By Jennifer O'Brien
When I was thinking about trading my annual escape-to-the-beach week for full-time Venice residency, I wondered if living here would be like being on vacation year-round. Blue skies and balmy temperatures, unlimited access to the world’s best beaches, and happy people everywhere—how could living here be anything but blissful?
But what would never going home from vacation feel like? What if Venice wasn’t the paradise everyone claimed it was? I remember having a little more empathy for Dorothy and Toto and their whole homesick-for-Kansas thing. Could I get over it?
Sunny skies, no chance of rain
One thing I knew I could count on was the weather. Foregoing scenic fall foliage and white Christmases seemed a small price to pay for perpetual sunshine. So far, Venice’s weather has delivered. Sure, it was a little chilly for a few weeks last winter, but that didn’t deter me from donning flip-flops most days. And, my never-ending stream of northern houseguests declared our cold temperatures downright tropical. Of course, I have yet to contend with any of the extreme weather everyone likes to talk about so much. I’ll let you know if I’m still on weather high once I’ve spent three days in a closet with my cat during a hurricane.
Smaller Job. Bigger Life.
Around the time I moved here from Philly, it dawned on me that winning the “Most Billable Hours” award at my job, six years running, wasn’t the impressive feat I once believed it to be. However, since my 401K wasn’t scheduled to pay out for another three decades, I knew I had to find employment quickly to help fund my new permanent vacation. I needed to call in my Venice connections to help me land a job—except, I didn’t have any Venice connections. What I did have was a somewhat anal-retentive, type-A personality and a lot of experience managing unruly advertising clients. I quickly came to understand that, at least in the short-term, these laudable skills equated to roughly $8 an hour waiting on demanding five-year olds at Dairy Queen®.
So, I began phoning prospective employers twice a day from the beach, despite seagulls shrieking in the background. When this met with mixed results, I decided to relax a little and just see where things led. Eventually, someone hired me. While her eyes still widen slightly when I suggest we change the way we hang the toilet paper in our office restroom, or that we install an overhead paging system for our office of eight, she’s getting used to my wired work style. I think.
The best part of my new job is that I have some free time. Sure, we work like dogs all day, but after that, my time is mine. After work on some nights, I watch the sun set at Venice Beach. Or I go out to dinner with friends. Or see a movie. The kinds of things I previously did only on the occasional weekend when I wasn’t either working or recovering from work.
Bright Lights, Small City
When it came down to making a final decision about moving here, I still worried whether I could survive living in a small town. I was used to the relative anonymity afforded by a big city. While the streets were teeming with people, no one really took note of what you were doing or how you were living your life.
Then I considered that anonymity is not really desirable when you’re at risk of being mugged in broad daylight. And isn’t it nice to have neighbors who actually know your name? Plus, the frenzied non-stop pace of city life takes its toll. Killer commutes. An exorbitant cost of living. Aggressive drivers.
Here I am
When I vacationed here in the past, I was always struck by the exuberance of the residents and seemingly happy people who worked here. Cheery waitresses, energetic shopkeepers, even the post office clerks seemed to be smiling. It must be a southern thing, I reasoned. And really, I thought, who could be stressed out in this weather?
And guess what else I’ve learned about Venice? Hardly anyone is from here originally. Most people are transplants, just like me. That happiness thing? It’s for real. People here really are pleasant. And polite. And welcoming. I think this is largely because we’re all truly grateful to be here.
My one-year anniversary since moving here just passed. And while sometimes I do miss being able to order Thai food at midnight, my luxury apartment on the 29th floor of an architecturally-significant building, and of course, my friends and family, I’ve decided life is better here. The sun does shine a lot, my job is challenging, but not crazy, and the people here are truly wonderful. Best of all, life is manageable. This big city girl is living in paradise—permanently.