I moved to California with all the usual Oregonian bias: Californians are materialistic, money-obsessed bad drivers. I came fully planning to dislike California. Never in my life did I expect to live in California. Then I got a job offer I couldn’t pass up and moved here. I wouldn’t call myself a Californian yet, but I can almost picture it.
Here I am in Santa Barbara–one of the last place I would have chosen to live–and there are some definite benefits to this unexpected home. For one: winter is just a figment of the imagination. I’ve only been here for three months, but the weather hasn’t dropped below 60 degrees more than a couple times. As the sun worshiper I am, it’s great. I hate snow and cold weather. The one winter I spent on the east coast was miserable. Although every part of me is rebelling against the idea of California, it kind of makes sense for me to live here.
The sunny weather means delicious, fresh local produce all year round. That’s definitely a perk. Every other house has a lemon or avocado tree. It’s amazingly delicious.
Santa Barbara is a small town. Only about 90,000 people live in the city proper with another 30,000 or so in Goleta, the neighboring town that sprung up around the university. It’s small–especially compared to my recent homes in New York City and Seattle. I can drive from one end of town to the other in 15 minutes. I knew ahead of time that Santa Barbara was small, I’d just forgotten what it was like to live in a small town. I don’t know if I like that part yet.
Maybe it’s the small town, maybe it’s just California, but people are friendly here. Friendly in a way I’ve never quite experienced. I’ll be walking down the street, minding my own business, and someone will approach me out of the blue and actually start a conversation, not just ask the time or for directions. It’s strange and unusual.
My favorite part, in conjunction to the warm weather is the beach, so close at hand. I love laying on the beach on a sunny day: an easy task when it’s sunny and warm most days of the year and the beach is only a 20 minute walk from home. If that weren’t enough, I get views of the Pacific every morning on my bus ride to work.
There’s something to be said for beautiful vistas and Santa Barbara has them in abundance. Whether looking inland to the Santa Ynez mountains or toward the Pacific Ocean, natural beauty is everywhere. Add to that the Spanish style architecture embraced by the city and just about everything looks amazing.
Southern California is not so different than I expected with the sun and the produce and the beach, but my enjoyment of it is totally unexpected. I almost feel like I could stay here, at least for a few years.