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California has got me dreaming

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As an autistic solo traveller, I have been to many of our earth’s most breathtaking sites. However, nowhere has been able to wow me like California. I fell in love the moment I arrived, and that feeling still hasn’t left me.

In 2021 I returned to the US and called San Diego my home for a few months. Brimming with palm tree lined boulevards, golden beaches, imposing redwood forests, snowy white ski slopes, scorching deserts and rugged hiking paths – California really has it all. My initial attraction was the Mediterranean type climate. Having spent lots of time in Greece and Spain visiting friends and family, there was a real sense of familiarity in California (especially Southern California). The state’s territorial past in the Spanish Empire, followed by the Mexican Republic seems just as evident today in its culture, architecture, and cuisine.

A particular interest for me is that California is now quickly being recognised as an inclusive and accessible tourist destination. On top of many businesses now claiming to be autism friendly, the state boasts some incredible autism certified attractions and centres for autistic visitors and their families to enjoy (which are awarded by IBCCES). Examples include Santa Barbara Zoo and the Grammy museum in LA.

This is in addition to the cities of Palm Springs, Visalia, and Lake Havasu (which is on the border with Arizona) all now proudly being able to display their status as autism certified cities. This testifies that staff in sectors such as healthcare, education, local government, hospitality, tourism, and manufacturing, for example, are all trained and certified to deliver their products or services to autistic guests, staff or residents. While these certifications were all awarded within the last year (2021/2022) – after I left California – they stand as a true testament to the advances in accessible and inclusive services (including tourism), and I am patiently anticipating my next visit to witness the progress for myself.

During my time in San Diego, one of my travel friends happened to be there at the same time before heading back to his native Oregon. We planned a road trip up the coast through California and back to Portland – something I always dreamed of doing. From the luxurious beaches of Malibu, to the seamless colonial architecture found throughout Santa Barbara, and onwards to the imposing vistas at Big Sur – there is no shortage of places to explore in the glorious sunshine state. My personal favourite is Orange County, in particular Laguna Beach which is probably the most picturesque place I have ever seen. I was constantly wowed by the beautiful interwoven aspects of its beaches, architecture, nature, and incredible views of the surroundings.

It simply doesn’t suffice to say that this was one of the most brilliant experiences in my life so far. If anyone is considering visiting California, my best advice is to just go right ahead and do it. There is something for everyone. I can guarantee that it won’t disappoint.

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