Hello to all fans and readers of The Eco Travelers! Jenna and Travis were so kind as to allow me to not only crash with them for a week, but to also write on their blog about all sorts of happenings while I’ve been visiting. I am a friend of theirs from the land of 10,000 lakes not only attempting to rid myself of my pasty white skin tone, which I have yet to succeed in doing, but to also embark on the nomadic adventurous lifestyle they’ve adopted. I must say, I have a new found respect for these two after just a few days. Despite the potentially defeating obstacles placed in their paths, both Jenna and Travis exercise their resiliency and courage to continue towards their goal of traveling, all whilst maintaining a kind and positive demeanor and being gracious and attentive hosts. I could not be more grateful for these two wonderful human beings taking on a role in my life, as friends and role models, (love you guys!) Thank you in advance for reading my guest post, and if you’d like to see more photos from my visit, please follow me on Instagram : @dnaumann (I know, shameless plug, you’re welcome.)
I knew I’d be ecstatic when I first saw Jenna at the airport, but I was not prepared for the girly high-pitched scream I let out. Jenna greeted me with a green St. Patrick’s Day Welcome sign and a long awaited best “freund” hug (it’s just a thing we say… we’re weirdos like that.) Best freund indeed… she knew the first thing I’d want to do, after squishing her of course, would be to see the ocean.
Before they left, like many of their friends, I wrote them some letters to “Open When (insert reason).” One of my favorite to write, and Jenna’s to read, was “Open When You’re Near The Ocean.” In said letter, I describe what exactly the ocean means to me, and why I love returning. I was raised partially in Minnesota, and partially in Agoura Hills, California. They say smell can be a strong link to memories, and in my case, the ocean most certainly is. Jenna brought me to Manhattan Beach to welcome me to the West Coast. The moment my eyes caught a glimpse of the sparkly turquoise water, I swear my attitude went from a stuffy Midwesterner, to a carefree Cali kid in an instant. The scent of the salty breeze brought me back to my nine-year-old self, running down the beach with my kite, Dad and baby sister following behind. That smell always brings me back to that happy carefree time in my life, and reminds me to let go of all of that unnecessary worry we are all guilty of carrying around. Any of you who have an opportunity to visit the ocean, whichever coast you’re on, whichever ocean you’re near… take the time to close your eyes and breathe in the ocean air. Breathe the fresh air in deeply, and exhale your worries slowly. Repeat as needed. It is so good for the soul, trust me on this.
Rejuvenated and relaxed, Jenna and Porter- can I just interrupt and gush about the ridiculously adorable puppy these two have? So. Damn. Cute. THOSE EARS!!! – OKAY, as I was saying, my “Cali kid” mentality had been activated, and although it was only about 9am Cali time, it was 11am Minnesota time and I needed some fuel. For those of you who don’t know me, I could have breakfast for every meal, so our delectable egg bagels and smoothies from Sacks on The Beach hit the spot. I even shared some eggs with Porter to bribe him out of his shyness and fall in love with me, and friends, I have somehow won his heart (although he still thinks my fingers are edible.)
For the entire trip, the four of us (Travis, Jenna, Porter and I,) had planned on cramming into Luna the Airstream together. I was disappointed only momentarily to learn this wouldn’t be the case. Obviously it would have been a bit cozy, like any overly polite Minnesotan would say, but I was ready for an adventure. My disappointment was quickly stifled after meeting our lovely host Marc. This is another incredibly kind and wonderful person I was fortunate enough to meet, who hosted all of us at his Torrance, California home, (If you’re reading this thank you so much Marc!) Instead of sharing approximately 100 sq. ft. (which would’ve included our beds, shower, toilet etc.) amongst three humans and a tiny dog, we had a large and spacious house to roam around and enjoy. This man is not only generous, but he is funny and kind and took a genuine interest in all of our lives. So with Marc’s house as our home base, we had more freedom to make little day trips, one of which was Santa Barbara.
Our day in Santa Barbara consisted of a very hip and trendy coffee shop, vibrant blooming flowers, and a beautiful beach full of the friendliest dogs, (Porter puppy not included.) To start, the four of us enjoyed very artfully crafted lattes at The French Press, along with some delicious scones. Jenna, Porter and I then headed to the doggie beach to soak up the sun. Arroyo Burro Beach was just plain awesome. There were so many happy pups running around, meeting other dogs, swimming in the ocean, and playing fetch. Puberty Porter on the other hand, was growling and barking, scaring all the nice doggies away. I met a beautiful all white dog named Thor who brought me his ball, but when his owner would near, he would take off, ball hidden in his mouth…It was time to go, and Thor was not done fetching. When Porter wasn’t yipping and snarling, he was running circles and digging holes in the sand effectively covering Jenna and I, and any other open bag or receptacle nearby. I am now the proud owner of sandy Orbit gum, (0% dentist recommended.) After a scratchy and sunburned day, we headed back to Torrance to crash. Jenna and I didn’t even shower, much to Travis’ discontent. He woke up to a sandy-backed wife to snuggle with.
Sprinkle in a few more meals and sleeps, and we all packed up to head to my cousin Debbie’s house in Fontana. We had some Thai food for dinner upon our arrival, and enjoyed each other’s company in her lovely blooming garden, all while little Porter chased around Zeek the cat, (who is twice his size.) There is something so comforting about family, even if it’s been a while since you’ve connected. They make you feel at home, and ground you back to the root of who you are and where you came from. They remind you of your core person, and I love that! (Thank you for hosting us Debbie and for catching me up on your life, it was wonderful to spend time with you.)
One thing I picked up on whilst visiting my lovely friends, is Jenna is adorably clumsy. Anyone else notice this about her? She dropped several things on a daily basis, one of which was an entire cup of coffee onto the floor as we tried to pack up and leave Debbie’s for Universal Studios. If you didn’t know she’s clumsy, you certainly must know, once Jenna starts doing something nice you cannot stop her. From washing your dishes, changing a lightbulb, running across the street for you…she will be on a mission and you cannot persuade her otherwise. She scurried into the kitchen and back out to clean up the coffee, and as if wiping it up wasn’t enough… she of course came back and wiped the floor to its original dry state. She is such a warm and caring person in that way, and it’s one of the reasons why I love her. Cleaned up coffee spill, check. Bags loaded into truck, check. Porter eating another dog’s poop from the front yard, check? (Yes, yes he did. He is now “Poopy Porter” in my book.) We were all set for our next adventure at Universal Studios!
I could probably write an entire blog entry on Universal. Any place or activity which makes me feel like I am 12-years-old is a win in my book. From being turned into minions in Gru’s lab, to getting soaked on the Jurrasic Park ride, we for sure felt like kids again. Jenna and I even loaded up on jelly beans and other copious amounts of sugar we did not need just for the full “reliving my childhood” effect. I’d say we would crush it if were to travel back in time to our younger selves. We most likely made all of the kids present that day envious of how cool we were…there is no doubt in my mind. I should have worn a fanny pack! Next time.
Although Universal is a very exciting and fun place, all three of us were exhausted (being a kid is hard, ok?) We stopped and had a delicious vegan meal at SunCafe, and proceeded to crash at our next home for the last leg of the trip. We stayed in a lovely one bedroom apartment, which had a fantastic pool with private cabanas to hang out in. I once again laid in the sun day after day, in vain. The only change I noticed was a subtle redness which disappeared before I boarded my plane home. How is it I inherited all of the whiteness of my German ancestors, while my sister has the nice Italian olive skin which browns in the shadows? So not fair. I will say, I am donning quite a few new freckles and they are a nice brown if I do say so myself. No big deal.
I begged for one final touristy adventure to round out my Cali trip, and the Santa Monica Pier delivered. You cannot go to LA without visiting this place. There are all sorts of weirdos to people watch, AND the rollercoaster and Ferris wheel are a must. I will warn you, the first hill on the coaster will make you fear for your life. For my MN peeps, it is reminiscent of the High Roller (The wooden white roller coaster) at Valley Fair. It creaks and clunks enough to induce a death grip, and my audible description of my fears may or may not have frightened the small child sitting in the very front. Whoops! The best part is, you do not get to simply exit the coaster when it returns to its drop off station. Oh no. They ask all the riders if they would like to go a second time, and if there are enough screams, they send it through again. We were sent for a second trip down near-death memory lane. I am happy to say we survived.
The Ferris wheel- wait. Why do we capitalize the f in Ferris wheel? What the heck. Ahhhh, Fun fact: It is named after George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr who created the first Ferris wheel in 1893. What a name! Gale? I bet kids had fun with that one in grade school. ANYWAY. The FERRIS wheel was a really great way to see the pier and take some great photos of the ocean. (Shameless plug … please visit my Instagram if you’d like to see some artsy and not so artsy photos of everything mentioned (@dnaumann.)) We capped the night off with some drinks and fell asleep watching Interstellar. Okay, I fell asleep, like a kid who spent the day going on rides, while watching interstellar.
My final day, although they were all wonderful, was quite nostalgic. Jenna took me to see the house I grew up in. I was happy to find it looks exactly the same as I remembered, the only thing missing from the driveway was my Dad’s 88’ Ford Bronco and my Minnie Mouse bike. We even hiked (sort of on someone’s property,) to this big statue of a Native American my Dad used to bring me too. He used to measure my sister and me to see how tall we’d grown and mark it right on there. Sadly our names were no longer there as it had been painted over, and there were a bunch of new houses surrounding it. Still, it was a very cool thing to go and see after 16 years, (holy crap I’m old.) Jenna even drove slowly by my old school, Sumac Elementary. By doing so, I am certain we looked like kidnappers and caused school staff to lock up the children, but let’s be real, my trip down memory lane was way more important than the school’s sense of security. I am happy to also report The Great Race of Agoura Hills is still going strong! We saw posters all over advertising for it. That was my very first race, and I am sure my Dad still has my participation trophy somewhere.
All in all, visiting Jenna and Travis in California was refreshing and was time well spent. It has me seriously questioning my choice to live in a state with a winter lasting more than half the year, but at least our summers are pleasant. I think a move back to Cali is in my cards sometime in the future. Thank you again for letting me guest post, and thank you to everyone for reading!