A few weeks ago I embarked on an adventure that would take me down the western coast of the United States, via airplane and automobile, to explore the west coast off the beaten path. I’m so excited to finally share my discoveries with you, and announce the launch of an exciting sweepstakes starting today. We’ve partnered with Beach Tomato, a UK-based website with a focus on travel and all things beach, to give you the chance to win a west coast dream trip of your own, along with a Free People shopping spree! Click here to enter the competition, and be sure to check back here daily to read more about the destinations! Up first, Portland, Oregon – let the journey begin!
I fell in love with Portland before the plane even hit the ground. I just sat and stared out the window, in awe of the landscape…rolling bluish green tree-covered hills, like wrinkles in a sheet, as far as the eye can see, and then Mt. Hood, so close you feel like you could touch its snow-capped peak. Of all the destinations I would be visiting, Portland was the only one new to me. There’s something so exciting about going to a place you’ve never been to before… it’s a journal full of blank pages waiting to be filled with stories, doodles, and photographs.
I arrived in Portland in the early afternoon and had some time to kill before checking in at my hotel. The first place I went was Free People Portland – I wanted to get some insider tips from the local FP girls on what to see and do, and they had some amazing suggestions (thank you ladies!). I jotted down too many notes for my short stay in the city, but at least I knew where I was headed next.
N. Mississippi Ave is a quiet street in the NE outskirts of the city. Here you’ll find quaint houses, quirky shops, vintage, bars, and loads of character. The laid back atmosphere of this street made me feel instantly at ease and if I lived in Portland it is definitely where I would spend a lot of my time. I checked out some of the shops and really liked Animal Traffic, a vintage and western clothing store with women’s items sorted by labels like “virgin suicides” and “90210 love.” I picked up a floral printed skirt with buttons down the front and a leather and western-printed tote bag that I couldn’t walk away from.
Another fun store was Flutter, an eclectic array of vintage and unique items that I could have spent hours picking through. I walked out with a harmonica and then went to another place recommended by our FP Portland girls, Interurban, for happy hour. This laid back bar was just my speed, and had sunny backyard seating and a rotating beer and cheese pairing during happy hour – yum.
I knew I wouldn’t have much time in the city on the following day, and there was still one more neighborhood I wanted to explore, so I reluctantly left N. Mississippi Ave and made my way down to the Hawthorne District, in the southeast section of the city. Hawthorne is said to be Portland’s version of Haight Ashbury, a counterculture scene with vintage shops, bars, record stores, and quirky cafes. It is another chill neighborhood where I could see myself spending time, and is also home to one of the best vintage stores I’ve ever been to – House of Vintage. It’s the type of place you need hours to fully peruse and absorb. Around every corner is another room packed to its brim with treasures, the walls holding countless stories and long-forgotten memories.
After a long day I returned to my hotel, the Vintage Plaza in downtown Portland. I went to bed early, my mind racing with thoughts about what I was doing and where I’d go next. Traveling alone is so empowering. It makes you realize strengths you never knew you had – you learn so much about yourself, and you surprise yourself with how readily you adapt to being on your own in an unfamiliar place. You do things you normally wouldn’t do, like conversing with strangers, trying new foods or activities, taking extra time to really think about things, or write in a journal. After day one I felt so grateful for the opportunity to make this journey on my own and so excited about the road ahead of me. I fell asleep dreaming of the next day’s journey, to the coast…
Enter our Off the Beaten Path Sweeps.
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