I remember so vividly my first really proper international trip, to Johannesburg, South Africa 10 years ago. Though 10 years later I’m often tasked with the duties of documenting the highlights of destinations I visit, that first international trip was as much of a trip of lowlights (like our accommodations getting broken into twice and having a gun pulled on us in the township of Soweto) as it was of highlights (like attending my first professional rugby game and going on a safari through Kruger National Park).

Yet this summer has seen me do something that I largely hadn’t done before, and that’s revisit destinations abroad that I had previously traveled to. It’s brought with it a collection of experiences and feelings that only I could have had, and only I could have had in those destinations. It’s not a type of experience I could’ve had the first time I went to these countries, nor was it something I could have experienced without revisiting them. In that way, it felt like I was seeing the destination all over again for the first time.

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Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I, like most guys, don’t like shopping. It probably doesn’t help that I was scarred as a child when my mom first took me jeans shopping. In case you’re wondering, an overweight kid, like I was, is not meant to wear Wrangler slim fit jeans. That didn’t stop my mom, however, from yelling at me to “suck it in” while she attempted to pull those jeans to my waist.

Yet, here I am, talking about Venice, California’s Abbot Kinney, known most notably for nothing other than its shopping. But if you’re here expecting a shopping post about Abbot Kinney, then I’m sorry to disappoint. While many people visit Abbot Kinney for its boutique shops, I prefer it for different reasons. Venice is one of my favorite neighborhoods, in part because of its offerings, but also because it’s so walkable. Not to mention that the story behind it is so fascinating.

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I originally drove past the Caribbean-looking restaurant, Star Island, after seeing that the parking lot was empty at lunchtime. Yet the thought of conch fritters in my mouth beckoned me to turn around; and so I did. I reached for the doorknob, turning it to find a woman sitting on a stool by the register, counting money. “Are y’all open for lunch?,” I asked. To which she shook her head and responded, “Sure, have a seat and I’ll be right with you.”

As I sat down, a feeling of nostalgia swept over me. Artificial flowers and nice glassware with napkins delicately placed inside them donned each table covered with a kitschy table cloth. Paintings of Caribbean-style homes lined the walls and hanging down from one wall in the corner, a small flat-screen television connected to a laptop that was playing Harrison Ford’s 1986 movie, The Mosquito Coast. It would serve as a prelude to the day’s scenery on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac (one of the smaller Cayman islands southwest of Cuba) that would feel all too Indiana Jones-esque. I reached for my phone, wondering if there was Wi-Fi, but instead nibbled on conch fritters, observed the paintings lining the interior, and studied the island’s map (to the sound of Harrison Ford and River Phoenix) as I tried to transition from a Los Angeles state of mind to a Cayman  Island state of mind.

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