My First Time Visiting California

This was my first time visiting California and I did not know what to expect. Needless to say it blew my mind away and I had a blast on my 2 week adventure, camper-vanning, seeing old friends and meeting some of my girlfriends family for the first time.
Hetch Hetchy California National

Table of Contents

My first time visiting California came to me as more of a shock than just a normal vacation to the west coast. This destination was due to an abrupt change in my life and the start of my new worldwide adventure. I literally quit my job, moved back home and sold all my stuff two weeks prior to my newly booked San Francisco flight.

Seattle Airport
Cloudy Seattle

Flashback to March 2017 the night before my flight, I was unable to sleep with a thousand thoughts in my head. 2 am came cold and early as I showered, made final preparations and enjoyed an hour ride to the airport. I was greeted with snow at my first layover in Minneapolis and rain on my next layover in Seattle, so when I landed in San Francisco to sunshine and warm air I received a burst of energy before it all came crashing back down that yes this is real, I am hastily saying goodbye to normal life to travel once again.

California Adventure
Seeing each other for the first time in a few months

Monterey Bay

I was California bound to meet my Canadian girlfriend Emma and her father Barry, who were currently on holiday in California. They where already in San Francisco when I arrived, Emma just showed up from Hawaii and her dad came down from Toronto for 8 days to see her and visit some long lost family. When I arrived they picked me up at the SFO airport and we immediately hit the road south to the small ocean town of Monterey.

Monterey California
Wine keeps you young
Monterey California
Tourist things

While we were checking out Monterey we drove the scenic 17 mile road around the famous Pebble Beach towards Carmel-By-The-Sea. Emma’s dad toured the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a former sardine cannery and now home to over 35,000 sea creatures. Emma and I enjoyed the ocean coast, explored around town and caught up with each other.

17 mile drive Monterey California
Cruising the coast
Monterey California
Monterey Canning
Monterey California
Monterey’s coast
Monterey California
Ocean side
Monterey California
Enjoying the pier

Pismo Beach

Our next stop was Pismo Beach where Barry’s cousin lived with his wife. Emma’s dad and his cousin had not seen each other in over 30 years, so them catching up was a true highlight on his trip to California. We spent our time in Pismo Beach enjoying it’s calm atmosphere while trying to spot seals and sea otters off the pier.

Pismo Beach California
Pismo Beach
Sea Lion Pismo Beach California
Seal spotting
Backpack Scottland
Old family journals

National Parks

After Pismo Beach we headed back to San Fransisco, Emma’s dad had to go home and back to work, which left her and I with two weeks before more of her family was coming to visit California. We also now had three weeks before flying to our newly booked and next adventure destination, The Cook Islands. So having time to kill before her family arrived and San Francisco being too expensive for us we decided to rent a camper van and head inland bound for California’s national parks.

Campervan California
Our campervan named Rae Rae

We visited Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Each of these National Parks are completely stunning and they are massive on a level I had never seen before. Unfortunately we did not have much time to explore and we also were not very prepared for the high elevation weather but if I had the correct gear and more time I could have stayed in any of those parks for months.

Yosemite Valley California
Leaving Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley California
I like rocks
Sequoia National Park California
General Sherman tree

More Family

After 10 days campervanning from San Fransisco to Los Angeles we said goodbye to the van and hopped on the Greyhound bound for San Diego, where we were meeting more of Emma’s family. This time around I met Emma’s aunt and twin 5 year old cousins from Calgary along with seeing her grandparents from Toronto again. Emma’s family had this San Diego vacation planned before we even knew that we were going to California so the timing worked out perfectly.

Carlsbad California Beach
Emma’s Grandparents

San Diego

Emma’s grand parents drove their RV down to San Diego, while her aunt and cousins flew in, but we all stayed at the local KOA campground. My highlight was that Emma and I got to try out our new backpacking tent for a few nights.

MSR Elixer Tent
Our new adventure home!
MSR Elixer Tent
Testing out all our gear

Emma’s family wanted to visit the zoo, Seaworld, Legoland and a few other attractions so before they left home they purchased a pass, which gave them free entry into parks, rides and other things around the area. Emma and I didn’t know about this pass before hand but it along with most of the individual entry fees were a bit over our backpacker budget. Emma did want to do something with her cousins and I secretly wanted to visit Legoland so we let loose for one day and joined them.

Legoland California
Medieval Knights
Legoland California
Polar attacks

Aside from Legoland we visited the MT. Soledad memorial, wandered around Old Town district and spent some time along the beach. I toured the USS Midway, which turned out to be my favorite thing in San Diego.

San Diego Beach
Strolling beach side
Mount Soledad Memorial San Diego
Mt. Soledad memorial
The USS Midway Ship
USS Midway museum

LA and Leaving

As Emma’s family headed home her grandparents were kind enough to give us a ride in their RV to Oceanside before they ventured east to Las Vegas. I decided to use the last of my hotel reward points and stay here a few days so we could decompress a little after weeks of family time and plan our Cook Islands adventure.

RV Life California
Emma’s grandparents, RV living

After two night in Oceanside Emma and I took the Amtrak to Los Angeles to visit on of my old friends from university. He tour guided us around LA for a day and we hung out reminiscing of old college days before our flight to the Cook Islands!

Venice Los Angeles
Doing tourist things

Final Thoughts

Being a sporadic beginning and my first time to the west coast, California was honestly better than I expected. Once you leave the major cities the countryside really opens up and it is crazy how quickly you can get to different areas. We went from hectic cities, to relaxed beach towns, to farming and winter mountains all within a few hours drive.

California Amtrak

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Sheridan is a full-time adventure seeker, professional photographer, and creator of Outsidevibes. Having a serious case of wanderlust Sheridan has traveled extensively around the world. He has overcome multiple, serious injuries from traveling but he is determined to continue experiencing life to the fullest.

Hey, I'm Sheridan.

I’m a full-time adventure photographer, coffee creator, van builder, and writer!

Welcome to Outsidevibes, the BEST resource for all things travel, outdoor, hiking, backpacking, and nature-related. As an adventure person, I aim to share honest information, passionate stories and promote positive inspiration for those who love travel and the outdoors.

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