A great number of people choose to go out into the world never having known true adventure. These people know little about the joys of a shower after a month without one or the taste of a burger after living off of protein bars or most importantly just how comfortable a couch can be.
Two years ago I was in my first year of college. I had never been a very scholastically inclined student however I was finding myself more driven to succeed but only succeeding in being average. I was frustrated and confused. Out of nowhere it was finals week when I got the call that my aunt had passed away. She used to say “the only real death is the one you die each day by not living”. I realized I had moved through the years of my life without living. It was her favorite saying in her last few years that drove me to plan the greatest adventure I think I will ever have.
I told my family that I planned to buy a ticket on a greyhound bus that would take me from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. I was greeted with sarcasm, I told them that I would be leaving the day after my birthday (May 28th) and that I would not be coming back until July 28th. My family asked me where I was going to get the money for the trip and where was I going to stay? I told them that I had saved $891 and that I was going to couch surf the whole way. I guess my family didn’t believe I was going to do it because they seemed a little surprised when I called them from Los Angeles on June 1st when my bus got arrived. I have only two bits of advice for a 3 day bus ride, the first is to bring several easy to read but interesting books and the other bit is to practice sleeping sitting up for only 2 hours at a time. Trust me you will lose track of sunrise and sunset.
I was finally on the west coast, honestly for all my confidence in my plan I suddenly doubted myself. I was terrified for a few hours, but then I came to my senses. I had gone onto this website before I left called couchsurfing.com this site is for people that travel and don’t have a lot of money or just like to meet new people and travel. I had, had some luck on the site and a woman named Lili (pronounced Lily) had agreed to host me. I can remember being super worried at first that I was going to be picked up by a crazy person. After much anticipation Lili showed up and told me to hop into her car. We drove from downtown LA to Pasadena in what felt like only 5 minutes. She loved driving fast and the nice thing about LA is that they have these carpool lanes that very few people take.
When we got to her house she informed me that her daughter was going to be coming back in a week but that I could stay till then and that also she had another couch surfer staying with her whose name was Jana Illig. She said that Jana hadn’t been home in a few days so if I saw someone in the house not to be surprised. Lili treated me with a kind of hospitality and care that honestly I had never seen before. We went out on adventures to see many of the sites of LA and since her favorite thing to do was eat we usually went out for food. I came back one day to find this very tall Danish looking woman sitting in front of Lili’s house smoking a cigarette. This was Jana, Jana and me hit it off immediately. I told her that I was planning on heading into the Angels Crest and walking the trail all the way to Portland, Oregon. She told me that if I changed my mind I should come with her since she was heading to Portland anyway. I turned her down but told her that when I got to Oregon I would give her a call.
A few days later Lili and Jana drove me out to the beginning of the trail. I spent 8 days hiking before I had a catastrophe. My bags shoulder strap completely broke off and I had no way of fixing it. I sat down with my map and started to try and figure out how far the nearest road was. After finding it and walking my bag down off the trail I had no choice but to sit and wait and hope that someone was going to drive past me that would be willing to pick me up. I waited for about 9 hours before this man driving a really nice sports car picked me up. I cannot tell you how nice air-conditioning felt. He drove me all the way back to Pasadena. I found a store nearby that sold rope and I bought some and managed to temporarily fix my bag. I decided that I would try and call Jana. She picked up immediately and told me that she had left but coincidentally she had to come back in two days so I was more than welcome to come along when she swung in, in two days.
I had nowhere to go and I was in LA. I doubted myself for a few moments before deciding that I needed to post something on the couchsurfing.com website again. I made a post that said “help need a place to stay” within 5 minutes of my post I had a response. It was a woman she said that if I could make my way to Beverly Hills I was more than welcome to stay. So I started walking and in a few hours I was at their house. Staying with the Chazanov Family was an incredible experience. They told me about their trips to Israel every summer and they told me about the man Valentine who was from Austria and was staying with them for a few years. The family was incredibly welcoming and patient with some of my strange questions about LA.
After staying with them for 2 days Jana showed up at the house ready to go bright and early. I said my goodbyes to the Chazanov family and headed up the coast with Jana. Jana informed me that in order to help pay for gas she was going to pick up someone who had posted on craigslist.com that they were looking for a ride up the coast and were willing to pay for gas and help drive. So we swung into Santa Cruz to pick up Anthony. When we arrived to pick up Anthony we got to meet his roommate Joel and his girlfriend Jess. The three of them showed us around Santa Cruz for the day and we played guitar all night. The next day we started back up the coast.
When we arrived in Portland we all split up and went our separate ways. I called my next contact to stay with. His name was Serafin. Serafin and me became like peas in a pod we decided that we got along so well that he really did not want me to surf other people’s houses. So I stayed with Serafin, I decided that since I was down to my last hundred dollars I needed a job. I responded to a few postings on craigslist.com and got a call back from a nonprofit organization. HRC became my Monday through Friday during the day and hanging out with my new friends became my nights. On the weekends we would either camp out on the beach with a whole crew of couch surfers or we would go and cruise the town seeing all the unique sites of Portland. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was certain I had made the right choice. I felt like Odysseus finally arriving home after a long journey. Time passed and slowly the date of my return crept closer. I booked a flight for home for the August 1st. It was hard to say goodbye to all of my friends and Portland but I knew that I had to call it quits for now but that one day I would return. I got onto my plane and headed back to Philadelphia. Honestly my heart has never hurt as much as it did on that flight home, it hurt because I knew that I could never have this trip again. It’s hard to tell you everything that happened in my trip because it took months but what I can tell you is that the west coast is a completely different world than the east coast.
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