PCH Road Trip: Seattle to San Diego

The Pacific Coast Highway, commonly known as the PCH, is a stretch of road that covers 656 miles along the Pacific Ocean.

And I want to drive that sucker from top to bottom.

A simple text from a friend ignited this specific trip planning. She merely said she wanted to travel somewhere together, but I got so excited at the thought of planning a vacay, I go into hypermode.

Immediately my mind is racing, “What can we do that is Covid Kosher?

Rooooad trip! Road trips are totally Covid Kosher, and if we travel somewhere that has consistently great weather, we have the option to camp (or glamp) to further minimize our impact.

Driving wise, I immediately think of the PCH.

I truly adore the West Coast. My first taste was a work trip to Seattle that lasted nearly three weeks, and I drank it all in. Mt. Rainier stole my heart, the Pacific Northwest Pine Trees gave every other tree I’ve ever seen in my life a run for their money. I was hooked and could easily see myself bouncing from NYC and shipping over to Seattle for a few years.

Then a few more work trips over the last few years have sent me to LA, Santa Monica, Malibu, & Santa Barbara causing me to get even more hooked on the West Coast. Basking in the beachy vibes, the views, but most importantly – the PCH drives through Malibu. Holy crap were these drives nothing short of enchanting. I often had a hard time focusing on the road and found myself distracted by the mountains to one side and the ocean to the other. It felt surreal, just to consistently be driving by such iconic views.

So in sorting out what made sense for this road trip, I took what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned from additional work-related research, and boom – the below locations were decided.

PRO TIP: make this trip international by making your start Vancouver and your end Baja

. . .

Now, here is where things get a bit different with this article. I’m not going to breakdown my personal plans for each city and give you insight on my research, blah, blah, blah. No, I’m going to ask you to come with me on this journey.

Whether it be metaphorically, or physically – I want you, curious reader, to help me plan out this trip.

I’ve started an excel document which you have full access to in order to make this a shared process. I encourage you to add in some links to must see spots in the cities we’re visiting – whether it’s tourist traps, hiking trails, cool shops, great bars, or hole in the wall restaurants… drop those links in! Maybe add in suggestions that some cities deserve a longer visit… it’s up to you!

You might be wondering, “Why would I meddle with her travel documents?” Guys, I have an original copy with my intended plans, but I want your recs too! Maybe this is the first step in your very own PCH road trip with friends or family and this can be a resource you guys use 😉

Click here to go to excel

**excel tip: in order to stay in the same box, but get text to drop (list like formatting) hit ALT+ENTER and it will start a new line within the same cell (best for if you want to add any notes to your recs)

Click here to go to google maps

Tips From A Serial Wanderer

Long-time traveler and friend, Agnieszka, sat down with me to discuss everything she’s learned from a life of traveling. Currently residing and studying in Germany, she splits her time with her family in California. Agnieszka has traveled to roughly 45 countries since childhood including: Canada, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Monaco, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania , Kenya, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic


Tanzania, 2012

Where did your desire/love of travel come from?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by a father with an insatiable passion and love for traveling. Since I can remember, he was constantly trying to find any opportunity for an adventure and almost always trying to bring his family along. Traveling with him were and still are the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. 

So where did your dad’s love of travel come from?
It was really his inability to travel. My parents grew up in Poland – which was then a communist country under (official/unofficial?) control of the Soviet Union. Traveling to another country was heavily restricted… people could essentially only travel to other communist/soviet eastern European countries. And when something is forbidden from you, usually that’s something you then really want. Growing up my father actually thought about becoming a sailer because that was then one of the very few opportunities to actually travel and see the world. Instead he immigrated at 23 years old to the US and as soon as he was able to afford it, his (and our) world adventures began.

Nepal, 2017

Do you prefer traveling alone or with others?
That’s a difficult question for me. There is a lot of good in both and I’ve enjoyed both tremendously. Traveling alone is – at least for me – a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to positively develop as a person. I’m self-conscious and antisocial and really quite nervous around people and so I had a lot of difficulty opening up to incredible people I was meeting during my travels alone and probably missed out on a lot of amazing experiences. But the occasions when someone was brave enough to push through my barriers and invite me along on their adventures or show me kindness and love are memories I will always always always cherish – and I would have probably also never experienced those had I been traveling with others. 

So I am grateful for the times I traveled alone and hope to travel alone again in the future… I had freedom to do and see what I pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted but I then also had the freedom to meet and spend time with whatever wonderful person I meant along the way and experience so many other awesome things beyond just visiting the next famous site. Traveling with others is wonderful because I then have someone to share not only the incredible moments with but also the difficult times. It is not as lonely and therefore is not as mentally challenging.

Machu Picchu, 2012

Stereotypically, society says that women should not travel alone. Have you also experienced that stigma? Or do you feel that it is equally as safe as long as you’re smart about it?
Of course. As a women I’ve experienced sexism and many kinds of sexual harassment. There are countries I probably would not have traveled to had I been alone and don’t have the desire to visit in the future without a male companion. It is not as equally safe for women to travel in several parts of the world. But that has not and will not prevent me from traveling alone – and I don’t think it should prevent any other woman from doing so. Horrible things happen to people everywhere – even of course in the most “modern” and “safe” countries. In the end, it’s important to be as cautious as possible, avoid any possibly dangerous situations as much as humanly possible, and to always try to plan how to keep yourself safe in any given situation. Also I find that one should also try to respect the culture and customs of whatever place they’re visiting… if you’re visiting a country in which women generally cover their bodies in loose clothing, or cover their hair, or avoid doing a certain thing then I think it’s not only respectful to try to do the same, it also avoids more attention on you and hopefully then keeps you a little more safe.

Do you have any tips for staying in hostels?
I am not particularly easy-going about where or how I sleep, so I spend quite a lot of time and effort in choosing which hostels I will stay at – I proably spend more time on that than on actually planning what I will do outside the hostel once I’m there. I’ve only ever stayed in hostels in Europe and I would find and reserve them on “hostelworld.com.” I would base my decision on reviews, whether they provided breakfast, whether it was located close to the places I wanted to visit but also in a safe area, and of course on price. If you are like me and have a deep dislike of sleeping in dirty beds and showering in disgusting showers, these are my suggestions:

France, 2018
  • Book the hostel in advance. Give yourself time to do research and find the best one… This may however unfortunately require you to not take the cheapest bed in the cheapest hostel. 
  • Try to stay in a hostel in or at least near the areas you’d really like to visit or at least in an area that is said to be safe. I’ve stayed in hostels that fulfilled neither requirement and it made my time in that city/area much less enjoyable. 
  • Unless you can sleep through literally everything, bring earplugs and something to cover your eyes!
  • Bring a bedsheet or a sleeping bag! I am very sensitive about sleeping in unclean sheets and so bringing my own definitely allowed me to sleep much better. (I always brought a thin bedsheet with me which took up very little space in my backpack and which I used to wrap around me while I slept, serving as a mattress & pillow cover and as a blanket.
  • Bring flip flops to wear in the shower and a fast-drying towel!
  • Bring a lock! Oftentimes the hostels would provide lockers or similar to store your baggage but they would rarely come with locks and were of course always in public areas so a lock is great for additional security and sense of peace.
Dubai, 2016

What are 5 must-have essentials when traveling? (Besides the obvious)
I don’t really know if there are essentials other than the obvious. I find more people overpack and worry about bringing so much unnecessary things… unless you plan to go deep into no-man’s-land, you will be able to find and buy soap and other basic essentials. I’ve also never been one to travel and actually try to look attractive so I have no suggestions on essentials for when that is a goal of yours… But I suppose some things that I do try to always bring with me are: a comfortable day backpack/bag that closes all the way, medication for the basic pains and aches that you know works well for you, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket, and some secure way to keep my passport and money on me at all times.

Where is the favorite place/places that you’ve traveled?
I have never had nor will I ever have an answer to this question. I truly have difficulty trying to think of one place that I enjoyed more than the others. I have loved and appreciated every single place I’ve ever been to – even the places where I had unpleasant experiences and the places I’d never want to visit again. From every single adventure I learned something and experienced something good and I am grateful for them all. 

India, 2015

Where’s the most underrated or surprising place you’ve been?
Hmmm… this is also difficult. I suppose I am particularly grateful for my experiences in the economically/systematically “poorer” parts of the world. I am often thinking about my experiences in Tanzania where my father and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will never forget how kind the people were to us and how many huge, happy, beautiful smiles I saw and how much laughter I heard. This memory is something I always try to protect in my heart to remind myself to be grateful, to smile, and to just be freaking kind.

How important is the planning before a trip?
Well… I guess that depends on how easy-going you are, what is important for you to achieve from this trip and what you know you want to see or do. I do always try to plan enough in advance so that I can at least book where I will be sleeping and know what I can do the next day, but I have never planned all details of an entire trip. So it’s not necessarily important… I’ve learned that it is much easier and more enjoyable if you allow yourself to “go with the flow”.

Argentina, 2014

How do you find the less touristy places?
I google and read through a lot of blogs and travel websites, I always ask hotel/hostel staff for recommendations, I ask anyone and everyone I meet along the way for their suggestions, and I always try to get a map of the area from the hotel/hostel and I go through all the sites that are usually marked on them. But… I don’t purposely try to avoid the “touristy” places… they’re often touristy for a reason and I think they are worth seeing if it is indeed something you’re interested in. 

Where’s the next place you’re traveling?
I am deeply saddened to say that I have no idea when or where I will be able to travel next. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because my studies allow me to have very little life or time outside of it and when I do have any time free, I am utilizing it to visit my parents in California. I have lots of ideas and dreams and I hope I’ll be able to make one of them a reality sometime soon. With my boyfriend perhaps Norway or South Africa. My father’s next ambitions are exploring Bhutan and Madagascar, snowboarding in Japan and in the Andes, and kitesurfing in Zanzibar.I also would like to try to find an opportunity to travel a little bit alone again.


Travel Tips for First Time Travelers:

  • Be open-minded. Be open to new experiences (foods, languages, customs, behavior, people) and try to find the good in them all.
  • Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling often includes stressful, frustrating, uncomfortable situations. Breathe through them. It will be OK and it really is all worth it in the end. Either way, it’s a story to tell for later.
  • Be respectful of other cultures. Do your research about what is illegal and what is considered disrepectful in the area you plan to explore. That is also perhaps involves adapting your behavior/appearance. 
  • Please don’t assume everyone speaks english. I find it more respectful to ask if the person speaks english before beginning to speak to them in it. Perhaps even try to at least pick up some basic words – especially the word “thank you” or “please”. And if you’re American, please do try to speak more quietly… we are really generally quite loud and it really can be quite annoying.
  • Don’t pack too much. You can always wash your clothes while traveling or buy essentials like shampoo at a store.
  • Look into local transport – some cities have apps available for subway lines, buses, etc. And it’s good to know a little bit about what is available in an area so you can always try to find the best and cheapest traveling solution. Find a map of the local area and embrace it! And most importantly – try to walk a little! Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered in a city have just been things I’ve walked past on my way to somewhere else.
  • Go with the flow and be flexible. It will make life much easier for you and you’ll discover incredible things. I promise.
  • Don’t keep important or expensive items in the back pocket of your pants or in the front pockets or the very bottom of a backpack. I’ve met so many people who have had things stolen from them and I’ve seen it in action as well. 
  • Try to be cautious and attentive about everything around you. Be aware of your surroundings so you can try to better protect yourself from possible dangerous situations. Err on the side of safety.
  • Traveling doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Try to be flexible with where and when you travel. Spend time looking at multiple websites for flights and hotels/hostels and try out every single date/location combination you can think of and you’ll be surprised what kind of possibilities you’ll find.

As my father always says, “traveling is the best teacher.” You’ll not only learn about other people and ways of life, but also about yourself and how you can be a better you. You’ll find so much gratitude and love for yourself, for others, and for this planet. Don’t be afraid – be open to the challenges that come with traveling and adventuring and embrace what you learn from them. Follow your heart, find what you want from your life, and just go for it. All in. 

Making a Drag Queen: Euphoria MarxxX

Who is Euphoria MarxxX? A millennial drag queen that’s ready to shake up the political world? Most definitely. Someone ready to question the norms of society and how we view politics? Absolutely.

I met Kyle/Euphoria nearly four years ago while we were still bright-eyed, bushy-tailed seniors in college, studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. We connected quickly thanks to our shared midwestern roots and a dark sense of humor that could make anyone squirm. We reconnected over zoom this week to trace the path from Aix to drag. This is her story.


Part One: Studying Abroad

B: What made you want to study abroad?
E: I really always wanted to. I wanted to study abroad in high school, but I thought that if I went then that I’d miss out on something. (Hello FOMO!) Look how great that turned out for me! When I went to college, I thought that maybe it was the best time. I pursued a Bachelor of Arts which required 12 hours of a foreign language. I decided my sophomore year that I would complete the entire requirement in one semester abroad. I’d taken french in high school so I knew I wanted to go somewhere french speaking. It worked out perfectly.

B: What was that experience like for you?
E: It was amazing – I want to go back so badly. There were obviously ups and downs, but overall it was such an amazing and life changing experience. It was culturally enlightening, we built friendships and had this whole experience together that no one else but our group had. We picked up our lives, moved across the world for six months, became friends for six months and then moved back to the States. It’s such a weird concept.

B: What about a favorite or least favorite memory?
E: I loved going out with our group in general. I loved going out and experiencing that social environment of living in a different country where everyone is speaking another language. It was definitely a culture shock. I loved our spring break trip – that will always be at the top of the list [read more about that here and here]. Except Bruxelles – nothing good happened there. As for least favorite, I once got on a bus to Bordeaux and our friend didn’t make it in time; I was horrified. I didn’t have any internet connection or a working cell phone, thinking ‘what am I going to do?’. I was honestly afraid that I’d go to this city and never make it back home.

B: If you could do it again, what would you change?
E: I would say that I’d want to go out and experience life more, but I feel like we did so much of that. We were always getting Crêpe à Go Go or pizza from Pizza Capri in town. I wish I would have stayed longer. I only stayed a week or two after classes were done so that I could be home to walk at graduation. If you’re thinking of about studying abroad, just do it. Don’t think about it. Figure out how to make it work and do it. It was such a liberating experience, even with the shitty parts I loved it. I look back on it so fondly now.

B: What was it like returning to Missouri after studying abroad?
E: I was going through a sort of transformation as a human being while studying abroad, I think. Right before leaving to study abroad, I was dealing with the death of my grandpa, the break up of my engagement and my ex’s mother passing so I was dealing with a lot emotionally. When I came back from studying abroad, I hadn’t really dealt with any of it yet, so it was a weird time. Within a year of coming home, I came out as gay. Around this time I started having a rift with my family because of their political views and homophobia. I decided to not deal with that sort of view or attitude in my life anymore. After I graduated college, I lived at home for maybe a month and then found a new place to live and moved out. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made, but coming back home was definitely hard.

B: How did your life/perspective change after studying abroad?
E: Studying abroad definitely made me a more liberated human. I felt like more of an adult, like I could adapt or figure out anything I put my mind to. I felt like we were in such precarious situations sometimes and we would just figure it out – even with the language barrier. We were kicked off the bus on the side of a mountain and still made it home. I think that when I came home I decided that I wasn’t going to settle for unhappiness anymore. Had I not studied abroad, I truly believe it would have taken me longer to come to terms with who I am. 


Part Two: Center Stage

B: When did you first become interested in drag?
E: I didn’t become truly interested in drag until February of this year. When the pandemic hit, my boyfriend Josh had just moved in with me and he’d always tried to get me to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. Watching the show really changed my perception of what drag is. I saw how revolutionary it was and how it questions the gender binary. For me, I had never been able to express femininity and this was an outlet for me to explore that. It started off as kind of a joke – just doing it for fun. But I really didn’t want to half ass something, so I started spending more time practicing it. I started to think, ‘Ok, what can I do with this? I’m in quarantine, but how can I still reach people?’. That’s when I started exploring the idea of political drag. Drag queens have always been the torchbearers for political revolution, especially for the LGBTQ community. They were the ones who stood up to the police at Stonewall and they’re the reason we celebrate pride and it’s so important today to not forget that. I started thinking of how I could still contribute to this political movement, even while social distancing. I decided that I’m going to interview political members while in drag. I want my community, the community I’m surrounded with, to appreciate this as an art form of it. It’s creative.

B: How does it feel to be doing drag in such an intense political climate?
E: It’s given me some anxiety for sure. Even just by announcing to the world that this is what I’m doing, I’m obviously alienating myself from people who may not agree with this. I have to keep reminding myself, ‘what am I doing this for?’. I want to question the norm and I want people to do that as well. It’s very liberating but also a little bit scary.

B: Does the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race give you any extra security – knowing that drag is in such a public space now?
E: I do think it helps. RuPaul has said numerous times on the show that the world would be a better place if more people did drag, and I believe that. She also says don’t take yourself too seriously. In this interview the runway is executive realness. I’m wearing six inch stripper heels, a vibrator necklace and there’s an eggplant emoji in the background. It is so ridiculous. That’s what I have to remind myself; not to take myself too seriously which is something I do often.

B: Who are your drag influences?
E: One of my all time favorites – despite her diva moment – is Alaska Thunderf**k 5000. Then it’d be Naomi Smalls, Kim-Chi, Katya Zamolodchikova and Violet Chachki. The first season I watched was season 4, which was in 2012. One of the challenges on the show was to do a presidential campaign, running as the first drag queen of the United States. So many of the contestants said, “I just don’t associate drag with politics”. To me, everything about drag is political. Everything. 

B: What is the future of Euphoria – what is the end goal?
E: Right now, I’m trying to not set expectations. I think that’s something that gave me a lot of anxiety when I first started. When I went public with this, it was ‘oh now there’s an expectation’. My ultimate goal would be to inspire or to empower anyone that I can. I’ve had one person reach out about me going public with my drag saying that it empowered them to start experimenting with drag which is amazing. At the end of the day, that’s what I want. I think our social media presence is more impactful than people realize – I didn’t realize it until this experience. 

Follow along on Euphoria MarxxX’s journey on Instagram

Watch her first political interview with 2020 Candidate for Congress Maite Salazar