. I knew one person, but he also happened to be the person whose apartment I’d be subletting while he studied in Germany (Hey, Finis!).

To familiarize myself with my new city, I began using Saturdays as an opportunity to explore new neighborhoods. I’d start with a vague idea of what area I’d like to see next, a plan of how to get there on the bus, and maybe one or two spots that I’d read about beforehand that struck my interest. Spoiler alert: more often than not, these places revolved around extravagant looking, waffle-heavy brunch menus and places promising pour-overs made with locally roasted, single-origin coffee. Judge me.

I quickly became comfortable navigating to and around the different areas — always expecting to get semi-lost at least once, and often finding a thrill in it. Meals alone felt like a spiritual time when I could bury my face in a dish that was lifting my spirits to the moon, and could even let a tear roll down my face if it was warranted. I began to stop caring about what people thought about “the girl who talked WAY too much to the barista and is now sipping a cold brew alone” and began caring more about the experience in Seattle that I was creating for myself. I’m a year and a half in now, and while I do have friends that I frequently brunch with, I still bask in the moments when I have a two-top for one and a whole day of discoveries ahead of me.

Some people find it thrilling to shop on Black Friday, or to try things like the KFC double down. I find it thrilling to redefine my comfort zone, so the next natural step in that process to me seems obvious: it’s time for solo travel. While my dad’s hesitations to this idea are rooted (deep) in the world of Liam Neeson’s, “TAKEN”, my expectations are completely wrapped up in the thought of waking up when I please in a city that is completely foreign to anything I’ve ever known with an itinerary that can be anything I want it to be.

The destination: Japan. For two weeks I’ll be chassé-ing around Tokyo — and a few other cities in on the island — on my time. While the majority of people I know who have been there before are encouraging me to fill my schedule to the brim with this attraction and the other, I plan on shaping my days around what I want to eat next and if I feel like spending 3 hours in a park spinning under the trees that are exploding with cherry blossoms. I want to use this trip as an opportunity to gain some insight and perspective on what I want right now in my life. Then again, I also want to use this trip as an opportunity to go to Disney World.

I want to leave Japan with an experience that I have curated, and not one that was dictated to me by travel guides and touristy checklists. I want to explore Tokyo the same way I explored Seattle — spending time in both the popular parts of town, and in the quiet neighborhoods that aren’t always explored by outsiders. I want to find the intimidatingly authentic noodle shops and the picturesque, traditional homes with manicured gardens, as well as pay visits to the famous museums and renowned works of architecture. I want to feel like I saw a side of Japan that I wouldn’t have seen without my brand of curiosity.

I know the idea of solo travel is daunting for some people, and to some it’s even downright terrifying. For me? It’s the next step into becoming the person I want to be.*

*That “person” is also one-step closer to becoming Anthony Bourdain’s successor than I am at this moment.

I’ll be writing some posts on trip planning and preparation in the days leading up to my departure. My plane takes off on March 30, and from that point on — for the next two weeks — you can expect photos and ramen-centric updates to flood my feed.

Looking forward to sharing this experience!

header photo by Alyssa Mcelheny

 

Thursday

Thursday

 
 
What a week it is been. As you may have gathered from my lack of posts–it’s been incredibly busy. Between jobs and packing up my house and preparing for upcoming trips I haven’t had a whole lot of time to take a breather, let alone take my camera out for an adventure.
 
I’m incredibly grateful for these times in my life because they are when magic happens. In the midst of the buzz and the quick conversations and iphone calendar reminders and the meetings that feel like client speed dating…things start to happen. Pieces come together that have been in limbo until now and you start to realize how working hard is going to start paying off.
 
Leaps of faith and dreams and things are more than just the initial jump, but the journey before and after them. Leaps of faith are what keep life exciting, and no matter how scary they may seem at the time–remember that whether succeed or fail they will be worth it in the long run.
 
Hopefully I’ll have some more exciting photos for you all soon! Cincinnati next weekend, the beach next month, europe, and..other things on the horizon. Things are about to get real interesting.
 
 
Speak to you soon!
 
 
x

Head East | Weekend in the Appalachian Mtns

headeast WV45 WV29WV21 WV53  WV56 WV50WV39 WV24 WV19 WV44 WV34WV47 WV33WV41WV32 WV55For three days last weekend I was on a mountain high. Two of my best friends and I loaded up and drove to their family cabin in West Virginia to spend some time hiking, laughing way too hard and exploring the best ways we knew how. Trail after trail took us on winding routes where we got to be close with lots of wildflowers and lots of deer. The views from the top of the mountains we climbed, though they were hard to get to, were always well worth it. The earth is a breathtaking place, and sometimes I forget that.

The area we were in was the northeastern part of West Virginia, right in the thick of the Monongahela National Forest.  The hills were covered in lush, aromatic spruce trees that seemed to go on forever and in the mornings they stayed tucked under thick blankets of heather gray fog. There was so much to do within an hour of the cabin so here’s a little guide in case you’re up for some adventuring as well:

SENECA ROCKS
-Hiking, rock climbing and repelling are just a few things that you can do at this nationally renowned park. The hike up the mountain isn’t terribly hard, but it’s 1000ft of elevation that you’ll definitely be feeling in your thighs when you get to the top. Good news: even though you’ll be exhausted you can rejuvenate on the observation platform and chow down on a peanut butter CLIF bar (there’s a snack cart at the top). If you’re interested in climbing or repelling on the flat faced rocks, there are lots of instruction classes around and guided excursions as well. Seneca Caverns (all the cave photos above) isn’t far away and was so cool as well!

SPRUCE KNOB
-AKA The highest point in West Virginia. There are a lot of trails that vary in length around the mountain  (many of them with an abundance of wildlife running about) as well as one that goes to the top. When you reach it there’s an observation tower with a killer view, and if you explore around the peak of the mountain you’ll discover the coolest boulder garden that would be great for camping or just to stop and soak everything in.  There are plenty of other lower areas for picnicing and grilling as well.

CANAAN VALLEY
Blackwater Falls should be the first stop of your day. There are some trails on the grounds of the park, or you can just take the stairs down to view the falls.
-Get back in the car and drive about 20 minutes and you’ll arrive at Canaan Valley Resort State Park. In the winter it’s a ski resort, but in the summer it’s teeming with outdoorsy people who want to take the lifts up the mountain to the trails. We hiked the Bald Knob trail which was a 2.5 mile trek that took us through the most perfect forest I’ve ever been in and then opened up to the top of a mountain with breathtaking views. (We saw so many deer during our hike, it was crazy). I’d definitely like to return to this part of WV for some snow tubing and skiing.
-Don’t forget to stop off in some of the quaint towns that line your drive to Canaan Valley! We didn’t have a lot of time, otherwise I would’ve been all over their many antique stores and restaurants boasting home cooking (aka my weakness).

This guide is far from being complete, but it should be enough to get your wheels turning. GO somewhere. Explore more, ya’ll.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Charleston SC to indulge in coffee, southern cuisine and sunshine. I’ll be there through the weekend so be on the lookout for some beautiful instagrams! Follow me at @lacunningham

If you’re interested in seeing more of my photos from the trip feel free to take a jump over to my Flikr page (click on the About tab at the top of this page)

Thank you guys for reading/looking and being wonderful!

 

Speak to you soon!

x

Segovia | Spain Travel Diary

Segovia | Spain Diary, via Red Lips Tortilla Chipsscathedral sidestreet portrait1 fans ceiling2 door aqueduct portrait2 cookies1 baskets austriantile house hapsburg courtyard sweets walls elalcazar chocolates portrait3 cathedral facade cityscape window town aqueduct2 castle cookies2 segoviaMy trip to Spain was rich with history. Since we were on a guided tour of the country, we had the opportunity to see many buildings that were important in forming Spain as we know it today.

On the third day of the trip we made our way to  El Escorial just outside of Madrid (no photos were allowed, but you can see it here) and then we made our venture to Segovia where we would be seeing El Alcazar. Both sites were from the age of the Hapsburgs (Austrian) ruling Spain; they were the kind of buildings that make you silent because your eyes are too busy tracing the details from floor to ceiling and your mind is making a lofty effort to soak it all in.

Sometimes I skip the more touristy sites because I want to feel like I’ve genuinely experienced a place and not just gotten caught up in its sites. However, within the last two weeks I have gotten to explore some breathtaking places. Architecture tells stories that we get to feel a part of, even if it’s only for a 45 minute tour. In those instances, I find myself feeling introspective about the things the walls surrounding me have seen and heard; about the things I’ve read in texts books that happened so long ago in the same space I am getting to experience.

I highly recommend adding both places to your trip itinerary.  Segovia is an ancient Romanesque city (declared a world heritage site) that is worth spending an entire day in to window shop down the alleyways and treat yourself to some Spanish cookies (they have so many good ones). You may also want to see the Roman Aqueduct, the Cathedral and the many plazas framed by restaurants serving authentic Castilian cuisine.

Tomorrow: Burgos and Spanish food

 

Speak to you soon!

 

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Upcoming Travels

spain4 spain3 spain7 spain8spain13  spain10 spain1spain6 spain2 spain9  spain5 spain11spain12  espanaIt doesn’t take long after one adventure until I am ready for the next. Whether it be transatlantic, across the country, or an hour away I’m always looking forward to seeing what else is going on in the world. This time that intrigue is taking me to Spain.

I think if I had to sum up my excitement in a few words I would choose: churros, churros, churros, wine, churros.

(Just kidding. Sort of.)

I’ll be traveling around the northern half of the country. Naturally I’ve already started to read all of the city guides I can find in hopes of being aware of the best markets to get authentic food and the best parks to spend an afternoon in.

I’m really excited for how many cities I’ll be getting to visit, there is so much to be excited about: architecture, the language, the views, the culture, the paella, the music, the locals, the romance, the churros…did I say that already?

I can’t wait to bring you along. The countdown has started.

 

Speak to you all soon!

 

x

 

*all photos were found on Pinterest, graphics by Lauren Cunningham

LA Photo Diary: All Over the Place

BLA28 BLA30 LA9 BLA17 BLA27 BLA3 BLA25 BLA7 BLA20 BLA18 BLA24B BLA2 BLA23 BLA15 BLA26 LOSA18 BLA29 BLA21 BLA19B LAB

Sandwich at Mendocino Farms, Authentic French antiques at Vintage Weave, Party put on by Nasty Gal

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”

Roman Payne, Cities and Countries.

Los Angeles embraced me with open arms. I don’t know if it was the sunshine or the never fading smell of donuts and wild ambition, but I definitely felt the energy there.

Investigating the streets around our hotel was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I think that’s the best way to travel sometimes–ignoring the agenda and just wandering. That’s how you discover a city’s secrets, and those secrets will be the parts of the adventure that you remember most vividly. They’ll be your personal opinion of the city, and not someone else’s.

Travel Rules #1: No matter how aimless it may seem, never be afraid to just explore. Be there.

Speak to you soon!

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