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Spring time in LA doesn’t mean that much for LA natives, for this NYC habitant though it means sun on my face and hunting for pools – not that hard in LA! It means driving up the PCH with friends, music blasting and wind in my hair to get to that secret ocean cove. I’m a huge fan of weekend getaways, or even just a spontaneous escape from the city for a day to go seek new adventure. Usually these little escapes involve the beach, surfing, a pool, nature, somewhere… ANYWHERE away from all the hustle… where no one can find me. My own little mission for a top secret adventure. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been spending the last month in LA. It’s a city of driving and traffic but also of sunshine, water and endless wandering! I love driving, but not sitting in traffic – which is a special kind of torture. However, it makes a world of difference and comfort when you are in a luxury, cutting – edge, super techie vehicle! You can obviously imagine my excitement when Audi asked me to test drive their new 2018 Q5 SUV. Weekend Warrior status, here I come!
The Audi Q5 redefines how an SUV looks and more importantly… how it feels! Ooh la la! It’s like a James Bond watch – sexy on the outside, but filled with so much more than your expect on the inside. It looks like a sexxxy sports car, but once inside it SURPRISES with ample room for ALL of the extreme adventures in my life. Want to dive for hidden treasure? This car can hold all of your scuba gear and film equipment to document the mission. Everything about driving this vehicle felt luxurious, from it’s sleek exterior & interior to the top of the line tech meets edge-of-your seat performance. Let’s just say on day one I knew it would be hard to return on day 4. Still hoping Audi will just surprise me with a longer or permanent loan – one can dream.
I like fast cars. I always have. I think in an alternate universe or a previous life I was a race car driver. With an engine that can take you from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds the Audi Q5 leaves everyone else in my dust. Perfect for beating that traffic out to catch the best waves, before the crowds! Don’t worry Audi – I stuck to the speed limit. One of my favorite features is the massive sunroof providing panoramic views, it almost feels like a convertible – well almost. The Audi Q5 is equipped with a virtual cockpit that lets the driver customize all information from navigation to audio, allowing for total environmental control. Having total control is so hot. It is crazy to me how smart, and tech savvy cars have become. I live in NYC most of the year so I haven’t owned a car in over 4 years – the driver assistance technologies help alert the driver to any shifts the road might have in their way – from other vehicles to traffic and more, the car practically drives itself!
Partner: Audi #AudiQ5 #AudiPartner
Photo Credit: Ryan Chaan
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment, sustainability, and my contribution to this world in general. More now than ever I feel a need to be more involved, aware, and in general more conscious. It’s easy to get caught up with work, friends, daily life … we are all busy AF these days and sometimes it’s hard to be the 100% environmentally conscious, sustainable person I say I am or want to be. Cue –> In the Know, an online boutique that exclusively carries environmentally and socially conscious, fashion forward pieces. Their goal is to make women feel in vogue while wearing sustainable clothing. They make leading a sustainable lifestyle easy. In the Know provides environmentally and socially friendly, chic clothing and accessories. I fell in love with their Izola candles, made in the USA with renewable resources and last up to 60 hours of burning time! My favorite scents are Magnolia and Jasmine, although I’ve stalked up on almost every scent – they are that damn good.
Fact – “In the Know works exclusively with designers who manufacture their collections in places where artisans earn fair wages and operate under healthy, comfortable working conditions. In addition, we research the fabrics that are used to make each of the garments we carry. The designers use the highest-quality, environmentally friendly textiles and employ low-waste techniques. Most of our clothing is made from fabrics that are recycled, organic cotton, or alpaca wool”. – In The Know
Dress – The Harley Dress by Helfrich LA. Shop here
Candles -Izola. Shop here
Photography by: Preethi Rajaguru
“We all have one foot in a fairytale & the other in the abyss” – Paulo Coelho
I climb down the steep rocky steps from our Villa perched atop the cliff looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Tucked away in our little sanctuary in San Juan del sur Nicaragua, Playa Maderas it feels like we’ve escaped to a secret other world. We are giddy, jungle, wild creatures running towards the beach fighting time to catch what is bound to be an epic sunset. The three of us, Megan, Ryan and I have massive smiles spread across our faces. Right, right ok everyone focus up for a minute we are actually working here (if you can call it that)… Ryan pulls out his camera gear, Megan helps me fix my clothing and I promptly given direction to dance in the ocean. Dance in the ocean in a beautiful sequin dress? Mermaid mode is in full effect. I can’t help but giggle every few minutes as I remind myself this is what I get to call work. I am euphoric. I am in my element, in the ocean, salt in my hair, sun kissed skin, best friend at my side. It doesn’t get much better than this. I take a moment to thank mother nature, to be thankful for all of it. We have the entire beach to ourselves minus one fisherman who is looking at me like I am crazy as I spin and twirl in my sequin dress, waves crashing around me. He clearly thought we were either drunk or high, and to be fair we were but only on life (yes, I said it. Cheesy AF but it was 100% true AF).
I’ve been on the road traveling on and off for the better part of the last five months. Most of it has been for work, some for fun, and one due to a beautiful soul leaving this world. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind, debating how to share this, if at all. But how does one share such an incredibly personal experience with a vast entanglement of emotions? It’s a heavy one, but at the end I hope you gain a new perspective, or a refreshed one as I did.
Reflecting on the last few months is confusing, full of adventure, exciting, and sad but most of all I have learned so SO much. In September my cousin Makena passed away on his 21st birthday doing something he loved – spear fishing while on a surf trip to Bali. A shallow water blackout. I remember getting the phone call like it was yesterday. Walking down a hectic street in the middle of the week in the Financial District of NYC my phone rang. Immediately I knew something was wrong, the tone in her voice was off, her breath unsteady, as if she was fighting the act of speaking. The words came out but it just couldn’t be, “Makena is gone”. All of sudden my world stopped. And there in the middle of the street the shock ripped through me, tears streaming down my face, my chest compressing in a way that felt like someone was grabbing my heart with an iron fist.
We were close, I spent the better half of my college breaks visiting Kauai, my family spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on Island, Kauai felt like home. Makena showed me the beauty of Kauai, he showed me the island’s best kept secrets, he took me surfing, he laughed with me, he taught me that everything was going to be ok. Makena was one of those people who teaches you what it means to be genuine, really truly genuine. You could spend five minutes or an entire day with him and you would part ways wanting to be a better person. He cared deeply for the environment, for the ocean, for his family and friends. He was happy. No matter how little or how much he had in life he was happy just living, always present. He made me and continues to make me strive to be a better person.
Flying back to Kauai for the memorial I remember feeling like I was in a haze. Kauai had always been my magical, goddess, positive, renewing paradise. Traveling back to visit my family for an entirely different purpose felt unimaginable.
As I walked off the plane, collected my bags and searched for my uncle it all suddenly became very real. My uncle and I embraced in a hug, no words were exchanged as held each other there in silent sobs, acknowledging each other’s pain. As we drove back to the house my uncle handed me a joint and said, “here this will help.” It made me smile. Aloha. We were still in Kauai after all.
The next two weeks I witnessed the most beautiful and powerful display of community I had ever experienced. I was surrounded by family and friends, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. LOVE was abundant. The days were spent hiking to Makena’s favorite spots, surfing, spreading his ashes down the Napali Coast. The nights became a gathering at the house, everyone cooking, drinking wine, sharing tears, laughs, stories and hugs. Some nights even became dance parties, celebrating the spirit of Makena. He was a fucking unicorn of a human being. Always glowing, full of optimism. I swear I never heard that boy ever say one negative thing, complain or be selfish in any way. Most of all he knew how to keep himself happy. something many people struggle an entire lifetime to achieve. I am so proud to have known Makena, to call him family and a friend. His love for adventure and exploration was never ending -something to be inspired by. He had an intense amount of respect for nature, especially the ocean. I can contribute my deep love of the water, in part to him.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Makena’s passing is still heavy on my heart but it reminded me what is important in life. It made me reflect and realize I need more than ever to be present. Life is short and you never know what tomorrow will bring. Right now I really just want to LIVE. There is a lot of unknowns in life but what I do know is I want to live. I want to be happy. I want to take every adventure that presents itself. I want to wake up every morning knowing that whatever obstacles come my way it will be ok. To LOVE fully. I’ve come to realize I’m searching for soul loving, deep meaningful connections with friends, family, lovers. Through this experience something inside of me woke up. I think it was always there but I’m not afraid of acknowledging it anymore. I want to do away with small talk. I like people who speak with emotion. Speak to me of magic, of faraway places, your dreams, what makes you fire up so much that every single nerve in your body is tingling, what makes you feel awake and alive, your fears and weaknesses, of other worlds, what wakes you up every morning and keeps you awake at night. Speak to me of your deepest secrets. Share your twisted mind and don’t be scared. Opening up your heart, being courageous and telling people you care about them. That you like them and think they are special. These things only makes you a better, bigger, kinder, more interesting and more loving person. It can only attract more adventure and love into your life.
My trip to Nicaragua happened right after Kauai and it was a relief to be somewhere Makena would love, to be in nature and the stillness. To be in the water everyday and feel his energy in the ocean. It was at time of loving, healing, adventure, and reflection. To live like Makena.
Thank-you Makena for being the deeply magical soul you were. I feel your energy everywhere.
It’s 6 A.M. I hear Music. Shaggy to be specific. The lyrics of “It Wasn’t Me” start getting louder and louder as I pull the sheets up over my head in protest. The next thing I know two half naked, super athletic, men are standing in my bedroom with a boom box singing” Picture this we were both butt naked..” s Through my sleep deprived half open eyelids I am able to take in their physique. They proceed to dance on my bed until I acknowledge I am indeed awake. Are those disco lights? Yes. My room has been turned into a discotheque. Good morning, Nicaragua! Somehow I am able to feed off of their ridiculous energy and bounce out of bed to pull on workout gear and remember right, yes I signed up for a week long fitness retreat with Surf Yoga Beer.
Megan, one of my best friends, and I exchange looks across the room. We got this. As we walk out of our Villa, onto our deck overlooking Playa Madera, a smile begins to creep across my face. I’m in paradise. Our villa is located on a cliff, part of the Madera’s Villa’s complex which is comprised of multiple villas all with ocean views. Only a few minutes from the beach, I can literally sit in my hammock and watch the surf break. It was going to be a good week.
I had never done a fitness retreat. For that matter I had never travelled in a large group before, so the entire experience to me was new one to me. Surf Yoga Beer (SYB) is exactly what it sounds like, a fitness adventure that still likes to have fun at the end of the day. Life is all about balance after all. Almost everyone has heard of at least one fitness retreat, they seem to be multiplying like bunnies these days. However most of them are purists, in that you go away for a week or more to cleanse, detox and come back a new, refreshed, shinier version of yourself. While I am all about a good cleanse, I was looking for more of a vacation this time around. Our schedule went something like this;
6 AM : Wake up every, yes EVERY morning for 6:30 AM boot camp on the beach.
7 AM: Home cooked breakfast is served in one of the main Villas by Eddie, owner of Salud (one of my favorite healthy cafes in NYC) – focused on healthy, local cuisine of Nicaragua.
9:30 AM: Head back down to the beach for Surf session. Lessons by Mantas are provided or you can opt to do your own thing.
1-3PM: Keep surfing, grab tacos on the beach, take a nap in your hammock, explore the forest hiking paths, this is you time. Afternoon activities such as zip lining are also offered throughout the week.
4:30 PM: When you think your body might not have any energy left in it you manage to do some sunset yoga with the incredible super model turned yoga instructor Rianne Ten haken. She is a magical, unicorn of a creature who succeeded in melting us all into peaceful meditation every evening.
7PM ISH: Dinner, drinks and dance parties commence. Dinner for the most part were home cooked meals served at the main villa with a few exceptions of dinner in town. Somehow when your body has reached maximum level of exhaustion you fumble your way back through the dark jungle, minding the scorpions and spiders to your villa and pass out.
It’s funny because this is how a lot of people live their lives every day, my cousins in Kauai for example wake up every day, for the most part at sunrise and either go surf or workout. Usually followed by a day of heavy activity. However, we city people takes a few days for our bodies to adjust to becoming Mowgli. I’ve always felt very torn by two identities. There is the side of me that loves the city, getting dressed up, doing my hair and makeup, the scene, all of it. Then there is the other side of me. The wild child. The Mowgli. It’s easy for me to glide between the two and transform, adjusting between city and jungle as if both were my natural habitat. I love that I can become a beach bum, let go and run around with crazy beach hair and no makeup – a simpler me. My week in Nicaragua was just that. A week of a simpler me, back to the basics, back to nature, back to the things that really matter. It just so happened that this SYB trip happened over Thanksgiving, so naturally thoughts of family and thankfulness were abundant. It was refreshing not dealing with the usual airport craziness traveling from coast to coast, the juggling of multiple households, the overeating and overdrinking. Instead I was spending each day with a new family, a fitness family, in nature. I need this. I crave it – being in water, being in nature. It’s what allows me to be successful and balanced in such a large, and sometimes suffocating city as NYC. Being able to escape and become Mowgli for a bit.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Nicaragua, and like most of the group, didn’t know many people. There were introverts, extroverts, couples, people from LA, NYC and Australia. Being that the trip was largely focused on health, it was also great to see the group was comprised people of all fitness levels. I consider myself an athlete, I work out about 3-5 times a week. I’m no Mantas, one of the SYB leaders. He works out 7 days a week (multiple times a day), has 2% or less body fat and is one of the most sought out SoulCycle Instructors in the NYC. So it was reassuring and inspiring to see that all athletic levels had signed up for a week of fitness adventures.
That first morning boot camp set the pace and attitude for the entire trip – Mantas had us running around playing capture the flag, team building exercises, mid work out ocean rinse offs, partner workouts, relays – it was the most fun I had ever had during a boot camp. It was so much more than burning calories. You could see everyone become a kid again as if we were all at summer camp, but this summer camp happened to be on a stunning beach in Nicaragua. It was sweaty and messy and 100% exhilarating. Everyone had a smile on their face, even me after getting taken out HARD during an aggressive game of capture the flag (I’m rather competitive). I began to notice something, an energy amongst the group, through these activities people were starting to open up. They were getting outside of their comfort zone and sharing themselves fully without boundaries or walls. I’ve seen this before, in acting classes when walls are torn down and the inner child is allowed to surface and play, smile and laugh without judgment in a safe environment. It is an amazing thing to witness.
Somewhere between my reflections in yoga, the water on my surfboard, or sitting fireside on the beach with 22 SYB people, the feeling hit me. This was an extraordinary group, how safe and open everyone felt with one another. To share their true selves with essentially strangers. No one was trying to impress anyone else. It’s funny how nature can do that, how extreme circumstances can release you of societal pressures.
The last night was pretty magical. We went into town for dinner but before sitting down for our last meal of the trip we were asked to gather on the beach. Mantas and Eddie our SYB leaders were holding a closing ceremony by handing out awards from the week accompanied by SYB swag. I received an award that had more or less to do with my teeny tiny surf bottoms – tan lines…what can I say. We finished dinner and ended the night on the town with a hot sweaty dance party, the only acceptable way to finish out the week. It was hard to accept the week was already over.
All Photos taken by myself or Ryan Chann
Outfits: White One Piece – Mia Marcella Swim | Pink One Piece – Onia Swim | Floral Two Piece – Triangl Swim
White Dress: – WYLDR
Striped Dress: Tessa Midi Dress Harlequin Stripe – Steele Label
Fitness Adventure: – SURF YOGA BEER