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The green, green Grampians

After our obligatory Melbourne food-coffee-shop-art fest, the three of us bundled into the car and meandered our way to the Grampians via the picturesque Great Ocean Road, Australia’s answer to Big Sur.

I recently came across the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, literally “forest bathing”. It refers to the recommended practice of visiting the forest for health benefits, both physical and mental. Nothing could be truer and articulates so perfectly the effect even a short trip out of the city does to us. The sharp fresh air, the quiet punctuated by only the gentle sounds of nature, letting your eyes settle on wide open spaces and distant horizons. It’s interesting that out there, one can experience true silence and true darkness, perhaps giving our senses the natural rest they need.

Ironically I write this whilst staring at my laptop screen in a bustling cafe, bass-heavy Lauryn Hill blasting from a speaker into my left ear, cars whizzing by on my right, and the barista is doing that thing they do where they bash equipment together really loudly for some reason or other. (Someone help me out here – what are they doing?)

But this is the reality of our everyday. So maybe tree-hugging shouldn’t be a term reserved for altruistic environmentalists alone, it might do us all some good. I’m convinced it does.

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Great Ocean Road with 2.1 humans

I gotta admit, I got onto that plane kicking and screaming on the inside, thinking that this was a very very bad idea. Why would I want to be a sleepless, frazzled new parent somewhere other than in the comfort of my own home.

Insane levels of sleep deprivation and the sudden transition from full-time professional to mother of a tiny being was wreaking havoc on my brain and sense of self. Well-meaning people, parenting websites, numerous books urged me to try all sorts of “fixes” and “routines” resulting in additional stress, making my nerves even more ragged and the tears fall faster.

This trip was in fact the antidote I needed. Every day was different by necessity, routine was out the window as we literally strapped Alexa to our bodies and got outside. We loved it and she loved it! It didn’t matter what we did, there wasn’t any secret magic except for enjoying nature, the act of exploring and simply connecting with one another. Taking the time to notice and drink in the trees rustling in the wind, waves crashing on sandy beaches, the changing colours only sunset can bring, the warmth of my beautiful baby in my arms, the gentle rise and fall of her tummy as she sleeps, placing a little kiss on her tiny lips.

Joshua Tree – Ryan Mountain

 

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Whilst I’m sitting here listening to the rain fall against my window, heater on, cup of tea in hand, dreams of the desert call to me.

One of the most highly anticipated stops along our road trip was none other than the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. We said a reluctant goodbye to our beautiful room at Ace Hotel Palm Springs, vowing to return one day, and sprang into our car, heading on to our next destination. We had a carefully laid out plan. Since we were travelling light(ish), we were going to check out the town, grab some supplies and hire a tent from Joshua Tree Outfitters before heading into the park to bags a campsite and squeeze in a quick hike.

One unforeseen problem – it was Wednesday. And why was that a biiiiiiig problem? Joshua Tree Outfitters don’t open on Wednesdays. And no one else in the tiny town hired out camp equipment. Stride-broken and crestfallen we commiserated our sad fate together in the car. We were contemplating sleeping out in the open (in rattle snake country) or at least in our car, when we went and did what non-delirious totally sensible people would do.

We bought a tent. That’s right, we bought a tent.

Cue carefree, jangly guitar road trip music again!

Driving into the park is like entering another world. Being from Australia, we’re no strangers to desert landscapes but we’d never seen anything like this. I distinctly remember letting out an involuntary, “Woooooah…” when we first caught sight of it. Dry, hulking mountains look down upon you and the numerous oddly shaped Joshua trees dominate your view for miles and miles.

Just a quick look at the nitty gritty for those keen to visit. Joshua Tree National Park is an extremely well-tended and well-loved park with great facilities for campers. You can traverse it with a regular car as all the necessary access roads are sealed and the campsites are pristinely clean. There are plenty of drop toilets, but no running water or electricity (I think there are one or two specific sites that do have these if you need them).

We found our perfect spot at the Jumbo Rocks Campground and pitched our tent quick smart in order to have enough time to embark on a hike up Ryan Mountain. Ryan Mountain is a 3 mile there-and-back hike that ascends 1070 feet (325 metres). Being crazy and highly excited noobs we set out in the middle of the afternoon whilst the sun baked down on us but we made do with plenty of water and in that heat even the ridiculously smallest of shrubs shed the most luxurious shade. The hike is not too long in terms of distance but it does ascend quite rapidly with very few flat spots for respite.

We were rewarded above and beyond our expectations and efforts. Due to the elevation, you get the most incredible views of the park from above, its mountains and unusual rock formations. Enduring the afternoon sun meant that we made it to the peak as the sun was beginning to set behind distant mountains – we were speechless for a while. I think it was just that beautiful and we were just that pooped. The golden hour in this part of the world during Fall lasts a long time but be sure to bring torches to ensure that your descent is safe.

Ojai Rancho Inn

ojai-rancho-inn-11ojai-rancho-inn-19ojai-rancho-inn-4 ojai-rancho-inn-5 ojai-rancho-inn-1ojai-rancho-inn-10 ojai-rancho-inn-7 ojai-rancho-inn-8 ojai-rancho-inn-12ojai-rancho-inn-3ojai-rancho-inn-13ojai-rancho-inn-18Holiday digs don’t get much cooler than this. En route from a few awesome but parching days of hiking and meteor-gazing in the desert, we continued our roadtrip onwards to Ojai Rancho Inn and boy was it a sight for sore feet and days-old hairdos. In an act of amazing foresight, Jinn had booked us a room with a spa just big enough for two bottoms where we dusted off our tired muscles and tumbled soon after into one of their beautiful giant wooden beds.

Set in sunny, rustic California, Ojai Rancho Inn is a refurbished motor lodge that keeps its old charm but has also had a major update in style. The vintage Americana vibe and healthy dosages of cacti and succulents in small pots had us sighing at every turn and their shibori-dyed curtains had me dreaming of shibori-ing the bejeebers out of everything when I got home.

There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a bevvy or two on your private mini “porch”, at their onsite bar Chief’s Peak, or even poolside. Also nearby is the cheery town centre and the friendly hotel staff were more than happy to fill us in on their local favourites.

Although not yet on most people’s “to-do” list, we would heartily recommend including Ojai in your Californian itinerary, there was so much to like about the laid-back town. To find out more about our other Ojai highlights, read about Summer Camp (oh-so instagrammable store) and Four Leaf Wood Shop (covetable and functional wooden objects for the home).

Ojai Rancho Inn / 615 W. Ojai Ave, Ojai / hello@ojairanchoinn.com

The Stirling Ranges

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Good golly, where has all that time gone…? In all honesty it’s been consumed by all-work but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean no-play, and the time certainly hasn’t been dull. Jinn has been knuckling down to smash the crap out of a few exams, and I’ve been settling into a new job after a very hectic and often stressful year. All the more reason to come back to this space and create and express.

So whaddaya know? Western Australia has mountains – real, bona fide, actual mountains. Well, mini ones by global standards.

Over the deliciously long four-day Christmas weekend, we made the split decision to go camping. Lured by the views promised from the top of Bluff Knoll and other peaks around the Stirling Ranges, we had been feeling an increasingly insistent desire to detach and go hiking – so off we went. It was the perfect idea, the campsites were peaceful and secluded whilst everyone did the family Christmas thing and the weather unseasonably and mercifully cool for summer.

That said, the trip was not without hitches. Keen to get up those peaks, in embarrassing noob fashion we found ourselves with desperately low levels of fuel right smack bang in the middle of the sprawling national park with the closest petrol stations closed and enjoying their Christmas barbies. And let’s not forget to mention a certain person falling down a waterfall on our way back home through Pemberton. (Not me.) Despite the dramas, a couple of spats, and a few heart-stopping near-death experiences, we had an incredible time and will definitely be getting ourselves down here again soon.

Recommendations? Of course you’ve got to do Bluff Knoll because it’s the climb, and the highest peak, and do believe people when they tell you it’s windy up top – pack an extra layer, preferably of the windproof, windbreaking kind. However, we’d recommend Mount Trio as it’s nestled amongst a bunch of other small mountains and provides magnificent views too. Be brave and don’t mind a bit of rock-scrambling. Sunset views are just breathtaking so remember to pack head-torches for your descent.

Go somewhere

brooklyn_-1brooklyn_-7brooklyn_-12brooklyn_-2brooklyn_-13brooklyn_-14 brooklyn_-3 brooklyn_-10 brooklyn_-16brooklyn_-8Wearing – Jungmaven dress, Birkenstock sandals, A.J. Morgan sunglasses, Gorman bag

Jumping a little ahead in time, New York was the last stop in our holiday. By this time, we’d roasted ourselves in the Californian desert and breathed in the pine-scented air of the Oregon forests, and now found ourselves on the other side of this vast country pounding concrete, dodging yellow taxis, and weaving through the busy streams of people.

We decided this time round to stay in Brooklyn in a sweet apartment in Williamsburg, a great decision as it took us away from the Manhattan bustle and into the smaller and (slightly) less trodden streets where it’s more about being effortlessly cool than the incessantly bright lights and flashy Broadway smile. Relaxed chic is the brand, and places selling vintage threads to boutique cheese ooze out of every nook and cranny.

Brooklyn is the Solange to Manhattan’s Beyonce, and no offence to the Beycrew but I know who I’d rather hang with.

Summer Camp

summer-camp-ojai-14summer-camp-ojai-22 summer-camp-ojai-19 summer-camp-ojai-17summer-camp-ojai-13summer-camp-ojai-18 summer-camp-ojai-11 summer-camp-ojai-10 summer-camp-ojai-6 summer-camp-ojai-5 summer-camp-ojai-2summer-camp-ojai-21A few months ago we stumbled across Summer Camp’s ogle-worthy Instagram feed and developed an intense crush on the impeccable styling and unmistakable character (and ALL THE CACTI ZOMG). We hadn’t even heard about the tiny town of Ojai but after a little more searching and hashtag chasing we discovered that it was home and haven to many other creatives and great destinations. And so Ojai became a fast fixture in our itinerary, and we would recommend it to all driving through California!

Summer Camp is a gorgeous shop run by Rachel and Michael housed in a renovated old gas station that specialises in custom picture framing and faultlessly curated home decor, vintage collectibles with a healthy smattering of jewellery and other personal accessories.

Rachel, store curator and mumma extraordinaire, draws from the nostalgia and aesthetic of her childhood summer camps to create a space that really transports you there, almost as if you’ve walked into a Wes Anderson movie! Focussing also on locally made goods, her collection of ceramics and woodwork is an absolute dream. A single visit to this place and I guarantee you will feel like setting up a teepee and never leaving.

Summer Camp / IG @shopsummercamp / 1020 W Ojai Ave, Ojai, California

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