With the long days of summer comes the itch to get up from our desks, get out, and explore—whether that means finally putting our dusty passports to use or just making a point to find newness in the familiar.
To learn more about the latter, we called on the expertise of Los Angeles-based best friends Melanie Ayer and Kristine Claghorn. The girls initially met through each of their boyfriends (and Melanie's now-husband), both members of the band the Local Natives. Frequently making trips back and forth to see their guys on tour, Mel and Kristine's friendship has been largely built on the road...time spent on long plane rides, car trips, and nights in tour bus bunk beds.
We caught up with the duo on a rare weekend at home, following them around on their perfect LA day. We asked them to share travel stories, packing lists, and their curated itinerary of what to see and do in their own stomping grounds. It's a timely reminder: sometimes you don't need to go far to find an escape. Photography by Chantal Anderson | styling by Katrina Thomson
Hello K + M! Can you each introduce yourself, please?
Kristine: I’m an Indiana native, but I’ve now lived in LA for three years. After graduating from Indiana University, I interviewed at a custom apparel company in LA, got the job, and packed up and moved two weeks later! It was a whirlwind. I’m now doing social media for them, so I spend most of my day on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Mel: I’m a California girl, born and raised. I grew up in the Bay Area, about an hour outside of San Francisco, and I always dreamt of living in LA. It had a sparkle to it. I made the move after college to pursue a career in television. I love living in such a creative city that fuels so many of my passions: writing, photography, and collaborative brainstorms.
Set the scene for us about how you two initially met.
Kristine: Mel and I met for the first time in 2011 at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The next time we hung out was on a trip to New York about four months later. It was Halloween weekend and we ended up at a random loft party in Manhattan. Mel and I took over the music and had our own dance party in the living room. It was hilarious because it was just us (and a random guy dressed as a ghost) dancing the entire night.
Mel: That New York trip is definitely what sparked the goofy, carefree side of our friendship. We have so many inside jokes and silly nicknames that stemmed from a series of awkward events throughout that day. We always get into the strangest situations when we’re together.
You obviously have a connection through the band, but how has your friendship evolved through this?
Kristine: When I met Mel, I was still living in Indiana. We chatted online about our relationships and interests...and that really helped us get close. I moved to LA the next year, and Mel was the head of my welcoming party. She helped me find my first studio apartment and drove me around after my car was stolen...oh, LA.
When our guys are away on tour, we spend a lot of time together both at home and planning trips to visit them together. When they’re busy with the band, Mel and I have our own little adventures. Once we stayed at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs and got massages & facials. It ended up being a couples massage, which was hilarious.
Tell us some stories about traveling together. What trips stand out, both good and bad?
Kristine: One of my favorite trips was a day we had in Columbus, Ohio last summer. Mel is the master at finding good spots and she had bookmarked a bunch of cute stores, restaurants, ice cream shops, you name it. We had so much fun exploring, dancing around, and taking pictures.
Mel: Most of our recent travel has been on the road in a tour bus. This means we’ve had nights with little sleep thanks to bumpy roads, strange food in the middle of nowhere, crazy cab rides, and so many airport drop off and pick ups. We’re almost always on the go. I think my favorite thing about traveling with Kristine is that she always shows up with her favorite pillow, which is a green, squishy cylinder shape that she calls “Pickle”...and also a pack of Lysol wipes to clean off the arm rests and tray tables on airplanes.
What are some tips for traveling with friends and not going crazy?
Kristine: My biggest advice is to make sure you like your friends! Mel and I are both good at going with the flow and taking moments as they come, but also like to have a little list of things we’d like to do. There have been times that we’ve had to wait in long lines at the airport, which can be infuriating. Instead of getting annoyed and impatient, we just laugh it off. If you remind yourself that you’re with someone you love, you can make any situation fun. Don’t take anything too seriously!
Mel: I have to say that I love a good bike tour. It’s a great way to take in a city without worrying about maps and directions. Everyone can just follow the guide and have fun together. And I agree with Kristine. It’s really important to go with the flow and remember that sometimes the plan isn’t going to work out exactly how you thought it would. And the cool thing about travel is that it’s always reminding you that the spontaneous, unexpected moments usually end up being the most memorable.
What items are always in your travel bag?
Kristine: a chunky sweater, a fully-charged laptop, face elixir by Caudalie, and vitamin E oil as a moisturizer.
Mel: Batiste dry shampoo, Yes to Cucumbers facial towelettes, and a swim suit — just in case!
What destinations are on your travel wish list?
Kristine: I’m dying to go to Spain. I majored in Spanish in college and didn’t study abroad, so I would love to be able to go use what I’ve learned. I also want to go to Tokyo, Paris, and South America. It’s pretty hard to narrow down because I’d be happy to go just about anywhere. I’ve been able to see a lot of the U.S. in the past few years and I want to eventually visit all 50 states.
Mel: Bali, Morocco, Melbourne, and I’d love to spend more time in London and Paris.
Walk us through the recipe for an ideal LA “staycation”
Kristine: I’d begin the day with yoga at Yogala in Echo Park or a hike up to the Griffith Observatory. There’s a great little café at bottom of Griffith, Trails Cafe, where you can grab coffee or tea before making the walk up to the top. After, I’d go grab brunch at Local on Sunset. On Saturdays, you can walk down the street to the Silverlake Farmers' Market, which is the place to go for vintage finds on a budget. Painted Bird is another vintage store favorite of mine. For dinner, I’d make the trek downtown to Bäco Mercat and to The Pie Hole for dessert. Make sure to get slices of the Mexican chocolate and the Earl Grey pie. They’re to die for.
Mel: I would start with a massage at The Raven Spa in Silver Lake. It’s so peaceful there, and it’s the perfect place to de-stress and get inspired. From there I’d visit Atwater and grab a burrito at Tacos Villa Corona, and stop at Individual Medley, one of our favorite local shops. For a dinner date, I’d go to Canele. On day two, I’d drive to the West side. The Getty is a great spot for checking out art and amazing views of the city. For dinner I’d want to try one of the many restaurants still my list to check out, like Superba Snack Bar or Son of a Gun. Lastly, I love going to the movies at the Arclight in Hollywood. The chairs are super comfy and the screen in the Dome is massive!
What is it about LA that keeps you there?
Kristine: Since moving to LA, I’ve met so many inspiring people that have helped pave my way into the creative world here. I have collaborated with Kate Miss and Katrina Thomson on lookbooks for their handmade jewelry. I also worked with Wade Koch on a music video for Mister Goodnite. I do freelance graphic design and styling, and I just started my own blog. Being surrounded by such a supportive community of creatives has really helped me grow into my own. It’s nice to connect with friends that give you the push you need to get started.
Mel: What I love about LA is connecting with creatives on projects, big or small. I’ve written articles for a friend’s magazine, modeled for a friend’s knitting book, and danced in a friend’s music video. There are so many inspiring people to talk to and it’s really fun to see what a conversation with a new person will lead to. I also love connecting my friends with other friends when they’re looking for a certain skilled person to work with on any particular type of project. It’s exciting to find that perfect match—the missing link—that fits right into the puzzle, and see them all create something awesome together.