I fell asleep to the steady whoosh of cars that would rock our van every time one would pass. The traffic lulled me to sleep and before I knew it, the sun was rising and the fog was lifting from the bay. The van was perspirating and had it not been for the limo-tinted windows, our illegal presence would be given away. But it didn’t matter. All the cars that surrounded us on this strip of parking space had sleeping inhabitants, and it also struck me that quite possibly half of L.A. was homeless. No, not homeless* like the man who dug into the trash can a few feet away from us and ate the remainder of my In-N-Out Double Double. Homeless as in didn’t care for a home and would rather wake up to the waves crashing on Santa Monica’s beach.
Our host who lent us the van through Airbnb resided in a van as well. And it’s not like he didn’t have money – he was a coder who made probably over $100K a year – he just saw the convenience of the lifestyle. As did we.
Exploring a city by van was as awesome as you would think it was. In our past travels, we usually drove so we had transportation or took public transportation. However, this kind of mobility and comfort was nice. Ryan had converted the back into a sleeping area. He added a laminate wooden floor, huge comfy blue couch cushions and recycled black curtains for extra privacy. It was like sleeping on a big couch. Super convenient when you wanted to pop the doors open and watch the sun do its thing or hang out in the shade while being steps away from the ocean.
How did we use the bathroom? McDonalds. Gas stations. Public restrooms along the beach. Except quick reminder that there are other transient people who are using these facilities as well. It took some getting used to to get comfortable around strangers. How did I shower? We went to the YMCA. I also always bring a pack of baby wipes with me whenever I travel. We were also recommended to get a gym membership trial, head to Koreatown for a spa or, supposedly, find a cheap motel and ask them if we could pay $10 to shower while housekeeping was in (didn’t work btw).
Seeing L.A. from a van also draws attention to how Californians drive. They don’t use their turn signals. Sometimes you just have to butt your way in the lane because there’s no room. “Drive aggressively,” they said. “There’s no time to think about it.” We were thankfully used to the traffic since we were used to Denver’s but idk. It was a whole new ballpark. Pedestrians are allowed to cross diagonally. Sixty degree weather meant it was appropriate to wear winter coats (Tristan was blatantly called out as a tourist because he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt while the storekeeper complained about how cold it was).
On our first day, we strolled along the beach as the sun rose. We ventured around Venice Beach at 10 am when the stalls were still closed and there was no one around which gave me the opportunity to appreciate the bright standout art and graffiti you saw everywhere. One day, we also got free packages of cookies that Chips Ahoy was giving out to everyone.
We were able to go everywhere else, too – West Hollywood, where we saw a naked man screaming and strutting his stuff from on top of a metro bus; Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign as you cannot climb up to it; Koreatown to get my fix of Jollibee AND see the infamous Murder House from American Horror Story; have dinner with my friend who lives a mere block away from Grease’s Rydell High; try to drink 20 wine samples for $20 and end up making friends with other Airbnb travelers. I only made it to sample 12 while having meaningful conversations about marijuana legalization in California with the bartenders. No. 1 food of the trip was the delicious elote, a Mexican street food, which is a grilled corn smothered in sour cream and white cotija cheese with a dash of Valentino’s, while people watching at the skate park.
As for our trip, it was a relatively inexpensive getaway. I am a budget freak and must know where every dollar goes and is accounted for. We found roundtrip tickets through Frontier Airlines for a whopping $92 for the both of us. I’ve also flown on Frontier enough to know that they won’t charge you if you bring a backpack as a personal item. Reading the fine print and measuring your bag isn’t a bad idea either. The Airbnb was $150 with car insurance. We drove to the airport and parked instead of using an Uber ($32 to park versus $32 trip each way) and I have a friend who cat sits my babies. The rest I budgeted about $150 for food and gas, which was more than enough. This was probably one of my favorite travels (who am I kidding all my travels are my favorite) as we got to experience L.A. a different way. We explored the beach, met new and old friends, ate yummy food and of course, made memories that you can’t buy anywhere else.
until next time,
p.s. let me know if you want $35 off your first Airbnb stay!
*I know this is insensitive to say. The difference between the two is one kind of “homeless” is employed while the other is not and possibly suffers from mental illness or addiction.