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I’m not going to beat around the bush; this is the last post here on The Traveling Philosopher. And by some definitions, therefore my last blog post as a travel blogger.
It was four years ago that I had recently arrived in Costa Rica, the first Latin America stop on what was to be something of an indefinite, long-term trip around the world. Just months prior I had started this blog, The Traveling Philosopher, as a place that I could color outside the lines. Somewhere that I could put on paper everything that was in my head, where I didn’t have to abide by a publication’s style guide or an editor’s do and don’t list. I wanted it to be an expression of my feelings. And there was a lot, like unresolved feelings about the passing of my father, anger at the loss of my dream job, disappointment at a pile of debt, and discouragement of an impending divorce.
If you know anything about California, then you probably know a little something about the state’s most well-known beaches, such as Venice, Laguna, Stinson, and Ocean, just to name a few. But go on any given Sunday to these beaches and you won’t exactly have them all to yourself. Yet with more than 1,000 miles of coastline in California, there is no shortage of great beaches, some off-the-beaten-path, and others that are right under your nose. So today I feature a round-up of 15 of the most underrated beaches in California.
Two words: Big Sur. That’s all you need to know about where it is to know that you should go. Pfeiffer Beach at one time was one of those places that you could blink and miss it, since it’s a few minutes off Highway 1 after you make the right turn down the narrow road. But with more people finding out about it and more visible signs, the secret is starting to get out. While it takes a few minutes to get to after turning off the Pacific Coast Highway 1, the spacious beach, beautiful Pacific Ocean views, and craggy cliffs towering over it make it more than worth it. The best time to go, however, is at sunset, when the sun beams through Keyhole Rock just beyond the breaking waves.
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I, like most guys, don’t like shopping. It probably doesn’t help that I was scarred as a child when my mom first took me jeans shopping. In case you’re wondering, an overweight kid, like I was, is not meant to wear Wrangler slim fit jeans. That didn’t stop my mom, however, from yelling at me to “suck it in” while she attempted to pull those jeans to my waist.
Yet, here I am, talking about Venice, California’s Abbot Kinney, known most notably for nothing other than its shopping. But if you’re here expecting a shopping post about Abbot Kinney, then I’m sorry to disappoint. While many people visit Abbot Kinney for its boutique shops, I prefer it for different reasons. Venice is one of my favorite neighborhoods, in part because of its offerings, but also because it’s so walkable. Not to mention that the story behind it is so fascinating.
My first trip to Los Angles was when I was 11. It’s one of the most vivid trips from my childhood. Part of it I can remember as if it was yesterday, like breakfast (and the subsequent conversation with our waitress) one morning at the InterContinental Hotel Los Angeles, located just off Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City. “Oh, you are nearly a Southern Californian being so tall and with such curly hair, but not with that accent.” I blushed, as she continued on, telling me that maybe, just maybe I’d be playing for the Lakers being so tall. 20 years later and I’m back in Los Angeles, just off Santa Monica Boulevard still, but this time I call it home.
Growing up, Los Angeles (and in general, Southern California) stood out to me as this Rivendell-esque type of place. It resonated with me much more than many other cities, since it was home to so many things I only found in bits and pieces elsewhere, from beaches to mountains to celebs to Disneyland. And when I visited Los Angeles at age 11 it didn’t disappoint, even if our cab driver drove off from the Getty Villa without my mom.
So at the end of last summer, just months after my 30th birthday, I packed up all of my things in my car and fulfilled a travel dream I’ve always had of driving the length of the Pacific Ocean coastline from Seattle down to Los Angeles. However, when I arrived in Los Angeles, I found myself never wanting to leave, and I haven’t, nor do I have plans to, as I have an affinity toward Los Angeles and creating a home life here like I’ve felt no other place. That’s right, this good ‘ole boy who grew up in rural North Carolina went Hollywood.
So summer evidently arrives in Los Angeles this week. Or at least summer, as most people tend to think about it. While it was a nippy (nippy to me at least) and windy 60 degrees at the beach on Saturday, it warms up this week to a balmy 97 degrees in L.A.. So I’ve virtually unrolled a scroll, made a quill pen and dabbled it in ink to start making my summer life/bucket list.
If you follow me on my blog or on other social channels, then you know that 2013 was something of a bucket list year for me. Upon turning 30 I set out to take on a one-year bucket/life list of things I had always said I wanted to do, but never done. The goal: To do at least 30 of those things. Not one to skimp, I instead did 38. The list was quite a mashup, from attending a taping of a primetime television show (The Sing-Off) to learning to snowboard to going paragliding to flying a plane and a whole lot more.
I sat on a bench in Savannah’s Ellis Square, rubbing my forehead with my hand (as I often do when I’m nervous or stressed), as I held the phone up to my ear with my other hand while my mom gave me one of her staple pep talks.
“Well son, I don’t think you need to jump right into dating.”
I chuckled, quickly snapping back to my mom, “Mom, I’m getting a divorce, and as far as I’m concerned, girls have cooties.”
Here I was, a 27-year old southern man, looking at a pile of debt, facing a divorce in the same year that I had worked as a clerk for a family-owned video store and telling my mom that girls had cooties. At that point, it couldn’t have gotten much worse. And so it was, on the first trip that I had taken in well over a year, I had the first of a series of epiphanies. I hung up with my mom, set the phone on the bench and like the Ben Harper song, headed for the door and walked away…From all of it.
It was three years ago this month that both my best trip and best decision to date saw its final moments on a beach in Costa Rica. Seven months prior, in my “home” of the Carolinas, following several years of struggle that came to a head with a divorce, I sold and gave away everything that couldn’t fit into a backpack, quit my job to start my own business as a freelance writer, and set out to travel the world. Life had lost its luster. In honesty, I wanted an out on life. If there was anyway I could get out of my work, marriage, home, or life, I was looking for it. So I did. I set out on a journey, with no intended tangible or intangible destination. What resulted was seven months of travel that would change my life, taking me from what felt like an abyss, to feeling like I had been reborn, seeing life with a beauty and wonder that I’m not sure I had even seen as a child. On that beach I felt a resolve and sense of accomplishment like I had never felt before, as if I could go home and continue on with life. Except my journey wasn’t ending. It was just beginning.