queen of california: a trip to san diego

i‘m heading out west with my headphones on, boarded a flight with a song in the back of my soul, and no one knows

For three blissful days earlier this spring, I traded in mountains and snowflakes for beaches and sunshine. I boarded an early flight out of Denver, and two hours later stepped out into the palm tree-lined streets of wonderfully warm San Diego. It was my first time in California, and I think I fell in love as soon as I saw the Pacific Ocean washing up on the sand as we descended into “America’s Finest City.”


I think California is a word that evokes a particular perception: you hear ‘California’ and you envision idyllic beach towns, tanned surfer boys and sunkissed girls going for jogs along a seaside boardwalk. Avocados, health fads, seagulls, expensive sunglasses, surfboards, beaches, Hollywood. Even though I’d never been to California, I had a vivid idea of what I imagined it to be — and my three days in The Golden State didn’t stray far from that fantastical illusion.


Not only was it my first time to California, but it was also my first time traveling completely solo. I opted to stay in an Airbnb (another first) and had a really great experience — the house I stayed in was kind of like a bed & breakfast and there were other guests during my stay. It was located in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego, so I was able to walk to almost everything I wanted to see, and the room was only $69/night. It was really swell.

When I first arrived in San Diego, I felt a little disoriented — I had literally zero plans, zero expectations, and had done little research on navigating the city. Is there a better way to get to know a new place as a solo traveler than to just throw yourself right into it?? As soon as I walked outside of the airport, though, it all came together and I hopped into a bright orange taxi that would take me downtown (San Diego’s airport is actually super central — the trip downtown couldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes). I was a little early for check-in, so I had the driver drop me off at the USS Midway so I could get an immediate taste of subtle military — particularly Navy — vibe that lingers throughout the city. I excitedly sent pictures like this to my Pop-Pop, a Navy vet:

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I spent my three solo days in San Diego wandering the streets, parks, and beaches. In a way, San Diego was exactly what I imagined, and in other ways it surprised me. There was the constant sunshine and the walkability and the southern Californian flowers and the charming Gaslamp District and the beautiful people. There were sea breezes and military men and juice bars and happy couples biking along the bay.

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I was surprised by how friendly people were (I think I expected a more standoffish/”LA” feeling) and felt like there was almost a small town feel alongside its big city presence. One night, I went to a pizza place/bar in the Gaslamp District and ended up chatting with the bartender & a waitress for more than 2 hours. Both were transplants, — he from Mexico City and she from a town in northern California — and the general vibe I got from both of them was that they didn’t just live in San Diego, they really really really appreciated it. They were always grateful for the weather, the ocean and beaches and opportunities for a healthy outdoor lifestyle never went unnoticed. They were very intentional in their San Diego lifestyles, and it was refreshing to see (though I could say the same thing about people in Colorado!).


I had such an eye-opening, restful, reflective time while I was in San Diego, and want to share what I spent those days doing in separate posts — be on the look out for posts on my excursions in Balboa Park, Olde Town San Diego and Coronado Island in the next two weeks!

(And in the meantime, a little gallery of some photos taken on those sunny strolls…)

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  • Reply Margie

    I want to visit San Diego, now! Can’t wait to see your next blog posts about San Diego. And I want to maybe try the Airbnb someday. You’re such an adventurist!

    May 18, 2015 at 10:31 am
    • Reply Kristen

      We could stay in an Airbnb place on our next girls trip… maybe in Slovakia!!! They have them all over the world.

      May 18, 2015 at 11:07 am
  • Reply Life as Mrs. A

    My husband and I visited San Diego back in 2013. It’s a great city! Can’t wait to ready your up coming posts! Brings back good memories ??

    May 18, 2015 at 12:09 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      It is such a great city!!! Glad to hear these posts bring back good memories 🙂

      May 18, 2015 at 12:14 pm
  • Reply Hannah Myer

    CA & its sunshine forever <3

    May 18, 2015 at 5:33 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      GIRL you betta preach.

      May 18, 2015 at 6:26 pm
  • Reply DJones BranchingOut

    Glad you enjoyed your stay! If you were able to stay right in that Embarcadero/Gaslamp area, you were perfectly located to keep busy, fascinated, and well fed for WEEKS. Do that again after the first week of July this year and you will get to see all the Comic Con craziness- something I have yet to do, and I live here!
    If you do return, here’s a few gems that are slightly off the beaten path: Torrey Pines State Preserve with its visitor center, cliffs and stunning hikes; The Glider Port near UCSD is where you can watch thrill seekers jump off cliffs, get a great sandwich lunch and see even more spectacular views, all free… except the sandwiches; Cave tours, underwater nature preserve, paddle boarding, a museum of modern art, great food and shopping for all budgets lovely beach and city walks can all be found in one small area called the Village of La Jolla. Want to drive a little for neat stuff? Palomar’s Observatory has tours; Julian has the mountains and its famous apple pie; Anza-Borrego desert hikes are well worth the drive; all the cities up the coast on Hwy 1 are easy to explore on the iconic drive.
    Now… share all about Denver! My cousins are in Co. Springs and I owe them a visit…

    May 19, 2015 at 11:15 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Ummm……WOW. YOU ARE A SUPERSTAR. Next time I go to San Diego I want to spend a longer time exploring more of the area outside downtown… you gave me some amazing recommendations and I’m really grateful. Thank you! A friend of mine who lives there has also suggested Torrey Pines so I’ll definitely have to check that out! It sounds like an area bursting with fun things to do outside! 🙂

      May 19, 2015 at 12:30 pm
      • Reply DJones BranchingOut

        And Balboa Park’s umpteen museums, shops and places of interest for indoor entertainment on a rare rainy day!

        May 19, 2015 at 12:56 pm
        • Reply Kristen

          I loved Balboa Park. Will be sharing some photos from my time there soon !

          May 19, 2015 at 1:11 pm
  • Reply myexperientialtravels

    Oh this makes me want to visit so so so badly !!!! I’m glad to hear you can quickly get oriented !!! Thanks for the tips 🙂

    May 24, 2015 at 5:27 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Glad it provided you with some inspiration! I hope you make it to San Diego soon!

      May 26, 2015 at 11:05 am
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