Let’s face it: in our daily lives time is mostly directed by others. So much so that I find it hard to listen to my body and remain mindful. A solo trip that let’s me go about days in my own rhythm is my source of reconnecting with myself.
With no plans, a pair of sunglasses, and a convertible I started my trip from San Diego. One can easily drive from here to LA in a couple of hours, depending on traffic. This quintessential Southern Californian strip of land is well known for it’s artsy beach towns, coastal life and I felt like reconnecting with the West Coast a little bit.
The Naval City: visiting the Aircraft Carrier museum
Large and majestic thrones the USS Midway at the San Diego waterfront. It is now a museum with a Starbucks in the rear, at the time of its deployment is was the largest naval ship in service.
Everywhere on the ship you’ll encounter former soldiers in their pilot jackets giving accounts of past times. how to take off or land on these monstrous ships and how deployment was like. All of them refer to their boat as their home. It is quite an impressive sight.
First stop: La Jolla – come close to the Sea Lions
For the first night I had picked an airbnb at the coast of LaJolla. It is known for its beach coves and lots of animals.
La Jolla, the sea-side village, turned out to be exactly what I had wanted and needed. Lots of wild animals, scuba divers, stand-up paddlers, a little overcast Cali sky. But its not that: It was the locals I met walking their dogs smiling at me and wishing me a good morning in a cheerful way. It was the waitress at the Pancake house telling me: “Honey, I’ll make you just what you want.”
Stop 2: Running into Lori
I left La Jolla towards Carlsbad. My high school exchange coordinator Lori happened to be on vacation there and we met for donuts and coffee in this wonderful place called The Goods.
While the donuts were to die for, it was a special treat to meet Lori again. She was my go-to-person when I came to California in 2002. I remember her house smelling like cinnamon sticks and apple cider, her having a bunch of kids in the house and Lori just being the kindest person.
That afternoon we sat and talked as if we had just seen each other the week before. She is a woman of God and I deeply appreciate her advice and her perspective.
Next Stop: The infamous Laguna
The hotel I slept in was right by the ocean and relatively early I was woken by the loud thunder-like sounds of the ocean. I put on my running shoes and explored. I met a lot of homeless and lots of scuba divers this early in the AM. As usual, ths weather was gloomy at first, but got better around noon.
Fittingly, I had a California bagel from the highly recommended bagel shop in town; it was so delicious and I got to watch some real California High School privileged kids, always a pleasure to sit back and see them show off the SUV’s they received for their sweet 16, walking around as if they own the city.
I had read about a hike in the hills, but could not find parking. A little frustrated, I then found a beautiful quiet beach. A good reminder that plans might not work out, but something better might just happen to come your way.
Obligatory: IN’N OUT
From Laguna Beach I decided to drive through “The Hills” towards LA. The weather was perfect, the day was overshadowed by the news of multiple fast spreading wildfires in Southern California and a bar shooting in a Thousand Oaks the night before. The other side of the US…
Whenever I am in California, there is one obligatory stop and that is at the iconic burger joint IN’N OUT to enjoy simply the best American burger with fries.
Finally: Surf City USA
I ended my trip in Huntington Beach, visiting my host sister Sarah who just had her second baby. The beach town of Huntington feels very familiar and a little bit like home. It has a great pier with lots of surfers, beach shacks and I can recommend to put it on the list for any Southern California trip.
Although it was only three days, traveling alone is still very special to me. It makes me find my own rhythm and connect with places or remain in moments differently than when with a friend or my husband. And doing that at a place on this planet that I called home for a little while was very precious to me – albeit a bar shooting, California wild fires and lots of homeless people.
What I would do differently:
From hindsight I think that Laguna Beach is overrated, and Carlsbad just wonderful. Next time I would just stay there for the night.
Tips to travel on budget: Southern California is very expensive, even simple hotels cost a lot of money. When I travel alone I need to feel save which is why I do not save on accommodation. However, I usually go to Whole Foods instead of mediocre tourist restaurants. They have a warm & cold food bar, fresh produce and I just take my food to sunny spots on the beach.
Since I did not have too much time I also did not get to explore all the hiking trails in that region, maybe on the next trip?