Landscape of Central Coast, California
Photo stop in the Central Coast, California

Weekend Reads is a weekly-ish series of new and old articles I’ve enjoyed reading around the web about travel, food, and wellness. For more brain snacks, read past Weekend Reads posts.

While researching a possible story about Reiki, the ancient Japanese practice of healing touch, I skirted down many adjacent rabbit holes reading the following stories. While it took me off my research track for a bit, maybe I wasn’t that far off.

The Law of Least Effort

“Conventional wisdom tells you not to give up—ever, no matter what. But people tell you all the time that good things tend to happen when you stop trying so hard to make them happen.” I’ve heard this piece of advice in many ways and by different people within my circle and not, and lately, it has helped to keep me motivated as I attempt to create a sustainable career out of this freelance writing thing. This entire article, published on Medium*, is packed with insights, and will challenge you to define for yourself the difference between giving up and persevering. As the author writes, “The law of least effort is more than a productivity hack.”

Forest Bathing and Mindfulness

At women’s health and lifestyle magazine Self, one writer pens her personal experience of Shinrin-yoku, otherwise known as forest bathing. Like Reiki** (healing touch, to be super brief), the Japanese practice connected to ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices has only recently entered the Western wellness psyche. By my interpretation, it’s rooted in mindfulness and exploring nature with all of the senses, which is supposed to be good for our wellbeing. Maybe you’re aware that nature’s benefits have been scientifically backed, which isn’t particularly groundbreaking in my opinion (or maybe, if you haven’t been exposed to the outdoors much?)

For instance, haven’t we all at some point felt stuck or anxious and thought, “I just need to get some fresh air,” or, “I need to take a walk,”? So you do, and you feel much better afterward? These days, I’ve been ultra-receptive to practices, products, and activities that help me break away from my computer or iPhone to recalibrate my perspective, and even pause to eat something (believe it or not, it is possible for this food writer to forget when I’m jamming away on an assignment, or furiously chasing after one.) Whether or not the cold, hard science is there, I’m immediately intrigued if I read about credible, emerging science sounds promising. That said, it’s interesting to read how others approach similar novelties with a discerning eye.

Can Napping Be Bad For You?

Over on Quartzy, global business publication Quartz’s lifestyle site, five experts weigh in on the pros and cons of napping during the day. Spoiler: most experts say an afternoon nap is a good idea, to an extent. For example, while napping does help improve alertness, mood, and memory, napping it out does not make up for an overall sleep poor hygiene. Read on for the full expert breakdown, including why one expert says you don’t need a daytime nap.

Landscape of an olive grove farm in Paso Robles, California.

Not quite a forest, but I wouldn’t mind wandering through this olive grove for some R&R.

Photo: Kiler Ridge Farms, Paso Robles, California

*I’m published on Medium too. Read my beginner’s guide to visiting an art museum, or as I like to call it, creative stimulation.

**To be clear, Reiki was developed in the 1920s (compared to Shinrin-yoku, which the Japanese government designated “a thing” in the 1980s). And according to the International Association of Reiki Professionals, the practice was not meant to be affiliated with any one religion.

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Downtown Nashville skyline.

This year, I’ve made it a goal to focus on exploring more ways to illuminate destinations from across the country. Though I’ll never not jump on an opportunity to write at length about Portugal––my trans-Atlantic fave––recent efforts are going well. In January I flew to Nashville as a guest of Hutton Hotel to preview its new songwriters retreats. Songwriters retreats will launch summer 2019 and offer budding musicians an intimate opportunity to receive mentoring from top industry professionals, and maybe even record a demo, if that’s what you want.

Nashville Hotels Are Ambassadors of Music

Musical banter and manifestation take place over several days in one of Hutton’s writers studios. There are two, and each is kitted out by names you might recognize. The warm, Southwestern-inspired studio with guitars hanging from the wall is partly designed by country music singer and songwriter Dierks Bentley––an homage to Bentley’s Arizona roots. The other studio sports a extra long leather couch that swallows you up on contact, and feels like a modern, urban loft thanks to One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder’s influence. The writers studios, which launched in 2018 has already hosted some star-studded names; “The Middle,” that dance pop earworm by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey was partly recorded at Hutton.

And while songwriting workshops, seminars and retreats are offered elsewhere in Nashville, that a hotel is equipped with the space, equipment and experts needed to produce this type of experience is unique. But this is Music City after all, so it makes sense for the hospitality industry to tap into something that permeates every corner of town. Which is why it’s no surprise that Hutton Hotel also sports Analog. Its own live performance venue was transformed out of a former parking garage and is draped in jewel tones, features a stage situated lower than most to create accessible performances at eye-level, and a full bar for most imbibing whims.

Cambria Nashville Downtown and Dream hotels have dedicated performance venues too.

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Pineapple 🍕 + Nduja… ‘nuff said

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Outside the writers studios, there is food, of course. Over a few days, there is dinner at Folk for seamless service––the kind where every dining need is anticipated; another glass of wine, an extra spoon, a gracious explanation of a sunchoke––and a pineapple pizza I can’t believe I eat and wholly enjoy because I do not believe in cooked fruit (yes, pies are…difficult). There is also Hattie B’s banana pudding, which must be––after sampling what is probably the entire menu––its ringer.

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Nillaaaaaaaa Pudding #HattieBs

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Evenings manifest in two terribly entertaining outings. The first is Big Beer-only karaoke bar (trailer?) Santa’s Pub. The cigarette smoke is thick and jarring (hi, I live in California) and the heavily graffitied bathrooms make interesting reading material while you wash your hands. I also love the tall, young man who does what I wish I could do but don’t because sometimes I’m paralyzed by social norms: drink beer from a straw. The other unforgettable experience happened later that evening, but by then I am several beverages in so it is the beginning of a new day when we enter the sparsely populated, boogie-inducing cardio party of Motown Monday night at The 5 Spot. A quick internet search surfaces The Office in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood offers Motown music on Mondays, so maybe I’ll keep that in my back pocket in the event I want to relive the evening closer to home.

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Afternoon at Waikiki Beach from Moana Lani Spa in Honolulu.
Waikiki Beach from Moana Lani Spa, Honolulu

After a brief moment in the sand with eyes closed and legs crossed, we step away from the chanting and let the froth wash over our feet. It’s dawn and serene in Waikiki; the perfect environment for a Ho’ala sunrise ceremony. Or, at least it was. As the sun floats up to illuminate Diamond Head, Waikiki again becomes the bustling, selfie-stick wielding destination that attracts more than 9 million visitors annually to the Hawaiian Islands. Of them, and according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority 6 million arrive in Oahu. And since all visitors land or port in Honolulu, Waikiki––Hawaii’s most storied tourist district––is a natural stopover.

This is the Waikiki I’ve always known (though selfie-sticks weren’t yet a thing). I grew up in Kaua’i which lacks the urban density of Honolulu, so a 20-minute flight to Oahu was the closest thing for a taste of city life. At the same time, Waikiki draws huge crowds to its powdery shores. Several underground, freshwater streams flow from the mountains, under some of Waikiki’s most-loved hotels and into the bay. The mix of freshwater with ocean helped create the bay’s sandy bottom, making the area a forgiving place to surf. It’s also a coveted place to sunbathe, jump on a catamaran and people watch.

Ho’ala morning ritual in Waikiki

Where to Get a Massage in Waikiki

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