See California :: Sophie Cottrell, Founder of Sceen’ry Magazine

*In our series “See California” we will be featuring folks who are not from here, but love California as much as we do. We want to see our Golden State through their eyes.

First up is Sophie Cottrell from Australia. She is founder & editor in chief of Sceen’ry Magazine, – a print travel journal dedicated to exploring the world one city at a time through the view of its locals.


ophie started the magazine in 2014 to give space for writers, photographers, and other creatives to share their stories and views of their hometowns. In the past years, Sceen’ry has grown into a community of travelers around the world, exploring and sharing their discoveries. For her latest issue, which Sophie chose to focus on San Francisco, she visited the Golden State herself. To meet up with the contributors, makers, shop owners and go on a road trip herself. Read on and see what was the highlight of her trip, how she balances work and leisure while traveling and what tourist-y attraction is a must-see.

Hello! My name is Sophie Cottrell, and I am the Editor in Chief of Sceen’ry Travel Journal. I started this magazine about a year and a half ago and launched the first print volume 10 months ago now. We create print city guides for around the world, and we get local photographers and writers to create the content, cause nobody knows it best than a local!

Where and why did you travel to California:
The first time I traveled to California was a long time ago, and this was with my family. We went to LA, and San Francisco. I had only ever seen it in movies, so it felt surreal to actually be there. Needless to say, I fell in love with it, and a few years ago I moved to the Bay Area for six months. Most recently though I was there in November 2016.

What were you doing there?
I flew into SF to launch our most recent volume of Sceen’ry which was focusing on San Francisco. I also have some of my closest friends that now live up in the Yosemite area, so I was able to spend some time up there, which is one of my favorite places in the world. It is so peaceful and green up there, especially that time of year!

I was there for only one week this time, but I have been over ten times, the longest being six months.

The latest issue of Sceen’ry is all about San Francisco. Why did you choose SF? Tell us a bit about it. What was the inspiration? What was the process like working from Australia on creating an issue based in California?
Being that San Francisco has such a special place in my heart, it only made sense that the second volume is based there. The idea of Sceen’ry came about because of San Francisco. One of my best friends had traveled there before I knew her and she told me about the things she did. They were so touristy and so not the heart of San Francisco that I was so sad that she hadn’t seen what was really there. That’s when the idea came about in working with local photographers and writers because they are the ones that know their city best. Working from Australia definitely had its challenges, but overall it was so much fun. I learned very quickly that the creative community in San Francisco is all about banding together and creating something beautiful as a group. There is so much unity within this city that it made it so much fun to work with them and to get to know them! 

Someone said to me recently; there is no such thing as a “work-life balance” when it comes to something that you are passionate about because you are so passionate about it, it becomes life.

You travel a lot for your work. Tell us, how do you balance work and leisure when traveling?
Travel is all about both. I don’t think I can really separate either of them. No matter where I go whether it is for work or pleasure I end up doing both. Someone said to me recently; there is no such thing as a “work-life balance” when it comes to something that you are passionate about because you are so passionate about it, it becomes life. That is how I feel about travel. I am so fascinated by people, culture, and business that it naturally just all becomes one really. And I think that that is ok. Just as long as you don’t forget your people at home. I just wrote an article for Darling Magazine about making sure you give yourself fully to home when you are there. Otherwise you will miss out on the beauty in your backyard and the people you love. Sorry, little tangent there.. haha.

Any special travel traditions or rituals?
Yes. Every long haul flight goes the same way for me. I get my food, watch a movie and then take a sleeping pill to try and sleep most of the flight away. I always make sure I have snacks, socks, and an eye patch the ensure it is a smooth flight. Short flights, I always take just carry on luggage, ‘cause who wants to wait for your bags anyway!? There’s too much to see out there. 

What was the highlight of your California trip?
Definitely visiting the Presidio. I had never discovered this part of the city, and now it is my little oasis. 100% recommend everyone to visit when they go to the city. 

A souvenir you brought back home…
To be honest, I am not one for souvenirs. I don’t know why, but I have never been. But my favorite thing I received, was an incredible pair of Bryr Clogs that are my favorite things I have ever worn. Please make sure you add these to your budget when you travel there. 

The dish you cannot wait to recreate at home…
Mexican. Always Mexican. There are amazing fish tacos all around San Francisco, so make sure you get some.

What were your three top food spots in CA?
Can this include coffee? If so, Saint Frank and Four Barrel are my two go to coffee places and then Souvla, the most amazing Greek food.

And where did you sleep?
We stayed at Hotel Zephyr which is in a prime location and so much fun. Plus, it is also where we did our launch party, so added to the fun! We also stayed at the Inn at the Presidio. Another massive recommendation because this place is stunningly beautiful.

And what shouldn’t we miss by no means…
Go to Billy Goat Hill Park. I don’t know why I am sharing this, ‘cause it is my little secret haven, but I will share it just with you guys. You need a car to get there, but the view is spectacular, plus it is in a quiet neighborhood so you most of the time have it all to yourself. My other favorite is the Sutro Baths. Watching sunset here is next level, to be honest.

Must see tourist attraction…
Definitely Alcatraz. Though it is extremely touristy, it also so stunning out there, especially if you do the sunset tour. So much amazing history.

And the hidden local gem…
Go to Baker Beach to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Just be warned it is a clothing optional beach, so keep your eyes up as you may see some unwanted things. Also, if you have time, go to Half Moon Bay. This would be in my top 10 places in the world.
One piece of advice you would give to anyone traveling to California?
Surprisingly San Francisco is quite cool year round, so make sure you pack a jacket cause the wind can bite. Especially at the beach.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at a new place?
I want to get up high to see a view of where I am at. I love to see my surroundings and get my bearings. I also go for a walk because I want to see everything for myself.

What is the best way to learn about the people and the culture in a new country?
Talk to people! Go to a bar and chat with someone. Be friendly and kind, and you are bound to make a friend.

You won’t travel without…
My phone, my headphones and a copy of Darling Magazine.

Where to next?
Bali, Santorini, Barcelona and Paris.

And what do you love most about California?

The people. And it reminds me so much of home.

For more virtual adventures follow Sceen’ry and Sophie on Instagram. And get Sceen’ry here!

Thank you, Sophie! 

*Images by Sophie.
*Bryr Clogs image via Bryr Clogs.

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