If home is where your heart is, then mine’s in Santa Cruz, California. I’ve lived 2.5 hours away from Surf City for most of my life, and only an hour away during my college years in San Francisco, and yet, somehow, I’d never once visited. Then, about three years ago, I got an idea for a young adult urban fantasy. I noodled around with possible locations, but the one I kept coming back to was Santa Cruz. I have no earthly idea why, it’s just what the Muse latched onto. I started doing some web browsing, and picked up a map at the local auto club. But, me being me, that wasn’t enough.

So, on my birthday weekend, I hauled the husband and kids off to Santa Cruz, and we all fell in love. We’ve been vacationing there every summer since, and have spent the last couple of Thanksgivings there, too.

The weather is balmy most of the year. We’re able to play on the beach and in the water even in November. (Sometimes between rainstorms, but still.) There are tracts of redwoods within city limits, and state parks with great beaches and hiking trails all around, and of course there’s the famous Beach Boardwalk.

 Downtown is fun and funky, with great restaurants and quirky shops, and I love, love, love the farmer’s market. And then, there’s the surfing. It seems like everyone does it – regardless of age or gender – especially in Pleasure Point, our favorite neighborhood – where rush hour has a whole different meaning. Around 5:30, everyone starts getting home from work, and suddenly, the streets are filled with barefoot, wet-suited neighbors waving hello as they pack their boards down to the water. What a way to unwind from a day at the office, right? Both of my sons have taken lessons, and my teen has caught the bug. I’m tempted to try, but it looks like a lot of work!

 All of this adds up to a great vacation spot, but what makes me want to live there?

 The vibe.

 If there’s a more laid back, laissez faire spot on the planet, I’ve yet to find it. Everyone is open, friendly, but not nosy in the least. The influx of surfers, hippies and artists over the years has definitely made its mark and residents pride themselves on being an open-minded and eclectic bunch. (You can even spot bumper stickers proclaiming “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”.) It’s a very green place without being pompous about it, and an active lifestyle seems to just happen. Why wouldn’t it, with all that great weather, ocean air and some of the most beautiful coastal vistas you can imagine?

 It took us a couple of stays to realize that the minute we roll into town, all of us breathe a collective sigh. We instantly let down, and it changes our family dynamic in the loveliest way. Everyone is so happy in Santa Cruz, my kids even forget to fight. You could chalk that up to being on vacation, but we’ve taken plenty of trips to other destinations and never experienced the same effect. All four of us love it there, and the eldest is working his buns off to get into UC Santa Cruz. We’re working our buns off, too, saving for a down payment. We have every intention of getting a beach shack there – or maybe even a real house – some day in the not too distant future, because we believe that when you find your heart’s true home, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get there.

Have you ever visited a place that called out to you and had you calling back, “Honey, I’m home?” Where do you dream of living…someday, somehow?

Lisa DiDio


6 responses to “Homecoming

  1. San Francisco was kind of like that for me. At least in the “huh, I could live here” thought. 😀

    Otherwise I don’t feel like I’ve traveled enough to answer this question yet. *grins* I really am a wanderer at heart and find settling down in one place forever a hard sell.

    Even as much as I love Colorado, I’m not sure I want to stay right here for a long period of time. *shrugs*


    • I’d live in San Francisco again in a heartbeat. If money fell from the sky like rain, I’d have a house in Santa Cruz and a flat in Cole Valley (at the edge of Golden Gate Park), and I’d split the time we weren’t travelling the world between the two. 😀

  2. Jar O' Marbles

    I’m probably the poster child for someone with wanderlust. I’ve got a good excuse given my former life as an MK. But the place that I always go back to wanting to visit out of the umpteen number of places that I’ve been is England, specifically the Lake District. I love the lake district. It’s all lush and green and magical without being hot and humid. I’d drag my little family there in a heart beat if we could afford it.

    • I’ve never been to England, but it’s high on my list. And after seeing “Miss Potter”, The Lake Distrtict would be one of my prime destinations.

  3. Raymond Bolton

    Santa Cruz is certainly a wonderful place. The head shot I use on most of my posts was taken there: atop a carousel horse at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Before moving to Santa Fe, my wife and I lived about an hour north of there, in Pacifica. I remember fondly all the little towns between the two, like Miramar and Half Moon Bay. I even considered moving my business to Monterey once, just south of Santa Cruz, but it was the crush of tourists that killed that thought. I think Santa Cruz would have been a better choice, and the fact it is a college town will always keep it young—keep you young, should you choose to take the plunge.

    You could find worse places to live, Lisa. But I think you would have a hard time finding many better. Go for it. Life’s short.

    • You lived in Pacifica? How lovely! I used to work in Half Moon Bay – pretty, but chilly. And Monterey is fun for a visit, but too touristy for me. Somehow Santa Cruz strikes just the right balance.

      We are going for it…as soon as we can. Though for awhile, it’ll be our home away from home, since my husband’s work isn’t portable. 🙂

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