My sister, Karin, and I bought a cheap flight to LA over reading week, and to be honest, we were nervous ever since we bought it.
We have no money, how could we afford to travel around one of the richest cities in the world?
Well, we did it!
Two things the people we met were surprised about:
1) Two sisters actually traveling together.
2) How little we packed.
It started like this:
Sunday morning we were up at 3am, and our wonderful mother graciously dropped us off at YVR. We caught our flight at 6:05am, slept, and landed at LAX at 9am.
It turns out California was experiencing a heatwave for the few days we were there, so we had temperatures that usually only occur in the summer.
In true LA fashion we fueled up on Starbucks Cold Brews and changed into our shorts inside the airport. As soon as we stepped outside, we saw palm trees! Growing up in Canada, anything resembling a palm means you’ve now entered a new and magical land.
Here’s what our faces looked like when we hopped on the Disneyland express bus to Anaheim.
It was coming on 31C outside when we entered the doors of Disneyland. Thanks to Karin working at Disney Interactive in Kelowna for a while, we were lucky enough to have a complimentary day pass. [Insert magical stars and fireworks here]
Seeing Disneyland as an adult is a whole new world. (lols Aladdin, get outta here).
We looked at lines that were 45-230 mins long and said yeah, nah. We passed by lines for Mickey and Minnie autographs and photos.. yeah, nah. We saw the price of everything… yeah, nah.
It’s A Small World, the ride, also meant a whole lot more to me as an adult. Even though the little robot people and animals were all cultural stereotypes representing different countries, the lyrics were quite profound. My mom would make us ride this ride because she loved it so much, and I finally understand why.
“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears
There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all”
An accurate photo of us..
Day One was pretty incredible. We rode California Screamin in the ‘single riders’ line, right before the ride got stuck and a train full of people were stuck at the perfect apex of the biggest drop on the ride. Splash mountain was closed – so that sucked.
By 8:30pm, we were ready to go home. Screw the fireworks, we had been up since 3am.
We called an Uber driver (which Vancouver seriously needs to get) and we waited patiently for our ride. Basically we layed on the sidewalk calling out the name of our driver and played music and said dumb things that are only funny to overstimulated, overtired, overDisneyed Canadian sisters.
We met up with the girl we planned to couchsurf with, Kenna, who shortly became a superhero to us. She let us sleep in her bed, while she took the couch, and graciously showed us what “Mi casa, su casa,” really means. I borrowed her wetsuit, used her dog as a pillow, and drank her coffee. Honestly, What more could a person ask for?
We had no plans for the next couple of days, so we just made plans in the morning, or the night before.
We soon learned that busing in LA is impossible or non-existent, so Kenna drove us to Huntington Beach the next day, where we got to experience Surf City USA.
This was out favourite spot. We walked around in our bikini tops, got fresh Açai bowls from a Brasilian, met Korean war vets, chatted with a group of old surf dudes, and even attempted to surf (the waves were kinda funky that day, and the backwash at hightide was mean). I’m also not used to such a crowd in the water. It was a holiday (President’s Day) so everyone and their dog was at the beach, and apparently in the waves.
The sunset was absolutely incredible.
Kenna took us for California Mexican food for dins, and it was delicious and cheap.
We were dropped off at Huntington Beach in the morning, and hopped on the bus that took us South down the Pacific Coast Highway to Laguna Beach.
We spent a few hours on the beach, but realized that it would’ve been more practical to see the rocky cliffs if we had a car. And if we had money. Lots of money.
After a couple hours of way too much sun, we went into town and decided we’d make our way to Newport Beach, about 30 mins back where we came from. By the time we caught our bus, we were tired, dehydrated, and weak.
Turns out we took the wrong bus and ended up in the desert near Laguna.
Looking back this is probably my favourite part of the whole trip. Karin and I were so ready to get out of the sun, but we were stuck at a bus stop with no shade.
We hopelessly laughed at anything and when I screamed joyfully at Karin that the bus was coming she squealed “WHERE-HELP!” and scrambled hastily to the bus sign waving her arms, even though it was still 300m away. She may or may not have told the bus driver that he saved our lives.. .
Also it turns out we were only a 10 minute walk from the bus station.. and could’ve just walked..
Please admire the photos of our delirium below.
We made our way to Newport Beach and got off at Corona Del Mar. We have no idea where that is either.
But we found a great beach! With a cove!
We laid there for a few hours after meeting some beautiful women who told us to go shopping at Fashion Island.
With LA traffic, and a shitty bus system, it took us 2 hours to get home from Newport.
We waited at a bus station on Avocado Ave, which sounds like a party, but it was not.
The scene consisted of us laying on the sidewalk again, with music – and dancing this time.
That night, Val and Lisa, two couchsurfers from Belarus that were also staying with Kenna, made us some Russian dumpling thingies (pelmeni). I’ve never had Russian cuisine other than vodka, so it was so cool hearing about their culture through food.
We all passed out at 11pm (and only woke up once to wake up Denali from barking in her sleep again).
We had to say goodbye to Kenna and her family, and we jumped in an Uber to Santa Monica. Traffic made it so it took 1.5 hours to get to the pier. In a taxi, it would’ve cost us $93 to take the same route. For us, and with an Uber deal, it cost us $5.62, and a great conversation with our retired truck driver and father, Sam.
This is the back of the van we followed the entire way through traffic. A Ripcurl van that says “Surfing is Everything.”
Here’s the Santa Monica Pier.
We had a whole day to kill before our flight at 7:35pm. It was finally overcast (so ‘cold’ at 22 degrees). We checked out the touristy Pier and were so pleased to discover Muscle Beach. If we ever moved to California, this would be where we would work out. It was an outdoor gym, with ropes, bars, swings, and rings. We tried slack lining and watched the hardcore Californians getting sweaty and doing yoga. Of course, there was also a photo shoot going on for athletic wear (only the 7th legitimate photo shoot we had witnessed in 4 days).
We kept walking and I decided to go into the water. When we wandered to the water, we saw about 6 dolphins jumping out of the water. I don’t believe in coincidences.
We headed towards Venice Beach, and it was so neat! Homeless people, artists, musicians, and even people making TV shows… of which we were asked to be interviewed for.
A guy, whom we didn’t know at the time was Bassem Youssef, and his crew of 3 people stopped and asked if we wanted to be on TV. Karin and I paused and hesitantly asked, what for?
He said for a show about the American election. We laughed and told them we were Canadian, so no thank you. He laughed and said, “perfect!!”
So he introduced himself and told us he was from Egypt, so I told him in Arabic that I was happy to meet him, and that I’m learning Arabic. He made me say it twice so he could record it on film. He then went on to ask Karin and I really offensive questions about guns, the political candidates and what we thought about building a wall between Canada and the USA. We were getting rattled by his questions, but that was the point.
We bumped into him again at a raw vegan place and he bought us lunch and explained who he is and what he’s been up to.
His efforts, through YouTube videos when he was living in Egypt, are one of the major reasons Egypt had a revolution and took down their government. He was voted one of the top 100 most influential people in the world in 2013, and is known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt. He was on Jon Stewart’s show for that reason. He’s actually been banned from Egypt and can no longer return because of his satire. Fun fact: he’s also a plant-based raw vegan. (Probably the only Egyptian vegan I will ever meet.)
Bassem’s now making a film called the Democracy Handbook and is interviewing in very liberal places (Venice Beach) before he goes to Michigan to ask the same questions, where he expects very different answers.
Pretty nuts, eh.
This is what happens when you have no expectations for a day, and nowhere to be. You have time to meet random people and go with the flow.
We called an Uber when it started to rain on us, and it cost us $4 to get back to LAX. We caught our flight and got home to our beds around 1am, and slept in the next morning.
What an adventure!
From here we’re heading back to school in a few days, and I’m working almost full time at two different jobs as of next week.
Thank you Kenna and the Hartley’s for your hospitality and generosity!
See you and Wendy in Vancouver very soon ❤