When I was little, I used to visit my grandparents in San Diego every summer. I fell in love with the city when I would come on those visits and when I got older I decided that moving to San Diego was what I wanted to do. After I finished my undergraduate degree, I decided that getting into grad school would give me the perfect excuse to move there. My grandparents no longer lived in the city, so when I got into grad school and decided to move, I would be moving to San Diego alone.
The first year in SD, I discovered that there were quite a few things I didn’t know about the city. I had a vision of what life would be like in San Diego, but it was made up of my memories from visiting as a kid. There were a lot of things that were different and there were a lot of things I needed to learn about the city as an adult. Here are the five most prominent things no one told me about but I eventually learned from moving to San Diego alone.
1. The traffic is almost just as bad as LA
We’re always told that LA and New York are the two cities in the US that have the most car traffic. So, moving to San Diego, I didn’t expect the traffic to be that bad. Over the years, many people like myself have moved to San Diego meaning there are a lot more cars on the freeways. Now the traffic has become a lot heavier and it starts earlier in the day. I never thought that I would experience some of the crazy traffic jams that I have since I’ve moved to San Diego four years ago. It used to take me an hour and fifteen minutes to get to work during peak traffic times when normally it would only take me twenty. And trust me when I say there is nothing scarier than being stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway when your gas light turns on. No one told me San Diego would have bad traffic and I never really saw it as a kid, so I learned the hard way.
2. There’s a good chance you’ll drive into SeaWorld accidentally
We all know that SeaWorld is located in San Diego and is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. But did you know that SeaWorld is also located by two of the city’s most popular beaches? In order to get to Mission Beach, you have to take an exit that comes just after the SeaWorld exit. If you exit too soon, you’ll discover that you have to drive down a one-way road that only leads into SeaWorld; there’s nowhere to turn around.
When I moved to San Diego and was going to Mission Beach for the first time by myself, I took the SeaWorld exit. I realized I had truly messed up when I saw that I was heading towards the parking booths and that was the only way I could go. I had to embarrassingly tell the man in the booth that I had made a driving mistake and that I wasn’t actually going to the amusement park. A security guard had to watch me exit the parking lot to ensure that I wasn’t just trying to park for free. No one told me when I said I was moving to San Diego to look out for that pesky SeaWorld exit. Whenever I go to Mission Beach now, I always panic and think I’m going to end up at SeaWorld again. If you move here, be mindful of the SeaWorld exit or just be a better driver than me.
3. It’s bigger than you think
As a kid, I always just knew San Diego. I would say, “We’re going to San Diego.” It wasn’t until I moved here that I realized San Diego is made up of a lot of different places; it’s actually really big. I had no idea that places like Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas, El Cajon, and Escondido were technically all still classified as San Diego. Yes, they all have their own zip codes and they all are prominently listed on maps but in reality, they are all still San Diego! I discovered that moving to San Diego could actually mean that I was moving to any of those places. So when I started telling people I was moving to San Diego I was shocked when someone said to me, “Well yeah, but where in San Diego?” I guess growing up in New Mexico, I never saw a city that had that many individual parts; Albuquerque was Albuquerque and Santa Fe was Santa Fe, no one referred to those cities with the names of different parts within them. I soon discovered that not only was California big, but so was San Diego.
4. Going to the beach on the weekend is a mission and a half
When you’re a kid and your parents tell you they’re taking you to the beach you literally pay no mind to anything other than the sand and the water when you get there. You never notice how early you have to get up, how long it takes to get there sometimes, how long it takes to park, the amount of stuff you have to bring with you, the time it takes to find a spot, and how truly crowded it is most of the time. Moving to San Diego definitely opened my naïve eyes to all that it actually took to have a successful beach day as an adult – especially if you are going in the summer and on a weekend. You never see it and they never tell you about the struggle until you attempt to go to a San Diego beach by yourself for the first time. I still haven’t mastered it and I honestly don’t think I will ever be fully prepared for the beach on a weekend.
5. You’ll never want to leave
I fell in love with San Diego as a kid. I wanted to go to college in San Diego, but had to wait until I had a little more money and a little more experience before I could. But, moving to San Diego was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I attended a pretty good program and got a master’s degree out of it, the weather is nice 80% of the time, I’ve met some incredible people, and now I never want to leave. I’m just afraid that nowhere is ever going to live up to the time I’ve spent in San Diego. Heck yeah, it was scary moving here all by myself and I was totally not prepared for the curveballs it continues to throw at me, but I would not take any of it back. San Diego is one of the greatest cities. If you don’t believe me, I guess you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.