I am writing this while sipping on an almond milk flat white at the Aussie-owned cafe, The Aussie Bean. I will unashamedly admit that this is my second time here in three days. Even though the coffee is great, Santa Barbara and Anaheim have a lot more to offer than just great coffee!
I flew down to Anaheim for work – my first “business trip” – and I couldn’t have been more excited to be here. I was there for a massive, three day conference that LinkedIn organizes called Talent Connect. This event is “a multi-day gathering of the world’s top leaders, innovators, and influencers in the talent space.” Thousands of people came to attend keynote speaker sessions, breakout sessions, and party at the exclusive access to California Adventures. So what exactly was I doing there? Myself, along with four other colleagues from the LinkedIn wellness team, were there to provide wellness opportunities for the attendees. Every morning we led a 5K/10K fun run, spin class, and a yoga class, along with providing activities all throughout the day in the “Wellness Zone.” These activities included guided meditation, “Desk Dynamics” (light stretching/exercises that can be done at your desk), Qi Gong, journaling with intention, Latin dance lessons, a silent disco, and more.
I was in charge of co-leading the fun run both mornings (fortunately, I was NOT in charge of leading the Latin dancing, although I did participate!). We had a great turnout of about 50-60 people for the run the first morning. The second morning, our turnout was less than half of that, but understandably so. The night before was the “Park after Dark” event at California Adventures until 1am… with an open bar. I don’t blame them!
It was especially exciting for me to be here because I’ve worked with clients in the past when I was personal training who would travel for work, and come back wrecked. Late nights, drinking, minimal sleep, no time to workout, poor food options, uncomfortable chairs, lots and lots of sitting, etc. I remember talking with a client of mine in Chicago and thinking, “surely there’s a way to fix this!” How cool is it that I got to be a part of that solution?! Many people I talked to were confused and shocked when they discovered LinkedIn has a wellness team and a wellness program. I felt very fortunate to be a part of this, inspiring other companies to consider their employee’s wellness.
What made this trip even better was that my best friend happened to be just a few short hours away in Santa Barbara for a work conference of her own. After Talent Connect, I hopped on the Amtrak and met her down in Santa Barbara. I have read and heard so many great things about Santa Barbara, including “it’s the most beautiful part of California.” I was skeptical since I’ve seen some pretty amazing parts of California, but I have to agree with that statement! Nestled between the beach and the mountains, this town boasts of a laid-back vibe, beautiful buildings, historical landmarks, and quaint shops and restaurants. I absolutely adored this charming little town.
Because Jill was in a conference every day until 4pm, I had the chance to work remotely and explore the town. Some of my favorite places are listed below. It was so much fun to see Jill, get some runs in together (a 4 miler, 12 miler and easy 3 miler), watch a couple Brewers games, dueling pianos, eat good food, and catch up on life!
FOOD / COFFEE – Anaheim
- The Aussie Bean – Australian-owned coffee shop. I ordered an almond milk flat white and tried their smashed avo toast on freshly made sourdough bread.
- Growler Juice Pub – fresh-pressed juiced, wellness shots and acai bowls. I ordered the Cacao Almond Crunch bowl (acai, banana, almond butter, raw cacao, coconut almond mylk and topped with: granola, bananas, almonds, coconut shreds, cacao nibs, goji berries, “hold the agave, add almond butter”).
FOOD / COFFEE – SANTA BARBARA
- Handlebar Cafe – cafe owned by pro cyclists. I ordered an almond milk matcha latte and couldn’t resist an almond croissant.
- Backyard Bowl – acai bowls, porridge bowls and grain bowls. I went with the pb&j quinoa porridge, which was a great idea. Quinoa, cashew milk and cashew butter topped with local berry preserves, crushed roasted almonds and sliced bananas.
- The French Press – cafe and small bites. I ordered an almond milk turmeric latte. It was quite busy here and there were no outlets to charge my dead computer, so this was a great opportunity to people watch!
- Carlito’s – Mexican restaurant. Jill and I came here together for dinner and loved the atmosphere and food. We sat outside and listened to live music. The fajitas and pomegranate margarita were delicious!
- Finney’s – bar on State Street. A perfect place to watch the Brewers win the first game in the series!
THINGS TO DO – SANTA BARBARA
- The Blue Door – vintage antique and local goods shop. I came here twice just to browse this three-story building. The displays were incredible! It’s a good thing I didn’t have spare room in my suitcase…
- Santa Barbara Running Store. The owners of this store are also the co-owners of my favorite running clothing brand, Rabbit.
- Run/walk along the beach. Jill and I are both training for a half marathon so we got 12 miles in together along the beach. We figured out we have run in 11 different states, but agreed that this was by far the most scenic run we’ve ever done. We reached Butterfly Beach towards the end of our run and saw many people on the beach, watching the sunset (one couple had brought a pizza down to the beach to watch the sunset… will definitely be doing that next time I’m there!).
- Funk Zone – a vibrant, artistic area of Santa Barbara.
Next time, I hope to make it to The Mission, a couple of tasting rooms, and the botanical gardens. Jill took a private surfing lesson before I got there, which she loved. Just move out here already Jill!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on corporate wellness, as well as YOUR favorite places in SoCal!