Travel to Claremont

I often say a day off from work is like fine gold, the value is greater than a normal weekend. Something fun must be done with the time.  Staying home and relaxing would be like missing an opportunity to invest in a great stock.

In California the biggest drawback is traffic, so what ever is done has to be done early in the day otherwise you’ll get stuck in traffic as if you did go to work. Christina text me in the morning and we made the decision not to go to LA due to traffic, but she remembered a great little city on the way to LA called Claremont.

Just like traveling in a foreign city you really don’t know what to do, there is no plan just the time to discover something new. To my surprise, my favorite coffee Augie’s, has a new location in Clermont. We grabbed a coffee and explored the bookstore next store.

I told Christian the story of Gus and I looking for a record shop and ended up at a private home studio. Of course we didn’t knock but the adventure to find this address was pretty funny. I looked up local record shops, and to my surprise there are a few in the area. It was great to learn Claremont’s downtown was becoming another cool places to hang out in.

I enjoy visiting new places to get me out of my comfort zone. It gives me a chance to see people who are different to me. I often look for the same places to visit but it’s the walk to A to B that I enjoy most, the conversation with a friend or the people watching I do along the way. The Record stores, coffee shops and bookstores are usually excuses to get out and experience what I’m looking for; life happening.

The Buzz of the City

The buzz of the city filled the air with endless possibilities. From the moment we saw the bay bridge we knew we were in for an adventure. I imagined young people working in their studio offices making creative decisions that would influence our culture.

The first stop we made was a hidden coffee shop. When I walked in the doors, I saw tables full of people talking and visiting with one another. I was tempted to ask them what they did for a living so I too could be in a coffee shop on a Tuesday morning at 10am hanging out with friends.  We ordered our lattes and pretend we were one of them.


We later made our way to watch the sun set at the beach. The people of the city seemed to be searching for a connection with nature, the parks were full of runners and the beach with surfers. I saw business people in their cars, looking in to the sunlight and an older couple standing at the edge of the sand taking in the moment. Then there was us, talking about hopes for the future.

The drive down the city streets made me forget about what was happening on-line and enjoy the present moment. We kept telling one another to stop taking photos, to look out the window and see what was all around us. 

Once we got inside a pub for dinner, I was glad to see there were no big TV screens on. We told one another to place our phones in the middle of the table and enjoy hanging out with one another. Conversations about business and dreams of making money seemed to light up the room.

We tried to imagine the lives of those who call San Francisco home. Its here that the city encourages individuality.

My favorite part of the trip was when we visited a fancy coffee shop that sold toast and coffee for $10. I figured I was paying for the experience of living a life style I’ve only dreamt of. I was inspired by the big groups of people exchanging ideas. I imaged staff from twitter, or from a new high tech company meeting at these very tables, planning on the next big thing. It made me want to create an encouraging community like this back where I live.

We gave ourself the afternoon to be tourist and to visit some well known locations.

A friend told us to visit the Golden Gate Bridge from a different location. I enjoyed hanging out by the water, listening to the birds pass by, laughing and making jokes with one another.

On our final night we left the car behind, and took public transport. We wanted to blend in and feel what it was like to live in such a thriving city. One thing is for sure, living in the city there is very little room for personal space.

I thought the city was beautiful at night, but at sunrise, it glows with hope.

I’ve been to San Francisco many times, but this time I finally captured the heart of what San Fran is all about.

Be yourself…no matter how weird you are. 

Doing LA right

Having an authentic LA experience is no easy task. If you ever find yourself in this city, you will see there is too much to do in one day. With bumper to bumper traffic you have to do LA right otherwise it can put you in a bad mood. You must be prepared to have no plan. The trick is letting the city come alive to you.

I usually have an idea of some things I want to do. With my friend in town from Puerto Rico, it was my job to make the city feel like an old friend to him. Over time I have gathered up a few places I like visiting in LA.  I packed my new ipad mini to test out the camera, my gps and we were on our way.

First stop, Griffith Observatory. This is one of the best spots to see the city of Los Angeles. There is lots to do inside but being outside is the most rewarding.

Next we made out way to pick up a friend. She was staying in an area where there was a cool cafe and record store I knew of. We parked by her place and took a walk down the street. This gave us all a break from being in the car and a chance to relax.

For dinner, I recommended pizza. If shared, its cheaper for everyone. I knew of this place in Silverlake that made Chicago deep dish. As we waited to be seated, we placed our order so our food can cook while we wait. We ended up having a good time outside the restaurant, laughing and telling stories.

Later that night we went for a drive downtown to see the old buildings. During the day this would be a mistake, driving across town could take hours, but since it was pass 10pm, it was safe to make the drive. We got there in a few minutes.

After, Joanna mentioned her love for ice cream, lucky there was a place in Silverlake that was open pass midnight. We drove back to where we came from and made out final stop for the day.

As the driver of this trip I wanted everyone to have a good time without worrying about what to do next. It was my opportunity to share some of my favorite spots in LA. Its a city that can stress an outsider out but once you make friends and spend the day with them, the city will no longer feel like a stranger.

Road Trip: Portland

The  moment we drove in to Portland we could tell it was different from any other. The streets were full of bike riders, dog walkers and skateboarders. We got off the highway to find a coffee shop. We picked a small place called The Red Square, which made it easy to find because it was a red square.

As we drove the streets of Portland, we laughed at how accurate the TV show Portlandia is. We parked the car and did some exploring.

When we had to leave after only spending a day in Portland, we couldn’t stop talking about it in Seattle. “Can’t wait until we go back home.” When we returned, we both took a deep breath of relief.

The first thing we did was walk around Old Town. We found a great comic store in China Town. It was a young boys dream.

When we walked around the block we discovered the Portland out door market. The whole city was outside doing something creative.

By the end of the day, we were all tired. It was time to look for a hotel. For some reason every room in the city was booked. We all looked at each other hoping one of us would have a solution. After spending hours calling around we finally found a room open at a fancy hotel, which meant lots of money. Sleep in the car or in a palace? Us California kids chose the palace.

The next morning we all agreed to go to a rose garden. As we walked around and relaxed in one of Portland’s beautiful garden we all felt refreshed.

When Monday finally came along, hotel rooms were open in abundance! Living out of a suit case isn’t easy but it never loses its excitement. (I’m sure it does at some point haha.) But you never know what kinda room you’re going to get. At the Shilo Inn, we got a retro room that we adored!

Our last and final day in Portland, we did a Portlandia tour. I found a site that named all the places the show  filmed at.

Oblique Coffee Roasters – This coffee shop was in the middle of the suburbs. We ordered the house coffee and enjoyed the morning paper.

In Other Words – This store was pretty exciting to visit. I was astonish that this place was real. I figured the show created it for the skit but when I looked in the window everything was exactly the same.  Video Clip

The last Portlandia location we went to is where they filmed the Pilot… which turned out to be a music video. We understood why, when you walk around Portland, you can’t help but sing how special it is.

We were finally understanding the city. Not everything is open during normal business hours, people make old houses in to coffee shops, you can’t buy a book but you can borrow one and weird is normal.

While we were out we came upon our own great Portland discoveries. Record stores!

The first thing we saw driving in to Portland were these space ship looking things going across the city. We spent all afternoon looking for it. Finally we found it at the Portland Hospital.

There was this book we found in the hotel room that explained that Portland is divided unto four parts. North-East, North-West, South-East, South-West. “Ohhh, now we get it!” We were finally understanding the city.

The last thing we did was hanging out at Powell’s Book Store. We must have been there for a few hours, there were floors and floors of books. I of course wanted to see if they had a Christian section, to my surprise they did with a lot of old vintage books.

After we walked around looking for an open coffee shop but no luck. I guess every one went home for the day. We went back to our car, left the city and said good bye to a place that felt like home.

Portland, I love you! 🙂

Road Trip: San Francisco

On our way to San Francisco I read off a sign with all the towns we were passing through. I remembered I had an aunt that lives near by. When I called her she was so excited, I couldn’t even get a word in. I introduced her to Gus and told her about our adventure camping. She fed us and let us get all cleaned up. It was a breath of fresh air to visit. I loved how happy she was to see us.
When we arrived in San Francisco we were ready to see the city. We drop our stuff at a hostel and went to go take some photos in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

After dinner we made our way to the Arcade Museum. It was fun to actually play with the vintage games. I was so excited when I saw they had a photo booth. Gus said they are a curse for couples but I reassured him my parents took a ton when they were young.

The next morning Gus woke up early (due to staying in a hostel.) He text me early in the morning and said, “I’m ready.” We were up so early nothing was open when we walked around town. We set out a quest to find china town. I had driven pass it many times but never bothered to walk the streets. Since he is in to marshal arts, this place was heaven for him. We ended up spending three hours shopping, and looking around.

When we were done I said, “My turn, lets go to hippie town.”

I finally got a t-shirt made that I’ve been talking about. “Go Indie.” It was a comment I made once on Facebook when a friend was complaining about how dumb movies are. We made our way down to Dolores Park to get a coffee. It was kinda strange to find so many people sitting at the park on a Wednesday morning, it seemed like no one had anything to do. We found the atmosphere to be relaxing.

3pm hit and it was time for the long 10 hour drive to the magical land of Portland and Seattle!!!

Blog: The City I Call Home (Not by Choice)

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for a few days now and probably if I were honest, a few years. It’s a post that feels like I’m revealing a secret, a lie I told so many, mainly by avoiding the question:

“Where are you from?”

My city is like a rest stop you’d see off the freeway; small and practical. There’s not much to see but lots to say. First, you have the local grocery store; Have a dollar ready for the homeless man or woman, if you are caught off guard they will bug you until they get something, think of it as, ‘you are paying them to leave you alone. ‘ If you walk pass the bus stop, you’ll see a tree covered in flowers. Next to it is an article of the bus driver that got shot here. He is now a local hero, the article says he was a faithful worker, husband and father, its a shame he had to go that way.

Then there is Jackson Street. The most dangerous street in the city. They even tried to change the name in hope it would improve the reputation. My aunt use to live on that street, she didn’t know it was so dangerous. She was a single mom with two small kids, it was all she could afford. When we found out she was living there, we invited her to stay with my family. I grew up with my aunt and cousins living with me. I remember asking stories about Jackson St., Weren’t you scared? Was it really that bad?

I pass by my elementary school everyday. I remember how they put me in a special class called R.S.P, the kids would say it meant, “Really Stupid People.” They kept taking me out of class for special learning lessons, but it was causing me to fall behind. My doctor later found out it was my hearing that was the issue, that is why I wasn’t responding to my teacher call my name. I blame my elementary school for making me think I was stupid. I wonder what they use to think when I would win awards for my stories. Why is this girl winning writing awards? Isn’t she one of those stupid kids in the special class? Finally in sixth grade I was put in the front row so I could hear better. All through out middle school I got straight A’s, graduated high school with honors, a 3.5 g.p.a.

And now, the only place you might find me in this town is in the local Starbucks. I thank Starbucks for helping my city be a better place. The city of Seattle’s finger print can be found all over the world. If only my hometown could change the world, if only my hometown could believe that it had the power to be an influence. When I drive down the street I can’t help but think I don’t belong here.  My city culture tells me this is all their is and to be happy with it, but it doesn’t realize I’ve seen the world. It doesn’t realize I rejected its identity for me long ago when I was a teenager, I will not become this place, I will not become my culture.

No matter where one’s from, they can still strive and be something more than what society says their going to be. Rise above what culture says you should be. My culture tells me I should have never seen the world. Everyday I have to tell my culture I am different… I am not from here, I’m just passing through.

Blog: Vancouver – The Journey to the Conclusion

To understand my trip to Vancouver, I must give you some background info. My trip to Vancouver wasn’t just a place that I wanted to visit but it was a place I have been considering moving to. I heard about it a few years after I came back from Australia. It was a city that was growing and thriving in the film industry.

The morning that I was going to the airport I could feel that something was different. I was slowly walking in to the third act. And a conclusion was upon me. I was finally going to get some answers to some of my inner questions about where to go? What to do? What do I want? What does God want? I was excited but I was also scared of the answers.

When you travel, you face things you try to ignore. They come out of your heart. Your perspective becomes so evident, it shows you how you see the world. You begin to see who you really are. You are in a new atmosphere and you become the outsider. And like a child, you begin to experience things for the first time.

The first day I went to an art museum and they had this amazing exhibit called Beat Nation. Basically its was Native Americans mixing traditions and urban youth culture. It was interesting to see them use pop culture to share their story. They were searching for their identity in the mist of culture change. These young people were finding their voice in modern culture. They were finding their identity in their ancestors. I began to ask questions about where do I get my identity from.

Now that I have no title attached to my name, I am left with only the core. The Creator’s daughter.
As I walked around the “promise land”, I couldn’t help but feel this wasn’t real. I was actually here after all those years of talking about it.

I think any city can feel like home the moment you make a friend. It gives a reason to be there. I met up with a girl who I met through Anabel. Aura was the person I was talking to about making the move. We went to Granville for dinner to talk about life, God and Canada. After, the sun was still up so we decided to go for a walk at her local park. I was blown away at the fresh air. I stood standing outside just taking it all in.

The following day, I met up with another friend but I have to stay at a local Starbucks until she gets out of work. So I’m there killing time, reading and playing on my phone. I figure this is probably a good time to spend with God. So I open my bible to a scripture that spoke directly to me, “Wait with hope for the Lord. And follow His path and He will honor you by giving you the Land…He saves them because they have taken refuge in Him.” I could see myself living here but I also came to a point of saying, “Lord, I don’t want my dreams but I want Yours. My dream is Your dream.”

Soon Ada arrived and we headed towards Main St. to look at some Antique shops.

I found that people in Canada are really friendly. The owner of the shop started to talk to us and told us that the city was going to knock down the older buildings on Main St., that his store only had a few days left opened. I was in disbelieve, doesn’t the city know that travelers love places like this! I guess they want to make the street look new.

There were blocks and blocks of amazing stores.

Ada told me I was lucky to get a sunny days in Vancouver. Being from California, every day is a sunny day. It wasn’t until we went to Kit Beach did I believe her. It seemed like the whole city was out doing something.

We walked over to Granville Island for a snack. Little did I know how much food I was about to see. There was so much variety, I couldn’t pick.

The city was no longer a stranger but a place I felt more and more comfortable in. It was so full of life and different cultures. The sun was setting at 10pm. I told my friend that I am driven by the sun, if I lived here, I’d probably be outside all day.

I told Ada about a clock I had seen a photo of when I googled Vancouver. When she took me to Gastown to see it, it felt like a dream. The clock was light up so gracefully. I was standing right where I wanted to be.

The next morning I was exhausted but I wanted to see some nature before I left. So I made my way over to Standly Park for a morning walk.

I rushed back to Ada’s place as we were off to a friend’s birthday party in White Rock. We stopped by the beach to snap some photos. It was so beautiful.

And my last and final evening in Vancouver. The sun went back behind the clouds as we walked the rainy streets.

This trip brought me to a conclusion I could have only had by playing it out. It took a journey to a far away land to come to a conclusion. I guess the point of my trip was to learn how to surrender to God’s plan and trusting in Him. I am allowing Him to direct my steps. Vancouver is beautiful, I did enjoy it and I even miss it but now I can go forth and allow God to unfold something new.

And so I am in the third act. And the third act, I’m excited about it.

Drive-by Shooting

Yesterday I spent the day bonding with my Canon 7D. I usually leave her at home because she takes away my attention. I turned on the mono preset for black and white shooting to make my random shooting interesting. It also allowed me to monitor my exposer. With the contrast, I could see right where the light was hitting.

We spontaneously went to LA yesterday for a Pink’s chili dog.  I started shooting out the window and made jokes like, “Drive by shooting in LA”. It also help me notice the city details.

When we went to Melrose for a walk I started to snap photos by holding my camera in front of me. At times I had no idea what I was shooting. I was breaking all the rules. The benefit of digital is you can snap as many photos as you want.

Photos: Last Woman Alive

My friend emailed me the photos that he took from our shoot. We both thought it was interesting how we came up with different visions. There is a lot to say about a photographer’s photos. The photographer’s perspective is captured.

Maybe I’m getting too deep but I would say Hector captured a side of me that I’ve never seen in a photo; I’m mysterious, confident, and little crazy. As if I’m about to do something big. haha.. The funny thing is, it’s true…be afraid. 🙂

The Door

An exit, an entrance.

One major reason I enjoy traveling so much is because my ears, eyes and heart are open. The first few days in Seattle, I felt like I couldn’t see what this city was trying to tell me.  Though my purpose for this trip was to be a student at a workshop, I knew I was in this city for deeper reason. As I walked downtown I was looking at the buildings, the strangers walking the streets but still it wasn’t saying anything to me.

A Door: Any gateway marking an entrance or exit from one place or state to another.

One of my random goals has been to enjoy a cup of coffee in Seattle. I thought I accomplished this on the first day but it wasnt until I shared one with others did I get the full experience.

The first cup was with Jenny. She lives in Vancouver but is from Ireland. She was the first person I met from the workshop.  After the class, we went to a corner cafe and talked about film making and life back at home. I told her she needs to make a film cause I know I would like her style. She joked and said she would make 200 days of Autumn for me. I laughed and told her how I really want her too.

The second was with Corey and his friends. We drove away from downtown and ended up at this cool place where the streets were full of fixie bikes and young people with laptops.  We enjoyed our drinks and talked about Seattle’s love for coffee.

The last was with an unexpected person. Just a few hours before he was a complete stranger. We sat and talked about family and shared our life stories.We walked around Capital Hill and ate burgers from Dickie.

As I was getting my stuff ready to go to the airport, I realized the city had spoken to me after all. I was looking for the door alone, but I needed others to be a part of opening it. The people I met brought the city to life and gave me confidence to exit the door of fear and enter with courage.

Now I see that Seattle was preparing me for Vancouver next year. If I could meet amazing new people in a few days imagine a year in a new city. I have nothing to fear and everything to hope for.

What I’m listening too..

San Francisco

San Francisco is a city that inspires creativity and individuality. I decided to take a small road trip up north to practice some photography. I knew there would be a million things to take photos of, and I was right. It’s such a great place to take photos of people as well as landscape.

You can click on any one of the images and see more from this set on Flickr.com/monicabriano