This summer, thanks to my Kia Motors America Family, I had the opportunity to travel to sunny Santa Barbara, California. The focus of this adventure was reflection and renewal but to me, it became so much more. Let me explain…
When I received an invitation to be a part of the Kia Cadenza & Optima SX-L Experience in Santa Barbara, I was super excited for the opportunity. Every trip that I have taken with Kia has introduced me to new people, experiences, and allowed me to be a part of the growing Kia Family. Every time I travel with Kia, I come home with something new and I was sure that this trip would be no different. Then, small tidbits about the trip started to be released and my excited turned to nervousness and at one point; even fear. I talked myself through the nervousness, reassured myself that adventure is important in life, and packed my bags to get on the plane!
When I first arrived at LAX, I met up with my driving partner, Alice. You may know her better as Alice from the popular website Thrill of the Chases! Luckily she was more than happy to take the wheel of the beautiful Kia Optima SX-L that we had been paired with as I was tired from a long flight with little air, after a night of zero sleep, and may or may not have had a bit of a fear of driving in LA. In addition to great conversation, we stopped off at a few beautiful spots to take in the scenery and grab a few pictures of our ride.
Though the ride was great, neither one of us could wait to arrive at the Belmond El Encanto for the real adventure to begin. As we pulled up to the “hotel” I remember us both saying WOW about the same time. Situated on seven-acres overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean, the Belmond El Encanto, is a Five-Star luxury site that features ninety-two California-styled suites and bungalows. Seriously, saying Five-Star is putting it mildly.
As I walked into my bungalow I was completely taken aback. Everything was gorgeous, perfect, and made me feel cozy and at home immediately. I was greeted by a fluffy king size bed, ginormous (as my daughter would say) walk-in shower, soaking tub, and a private patio. At first, I couldn’t imagine this was all mine. Then, I confirmed that this is somewhere that I wanted to bring my family. That, my friends, speaks volumes.
After a bit of relaxing and taking in the property it was time for our first official gathering… FAMILY DINNER!
Nestled in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara, Loquita welcomed us with Sangria and a family style dinner. This was perfect as every meal I’ve had with Kia feels like family and I tend to find myself smiling from ear to ear. We laugh, talk, hug, and indulge in delicious eats. You can feel the excitement for the trip mounting and everyone is welcome. Dinner, Kia Family style, always makes me feel at home which is exactly what I need when hundreds of miles away from my real home.
Our second day started with leisure time! As an Ohio native, I am trained to thrive on Eastern Standard Time. This typically means that I am up at the crack of dawn anytime I travel. Sounds great, right? Yeah, not so much when it’s 10 PM local time and you are doing everything in your power not to fall asleep and drool on yourself. Still, I was excited for the chance to sit out on the patio of my bungalow and take in the sights and sounds while enjoying breakfast.
Side note, have I ever mentioned how much I love room service? The choices are limited (which is great for someone like me), a professional cooks my meal, AND they bring it to my room! It’s magical.
After breakfast it was time to head to the spa. Oh yes, my friends… thanks to Kia, I was getting a MASSAGE!!! As I lay there stark naked (well, almost…), a situation that normally makes me feel a bit anxious or at least uneasy, I couldn’t help but focus on how vulnerable yet completely at ease I felt. The night before leaving for Santa Barbara, I promised myself that I would face any fears or insecurities that I experienced, that I would take some time for myself, and I would use this time to reflect. That’s exactly what I did for an entire hour while an amazing masseuse worked her magic.
I thought about my family and how I would like us to travel more…experience more… make more memories. I thought about having another baby and how much this would enhance and enrich our lives. I gave thanks and paused for the many blessings in my life. And, for just a short period, I thought about nothing. I focused on my breathing and thought about absolutely nothing.
This time allowed me to prioritize a few things in life, put a few fears to rest, and created a series of new questions about life and where the journey was leading. I’m thankful that I was able to take some time for ME.
After a morning of leisure it was time to depart El Encanto for a day of wine tasting at two beautiful Santa Barbara wineries, Grassini Family Vineyards and Sunstone Winery. The butterflies were swimming in my stomach, I was nervous, and I admittedly felt completely out of place. I know what you are thinking… wow… your life is so difficult. It is when you feel completely out of your realm. Admittedly, I am not a wine drinker. I tend to lean towards cheap beer or a Bloody Mary. If someone asks me about wine, the only thing I am able to say with confidence is that there are red wines and white wines. That’s the extent of my knowledge.
The grounds of Grassini Family Vineyards were breathtaking. There were rows of grapes as far as the eye could see, we learned about the Grassini history, and I lost count of the number of barrels holding wine. As we enjoyed a tasting event, we were greeted with words like bouquet, body, crisp, and bold. I smiled along like a champ, tried every wine that was available, and even found a couple that I found rather pleasant. I think they were on the fruity crisp side, but I’m not certain. I deemed the visit a huge success.
Then we were off to Sunstone Winery. It was time to double down…aka face two demons. Not only would we be tasting a new grouping of wines, we were also slotted to participate in a cooking demo. Now, I cook and I bake. I’m pretty good at it if I do say so myself. I also tend to follow recipes. I keep it simple and I know my limits. YOU GUYS… the winery chef came out and instructed us on making risotto from scratch. First, I had never eaten risotto. I literally had no idea what it was. Second, I’m of German descent. Okay, I don’t really see myself as German but I am definitely not Italian and risotto is an Italian cuisine (I think…right?). Luckily, I was paired up with the amazing Meredith of Sanity in Suburbia and we created some rock star eats.
After spending the day being pampered, drinking wine, and cooking risotto I was completely spent. It was time to settle in for a beautiful dinner prepared by Sunstone’s chef, each dish paired with the perfect complementary wine, and some great conversation. After a bus ride home filled with laughter and singing, it was time to settle in and rest up for the main event; day three and my biggest challenge.
So come back soon and read up on my final adventure of the trip…Sea Cave Kayaking. A harrowing task that took me out of my comfort zone but thankfully did not involve the Coast Guard (although if it was Ashton Kutcher or Kevin Costner I may not have minded so much).
I was invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Santa Barbara courtesy of Kia Motors of America to experience the Kia Cadenza and Optima SXL. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own.