Worth the Trip

How To Pack For An Alaskan Adventure


Heliyoga

I’ve just returned from Many of Alaska’s 2.07m visitors each year are there to explore the state's great outdoors, whether they are planning to hike through Denali National Park, kayak through Kachemak Bay or practice yoga on a glacier. And many, I’ve learned from local outdoors experts, come unprepared for the elements. I visited this past month to do all of the above activities, and learned some lessons on which gear was an absolute must and which just weighed me down and went totally unused.

While packing for my own visit to Denali National Park after winning the annual road lottery, I polled a number of Alaska residents and local guides to get some real advice on what to pack for an outdoor Alaskan adventure. Here is what they shared:

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Lighter the better

Float planes might be required to reach destinations too remote for cars, and have a strict 50lb limit when it comes to luggage. Lighter weight duffels made from technical fabrics like those from Osprey or Baboon can shave off a bit of weight and be durable enough to withstand rain, ice and being tossed from truck to boat. Streamlining gear so that at least a few pieces can do double-duty is also helpful. For instance, hiking boot-sneaker hybrids like those from Forsake can be worn on the flight over to save luggage space, and cleverly disguised hiking pants like the cult-favorite Meme pant from PrAna are comfortable and polished enough to go from plane to trek to dinner. Lululemon’s technical-chic Swing Trench jacket is a city slicker-friendly top layer that transitions nicely to semi-chilly nights out in Alaska.

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Merino Wool

Outdoor enthusiasts anywhere will recommend this lowest fidelity of performance fabrics for base and mid-layers. The reason? It's hydrophilic so in the cold, it keeps heat close to the body, and in the heat it keeps cool air close to the body. Additionally, the fabric is said to have antimicrobial properties and subsequently does not smell. For this reason, it's been an outdoors person favorite for a very long time. Entire brands revolve around the fabric, like New Zealand-based Icebreaker whose finely crafted Merino wool gear is treasured by international hikers, skiiers and lodge loafers. Younger New Zealand brand Cotopaxi offers a similarly natural line of llama wool-based gear, including a gender-neutral and colorful Libre sweater that can do triple duty from trail to social gatherings to campfires.

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Vests

Alaska has a seemingly large swing in weather patterns, especially in the summer. So if you have no idea if or when the morning rain and fog will clear, or how warm you might be at the end of a five mile trail, a packable vest can be a real savior. Down vests such as Mammut’s packable Alvra Light down vest can be stored into a pocket on the vest itself or a small bag and easily tossed in to a daypack. And at the end of a day of chilly trekking, if you don’t want to wear a stiff, crunchy-sounding rain jacket to dinner at the lodge, this same vest can act as a sort of Alaskan dinner jacket.

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Rain gear

The outdoor experts I’ve spoken with who take tourists out on active excursions on a daily basis all insisted on one key piece of advice, to bring waterproof gear. They all advised inbound Alaska visitors to bring with a waterproof jacket, waterproof pants and waterproof shoes. Jeans, I learned, and any other garments made from hard-to-dry cotton, are the single worst item to wear in the often wet Alaskan outdoor. Waterproof gear by California-based Marmot is favorite of Karyn Murphy, scientist-in-residence and naturalist guide at Kachemak Bay luxury lodge Tutka Bay Lodge. Their new EVODry rain jacket line is waterproof for up to 24 hours and highly breathable. Mammut’s waterproof Runje hiking pants are a nicely tailored take on traditional hiking pants, and North Face’s fleece-lined Impendor Warm Hybrid tights are a nice choice for those preferring a slim leg look and a touch more warmth. For more playful patterns, Backcountry’s splashy Trail Weight jacket is a long-cut and lightweight jacket with a paint splash pattern. And when combining a trek with a cold plunge, I found that my surf-inspired swimsuit from Sensi Graves was a godsend at being movement-friendly and quick-drying.

Snacks

As important as gear is, for any dietary restrictions - packing some shelf-stable sustenance can be the difference between a pleasurable and a painful road trip between outdoor destinations. Due to Alaska’s scale, it is twice the size of Texas, many stops are four hours or more from one another with no eateries in between. Easy, lightweight healthy snacks might include the new mug muffins from Health Warrior, clean protein bars like those made by Navitas Organics or Tone It Up and oatmeal packets for when it’s cool outside.

Wanderlust's New Passport Program and the Rise of Mindful Fitness with CEO Sean Hoess

Wanderlust 108

The Wanderlust brand of four-day retreats and one-day festival turns ten next year, its evolution paralleling greater trends in the mindful fitness space. Sixty-five full-time employees and thousands of local and temporary employees now execute 60 events annually, including the new Wellspring conference in Palm Springs. Below, CEO and Co-founder Sean Hoess describes how the festival has evolved in their 10 year history, what’s next and why the work they are doing matters not just to personal wellness but cultural wellness, too.

How broad has the scope of Wanderlust events become?

"We’re at over 60 events annually. We did 25 one-day events in the US and six festivals this past year, the rest were international. We originally started with Wanderlust Festival, our four-day retreats that combine large-scale yoga retreat with a music and arts festival. Around 2013, we thought it would be fantastic to be able to reach people where they live and not require them to travel 500 miles to the mountains. So we dreamed up a simpler version called Wanderlust 108, which sometimes I think of as Wanderlust 101. It’s an accessible, linear event in contrast to our larger festivals, where you have over 200 events to choose from. The 108 events are beginner-friendly mindful triathlons, created to get people together and being active in their local park. We now have four-day festivals in Australia and New Zealand, most of our growth has been with the one-day Wanderlust 108 events, which are now happening everywhere from Russia and Japan to Western Europe and Chile.

With our new Wellspring event taking place this October in Palm Springs, we wanted to work to redefine wellness, in a broader sense than personal wellness. It’s a cross between an ideas conference and wellness festival. The new event lets us focus on on environmental wellness and societal wellness, too, which we’re really excited for."

How has the ethos and offering of the festival evolved?

"Yoga has and will continue to sit at the center of our vision of a mindful life. Your personal practice might be yoga or meditation or another form, but we do think that ‘practice’ more generally is part of the process of finding one’s true north. We were very deep into yoga in the beginning, but even in 2009 and 2010 we were offering a wide-range of other outdoor activity like meditation and hikes and stand-up paddleboard. For our audience, while yoga might have been the be-all-end-all for them in our earlier days, now it is still an important part of their wellness regime but a lot of them have started cycling and exploring more outdoor activities.

As far as the other part of the festivals, our music, art, food and wine have and continue to be a big interest of our community. We work to make that piece of the offering feel fresh and exciting each year."

How has having Adidas as a title sponsor changed the evolution of the festival?

"When I think of mindful fitness, there is fitness-fitness like HIIT or Crossfit, but mindful fitness would encompass yoga, Pilates, SoulCycle. It’s fitness that has a component of personal empowerment. Yoga is a forced digital detox, and a lot of other modalities have picked this up, which has fragmented the market a bit. ClassPass has helped with this. Our goal is get everyone into developing a meditation practice in one form, wherever it sits on this spectrum.

As far as Adidas goes, they have a strong interest in reaching women. They work with athletes, and started out with core sport and competitive sport. We’ve seen athletes adopt yoga as part of their physical and mental health programs, and Adidas wanted to understand it better and get more involved in it. They saw an opportunity with us to access our expertise. We are Wanderlust - we are this global container for a community that is out there already. It’s hard as a small company to do this expansion ourselves. Our partnership with Adidas has made it a lot easier for us to grow internationally."

I hear there are more changes to come! What is next for Wanderlust?

"We are always focused on our events and what they represent. I would like to see Wanderlust be more of a global lifestyle community, rather than a series of people who attend an event or buy a piece of apparel. I’ve always seen it as representative of a lifestyle, but it is a sort of container that brings people together. Everyone has the ability to bond through social networks and shared interest. We are in a position to offer this globally. This is the mission statement, expressing this. And to that end, we are launching a Wanderlust Passport. We will sell a pass that lets you go to any Wanderlust event in the world for an entire year. You could stay within your country or travel internationally. This would extend to our studios, too, and services and products that support the lifestyle of the wandering, conscious yogi and joining a global community. We really want to bring the community together in-person.

In addition to that, we are going to bring the Wanderlust festival experience to new cities for the first time. It’s also our 10th anniversary next year. Instead of four-day festivals on mountain resorts, we will bring a two-day version of this to cities and public parks. It will be done in lieu of the 108 version in that city - and really create a festival in a park, very much aligned with what we do on the mountainside. We want to a. raise the visibility and accessibility of the deeper experience of what Wanderlust offers and b. increase the awareness among people who can’t really travel to the destinations. Stay tuned."


How A Former Banker Built AnAdult Summer Camp For Gourmands and Outdoor Novices

How A Former Banker Built AnAdult Summer Camp For Gourmands and Outdoor Novices

Adult summer camps, complete with expert guides, gourmet meals and happy hours, are the next big wellness trend. Here’s how Pursuit Series Co-founder Julia Stamps-Mallon turned her idea into a sold-out outdoors festival.

The California Road Trip Adventure We’re Tripping on This Fall

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Friend of Well + Away and inspiring outdoor adventurer Veronica Baas recently visited California for a long weekend of healthy road tripping to explore her favorite outdoor destinations along the 101 and Route 1. Below, she shares her trip notes, from the most stunning national parks and vegan eateries along the way, to the tourist attractions that really are worth a pit-stop.

by Guest Contributor Veronica Baas

As a native Coloradan and newly branded Arizonan, I love getting out of the desert to visit the west coast. And as a technical marketer and burgeoning engineer I need to switch up screen time for outdoor green time to feel balanced. And when I say outdoors, I mean outside in the woods running, hiking or swimming. Basically, what meditation does for some of my friends, a hike does for me. A non-rushed, multi-day drive down the 101 freeway, stopping to explore  national and state parks along the way, is one of my favorite self-care, slow-living rituals.

Driving from the top of California, like, say, in Redwood country, to the tip, say in San Diego for margaritas, takes roughly 14 hours. To give myself enough time to enjoy it and soak in as much nature as I can, I give myself a period of three or four nights for the drive, depending on how much PTO I have to spare. I’ll pick one or two major cities I want to hit along the way, as well as stops for hot springs and can’t miss trailheads. All of this gets mapped along a paper map to ensure I don’t get overexcited by any far-flung trails and stray too far from my route.

Read on for one of my favorite routes down the 101, with stops along the way to get out and explore some of the most beautiful Northern California outdoors.


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1. Redwood National and State Parks

If you’re flying in, the adventure begins at the small California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport, just 30 minutes from the national forest visitor center. There’s something magical about seeing the country’s tallest trees tower over a horizon of full-on ocean..

The redwood protected area is made up of four state parks: Redwood national park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks. The entire territory lies within two counties, Del Norte and Humboldt. One of my favorite places to explore within the state parks is Fern Canyon. Or, if you’re strapped for time, the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail is a solid option for shorter hikes. It’s not too steep, and the trees are gorgeous. You’ll see tons of full-grown redwoods as well as old, hollowed-out trees.

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2. Russian Gulch State Park

After nearly four hours of driving, stop off at Corners of the Mouth organic grocery store in Mendocino to grab healthy picnic items for a hike up to the Russian Gulch State Park waterfall. Skip the heavily trafficked loop and find a shorter hike only one mile or so each way off of Road 409. Park where the pavement ends and go behind the horse camp gates to find this trailhead. The hiking itself should only take you 30 or so minutes round trip but the majestic atmosphere is a nice place to stop and take a few deep breaths.  You can also camp, bike, hike, kayak, or dive elsewhere in the park. Anyone who has plenty of time should stop and stay for a few days, but at the very least the falls are a must-see.

If you do take the Google-recommended route, remember to bring cash for an $8 admission fee that goes to maintain the park. This area was easy for me to fall in love with, so I ended up sticking nearby and heading to the Mendocino Headlands state park next, conveniently located in the same county. The headlands trail is a fun 4-mile hike with cliffside ocean views and gorgeous wildflowers to marvel at. Dogs are welcome here, too.

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3. Lands End Labyrinth

Hop back in the car and head south for three more hours to San Francisco. I like to stop by one major city on these drives, to  treat myself to a great meal and just a touch of hustle bustle (though I still try to keep myself from looking at my inbox). Here, I’ll often find myself headed to dinner at healthy restaurants such as vegan sushi spot Shizen or raw-friendly but not totally raw Nourish Cafe. And for an afternoon of slow-paced exploring, I love visiting the deYoung, San Francisco’s contemporary museum that’s surrounded by Golden Gate Park. Or Lands End Labyrinth, a locals’ favorite hike that sits on the northern tip of town.

If you do make it out to Land’s End, you’ll find one of my favorite San Francisco secrets: an oceanside labyrinth, at the literal land’s end. In the mornings and at sunset you might catch a few visitors meditating or practicing yoga here, I’ve yet to find a time of day where it’s not completely stunning. Though of course sunrise and sunset are peak prettiness. While in town, don’t forget to check out Well + Away’s favorite vegan meals in San Francisco, as well as some of my own favorite tasty vegan restaurants.

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4. The Mystery Spot

The next morning, time to hit the road again, this time for a two hour drive south of San Francisco to the Mystery Spot, a mysterious site riddled with gravity phenomenon just north of Santa Cruz. The museum is hidden in the mountains though each time I visit it seems more and more people are discovering this little natural wonder. Fun fact: a few years back California native Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, made a track called The Mystery Spot.

Within the gravitational anomaly you can lean fully forward without falling over or watch lighter objects hang in mid-air.

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5. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Head south for another two and a half hours until you hit Big Sur State Park. This stop might be a household name around the world, and for good reason. It’s too beautiful to skip if you’re passing by. Visiting this luxe, coastal town is a nice way to slow down and relax after a busy visit to SF. The town is home to less than 1,000 people, but the plant-based bites at the Big Sur Bakery compete with vegan hot spots in the city. I recommend the veggie saute with baby zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, and fennel confit or the creamy vegan risotto.

After an energizing meal it’s time to hit the trail again. This park boasts six popular trails ranging in length from a half mile to the most advanced, eight-mile Mt. Manuel Trail. For a good middle point in difficulty and a local favorite try the Valley View and Pfeiffer Falls trail. It’s an intermediate hike, three miles long that brings you to a 60-foot waterfall.

The state park itself is famous for its misty views, steep cliffs, and rocky shorelines. It is also formally known as the longest undeveloped coastline in the U.S, which should not come as a surprise with such endless vistas on hiking trails and from campgrounds. Before packing up, be sure to spend an hour or two sunbathing and swimming at Pfeiffer Beach.

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6. Hearst Castle

Worth a slight detour off of the 101, and three hours south of Big Sur, is Hearst Castle, one of my favorite architectural landmarks in the state. If time allows, be sure to take a scenic detour via CA-1 and stop at Slates Hot Springs while en route. The mansion itself is notable for its extravagant decor, both ocean and mountain views, and its iconic indoor and outdoor pools. Both pools are gorgeous but the indoor pool reminds me of something you’d find in a European castle. The Hearst Castle attract millions of visitors every year, so brave the crowds and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty mind-blowing architectural experience.

If you’re feeling peckish after your visit, pop down to Centrally Grown in downtown San Simeon for a wide variety of organic and vegan options. If you do choose to splurge on a meal onsite at the castle, know that most ingredients used are organic and locally-sourced. Plant-based options include a sweet and sour tofu, roasted artichoke, roasted butternut organic squash, and more.
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Please let me know what you think about my favorite road trip here. Taking time to get out and explore the outdoors and breathe in non-city air has such a big impact on my stress levels and happiness, and I hope you find it helps you, too.. For more details on route and drive time, check out the map!




Our London VitalGuide is HERE!!

Our London VitalGuide is HERE!!

Our first London VitalGuide is here, and ready to revolutionize the way you see hip, healthy London. Check out our chat with City Curator Emily Warburton-Adams on how she curated the best vegan-friendly restaurants, coolest fitness studios, wellness-focused escapes and more.

LA’s Vegan In-N-Out is in Chinatown (and it’s better than the real thing)

 @burgerlords

@burgerlords

It’s called Burgerlords. Across the street from a small framing shop that W+A art insider friends swear by, is Chinatown’s vegan-friendly burger joint Burgerlords. Orders get placed at an outdoor, fast-food styled walk-up window, behind which housemade vegan (and meat) burgers, and vegan animal-style fries called ‘lord of the fries’ are made. A handful of picnic-style tables sit in the middle of Chinatown’s Central Plaza for messily (and delightfully) stuffing thousand island-drenched fries, vegan burgers and cheeseburgers into your face. You can go nearly healthy with a traditional vegan burger on a lettuce wrap, or go full treat meal with a double vegan cheeseburger on a traditional bun with a full order of lord of the fries.

 @burgerlords

@burgerlords

It’s fun, worth-the-drive downtown detour for made-from-scratch burgers that are 100% our new favorite veggie burger in town. Fun fact: the whole Burgerlords concept stemmed from a Tumblr. Yup.

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We Just Discovered Healthy Cruising and are Obsessed

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Outdoors-y Cruising is the New Glamping

A travel-savvy friend recently took a cruise on one of Viking’s new ocean ships from New York to Puerto Rico, raving about it enough to convince me to pen a Spas at Sea story for RobbReport based on her trip. It also inspired me to try to find a healthy, sea-bound holiday for myself. With the generous help of the Viking Ocean Cruise PR team, I booked a fourteen night sailing through the Norwegian fjords, from London to Bergen, to health and millennial-hack the AARP set’s favorite way to vacay.

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True to expectations, my fiance and I were the youngest couple on-board. Which translated into a surprisingly blissful setup: complete lack of iPhones at meals throughout every dining room, zero laptops in public spaces and no rude conference calls in random places getting in the way of my seafaring zen.

But what about the food? And surviving for 14 at sea with just my fiance and our 900 silver-haired new friends? And what did we do all day? Read on!

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Dining

Meals were leisurely and a nice way to meet some of the crew - many of whom were in our peer set. The kitchen teams consistently went above and beyond to accommodate my dietary restrictions at all restaurants onboard. While the standard buffet items at the Star’s World Cafe were upgraded versions of continental fare, the kitchen team customized all meals for us making it a bit like private dining - especially because we were one of the very few couples to hit the dining rooms 'late night' - after 8pm.

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Activities

My fiance and I easily found ways to age-down the scheduled activities in port stops or DIYd where they weren’t active enough for us, and filled our sea days with gym, reading and spa. A lack of city access while cruising the North Sea wiped out any of my normal weeknight FOMO at home, making it easy to turn in early for another day of exploring (the midnight sun, on the other hand, I never fully adjusted to…). Small fjord town ports were light on fjord-chic shops or temptingly scene-y happy hours, which made it even easier to get ourselves out into nature via hike, kayak or ATV to soak in the fjords from above, below, in and around. Unpacking once and waking up to new wonders of nature almost every morning  never grew old.  

But what did we do when we got off of the ship?

The Trip

Day 1 + 2: London! Highlights were East London Juice Co, Dishoom Shoreditch and White Cube

Day 3: Edinburgh - Highlights included turmeric lattes at Burr & Co, the most filling veggie lunch in town at Henderson’s Vegan and the National Gallery. Accidentally happened upon a whiskey flight at Scran and Scallie, which turned out to be the best part of the afternoon.

Day 4: Sea Day - After sleeping in and reading through Scottish author Jenni Fagan’s Panopticon, I hit the gym using audio workout app Aaptiv followed by the steam/sauna and snow grotto in the LivNordic Spa. The bartending team at the onboard World Cafe made me my first of many custom smoothies using my BYO Sun Warrior protein powder. A leisurely lunch, hot tub time with almost 360 degree sea views, an even more leisurely dinner and after-dinner scrabble matches topped off the first sea day.

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Day 5: Orkney - Not really knowing what the differences between the included tours and ‘optional’ (read: $$) ones were, we signed up for the included tour not realizing it was one long scenic drive. Fine for those who aren't super mobile, less so for those with endless ants in their pants. Three hours total in the back of a coach with limited legroom is not my idea of an adventure, no matter how knowledgeable or charming the tour guide (ours was both). We saw just one of the sites we wanted to see (Stones of Stenness, older than Stonehenge!) and should have rented a car to explore on our own. Lesson learned.

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Day 6 + 7: Two sea days, one was a surprise after a visit to the Shetland Islands was canceled due to a combination of wind and a slowing of one of the engines. While relatively rare, this is part of cruising. More time for steam/sauna/cold plunge!

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Day 8: Lofoten: I was unsure of which excursion to book, and a planned hike was sold out by the time I tried signing up, so I DIY-d a six-mile hike in Tromso. After fretting over a car rental and the cost of taxis in Norway (insane at the current conversion rate) a local guide pointed us in the direction of an amazing hike, 10 minutes from where we docked. It was free, beautiful, there was nobody else in sight and I met a family of adorable sheep.

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Day 9: North Cape: I opted to sign my fiance and me up for an ATV tour of the North Cape area, the northernmost point in Europe and the coldest place I've ever visited in summer.  The tour itself was a rainy and scenic ride through town and up the mountain to ridiculous viewpoints of the fjords below and moon-like terrain surrounding us, but some issues that happened with the ship at the dock cut our excursion time in half. Despite the hiccup, the visit itself was a blast and the only way I would want to do the North Cape.

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Day 10: Tromso: After hiking and ATV-ing, we felt ready to take on a Husky trek on the outskirts of Tromso. An orientation introduced us to the  working dogs, as well as puppies and teenage dogs who were going through a sort of finishing school for sled dogs, and prepared us for the logistics of strapping ourselves to these super strong animals trained to pull-pull-pull. The trek itself was the most adorable resistance training-meets-cardio I've experienced.

Day 11: Geiranger: I am not the best at maps, and probably should fine tune those skills before renting a kayak and trying to DIY my own fjord-by-kayak excursion of the Geirangerfjord and its De syv søstrene (Seven Sisters). The trip was magnificent and it was surreal to look up at massive waterfalls from the inside of a tiny kayak, but the 6 km ride that turned into 14km due to a faulty navigator made for some sore shoulders the next day.

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Day 12: Sea Day: Snow grotto all day! And a facial, with a side of Scrabble and tea. Spa and Scrabble day in the middle of the Arctic Circle is now my preferred way to unplug. 

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Day 13: The Troll Church hike instantly sold out to the tour group, so we hopped on another hike to a local waterfall which was lovely but could so easily have been DIY’d and saved tons of time with slow bus ride and a funny, too-long lunch stop at a roadside dining hall for tourists. Lesson? Research in advance what they most popular excursions are and book them as soon as they open up.

Day 14: Bergen: So happy we added a few extra nights here! Ate lunch and a couple of dinners at delightful and sweet Dwell vegan restaurant - which has amazing food and healthy drinks list. The museums are huge and beautiful and wonderfully organized - we devoted a whole day to exploring the buildings of the glorious Kunsthall. Another day was devoted to following Ingrid Williams’ NY Times 36 Hours In story that was hugely helpful and totally walkable. It’s also how we found the gorgeous apparel shop T-Michael, where T Michael himself helped book us a dinner table at Bare Vestland’s upstairs dining room, an eatery with some seriously glam ambience. Pre-dinner, we spent 30 minutes in the attached bar, it wasn’t nearly enough to soak it all in.

All in all, I'm a cruise convert. Viking's ocean cruises visit some ridiculous destinations, and I would argue that visiting them by ship is the only way to do it. I was Googling 'Viking Cruises 2018' as soon as we got to the airport in Bergen waiting for our plane home. I cannot recommend the whole experience enough, and can't wait to do it again.

Healthy Scottsdale: Sweaty HIIT, Mid-century Digs and Cold Plunge Recovery

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While I'm currently wrapped up in extra puffy Patagonia, en route (after some serious delays) to chilly Pennsylvania, I'm day dreaming about a recent winter trip to sun-drenched Scottsdale. The opening of mid-century stunner Mountain Shadows in Scottsdale's Paradise Valley is what inspired a trip to the desert, but the active adventure around every corner is really what put the area on my list of new favorite wellness escapes. 

The just-opened desert resort with mod-glam rooms, weekly SUP yoga and a house Tesla that regularly shuttles guests to the trailhead at Camelback Mountain and Sanctuary Spa, is the ultimate home base for an outdoorsy long weekend of self-care. And because all it takes to get me jazzed are are the words 'nighttime SUP' and 'soaking tub overlooking the mountains', I decided to try my hand at the mid-century outdoor retreat.

Originally opened in 1959 as a desert escape for Hollywood jet-setters including Lucille Ball and Elizabeth Taylor, the original Mountain Shadows hotel was purchased by Marriott in 1981 and then shuttered in 2004. After years of sitting vacant, the resort was demolished in 2014. This past spring, backed by new owners who know a thing or two about operating mid-century heritage hotels (they also own downtown Scottsdale property Hotel Valley Ho), Mountain Shadows reopened it as a sprawling mid-century desert dream, complete with a buzzy pool scene and three-par golf course. Cap the day off with a nightly Champagne sabering and toast; because that's how desert dwellers cool off.

Nearly every local I spoke with on a recent visit said they start their day as often as possible with a mountain trek. Likely because the trails are stunning, but also because going at any other time is advised against—this is the desert after all and can get up to 120 degrees in the peak of summer. So, after a cold-pressed green juice from an onsite juice bar, I began my first morning with a 6am, 4.5 mile trek up the Sonoran Preserve with a guide from local outfit Arizona Outback Adventures. After getting scooped from Mountain Shadows, we hit the road for a 20 minute drive to the trailhead—which interestingly had the fanciest trail bathrooms I've ever seen—and started our hike up the mountain on the 'Gateway Loop' trail. After a heart rate pumping uphill climb and a few stops for photo opps at the top (as well as lessons on flora and fauna along the way) we ventured back down in time for lunch and recovery spa treatments.

And as far as hearty healthy meals and 'wtf-amazing spa treatments' go, Scottsdale is impressively innovative. Each day, I treated myself to post-hike spa time to melt sore muscles and prompt a speedy recovery. (What even is a winter getaway without some serious sauna action and bodywork, right?) I explored a combination of acupuncture and cupping at Scottsdale classic Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Princess, and a combo of craniosacral therapy and hammam (human car wash as I like to call it) at the Mediterranean-inspired Joya Spa down the street from Mountain Shadows at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia. Both felt so decadent and restorative. The icing on the cake was a meditation/B-12 shot combo at Second Nature Clinic's new Thursday night 'Zen Lounge'. As many afternoon and evening meals as possible were eaten at anti-inflammation eatery True Food Kitchen, the Bay Area newcomer that started in Scottsdale. After the yin-yang combo of activity and recovery each day, the best part was a soak in Mountain Shadows' soaking tub with a view (inside every room).

For a slightly more hardcore approach to the activity-recovery duo, or one better suited to getting up and out after dawn, Scottsdale's downtown fitness scene is like SF's brunch scene: legit and serious. About 10 minutes from Mountain Shadows, downtown's BODI gym is a combination of bootcamp and Crossfit with you and 60 of your closest friends. Instructors range from former NBA dancers to Nike master trainers. I left drenched in sweat, and skipped the BODI team happy hour for a visit to neighboring Balunsd for some recovery time. Here, I indulged in the cold plunge studio frequented by elite athletes, bodybuilders and those popping by casually from the gym next door. It works just how it sounds: inspired by Nordic ocean bathing, you hop into a miniature cold pool and sit in it as long as you can stand. For me that was four minutes, but for the experienced (including new friends I met while fearing my internal organs were shutting down), it can be closer to 20. The pain was worth it, and everything including my tweaky lower back felt born again.

For some help in planning how to continue new healthy habits picked up in the desert, Well & Being Spa's Fitness Prescription is an in-depth approach to make it a regular thing: a Bod Pod body fat measurement and Basal Metabolic Rate test to assess a baseline, and customized fitness and nutrition recommendations to achieve wellness goals. Pro tip for carrying that wellness vibe back home? Nab some of the Red Flower bath salts from Mountain Shadows soaking tubs on the DL for a DIY retreat throughout the holiday season. // Mountain Shadows rates start at $239. 5445 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley (Scottsdale). www.mountainshadows.comwww.experiencescottsdale.com

The Healthiest Fast Casual Restaurants You Need to Know for Your Next Road Trip

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While I always (always, always) love an impressive five-star hotel, I often prefer a healthy fast casual meal to a Michelin-starred one. Sure, there’s no culinary stardust and I won’t so much as glance at a wine list when I’m ordering at a counter (even I draw the line somewhere), buuuut if I’m going to be stuck in an uncomfortable chair for the duration of a meal I’d rather it be for 30 minutes and not three hours. Another bonus for the dietarily restricted? FC joints let me substitute ingredients to my heart’s desire without offending a Bon Appetit darling or my wondering for the next two hours and 45 minutes just how much my server hates me beneath their perfect, Michelin manners.

I do enjoy fine dining for special occasions and for the wine list. I just want healthy, plant-based food the way I want it to make my body feel awesome the other 90% of the time. So that is why I am so stoked on what is happening with the current crop of fast casual restaurants who are going full-board with healthy eats. Here are my current favorites - some national, some regional and all are happy to substitute whatever you like.

 

SweetGreen

 Source: @SweetGreen

Source: @SweetGreen

This DC-based salad chain is a growth machine. The first time I tried it, I queued up with the New York lunchtime rush, wrapping around the corner of 28th street for a salad for a salad in a plastic container. It was worth it! Year-round go-tos like the Spicy Sabzi are filling AF with tons of textural variety and color, and seasonal salads rotate based on location and time of year. Basically everything that I love. You can also just DIY a totally customized salad, at the counter or via mobile app in advance so you can grab and go.
Locations: CA, NY, DC, MD, VA, MA, PA

 

Native Foods

 Source: @NativeFoods

Source: @NativeFoods

Chef Tanya, as all of Palm Springs and her pretend bffs like me refer to her, is an OG vegan fast casual visionary. The first Native Foods opened in Palm Springs in 1994. I spent the entirety of my lunch budget while at UCLA on spicy scorpion burgers and key lime pies the Westwood location. Big hearty bowls combine various grains like quinoa and rice with creative sauces like a vegan ranch and a moroccan, and the burgers are divine.
Locations: CA, IL, OR, CO

 

Chipotle

 Source: @YouCanGoVegan

Source: @YouCanGoVegan

Yeah, I know it’s not sexy or new or indie, but if you are road tripping outside of any metropolis, beyond the ‘burbs, chances are you are going to not necessarily want, but need Chipotle. The most widely available healthy FC outlet of any on this list, Chipotle is a solid standby for salads and bowls with multiple bean options, vegan sofritas protein and seriously legit guacamole. I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten at one within a city center, but once the radio options narrow to static or country, seeing a Chipotle off of a freeway is like an oasis in the desert. Locations: Everywhere and beyond

 

Flower Child

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To just get right out with it, Flower Child gets my order right maybe 1 out of every 5 visits. I return because it’s delicious, and somewhere deep down I’m hoping they figure out they are in the service industry. There is no yummier, easier (when they get it right) place for hearty vegan bowls, curry hummus, and the thrill of a restaurant overwhelming me with the number of clean, vegan side dish options. They have something for every craving: post-workout and need something light and hydrating? Yep. Something when it’s rainy and I need to eat my feelings, but like healthy? Yep. And when they do get my order right it makes my entire day.
Locations: AZ, CA, TX

 

True Food Kitchen

 Source: @TrueFoodKitchen

Source: @TrueFoodKitchen

From the owners of Flower Child, True Food Kitchen is a slightly less casual fast casual take on healthy, American-meets-Mediterranean bites. With anti-inflammatory menus dreamed up by Dr. Andrew Weil (check out my interview with him for 7x7 here!), dishes are full of phytonutrients, healthy fats, and plenty of vitamins and minerals. The ancient grains bowl is a fall staple in my routine when I’m in Santa Monica or Walnut Creek. While it and other dishes can include a vegan protein, friends that prefer an animal protein can add shrimp or a similar option so everyone can tuck into their preferred take on ‘healthy’. Just don’t leave without ordering a slice of squash pie to share. YUM.
Locations: AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, MD, PA, TN, TX, VA

 

Mendocino Farms

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A lot of this menu is actually not crazzzy healthy or super vegan-friendly - I mean, it calls itself a ‘sandwich market’. But the items that are healthy and plant-based are different from the offerings at any other bowl/salad/wrap spot. And when a craving hits for their vegetarian Chinese salad or the enlightened falafel wrap with a vegan tzaziki that is pressed like a panino, nothing else does the trick. Lunch is busy and the vibe is so LA, at least at the Wilshire location. They offer free samples of sides when you go to pay, which I think they do to upsell, but it just confuses me. But if free sides are a plus for you - then just another reason to check out Mendo Farms.
Locations: CA

 

Amy’s Drive-thru

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It’s a schlep from most things other than the Santa Rosa mall (insert emoji girl with “I guess?” hands up) or specific parts of wine country from San Francisco, but I’ve gotten pretty slick with excuses to visit Amy’s in the suburban hamlet of Rohnert Park. And once I’m there, I make sure to bring a few friends at least, so we can order as much of the menu as possible. Amy’s is of course owned by the people who make those sodium-rich but delicious burritos and pizzas that were an awesome go-to for microwaving after an extended happy hour in college. The new all vegetarian/vegan drive-thru so so much more sophisticated than my drunken freezer to microwave burrito-scarfing. High ceilings, a ton of staff and a sunny patio make it such a pleasure to indulge in vegan burgers, burrito bowls, superfood salads, mac and cheese with veggies and non-dairy milkshakes. I know I said this was a healthy list, but sometimes a treat meal is the healthiest thing at that moment.
Locations: CA for now, more soon. Check out this Fast Company story on the upcoming expansion!

Tell us your favorite fast casual joints and/or road trip stops in the comments below: