Travel Guide by Dr. Dinorah Nieves

A born and bred New Yorker, I once possessed a real affinity for “busy.” As draining as it can be to thrive in chaos, the hustle and bustle admittedly felt more productive. Life wasn’t exciting unless it was exhausting. And that type of thinking got me quite far. But by my mid-30s, all of that began to change. I found myself depleted and looking for a way to bring serenity into my day-to-day. I needed a permanent change of scenery that would allow me to smell the roses and bask in the sunshine. I was craving a little touch of Zen!



Derived from the Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese word (Chán), “Zen” is an Asian sect of Mahayana Buddhism that traces its roots to the Indian practice of dhyāna (“meditation“). Within modern vernacular, the word Zen is used as a descriptor for peaceful, tranquil energy. In fact, Merriam Webster defines Zen as “a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.” Where would I find the space to develop this inner Zen? What type of environment would support such a journey – for me to have more time in my day to meditate, be calm, and explore my intuition?


I found just the place awaiting me in Southern California (SoCal). San Diego, my home for the past five years, is known as “America’s Finest City” and enjoys an annual average of 266 sunny days. It is filled with beautiful airy landscapes of highlands and valleys. The beaches boast grand coastal scenes and bring in such humbling sunsets. Nature is so easy to enjoy and seems so much more accessible than it once did. I discovered that shifting to a more zen-filled life, in San Diego, is all in a day’s work… literally.


If you only have one day to transform your spirit, surrender to a state of calm attentiveness and live the energy of meditation, San Diego’s where you want to play:


Take a morning stroll through the Japanese Friendship Garden


Take a morning stroll through the Japanese Friendship Garden. Sitting on a 12-acre plot, within Balboa Park, is a marvelous collection of stroll-ways, waterfalls, coy ponds, bonsai trees, and more. According to their website, “the Garden’s design is based on centuries-old Japanese techniques adapted to San Diego’s climate and florae and seeks to foster a relationship between humans and nature, providing a respite attuned to Japanese simplicity, serenity, and aestheticism.” There are benches for sitting all along the way and you are free to move at your own pace. You can watch as the sun blends the metallic colored scales of the coy fish within the sea of the pond or lose yourself in the captivating cascades a short hike below. They open at 10am and charge a small fee ($12 or less) for a grand experience.



Have lunch in La Jolla.


Have lunch in La Jolla. Grab some delicious crepes from Richard Walkers Pancake House, or head to George’s at the Cove, for a great view and some fabulous food. Then make your way out to the seaside. You’ll be blown away by the picturesque landscapes, the crashing waves, and the sea lions and seals bathing and playing at such close proximity. Hike, swim, snorkel, or tour “The Cave Store.” There are plenty of places along the way to have a seat, soak in the sun, and commune with nature. I enjoy climbing out onto some of the rocks and just sitting for a few minutes in silence as I watch the seals play in their pools. 



Watch the Sunset out in good old Coronado.


Watch the Sunset out in good old Coronado. It’s a great way to end a wonderfully peaceful day. Just across the bay from downtown San Diego, is the beautifully quaint town of Coronado. Its lovely beach-side boardwalk is lined with gorgeous homes as you’re ushered right into the famous Hotel del Coronado. “Hotel Del,” as the locals call it, is well-known for hosting a POTUS and a prince or two, one of the first Christmas trees, socialites, celebrities, and may have even been the inspiration behind The Wizard of Oz’s “Emerald City.” Walk barefoot through the sand and take in the salty scent of that west coast sea breeze. Stand back and watch the moon and sun share the sky as nightfall greets the beaches of Sunny “Zen” Diego.