Friends Like These.

Before leaving Ireland I didn’t think too much about finding friends in California. Being more on the more introverted end of the spectrum I did worry about it a little about it but overall I thought it would just work itself out. I planned on joining a team or something like that if things were getting tough. Like most realities it was both easier and harder to make friends here than I expected.

M & R are our first real ‘couple friends’ which makes me feel pretty old but also old enough not to care because I have decided couple friends are the best! We couldn’t have asked for better friends to hike, cycle, eat, drink, hang out and solve the worlds’ problems with. We also managed to live with them for almost a week and remain friends which is seriously saying something! Ha! 

We took these photos on our last hike before M+R left for Ireland. We had been meaning to head to Bolinas for a long time and it seemed like a opportune way to mark the occasion. We hiked to Alamere falls, a stunning waterfall that flows right onto a beach. The only way to access the beach is to hike a four mile trail and then climb down a rocky cliff onto the beach. It was so incredibly beautiful—I cannot wait to go again. 

I’m not sure what this year would have been like without friends like these two. I think we have all grown and learned and stretched during some intense debates and seriously steep inclines. It’s been two weeks since M + R left for home and we really miss them. I can’t wait to see where we all end up next. 

On Living Abroad (and 5 travel instagrammers worth following).

It took me a long time to fall in love with California.

When I was working in the city I used to wander aimlessly on my lunch breaks wishing I were home, or at least somewhere friendlier and more familiar. I craved a semblance of community. I missed the squishy babies and their open mouthed slobbery kisses. I longed to call over to my siblings for dinner, to drop by my friends houses unannounced. I missed the ease of life at home, of knowing who was where and what was what. This new city left me feeling ill at ease. Some days it felt like I was buckling from the constant stimulation of finding my way and always having to introduce, explain and arrange. I’m an introvert and making friends is hard. Putting myself out there was hard. It still is hard. But it is right—putting myself out there is the only way I will grow. I know that and at times I really don’t like it but I knowledge is power my friends. 

While I didn’t fall in love with foggy San Francisco, somewhere between the mountains and the sea I discovered a new normal, a bold wilderness that I have learned to love with all my heart. We made some friends. We bonded over idealistic obnoxious twenty-something ideals. We solved the worlds problems and shook our heads at the current state of affairs. We laughed as we hiked through forests, over mountains and down to the sea. As my muscles stretched and grew so did my appreciation for this place where we live. 

I still miss the squishy babies and I wish I could drop by my friends houses and have dinners with my siblings. I could never imagine life without them and yet that’s what the past nine months have been. We have created a life here. That fact gives me a real sense of pride. Pushing the boundaries on what I thought was possible and what I thought I could achieve has been one of the best parts of this past year. 

For the first six months living here I just wanted to go home. Every time we hit a stumbling block it would be my first retort, my final cry, my broken record. But little by little—deep in shady forests, on golden sandy beaches, and in a warm-hearted, nurturing work studio—I found that I was no longer simply surviving. In the abstract, I never thought I would ever move to another country (let alone the other side of the world!), that we could get the kind of jobs we have or do the kind things that we are doing. The reality that we are indeed doing all those things blows my mind every day. What does that mean for the next year? Or the year after? 

It's getting increasingly harder to imagine leaving. We will do it and there will be a period of adjustment and it will be hard but good. All things worth doing are so. 

One thing I have learned this year is that home is not a place but a state of being. We are more fluid than we think and much more adept for change than I ever thought possible. Who knows what’s going to come next. 

I would love to know about your adventures. What have you got planned for this summer or the coming months? If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be? Have you ever thought about living abroad?

If you’re interested in getting the travel bug (or some serious insta-envy) here are some people worth a follow:

  • Our friends Ashling & Paul are spending the next three months travelling around South America. 
  • As is a sweet girl from my college Emily and her boyfriend (they travelled around the world a couple of years ago—her instagram is one of my favourites!). 
  • Another college friend, Fiona, is living in New York and her photos are truly stunning. 
  • My sister-not-in-law Nadia is constantly jetting off some place new—check her out. 
  • Courtney Adamo’s instagram is one of my very favourites (pretty much the definition of #lifegoals for me). She and her husband and their four children are spending the next year travelling around the world—I can’t wait to see what is in store for them. 

Grand Canyon National Park

This past month has flew in. Where has June gone? It’s already July tomorrow! Crazy-town. Please bear with me while I play a little catch up…normal service may or may not resume soon. I can’t make any promises. 

We got up early, grabbed breakfast and headed into the longest stretch of our road trip bound for the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon has been top of my to-do list for such a long time so I was especially excited for this stop-off. We were almost at the north-rim when we pulled off the free-way for petrol and a much needed leg stretch when we noticed a very large and imposing sign stating that the Grand Canyon North Rim was Closed until May 15. It was the 12th. We laughed, half horrified and half devastated. After some questionably sweet baked goods and the promise that the South Rim was “only around four hours away” we set back off on the road. We chatted, ate, listened to podcasts—spotted some tumble weed!!—snoozed and eventually arrived at the South Rim, tired and stiff. 

Holy shit. The Grand Canyon is seriously, well, grand. It was too much for my eyes to comprehend. We didn’t take many photographs because it didn’t feel like there was a point. You cannot capture this stuff on film (actual or metaphorical) because it’s just that big. The tiny snaking shoelace of a river is actually a raging waterway up close. Minor divots and cracks are actually sheer ravines and gaping huge caverns.

We didn’t hike or spend a huge amount of time at The Grand Canyon. We didn’t have time as there was another four hours of road between us and our flight back to Oakland. Dinner consisted of crisps and subway in the car while driving, which was quite an apt way to end a few days of truly terrible eating. (Rural Utah, you have excellent nature but terrible restaurants.) 

In short, The Grand Canyon was beautiful. You really should go, put it on your list and make your way there. No amount of google-image searching, pretty blog stalking or pinterest planning can do places like this justice. Nature like this needs to be experienced to be appreciated. 

We’ve got less than five months left on this side of the world and you can bet we’ve got a boat-load of adventures up our sleeves. Just you wait! 

Bryce Canyon National Park

After our hike in Zion we loaded our tired and sweaty bodies into the car and drove (or, in the girls’ case were driven) to Bryce Canyon. By the time we arrived it was dark and we checked into our motel, drove across the road to the only restaurant to eat and then crashed early. We were so tired. Bryce Canyon National Park is pretty unassuming on approach. It looks kind of like a sparse forest crossed with scrub land. There are deer hanging around and warning signs for moose (which we didn’t see, bummer!). We drove in a little deeper, parked and hopped out to take in the view. And wow. What a view. Bryce Canyon is, as the name suggests, a canyon. This means that it’s kind of like one of nature’s little secrets; you cannot see any of its vast beauty from the road. 

I captioned my instagram with something along the lines of ‘Bryce Canyon is the fakest looking real thing I have ever seen’ and that pretty much sums up my experience of this natural wonder. It looks like mars. It looks like those little sand people you make on the beach when you’re bored. It looks like a cartoon. It looks magical, beautiful, wonderful, unreal. Incredibly unreal. These photos are still captivate to me even though I’ve looked through them a hundred times already. 

Our legs hurt like hell and the hike—though much easier than Angel’s Landing—felt really tough to me. We walked and took photos and walked and stopped to eat apples and drink in the wonder of all this orange rock.

How is this real? Get yourself there. Your eyes need to see this. 


Zion National Park

Zion National Park is the most beautiful place I have ever been. It took my breath away literally and figuratively. We chose one of the most strenuous trails—Angel’s Landing—on one of the hottest days. Countless switchbacks on the way up to Scout Lookout forced me to stop and pause for air and water, and to drink in that incredible view. The challenging conditions made reaching the peak all the more satisfying. 

Angel’s Landing is a five mile trail that beings with a series of steep switchbacks (with a 1488 foot gain in elevation!) and ends with a narrow single-file steep cliff-like walk with chains to hold on to, a 1200 foot drop on one side and 800 foot drop on the other. We were all pretty positive about doing the trail but secretly each of us had reservations and none believed that we would actually complete it. The funny thing is that once we got going I didn’t really feel afraid. While actually on this section of the trail I was so focussed on putting one foot in front of the other, maintaining the all important three points of contact (which according to Rich guarantees you will not fall) and manoeuvring around the tide of people coming back down the trail (it’s a single file system with two lanes of traffic…not ideal at points!) that I didn’t have any brain space left for fear. When we paused to admire the view, take photos or look out over the edge I began to feel a little freaked out but all in all my own bravery kind of took me by surprise. 

We hung out on the final landing for a little while , recorded some videos for our families and took a ton of photographs. It’s hard to capture just how high up we were, it was hard to even comprehend it when we were there! I’ll never forget this day, it was hot and scary and such a challenge. 

This is the view from Scout’s Lookout—the trail to Angel’s Landing is just ahead, up over the first orange-y peak and then onto the green one in the centre of the frame. It doesn’t look too impressive in this shot but believe me…it was insane.

These little chipmunks were running around everywhere. They are clearly used to hanging out around humans because they scrambled right up to us while we were eating our lunch, awaiting errant crumbs no doubt. 

This is the top of the landing. It was a busy day and the trail was packed. Hiking in America is a very different experience than hiking in Ireland. People tend to keep to themselves and it’s rare for people to greet each other or exchange pleasantries as they pass. It’s kind of sad considering how we were all experiencing this incredible thing together, but not really together. I’ve come to appreciate just how special the community spirit we have back home is. 

That was a pretty scary moment. The shuttle buses look like little ants they’re so far below. 

This photo makes my heart explode. This year has been the highest and the boldest and the hardest and the most full. Moments like this kind of push it over the edge. 

Look at this adventurer. I love him and how he convinces me I can do these insane things. Yay for more adventures and roadtrips and everything in between. To do this all together is such a treat. 

How is this real life? Seriously?! This world is awe inspiring. 

When we got to the bottom of the trail we waded into the river to cool off. It’s hard to comprehend that this now narrow, shallow river was once large enough to carve the enormous valley. 

There are so many trails and vistas left to explore, I hope we can make it back to Zion again sometime. If you have the chance to visit Zion, go. You could never regret it.