If you have studied abroad in America, one of the things you most look forward to is the month of travel you embark upon once finishing your finals. For me there was only one place I had in mind, and the fact that nobody else was on the same page as me did not deter me in the slightest. With numerous visits to New York and Boston already taken, thanks to being CT based, I wanted to travel to the west coast. Mostly to take a real stab at surfing, but also to finally see what California had to offer.
I started in downtown LA, a place which reminded me somewhat of Manhattan. The towering buildings and fast paced lifestyle was what I had come to know in New York. I enjoyed my time there, making trips out to the Griffith Observatory and walks around Hollywood. The views from the Observatory are some of the best in LA and it is very easy to lose a couple of hours up there.
It was a busy and touristy packed week in some respects however this soon changed once I arrived in Venice. I stayed at a pratical hostel just off the beach which provided me with easy access to the wonders that are Venice boardwalk. I was overwhelmed and a little intimidated by the vibrancy and craziness of the boardwalk at first, however this soon came to be the very aspect I loved about Venice. From the street performers, to the filming (I sneakily got to be an extra in Wilfred) to the skate park. Most of my days in Venice were spent surfing, I had booked lessons with a local teacher under the name of Aloha Brothers.
Nick was equally as brilliant on and off the board, both when teaching me and catching a couple of waves for himself. He was your typical laidback cool Californian, originally from Hawaii he had initially moved to LA in pursuit of an acting career, but got lost doing something he loved instead. By my last session I felt like I was making progress with my surfing but over the week it had become more than just a lesson in surfing. The night before I left I went to a party for Nicks birthday at his house. It was a low key affair with a barbecue out on the street and a mix of local surfers, family and friends. It was cool to escape the typical toursit side of travelling and enjoy spending time with the locals. I admire his lifestyle and would cherish the chance to surf with him again.
I now felt like one of the team, and with that, felt more than confident to make my way down to Huntington Beach. This might have been a little naïve, yes I had a better grasp of surfing but not nearly as much as I thought I had. I stayed with a friendly family in the suburbs just off the beach via AirBnb. The best thing about AirBnB is the fact that I actually felt like I was living in Huntington, and not just visiting. I was thrown into a lifestyle and community which I appreciated, I did not want it to end.
I would get up at sunrise around 5.00am and head straight for Hutington Beach. Cycling, with my surfbaord attached, about half a mile to catch the early waves. The reason for starting so early was in hope of finding one of the most famous surf beaches in the world empty and all to myself. But to my surprise, many shared the same idea, locals hurried to the beach in a bid to get an early morning surf in before work. I would stay all day, taking breaks on the beach and eventually biking back late afternoon.
If the past few weeks had felt like a dream the waves soon beat reality back into me, reassuring me that this was very much real life. I struggled surfing here and my confidence was knocked, the waves were breaking sharper and more aggressively than what I was used to. It was not the idyllic week of surfing I was hoping for. The last couple of days I made an effort to not get as frustrated and just enjoy the environment I was in. I was soon to return to the UK and begin my third year at University. Which was a daunting prospect when all I wanted was to stay in LA.
Travelling solo opened my eyes to a whole new world, what I thought might have been a boring lonely month turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had travelling. It is important to try new things even if they feel uncofortable, go to that place you have always wanted, take some classes in something you have always wanted to try. I miss LA and I hope to return in the not too distant future. I wish I still had a little of the gusto I had in LA, it is an amazing feeling finding somewhere you love. Maybe I will find it in Costa Rica.