I woke up this morning in the cutest Airbnb in Laguna Beach, one of my favorite escapes from Los Angeles. While I don’t normally gravitate to inspiration quote art, I stared long and hard at this one when I opened my eyes: Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
I had not even had my first cup of coffee, and my mind was racing to make sense of it all over again and again.
While life may feel perfect and wonderful in this coastal beach town, it’s not the norm back at home in LA. I have a demanding job, beautiful home and mortgage to manage, friends to catch up with, family to visit back in Atlanta, and numerous more countries to explore across the globe, all while writing about them and posting on social media.
Travel has always been a passion of mine, passed down from my own mother. When we were young, she would take us kids, and we’d fly to Italy to visit my grandmother. This was no small feat for a divorced mother of three boys. I don’t even know how she pulled off our ski trips out west. But she did it, and I know I can too.
One of my most important travel tips is to make time for it. The only time for procrastination is when you are comfy in your beach chair with a margarita in hand.
Secondly, you don’t have to do everything in one trip. I learned that from a year abroad, jumping from country to country, 27 in all. If you are going to take a few months off, you should find one place during your trip that feels like home and stay there for 3 to 4 weeks. You will thank me later.
Lastly, we live in the age of social media and Google. If you need advice on what to do or where to go, just ask on Facebook. It is likely that your friends will offer the best guidance.
I am flying solo on this trip to Laguna Beach. In fact, I love to travel solo. You can change your plans on a whim, breeze through travel nuisances like airports, and walk into every hotel, hostel, bar, restaurant or museum as nobody but yourself. The truth is, you are never alone when you travel sans amis.
Fellow travelers constantly surround you. Hostels are especially conducive to bringing likeminded people together. I once met someone in a hostel in Bariloche, Argentina and then regrouped with her in Vienna, Austria. This is a perfect reason to be a global citizen.
Here are some travel tips for taking to the road solo:
- Email a copy of your passport to yourself and a family member
- Pack a comfortable pair of sneakers to travel in
- Ask the hostel receptionist for the smallest room possible
- Join group tours
- Be the first to buy someone a drink and let the conversation go from there
Back in Los Angeles, I live in a 1920s Spanish bungalow that I love more and more with each passing day. As important as it is for me to explore the world, it’s just as important to be true to the character of my house. I want it to feel warm and cozy, and include Spanish elements, like multicolored rugs and tapestries, artwork on all the walls, and a neutral palette that highlights the home’s natural features (exposed beams, hardwood floors), while also pleasing the eye with floor-to-ceiling patterned drapes.
Throughout my travels, I’ve picked up fantastic pieces, including jewelry boxes in Morocco, and a framed drawing from an artist exhibit in Ushuaia, Argentina.
It should be no surprise that some of my favorite trips have Spanish ties: Uruguay, Morocco, Turkey and Spain. The use of color and texture are mind blowing.
It’s been a bit of a symbiotic win-win with my career that I get to travel as much as I do. It keeps me in touch with so many great cities, like Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and New York, to name a few. And then, there is home in Los Angeles. The sheer size of LA is intimidating, and spreading yourself too thin could overtax any visit.
Pick what or who you want to be in LA, and go from there. You can’t be everything during one trip to LA, so why not be a beach bum in Malibu and Santa Monica, or a hipster in DTLA and Silver Lake.
Of course, I have some favorite spots in LA: Fairfax Flea Market each Sunday, Melrose Place (market on Sunday and shopping), The Getty Museum, cruising up the 1 to Malibu, Baldwin Stairs, Sunday Funday in West Hollywood, Runyon Canyon, and any of the Sugarfish’s for lunch. Trust me, it’s worth it.
I’m lucky. I know this. Most Americans don’t even own a passport, and I’m on my third. Traveling inspires me. It brings me to places that previously only existed for me in National Geographic. I bring back stories to entertain family and friends, but I also use the visual inspiration from my surroundings to help design my home.
Whether I bought a piece in LA or shipped it back from Marrakesh, the items in my own home are bound to something greater than a store. They are part of my living journey.
Follow the adventures of Scott Riddell at @heyfollowthatbird