Category Archives: United States

SoCal and Vegas

The hardest part of making our video for northern California was choosing which photos to cut, and the hardest part of making it for southern California was choosing which song to use.  So much has been written, directed, produced and sung about SoCal… and for good reason.  It’s the land of sunny skies, perfect weather, beaches, tan bodies, and world-class style.  There’s something about being in southern California that makes you feel that you’ve arrived – not in the “if you can make here you’ll make it anywhere” sense of New York, but in the sense of “so this is the place I’ve been hearing about all my life.”

We spent a week in sunny SoCal – 3 days in L.A. and 4 days in San Diego.  It was interesting to see the contrast between the two cities, which are just a couple hours away by car but worlds apart culturally.  Both cities defied our expectations, but in different ways.

We arrived in the City of Angels with all the usual stereotypes in mind:  smog, traffic, pretention, fakeness, and social strife. Although all of these can be found in there, the city is also full of positives:  health, fitness, style, fun and beauty.  It all varies by neighborhood. The bottom line is that L.A. is far too expansive and diverse to generalize.

We started our visit in Malibu, the epicenter of sun, surf, and 8 figure cliff-side homes (with 8 figure cliff-side views.)  We enjoyed a personal tour of Malibu by a local, Jared’s old friend Ryan, due to a coincidence that borders on mystic.  As we were driving down the PCH from Santa Barbara, Jared saw a “welcome to Malibu” sign and thought to send Ryan a text, even though they hadn’t spoken in over a year.  It turns out that Ryan was just 4 miles away at his parents’ home there.  He invited us to stop by.

It turns out that he randomly had a dream about Jared the night before (not the dirty kind, we’re assured) and had emailed him earlier that morning. The spooky part is that Jared hadn’t yet received the email.  It’s as if Ryan somehow sensed that we would show up before we did and communicated with Jared telepathically.  He didn’t even know about the Chasing Summer sabbatical, so there’s no logical explanation.  There must be something to all the West coast meditation and yogic chanting.

Ryan gave us a great tour of Malibu, including lunch on the pier, his parents’ neighborhood (their neighbors include Brooke Burke and Dick Van Dyke) and a drive to the top of a mountain overlooking all of Malibu.  It was all a very pleasant and unanticipated surprise. Thanks buddy!

From Malibu we drove to Santa Monica, where we spent a night in a noisy Comfort Inn on Santa Monica Boulevard, and then on to the home of Lauren’s friends Kim and Cory in West Hollywood.

We fit a lot into just three days in LA:  a stroll through the Venice canals, a yoga class in Santa Monica, drinks and sushi in West Hollywood, wine and bruschetta by the beach with friends Lisa and Ned, a hike up Runyon Canyon, a driving and walking tour of Beverly Hills, yachting with friends out of Marina del Rey, and the highlight for Jared – a Sunday morning workout on muscle beach in Santa Monica with the P90X crew.  (Tony Horton was out of town this week, unfortunately.)

We got a great taste of what it’s like to live in L.A., and enjoyed the flavor more than we thought we would.

On Sunday afternoon we made a 4-hour drive to San Diego… 2 hours to escape the grasp of L.A. traffic and 2 more on the highway to our destination.   We were hosted in San Diego by Jared’s cousin Sherri, who moved there “temporarily” after college and still calls it home nearly a decade later.  Apparently it’s a very difficult city to leave.

San Diego is essentially an overgrown beach town.  It’s a laid back haven for surfers, flip-flops, and wealthy retirees.  Given how packed the beaches were on a Tuesday afternoon, we’re pretty sure that nobody there works.  It’s a great town for tourists, and since Sherri is a professional event planner, we were handed a detailed day-by-day itinerary upon arrival, including destination names, addresses, and phone numbers.  We never even had to choose our own restaurant for lunch.  Thanks Sheerrrriiii!

Our four days in San Diego were perfect to simultaneously decompress after L.A. and gear up for Las Vegas, the next stop on the Chasing Summer train.

We needn’t write too much about Las Vegas because just about everyone in America has been there at some point.  Besides, whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?

It’s always a fun town to visit, as it should be since that’s what it’s built for.  This particular trip was prompted by the 30th birthday of Jared’s brother, Scott.  Over 30 friends and family members came out to celebrate, mostly from Atlanta. It was a multi-generational celebration, including 80-something year old grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends and significant others. Everyone had a blast.

We saw LOVE by Cirque du Soleil, took a tour of the strip on a private bus (complete with 2 stripper poles… we told grandma they were structural support), and ate lots of good food. Anything else we might have done is beyond the scope of this blog…

Below we’ll post a video about the SoCal portion of the trip and a group photo from Las Vegas at the famous sign.  Enjoy!

This blog post is being written on a plane en route to Milan, Italy, where the international portion of the Chasing Summer adventure officially begins.  Ci vediamo presto!


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The Central California Coast

There is only word to describe the central California coast:  stunning.   The 5 days we spent driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara were among the most scenic of our lives.  Santa Cruz, Pebble Beach, Monterey Bay, Big Sur, Santa Barbara… each was more beautiful than the last.  The hardest part of making the video for this segment of the trip was choosing which photos to cut.

Santa Cruz is a lazy little beach town about 75 miles south of San Fran.  Its most prominent feature is an Atlantic City-eske boardwalk right on the beach, full of carnival rides and deep fried American goodness.  We spent one day there, which was perfect.

Pebble Beach is one of the premier golf courses in the world and home of the US Open.  By dumb luck we showed up there during the Concours d’Elegance, often said to be the world’s premier celebration of the automobile.  Millionaires and billionaires come from around the world to buy, sell, and show off some of the rarest cars on the planet.  It was quite a treat to see.  All we could afford to buy at Pebble Beach was lunch, which still ran $100.

Monterey is home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, which happens to be an Infosurv client.  Jared’s contacts there were very kind to welcome us as their guests.  The aquarium is unique in that mainly houses animals from the local Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, stretching across 276 miles of central California shoreline.  What we liked most about the aquarium was their passion for conservation.  After spending a few hours admiring their animals we took a beautiful, if chilly, evening cruise through the bay on 65 foot sailing vessel hosted by the aquarium.

From Monterey we drove to Big Sur, a picturesque 90 mile stretch of untouched California wilderness.  We stayed in Cambria, one of the few small towns that dot the coastline, which is mostly protected by state parks.  It takes a long time to drive through Big Sur, not due to traffic or the distances involved, but because every turn of the cliffside highway is straight off a postcard.  Jared pulled the car over every few miles to take another photo, sometimes only to realize that he already took one from there the day before!

We ended his portion of the drive in Santa Barbara, which was beautiful but a bit anticlimactic.  Santa Barbara enjoys perfect weather, perfect beaches, perfect shopping, and perfect multi-million-dollar homes.  It’s so perfect that we found it boring in its perfection.  The highlight of the 2 days we spent there was Jared’s kiteboarding lesson.  Many thanks to Tom at Ventura Kiteboarding for letting Jared crash his kite a few times 🙂

From Santa Barbara we drove to LA, which will be included in the final post of our 3 part series on California.  For now, please enjoy our latest video.  We think it’s the best one yet.


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San Francisco or Bust

Although we’ve been away from our jobs for nearly a month now, the travel portion of the Chasing Summer sabbatical began in earnest on August 9, 2010, with a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. Our week at the beach in Destin and the few days that Jared spent in Montreal with his EO forum were certainly special, but our flight out West kicked off the official beginning of our around-the-world itinerary. If things go according to plan, we won’t be back in Atlanta for at least the next 6 months.

We’ve both visited San Francisco before, as did 15.4 million other tourists last year alone, which could make it the least exotic stop on our itinerary.  Nonetheless there were plenty of fun touristy things to do there, like riding the cable car to Lombard Street, taking a great tour of Chinatown (thanks Linda!), and enjoying a ferry ride to Sausalito.  Many thanks to Jared’s good friend Marty for putting us up in his chic SoMa apartment.

As has become a Chasing Summer tradition, we’ve put together a short video to summarize our 3 days in the bay.  What this video doesn’t capture is the unique spirit of the San Franciscan people — and that’s what makes the city special.  They are creative, liberal, artistic, entrepreneurial, and cutting-edge.  There aren’t a lot of other cities in the US that we’ve consider living in, but San Fran is certainly one of them.

You can expect more blog posts and videos to come as our 2 week driving tour of the California coastline continues.


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Week in Florida

We’ve just wrapped out the first piece of the sabbatical, a relaxing week in Watercolor, Florida, USA. It was the perfect setting to change gears from work mode to travel mode. We stayed in the gorgeous beach home of a family friend who was kind enough to donate it to us. Half of the week it was just the two of us and the other half included close friends Rocky and Susie, our “niece” Anya (age 3) and “nephew” Ronan (age 3 months.) Rocky’s brother and his family also stopped by to visit.

The Gulf coast was beautiful and the beaches were spotless despite the impression the media might give you. Well, Lauren did spot one ‘pretty black shell’ in the water that turned out to be a tar ball.

Our days revolved around the beach, the pool, fresh seafood lunches and home-cooked dinners. Jared proudly managed to keep up his P90X routine despite the afternoon heat.

Jared put together a short video on his new iPhone 4 to summarize the week. It was completely shot, edited, and produced using the iPhone and the iMovie app. Please excuse the poor production value… it’s his first movie ever.


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We’re Off!

Well folks, the Chasing Summer odyssey has officially begun. Lauren’s last day of full-time work was Thursday and Jared was bid a ‘bon voyage’ by his team at Infosurv on Friday. It feels surreal that after years of dreaming and months of planning, our trip has finally begun.

Today we’re off to not-so-exotic Destin, FL, where we’ll spend a week at the beach home of a family friend. We would normally consider a week at the beach a wonderful vacation in its own right, but in the context of Chasing Summer it’s just a warm-up. We’ll be joined by close friends Rocky & Susie plus their two adorable children:

Our last week of ‘normal life’ has been an emotional one, with excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and a touch of fear. It’s both challenging and exhilarating to trade the comfort and predictability of good jobs and a nice home for the great unknown that lies ahead.

For me (Jared), it’s also been emotional to leave behind the company that I started 12 years ago in college and have invested much of my adult life into growing. At the same time, I am so proud of the team that I’ve assembled and left to run the company while I’m gone. My baby won’t be under my care for a while, but I think it will be in excellent hands.

It’s been interesting to hear people’s reaction when we tell them about the trip. The most common response from friends, clients and co-workers is “that’s amazing… I’m so jealous!” From our parents, it’s more like “what about health insurance? do you have enough money? isn’t that country dangerous? do you have enough vaccinations?” We’ll take their concern as a sign of love 😉

When folks ask why we’re doing this, our response is simply “because it’s been a lifelong dream.” That answer always seems to satisfy the question. Everyone has been incredibly supportive.

We don’t know exactly what lies ahead, but we expect it to be interesting if nothing else. We’ll try to keep this blog well-updated with our pics, videos, learnings and impressions. Thanks for following along.


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