San Diego

San Diego was our last destination in USA and the gate to the next adventure: Mexico.

We were melancholic about finishing our USA expedition after two months exploring gorgeous national parks and meeting so many wonderful and inspiring people; however, we were also excited to reach Mexico! We looked forward to its unique culture, exotic beaches, great food and prices 🙂

Point Loma, San Diego
Point Loma, San Diego

Before moving on to the Latin American chapter we wanted to enjoy the last bits of California State Route 1, Orange Country, visit San Diego’s famous Zoo and have a top perspective of the city from the iconic Point Loma!

Beautiful flamingos of San Diego Zoo
Beautiful flamingos of San Diego Zoo

Choosing Highway 1 from L.A. to San Diego gave us the opportunity to cruise through one of the most beautiful regions in California: Orange County. Cities like Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point are dream places.

We appreciated the excellent infrastructure, the perfect gold sand beaches, the sunny weather, the coastal vegetation with palm trees and beautiful flowers and the friendly and laid back atmosphere. This region of California has it all and I wonder if someone can be stressed living here. Well, perhaps if you need a mortgage this can be source of stress as the beachfront houses are valued from 10 mil $ onwards.

We agreed that California is gorgeous and a dream place to live, but one needs a good salary to afford the cost of living. That’s the California dreaming.

When we reached San Diego we decided to go first to an outlet mall located at the border with Tijuana. We needed clothing for the changing temperatures we would encounter in Mexico.

On our way, as we had the chance to see  the other side of the border, Tijuana we suddenly  became anxious about crossing to Mexico. From distance the hills of Tijuana were full of houses and chaotic populated areas with an apparent lack of infrastructure and safety that resembled the “favelas” of Rio de Janeiro. Would we miss the safety and the infrastructure of USA and Canada?

As first time overlanders we realized we did the right thing starting the journey in Canada and USA as a soft transition from our previous lives before reaching a much different reality in Latin America. We understood it was time to leave that comfort behind and get to the next overlanding level, Mexico. But before that we decided to visit one of the most famous and largest zoos in the world, the San Diego zoo, with over 4000 animals of more than 800 species.

Visiting the zoo was much more entertaining than we expected. We spent the morning in the company of the most diverse and exotic animals we have on our planet: from the pink flamingos, to the human expressive gorillas and orangutans, the rare panda bear, the elegant and majestic giraffes, hundreds of colored bird species to the polar bear.

It was a relaxing day walking through the zoo and admiring the beauty of hundreds of animals; however, I prefer to see these animals in the wilderness. Besides the fact that one can see them free I feel we can learn more about them by watching their behavior in their natural habitat. That’s when magic happens. A simple gesture of a wild animal becomes a moment of discovery, a moment when one is touched and inspired by a simple behavior done naturally. We experienced it with the humpback whales in Fundy Bay, the grizzly bears in Alaska, the caribou in Denali National Park, the moose and herds of bisons in Canada. Those moments were priceless. However, the encounter with the animals from San Diego Zoo was very nice too and gave us many awe moments.

When we finished visiting the zoo we headed to Point Loma, an uphill national park where one gets the chance to admire gorgeous panoramic views of the Pacific Coast and of San Diego Bay. We experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets we ever seen. Perfect yellow orange ball reflecting onto the ocean’s calm waters in the distance. The image needed no words to describe.

An interesting point to make about this park is that on our way to reach Cabrillo National Monument we crossed through an impressive military cemetery where thousands and thousands of war veterans rest in their graveyard at the top of the hill. The rows were in perfect alignment and we were affected to see the amount of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country. We were not allowed to take pictures.

As the night approached we returned to our quiet spot, next to a public library where we could camp for the night. It was Thanksgiving Day in America and most of the locals were celebrating this special day in their cosy homes. For us it was the day to be thankful for everything we experienced in USA and welcome a new phase of our journey, the latin American one.

Bye-bye for now USA and thank you for the great experiences!
Bye-bye for now USA and thank you for the great experiences!

We felt melancholic to leave USA after the memorable time we had exploring amazing national parks such as Yellowstone, Teton, Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches and Yosemite. We met outstanding people like Chris, Ali, Evan and Chelsea, Victoria and Eri, and visited Monica in San Francisco, Abel and Vanesa in Las Vegas, Chris and Sasha in Seattle. It was an unforgettable learning and developing experience. We felt enriched and inspired after all these events.

Changing countries after so much comfort and convenience in USA and Canada to the hustle and bustle of Latin America would take us out of our comfort zone, but would also give us priceless insights into rich ancient cultures of warm people, exotic landscapes, hot weather, different music and great food.

It was a mix of fear and excitement! Our thoughts were comforted by the near warmth of Baja California beaches after so much cold we caught on the north part of the continent.

Mexico here we come! We are ready!

Orange County, California
Orange County, California

About the author: Ioana Marins

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