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Be a Traveler in Your Own Backyard!


Balboa Park Botanical Gardens

I live in one of the most scenic and diverse cities in the United States. The Pacific Ocean is 15 minutes west of my home, the mountains are 30 minutes east, and the Mexican border is 20 minutes south. We have parks, beaches, hiking trails, art, music, and more breweries that you ever wish to visit. On top of that, we have arguably the best weather in the world and the best Mexican food north of the border.

In spite of all this, I know many people who, outside of work, spend most of their time at home, probably streaming Netflix. This trend is not unique to San Diego. How often do you explore your own city? How often do you try new restaurants or places? How often do you wander through different neighborhoods just for fun?

Being a traveler starts at home. Be curious. Stop living just to feel comfortable. Comfort is for people who don’t care to learn and grow. When we don’t continuously challenge ourselves, we become stagnant and rigid. That’s equally true for the body, mind, and spirit. That show or chore will be there tomorrow, trust me. You may not.

I admire people who seem to lead exciting lives with little effort, who just go with the flow and somehow always end up doing something amazing. I am NOT that person. Invitations to underground parties and weekend road trips down Baja don’t happen to me. I make things happen. With some thought, research and planning, so can you.

TIP #1 - Figure out what you enjoy! It’s that simple.

I love to hike, so when it’s cool enough, I visit my favorite trails or a explore a new one. I love to salsa dance and try to go dancing a couple times a month. On weekdays, when my 8 to 5 work schedule and daily commute leaves me with little free time, I like to run along the bay, grab a drink with a friend, or take an evening stroll in Balboa Park. I also take weekly guitar classes.

You just have to know what you like. If you’re into coffee, check out a new coffee shop once a month. If you like concerts, explore local bands and music venues. If you’ve always wanted to learn to surf, you live in the perfect place to start. You get the picture!

TIP #2 - Eliminate the excuses.

If you don’t know what’s going on, check out your local magazines (e.g. the San Diego Reader) for events and happenings. Facebook is also a great tool!

If you don’t have any interests or hobbies, find one. The world is full of incredible and delightful things.

If you know you get lazy as soon as you get home (as I do!), plan to go somewhere straight from work.

If you don’t like doing things alone, find a buddy. I have walking friends, salsa friends, hiking friends, running friends, and music friends. In the end, if I really want to do something, I’ll do it with or with company.

If you need to amass some skills, take a class. When I was recently divorced and wanted to backpack on my own, I enrolled in a wilderness basics course. I knew that having technical knowledge would give me the confidence and courage to hike alone. Last summer, I camped in Utah for a week by myself and it was magical.

TIP #3 - Plan, plan, plan.

Life is busier than ever, and between work, family, spouses, and other commitments, there is very little free time. To make the most out of mine, I plan in advance.

For example, I do most of my cleaning, grocery shopping, and laundry during the week so that I keep my weekends as free as possible for me to do the things that bring me joy.

I flag places and events that interest me. I reach out to friends and loved ones and schedule dates. I put things in my calendar, and set up reminders.

I don’t plan every second of my day, and I relish unplanned adventures just as much (if not more), but planning is the only way I can guarantee the life I want. I don’t leave it to chance.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of my local favorites:

For strolling/walking/wandering

For restaurants/bars/nightlife

For hiking

For beach time

For running

For dancing Salsa/Bachata/Reggaeton

For camping

For booklovers

For beer

For local history

For live music

What are your favorite spots in and around San Diego? Share with me in the comments below! I would love to hear from you.