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A few weeks back I wrote a post about taking a break from Denmark, the place I’ve been calling home for five years, in order to think things through and figure out what I really want to do with my life. That post got a lot of attention and created some resonance in the Danish expat community.
Though I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings or in any way imply that Denmark is a bad place to be (it totally isn’t, if anything – it is one of the greatest places to live), but I was extremely mad at the Danish immigration service for denying my right to live in the country on permanent grounds and I still am.
Though I received a lot of support (which I am so thankful for), some people thought that I was leaving the country forever, using the post as a childish way to slam the door, some speculated that I am going back to Ukraine and will regret my move soon enough (Ukraine is not exactly a fairy-tale place to be). But regardless of what everyone might think, the post was first of all about me and my inability to make this new place a good home for myself. I never said that I am leaving Denmark for good, but I needed a break badly and needed to change something in my life in order not to go ..erm…insane?
I needed to take this step in order not to hate myself for not doing the things I wanted to do. You know, you only live once after all.
So what happened when I left Denmark?
With this year being rather dramatic and dull in Denmark and with me leaving my job, we decided that time has come to just see what it’s like to live in the USA! We rented out our place in Copenhagen, packed a suitcase and bought a one-way ticket to the States.
Here I am, in sunny ☀️California☀️, the place I used as my refuge from all things sad. Is it okay to freak out and leave everything behind just like that? Probably not. But, if you want your life to be different than it is, you have to do something differently, right?
My husband and I have been wanting to come to the States for a long time. From the work and travel program back when we were just students to the plans of a long road trip throughout the Southern States. But where do you find the time for long road trips when you are working? You don’t. You quit, find a remote job or a really cool boss who lets you work from wherever you want.
On the technical side, US gives a tourist visa for as long as ten years (at least for Ukrainians), with six months entry period at a time, so it is a perfect place for long-term travel.
California is the land of oh, so many refugees in all aspects of this word: the real and not so real asylum seekers, the liberals tired of the narrow-mindedness, the religious folk striving for stronger community, the creative souls who find the most favorable soil to be the streets of Hollywood and the smog-free air of San Francisco. So I felt I would find a spot for myself here as well. Besides, what other great place is there to hide from cold and rainy European weather?
USA or Denmark?
‘Is USA better than Denmark?’ most will ask.
I could easily draw a chart, divide everything into pro’s and con’s and sum up the results. But I won’t. The whole point of taking a break is not to over-analyze things. Besides, some things are just too qualitative to break down into actual data.
I know that Denmark is great, but it is just so easy here, in California, that I don’t even need to adjust. Talking to people is easy, getting a car is easy, finding everything you need is easy (cause you can get whatever the hell you want in here, for any price), and traveling is easy as well.
California is the world of diverse people and diverse nature. While my husband is reshaping his skills in web development department, I get the time to figure out who I am, especially in relation to other people. The thing that I seemed to be forgetting in the isolation bubble of Denmark and the all-loving bubble of Ukraine. California reminded me that people are complex and I am re-education myself to communicate with them, especially besides the usual topics of ‘how was your weekend?’ (expats in Denmark should understand me here).
First Impressions of Major California Places
My transit point, aka Sacramento.
We stationed ourselves in Sacramento because a few of our friends are here. As simple as that. There was no other reason apart from this one, plus, it’s times cheaper than, say, San Fran. For those starting up in America, this is a perfect place to be because of close proximity to all of the best things California has to offer (San Fran, Yosemite, Tahoe, LA, etc.) and the accepting nature of California itself. Besides, there are so many things to do in terms of natural sights, Bay Area day trips alone can fill up all your weekends.
Surprisingly, there’s not much to do in Sacramento, taken that it is the capital of the state. There’s just a small historic city center and a few malls scattered miles and miles apart from each other connected by neighborhoods of houses and apartment complexes. It seems like a strange place to me, a European, who’s used to finding at least a kebab shop in the walking distance 🙄. But not here. No charming cafe streets or cozy neighborhoods, just miles and miles of roads connecting Walmart to WinCo or another giant grocery store.
Apart from that, Sacramento is a great place for those nostalgic over the old days of USSR or feel homesick over Ukraine or Russia. With high and growing Slavic community, this is the place where some stores look like they are straight out of the village in Ukraine, shelves packed with ketchup, cottage cheese, horseradish, ‘varyonka‘ sausage and all other goods that babushka can offer you.
But the beauty of Sacramento is the community. So strong, that you can expect people showing up on your doorstep to bring you some food just because they had extra. Yeah, just like home. Which means I don’t have to search for another place where I belong no more.
If I could describe this city in three words they would be posh, hot and spacious. LA is a giant metropolis that resembles a cluster of small cities rather than one city itself. I loved it for having so many styles to choose from for any kind of folk. Beverly Hills for reach and famous, Venice beach for poor and free-spirited, Pasadena for everyone else.
That’s the place where your ‘dreamometer‘ can go wild and start giving out the impossible kind of wishes, like ‘I want to live next to Tom Cruise or Lana Del Rey in Hollywood Highlands’. And you believe that it’s possible! Cause guess what? That’s what everyone else does!
Gosh, I wish I saw San Francisco under different circumstances, rather than the ones where we’re looking for parking spots all day long or seeing lined of homeless people doing drugs on a Sunday afternoon. But what’s seen cannot be unseen. So, I am moving on to say that San Fran is one of those places that lives the concept of ‘life is good’ to the fullest. Chicks shop-hopping in a limo and couples picnicking near Alamo square over the best view you can have in the city. I get it, life is good if you can afford to live in San Francisco. Small, compact and uncomfortably hilly, this is the place for the chosen few who can fit in physically and financially.
Yosemite National Park is the very place that was able to help me reincarnate after the coldness of Scandinavia. We liked it so much, that after a two-day camping trip, we returned here again, to stay for another four days. Sleeping in a car on cold autumn nights was not a problem at all with everything that you get in return.
Every morning I woke up and took the time to appreciate the beauty around me and just be thankful that I am here. It gave me the moment I needed to be with myself and embrace the world around me. And it wasn’t hard to do, taken that no matter where you turn your head it will be drop dead gorgeous. The unbelievable beauty that you see around makes you so peaceful and happy that you don’t need another reason. You don’t have to take any trails or visit specific locations to get the best out of Yosemite. Photographers spotting the birds or chipmunks or kids riding bicycles, everyone seems to fit into the wonderland that is Yosemite National Park.
California, you brought me back to life
After long months of being completely unproductive and down, I am finally getting back to normal. It wasn’t an easy ride and it took about a month to get used to California before I started liking it. But all in all, it spun me back into doing stuff:
- I’ve started going to the gym again. By the way, they have really nice $10 per month deals in Planet Fitness.
- I started gaining my driving experience. Having a license for so long I can finally put it to use and be confident that I can rent out a car and actually drive it.
- I gained a new circle of friends very fast considering the amount of time that I’ve been here.
- We’re back to making music cover videos. The newest one was recorded live in Yosemite National Park just recently. You can check it out on our Youtube channel.
- But most importantly, I am finishing my first book, a guidebook to my home country Ukraine and I am hoping to get it out to you by end of the year.
- I am taking loads of pictures of the beautiful nature and cities I see here and I am in love. If you love my photos and want to use the same styles, you can get my Lightroom presets here.
I came here for healing and maybe even some inspiration, as a bonus. Did it work? It is too soon to tell, but I have certainly forgotten all the worries that bugged me for nearly a year back in Copenhagen. Thank you, California, for bringing me back to life.
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Do you have any special places that make you feel better? Where do you run off to when you are feeling down? Share your experiences in the comment section.