1. People, people, people, and MORE PEOPLE.
As I crossed state lines into California I noticed one thing that declined more quickly than a winner sucking up the glory after a competition: privacy. There were so many people in the vicinity everywhere I went, the only way to avoid looking over and seeing eyes feasted on me was to be in a room closed off by four walls. (Even then, you’re lucky if you get that much space to yourself, unless you book a single person hotel room and close the curtains.)
2. Time stands still.
Not literally. It just seems that way if you ever have to drive anywhere. It took a few trips in the car (and a few momentary breakdowns) to realize no one is going to get anywhere fast and if you have an appointment or set time, be two hours ahead of schedule or be prepared to be late.
3. Donuts are dessert…and breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It’s not even the fact that crime rates are high, cops are out everywhere, or the word ‘donut’ has a nice ring to it. The choice of food is donuts, clearly resembled by the unreasonable number of businesses that specialize in the bakery department. Seriously, you’re not going to go anywhere without having a choice to have donuts over any fast food, even in the ‘less fortunate, more unsafe’ cities. Put on your fat pants and be ready for the freshman fifteen all over again.
4. Carpooling is not equivalent to fast lane…
Most of my traveling was done alone, and that means I was not eligible to drive in the carpool lane. Because it was going at a presumably quicker pace than the other five lanes, I automatically drifted my way through the other barricaded rows of vehicles to pass and get to where I was going, since I was accustomed to left lane = “get out of my way losers, time is money…or I’m late.” Because of a few accidental attempts to cross into the carpool and out of fear of getting fined, let’s just say I kept a few notes taped to the dash to chill out because I wasn’t going to be passing traffic anytime soon.
5. Free parking is just a monopoly term.
I visited so many beautiful beaches and cities that I only had the pleasure to view from inside my car. I had always taken huge parking lots and free spaces for granted it seems, because my parking expenses in California almost cost more than gas! (Not quite, nearly $4.00/gal. for gas?! Cross into AZ or NV and fill up) The smart move would be to grab a bicycle and maneuver to your way to your destination that way, you won’t be alone!
6. Lazy boy is no longer just a comfy chair.
My first thought when I dived into the culture was that California is either ten years into the future or ten years into the past. There’s so many entities of the simple times years ago (the music played in public brought me back to childhood, let alone the fact that most activities are done outdoors and there’s not much time to get glued to technology), but the services that are available there were nothing like I’d ever experienced! Postmates, a delivery courier service, is a popular way to get anything delivered right to you wherever you are for a fee. Uber and Lyft provide a customizable ride to wherever you need if you don’t have a vehicle or don’t feel like driving. These were used almost daily just because it made my visit a little more comfortable and convenient! Coming from a small town that doesn’t offer pizza delivery service, it was a big shock and fun to use!
7. So many voices, so little time!
A lot of people means a wide variety of personalities surrounding you. Multiple times I had people come up to me just to deliver a simple message, ranging from advice for the future and opportunities to starting life from rock bottom. Not everyone you meet is going to be friendly, but there are good people with good messages so lend an open mind and a willing ear!
8. Safe habits can easily prevent trouble.
If you live in a small town and are used to keeping doors or windows unlocked, going places after dark with no trouble, or anything that goes along with safe being an unquestionable way of life, DON’T BE SO NAÏVE. I’ve had people try to break into a hotel room I was staying in, strangers follow me in public places (even Walmart and CVS – yikes!), and many items stolen. Think twice, even a third time, about what you’re doing and what you’re comfortable with leaving exposed. Not all areas are dangerous but it’s important to be on your game when you’re alone or unarmed! Mace is highly suggested and can be found at any sporting goods store.
9. Getting lost in a crowd has never sounded so good.
Have there been times when you wished people would look the other way or pretend they didn’t see what you just did? That’s the positive outlook on being surrounded constantly. There’s fun in doing silly embarrassing things when you know you will more likely than not never see that person again. So don’t mind if you slip up and possibly look a bit insane at times; there’s freedom and a good laugh to someone out there when you’re in a place where not everyone knows everyone.
10. Losing sight of the shore isn’t always from a ship.
The beaches all along the west coast are absolutely GORGEOUS. It’s hard leaving a place that has so many serene and peaceful places to just spend the day at. From campfires right next to the ocean to nights under the sparkling city lights listening to the tide hit the shore, the simple things in life never seemed so gratifying. No wonder it’s so easy to forget about cell phone scrolling and Internet brainwashing; being in the great outdoors is the way to indulge in euphoric exposure.
Being on the golden coast was never a dream I had intentions to grasp, but after the memories that I made there, along with the astonishing characters I’ve met, it’s earned a destination pinpoint on my map. I encourage everyone to get up from their routine life, brush off your wings and fly because the taste of freedom and an alternate setting experienced is a chapter that will make your life story worth telling!