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Our family is nomadic now. We’re gypsies of a sort. Last month we put all of our stuff from what used to be our home in Lake Tahoe in storage and we’re now crashing at the in-laws house before we head to Thailand for 3 months. After Thailand we’re going on a three-month road trip across the United States. We’re homeless, on purpose.

God must really love me, though. I know this because my in-laws live in Santa Barbara, which is an truly amazing place. I actually called this town home home for about ten years, but in our recent visits to Santa Barbara and especially now, I have been re-discovering some of the things I love about this place.

Santa Barbara is beautiful, but there are lots of beautiful places. What makes Santa Barbara special? I think it’s the people.

Santa Barbarans are active people

People in Santa Barbara are active. I love that when I go on a bike ride I usually see lots of other cyclists out. They’re everywhere. There are so many runs and rides and swims and triathlons. There’s the weekly Nite Moves and people walking or running the steps at City College. There’s hiking and surfing and a million other ways that people are active. Everyone has their thing, and most Santa Barbarans have lots of things.

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Santa Barbarans are foodies

There are so many great restaurants in Santa Barbara. What would pass as an absolutely amazing, off the charts restaurant in almost any town in America may only be average in Santa Barbara. Having lived in Lake Tahoe over the past four years I have been amazed at what people consider a “great” restaurant. Trust me, I didn’t move to Tahoe for the restaurants. But the foodie culture of Santa Barbara goes well beyond the restaurants. There’s a farmers market 7 days a week. Gloves down. I mean that pretty much says it all right there. And in what other community in America can you find such a plethora of private chefs?

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Santa Barbarans are passionate people

Just go to the Farmers Market and you’ll see what I mean. There are people gathering signatures, people protesting, people demonstrating, people marching. People put bumper stickers on their car to support their cause and they hang signs from their window. I’m not just talking about political candidates, though sometimes this includes political candidates. I’m talking about causes. Big stuff. There are more non-profits in Santa Barbara than any comparably sized city in the United States. People give their money and their time. Santa Barbarans want to change the world.

Santa Barbarans are beautiful people

The aesthetic is valued in Santa Barbara. Within the city limits of Santa Barbara alone there are a ridiculous number of parks, most of which are beautifully manicured. Seriously, they are sprinkled generously all over the city. Two of my favorite are Chase Palm Park and Alice Keck Park. There’s also Lotus Land. There’s a wonderful art museum, a symphony orchestra, theatres, and the Santa Barbara Bowl, but art isn’t reserved for patrons and and those who buy admission tickets. Art is everywhere in Santa Barbara. Go to the Farmers Market and listen to the performers. Walk Cabrillo Boulevard along the ocean on a Sunday and check out the work displayed by local artists and artisans. Check out the free concerts in the park. Art and beauty are everywhere.

Santa Barbarans are whole people

There’s money in Santa Barbara. There’s business and commerce. Santa Barbara is loaded with entrepreneurs. Santa Barbara is a creative community, so it only makes sense that this creativity would create an entrepreneurial business culture. In Santa Barbara, though, it’s not just about the money. There’s a Santa Barbara lifestyle — a recognition that lots of money doesn’t mean much if you don’t know how to enjoy it. That’s why Santa Barbara is an active community, that’s why there’s so much great food and wine, that’s why there’s great music and great art. Santa Barbarans recognize that their souls need these things. The people in Santa Barbara are whole.

Santa Barbarans are spiritual people

Part of being whole is recognizing the spiritual realm. My experience is that Santa Barbarans are acutely aware that there is more to life than what we can see and touch. There seems to be a willingness to embrace and talk openly about spiritual forces beyond our control. This brings a realness to conversation, whether with someone you are meeting for the first time or a long-time friend. If spiritual forces are real, how can you have a real conversation with someone without acknowledging these forces? I love that Santa Barbarans are a spiritual people.

The old Spanish architecture, red tile roofs, great restaurants, fabulous beaches, mountain majesty. I think that’s what brings tourists to Santa Barbara. The beauty of Santa Barbara, though, is the people who create the Santa Barbara lifestyle.

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