Best advice I could give.
Know what your home away from home is. Find a comfort or familiarity that you know you can seek out in a foreign place.
Personally I find comfort in a piccolo in a sunlit cafe, a glass of zinfandel in a cheese bar, listening to an album in which the lyrics somehow refer to my immediate moment or mood, all in which are accompanied with my pen and journal.
It does take a bit of discomfort to find your happy place abroad. And things can go from good to bad, or horrid to amazing very quickly.
The first place I travelled alone was San Francisco. I had actually been there before with my ex- boyfriend, but that relationship was terribly unhealthy and it tainted my time there. I had to go back solo, and make it my own.
My first night was incredible, I have a scribbled diary entry entertaining myself with the new best friend I had just made, the clubs and churches we ventured to, and my highly intoxicated state at unruly hours of the morning.
My second diary entry is much different. It’s dated on the 17th November 2013, two days after I had arrived.
“I’m not dead, I’m very much alive, is what I would like to start off with after debating with my mind, whether I died 24 hours ago.
Travelling by yourself is an emotional roller coaster. The extremities go from moments that you know will be some of the best times of your life, to being the loneliest, most scared and lost than you have ever been.
How do we know if we die, if we don’t know what it feels like to be dead, what if your mind continues showing you a movie of what your life would have been, and without realizing you’re gone, dead, and all of your loved ones are mourning.”
This was the result of a bit of hash, in a city I barely knew, with a backpacker I knew even less about.
Night three in the Green Tortoise Hostel and I was in my room streaming a cheesy television series that I found comfort in. Something that I instinctively did because it was a familiarity of home.
The following day I hovered in coffee stores, thrift shops, and later filled my journal in the corner of a wine and cheese bar.
I felt invincible in this moment, I could push my boundaries, and I knew where to come back to. Better yet I knew where to fuel. A coffee from the side streets of the Mission District or the Castro in the morning, and I was set.
I could then go back to worrying about young dumb stuff, like the boy that I should stop talking to. Or better yet the person that I was about to meet, that so beautifully made me question selfish lust.
San Francisco is my treasure, and that hostel is a home away from home.
Find a place, or a song, or a photo or a person that can pull you back to warmth. And you’ll find yourself in Chiang Mai, Thailand, telling your tuk tuk driver to immediately stop at the bungy jump, because fear is only excitement without breath!
Do not deny or ignore that you are scared, but instead, identify, accept and welcome the energy with a few deep breaths. Excite yourself with what the old you would have never done.
And with fear aside, I set of for Vancouver, with my final entry for San Fran.
“How good is it, to just be.”
“I’m not dead, I’m very much alive”
Is the statement I would like to start off with after debating with my mind whether I died 24 hours ago.
Travelling by yourself is an emotional roller-coaster. The extremities go from moments that you know will be some of the best times in your life to being the loneliest, scared and lost then you have ever been.
I’m really glad I’ve done this by myself, I needed this, but right now I’m wishing I wasn’t alone.
Day 3 of travelling alone. I currently feel like I do not want to travel alone again. it’s not that I need to travel by myself, it’s that I need to be with someone that will let me be myself.
I do realise however that this is all new to me and my feelings with probably change. I definitely doesn’t help that I thought I was dead for the last 24 hours.
“How do we know if we die, if we don’t know what it feels like to be dead. What if your mind continues showing you a movie of what your life could have been, and without realising you’re gone, dead and all of your loved ones are mourning.”
Let me take you back 24hours.
I went down to the common room in the hostel, hoping I could meet someone else I could click with not that Pasc had left. I saw I guy that I had been introduced to the day earlier but I couldn’t remember his name, he recognised me and we started talking.
“Hey I was thinking of rolling a joint and going for a walk, wanna join?
No is the answer I should have said.
we walked around the corner to a little park area with an amazing view of the bay bridge. we made small talk and got high. I quickly realised that his job is to deal drugs and was offering me a trial of his product. And I started to become more sceptical of his character. He spoke more about the regions were his weed came from. He reminded me of someone I knew but I was too terrified to put my finger on it in fear it was a bad character.
He told me there was hash in the joint, it was sticky and reminded me of liquorice. But I didn’t realise that this was much different..
I started to become numb and thought’s began to rush through my head.
‘I’m in a park with a stranger and he just gave me drugs’ – Isn’t this the very first thing you parents warned you about. The is the perfect scenario for a horrible ending.
My head started racing beyond control with an explosion of thoughts of how bad this situation really could go. My body started to feel as if it was becoming paralysed and I was convinced that my worst fears were about to come true. I felt like I only had moments left until my entire body was going to become paralysed. In desperation I leaped down the stairs and blurted, “I don’t feel well.” ( I had heard my mothers voice telling me to say it)
I leaped down those stairs, looking back now I don’t know how I didn’t fall over with the state that I was in.
In the moment of leaping I felt the whole world freeze. I felt the most over whelming fear I have ever felt in my life. I thought that was it. The at had drugged me and I was about to tumble down those stairs and die. That moment seemed to last forever. I honestly thought in that moment that I had died.
Everything that happened from then onwards was a constant battle to determine whether I was dead and this was just life showing me a motion picture of what my life would have turned out to be. How was I to know the difference. I have never died before.
He chased after me, “Jade, are you okay?” “No.”
I continued to walk towards the hostel, stumbling on the main street of Broadway. I was either dead or had done the smartest thing in the world. My head was that confused that I thought if I could possible still be alive right now, I was minutes away from collapsing and he would catch up to me. All I could think was that I need to get back to the hostel and into the common room. I didn’t want to go back to my room in case nobody was there and I has a seizure or something, as I still heavily believed he had drugged me.
As minutes trickled away, my fear of soon death crossed with confusion “Am I already dead?” and then embarrassment. If I am alive and see the other side of this my actions are rather embarrassing. But right now that didn’t matter.
After a little time and a lot of water I went up to my room. I was still trying to determine If I was alive. I was so scared, terrified, devastated, embarrassed, I hated myself. How could I allow myself to get in such a situation. I wanted to call mum, but I didn’t want to worry her, she was already worried enough, even though I know she would have wanted me to call.
I wanted to do the most comforting thing I could, and at this point in time, it was watching a movie or a TV series.
It calmed me, but my mind was still racing. I kept checking the time and looking at updated facebook statuses, looking for new things my mind had never seen before. Therefore my mind couldn’t just reply memories to fool me that I was alive.
I felt better, but when it was finished I was anxious again, So I started counting sheep.
“How good is it to just be.”
The thought that I stumbled on whilst riding a bicycle to Sausalito.
I feel very much at one with myself.
Today I went to the Mission District, feeling very flat questioning whether I was actually alive, I searched for an sort of reassurance.
I had a lovely day, even though I was terrified, I knew I just had to push through.
I caught the train to 16th and walked up Mission Street feeling unsure. I went to a few thrift shops, saw a homeless man’s bum, had a decent coffee (FINALLY) at Blue Bottle Coffee, and went to a Mexican restaurant (I actually thought I was in México) – This place was called La Corneta and was highly recommended by locals, a burrito cost be $3 and a large corona cost me $3. I sat and watched a 49ers game in my new 49ers beanie and sat and listened to the Mexican band play.
After lunch I walked down Valencia St which is super trendy – very much Newtown/Degraves St like. I wandered around looking for hippy stores, purchasing a few bracelets to add to my collection. I went to an art gallery and then stumbled upon a cheese bar called ‘Mission Cheese,’ where I guy called Andréa referred me to a wine bar called Barrique. ( My two favorite wines here were the Carigrane and Pinot Noir).
I continued to stroll down to find San Fran’s best ice cream ( I start to notice a lot of fire engines and police race past me and wonder where they are going) and I found some really cool street art. I then proceeded to find Bi -Rite (ice creamery and bakeshop). I very quickly realized where all the emergency services were going! Straight for the Ice cream shop! The place was smoking out but they seemed to have it under control.
I started my journey home and found a little alleyway full of street art, I took my time to pace the street taking photos and listening into two guys that were painting, ” How good is it to smoke weed and paint all day aannnddd I’m on acid right now.”
I took the train home and spent the afternoon editing photos, I then showered and got ready to take myself on a date to Barrique. Finally I had come to conclusion, I am still alive.
Venice Beach, the famous Venice Beach, where the body builders really do just oil up to flex and stand around, the market stalls sell weed under the table, the rollerblader’s skate around in their underwear, the skateboarders are jibbing everything and the local entertainment is endless. Sinking back a few Coronas I attempted to figure out a way to the staples centre, after talking to a few locals I discovered it wasn’t as simple as I first thought..
I boarded the first bus.
“You wanna sit right behind and don’t move or talk to anyone ya hear me?”
I was a little confused at the warning…. for about 5 mins. What I didn’t realize is the suburbs the bus passed through were some of the most dangerous in Los Angeles… Without sounding racists we the only Caucasians on the bus. The first bus ride was full of young males causing a bit of ruckus; swearing and pushing each other around, the driver didn’t flinch, obviously this was normal. There were people yelling absurdities making no sense at all, clearly high on what I’m guessing was crack… we came to a bus depot, where we were to change buses.
‘You wait here for your bus okay, do not move, do not get on any other”
The next bus pulled up and I approached the driver to ask him if this was the right bus, he asked me where we were going. In response he through his head back in a laugh and for the second time today.
“Right here, right behind me, eyes to the front and they shouldn’t bother you”
At this stage I didn’t realize what all the fuss was about the last bus ride wasn’t so bad…
First stop on comes two ladies trying to lift a trolley on the bus.
“Sorry mam, that trolley cannot board”
I’m not entirely sure what the clearly cat loving ladies were saying but next minute they are ramming the bus and yelling, throwing their grocery bags at the driver. The driver without a second glance closes the doors and continues the journey, the ladies still chasing and hitting the bus. The next passenger boards quietly in a normal manner, bopping to the music of his head phones… we make eye contact.
“you guys wanna buy some weed? pills I got pills too?”
Politely declining he continues on down the bus offering his services.
Next stop; an extremely fragile, but not so old woman is trying to step onto the bus, after a few shaken attempts she steps onboard. I’d like to think her weakness and skeleton draped body was linked to malnutrition… Buuuuut I’m going to say it’s more like a heroin addiction. She sweeps onto the bus walking straight past paying the driver.
“Put it on the tab”
“Lady you ain’t got no tab, there are no tabs”
“Yeah well, watcha gonna do about it”
The lady then takes a seat, the driver muttering around his breath does nothing. Shortly after the lady has taken her seat, another woman, extremely boisterous, squeezes beside her. The loud woman was on her phone, she was speaking like she was fresh outta Compton.. oh that may be because we are in Compton…
“oh hell no, you tell that bi-atch that he your man” (not a word of a lie here)
“does she know who you are?! We gonna smash her teeth out”
The conversation continued much the same, become more aggressing with arms beginning to flail. Not to much surprise she strikes the lady beside her, and carries on without a worry. Miss quiet and fragile suddenly pipes up with her hand bag and starts smacking the woman, the two ladies break loose.
Still the driver continues like nothing is out of the ordinary.
The men on the bus are trying to separate them, and finally after a few good bitch slaps, they are torn apart. The bus starts to slow down and stops at the next corner, the large boisterous woman gets shoved out the door and the driver quickly drives off as if he knew this is what the plan would be. The mouse like skelton mutters some good riddances under her breath and the journey continues.
I was watching an active map on my phone and thought that I was coming close to my stop, I stood up to approach the driver and he very quickly and strongly reminded me that I should not be drawing attention to myself and sit back down until he tells me otherwise.
“I’ll be making a special stop for you”
And sure enough as the Staples Centre came into site, he pulled over so we only had to cross the road. I pulled a tiny little koala out of my pocket and put it on his coin desk, ( I always travel with these koalas to give for gifts) I jumped off the bus and looked back at him. The driver looked very confused and was looking the koala up and down, I have at him and yelled thanks. Next thing I saw was this beautiful glowing white smile rising up waving vigorously, it’s a pretty magical thing to watch happiness reveal itself in front of you.
We had made it to the Staples Centre.
After the whirlwind of Vegas, we’re flying back to the West Coast to stay in Hollywood for a few nights. I had been to Los Angeles before, and for me I didn’t really have a reason to return. This city of concrete has never really called my name. However as part of some compromises with Voldemort we were doing the tourist attractions of LA. Looking for accommodation in LA is ridiculous! I spent hours and hours trying to find a cheap place with a good location, and as stated earlier a hostel apparently just wasn’t good enough… After scanning the pages of trip advisor I finally found a place; Elaine’s bed and breakfast, this ended up being nothing short than perfect! This quirky house is run by Elaine and her husband Avik, and offers a seamless Hollywood experience. Avik is amazingly eccentric and beautifully comical, he use to work on the red carpets in Hollywood and has the most out of this world stories to tell. To tell you the truth the reason why I booked this place is the reviews spoke about the amazing costumes Avik would wear around the house. Avik even has a personalised Christmas card from President Obama!
The room was about $80 a night ( it has now inflated to $100) – Which was actually the cheapest accommodation I could find! (and probably still will be) It also included breakfast and wifi – These two combinations are liquid gold when you are travelling.
This unspoiled location was walking distance to everything! And with a late arrival we strolled to the nearest corner store, purchased a cheap bottle of wine and grabbed some slushie cups. Wandering the surprisingly warm streets of Hollywood, there’s always something interesting to see! Peculiar characters walking their pets, locals dancing in the streets, music blaring from taco vans, espresso shops turn into night clubs; it really does live up to the entertainment capital of the world.
The next few days were flooded with strolling Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard shopping in Beverly Hills, adventures through Universal studios, cycling from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and a Laker’s Game at the Staples Centre.
To tell you the honest truth, most of these adventures don’t have stories worth telling… apart from the bus ride from Venice Beach to the Staples Centre. I’d much rather tell you the stories where things didn’t go to plan.. But how about I give you a quick run down of the Must Do’s In LA.
-Universal Studios; I actually loved this place more than Disneyland! They’re all about getting you involved in their live shows. Tickets for Universal Studios range from $95 – $120USD a day, try and purchase online in advance to save a few dollars! There’s public transport from Hollywood boulevard.
Disneyland / Disney California Adventure Park; I do recommend two days to get to both parks if you have an extra day, I only spent one day here though. Disneyland is a lot more traditional whereas Disney California is aimed a bit more for thrill seekers. You can get tickets for separate parks or tickets to hop between them both. Tickets range from $95 – $120 a day – and the more days you by the cheaper the ticket gets. Public transport from Hollywood takes about 1.5 hours (sometimes longer) the train is the cheapest option for around $11 and the shuttle buses cost around $40.
-Hollywood walk of Fame; something free to do! Set a side a few hours to walk up one side of the Hollywood boulevard and back down the other , looking out for your favourite celebrities. You’ll see a few characters pacing the street on this walk! There’s an large amount of souvenir shops to get all your shopping in too! Stopping outside the TCL Chinese Theatre was a great experience, lots of handprints and writing in the cement from a few great characters. One the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard you can see the Hollywood sign!
– Santa Monica – Ahh the famous pier, even if you don’t think you know what I’m talking about, you’ll see the pier and realise you’ve seen it in one movie or another. What a perfect blue day, palm trees lining the path, roller-skaters trailing up and down, buskers around every bend, every style of sport being played on the beach, body builders oiling up and flexing about (they hardly ever seem to be lifting – just showing off to the passers by) A great way to spend your afternoon is hiring a bicycle and taking in the scenes here.
-Beverly Hills – Not that I could ever afford even one sock here! But still a whole other world to see, the oh so glamorous world. Women shopping whilst in their best gowns and highest heels, with sunglasses half the size of the face, cafes with cups of tea three times the price you normally pay. Dog’s in most handbags and even try for some celebrity spotting!
NBA Laker’s game- Can you get any more American? Depending who is playing and where the game is at you can usually get tickets for around $30USD – Not the greatest seats however. From memory I paid $80USD per ticket and I was close in on the action. Went to the bar to get a beer $15USD for a schooner! Asked for a nachos and received a small plate with some sort of liquid cheese on it for a further $15USD – oh well all in the nature of the business!
And that’s how you see all the sights in 3 days in Hollywood!