— don Juan Matus from Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda.
Today I experienced the delicious pleasure of exploring Google Earth. On my calendar I had marked March 10th as the day I would get into my Dodge Charger and drive west on I-70, leaving Denver. Even now the choice of Santa Monica seems odd, as if there is no discernible reason why I would chose that spot on planet Earth above all others, but deep down inside I understood my own feelings and reasons. If nothing else, I was meeting needs for freedom, adventure, excitement, novelty, and travel.
I discovered Google Earth completely by accident. I’m not altogether sure how it even happened. I was doing a Google search and a map came up. Then I got curious about how the location of the specific business I searched related to the surrounding geographical area. All of a sudden I was off, soaring over the whole area like a bird in flight. I flew over Santa Monica, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, all on Google Maps.
I wanted to get a sense of what I would do once I was on the ground. So I asked myself, Where will I stay when I arrive? What will an average day look like? How will I do my job search? What about apartment hunting?
I imagined myself heading to a Starbucks every morning. After all, that’s what I’d do in Denver, so it made sense to start my day that way while on the west coast.
That meant I needed to know where to find the nearest Starbucks. I Googled Starbucks and was amazed by what I found. Thirty locations showed up on the map that filled my computer screen. I immediately felt right at home!
As I continued to sail over the land, zooming in and out, diving down to get a closer view, then up toward the heavens, all kinds of stuff starting showing up: parks and public libraries, cafes and bus stops, movie theaters, and a youth hostel, the Ocean Front Walk, and bike paths, yoga studios and 24-Hour Fitness. That alone provided hours of fun.
I imagined myself going for long walks and bike rides, or hopping on the bus and traveling around all day just for the fun of it. I could randomly debark at any location, stopping into a cafe to log in time on my laptop.
Oh! But then I thought, eventually I’ll get hungry. I need to find a grocery store. Looks like in Santa Monica they prefer Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Sunflower. Only the best will do for their fabulous tummies. After all, this is where I’m led to believe the Beautiful People live.
I’m more likely to shop at a place called “Smart & Final.” It says, “Warehouse-like supermarket chain.” Yeah, I’m reading “cheap.” I’m one of those travel-with-a-cooler-in-the-trunk kind of people. Some day maybe I’ll live in a fancy house in the hills and eat at chic restaurants, but until that day, I’ll be sitting on a park bench and chowing down on a ham & cheese sandwich. Maybe one day you’ll be surfing Google Earth and you’ll see me there. In case you’re wondering, that thing in my hand is my lunch.