It's been exactly one year since we moved into our new home in La Jolla, CA. It's been sixteen and a half months since we left New York City, our home for twenty-two years, bringing us to now celebrating an anniversary of calling La Jolla our home. Maybe it's been even longer. We fled NYC in March of 2020, when Covid broke out, to seek safety in a secluded home in Long Island for three months and then hit the road exploring The United States for ten months, only to go back to NYC for two months, with the sole intention of packing our lives up, to relocate to La Jolla, taking another three-week road trip making our way back across the country. I know, that's a full load! When we arrived in La Jolla, we lived in a temporary home for four months, and then, finally, we moved into our current home exactly one year ago today, on December 15, 2021. What a journey! After so many beds, homes, and suitcases packed and unpacked, it felt so good to finally hang our photographs and resurrect sentimental artifacts from the past to proudly display in our new abode.
After a full orbit around the sun, I contemplate what we left behind versus where we now call home. Below are my personal pros of living in La Jolla versus the pros of living in NYC. (Note: La Jolla is a small municipality within the city of San Diego so I will be referring to these areas interchangeably.)
Pros of living in La Jolla:
The People: The people that live in this community mark the most significant difference between the two cities. La Jollans are welcoming, happy, inclusive, and most noticeably, no matter how successful they are in their careers (and they are very successful in their careers), they just don't have the same chip on their shoulders that New Yorkers do. We literally did not know what people did for a living until we hung out with them several times, because hardly anyone inquires or cares what anyone does for a living here. In NYC, the question immediately asked when meeting someone new is "what do you do for a living?". New Yorkers size one another up, openly compete over whose life is busier, and shamelessly ask you for a dinner date four months in advance. La Jollans could care less what you do, they are confident enough behind the wheels of their Ferraris, or under surgical lights performing open-heart surgery. To sum it up, the folks in La Jolla have nothing to prove. Somehow, they are never too busy for a drink, a walk, a party, or a dinner date. Planning for something more than a month in advance here is a ludicrous concept. While New Yorkers boast about who they rub elbows with or their SoHo House memberships, they'll rarely actually make an introduction with the supposed people they are close to nor help you join the club they rave about. Yet, in La Jolla, we were immediately introduced to the most incredible network of kind, fun, accomplished people who will only mention their club memberships in the context of helping you join. People in La Jolla share their friends, their contacts, and even their money. New Yorkers are very protective of these things.
The Politics: Our kids attended a very progressive private school in NYC. Over the years as parents making friends with other parents in that school, we learned that there were many in the closet Republicans in the school's community. In NYC you are often shamed for not sharing the same political views as the masses. I literally know a husband who told me in confidence that he voted for Trump in fear of retribution from his wife. New Yorkers tend to be very extreme on their political spectrum. In La Jolla, most people are centrist, normal, unaggressive, moderate folks who genuinely want to help others and support social justice programs while protecting themselves from a meddling government. In fact, I have witnessed many civil conversations between left-winged and right-winged-minded people that entailed no judgment, name-calling, or even an ounce of tension as they hashed out their differences of opinions. You are free to think and believe what you want here, openly. And what I love most of all is that no one seems to have a need to display their political thoughts on their lawns with flags or signs, or pins on their lapels, which tend to ultimately alienate and create a community of exclusion. People truly don't care if you are vaccinated against Covid, or not, or how many boosters you've had, if any. You'll find people on both spectrums of vaccination status and no one is concerned with what others' personal choices are. There is no requirement to conform here.
The Weather: Ok, this one's a no-brainer. With an average temperature that hits between 62-72 degrees throughout the year, under 263 days of glorious sunny skies, it's crystal clear why most people are happier here. However, contrary to popular belief, although it does not snow in La Jolla, we do have seasons. As I type this post, it is 51 degrees, and very cold... there is a legitimate winter here (okay, not compared to New York but I swear it gets cold). Fall and Winter tend to be the rainy season, which La Jollans warmly welcome. I won't lie, there is nothing that I miss about snow in NYC. I remember getting the kids ready for school, in their endless winter gear, just to be greeted by filthy piles of snow clumped in grey sadness and adorned with yellow bursts of dog urine and not-so-artistically placed cigarette butts on our walk. Snow is beautiful...in Tahoe.
The School System: Once we left the private school system and joined the public school system in NYC we quickly learned that getting into a top public school is as difficult as getting into a coveted private school. The stress that parents and students endure getting into a reputable public school in NYC surpasses the stress of getting your kid into college because in New York City you have to go through the unwieldy process three times: once for middle school and then again for high school and then finally for college. In La Jolla, there is one middle school and one high school. There is zero stress around preparing for an admission spot. Middle School kids can enjoy their middle-school years without the stress of continuously preparing for high school. There are no required test preps for entrance exams or crazy lottery systems leaving a computer to randomly assign a school to a child. Instead, your kids just get to be kids, and instead of graduating from elementary school and seeing their friends get scattered throughout the city based on the schools they get accepted to, they move on with them to the high school that is only one block away.
The Food: Yes, while NYC is unsurpassable with the endless creativity of cuisine and culinary talent, and countless Michelin-starred restaurants, San Diego's produce is unequivocally the freshest I have ever tasted. I never knew what a cucumber or strawberry actually tastes like until I moved here. Side note, San Diego has an incredible food scene, and its own list of Michelin-starred restaurants, albeit way smaller than New York City's, but the main difference here is that you don't need to pull favors or set your alarm at midnight for the night the calendar opens at a restaurant to snag a table. Instead, you can pretty much get in anywhere within a month's notice.
The Pace: The pace in La Jolla is unbelievably different than the one in NYC. Even though you may find yourself busy with life in La Jolla, you aren't constantly stressed out because you are sitting in a taxi for forty-five minutes for a five-mile journey, nor will you find yourself standing desperately in the rain for what seems like hours waiting for an Uber or taxi on a rainy evening. We lived in our last apartment in NYC for eleven years. I can attest that most neighbors who entered the elevator ignored one another. In La Jolla, everyone cheerfully says good morning, stops you to pet your dog, and you actually know and hang out with your neighbors. (Caveat: we do have neighbors from NYC that we have been close friends with for over ten years and they too left NYC for a west coast move to Los Angeles). In La Jolla I can post a story on Instagram offering the yields of a harvest from our garden and ten La Jollans will reply that they'd love some fruit and come by to pick up a bag. In NYC you'll have twenty people responding that they'd love a bag but none of them will actually ever pick it up, although they'd boast to all their friends about their cool friend with citrus trees. I often walk in La Jolla along the coast, I watch sunsets in La Jolla, I walk our dog in La Jolla (I would never have agreed to have a dog in NYC), I talk on the phone with friends rather than texting them, I go on weekend hikes with my girlfriends. The pace here is unarguably slower, in the best way possible.
Everything is just "Twenty Minutes Away": This is so true. I can easily list a bunch of neighborhoods that are just a twenty-minute drive from La Jolla: Coronado Island, Little Italy, Downtown San Diego, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Ocean Beach, Balboa Park, Mission Beach, UTC, Hillcrest, etc... It's so easy to hop in your car here and arrive to an entirely different neighborhood with its own unique vibe. In New York City, what should be just a twenty-minute commute can often turn out to be way longer. Commuting in NYC requires a strategy. In La Jolla commuting just requires that you get in your car. Let's take a look at longer drives as well. In NYC the most popular local escapes are The Hamptons (which takes anywhere from 2-5 hours to get to depending on the season), and "Upstate" (which is generally a 2-3 hour drive). In La Jolla, within an hour you can drive to Laguna Beach or Rosarito, Mexico, or the wine region of Temecula Valley. Within ninety minutes you can get to Orange County/Balboa Island/Newport Beach or you can escape to Julian or Mount Laguna for some snow in the winter. In two hours you can get to Los Angeles or the beautiful deserts of Palm Springs. Despite the 25,000 miles we drove through the USA, we barely made a dent in what is accessible to La Jolla within just a two hours drive.
Pros of living in New York City:
It's the city that never sleeps: You can find anything you crave at any hour of the day in New York City. It is a remarkably convenient city in this aspect. La Jolla on the other hand shuts down ridiculously early. I am talking like 9:30 pm early. If you crave pizza past this time, you'll have to drive eight minutes to Pacific Beach. Even there they close by midnight. You'll be forced into living a more sedate nightlife here but then again in La Jolla, we have amazing house parties that go way into the wee hours of the morning. Just saying.
A Hub of Culture: New York City is the epicenter of culture, known for its music scene, renowned museums, and of course, Broadway. Yes, this is an extremely desirable aspect of NYC but let's be honest, how often do NYC locals splurge on a Broadway show that costs a minimum of $350 per ticket? I lived in NYC for twenty-two years and visited MoMa maybe four times and the Metropolitan Museum maybe six times. What I am saying is that it's not like most New Yorkers frequent these venues so often. They just like knowing that they are there. In La Jolla, we have The Conrad, The La Jolla Playhouse, and also the Old Forge (which is not in La Jolla, but close) which I frequent just as irregularly. So unless you are an art buff or have endless supplies of cash to book orchestra seats for your family to watch a Broadway show together, I think you'll do just fine in La Jolla.
Travel: Oh boy do New Yorkers like to travel. When we lived in Manhattan we hopped on a plane every chance we could, along with most of our friends and colleagues. La Jollans like to stay put. Very few of them talk about travel plans. In fact, whenever we have asked others what they are doing on a school break, they mostly stay local. Now that we have been here for a year, I realize that people actually like it here and don't dream of going anywhere else. In retrospect, although yes, we absolutely love to travel, in NYC we had to get away as much as possible for the sake of our sanity. We've been living in La Jolla since August 1, 2021, and haven't gotten on a plane since. Living here I feel like we should travel, not need to escape. Regardless, New Yorkers are more well-traveled.
Sports: Okay, yes, San Diego has the Padres but I'll agree that you cannot compete with New York City in the sports department. From the Knicks to the New York Mets/Yankees or the Giants/Jets, NYC is unrivaled when it comes to the sports department. I'll be the first one to admit, if you want sports leagues in your life, San Diego is not the place for you.
So, there you have it, my insider's perspective all wrapped up in one article. New York gave us an incredible couple of decades filled with wonderful memories, friends, and opportunities. I will always love it dearly. I have yet to yearn for a return for a visit although it has been almost one and a half years since we left. For now, I found a better place for me, for this chapter of my life. I don't miss the hustle, or the grind, of living in the big city. I don't miss the seasons that come with too many cloudy, cold, rainy days or extreme heat. I don't miss floating around with very busy people. Really, La Jolla truly does offer everything anyone could ever need. I guess that's why locals love to call it Paradise.