A silhouette of the American cowboy

After watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly earlier today, I’m in a western state of mind.

This gorgeous shot by John Partipilo just won a Feature Photography award from the Society of Professional Journalists.  Originally published in The Tennessean, Partipilo sought to capture an image that exemplified the spirit of his home state as he traveled through back roads and rural areas in search of a place where ‘the past doesn’t seem so far away.’  Tennessee’s ever-evolving landscape led to ‘fewer farms, more housing developments and busier roads’ than he remembers seeing as a boy, but the American cowboy still remains.

“Shadows of What Was,” by John Partipilo, The Tennessean

“Shadows of What Was,” by John Partipilo, The Tennessean

Gazing at glowing prismatic hot springs in Jackson, WY

One of my favorite places out west is Jackson, WY. A real cowboy kind of town and home to Yellowstone National Park, Jackson is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

These crazy color formations are induced by geothermal activity. Salt water underneath the solid volcanic rock heats the hot springs to varying temperatures, allowing for striking hues of yellow, red, blue, gold, brown, green to swirl around the surface.

Yellowstone National Park, Jackson, WY. Photo taken by fellow traveler Matthew Levison

Brilliantly colored hot springs at Yellowstone National Park, Jackson, WY. Photo taken by fellow traveler Matthew Levison.

A taste of bohemian South Africa

Eagles Ridge Country House in Stutterheim, South Africa has an organic, barefoot, play in the forest all day kind of vibe.  

Click here to read my Eagles Ridge article on Forbes.com.

At first glance, Eagles Ridge appears to be a unique amalgamation of warm, contemporary and angular aesthetics.

The pleasant surprise is the interior, which looks like a luxury tree house.

Pure paradise, right outside the window.

Dream-catchers hang on trees that carve flower-filled paths around the property.

This is the entryway to the hut at Eagles Ridge where the Xhosas, a well-known South African tribe, perform traditional ceremonies and rituals.

A Xhosa woman preparing mealie, a type of flour made of corn.

Playing around the Eagles Ridge restaurant-art gallery before saying goodbye…an exhibit in and of itself.

A traveler, jewelry designer and child of the stars

On my recent trip to Los Angeles I picked up this Vanessa Mooney necklace from Fred Segal in Santa Monica.  Mooney is a Hollywood darling – she’s the great-granddaughter of Harry Warner, one of the original Warner Bros. – and she designs funky, handcrafted jewelry in her LA studio.  An extensive world traveler, Mooney’s pieces are often characteristic of a place’s culture, natural beauty and tradition.

The necklace pictured above is gold-plated with cubic zirconia and wooden skull beads.  It’s nothing fancy, but the contrast of dark wood against CZ creates a little extra sparkle – I’d describe it as delicate and slightly tribal.

Peace in the bustling City of Angels

Meet Terranea, a luxury eco-resort and spa in Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, CA.

This is a sprawling property to say the least: the 102 acre estate is spread out over bluffs that stand high over royal blue Pacific waters. Terranea is a rocky, coastal piece of perfection and is one of the most visually appealing places in SoCal.

Naturally occurring succulents grow on the bluffs overlooking the ocean

Endless wildflowers, succulents, palm and pine trees surround this expertly landscaped, Mediterranean-style eco-resort. I stayed in a spa bungalow as part of my ‘Wellness Retreat at The Bungalows’ package, which includes a fitness consultation, fitness classes, daily complimentary breakfast and lunch from the organic Spa Cafe (protein smoothies, specialty frittatas…the good stuff) and a reduced rate on spa treatments.

A variety of fresh squeezed juices, cookies and tea are found in the room every afternoon. Exercise equipment is available for use in every spa bungalow to further promote health and wellness.

A Mediterranean-style bungalow at Terranea

Guests have eight choices for food and beverages on the property…and this lovely, organic meal was my favorite. We started with a fresh juice taster, followed by a farmhouse quiche, green crunch salad (which was amazing!), olive oil poached albacore tuna and raw chocolate avocado pudding, a complicated recipe several years in the making.

A spa luncheon, served oceanside

Olive oil poached albacore tuna

The 50,000 square-foot oceanfront spa at Terranea is quite beautiful and exudes a SoCal, casual luxury vibe. During my reflexology treatment the spa therapist tapped my shoulder to show me a whale swimming out in the distance. Reflexology is an in-depth foot and ankle massage and it’s hard to master; the treatment at Terranea was the best I’ve ever had.

Spa time with travel writers

To sum it up in a word, the experience at Terranea feels like a revival. It’s the best way to kick back…every place should have a Terranea nearby.

The real deal behind who goes where

The average air travel destination for the U.S.?  Canada, or as Quartz put it, ‘ in the middle of  a Québécois forest.’  And France?  Well, it’s France (…unsurprisingly).

Quartz calculated the average point of origin and destination for every country in the world, using the database OpenFlights.  The results illustrate how countries contribute to the ‘balance of global air travel.’  The average destination reveals a nation’s ‘migratory bias, nearby tourist attractions and the countries with which it does business.’  Cool.

‘Sense of Place’: seeing the world’s inexplicable beauty through travel

Travel is a faithful reminder that natural, unadulterated magnificence exists everywhere.

National Geographic is a master in the art of travel photography.  From every corner of the earth, each shot is taken at the perfect moment.  These untouched, exquisite photographs are here to make you smile.  Click me to see the rest Nat Geo’s gallery Sense of Place.

Kauai, Hawaii

Agra, India

Agra, India

Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia

Canyon, Arizona

Elean Donan Castle, Scotland

Lake Bogoria, Kenya

Lake Bogoria, Kenya

Puerto Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Puerto Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Helena, Montana

Helena, Montana

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Milky Way, Arizona

The ethos of rural South Africa

Meet Mama Tofu, a South African legend and Xhosa tribe matriarch. A sagacious leader of Xhosa tradition, Mama Tofu offers lessons of time-honored wisdom and love.

At 93 years of age, the blue-eyed Mama Tofu counsels 20 some-odd girls (many of them are her grandchildren and great-grandchildren) who live with her in a small village called Ngxingxolo, near East London. She advises them on how to find husbands and how to be a good wife, all with a wink and a dash of irreverent humor.

Mama Tofu is a storyteller. Her life as a cultural luminary has been chronicled and celebrated by many famous publications over the years. She survived all of the stark political changes in South Africa; most notably, the beginning and the end of Apartheid.

The Xhosas are known for their special language of “clicks,” a phenomenal and rare form of tongue clicking communication (which is also called Xhosa) found in remote villages in South Africa. It’s an amazing thing to watch and hear, and the language is a dying craft.

In Xhosa tradition, a family’s wealth is measured by how many cows they have. The prospective husband’s family must pay a “lobola” (a lobola is a South African term for a set payment to the future bride’s family, and the method of payment varies per family, per tribe) in the form of 10 or so cows, says Mama Tofu.

She made it very clear that the woman should know his clan, where he’s from and confirm that he “definitely has a job.” Ha. There’s nothing quite like love lessons from Mama.

The girls shown below are performing a dance for us as we leave their village. I was honestly so impressed; they have a completely natural sense of rhythm.

And…this is why I love travel.