I'd always dreamed of road tripping the West Coast, but it always felt like just that...a dream. But the Summer of 2015, I finally fulfilled my dream and did a road trip of the West Coast with 3 of my best friends. One month later, I'd ticked off Venice Beach, Laguna, Malibu, Santa Barbara, The Big Sur, Yosemite, Carmel, San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas from that ever-growing bucket list. We embraced and lived up to that road trip stereotype with zero shame...we rented the most American SUV possible, we screamed along to old school Britney CD's, overdosed on Peace iced tea, stopped off at every In 'N' Out we drove by, had way too many near-death experiences on the crazy LA highways for my liking and did it all shamelessly dressed in our matching "I Love LA" T-shirts and 'Hollywood' baseball caps. (Yup, we went there...)
4 weeks later, I flew back to London with an empty bank account, a suitcase stocked full of Peanut Butter M&M's and 30 keyrings (no joke) and with one incurable case of some serious holiday blues.
11 months later and you'd think I'd be well and truly over those holiday blues, but the truth is, I am absolutely not. I'm still not bloody over it. I've been on 3 trips since I returned from Cali and got over 3 cases of the holiday blues and these are no ordinary holiday blues...this is something else; something deeper. A deep sense of attachment to California and to a lifestyle that I became absolutely besotted with. I have honestly never felt like this before and guess I imagine it to be something similar to when people go backpacking around Australia and return to England having been exposed to this whole new lifestyle possibility and simply just cannot readjust to their lifestyle back in the UK without that craving constantly niggling away in the back of their heads. I know many a people who've gone to visit Australia and never came back. When questioned on what's so different or special about it, I'm always greeted with the same response: "I can't explain it, it's just the lifestyle". I guess I never understood this sensation that others have felt many a time...until I'd been to California that is.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore England. I'm very proud to be British and feel so lucky and privileged to have been born and brought up in London and wouldn't change that for the world. I've been lucky enough to have had access to travel throughout my life, I've spent my summers on the Greek Islands, I've worked and lived in Spain for a year and family holidays were spent exploring new cultures in places like Morocco and Tunisia. I've dipped my toes into many an ocean and have fallen in love with each and every place I've visited for entirely different reasons. And if I could, I'd take a piece of each country's lifestyle and combine it all into this perfect little cocktail. I'd take the Cypriot food, the Spaniards passion, the Paris chic, the beautiful city of London and the Greek hospitality. But life sadly doesn't work like that and not one single place or culture is perfect. I am not religious at all, but am very spiritual and a big believer in believing in and trusting instincts and the minute I landed in LAX, I instantly felt like I was at home. It was the most unexpected, bizarre and surreal feeling. I was over 5,000 miles away from home, yet I'd never felt so at home.
Apart from Las Vegas, we didn't stay in one hotel throughout our trip and spent the entire month in beautiful properties off that beaten tourist track and in the heart of residential districts and streets, thanks to Airbnb. (*Inserts Hallelujah emoji here*) This meant that whether we were in our converted treehouse in Santa Barbara, in our beachfront Venice Beach condo, or in our Bungalow in San Diego, we were fully immersed in that infamous Californian lifestyle for the duration and I loved every bloody minute of it. We did our grocery shops in Walmart and Target, we had BBQ's in our log cabin in the woods in Yosemite, we'd sip our coffee at 7am every morning on the balcony overlooking Venice Beach and honestly fit right in to the lifestyle within a matter of days. We made friends with our neighbours, went for evening strolls along Santa Barbara beach surrounded by locals walking their dogs and I've honestly never felt so at home before in all my life. I am not one to get home-sick, but I will hold my hands up and admit that I love a holiday as much as the next person, but towards the end of a 2 week holiday I'm always slightly itching to get back home to my home comforts. I always begin to miss my bed, my routine, London, English food, and silly things like being able to drink the tap water without getting sick. But not one ounce of my body missed anything about home for that entire month I was in California. It was like I'd been plodding along in a life I'd thought that was mine for the past 22 years and then was finally living how I was meant to be living. As I said, it was a very, very surreal feeling.
It unsettled me how easily I adjusted into life in California. Of course there were moments where I felt like nothing but just another British tourist walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame clutching my 'I Love LA' plastic bag full with souvenirs, but tourist or no tourist, what matters is that that feeling was ever-present. I never felt like I was an annoying tourist unworthy of being there, which is sadly how I sometimes feel abroad. I never experienced a culture shock. I never felt scared, out of place, or intimidated by the fact that I was a young woman 5,000 miles away from my family and my home if anything went wrong. I never felt distant from the culture, from the people, or from the lifestyle (which I sadly felt when I lived in Spain). I was the most at-ease, happy and comfortable I have ever been and would honestly give up my life in London, quit my job tomorrow and sell every belonging I own if it meant that I could go and live in my little apartment in Venice. I simply felt like I belonged.
That was a rather long ramble, but I guess essentially what I want to say is that returning from that life-changing trip really did leave an unexpected and serious impact on my life. As cliche as it is, we do only get one life in this World and I've learnt recently that life really is too short to spend a large amount of it unhappy or feeling demotivated and trapped. I think the biggest misconception that people in our society have is that home is where you were born. We are led to believe that 'home' is the town in which you went to school, home is where you were born, home is where your family live, home is where your language is spoken and has to be the country in which you were born. How could 'home' possibly be in a country thousands of miles away from where you were born and where all your family and friends live? But last Summer, that concept was confronted and my eyes were opened to the possibility that perhaps home can be anywhere in the World. Because surely 'home' means the place in which you feel most at-ease, comfortable, content and most importantly, happy.
I plan to return to LA next Summer and who knows what this crazy life has in store for me, but all I know is that I'm still a young woman with an exciting life ahead of me and hopefully one which means that at some point in my life I will get my dream and will be able to spend a portion of my life spending my weekends strolling along Venice Beach with a green juice in hand with my fit skater boyfriend walking beside me....(okay I won't get that lucky, but a girl can dream!)