Solo Trip to San Diego for Twenty Days

I grew up hearing about how amazing San Diego was from my dad. He was stationed there when he returned from Vietnam in the 60’s. Every once in a while he would throw around the idea about moving with my mom but, that was not happening. When he passed away in June 2017, I had my first trip to San Diego planned just one month later for work. It didn’t take long for me to realize my dad was 100% accurate as to how breathtaking and fun it really was. In 2018 I had another trip, February 2019 another and eventually in early March I decided to get an Airbnb (check out how I selected my short term home) for 20 days to really immerse myself in all things SoCal had to offer.

March 30, 2019: I boarded my plane from cold and snowy Buffalo, NY to warm and sunny San Diego, CA. This would be the start of my 20 day solo travel trip to “America’s Finest City”.

I want to start off by saying this was not a vacation. I was living, working and going to the gym like a local. I found a gym in Hillcrest where I was staying and after a few days really started getting into a comfortable routine. An important thing I want to share about solo travel is that you have to be disciplined when doing a trip like this. It can be really hard to get into the mindset that you are not on vacation while traveling solo for extended periods of time and keep motivated when it comes to work. With the sun shine and warm weather – far different than how it was back home – it was a constant struggle. Discipline and the fact I enjoy my job really helped. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t find my self bringing my laptop and my hot-spot to the beach or an outdoor patio to work on days where I just had to get into the sun.

Weekend One: Before I checked into my Airbnb I mostly explored the area of La Jolla. It was overwhelming how happy I already was to be there. My dear friend and I biked along the coast, explored a sea cave that was 145 steps down the cliff, laid out on Windansea beach and saw sea lions. It was beautiful and the perfect way to start out my next few weeks of solo travel.

After a couple days, I checked into my new home in Hillcrest. When I arrived I was greeted by two of the kindest people Christina and Curtis plus their adorable dog Chewie. I immediately felt comfortable and like I had always lived there. Going into an Airbnb, especially solo, you always get a bit nervous because you never really know who your hosts are. Boy did I luck out. The place was so cute and quaint. 

The first couple days I spent time exploring Hillcrest. I wanted to really focus on getting acquainted with the neighborhood and the people. Along the way I found the cutest little restaurant Chocolat. It became a regular stop during the week when I would go to different locations and work remote.

During the work week I pretty much stuck to a routine of getting up at 6 am for remote work, taking a mid-day break to venture to the gym and find a spot to post up at for the remainder of the workday followed by an occasional dinner on the town with my friends. Some of my favorite restaurants are: Rustic Root, Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant, Rockin’ Baja Lobster, Sear Sucker, Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers, Henry’s Pub. 

Over the next couple weeks I was able to see so much of San Diego. I didn’t hit everything on my bucket list but, hey – there is always next time (check out my San Diego bucket list).

Weekend Two: The main thing I wanted to do was see dolphins and I did it. I have loved dolphins my whole life. I have a ton of figurines and even a tattoo. On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon my friend and I took a whale watching cruise with Flagship Cruises . Although we didn’t see any whales, we saw so many dolphins (video at the bottom of this post).

Weekend Three: The finale.

Stop 1: Historic Old Town is one of my favorite parts of the city so, on Saturday my friend and I made the most of our day exploring the shops and street vendors, eating delicious Mexican food at el Antojo and visiting La Casa de Estudillo. We also stumbled upon Semper Fry a Veteran owned, family run business making and creating unique and delicious hot sauce. I got their Spicy Avocado and Kalamata Olive flavors.

Stop 2: Drinks and lunch at Hotel Del Coronado’s Sheerwater and Babcock & Story Bar

Stop 3: Petco Park for a Padres vs. Reds game

Stop 4: Out on the town visiting Trailer Park After Dark , Craft and Commerce, Noble Experiment 

My time in San Diego was one of the best experiences in my life and seeing it come to an end was bittersweet. Not only did I explore as much of the city as I could and find more to love but, I was also inspired to start the Solo Travel Woman tribe and invest more into my world of travel.

I want to thank all my friends, old and new who live in San Diego and were a part of my journey. The love I have for each of you is deep.

I know in my heart that leaving San Diego was not forever. It was just a see you later.

Until next time…happy exploring.

XoXo,

Sara

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How to choose a long term Airbnb

A few weeks ago I decided to take a leap and spend a month in a new city that I have grown to love – San Diego. Right at that moment the research began on how to choose a long term Airbnb.

Should I sublet someone’s apartment for a month? Do I get an Airbnb? What neighborhoods should I stay in where I won’t need a car? Am I sane for doing this?

I’m still on the fence with that last question 🙂 but, for the others I was able to spend a week doing my investigating and ultimately found the perfect little bungalow to call home in April! So, how did I do it?

While sipping on some hot cocoa (if you know me, you know that’s my favorite beverage in the world), I pulled out my laptop and started browsing:

  • Safest neighborhoods in San Diego
  • Walkable neighborhoods in San Diego
  • New Yorker in San Diego

The amount of search results I pulled up was insane. Seems I’m not the only one looking this up! One site I came upon that stuck out to me was Doorsteps.com. It not only had walkable and safe locations but, information about each. Summary of the area, places to eat/drink, cultural attractions, types of housing, etc.

I narrowed my search down to two areas: Hillcrest and East Village. Mostly cause they look eclectic, full of culture and people my age. However, a part of me chose those because they remind me the most of my home and favorite city, NYC.

I wasn’t going to just let a website decide where I stay so, next was going to local friends to get their opinions. Well, not to my surprise both areas received great reviews. However, my friends daughter lived in Hillcrest and loved it. Hearing a real life experience in that neighborhood is what ultimately helped make my decision. Hillcrest it is.

Hillcrest is known for its restaurants, bars, shops and vibrant LGBTQ community. Already, I feel like I’m at home! It is right near Balboa park which is filled with the famous San Diego Zoo, Gardens, walking trails and much more. Also, a great gym is right up the road from where I’m staying. It’s perfect!

Alright so, the neighborhood has been selected but, now where the heck do I live. My criteria to make it less of a vacation and more like I am living in San Diego was:

  • Must have a solid internet connection. I work remotely so, it’s a blessing I can even do this. I HAVE to make sure nothing slows me down from doing my job.
  • A functional kitchen. I don’t want to eat out for every meal.
  • My own space. I didn’t want to rent a room in someone’s house. Rather a studio, guest house or whole apartment.
  • Living space for nights I want to lounge out.
  • Well lit street. As much as you can do research, you don’t know the area until you’re there.
  • Unique Southern California vibes. I wanted a bungalow.

I was in luck when I started putting my filters into Airbnb because there was quite a few solid choices.

  • A 2 room vacation home – full kitchen – internet and parking. However, the home was attached to a house with 3 kids. Nope, not doing that.
  • A full apartment right on 5th ave. All I could need in a long term home for $2800. HELL NO! I don’t even pay that much in NYC.
  • A studio bungalow, on a hill, with a kitchen, internet and zen garden for $2000! YES!!!!

Now $2000 sounds like a lot, even for me. However, this is $500 less that my monthly NYC expenses when you factor in WiFi, cable, utilities and parking being included. I won’t have a car but, I at least know I have that option. Check this baby out!

I am beyond excited to get to San Diego and start my new journey. I have no clue how it’s going to go but, that is the fun part. No one ever knows how life is going to go or when it is going to end. So, live it. Enjoy it. Explore it.

Until next time, when I go through how to pack for a month long trip in one suitcase, happy planning!

Xoxo,

Sara

Living in Airbnb for a month!

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Sipping hot cocoa in La Jolla during a rainstorm

Growing up I always heard how amazing and beautiful San Diego was from my dad. After Vietnam, he was stationed there for 2 years and fell in love. So, when I got the chance to go, shortly after his passing – I jumped!

The second I landed dad was there, in spirit, when I saw the marine base on the runway. I knew that second that I would love this city.

Fast forward two years later and two more trips to San Diego and I love it even more now than I did then. I feel this connection with my dad when I am there and this urge to explore more.

Me and my dear colleague and friend enjoying lunch at Dukes in La Jolla.

This past week I spent 8 days in San Diego producing a user conference for the tech company I work for. After the conference ended – which was a great success despite the unusual rain – I decided to stay an extra few days to venture and relax!

I met up with my dear friend and took in a comedy show, walked the San Diego Zoo and saw all the beautiful animals, spent a day with my colleague and friend pampering ourselves and just fell more in love with the city, it’s people, food and breathtaking coastline.

Catching a show with my friend at American Comedy Co.

While sipping hot cocoa in a cute cafe during a rainstorm, I started thinking “gosh, I could live here”. Back and forth I went through the pros and cons: pros: sunshine, mountains, ocean, warmth, dads fav city, new experiences and friends to make, great job market, that coastline cons: far from my family and my best friends plus there is a part of me not ready to give up on NYC and the one who has my heart. I always had many pros but, the cons I had were definitely hard to swallow. My family and friends mean everything to me but, I need to mean something to me too and so does my happiness.

After a wonderful week, on Monday I flew back home but, the thought of spending more time in San Diego was constantly on my mind.

After once again going over pros and cons and remembering I work remotely and am really great at my job (confidence is key) – I took a risk and did it.

View from Dukes in La Jolla

No, I did not pack up and move. I’m not that spontaneous. However, on March 30th I will be heading to San Diego to spend 21 days living in an Airbnb. This is the best way to really see what it would be like to live and work there and if my love is a temporary/only when traveling feeling or deep and permanent.

I invite you to follow me on my journey where I hope to learn things about myself I didn’t know, explore areas of the city I’ve never seen, make memories with my friends and meet new ones, enjoy every bit of sunshine AND go to Disneyland!

For my friends and family back East – it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon! Y’all still have my heart.

Happy planning!

XoXo,

S.A.S

P.S. I’ll leave you with a pic of this cutie!