Solo Road Trip: Topanga, Malibu, Ojai & Beyond

I often (half) joke that my sister life lives in the hills of Topanga, making a living by crafting artisanal birdhouses and beaded jewelry. When I pulled up to my stellar Airbnb find, I was convinced I was finally coming face-to-face with my parallel universe.

My hosts Mathew (a Boulder native, by chance) and Colleen were laid back and welcoming, offering me tea and super-fast wi-fi. I spent the early evening tooling around the beaches of Malibu, and the rest of the evening catching up on work, perched on Mathew and Colleen's patio. That night, I took a shower by moonlight and fell asleep listening to the frogs. 

Olive and I took an early morning hike the next day, climbing up Red Rock Canyon via the old fire road. The air was hazy and thick with eucalyptus, and the sun was just beginning to burn through the fog.

After a morning work session at a glitzy Malibu Starbucks, I met up with my friend (and usual Malibu host) Anndrea, who lives in the hills just above Zuma Beach. We chatted about all-things-womanhood, from must-read books to creative self-expression. And upon leaving, she gave me a bag of pine nuts. Great conversation and road snacks? The day was off to a great start.

From Malibu I went north to Ojai, where I met Patricia Cuenot, a Parisian-born jewelry maker and part-time chef. Patricia agreed to be a subject for my photography project, Working Hands, where I capture people who use their hands to make a living. 

Patricia comes from a line of jewelry artisans; her grandfather was a famous Parisian jeweler during the Art Deco period. She's spent a lot of time in India and the Far East, and her designs are inspired by their ancient and sacred cultures. An Ojai Valley resident for almost 20 years, Patricia's now an honorary (and exceptionally affable) local.

From Ojai I sped north to Los Olivos, where I wandered the small downtown, snapping a few photos, smelling the lavender, and wondering if I could eat black olives right off the tree. (Can you? I didn't try.)

After a quick bite at the Wine Merchant, I headed toward Grover Beach to my digs for the night. Today, it's off to Carmel to spend the evening in a seaside cabin with my old and dear friend Ellen before we head back to her slice of paradise in Watsonville.