When we first decided we were going to get rid of everything that tied us down and travel, we both had our worries, but there was never a doubt in our minds that we wouldn’t like the nomadic lifestyle. D is Southern California born and raised, and I’ve lived here for almost 2 decades. After living in one place for so long… well, it can get quite ordinary. And there’s a whole world out there! So many different cultures and ways of life to experience!
Other people were worried for us though. D’s dad, who’s a extensive traveler himself, told us, “You can go all over the world, but you’ll eventually realize that there’s nowhere better than Southern California.”
Hmmm… I think after traveling to other countries, Southern California seems…. kinda boring and less lively in comparison. Not only is it really expensive, there’s no history here, no culture. It makes you wonder why people would choose to live here when you can live somewhere more interesting for a fraction of the cost. It must be because we have nothing but sunshine 98% of the time and celebrities.
Recently, I was back in SoCal for 3 weeks. It’s just enough time to overcome jet lag, get comfortable, and get a routine going again (errr… if you count sleeping in, reading, eating, napping, eating, etc. as a routine. And sorry for the lack of posts lately… apparently it’s really tough doing a whole lot of nothing). It’s also enough time to do a re-assessment of SoCal through a different set of eyes.
I originally started this list a few months ago after returning home to Southern California for a little bit after South America. And now after another 3 months, I have definitely noticed things about my hometown that I’ve never noticed before – some I’ve taken for granted and some I don’t miss.
Let’s start with the bad!
Lack of public transportation. To survive in Southern California, you must own a car. I wanted to see some friends and didn’t want to spend money renting a car, but nope, there’s no easy public transportation to get to them. Everything is so sprawled out that you need a car to get anywhere. And no one ever walks. Need to go to the Starbucks that’s literally around the corner? Yep, get in the car and drive! I don’t particularly think this is a healthy lifestyle.
Horrendous traffic. So I did up renting a car for several days, and I was immediately reminded why rush hour is the bane of everyone’s existence. There was a day I spent literally one hour to go just 10 miles. Here, it’s perfectly normal to spend 1 – 1.5 hour getting to and from work everyday. That’s 3 hours of a day wasted sitting in a car (yep, I’ve been there)! I know there’s traffic in every major city, but perhaps if there’s a better metro system (see above), there will be less cars on the street.
Poor quality food. You really need to go out of your way to search for high quality food here. I feel like while in South America and Europe, you could go to any random place, and the food would be homemade from scratch. Nothing canned or processed. Everything is exploding with flavor. But in SoCal, a lot of places serve really low quality stuff. The first few days back, everything tasted bland. You really need to search for the fresh stuff.
Tax and needing to tip 20%. I really liked how in other countries, if something says $10, it really means $10. Unlike in the States, you have to mentally add sales tax to it to get the accurate number of how much you’ll be spending. And also, it’s
mandatory customary to tip 20% for any kind of service (as opposed to 10% in other countries). It’s gotten to be such a standard here that tip is just expected, even if the service is shitty. Since I’m poorer now, I don’t like loosing my cash to tips.
Southern California is immaculately clean. Which means, no dog poop on the sidewalks. This was the first thing I noticed when we came back from South America. After three months there, I developed the habit of looking down while walking, in order to play hopscotch around all the dog poop. So upon getting out of the airport, I walked out looking down as usual, when I noticed… the sidewalks are so clean here that you can practically eat off it.
Mix of cultures. I think this is what I like most about Southern California. It’s truly a melting pot of ALL cultures. No one is a minority. You want a Thai massage, followed by lounging in a hookah bar with bellydancers, and then ending the night at a Korean karaoke joint? No problem! Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Little Saigon… you can practically go around the world without stepping foot outside of Los Angeles. I realized how lucky I am to have been exposed to so many different cultures growing up, which shaped my open mind and acceptance.
Which also brings me to:
Abundance of international cuisine. I also feel spoiled in that we have so many different ethnic food choices. Almost everything is really authentic too. The best dumplings I’ve ever had (short of Grandma’s homemade ones)? It’s in SoCal. The best pizza D’s had even though he’s been through Italy? Again, SoCal. Literally there’s an answer for ANYTHING you can possibly want, and all within a few short minutes’ drive.
Polite drivers. My friend won’t agree with this as her guy was recently the victim of a hit and run, but compared to the rest of the world, drivers here are pretty damn polite. Cars actually obey road signs and stop for pedestrians, even if it’s not the person’s right of way. I got so used to constantly dodging cars and trying not to get run over that it was a huge relief to come back and not be on such high alert all the time.
Free water. I love not having to pay $3 or $4 at restaurants for water! And nobody looks at you funny if you just ask for tap water with your meal.
Toilet seat covers. Yes, I know you’re supposed to just hover over the seat in public restrooms. But sometimes, I really like plopping my ass down and relaxing while I do my business, okay?
And lastly – In N Out is really, really delicious. California may be known for the weather and beaches, but really, I think the In N Out burger steals the limelight. Let me make it clear first that I do not like burgers. I have zero cravings for a burger ever. EXCEPT for if it’s from In N Out. At only a little over $2, their normal hamburger is the cheapest AND most delicious burger on the planet, surpassing even gourmet $15 burgers.
So, are you ready to plan your trip to SoCal/California yet? :P
Have you been to SoCal? Where is your hometown? What did you notice about it after traveling to other countries? What do you appreciate about your hometown?
This post is part of #SundayTraveler with Pack Me To and others, and don’t forget to support all the other participating blogs (links at the bottom of post)!