Beach Visits and Opportunity Costs

Saturday, January 3

Beach day!

View from the El Matador parking lot

View from the El Matador parking lot

Today Julie and I take a trip to El Matador State Park, just north of Malibu. The skies are sunny, temperatures are warmer than expected, and the drive north along Route 1 to get there is punctuated with idyllic ocean views and fun beach houses.

Neat cliffs over the beach

Neat cliffs over the beach

I wish I could peek inside some of those homes, I bet they’re fancy and beautiful. There was even a time when I would have wished to live in a house like that, but not anymore.

My brain still conjures up all of the benefits of beach living effortlessly: evenings grilling on a deck over the ocean while the sun sets, waking up in the morning for a walk along the shore before the tourists arrive. How relaxing and marvelous it would be to have those options available right at your doorstep.

But there are opportunity costs with everything in life. Living on the ocean is expensive – how to afford it? You either need to be born into money, which I am not and cannot change so there is no point on dwelling on it, or you have to make a lot of money.

I have no doubt that if living on the beach was my main goal in life I could find a way to make it happen: more schooling followed by a high paying job, a 40+ hour workweek, and roommates. I think of ocean living as a perpetual beach party, but the reality would be less free time to enjoy the benefits than I have now RVing. When I think about it critically like this the positives don’t outweigh the negatives for me.

From a cave in a boulder

From a cave in a boulder

A fossil

A fossil

Also along Route 1 are RVs parked on the shoulders, many of which look like they’re regulars on this stretch of road. A lot of RVers would say that they’re enjoying the same great view and beach access as the expensive houses for free, but that’s not the whole truth. They aren’t paying property taxes or rent it’s true, but they’re paying with less indoor space, fewer amenities, and less permanence. They just don’t see those points as a cost because for them the positives of their chosen lifestyle outweigh the negatives.

There are a couple things to take away from this musing.

  1. People are different, and value different things. While I would be miserable in a high stakes, high stress job, some thrive in that kind of environment (and for those people, the cost of living in a beach house would be lower, since they’re enjoying their job more).
  2. We really do have a lot of freedom in America, but we seldom take advantage of it, because we we want everything for free. If there’s something you really want, be willing to make sacrifices to get it. If the sacrifice is too high, you simply don’t want it enough – keep searching.
  3. Finding the thing you’re willing to make sacrifices for and obtaining it (love? A beach house? Full-time RVing?) is going to be far more rewarding than settling for less.
Rocky! And picturesque

Rocky! And picturesque



The 45 minute drive flies by quickly, and soon Julie and I are at the park. It’s $8 for a day pass (self pay), and because we arrive earlier in the day, parking is not a problem. There’s not a whole lot to El Matador really, just an eroded trail from the parking lot down to the beach. If you have a hard time finding this one, there are several more small state parks like it in this part of California, in between the built up residential neighborhoods.

The Pacific is much different than the Atlantic. The water is colder because the currents move north to south, it’s clearer, the shore is rockier, and there are a lot more bluffs. Even the sand has a different texture, it’s coarser than I’m use to.

It's a nice place, if you have the money

It’s a nice place, if you have the money

But despite all that, it’s still got that magic that melts away worries and makes me feel connected to something timeless. We enjoy a long leisurely stroll along the shore as the tide rolls out, detouring around and sometimes through large boulders that are resisting the relentless roll of the waves. While the Pacific is known for surfing and big waves, the sea today is no rougher than I saw when I was living along the coast of South Carolina.

We peer at seaweed washed up onshore, scrutinize what may be anemone in tide pools, and I find a rock with large aquatic fossils in in, bigger than anything I’ve seen before. On the spires of rock offshore, seabirds watch us with a wary eye. I spy pelicans, and a smaller dark colored bird that is harder to identify.

And of course there has to be pictures of everything. The new blog header was taken by Julie at an aesthetically pleasing group of rocks, complete with sea birds. I’m there in that header, just small and hard to see.

During our meanderings, we happen upon a particularly spectacular house, perched on the edge of the bluff looking over the beach. It has decks on two floors and more ocean view windows than you can shake a stick at, but I see no one around. I hope that whatever the occupants are out doing, that it’s worth the cost to them.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Dave on January 10, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I often think that when you have a house with a magnificent view, it becomes common, because you see it each day. Love reading about your travels!

    • Becky on January 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Rather like I discovered about living in South Carolina in general, how it became less impressive the longer I was there. I do believe you’re right Dave. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  2. Amber on January 8, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    I love this post! First because I love the ocean, and these pictures are lovely. Second (and maybe even more importantly) due to your very insightful musings. It is so true that costs include so much more than money. It is all about priorities, and that is something that I had to come to terms with a few years ago. Once you know yourself well enough to know what you really want then you are in a much better position to make that life happen. I’ve learned what my priorities are and like you I don’t look at what other people have with envy. Having what they have could rob me of what I have, and I am growing to really like what I have. (if that makes any sense.)
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    • Becky on January 13, 2015 at 10:36 am

      It makes perfect sense to me Amber! I wouldn’t want that beach house, because I wouldn’t want to give up all the freedom I have now to pay for it.

  3. JimmyPx on January 6, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Becky, you are wise beyond your years and discovered an important truth that it took until I was 40 to discover. Seven years ago, I had a high paying job in a large corporation, travelled all over the World on business, worked 70 hours a week, had a house in a country club, drove a Lexus, and was never more miserable. It took the destruction of my marriage combined with a huge health scare where the doctors were fairly certain I had cancer (tumor benign thank goodness) to get me to discover what you have. Having nice things is nice but they come at a HUGE cost. People don’t get that things don’t really make you happy rather they become a huge burden and make you more unhappy. I’ll bet that you saw no people in that beautiful house because they were too busy working paying for that place to enjoy it !!
    For the last 5 years I have been fulltiming in a 30 foot rv and have never been more free, in better health, and truly happy. Enjoy your travels and your life and thanks for sharing your travels and insights.

    • Becky on January 13, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Welcome to IO Jimmy, it’s great to have you here.

      I’m glad to hear that your health scare turned out to be nothing and that you’ve found a way to live that makes you happier. It’s very possible that house was empty for the exact reason you listed. Enjoy the open road and your freedom!

  4. Becky on January 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Glad you like this post Cline. Keep on living the life you want to live.

  5. Ed @ Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on January 6, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Well, you DO make the most of your travels and the lifestyle. And as beautiful as the scenery has been in and around L.A., I don’t doubt that you will be anxious to leave it and head southwest. We have lived in So-Cal most of our adult lives, but we’re ready for our Great Escape.

    If it’s not a secret, what will your workcamp job be in Texas? What part of Texas?

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      You’re going to have so much fun Ed!

      Enchanted Rock state natural area, about an hour west of Austin.

  6. PamelaP on January 6, 2015 at 10:24 am

    This made me very nostalgic! I lived in Thousand Oaks (just over the hills from Malibu) for 6 years and tried to hit the beach as often as I could. El Matador was one of my favorites. Having lived on both coasts, the oceans are very different, as are the beaches – I don’t know that I favor either as they both have their charms. I can’t wait to get on the road (just over a year now until our “launch”!) so I can revisit all the places I didn’t get to spend enough time at as well as seeing new places. I too have never been to the Maine coast but I’m gonna be! 😉

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Fun Pamela! I didn’t realize you were planning to go full-timing, congrats! I hope the year goes quickly.

      I can’t wait to see more of the Pacific, one single park is hardly enough to judge a whole coastline. 😉 Alas, it’ll be a while before I come back this way again, but it will happen someday.

  7. Kristie on January 6, 2015 at 9:09 am

    You’re right by me! We live in Ventura and regularly take our RV to the coast north of town to camp (Emmawood State Beach and the Rincon). It’s only 10 minutes from our house, but the change in scenery and fresh air is amazing. I long to RV full-time, but since that’s not an option right now, I’m happy to camp near home on a regular basis. We also regularly camp at Lake Casitas, which is only 20 minutes from our house. Can you tell we like water?!

    Enjoy your time in SoCal 🙂

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Camping close to home can still be a really rewarding experience Kristie, I’m glad you’re able to get out and enjoy the ocean. 🙂

      I have! Leaving tomorrow, but it’s been a good week and a half.

  8. Jodee Gravel on January 6, 2015 at 6:21 am

    Amazing that you’ve learned this huge lesson at such a young age. Or maybe you were born with the knowledge – some are. #2 of your points should be the foundation of every career-based workshop ever given. People would be so much happier if they knew this earlier rather than later.

    I’ve been lucky enough to move when the apathy of sameness took over where I was, and it is one of the biggest draws of the RV life as that comes pretty quickly for me. Working 60 hours a week and never having the time or energy to enjoy the place that all the work was paying for – never been a fan 🙂

    The beaches south of there are much different – huge wide stretches of lighter sand with very few rocks (and many more people). I prefer the beaches from Malibu north for true beauty, but for people watching and the beach “scene” you can’t beat Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.
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    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      When I lived in SC by the end of the third year it was losing some of it’s charm. Funny though, when I drove back to visit people after being on the road for a while, the novelty made it all seem shiny new and fun again which is great.

      I guess I’ll have to go further south and north on the Pacific someday. 🙂

  9. Dwayne on January 6, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Think I have to agree about the comment that you get used to it. I live with a 180 degree of the ocean along with herds of elk. Don’t even think about it any more. Used to be when the elk came it was something, now it’s “elk are in the field” attitude and go on with normal stuff.
    I have 17 acres but when I built my house made it as far away from the ocean as I could. People don’t realize the problems with the salt air. Everything! gets messed up. Quarter mile away and I found about 1/4″ of salt crusted over on a section of concrete. Think what it would be closer.

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Even though I never lived right along the ocean I’ve always understood the damaging properties of salt, or at least I did once I came of driving age.

      In the world of automobiles, I grew up in what is called “the rust belt”. Vehicles in Wisconsin and other states that get regular freezing weather and snowfall develop undercarriage and rust problems much more quickly that those in states farther south, it’s because of the salt that we put on our roadways to keep them free from ice.

      Everyone up north knows that you want to wash your car regularly in the winter even when you know it won’t stay clean long, to wash all that salt off.

  10. Cynthia on January 6, 2015 at 3:05 am

    Becky I really enjoy your posts! Keep them coming. 🙂

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Glad to hear that Cynthia, thanks for reading!

  11. hoppy on January 6, 2015 at 1:34 am

    Thanks for your gorgeous pictures. Fun to look at as we dig out from an Iowa snowstorm ! Have fun and a good message on life style choices.

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Happy to help warm up a cold Iowan day a little. 🙂 It’s been really chilly where my parents live in Wisconsin the past few days, highs haven’t even made it above 0 a few times, brrr! I’m glad I “got out” so to speak. 😉

  12. Bonnie on January 5, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    My son lives near there, by the military base, and has a 1 bedroom apartment that’s in walking distance from the beach. We visited this park and I have some similiar pictures. He sacrifices many things to live near the water, but he lives his life on his terms, works only enough to pay the bills and spends the rest of the time enjoying life. You are so right that we need to check that what we have *now* is what we still want and is worth the cost.

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      I’m glad to hear that he has enough time to enjoy the location Bonnie, it would be a beautiful place to live.

      Glad you enjoyed this post.

  13. Maura on January 5, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    I grew up in SoCal, the ocean is something special to me, but I have noticed in our travels that most people “stop” seeing the beauty that surrounds them after awhile. While in florida I would see a beautiful house on the bay, with all the bells and whistles, an amazing bay view deck and all the boats and toys to go with it. Day after day I was amazed that I saw no one on the deck and all the toys sat unused, despite the fact people were present (?) Perhaps it’s better to be amazed as a traveler, for we surely enjoy the moment.
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    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      That’s a common phenomenon Maura, it has to do with novelty. Novelty gets our attention, but once we become accustomed to something, we start taking it for granted.

      I’ve noticed this about myself. When I first moved down to South Carolina, the salt marshes, palmettos, ocean, it was all new and exciting – easy to see as beautiful. When I left there to start full-timing three years later, the new and exciting had worn off, I could still make myself stop what I was doing to appreciate it, but it wasn’t something that struck me every time I looked outside.

      Travelers have the benefit of experiencing novelty all the time, it’s one of the things I love about the lifestyle.

  14. Norm H. on January 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    While the Pacific will always be “my” ocean, you are so right about any ocean having “that magic that melts worries away.” Glad you took the time to find that while on the California coast. Loved the pics! Good job! Safe travels now.

    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Norm! I do love the ocean, it’s great to get away for an afternoon every now and then.

  15. Dave Burdick on January 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I like the Pacific much better than the Atlantic, but I was raised within 100 miles of the Pacific. That said, both coastlines are real nice, and I have yet to make it up to the coast line of Maine. But the Pacific seems to me to have much stronger wave action, pretty coastline, and I too could live along the shores. Hope you can explore the coast of Northern California and all along Oregon and Washington soon. –Dave (
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    • Becky on January 6, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      I haven’t seen enough to make a formed opinion, but from first impressions I think I’ll end up liking both equally well, just in different ways.