When people ask me which state in America is my favorite, the answer is without a doubt: California. California was one of the places at the very top of my bucket list for all my life, and it sure as hell delivered.
I’d never gone to California until I spent the whole summer road-tripping and camping around the state in 2022. And I loved every second of it. I found California to be so inspiring. It’s a place that makes your wildest dreams come true. First, by showing you how beautiful life can really be. And second, by meeting people who show you that the life of your dreams is worth working towards.
Road-tripping around California gave me more than just good memories. It gave me self-confidence, the ability to dream big again, and the courage to pursue my wildest fantasies. Keep reading to learn more about my favorite moments in California, and a love letter to commemorate all the lessons I learned from my time there.
I spent a lot of time talking myself out of going to California during my trip. It felt like an unattainable destination that I had placed on a pedestal. I was getting ready to leave Flagstaff Arizona right before Memorial Day weekend. I was supposed to meet some friends in Vegas for the week but I wasn’t having a good feeling about it. I finally realized what I really wanted in my soul was to go to California. So I packed up my car, and drove to California.
I got lucky with the weather the first couple of days after I had crossed the border so I was able to spend some time in the desert. I posted up near Joshua Tree to put my bucket list together. I felt on top of the world, and I was.
When I got to Big Bear Lake, I was in love pretty much immediately. The drive up was gorgeous, and so was the town. It was the cutest little place I’d ever seen. A true hidden gem in the San Bernadino mountains. There were free campsites everywhere located so close to town and it was early enough in the season that we spent weeks here and hardly ever ran into anyone else. There were plenty of free dog-friendly beaches and parks and restaurants with wifi. The PCT runs through Big Bear, so the locals are used to backpackers and travelers and were so kind and hospitable to us. It was everything I could’ve wanted, needed, and more.
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I was lucky enough to cross paths with two beautiful, inspiring friends I had met on the internet for a day, and we decided to hike the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles together. It was a beautiful day, the perfect introduction to LA, and the start of a great friendship!
After our time in the solitude of the mountains, I was ready to spend some time in the city, and especially the ocean. I had heard good things about Orange County, so I headed there to split my time between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. And it was perfection. I developed the perfect morning routine for me at the time. I found a wonderful spot to park in a neighborhood right next to the beach.
I’d wake up before the sun and walk 10 feet to the sand for my sunrise yoga + meditation. I would have about an hour to myself before other people (and Chi) woke up, and this is the time in my life when I fell in love with waking up before the sun. When I was done with yoga I’d head over to Vacancy Coffee Co or Freelance Coffee Project to work for the day. I loved it so much I spent 8 days here and cried when I had to leave. We’ll be back for sure!
When I left Orange County I drove to LA to meet up with my mom’s cousin. I had always been attracted to Los Angeles, and I was excited to spend some time there. After meeting up with my cousin and spending about 4 hours in Los Angeles, I realized that Orange County fulfilled my California dreams much better than Los Angeles could and I did not want to stay. I even considered going back to Orange County. But I decided to keep going north, and I’m so glad I did. Because I ended up in a place I’d never thought to visit, but it ended up being my favorite place in Socal: Malibu.
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Malibu is a pretty well-known town, but I don’t think many people really know much there is to do there! It had beautiful beaches and hiking trails. Thanks to its location, sandwiched between the Santa Monica Mountains and the coast, it is the perfect spot for people like me who are looking for a wide variety of outdoor activities to enjoy and very few tourists. I spent so much time bouncing between the mountains, beaches, coffee shops, and restaurants and feel like I only ever ran into locals. I could’ve stayed here forever. It’s such a hidden gem!
But eventually I had to keep heading north and ended up in the mountains of Santa Barbara in the Los Padres National Forest. I camped here for a few days while getting some work done and enjoying some of the most beautiful sunsets and views of the coast I’d ever seen.
Cerillos is a pretty insignificant town in California if you’re looking on a map, but it was significant to me because it showed me how to bring myself back home on the road.
When I first got to Big Bear after feeling on top of the world, I actually lost one of my jobs that accounted for half of my income at the time. I was living primarily off of my savings after that, and after my time in Malibu, the California prices were really starting to stress me the hell out.
I didn’t know where I wanted to go but felt like I needed something similar to my hometown. Suburban. Cheap. Not touristy. But not off-grid. I drove north and wound up in a small town called Cerillos. I found a small neighborhood park on a map and decided to go there. There was no one else around. I found a space in the grass surrounded by trees where I could just breathe and relax. I actually meditated there for days until I felt calm and collected enough to continue traveling. I still go to parks in the suburbs when I need to relax.
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After a few days in Cerillos, I was feeling on top of the world as I decided to head up the coast to Northern California. The final destination I had in my mind along the coast was Santa Cruz and the Redwoods. I thought I’d make it to Santa Cruz and stay for the week. Skate, surf, create, and make friends.
I spent Saturday driving up the coast, something I thought would take an entire weekend. And I had an incredible day! I ended up Caramel and Monterey Bay. Took myself out on a little date night. And thought about what I really needed for the week ahead. A week in town was starting to feel a little suffocating. What I really needed was to go back to the mountains. I checked my friend’s location and realized she was on her way to Lake Tahoe. So I gave her a call and headed to Lake Tahoe.
I actually ended up spending several weeks in Lake Tahoe and as I started writing this section, I realized I needed to write an entirely new blog post to tell you every detail of how Lake Tahoe changed my life. I wrote my first book in Lake Tahoe. Watched my blog become a booming success in the blink of an eye. Traveled with someone who became one of my closest friends. Meditated outside every day. Became friends with the local barista. Developed a healthy work/life balance. And fell in love with life.
Thank you for showing me how to dream big, and for giving me the courage to pursue my wildest fantasies. Also for showing me that when you work hard, believe in yourself, and have a good attitude, anything is possible. Thank you for your guidance and kindness. For teaching me both how to love and trust myself. And to just simply enjoy today in order to enjoy every day after.
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