Reflecting in the Redwoods, Big Sur

Few places in this world will make you reflect on the life you chose like Big Sur, California. Unless you chose to make a life living amongst the Giant Redwoods overlooking the wild California coastline from a cliffside yurt. 

If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s difficult to justify the lives we’ve created as modern humans. Were we really intended to spend our days and nights sitting in an office with our necks hunched forward, eyes straining for hours peering into the synthetic glow of our computer screens, our legs and spine cramping from days-months-years of this sedentary industry? Had this been the work we were designed for, would our bodies not have evolved differently? 

No. If we’re honest with ourselves we would recognize this lifestyle for what it is, unnatural. The aches and pains we feel in our bodies from the atrophying effects of this life aren’t necessary. If we’re honest with ourselves we would realize that we might be better suited for walking, running, jumping, lifting, pulling, climbing, hunting, sweating, loving, creating, and expressing. As opposed to spending our lives in pursuit of the largest deposit into our bank account regardless of what this means to our physical and emotional constitution, we might choose to spend our lives on a labor which also enriches our living experience, thus allowing us to develop into a healthier happier version of our natural-self. The “pursuit of happiness” may be due for an updated definition. Big Sur helps us formulate this new definition.  

For generations people have come to Big Sur to reconnect. To recharge their bodies and minds by reengaging with an environment and lifestyle dramatically different from what we are accustomed to, but one which we are better suited. It’s no coincidence that visitors to Big Sur tend to have similar, “welcome home” experiences when they arrive. Some say that they believe they lived here in previous lives as Esalen Indians, traders, or Spanish settlers. Others grew up reading the works of Robinson Jeffers, Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller; returning, for the first time, to the place of vast natural beauty that so inspired the musings of these intensely creative people. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Big Sur helps rekindle a primitive fire which in our modern lives has died down to a barely glowing ember. 

Camping under the bough of a California Redwood may be the one of the best ways to experience Big Sur, but the vast network of local accommodations are a terrific balance of connection to the natural environment and modern luxuries. Not a bad way to be reintroduced to the “real world”. An accommodation gateway experience, if you will. Take our word for it, after a dose of native Big Sur hospitality you will find yourself pursuing harder doses of the natural life to calm the anxiety of your ever-restless primitive self. 

This is a small piece of paradise. The Redwood Giants are your hosts, the ancient coastline your lobby. 

This is Big Sur, California.

This is the Modern Innkeeper. 

Often, when following the trail which meanders over the hills, I pull myself up in an effort to encompass the glory and the grandeur which envelopes the whole horizon. Often, when the clouds pile up in the north and the sea is churned with white caps, I say to myself: “This is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked out on from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.”
— Henry Miller

Paradise is a Beach in Tulum

The modern innkeeper comes in many shapes and sizes. Some greet you with a car at the airport, while others a set of keys placed under the second brick to the left of the garage door. Still others, as was the case on a recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, find it most appropriate to welcome their guests with a large bowl of tropical fruit and a bottle of tequila. 

At first you are taken back by the thought of a bottle of tequila as a welcoming gift. I mean, what are we, on vacation or something? Who could possibly require an entire bottle of tequila during their five day stay at The Royal Resorts in Puerto Morelos? However, somewhere between digging your aching toes into the warm white sand and sipping a margarita at the seemingly endless bar at the endless pool, you realize now is the time. 

Now is the time to enjoy that second margarita. Now is the time to enjoy an in-room massage followed by an hour and a half soak in the jacuzzi tub on the balcony of your suite overlooking the Caribbean Ocean. Now is the time to lay on the floor of your room naked and enjoy the cool breeze coming through the double doors into your room, to eat an entire mango, and it is certainly the time to drink some more of your complimentary tequila. You cannot differentiate the effects of the alcohol and the total relaxation induced euphoria you are experiencing from your first day on the Yucatan Peninsula.

That last shot is basically commanding you to put on your damp bathing suit and get back to that powder white sand. That powder white sand is basically commanding you to stay on your lounge chair for the remainder of the day. You are happy to oblige. 

The following day and an hour down the road you arrive in Tulum. 

This is where Mexico comes to “Riviera”. The Most Interesting Man In The World has his vacation home here. Not really, but Pablo Escobar did, actually. This is definitely one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, it is sprinkled with boutique hotels, private vacation rentals, and modern eco-retreats, and it is without a doubt the most spectacular selection of yoga studios you have ever seen. Tulum had you at “Hola”. 

Your check in at La Zebra coincides perfectly with the warmest time of the day. You are greeted with a margarita, naturally, and taken to your beach-side cabana. The roof is thatched, the window shades are white linen, and a large painting of Frida and her monkey adorns the wall above your bed. Frida mentions you should probably check out lunch in the dining area. She recommends the shrimp, octopus, an bacon tacos. It turns out Frida has amazing taste. Actually, all of the food at La Zebra is incredible. The details. They get it. 

After lunch a short walk down the beach leads you to Coqui Coqui, a tastefully appointed boutique hotel, perfumeria, and spa. This place exudes Tulum-refinement. A style that is a mixture of beach gypsy-formal and the hippest modern Mexican swagger. If Tulum was a clothing line, you would buy it here. You purchase a linen Kaftan and an hour massage. 

You were not prepared for this massage. Private studio, hovering over the Caribbean, tropical essential oils, you vow to never return to real life, at least not entirely. The Coqui Coqui proprietary perfume you purchased will help make this vow a reality.

This is winter on the Yucatan Penninsula. 

This is the Modern Innkeeper.  

La Zebra

Coqui Coqui

Hartwood

Grand Residences

A Sensory Experience at Beniya Mukayu, Japan

Blossoming cherry trees line the entrance, regal escorts hinting at what awaits. 

There was a time in your life when you believed the “red carpet” was the grandest of greetings, the notion seems a bit conventional now. Funny. You barely notice the raindrops beginning to bead off your luggage; the warm Spring air. 

The whispering scent of vetiver and cedar provide stark contrast to the stale airport musk still clinging to your blouse. Incense? You think to yourself, “this is not the incense I remember from high school”. No, your hosts are not covering stench with scent, they are curating your sensory experience and this is just the beginning. 

You are relieved of your bags and escorted to the library. Someone has obviously put in time deciding what type of art will adorn the study walls. It is spartan but passionate, modern and timeless, stark while explicitly embellished. So comforting. 

A vetiver wisp. The blossoms fall like rain drops. Petals lead the way.    

You are offered a warm towel that smells like chamomile. The towel is refreshing, but the glass of fresh pressed pear juice was ethereal. Having been pressed only moments earlier, the pear solids are suspended in the sweet froth that floats on top of the juice. Your first bite, a drink of pear. 

The environment is emptiness in its most perfect form. The lack of embellishment emphasizes the definitiveness of the details. Nothing exists without purpose on this property. Every empty space is a space to fill with freedom and light. 

The airport is a distant memory. It does not exist simultaneously with this space. You realize that you may have absolutely no context for the journey you are about to embark on. This environment evokes the deepest sense of calm. For the first time, you realize it is being coaxed from within you. Your hosts are introducing you to their meditation. The discovery of each detail allows you to slip further into your sacred space.  

This is only the greeting, the first ten minutes. 

This is Spring at Beniya Mukayu, one of the great small Inns of the world, in Yamashiro Onsen, Kaga, Ishikawa, Japan.

This is the Modern Innkeeper.