I have a goal of living in a number of cities / countries before I’m old. Not visiting — ‘living’ is a very different concept. Anyone that’s done a Southeast Asia, Europe, etc. trip can tell you that. In the span of 3-4 weeks, you whiz through 5+ countries, countless cities, and try to do as much as you can.
I don’t really like ‘visiting’ places. Even given a full week, I feel like I’m pressured to ‘do things’ with every waking moment. This was the case my first time visiting Los Angeles, in summer 2018. It was a short trip from San Francisco, and those (3) days were packed with tourist attractions, trying new restaurants, and being able to say I had ‘done LA’.
This post is going to dive into my mentality towards ‘living’ in a given area, drawing attentions to the qualms I have with travel and my tl;dr on Los Angeles (spoiler: I wouldn’t want to live here long-term).
What’s the ‘LA vibe’?
In an effort to change things up, I thought I’d try LA for a few months. I moved here this past May, and will be returning to Toronto in the next week. San Francisco left a sour taste of California in my mouth, and I wanted to give the state another chance. LA definitely met the bar!
When you think of LA, you probably think:
Beautiful people, lots of sun, and the epitome of ‘West Coast’ living
What you should think is:
Geographically disperse, good food, tight-knit friend groups
Attractive + interesting people
A lot of those claims are accurate. There are tons of attractive people here, the weather is generally pretty amazing (think 18C to 25C), and the ‘laid-back’ culture is definitely a thing. People value enjoying life here — not to say other cities not, but there’s a certain emphasis on social gatherings, eating well, and being healthy.
I think it’s also well-reflected in the types of people I’ve met here. While there are definitely career-driven people, it’s not like my experience in San Francisco at all. I.e. a person may work in marketing at a creative agency, but I’d be surprised if that came up in initial conversation. Instead, said person might dive into their passion for surfing, yoga, floristry, or countless other topics / hobbies. In contrast, I rarely made it 2-3 minutes into a conversation (if that) where the question “Which tech company do you work for?” came up. Yes, not even ‘which company’, since there’s a 99% chance you work in tech.
This change has made LA very enjoyable. I’ve been to more live music sets in the past 3 months than I have in my entire life, and my immediate friend group (while still tech-oriented, given my interests) includes a doctor and production assistant (film). These people made me realize something about work — a job is simply that, ‘a job’.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard, as I’m still very driven to be the top of my industry. However, it means you shouldn’t attach your identity to your work. Starting a company is cool, tech trends are cool, but if it’s hard to talk about anything else in a given conversation, that’s an issue. It was an issue for me a year ago — now I’d much rather chat philosophy (been diving deeper into spirituality recently) or why the Spurs are going to be the hottest team this coming season.
Now for the main drawback to LA: everything is VERY spread out. I’m staying in Redondo Beach, which is about 20 minutes south of the airport. Most of my friends live in Santa Monica or Venice, which, while still ‘LA’, is at minimum a 30 to 45-minute Lyft/Uber from my house. This means that meeting up for dinner, drinks, or other social activities is a commitment. That wasn’t the case in San Francisco, where you could walk the entire city in 1-2 hours (ask my mom, she’s done it!).
For many people, this is a big con to the city. However, to my surprise, it hasn’t been the biggest deal for me. I’m very extroverted, which typically meant that I loved meeting up with people & socializing. I realized that my extroversion was largely due to my environment: in college and in geographically dense areas, it was hard not to socialize. Bored on a Friday? Go out with your friends. No plans on Sunday? Grab brunch.
LA made me put a lot more thought into what I actually want to do, given how big of a commitment travelling around LA is. This meant, for the past 3 months, I only did something if I really wanted to do it. I still grab dinner with friends on a weekly basis and hit the bars every ~ 2 weeks, but it’s at a more infrequent cadence than before.
And I love it! I’ve spent a lot more time reading, playing games, and doing other solo activities that I previously ‘didn’t have time for’. I realized what I like doing and which social activities I truly enjoy. It’s improved my self-control and understanding of myself tenfold and for that, I have LA to thank.
Betting on LA?
I’m a fan of Los Angeles, but I mentioned earlier that (despite all the pros) I don’t want to live here long-term. There are a number of factors that go into my decision, but I’ve summarized them below:
Family: This is a top priority for me, and my family is based out of the Toronto area. As much as I like the West Coast, a 6-hour flight and 3-hour time difference means a spontaneous weekend trip isn’t possible. Into my professional career, I want to be intentional in making time for family, and visiting 3-4 times per year for holidays isn’t enough for me. LA is too far.
Curiosity: I like LA but I didn’t fall in love with the city. If that’s the case, being fairly young, I should endeavour to find a city that I really enjoy. That means trying a lot of other cities that I’ve been curious to live in — New York City, London (UK), Paris, Montreal, the list goes on. One day I’ll settle, but not until I’ve found that (near) perfect fit.
I don’t like travelling
As a final thought, why living VS travelling? Aside from the hustle-bustle I mentioned above, I also believe that I don’t get a good feel of the city unless I’m living there for ~ 1-2 months. For example, with San Francisco, I visited in Feb 2017 and thought I’d want to live there. After living there for a year, I realized I hated it. LA was a somewhat similar story — I loved the city when I visited, now I’m a fan but am not in love with it.
Couple points as to why I think living > travelling when it comes to trying new cities:
Impact on routine: If I’m travelling to a city for a week, I’m not in a routine. It’ll feel a lot more like a vacation (which it probably is). Living somewhere means you enter your routine after 2-3 weeks — for me, that’s hitting the gym, shopping + cooking, cadence for social activities, and more. I’ll only know how the city affects that routine after getting into my groove. I.e. San Francisco made nightly activities (i.e. restaurants, board game cafe, etc.) difficult, since the city closes early. In contrast, I’d assume NYC makes nightly activities too enticing, since ‘the city never sleeps’. Seeing how this affects my day-to-day is crucial to how much I like a city.
Knowing the ‘locals’: I’ve heard from friends that when visiting cities, they get a good vibe of the locals. I would disagree — it’s hard to really know locals after 1-2 interactions. It’s only when you’ve lived in a city for several weeks/months, will you get to understand their personality, life mindset, etc. For LA, I didn’t realize the wealth divide/inequality and how that affects a given person’s viewpoint on life + work until more than 6-8 weeks in. Likewise, I didn’t realize how ingrained tech was in everyone’s lives in San Francisco until I lived there for a while and could compare.
Comparing to tourists: This is a bit of a weird one — when you’re visiting a city, you’re a tourist. That means that anyone you meet who is also a tourist has the same mindset as you: explore the city as much as possible and get the ‘vibe’ of it. After 6-8 weeks, I found my mindset transitioned from ‘I’m just visiting / getting settled’ to ‘I live here now’. That means when friends visited LA, I could better contrast how I felt about the city to how they viewed it (fresh eyes). I think it’s at this point where I can really draw a conclusion about the city.
I hope to ‘live’ in many more cities before I’m old. There are many parts of the world I don’t care to ‘visit’, so I’d much rather plan out future trips with ‘living’ in mind. I.e. if I’m very bullish on France and the UK, why do a ‘Europe’ trip over 2-3 weeks? Why not live in France for 2-3 months and then move to the UK, if I feel the need?
Granted, running my own business gives me the flexibility to do this + work from basically anywhere (need strong internet & working around timezones). However, I hope this post gave some insight regarding my mindset towards travel, and my thoughts on LA. As always, all feedback is welcome!