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If anything is true about California, it’s that the decades old promise of laid back, easy living in the sun, sand, and surf is alive and well. And of the vitally important things it will teach you, the first is how to slow down, and chill out.

As a Midwest-raised, Chicago urbanite, Southern California’s style and pace is one that I very happily met with wide open arms. From the very first time I stepped foot on the beach, able to call the Golden State my adopted home, I knew it was everything I had been missing, and wanting in my life – the place I belonged.

We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves
This is the only place for me

– Best Coast (The Only Place)

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As I settled into a routine of weekend adventures at the beach, hiking, and exploring, I found that the tense, stressed-out, impatient, and exasperated side of me – which I attributed to years of dire exasperation brought on by Chicago’s harsh and seemingly endless winters; the hostile attitudes of better-than-thou urbanites and hardened, opinionated Chicagoans encountered in many a sardine-packed subway; and a desensitization to the frequent and shocking violence of a city so segregated and crime-laden – start to peel away like a sunburn.

I arrived in California a gritty, jaded city dweller, but quickly learned a different way, and easily transitioned into a lifestyle of the more relaxed, easygoing variety. While proud of my midwestern roots and harboring a deep love and respect for Chicago’s highly underrated charm (grit and all), I found, like so many others before me, that California is just 100%, unequivocally, more my speed.

An Ode to the Golden State

So, dear California, I am immensely grateful to you. For every sun-soaked Saturday spent carousing on the beach and in the surf; for every weekend jaunt exploring the cliffside trails up and down the seashore; for every year-round backyard soiree centered around a grill and fresh caught seafood.

I am enamored with your textures of swaying palms, hedges of cacti and jade, and colorful succulents thriving in dry brown earth; your palettes of pink and purple sunsets, pale desert rose, stark white Spanish Colonial buildings, and varying tones of navy, turquoise, and green water; the feel of fine sand, salty water, and warm sun and the intoxicating scent of the sea – both its soft salty breeze mixed with suntan lotion evoking endless summer, and its fishy, seaweed-tinged dankness reminding us of its depth, mystery, and sheer power.

Glimpses of life from California, with love.

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