I know I’m not alone when I say that there’s a long list of cities that I’ve been dying to visit. Over time, as my list has begun to grow, (by that I mean I add a new city as often as every hour), I’ve started to get more depressed than inspired.
How will I ever be able to see all these places before I croak from old age or skin cancer? I’ve begged my friends to travel with me, except everyone has this weird thing called “a job,” or “responsibilities,” or “please stop texting me scout, or I’ll have to block your number.” I was feeling like the reality of getting to see these places were super far fetched. Basically, my friends were too busy or didn’t have the money, both of which were valid reasons, and I didn’t hold it against them.
To my mother’s dismay, I soon realized that the only way I was going to see these places were if I went by myself, so that’s exactly what I did, or rather, have begun to do.
This May, I packed up my Osprey 40 L Backpack, put on my beloved Vail sweatshirt & velcro shoes (we all have a favorite traveling outfit, don’t lie), and hopped on a cheap frontier flight from Charleston to LAX for two days of making friends and exploring California.
First Stop: Long Beach
I’m an East Coast girl, so the name Long Beach didn’t mean anything to me other than that said beach must just be rather long, but boy is there a lot more to it than that.
Long Beach is unreal. Besides the whole seaside thing, they have an entire strip of thrift stores and antique shops on 4th street AKA ~Retro Row~. Every shop had a personality of its own and well-priced goods, which we STAN.
This street was perfect for wasting a day. Because coffee is the easiest way to judge how great a city is, I wandered into places like Wide Eyes Open Palms, and Portfolio Coffee House. I opted for Wide Eyes Open Palms because my inner millennial was attracted to the trendy name, and they did not disappoint.
This welcoming cafe was the perfect spot for a cup of joe and some alone reading time. (I finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty while I was there, and WOW, can we talk about our opinions on Tom & Jane? I ship).
California State University at Long Beach
Technically I had a little incentive to visit Long Beach, and you guessed it, here comes a self-plug. I randomly submitted a short story of mine to the Journal at California State University at Long Beach back in October. Five months later and they let me know that my Creative Nonfiction had been one of two selected to be published in RipRap Journal #41.
Of course, I had to make an appearance to read my story, Electric Chair, in front of an audience, into a mic and everything. It was terrifying, and I loved it. I happened to meet some of the most incredible creatives, even one who has a live radio show where he reads poetry… like… are you kidding? SO cool.
More importantly, the campus has a giant blue pyramid. I have no idea why, but it’s really sick.
Home Base: Naples
Budget is always a priority, so I opted for staying in an Airbnb. The cheapest kind is typically a room within someones home. The house I stayed at happened to be in Naples, no not the one in Florida, but the vibrant beachfront city with woven water canals.
I had a field day with photos of these homes and the views the residents get to enjoy every morning. There wasn’t necessarily much restaurant or nightlife, but walking around their lavish borough was well worth the lengthy drive to Long Beach.
What’s a trip to Cali without a day in downtown LA? I’m not sure the answer, but I sure didn’t want to find out.
No surprise here; I began my urban adventures with a coffee shop. After yelping a few spots, I decided on Philz Coffee because of the raving reviews they’d received. I was a little shocked by how long the line was when I arrived but took it as a sign that I was in the right place for quality coffee.
After practically chugging my delicious caffeine, I wandered toward Grand Central Market, just to say I did it. While I enjoyed scouting the market, I felt like it didn’t necessarily live up to the hype. Five minutes of photo snapping and strolling were enough to satisfy me.
So I did something super basic, sue me! I actually really enjoyed the Santa Monica Pier, and not because of the amusement rides, but because I met another solo backpacker! She and I swapped stories about our travels and vowed to keep in touch.
While the thought of meeting strangers can be especially daunting for a solo female traveler, being in a public place like the Pier was ideal.
Making friends is my absolute favorite part of travel, but it’s true that you do need to be cautious. In a place with lots of people around, I wasn’t worried about my safety and ended up making an incredible new friend.
I spent what felt like hours just people watching in Venice Beach. There were easily 15 photo shoots over that span of time, alongside several games of pickup basketball, and kickflips in the skate park. That’s California for ya!
There were plenty of shady spots, but let me tell you, Venice is windy. That cute dress I had on? Not as lovely as the peep show I haphazardly gave to my fellow Venice beach goers.
Bonus: I Booked Cheap Flights With A Long Layover In Denver
I may have sacrificed a nights sleep, but I did get to explore another city while actually saving money.
Union Station in Downtown Denver makes me giddy, and I sincerely mean that. It may just be the fact that I hope to reside there someday, but I can’t be sure. The $10 train from the airport takes you directly to downtown Denver, along with several other stops, in a little under 45 minutes. Watching the sun gradually peer over the mountains was the most relaxing scene.
I savored my early morning breakfast at Snooze before having to treck back to the portal to the underworld, aka the Denver Airport (if you aren’t familiar).
Traveling solo isn’t scary, it’s freeing.
Being by yourself allows you the freedom to experience a city in all the ways you want, and without having to compromise for other people.
I hope that this gave you some inspiration, and if you visit any of these places, let me know in the comments below what your favorite spots were!