2014: Reflecting on a Year of Travel

by Rachel Staggs
( January 15th, 2015 )

wing view from airplane

2014 was a year filled with new destinations that I had no idea I’d be visiting when the year started! It was also a year of personal loss. I’m so grateful for travel experiences because they allow me to reconnect with myself and heal in a way that’s indescribable.

integratron joshua tree california

The year started off with the first brother-sister trip we’ve ever taken. My brother kindly drove us out to the Mojave Desert for a sound bath and even let me stay for another round while he napped in the cool desert sun.

integratron singing bowls

I meditated in a way that I never have before. The sounds were soothing and felt like a blanket of energy wrapping around me. If you’re anywhere near Palm Springs or Joshua Tree, I highly recommended a visit to Integratron.

shadow portrait marfa

For my birthday, I spent a week in the Texas desert with my husband. We rented a casita in Marfa and took our bicycles. If you follow this blog, you know how much I love it out there.

big bend newspaper at el cosmico

It’s so quiet. We were on the outskirts of town, so the only sound we heard most days was the train. I started to recognize its schedule. I took baths in a clawfoot tub. My husband spoiled me with home cooked meals and Cuban rum mojitos.

marfa cuban rum mojito

Next up was a last minute family trip to Maui!

maui paia beach

My Dad and I put together the details in about six weeks. We rented a house in Paia and I fell in love with its surfer/artist vibe. My husband and I have discussed trying to live there for a year or two. It really made an impression!

maui hawaii

While we were there, my brother got married!

maui rainbow trees

Did you know about rainbow trees? I didn’t either until I started researching Maui! I found them by taking the road to Hana. Go early to avoid traffic. There are patches that start to pop up about seven miles from Paia.

Final thoughts: Maui is magical. Paia is paradise.

miami baby eels

Miami! A last minute long-weekend planned after I found a great deal on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We rented a convertible (for the first time!) to drive to South Beach. But first we made a pit stop in Miami to eat at Xixón. I highly recommend making the effort for this authentic Spanish tapas restaurant.

south beach miami sky umbrella

I loved South Beach! The Art Deco is gorgeous and the water is stunning, plus going at the beginning of September meant there was a breeze. The locals said it was the perfect time to visit.

miami south beach umbrellas

Since it was shoulder season, we got three nights for the price of two, which meant we could stay on the beach. We loved The James Royal Palm and would absolutely stay there again. It was stylish, the beds comfortable, and the staff were all friendly.

slowdive in montreal

In 2014, one of my favorite bands (Slowdive) reunited and toured in North America. My husband and I looked at the tour dates to figure out where we would see them. They were performing in Montréal on our wedding anniversary, so we decided to go to Montréal!

fairmount bagels montreal

We both loved the city and its bagels! Right now I would give almost anything for a Fairmount or St. Viateur bagel! Best bagels of my life.

We rented a flat in Petite Italie and enjoyed a quick bus ride to the center of Mile End, where the previously mentioned bagel shops are located. Both are open 24 hours a day, so no excuses.

non-dairy macarons in montreal

Add the dairy-free macarons we found at Jean-Talon Market and I’m hooked on Montréal for life. Lots of posts on my time in Montréal coming up!

marche du vieux port quebec city

If you make it to Montréal, you should take the three hour train ride to Québec City. Stay in Old Québec for a charming European-like experience. I thought the attention to detail at Auberge Saint-Antoine was superb and would stay there again.

Chateau Frontenac quebec

Château Frontenac is breathtaking! I encourage you to enjoy a glass of wine at the 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar with a stellar view of the St. Lawrence River.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but every destination I went to in 2014 started with the letter M – except Québec City. Odd, no? What does it mean?!

May your journey be your muse,
Rachel

 

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New Year’s Eve in Prague, Czech Republic

by Rachel Staggs
( December 17th, 2014 )

prague old town

New Year’s Eve in the Czech Republic is known as Saint Silvester’s Day or the Feast of St. Silvester. The locals simply call it Silvestr.

St. Silverster was Pope from January 31, 314 until he died on December 31, 335.

In Prague, the day is full of toasts and food leading up to the midnight hour, when public and private fireworks displays merge into one.

prague new year's eve

Traditional foods include chlebíčky (open-faced sandwiches) and brambůrky (potato chips), as well as an assortment of nuts and jednohubky (canapés).

River cruises on the Vitava are a popular way to see the fireworks. Book the Jazz Cruise and listen to a live jazz band perform while you dine, followed by dancing. As midnight approaches, the boat heads towards Charles Bridge for a perfect view of the fireworks.

If jazz is not your scene, the Prague Party Boat hits all of the famous sites that border the river. While you dine, a DJ spins tunes from the 1980s up until the present. As midnight approaches, this boat also heads for Charles Bridge.

The State Opera offers a New Year’s Eve performance that includes a grand buffet dinner and dancing on the stage until 3am!

prague new year's eve

Most merrymakers gather along the river, in Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, or at the foothills of Prague Castle to watch the fireworks.

Everyone toasts the New Year with šampaňské (champagne) or the local sparkling wine, Bohemia Sekt.

Parties go on until dawn and many Czechs set off their own handheld fireworks, so be cautious!

Bonus: Prague Christmas markets are open until New Year’s Day.

Stastny Novy Rok!

May your journey be your muse,
Rachel

Photo Credits
Fireworks: Damien Te Whiu
Crowd: Thomas Raggan

 

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Gift Ideas for the Wandering Artist in Your Life

by Rachel Staggs
( December 11th, 2014 )

block shop textiles

block shop textiles logo

Based in Los Angeles, Block Shop Textiles was founded by sisters Hopie and Lily Stockman. They work with 5th generation master printers in Bagru, India to bring their creations to life. Everything is done by hand, as it has been in Bagru for 350 years.

The company invests 5% of its proceeds into a community healthcare fund for families of their printing cooperative.

Their designs are beautiful and limited.

You can watch my scarf being made in this video that showcases the process from design to printing and packaging.

Block Shop Textiles from Andrew McLain on Vimeo.


 stash minimalist tote

 

stash logo

 

I’m a huge Stash fan. The minimalist tote was my first purchase and I use it daily. I have stuffed so many items in this bag, expecting to break the straps at some point, but nope. It is built to last.

Bag builder Cheryl Schulke utilizes hand-tools and vintage boot making equipment to create her masterpieces. She is dedicated to mindful production over mass production. Her thoughtful, minimal designs are timeless and just get better with age.

Handmade in in Texas.

 

hold fast money maker camera strap

hold fast gear logo

This beauty has been on my wishlist for a while. It’s the only item here that I have not personally used, but I sure hope to someday!

It holds up to three cameras, on your body, so you don’t have to dig into a camera bag if you want shoot with a several cameras, which I always do. There is even a special option for those of us with long hair!

After years of back pain, Matthew Swaggart created a brand with a nod to the past while embracing functionality. Brilliant.

Handmade in Oklahoma.

 

 

tilley jersey flip skirt

tilley logo

 

I’m a fan of Tilley Endurables and really love this skirt for traveling. It is wrinkle resistant, so often it’s the first thing I wear after arriving in a new destination. It dries overnight and is easy to style for many occasions and different types of weather.

The fabric is soft and I love the secret pocket for stashing cash and my ID.

Made in Canada.

 

jao brand gal deluxe holiday pack

jao brand logo

Every product I’ve tried from Jao (which is nearly all of them) has become a staple in my life and travels. I am sensitive to chemicals so their all natural approach is perfect for me. Even the mosquito repellant smells good and doesn’t irritate my skin!

Gale Mayron, the daughter of a chemist, has created a fresh line of products that are unisex and multipurpose. She believes in less products that do more.

Check out my post from two years ago to learn about the items I use on a regular basis. Oh, and add the LipJao to that list. I hadn’t tried it when I wrote the post, but of course once I did, I was hooked.

Made in Pennsylvania.

lulu organics hair powder

lulu organics logo

I actually have a four ounce container of their hair powder, but this one ounce version might be better for traveling. I purchased mine in Marfa nearly two years ago and I still have plenty left. It really goes a long way.

It will extend the life of your hair when you don’t have time to wash it (or don’t feel like it). Plus, it’s organic and talc-free!

Made in Minnesota.

Artists, these are items I desire when I wander, what are you wishing for?

May your journey be your muse,
Rachel

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