Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Day In LA!

This entry comes first evening out at venice beach, typed verbatim from my travel journal.

"I am finally out, by myself. At the moment my hopes are really low, and some brief encounters would prove for this journey to be a success. I am sitting on the beach at the moment, and its nice, breezy and quiet. Peaceful even.
Flight was great. I was sitting next to a middle-aged actor (or so he claimed). Beau Baxter. He had apparently quit acting and was returning to LA for a week to sell his old beach house on Venice Beach. He mentioned knowing a really good hostel in Venice and offered lift from the airport. After due consideration I picked on the offer. What had I got to lose, I had to see venice anyway. And here was my option of a free lift to some hostel, saving me a huge cab fare.

So we got off, walked over to baggage claim. He saw something, excused himself, and I saw him walk over to a few people who seemed somewhat familiar, from TV. As my tubelight lit I realised it was cast of 'everybody loves raymond' who was also on our flight. Barely ten minutes in LA, and celebrity sightings already!! He introduced me to the old lady who plays mother, and she seemed really cool - asked me about my trip, and then bid adieu. So we collected our bags, and went upto the car rentals. As we walked over to the car he had chosen, it turned out to be a 'Maserati'. Whoosh! I guess it really was my lucky day (beginner's luck?!) Off we went, driving around LA streets, till we reached the hostel and he dropped me off. It was a close drive from the airport, and I was almost disappointed, hoping to see more of the city by car :)

Anyway, finally I was on my own.

My hostel is called 'Venice beach Cotel'. Its more expensive than I had expected, and for its worth. There's scribbling on the walls, and the staircase leading up to the dormitory was dingy, and stuffy. Dorm mates are two unbelievably tall aussie guys. Phew! so much for asking for an all-female dormitory. I met the two briefly before heading out, there were the usual hello's. On the plus side though, the hostel has a gorgeous location, being located right on the beach. Its located on boardwalk, so there's a whole street market starting right adjacent to it.

California is much prettier than I had expected. Lovely palm trees all around the roads, planted in an almost fashionable manner, as if to decorate the road. The houses run along the beach, and are located closely huddled up on small cliffs. The architecture is pretty, and there are innumerable colours running through the houses.

I'm looking at the map, and from what I understand, LA has three main divisions, atleast for traveler's purposes. Hollywood, Santa Monica & Venice. Santa Monica is just a fifteen minutes walk from Venice, and it starts where boardwalk ends. Santa Monica is also the place where most of TV shows and movies are shot. Tonight is supposed to be Santa Monica's 100th anniversary, and there would be a fireworks display. Sadly, there's no way I could attend that, since being out after sunset isn't safe in Venice. Venice, was quite a hotspot for the 'beat generation' hippies (remember, the beach in 'blow' and 'the doors'?!). It still has traces of the culture, and is a modern day homeless people hub, who start hovering over the entire beach after dark. Visually they resemble the zombies from MJ's Thriller video. Even as I sit here, there are a few shady characters lurking by. Still looks alright, and everybody is minding their own business.

I will walk over to Santa Monica tomorrow, since its highly recommended and perhaps explore hollywood a day later. Will click pictures there as well.

What's unbelievable in this country so far is, the cultural diversity. Even in the remotest areas, the infiltration is unimaginable, so unlike UK. At the moment I can count the number of white guys around me on my fingertips and its a busy time. I can see hispanics, african-americans, indians even.

I've caught minor cold, and will cut out this entry here, as I'm going to head back into the hostel after having a quick dinner. Besides its almost seven, and the zombies are coming out of their graves! "


This is the leg of my journey i like to refer to as 'hitting a brickwall'.

With a very vague idea of what I aimed to achieve from this trip, I landed in New York. Full of excitement, ready for adventure yet scared of taking the first step. The next few days disappeared with me idlying around in my NY-Home, not sure of how to put my plans into play. Kept hitting a brickwall. Sun rose each morning, and it went down, but the confusion never did. Where do i start, should i take a bus, train, flight, and where to, what was meant to be my first destination. After a slight push from my uncle my first domestic flight was booked, I would be departing for LA in exactly a week.

Seven days.

Too close yet too far. The anticipation rose, yet there were abundant things around me at home keeping me distracted.

Intermittent weekend was a long weekend, and it went off in a blur with a visit to the U.S. Open, Six Flags and before I knew it, it was the day before departure.

And yet I had no idea what I was headed for. Reading up forums of experienced travelers, backpackers, the head just got more and more clogged. Was I looking for some earthy adventures or just a week at some beach, or maybe endless vegas chilling, or a mix of all. Packing was another ordeal. Since I had no idea where I would be, what would be the essentials. Did i require camping gear, or a party dress, summer shorts, or a thick jacket? One tip which clicked in my head was 'the lighter you travel, the further you can go'. After much reluctance, and endless cajoling from my uncle, i packed light. Out went my boots, and in came Converse. No fancy stuff, no creams blah blah. Hell! Was I doomed to look like an alien if god forbid, I land in Vegas?

So anyway, with a backpack and a small bag I was set.

And the date was, 09/09/09.

My last thought before leaving home - "Everyone looks so excited about my journey, you bet I'm gonna be back home in a couple of days." But ofcourse that was before I rediscovered myself :)

How is all started!


The idea started before I was set out for my law final year exams at Cardiff university. Everyone seemed to have become a victim of the so-called travel bug. Constant talks before-during-after exams, planning, scheduling, tickets. Library PC's reeked of travel itineraries, printer dustbins full of waste ticket printouts, students sitting with a coursebook in hand and travel website in front. After being constantly exposed to such a dangerous atmosphere, we started out with our own travel plans. These plans rotated between a lavish holiday, backpacking, tour package, euro-tour, west coast to east coast, carribean, south india, bangkok and finally giving up! I seemed to be 'done' and just needed to get away, go home and sleep. My sleep seemed more important to me than anything else in the world at that point, exams came a close second. So exams ended, and there seemed to be just one solution for the post-exam restlessness. A flight home.

As it turned out, being home wasn't very fruitful either cause my need-for-sleep disappeared within a few days, and then started the constant charade of what next, what not next. My head was too full of my last two years, making the transition into work life an ardous task. I figured the only way to make it happen was some time alone to clear my head, away from the life i'd had, and a month in an unknown land seemed like the only way to find answers. So two months went down in research, series of misconceptions, constant fickle-mindedness and finally I knew it, California was the place. An awesome family that I have, they encouraged the idea and almost in a daze, there it was - my return ticket to new york :)

All about my first destination, my experiences, the different perspectives on america, the reality behind the silver screen, is to follow in my future entries. Hope I can keep the readers mildly engrossed. Please do subscribe :-)

Thank you Mom, Nitin Mamu and Srishti Mami for the encouragement, advice and for making this possible ( this is not meant to sound like an oscar-acceptance speech) - I love you guys alot.