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by Oui We contributor: Sam Spahr
There always comes a day when boredom and lack of inspiration strike. Yuck, I know. Crawling out from under the covers is getting harder. You swear someone switched your morning coffee for decaf. Every move you made today was carbon copy of yesterday, and don’t ya feel a little icky just thinking about it?
Me too! Plane, train, or automobile, near or far, sometimes you just gotta get out there and find where your little soul spark ran off to. And it happens to everyone. I promise you. Painter to paralegal, poet to plumber, we need inspiration to get through the day, but where are you heading to look for it?
This question prompted me to reach out to a friend about her experience with runaway sparks and efforts to search for them.
Natalie Phillips @nattiephilphoto is a very much a modern woman (the kick-ass kind killlin’ it 7 days a week). No, really. Monday - Friday she’s an Admin Assistant at a local accounting firm and grows her business, Natalie Phillips Photography, on the weekends covering everything from weddings to lifestyle shoots.
Sam Spahr for Oui We: Natalie, working as much as you do, how do you know when your flame is fizzling? What’s your signal that it’s time to find a little inspiration to get through your jammed schedule?
Natalie: I can never pin point when the spark starts to disappear; I usually realize it after it’s gone. I get grumpy and feel tired, and that’s when I know it is time for a break. I think because I’m either at the office, on location, or turning out client galleries, I feel like I need a trip maybe more often than the the average person. It’s that feeling of being stuck in one place too long that can act as a signal for me.
SS: Tending to that spark can be different for everyone, some need rest, or a relaxing place to tap back in while others need more excitement or adventure. What’s your inspiration style? What kind of things do you look for in your destinations?
NP: I look for a place that gives me a balance between rest/rejuvenation vs. adventure. The destination has to fulfill the deepest parts of my soul, and for me that means it also has to be aesthetically pleasing. In fact, I’ll often check Instagram to see photographs of the places I want to go to make sure they are going to strike me visually. That’s a huge part of the inspiration for me.
SS: It sounds like a place really has to work overtime for you! Where have you been that matched the qualities you describe?
NP: I’ve traveled a good bit in the last couple of years: Mexico, Costa Rica, Europe, Canada and a couple of cross country road trips. But, I found Austria to be a favorite, and particularly Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I’ve been twice, so I guess it really does the job for me.
SS: What about Banff had you coming back for more?
NP: That place is absolutely timeless. It’s a never ending fountain of rejuvenation, of everything I need. Just standing in the grandness of the landscape can have you feeling like you’re on another planet. I could go there twice a year and still want more - it’s never enough.
SS: Well, I will certainly be adding it to my list. Natalie, thanks so much for this quick share! Before we go, something tells me you already know where you’re headed next.
NP: Yes! I’m hitting Mallorca, Spain in a few short months.
Time to burn out the “un” from the “inspired” neon sign in your soul? Let us know where you’ve gone to find that pesky little spark again.
all photos courtesy of Natalie Phillips
Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.
After spending the last two years traveling America's most beautiful routes I feel confident in saying I've mastered the art of the road trip. How to pack your bags, your car, beauty tips while traveling, how to make it out of sticky situations in one piece and I'm in love with how good it feels to connect with the deeply routed people all over this big badass country.
I ended this year with a trip back to the country that spurred my interest in writing my book Wanderful to begin with - Spain - and here's the short version of how all of that came to be:
I spent the summer of 2014 finishing up my first book New Orleans Style. Here I was, given an opportunity to create something that would become my calling card as an author and in the spirit of my wanderluster Grandmother I studied the constellations, put my luck on a full moon and booked a one-way flight to the Mediterranean coast.
As I took off it occurred to me: every time I’d taken a trip I’d sought out a guide. Usually that came in the form of a book, or a magazine, and lots of google searching for travel blog posts on my intended destination - there were lots of lists of the best restaurants and bars, the museums to visit, and the tours to take - but what I hadn't found was a guide for the fashion loving bohemian types like me! Those interested in slow, experiential travel. So, I set out to make just that. Wanderful became the American road trip version of that, and what I wish for the readers is that they get out and see the wonderment that America has to offer.
2018 Dream Destination List
So now, 3 years later, it's the end of 2017 and I'm thinking where to next.?! I'm starting to brainstorm ideas for next projects and certainly intend to cover more international travel in 2018, and so to end the year Ben and I spent a few weeks in Spain - it's truly a country that sparks my inspiration like no other.
I've been poring through the Expedia blog to get ideas for 2018 travels and here's 5 destinations I'm adding to the list, and some of my magical girlfriends lending to that inspiration.
p.s. even if you're only planning one adventure this year, let these glorious destinations & ladies inspire the wanderlust in you.
My darling friend Keiko (yes the one that's alllll over my book) visited Santorini this year and every photo was a pure dream. I researched a bit and then this article grabbed me - romance? oui, please!
Glamorous seascapes, glittering horizons and white washed hillsides... I don't know what I'd do first: sample the local wines (the vines grow deep into the island’s ancient volcanic soil enhancing the flavors), swim in the Aegean Sea or rent a car to venture out to the blue umbrella-topped Red Beach and Oia.
This particular post on Italy has me wanting to spend weeks exploring the country but MIchaela's photos coupled with her the notes on Florence: a quaint apartment within walking distance of all one’s favorite gelato shops, tucked away restaurants with local fare of house-cured meats, and expertly curated cheeses and wonderfully stylish locals have me wanting to make Florence my first Italian destination.
Krystal is another one of my travel loving friends and my oh my does she ever make traveling look like an ethereal delight. Her blog is one of the most beautiful out there. Between she and Jasmine (my Aussie friend who's currently living life as a New Yorker) these two have given me a serious lust for Australia.
Krystal spent this holiday season traversing Australia, go take a look at her instagram to get some serious Australian summer inspiration, and in her recent post on Byron Bay she describes it like this: A coastal town, Byron Bay is located in the southeastern corner of New South Wales and offers all the sea-faring charm you’d expect it to — think Santa Cruz meets Montauk, with a dash of Venice Beach — where surfers live to surf [and] where families live in the most adorable beach-facing homes, shopping at the local farmer’s markets every Sunday." I want to go for the views (of course), the seaside meet jungle hikes and the bohemian inspired shopping throughout the area.
Amanda, who's gorgeousness graced the cover of my book (and who's also seen on lots of pages in the Pacific Coast Highway chapter), makes living the life of a world traveling photographer look incredibly connecting. This winter & spring she's leading Photo & Art tours and I'm fingers crossed, going to make one of these happen by end of Spring. Her Cuba tour includes balcony breakfasts, ocean swims, visits to artists collectives, and convertible rides. Si, si si!
Ana has been on a world traveling whirlwind this year. Go scroll through her 'gram for just a sec and you'll be hard pressed to actually decide which destination she makes look the best.
She visited Lisbon this year after discovering her grandmother's family originated there, and she shared her experience on "meadering" through Lisbon in this post. I researched a bit more, found this 48 hour guide to Lisbon, and coupled with the inspiration from Ana's photos - Lisbon climbed (easily) onto this list.
I can't wait to get the planning underway. I've got some good tools I've been using for booking too - so I'll be back to share those soon! In the meantime, any places you think I need to add to the list? Tell me, tell me, tell me!
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Hello from New Orleans!
Every year for the last 3 my fam travels in for our holiday celebration, and let's be honest - take any family - even one that's been plenty of times before - to New Orleans and the #1 thing on everyone's list: French Quarter boozing. It's fair. Half my family lives here, the others can't wait to get here, and in the spirit of keeping things sane I always create an itinerary with a list of other things to do before everyone arrives (keepin' 'em off the streets ya know).
Ask most people about their New Orleans knowledge and it's all beads and Bourbon Street... or that one time at Mardi Gras... and if they haven't been, that's what they want to know about. But truly: there's soooo many other beautiful ways to experience this city. And to me, it's the most magical time of the year (maybe even above Mardi Gras... GASP). I mean it though: the twinkly lights, the fog rolling in, the sometimes strange Creole or Cajun Christmas traditions, and the food - there's a pot of gumbo on at everyyyyybodies house from about the 22nd on. If you're visiting town and can't quite score an invite to a locals house for gumbo, Reveillon Dinners, a wonderful 19th-century Creole French tradition, are still celebrated in restaurants all over the city and are another brilliant way to enjoy the food of the city.
This year as I plan for our family time there’s 3 additional New Orleans to do's that are topping my list. Here they are, and if you find your way down here around this time of year (and I highly suggest you do) you won’t be disappointed.
Christmas in New Orleans
This may be one of the most glam things I'll do all year long. There's nothing quite as elegant as a Christmas Tea in a historical setting reminiscent of a royal. New Orleans has quite a few fabulous hotels offering Afternoon Tea, my favorite place for it: The Ritz Carlton Davenport Lounge. The Davenport Lounge hosts Tea 7 days a week, at 11 a.m. & 2:30 p.m., with a harp performance on the weekends. Reservations are required and can be made online.
This year the Ritz is offering a limited edition TEALEAVES Nutcracker and Organic Sugar Plum Fairy tea for the holidays (and I'm wrapping up the set as a gift AND giving away a set of the same over on instagram). My sister and I will be make a day of it, attending the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Sanger Theatre.
A Tour of the Lights
Canal Street, the original "Main Street" of New Orleans, and the old dividing line between the neighborhoods of the Creole & French-descended residents and those of the newer-arriving Americans (this is where the term "Neutral Ground" originated btw) is the center of New Orleans' lights. Start here, then take a walk over to the Roosevelt Hotel. The lobby runs for an entire city block and includes thousands of twinkling white lights. They're hanging from the ceiling and in the birch trees running along corridor, it's one of the most magnificent sights! From the Roosevelt, take a trip over to Celebration in the Oaks in City Park if you've got time, or stay at have a cocktail at the Sazerac Bar (okay, you knew there'd be some booze on the list).
Christmas Eve Bonfires on the Levees
This one is probably my favorite - and another Creole tradition: on Christmas eve bonfires (that take sometimes weeks to build) are set ablaze along the Mississippi River levees. The intention: to light the way for “Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus on his flight to Louisiana. Maybe I'm biased but I'm pretty sure this is one of the most beautiful Christmas traditions in America, hundreds of fires, families and so much wonderment. There's lots of places to enjoy the fires, our preference is a ways out of the city in St. James Parish - give yourself some time to get out there, and plan for a full evening of festivities and joy.
I'd love to hear from you guys! How are you celebrating?! And what places do I need to add to my list for 2018!?