How My Trip To California Showed Me Travel Is More Than Checking Off The Tourist Spot Boxes

ACS_1817.jpgLast week I went on a trip to Los Angeles and San Diego, centered around going to the three baseball stadiums located there.  My travel companions (my in-laws, husband, best friend and her girlfriend) are all baseball enthusiasts, and enjoy visiting all the stadiums around the country.  I was game with the idea, as long as a few non-sports activities were thrown in there too 😉

IMG_3500All of the group (with the exception of my best friend and I) had never been to either city.  I was expecting to get many requests for sights to see from the group, but I only got a couple.  They wanted to take it easy and plan as we went.  I usually have to make these complicated sight-seeing lists when we travel for a week with a large group, so I was happy to comply and just relax.

ACS_1828.jpgDuring the trip, we took our time getting ready in the morning, had leisurely brunches, did a couple activities per day, took plenty of Airbnb nap-breaks, and chose our dinners based on what we were feeling that night.  Traffic in LA is insane, and it takes forever to get anywhere, so we didn’t want to jam-pack our day.  Some days the boys would golf, so us girls went on a hike or went to the art museum.  We found a little book at our Airbnb with unique places to visit, so we jotted a few down.  Discovered a cool neon museum, a nice shopping area, and explore some beach piers with their cutely decorated shops.ACS_1886

ACS_1878The only musts on our lists were the baseball games, meeting up with some local friends, a comedy club Ryan heard about, and a couple tiki bars for me.  There was no urgent need to see all the “top attractions” of LA or San Diego.  No one in my group felt like they were missing out if they didn’t see the Hollywood Stars or Rodeo Drive.  We had our own unique bucket lists of what we enjoy seeing when we travel.  I used to feel like I HAD to see all the top sites in order to fully experience a new city.  All these lists of “must-sees” on the internet or in travel books, all the picture-perfect travel photos on Instagram…it makes you feel like if you don’t do it (or photograph yourself doing it), then you didn’t travel right in that city.

ACS_1876.jpgI’ve slowly come to realize that you won’t be a travel failure if you don’t see all seven continents and more countries than your age.  You don’t have to see all the wonders of the world unless that is a great passion of yours.  You don’t need to take a picture with all the iconic monuments the city has to offer, just to say you saw them.  If you want to take a long nap break and not jam-pack your day, do it! Vacation should be relaxing if that’s what you are looking for, or filled to the brim with interesting places you’d personally love to see and experience.  Being willing to trying new things and new cuisines always opens interesting doors when you travel, but it doesn’t mean you didn’t truly experience Thailand if you didn’t eat a scorpion.  (I’m always impressed by people who can eat bugs, but you sure as hell won’t find me doing it!)

I had a few friends surprised that I opted out of the Blue Lagoon when I went to Iceland. Does that mean I truly didn’t experience Iceland since I didn’t go to their most iconic geothermal baths?  I sure felt like I experienced amazing parts of Iceland.  I definitely want to go back and experience more, but that’s not because I felt like I didn’t do it right the first time.

And this isn’t to say any of those huge checklists are bad, I’m so amazed when people achieve them!  However, I feel like there is so much pressure to go-go-go before you get older, instead of traveling at your own pace.  Sometimes your budget, time-off or other life priorities take precedence to travel.  I’ve learned to go at my own pace.  I DO plan on seeing all 50 states and at least 6 of the continents, but I might reach that goal in my 60s, and that’s okay.

Use all those must-see lists or references from friends to discover something your research might have overlooked, but don’t feel bad if you don’t see it all.  Everyone’s interests vary.  I’m sure not as many people enjoy tiki bars and historic house tours like I do, but that’s what I love to do when I travel.  Find your passions and custom fit them to your travels.  Maybe you are a car enthusiast and would love to try one of the race track experiences.   Maybe you love libraries and want to see all the gorgeous libraries of the world.  I have a few Lord of the Rings friends who were thrilled to see the hobbit land in New Zealand.  Don’t be afraid to reach out of your comfort zone and see/do something different (because you might find a new passion), but don’t feel bad if something is just not your thing.

Sometimes travel is for opening your eyes to a new culture, and sometimes it is a getaway from life back home.  Find out what travel means to YOU, embrace it, and forget the rest.


ACS_1858.jpgIf you are still reading, and are just looking for some interesting places to go in LA and San Diego…below I’ve listed some places we went that we enjoyed 🙂  Maybe it’s something you’d enjoy too!

Los Angeles

Malibu Beach: I found it not near as crowded on the Thursday evening that we went, compared to other beaches/piers in LA)

Malibu Cafe: My friend and I had gone once before and loved it, so we wanted to bring the group back.  It is a huge outdoor, multi-space area with lots to do.  It has paddle boats, and large scale outdoor games like chess and connect four.  They sometimes have live music, and there are plenty of places to lounge with friends.  The restaurant is good but pricey, so we found it cheaper to share some of the “family” plates and split the cost.

 Museum of Neon Art: It’s smaller than other neon museums I’ve been to, but has interesting signs that have been salvaged from the area unlike any sign designs I’ve seen before.

Griffith Park Hiking Trails:  Most people flock to this area for the Griffith Observatory and it’s views, but an even better way to enjoy the views are from the hiking trails that span off it.  There are a number of trails to choose from, and varying skill levels of hikers can enjoy them.

The Comedy Store:  This comedy venue is a great place to see up-and-coming comedians as well as some already famous ones all in one night.

The Getty Center:  Though it has an impressive array of art, I most enjoyed the architecture and gardens.  Gorgeous.

Hermosa Beach Pier: I’ve been here a couple times and the neighboring area is really nice to walk around.  There are a number of nice restaurants and shops on the pier, and it’s lively without being too crowded.

The Canals and Neighborhood by Venice Beach:  Though Venice Beach is a unique place to experience (muscle beach, lots of quirky shops and lots of people watching), the neighborhoods by Venice Beach are more interesting to me.  The houses are all along canals, all very uniquely designed, and peaceful to walk around.  We didn’t have time to go there for this trip, but I really enjoyed seeing them the other time I went to LA.

San Diego

False Idol:  One of my favorite tiki bars thus far!  It is like a speakeasy and hidden within another bar.  Decorated so cool and a wide selection of tiki drinks.

Edgewater Grill: This restaurant has stunning views of the water, is downtown but easy to access, and is surrounded by cute shops and other restaurants in little courtyards.

Kono’s Cafe: If you are in the Pacific Beach area, this is a great spot for cheap breakfast food (all day), that has large portions and is locally run.

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