This August will mark five years since I’ve moved to California and called it home. Though it hasn’t been relatively that long, it has felt like I’ve lived here for half my life.
California is the destination where I was able to get out of my comfort zone and grow into a more mature and independent individual. It is where I got to experience a different spectrum of family, friendships, education, home, and mindset.
I’d been living in a bubble, and my years in California broke me free from that bubble.
I began understanding more about life and what I needed to focus on to live it.
And although my life’s journey gained dozens of more pages, my chapter in California is coming to a close.
Change has been a terrifying idea for me, but, lately, change is something I’ve been craving. Whether it is a change in pace, lifestyle, or geographic location, I’m ready for the shift that my soul has been calling out for.
I’m grateful for the years of living in a big, boisterous city and a quiet, calmer city.
I’m grateful for all of the new and renewed lifestyle I’ve experienced.
And, before I officially say, “See you later, California,” I’d like to take a trip down memory lane through some of the meaningful experiences I’ve had here.
Though many of these things may seem mundane or regular, these are the experiences I’ll always hold dear to my heart.
Exploring San Francisco and San Diego for the first time
SEEING THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
My first ever sight-seeing spot in California. I used to always see it at the opening credits of Full House, and it just felt so surreal seeing it in person and actually driving through it. The bridge is massive in height, but going through it by car (without traffic) takes less than 3 minutes. One day I hope to go back and ride a bike or walk across it. The middle photo is the first one I’ve ever taken in California.
GOING UP COIT TOWER
WALKING THE STEPS OF TWIN PEAKS
Twin Peaks has surprisingly been a favorite of mine, visiting the site multiple times. I enjoyed seeing the cityscapes from up high, and I was also very excited to see the city lights at night from there. Fair warning: It feels like winter in Canada at night, so wear thick clothes if you decide to come here at night.
WALKING THROUGH THE FERRY BUILDING
ENJOYING FISHERMAN'S WHARF AND PIER 39
Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular tourist attraction spot that consists of a variety of shops, food stalls, restaurants, and sometimes live entertainment. One of my favorite parts of Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39. Pier 39 is similar to an outdoor mall with more shops and restaurants with outdoor dining surrounding the area. Other than being excited about discovering a Left-Hand Store, I loved going to see all of the knick-knacks and delicious treats sold within the pier. It was also a fun time riding on the Merry-Go-Round and watching magic acts performed. The pier is also the spot for the Bay Area’s annual air show, sea lion viewing, and my personal favorite, fireworks show.
WALKING THROUGH GOLDEN GATE PARK
EXPLORING THE CASTRO ON HALLOWEEN
The Castro district is a well-known LGBTQ+ neighborhood in San Francisco. It is also a must-visit area to visit during Halloween as dozens of people walk the streets in some of the most jaw-dropping, intriguing costumes I have ever witnessed.
ENJOYING THE VIEW AT LAND'S END TRAIL
This is another favorite spot of mine. The hike may be long, but it was worth the walk. From the endpoint, we get a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a short walk to Mile Rock Beach. There is also a beautifully designed labyrinth at the end.
SEEING THE PALACE OF FINE ARTS
WALKING DOWN THE MOST CROOKED STREET IN THE WORLD
a.k.a Lombard Street. Though it would’ve been more exciting to actually drive down through the street (or ride in one of those cute mini cars), the setting of the street seems almost too magical, mainly during the Spring season as flowers there bloom so beautifully.
BEING MESMERIZED AT BIRCH AQUARIUM
I enjoyed my first-ever experience at an aquarium. I can’t wait to visit another once places are more open.
Doing things on my own for the first time
WALKING FOR 30+ MINUTES
CUTTING MY OWN HAIR
SCHEDULING AND GOING TO APPOINTMENTS
TAKING THE BUS AND TRAVELING TO A DIFFERENT CITY
Completely new things I tried in California
LIVING IN A DORM
I was thankful that there were still enough rooms available as I signed up for the dorm last minute. It was definitely the most expensive dorm, but I was able to live in comfort during my first school year.
LIVING ON MY OWN
One of the most independent things I’ve done, and I look forward to experiencing this again someday. I enjoyed having an entire room to myself and did anything I want, at any time.
READ MORE: FINANCES & BUDGETING PT. 2 | COLLEGE SERIES
Surprisingly my experience with this was much quicker and easier in San Francisco than it was in a county in San Diego.
USING RIDE SHARE / FOOD DELIVERY SERVICES
HAVING AND USING A FIREPLACE
My dorm was equipped with one, and it came with actual wood and fire. It was lovely.
OWNING AND USING A DSLR CAMERA
FLYING FIRST CLASS
I did not have the greatest experience as the flight attendants treated me differently and as if they didn’t believe I was seated in first class.
EATING ACAI BOWL
ONLINE SHOPPING (CLOTHES)
I’ve done online shopping way back, but never for clothes. I was always afraid of ordering the wrong size or that the size was not as I expected it to be. I remember my very first online clothes shopping was a pink bomber jacket. I don’t know what persuaded me to get one, but I did. I loved that the size fits me well and I wore it almost every week since buying it.
PULLING AN ALL-NIGHTER
I was most excited to try Starbucks as it’s what everyone seemed to love, and, surprisingly, I saw why it is a well-loved coffeehouse. It is not over-hyped as other popular chains I am aware of. I will greatly miss it and I will be one of the first places I visit again once I am able to.
Shopping at physical locations of Target, Walmart, and Ikea
Riding A School Bus to School
The only times I’ve ridden in a school bus back then were during class field trips.
Experiencing Lots and Lots of Fog
Sleeping in a Bunk Bed
I have always wanted to try sleeping in one, and thankfully, my dorm had bunk beds where I got to sleep on the top bunk. I’ve always had my fears about bunk beds, but thankfully, my roommate and I were unharmed.
DRINKING DAILY VITAMINS
Vitamin C became my best friend, and if it weren’t for it, I probably would have caught a cold more frequently.
TAKING ONLINE CLASSES
I have taken Hybrid classes before, but I began taking full online classes here.
EXPERIENCING COLD WEATHER
Sure, Saipan occasionally has rainy and cold weather, but it never compares to San Francisco’s freezing cold temperatures. Beanies, sweaters, and gloves also became my best friend. And this leads to my next new thing…
My Apartment Window Next to a Fireplace
Purchasing and Wearing Sweaters, Gloves and Beanies
I love wearing them and would always wear them if I was not in scorching hot weather.
Trying Food from Well-Known Franchises
Burger King, Chik-fil-A, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Panda Express, Popeyes, Wingstop, In-N-Out, and Church’s Chicken are the ones I’ve tried for the first time in California so far.
I had never been more excited than to have an oven in my dorm. Though I didn’t bake any dessert, I was able to bake up some delicious chicken wing recipes, including my all-time favorite: Honey-Garlic Baked Chicken Wings.
VISITING A DOG PARK
The first time I got to experience being asked for my ID at a club, danced at a club, and comforted someone who was puking in a club’s restroom. And I’ve only visited clubs at most four times since coming here.
Riding in the BART (subway) / Streetcar
Expanding My Interests Through K-Pop, K-Drama & Anime
I never imagined myself being into these kinds of entertainment, but they have, in various ways, heightened my motivation, creativity, knowledge, and positive mindset.
Getting A Credit Card
I was losing hope of actually being accepted for a credit card. And then one day, I got accepted to one and it was very joyous for me. The primary reason for wanting to get one is to build up my credit score. I barely touch my credit card and have it set for my monthly bills for the most part. Credit cards do not equate to unnecessary spending.
Seeing Sea Lions In-Person
Thanks to Pier 39, I was able to see a herd of sea lions in person. I was also able to witness the King Sea Lion sunbathing, and a cute baby sea lion casually sitting on the steps of a moving boat.
Trying Scented Candles
Loving, Believing, Trusting Myself
It may still be in progress, but I’m beyond grateful for having found self-love and healing throughout this latest chapter of my life.
California may just be a state for some, but for me, California has been my home away from home.
Before the pandemic hit, there were no dull moments, and every day brought new adventures, even if they were simply staying at home and figuring myself out.
I was very scared and lost at first, but with time, curiosity, and faith, I found my way. Sure, I’d still fall occasionally, but my time of staying down decreases as my will of fire grows stronger. I still have so much to learn, and so many things I want to see and experience, and just like my adventures in California, I know the road ahead of me will consist of so much more twists, turns, and, most of all, growth, healing, friendships, love, and happiness.