On my birthday, it was hot and we drank outside. 
The sun was persistent, staining my cheek a cherry red. Matt and I had lunch and beer and a new friend, Erica, joined us. We talked for a long time until the sun buried itself in the west and I changed into my dress and went to Nikki and Jacek's, where my friends sang me happy birthday.
Rachel and my aunt and uncle took me out for a wonderful birthday dinner and Erin met us, straight from the airport. I fell asleep here in Los Angeles, my head heavy and happy, warm on my pillow. 
Two days later, Erin and I got into a rented Chevy Aveo and pointed the compass North.
We headed up the 1, a packed 24 hours in Santa Barbara behind us. 
I sat in the passenger seat, afraid to drive, that a quick and thoughtless jerk of the wheel would send us careening over the rail and into the Pacific.

The 1 starts to open up like the beach roads I drove down as a kid, but as you wind north, the terrain becomes craggy. Juts of exposed rock dot the sea, pointed and sharp.
And although visibility is shit, there is real clarity in this view, on this stretch from Los Angeles to San Francisco. 
We watched the narrow road take us north to Carmel. The car filled with laughter and gripped knuckles and corny statements that you'd find on bumper stickers.
But when I said I was so fucking lucky to live this life, I meant it.
We stopped for grilled cheese and french fries, desperate to be in Big Sur by sunset. I had heard it was breathtaking, but I was not sure the beauty I'd seen could be beat.
We were lost and then found, three miles too far. Stalled in traffic by beach goers with a similar mission, I hopped out of the car and jogged half a mile in boots, my camera swinging around my neck.
Erin caught up and we trudged through a wooded alcove that suddenly, inexplicably, led to the sea.
To this.
I ran up the rocks, determined to find the best view. But after falling in deep pools of ocean more than once, I put my phone and cameras down so I could experience the sunset with my eyes, instead of through the lens.
It's hard to really see when you are surrounded by beauty that forces you into a tizzy, desperate to capture every last inch of the wonder. To find a way to download the beauty and keep it with you, forever.

We stayed until the sun had finally set and we headed to Carmel, anxious for civilization and cell service.
Erin was cold.
Five days later, we ambled along Haight Street, trying to make a decision.

Do we do it? Do we get tattoos?

For years, I've had wrestled with the decision to get one. Most of my peers have at least one, but until the past year or so, drawing on myself with Sharpies was just enough.

I have a complicated relationship with my body. Not in a normal "OMG, my sweatpants are tight" way, but as someone who has never felt ownership over her own self.

February 4, 2012

I am constantly being examined by strangers, and poked at for science's sake. I have scars that are big and deliberate, proof of a trauma I did not court.
There's a part of me that has always wanted to mark my skin myself, and to do so in a way that felt real, and meaningful. 
February 26, 2012
So, on Thursday, I decided on what I wanted and where. I wanted a paper airplane because it represents writing and travel, all in a small design. And I wanted it on my forearm, because it is so often the site of my scars and bruises. 

I wanted to see something new.


As I watched the sun set in Big Sur, I had the feeling that I could be anywhere, and as long as I had my writing, my camera, and my credit card, I could be content. 

I found comfort in knowing that what we call home can be changed.

And that gives me peace, peace I first found in the trip I took to Paris and London by myself last spring. It continues now, as I live 3,000 miles away from where I was born.

I am slowly building a life that allows me to see the sunset in Big Sur, the Macy's fireworks over the Hudson, and my f'nieces on the sand on the Jersey Shore.

That is more than enough.

Everywhere else–everything else–is gravy*.

San Francisco Beach, February 25, 2012

*: Donations to my travel fund greatly appreciated


  1. Stunning, Kelly. Happy birthday. And seriously? High five on your tattoo. Awesome.

  2. I can't believe you got a tattoo!!

  3. It's wonderful to view these places again through the eyes of a first timer. Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure!

  4. Yay on the tattoo... and on your experience during your road trip. :-)

  5. awesome, kel!! this is one of your best.
    also i'm not a fan of tattoos generally but i kinda love yours! perfect!
    wally d.o.

  6. Beautiful and inspiring. Reinforced a few things for me as well, so thank you.
    And whenever I hear about "first tattoos" I'm like "HERE WE GO" but this one is perfect. Good choice and placement.
    Rock on.