Chasing dreams in Los Angeles
I have wanted to go to the USA, and in particular Los Angeles, since I was 17 and discovered a new band. My love for music has led me to strange, wonderful, artsy and fun places. Nevertheless, I never believed that going to the USA would be possible, let alone that I would brave that strange world alone. But here I am, back from a month of dreaming, doing, exploring in Los Angeles. The city is raw, glamorous, loud, serene, and all that’s in between. The city where dreams are lost and found, where people are famously rich and ingloriously poor, the city that swallows you whole or where you leave your heart.
I have travelled a lot on my own in Europe and that never seemed like much of a problem. Somehow the land of dreams and opportunity felt like a huge hurdle to overcome, and not only for me. ‘Do you have a car? You need a car’, ‘it is really dangerous there’ are some of the comments I got. Well, nothing is impossible and with a healthy dose of wit you are going to be fine. I asked friends who really know LA what the safest spots are and I ended up right near the beach at the Santa Monica HI hostel. This meant cheap lodging, free sunsets and music at the pier, walking to Venice Beach, and soaking up the sun.
Hostels are great places for the lone traveller. You can strike up conversations and friendships all over the place during breakfast, a pub crawl or a long hike. But, when staying in hostels, do remember to take time for yourself – there must be a reason you decided to travel solo.
Chasing the footsteps of my favourite band has led me to an array of famous landmarks, such as the Hollywood sign and Griffith observatory as well as Venice Beach. The lead singer of my favourite band always mentioned Zuma Beach as one of his favourite spots. I fell in love with this beach since it takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city and leaves you with nothing but ocean, sun, sand, and a welcoming breeze. Downtown LA was amazing with the LA Times, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, and the LAPD, but sometimes just too hot to handle. Zuma is a perfect place to reflect or just enjoy the beauty. Next to Zuma beach, Malibu Pier is a must see – even if the seagulls are cheeky! But I was more than happy to share the ocean with some friendly pelicans too.
I got to know so many kind people because of a band, and I met up with some during my stay. This took me to Pasadena and Echo Park. The bus driver, puzzled, asked what I thought to find there. I only had a few hours to spend there after the long bus drive but it was worth every minute. The small part of Pasadena I saw is quietly different from downtown or Hollywood and I know I’ll return one day to explore all its beauty. Echo Park, with its raw, edgy feel, and Silverlake, which felt like a place where peace and love were made, not war, intrigued me.
Next to places that have specific relevance for me personally (Zuma, Malibu, and Union station as a scene in a music video), that ‘feared’ public transport has opened up a Los Angeles that warms your heart and breaks it at the same time. Here is where you cannot help but talk to Angelenos: the kind bus driver, the old lady with barely a dollar left to spend, the guy in his ‘gangster’ outfit merely telling you he likes your shirt. Nevertheless, getting lost, for instance, in West-Hollywood at night might not be the best idea for the lone female traveller. However, if you have a current bus timetable you’ll find that the system is solid with regular transport.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people or ask for directions if you do happen to get lost. Most people are really nice and your instincts will tell you who not to approach. This means, for instance, don’t necessarily ask the guys standing outside an escort bar, but the lovely Spanish lady and her daughter across the street.
Being lost in the city of Angels where the road is endless, the only thing we need to do is be brave enough to take it. ‘Fear is the hardest act to follow’, but that is the only way we can move forward.
Joyce Vos, 29, was born and raised in the Netherlands and is the author of blog, The Sound in the Sight, where she writes about her passion for music, travel and art.