Compared to the more travel-heavy past 3 months, January was pretty stationary. I don’t think I intended on staying in the U.S. for so long, but I’m really glad I stayed through January. This gave me one more month to see friends, eat good food, and create memories.
Since this was my last month before going off to travel again, I made sure to see as many people and visit as many LA spots as possible. I’m happy I got to spend this month with all my favorite SoCal people exploring different places. From my mom to college friends to ex-coworkers to a blog friend and even ex-bosses and current client, I saw just about everyone.
Here are the highlights in photos! (I’m sure some people won’t appreciate having their faces in my blog, so unfortunately some people are left out of this re-cap.)
Afternoon tea with mom // My sister and I took our mom to afternoon tea at a little vintage tea room in Long Beach. This place was seriously the cutest (and the scones were amazing too). And the best part – they have hats for you to wear so you can feel fancy! We had so much fun trying on different hats and taking photos.
My sister got a dog! // He’s a 5 year old pommie who was thrown into a shelter with a broken pelvis. Poor thing. He’s had a little bit of adjustment issues, but the little guy has really grown on me these weeks. He’s made working from home so much more fun. I miss him already!
Bedford Peak hike // I got a little more active this month with some hikes. I played hooky for a day and went out to Silverado Canyon with some friends. We did the 8-mile round-trip hike to Bedford Peak. It was challenging but we felt really good completing it.
Hollywood sign hike // The Hollywood sign hike is an iconic trail in LA. We didn’t quite make it to the sign, but close enough!
Omair’s birthday // It’s been nice being able to celebrate my friends’ birthdays while back. For Omair’s birthday, we did an escape room game and successfully escaped!
Griffith Observatory // One of Los Angeles’s best spots. I did the mini-hike up to the Observatory and met up with friends. Seeing the sun set from there is gorgeous and you get the best view of La La Land.
Downtown LA explorations // Man, DTLA has really changed since I lived in LA. It’s now a hip foodie destination with a ton of little eateries. I ventured out there a couple of times to meet up with an ex-coworker and do some foodie-ing. One of the highlights was finally getting to eat at the original Eggslut!
DineLA… eat eat eat! // I was lucky to be in LA this year when dineLA is going on! It’s a two week event where participating restaurants across LA come out with a special set menu (appetizer, main, dessert). It’s a great chance to try new restaurants for a good price. This year I tried 3 different ones. I think I may have found a new favorite – Sotto (in Beverly Hills) was so good that I went back the next day with another friend.
Santa Monica // In all this time of being back, I’ve only been to the beach once. So I made it a point to visit Santa Monica – an old favorite hangout – before leaving. I did the usual stuff like shopping on 3rd Street and watching the street performers on The Pier. It was extra nice too because I got to grab dinner with Courtney (Adelante)!
After all this time in LA, it was hard to leave. This is the longest I’ve been back in the U.S. since leaving to travel. This time, I stayed for 4 months, which is enough time for LA to almost feel like home again. I’ve really loved being able to hang out with my friends regularly and exploring the city. (Though I am also looking forward to not sleeping on my sister’s couch anymore.)
But more and more of my friends are moving away. I know that the next time I come back, there will be less familiar faces. It’s always the people that make a place, and with less and less of my favorite people around, I don’t know if LA will truly ever feel like home again. Though on the plus side, more of my friends are having babies, so next time, there will be more little ones to cuddle. :)
I would just like to take a moment to state some last thoughts about being back in the US.
// It was a serious sticker shock when I first got back. Being in Asia for so long, I was used to a $10 meal being considered a splurge. Heck, I could buy an entire day‘s worth of food + desserts for $10. And now all of a sudden, I was paying $10 for the most basic food! But now, 4 months in, I’m barely even blinking an eye at paying $30 for a meal.
// As a result, my credit card bills make me want to cry. At least I boosted my miles earnings way up with all the spending I’ve been doing…
// I’ve said this before, but tipping is seriously the worst thing ever. All of a sudden, a $30 meal is $40 after tax and tip. I don’t understand why America can’t just pay the staff a fair wage and do away with tipping. Why should the customers have to tip you to do your job?!
// Good friends will always stay the same, no matter how much time has passed. I haven’t seen my friends for 2 years, and some for even longer. But with true friends, the time doesn’t matter. We can just pick up from where we left off and catch up and laugh and share heart-to-heart conversations.
When you’re traveling, it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and new-ness of everything. It’s so easy to get addicted to being somewhere exotic and forget what you have back home and just stay out. This trip back really made me see how valuable my friends back home are. I know without a doubt that these are people who will always be there for me. Remembering what I have made me want to spend more of my time with my friends again.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want it to be another 2 years before I’m back again. I still don’t know what’s an ideal solution for me, but I’d like to be able to return to LA more and spend time with the people who matter to me.
But for now, I’ve yet again packed up my bags for travel for an indefinite time. After 4 months of being back, I was definitely sadder to say bye again. But I hope this time, it won’t be for too long.
What’s going on in February
Ugh, I didn’t mean to publish this so late into the month. I had this drafted up weeks ago and just never got around to polishing and publishing it.
I started February with a visit to Seattle to see Amanda. I drafted this post on the 34-hr train from Los Angeles to Seattle. Was it a crazy idea to do a super long train ride instead of a short 2-hr flight? I’ll let you know in next month’s recap!
After a few days in Seattle, I flew to Beijing to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family. For the past couple of years, I’ve spent CNY with my family in China and this year is no exception. Basically CNY means a lot of relaxing, eating, and mahjong!
How has your month been? If you’re a fulltime traveler or expat, how do you balance travel and seeing family + friends back home?