Last summer I went to California for the first time ever. Now, for some reason I grew up wanting to be famous and be a movie star or a singer or really anything that let me live a life like Hilary Duff. In my mind, Los Angeles was the place where things like that happen. (Well, it kind of is, isn’t it?) In reality, LA is also the place where a lot of normal things happen too. More often than not, actually. There are plenty of ordinary people living ordinary lives in this extraordinarily beautiful place. You can’t deny that Southern California has a beauty that few other places in the world possess, let alone the country! So when my friend Emily gave me an open invitation to come visit her in LA “anytime,” I started looking at dates and after asking “Are you SURE?!” approximately 52 times, I booked my plane ticket to come second shoot a wedding with her and the rest is history. I fell in loooove with not only this beautiful place but the unforgettable memories I made with Emily and the Magers family.

Since last August, I’ve been back one other time to visit and it was even more memorable than the last! As soon as I get into the car with Emily and we’ve finished blinking our tears away, it’s like no time has passed at all, but that so much has happened and there’s all the things to catch up on. I’m not sure why God decided to give me a best friend who resides on the other side of the country and who lives a life even busier than mine but I think it really allows us to appreciate the times we do have together. Most evenings I’m wanting to stay up and keep talking instead of going to bed and we stay out way too late and sleep in till noon. (K, that’s just Emily because let’s be honest that time change has me up at 6AM every morning.) I love everything about my trips to California and there are so many favorite things about this part of the world!

– I know it sounds cliche, but I swear people in California are like, a bit more cultural and creative. When you walk into a store or restaurant it just really has that “vibe” that’s hard to explain, but it just looks like someone put a lot of thought into what it would FEEL like when someone walks in. I think those kinda things are little more than an afterthought here on the East Coast. I love it there!
– The food is fresher. Call my crazy but avocados actually have LAYERS of flavor in California… I’ve chalked it up to being so close to the “salad bowl” farmlands. The first morning I was in LA, Emily’s dad made me an omelet for breakfast and I about died over how delicious it was. I kept saying, “These vegetables are just insane!!” and I’m sure her dad thought I was actually insane.
– The sun seems to always be shining with zero humidity in the air and a light breeze blowing in from the general direction of the ocean. You can just FEEL that it’s nearby. I love the sea so you can imagine how exciting it was just to wake up every morning knowing it was so close.
– The traffic really ain’t THAT bad… maybe that’s because I’m used to it taking me 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive the 25 miles or so into Washington DC. Trust me, the view (and pretty much everything else) is MUCH more worth that drive in California!
– There are so many hipster coffee shops. So many coffee shops.
– People are really nice and ask questions like, “How’s your day going?” and “Where are you from?” rather than the very brief interactions you might get here in Washington when checking out at Starbucks. Also, this is so strange but I was never asked once what I do for a living or where I went to school, which are the two major questions used to start any sort of conversation here in DC. There’s much less emphasis on your job title and school degree there than your dreams and what you care about. It’s just funny how things like that are different coast to coast!
– Every time I go to California I morph into this vegan version of myself that only wants to eat plant-based, non-GMO ingredients in all of my meals. I think this is because SoCal makes it a little TOO easy to eat vegan. (So. Many. Vegan. Restaurants.)
– I’ve only seen it rain there twice and it was just as beautiful in the foggy mist as it is in bright sunshine.

There’s only one other place I’ve visited in the world that surprised me by how much I fell in love with it (and that was London). Los Angeles just happens to be another city that starts with an L that I am mildly obsessed with, and I think it has a lot to do with the people I spend time with there. If it wasn’t for Emily and her family I don’t think it would have made half the impression it did on me… all of our car rides through Beverly Hills, Laurel Canyon, Malibu and Santa Clarita having deep talks and trying to find the best Mexican place nearby… I get why this part of the country is so popular. I think the scenery just makes you melt into yourself a little bit as you’re experiencing it. It makes you slow down, have better conversations and care a little deeper about people. At least, that was my experience.

I finally got around to pulling some photos together from my trip last August and I’m so excited to release them into the world along with all of my memories of this amazing trip. I can’t wait to go back in just a couple of weeks and get to hang out with Emily and her family again and make many more LA memories! I’m already so excited. Thank you Magers family for making my first trip to Los Angeles such a dream come true.

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Venturing around San Deigo was so much fun! Such a colorful city. Coronado is stunning, too!!

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We explored this little beach with the perfect view of the cityscape and watched the sunset at Sunset Beach!

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Emily really wanted to take me to the Ace Hotel to see the rooftop pool and the view did NOT disappoint..!

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If I’m remembering correctly this is the arts district and there’s some architecture school here… it is all blending together, but this is the first place I ever had Cafe Gratitude. SO GOOD. I ask to go every day I visit now! Haha!

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Confession: I cried the first time we pulled up to the Hollywood sign! It was such a dream and one of my LIFE bucket-list items. I don’t know why… it just seems so glamorous, the story of 1930s Hollywood. The Beverly Hills hotel was stunning and I could just picture Elizabeth Taylor lounging by the pool with a vodka on the rocks.

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My last day in town, Emily took me to Venice Beach where a creative meet-up was happening and there were so many nice people there! I remember meeting someone who sold t-shirts for a living, someone who created videos of impoverished children across the world to raise awareness for non-profits, and someone who had started a community called Socality a few years ago and now here everyone was hanging out on the beach together. Before we headed to the beach, we explored the canals (so fascinating that this is a neighborhood!) and a little bit of the shops. Venice is a colorful area full of interesting people!! The sunset was out of this world and it was the perfect send-off to my first time in California. Until next time…

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