Tag Archives: Drive

Travel Guide: Southern California

For about three years, I’ve been saying that someday I’m going to fly to San Diego, rent a car, and drive up the California coast to San Francisco. For whatever reason, I always envisioned spending two or three weeks alone and contemplating life’s purpose along the way. Somewhat of an On the Road dream, I suppose.

This year, for the first time, I didn’t spend the holidays with my family. Instead, I flew to LAX, rented a car, drove to San Diego to visit a friend who I haven’t seen since June, and then drove up the California coast to Costa Mesa to visit another friend who I haven’t seen since September, venturing further north to Malibu from there. Over the course of the week I met a number of people who had me laughing more than I have laughed in months. I felt light, carefree, happy, and optimistic about what is possible. The second half of 2016 was really tough for me and I could not have been happier to feel like my old self again.

San Diego and Around
With the aid of a cute little red rental car and a San Diego native (with whom I traveled to Laos in June) as my tour guide, I saw quite a bit of San Diego County and ate the most delicious Mexican food item I have ever had – a chile relleno burrito! Some of our stops included:

Del Mar, my first California beach experience:

Mount Soledad, with beautiful views of San Diego:

PB (Pacific Beach), where I got a real kick out of  winter Christmas decoration with palm trees and the beach in the background:

Coronado, which was just stunning:

Julian, an absolute gem of a town that looks like time forgot about it:

The interior of that used bookstore looked like this:

And you know how I feel about books!

We took a beautiful drive back from Julian along Route 78 and I took a break from driving to gaze out the window at the stunning valley:

Sunshine, blue skies, mountains, oceans. It’s no wonder everyone was so friendly and welcoming and actually seemed to care about the answer to the generic, “Hi, how are you?” that I heard everywhere I went.

Costa Mesa and Around
After three nights in San Diego, it was time to drive north to Costa Mesa. I’d originally driven south from LAX in the dark so it was nice to see the same roads in daylight. The blue skies, beaches, and mountains adventure continued with a best friend from high school (also a travel partner in Hong Kong and Thailand) who moved to California three years ago. Our exploring included:

Top of the World hike at Laguna Beach, which was the warmest day of the week:

A drive to Long Beach to meet some more people, eat dinner, and have a night out:

Driving to Long Beach

Santa Monica, which we visited on a damp, chilly day that was still iconic and beautiful:

Los Angeles, where we took a quick nighttime walk around Staples Center before seeing a concert at the LA Convention Center:

Newport Beach, which was adorable and thoroughly enjoyable even though we got caught in the rain:

County Line Beach in Malibu to watch a stunning sunset on New Year’s Day:

This week was the perfect way to put a positive spin on the end of a strange year, as well as the perfect way to begin a new year – time with friends, full of laughter, exploring beautiful places.

I didn’t realize how much I needed this week and time with these people until I was fully immersed in it. As soon as I got in a taxi on the way to the airport in New York I felt a weight lift that I didn’t realize I was carrying. There was a physical lightness in my body for the week that I spent in California. The tension I normally carry in my back went away after a few days. Being around such good friends in such a beautiful place was physically and emotionally rejuvenating, which is all I can ask for.

Newport Beach

Hopefully in a summer or three I’ll fly again to LAX, rent a car, and drive up the California coast to San Francisco. I’m already excited for everything there is to see and experience. And something tells me I won’t be doing it alone.

A Long Way Home

Friday marks the end of my school break. I’ll begin my 30ish-hour journey back to Singapore tomorrow evening, land early Sunday afternoon, get my life in order, and head back to work first thing Monday morning. Some of my friends are already back in Singapore, but I really don’t do well with downtime. I’m already getting close to a point of emotional turmoil  so the quicker I get back into my routine, the happier I will be (and the sooner I’ll be rid of the inevitable jet lag).

I’m sure I don’t have to say that it has been wonderful being back in the US for the holidays. Mitch and I made a lot of decisions during the 4 days we spent together in New York City, and the subsequent week or so we spent together in Rochester. I feel much better about the choices we’ve made and about our future, than I did before we sat down in person and talked. Since Mitch and I have so many important discussions over the phone, I often forget the instantaneous communication of body language. In truth, body language makes tough conversations a lot easier. Silence takes on a new meaning. Togetherness matters a lot more when it’s not taken for granted.

While I was home, Mum and I took a quick trip to Montreal to see my grandparents.Seeing one’s grandparents really shouldn’t have to be a special, planned occasion. I’ll see them again over the summer when I’m back in the States, but that’s a long way away. It’s unfortunate that we had to drive for 5 hours (and then back) to make Bubbie and Zaidy dinner, but that pizza with a puff pastry crust was delicious. In some ways, we’re lucky that it’s only a 5-hour drive because it’s easy to do in a day. It’s a distance that I’ve been used to for the last 23 years, but I’ve never grown to like it. More convenient than the distance between Singapore and Rochester, though!

No matter how often I fly back and forth, or how many people I say goodbye to on either end, I’m never completely ready to leave. It was easy to leave Singapore for a 3-week break because everyone was leaving and we’d all be back soon. It wasn’t easy to leave Malaysia last June because it meant saying goodbye to my friends, possibly forever, and it wasn’t easy to leave Rochester in July. I usually find myself somewhat anxious and certainly rather despondent. It makes me reluctant to act and leads me to avoid productivity. For example, I should be collecting various clothing items and putting them in my suitcase, but I’m writing this blog entry instead. I want to get back to my home, friends, and even my job, but I don’t want to leave the family and friends I have here.

It’s a conundrum. Welcome to the fragility of life abroad.