The sunshine. The palm trees. The coastline. The lifestyle.
These are just a few of the reasons why I hold the golden state so close to my heart. California opened my eyes; California gave me hope of a better life.
I was 16 when I first traveled there. A 16 year old without much prior travel experience aside from a few stereotypical island trips to the Bahamas or Bermuda. I grew up on Long Island, NY (ugh, it hurts to even admit that – sorry mom) and was molded to believe that it was the best place to grow up, live, and grow old in. The people on LI have this weird sense of pride – they even call themselves New Yorkers. *eye roll*
I returned from my trip in ’09 with my dad a changed person, someone who was hit with the realization that there are so many beautiful places in the country to live in that I felt I was missing out on. It wasn’t just all California. It was also the realization that I was trapped in a bubble with only one way out – going west (literally, though).
After driving the coastline, my obsession with the golden state grew. It was all I usually talked about. I envied people I met who lived there. I consistently wore T-shirts representing west coast life (yeah, I didn’t have a sense of fashion until my 20s, but probably still don’t TBH). I decked out my bedroom in Cali merch, from the state flag to photos I took from my trips in ’09 and ’10.
There is just something about the place that makes me light up whenever I hear it mentioned. I was fascinated by how people lived amongst palm trees (growing up as an East Coaster, palm trees signified vacation), and how people wore flip flops in February. The scenery baffled me, and the fact that the state isn’t as flat as where I was from.
I get it. The traffic in SoCal is “terrible.” People can be spoiled and shallow. It can feel like a bubble. It’s expensive AF. But these are all things I grew up with and are used to – but California does it so much better. Finally, a reason to buy an overpriced house, or a reason to shell out all your money on rent. Because the quality of living far exceeds that in NYS, or anywhere else IMO.
It was also the hope the west coast gave me. I never felt satisfied growing up in New York State; I felt the location didn’t match my true soul. It also gave me hope at my lowest points. During periods of intense anxiety, fear, and worry: California was always there to give me a shoulder rub.
After now traveling there time and time again (twice this year…woo!), I am reminded of the life I want to live and the place I want to be.
But for now, I’m taking NYC and milking everything that’s still left for me to do there, while still drinking green juices and meditating. Because, after all, there is no place more fun and urban than NY.
-mike, the california dreaming urban guy in nyc