The Nomadic Life The United States Travel

How Lyft Inspired My Most Creative Date Night in San Francisco


Like many San Franciscans, I don’t own a car. I bike, walk, and take public transportation or Lyft almost everywhere. Typically, this means I end up staying within a mile radius of my house (the Mission, Castro, and Noe Valley) even though I know the city has so much more to offer.

So one night, after a flurry of referrals that landed me 13 Lyft ride credits that were all expiring within a month, Jon and I decided to pop our Mission date bubble and venture out to all the areas of San Francisco that we never go out in.

When Friday night rolled around, we knew all the things to do here, so left our Mission home for the ultimate San Francisco date night, powered by a series of Lyft rides.

Stop One: Drinks and Appetizers at Two Sisters Bar and Books in Hayes Valley


Our first stop was in neighboring Hayes Valley at Two Sisters Bar and Books for a couple of cocktails and an appetizer to start off the night.

Though on the pricier side, they do have a solid happy hour deal and a cozy, bookish vibe that the bibliophile in me couldn’t resist. The bar was started, as the name suggests, by two sisters who were inspired by “an incredible bookstore in Krakow; a quintessential coffee-house in Vienna; [and] a neighborhood bar in Paris.” Once we entered, it all made sense.

Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late for happy hour (whoops!) and at 7 on a Friday, all of the seats were already taken by a hip-yet-artsy crowd. Still, the ambiance was as promised, so we settled in to a corner in the back, ordered up a couple of cocktails, pickles, and chicken wings.

The low lighting and patterned wallpaper felt romantic and the cocktails were delicious. Like many of the neighboring bars and restaurants in Hayes, it had a decidedly European (and non-Mission) feel to it.

“Man, the bartenders here are just so… nice,” Jon said as he put down his empty glass and I took out my phone to call our second ride of the night.

Stop Two: Dinner at Shanghai Dumpling King in Outer Richmond


If you like Chinese food, San Francisco has a lot of great and authentic options, several of which are in the Richmond. It’s a far trek for Mission-dwelers who are happy to have the cultishly famous Mission Chinese as their go to, but worth it if you’re craving one thing in particular: soup dumplings. I’d never had one before (ever!) so, in the spirit of trying new things, we headed to Shanghai Dumpling King for our main course.

Ironically, we caught a ride with an SFU college student who lived in the area and was saving money to teach English in Shanghai after the semester ended. Jon chatted about the semester he spent studying there. Call it a sign if you want, I’ll let it be a “mood builder”.

After a conversation filled, twenty minute drive, we arrived at Shanghai Dumpling King and joined the line of dumpling fans to get a table.

“It’s a 15 minute wait,” the server told us — an unusually short wait time for a popular San Francisco dinner spot. Even better, the line moved fast and efficiently, and before we were even seated the server asked us for our order. Jon took charge and ordered in Chinese.

“What did you get?” I asked.

“Soup dumplings… and something else. I have no idea what I ordered, but the guy recommended them so I just said yes.” He said.

We’d figure out later that he had ordered a classic Shanghai style pork dumpling (more than fine by me!) The food came fast. I giggled as Jon taught me how to properly pick up a soup dumpling, bite off the top, and pour sauce into it. Within 10 minutes, we’d hungrily gobbled down a dozen and a half dumplings and were ready to move on to stop three before it closed.

Stop Three: After Dinner Drinks at Cliff House at Ocean Beach


Which brings us to a San Francisco classic: drinks at the Cliff House, a former amusement park, now restaurant and bar, that overlooks the Pacific Ocean on — you guessed it — a cliff. We normally pass it on long bike rides but since it’s so far away never considered it as a potential spot to grab a drink at.

Unlike our first two stops of the night, we didn’t go there for the food and drinks per say, but rather its reputation for being a San Francisco landmark and its view of the Pacific. Even with the sun long ago set, we could see the dark waves crashing onto the shore below our window side table.

Full of dumplings, we sat and sipped a glass of Merlot while a jazz band set up stage. Jon began looking up the history of the Cliff House online.

“It’s the same guy who owned Sutro Baths,” Jon said. I tried to imagine how it must have looked and felt to be here back in its original form.

Not long after, the band began playing old 20s classics, further solidifying the old-timey atmosphere of the place. I felt a world away from home.

We felt even more remote when, after finishing our Merlots, we realized we were so far away from other people that it would take a full 10 minutes for our driver to arrive. It was time to start heading back in the direction of the Mission.

Stop Four: A Scenic View (sort of) at Twin Peaks


However, we didn’t exactly choose a less remote part of town. Before rounding off our impromptu culinary tour of San Francisco with dessert, we wanted to try and catch a glimpse of the city at night.

“Where ya headed?” our driver asked.

Twin Peaks,” we said and got in.

Quickly, we had abandoned the flat expanse of the ocean for a steep ascent up to the second tallest hill in San Francisco (quite a title in this city). Neither of us had been there at night before and had high hopes of looking out over a glistening, nighttime, cityscape.

However, as we got to the top a heavy fog kept our driver from seeing too far in front of him and us from seeing what would have otherwise been a beautiful view of the city (damn you, Karl!) Nevertheless, we had made it so we dutifully stepped out, shivered for a minute while staring into haze of lights we could see before getting back in the car.

“Where to now?” Our driver asked.

“Foreign Cinema, in the Mission.” We said.

Stop Five: Dessert at Foreign Cinema in Mission

Foreign Cinema

Of course, however stuck in our little neighborhood we may get, there’s still so much to explore just around our house, so many places we’ve yet to try that are right around the corner.

For me at least, one of these places was Foreign Cinema, a bar / restaurant known for the giant movie screen backdrop that plays old and foreign films while diners eat and chat.

We ordered our final round of drinks and a cheese plate for dessert.

“The food here isn’t that good,” Jon said. (To be fair, Foreign Cinema’s ratings are good, I’ve still never eaten anything there, and Jon has unusually high standards — so, if you’re a Foreign Cinema fan… or employee… I apologize.)

“Well, I guess you can’t mess up a cheese plate, right?” I said.

Food quality aside, I liked the space. Tables are set up in a backyard garden to the backdrop of its large movie screen. Heat lamps keep the outdoor patio warm on cool San Francisco nights while strings of lights give the space a truly warm and welcoming air. It was a refreshing place to end the night.

Stop Six: Home.

Dolores Park, Mission, San Francisco

Feeling tired, tipsy, and a little lazy, we called our final Lyft to take us the final mile home… and sleep.

It’s now been a few months since our little adventure, and it’s still one of my favorite memories of San Francisco so far. This is mainly because it was one of the few times I dedicated to trying to see as much of it as possible in a short amount of time. I was exploring my city as I would any other new city in the world.

Travel doesn’t always have to take us to some faraway, exotic place. Sometimes, it just means driving a few miles down the road to a new bar, or restaurant, or lookout point. As long as you’re open to discovering it, there’s so much to explore in your city. And if you don’t already have it, sign up for Lyft now, grab a couple of free rides, and let me know how you used them to see something or somewhere new!

Photo credits: Christian Arballo

Peace Corps The Nomadic Life The United States

A Year of Returning Home from the Peace Corps

Reintegration after the Peace CorpsSince returning home from the Peace Corps in December 2013, I had just barely wrapped my head around all the new iPhone apps and food choices at my disposal by the time 2014 rolled in.

I’ve also been absent from The Nomadic Beat. So with the first month of 2015 almost to a close, here’s a recap on one year spent re-integrating after returning home from the Peace Corps.

What did that process look like exactly? What was re-integrating into American life and culture like? Read on.

Omg Food, Food, Food!


Somewhere around July, I posted on Facebook “I will never be over burritos.” It was one of my most liked and commented-on posts of the year. “How can you ever get over burritos?” One friend replied. TRUE point, friend. TRUE POINT.

Also, that was July — almost half a year after I returned. Yes, I spent most of my initial days indulging in nostalgic cravings for raspberries, asparagus, burritos, good cheese and beer. And yes, it has tapered a bit, but are burritos old and non-exciting yet? Nope — not a bit.

Toilets are Awesome

I will never take a flush toilet for granted again. Never, ever, ever. That, and running water.

Even though I live in a small studio apartment with a mini fridge and a double hot plate, I know what I could be living in instead (a pink dollhouse with no water and a pit latrine, that’s what!). So I love my place. I appreciate it for those everyday luxuries (yes, luxuries) most of us take for granted.

Trying to Understand Where My Old and New Self Met

California StyleI was gone for almost two and a half years in my early to mid-20s; an age when most people try to define their identities as adults. Not teenagers, not college students, but adults.

I didn’t miss out on this development, but it happened abroad. This is pretty significant for two reasons:

First, I felt more aware of it. When I initially returned, I gravitated towards old habits, but they didn’t feel right. I’d go to the same clothing stores I frequented before, and suddenly feel too “old” for them. I’d go to old favorite bars, coffee shops, and restaurants and feel out of place.

I’d look at a menu and quickly identify my usual, but not feel up to it. I was constantly thinking “well, Old Jessie would have had the caprese sandwich, but New Jessie wants a burger with avocado.”

Returning from living abroad forced me to experience all these changes in tastes and lifestyle preferences all at once, rather than gradually. That made me more aware.

Secondly, this meant that I had to reconcile this Old-Jessie-New-Jessie identity crisis. At times, it meant some awkward moments (and outfits), but overall it’s been a fun experience in new discovery.

Annoying Everyone Around Me with “This One Time in Peace Corps” Stories

Annoyed Jon

I know, I know, I know. I talk about Peace Corps and Madagascar waaay too much. I’m probably annoying my friends, co-workers, and boyfriend with all my “this one time in Madagascar…” stories.

I don’t mean to talk about it so much, and I’m not trying to one up anyone when asked “so, what did you do for New Years last year?” It kind of just comes out, like word vomit.

An RPCV friend of mine, Karina, put our side of this well. “For us, it’s just our most recent two years of our lives. Our friends might be talking about this great party they went to last summer, and we are too — they just happened to take place in another country.”

So please be understanding, friends. I don’t want to treat the last two and a half years of my life like it’s either an empty, untalked about void, or an obnoxious conversation piece.

Remembering How to Be a “Real Adult”

It’s weird, but there are some basic life skills I feel like I just simply forgot after two and half years of not having to use them.

For example, it took me a moment to remember how scheduling a dentist appointment and using insurance worked again (since Peace Corps takes care of all of this for us). Banking, renting cars, navigating public transportation — all of this I had to dig back into my mind for.

I’m being totally honest when I say, this time last year, I would have been thrown off by the question “what’s your group number, miss?” if I had attempted to file an insurance claim. W$#!G%# — my what?

Feeling Behind on Life

Glass of wine

Pretty quickly after getting back from Peace Corps, in February 2014, I started a new job in Berkeley, California. I was 25 at the time and, quite frankly, just stoked to have more than $200 / month coming in to my bank account.

Then, I met other 24 – 26 year olds in the San Francisco Bay area. They had been working for prestigious companies for years, making great salaries and benefits, and — sometimes — living fairly expensive lifestyles.

Okay, okay, okay — I am at the epicenter of the tech boom, but that’s not an excuse to write off this sentiment. Other volunteers felt behind because they didn’t have so much as a boyfriend, when all their friends were getting married. We didn’t have cars, babies, and our two years of Peace Corps isn’t always looked at as real experience by all employers (psh, their loss!)

Back to the point: my accomplishments as a PCV were pushed in the back of my mind, and I suddenly felt behind in life — especially career wise.

I know it’s not true, but it’s hard not to feel this way. Throughout the year, I’ve had to actively remind myself of what’s truly valuable in life (experiences and happiness, not possessions and titles), that I love my job, and why the fuck should we feel so urgent about getting a job directly after college?

Getting Used to All this New Technology

Technology changes rapidly, so it was the most noticeable difference in American culture circa 2011 versus American culture circa 2014. Otherwise, it was just new trends (which we had been closely watching via Pinterest anyway…)

I came back into a world that predominantly used smartphones. Tons of cafes and shops started using iPads for checking out customers (I’d never seen that!). Online dating had become more socially acceptable and casual, and so, so, so many things had become digitized.

Apps like Uber, Lyft, and Tinder had not been created, but soared in popularity since I left. For about two weeks I had no idea what my friends were talking about when they said “I’m going to call an Uber” or “they met on Tinder.” I still remember leaning over and whispering to a fellow Madagascar RPCV and asking “pssst, what’s Tinder??” Thank goodness for friends, right?

Here’s to 2015!

Reintegration is different for everyone, and I tend to feel less nostalgic for my Peace Corps experience than some of my friends (it was great, but I love my life now too!).

Regardless, for everyone who has spent this past year reintegrating into American life after Peace Corps, I’m sure it’s been a year of reverse culture shock, identity crises, and burrito binging. To all of you, here’s to entering 2015 feeling more at ease in our every day lives than this time last year!

Now, who wants to work off those burrito binges with me? Ugh.

In Photos North America The Nomadic Life The United States

A Skipped Beat: Tuesday Travel Snapshot [Washington]

Bringing you a travel snapshot from Beat Nomad’s archives each and every Tuesday.

Crescent Lake

This photo was taken at Lake Crescent on a trip to the Olympic National Park shortly after I moved to Seattle. A couple of medical students from Arkansas that I met at a hostel and I were staying at Lake Crescent Lodge, and this was the view of the lake and it’s canoes right when we woke up. Being here in Madagascar, I seriously miss the Pacific Northwest.

North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Thru Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail: An Elusive Route

South of Yachats // Credit: Marian Mclaughlin“Do you like long walks on the beach?” my friend teased; referencing how I’d earlier rolled my eyes at this cliché interest listed on a facebook profile. I smiled, and had to admit the irony of my judgment as I looked around at the giant boulders jutting from the ocean and the seemingly endless expanse of flat sand and pine-dotted cliffs we had yet to pass. Except, her remark well If I was not wearing the most comfortable walking shoes for men – I likely wouldn’t have made that super long trek of a hike. summarized our attempt at following the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), which hugs the Oregon coastline from the Washington to California borders, as a thru-trail. We had essentially embarked on one damn long walk on the beach.

I had originally chosen the OCT because of its easy access to food, well maintained campgrounds, and the seeming simplicity of the route. The first two held true, but aside from several patches of well-marked trail that took us through lush temperate rain forest or long stretches of beach parallel to highway 101, the trail wasn’t always obvious. At times I felt like we were chasing an elusive creature with a map – printed from the Oregon Parks Service website – about as good as the one used by the kids in Astoria-filmed “The Goonies”.

It wasn’t until about 92 miles from our starting point in Tillamook, outside Yachats, that we saw our first sign demarcating the trail and unexpectedly hiked 2.2 miles of steep incline. By chance alone we met a pair in Neskowin who informed us the next 6 miles of trail would actually be a technically closed maze of fallen trees. While later en route to Humbug Mountain from Port Orford, high tides made a beach hike impossible, forcing me into the bike lane along a curving, 3-mile stretch of highway 101 during a heavy downpour.

Eventually, the beach hikes became too monotonous and we agreed to simply pitch our tents in a hike-heavy area (such as Humbug Mountain), do a day hike, and move on. At one point, a hip, artsy 20-something couple from Portland offered us a ride to Newport and we immediately ditched our plans in exchange for a beer at the Rogue Brewery.

But even in despite of our questionable actual-miles-hiked log, the OCT had an abundance of surreal landscapes, wildlife, and picturesque vistas for us to gawk at. In fact, the trail’s habit of meeting back up with 101 and winding through some of Oregon’s sleepy (and at times quaint, quirky, or just plain creepy) coastal towns made simply finding the trail half the challenge. Some stretches (such as Yachats to Florence) resembled the challenging, seaside, dirt trails we had expected, while others (such as Lincoln City to Waldport) were lacking enough in nature to send us to the nearest bus stop.

Although the OCT is totally feasible as a thru-trail, I’d follow the majority on this adventure and hike it as a series of smaller day hikes. That is of course, unless you truly enjoy long — seriously long — walks on the beach…

OCT Resources

Oregon State Parks Website: includes PDF downloads of maps for the OCT
The Great Outdoors: a basic, practical overview
Day Hiking the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson: includes information on thru-hiking the OCT

Trip Gallery

North America The Nomadic Life The United States Travel

Couchsurfing Beyond Travel: Getting Involved in Local CS Communities

Couchsurfers at an art galleryThe Seattle Freeze
“So, you’re new here?” the obviously drunk girl in front of me in line for the bathroom asked, “have you ever heard of the ‘Seattle Freeze’?” “No, I haven’t,” I replied, and as though she were purposely continuing the mystique of the question, she merely said “look it up,” and went to the next open stall.

According to a Seattle Times article (and not the drunk girl), the Seattle Freeze is a sort of “have-a-nice-day-(elsewhere)” mentality that many transplants to Seattle experience. People in the Pacific Northwest are notorious for their polite, laid-back demeanor, but newcomers to the city find it difficult to get past these initial, superficial interactions and form a circle of friends.

Breaking the Ice
My experience of moving to Seattle felt nothing like the frustrations transplants in the article and at various temp jobs spoke of. In attempt to make friends, I decided to tap in to one of the many resources for meeting people I use while traveling: Couchsurfing (CS). If it works when I’m on the road, why shouldn’t it work when I’m relocating to a different city?

I approached moving the way I would traveling and in the process discovered that although Couchsurfing generally has a reputation as a resource for connecting travelers and locals, local CS communities put like-minded travelers and travel enthusiasts in touch who, for whatever reason, aren’t traveling. “Couchsurfers are naturally curious people,” one friend theorized, “and I think you have to have a sort of open mindset to sign up for the site in the first place that makes it so easy to befriend strangers.”

How Local CS Communities Connect
Seattle’s Couchsurfing community celebrated their second annual camping trip (which I was lucky to be a part of!) a few weeks ago and more than 45 couchsurfers and friends drove out to the Olympic Peninsula for a friendly take over of 5 camp sites and to meet new people living in and around Seattle. Although some travelers joined the epic camp trip, most attendees were either transplants or natives to Seattle. Some found linking up with fellow CS-ers at home a way to cope with coming back from a long trip, while others were simply interested in making friends with other well-traveled, adventurous people. Either way, the trip demonstrated CS’s ability to be more than just a travel resource.

Find CS-ers in Your Area
In both Washington D.C. (my hometown) and Seattle (my new town), regular CS happy hour events were posted on the “groups” forums as well as other random hikes, yoga sessions, or outings to art galleries and outdoor cinemas. There’s even a CS camp at Burning Man now. Sift through community posts by location or theme, or browse events in your area. Alternatively, if you have an idea of something you’d like to do, create an event or post yourself — even if you don’t know anyone, you may be surprised by the responses you receive.

However, while Seattle has a unusally active group — with at least 2 or 3 meetups with great turnout each week — not every city has such a strong bond between local CS-ers. Maybe it’s the Seattle Freeze or high rate of transplants that pushed us towards alternative ways of making friends, maybe not. In any case, I’d like to think Seattle is living proof of the potential CS has for bringing people together, both on the road and off.

North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Local Lunchtime Discoveries in Ballard, Seattle: End

Monday’s Find

So, you know how sometimes you travel to a new corner and discover something so good you can’t be bothered to explore past that something? That all you want to do is indulge while you have the chance? Well, that’s kind of what happened today — instead of venturing out into Ballard to see what new stuff it had to offer, I ended up at El Camion once again, but this time with some spectacular company and a good dose of sunshine. I won’t bother telling you how delectable their food for the second time, so enjoy a few photos from the morning (bike) commute instead:

Taken near the Center for Wooden Boats in South Lake Union.

Taken in Old Ballard

North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Local Lunchtime Discoveries in Ballard, Seattle: 20twenty & Second Ascent

Friday’s Find


Initially, I was determined to track down some of Ballard’s Scandinavian roots for my Friday find, but aside from the Nordic Heritage Museum and a couple of shops/restaurants too far away for me to reasonably visit on a lunch break, none of the neighborhood’s more central Scandinavian staples still stand. Instead, I settled for pursuing affordable vintage clothes at 20twenty and geeking out over discount outdoors gear at Second Ascent.

From past experiences, I’ve found that Ballard is h0me to quite a few unique but pricey (!!) boutiques so stumbling on 20twenty — with $10 t-shirts, shoes under $50, and a whole host of other wallet-friendly vintage goodies — provided a happy contrast to its higher end neighbors. Finally! A Ballard clothing store broke office temps can afford!

After contemplating a polyester rainbow-striped and sequined skirt reminiscent of a circus tent (among other things), I headed across the street to Second Ascent outdoor retailers. In a city where the uber-outdoorsy has a prominent place in everyday fashion you don’t have to travel far to find stores like Second Ascent. However, their used gear selection is worth sifting through before caving to the incredible convenience of REI’s mega selection. North Face soft shell jacket for $60? Sure, I’ll skip working on my REI dividend for that. And besides, REI doesn’t let lazy dogs nap at their store’s entrance…

Visit Second Ascent @ 5209 Ballard Avenue Northwest and 20twenty @ 5208 Ballard Ave

Previous finds: one. two. three.

North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Local Lunchtime Discoveries in Ballard, Seattle: El Camion Taco Truck

Still at large and exploring Ballard; catch up and view Tuesday and Wednesday!

Thursday’s Find

Photo Credit: El Camions website

Just when I was about to make a run back to the office and call this lunchtime tourist attempt a rain-drenching fail, thumping Latino music and a large “Now with tacos!” sign on a billboard lured me in the other direction.

Maybe I didn’t see enough of them growing up, but now the mere sight of a taco truck is enough for me to stop what I’m doing and approach said taco truck. And since the rain was getting heavier and this particular truck had covered tables, I really couldn’t resist. Turns out, I had stumbled on one of El Camión’s Mexican food trucks that dot the parking lots of several Seattle neighborhoods and turn out tacos and comida auténtica mexicana mouthwateringly delicious enough to win them several “Best of” awards with Seattle Met.

They’re well deserved. After spending far too long trying to decide on what to order, I opted for their grilled veggie mulita (something I’d never even heard of before…), which is essentially a cheesy, avocado and veggie-filled, mound of spicy goodness stuck between two fresh, corn tortillas. However, a few peeks at the enticing-looking yellow rice and generously sized burritos on other customers plates makes me think I couldn’t really have gone wrong with whatever I ordered. Disappointingly though, they were out of their  Champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate) but since they provided even further reprise from the rain with the heated dining tent next to the truck, I think I can forgive them for this one!

Visit El Camión @ 5314 15th Ave NW or one of their other 2 locations

North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Local Lunchtime Discoveries in Ballard, Seattle: Cafe Besalu

In continuation of my lunchtime tourism in Ballard…

Wednesday’s Find

Founded with the hidden, backstreet pastry shops of Europe in mind, family owned Cafe Besalu was the real reason I ended up on the corner of 24th Ave NW and 59th St NW yesterday. Unfortunately it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays so I had to put it off for a day, which ended up being yesterday! I didn’t find anything special about the atmosphere, but that’s not how they earned their 5-star yelp rating and multiple “best of Seattle” awards. Rather, it’s their croissants, pastries, and coffee.

I wanted to order everything. But instead opted for one of their vegetarian quiches, goat cheese and leek, a croissant, and pain au chocolate. Since their website touts that Besalu is “possibly the best croissant bakery on the entire American continent” I felt I couldn’t leave without one (or two). The quiche was rich and flavorful, and while I still prefer the croissants of Bakery Nouveau, Besalu did not leave me disappointed. They were flaky, buttery, soft, and just-out-of-the-oven fresh (Besalu makes their goods in house) — in short, everything a croissant should be. I may have to return to sample their cardamom pretzels, however…

After Besalu, I continued to wander about the historic section of Ballard, which still carries traces of its Scandinavian-influenced past in the architecture and of course, elements of Seattle’s quirky personality. Historically, Ballard has had a large fishing, boat building, and lumber industry, and even today large ship yards still dominate the waterfront. Possibly I’ll post a photo tomorrow… but for now the camera is dead :/

Visit Cafe Besalu @ 5909 24th Avenue Northwest

North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Local Lunchtime Discoveries in Ballard, Seattle: Java Bean

I seriously don’t talk about Seattle enough, but since moving here in October I’ve really fallen in love. Problem is, it takes far too much effort for me to leave the hill (Capitol Hill that is) and explore elsewhere. However, this week I’ll be in Ballard on an office temp assignment and have decided to take advantage of my longish lunch breaks and play tourist.

Tuesday’s Find:

Enticed by a super-friendly Golden Labrador hanging around the rows of old-school metal sun chairs outside Java Bean, I used my first lunch break to sample some of this cozy cafe’s coffee — after getting covered in dog hair from petting the lab, of course. According to the outgoing barista behind the counter, the Cafe Vienna (a cinnamon infused vanilla latte) and Cafe Mole (the chocolate version of a Cafe Vienna) have been in house specialties since opening 21 years ago.  In attempt to satisfy my sweet tooth, I went for the Cafe Vienna which ended up being super creamy, tasty, and of course, chocolaty. It kind of lost the cinnamon flavor after the first few sips, but the chocolate held on strong. Extra props to Java Bean for having (*gasp*) comfortable sofas too!

(Visit Java Bean @ 5819 24th Avenue Northwest)

In Photos North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Sunset at Gasworks Park

Because when the sun’s out in Seattle, we all spring to life… These are from a recent bike ride to Gasworks Park in Wallingford. As the name suggests, the park’s main lure is an old, unused gasification plant. While a good portion is barred off by fences, some of it is still fair game for monkeying around.


Adventure Travel North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Why I Want to Visit the Oregon Coast Trail Right Now

With novice-hiker friendly Camino de Santiago financially out of reach, inspiration for my latest travel daydream is a bit closer to home.

1. Potential for Long-Distance Trekking

While most sources seem to point towards day-treks on the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), over the years the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have developed the OCT as a route for hikers to be able to thru-trek the state’s coast. Most impressively, this project includes a set of comprehensive maps and directions for those attempting it. The remoteness of the trail varies from fairly secluded, to not at all — at times criss-crossing with highway 101 and several coastal towns. In fact, 41% of the trail is on paved roads, and not really much of a trail at all. However, there’s definitely an appeal to this as it makes  it easy to hop on and off the trail to refuel or quell that inevitable sense of loneliness on a long journey alone.

2. Diverse Landscapes

One of the highlights of the OCT is it’s unique geography.

“It’s incredibly varied. Tidepools, secluded beaches, old-growth forests, shifting sand dunes: All are part of the Oregon coast hiking experience” (from Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson)

Not to mention an array of noteworthy sights and parks along the way, such as Cannon Beach, Rockaway Beach, and Ecola State Park, where the classic 1985 film The Goonies was shot. 1980s-style treasure hunt anyone?

3. Never too Far From Beer

Oregon and the Pacific Northwest have rapidly gained a solid reputation for their microbreweries, some of which are conveniently located alongside the OCT (a list can be found here). Happily, one of my favorite breweries, Rogue Ales (brewers of the oh-so-tasty Dead Guy Ale), is among them. It’s coastal location in Newport boasts 35 taps and a gastropub menu that will surely serve motivational purposes for the first half of the hike.

4. Watching the Whale Migrations

I’m not entirely sure why the possibility of spotting a one of the gray whales that make their Alaska – Mexico migration along the coast is so appealing — but it is. Each year in the winter and spring, whales can be seen making their migration along the coast. However, the parks estimate that about 200-400 whales stay put along the coast in the summer time, meaning that no matter what time of year it is there’s always a chance one will make an appearance.