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SoCal Summer

August 18, 2014

I was standing around a cocktail table at a party on Saturday night when a friend looked at me and said, “Alicia, you travel like an NFL player does in the middle of the season.”

The first thing I thought was, “Solid sports reference.”  I then chuckled, swished some champagne around my mouth and made a mental note that she was right.

When it comes to playing the career lottery, I hit the job jackpot at the University of Miami.  In case anyone needs proof about that point, I have two words for you:  Summer vacation.

Remember when you were in elementary school and the first day of school expectantly brought the, “What did you do this summer?” game?  Remember how you would stay up in bed the night before rolling through memories you made over the prior 90 days?  You’d sift through trips to grandma’s house, roller coaster rides, new pets and family vacations to pick the one memory that had the greatest chance of eliciting “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from your childhood classmates.

When you’re 30, the summer memories you get to sift through are not only more grown up, but as luck would have it, they’re more awesome.  

For me, they involve airplanes.  

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I touched down in LA last Thursday for the last trip of my summer vacation.  I headed straight to Laguna Beach for a photo shoot with the very talented Natalie Schutt.  Have you ever met someone and felt like you’ve known them forever?  That was Natalie.  She was such a happy, fun and excited spirit.  Not only did she put up with my near neurotic particularity when it comes to getting pictures taken, but she told me about her dreams and goals.  We talked about our love for Jesus and how we both want to make this world a better place.  She was real and awesome and cool.  And dang, can she take a picture!  She’s your woman if you need photos!  Seriously.

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Sometimes I wonder why I travel so much.  Yes, a lot of times it’s for work. A lot of times I can avoid work trips, though, Yet, for some reason, I choose not to.  I’m a rolling stone who hopes to someday be tied down.  For now, though, I go.

I go, because every time I leave, I find a little bit more of my heart.  I go, because every time I leave, I realize that my heart stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.  There are pieces of my heart scattered across many states and throughout different cities.  The pieces are held by people who I don’t see enough, but who when we’re together, nothing’s changed.

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Southern California is special to me, because it’s one place where I can show up late at night to old friends’ houses like it’s no big deal and stay up past our bedtimes shooting the breeze and laughing about life.  This trip to California was special, because I got to celebrate some exciting moments with friends.  I saw Ashleigh’s baby bump and Kim’s new ring.  Both were darling.  I heard how Rebecca and Jenny both plan on being engaged by the end of the year.  I made a mental note to try and get a boyfriend by then.  So, there’s that.

There is nothing better than going to a place where you feel safe, regardless of who you are, what you did or how you feel.  My friend, Rebecca, is one of the people I feel the safest around.  I can tell her anything.  Any crazy idea, bad decision or confusing thought.  What I love about our friendship, is that there’s never been any judgment.  Ever.  Nor will there ever be.  On both ends.  Spending time with a person like that is refreshing and welcome.  

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One thing that’s cool about being on the road, is the new people and hearts you can meet.  I didn’t start traveling alone for work until 2012.  And at first, I hated it.  I was so lonely and bored.  I felt isolated.  

For those who truly know me, I’m pretty shy.  This strikes a lot of people as surprising, but while I have to be outgoing in my media jobs, I’m not naturally that way.  I’m a big fan of consistency and comfort zones.  Until recently, I never went too far out of my social circle to meet new people or make new friends.

I love that traveling a lot has forced me out of that shell.  I love it, because it has brought me to some of the most amazing, interesting and kind people.  These days, I almost make a game out of finding cool new people on the road.  I make it a point to visit kitschy coffee shops or cool boutiques to strike up conversations.  I’m building a tapestry of friends these days, and let me tell you, the tapestry is pretty diverse, pretty wild and pretty dang cool.

This trip to California led me to the Bits Shop in Costa Mesa.  The Bits Shop is home to 31 Bits jewelry.  I first learned of 31 Bits on Instagram and was initially attracted to the brand because of its bold colors and unique bead work.  I then realized that 31 Bits empowers African women and helps provide them with sustainable incomes.  I also learned that the company has a Christian foundation.  After that, I was smitten.

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So, it was with excitement that I popped into the Bits Shop.  I just expected to stroll around and buy a couple pieces.  To my luck, though, one of the co-founders, Jessie, was in the shop.  She and I chatted for what seemed like forever about everything under the sun–from empowering women and friends’ wild bachelorette parties to Los Angeles traffic and boys.  Talking to her was easy and fun.  And again, I was thankful for the journeys I get to go on and the amazing people they allow me to meet.

Southern California will always be a pseudo home to me.  Its coasts are dotted with my memories.  Its big cities are filled with my friends.  And my favorite summer vacation memories will probably always be born from it.

Summer vacation, people.  It was good.  Really, really good.

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