My Travel Beauty Essentials

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I don’t usually wear a lot of make-up in general, and when I travel I find I tend to wear even less. Some mascara, a tinted lip balm, and sunscreen are my go-tos, but sometimes the occasion calls for more and over time I’ve found a few favorites. The best places I’ve found that sell good mini-sized products are Sephora’s Travel Section and Whole Foods (secret’s out!).

My travel essentials are:

Fat the Moon Natural Deodorant Cream – I’ve tried lots of natural deodorants and this one has been the best by far.
Clinique High Impact Mascara – My favorite mascara in mini-size.
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer + brush – I don’t wear foundation or powder, so instead I use this tinted moisturizer because it provides some coverage, has spf 20, and leaves my skin feeling light and dewy.
A Bass comb – These combs are great, especially if you have really thick hair like I do!
Nars Mini Concealer – Pocket-sized and great for covering any dark under eye circles you get from late night shenanigans.
Bare Minerals Pure Radiance Highlighter in golden peach - I just started using this to brighten up my face and love the peachy color.
Bumble & Bumble Surf Infusion oil +sea salt hair texturing spray – I just ran out of this, but it’s perfect for whenever you need to wash and go and want a beachy/tousled look.
A reef safe sunscreen – I usually buy this when I get to where I’m going so it’s one less thing I have to pack (and liquid restrictions on airplanes are 3 oz or less). This one is left over from swimming with the whale sharks in Mexico.

For shampoo/conditioner, I take mine from home in Gotoobs.

Some other favorites:
Klorane dry shampoo – perfect on the fly and in-between washes.
Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible oil – so great for taming any fly-aways and giving your hair a silky-feel.
Korres Lip Butter in pomegranate  - for when you want some color but don’t want to wear lipstick.

 

My Travel pouch is from Topos and can be found here.

North Beach, Point Reyes

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I look over to see Trey quietly laughing to himself in the driver’s seat. “What?” I ask him, wanting to know what sorts of brain wanderings of his I’m missing out on.

I just thought the most stoner/hippie thing in my head that sounded a lot like something Jeff Spicoli would say, but it’s true”, he told me. “Yeah?” I said, fishing for a response.

“In order to find yourself, you’ve got to lose yourself…mann“, he said with a half-smile.

I laughed, “Yeah that does sound very Spicoli“. Then I repeated what he had said in a British accent to make it sound philosophical. Trey cringed and shook his head. I have never quite understood his aversion to a British accent. Maybe it’s because Americans have come to associate a British accent with being more formal, or because he sees it as being snooty. Either way, he hates it. I think British accents are charming. David Attenborough talking about Antarctic penguins is basically an adult nursery rhyme for me.

The music’s on, we’re listening to Uncle Tupelo, Chris Stapleton, and Sturgill Simpson. I’m not the biggest country fan, but I’ve been listening to Sturgill Simpson a lot lately. The heater is trying it’s best on half-blast to warm the truck. The cold air seeping through the crack in the passenger’s side window where it doesn’t fully roll up isn’t helping. It’s raining a little. Big, fat drops on the windshield. The whole sky is one cloud for as far as I can see ahead. It’s definitely not your average “let’s go to the beach” day. But, I love gray days. In California you get a lot of sunny days, so when the sky decides to get moody it’s a good thing. A strong El Niño has been predicted for this winter, which will bring lots of wind and rain. I was interested in seeing the surf. So far we’ve already had a few strong storms with thunder, lightening and strong winds. Some containers fell off a cargo ship off the coast last week and it took them no time to wash ashore given the wind. Pretty neat.

On our way to Point Reyes, we stopped off at our favorite sandwich/grocery store, The Inverness Store. They’ve got this abandoned boat out back that I’ve been taking Jack’s photo in front of since he was little. It was muddy from the rain, so I carried Jack over my shoulder to the log to avoid him from getting muddy. “He’s so calm”, a woman who was there photographing the boat said to me as we walked past. Jack flashed a panty smile at her from over my shoulder. “He’s a good boy”, I said back proudly. Then we picked up a dozen Hog Island oysters for dinner and threw them in our old Coleman cooler in the back of the truck and continued on to Point Reyes.

Our favorite spot up here is North Beach. It’s the last beach before you get to the lighthouse. There’s cliffs, driftwood, dunes, and on a good day you can see the Farallon Islands offshore. It’s a good place to watch for gray whales and humpbacks migrating, and there’s a large elephant seal rookery just on the other side of the peninsula in Drakes Bay. Right now the whales are traveling down to the warm waters south of our latitude, avoiding the cold and readying to give birth to their calves. They won’t begin migrating back north again until early spring. Before long the male elephant seals will start arriving at the rookery near here to stake their claim of the beach, and by February the juveniles, females, and pups will follow. But for now, all is quiet and everyone is tucked in for winter, so to speak.

We got to the beach and the swell was huge. The waves swirled high and crashed with thunderous force. The tide was high too, taking up most of the beach. I told Trey we better keep the dogs close, else they’ll get dragged out into the surf and be goners. The riptides around here, combined with the cold water, are no joke. Trey climbed on a dune and flew the drone with the GoPro out over the beach. The dogs chased a tennis ball in the sand, then Trey made a makeshift bat out of a piece of driftwood and hit the ball far down the beach for them. Keeper is so fast. She’s my girl, so sweet and athletic.

The sun started setting and we made our way back down the beach to the truck. We toweled the dogs off, gave them some water, and then Trey snapped a photo of me and Jack in the front seat watching the sun set. Afterwards we drove home in the dark, Keeper had half her body out of the car, not wanting to miss a thing. It was the best day.

Shit happens

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To other people it would probably be annoying to have to pull over and call AAA for a tow, but to us it’s actually somewhat stimulating. One thing I learned while working in the biology lab at Scripps, was not to get annoyed when an experiment didn’t produce the results I was looking for the first time. Undeniably, an analysis wouldn’t go as planned – I’d measure something wrong, or there’d be some variable in the software I was using that I wasn’t aware of and it would screw with the results of an analysis. However, it didn’t mean it was a complete waste of time. It meant I learned something, got another piece of an intricate biological puzzle, and figured out how to better analyze the data I had for the next analysis. Trey is similar. He’s an engineer so naturally he likes solving puzzles and fixing things. This truck is our experiment, a big ol’ steel puzzle we’ve lovingly named “Lola”, much like NASA would name it’s rover or spaceships. The dogs are always happy to come along on adventures. They’ve been through everything with us, so they don’t really freak out about anything (as is noted in the photo of the truck being reeled up onto the tow truck with him smiling in the passenger’s seat).
So, I could have turned the camera off and put it back in my bag, scrapped the trip and posted photos of something happier, but I chose not to. Everything has a story, some times it’s just not the one you set out to tell. It’s easy to make life look amazing with filters and hashtags like #bestdayever, but in reality, it takes more guts to show what every day life really looks like. And I’d rather be candid about it all.

Santa Cruzin’

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So we got into Boulder Creek, a little town right outside Santa Cruz around mid-day and went up into Big Basin redwood forest to see if we could get a campsite for the night. When we showed up, it was the weirdest thing. People were decked out in costumes in the woods. We stopped to let a parrot and a chicken cross the road (adults in costumes) and looked at each other. We totally thought no one would be camping since it was Halloween, but as it turns out everyone was camping because it was Halloween. So we put our name on a waiting list, went and got some groceries at this local market, then came back to find that the only site available was next to the road and the bathrooms.
“I’m cool if you’re cool” Trey said to me. “Yea, I’m cool”, I told him, climbing back into the truck. It’s usually never hard for us to find camping spots since we just park the truck places. The national forests are easy for that, but the state parks are regulated and only have a certain amount of camp sites. Had we have known it was such a popular time to camp we probably wouldn’t have gone. We like having the woods to ourselves! So we turned around, stopped off on an overlook and ate chips and salsa on the tailgate, then drove back home. When we got back there were trick or treaters everywhere in our neighborhood. Turns out the street next to us shuts down for older kids (mostly middleschoolers) to trick-o-treat. The guy who wrote the book on Feng Shui decks out his mansion every year and the kids go nuts for it.  So we got an uber and met up with friends for dinner and drinks at a good Mexican spot downtown. We ended the night having a laugh at putting Star Wars masks on the dogs. It was a random way to spend Halloween, mostly just driving in the truck, but it was fun just doing whatever and not really having any plans. I find that’s when we have the best time anyway. Can you believe it’s already November? When did that happen? Pretty soon it’ll be Thanksgiving and Christmas! Bring it on!

The Marin Headlands

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Last weekend we spent the day in the Marin headlands. It’s the first exit off the Golden Gate bridge heading north out of San Francisco and one of my favorite places ever. When we first moved to California, we lived in a little apartment on the water above the house boats in Sausalito, which is about 5 minutes from the headlands. Every day Trey would commute by ferry into the city, and I would drive the most scenic commute ever into the headlands for work. There are a few different trails you can go on in the headlands, each with their own awesome views of the Pacific ocean, or the Golden Gate bridge and city. The coastal route allows dogs, so we chose that one. There’s only one road in and it winds around the cliffs with the water below. There’s a good view of Rodeo beach and the lighthouse too. Eventually the road wraps around and takes you into the valley of the headlands.

I still get that same feeling when I’m standing on the hill looking out at the Pacific as I did when we were fresh out of college and new to the area. I love looking back at the mouth of the Golden Gate and the water below. Our crew used to call that the “the potato patch”, because it was where we’d always have to forge the boat through currents in order to continue a couple hours out to the Farallon Islands to get to the whales. Next to the Golden Gate bridge there’s a harbor seal haul out where hundreds of seals lay on the beach like fat sausages. You wouldn’t know the beach was there unless you were really looking for it. Leaving the headlands, there’s an old school house in the middle of a field. I asked Trey if he would walk Jack out there because I wanted to take a photo of him in front of it. So he walked him out there and told him to “stay” and then walked back to me. I took the photo and yelled to Jack “Good boy, come!”. He sprinted all the way back to us, mouth open wide, smiling. We cheered him on running back to us. I don’t think I will ever forget that. He’s the best, that Jack dog.

After we were done hiking we drove through the rainbow tunnel and over the bridge back home. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself knowing we live in one of the most beautiful places. I don’t take a second of it for granted.

Tulum, Mexico

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Tulum was such a treat to visit. Everyone has been calling it was the Williamsburg of Mexico, but I found it to be more like the Venice Beach (LA) of Mexico.  It definitely has more of a west coast hippie vibe. The town of Tulum is still very undeveloped and authentic feeling, which we loved. The main path/road where all the boutique hotels and restaurants are located is nestled into the jungle. Most of the spas/retreat centers/little hotels face the sea. The shops on the main path are all hip and modern, but with a hippie flare. Lots of yoga and meditation-centric spots. It’s easy to see why people come here for that…on the land side you’re surrounded by jungle, and on the sea side you’re looking out at beautiful blues of the Caribbean sea. We loved how it wasn’t developed like other parts of Mexico.  While we were there we walked along the path stopping into each of the little shops, walked on the beach, smelled the perfumes at Coqui Coqui, had a drink or three, and ate dinner under the stars at Casa Banana. Right now (late summer 2015), there is a seaweed overgrowth problem in the water which gives the water a brownish tint and washes seaweed onto the beach with the tide every day. I was glad we moved around while we were in Mexico, first flying into Cancun and spending time at Isla Mujeres where the water was amazingly blue and seaweed-free, then staying in Playa del Carmen, just a few miles North of Tulum, where the water wasn’t as bad.

If we had more time, I would have loved to visit some of the Mayan ruins nearby. Everyone says to go to Coba (about a 15 minutes drive southeast of Tulum), because the ruins are large and the only ones in the region you can still climb on. The Tulum ruins are smaller, but next to the ocean and supposedly beautiful as well. We were too focused on swimming and diving this trip, but…next time! I would have also liked to have had dinner at Hartwood since everyone has been raving about it, but it was closed until November. After visiting Tulum, we came back to our hotel in Playa del Carmen and enjoyed our last night there. In the morning we packed up and got on our flight back to San Francisco. Mexico was a great time and I can’t wait to go back again!

In Tulum:

Where to stay: Coqui Coqui, Papaya Playa

Where to eat: Casa Banana, Hartwood

Where to drink: Gitano (Mezcal bar)

Shops to check out: Bendito, Mr. Blackbird, Coqui Coqui boutique, La Troupe, La Llorona

Places to play: Coba ruins (a short drive from Tulum, only ones you can still climb on), Tulum ruins, Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos Cenote

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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After spending time on Isla Mujeres and swimming with whale sharks, we headed down the road to Playa del Carmen, just about 40 minutes away from Cancun. The roads looked just like they would in the US, except for the speed limit signs being in kilometers and there being federales (Mexican police) stations you have to drive through every 10 or so miles.

We got into Playa del Carmen in the early afternoon and checked into the newly renovated Grand Hyatt. It was so hip! War on Drugs were playing over the speakers in the hotel lobby as we walked up, and they were readying the place for Volkswagon to debut their 2016 car models. I was immediately drawn to the large whale shark art on one of the walls. We went up to our room, played with the mood lights and made a drink from the mini bar, then put on our bathing suits and checked out the infinity pool over looking the ocean. So pretty! A few pina coladas later and we decided to head back to get ready for dinner. We walked one street over to 5th Avenue, the traffic-less street with all the little shops and restaurants. Playa is the cutest damn town. It’s not majorly developed like Cancun, but has more of a local feel to it. We decided on La Parrilla for dinner, a local favorite that everyone kept recommending to us. We sat upstairs on the balcony that over looked the street below and had fresh guacamole and chips, fajitas, and this amazing mexican coffee liquor drink they made for us for dessert. A mariachi band played in the background while we talked to our waitor and found out he had lived in San Francisco for 8 years…in the Mission, just a few streets over from us. He said he loved SF, but liked the weather in Playa more. We all agreed he was right about that.

The next day we set off to find two cenotes (sink holes). First we went to Cenote Azul, a series of shallow pools with the most beautiful blue waters. We took snorkel gear and looked at  the fish and caves, then Trey did back flips off the rocks into the water. Huge iguanas chilled on the banks surrounding the pools, and along the paths. Next we went to Cenote Dos Ojos, which was my favorite. There were stalactites and bats in this one. We swam around for an hour or so, finding coins and seeing how deep we could dive on one breath.

That night we had dinner at Alux, this restaurant inside a cenote. The water was all around us and then a huge thunderstorm came and we had to run inside. It was exciting. We ordered a couple more margaritas and waited out the storm. As we were walking back to the hotel, we passed a bar with live music. We popped in, ordered some mojitos, and kept the night going. As a joke, I bought this Happy Birthday button off Amazon a few years back because it has a blue heeler (like Jack) on the front of it wearing a birthday hat. Ever since it has made an appearance on our birthdays, whether we want it to or not. Haha. This year wasn’t any exception. Before leaving for Mexico, I tucked it away in my bag. I brought it out while we listened to the live music and we had a good laugh.

“Go stand in front of that heart mural right now!” I half-yelled at Trey, pushing him towards the wall
“Why!?” he asked
“Because I love you now do it!”
He did. Then I took a picture of him to have proof of birthday button-wearing and we made our back to our hotel room. The next day we would check out Tulum…

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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Last week we traveled to Mexico for one last summer jaunt before fall hits and our schedules ramp up. We took the red-eye flight from San Francisco to Cancun, then rented a car and spent 5 days exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. It was the best time. The people, the pace of life, the food…we just loved it all. After landing bleary eyed, we skipped the bright lights and touristy parts of Cancun and went to Isla Mujeres instead, a relaxed little island just off Cancun. The water was the most beautiful blue. We swam around and had coronas and ate fresh ceviche. My favorite part was when we took a boat out to go free-diving with the docile, plankton eating whale sharks. It was amazing to see about 50 or so of these massive animals up close. Our captain took us about an hour off-shore in deep blue waters until we saw fins. Trey and I would sit on the edge of the rocking boat and when our captain gave us the signal to jump, we’d jump into the water and dive down to them. Swimming along with them was like swimming with dinosaurs. They grow up to 40 feet long and are just mammoths! When I was a grad student at Scripps (UCSD), there was a whale shark embryo specimen in our fish lab. It was about a foot long. To see the adult version that was 40x larger was just too rad. We were exhausted after that and took naps in the shade at the hotel pool when we got back. The next morning we packed up and headed south to Playa del Carmen…photos from that leg of our trip coming soon!

Dogs of Mexico

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“He carries the paper for me every morning. He’s a good old boy”.

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“The big dog? Oh, he’s the neighbor’s. I know this because they always come looking for him”.

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“His name is Jack and his ears are like big steaks”.

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“BELLA! HER NAME IS BELLA” -guy working on the roof next door

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There was a sign at the dock where we left from that had a photo of a golden retriever who had recently passed away. This was their new dock dog in training.

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“This is mama, and here is her baby. People think she’s mean but she’s very nice”.

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Notes from the road: Dear Trey

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There was a time when I thought you had forgotten about me. It was the summer after 10th grade right before school let out. I had been suspended more times than I could count that year. They warned me if I left school before classes were over one more time they’d kick me out for good. I remember that day vividly. The bell rang, prompting a 15 minute break between classes. Everyone clustered off into their groups to talk about whatever trivial gossip was on the menu for that day and I decided to walk across the street, just off school property, to an inviting patch of grass. The assistant principal caught wind of me being off school property and made his way to the edge of the street to yell at me to come back. His loafers skimmed the edge of the road, hands on his hips, as if the asphalt separating us was hot lava. I sat in the grass, the passing cars drowning out his voice to the point where I could only read his non-verbal gestures, which seemed more like he was waving someone back to shore after spotting a shark than some sixteen year old with a bad case of wanting to GTFO. It was the last day of school, what was he going to do, suspend me? I waved back at him and turned my attention to the floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the school where you stood with your bmx and skater friends. There you were, like some kind of Van Morrison dreamy little asshole with your long hair, thrift-store shirt a size too small and levis jeans on. These were the years when we didn’t talk much. The in between years. Our days of “dating” in the 7th and 8th grade had passed and now we both had our own things going on. I had beef with authority and you hated the homogeneity of small town people we were surrounded by. Part of me still had the hugest crush on you, but it was largely masked by the fact that you acted like no one existed outside of your guy friends. Well, and Laura. The senior cheerleader who had decided, for whatever reason, to get her weird on and make out with you a few times in the backseat of your friend’s mustang. It was cool, I was doing the same with Joel, an art student at a local college who drew me pictures.

That day, sitting there in the grass, you saw me looking at you and we smiled at each other through the glass. Even though we didn’t talk, we always acknowledged the common ground we shared between us. It wasn’t until later that we would cash in on our similarities and turn it into something more again.
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Last night while driving back from a cafe in town on the island, you looked over at me. I could see the whites in your eyes and the half smile on your face from the street lights as we passed underneath them. Your right hand left the gear shifter and searched for mine in the dark until our fingers met. You shook your head, eyes on the road.

“I don’t care where we are, as long as I’m with you”, you told me.

Thanks for sitting in the grass of life with me. It’s better over here.

Love,
nic