Most things we do these days are focused on finding balance. We balance expensive stops with cheaper stops; we balance visits to busy cities with visits to quiet parks; we balance periods of extensive travel with weeks of sitting still. Maintaining some sort of social life on the road is just one more thing we work to balance. It is not uncommon for us to go two or three weeks without talking to anyone, but then spend a week socializing nonstop. For the most part, this facet of our life has fallen into place, but just like everything else, we’ve had to adjust our practices, our expectations, and our plans to make it work.
Standing back and taking stock of our social situation reveals some obvious and interesting circumstances unique to this life, and our time in San Diego really brought all of this to the forefront as we spent time with both old friends and new ones.
As much as we enjoy meeting new people, there is comfort in hanging out with people you’ve known for a long time, and it’s always interesting to me how, with old friends, no matter how much time has gone by, you quickly settle in with none of the concerns attendant to meeting new people. (In other words – you can talk about politics and current events over dinner without worrying someone’s gonna flip a table over.)
And so it was in San Diego when we got to see our old friend, Renzo.
Kevin and I met on our very first day of law school, and we both met Renzo within our first week of classes, so he has been a friend since the very beginning (that would be the beginning of “Chapter 2,” if you’ve been keeping track…). We went through school together, graduated, worked, he was a guest at our very small wedding, and then, in 2011, Renzo’s law firm offered him the opportunity to move to San Diego and, because he’s smarter than everyone else, he jumped at the opportunity. We’ve only gotten to see him a handful of times since, so you can imagine how happy we were to finally be able to spend some time with this dear friend who’s known us as long as we’ve known each other.
He was only too happy to show us around his beautiful hometown and give us advice on where to go and what to do. Pretty much everything he pointed us to was awesome. Of particular note if you’re San Diego bound:
Wonderland Ocean Pub… home to this stunning sunset view:
Poke Bowls… A San Diego favorite involving fresh fish, seaweed, and veggies served over rice or greens with various sauces…. The best we had were at Poke Chop.
Ambrogio 15 – Renzo grew up in Italy so when he told us the pizza at this small restaurant was the best around, we didn’t argue. When the owners came over to say hi and everyone spoke Italian except for us, we knew it was the real deal….
Of course, Renzo also convinced us to try a “California Burrito” – which involves hash browns. In the burrito. I didn’t take a picture because, let’s be honest, no one wants to see the inside of a burrito, but folks, this is what happens when a state legalizes weed. The namesake burrito ends up full of hash browns. And it’s not just the burritos that get corrupted by this gateway drug…. It’s everywhere! Don’t believe me? Check out the name of this ice cream shop. “The Baked Bear.”
That’s right… You legalize weed and the next thing you know, the bears are baked and they’re scarfing down ice cream sandwiches!
Just keep that in mind next time you go to the polls and they want to know what you think about legalized marijuana. Think of the bears!!!!!
(And yes, it was as good as it looked.)
Anyway, we met up with Renzo as often as he was able to steal away from his very demanding career, touring the neighborhoods, going out for dinner, wandering the beaches, and he even took Kevin out surfing! (Kevin’s verdict: “Super fun!! Also… everything hurts.”)
As luck would have it, Renzo wasn’t the only old friend from law school we got to see in San Diego. None of us had laid eyes on our friend, Amy, since graduation back in 2004, but she happens to follow this blog and when she saw that we were going to be in San Diego at the same time she and her husband, Owen, were visiting, she reached out to see if we wanted to meet up. What are the chances, right? Anyway, that led to a fun afternoon of catching up over beers and dinner with them and their friends, John and Laurie.
In the meantime, another east coast/law school friend, Min, happened to be in town for a work conference. We only got to spend a couple hours with him before he had to fly back to D.C., but we made the most of it, visiting Cabrillo Point, Sunset Cliffs, and Wonderland Bar, before he headed for the airport.
Going even further back in the time machine, we also spent lots of time with Kevin’s college roommate, Jeremy, along with his wife, Jennifer, and their smart-as-a-whip daughter.
We’ve seen them a handful of times over the years, but it was nice to finally be able to spend real quality time together.
The first night we saw them we went to Tijuana for dinner. That might sound complicated, but given that the Mexican border is only thirty miles from San Diego, it was actually quite simple. We parked at a lot on the U.S. side and crossed the border on foot.
Just a few blocks from the border is Caesar’s Restaurant – home of the Caesar Salad.
Seriously… The Caesar Salad was invented in Mexico by an Italian chef who owned a restaurant in Tijuana and came up with it on the fly when they ran out of other supplies one night…. #themoreyouknow
We then jumped in a cab and went over to Mision 19, a high end restaurant known for its tasting menus, decadent dishes, and, thanks to the favorable currency exchange, bargain basement prices.
We took a cab back to the border, had a lovely conversation with an agent from Border Patrol, and were tucked in by midnight. Easy peasy.
In addition to our field trip to Mexico, we spent several other evenings with Jeremy and Jennifer and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to catch up.
Rounding out our month of east coast reunions was a visit from Jeremy and Kevin’s Penn State buddy, Lawrence. He and his wife and daughter, who live in L.A., all joined us for dinner at Jeremy’s house one night and the guys got to catch up on the last 20+ years….
Phew… So there you have it. The “old friends” portion of our San Diego social life. It goes without saying that one huge perk of this little adventure of ours is that we finally get to see and spend quality time with some wonderful people whom we have missed very much.
Of all the (many) things I worried about when we put this plan into motion, without question, the biggest was how we were going to make friends on the road. We had a very stable social circle in D.C. and didn’t really have to worry about meeting new people. The idea of suddenly being out in this huge country, on our own and away from our support system, was unnerving, to say the least.
But our social life has actually only improved on the road. The reality is, in the several years before leaving D.C., we hardly ever met anyone new, whereas now, we are constantly making new friends. In thinking about it, I realized that the last time my social circle expanded at a comparable rate was when I started college, and I think going to college is an apt comparison to transitioning to life on the road.
What I’ve come to realize is that when we were in D.C., we were surrounded by people who were working stable jobs, with busy lives, and fixed social circles – just like us. There wasn’t a whole lot of impetus for anyone to go out and try to ‘make new friends.’ Everyone we knew had their hands full just managing what was on their plate.
Out on the road though, most people we interact with, especially those who take part in social media, are in the exact same situation we’re in. We are all traveling far from home, far from the people we know, and we all crave connection and social interaction – just like those first days at college.
It’s easy to make new friends when everyone you interact with is looking to make new friends.
Adding to the recipe for success, the people you meet all have a lot in common with you – but just enough differences to keep conversations interesting. There’s an almost endless supply of non-controversial yet interesting topics to talk about with folks who are doing this.
Of course, the flip side of all this is that as easy as it is to meet great people, it’s hard to actually hang out with them. These connections often have a quick expiration date as folks pull up their jacks and head off in opposite directions. And that sucks.
We’ve hit it off with several people only to realize it will be months, if not years, before we see them again. BUT…. we have found that our fellow RVers are willing to make an effort to socialize. As of today, we have plans to meet up with friends in Colorado and Oregon this summer, California in the fall, and Arizona in the winter.
Finally, we have found that the rather small community of younger full time RVers on Instagram is incredibly connected and, more importantly, welcoming to newcomers. All of which (finally) brings me back to San Diego….
The whole reason we went to San Diego in the first place was because Jen and Deas, whom we met in January of 2017, suggested we all meet up in San Diego in April of 2018.
Then… they ditched us.
Ok, fine… they had to go to a wedding which caused them to change all their travel plans, but that will not stop me from endlessly guilting Jen about convincing us to drive to California and then dropping us like a bad habit.
As it happened, in trying to convince me to stop telling her she was “the worst friend ever,” Jen promised that we would get along great with their friends, Dave and Shannon, who were also planning on being in San Diego when we were there.
And what do you know?? She was right! (I’m not gonna stop giving her shit though.)
As soon as we got to town, Dave and Shannon popped up on Instagram (@2wanderaway) along with new friends Maggie and Wylie (@insmag05). Less than 48 hours after we arrived in SD, we all went out to one of San Diego’s many breweries.
And that was just the beginning.
That first night, Shannon texted me and said they were bringing along their friend Kurt. Immediately, I thought: “I know an RVer named Kurt…” Sure enough, he was the same Kurt whose account I’d been following for months (@kuhlodyssey). And a week later, when Shannon told us their friends John and Becky (@adventure_next) were coming into town, I quickly realized that we “knew” them as well).
Over the following weeks, we all went from being “Instagram friends” to real life friends….
The ease with which we found a comfortable space in this group – they’ve all been friends for years – was just awesome. We were instantly made to feel welcome and spent an enormous amount of time with them, as well as the friends we met through them, while we were in San Diego… there were bar crawls, game nights, and a rotating schedule of dinners at our homes.
One of our favorite days started off at Mission Brewery and then moved to the Padres game….
We then walked through the Gaslamp district to Kansas City Barbecue… famous because, as you all know, it’s where several iconic scenes from Top Gun were filmed….
And yes, they pimp the hell out of their connection to this movie…
And yes, Kevin really is willing to put up with anything to make me happy. #awwww
Another standout day was when Shannon invited me to go along with her for a photography walk at the San Diego Zoo. If you’re unfamiliar, Meetup is a website that operates in various cities all across the country. It is made up of groups you can join based on your interests. Shannon had found a San Diego photography group and thought it would be fun to join them for a photo tour of the famous zoo.
The photography practice was awesome…
But the real entertainment came after the meetup ended and Shannon and I were left to our own devices. You see, I have no sense of direction. Like… none. At all. And not only do I not have a sense of direction, but I can’t really read maps and I can’t remember anything. Ever. Here’s a visual example of me trying to follow someone’s directions:
“Alright, I just gotta climb to the top of the hill….”
“And then I take a right.”
“or was it left?”
“Or was I supposed to turn before the hill???”
If not for Kevin and Google Maps, I would never leave my house. As it is, if Google tells me to drive into a lake, I will actually drive into a lake. I don’t ask questions. I just go where Google tells me to go.
And I thought I was alone in this miserable situation, until I met Shannon. A friend who is actually as helpless as I am.
We were something special, let me tell you.
It all started when we got there. I ended up separated from the group, so Shannon was texting me directions to help me catch up with them.
The only problem was she was dictating her directions into her phone… but not proofreading them. And as you all are probably aware, Siri has been drunk since 2009.
This is what I got as I was walking through the zoo:
I like how Siri just comes up with complete nonsense and then acts like it’s totally legit. Like, “Oh yeah, ‘CrouserCrowds.’ Make sure you capitalize each word but don’t put a space between them because otherwise it won’t make sense. Duh!”
Luckily, there are tons of volunteers at the San Diego Zoo who wear red shirts and try to help helpless people like me. My first red shirted savior zeroed in on me as soon as he saw me staring at my phone mouthing the words: “What the ever loving fuck, Shannon????”
Fortunately, he was able to decipher enough of the word salad on my phone to get me to the group.
Once the meetup was over though, Shannon and I were on our own and hopelessly lost. We pretty much spent the next two hours trying to find the tigers. I actually considered calling Kevin a couple times thinking maybe he could get us to the tigers, but I decided to give the poor guy a break.
So, on and on we wandered, going from one red shirt to the next asking for directions. I don’t know why they didn’t just assign someone to us…
Eventually, after talking to 168 different zoo volunteers, we found our way to the tigers, and then, after meeting the remaining 143 volunteers, we made it back to our car.
Anyway, back to the whole new friends thing…. By the time our exit from San Diego rolled around, our circle of new friends had expanded considerably. On our last night in this super fun city, we invited Shannon, Dave, and several of the friends we met through them (Chester and Sally are full time RVers while Paige and Eric are part timers who live in Oregon), to our place for one last dinner.
What we have learned through all of this is that, as large as the RVing community seems, it is actually very small, and most people, at least, the people we’ve encountered, have been incredibly nice. Between our ability to track down old friends we haven’t seen in years, and the ease with which we’ve found new friends on the road, the social aspect of life on the road has become one of our favorite features.
Next up… a day in L.A.
Where we stayed: Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego, California
Awww, nice post! I’m so glad you are catching up with old friends and finding new ones. Whenever I think about relocating with Jeremy, I am always concerned about losing our social circle. This gives me hope ???? great zoo pics, we love that zoo! Continued safe and fun travels!
Trust me: as soon as you buy that first RV, all of your troubles will melt away. You’re gonna LOVE it! I promise!!!! 🙂
Okay, you & Kevin in the Top Gun cut out is my new favorite photo ever. Not just of you two. Like in the world. ????
I mean, I sorda feel like they mis-cast that whole movie. Clearly, Kevin and I would have made a MUCH better fighter pilot and his hot astrophysicist girlfriend…
An excellent post and spot on! We haven’t had the chance yet to set up visits with “long lost” friends, but it’s on the horizon. We have accidentally met up with people we knew we would be friends with forever. And we have met new people who make our life better just by being in it. It’s a great life we’ve chosen! Glad you had such an awesome time in SD. Love, love the zoo story!
I absolutely agree: This is a great life. It’s not always simple or carefree, but we think it’s worth the occasional aggravation to make it work. Finding friends on the road has really helped our overall viewpoint on it.
Uh-oh. I was counting on you having a good sense of direction…but now I know that when you and I meet in person, and if we go off somewhere on our own, we need to make sure there are some red-shirted volunteers around. Your zoo story is hilarious! That penguin is adorable, your captions are perfect, and I can so relate!
By the way, I think you need to work on cultivating some more friends. Because you don’t have enough.
Seriously, it’s great to see you enjoying your life on the road, meeting up with old friends and making so many new friends. Looks like you had a blast in San Diego! 🙂
Oh gosh… you too? I figured one of us would have a sense of direction. Dammit. I do find it somewhat ironic that all these people who’ve chosen to live a life of travel, constantly going to unfamiliar places and having to find their way around, seem to be the ones who are least capable of handling it. Ha! Oh well. Thank God for Google! I cannot imagine doing this ten or fifteen years ago. Paper maps? Yikes!!! I’d be lost within ten minutes of driving away from my campground….
A paper map? Noooo!!! That’s why I have Eric. And Google. Seriously, I would be screwed without them. I’d have to go back to stopping at gas stations to ask for directions.
You’ve got it just right Laura! Living a mobile life gives you everything you really need. Solitude, togetherness, old friends and new friends, seeing incredible things and the ability to just sit still and let it all sink in. I actually love that our new friends stay close awhile and then move away for new adventures. It makes the next meet up even more fun, everyone sharing their recent experiences and also picking up where you left off – it never gets old!
Love your pictures and your stories. I’m so glad we met in Tucson and I always look forward to your new posts.
I think you’re right. While I was unquestionably a bit sad when we drove away from San Diego, I know we’ll be hanging out with these folks in a couple months and we’ll have plenty to talk about. I guess it’s that whole ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ thing. We are figuring this stuff out, day by day and week by week. We’re always learning, but I think we’ve really found a comfortable pace and process now, which is so incredibly comforting.
You may need to post a disclaimer for us post menopausal women….you know what laughing and sneezing can cause!!
You always make me smile!
HA! Sorry about that!! 🙂
Looks like you had a great time in San Diego. Great photos and stories from the zoo!
We just visited San Francisco and had a chance to catch up with old friends. They have Poke bowls there too and my husband is obsessed with them!
We haven’t had a lot of luck making friends on the road. You make it look so easy! I think we haven’t been putting ourselves out there and making time for it. Any tips for making road-friends?
I definitely think you have to put yourself out there and make an effort. We have made exactly zero friends at campgrounds. Some people have great luck with that, but beyond exchanging simple pleasantries, we tend to keep to ourselves when we’re at home. The real friends we’ve made have been through Instagram and blogging. With Instagram, I try to keep track of the people who I think are most likely going to want to meet up – people who are our age, who don’t have little kids, who have pictures on their feed of them being out with other RVers, and who are actually traveling (as opposed to work camping in one location for 6 months at a time). Those are the people we’re most likely going to cross paths with and who are most likely going to want to meet up. Once you start really figuring out who those people are, it’ll just be a matter of time before you’ll end up in the same town. Then, just let them know you’re in town and see what they say, or ask if they want to grab a beer one night. No one has ever blown us off and everyone we’ve met has been easy to chat with. You might not end up being best friends, but you’re not gonna be staring at your shoes all night either. There’s plenty to chat about, at least for one conversation.
Same goes for blogging. I like following bloggers who travel like we do and do the same things we like to do. And every blogger loves comments and wants to feel like they’re connecting in some way with their readers. So leave comments, make suggestions, ask questions. I’ve emailed directly with several bloggers asking for advice about one thing or another and that has led to direct meet-ups when we were in the same town. People want to help and want to connect. You just have to reach out.
The nice thing is, once you make a few connections, those people will introduce you to their friends and your circle will grow.
Another option, one that we JUST did, but haven’t done anything with yet, is to join Xscapers. That whole group is made up of younger, fulltime RVers, who like to socialize. That’s basically the whole point of the group. The people we were hanging out with in San Diego are all members and told us the people and events are a lot of fun, so we joined and we’ll be taking part in an event later this year (I’ll email you the specifics if you’re interested).
Over the last 5 years we’ve made some amazing great friends in the rv community. Some are bloggers, some we’ve gone on a caravan with and some we’ve workamped with. We socialize so much more than in our working days. Looking forward to meeting up with old friends next summer when we head back to VT for a month.
I can believe it. It’s been a lot less time for us, but we’ve been really happy with the number of awesome people we’ve been able to get to know. It’s obviously a very different world than our former social lives, but it’s definitely not worse, and in some ways, it really is better.
You are settling into this mobile life style with ease! It is amazing how many new friends you make along the way. I love following someone’s blog and then finally meeting them in person. It is like we have always been friends. But it can get to be overwhelming for us. While we enjoy our time with friends, we really enjoy the quiet time to ourselves. So it is always nice to have “alone time” after a big social stop. Sounds like SD was nonstop fun with friends.
I so can relate to your sense of direction!!! I just laughed all the way through your description. You described me! After 42 years together it still boggles John that I truly have no sense of direction. We’ve been to Boulder City several times prior to moving here. Each time for at least several week. That didn’t matter to me, I still couldn’t find anything. Moving here was a new struggle. I needed to try to get places alone. I am slowly getting better. I can get to the grocery store and the hair salon. That’s all that matters right now:)
Hope to catch up on the road again. We head east for a couple months on June 1. We aren’t sure where will be after that. We should be back here in Boulder City by mid to late Oct. We’ll stay through Dec. If you get our way, let us know!
I completely agree about the need for quiet time after all the socializing. I’m behind on my blog but once I get to the post-San Diego stuff, you’ll see that we were very happy to have some major down time once we left. I’m not even sure that we talked to each other for a couple days!! Like I said, we are constantly searching for balance. San Diego involved a LOT of socializing, far more than normal, but because there are times we have no one to talk to for a while, we were not about to turn down the chance to hang out with any of these fun folks. But yeah, by the end, we needed some alone time, for sure.
It is comforting to know that I really am not alone with the directions thing. And it seems especially to be the case with all of us full time travelers. Go figure!
I’ll definitely keep you posted as to our fall travel plans. Our intention is to stay in the west and pacific northwest all summer and then head south through California during the later part of the fall, so perhaps we’ll be in driving distance at some point. We’ll just have to see how things work out. If we can meet up again, we’d certainly love to!
Wow! You met up with a lot of people this month! Reminds me of a song from summer camp, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Corny, but fitting I’d say.
Completely fitting, I agree. It was fun to be in a place where we got a little bit of both. A perfect combination of old friends and new!
So now I understand how you were able to spend an entire month in SD — sounds like it almost may not have been enough for all the meetups! Your zoo photos are phenomenal. Seems like you may be following my personal advice for great wildlife photography: go someplace the animals will pose for you, and take a lot of pics. 🙂
Seriously – that is sage advice right there. I see all these talented blogger/photographers with their incredible pictures and it just sounds like an awful lot of work to have to wait around for some prima donna bird to show up and look cool when you need him to, ya know? Who’s got time for that?? It’s MUCH easier to just go to the zoo, snap some pics, and call it a day!
Wow! You guys were BUSY reuniting and meeting up with friends. Happy y’all had a blast. Your photos are quite pretty, I might add. I had to laugh out loud (as I always do while reading your posts) at your sense of direction and the little birdie photos were perfect. Good thing you found Shannon. I always find the most fun adventures happen when we get lost. Safe travels. Dawn
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