2-Daycation: Boston

ICYMI, I want to see ALL the things.

For so many years, I sat and day dreamed (even night dreamed) about traveling. I have never really had a huge desire to do any kind of international traveling, but I have wanted to explore the United States. I feel that there are so many places here in my home country that I need to see before I can expand to traveling in other countries. Perhaps it is my love of U.S. history mixed with the many Instagram posts I see from fashion or lifestyle bloggers across the country that makes me want to pack up every weekend and explore. 

When I first moved to California, I put on a little adventure hat and decided to explore different parts of SoCal every week. Now that I have a better income, I have been able to branch out and take that adventurous mindset a step forward and visit other places that are not that close to home. 

One of my “bucket list” items was to see New England in the fall. I still would love to take a week to just drive along the Atlantic coast and take in all the picturesque autumnal scenes. However, since I had already slated Christmas week to see my family in Ohio, I had no more vacation time left. Thank God for federal holidays!! I came up with a plan to visit one New England city for Columbus Day weekend. And what better city than Boston?? I was about to book my plane ticket when I thought of my bestie and figured I would reach out to her just in case she could go (she has gone on a lot of my SoCal adventures with me so I knew no matter what we got into out there, it would be a great time). Within minutes of receiving my text, she replied with an excited “I’m down!” And so the adventure planning began…

I took care of planning transportation while she planned the activities. Special thanks to Expedia, Groupon and Uber - you guys are the real MVPs here. 

After a restful red-eye flight from LAX (no sarcasm here), we arrived in beautiful, historic Boston.

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We immediately took an Uber to the nearest Starbucks (what else do basic people do?), put our faces on and set out for Copley Square. This is where we waited for our bus to begin a 7-hour tour of the city.

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Surprisingly enough, we missed our bus. But like, why would the bus name be a totally different name from the actually company name?? Setting us up for failure right there...So after a series of inadequate taxi drivers, numerous phone calls to the tour guide company and tripping over cobblestone drives in high heeled boots, we finally found our bus at their next stop. No big deal, they only waited thirty minutes for us to find them. Needless to say, all the passengers recognized us from that point on. 

If possible, I recommend doing a guided tour early on in your vacation (or daycation) as it will give you a lay of the land and you can plan the rest of your time there based on what you saw (or didn't see) on your tour. We drove past Harvard at the beginning of our tour and Claire and I decided pretty quickly that we would be heading back there the next day. 

One of our first stops was this cutesy little tavern that has the most amazing root beer. I'm normally not a root beer fan because it's just not sweet enough for me (unless it is poured over a scoop of ice cream), but this was actually a real treat. And the little lady at the cash register was dressed in the traditional colonial garb. Bonus points for the accent too!

 

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Not only did we get to see so much natural and architectrual beauty, but we were also able to hear about many of the famous inhabitants, which I found fascinating. For example: did you know Louisa May Alcott lived near Boston? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Basically any famous author with three names lived there at some point.

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We stopped in Concord at the spot where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired: "the shot heard 'round the world". Although it was the sight of such a traumatic event, it seemed so oddly peaceful.

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At lunch time, we found ourselves at a marketplace of some sorts with many food vendors and a few restaurants. Yet to me, our dining choice was a no-brainer: we were finding ourselves an Irish pub. The Black Rose did not disappoint. With everything from Celtic music to Gaelic poetry on the walls to menu items like "bangers and mash", we found ourselves very happy with the decision. 

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In the afternoon, we visited the dock of the USS Constitution. The line to board the ship was a mile long and we only had thirty minutes so, based on our track record of missing buses, we decided to just walk around for a little bit. One thing I found quite interesting at this location was the dry dock. This dock fills with water and allows the ship to come in, then it drains itself so workers can perform maintenance on the bottom of the ship. 

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While touring the city, we drove under and over many bridges. Our tour guide told us that, while driving through a tunnel, if there are brown tiles you are underground and if there are blue tiles you are underwater. She was very quick to get out of the tunnels with blue tiles and I did not blame her.

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Our tour concluded back at the starting point and the wait for an Uber driver to take us to Billerica began (staying in Boston was either too expensive or too sketchy, so I opted for a little town about 20 minutes out).

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Day two began with a little rain, but we didn't let that stop us. We started the day off at a Peet's Coffee in Harvard Square. 

After I got back from my trip, one of my friends asked me what my favorite part of the trip was. My mind instantly went back to this moment. Claire and I grabbed coffee and bagels and sat outside on wet chairs and talked and laughed for about an hour. There was a cool breeze blowing, little birds watching for us to drop our crumbs, locals walking around or sitting to chat at tables beside us. I loved this moment. To me it seemed like the world started to slow its turn and we were able to enjoy much needed bonding time and have great uplifting and enlightening conversations without the feelings of being rushed or the anxiety of having to be somewhere at a certain time. Personally, I put a lot of effort and planning into a lot of things I do and I feel like I begin to miss out on the current moment because I am so busy planning the next. That was not so with this trip: I purposely did not plan this day and it was an amazing feeling to be able to fully enjoy the moment and wherever it took us.

During one of our conversations, I stopped mid-sentence as I heard the sound of trumpets and drums. We looked to the left of us and there was a small parade happening on the streets. So of course we followed them! Apparently they were having some sort of an Oktoberfest celebration and there was a little street parade happening right next to us. The groups were very diverse and ranged from political views on immigration to Black Lives Matter to women's rights to LGTBQ rights - all of which had amazing musical numbers. My favorite was a group who did a mash up of Britney Spear's "Toxic" and Taylor Swift's "Trouble". If you know me, you'll know I had tears.

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After waiting for the parade to end, we made our way to Harvard. All I can say is...wow. The natural beauty, the architecture, the history...I could have just died right then and there. But I didn't - I lived long enough to take a few pictures.

 

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And what would a trip to Boston around Halloween time be without a small trek to Salem??

Oddly enough, we were there during the Halloween Biz Baz festival in downtown Salem, so we were able to see all the festivities. This place truly was a Halloween town.

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We toured a historical museum, saw some witches, met a psychic and saw Michael Myers all within an hour. Nailed it!

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We ended the night with some fresh Boston lobster and I wish more than anything that I had recorded Claire trying to get into hers. The struggle was so real, the ladies at the table next to us came over to help her pry it open. We laughed so much, I'm sure everyone thought we were high. And we were...high on life, son!

We caught an early flight the next morning, thanks to an Uber driver with the strongest Boston accent evah, and made it back to LA by noon. 

Claire and I agreed that we need to do a repeat trip and spend more time in New England: there is so much to see! But two days was a great appetizer and experience for us and I'm so glad she could enjoy it with me. As always, I hope that my sharing my little adventures inspires someone else to do the same: see all the things! If you want to travel, do it! Find a partner or go solo: it's great either way! 

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LDW '17 in SoCal

 

 Fact: I love California.

 

You’re shocked, I know…

Labor Day weekend, my family flew out to spend a few days in sunny California. My parents have been here before, but it was my brother’s first visit to the west coast and I was so excited to see his reaction to life out here. Thankfully, we were able to get good deals on non-stop flights between Cleveland and Los Angeles (shoutouts to Spirit and Frontier airlines, the real MVPs). Aside from their first meal in Cali being Uber Eats - delivered Panda Express, I made sure their trip was filled with things they wouldn’t normally see in their hometown. 

 

  Photo credit: Dad

Photo credit: Dad

My parents had never really seen LA, aside from driving away from or to the airport, so they were looking forward to spending our first full day exploring the city. We started the day out in Hollywood. As we were parking, I tried to prepare my family for what awaited them. Hollywood looks glamorous in the movies but, let’s be real: it’s a little ratch out there. The area is more dirty and dingy than most people expect when they think of Hollywood. But it is a very entertaining experience. We walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and occasionally stopped so Mom could take pictures of all the stars whose names she recognized. We walked past Spiderman and Superman (who my brother absolutely refused to have his picture made with - lame). At one point, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man sitting on a stool with a large object wrapped around his arms. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a giant boa constrictor. Knowing my dad is absolutely terrified of snakes, I tried to discreetly move him to the other side. But it was too late. He noticed and literally ran to the other side of the sidewalk. It was great.

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We walked down to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre so I could show my family the handprints and footprints of the stars. My favorite is Shirley Temple’s tiny prints - Mom enjoyed seeing Marilyn Monroe’s and Clark Gable’s. We also walked around the Dolby Theatre where there were spectacular views of the Hollywood sign from its higher levels. Of course, we had to stop at the Starbucks there so I could indulge in my first pumpkin spice latte of the season and Mom learned what “breve” was.

  Photo credit: Dad    You can actually see the Hollywood sign in the distance between the pillars.

Photo credit: Dad

You can actually see the Hollywood sign in the distance between the pillars.

 

Our next stop was supposed to be Rodeo Drive, but we were feeling a little tired and drained from walking around in the heat all morning, so we settled for a nice drive through the area. We cruised around Beverly Hills, drove through the back roads of Bel Air (some houses had security guards sitting out front) and even took a side trip to Brentwood to see the house where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered (that morbid idea came from Mom). Dad found the address online for the house where the Beverly Hillbillies was filmed but, sadly, there was a huge gate in front and tall shrubbery so we could not actually see it. 

 

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Weeks prior, I had made reservations for us at my favorite hidden restaurant in Malibu, so we decided to make our way over to the ‘Bu. Being Labor Day weekend, the beaches were packed. I finally found a stretch of beachside land with ample parking and what looked like a staircase leading down to the water. Perfect! But, alas, the stairs ended abruptly and a rocky cliff hung below. Yet it still provided a great spot to take selfies with the ocean in the background. After a few family photos, I started to notice that there were quite a few littered objects in the vicinity… I told the fam that we should probably leave before we accidentally touch anything and got diseases. (Apparently this spot was visited many times before but not for going down to the beach… )

 

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For dinner, we went to the Malibu Cafe. The restaurant is actually part of a ranch. The property is huge. My reservations were for the restaurant itself so we had a nice little table overlooking the grounds. There is a small field with games such as corn hole, table tennis and pool. There are also little food stands if you want BBQ instead of eating from the regular menu and even a smoothie bar. The venue is outdoors and there were chandeliers hanging from the trees and beautiful flowers in bloom. We ordered a rotisserie chicken and a rack of ribs to split between the four of us. The food was so good, even the bees enjoyed it. Literally. There were at least four bees surrounding me as I tried to eat. I was so terrified of being stung, I froze with my eyes closed mid-bite. The waitress came over with a plate of coffee grounds and let them on fire - the smoke made the bees flee. I sat in smoke for 20 minutes but it was so worth it. I think they can smell fear… But we still had a great time.

  Photo credit: A nice waitress whose name I have forgotten  

Photo credit: A nice waitress whose name I have forgotten 

 

After an awesome day in the LA region, we packed up and drove out to mi casa in Indio.

 

The next morning, my brother seemed a little shocked at his surroundings. I guess he thought I was exaggerating when I told him I lived in the desert. I also got to show him what a real roadrunner was and that, no, they are not the size of the roadrunners on the cartoons. Mom and I went for mani pedis, then I took the whole fam to In-N-Out. I wish you guys could have seen my brother’s face when he took the first bite out of his burger. I believe he is converted. 

 

  Photo credit: Dad

Photo credit: Dad

I drove my family down Highway 111, which goes through basically every city in the valley, and stopped in downtown Palm Springs. I showed them our own little “walk of fame” and we agreed that PS is at least cleaner than Hollywood. Mom wanted to stop in every souvenir store so that happened. Dad didn’t like the musty smell of some of the stores, and he ended up accidentally sitting outside by some very loud happy hour participants… I had my brother go and rescue him. For dinner, I took them to another one of my favorites: Jackalope Ranch. This place has the BEST tri tip and brisket I have ever had. It also has a huge grounds (indoor and outdoor) with an old fashioned saloon and outdoor waterfalls. My brother said he had “never seen anything like it”. And he’s never impressed. 

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On our way to the airport the next day, I stopped at the Habit so my family could give me their opinion on how it compares to In-N-Out. Of course, In-N-Out was the better burger. 

 

I hated that my family had to leave so soon, but I am so glad they were able to visit and let me show them a few of my favorite things. We are already planning their next trip out here (which will be a full week) and have brought up Disneyland and San Diego in those talks as well. Until next time! 

In Search of a Public Restroom and How I Explored San Francisco In Three Days

Fact: I have one of the tiniest bladders you will ever come across.

On road trips, I get very excited if I can make it an hour without having to stop. This makes traveling a little difficult, especially when I am going someplace I’ve never been. 

This year I made my first solo trip: a three day vacation in San Francisco. Between stressing over where the nearest restroom was and always looking for a place to charge my phone, I was still able to see much of what the city has to offer. Here is what I did in my three days in The City:

Day 1

I landed at the San Francisco International Airport and took a Lyft to…

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1. Mission Dolores Park

    At my first stop, I had already begun to notice that this city is a little hilly. I definitely got my leg days in! I Yelped for a coffee shop and found the cutest little hipster-esque place with a real coffee press and everything! Of course the coffee was a little strong for my taste but I asked for some extra milk and simple sugar and sipped away like a pro as I walked those killer hills. When I reached the park itself, I grabbed a park bench and just took in the view. From here you can see the entire city and, trust me, there was no better way to start my trip than this. After walking around the park for a bit, I took an Uber to…

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2. Union Square

    As soon as I landed, I noticed that I had forgotten to pack two very important things: sunglasses and a bra. Now, I was not going braless guys, I was wearing a sports bra that day because I went with a casual comfy look. But I knew I needed a regular one for the rest of my trip. That being said, I needed to find a store (or stores). Once I got to Union Square I found a Sunglass Hut and a Victoria’s Secret. Perfect! Done and done. There were quite a few shops and restaurants thru here, including a couple of Starbucks and a lovely hotel where you can use their restroom and charge your phone at a table for free. Score! While exploring this little area, I found a Hop On/ Hop Off bus tour. For $40 you could ride as much as you want all day and stop at all the little scenic things in the city. Since it was my first time here, I took them up on this offer. This was how I learned the lay of the land and was able to plan the rest of my trip. I rode the bus through the loop once, then got back on and hopped off at the locations where I wanted to spend more time. My first “hop off” was….

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3. Golden Gate Park

    This park is huge and I only got to explore a tiny bit of it. I walked around the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. The latter really intrigued me (and I had to use the restroom super bad at this point) so I spent a little more time in there. I was very interested in the indoor rain forest. There were several levels to this and you experienced a different part of the rain forest on each level. At the top, there were beautiful butterflies that would just casually land on you. It was like being in a Disney movie. Atop the building itself is the luscious living roof, which looks like rolling hills with solar panels. After exploring a little further, I took the bus to…

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4. Alamo Square

    This is where my Airbnb was located and, since the Painted Ladies were nearby, it was considered a scenic stop for the Hop On/ Hop Off tour. Win! For some reason, this was the first time I actually became hungry. Scratch that, I was suddenly ravenous. Maybe it was all the walking? I’m not sure, but your girl found a Popeye’s and had a great time. After some spicy popcorn shrimp and a honey biscuit, I made my way to my room for the night.

Day 2

I found another cutesy coffee shop, grabbed some overpriced joe, and took an Uber to…

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1. Pier 39 / Fisherman’s Wharf

     So.Much.To.See. I walked around for quite a bit here. I was able to see the infamous sea lions but boy, did they smell… There were also a lot of neat little stores like a place to purchase oysters in hopes of finding pearls and a store for left handed people. I also stopped at a restaurant there and had some delicious clam chowder. I saw those self-cleaning bathrooms everyone raves about, but I settled for a nice old fashioned regular toilet instead. From here I took a ferry to …

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2. Alcatraz

     This was my absolute favorite place during the entire trip. I booked my ticket a month in advance and I am so glad I did: they were sold out for the next two weeks when I was there! Once we arrived on the island, a park ranger told us about a side of Alcatraz I had never known: the occupation of the indigenous people during the 60s. It was an amazing story of their stand during the civil rights movement, and you could see evidence of their occupation while you walked around the island. While here, I did my best to avoid the crowds. In a way, I wanted to experience the prison the way the prisoners had. I imagined being confined to those dark walls, yet being able to see the freedom of the city at night out your window. Just think of how tortuous that would be! I loved that it wasn’t repainted or touched up - it was the dirty dingy prison that it once was, and it made the experience seem that much more real. I took the ferry back across the frigid waters to the city and then took an Uber back to my room.

After a shower and a nice little nap, I walked to…

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3. The Haight - Ashbury District

     Saying this place is funky would be an understatement. I passed this place on the bus tour and saw all the neon lights and 60s vibe flowers and peace signs and figured I should experience the hippie side of the city. This was the only place where I felt uncomfortable traveling alone. It is a very busy street with lots of friendly and inviting people. There are a few bars and restaurants and it looked like a fun place to hang out - if you were in a group. For a single female traveler - not the best idea. After a few incidents and unwanted invitations later, I fast-walked back to my room and called it a night.

Day 3

I bid goodbye to my roomie of the past two days and took an Uber to…

 

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1. Crissy Field Center

     This beach has killer views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I walked along side the ocean for a bit, then traded the sand for pavement as there is a nice walking trail that leads towards the bridge itself. It is a long walk but definitely worth it. The pavement turns to grass, then I crossed the street and climbed a set of wooden stairs up the side of a hill (luckily, before crossing this street, I noticed a little picnic area with multiple restrooms). I climbed to the top to see a breathtaking view of the Bridge. Now, the weather in San Francisco is pretty odd, as you might have heard. From the beach, I took a foggy picture of the bridge. As I got closer, I was able to capture a more sunny - looking picture of the bridge and, once at the top of the hill, I captured another foggy image - all taken within 30 minutes of each other. After heading back down the hill, I walked to…

 

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2. The Palace of Fine Arts

     This building looks like a temple from an Indiana Jones movie. The palace is such a stunning piece of architecture: I felt drawn to it. I rested in the grass under a tree in front of the palace for a few minutes and just enjoyed my surroundings. After a little while, I felt the need for some caffeine. So I Yelped a Starbucks which took me to Presidio Park, then I grabbed an Uber to...

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3. Little Italy / Chinatown

     This area is pretty interesting because you can go from Italian restaurants to Chinese lanterns real quick. In Little Italy, I went inside a beautiful Catholic cathedral that was playing soft, angelic choir music. The sanctuary was so calm and peaceful as opposed to the streets right outside its doors. In Chinatown, there are many shops and restaurants, and I saw a group of old men gambling in a park. In the midst of it all, there is a two-story bookstore that has novels from around the globe as well as from local authors. I sat upstairs by an outlet and charged my phone while reading a book of slam poetry by a San Francisco native about civil rights. After my phone charged, I met up with a friend at an authentic Italian restaurant, had some spaghetti and meatballs, and took an Uber to the airport. Trip done.

If you have never done so, I recommend you to take at least one solo trip in your life. I felt that, since I was by myself, I was able to truly take in my surroundings and enjoy experiencing each and every place I visited. I did not feel rushed or that I absolutely had to see something on this trip. I kind of just let what ever happened, happen (and I didn’t feel guilty about the many bathroom breaks).

 

        

Forcing Puzzle Pieces and Why I Love California

“Why California?”
“Well, why not?”

If I had a dime for every time I have been asked that question, I would have been able to buy Coronado Island by now. I am a firm believer in the Puzzle Piece theory: meaning I believe everyone has a place in this world in which they fit. I was born and raised in Virginia, but I knew at an early age that I did not “fit” there. It became even more evident as I got older. My thoughts and opinions on life did not match up with those around me. I even tried to conform to my surroundings. At one point, I talked myself into thinking that buying a single-wide trailer and raising three kids while my husband worked in a factory was what I truly wanted in life. I made myself believe this lie for a few years. (Let’s stop for a second - there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with this lifestyle if that is what you want. I am simply explaining how I tried to make myself fit into a place I was not meant to be.)

Just like a child who doesn’t know any better tries to force a puzzle piece in the wrong spot of the puzzle, I tried to force my way into this lifestyle: however, I realized I was breaking myself in the process. Through a series of events, I ended up in sunny California. I have been here for six years total (I don’t really count the first two though, because they were spent in an area that was IN California but wasn’t really California. Think of it as an above ground bunker, Kimmy Schmidt style #unbreakable). I absolutely LOVE California. It is a place that celebrates diversity, embraces new ideas, and encourages people to be who they want to be. 

I guess I felt super inspired to write this post because I am currently listening to the new Lana Del Rey album and it is just giving me all those California feels. So if you are from somewhere else and are wondering why I’m still here, or you are a California native and are wondering the same - keep reading. 

Reasons I Love Cali 

  1. The dress code.  I have never once heard anyone in California tell me I was “overdressed” or I was “wearing too much makeup” or I was “looking ratchet”. Why? Because you can just do you, girl! I have walked into a Starbucks with no makeup, unwashed hair and braless on a Saturday morning and I am greeted with the same smiles and conversations as I am when I come in with high heels, curled hair and wing tips on fleek. 
  2. The nights out. Not only are there tons of amazing restaurants, but the vibes are so chill. There are a lot of places that have live music, anywhere from a mariachi band to a guy playing reggae in a corner of a restaurant. And if your group is getting a little noisy, it’s fine. Onlookers will just join in with you! It is very rare to receive those judgmental glares when you’re out having a good time here. Even the wait staff will join in on your conversations and crack a few jokes. 
  3. All the cultures. One thing I absolutely LOVE about California is the many different groups of people who live here. I have been exposed to everything from Filipino lumpia and pancit to Japanese ramen houses to Little Italy meatballs to homemade Mexican posole (of course I’m going to use food for my references). The whole United States is a melting pot of different peoples and cultures and I feel like California does a great job of embracing that fact. 
  4. The music. You can hear it alllll. Just walk around and you will hear anything from Kendrick Lamar to Chris Stapleton to Taylor Swift to Hozier to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Francesca Battistelli to Calvin Harris to Lin-Manuel Miranda….. I could go on and on. It’s simply amazing the musical flavors that just flow throughout this place with such a natural feeling. 
  5. The scenery. Can we just stop and take a minute to appreciate the scenery that is the state of California? The entire song “America the Beautiful” could be used to describe just California. There are snow-topped mountains, massive deserts, blue oceans, deep forests, large cities, small towns..again, I could go on and on. You could go on a road trip and experience so many different terrains, all without even leaving the state! And, bonus points for tons of sunlight. Yay, vitamin D!
  6. The healthy stuff.  Here in this lovely state, there are a TON of diet fads and exercise regimens. People do paleo, vegan or vegetarian diets. Some do pilates classes, cross fit, or, like myself, have a personal trainer. The point is: they are doing something that they believe is good for their body and, frankly, I think that’s all that matters. If someone feels better after ditching meat from their diet, more power to them. It may not be for all of us, but we totally support them in their endeavors, and that is how it should be. 
  7. The vision. I want to leave this world in a better way than it was when I entered it. I want to leave a legacy behind me. I want to inspire and help others. I want to take care of our planet and share God’s love with all mankind. It is very inspirational to surround yourself with others who have a vision and who are not content to just be a bystander in life. I love having conversations with people concerning what we can do to change the world. We may not always have the same ideas or same goals, but we envision a better future for our children and our children’s children and that is what links us together. 

 

I could list more reasons, but these are the most important ones to me and mainly why I have stayed here for so long. I realize that these things may not appeal to some of you and that is ok. There is a huge world out there and not everyone fits in the same spot. If that were the case, God would have made the whole world to be exactly the same, and that would be quite boring.