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Glamping In Style: A Luxurious Adventure in Big Sky, Montana

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Glamping In Style: A Luxurious Adventure in Big Sky, Montana

Path to the communal area at Collective Retreats in Big Sky

Path to the communal area at Collective Retreats in Big Sky

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.
— John Steinbeck
Stunning views of Lone Peak from Collective Retreats in Big Sky.

Stunning views of Lone Peak from Collective Retreats in Big Sky.

Stacked firewood for those nightly campfires and s'mores. 

Stacked firewood for those nightly campfires and s'mores. 

Every inch of Montana radiates undeniable allure; from the breathtaking landscapes in every direction, the brisk mountain air, and the all-around warmth shared by people who call this magnificent state home. From the moment we arrived in Bozeman, I was taken by the log cabin decor of the airport (fireplace included!) welcoming us into the "The Treasure State". 

In our four days there, we meandered from Bozeman to Pray, south to Yellowstone, and then on to Big Sky to end our trip with a glamping experience with Collective Retreats that we were super excited about. Following the detailed directions we were sent upon booking, we started to wonder what we were getting ourselves into. As we got further away from the main road into Big Sky, we twisted and turned onto bumpy dirt roads and wondered if we were on the right track. We were. When we reached at the landmark described in the email, there they were- our guides from the retreat waiting for our arrival with a golf cart to transport our bags to the campsite as we walked to check in. (We realized later on it wasn't that far of a distance, but it was a nice bit of separation between our car and the campsite.) 

We felt immediately transported into a Wes Anderson film at the lodge, a gigantic tent decked out with string lights, plaid blankets, and eclectic tchotchkes. Then, we were led along the marked path to our tent, passing the spectacular mirrored lake with the clearest views of Lone Peak cutting across the boundless sky. 

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To say we adored our boho-meets-shelter-mag tent would be an understatement. No detail was too small here, from the Moonrise Kingdom-inspired decor to the mix of textured bedding and rugs that made it so cozy and warm. There were so many moments when we were torn between hunkering down in the tent or going outside to bask in the outdoor air.  

First things first, we settled in. We unpacked our snacks and stored them in the bear box provided behind the tent. (Apparently there had been a few bear sightings so we weren't taking any chances). We cracked open a couple cans of our favorite craft brews we discovered during the trip and lounged on the sheepskin rugs, alternating between admiring the decor inside and views outside over a casual game of Gin Rummy. 

Obsessed with the eclectic (and functional) decor on the side tables.

Obsessed with the eclectic (and functional) decor on the side tables.

Pure coziness.

Pure coziness.

Our favorite craft beer of the trip from  Upslope Brewing Company  in Boulder, CO.

Our favorite craft beer of the trip from Upslope Brewing Company in Boulder, CO.

Cards for the night ahead by the wood burning fireplace in the tent. 

Cards for the night ahead by the wood burning fireplace in the tent. 

Inevitably, there are questions about the bathroom setup at the site. We had own bathroom, directly behind the main tent that might be the most picturesque "outdoor" bathroom ever. Again, all about the details. 

Yes - this is the bathroom, housed in its own tent. 

Yes - this is the bathroom, housed in its own tent. 

Details, details, details. No "roughing it" here. 

Details, details, details. No "roughing it" here. 

A few essentials for our stay.

A few essentials for our stay.

Being completely surrounded by trees, mountains, lake and sky felt extremely therapeutic. Simply sitting on the deck of our tent and gazing at Lone Peak was more than enough for us. There is something about being so captivated by mother nature that makes it easy to disconnect from our digital devices and be present in each other's company. It was almost as if time had stopped and it was solely our little family out in the world.

Whether you're camping or glamping or anything in between, we found that its best not to have much of an agenda after doing all the hard work of planning and making the actual journey. Just letting yourself be guided by intuition, not wearing a watch or phone, challenging yourself to guess time by the position of the sun in the sky, and being aware of how your body is responding to the slower pace- the experience can be one big mind-clearing meditation, your very own mental detox. 

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As the sun started to go down and the Montana sky began its nightly show, we made our way to the main campsite for dinner. Upon check-in, we had ordered the BBQ in a box for two, basically a steak dinner without any of the work. Our box came with a potato salad, pre-seasoned steak, and veggie sides. While we normally enjoy doing all of our bbq prep at home, here we simply threw the steak on the preheated grill and went to watch the sun set over the lake. When we came back to check on the steak, we realized we overcooked it slightly after getting carried away with pictures, but the small trade-off was more than okay. 

We took our time chowing down on steaks while the campfire got prepped. For dessert, our guide brought out s'mores for roasting- not just traditional smores (my personal favorite) but scores of s'more options with peanut butter cups (Aaron's new favorite), Kit Kat and other childhood candies.

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We lingered at the roaring campfire, set against the dramatic backdrop of Big Sky, for as long as Calder let us. After our faces were toasty and our bellies full, we made our way back to the warmth of our tent (the wood burning fireplace was lit and prepped while we were at dinner) and snuggled into the electric blanket tucked underneath the duvet, talking into the night like teenagers.  

Breakast area in the main tent. 

Breakast area in the main tent. 

Our toasty campfire. 

Our toasty campfire. 

Good night and sweet dreams, Montana.

Good night and sweet dreams, Montana.

While glamping can sometimes be the equivalent of a hotel room that happens to be outdoors, there are still a few things I found handy to pack and have on hand...somewhere in between having a few key items to enhance your experience but not going overboard with too much unneeded gear. 

  • Journal + Pen 
  • Your own tea/coffee (if you're picky like me- my morning ritual always involves some some sort of green or jasmine tea) 
  • Camera (Whether you bring an old school point-and-shoot, or full on DSLR, we found it refreshing to put our phones away, but still having something at hand to document our trip)
  • Scented candle (Definitely be aware of where you light the candle but a small scented tealight is always a nice touch to personalizing the space)
  • Wellies / Sneakers / Moccasins (Footwear for inside and outside)
  • Poncho blanket/shawl
  • Thick knit beanie hat
  • Dry Shampoo (When washing your hair just isn't in the cards)
  • Face Wipes 
  • Bug Repellent 
  • Lip Balm (Dry mountain air. Enough said)
  • Layers of clothing
  • Thick Socks
  • Old School Games Twister, Monopoly etc. Nothing better than sitting by the furnace in your tent while the wind is whisking around outside, getting lost in a game of with your loved one(s).

And that's a wrap for this post; would love to hear about your glamping experiences below- off the beaten path sites you've discovered and/or tips you realized along the way!

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Friday Five: 5 Essential Stops in Downtown LA's Arts District

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Friday Five: 5 Essential Stops in Downtown LA's Arts District

We find ourselves hanging out in the Arts District time and time again for so many reasons: the dynamic surroundings...ever changing, ever expanding, the eye-catching boutiques, and so many places to grab a bite or a sip...each one it's own unique vision come to life by their creators. Even as longtime LA residents, we always find a new place to explore every time we're in the neighborhood. There's no shortage of creative-driven businesses and this list is sure to change, but at this moment in time, here are our favorites whether you're a local with a busy schedule or you're simply visiting for the weekend. 


1. Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel: 901 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 | @hauserwirth

The newest "kid" on the block, so to speak, this behemoth gallery has made its home in the former Globe Mills complex, a collection of early 20th century buildings of indoor and outdoor spaces originally used as a grain mill. Keeping the original structure intact with raw touches, the wondrous space has been adapted by Creative Space and Selldorf Architects. The inaugural exhibition, ‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947 – 2016,’ featuring nearly 100 works by 34 artists around the world, is housed in the the four indoor galleries. It's incredibly refreshing to see how well each work of art fits into the space it's installed in, and the amount of breathing room given for the audience to take in the work of the featured artists. 

Beautiful concrete craftsmanship frames the information desk

Beautiful concrete craftsmanship frames the information desk

Installation by  Shinique Smith

Installation by Shinique Smith


2. The Springs

The Springs: 608 Mateo St, Los Angeles, CA 90021 | @thespringsla

Stop for lunch at this industrial-chic LA hyphenate a few minutes away. Functioning as a kitchen and juice bar/yoga studio/infrared sauna/healing spa/event space, The Springs is the ultimate wellness oasis. While it has been open for a few years, (original coverage here) the kitchen was recently revamped by executive chef Jasmine Shimoda and has reopened for breakfast and lunch. Below is the namesake Shimoda Roll, made with all the things that are good for you - tempeh, cucumber, avocado, mizuna, radish sprouts- all wrapped in nori and served with a spash of spicy mayo for dramatic effect (and taste). Both the roll and side salad were incredibly tasty and I left feeling great about nourishing my body with such fresh tasting food that felt prepared with care.

Gorgeous light fills the bar and restaurant space.

Gorgeous light fills the bar and restaurant space.

Shimoda Roll with a side salad

Shimoda Roll with a side salad


3. Shreebs Coffee

Shreebs Coffee: 527 Colyton St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 | @shreebscoffee

Originally a pop-up coffee shop now housed in a revamped shipping container, Shreebs is home to a deceptively simple menu of beverages and bites. Every drink is simple yet perfectly balanced and considered. We are big on tea here at Destination Envy and couldn't resist trying the Pink and Yellow tea. Made with hibiscus tea, lemongrass tea, and a splash of lime and simple syrup, it might have been one of the most delicious cold tea combinations we've had. With tea and biscuit in hand, we took our time sipping it in the courtyard, watching as visitors and locals came, went, chatted, and snapped, enjoying this chic pastel patio that also hosts a yoga class every Saturday morning.  

Saturday mornings at 8am - free yoga on the turf. RSVP  here . 

Saturday mornings at 8am - free yoga on the turf. RSVP here

Pink & Yellow Tea, served with a mini cookie from  Breadlounge

Pink & Yellow Tea, served with a mini cookie from Breadlounge


4. Apolis: Common Gallery

Apolis: Common Gallery: 806 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 | @apolis

Located on a lively walk street: check. Adorable storefront: check. Handpicked selection of inspiring magazines: check. High quality goods sourced from makers around the world: check. In other words, there is no reason not to check out Apolis.  Founders Raan and Shea Parton have created an enticing space that brings to life their philosophy of business empowering social change. 

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5. Westbound

Westbound: 300 South Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90013 | @westbounddtla

End the day (or kick off the evening!) with happy hour drinks and eats at Westbound.  Founded by owner Sarah Meade, the swank space was inspired by the history of the site as a former train station until the 1940s. With a creative mix of house and classic cocktails made using ingredients like pineapple rosemary shrub and chipotle honey, it's the perfect way to kick your feet up after a day of exploring this lively neighborhood.  

Train-style booths lead out to an outdoor patio space

Train-style booths lead out to an outdoor patio space

Oysters with caviar and fermented tangerine ice

Oysters with caviar and fermented tangerine ice


Did I miss one of your favorites? There are still so many places to check out, this may warrant a round 2. Hope to see any must-visits in the comments below! 

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Malihom: A Respite Tucked Away In Balik Pulau

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Malihom: A Respite Tucked Away In Balik Pulau

Away from the resort row in Batu Ferringhi and southeast of the UNESCO hub of Georgetown, a lesser developed area of Penang known as Balik Pulau is home to Malihom. A boutique eco-lodge high up in the jungle with a narrow one lane road leading to it's entrance (there is a simple flashing light system in place to know whether a car is coming down and whether you're clear to ascend), the curvy journey there makes the views on arrival all the sweeter. 

We arrived after a long drive from Kuala Lumpur and were greeted with an icy lemon ginger beverage while checking in. Billed as "your private estate in Penang" on their website, it did feel like we had arrived at the home of a [very fortuitous] friend. Malihom is one of those secluded destinations where you pretty much park yourself there during the duration of your stay and soak in the serenity away from bustling city life. 

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There are 8 separate bungalows at Malihom, all inspired by traditional Thai rice barn designs that sit on stilts off the ground. Paying homage to their origins, they are all named in Thai. Ours was "Khanun", aka jackfruit. Others include "Dhamma", the state of nature, and "Sankhara": progress. 

At Malihom, which means 'village of the fragrant rice', the lower level of the barns are designed with hammocks and patio seating for repose in the fresh mountain air. Having been back to Penang many times since my childhood there, I was pleasantly struck by how much less humidity was present in the high altitude than at sea level.

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After an incredibly windy night, we woke up to an epic sunrise, one of those with every color strewn together in abstract percussion. Without saying, I loved all the sun flare I was able to capture streaming over the balcony of our barn. We lazed around a bit, marveling at the natural beauty of our surroundings before meandering down to breakfast for a meal of tea, fresh papaya, toast, and eggs. 

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Our power lies in our small daily choices, one after another, to create eternal ripples of a life well lived.
— M. Marti
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Ah, the hammock. The icon of leisure. Our favorite spot in our barn. Napping in the afternoon breeze to the gentle swing of the hammock was one of the highlights of our short stay, not including a visit to the infinity pool with it's expansive views.

Below is a short video of the breezy morning we woke up to, set to an instrumental version of Bon Iver's Perth. 

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After a full day of relaxing family time (and lots of picture taking), we gazed out our balcony at the view below before changing and heading back down for another freshly prepared meal. No complaints here.

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Stay

Malihom Kiri N/T 168, Bukit Penara, Mukim 6, 11000 Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia

Online reservations recommended; email malihom.reservation@gmail.com

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Timeless Opulence At The Strand Hotel, Yangon

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Timeless Opulence At The Strand Hotel, Yangon

The city of Yangon, which was a British colony from 1852 until 1948, was a leading port during its heyday at the turn of the 19th century. With it’s stately government buildings, colonial Yangon flaunted some of the finest Victorian architecture still standing east of London.

As Yangon rapidly develops into a modern tourist destination, The Strand Hotel remains a bastion of imperial elegance with its high ceilings, teak floor-to-ceiling windows and lacquered fans. From the main entrance off Strand Road, one is instantly transported back to an era of gentility. 

The day begins with breakfast at the Strand Cafe, where light streams in through the tall windows facing Yangon Road. A selection of Burmese and British specialties are on the menu, and you may order as many items as you please (trust me, i had trouble narrowing down my list to what I would actually be able to eat in one sitting). Although I enjoyed my pomelo salad with mint and then a heaping plate of almond french toast, I regret not tasting the Strand's take on the Burmese national dish, mohinga

On each of its 3 floors, there sits a butler, which says more than I can possibly describe about the throwback vibe of the Strand Hotel. My first step into the suite, with its high ceilings, large windows, and hand carved wood furniture was quite breathtaking. It was clear at that moment why luminaries such as Somerset Maugham, David Rockefeller, and Rudyard Kipling spent time at the Strand. 

After a day of exploring the magnificent pagodas of Yangon, it was a joy to come home to such a palatial room and wash my dusty feet (shoes are not allowed at any places of worship) in the tub with the fragrant amenities. 

A stay wouldn't be complete without a cocktail at the legendary Strand Bar, where, according to the New York Times, "a worldly mélange of hotel guests, expatriates and locals gather to throw back a Dagon Beer". Like every other detail at The Strand, each cocktail is meticulously made and served with roasted peanuts. I sipped my Strand Sour by the window just before departing to Yangon Airport.

Stay:

The Strand Hotel 92 Strand Road, Yangon, Myanmar

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