Along the coast of Santa Barbara’s West Beach, a group of about 40 individuals, most in their early twenties, gather to celebrate their passion for travel. People of varying ethnicities scatter themselves across the sandy beach — some staying close to their friends, others branching out and playing beach volleyball — as the buzz of unique languages comes from each distinct group. Classic American party food (chips, hotdogs, and lemonade) is displayed, as if to bring a sense of American culture to the diverse group. This Beach Bonfire and BBQ event, hosted by the California Explorer travel company, occurs on the first Friday of each month. Here, international students can gather to create friendships and experience a place that is quite different from their own surroundings. Such events encourage young Explorers to soak up and experience Santa Barbara’s unique culture. One Beach Bonfire attendee, AD, described how California Explorer has allowed him to become a true member of the community. “If I go to Starbucks, they know my name and order,” said AD as he cheerfully described how people recognize him within the neighborhood.
Founded by owner Dan Cabe in 2006, California Explorer, a Santa Barbara company, seeks to bring world travelers together in the heart of Santa Barbara. It acts as a travel guide for the most illustrious places in the Golden State while providing a sense of community for those new to Santa Barbara. California Explorer is present at multiple language schools in the area, as well as UCSB and SBCC. Although the company caters mainly to international and foreign-exchange students, all are welcome.
Mats Myhre, the operating manager, claims that California Explorer is “trying to become more of a true, local host” for the community. “We are designed for students to settle into Santa Barbara,” said Myhre. Although California Explorer originally focused on organizing multiday trips to California landmarks, the company is now adding more local activities to its agenda — some of which include hiking Montecito’s hot springs and skydiving with an ocean view — allowing Explorers to create memories and make new friends. Day tours can range anywhere from $10-$75, while multiday trips are typically around $200-$300. Those interested can visit californiaexplorer.net or, for a more personal experience, their stand location on Chapala and Figueroa streets.