Leaving Los Angeles
It’s difficult to say anything definitive about Los Angles. If nothing else, it’s a place of extreme diversity and variety. So, while I need to make some generalizations in order for this post to be coherent, I acknowledge that a great deal of what I’m about to write is little more than my own perspective —in a city of infinite possible experiences.
I’m about to spend a few months (or maybe years) traveling outside of the United States. It is likely, however, that when that trip is through I will consider returning here. So, I write this in hopes of being at least somewhat objective about my time here, a luxury I won’t likely have after some time aboard; time changes memories.
Weather and Climate
I suppose I can start with the obvious. Southern California sits among only five mediterranean zones in the world; the weather is mostly fantastic. Spring and fall are particularly glorious, with months and months of sunshine and 70-something degree (F) days. However, it get’s pretty damn hot from August through October every year, 100 degree days are not at all uncommon.
My only real gripe about the region is LA’s position in the Pacific Time Zone. Sunset occurs as 4:30pm during the shortest time of the year. This makes your opportunities for anything daylight related pretty limited. On weekends, I often don’t get out of the house till 1pm, which means I only have a few hours to take photographs.
You will never be bored in Los Angeles, unless you absolutely want to be. There is always something to do, always something going on. Whatever you’re into, whatever your hobbies are, there will be multiple places, clubs, or groups by which you can scratch that itch and meet other likeminded people.
This hasn’t been that great of a selling point to me, however, as I really don’t like big cities that much. I enjoy and appreciate the diversity of choice, but as an introvert, I rarely take advantage of it. This brings me to the dark side of a place so full of people and opportunity.
It’s busy here. Insanely busy. Not at the level of Manhattan, but also not that far off.
You can’t buy groceries, get a car wash, use the weight rack at the gym, or even get a taco without waiting in a line. I joke that everything you want to do in LA requires a 10 minute wait. I’m a pretty patient person, but that component of this place gets to me more and more. This especially true of the traffic, which is downright insane.
The most frustrating part of Los Angeles is sitting in, and navigating, the traffic. Also, the only way to get around and see Los Angeles is by car, and consequently, to be in traffic. It’s infuriating.
If or when I return here, I will endeavor not to own a vehicle so as to limit this downside. Using ride-share services, companies like Zip-car and maybe a bike are, for me, the only way to stay sane here.
Now, let’s talk about my favorite part of California… the outdoors. The opportunities for excursions in the wilderness are limitless. Yosemite is here, Sequoia National Park is here. Los Angeles is nestled alongside the ocean among multiple beautiful mountain ranges. From where I lived, I could be in a forest, at a quiet mountain stream, or in almost complete isolation with just a 45 minute drive. I love that about LA.
If I return on a more permanent basis, my goal will be to live much further outside of the city so I can take more advantage of those opportunities.
Los Angeles is, culturally, very egalitarian. Comments that might even suggest prejudice or racism are met with immediate disapproval if not hostility. I like that about the culture here. It’s made me a better and more considerate human being, it’s hard to overstate the value of that kind of social atmosphere. We need that in more places. There is negative component to this attitude, however.
Los Angeles suffers from, in my view, a city-wide group-think mentality. Politics are left-leaning in nature, to a fault. What is or is not physically possible or financially viable are rarely considerations in public discourse. It’s a place of extreme optimism (which is both glorious, and infuriating).
Cost of Living
The good stuff comes at a price. Honestly, I was concerned about the cost of living when I moved out here. While it’s not actually as bad as people make it out to be, the cost of housing is more or less out of control.
Visitors and residents have all kinds of things to say about the people in LA. However, it’s a city of 14 million. So, pretty much every kind of person lives here. I’ve made wonderful friends in my time here, and that is most certainly the hardest part about leaving. I hope I can find a way to maintain those connections while I am abroad.
What Can You be For
I’ve tried to outline above, a few of the positive and negative components of living in this fantastic city. However, I’ve found that making decisions by weighing pros and cons is rarely helpful. Two better questions might be: ‘Who do you want to be?’ or ‘What can you be for?’
When I consider these questions, I’m drawn to consider my fit here.
Ask almost any Los Angeles resident how they feel about their city, and you’ll very commonly hear that they love it, and, that they hate it. It’s just that kind of place. A city of extremes. That’s how I feel when I’m here. Sometimes, It seems like I’m exactly where I need to be. Other times, I feel like I’m on an alien planet.
While I’m not overwhelmed by the feeling that this is my home, or the place I most want to be, there’s something special about being here. Something that draws me in, something that encourages me. It must have made an impact on me, given how much time I’ve spent thinking about this place and my position here. I don’t know if I’ll be back for sure, but I’d like to think that there might still be a place here for my future self.