Falling in Love with Southern California

After our fast-paced weekend in LA, we headed south to chilled out Chula Vista for a bit of sun and sand. Instead of staying with a friend, we found a place to stay with a Southern California native and lifeguard through Couchsurfing.

One of my favorite parts of Couchsurfing is that it gives you the chance to explore places you would never have seen otherwise. And it turns out bunking up with a lifeguard host means lots and lots of beach time! 


On our first morning in Chula Vista our host took us to Imperial Beach, a sandy little community which he described as “the last small beach town in California.”

I almost don’t want to write about it here as it was so marvelously unspoiled, with uncrowded beaches, ocean piers and lots of thriving local businesses like ice cream parlors and coffee houses. We also noticed everyone in town seemed to know each other- as we walked from shop to shop our host cracked jokes with almost all the shopkeepers and other customers.



But after a physically taxing weekend in LA, I’m sorry to say that all Victoria and I wanted to do was sleep. So while our host was lifeguarding we laid down on the sand and slumbered away three hours. Due to my naïve belief that I’m tan enough not to wear sunscreen, I acquired an impressive fire hydrant red tan that later made it painful to shower. Good one, Ash.

After our beach nap, our host gave us a tour of his plush lifeguarding office, complete with a vintage surfboard museum and choice views from the dispatch.

LASan Diego6

Peckish from our long nap, we headed to In-N-Out Burger for lunch, also known as the best fast food ever. On the way to the restaurant our host filled us in about the secret menu, which I had no idea existed. Ever heard of the 100×100? (Sadly, this monstrosity no longer exists.)

While Victoria and I foolishly ordered our burgers plain, we drooled in envy over our host’s animal style burger and fries.

“If I’m going to order fast food, I’m going to go all out,” said our host. Amen to that.

Animal-style fries= cholesterol heaven

Our non-animal style burgers

Next we powered through a quick tour of downtown San Diego, a quiet, leafy city that seemed much, much more relaxed than LA. Guess which one I liked better?


LASan Diego7

Though San Diego seemed nice enough, in the end it was the sleepy beach towns further south that held the magic for me. Imperial Beach and Chula Vista seemed like peaceful and sunshine-laden places to settle down- and plus, the proximity to Mexico would be incredible.

But even better times were soon to come, on our day (and night) trip down to Mexico…

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

12 thoughts on “Falling in Love with Southern California”

  1. Looks beautiful! And I do love couchsurfing! I’ve only hosted before, but the more I read about the other side of it, the more excited I get :)

  2. Guess I’ve been missing out this whole time! Honestly, Chula Vista has a bit of a stereotype for us North County San Diegans, and I’ve barely ever made it down there.

    Glad you had a great time! Wish we could have been there at the same time!!

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