For the readers in the east who dream of visiting California because of the constant marketing and call of Hollywood, I’m here to tell you to skip California and visit Spain instead.
Spain Is The Cheaper Version of California
You can take it from me personally, I’ve lived in both Spain and California for many years. Both locations attract numerous travelers from all over the world for many of the same reasons: warm weather, great food, diverse reputation and a relaxing atmosphere. The only difference is that you get more bang for your buck in Spain.
Breathtaking Secluded Beaches vs. Overpopulated Identical Beaches
Huntington Beach was voted the best beach in California. Its calm, serene and has the best waves for surfers. But chances are, you aren’t a surfer. The article also forgot to mention that Huntington is always packed with families, unattended teenagers, illegal vendors and half-eaten churros. Make matters worse, if you’re caught drinking on the beach you can receive a hefty fine.
On the other hand, Spain is lined with breathtaking beaches from the tip of the Basque coast all the way down to Cadiz. Close your eyes, spin the map and randomly pick a beach. Pack sunscreen, a bottle of 3 euro wine and hop on a local train to enjoy the most impressive sunsets in Europe.
Speak Spanish vs. Butcher Spanish
Even though 28% of the population speaks Spanish in California, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone to do an intercambio (language exchange) with you. Si quieres aprender Español de verdad, tienes que ir a la fuente. If you want to really learn Spanish, you have to go to the source. I lived in California and didn’t learn a lick of Spanish but I came back from Spain speaking the language fluently.
Free Tapas vs. Expensive Socializing
In the Chueca barrio of Madrid, it's customary to receive a plate of homemade tapas for free each time you order a beer. So, take €10 out on a Tuesday night and fill up on savory traditional plates: jamon iberico, patatas bravas and pan y alioli on the house. Whens the last time popular San Diego bar gave you anything for free besides moldy peanuts or heavily salted chips? On top of that, a normal sized draft beer costs €2.00 in Spain while its around $7+tip in California.
Accessibility vs. Traffic
A reliable system of affordable trains and buses will get you around Spain.
Rent a car and sit in traffic or bleed money and waste hours on the BART trains in San Francisco.
Swimibility vs. Freezing Ocean
If you ever swam in the Pacific ocean you know that it is always cold. Mid august or early January, the water will always nip at your bits. It’s also against the law to skinny dip at public beaches in California.
Year-round warm mediterranean water. There are also beaches where skinny dipping is customary!
(Skinny dipping or jail time, the choice is obvious.)
Multiple Islands vs. One Island
If you ever grow tired of the mainland, there are many Spanish islands to choose from. I lived on one island for nearly three years and still discovered new places to explore everyday. A quick flight from Valencia will bring you to the Balearic Islands which holds Mallorca, Menorca and the world-renowned vacation island Ibiza.
You can also head even further south to the Canary islands where you can choose from Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Each island has a different group of people and a different vibe; like the hippies that populate La Gomera to the biosphere reserve in Fuerteventura. The mainland also includes a number of islands and islets: La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este.
Amazing Architecture vs. Concrete Highrises
Gaudi’s everlasting fingerprint still captivates Catalunya. Barcelona is dripping in amazing sculptures that will leave you standing in the middle of the streets gawking in awe. Granada has fully functioning houses inside of caves. Over 100 cathedrals spread country wide showcase the Baroque, Gothic and Neoclassical styles of the past.
Los Angeles has the obtrusive Walt Disney Concert Hall, that blinds drivers when the sun hits it at a certain angle. Oh and a bunch of houses for rich people that you can pay to see the outside of.
San Francisco has the Twitter building.
Free Major Attractions vs. Costly Attractions
Spain holds a record number of UNESCO sites to visit. – 44
California’s major attractions all include parting with your money in some way or another.
Cheap Wine — La Rioja vs. Napa Valley
Spain’s version of Napa Valley is called La Rioja. This small concentrated area is home to acres and acres of wineries. Wine is a plentiful staple of the local culture, so the delicious full-bodied nectar costs next to nothing to sample or purchase. The same wine that costs €3 in Mercadona goes for $11 in the local Ralph’s California grocery store. You can also purchase liters of young wine directly from La Rioja in a local wine cellar in any Spanish neighborhood for less than €5.00 per liter. Whens the last time you took an empty two-liter water bottle, filled it up with wine, paid with a €5 and walked home with enough change for a baguette; anywhere in America?
Although comparison has been made, there is none. Visit Spain, California can wait.
Jelisa is passionate about inspiring fellow millennials to travel. Specifically, utilizing travel as an educational right rather than an elusive reward after long years of working. There are enriching lessons tucked into every corner of the world, and it can be accessed by less than a fraction of the national average college tuition. She firmly believes that life is best understood and dissected through travel, rather than in a classroom lecture. Follow her posts on her personal site.