From Trekking the Andes to Sitting in LA Rush Hour Traffic

How did I get here? I’ve asked myself this question quite a few times since landing in LA a little over five weeks ago. Just before I was backpacking into mountain villages in Peru #livingmybestlife. 


In short, I came here to start grad school and got a job to support myself (because life is twice as expensive in SoCal than small town Texas). In many ways, I fulfilled a dream coming out here, and truly I’m grateful. But all dreams come with small moments, too. 

I’m not very good at small moments. Instead, I live for the big, grand adventure, fantasize about taking risks, and constantly have to be doing something. But most of life isn’t like that. Most days it feels small, even when fulfilling a dream. 

I was sitting in traffic a few days ago (I commute an hour both ways to work), and the still small voice started whispering again. Though I leave a little later than most commuters, I’m still making quite a trek from Pasadena all the way to South Bay in Torrance. The elevation changes and so does the temperature, and most days I drive right through downtown. Each time I pass through, I think wow, so this is what it feels like to live in LA


There are perks, to be sure, but when you haven’t moved in 20 minutes and the podcast you’ve been listening to gets old, it’s easy to lose perspective. The phrase that still voice whispered was “vantage point” and I feel as though I have been given a gift to appreciate the small moments, all of which add up to something really big. 

I’m extremely grateful I had the courage, the support system, and the means to make a big move like this. It’s opened so many things for me. And I want to stay thankful, to see from this vantage point of what a gift this truly is. Today I even thanked God for traffic - I’ve gotten to catch up with friends and family on the phone more than I anticipated, because what else do you do in a car for two hours a day? (I’m also on the hunt for all the podcasts, so HMU if you have suggestions). 

A little over a month ago I was trekking through mountain villages in the Andes mountains - hadn’t showered in days, packed everything in a backpack, and was doing what I love most. But today I’m sitting in the outside patio in front of my office building wearing heels that hurt my feet and eating the cold lunch I packed last night. I actually mourned having to become one of those meal planner people, but it’s honestly the only way to manage eating well when you are gone from 8 to 10. 

I’m sure the small moments will continue to build as my classes at Fuller begin. I imagine myself staying up well into the night writing papers and listening to audiobooks on my drive to and from work. But all of those moments make up a big, God-sized dream - and that’s significant and big and exciting. 

For the first time in a while, I feel as though I have clarity and focus and even an appreciation for small moments. Because I’m seeing from the right vantage point. And because I’m staying thankful. 

A couple days ago at Fuller’s orientation, President Mark Labberton said “smallness is the antipode to worship.” (If you’re like me and had to look up the word antipode, let me save you some time - it’s basically a fancy way to say opposite). When we worship (and stay thankful) in each moment, no matter how small, life gets bigger. And that’s the point at which I want to keep seeing.

La La Land & Beyond

Driving through Pasadena last month my dear friend Claire suddenly pointed to the right as we passed the bridge one of the iconic La La Land scenes was filmed. I saw the film over Christmas break and remember having mixed feelings after the movie ended. 

Colorado St. Bridge courtesy of Travel & Leisure

Colorado St. Bridge courtesy of Travel & Leisure

I was inspired and entertained, to be sure, but I left with an empty feeling, unable to reconcile the ending of the movie with the hopeful emotions I experienced toward the beginning. I've heard people say this movie describes the "millennial plight" and now that I've had some time to think about it, I think they hit the nail on the head. 

As a classic millennial who wants to do and see it all, the thought of limiting my options, choosing one path and saying no to others is harsh and depressing. Yet if I'm being realistic, I know not all endings end up happy, and I'm grieved watching peers end up places they never thought they'd be ten or even five years ago. We must make choices, and our choices end up defining us in ways we typically like to avoid thinking about. At least for me. 

I for one want my choices to mean something, even if I don't end up exactly where I thought I'd be. Over the last year I spent a lot of time thinking and praying about where I wanted to go next. In many ways I consider this time a gift from God as I've discovered more of who He created me to be. And yet I realize I must choose; I cannot have it all. But I do feel more confident than ever of where I'm headed next (more details coming soon). 

The tipping point for me culminated in a trip to LA to visit a friend and participate in a training with the Cultural Intelligence Center. I had been anticipating this trip for months and it did not disappoint. Below I've included a few highlights. 

1. Hiking at Castle Peak

My friend Claire and I researched hikes in the LA area and settled on this 3 mile hike up through some caves and along a crest up toward Castle Peak. The caves were fascinating and the view beautiful! I'd recommend this as nice hike with some difficult / steep sections. 

2. Cafe Gratitude

The minute we walked in, I was obsessed with this place. Not only is the space beautiful, the food was amazing. I'm not a vegan, although I do appreciate a healthy meal. Claire ordered the "Invincible / Brain Boosting Mocha" smoothie and I had the Rose Water Lemonade. The lemonade was delicious - not too sweet and very refreshing. And the smoothie - I'd go back just for that! 

For lunch I ordered the "Magical" sandwich with black bean patties and vegan gluten-free bread and sweet potato fries with truffle hempseed aioli. I had a hard time choosing - the menu was so big! I suppose I must go back and try something new.  

3. The Last Bookstore

We walked in, and at first glance, the place looks like a normal bookstore. But when you go upstairs, it feels more like an art museum! There are little shops above with several book displays and photo ops that we could have spent several hours exploring. 

4. Bottega Louie

I could have tried every flavor of macaron cookies in this place. The atmosphere is beautiful and inviting and the staff so kind and friendly. My favorite cookie was the Earl Grey - it was also painted with gold dots, so what's not to love?! 

5. Sunny Spot 

This little restaurant was close to the training in Marina Del Ray and provided the perfect lunch stop on my way to LAX. The outside patio is bright and fun and the menu a good mix of classic favorites with a few more adventurous items. They serve breakfast all day, so I ordered the "Two Egg Breakfast" with braised kale and avocado. 

If I didn't have to get on a plane right after my meal, I would have stayed for a cocktail or two. But I did order a Jamaican Grapefruit Soda, which was delicious. Any restaurant that serves breakfast all day is a win in my opinion. 

6. The Cinerama Dome

Over the weekend Claire and I along with two of her friends from Pasadena went to see Beauty and the Beast at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. It was such a fun experience! I'd recommend seeing a movie here if you can afford it. :) 

Image courtesy of Los Angeles Conservancy 

Image courtesy of Los Angeles Conservancy 

I can't wait to visit some of the other filming locations for La La Land in LA. If you find yourself traveling to LA soon, check out some of the recs above! And if you haven't seen La La Land, do yourself a favor and see it!