A Journey Of 1,900 Miles And A Lesson on Being Still.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, the longest road trip we ever took consisted of a 3-hour ride to the other coast. Needless to say, extended trips in a car were never something I knew. For that reason, every chance I get to travel by car, I take it. There's something so special about being able to see something and react immediately. "That looks cool, let's stop and check it out!" was a phrase I thought many times during this last adventure. Dan and I traveled to the west coast to venture through some areas neither of us had ever visited. We covered 1,900 miles total and, despite some people's hesitation, we made it through unscathed! 

Starry night in Lone Pine, California taken with a 30-second exposure by placing my camera on top of the car hood.

Starry night in Lone Pine, California taken with a 30-second exposure by placing my camera on top of the car hood.

Ever since I backpacked through Europe with a friend and met a lot of couples traveling together, I've always said traveling is a perfect opportunity to really get to know someone. Let's be honest, there are TONS of unknowns when you're out of your comfort zone and most of the times, shit is going to hit the fan at some point, so it's a good idea to throw yourself into those scenarios now and see how you work together through it. Right?! Well, that's the way I see it at least! With all that said, traveling is such a precious opportunity to also learn about yourself. How do you like to start the morning when you're in a new place? What's your style of how you like to get to know a new city? Do you want to walk through it and [most likely] get lost or pay to get a proper tour? Do you prefer hanging with locals or seeing what other tourists are fussing about? Is camping doable or are you a must-sleep-in-hotels type person?

During road trips especially there is so much "white space," a phrase I use to denote the time spent actually driving. It's like a photo that has a lot of white/ empty area that doesn't really help you focus on what's actually going on in the picture. When I'm driving, or riding in the passenger seat, I'm pretty much in my own world. Thoughts zooming in and out, sometimes some make it out of my mouth and others continue their journey through the winding paths of my brain. The beauty of this white space while roadtripping (a super official word) is the silence. The opportunity to simply be. It's a sacred phenomenon because of the world we live in where it's almost mandatory to be connected. I definitely struggled letting go of the need to post, to inform, to account for my whereabouts. The lack of signal in most places we visited definitely helped, but I noticed how difficult it was for me to let go. In many of the "white spaces" during our trip, I thought about why it's so difficult for me to let go and simply be. The answer is not a simple one, and it's one that's ever-changing, but it boils down to this:

I want to leave a strong and meaningful legacy. 

It means so much to me to share my world with you because I want you to see what I see in the world. I want the world to know I think there's beauty all around us. I want to share the beauty of the world with everyone. I want people to connect with nature and find deeper meaning in their own lives. I yearn for the day the world knows peace. My words and my pictures are my gift to the world, and all of this - my blog, my business, my Instagram - is my way of giving back. And that's why "letting go" is so hard for me. I am so attached to my work because it's not just my work, it's my heart! It's a blurred space of what I love doing and what I'm meant to do.

Letting go and being present is something I work on every day, because the last thing I want is to one day blink my eyes and realize my life fast-forwarded before my eyes in the attempt to eternalize every moment through my pictures. The word ironic would take a life of its own if that happened. So in the spirit of sharing the world through my eyes while being "in the moment," here are some pictures from my trip and the journal entries from our adventures. I hope you feel the essence of the world through these images and this story.

Our dear, dear friends Jessie + Gerard who hosted us our first night!

Our dear, dear friends Jessie + Gerard who hosted us our first night!

Day 1: Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur

We may have been a bit overzealous in planning our trip, adding up to 1,900 miles total, but looking back, there's not a thing I'd do different. After leaving Los Angeles early on November 21, we took the Pacific Coast Highway and headed north. After switching between inland and coastline driving, our final stretch to Big Sur was northing short of peaceful and perfect. We stopped in a cute town called Carpinteria to grab a bite, and were then blown away as we found Big Sur's coast. Before arriving to our campground for the night, we made sure to stop at Wal-Mart to buy way too many low-priced roadtrip snacks and the rest of our camping needs. 

All sugared up and already riding a high from the beauty we'd witnessed, we arrived at Fernwood Resort where we set up camp as switfly as possible before sunset. Once we had everything ready, we went up to the campground's tavern to relax, sip on a beer and eat while sitting on the very comfy leather couch and taking it all in. We made it through the first day!

Carpinteria, California

Carpinteria, California

boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte

Day 2:  Big Sur

The views are a mix of cool and warm tones, adding up to a painting where the sea meets land in perfect friendship and the horizon meets the sky in a sweet embrace. 

It's hard for me not to say, "It's the most beautful place in the world," because, in hindsight, I couldn't pick what place out of all we saw was the most beautiful. 

Big Sur is truly a dream. The weather is perfect, not wavering below 40 degrees in its coolest months and 78 in its hottest. It has gorgeous coastlines, doable hikes, forests with majestic Redwoods and very little phone service. 

boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte

Day 2:  Still in Big Sur

We woke up as early as we were able to, made a simple breakfast of oatmeal (with Reese's peanut butter cups) and coffee, packed up, and hit the road! 

There were a few spots in Big Sur we still wanted to see before turning east away from the coast, so we stopped at Limekiln Park, where we paid the $10 day rate and went on a relatively short hike. At the end of the path, there was a gentle waterfall that made us both smile from our hearts. We spent about 20 minutes there, taking pictures, videos and then in complete silence, just staring at the sky, trees and waterfall.

boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte

Our last stop before going to Sequoia National Park was Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where there's a spectacular view of a waterfall that falls on a stunning beach cove. We got there pretty early, so we still had soft sunlight hitting the foliage on the mountains,  making the scene a very peaceful one.

There was only one exit on the Pacific Coast Highway to head east, so we (luckily) had to stay on it for a while, so we got a chance to see a few of the cliffside bridges that are famous there. The viewpoints were already getting full of tourists taking pictures, but it was still manageable to make a quick stop and experience the views. 

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

Day 2:  From Big Sur to Sequoia National Park

This was a pretty funny day.  We left Big Sur wearing light clothing on a beautiful, semi-warm day. A few hours later, passing through rolling hills and witnessing the moon rise,  we made it to the entrance of Sequoia National Park. The ranger at the booth asked whichcampground we were staying at that night, and once we named the one we had found online, she let us know there was a foot of snow on the ground at that campground. Turns out it was about 20 miles up the road and about 25 degrees colder than the lower-altitude one. Still wearing tanktops, we decided to set up camp at Potwisha Campground, the obvious choice - the warmer one. It was still about 40 degrees that night and I was pretty cold despite my awesome sleeping bag, so I can't imagine what Lodgepole campground was like. As soon as we arrived, we set up our tent in record time (for second-time campers) and locked all scented products in our site's locker to prevent bears from coming. I'll do whatever it takes to keep bears away, so I even locked up my cosmetics. The way I see it - you can never be too safe when it comes to bears! After a fun trip to the "town " of Three Rivers, we came back and slept. The next day, we made breakfast again and drove up the mountain to see the Giant Sequoias! 

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Day 3: Sequoia National Park 

Majestic.

Beautiful.

Impressive.

Magical.

Inspiring.

Massive.

Regal.

Humbling.

Those are just a few of the top adjectives I'd use to describe these gorgeous trees. It's almost as if they're not even trees, they're so much more than that. They've been around for over 3,000 years! Silence and awe surrounded the trail as we walked through these beauties. I could spend all day staring up at them trying to wrap my head around how this came to be.

Baby Sequoias compared to the Big Boys

Baby Sequoias compared to the Big Boys

Day 4: Lone Pine

Oh, Lone Pine. A last-minute addition to our schedule and, to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. Not much of a planner myself, I didn't even look it up before going, mostly because I knew Dan really wanted to go to this town where "a lot of old western movies were filmed." As it's proven time and time again, Dan always chooses the things I end up loving the most. He chose a cozy cabin for us to stay in at a ranch that was nestled at the bottom of Mount Whitney, overlooking the entire valley. I don't have enough space here to describe just how much I loved Lone Pine. The quiet, tiny cabin with no electricity and only wall propane lamps, the sunrise and sunset, the starry night over the mountains, the intriguing shape (and name) of the Alabama Hills, the open space, the neutral and rich colors, the rock shop (!!!). Everything about Lone Pine was peaceful and simple. 

Road to our tiny cabin in Lone Pine. Taken with a 30-second exposure in pitch-black nighttime.

Road to our tiny cabin in Lone Pine. Taken with a 30-second exposure in pitch-black nighttime.

Our cabin :)

Our cabin :)

boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte

Day 4: Mount Whitney

I have to admit, we got tremendously lucky with the weather. I have no idea what any of these places look like when they don't look like perfect postcard towns, but I surely am thankful for the climate we got! I'll repeat again how bizarre it is to experience various climates in a single day. 

We woke up early in our cute cabin, packed up and drove up to the mountain to the base of Mount Whitney to at least say we did that (rather than risk our lives and climb Mount Whitney completely unprepared). We were the only ones there beside all the bears the many signs warned us about, and we found a cool waterfall! It was half-frozen, so we climbed up its side to get a close-up view of the water splashing within the confinements of ice. 

Taken within 20 minutes of the picture above.

Taken within 20 minutes of the picture above.

Day 4: Death Valley

This was a really fun drive, once again. We had just left Mount Whitney and started stripping layers off as we approached Death Valley. The drive was so great because we stopped a lot to collect rocks from the side of the road (Lone Pine turned us both into rock experts, naturally) and also took advantage of the empty, long roads to take some scenery pictures! 

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Mesquite Flat Dunes (turn out they're not flat)

We also stopped at the Mesquite Flat Dunes and spent some time there taking in the impressive view. I just can't get over how many different landscapes are in view from these places. In the dunes, you have the amazing foreground of the smooth, silky sand, and then in the background you see tons of shadowy mountains. Of course, if you look down, you see the cracked ground. It's Death Valley, after all.

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Day 4: Death Valley

I get lost in the beauty of what we saw. The moonlight over Zabriskie Point was something I'll absolutely never forget. The color it emits onto your skin and onto the earth is indescribable, but the feeling it gives off is of peace.  

We arrived just in time to see the moon peek through the mountain before it soared high in the sky. Something I won't forget either was the out-of-nowhere wind storm we were caught in. It was almost impossible to stand upright to take in the sights. We had to crouch down near the edge to simply stare at everything around us. 

Though our time at Zabriskie Point was short, the sights will be ingrained in my head forever! It was absolutely breathtaking.

boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
Zabriskie Point. Lit by pure moonlight

Zabriskie Point. Lit by pure moonlight

Day 5: Sedona

After spending the night in Las Vegas and getting out of there as quickly as possible, we finally made it to Sedona. Our AirBnB was up on a hill that overlooked a long line of Red Rocks and was everything we needed and more! Our host welcomed us and gave us the quick tour of her home, which was decorated with warm and inviting decor. We immediately felt at home and relaxed by the fire after freshening up. It was such a blessing being there. 

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We spent Thanksgiving day hiking through Soldier's Pass Trail, where we may or may not have gotten lost trying to find the hidden route to the arches, but alas, we found them (next page)! I'd heard a lot about the energy in Sedona due to its vortexes, and I can attest that it's definitely a thing. The entire time in Sedona was different than the other places we visited. Perhaps it was a combination of our perfect AirBnB, the holiday and the vortexes, but being in Sedona was truly healing. I honestly can't wait to go back and make a tradition out of it. It's the type of place you truly connect with the earth and feel fully alive.

After a wonderful home-cooked Thanksgiving meal of ham and scalloped potatoes, we rested in the living room, sipped on wine, read, sat by the fire, watched the sun set over the mountains and just plain r-e-l-a-x-e-d. It was absolutely perfect and I can't wait to go back to Sedona! 

boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte
boudoir.photography.newyork.nyc.tuttidelmonte

Day 8-10: Tucson

The last leg of our trip was spent with Dan's parents in Tucson. We did so much with them! The first day after we arrived, they took us to the Desert Museum where we saw all kinds of animals, including some raptors! It was a mellow and relaxing time during our visit.

After dinner on our last night, Dan took me out on the golf cart so I could take pictures of the sky (he knows me so well). Every time I step into a vast space where I can see the full sky, I am blown away at how small we are. It's a scary but freeing feeling. Words cannot express how much I feel when I'm under the stars. As if it knew what I needed, the sky opened up and remained dark enough for me to witness the Milky Way galaxy. I was blown away! Staying really still, Dan and I managed to get a great shot to end our trip on... below is the very last picture taken on my camera. I think it sums up our trip perfectly: the world has so much beauty for us to see, in light and in darkness, and if you're truly still, you get to see it all.

Breathtaking night sky over Tucson, Arizona

Breathtaking night sky over Tucson, Arizona

Last thing! If you haven't already, watch our short video of the entire trip. I hope you enjoy the bits of beauty captured.


LIVING SEXY IS... Loving Yourself

I apologize in advance for all the noise and interruptions - but it was our only chance to get this interview done before Jessie’s big trip out west. I hope you enjoy it regardless :)

Sometimes life is unfair. This is one of those cases. Not even a full year has passed since I met this beautiful soul, and she is literally driving across the country as we speak to set up roots in California. 

The power of our minds is an undeniable force. It gives me the ability to write that first paragraph and immediately see the negative spin I gave it. So I’ll try once again.

Life is truly full of blessings. Not even a year ago I met Jessie, a gorgeous woman who has a giving soul, a joyful spirit and an infectious smile - and though it has been short, my life has been blessed by knowing her. 

That’s much better!

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Jessie is a successful entrepreneur, with her very own style blog/ brand - Style & Pepper, business coaching services and even a hilarious podcast - which she hosts with her adorable and sweet hubby Gerard, called Marriage is Funny. But what separates her from the rest is her heart. Through her big blue eyes, you can see a heart that loves to give, a heart that loves to share, a heart that is both tender and strong and a heart that loves. 

I have to admit I totally “tricked” Jessie into participating in this feature. Well, maybe the word “tricked” is a bit of a stretch, but let’s just say Jessie and Gerard thought they were only meeting us for goodbye drinks, and then I said, “Guess what!? I brought my camera and microphone! We’re doing a shoot and you’re going to be on my blog. So start thinking of what you think living sexy is.” To which she answered, “Here? Ok, let’s order a drink and then do it."

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boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper

Done. Simple as that. That’s one of the things I love about Jessie (and a lot of my friends for that matter). They’re always up for my shenanigans. And Jessie is no different.

I suggested we meet at one of Soho’s cutest hidden bars, Freeman’s Restaurant, because it’s tucked into a tiny alley and its decor and facade are a photographer’s dream - tea lights, hues of blue, art murals and soft natural light.

boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper
boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper
boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper

It took us about 10 minutes to take these pictures and shoot this video, and then another five minutes to record the [interrupted] interview. I mention this because it gives you a feel for what “Living Sexy” means. It’s not posed, it’s not staged, it’s a lifestyle. It’s just as much the moments when you're getting ready as they are the moments when you ARE ready - and everything in between.

When I put Jessie on the spot and asked what her idea of living sexy is, she said it’s “loving yourself.” There’s so much to unpack in that statement, because loving yourself also means forgiving yourself, it means giving yourself permission and it means being ok with not having it all together all the time. In day-to-day situations, it would be fantastic if we could all love ourselves fully in order to act from a place of groundedness and love. But boy is that easier said than done. Throw into that the desire to look and feel great and you’ve set yourself up for a doozy of a challenge. 

//

"We have these parts about us that maybe we don’t like, or maybe don’t match up to what they’re supposed to be, and i think the natural reaction is to not like that part of ourselves - or to want to change it - and i think the change can only come when you can acknowledge it and embrace it. 

  //

boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper

Thanks to my interview with Jessie, I think I finally figured one of life’s secrets. Loving yourself is about recognizing the things you love - and doing them. But it’s also about noticing what you need in order to feel loved - and asking for them. 

//

"Loving yourself is kinda an interesting concept because it could sound selfish or it could sound vain in many cases, and it’s something that I think people are fairly uncomfortable with… but by giving yourself permission to love yourself can really allow you to release so many other parts of your life that are preventing you from feeling a certain way."

//

This idea of self-care is a practice all of us can and should do. Just like cars can’t run on empty tanks, a person cannot spread pure love without already having it in his/her heart. It all starts with self-love. Take this as an opportunity to love yourself first so you may begin giving, doing and being with love. 

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//

It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving. 

- Mother Teresa - the queen of love and giving

//

Here are a few more pictures we were able to get of the whole gang! Pictured are Jessie's husband, Gerard, and her brother, Joey. Their smiles suffice in making my day brighter. I'm even throwing in some with yours truly, as this was a special afternoon. 

boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper
boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper
boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper
boudoir.photography.nyc.tuttidelmonte.jessie.styleandpepper

Much love to you three, and THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing this chapter of your lives with me/ us. I love you dearly.

Tutti

 

Here's the video!