The trip almost organized itself perfectly. I'd always dreamed of visiting LA, but coordination with friends nor budgeting ever seemed just right...until this year. My 32nd birthday was approaching-- and I wanted to top my own expectations, by going right at my dream. So, I searched Skyscanner.com to pick the cheapest dates to fly, and booked my first ever Airbnb in Venice Beach, California. What ensued was an epic adventure! Read on for the story and pictures visiting Hollywood, Malibu Beach, Palm Springs, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Inglewood, Little Ethiopia and more.
As my United Airlines flight neared Los Angeles, I captured my first time ever seeing mountains above the clouds! I arrived in LA on August 21, the day before my birthday, around 7:30 a.m. My Airbnb host Melodie was very accommodating- offering for me to check in early. The Eco-Friendly place in Venice Beach was secure with a gated entrance to the yard and home.
Upon arrival to the room, I was surprised with a "Happy Birthday" banner and balloons--such a sweet touch from my host! I felt welcomed and immediately at home- particularly because this is something my mom has always done whenever I wake up in her home on my birthday!
I loved my little room! At $58 per night, I thought it was a steal, and such my style. To check out more of Melodie's rentals, visit her profile here.
My Airbnb host Melodie also offered each guest a bike to use during our stay. I immediately went for a ride along the Venice Boardwalk.
A friend gave me a list of top attractions, so I googled "LA Public Transportation" and used the "LA Metro" website to find buses that would get me to those places. This was the first time I ever hitched a bike to a bus, so that was an adventure in itself! Catching the bus cost me no more than $10 the whole week.
A few LA Metro buses got me to Sunset Blvd/Rodeo Drive, and I hopped off to ride and take pictures. I took the photo above in West Hollywood. I felt like a ray of sunshine- and be certain that the color of my clothes was intentional! I wanted to reflect my version of "Old Hollywood" with my colorful head scarf tied in a bow, high waisted shorts and polka dot top. All of these items are thrift finds!
After a full day's travel, I retired to my room and had a good night's sleep. I woke up in the morning to texts, calls and social media posts wishing me a happy birthday, so I took it all in and rose to the day. Strapping on my roller blades, I skated 2 blocks to the Venice boardwalk.
Prior to my trip, I'd searched the hashtag #VeniceBeach on instagram to find out what I could do while on vacation, and on a budget. From there, I went clicking away on images that were appealing. SN: I also looked up #CaliforniaStyle to forecast my outfit selections : ).
Anywho... while clicking, I came across one "The Acro Machine", an instructor of acroyoga. I did some vetting... checking all associated hashtags, Facebook pages - and googling his government name-- to make sure he was legit. I sent an email telling Victor Togunde, AKA The Acro Machine, that I would be visiting, and requested a personal training session in acroyoga on my birthday. Here's what happened:
My first time trying ACROYOGA was EPIC!!! We did this on "Muscle Beach" near Santa Monica Pier- about 10 minutes from where I was staying in Venice. It has truly changed my life. I've asked The Acro Machine to be a guest on an upcoming blog to give you more information about this. For now, just check out that picture! You know that feeling of learning something new? I feel like it keeps us young - and accepting this challenge made me feel powerful and confident. Stay tuned as I begin to blog more about acroyoga. Also, please follow @TheAcroMachine on instagram to see acroyoga in motion.
So, you know how I said Acroyoga changed my life? Well, it inspired me to hike a mountain I'd been thinking about.... Eaton Canyon! My original intention was to visit Runyon Canyon because it's the most popular hike, but that friend who gave me a list of attractions suggested Eaton Canyon (in Pasadena, California) because of the waterfall at the end. Did I mention I am also a waterfall chaser? After a 3 mile hike braving potential rattlesnakes, bears and mountain lions... I tasted this sweet victory:
I found my passion for outdoor adventure and suddenly began to draw instagram followers who love the same. Just like that a new network can develop!
In addition to these highlights, I rented a car from Enterprise for a day at $30 to visit attractions farther away, such as Malibu Beach and Palm Springs.
A friend once told me about a place where mountains and the beach existed together. This became my dream - and driving along Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu Beach, I realized I was at that very place! This was blissful! It was also a perfect place to collect a few rocks for my dad.
Below, you'll see I visited Palm Springs, where it reached 102 degrees! I submerged in "Hot Springs" and got a massage at the Miracle Springs Resort & Spa. My inspiration for neighboring cities to visit all came from places I'd heard of on TV, online- even in movies as a kid. I just looked them up to see how far they were from me, and plugged the addresses into my GPS.
On this day, I found out my flight was cancelled as a result of Hurricane Harvey. United Airlines provided a travel waiver, which allowed me to reschedule my flight at no cost. And I asked my Airbnb host Melodie to extend my stay for 3 more nights. To my extreme delight, she was happy to do this, which was perfect because I felt safe from the storm and I was not ready to leave.
In those extra days delayed by Hurricane Harvey, I caught the metro to the California African American Museum in Exposition Park, Los Angeles.
And The Acro Machine invited me to a free acroyoga jam on Venice Beach, where I got to learn more! In the picture below, I am "playing" with a new friend visiting from Canada. Follow him on instagram @RealityHAK
On my final day, I checked out the major tourist stops such as Hollywood Walk of Fame and drove down Rodeo Drive.
I checked my luggage at LAX, and caught an Uber to explore surrounding Inglewood until my flight out at 9 p.m. A few friends said I couldn't leave without trying Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, so I did! The food was delicious- I tried the "Obama Special", which is 3 wings and a waffle. I had a side of collard greens, which impressed this southern girl.
One of my favorite shows- Insecure- films in California, and after a google search of "Insecure filming locations", I noticed "The Dunes" apartment complex is in Inglewood. I found the address and showed up looking for Issa and Lawrence. : )
Finally, a friend had suggested I visit Little Ethiopia. I googled what it's known for, and saw it's popular for thrift shops. So, I found the address for one, and caught an UberX for my final adventure. I discovered a colorful, beautiful strip with Ethiopian food, art, shopping and culture.
After this stop, I kissed LA goodbye, and headed back to LAX. I couldn't believe how big this adventure had been, and it all started with a little bit of faith. Today, I can't wait to get back to California. And the connections I made there have continued to grow and develop a new direction for my career. As an entrepreneur, this is super exciting! I stand on solid ground with an open mind and hope as big as the sky. Please, keep following me on this journey! Thanks for reading.