Southern California has always seemed like a place I would fit in. Not quite the overcrowded overrated Hollywood, the O.C. sports perfect temperatures and laid back lifestyles. I left Cincinnati with $1,000 and a dream of seeing my dream destination. Besides, my favorite musician (Jeff Buckley) was born there, so I had to see it before I die.
Day 1 (2/21/19)
The moment I arrived at LAX I was completely confused on how to get a bus to my Hertz rental car, just because there were so many buses stopping everywhere (So word of advice, study the transportation system heavily before you get there if you do take a bus or ask me). After the 4 hour flight and walking through swards of people, I was extremely fatigued and decided to take the next Hertz bus to the airport pick up, even though I was supposed to be at the Marriott hotel location. The nice customer service attendant let me take a car from the airport location instead of getting a taxi.
If you’ve never rented a car before, it is a crazy experience. At the airport there are thousands of cars and you get to chose whichever one you want (within your budget) like a fruit in an orchard.
I was starving, and decided to start off my journey with arguably the most famous fast food of LA (Plus it was very convenient next to the airport), In N Out! The restaurant seemed extremely normal and I completely thought it would be overrated, but the Double Double was very good and I was surprised. Obviously not our Smashburger, so no worries Cincinnati fans. The unique thing about In N Out is that they give you a container for the burger. I think so that you can eat it while driving, although I don’t think I could ever eat this massive Double Double while in the heavy traffic of LA.
Since I had to check into the hostel at 5pm and it was only 1, I decided to drive around and visit some locations to get a feel for Cali. I was completely in awe of all the palm trees, which even appeared in retail parking lots (definitely a change from plain concrete of Kentucky/Ohio).
Next I drove around Anaheim (where Jeff Buckley was born), Santa Ana, and the Orange area, happy to see the unique beach homes and private lemon and orange trees in many backyards. Finally, I parked at Sunset Beach, shaken to my core that even the colder 40 degree weather was tolerable. I had come 1,000 miles alone and sat by the ocean realizing how small I was in this ginormous universe.
As I left, I passed a juggler coming to practice who commented on my wayfarers, but I was too overcome with shyness to talk to him (if you somehow see this message me!) I also saw a couple homeless people laying on the beach and wanted to talk to them, if only my social anxiety didn’t kick in.
I checked out Balboa island on Newport Beach, which reminded me a lot of my trip to Wildwood, New Jersey. The town is small and friendly with boardwalks and marinas, only Balboa didn’t have the “salty” air Jersey. Instead, it was very sunny and the air was fresh.
Finally it was time to check into the hostel, and right before I got lost around West Costa Mesa, which reminded me of the streets in Mexico (lots of Spanish in all the stores).
The hostel boasted itself for being “female only.” Walking in, I expected a greeting and was instead met with a common area where a male was sitting. A little creeped out at this detail being left out but calming myself down, I found an empty locker I could secure with my brought lock and the room which also had an inside lock, both making me feel a lot better. I talked to another friendly male names Julian (name changed for protection) in the kitchen who was also from Texas and told me his similar dream of converting a van and living on the road, using the hostel as a temporary situation. He recommended that I drive Pacific Coast Highway and start in Laguna.
“Why Laguna? It doesn’t look as fun as Venice,” I said.
“You just have to see it,” he said and I took his word for, vowing to go before I leave, because he also agreed that Wataburger located in Texas is also better than In N Out (sorry Cali friends but it’s true!). Though it’s been so long that I couldn’t tell you if it’s better than Smashburger.
I also talked to a couple of friendly female North Californians who complained at the 40 degree weather being “so cold.” I couldn’t help scoffing at how silly their complaints were, as I had just come from 20 degree Kentucky weather.
Finally, jet lagged, I passed out on my bunk bed for the night.
Day 2 (2/22/19)
I woke up and visited McDonalds for a quick big breakfast in Costa Mesa.
I hit Venice Beach, remembering glimpses from some of my favorite movies namely The Doors and Son in Law, and knew the eclectic lifestyle would shake my foundation. Remembering what Julian told me the night before, “There’s always a character on Venice Beach man.”
I fell in love. It’s everything on Venice. From the perfect 60 degree weather (not cold or hot, perfect) to the artsy vibes and positive people. After 26 years of my life wandering and searching for a place to belong, Venice felt like it was saying “welcome home.”
I had to skate like I had dreamed of for years, and put my arms out like Carla Gugino in Son In Law. I was a small town girl on the coast! Ow Ow (*insert Pauly Shore crow*) I rented some white roller skates, slowly weaving in and out of the people on the pavement. Then, I fell. And I fell again. And the last fall was the most painful, toppling over onto my back in the middle of the skate park. My tailbone, arm, and ass throbbing with pain and palm trees towering over me.
“Are you ok?” A coupe of roller skating angels said above me.
“My ass hurts!” I said, crying like a baby.
The parents helped me up and introduced themselves as Michelle and Redondo, staying with me until I stopped crying. “It’s part of the process,” the said. “You gotta bend your knees.” I thanked them and assured them I was ok, though I quickly was in relief to be back in my sneakers, returning the skates shortly after.
Still sore, I was the happiest I have ever been. A fortune teller called out to me.
“Are you a Scorpio?”
I internally rolled my eyes, knowing this was a common line to get people to engage. “No. Shouldn’t you know that since you’re a fortune teller man?”
He didn’t answer. “When is your birthday?”
I hesitated, not really wanting my fortune that day, then caved in. “June 23.”
“Hmm you look like a Scorpio. Wait a second,” he said. Then he called out to another woman on the street. “Hey! Excuse me, When is your birthday?”
“June 24.” said the lady coming over.
Though this was probably coincidence, it was still weird. “For some reason people with the same birthdays walk by my table at the same time,” he said.
We took a picture and I caved in to letting him talk about my fortune hesitantly. The outcome of my fortune: I was living a “stagnant” lifestyle and should have more changes. Considering this trip and my new job, Done! “You should move.” While much of the information he shared general, there were a couple bits that did oddly spook me when I left him, making me feel probed and exposed. To combat this, I bought some $7 “Watermelon” CBD Endo Water which helped me chill out (though the water didn’t taste like Watermelon at all).
I managed to shake it off though and enjoyed my day, getting $2 corn tacos, seeing beautiful art and entertainment, meeting interesting people (such as a shop worker who had moved from Kansas). I considered walking up to Santa Monica pier but decided Venice was all I needed.
At the end of the day my sore body had trouble climbing into the top bunk where I passed out.
Day 3 (2/23/19)
My body feeling healed, I made my way to a local VON store (which is the Kroger of California, for my Cincinnati people). Breakfast was a parfait and Cucumber Citrus Arizona Tea, a drink I was frustrated wasn’t in Cincinnati.
I was struck by the emerald green mountains in the Canyon
Since another of my dreams was to see the desert, I vowed to visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and drove down in the mountains and desert, passing fruit states along the way. After some time driving solo, I decided not to go all the way down since I was seeing desert around me anyway. The temperature changed from the beach 60’s to desert 80’s and 90’s, making me sweat in my black rental car which successfully turned into a heat box. Instead, I stopped at a local trail (full video on my Instagram) and some Orange farms, inspired by how oranges grew in the heat.
After soaking in the glorious mountains and desert sand, I headed back toward San Clemente. Upon landing in this city, you can tell instantly that surfing is LIFE in this town, with surfers crowding the sand and waves.
I took Julian’s advice and drove through Laguna Hills, pleasantly surprised. I thought the Hills would be a town of rich snobby people like the Lauren Conrad show, and instead was inspired by the eclectic architecture and shops. This town screams “artist” and doesn’t let any tourist forget it! Though I didn’t have time to take a ton of pictures and wasn’t thrilled by the crowds, I did take a picture of my healthy lunch I bought from Whole Foods Market. While in California, I had to have my favorite YouTuber’s go-to dish. Salad with Garbanzo beans (though I had to add some onions and cheese to mine). I added a cookie for my sweet tooth.
To end my journey, I stopped at the Mitsuwa Japanese Market in Costa Mesa, a place I had heard stuff about. Growing up on Jungle Jims in Ohio, I expected it to be similar. However, Mitsuwa has SO many products Jungle Jim’s does not carry that surprised me, such as ramen with Naruto on the front. Items were very cheap and there were also live stores to buy fresh Japanese food!
Day 4 (2/24/19)
The sad finale.
I almost cry leaving California and vow to return.
Arriving back in Kentucky, I notice for the first time that the area smells very woody, a scent I never picked up. I am glad to be home.
Yo! For more of my Cali pictures (I have a majority there, it takes a bit of time to get them on this blog), check out my Instagram. @saratraveltidbits, and do me a favor by subscribing!