Change how you see the world…

When the world changed (dramatic statement, but it’s the truth), I told myself that I would use this additional time at home to learn something new.

Fast forward to almost 6 months later – and I’m still on that path to learning new things and sharpen (or create) new skill sets. And if you’ve been following my posts (or social media) you’ve been force-fed the new “skills” I’ve been learning on Photoshop.

One of my favorite managers once told me that I “had the ability to see things as they are – and how they could be.” That quote has always stuck with me and I truly feel like it explains how I think and how I react to the world around me. Photoshop has allowed me to fall down that rabbit-hole and really share the things, places and experiences I’ve had and share them in creative new ways as I see/saw them.

Here are some fun ways I’ve been able to share my experiences through pictures, videos and a little bit of magic (aka Photoshop)….

Below was my first “edit” that recapped a year of training for my first full IRONMAN triathlon – and since I said “IRONMAN” I’m obligated to inform you that and IRONMAN triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run race that has to be completed in under 16 hours (Yes, during one day – and Yes, all back to back). This journey was years in the making and an experience that I’ll never forget – and this edit celebrated a lot of those moments over 12 social media squares.

My next edit was a celebration of the weekend road trips I mentioned in a previous post, some of my favorite places, a few trip down memory lane and some special memories “socially distancing” with friends over FaceTime and Instagram Live. From a technical perspective, this is when I learned how to use overlays and get creative with PNG layers of MP4 files – this means creating images that come to life by adding videos to posts that look like pictures until you click on or scroll to the image. If I had a dollar for every time someone messaged me and said “Woah – I didn’t realize that was a video” I’d have… like $3.00. But the fact that the creativity wasn’t lost on anyone made it worth it.

Discovering Overlays was a game changer for me. Something simple like adding translucent bubbles added magic to my images and helped bridge some of the imagery from one post to the other as the bubbles “floated” across my timeline/edit.

As a subtle tribute to Pride Month, some life lessons and my June travels I used overlays to add a rainbow to one of my posts too. A little transparent background image helped reflect the importance of looking up and looking in – again, not everyone will get it, but I do and that’s what’s important. And there are a few “Easter Eggs” hidden in the posts that make me laugh and I know some of my friends catch/caught.

I’ve also tried to step up my Layering skills by taking elements like splashing water to look as if my images were present during the splashing or existing within in the same moment. Was it perfect? Not even close – but I was so excited when I learned how to do it on my own and can’t wait to find a new opportunity to use this same “skill” in a marketing piece or another project.

And in the same layering fashion, I loved taking moments of exploring new places (like the awesome forests in Maui, HI) and dropping them into the succulents and ::struggling:: green grass in my own backyard. I was trying to create the message that adventure awaits you in your backyard – or where you can find it – but I guess I’m the only one who would know that the background and foreground plants was my backyard (again – “IF” you get it).

And that brings us to my most recent edits. I’ll admit it got a little busy at the bottom – but in my defense I did those edit in the car while on a road trip and REALLY wanted to get some of those awesome moments in there.

I was really excited to work some more of photo/video edits in there – especially since there were so many cool videos to share from #Adventuring in Kentucky and Virginia. Please take a look at my Instagram account (@MatthewCGoto) and see how some of the images come to life (or play video – however engaging as you may find it).

What I’ve found is that while busy is fun – I’m going to start to go with larger images and challenge myself to take higher quality images. The term “visual storyteller” is overused, but as a millennial (another overused term) I’m going to own it and really try to tell a story – which has been what I have wanted to accomplish (in addition to learning new skills).

In my last few posts (at the time of this post) I was really challenging myself to find ways to better blend my images (not that I don’t like a Kodak film role, Polaroid frame or ripped edge). The branches in the images below helped me attempt to blend the images – but there are some dead giveaways and flaws – but I’m looking forward to stepping my game up and being able to look back at these posts and identify ways to make them blend smoother or get even more creative – feedback and expert tips much appreciated!

Thank you for reading this longwinded post and encouraging me on this continued adventure to learn new things – and to share how things are and how they could be.

And I know that I have a lot to learn – and that makes this journey so much more exciting and fun.

Working for the Weekend…

I’m spent the entire “adult” portion of my life working weekends. Key weekends like Labor Day weekend, Martin Luther King weekend and Memorial Day weekend have been busy work weekends for as long as I can remember – and I’m not complaining, it has just been my “norm” and part of my career field. But one of the “silver-linings” of COVID is that 1) I haven’t had to travel on weekends and 2) I didn’t/don’t have any place to be.

So after the first few weeks of Shelter-In-Place (or quarantine, however you view it) I decided to start exploring new places in my backyard (AKA Driving Distance) that would take back my weekends – and provide MUCH needed physical and mental relief from the stress of what else was going on in the world. There are a ton of state parks and outdoor recreation areas with enforced social distancing guidelines (and limited parking which helps).

I wake up early on weekdays – but I wake up earlier on the weekend to make sure I get even more time for myself… and time to adventure!

On top of the weekends at home – I was able to take advantage of the “work from home” status to change up my scenery and visit family who had also been sheltering-in-place. (Disclaimer: COVID test were taken before visiting anyone – and I 100% wear a mask and carry hand-sanitizer and disinfectant wipes everywhere I go)

Even though you may think you know where you live, I challenge you to get on TripAdvisor, Yelp and even Google your city to see what other people are seeing and doing. By doing this, I’ve been able to find a lot of hidden treasures minutes away – or within a few hours – from where I live.

One of my favorite things about these newly found weekend adventures, is finding small businesses that are finding ways to operate under the COVID rules and restrictions. Whether it’s ordering a to-go lunch at a small restaurant or buying a small gift from a local mom & pop shop/roadside pop-up, I feel like I’m doing my part to help support small businesses during this chaotic and uncertain time. And I’ve experienced some of the best customer service in years – being nice and courteous never goes out of style… even if a mask covers a natural smile (and yes, “smeyesing” – smiling with your eyes – is a thing).

Not really sure what the point of this post was – but I hope it inspires someone (or anyone) to find the silver lining in situations and finding ways to catch the curve ball thrown at you and to make the best of the situation. The issues happening in the world are 100% real and devastating… I’m not discrediting any of that (lord knows I’ve felt my fair share of setbacks and struggles in the past few months – like all of us have).

But life isn’t just about what happens to you, it’s about how you react and respond to it. I’m using this “opportunity” to be more present, to be a better listener and getting outside for some fresh air – and a fresh perspective.

How you are making the best of our new normal?

¡Bienvenidos Bogotá!

I travel a lot with my job. And I’m guilty of taking that for granted every now and then – especially when it feels like I’m spending more time up in the air than on the ground. But being on lock down going on 3-weeks now, I’m really feeling grateful for all of the opportunities and experiences I’ve had “getting” to travel.

Social media reminded me this morning, that while I finally have the domesticated routine of waking up, making breakfast, brewing coffee and starting my very routine and structured (quarantined) day at home… I was bouncing around Bogota, Columbia on this day 11 years ago..


Bogota, Columbia – April 2009

How many people get to travel and teach at international training centers across the world?
And I always try to learn more about the places I go, like learning which artists are native to the area and seeing the popular sites that make the destination unique!
And there is no coffee like Columbian coffee… I fell in love with Juan Valdez coffee that day. I bought awesome coffee cups from that shop that I still use to this day!


I was so lucky to get to visit Columbia with not just a good friend of mine (and brilliant teacher) Debbie, but also had the best host and friend, Robert who made sure we got a great taste of Bogota and still teach and train coaches and athletes from the area.


The city of Bogota was really pretty. Even on a rainy day the architecture and use of color really made and impact.

I loved that even in a busy city, the luxury of outdoor space was still valued. Courtyards like these were a testament to the wealth of the families and businesses who took residence there.

The city streets of Columbia have a historic charm that we don’t have here in the US. I wish that we had narrower streets that limited the numbers of cars and increased the foot traffic that lends itself to more street food!

I would love to have a courtyard garden like this one day, built around the heart of our home.


While I don’t always understand Picasso, I can always appreciate his unique perspective.

We’re not taking it all in – we’re just sitting because we needed a break from walking…

This installation was haunting – serving Psycho & American Psycho vibes.

There was a series of modern art revolving around street signs and public signage that was really cool – Especially the blend of Spanish & English signage.


I was familiar with the “plump” style of Fernando Botero’s art but didn’t know his name or his history prior to this trip to the Botero Museum. After visiting the museum, I started to notice his influence all over the city in statues, directional signs and accents in architecture – all subtle nods to its local artist.


It was nice to learn more about the history of the country as well.

Learning about the indigenous people and their early ways of living was very interesting.

It was remarkable to learn how quickly technology and science can completely change the day to day lives of a society.

And makes you appreciate that their history and wonder how different things can change in 10, 20 and 30 years…




And in addition to site seeing and really getting the taste and feel of Bogota, Columbia – we had the honor of teaching and sharing our skills/talent (the purpose of the trip).


Like I mentioned above, we were lucky to have such amazing hosts to take care of us – and translate because… Mi español es muy malo!

I’m really grateful for the opportunity I had to travel – and be welcomed into a community to graciously!

And while my Spanish needs work – I nailed “Bienvenidos” and to this day, it’s how I always greet Robert when we get the chance to see eachother!

I’m thankful for these awesome experiences I’ve had and that social media continues to humble me with the opportunities I have been given.

My goal during this period of isolation and “quarantine” is to reflect more on the moments and experiences that we may take for granted. While I’m not allowed to travel right now – it’s a great opportunity to look back at where I’ve been!

¡Bienvenidos Bogotá!

Wake Up Early. Go the Extra Mile. Bring a Friend.

I love California. I could ramble off a long list of reasons why I have called this state home for the last 10 years of my life, but for the purpose of this post – I’ll stick to one main reason – adventure at our fingertips.  

As an avid hiker and lover of all things outdoors, a friend of mine and I got the recommendation to journey 30 minutes outside of our current bubble and explore a new hike in the Easy Bay. (For my non-Bay Area friends – the San Francisco is the “Bay” and the 60-75 mile stretch from the “North Bay” (North of San Francisco – Napa, Sonoma, Marin, etc…) and the “South Bay” (San Jose, Santa Clara Valley, etc…) and also the “East Bay” (Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Walnut Creek, etc) and the “Silicon Valley” (essentially, the West of the Bay – Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, etc).

So we woke up extra early for a Saturday morning (ouch) and carpooled out to Fremont at 6:00am – stopping for Starbucks first.

Our destination – Mission Peak Regional Preserve (East Bay Regional Park District Website: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/mission/).

We were advised to get there by 6:30am – which was the goal, but the coffee didn’t kick in soon enough and it took us an additional 15 minutes to find the trail parking lot (off Mission/Stanford Ave – behind the housing developments). And in that extra 15 minutes, the entire trail parking lot was already full (way before the sun came up) and we had to park a few blocks down the hill (appropriate as “hill” was the theme for the day) and down the street once we could find a parking spot. If parking is any indicator of popularity, we could already tell this was going to be worth it.

The bottom of the trail (at least this trail start) has a few porta-potties and picnic benches – so come prepared with your own water (snacks and hand-sanitizer) the trail head is pretty much an invitation to hit the trail – but (very) limited amenities.

Depending on when you start your hike, you’ll definitely want to check the weather temperature. We knew it would be low 50’s and dark when we started, but there was a great deal of dew and moisture in the air – and a fair amount of mist. I had hiking boots in the car, but ended up wearing my running shoes since judging by pictures, the trail looked pretty carved out. There were only a few (2-3) areas with lose gravel that made me wish I had my boots – but nothing smart foot placement and a cautious pace couldn’t handle. I also had gloves and a warm hat which came in handy as we got closer to the top. As the elevation increased, the temperature actually got colder (especially if you plan to make the climb before the sun comes up).

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From step 1 on the trail, you can be within feet of grazing cattle who aren’t even phased by your presence. It was a beautiful start to the day being able to see these cattle and near coyotes waking up in the distance. The howling of the baby coyotes trying to find their pack off in the distance was a a little eerie at first but a pretty cool reminder that we’re visiting – but this is their home.

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it – the path to the top is a CLIMB. Based on my GPS watch (Garmin Forerunner 945), it was 2,244 feet of elevation gain on the 3.43 miles to the top of Mission Peak. My suggestion – spot something in the distance (like a park bench or directional post) and commit to walking non-stop from point to point. The smaller goals take your mind off the fact that you could look up at any minute and realize that you still have so much farther to go… Your calves, hamstrings and glutes will be on fire – but think of it this way, you could pay $30+ an hour for a workout class and not work your (literal) booty off this hard – so be grateful for the free burn (your wallet and a$$ will thank you later… just not the next day (like today) where todays theme is “Sore & Hungry”).

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The recent rain made for some amazing lush and green landscapes. The entire trail was framed by green grass as beautiful rolling hills – topped off with soft clouds brushing the tops of the mountains.

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About 1/2 way up, there were a handful of rock formations like these. It was pretty cool to see, but don’t think to deep into it. Hikers were knocking these down and re-stacking them. While they look cool, they aren’t of spiritual or cultural landmarks… just well balanced rocks. And my creative angles caught the top to bottom view of these, but they aren’t more than 18 inches tall. Sorry if you thought it was bigger – it was cold outside, haha.

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Moments like this totally made the morning – just over 3/4 the way up to the top, you turn and realize that you’ve made it to the east side of the mountain. From that point on (and again, based on our start time) we were greeted by the sun – almost as if the sun was on a race with us to meet at the peak of the trail.

While we fancied ourselves of the “more fit” of those attempting the hike that morning, peoples of all abilities made it to the top and there were 4-5 benches along the trail for people to stop and rest if needed. And the incline was hard, but it never got to the point where you would need an arm rail or need to use your upper body to climb.

The top has a unique pole that everyone stops to take a picture with – the true “I did it” badge of honor to show that you’d climbed Mission Peak.

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Love this girl! Anyone who willingly wants to meet at 6:00am for an intense outdoor workout in the cold is a “ride or die” personality you want in your life – and the quality time to catch up, laugh and connect is the icing on the cake to any workout or adventure!

Just as we reached the peak, we heard a large group singing Happy Birthday with plastic cups filled with champagne to toast the birthday girl (Note to Self: Surround yourself with friends like that).

We took photos for the people who made the ascent before us – and the people behind us took our photos – the natural understanding and sense of community that I hope people carry back down the mountain and into their everyday lives. After the 3.4 miles of climbing I loved how strangers made sure they took the perfect picture for you – because they also understand what it took to get to the top (including the shared muscle fatigue and exhaustion).

Our timing – even with the 15 minutes of getting lost looking for the trail head – could not have been better. We got to the top to meet the sunrise – and take some pretty awesome pictures to welcome the sun and celebrate the climb!

 

For the anyone wondering “How did you get those photos?!?!” (the most popular question I get on my posts) – I use my iPhone for candids up and down the trail and used my GoPro Hero 8 Black to capture these awesome (and high resolution) photos.

 

I’m sure some people had no idea what we were doing – but we didn’t care. We were going for capturing the moment, excitement and accomplishment… and handstands for the sake of doing handstand!

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And if the climb (I have to reiterate CLIMB) to the top wasn’t rewarding enough, we had an equally enjoyable time back down the trail. And to our surprise, with the sun up we got to see more of our surroundings and the breathtaking Jurassic Park-vibes the trail was serving that morning…

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And the morning mist I was low-key complaining about when we got started, showcased its true value to us on the way down as we had this beautiful rainbow paint the sky in front of us the entire hike back down to the trail head.

It wasn’t till hours after the hike (and a much needed nap) I took a good look back at these pictures and saw the subtle double-rainbow that wasn’t visible to us in the moment.

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Overall, it was another great day to be alive and a beautiful adventure in California. I strongly suggestion Mission Peak for anyone wanting to see the East Bay from a new point of view – and get in a solid leg workout!

Wake Up Early (like at 5:45am on a Saturday)…

Go the Extra Mile (or 3.4 miles each way…)

Bring a Friend (to share the experience with…)

If you know of any other fun Bay Area adventure, please let me know and comment or send me a message! I’m eager to share this trail with friends and excited to see what next adventure is on the horizon!

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Go Outside – The Ruth Bancroft Garden

Our newest Home Improvement project is the front yard – but you’d never know by looking at it.

The abundance or rain this winter brought the grass in the backyard back to life (woo hoo) but it also brought more weeds than we have ever experienced. We can pull 1 but 2 come back overnight. I’ve been referring to them as “Gremlin weeds” – they sprout-up like crazy, reek havoc on the landscaping and the rain only multiplies them.

But the weeds aside, we are planning an entire facelift on the front of the house (more to come on that project). And a big part of a new yard is NEW PLANTS!

So I found the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA which is 3+ acres of “dry” plants and landscaping. We really want a low maintenance yard that is full of plants but is also drought resistant (CA has a ton of rain right now – but that isn’t always the case).

We spent a good hour or so exploring the gardens and loved the different succulents, cacti and various plants and flowers throughout the carved out trails and walkways in the garden.

While this garden put my succulent garden in the garage to shame – it was also really inspiring to see what plants can do when they are well cared for and given the opportunity to grow, bloom and thrive. Not to mention, we got a ton of ideas for our future front yard – and possible back yard projects (but let’s get the front yard done first).

I really enjoyed the field trip and wanted to share some of the pictures with you all here on my blog!

For $10 (for adults) you get access to the gardens and get a small booklet to self-guide yourself through the clearly marked off and labeled garden.

You also get a handout of what is currently in bloom – sounds obvious (is it blooming or not?!?!?) but it was really helpful in identifying the plants that we saw as we explored the garden.

The entrance is very humble, but it’s the plants inside that are the WOW factor. And the new vistors center can be seen to the left in the above picture, I will totally make a trip back to see the new center when it opens later this year.

Near the entrance is a really nice titled wall depicting a lot of the plants that you will see inside. I appreciated the detail in the title wall so much I had to take a few pictures on our way out.

I have seen a lot of the same species of succulents that were on display in the garden – but never ones as big as I saw there! Some of them were literally 6 feet tall.

Reading along in the booklet, it was awesome to read about the different species in the garden that were brought in from around the world – like the fan-looking plant (below) that was brought over all the way from Australia.

Some of the plants were 6+ feet tall – while others were only centimeters big, like these baby succulents (below) that lined the trails near the cactus farm.

I was in constant awe of the different species but also impressed with the variety of colors on display. The brightest oranges and yellows and so many different variations of pink and green.

The flowers shown above had the coolest “watercolor / tie dye” coloring to them. No two flowers were the same and the bleeding of the colors looked almost hand painted.

The symmetry of the plants also impressed me. The way that the plants were shaped gave them so much personality and structure. I can see how their shapes and distinct lines could easily inspire architecture and design.

I want to create a similar feeling in our front yard (or back yard) like we saw at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ideally an effortless blending of varieties of plants, colors and sizes to create a beautiful venue to enjoy the outdoors – a task that sounds simple but clearly takes a great deal of planning and knowledge of the plants and their needs.

Another cool part about the garden, is that they sell a ton of different plants on site! The different species of plants in bloom also have picture indicators in the handouts to let you know if they shop carries similar species to purchase and take home with you.

And even after spending an hour+ roaming the garden, we still found wonder in looking at the different plants for sale.

I hope that we take some of the inspiration from the Ruth Bancroft Garden into our design and plant choices. It was a great trip and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Bay Area looking for something fun to do outside – especially if you have an appreciation for plants (succulents, especially)!

You can learn more about the garden at their website, here:

Ruthbancroftgarden.org

There is a lot of history behind the garden and how Ruth Bancroft started her fascination and appreciation of plants. Definitely worth reading up on!

If you know of any great places or ways to get inspired when designing a new yard, please share it with me! I’d love to hear what you have learned – especially if you have before and after photos to share!

Thanks for reading and I’m excited to share more on our projects as it gets moving forward!

 

 

 

Lucerne, Switzerland

Starting August in Italy was phenomenal… If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ve hopefully noticed the pictures and videos from our trip. When we planned the trip, we were a bit reluctant about the location since we had spent time in Italy before.

Luckily the Italian coast was an entirely different experience than Florence, Venice, Milan and Rome offered.

But with that hesitation to visit a country we had already been to in the back of our minds, we added an additional few days onto our trip to visit Switzerland!

I can happily say, that was a decision we will never regret!

Zurich and Lucerne were a total change of pace from Positano and the rest of the Amalfi Coast – but made for a perfect end to a perfect vacation!

We woke up early in Positano before sun came up and took a shuttle to the Naples airport. It was a short and easy flight from Naples to Zurich, Switzerland.

Leaving the Amalfi Coast was hard (I’m talking crystal blue waters and beautiful cliffside villages) but flying into Zurich was very exciting – especially seeing the mountains in the distance and knowing we’d be exploring a country we would both be stepping foot into for the first time in our lives.

We flew Swiss Air (appropriately) and had a safe, quick and easy flight. Like most of Europe, we were going to rely on the public transportation to get around.

But when you don’t know the language – it can become pretty intimidating and scary if you let it. We luckily ran into an older gentleman who was MORE than excited to use his English skills to help us find and make our train connection.

For anyone planning on spending a few hours on a train – splurge for the 1st class cabins!

The extra luxury of more space, a little more piece and quiet and the power outlets (in our case) was well worth the few extra dollars in the end!

I wish the US had the public transportation countries like Switzerland have – within 2 hours we made it from the Zurich Airport to the city center of Lucerne!

And I may just be a huge nerd – but I LOVE train stations! They aren’t just hubs of mass transportation, they are convenience stores, restaurants and sometimes (like in Zurich & Lucerne) HUGE shopping malls!

We may not have spoken the language – but time is time – and we were able to stay on schedule on our busy travel day! Every train station had clocks everywhere which was surprisingly reassuring and comforting.

Like kids on Christmas morning, we were so eager to get to our destination and see what the day had in store for us.

As we got closer to Lucerne the views just kept getting better.

Green trees, cute villages and a ton of rivers kept the train ride very visually appealing and exciting.

But Lucerne was the icing on the cake – just steps from the City Station you are water font of Lake Lucerne!

We were blessed with the most beautiful sunny days – and the weather was perfect for our adventuring and site seeing throughout the city.

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We did our homework and selected one of the top rated hotels in the city for our stay, Hotel Schweizerhof.

Shout out to Trip Advisor – Trip Advisor was a huge help on deciding where to stay and what to do!

This hotel was a short walk from the train station – steps from the lake and its service, it’s hospitality and rooms were phenomenal (just check out their website – the website alone makes you want to book a flight to Lucerne immediately)!

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And the views from our top floor room were unbelievable!

We could see far across the lake, the beautiful museum across the water and an perfect view of Mount Pilatus (the focus of my next blog)!

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Walking to our hotel was short and easy – but also very difficult in terms of our attention because there were so many shops, busy city streets lined with restaurants and architecture begging to be admired.

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After we checked into our room, we had a small break in our schedule before our boat tour – so we explored the main road outlining the water which was conveniently lined with trees, flowers and a walking trail.

The boat tour was the best introduction to the city. We got to learn about iconic building in the city like the first church, the guard tower and cities walls and the beautiful mountains surrounding the city and their history.

One subtle fun fact about Switzerland, is that the country is broken out into 26 different “Cantons.” Each of these cantons have their own flag and coat of arms.

Luzerne has a blue and white flag and you notice these colors and the flag almost everywhere when touring the city. My favorite nod to Luzerne’s flag were these bold doors (the one pictured below and in this blog header).

After our boat tour (and our flight, two trains and 1,000,000 steps that day) we got to enjoy a nice dinner at a popular restaurant in the city.

Another fun fact – Europe eats significantly later than America. We were the first people at the restaurant and while we were eager to chow down on our meals, other patrons were just starting to make their way into the building.

Regardless of dining much earlier than the locals – the food was delicious and we finished early enough to get to do a little more exploring before the sunset!

I made it a game to find the unique ways the architecture, landscaping or artwork would tie in the canton colors – this 15 foot tall door was one of the most obvious.

Seeing the city by boat was like window shopping – and getting to walk in and out of the busy streets was the sweet reward.

As we explored, my mind was building up so many questions to ask about the buildings origins, the story behind the bridges and what the artwork represented.

Luckily for us, we had multiple tours planned for our next day in the city! We had an early walking tour planned in the morning and had a larger tour planned to explore Mount Pilaus and venture up into the beautiful mountains we had been admiring all day in the distance.

This beautiful, clean and very walkable city is one I would strongly recommend to anyone traveling to Europe for the first time. While you 100% have the European vibe and energy, there is a great deal of English spoken and its ease of getting around would be a great introduction to European travel.

I could have spent the entire day taking photos and finding new reasons to love the city. But we had a great deal of excitement and adventure for one day. So as the sun started to set, so did we.

But not after a few more pictures and snacking at the chocolate and ice cream shops that seemed to be around every corner.

We had a little fun pairing our scenery with our outfit choices for the day.

A palm tree polo looked great with an ivy wall…

…and my loud floral prints found a nice pairing with the flowers greeting us back at the entrance to our hotel (please note: my shirt choices definitely got attention, haha).

A few drinks at the hotel bar were all that we needed to call it a day and relax before another busy day ahead of us.

If you want to see a little more from our day in Lucerne – check out highlights on my Vimeo channel.

Lucerne, Switzerland from Matthew Goto on Vimeo.

I would love your feedback if you’ve been to Lucerne or plan on visiting!

We missed the “famous” Lion statue and I wish we had a few more insider tips before we started exploring – but still had an amazing day exploring Lucerne!

Thank you for reading and following along on our August adventures – more to come soon!

Wake up and go the extra 7,000 steps…

One of the best things about traveling (in addition to seeing new parts of the world) is getting to meet new people along the way.

On our trip to Italy we were meeting up with friends and friends of friends – which meant, new relationships and connections were bound to be formed!

After a fun filled day of exploring the local beach, taking a water taxi into the heart of Positano and dining on authentic Italian food (see previous Italy post) the first thing you want to do the next day is probably rest… But that was not the case for me and that shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone who knows me!

Instead of sleeping off the jet-lag, I set my alarm bright and early to take on what is known as “The Path of the Gods” hike that overlooks the Amalfi Coast over Positano!

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And lucky for me, a friend of a friend joining us on our Italian Adventure was brave and willing to join me that morning (Hi, Allison)!

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Luckily for us, the hike actually started outside of our Villa (like LITERALLY in front of our door). But convenience aside, we still left the Villa at 6:00am to take on the 7,000+ steps waiting for us.

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We even met a dog who served as our tour guide for a good leg of the adventure (he makes a few appearance in the video at the bottom of the page). I named him Doggo and he clearly knew this trail better than the two of us. We were sad when we parted ways but we loved his company and hope others get to experience his energy and quick pace!

Positano is known for its stairs… being on the coast it is no stranger to hills (and hills on hills). And this hike solidified its reputation – I lost count of how many different stairways we climbed and felt as if it was a cruel tourist trap as the staircases started to look the same.

But as they say, the greater the climb – the better the views!

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The views on this hike were pretty incredible. Large yachts that we saw nestled off the coast became tiny blips of white as we made it higher and higher on our climb.

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And the 6:00am start time was rough but allowed us to climb in the shadow of the mountain greeting by cool breezes and appreciate the pops of color decorating the trails through brightly colored flowers and the ruins of older homes and farms that we passed along the way!

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The funniest part of the hike was greeting people along the way. Ironically, we only met other Americans! The US was well represented on this hike with visitors from Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, Missouri, Newport Beach, San Jose (me) and New York City (Allison).

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But one of my favorite parts of this 4 hour adventure, was getting to connect and bond with my new friend (Hi, Allison – again)!

Someone who I had never met before but shared common friends with – and the more we chatted the more connections we had! I never would have expected to meet someone new in Positano visiting from New York City that knew about my North Carolina high school, shared college friends with and had such a passion for working with young people! She made the hike more fun – and even when our legs were killing us and we were out of breathe – we were in it together and bound to make it to the finish – which we did with smiles and laughter the entire time (okay, MOST of the time).

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Allison, if you’re reading this – I’d gladly hike 7,000 hikes with you any day of the week!

And pretend to climb big boulders JUST to get awesome Instagram photos! haha

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Just before we hit our turn around point, the sun really started to show itself and it brightened up the entire trail revealing sunning views like the ones below! Pictures can’t even do it justice…

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If you ever visit the Amalfi Coast – Positano is a MUST.. And if you do make it there, please wake up extra early one day and take the Path of the Gods! I guarantee you that you won’t regret the effort – and bring a friend! Or in my case, make a new one!

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And if you haven’t scrolled away just yet – here are some highlights from that adventure on Vimeo:

Thanks for following along on my adventures! Check out other posts to see where else

I’ve been – and stay tuned a I share Pompeii , Capri and more European destinations in my next posts to come!

There is so much of the World to see…

One of my favorite quotes is “Once you’ve climbed to the top of the mountain, you only then realize there are higher mountains to climb” – or something similar to that.

And some people have told me that they think its depressing and a “balloon popping” statement – but I find it to be very motivating and inspiring. We all have obstacles or experiences in life we either push ourselves to achieve or reward ourselves with. And to me, I relate to the quote in terms of my personal goals – always reaching for my goals and then reaching higher for the next ones. But also in terms of travel – once you experience worldly travel or get out of your element, you realize that there will always be so much more to see and experience!

This quote really spoke to me recently while traveling through Europe with friends. My last post shared my journey from the West Coast of California to the Amalfi Coast of Italy in a fast forward mashup of video clips from my GoPro. While the 5 minute video gave you a sneak peak to what it takes to get to the other side of the world, the reality of the situation is that it takes an entire day of travel to get where you’re going in cases like mine. The sacrifice of time for the benefit of new and exciting experiences. While I have been to Italy before, this trip took me to an entirely new experience.

I have traveled the canals of Venice on a gondola, walked the tight streets, shopped the many shops stacked one after another and appreciated each building lining the Grand Canal with unique architecture, beautiful colors and personality all their own.

In Florence I have walked across the Ponte Vecchio, toured the castles and history rich structures that have stood strong since the 14th century and indulged in authentic Italian cuisine – especially wine.

And I have stood where gladiators have fought, walked along the very same corridors walked by Pope St. Francis himself and fell in love with “The Eternal City” known as Rome.

Venice, Florence and Rome were absolutely stunning and unique in their own ways – but I left a piece of my heart along the Amalfi Coast on my favorite and most recent trip to Italy.

Upon arriving into Naples (the closest airport to Positano where we would be staying), we took a private car to our destination – a journey not for anyone with motion sickness or fear of heights. The roads feeding into Positano are narrow – often only big enough for 1 lane – and wind in and out for what feels like day bordering cliffs or hovering over smaller towns on the route. While my description isn’t exactly flattering – the views of the coast and the cities (especially Sorrento) are breathtaking and make you feel as if you have time traveled to a slower and more romantic date in time.

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Our residence sat above the main street in Positano just a few minutes walk to downtown. And the view (above) speaks for itself…

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Positano was beautiful – especially if you are into that Italian Vernacular style, hypnotic blue water and lush greenery (just describing it makes me smile remembering my first impression of the city).

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If the cities aesthetic wasn’t captivating enough, our Villa (which the Birthday Boy arranged – Way to go, Kevin) was immaculately landscaped and cared for by  its groundskeeper who spent 12 hours a day caring for the property (9am to 9pm, as he would be sure to remind us).

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This place had multiple levels, intimate bedrooms, beautiful shared common spaces, terraces and patios on each of the five levels and its own private pool for us to enjoy.

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We spent more time than we can recall watching the boats come in and out of the cove into Positano and even more time trying to identify which boat Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah and other celebrities were on – it was all over the news that we weren’t the most popular tourists in town that week.

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Just steps from our Villa was a staircase down to a “private” beach popular with the locals and tourists looking for more of a low-key Positano experience. Stairs were a reoccurring theme in Positano… being nestled among the cliffs, stairs provided the most popular (and exhaustingly repetitive) way of getting around.

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The small beach was cut in half – half reserved for the Beach Club with tangerine and white swirled umbrellas and the other half al-naturale flooded with locals with their mismatched beach towels and families picnicking and playing games.

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While my adventurous side swam with the youngsters to the cliffs for a little cliff jumping, the tourist in me definitely enjoyed the peach mojitos at the beach club!

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This “private” beach had at least 1,000 less people than the main beach in the heart of Positano. The smaller crowd made it feel intimate and shared between the tourists and locals. And the water was so clear than you could see the rocks and fish beneath you for as far as I could swim.

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Another luxury afforded us by this “private” little beach was water taxi service into downtown. If taking a water taxi with friends to a delicious Italian dinner is a crime – please lock me up and throw away the key.

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Metaphorically, Italy was a mountain that I wanted to climb. And once I got a taste I discovered that there was so much more to see. This trip to Positano was the higher peak to climb – and I’m excited to share that experience with you all!

#UpInTheAir and on Another Adventure!

Travel has become second nature to me – even though “first nature” sounds more appropriate for the amount of time spent on the road and in the air. I get asked all the time “how do you get accustomed to traveling all of the time?” and the honest answer is, I don’t really know how not to.
My entire professional career was built on traveling to events, conferences and teaching opportunities – so to me, getting on a plane is just how I get to work – similar to your commute on the highway (but mine serves 6 ouch beverages of your choice and peanuts or pretzels).
And while this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, it’s my normal and I’ve grown accustomed to the #UpIntheAir life. And while the biggest reward has to be sharing my passion and enthusiasm with others, cashing in on my travel rewards and mileage is a very close (and amazing) second! 
A year of travel behind me, my travel bank of points bursting at its seems and August marking the end of the second quarter – made August the perfect window of time to take a break and cash those points in. And with one of my close friends celebrating his 40th birthday in August… a trip had to be planned!
Group Texts were created, friends and friends of friends started conversations and before I knew it we had travel dates and a destination set! Discussions seemed to run around the clock with friends sharing links to sights and sounds to experience in the different cities on our adventure, reviews of the best places to eat and drink and an endless amount of Instagram photos posted from others who have walked (posed and snapped) from our future destinations and whose footsteps we couldn’t wait to follow! 
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This planning process and anticipation started months in advance, but before I knew it I was headed to SFO to board the first leg of my journey. Bags packed in advance, itineraries checked (and double checked) and time carved out for exploring, adventuring and the freedom to “wing it” and play it by ear.  So here I am, on my flight just hours from new languages, new experiences and new memories. Celebrating a friends milestone birthday is reason enough to celebrate – but an even sweeter reward is knowing every early morning flight, every delayed travel leg and every travel segment helped make this trip possible. 
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I cant wait to share where I go (and what I eat) and look forward to making memories with old & new friends! Stay tuned for updates and keep sending positive travel vibes my way! Back #UpInTheAir – and I wouldn’t change it for the world! 
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Fast Forward to after my adventure – Here’s how you get from the West Coast of the US to the Amalfi Coast of Italy:
Stay tuned for more pictures and videos from this absolutely amazing adventure!

Make a Detour Your Next Destination!

This week I was suppose to be down in Palm Springs for work – but my workload at home derailed those plans. Instead I’m playing catch up and getting balls rolling on new projects. And while I’m happy to have the extra time at home, I do miss the chance to escape into Joshua Tree just a small detour from the Palm Desert.

Growing up in Arizona, road trips to California were common and the perfect night sky could be seen down I-10 (highway 10) at night on the 265 mile drive from Palm Springs to Phoenix. And when I moved to California back in 2010 I would always plan my trips to my home-state (AZ) at night so I could drive with the top down on my convertible (at the time) and let the brightly lit night sky light the way.

There aren’t many street lights – or stops- once you drive west of the Palm Desert which means the only light pollution comes from the head and tail lights of the cars on the 10.

On one trip back to California I saw the exit for Joshua Tree and made one of my favorite detours to date. While the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park is down the street from a McDonalds and a Kentucky Fried Chicken, once you enter the part you are transported to a unique new world.

The following pictures are from my second visit to the park and shockingly not filtered.

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The unique landscape is what I imagine Mars would look and feel like. And while I know we have pictures of what Mars actually looks like, I prefer to think this is what it actually looks like – and that I’ve got to experience more than a National Park, but a new planet.

The rock formations were crafted for climbing and so picture perfect that I’m shocked that instagram models haven’t taken over the park (maybe it’s because theres no wifi).

 

The signature “Joshua Tree” plants are as Suessical as they are described on wikipedia and even more unique and original as your imagine would build them up to be. They are spread out, never really touching and stand tall as if trying to show off their figure compared to the tree next to them, almost saying “look at me instead of her…” Damn, I just made these poor trees bitchy didn’t I? lol

There are mountain-like rock formations, acres of flat and dry desert landscape and rolling hills… A rich variety of landscapes that are unique to this park where the Mohave desert shows off some of its best selling points.

One this day (I cant even remember what year this trip was) the clouds moved faster than I had ever seen them move before. Some clouds as white as can be and a grey and black cloud chasing it from the west. I was hoping a dark cloud would grace us with a little rain – but as can be expected in the desert rain is hard to come by.

I love this picture I took of a Joshua Tree. Its coverings are almost furry and while its structure is narrow, tall and kind of wonky (yes, thats a technical term) you can’t help but appreciate the little bit of shade gifted to you as you trek across the park.

 This photo pretty gives you a little taste of all of the things I’ve come to love from Joshua Tree – the rock formations, the landscape, the racing clouds and Joshua Tree with a fancy up-do.

Of course I had to do a little climbing – followed by a handstand (for handstands sake). My 5’6 (and a 1/2) height was nothing compared to this structure holding its ground off the main path.

 I hope my future holds a bouldering adventure to reach new heights (literally). I imagine I’m going to need to dust off my rock climbing skills as there aren’t any crash mats or safety nets to catch me when my fingers cramp and my forearms give out on me. But back to the big picture – I miss this place.

I need to make a trip back here. Roaming, camping under the stars and climbing for days sounds like an ideal adventure. But I’m going to bee SPF, H2O and plenty of shaded – as you won’t find any of those items in the park.

I am not a photographer, but this place is so pretty it makes me look like I actually know how to take a picture (years of taking pictures of my meals and Starbucks cups might have actually prepared me for moments like these).

If i showed you a picture of these rocks and told you they were 4 inches tall, you might believe me. But seeing me standing tall (or as tall as one can be at 5’6) and seeing the actual scale of these boulders is pretty impressive.

I don’t remember what was going on here – but that is not my suggested way of getting down from the top… but if you do, please for the love of God point your toes if someone happens to casually be taking a photo of you.

So, back to the point (and I use the word “point” vaguely) – If you ever have the opportunity to visit Joshua Tree National Park, make it a destination and not a detour. Camp under the stars, pack and drink plenty of water and take plenty of pictures to remember this journey into this whole new world.

 If you have any pictures from your trips to Joshua Tree, please share them and send them my way! And if you’ve been climbing and camping in the park what are the must-haves to pack!

Thank you for the short trip down memory lane and look forward to your responses!

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Enjoying Island Time on Dauphin Island

I am a strong believer in making time for yourself and keeping family close. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that my cross country road trip peaked surrounded by new family and new adventures in a new place!

Packing up the car and driving from California to Alabama may not be for everyone – but to me it meant that I could bring along our dog, mountain bikes and everything else I could need for adventuring (like a tent, beach chairs, snorkels, fins, etc).

Our trek East stopped on Dauphin Island, AL – an island I honestly had never heard of before. I have been to Mobile, AL a few times before, but Dauphin Island totally had the Island vibe which is shocking only being 30 minutes from Mobile.

This small Island had great beaches, a small neighborhood that seemed to have a rich sense of community and was totally made for riding your bike. I was over prepared with my Specialized mountain bike – beach cruiser or fixed could easily braved the flat terrain and sand coated trails around the island.

The Island had a bird sanctuary on the south east end of the island separating the main road from the beach. While this area wasn’t bike friendly, it sure made for great views and a nice walk.On one end of the sanctuary, there was a bond packed with turtles. I had never seen so many different kinds of turtles in one place (aside from the reptile exhibit at the zoo).And while most people probably panic reading that there are alligators around threatening the safety of children and pets – I was thrilled to have a gator sighting!Leave it to me to go from a Bird Sanctuary to a decommissioned military base. I knew the armory/military base was somewhere on the island but didn’t realize it was just around the corner from where I saw Osprey nesting.I spent a few days on the island and could have spent twice the time there going to the aquarium, taking day trips to Pensacola or trying out the new waffle dessert place on the island.

One of my favorite things to do was to wake up early and start the day with a morning swim and walk along the beach. There’s something special about being the only person on the beach, almost as if Mother Nature had raised the sun and brought the waves to you on the shore to say “Good. morning!”The sandy beaches were rich with specs of greenery peaking through the sand with occasional flowers decorating the warm and tan landscape.

I imagine Dauphin Island being a perfect place to train for an Ironman… There were plenty of bike friendly roads for the bike, the open water gave plenty of room for swimming and if you have to run – no better place than the beach!

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#AustinCoffeeTour

When most people travel to the Lone Star State, I don’t think Coffee is the first thing on their mind – unless it’s me, then its the first thing on your mind at all times!

As I planned my trip to Austin, TX I did my homework in advance and I was pleasantly surprised to read about the booming “coffee scene” the Capital of Texas had going for itself. So knowing I was going to be working from Austin for a few days the #AustinCoffeeTour began!

There were plenty of websites reviewing the different coffee shops and venues to check out. The two websites that helped guide me were Austin.Eater.com and Foursquare.

Austin.Eater.com had fantastic photos, great reviews and helpful maps. Their Austin Coffee review defined 28 excellent coffee shops in Austin – a great starting point for the #AustinCoffeeTour.

FourSquare.com was also a great resource as the reviews and photos are all from customer feedback and personal testimonies.

But the number one resource for my #AustinCoffeeTour was the recommendation of good friends and Austin natives (Jess, Meg & Ryan) – they helped me find one specific coffee shop that wasn’t even on my radar but left a lasting impression (and tacos – oh, so many tacos).

DISCLAIMER – I am not a coffee expert, this is my own personal perspective and feedback. I don’t know a damn thing about the beans, where they came from, who ground them or if they were fair trade/organic or magical and lead to a bean-stock. BUT I do know what I like and this review is based on that!

So I packed up my work bag with laptop in tow to work from different coffee shops in and around Austin, and here is what I wanted to report…

Houndstooth Coffee introduced something brand new to my taste buds and almost two weeks later and I’m still craving another taste of their signature “Lime Iron.”

The Lime Iron (from what I can remember) is a smooth cold brew infused with lime and sugar – a remarkably refreshing and light flavor that tasted like coffees exotic and sweet cousin – that didn’t stray too far from its cold brew roots. If the description didn’t do the drink justice, the picture below sure does!

This locally owned staple of the Austin Coffee community did not disappoint! The whole place was sleek, clean and welcoming – but not nearly as welcoming and helpful as the Baristas on site. I hate that I didn’t remember my baristas name, even with a long line behind me, he wanted to make sure I was blown away with my selection that morning (because of course I told him all about my trip and my current #AustinCoffeeTour). Houndstooth’s website says that their baristas don’t just pour beverages – they craft them – and craft they did! The Lime Iron is a must – and if anyone wants to overnight me some to California I’ll happily pay the shipping!

Another unexpected stop on my #AustinCoffeeTour was Irenes’s. Just after lunch before my 1:00pm conference call, I was roaming the streets of Austin looking for another coffee shop when I saw the lush green wall, neon lights and creative billboard inviting me to Irene’s.

While Irene’s may be more of a cocktail bar with a midcentury American vibe, I loved this place and enjoyed a slight twist on my traditional coffee. While the coffee menu from the counter had the expected drip coffee, expresso, americano and chai options – I sprung for the Iced White Chocolate Matcha Latte.

Firstly, because it sounded fancy and had the longest name on the menu… Secondly, Texas is hot and humid and the sound of anything ICED sounded heavenly. Now Matcha isn’t coffee – it’s ground tea leaves – but it was on the coffee menu and this is my coffee blog so we’re gonna talk about it! The Iced White Chocolate Matcha Latte was delicious! There is a subtle green tea vibe from the matcha power that is blended with the steamed milk but it is refreshing and is a pleasant taste to mix up your coffee routine if you’re use to espresso everyday.

Like I mentioned above, the billboard caught my eye and drew me in instantly! I only wish I had time to come back in the evening to experience the patio and one (or some) of the signature cocktails they are known for – but back to coffee…

Austin, TX is very walkable – as long as you can brave the heat – and not jus walkable, but CLEAN and walkable. I was really impressed with the whole downtown area, centered around the State Capital building (pictured below) which was gorgeous – but they didn’t have coffee, so moving on…

As much as I travel, one of my favorite things is connecting with old friends and meeting new ones – and Austin was no exception! There are a few very special people I get to work with throughout the year who live in Austin and I’m lucky to be able to call them friends – they suggested I visit “The Canopy” which is a very urban and upcoming hotspot in eastern Austin (right?) which is home to a studio, art gallery and a coffee shop among other catnip for millennials (there were vintage trailers in the back, murals on the concrete walls, overhead Edison bulb lighting and and art gallery : hipster heaven).

San-Ten Coffee & Eats was one of my favorite places in all of Austin! I got to meet up with my friends here early one morning and it was a one of a kind experience! San-Ten is a Japanese inspired Coffee Shop with popular coffee offerings and delicious food menu as well.

I started the morning with the Ohayo which was rich and smooth – so smooth that I had to fight the urge to gulp the drink down, it was delicious! And the shop was creatively decorated with so much Japanese influence and the level of presentation extended deep into the drinks.

There is an art to latte art – crafting a leaf (or rosetta) or a heart is not an easy task. So when you get a drink with a perfect leaf poured from steamed milk over your latte – you know the work put into the drink will most likely reflect the work put into the finishing details!

One day I will learn the art of latte art… Until then, I will admire them one cup at a time! I have to give a special shout-out to my favorite Barista from Los Gatos, CA, Arman – No one can leave a finishing touch on a latte like he can.

Yeah, this is my #AustinCoffeeTour – but one cannot survive strictly on coffee alone (trust me, I’ve tried) and luckily for me, the toasts at San-Ten exceeded expectation. When you visit a popular coffee shop, you expect the homerun to come from the coffee and may steal a base or two with small bites – but the grand slam was the pairing of the breakfast toast and lattes (and I have no idea where the baseball reference came from – possibly the outfield, lol).

After the Ohayo and the (yummy) breakfast toast, we moved on to the macchiato set. The set includes a small steamed milk latte paired with a shot of espresso. The espresso was surprisingly sweet and matched perfecting with the smooth latte.

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Catching up with good people is good for the soul – but also provides ample opportunity to make your way through the coffee menu – and that we did!

And I hate that I can’t remember the name of the last drink I had, but it was the winner for the day! It tasted like a rich vanilla milkshake blended with two shots of espresso. I had no shame in downing this in a few sips – I wish I knew how to make lattes this smooth… I’d never leave the house (which may be a good thing).

After a little more visiting with friends, I was off for a few more conference calls and then on to my next “nesting” location for the afternoon!

Quick Shoutout- Thanks for making time to meet & hang, Meg & Jess!

My new friend, Ryan (not pictured – sorry, dude) generously gave me a few more recommendations which I jumped on!

My next stop was Lazarus, a brewery made popular by their craft beer, coffee menu and most importantly their life changing tacos. I know, this wasn’t intended to be a food blog – but I feel like every place in Austin served Tacos. Literally – gas station tacos, coffee shop tacos and I’m sure they even have elevator tacos and bus stop tacos.

With the weather is Austin reaching near death (I’m only being slightly dramatic) I found refuge in the House Brewed Cold Brew from Lazarus. This Californian has been spoiled by our coastal weather and near perfect climate (aside from that whole global warming and state wide drought thing) so anywhere away from the humidity with air conditioning was a welcomed venue – made only better by a tasty menu of food and drinks like Lazarus provided.

While I really enjoyed the cold brew (no cream or sugar needed) I have to report on the tacos… I asked the bartender/barista if the tacos were any good, and he literally laughed at me as if It was the most ridiculous question he had ever heard – and now that I have experienced them, I 100% support his reaction. I put my ordering in his hands and he brought me a Chorizo Taco from the breakfast menu a and an “Al Pastor” taco from their lunch/dinner menu.

These tacos can only be described as a carnival of delights for the taste buds. The Al Pastor taco was brisket that was marinated to perfection and exploded with flavor as it met your tongue – and the chorizo taco from the breakfast menu would make anyone a breakfast person! I devoured both tacos without even touching the salsas – which I’m sad about because I heard that the “green sauce” is amazing. I also regret not experiencing the craft beer selection. There was an actual craft beer tour happening as I was on a conference call with 30+ people working their way through the beer selections ounce by ounce – but like I said, I was still working and bouncing between conference calls on this #AustinCoffee(and taco)Tour.

When roaming Congress Ave in the afternoon, I had to appreciate this sign outside of TOMS’s – while they promote their glasses and shoes (with great purpose) I loved the shout out to “Coffee” and the love of “Love” – two of my favorite things.. but my shoes and sunglass game was pretty strong as well.

And the last – but not least on my #AustinCoffeeTour that I wanted to mention is Flat Track Coffee (another A+ recommendation from Ryan)! In my previous post, I shared the colorful mural that covers the east side of this coffee shop.

Flat Track Coffee combines two of my favorite things – bicycles and coffee!

I am sad to report that there are 130+ cooler pictures of this place on Yelp.com than the ones I have to share – which only speaks to what a popular spot this is for tourists and as a must visit for coffee loves in and around East Austin.

Upon walking in to Flat Track, you’re immediately pulled to both sides of the shop – Do you venture to the right to see what the bike mechanics are working on or get a closer look at the bikes and vintage artwork on the wall – or go left and dive in to the coffee menu and bakery items?!?!

I must have been standing in the entrance looking around longer than normal, because the barista warmly asked me if I needed anything and if it were my first time in the shop (I suppose my tourist light was shining brighter than usual). I gave my “I’m visiting Austin” introduction and he suggested I get the Cortado – a popular choice from the regulars.

A Cortado is a small drink made up of 1/2 espresso and 1/2 warm milk – the milk is used to take the acidic bite off of the espresso – and that it did! Again, the craftsmanship in the look of the drink is always an indicator of how good the actual drink is going to be, and this cortado was no exception!

I spent a few hours here knocking out e-mails and returning calls, and I loved the vibe of this place. Multiple locals and “regulars” all greeted by the staff and each other – totally a neighborhood coffee shop and meeting places for cycling enthusiasts. A few of the staff were in the back of the coffee portion of the shop grinding beans and comparing the aromas of each of the beans and their blends. You could tell this was their passion and something they truly put their hearts into – and their matching Flat Track shirts in different colors set the scene or what could be a reality TV show on “Creating the Perfect Cup.”

I followed up my first drink with their signature cold brew – which was rich with notes of graham cracker and cola (their words not mine) – but damn it was good! Flat Track is the kind of place I wish I could visit daily – so much, that I had to get one of their signature T-Shirts. A nice reminder of the cold brew, the cortado and most importantly my #AustinCoffeeTour.

I know these were just a few of the amazing places Austin has to offer – and I cannot wait to plan another trip back to see more of the city, bike more of the trails and get a bigger taste of Austin (literally).

If you have any recommendations, please let me know! I want to get back sooner than later and want to make the most of my trip! As always, thanks for reading and I can’t wait to share more from this amazing roadtrip with ya’ll over the next few blog posts!