Monday, July 7, 2014

Home Is Where You've Felt The Most - The California Cure

Those of you who have read my blog posts in the past know that I like to be positive or, at the very least, write about negative experiences only when I find the positive silver lining underneath it all.  Those of you who follow my blog (Hi Mom and Dad!!) probably noticed that it has been months since I’ve posted anything.  The reason for this is, while I’ve had intermittent periods of positive experiences and feelings in Saudi Arabia, I’ve been sad most of the time.  I mean ugly-face-crying-in-the-morning-for-days-on-end kind of sad.  There was an undercurrent of unhappiness for a long while and I just couldn’t bring myself to write and didn’t dare force myself to write something that would radiate negative energy onto anyone reading it.

Luckily for me, things have shifted.  A light came into my tunnel of sadness and everything brightened up.  That light has a name, and it’s name is California.  As some of you may recall, I traveled last year with the family I work for to London and Paris.  This year, Alhamdulillah (aka Thank You, God), we went to Southern California.  Oh, just typing out that word, California, sends positive vibes through my entire body.  When I found out we were traveling to Los Angeles I knew the potential for goodness was there.  It’s the west coast of North America after all.  It’s the southern version of British Columbia as far as I’m concerned, and anyone who knows me knows all about my unconditional love for my dearest BC.  Yes, California brought me out of my long-term funk and caused a happy shift that was unexpected.  It made me feel like there may be another “home” out there for me other than British Columbia.  *GASP!*  I know.  How can it be possible when my love affair with BC has been so strong for so long?!  Well, my dearest family and friends, as I’ve said before, change is the only constant in life and oh how I love to flow with change.

What could possibly be so great about Southern California that would make me think I could belong there as well as British Columbia? 

I could tell you about the purple flowers covering the beautiful Jacaranda trees when I first arrived in SoCal and how their fragrance woke me up and encouraged deep breaths as I ran through gorgeous Beverly Hills neighbourhoods during my morning workouts.

Climbing in Malibu

I could tell you about rock climbing in Malibu; how the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks that lay just below me distracted me in the most fantastic of ways, creating a feeling of nonchalance even though I struggled during my climbs.

I could tell you about biking along the winding path that took me from the beautiful bodies lounging on Santa Monica Beach, to the eclectic characters roaming along Venice Beach, to the sights of kayaks and sail boats floating in Marina Del Rey, to the LAX flights that flew overhead while biking along Play Del Ray, Dockweiler Beach, and Manhattan Beach, to a final stop for beer and fish tacos at Hermosa Beach.

I could tell you about the exhilaration of riding on the back of a motorcycle, speeding along freeways, weaving through cars on traffic filled streets, and feeling the air turn from warm to cool as we drove up into the hills to gain a panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley while the wind whipped past me and the sun set all too quickly.

I could tell you about all the surfers with their delightfully tight bodies, bleached hair, and freckled shoulders paddling their boards out into the Pacific Ocean.

Setting up top-rope in Stoney Point

I could tell you about the dust and dirt that covered my sweat soaked face and arms while I trekked with new friends to yet another amazing climbing route in yet another gorgeous Southern California park under the mid-day sun.

I could tell you about the Farmers Market at the Grove and it’s many variants of smells from international foods that filled my nostrils and it’s adorable jewelry vendor who described his vision of a flame of insight centred in my heart as he held the chalcedony bracelet that I was about to buy.

Brunch at Cafe Gratitude

I could tell you about so many things: the comedy club, the large and lovely lady with her headphones on dancing like she was in a music video in the middle of the sidewalk, Café Gratitude and it’s delicious raw vegan menu, the friends-of-friends I was introduced to but didn’t have nearly enough time to get to know better, the mentally unstable people roaming the streets who can be disturbingly astute, and the sidewalks built especially for horses just outside of Santa Monica.

But what I really want to tell you about is the way SoCal made me feel and to do that I need you to know about the people.

As is typical with the best times had in life I had a random and unexpected occurrence happen.  It was while shopping for my climbing rope.  I received help from a cool guy named Corey who turned out to be a hub where fun times and great people rotate around.  Luckily for me, Corey decided I was worthy of an invite to a day of climbing with his friends.  A few days later he had set up a drive for me to the climbing spot.  Soon I was driving and chatting with his friends, as we drove from Santa Monica, along the Pacific Palisades, to a beach in Malibu where we would be climbing. 

Relaxing with new friends

I was so happy to simply be climbing, the fact that I was climbing at a beach was a bonus.  It wasn’t long, however that I began to realize something even better was happening and that I may have found what I like to call “insta-friends.”  I started to get to know the people who drove me.  Ian and Hailee are a couple involved in the film industry.  Ian directs the photography for the coolest of documentaries and short films many of which, be still my heart, are of snowboarding, climbing, and biking.  Hailee is probably the hardest worker in the realm of commercial filming with barely a day off and yet she still manages to stay chill and fun.  At the beach I also met, Joanne, the first person I have ever come across who had a genuine interest in and knowledge of the Middle East, as well as the sweetest of hearts, setting off a quick connection.

These people, Corey, Hailee, Ian, and Joanne, became my friends in California.  In a place where I expected to feel like a stranger, they made me feel welcomed.  They engaged me in conversation and made me realize that my life in Saudi Arabia is, in fact, interesting.  They moved me past feeling jaded to actually recognizing that I have had pretty cool experiences in that intense sandbox.   Beyond Saudi Arabia they talked with me at a level where I felt connected at the heart; where we described insights and lessons learned about topics ranging from bad boyfriends, to sex, to traveling, to inner-city children.  I found out about where they grew up and their relationships with their siblings.  They learned about my journey from growing up as an anxiety-filled nerd into who I am now.   Through conversations both planned for and taken on a whim of opportunity I ended up on a level of discovery with people that I barely knew, making me feel honoured to have been welcomed into their worlds without hesitation.  I had been given a sense of belonging and with that a sense of home.

That belonging that I felt in California with these amazing people is what I feel with my wonderful friends back in BC.  It surprised me and opened my eyes to a realization that there can, in fact, be more than one place in the world that just feels right.  I suppose this is something that many avid travelers experience.  I wonder if they also feel the confusion that I’ve been feeling and if they have internal debates on how to be in both places to experience and discover them each to the fullest.  It’s a wonderful debate to be having and I feel like the luckiest person to have been introduced to such a wonderful place as California and the amazing friends that live there.

“Home is where you’ve felt the most.” – Helen Humphries The Lost Garden

In Joy,