With Plan B underway, I'm doing my best to accept and embrace life back in the United States. While the lure of going back to Spain is weighing heavily on my mind (and my heart), I'm trying to get used to being on this side of the Atlantic and what better way to do that than visiting a few of the most popular cities in the US, where some of my closest friends and family now reside.
Stop one on the big tour: San Diego, California, known for its near perfect weather and laid back vibes. My lovely friend, Rachael, boldly picked up and left her life in Atlanta, ending up nestled into a fabulous home right by the sea, in Ocean Beach, San Diego. Ocean Beach, more commonly referred to by the locals as OB, is still very much stuck in the 70's with a hippy, slightly grungy feel along the beach and in its people. An abundance of kitschy boutiques, coffee shops, and thrift stores line the main street, dumping out into the shore, packed with surfers and vagabonds. Even with its predominant demographic of young beach bums, there is still an eclectic mix of people that fill the patios for Sunday brunch and pack the street for the weekly market. Beyond OB there are several other neighborhoods with their own special charm and unique theme. Pacific Beach (or PB) may have a similar name to OB, but the scene is entirely different. Young and hip, this is place to go for a party. (I’m still buzzing from an unforgettable Halloween extravaganza). A stop into Hillcrest for a few mimosas to recover from a night in PB is just what the doctor ordered. This next neighborhood I discovered had a whole different chill vibe, with superb restaurants and trendy character. It's known to be the gay section of town and as a result is fabulously liberal and stylish. Beyond the youthful, laidback areas of San Diego are La Jolla, famous for “seal beach”, with an upscale ambience, pricy condos, and spectacular views; and Coronado, home of the Hotel Del Coronado, and absolutely picturesque. And what's a big city without a downtown area? The Gas Lamp district has all you need to remind you you're there. So I soaked up as much San Diego as I could muster and walked away feeling happy and satisfied. Californians in general seem to have that open, relaxed attitude that I love and I can see that a life in San Diego would be a happy one, but is it me? It still lacks a sense of culture and depth that I long for. It was time to move on to the next potential city on my list, Austin, Texas.
While San Diego had several diverse pockets and neighborhoods, I got a completely different feel from Austin. I was immediately impressed by its charm and unique nature. They are famous for their art scene; even the sidewalks have decorative accents embedded in the concrete. The people are very granola, focused on being healthy and green. My cousin has called Austin home for over 10 years, graduating from UT and never turning back. His house where we stayed is located in a downtown residential neighborhood with a wide array of homes, from old fixer-uppers to new, modern works of art. There's even a castle and a house made entirely of glass just blocks away. The main street is lined with local restaurants, vintage shops, and several food trailers that you can't find anywhere else. Despite the hipster "weird" scene that Austin embraces, they still can't take the Texas out of the people. I witnessed more cowboy boots than I've ever seen walking the isles of Whole Foods. With that said, one thing Austin really was lacking in my eyes was diversity. I loved the tone of the town, but it was just one note and fitting in has never been very appealing to me.
Austin was incredible, with remarkable friendly people that made me feel right at home. Just as my dear friend in San Diego did, my cousin made it a point to show me the best that Austin has to offer and sell me on his beloved city. I adored both spots and am certain that either city could be a happy place to call home. But one essential thing was missing: I didn't have that feeling; that deep connection with the city; that shiver up my spine that I'd found a perfect fit. These cities are absolutely ideal for many people, I'm sure, but for me, I need to keep searching. Next stop on the tour is Denver, CO. While I've been to San Diego and Austin on other occasions, I am yet to visit the great state of Colorado. For some reason, I have some type of instinctive feeling that I need to see it. My Madrid soul mate and confident just moved their on a whim and has been trying to convince me for some time to join her. It has always been on the radar since it is a mountain town and I have a special affinity for the mountains after spending four years at Appalachian State in western North Carolina. I owe it to myself to check it out and see if I do get that crucial spark. If not, I'm out of ideas and compromising with my instincts may be my only option.
With all of this said about these fine cities in the USA, I still can't shake my deeper urge to keep exploring the world abroad. There is still so much I'm yet to see, so many places I haven't discovered, and imagining life cooped up in one place seems overwhelming and just not the right option for me. I have to keep moving, keep exploring, and keep reaching out for more. Latin America, the islands of Southeast Asia, Australia... I can't give up the dream. But for how long is traveling on a tight budget, with a loose plan, doing a job not meant for me going to last? Teaching English is always a viable option to stay abroad, but this too is not the answer. The only way I see to solve the puzzle is to follow what my heart is telling me to do and work with what I have at my disposal. Some pieces are starting to fit together and new ideas for a career that keeps me on the move is materializing. For now I’ll invest in the process and maintain confidence that no matter what, as long as I do what feels natural and right, I’ll end up where I am meant to be, whether that is one of these named cities, some strange exotic land, or right here in good ole Raleigh, North Carolina. I believe that just like everyone else, my fate has already been written; it’s my job to live it out and see where it takes me.