Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Visiting California has been my dream ever since I can even remember. Once I even wanted to become an au pair because it seemed like the only option for me to travel to the US.
Then I decided to go to Uni instead and it was the better option (no kids at least).
Getting an American visa for Polish people used to be quite stressful and complicated. I had to set up an appointment, prior to that answer lots of stupid questions online, next go to the embassy, speak to strict government employees, and get even more stressed when this woman told me my photo is all wrong. Had to run like crazy to the nearest photographer and get a new one plus new application form. Stupid stupid stupid…
But I did it, waited 5 days and got a text saying I can pick up my passport.
So my plans didn’t get ruined. Obviously I applied for a visa only a few weeks before my trip instead of being smart and doing it MONTHS in advance. I love doing everything last minute, gives me a thrill.
Once I got a visa in my hands, I started booking my flights and accommodation.
I was rushing through all of that and booked anything that seemed okay. Plus it was my first solo trip (didn’t have many of those so far), I didn’t exactly know what I was doing.
Booked a hostel, right next to Venice Beach and that famous sign but I never stayed in a hostel so didn’t know what to expect AND I booked a mixed dormitory (boys and girls together), the first day when I got there, I looked around and found myself in a room full of guys. AWESOME.
But it wasn’t bad at all, although I did have a panic attack when I arrived there. I think I was just a bit overwhelmed by being on my own in a new place and situation. Still don’t know exactly how, but I calmed myself down before anyone saw me.
So this trip, this part of the trip was 4 weeks long and mainly focused on photography, at least that’s what I told my Uni teachers. In reality it was partying, hanging out with people I just met, and my beautiful best friend Caitlin who lives there, and every few days organizing shoots.
So before I left London, I searched through Facebook photography groups, couldn’t find any good ones, then went to Model Mayhem and started messaging models. Surprisingly few good ones replied and agreed to shoot with me for free.
And even bigger surprise for me was that 90% of them showed up!
So this is how it all went:
I landed at LAX in the evening (don’t remember the exact time but it was getting dark) and went straight to my hostel, Samesun Venice Beach Hostel, using Uber of course. In the hostel, I met a nice girl from Netherland and 2 boys from Norway, the girl told me that this place organizes nights out for everyone and they’re all meeting at 8pm. So I went there and everyone was so cool, asking me how I was doing and where I’m from, etc.
I felt like we’ve met before. Really enjoyed the vibe. Plus most of them traveled on their own too.
This night we went to sing some karaoke and from there to this strange bar place.
It looks like a large house, the basement is a bar with a little stage for live music, not sure what’s at mid-floor, probably club or a restaurant, but the top floor was my favorite, it’s kind of a gay club but it looks like someone’s living room with sofas and carpets, I think there was also a fireplace but I may be imagining it. This was my first time at that place (The Victorian) but definitely not the last one, kept coming back at least once a week.
My first, very long day ended on the beach, just listening to the ocean.
I was surprised I managed to stay up until 4am.
Slept only 4 hours, this is very unlike me, I usually sleep 8+ hrs and never, ever wake up before 9 unless I have to go to work. Had breakfast at the hostel which was included and quite nice. I met those two Norwegian boys in the kitchen and decided to engage them in my photo project. Why not? That was my plan all along to work with strangers.
We mainly walked around Venice Beach and had a lovely time.
My friend Caitlin met me for lunch with her boyfriend Anthony. I haven’t seen this girl for 3 years but ever since she quit university and decided to go back home we’ve been messaging every day. So 3 year of constant texting, and we still do that, she knows more about me than people living in the same apartment as me.
I’m not sure where we ate but I had the best veggie burger ever (oh yeah I’m vegetarian btw), it was with Portobello Mushroom and it tasted like heaven. Too bad I forgot the name of that restaurant.
My hostel organized a pub crawl that day but we only went to one place as at the second one they didn’t let one guy in because he was only 20. I still don’t get how silly is the drinking age in this country. Thank God I was 24 already, can’t imagine not drinking on this trip.
We all decided to go to the beach and chill there. Suddenly I got very sleepy and went to my bed by 9pm. I think I needed to catch up for the past few nights.
Kept having stupid paranoia dreams that guy sleeping above me is going to hurt me, when I woke up, that person turned out to be a girl LOL and nothing happened to me.
At breakfast I met a girl named Nora from London and she told me I can catch a ride with her to San Francisco on Friday. We are actually still very good friends, she’s the only one who understands my stupid travel plans and ideas, it’s amazing to have someone like her.
It was only Tuesday but we wanted to plan a little bit our journey up north.
I went to the beach midday to catch some sun, got burnt obvs and after lunch went to Griffith Observatory with those guys from Norway. We got there for my favorite golden hour, so right before the sunset. Walked all the way up, I was dying but had to pretend I do this all the time.
The view was breathtaking and to get to the top you don’t have to pay anything, I think you can even go into the Observatory for free but don’t quote me on that, I didn’t go in, I wanted to experience the scenery more.
Went out that night again with some people I met on my first night in LA.
Missed breakfast, went to the beach for a bit, and then walked to Santa Monica, which took me about half an hour. Caitlin met me there and we had lunch together and some gossip and shopping time. I organized my first proper shoot that day, the first one with a girl found on Model Mayhem. She was very pretty and confident, we shot in Santa Monica, the weather was lovely and the shoot went quite well.
I met up with some people in the evening and had an improvised shoot with them in someone’s garden.
Spent most of the day at the beach.
It’s Friday! My road trip with Nora.
Had this hostel booked for 7 nights but because this night I was supposed to stay in San Francisco, guys in the reception made an arrangement with me that I can check out and move this night to Sunday.
My hangover didn’t let me be awake early so I had breakfast and went back to bed for this extra hour or two of sleep. Met with Nora at 11 and we started our journey. It took us 7 hours to get to SF and it was a beautiful ride. Nora turned out to be awesome and we couldn’t stop talking the whole way. On the way we stopped at Chipotle, never had it before so Nora thought I have to try it and until now, it’s our tradition to go to Chipotle in London, every time we meet.
Sunset and views were stunning that day.
One day in Samesun I met this Australian guy who agreed to model for me but he was leaving LA, thankfully he was going to SF too. Nora and I stayed at the same hostel (USA Hostels) as him and I planned our shoot for the next day.
The first thing we did was walking to Union Square which wasn’t anything I was dying to see, then Chinatown. Tom (the model) was with us and every time I thought the background was nice, we stopped and had a tiny photoshoot.
Nora decided to grab the car and drive around.
San Francisco was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, it was only 11th of March, so a week earlier than the whole world. There was a massive parade that got us stuck in traffic.
After a while we managed to get out and drove straight through Golden Gate Bridge to the other side where we found a black sands beach. My shoot with Tom continued. Next we went back to the city and stopped at graffiti beach / Ocean Beach. There’s a long wall with graffitis all over it.
Nora dropped me at the bus station, I barely made it on time.
It was stupid of me to stay in SF only one night, considering I had 4 full weeks in California.
I think I only wanted to get a small teaser and focus mainly on being in LA.
My bus journey was 8 hours and I spent most of that time on editing my photos.
When I got to the hostel at 1am, I was surprised people were sleeping, it was Saturday and no one went out. Ridiculous. I remember when I told Caitlin about this next morning she laughed at me. At that time I was in a crazy party mode and I could give up my sleep just to go out and dance. That night, full of disappointment went to bed like an old person.
My lovely Caitlin planned a nice day out for me. She and Anthony picked me up and first we went to have some breakfast at Grand Central Market, from there we walked to The Last Bookstore, it’s a bookstore obviously with cute installations inside.
Next on the itinerary was having a tattoo done in Melrose. I’ve been wanting to do a power button on my wrist for a while. I know it sounds and looks silly but it helps me remember to stop thinking shit and focus on what’s important. It was crazy expensive for me. This tattoo is no bigger than 2cm and they charged me $80 for it, for 15 minutes work, apparently that’s their minimum. Oh well, you only live once, or make tattoos not at you standard tattoo studio.
This is where Caitlin’s plan ended which I found funny. It was 1pm and because we couldn’t come up with anything better to do, we went to a bar and started drinking. And we continued until very late.
From Melrose Anthony took us to Pasadena which is Catilin’s favorite place in LA. It was very pretty but dark so I couldn’t admire it fully. First, we went to Anthony’s beloved German bar (he’s got a little obsession with german culture). We finally got hungry, I’m not sure how many hours it’s been but we haven’t eaten in a long time. So we chose a restaurant and I decided to thank them. I knew they wouldn’t let me pay for everyone, so I soon as they went to the toilet I went to the bar and sorted our bill. Once they got back I pretended I wanted us to run without paying. They didn't move and kept asking me stupid questions, so I had to tell them the truth. They ruined my plan!
Then we went to another bar and I decided to teach Anthony some Polish. He was hilarious sitting there and repeating ‘polej piwa’, ‘polej wodki’ (eng. ‘pour me some beer’,’pour me some vodka’).
These people are crazy, they wanted me to stay at their place and I had to check out the next morning, so they drove all the way to my hostel to pick up my shit and go to Valencia where they live. It was already past midnight and Anthony had to go to work the next day. Crazy, crazy people but I love them!
It was a great day and I didn’t regret coming back from San Francisco so soon.
To be continued...