California Dreamin'

To journey without being changed, is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and to be transformed by the journeying is to be a pilgrim.
— Mark Nepo

My most recent “journey” took me to the West Coast. Escaping New York in the winter - even if only for one month - was the first thing on my mind. I won’t pretend it was anything nomadic, chameleon or pilgrim-like in it’s intent. I was just cold and I needed a break. If you ask an LA native, they were having a “terrible” winter too. They had no idea about the Polar Vortex we New Yorkers were enduring.

We (my sweet pup and emotional support animal, Milo) set out for our first stop: Hollywood. We were there for Oscar’s weekend and to teach our annual workout class for the producers of Live with Kelly & Ryan, called ‘Fit for the Oscars.’ The weather (I know, I’m obsessed) was perfect. Unlike the year before, the cloudless skies were crystal blue and the sun was shining on us as we made our way high up Runyon Canyon. Lots of laughs and a great workout!


Thankfully, Hollywood was just a brief stop before our more peaceful journey began. The following 10 days were spent in Venice Beach, training a few clients (former New Yorkers who managed to successfully escape years ago) and interviewing personal trainers for our LA expansion of Trainers in Transit.

Success! We landed a fabulous trainer, Jena, who will help us make the leap and keep our west coasters healthy and fit. We are so thrilled to have her on board!


Venice was sort of a “working vacation;” I discovered a beautiful meditation studio where I took daily classes, as well as a yoga space across the street with amazing instructors. Nearby, I enjoyed delicious vegan food and so very many healthy dining options ... I was in heaven! Venice also enticed me into trying Cryotherapy for the first time. A cute, little spot with a friendly staff and a welcoming vibe lured me in. Just 10 minutes of this ice cold vapor blowing over a tight area of my lower back worked wonders. The feeling of relief (however fleeting) was incredible. Before leaving LA for San Diego, I was able to catch up with some friends, share a few great meals and of course, make a quick trip to the dispensary for their coveted CBD oil!

There is no greater magic than meditation.To transform the negative into the positive. To transform darkness into light - that is the miracle of meditation.

Milo and I were now ready for the actual vacation part of our trip. We drove through the horrendous LA traffic, arriving in San Diego about 4 hours later. Exhausted and ready for a nap, we checked into a fabulous house in Del Mar, situated directly on the sand adjacent to a DOG BEACH! We were spending this week with my boyfriend and he too was thrilled with our unbeatable proximity to the endless opportunities for fishing and surfing.

The next day began with what would be the first of many , many hiking excursions. Torrey Pines. It doesn’t get much more spectacular. Expansive ocean views in one direction and endless mountains in the other take your breath away. Among the many experiences that the coming week would bring was The Self Realization Fellowship Temple in Encinitas. founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920 and dedicated to his spiritual and humanitarian work. This place was incredible.

Alongside the temple we found beautiful meditation gardens as well as the Ashram Center & Retreat. Upon entering through the double iron gates, a stone staircase paved the way to brightly colored wild flowers, leading to multiple levels for seated meditation overlooking the cliffs into the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

There is in indescribable feeling of spiritual awareness that envelops you as you rest upon these benches. Before even beginning to meditate or reflect on the timelessness of this holy place, you begin to experience a sense of peace and communion. My words will not properly articulate the feeling so I encourage you to visit this sacred place.

Another highlight was in Solana Beach: an off-the-beaten-path hike called Annie’s Canyon. This canyon is found on an eco-preserve overlooking some wetlands; it’s a short and not very strenuous trail. In fact, it would have been unremarkable had we not explored beyond the beaten path. When we found a narrow incline (think: turn sideways to fit) up a sandstone rock formation, we decided to follow it! We only got through it after squeezing (and panicking and yelling), and regretting that 3rd slice of pizza.

Trembling my way up the canyon, I spotted a patch of blue sky and simultaneously exhaled. For any of you who know me, you know that I am extremely claustrophobic. I have been known to suffer panic attacks in small spaces, and the feeling of being confined is my worst nightmare. So why did I do this you ask? I’m not entirely sure. I certainly tried to back down. I kept hearing this voice saying, “You’re doing it. You’re almost there. Keep going.” It was an actual human voice. Not the one in my head. That one was saying “I’ve seen ‘127 hours’…I know how this ends.” Turns out I didn’t have to sever my arm with a dull knife AND I overcame my fear. Or did I? Can I claim victory if I never plan on doing it again? I’m not so sure.



Last stop: Fitness Convention. This California dream culminated in a very fitting (pun intended) way. The International Health, Racquet and Sports Association hosts an annual conference and trade show in various cities, with this year’s being in downtown San Diego. Perfect timing.

I met up with a former colleague and we immersed ourselves in 3 days of learning, experimenting and sampling all things health and fitness; leaving more educated, encouraged and motivated to bring the latest in fitness innovation to my clients! I just hope they appreciate all the research that this trip entailed all for their benefit, of course. 

Amanda Gay