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A New Yorker’s Take On San Diego

So I just got back from a late-summer trip to San Diego with my man. I loved it. It was 100% worth the panic attack I had on the plane. The West Coast is very different from here. We stayed with John’s friends so I got to learn a little more about the culture than I would if we just went by ourselves.

First the weather. It’s amazing. Having lived in the Northeast for pretty much my entire life I couldn’t fathom what feels like perpetual 75 degrees. But it’s real. People told me they owned nothing more substantial than a hoodie. Which they can wear all the time because dress codes are pretty damn lax over there.

Plus: PALM TREES! I didn’t even see a palm tree until I was 21, when we went to Raleigh for Spring Break. I thought they were lying to us. But there they were in all their multi-textured splendor. If I were still doing fashion design I’d definitely make a print based on this:


The beach was clear and not-filthy. John told me clear water was a big deal. I never believed him. But trust me, it makes a big difference. And there were interesting configurations of seaweed lying there on the sand. Like this one. It’s like a giant alien dendrite.

Now for the people. San Diego is a hell of a lot more relaxed than here. It’s more red than you’d expect because there’s a Marine base. I figured it would be all hippies. But you don’t have to live competitively. People are doing all sorts of things: running small businesses, military, college. They have the traditional career tracks of course, but if you’re not pushing yourself half to death no one will castigate you for it. As an autistic person, I was a lot more comfortable not feeling like I have to prove myself every fifteen minutes for what I “do.”

It’s more family-oriented too in unusual ways. There’s a lot of transients, especially young people. But you can also bring your babies to a party and it’s less weird. Older people party too. You can go to a bar and see people of all ages. Well, I guess college students stick to themselves, but the late-twenties and up crowd can all hang out at the same bar and gain wisdom from talking to each other. I think people are a little less afraid of age in places where it doesn’t impose such specific expectations on us.

But I could easily see how people get caught up in the beach life and never grow up. A couple of people talked about that too. There’s a huge drug culture out there, which I’m mostly all for. Literally every third store on the main drag in Ocean Beach is geared towards potheads. But if you’re lying around homeless because you couldn’t check yourself at any point in time…well that’s a bad thing.

Another thing: people are fit. People of all ages are fit. Even in New York a lot of people 35+ don’t look so good. There, you have reason to live. You show your body at all times of the year. You don’t have skinny-fat people like in New York. I bet if I lived there I’d be binge-eating a lot less.

The food’s great too. It’s mostly Mexican. But there were enough hip fair-trade coffeehouses around to make me happy.

San Diego isn’t as walkable as other cities, which sucks for aspies who don’t drive. There’s a lot of spread. But the little beachside towns have enough nice, walkable downtown area that you can get to where you need to go locally.

People told us that visitors never leave. I can see that, but I still have enough karaoke and burlesque shows and conventions and media coffeedates and Pokémon Go meetups to keep me in New York for a while.


*Palm tree from Anebrd at deviantart.

A New Yorker’s Take On San Diego

Gwendolyn Kansen

Gwen Kansen is a mental health writer in New York. She likes food, karaoke, and smart-but-campy books & TV. She's hoping to capture a little sliver of life on here that might not be the first thing you'd see.

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APA Reference
Kansen, G. (2016). A New Yorker’s Take On San Diego. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Sep 2016
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