Posts in Travel Journal
Holiday Break in California

I had the pleasure of spending about two weeks again in California with my friends and family for the holidays. While New York's temperatures dropped, I was greeted by autumn-esque leaves and sunshine on the best coast. 


Christmas in San Jose


CreativeMornings/Orange County


New Years in DTLA

Konnect Reunion

H.E.R. Concert


Common Room Roasters

Dear California

I just got back from a ten-day break back home in California! I'm super grateful that all my friends made time in their busy schedules to meet up and just hang out. With each year that passes, the harder it seems to make time to see one another. I was feeling pretty homesick during the past few months. I'm relieved that this trip helped get rid most of it and contextualize my new life here in NYC.

Cheese Board & Wine Night

There are a few things that the New Yorkers in my life do on a regular basis that I never did in California. Hosting cheese and wine nights is one of them! I've had it a couple times at my workplace and also have had it at a friend's house before. When my closest friends asked what I wanted to do, I knew right away that it'd be fun to try and make a cheese board ourselves! I knew it'd be fun to bring a piece of my NYC experience back with me. 

At a friend's house in LA, (after many hilarious mistakes and hiccups) we were able to put together somewhat of a decent set-up. Our choices of cheese and various flavors ended up tasting a lot better than we anticipated. A weird inside joke that pretty much sums up this first night: 

"Friends are like cheese boards. You never know what you'll get... but I do, because I bought them." 



I spent some time in the Buena Park and Anaheim area to hangout with friend I hadn't seen in a while. Through a random search, we found a coffee shop called Stereoscope Coffee CoTurned out to be a great pick. We fell in love with the clean white minimalistic look of the place. The staff seemed pretty nice and the other customers were quiet and focused on their work. 



On a nice Wednesday morning, Ivan (my brother) and I headed down to San Clemente to meet with my friend Alyssa. She was coming up from San Diego and recommended we meet at a place called Bear Coast Coffee. Ivan and I got there first and realized that although the spot was lovely, it had slow WiFi and was too small. I quickly messaged Alyssa to let her know that we should go somewhere else. What I really loved about this place though was that it's right next to the beach! 

All of us ended up meeting a little further south in Oceanside at a place called Revolution Roasters. I'd already had coffee at Bear Coast so I just grabbed an iced tea. If you're ever in Oceanside or on the way down to San Diego, I'd highly recommend this place. Great coffee shop all around for just meeting up with people or working. Staff is sweet too. Three things that caught my eye was the unique cups, open garage format, and the super hero wallpaper in the bathroom. Two photos in this section are courtesy of Alyssa's Coffee & Convos project.


Downtown Fullerton with 31QT

31QT is the nickname my college roommates and I created for ourselves. I don't remember the exact reason, but it was a mix of our apartment's address and our WiFi passwords (Hahaha). If my friends from my cheese board night are more like my ride or die crew, these girls really feel like family. We lived together for two years and they are just the nicest (and weirdest). Always love hanging out with them and catching up. We had tea and dessert in downtown Fullerton. 



Obviously, the most important thing that I wanted to do back home was to spend time with my family. My parents are simple people. They like to "hang out" in the most routine and mundane ways. I cracked up my first morning there when my parents forced me to wake up and go workout with them (as they used to do every morning without fail) at the gym. I was exhausted from the night before, but knowing that this was how my parents liked to spend "quality" time with me – I went and sweated it out. 

I spent more time with my friends during this trip than I expected. Hilariously, my family turned out to be too busy for me. A few days after I was there — my mom left for Korea, my brother left for Yosemite, and my dad was getting ready to leave for Canada. A few weeks from today, they're going to Japan and Korea as well (without me!!!). But I'm still thankful that I got to have some coffee time with my dad and walks with both of my parents in our peaceful suburban neighborhood. 

A big shoutout to my talented brother Ivan for driving me around during this whole vacation! Couldn't have seen many of my friends without his help. 



I mentioned at the beginning of this post that this break helped diminish a lot of my homesickness and also contextualized my life in New York.

What do I mean by that? 

New York is just such an overwhelming place to live if you're completely new to the city. I had barely any exposure to the east coast before I uprooted my life on the west coast to move here.

The moment I was on my flight leaving for California and saw a whole overview of this bustling metropolis... I was speechless. I couldn't believe how I'd forgotten the beauty and complexity of New York City. I was so immersed in my day-to-day routine that it was wonderful to take some time away from it and be back somewhere that my entire being felt relaxed. 

I was able to somewhat put a metaphorical ellipsis on California and "home." Refreshed, I'm now ready to dive back into the New York hustle. Incredibly thankful for my friends and family back in California... but so happy to be here with my new community of friends in New York. 

This is officially my digital cheers to a new chapter of my life! 

Brig to Bern
Ciao Roma!

No More Words

Note: Due to an injury on the trip from the last hour in Florence and consequences of general pain (*cries*), the rest of the posts from this trip will merely be photos and no words. The images themselves, however, I think say enough about what we saw, where we went, and how it felt. 

Romantic Firenze II

We could barely move our legs from the previous day of intense walking and stair stepping. Traveler blues. After stretching our sore bodies and getting over a hot no air conditioned night, we freshened up and got ready to greet Florence again. 

From the beginning of planning this trip, my dad was determined to expose us to a handful of diverse situations. He wanted to show us different types of sleeping arrangements and transportation methods. In Milan, we stayed in a nice hotel. In Florence, we checked into an old historic home slash hostel.

The view from the window was of the local neighborhood and a charming sight to see right outside the green wooden blinders. The only problem? As an old place, there was no air conditioning!!! (First world problems) Instead, we were given four large fans. All they did was continuously circulate the hot air within the room. At the beginning of the night, we were afraid to open the window because of mosquitos since the window had no screen.

But after a few hours of being too hot, I woke up and decided we'd have to sacrifice Ivan as a token to the mosquitos (he was sleeping nearest to the window). Opening the window cooled down the room a whole lot. And let's just say... Ivan was not very pleased when he woke up (hahaha).


Gusta Pizza

We woke up around 10 a.m. and lazed around for a bit until around 11:30 a.m. when we got hungry. Recommended by several friends, I suggested Gusta Pizza to my family for our first meal of the day. Truth was that we'd tried multiple pizza places in Milan and Venice without much satisfaction. Even though we'd had pizza nearly every day of the trip so far, I wanted to really have some good memorable food before we left Italy.

I was surprised to see people lined up outside the pizza shop and around the block. This got us excited to try the pizza! While in line, Ivan and I goofed off and people watched.


Once we ordered and got our pizza, we walked down the street until we got to the plaza area. We wanted to get a view of the place and sat on the steps of the Santo Spirito church and ate our two pizzas until we were full. 

Gusta had a variety of possible selections ranging from their specialty pizzas to other non pizza dishes. It's affordable, pretty chewy, O.K. sauce, and filling. Probably great after a night of drinking with friends or just a weekend bite. 


Piazza Santo Spirito


Osteria Santo Spirito


Leaving Florence

Cities are about juxtaposition. In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It’s that contrast we like.
— Richard Rogers
Romantic Firenze I

Florence was the city that most of my friends had once lived in when they were in Italy. Before taking off, I got a few recommendations from them. I think Florence has been the only place I walked into and immediately fell in love with. As I visited recommended restaurants and places, I sort of felt like I was retracing the steps of my friends who must've experienced the same sense of wonder that I did. 



We arrived in Florence after a busy morning of packing up our belonging in Milan and giving our surrounding areas one more walk. Located only about two hours away by train, Florence feels quaint and majestic at the same time. It's the capital of the Tuscany region and everywhere you look seems quintessential in a calendar tourist sort of way. (Of course... if you take a closer look, everything is very old and needs repairs... still lovely) 

Initially, I was surprised by how quiet Florence seemed compared to Milan and Venice. We took a few moments to admire The Arno calmly flowing through the city and the Ponte Vecchio, the stone bridge famous for having built in shops.

People were gathered alongside the river wall and leaning in funny ways to try and get the best photos of the bridge. I thought it was a funny sight. 



There were dozens and dozens of people lined up for buying tickets to the Uffizi Gallery. After realizing that the line wouldn't be moving for a long time, my family decided to just spend our time browsing the surrounding area. We had plans for other galleries and time to see this later. 

Instead of standing in line again for another museum, we strolled past it and had a lovely time exploring places like the square nearby called the Piazza della Signoria. Historically it was known as the prominent political hub of Florence. I believe it still is considered a hub today. I loved all the statues and the wide open space of the square.



I got distracted along the path with all the souvenir shops and alleyways. My dad walked quickly ahead and motioned for us to move faster. At this point, I admit I wasn't all that excited about seeing yet another duomo (cathedral church). I wasn't sure why he was in such a rush to go see it. 

About ten minutes later, we turned the corner and my jaw dropped open. There in front of me was mind blowingly beautiful and complex work of architecture. While all the other churches before had been beautiful too, the Florence cathedral was something else. It felt like something else. It actually conjured up an emotional reaction of sorts. 

I think it was the light colors and lavishness of the layout that stole my heart. We stood in awe next to hundreds of other travelers also admiring it. While there were lots of tourists walking about, there was a very chill and easygoing vibe in the air. 

I squinted up every few seconds to look at the building again and again. Sure, there were pigeons and tourists everywhere. It was pretty warm. I was tired. But I still kept thinking, "Wow. Wow. Wow." When we were done circling the outside, we stood in line until we got a chance to take a peek inside. It was quiet and cool. The mural on the dome glowed. 

It wasn't until I was inside that I learned we'd be climbing up the steps to the top of the cathedral. All of our legs were pretty tired from days so many of walking, but we still looked forward to the climb since we knew we'd get some impressive views and shots.



We were fools. The climb up to the top of the cathedral was no joke. Nope. Not easy at all. The 463 stair walk up was a lot more challenging than we could've imagined for our little tired legs. The only thing that kept us going? Well... the dozens and dozens of people walking behind us. (Hahaha) Afraid of making other people upset, we trudged on until... 

Until this... 

Stunning, right? The sun was still blazing, but the high winds up at the top made it okay. It's easy to see why Italy and much of Europe continues to preserves and maintain the consistency they do in their historical treasures. It's the uniformity and consistency in roof tiles and colors that set the flavor of their world. (Note – I had a weird flashback to seeing Stanford University from up top.)

We completed our photo taking in about fifteen minutes, but we weren't about to go down anytime soon. My family and all those people that came up with us were exhausted from the climb. It was a tiring climb because the old stairs are still the same as when the cathedral was first built. The path was narrow and tricky too.

So... we all sat and soaked in our reward. Ivan listened to music and stared. My dad leaned back and read his travel book on Florence. Mom and I took pictures and talked.



After climbing down the 463 stairs again, we took a few moments to rest our legs. I enjoyed people watching as we decided what to do next. I had a hard time telling the difference between people who were from Florence and those who were visiting.

Soon, my dad triumphantly decided that we should climb the bell tower next to the cathedral. Noooo! Ivan and I started to retaliate. Our legs felt like jello and we were sure that we wouldn't be able to climb any more steps for the day. 

Ignoring our complaints, my parents bought the tickets and shamed us (hahaha) into climbing up the gothic style bell tower. From the ground, the bell tower didn't look as intimidating of a climb as the cathedral. Little did we know that the bell tower actually had 414 steps to the top. Goodbye legs. 

Every other level, we took breaks. People rested on the benches and stopped to admire the view inside the arches. The view from the top wasn't all that different from the cathedral's view except the lovely view of the cathedral itself. Meta.

Oh... and seeing little people. 



We walked approximately 877 steps this day which doesn't even include how much we walked on the ground. After grabbing a bite to eat nearby and wandering the area for a few more hours, we called it a day. 

Tomorrow was still fresh and waiting for us with new things to see and do. Things we'd hoped to squeeze all into the first day, but alas we'd arrived in the afternoon and the sun set quickly. All of us climbed into our beds very quickly. I wondered if I'd be able to move my legs the next day (hahaha). 

Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.
— Matteo Renzi
Serendipity on Corso Como

This was hands down my absolute favorite day so far! I'd go back and relive it all over again if I could. Our itinerary for this trip is extremely jam-packed as a whole. This day was an exception to this fast paced schedule. Dad had conference this day so the rest of us were free to stray from the itinerary he'd created. Mom and Ivan had done zero research so I pretty much dictated what I thought we would do for the day. Let's just say it didn't go as planned, but turned out lovely.


Good Morning, Milan! 


Venice really drained us the day before and dad was out for the day because of work. Mom, Ivan, and I decided we'd take this day slow. The rest of our Europe trip will be filled with early waking hours because of train times, so it was nice to be able to wake up later than usual today. 

While researching places to visit for the day, I knew I wanted to have a chance to check out the more contemporary areas of Milan. The only exact destination that I had planned on visiting before arriving in Italy was a media library slash garden called CUBO. Using the hotel WiFi, I saved the directions onto my phone and felt pretty confident about leading us there.

After a subway ride and a couple minutes of walking, we were sad to find that it was closed!!! I wasn't sure if it was for renovations or if they were moving, but it looked pretty empty. My mom and brother came were disappointed as well since I'd shown them all the photos of it before leaving the hotel. We snooped around the building a little with little to show until we decided to just continue exploring the area nearby. 

The Serendipitous Quest

We walked further away from our subway station and really loved what we found! Using the paper map we had in hand, I realized that we were heading right towards the heart of the metropolitan downtown business district of Milan.

It was great seeing beautiful modern architecture. Mom enjoyed just being able to enjoy the good weather, and my brother was ecstatic to find a Patagonia store along the way. 

Around this point, it struck me that we had a chance of finding one of my favorite shops that I'd seen in Seoul called 10 Corso Como. An Italian acquaintance of my mom had also suggested that we visit Corso Como this morning. I didn't think much of it until my brother looked at the map and pointed to a street with the same name. It was nearby from where we were at! 


Corso Como

As soon as we turned the corner, it was obvious that this street was a big deal. The large open entrance made it quite obvious. Corso Como is a long pedestrian promenade and turns out is often called the commercial center of Milan! It's lined with so many shops, bars, cafés, and restaurants. It's also very clean and well maintained compared to many of the other places we'd passed in Italy so far. The street was an obvious hub for nightlife and we were delighted to see the diverse kinds of cuisines here. 

While walking up and down the street, it finally fully dawned on me that 10 Corso Como (the shop I mentioned earlier) was the actual address of the shop and also its brand name. It was so meta that it didn't really make sense to me at first. We walked to where the address for 10 would be... I looked around for a sign and was a little bit confused. From the street, it looked just seemed like an entrance to a garden. A wall of tall plants blocked the view, keeping the inside private from the street. 

BUT. Once we walked past the plants, I screamed inside with joy. Beyond the wall of platns, we found a quaint, lush, green courtyard that was indeed part of the 10 Corso Como experience. I was so impressed by how subtle and classic their sign for the store looked. 10 Corso Como is a cohesive brand that combines the showing and selling of art through music, design, fashion, food, and culture. It was created by the talented Carla Sozzani (*fangirl mode*) and was designed to be a microcosm of its own.

10 Corso Como is made up of a garden courtyard, restaurant, café, shop, and gallery. On the first floor, there was a large yet intimate feeling shop located next to the café. There were a lot of new arrivals that I enjoyed looking at. I especially liked the softly lit hanging lights. 

Afterwards, we made our way to the second floor where I nearly died of happiness. There's a design shop on the second floor that's full of all my favorite publications. It had a carefully and thoughtfully curated collection of magazines, small goods, decorative art, and more. I was surprised and delighted to also find a Keith Haring corner that sold limited items.

I geek out whenever I see spaces that are thoughtfully and tastefully curated. The reason I love 10 Corso Como so much is how often it collaborates with East Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. It's not as common as I wish it was... but I suppose that's what makes it so special! Sozzani is a actually a real role model to me... in the sense that I've always envisioned myself doing work that is as fluid as hers. She really is part of the rare breed that knows how to bring her vision to life across so many industries in a unifying way. In her own words: 

“I wanted to make a living magazine. I was, for 19 years, a fashion editor, so editing for me was instinctual, and maybe the only thing I knew then. I unconsciously got into retail without knowing what it meant, driven by the desire to communicate — to share my editing choices with readers who would become visitors and customers. I was sharing and getting feedback that I could not get then from magazines, as the Internet and blogs did not exist at the time. Photography had been a big part of my work, and I had also become passionate about collecting, so in 1990, the building at 10 Corso Como was the address where the loft was that became Galleria Carla Sozzani. That was the first stone — and then the bookstore, the café, and the store.”

Okay, I'll stop here. Don't want to bore you! There was also an intriguing photo showcase by Giovanni Lista on futurism on exhibition next door to the shop.

Around Town

Besides the obvious 10 Corso Como adventure, I loved this day because of how close-up I got to see the lives of Italy's modern day person. People just going about their lives and grocery stores that displayed food in ways that I wasn't used to... By 6 in the evening, everyone seems to slow down and really enjoy their leisure. I think it's something that Americans don't really embrace a lot – slow, sweet, and true leisure. 

A realization that I'll share is that through this trip so far, I've been able to see myself through a fresher lens. It's a good thing! Sozzani is just one of the many women in the world that I find to be so talented and interesting. People who are fluid, innovative, and know how to communicate their vision tend to gain my admiration. This part might be TMI: I grew up as a Korean girl in a conservative community that yearned to be free and travel... (this is a small bit of my personal background). I'm sure everyone grew up with these sort of conflicts and tensions inside of them. I used to hate all the clashing... but as I venture out into the world, I've come to be okay with them and want to actually embrace it all! 

I used to think that good communication was enough. However, I'm getting more and more committed to the idea that I want to develop my own unmistakable style of communication in the world that is not just "good" but becomes great. In order to transform this idea into a reality, I know that it'll require me to develop a dedicated creative practice while also committing a lot of time, sweat, tears, blood (hopefully not), and experiences to my craft. One day perhaps I'll have built something as amazing what Carla Sozanni has created. 

Inside everything is experienced with extremely elegant calm [...] allowing me to escape the frenetic pace of a city constantly changing. I am enchanted by art, culture and everything that is capable of whisking me away every time I pass the threshold of that intensely green door.
Alleys and Bridges in Venice

Venice was one of those places that I heard so much about in my lifetime. I heard about it so much that I felt like I already had been there and knew it. But as my dad once said: "Hearing about a place from someone else will never be equal to actually seeing it and knowing it for yourself." Seeing and knowing Venice for myself was indeed different from just hearing about it from others. 


Heading out

Our morning started off with a nice continental breakfast at the hotel and many cups of coffee. (Hello jet lag...) I filled my plate with lots of scrambled eggs and green beans to build up my energy for the day. This heat and humidity can really knock you out quickly if you don't stay hydrated and stock up on fuel.

After a slow first day in Milan and a good night's rest, we were fully charged to venture out to see Venice! Located about three hours away from Milan by train, we prepared for one whole day of walking and exploring. The train matching our ticket number pulled into the station and the corresponding loading platform number popped onto the screen. We quickly loaded our things and bodies onto the train.

It's so obvious we're tourists. Ivan and I triple checked our bags to see if we had all our cameras, chargers, maps, water bottles, snacks, and handkerchiefs. No shame! After the train departed, each of us got comfortable and found empty seats nearby and did our own things. My dad worked on his iPad. Ivan went back and forth between sleeping and taking photos. I listened to music and slept. Mom did everything – slept, read, wrote, and sometimes looked out the window to admire the scenery.

I liked seeing regular Italian business folks working on their contracts and editing papers on the train. Made the trip seem calm and normal. A feeling I like much better than the hysteric hustle and bustle of being a tourist.



We arrived in Venice on time and were greeted by an intense wave of heat. The humidity felt a bit worse near the water... but when I saw what was before my eyes, I was able to momentarily ignore it. There were tourists everywhere scrambling to take photos of the mesmerizing scene. This was one of those moments where I realized I was really in a foreign place. Some scene I'd seen before on a screen, but somewhere entirely unfamiliar. 

It's been evident that Italy works hard to preserve their old buildings. (At least the street facing side.) It's fascinating how they manage to maintain the uniformity of their neighborhoods so well despite the years that continue to fly by... (Side note – With the influx of tourists everywhere, July is definitely not the most ideal time to visit Europe. Good thing I have short hair. Humidity is not my friend.)

We walked around some more and were pleased to walk through areas that weren't as crowded. Once in a while, we stopped to admire the canals and bridges that flowed between the buildings. I loved seeing the hundreds of little boats parked alongside the water rails. Not a car in sight. 

Many of the homes were grayish and gloomy. Pretty rundown. Then there were also areas that were the complete opposite! Bright, vibrant, and somewhat renovated.


Finding our way

At some point, I got so distracted by my surroundings that I totally forgot where we were even headed. Thankfully, my parents continued to navigate while Ivan and I stopped every few steps to snap a photo.



Saint Mark's Square is apparently the most visited tourist spot in Venice and we could instantly see why. It's a wide open courtyard with magnificently detailed architecture. The (warm) breeze blows and water waves splash right next to the area.

The 360 degree view is remarkable when you stand in the center of it all. On three sides, you're surrounded by the white columns of the various shops and museums in the plaza. On the fourth side, you get a full view of the basilica and the pier. 



The religious hub of the square, Saint Mark's Basilica, is the most famous of the city's many churches. It stands next to Doge's Palace and across from the courtyard. It was a bit stuffy and crowded inside the basilica, but I really enjoyed the ornate gold designs on its exterior. It's aged a lot, but still proves to be a very lush and glamorous piece of art. 



Doge's Palace is one component of the square and also one of the most visited sites of Venice. It's a Venetian Gothic style palace in which the Doge of Venice used to live. It's a widely loved museum that showcases the courtyard, its many chambers, rooms, and more. 

We had a hard time leaving this courtyard since we were so in love with it. There were lots of students visiting the place for their field trips. They didn't look to pleased to be dressed in their uniforms (hahaha). I hope they noticed though how beautiful the place was despite the obvious educational angle on their visit. 

The detail in the artistry and craftsmanship of the chamber ceilings are absolutely astonishing. I enjoyed this part of the palace a lot... 

When my family and many others stepped into this space, we all fell silent. Although it's not a church or complete religious space, the grandness of it oddly caused all of us to be reverent of the moment. Can't say that's how it always is... but it was how our experience seemed.

I got pretty creeped out by the dungeon and prison. It had an eerie vibe to it! There's a part of the tour where you have to walk through some of them to get out to the prison courtyard. Let's just say I moved pretty quickly in this part of the tour. 

A few hours later, we were back out next to the pier. There seemed to be even more people than when we'd arrived. I noticed a lot of people were stopping near the water to take photos and trying to beat the heat. 



It's not captured in this post, but we did make a few stops to eat and just admire shops. My dad really wanted to purchase a Venetian face mask, but failed to find one he really liked. Many of them were overpriced and not well maintained. He did buy a handmade golden gondola miniature piece in one of the gift shops. (We don't have anymore room at home for more souvenirs, but he always insists haha). 

My favorite part of the day was getting on a boat and traveling back to the station. Seeing parts of Venice fly by on the water was very cool. It was cool both as an experience and temperature wise (water and windy breezes). 



The way the place moves and handles all the tourists is mind boggling. I read in my travel book that tourists usually only visit about 8~10% of the islands. On the train, I was disturbed by this number. Really? 90 percent of the entire place isn't even interesting to tourists? But I guess this is a good thing. It's natural for tourists to want to go to the highlights and skip everything else. Residents also should be able to avoid clumsy people like us at all costs (hahaha)

I've always been an advocate of slow long-term traveling. I enjoy staying in places for long periods of time to really let the local culture soak into me and become a small part of me. This trip is one of the first in which I've done more of a touristy style of traveling. I can't really say that I'm enjoying the fast experience of it 100%, but I'm thankful that it's still been insightful.  

I could see glimpses of the ordinary parts of Venice in which the locals were just struggling to get by... Communities that have no choice but to build their livelihood around tourism don't seem like they're truly thriving. I hope to come back someday and be in a part of Venice that is ordinary. That is, I better come back before the whole thing sinks underwater and becomes Atlantis! 

Venice, the most touristy place in the world, is still just completely magic to me.
— Frances Mayes