Travel: Would you bring a photographer?


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Would you want to take a trip with a professional photographer if you could?

A year or so ago, I read about a travel company that curates trips and sends along a photographer to document it for you. El Camino Travel‘s idea is that you will have an “epic journey”—with a small group of fun people to someplace unique where you’ll meet inspiring local entrepreneurs—and you can put away your phone and your camera and rest assured that it will all be captured beautifully. “You focus on your journey. Let us document it.”

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I’ve been seeing some of the images recently on Instagram, from a trip they took to Nicaragua, and they’re indeed magazine-worthy!

But what do you think?

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Most of us like to have photos from our travels, and most of us like to share them with friends on Facebook or Instagram or whatnot—isn’t this just laying bare that impulse? The natural next step?

“Each group is accompanied by a talented photographer with a creative eye ready to capture the whole experience.”

I’m so curious about this. Do you forget he or she is there? How often are shots posed?

“The photographer will deliver 20+ compelling images every morning that you can immediately share with your social media.”

There’s something funny about that social media bit, right? (Okay, gut reaction: I thought it was crazy.) But is it just that it’s being honest and open about the desire to have good photos of oneself to share?

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For me, not doing the research for the trip sounds great. Having it planned, meeting new people, being assured we will be in beautiful places, putting the phone away, and being in the photos with Aron: these are all desirable things.

But it also made me think about why I like taking photos (and, yes, sharing them) on vacation. It’s a huge part of the travel experience for me. I’d miss it! I really enjoy looking at things as compositions—crowds, smiles, food, buildings, colors—and then trying to capture it with a camera. I think it helps me notice things I wouldn’t otherwise, and often reminds me to appreciate just how much around me is “photo-worthy” all the time.

Does it mean I’m less in the moment? Good question.

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It brought me to wonder: why do we take photographs? Why do you? How big of a role does social media play in the way you take pictures?

And finally—I think this is so interesting!—what do you think about this travel company’s premise? Would you like to have a photographer accompanying you on a trip if you could?

[Photos by El Camino Travel. All rights reserved.]

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How to order food in other languages (& Friday Links)


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I think I’ve landed on the essential trick for ordering really delicious, interesting food (that you’ll actually like) when you’re traveling someplace you don’t speak the language.

While we were in Mexico, Aron did the majority of the talking. His Spanish is getting really good! But menus are tough for non-native speakers. They can be so specific—the cut of the meat, the preparation of the salad. So if you’re a fairly adventurous eater, you shouldn’t learn how to say what you like; you should learn to say what you don’t like. Then you can ask the server for recommendations. We would say: “qué me recomienda?” And then you could maybe add the translation for “no spicy” or “no innards” or “no fish”… whatever the case may be for you!

It’s so much more fun than just picking out the one thing you recognize on the menu. (Quesadilla, anyone?)

By the way, thank you for the great responses to the Mexico City travelogue I shared earlier this week. I really enjoy looking back at them and I’m glad that you all seem to enjoy them even if they’re on the long side! It really was such a cool place.


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High Summer


wpid33811-Vermont-Hither-Thither-01.jpgWe’ve reached that point in the summer when free weekends seem scarce and friends are packing up for vacations—and it all seems to be going by too fast. We’ve been trying to soak it up as best we can, with bike rides and trips to the American River. (Last weekend, we found this gorgeous swimming hole on the river that used to be used as a municipal pool!)

What do you have planned for August?

Here are a few posts from the archive that might come in handy for these last weeks of summer…

Tips for flying with a baby or toddler—for those with summer vacations still to-come.
A refreshing (no-cook) summer recipe.
Five Ideas for Summer Hats.
This book came highly recommended for reading on a beach.
And a favorite summer trip from the past—filled with blueberries, cheddar cheese, canoe trips, and quarries.

P.S. Sharing more of what we’re up to lately on Instagram. Follow along.

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San Francisco: Outer Sunset Guide



You’ve been to the Ferry Building, ridden a Cable Car, and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, and you’re looking to spend a day getting to know San Francisco a little better: Head to Outer Sunset.

The Westernmost parts of San Francisco are often foggy and windswept, but on the day we visited last weekend, the sun was out! Either way, the Outer Sunset and its bordering beaches and parks are some of the most beautiful spots to spend a low-key day in the city.


Aron used to live in the Outer Sunset, and I confess I wasn’t always a fan when I’d come to stay with him and his roommates: that cold fog could really get you down if you let it. But now, as a visitor, I’m much more keen on appreciating that fresh ocean air.

It’s a quick drive from the Golden Gate if you’re on that side of town, and it’s a great place for families. Residents are friendly and welcoming—the laid-back surfer vibe is strong here; parking is relatively easy to come by; and kids will love riding the N Judah train—which runs the length of neighborhood and connects with other lines—straight out to the beach.

We were taking the Quinny Yezz stroller on a test spin and we loved using it here—it’s super-light, folds up easily, and is highly maneuverable—so it made getting around simple.

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Mexico City: Renting an apartment in la Condesa



When we decided to go to Mexico City this summer, we asked around for neighborhood recommendations. The majority suggested we seek something out in the particularly fashionable neighborhoods of Roma, Polanco, or Condesa. We considered hotels—there’s something so comforting about the convenience of a bell desk where you can ask questions and arrange taxis—but ultimately decided we’d rather have the space of an apartment. There were actually lots of appealing options on AirBnB, but we chose a large, light-filled apartment in La Condesa—a residential, somewhat hip neighborhood just 4 or 5 km south of the Zócalo—for our five nights, and we were thrilled when we arrived.


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Mexico City: Mercado La Merced (Market Tour)



Our day touring Mercado La Merced—one of the largest traditional markets in all of Latin America—requires a post of its own, apart from the travelogue.

Aron had discovered a culinary food tour group called “Eat Mexico” that would take our family on a private tour of the market (private because we had no idea how our kids would do and wanted some flexibility) and had made a reservation to meet someone at the Bellas Artes before a 4-hour walking tour.

We assumed we’d have to cut it shorter than that—one-year-old naps and preschooler-fatigue and whatnot—but it turned out to be a 6-hour tour! And still we just scratched the surface of all there was to see (and taste). I’m so glad we went with a guide because it’s intimidatingly large.


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Thinking About: A family gap year?



Many of you are likely familiar with blogger Courtney Adamo already—from her work on the expat-based parenting blog, Babyccino, or from her Instagram account that features “the most stylish” family in Britain, or from one of her many appearances around the web. I’ve found her travels with kids to be very inspirational—most notably it was she who led us to our apartment rental in Positano last summer.

So it was with great interest that I read the article Courtney wrote recently for The Telegraph‘s Lifestyle section: “We’re all going on a family gap year.” There, she describes her plan for her family of six (kids aged two to nine) to put jobs and traditional schooling on hold (in favor of check-ins and homeschooling) for a year of travel, and how it connects to a particular memory from her childhood:


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Wanderlust: Vietnam



Years ago, I wrote an imaginary, maybe-one-day itinerary for Vietnam as a guest post on Jennifer Cameron’s site, Luster. I’ve still yet to go to Vietnam, but it remains one of my favorite posts—perhaps because it still rings so true and perhaps because it took a lot of research. (And my packing list has changed remarkably little!) I asked Jennifer if I could update it, and republish it here. Maybe one day… Vietnam. Here’s what I wrote: 

I think it was a feature in Gourmet Magazine that first brought on my case of Vietnam wanderlust. The glossy spread featured steaming street food, colorful lanterns, enchanting bays, chaotic moped traffic, and talked of an exotic and fragrant place where a French colonial past had left a unique culinary mark. Having traveled to Southeast Asia for our honeymoon in Thailand, I can’t wait to go back—and a trip to Vietnam is top on my wish list.


We would start in Hanoi—sampling the café culture and wandering through narrow passageways, alternately touring Belle Époque French villas in the French Quarter and Buddhist complexes built on limestone cliffs (at the nearby Perfume Pagoda)—before detouring to see the greens of the rice paddies around Sapa, the ancient Cham tower-temples of My Son Sanctuary, and the limestone towers of Halong Bay (where we might board a traditional junk boat or find more quiet and get up-close by kayak).


In Hue, we’d rent bicycles and explore the fortified Imperial city, before heading south. Along the way, we’d take time to relax at one of the resorts along the 400-mile stretch from Hue to Nha Trang, and board boats to go diving in the clear life-filled waters around offshore archipelagos.

Hoi An

In Hoi An, perhaps after putting in an order at a custom tailor in the Old Quarter, we’d do our best to capture the faded colors of this trading port, preserved since the 15thcentury, as well as the vibrant ones at the riverside fish market.


It would be a dream to set up camp for a few days at the Con Dao Islands—at the luxurious Six Senses resort with a view of the turquoise South China sea—before finishing the trip in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), rich with history.



Fantasy Packing list (Remember that this was made over four years ago, so the exact styles will likely be unavailable. I updated with similar finds):

1. Day tripper pant (similar pants) / 2. City Walk Fedora (similar Fedora) / 3. Sunglasses / 4. Iris Jacket (similar jacket) / 5. Essie Clambake / 6. Madewell Bike Bag (similar bike pouch) / 7. Salina Sandals (similar sandal)/ 8. Isabelle Dress  (similar dress) / 9. Scenic route shirtdress (similar dress) / 10. My kids (and a caftan from Two) / 11. Scarf (similar scarf) / 12. Theory colsten top (similar top) / 13. Swiss Army Bicycle / 14. Triwa watch (similar Triwa watch)

Have any of you traveled in Vietnam? How’d I do? 

P.S. All of our travelogues.

Images: 01 Banh mi | 02 Can Tho | 03 Dalat falls | 04 Six Senses | 05 Vietnamese coffee | 06 Hoi an | 07 Halong bay by Owen Franken | 08 Hue Market | 09 My Son Sanctuary | 10 Nam hai resort in Hoi An | 11 Phu Quoc | 12 Lemongrass pork skewers | 13 Saigon | 14 Sapa | 15 Sapa Highlands | 16 Hue | 17 Hue | 18 Vietnam stamps here and here | 19 Halong Bay Junk Cruise

Imagined itinerary and photo selection Ashley Muir Bruhn | Layout & Graphic Design by Jennifer Cameron of Luster. Visit her on Pinterest. 

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5 Things: Dublin



In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Emily Westbrooks of From China Village and Delightful Dublin guides us on a tour of Dublin’s best.

5 Things Dublin
Emily Westbrooks of From China Village and Delightful Dublin

After growing up in small town Maine, I met my Irish husband during my senior year in college only ten miles away from my house. We got married and I agreed to spend one year in Dublin before settling down in America for good. Seven years in, Dublin has stolen my heart and we’ve finally broken it to my family that we’ll be probably spending only summers in Maine from here on out!

The perfect way to sum up my adopted city is to say it’s a constant exercise in contradictions. In the same block, you’ll have a pub that’s been around since James Joyce was sipping pints, next to a new cafe serving up the local artisan roasted coffee with the best organic Irish milk. In each neighborhood, there are thousand-year-old tourists sights, standing alongside some of the coolest restaurants or hippest shops. While you feel like you’re in an urban, modern city, you’re constantly reminded of the history of the city, whether it’s the cobblestones you spy beneath the pavement or the chiseled stone covered in street art.


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Mexico City (& Friday Links)



Hudson’s last day of school was yesterday! I take photos (this year and last year) on his last day, and Skyler was so cute trying to get in on the action.

And we’re flying to Mexico City this weekend! There’s a direct flight out of Sacramento. I’ve been collecting some recommendations on Instagram, and my friend Miroslava sent me the most amazing list of places. But I’m always all ears!

We’re crossing our fingers for some clear skies, but it looks like we’ll be getting a bit wet. So any weather-related tips are equally welcome.

[Pictured: photo by Alanna Hale in the Garrett Leight Spectacle No. 5]

Here are some links that may be of interest this weekend…


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Balboa Island



Have you ever been to Balboa Island in Newport Beach? When I was growing up—in Long Beach, CA—we would frequently drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to go to dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then get in the line for the auto ferry which would take 3 cars at a time across Newport Harbor to Balboa Peninsula.

My dad would tell me how he spent a summer in a rental on the 0.2-square-mile island and I would try to imagine him there while watching college students pedal around on their cruisers barefoot. We’d head straight to one of the two shops making frozen bananas and Balboa bars (vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in toppings of your choice) and try to eat them without getting the chocolate all over ourselves.


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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Western San Francisco


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In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Liz Stanley of the wonderful Say Yes shows us the sights in Western SF.

5 Things: Western San Francisco
Liz Stanley of Say Yes

I’m Liz Stanley of Say Yes, and I live with my husband and two kids on the western side of San Francisco, in a neighborhood called the Richmond District. We love it here because it’s safe, quiet, just across the street from Golden Gate Park, and close to some great elementary schools. It’s not considered hip—and it’s certainly foggier than other parts of the city—but we’ve managed to find a few secret gems in and around our ‘hood that I’m excited to share with you today!


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Through Hiking the Appalachian Trail


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In the summer of 2013, a good friend’s father, Rubén Rosales, summited Mount Katahdin in Maine, thus completing a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Starting at Springer Mountain in north Georgia and passing through 14 states—Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine—the Appalachian trail (or A.T.) is over 2100 miles long and gains and loses a total of 515,000 feet of elevation (the equivalent of Mount Everest, sixteen times). Rubén spent 6 months and 1 week on the trail, but was away from home for nearly 7 months.

He was 70 years old, and only the 24th thru-hiker in their 70s on record to finish.

Tremendously inspired, I asked him to sit down and tell me what it’s really like to thru-hike the A.T. …

On deciding to do it…
“I spent 42 years in very intense, demanding, international work. …Finally I decided to retire. I gave 18 months notice. My biggest issue was ‘What am I going to do… with my life?’ ‘Play golf?” … “I felt like I needed to do something extraordinary to transition to retirement.”


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48 Hours in Big Sur







Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in California—if not anywhere. The rugged, isolated stretch of Highway 1 runs between redwood groves and rocky shores, an ocean teeming with life, for the 90 miles between Carmel and San Simeon. There are nine state parks within the region of Big Sur, and views for days. You could pass a week between hikes and hot springs—or between the pages of a good novel  (appreciating the lack of consistent cell service).

I had a chance to visit a couple of weeks ago on an adventure summit—a work retreat—with Bota Box. I’m partnering with the wine-maker on a series of posts this year and they invited me to join them and meet up along the coast. The getaway exceeded any expectations, and I’m already mentally planning a return to Big Sur with my family.

California: it never ceases to astound me.


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5 Things: A Travel Guide to Houston



In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Ashley Rose of Sugar & Cloth welcomes us warmly to Houston, Texas.

5 Things: Houston
Ashley Rose of Sugar & Cloth / Photos by Jared Smith

Though I may not be a Houston native (I originally lived in West Virginia), I’ve grown to really, really love this city and definitely consider it home these days. It’s got all of the opportunities you could want, but it still has a tendency to feel small and welcoming once you find your little niche. On top of that, it’s the kind of town foodies dream of, but with less of a wait then you’d expect most places, and there’s almost always something going on for families and young adults alike.

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Blacksmith, 1018 Westheimer Road, (832) 360-7470
Tout Suite, 2001 Commerce, 713-227-8688
Weights + Measures, 2808 Caroline Street, (713) 654-1970
Tacos A Go Go, 3704 Main Street, (713) 807-8226
Ninfa’s on Navigation, 2704 Navigation Boulevard, (713) 228-1175

You could go out to eat every single meal of every day for a month and still find great places to eat in Houston. Stand-outs include Blacksmith, which is great for a quick coffee and some of the best biscuits in town, and we frequent Tout Suite the most because our studio space is just upstairs. Weights + Measures has a very cool vibe and amazing brunch, and Tacos A Go Go and Ninfa’s are token places to try for Tex-Mex.


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Quick trip to New York City: The Standard, High Line


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I had signed up for a photography workshop in New York over the weekend, so Aron and I tucked the kids in at grandma’s and grandpa’s house (thank you!) and hopped on a red eye together to extend the weekend for a night in the city.



Ever since we watched The Standard, High Line first rise above that now-iconic, elevated park, Aron and I have wanted to stay there. I’d never even stepped foot inside in all those years of walking beneath it, looking up to glimpse people in the windows and imagine stories about them à la Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.


Last week, we were those people.

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We booked the stay with our Visa Signature Card on the Visa Luxury Hotel Collection website, we were upgraded to this awesome view. (Though I’m not sure I would have put a TV right in the middle of it!)

You might recall that I’m partnering with Visa on a series of posts (kicked off with this trip to Vegas), but even if I weren’t I would have tried to use our card and the site to book—the perks are really good, and this partnership has totally changed the way I search hotels. For example: In cases like this, if I already know where I want to stay, I check to see if it is on their list. Anyone who uses the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website to arrange their stay gets VIP Status; best available rate guarantee; complimentary Wi-Fi; complimentary continental breakfast (or, at the Standard, this was a $40-per-day credit at The Grill); a $25 food and beverage credit; late check-out and an automatic room upgrade, when available. Our Visa Signature card is the same United Visa card we would use anyway—and we still earn miles.

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Red Eyes are a bit brutal. Ours landed at JFK at 5:51am—Yikes! (That’s 3am on west coast time, if you’re counting.) Thank goodness for that breakfast perk.
We dropped our bags and had breakfast at The Grill before setting off for the day. The french toast is amazing.


We walked and walked—through the Meatpacking into the West Village and then on to SoHo and NoLita, and even up to the East Village for lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar before coming back to get our room key in the afternoon.

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I have fewer photos from that evening (I think I was too busy people-watching), but the place really comes alive after dark. The hotel has such a sexy, cool factor—and it was packed with beautiful people who’d come to eat at the Grill, play ping pong and mingle (loudly) over German sausages at the Biergarten, or dance at the disco—Le Bain. I’d love to come in the summer when the seasonal pool opens and guests are grabbing bikes to ride up and down the Hudson.

And that spot with the bright pink you can see from our room, in the top photo? That’s the Whitney’s new downtown location—it opens tomorrow! (My old favorite, Untitled, is re-opening in its new lobby.) On our way back from dinner at another past haunt, we realized they were having a big opening party there.


It was such a quick trip, but it felt great to be together in this cool place that had figured so heavily in our view of the city for all of those years. Makes me think we should have considered a staycation!

Have you been? Do you have a hotel that figures romantically into your vision of a city? 

I’ll share some more photos from my weekend workshop soon. (I took so many!)

P.S. When the High Line first opened, its second phase, and the recently opened part three. Also, it was one of the first walks I took with Hudson after he was born.

Sponsored by the Visa Signature Card. Take a look at your current Visa card to check for the Signature designation on the bottom right-hand corner, and then visit for all the details on booking your next trip. The Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection is a hand-selected portfolio that is developed for Visa Signature cardholders and is constantly updated. 

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