After my five day rush through San Francisco, it was time for me to move on, there was lots of California left for me to see. I booked a ticket on the Greyhound and set my sights to Santa Cruz, Monterey, a [hopeful] stop in Big Sur, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Aside from transportation and accommodation, I had done little planning for each destination but that's the beauty of traveling by yourself, each day can materialize as you so please. I planned on taking full advantage of couch-surfing by asking my hosts for tips and advice on their hometowns, why not rely on the locals?
Up first was Santa Cruz which I only had approximately 24 hours to explore, my first afternoon was spent talking with my host Paul, learning about his life and the place he now calls home. We made an afternoon stop at the farmers market and tried to catch the sunset at National Bridges State Beach but left a little late and caught dark skies instead. Mother nature didn't disappoint however as there was a gigantic glowing full moon for us to enjoy.
The next morning Paul was heading out with his friend for some AM surfing and asked if I wanted to join. I'm not one for water sports but I decided that morning yoga on the beach didn't sound like a bad idea, and I was right. I was the only person on the beach (aside from the photographer that snapped a few of me along with his scenic shots) and enjoyed 90 blissful minutes of solitude. The rest of the day I spent wandering the wharf, coast and downtown before it was time for me to leave for Monterey on a bus that costs $3.50, great value.
I had two great hosts in Monterey, both of whom were students at MIIS, a great bonus for me seeing as part of my reason for stopping was to check out the school. The only down side was my timing which fell right at midterms meaning they were both super busy with completing projects and finals. In my three day visit I was able to explore all the tourist sights in town, take a campus visit and get out to Big Sur (again on the cheap thanks to MST). The weather was less than ideal but the food and people I met made up for that.
Before long I was again on my way, but this time via Amtrak which provided a bit more comfort and fabulous views. My next CS host scooped me up from the bus station and immediately asked me if I wanted to accompany him to a charity event for the United Way, free food, wine sampling, beach views, and a silent auction? Sign me up! We spent the afternoon there before returning to his place where we met up with the Danish girls he was also hosting at the time and all went together to the Drive Inn (yes, they still exist!).
The next few days in SLO were non-stop filled with good eats (noticing this theme in my travels), yoga classes, hiking and some downtown exploration. The CS reviews I had read were spot on as Joe proved to be one of the best hosts I've had thus far in my travels. He's traveled and lived across the US but has fallen in love with SLO and is eager to share this city with visitors causing them to love it as well. This small town seemed to have the right amount of everything, cute shops, good restaurants, hiking within minutes of the city center and the ocean only a short drive away, I'm sure I'll be back.
Due to a delayed train I wound up spending an additional night in SLO so I was able to meet more of Joe's friends and act as cheerleader for their softball game. The next morning left room for one more hot yoga class before it was time for me to board my train and continue on to Santa Barbara. I arrived late in the afternoon so after catching a beautiful sunset, we returned to his place, did some yoga, ate dinner and I called it a night. I had been fighting off a cold since my windy days in Monterey so I took advantage of the downtime and decided to take care of me. The next day my host dropped me downtown, I checked my bag at the Greyhound office (where I was informed of my 3-hour bus delay) and set out to explore. I was feeling lazy (aka not wanting to do tourist things) so I wandered through bookstores, cafes, parks and restaurants; what may sound boring to some was a perfect day for me.
After a week of small towns, it was time for me to head back into the cities and reconnect with some old friends. My (already delayed) Greyhound bus was less enjoyable than my first few trips, thanks largely in part to a screaming child and loads of traffic, but I guess that's an appropriate greeting upon entering LA.
I grew up hearing "California, you don't want to live there" but after finally visiting, it's the one place in the US I could actually envision myself 'settling down'