Written by: Amy Scalia
At UpWest, we're always on the lookout for stories about people living the UpWest lifestyle - connecting with nature, finding a better balance and seeking calm and a deeper level of comfort. Our recent seasonal shoot out West, in Southern California, offered the perfect environment for discovery.
An UpWest road trip isn’t just getting from one destination to the next. It’s an experience. And on our SoCal trip, that experience included gathering farm-fresh fruit in Camarillo, a humpback whale sighting on a hike through Channel Islands, sunrise yoga on the Santa Barbara beach and taking in nature’s beauty and new discoveries around every corner.
An UpWest road trip also means engaging with people in the community. In SoCal, we came across these unique personalities and wanted to share how they live UpWest.
The Limitless Hiker
Uncovering and enjoying the world around her - and helping others do the same - is what Jenny Kotlyar, founder of Limitless Hiker, now does for a living. Back in 2014, she started to feel like there had to be more to life outside of her career, so she set out on an adventure to find it.
“My dad traveled a lot for work, so I found myself doing the same thing. I was traveling a lot, but it was for work. I just felt unfulfilled, like I wasn’t seeing or experiencing enough for me,” she recalls. “A friend suggested we go hiking, which we did - completely unprepared. I was so blown away by the peaks and backcountry lakes, that I knew I wasn’t done with them. I just knew that I’d have to do things smarter the next time around.”
That, she did. Today, she’s thru-hiked the High Sierra Trail and sections of the John Muir Trail, climbed multiple 14,000 ft. mountains in California and Colorado, and checked off several bucket list adventures like Half Dome and Havasupai. But what’s most rewarding and soul-quenching for her is that she now shares her trips and tips on her blog, as a hiking and outdoor adventure coach. “I love helping people go from anxious and overwhelmed to empowered and self-sufficient,” she says. “I know that empowerment goes far beyond the trails. Knowing I’m impacting lives like that is why I love this so much. For sure my ‘why.’”
While it’s tricky now having her favorite hobby double as a career, Kotlyar says she recharges by setting aside time on her hikes that is just for her. She says journaling helps chronicle all her learnings, ideas, and thoughts about the beauty and experiences she soaked in throughout her day.
When she’s not hitting the trails, Kotlyar says she enjoys being creative and painting. She says being creative helps her stay grounded, keeping her mind in the here and now, versus always planning and preparing for the unexpected. But the most important thing she does when not hiking, she says, is rest. “I have a coach who says ‘Rest is part of the work,’ and it’s so true,” she explains. “What I do is really physical, so getting really good sleep and anything to soothe aches and pains and are a must.” Rest also brings more balance and calm to her mentally and emotionally, she says.
The Regenerative Farmer
Mike Roberts also likes spending his days outdoors with boots on the ground. He’s the owner of Baby Root Farm, a permaculture section of McGrath Ranch, which spans 300 acres in Camarillo, California. He's using his one-acre parcel to improve the environment, educate a new generation of farmers, and grow food people can feel good about consuming.
Roberts came to farming after leaving a career in gambling. "I wanted to do something more meaningful for a living," he says. “I was also interested in repairing my health and well-being, so I began to seek out healthier food.” A visit to McGrath Family Farm’s roadside market in 2011 and a chance meeting Phil McGrath, the owner of McGrath Ranch, quickly led to an apprenticeship with McGrath, and the rest is history.
Today, Roberts is the owner of Baby Root Farms and a partner of Farmivore, a fully customizable, delivered-produce box in Ventura County. He also oversees the farm experience at McGrath Family Farm, which caters to everyone from the casual gardener to the seasoned farmer, and even those who aspire to become a farmer. They focus their mentoring and education around regenerative agriculture, a system of agriculture that measurably improves the environment.
“We have workshops, tours, events on the farm, weddings. By any means necessary, we want to get folks on the farm and get connected with the food that they're consuming in the area in which it's growing,” he says. “My lifetime goal is to have a farmer or gardener in every home in the world. I feel like we’re taking steps every day to get there, and I love that. I love making that impact.”
Roberts says he feeds his soul spending time outdoors - not necessarily working, just soaking in the fresh air and quiet fields. Even though he’s a farmer, he says he can never get enough time connecting to nature. “It just makes me happy. It’s really calming out there,” he says. Then, after a long day, he enjoys sitting down to a healthy meal he can feel good about. “That’s how it all got started in the first place,” he laughs.
So, pack a bag, roll down the windows and let the wind toss your hair. Walk barefoot along the rocks and let the seawater rise to your nose. Gaze up at the stars and let the moonlight cast a new shadow on your travel partner. This isn't just another retreat: this is UpWest, something fresh that feeds the soul.