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The advantage of living in southern California is that a weekend escape feels like somewhere completely different. From San Diego, I could be in the mountains to the East, in Mexico’s buzzy Valle de Guadalupe sipping on wine, or eating my way through Los Angeles to the North in a few hours more or less.

At Joshua Tree National Park, two hours from Los Angeles or San Diego by car, desert vibes are in reach too.

To get there, head East on I-8 toward Palm Springs and take CA-62 toward the high desert.

There are several entrances to the park, which requires an entrance pass for purchase at any of the visitor centers.

Accommodations vary, from your standard Holiday Inn, to camping in the park and a spectrum of basic to desert chic Airbnbs. We stayed two nights in a charming red casita (an Airbnb – rent it here) near one of the park’s three entrances, meaning we were conveniently located less than 20 minutes from the park.

We traveled to Joshua Tree in June, or the beginning of the area’s off-season. Though, with an estimated 3 million visitors predicted for the area this year, Joshua Tree is on track to becoming a year-round destination–despite the heat that hammers down on you by 9am.

Due to rising summer temps, the park ranger at the visitor center counseled against the four-mile hike I bookmarked. Instead, he recommended a number of shorter nature walks to complete before the afternoon became too brutal. Had we visited in the fall or winter, I’d be inclined to book at least three nights in Joshua Tree to complete longer hikes, or to even camp one night (max, because I’m high maintenance like that) in the park.

Below are some photos from the weekend:

Image from iOS (11)

(Cholla Cactus Garden, late afternoon)

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(Part of our Airbnb in Joshua Tree)

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(Sunrise breakfast at our Airbnb in Joshua Tree)

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(Corned beef and hash brunch at Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree)

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Image from iOS (5)

Inspired by the format of a recent travel guide I wrote for New York magazine, and the steady stream of questions from friends, family and acquaintances, I’ve compiled a list of articles, a Netflix documentary and a podcast episode to listen to as a (mostly food-focused) primer to Cuba.

From what I’ve heard, and subsequently experienced first-hand, Cuba is a complicated country. Before traveling to Havana, I consumed anything that would provide even a fraction of context to help me understand a place worlds and decades away from my life in southern California.

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Coastal Colombia

Costeño, Colombia

The journey is always worth it. Even when your travel companion and you are the last ones to board a packed bus and must squeeze into the remaining available seats. Even when, an hour into the five hour journey you turn to each other and say, “Damn, we should have eaten lunch before we boarded.”

Even when you must then take another vehicle to the little pinpoint on your GPS in the black of night and a torrent of rain only to learn (with rising panic) that your destination is nowhere to be found.

Because things usually fall into place. How?

They fall into place when you realize there are planned rest breaks along the way where, for a few thousand pesos (a few bucks in American dollars) you can share a savory arepa and a bag of sliced, salted mango. When the bus finally arrives two hours later and you tumble into a cab with an incredibly patient driver who does not give up on finding your final destination.

They fall into place when you are swinging in a hammock on an old coconut farm, a dash away from the Caribbean. When the sticky sweet scent of your piña colada mingles with the salt air. Above, rolling clouds do their moody thing, while the sun does its sunset thing.

And there you are, sipping a piña colada on the Colombian coast.

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Saturated Saturday is a photo series highlighting some of my favorite images, with editing courtesy of the photo editing apps I like at the moment. These include: VSCO, Instagram, and A Color Story. Most photos taken with iPhone 6s.

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