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!

Deep in the heart of Texas!

One of the joys of working from home, is often changing where “home” is. Anyone who has been following my blog or social media posts have probably realized that I don’t like to sit still for long – and changing up my workplace is a reoccurring theme.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to piggy back on someone else’s business trip by joining them on the 1st leg of the trip to Texas and I jumped on the opportunity.

So after a work trip to Southern California, I met my ride and we headed East leaving the West Coast behind us! Two days later, we arrived in Capital of Texas – Austin!

I’m not sure how many cups of coffee or miles we drove, but my bloodtype was “espresso” by the time we made it to our AirBnB in Austin, TX.

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I heard Austin was “cool” but I was blown away by the unique and creative displays of art, architecture and how lush and green everything was!

If you’ve been reading MatthewGoto.com a while, you’ve probably seen multiple landscapes and murals that I’ve gravitated to across the different cities I’ve traveled to – but Austin takes the cake for creative expression, hands down!

It’s one thing to allow for creativity in the form of large scale art and its a whole new world when its celebrated like it is in Austin.

 From what I learned from conversing with strangers (mostly coffee shop employees and Uber drivers) the creative expression stems from the Hope Outdoor Gallery, which got its start in 2011. While the purpose isn’t as clear as it’s roots suggest (when I was there I saw a ton of people just writing their names), the goal was to create a place for large scale street art focused on inspiration, education and positive messaging.

Either way, I found the park to be inspiring. To know that a city dedicated a place for the outside thinkers, the creatives and those who need to be inspired means its my kind of city. And based on the traffic and amount of people coming and going its a project that deserves the extra funding or support to keep going! I know – its looks like no one is there, but I strategically took photos when I had good shots of the art – without the tourist obstructions of dads in cargo shorts and teenagers posing for their next filtered instagram post.

 From the top of the Hop Gallery structures, there was a pretty impressive view of the Austin skyline! There are a ton of new apartment buildings and highrise’s coming in – which only speaks to the growth and demand of the city. I wish I has the opportunity to visit the park at night to see how lighting brings different pieces to life and to take in the starlit glow of the skyline.  Surrounding the Hope Gallery were shaded trails that were equally painted – which at first seemed a bit vandalized but gave the park a very Alice in Wonderland vibe (assuming you were on the tail end of the caterpillars pipe or were on the same recreational usage as the Madd Hatter). img_2199Even after leaving the Hope Gallery and making my way past the North side of the bridge (separated by the Colorado river) unique murals decorated the parking structures, walkways and facades of almost every blank space you could see.

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While in Texas, its hard to go longer than a few minutes without seeing the Texas flag posted somewhere – Austin is 100% Austin and proud of it. Which shows not only a strong sense of community, but a progressive and welcoming one at that.

But street art aside, Austin is probably (and should be) more well known for its outstanding food options! For the few days we were there, we ate like Kings and didn’t have a bad experience anywhere we went. The food was always delicious, the portions reminded us we were NOT in California and the customer service always left us with a smile.

By popular recommendation, we went to Terry Black’s Barbecue… a MUST if visiting Austin. I was a little hesitant with the “mess hall” set-up where strangers stood in line for their opportunity to scoop the side dished of their choice into paper trays lined up on their medal food trays… But the peach cobbler, mac and cheese and potato salad make up for it and give the place a very “down south” vibe which add to the overall dining experience!Back on Congress Ave, South Congress CAFE was a great dinner option with equally large portions and a cocktail menu we generously made our way through (with no complaints). Congress Ave was filled with places to eat, unique places to shop and my favorite – more street art! But my absolute favorite thing about Congress Ave was that almost every establishment had an old school neon sign. It gave the street a very unique and old school vibe but also lit up the street at night almost welcoming you to explore every corner and stop along the way.

So this is the Californian in me talking (or being a naive millennial) but I had no idea that Austin was the capital of Texas. I cant be the only person – I for sure that Dallas had this one on the bag.

But either way, the State Capital building in Austin was spectacular! It caught my eye when we drove in, stood out when I was looking at the skyline from the Hope Outdoor Gallery and was even bigger and more grand in person.

I enjoyed walking the meticulously kept grounds rich in monuments and facts. And couldn’t have asked for better weather (or lighting) to explore this history rich landmark.

I joked in my instagram story of there being so much #History – because there was! Every statue had a story and stood for some monumental (get it, lol) achievement or mileSTONE (another bad pun – but I don’t care if you laughed, I did).

Now to my favorite part of Austin… It has got to be one of the most active and outdoorsy cities in America, right?!?! I mean there were people running, riding bikes, going for walks, paddle-boarding, canoeing and walking there dogs everywhere… Okay, the paddle-boarding and canoeing was just in the river – but you see the picture I’m painting.

Not only were there beautifully landscaped and paved walkways along both sides of the river and downtown, there were trails and paths carved out as well making this the perfect place for cyclists (especially those with road bikes and mountain bikes)!

The bridges were also lush with park benches, colorful planters and perfect picture opportunities to take in the views of (the growing) downtown area.

And it was hard to cover ground on the trails because every so often there was a break in the trail to provide river access for the canoes, paddle-board and kayaks. You could bike or run right by them, but after a long workday bouncing from coffee shop to coffee shop I loved taking the short breaks to enjoy more of what mother nature had to offer.

Even on a weekday, there were plenty of people out on the river taking in all that Austin had to offer. Between biking between coffee shops I always noticed there were always people on the water – which made me wonder, what the hell do these people do all day that they can spend hours on the river on a Tuesday?!?! I’m not mad – just tell me your secret!

While I wish Silicon Valley had these kind of walkable and photo worthy places to stop and enjoy – but Ya’ll (and yes, I mean YA’LL) can keep the Texas heat and humidity.

img_2264 I don’t know much about space or geology – but Texas must be 100 miles closer to the sun than California. You can quote me on that, not being an astronaut or geologist my uneducated assumption felt pretty accurate.

Even on opposite ends of the bridge and miles away from the Hope Outdoor Gallery there were reminders of the inspiration and optimism. After seeing this mural stretched between city blocks I googled the Hope Projects and found out that H.O.P.E. actually stood for Helping Other People Everywhere – an awesome mission that extends much farther and deeper than graffiti and colorful artwork.

 And when seeking shelter from the sun (even at 6:00pm in the afternoon) I found even more murals between a parking garage and movie theater. You can’t see the details of the mural behind my narcissism above, but there where classic movie posters set as the background to colorful art and Texas imagery.

 And back on Congress Ave among the restaurants and shops were plenty of tourist traps, that I of-course flocked to like catnip. The “I Love You So Much” stop was on my to do list, but unfortunately the line of people to take selfies was too long – don’t get me wrong, I love a good selfie (see items #148-165 above) but I prefer a casual selfie and not 300 angles and options to be filtered and painted for future sharing.

I couldn’t pass up this photo opportunity – for my love of Coffee and well, Love… Shoes and Sunglasses aren’t the top of my “Need” list – but since they were on the sign, I’ll take it!

This mural was on the side of one of my new favorite coffee shops (my next post is dedicated entirely to Austin Coffee Shops, so if you want to know where this is – stay tuned)!

And we ended our final night in Austin, Texas doing something unique and one of a kind – paddle-boarding Lady Bird Lake / the Colorado River at sunset with light up paddle-boards!

Through AirBnB we found The Adamson Bro’s who run their “Glow Paddle” Paddle Board Tours from the Texas Rowing Center in Austin, through Lady Bird Lake. I’m pretty adventurous and I’m a sucker for fun new excursions – and this is an activity I’d gladly do again tomorrow! Our guides were awesome, knowledgable and up for some good conversation – and the unique experience of paddle boarding the lake with neon lights fluorescently lighting the way was one of the best lasting impressions of Austin we could have asked for.

The experience was so unique and fun that I didn’t get much video footage from it or the steadiest of photos – but if you are ever in Austin, do yourself a favor and book your boards now!

You can check out 60 seconds of our tour on my Vimeo channel, not the greatest footage – but you can appreciate the gorgeous Texan sunset and the glow of Austins skyline over the water.

I know these are blurry photos – but when your photographer is on a stand up paddleboard you are just grateful they get the photo and your GoPro doesn’t find its was to the bottom of the lake.

I wish we had more time in Austin than the few afternoons to explore after long workdays – but I got a healthy taste of it and I am eager to return sooner than later to see more sights and sounds – and to paddle the lake one more time… maybe this time I’ll stay in focus! =)

Austin quickly became one of my favorite cities – in so many ways. There is so much more I want to see, taste and explore so I’ll be back soon!

Excited to share my next post showcasing the different Coffee Shops I had the honor of experiencing per locals and friends recommendations!

If you have any recommendations of your own, please comment and let me know! My next trip to Austin will be 0% work and 100% play and I’m going to have to plan accordingly to fill my days with everything I want to do!

Stay tuned, the #AustinCoffeeTour post is coming soon!

Till we meet again, Austin!

Appreciating Earth – Today and Everyday (especially on Earth Day)

We live in the beautiful state of California – where we have gorgeous beaches, spectacular mountains, rolling hills and more outdoor adventures than you can count.

But none of that actually counts, unless you take advantage of it!

It’s hard to find time to be adventurous and take time to disconnect – but it’s not impossible with strategic planning and sticking to tight schedules.

In honor of Earth Day (and the needed mental break), this past weekend we loaded up Black Beauty (our all black Ford Explorer Sport) and rented an AirBNB in the mountain range north of Santa Barbara. It was remote, not “that” easy to get too and a total change of pace and vibe from our lives in Silicon Valley. An afternoon drive (and a few Starbucks stops) is all it took to make our way down the 101 along the amazing coast and we were there.

We have become pretty good at the whole “road trip” thing this year. We’ve got the perfect car cooler that keeps all of our drinks and snacks chilled (and was perfect to keep grocery’s cold with our AirBnB being a healthy trip up the mountain). We know exactly how to set up the dog bed, harness and supplies needed to bring our dog (aka most important member of the family) along with us.

Side Note: If you travel with your dog, you need to purchase an AutoDogMug! It’s a water bottle with a small bowl attached to the top that allows you to squeeze water into the bowl and releasing the bottle sucks the additional water back into the bottle so you can easily offer your four legged friend some H2O by reaching over into the back seat and not have to worry about spilling or splashing!

Speaking of coolers and supplies- we have built a solid arsenal of supplies that you can’t Road Trip without…

  • Folding Chairs
  • Beach/Picnic Blanket
  • Collapsible Tent
  • First Aid Kit (and lots of sunscreen)
  • Cooler (mentioned above)
  • Charging accessories
  • Beach Towels
  • Dog Gate

And while that list sounds like a lot, it really doesn’t take up much in the car – and if you shop around you can find items that stack really well or fold flat to maximize trunk space. Anyone have any Road Trip “must haves” that we are missing?!?!

Our beach blanket lives in the car year round. It has hosted many picnics (in random parks and parking lots – especially when traveling with pets who aren’t allowed in most dining establishments), provided a cool surface when the street was too hot for puppy feet and has been more than clutch when changing tires or covering items we didn’t want see by passerby’s.

But back to our much needed “disconnect” and #ED18 (Earth Day, duh) – our AirBNB exceeded our expectations. Yeah, it was 30+ minutes from the closest grocery store and you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to it but it was 100% worth the extra haul – I could explain to you in detail why, but I’m confident the pictures below paint a pretty convincing case…

After the climb up the steep and single lane mountain road, we turned into a long gravel packed driveway that led to the coolest little cottage nestled at the top of a succulent rich landscape surrounded by lush trees and greenery. *Spotted Caesar (@Caesar_Johnson_JRT)The grounds had so many trails and paths, each one made you feel like you were exploring corners of the property never seen before – but small terra-cotta pots or clay creatures were hidden in the landscape to remind you that every inch was a part of the master plan. And if the views weren’t spectacular enough, there were about half a dozen wind-chimes scattered around the property which let you hear the ocean breeze as it climbed up the mountain, added to the soundtrack nature played and set the mood for exploring and adventuring. I’m mad that I didn’t get any pictures of the ceramic fish that I kept finding along the property – I want to find a similar one to hide in our backyard to remind me of this weekend and this property!The entire landscapes flowed naturally as if Mother Nature went above and beyond to spoil this area – but the level of detail was due to Mother Nature, one absolutely killer landscape architect and very detailed oriented gardener. We have a decent yard at home, but being able to let our dog run free around the property and take in the sights and smells made this trip extra special knowing every member (fur not not) enjoyed the retreat!

The vibrant blues and greens throughout the property echoed the clear blue skies and teal green ocean views in the distance.

This mountain retreat was so high and had such clear views that you could literally see the “line where the sky meets the sea…” (any Moana fans out there?!?!)

Does anyone know what this dinosaur of a plant is called? There were hundreds of them everywhere in Santa Barbara and along the coast and I really want them incorporated into our backyard landscape (that is – when we figure out what it is we plan on doing back there).

While the plan was to sleep in and enjoy the mini-vacation, the sun greeted us bright and early and the birds seemed to sing extra loud and extra early this weekend – and we didn’t mind the change of schedule one bit. Watching the sun rise from the east and seeing the rays of light Peak through this large tree was amazing… we went a little outside of the property line (whoops) to capture this picture. Totally worth the risk of tetanus climbing through the rusty barbed wire to get here, but I wish the photo was able to capture the soothing movement of the tall blades of grass as the wind swept through.While Caesar enjoyed chasing ground squirrels, scaring lizards from under plants and “watering” everything and anything under the sun we enjoyed finding different species of succulents and plants we can only dream of growing in our yard.

Some of the plants were the largest we had ever seen, giving us very Jurassic Park vibes.

I wish we had more time to explore all of the paths and trails carved out on the property, but the few we found were plenty enough for the weekend and beautiful reminders of Mother Nature’s beauty.

You can see some of the paths in the photo below with large stairways blocked out by large pieces of stone.

The view below is from the trail that took us just above the property our cottage sat on. It’s views like these that make you start planning what monumental life occasion could be staged here?!?! A friends wedding, a renewal of vows… OR yet another millennial photo pretending to be deep in thought so I can post it later with a meaningless quote (we all know that is coming).I have zero guilt in shameless selfies when there were so many picture perfect moments to take advantage of. But even Caesar was over taking photos after our first day exploring the property…

He was originally sitting on the bottom rock in the picture below – a picture that would have surely made him Instafamous – but he saw a lizard and took off and his endorsement deal from Petsmart remains a dream (a parent can dream…)

Being so close to Santa Barbara, we had to explore the city known for its Mediterranean climate, wine country and beautiful beach culture.

Caesar had zero complaints about our little day trip into SB. He absolutely loved running along the beach and attacking every piece of seaweed that washed on to shore. But if you are traveling with your pets make sure you plan in advance which beaches you plan on visiting as not all beaches are dog friendly. We had to make a few stops till we found a beach that was pet friendly.

Doing your homework as to where you can and can’t take your pets might help you find hidden gems in the area like hikes that lead to waterfalls (like these!).

We stumbled onto this waterfall while googling the area after we had lunch at a small park off the freeway (again, a big blanket always comes in handy).Pictures can’t do the nights sky justice….

Joshua Tree is one of the only places I have ever been with so little light pollution that the stars and moon fully illuminate the earth below.

But this cottage was so remote that the stars and moon were enough to light up the sky and cover everything in sight with a blue tint that seemed to magically enchant everything in sight (no Instagram filter can do that…. yet). We already miss the sounds of frogs croaking, creatures shuffling in the leaves under the trees, that long and winding dirt mountain road and the whimsical sound of wind-chimes dancing as the ocean breeze sweeps the mountainside.

We are grateful for the amazing AirBNB Cottage Rental, Black Beauty for a comfortable and safe trip and the ability to make the time to reset and disconnect ourselves. Sometimes you have to disconnect and hit the reset button so you can bring your best self to the table.

It’s not even Monday, and I already feel refueled and rejuvenated for the week ahead – but don’t think for one second I’m not missing relaxing on the patio of the cottage.

And we are mostly grateful for beautiful, stunning, surprising and all inspiring Mother Nature! Thank you for keeping this giant spinning ball looking so good for the past 4.54 billion years! You continue to amaze us, entertain us and reward us! We hope that we leave a minimal footprint behind (and sorry about that whole road tripping in a large SUV thing – we use recyclable bags and avoid one time use plastic bottles – so they cancel each other out, right?)

Happy Earth Day! Let me know how you celebrated Earth Day 2018 and if you know of any road trip worthy destinations please let me know!

I’m excited to report back after our next adventure (it will be our longest and farthest road trip to date)!

As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more pictures and videos to come!!!

Just Keep Swimming…

The one thing that always draws me in when it comes to Southern California is the Ocean…. Yeah, Disney is great and all but there is nothing as refreshing and more connected to Mother Nature than the fresh ocean water.

I’m finding my way in Northern California and I’m starting to find my go to swim spots. But if I get the chance to get my feet wet in Southern California, I take it (but if you’ve got any recommendations for open water swimming or canoe friendly bodies of water around the bay area – I’ll gladly take the rec).

Leaving the Midwest after college and moving back to the West Coast (literally the Coast) planted me in Huntington Beach, CA from 2010-2016. I loved the city, the people, the culture and most importantly the beach.

Being a (terribly slow) triathlete I loved being able to walk down the street and enjoy an open water swim. Sure, there were occasional shark sightings and open water swimming has its fair share of risks – but a morning swim is better than coffee and wakes up all of your senses (and especially when the water temps drop).

So this past week while in Orange County for work, I had the opportunity to join other ocean-centric folks who make swimming around the Newport Beach Pier a weekly occurrence – one of my favorite SoCal activities (when I could wake up early enough to make the 7:45am start)! I definitely get the commuter award, being the only person to make the swim a few times a year from San Jose – and lucky for me, this Wednesday started with the Pier Club!

Side note – if you couldn’t tell, I bring my GoPro with me pretty much everywhere I go. And swimming around the Newport Pier is no exception.

And on a recent update, the GoPro App added the ability to create “Quik Stories” from your recent pictures and videos. I’m a huge fan of this feature because it does the editing and compiling for video for you. It takes the trouble of having to “edit” and takes the drivers seat in terms of creativity. It seriously reduces the posting and time consuming process of sharing – huge time saving for “working professionals” (adult slag for someone who doesn’t have as much fun as they use too or spends more time at Sams Club than the actual Club).

But back to the point – a few minutes splashing around the Pier (and quickly recognizing that I’m not as in shape as I use to be and not remembering the pier being this long) is all I needed to feel reconnected to the ocean. And I’m glad I was able to capture a few moments on my GoPro.

Here are some cool clips I pulled from my Quick Story from Pier Club!

I’m generally pretty easy going when it comes to posting and sharing my pictures, but these clips really stood out to me – and obviously I liked them enough to share them here.

This was a reoccurring view on every pier swim. The blinding sun was a glowing reminder that it was a brand new day, and I loved how optimistic and energized I felt when I saw this site coming out of the water – an awesome feeling I love reliving through this picture.

And like a true millennial, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a selfie. I can’t wait for the day when we all get old and have to explain all of our grandkids that we really did have friends in 2018 – we just obsessed about taking picture of ourselves. I wonder how the conversations will go, “Daddy, why did grandpa take so many pictures with the Puppy SnapChat filters?!?” Luckily for me I take pictures of beaches and my food like other well balanced (and slightly basic) millennials (and for the record – if you don’t like the puppy snapchat filter, it’s not the filter… it’s you).

And back again to the actual point of this post – I’m glad that even though I’m 375 miles from Newport Beach Pier, life constantly changes around us, and we all get older and more boring by the day – I’m glad I can still find the time to just keep swimming and enjoy SoCals greatest gift to the world.

And shoutout to the Newport Beach Pier Club (Photo Cred: @PierClub) an awesomely random group of guys (and a female on every third full moon on even dated Wednesdays) who welcome anyone craziness enough to join them every Wednesday. The post swim coffee and donuts aren’t too bad either!

Check out my QuikStory on Vimeo:

Pier Club (Newport Beach)

Emerald Pools, Zion National Park: Day 6

Three days in Zion National Park aren’t enough..

I loved every minute we spent in the park and will be counting down the days till I return. I got an amazing first time Zion experience and I am excited return in the near future – to give a few more of the sights and sounds more love and attention!

On our third day in Zion we set sights on the hikes that we had not yet experienced. On your National Park Map you get once you enter the park, there are 15 hikes broken out into “Easy, Moderate and Strenuous.” I’m thrilled that in three days we did 11 of the 15 hikes! And we did have a dog waiting for us at home – so we could have spent more time in the park and potentially knocked out all 15 hikes in the three days – but as a responsible doggy daddy I had to make sure we didn’t leave our furry family member alone too long.

On our third day in Zion, we set out to explore a few of the remaining hikes on the to do list!

We started the day bright and early and set out to explore Lower Emerald Pool Trail, Upper Emerald Pool Trail, Kayenta Trail, Court of the Patriarchs, Zion Human History Museum and the Archaeology Trail… You know, slow day – haha.

The Emerald Pools exceeded our expectations – there was rainfall the night before which resulted in beautiful waterfalls from the upper pools into the lower pools!

The water flow even created stunning mirrored pools which gave us amazing reflections of the surrounding canyon walls – the pictures don’t do them justice at all!

I cannot stress the importance of having a good crew. There were four of us with totally different personalities and humors which kept the trip lighthearted, fun and entertaining for an entire week (which is A LOT of time to be in the car together). But I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could get the four of us together again!

The true natives of the park didn’t mind us hiking along the Keyenta Trail. They are very comfortable with the visitors in the park and weren’t even phased by us walking by.

We couldn’t resist the photo opportunity here at the Upper Pools. This cliff overlooked the mirrored pool below. The beams of lights were unexpected (and made the photos pretty gnarly) and really brought the different colors of the leaves and rocks to life.

I strongly suggest getting to the pools early in the morning so the rising sun can catch the waterfalls. It was cold, but standing under the falls (getting wet) and surrounding yourself in the almost glowing beads of water coming from above was an amazing feeling!

At this point of the trip, I really felt disconnected to the outside world. Being away from e-mail, cell phones and social media really let me appreciate the beauty around us – and the company of friends (so much deeper and stronger than any exchange on social media).

Knowing that our time in Zion was coming to an end was upsetting – but the weather was on our side during our trip and we got more done than we had originally set out to do!

Observation Point Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail, San Bench Trail, Pa’rus Trail and the entire 9.4 miles of the Narrows are on my bucket list! I cannot wait to tackle those trails in the future and welcome (and appreciate) any feedback from fellow readers who have experienced those hikes!

There is so much I could describe and explain – but pictures are worth a thousand words so I felt like it was easier to just share some highlights of this day on my Vimeo Channel!

Here is our Six Day in about two minutes:

Thank you for reading and following along! I know dragging out a week long vacation over 2 months of blog posts is a long time – But I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time each week pulling pictures and video clips together to relive this trip.

I’m sad that next week will be my last posting on this amazing Road Trip… But excited that the focus will then be on some new Mountain Biking trails that I’ve found near by in the Santa Cruz Mountains!

Thank you and stay tuned!

Go Outside… and get a Canoe!

Living the beautiful state of California, we have so much to thank Mother Nature for. We have the beautiful coastline, the amazing national forests throughout and many natural and man-made bodies of water to explore.

Being in Northern California, we have a ton of lakes (Lake Tahoe most famously) and a ton of man-made bodies of water that dress up the (already gorgeous) scenery. On most of my hikes, excursions with our dog and most recently newly explored paths on our Mountain Bikes I work my way along the perimeters of these not yet explored bodies of water. So I decided that I want to take my adventuring in a new and exciting direction – Via a Kayak or Canoe!

Now let me tell you, it was tough to decide which recreational floatation device suited me best (Canoe? Kayak? Stand Up Paddle Board?) – but the short story is – I went with the option that was best fit for two adults and a water-loving-dog which had the lowest flip-over rate and positive reviews! Which led to the search for the perfect canoe! This Canoe Search took a few weeks and plenty of visits to our local sporting goods stores (I felt like I was cheating on Home Depot and Lowes – but this change of focus was exciting and taught me a lot about boating)!

The Old Town Saranac 146 is what I ultimately decided on! It was one of the few Canoes carried by multiple sporting goods stores (Dicks Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops in the Bay Area). And this particular model had rave reviews on Dicks website and Amazon!

But when purchasing a 76 pound ad 14 1/2 foot long boat – I had to do a great deal of research before I actually made the purchase! The first question being: How will I get this home and transport it to and from the water?!?!?

Thankfully, I got a masters degree in Canoe Mounting and Travel from YouTube University (aka YoutTube.com)! I watched a ton of videos and made notes of the best things TO and NOT TO do when carrying a canoe on the top of your mid-size SUV or minivan – I was shocked that people carry canoes on small compact cars – but that fact alone made me more comfortable knowing my vehicle of choice is larger and more capable. And I researched my car manufacturers website to learn about the weight the vehicle is capable of carrying – just because YouTube tells you to try something – doesn’t mean your vehicle is made for it!

So if this interests you at all, please continue reading and I’ll do my best to share my recently acquired knowledge with you! If not – you made it this far and I’m sure you have better things to be doing on Instagram….

Thanks for sticking it out… So here are the hurdles I had to tackle in Canoeing 101 – before I’ve even hit the water:

  1. Selecting the right paddle! Aluminum? Plastic? Wood? Straight? Bent? Curved? – Lost? So was I.. But here is what I found out – based on my desire to set my sails toward shallow water and rocky rivers and my beginners level of experience –  I needed a plastic paddle that I could beat up along rocky rivers! And I’m glad I did the research in advance because there are a TON of paddles to choose from, which is extremely intimidating if you aren’t sure what you are looking for!

 

I took this picture minutes after I accidentally knocked over 20 paddles and two Dicks Sporting Goods employees had to rescue me from death by paddle (sounds way worst than it was).

I chose two 54 inch Aluminum handle paddles with a T-grip! Selecting a paddle could be its very own post – but I’m no expert so I’ll direct you to the best advice I found from REI!

REI – How to select the right Canoe Paddle for You!

And I laughed at the various measurement methods I read about online and found on YouTube – the measuring your torso method was confusing as different sources defined the start of your torso at different spots. So I went with the method of choosing a paddle that when in a seating position in the canoe – the base of blade should meet your nose with the handle flat against the canoe floor. Sounds silly – looks sillier – but when I did this the length of the paddle ft comfortable in my arms reach and the paddle touched the ideal death along the side of the canoe which should equate to awesome paddling – I hoped!

2) Life Jackets!

Now not all water sources have the requirement to wear a life jacket – but most of them require that each person has on with them on the watercraft. And if you like to play it safe like me, I am going to wear the crap out of this thing till I feel comfortable in the water. Since I plan on bringing my dog along, me wearing the life vest will allow me to make sure I can keep him safe if we topple over without me having to worry about staying afloat (assuming the life jacket does its job).

So it was back to the stores – Dicks has the best options for paddles and Bass Pro shops has the better selection of Life Vests/Jackets so I was back to Bass! And since I was there, I had to buy some of the old fashioned candy, a trucker hat AND THEN what I actually came for.

And like every specialty sport/activity there were way to many vests/jackets to choose from so I turned to my good old friend Google to help me decide on one! I went with a very mesh’y (technical term for a sh*t load of mesh) life vest that was a “Grade 3” for adults weighing over 90lbs – which coincidently, they ALL were the same grade and same weight grade. I chose the “Fishermans” model which had the most pockets and provided great range of movement in the arm/shoulder area as I would be paddling a lot! There were kayak and canoe specific vests – but they were three times the price of the other vests and didn’t have any pockets (where would I hold my phone? candy? GoPro?!?!).

And since I wasn’t able to locate a Doggy Life Vest in person at any of the stores, I went with two seat cushions that would be comfortable for my dog to lay on while in the canoe and keep his paws cool, but could also serve as floatation aids in the event we were outside of the canoe…

And I went with the Bass Pro Shop brand vest because the price point was awesome – and honestly – because my canoe was green and so was this vest.

3) Safety on the Water!

Now the biggest “Oh Crap” scenarios played out online – was what to do when your canoe tips over – and what to do if you lose your paddle…

For the first scenario – I bought a canoe which was bigger than we needed so that tipping over was highly unlikely… And to troubleshoot the second problem I bought a paddle leash made by Propel. This bungee cord slides loosely along the bar of the paddle but and connects to either the boat or your life vest with a strong plastic clip! My favorite thing about this is that that there is a buckle on the cord so I can unclip from the paddle if I wanted to get rid of the paddle mid trip or I needed to pack away the paddles to stow the canoe – these Canoe professionals really thought of everything!

4) Transporting the Canoe!

There were a ton of $$ and $$$ kits for transporting canoes and kayaks but they all consisted of two basic pieces – tie downs and foam. So thanks again to Youtube, I learned how you could take two Foam Noodles (yes, those kids toys) and tie downs to secure a small boat to the top of your vehicle!

I went ahead and purchased tie downs that were long enough to go from under or around my vehicle and one longer tie down that would tie under the front of the car and secure the front of the canoe (the longest distance to tie down). I was smart (for once) and made sure the shorter tie downs were all the same color and my front tie down was a different color so I could easily decipher which one needed to go on the front of the vehicle. I also bought two foam noodles for either side of the canoe. And I bought reflective duct tape to mark the front and back of the canoe so other vehicles on the road could be aware that “Holy sh*t – the guy in front of me has a canoe on his roof!” And since I knew I’d be under the front and back of my car – I packed a blanket made for such tasks! My coworker, Kevin gave me this rugged blanket with a waterproof and durable backing with a soft fleece stop which will make getting under the car much more comfortable!

I then took a razor blade and created a long opening through one side of the noodles and used my hand to stretch out the opening so they would fit snuggly on the sides of the canoe! This worked amazingly and the $5 investment in noodles covered way more surface area than the foam pieces that came in the $$ and $$$ kits.

5) Where do I and where can I Canoe?!?!

Shockingly to find out – a lot of the local man-made lakes and open bodies of water don’t allow watercrafts due to the current drought or risk of contamination. But lucky for me, there are enough water-loving boat people online that have created websites and written feedback to help me find places I CAN set sail (Canoes don’t actually have sails – but “Set Sail” sounds so much more fun than “paddle paddle paddle”).

My local counties Park and Recreation website was the JACKPOT for finding out the most information about where and how I can get on the water – and what was allowed on the water!

Santa Clara County Park & Recreation

Since there was a ton of information and I was able to pinpoint where I wanted to start my canoeing adventuring – I decided to drive straight to the Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos, CA and speak to the park official in person to answer all of my questions!

I learned that each watercraft needed to get an inspection by the park staff before the craft would enter the water, that each person(s) needed their own life jacket/vest, that there was a fee for using the launch area (dock) and that there was an additional fee for parking at the reservoir. I asked a ton of other questions about the natural wildlife in the area, if the lake reminded him of Crystal Lake, if he ever knew the Vorhees family, and other questions he wasn’t amused with and the best part of his day was when I left – BUT I felt prepared and ready to respectfully use the park and abide by its rules and regulations! And even though this trip was a little bit out of my way – I am 100% happy that I got the answers I needed before I went an packed up my canoe and supplies and showed up uneducated.

And all of that being said, you should be ready to canoe onward to exciting new adventures!

I already took my canoe on its maiden voyage and can already tell it was the first of many adventures to come!

I hope this helps anyone out there needing advice or the push to venture into canoe ownership!

This is also an open invitation to my California friends, if you haven’t been out on the water recently – come visit and we’ll take the boat out! 🙂

Here’s a quick glimpse into our adventure on the Lexington Reservoir on Vimeo:

Adventuring: Lexington Reservoir

If you have any advice on canoe storage, transportation or operation please share!

And if anything – canoe has opened the world to new shameless Instagram posts like the one below:

instagram.com/matthewcgoto

And we are always eager to hear about new canoeing destinations so please let me know if you have any great canoeing recommendations!

Thanks for reading! 🙂