For someone who spent a large chunk of his adult life posing in front of cameras and moving fast from big city to big city, Travis Goldstein seems somewhat shy.
The 34-year-old—whose face and figure have appeared in countless magazine ads from his work as a fashion model in places like New York, Milan and Paris—comes across as soft-spoken and reserved.
But then again, maybe it’s not shyness at all.
Maybe Goldstein has just mastered the art of tranquility. After all, he did leave his modeling career in 2008, after studying the art of Japanese bonsai with Masaru Ishii, late owner of Chikugo-En Bonsai Nursery in Gardena, and opening his own nursery and studio in Thousand Oaks.
Now the Oak Park resident spends most mornings in an almost-meditative state, tending to the hundreds of potted miniature trees at his California Bonsai Studio on a hillside at the end of Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks.
At least one bonsai came from a drought-tolerant California juniper that he estimates to be nearly 2,000 years old. He also has bonsai made from Japanese black pine, Kishu juniper, boxwood, ginkgo and dozens of other species.
“It’s the regular caring for something outside of yourself that, for me, is kind of like a meditation process,” Goldstein says. “It’s a time to kind of clear my mind. My focus is on the trees, and it’s peaceful at the same time.”
Goldstein, who grew up on his parents’ 70-acre horse ranch in Paso Robles, is no stranger to exploring nature.
“I spent my childhood walking around in the woods and along the creek bed,” he says. “I spent a lot more time with nature than I did with other people.”
That could be why, after completing a three-month modeling contract in Japan in 2000, Goldstein decided to learn the art of styling bonsai. Eventually, he traded in his career in the camera’s spotlight for an enterprise that keeps him closer to natural beauty.
It also keeps the single father of three closer to home and his family.
“I didn’t find modeling to be that fulfilling,” he says. “Bonsai has been a great artistic outlet for me.”
Although the California Bonsai Studio—which carries a large variety of bonsai trees for sale and offers classes on Saturdays—is a full-time venture for Goldstein, he says he hasn’t completely abandoned the rush of living the fast life.
“I’ve raced motorcycles since I was 10. And in doing that, I find I reach this state of focus where I’m not thinking about anything else that’s going on my life,” he says.
As a child, Goldstein developed a need for speed while going off-road in motocross races across California. These days, he mainly keeps on the road, entering races at tracks like Willow Springs Raceway near Lancaster and the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
For Goldstein, creating bonsai and speeding along the motorcycle track provide just the right balance.