Every year, my company allows employees around the world to stay home on the first day of spring – just like a company holiday. They call it the “Zeno Day of Play.” It’s meant to allow us all a day to recharge, refresh and come back at it harder than we were before. And it rocks.
I happen to recharge and refresh best when I’m away somewhere, so I always try to make a weekend trip out of this three-day blessing, or at least get somewhere cool and new during a day when most people are working. This year, I happened to already have a weekend trip on the books.
I was heading to my first Women in Travel Summit – a place where strong, intelligent and dedicated female travelers from around the world can get together and learn how to be better, more successful bloggers and writers! How awesome is that?
This year’s summit was located practically in LA’s backyard, just down the 405 in Irvine. Sure, I’d been there, but I never really had a chance to explore there. So I booked my Airbnb for the weekend and started to plan out what I’d do with my free Friday.
It was actually my Airhbnb host’s suggestion to check out the Newport Beach Aquatic Center. She described it as “[A place with] kayak/canoe rentals in a beautiful wildlife reserve. Very easy, calm waters and lots of rare birds! Fish jumping all around you.”
And it really was just that – literal fish actually jumping as I paddled up the bay. Birds everywhere – some eyeing me skeptically as I quietly paddled past, some barely noticing my existence. I watched birds circle above only to plunge into the water to spear those same fish that were moments ago jumping around my kayak. Aside from the million-dollar homes peeking over the cliffs and the occasional jet taking off from the Orange County airport overhead, it could be quite easy to forget you’re in the middle of a metropolitan area.
My kayak trip took me a little over an hour. That’s it – an hour! I had so much left to do with my day of play – so I headed down towards Laguna Beach, but the traffic was so crazy near the beach that I only saw the ocean through my car windows. So I headed back north towards Crystal Cove where I knew the next few hours would be well spent.
Crystal Cove’s old beach bungalows perched on the cliffs are the perfect bait for history buffs like me. Some have been renovated and serve as information centers, cafes, and rentable homestays, but others still sit in ruin, windows fogged from ocean air, porches sagging from salty moisture. It’s easy to see why this little community popped up in the late 1920’s – the views speak for themselves.
My shoulders burnt, hair frizzy and feet sandy, I headed back to the parking lot to attempt to freshen up before the kickoff event of the summit – a networking event and dinner. Sorry, fellow #WITS16 attendees, but I literally changed my clothes, reapplied makeup, braided my hair, and put on another layer of deodorant in my car. SO sorry if you could tell.
And upon my arrival to Hotel Irvine, #WITS16 was in full swing. Over the next 48 hours I spoke with some of the most badass, independent, driven and intelligent women I could have imagined inhabited this good Earth. Journalists, nomads, community leaders, entrepreneurs, editors, life coaches, CEOs – all with one shared passion – travel. I learned how to think like a businesswoman. I learned how to write better blog posts. I learned how I view myself, and how I want others to view me. I learned how to share more, speak louder and dream bigger.
...and the free drinks were a nice perk.