I was looking through some old photos over the weekend, and making myself sad about how I (and almost the entire world) have not had a holiday in almost 2 years!! I love travel, and now more than ever the travel blues and wanderlust has truly set in. The idea of getting on a plane and travelling to far away lands to meet new people, new cultures and (most importantly) new foods sounds like a fantasy to me right now.
So I thought I would share a few of my favourite finds over the years of my vegan discoveries, and I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the places I have visited. I am going to start a little travel part, where I can talk about the vegan food I have come across on my travels and also let you guys know which places are worth the visit and which are better missed.
In 2018, my partner and I went to LA for 2 weeks and it was…odd. I have been to LA before but I went when I was 16 and honestly I think LA was a very different place 10 years ago. The sheer size of the city itself baffles me. I have lived in London before, and worked in London for most of my professional career. London, I sometimes forget, is a tiny tiny little city compared to others. England as a whole is a tiny little island. It baffles me that in England, I can walk from one end of London to the other in under 2 hours (give or take). I can drive to Scotland in 4 hours. In LA, you drive for 3 hours and you’re still in LA. Blows my mind.
I have also never seen such a harsh contrast in money before. In London, the majority of places all look the same for the most part. Even in my area there aren’t really any ‘poor areas’. There are of course homeless people, but I also always see support workers and outreach workers on the street talking to them and helping them. I see people offering them food and drinks and any spare change they have. In LA, I would walk past huge, high-rise apartment complexes that have ‘For Rent’ signs hung across them, with make shift tents and shanty towns set up underneath them. I also noticed that all of the homeless people I saw, seemed to have a mental issue of some sort. They were either standing in the middle of the road with no shoes on, staring at the sky, or were swaying in the streets muttering to themselves. I would drive through beautiful well kept streets with mansions on every corner, drive across a set of lights, and see derelict houses with smashed in windows and beat up cars with no tires on in the drive ways.
Now I know that London has it’s share of issues, as does every city and neighbourhood across the world. But I had never seen such a harsh split between wealth as I did while I was in LA. I have also never felt my privileged so much before. We stayed in a hotel that was in Downtown LA, about a ten minute walk from the finance district. On our first night, after a 12 hour flight, we ran across the road to the McDonalds to grab something quick for dinner before we both passed out from exhaustion. We stood in line, and were greeted by 2 different people showing us their crack pipes, and the other ten people eyeing up our trainers. Needless to say….we left. And never went back in there again.
There were some parts of LA and the surrounding area that were beautiful, and were the picture perfect ‘American Dream’ that we are all sold. I completely understood why people wanted to live in those areas. Hell, ever since I first visited LA when I was 16 I planned my whole life around one day moving to LA and living by the Californian coast and surfing every morning. But that dream came crashing down around me when I saw how ignored some parts of the city were. Not even unkempt, or lazily maintained….there were places that had clearly not seen any care from the government or services in decades. There appeared to be no infrastructure at all to help anyone. And maybe it’s just who I am but I couldn’t ignore it all.
Now maybe it was because we went in November, so there weren’t many tourists, the weather wasn’t always bright sunshine and there weren’t any crowds to hinder our views of places. Venice Beach was the biggest shock to us: There was barely anyone there. We walked along the boardwalk and were met with the homeless people trying to sell us their crafts and boarded up shops. We saw two shanty towns that had been made down side streets, and the entire strip just looked….sad. It didn’t look anything like the Hollywood movies would have you believe, with the bustling crowds and muscle beach jocks and the beautiful life guards running in slow motion along the golden sand. It looked abandoned.
Despite everything though, we still had a wonderful time. We got to go to Universal Studios, Disneyland and even got excellent seats to watch WWE Survivor Series live at the Staples Centre. It was a holiday of exciting highs but truly upsetting lows. To see a city that is so often painted as the Land of Dreams, to in reality just to be completely mundane and in some place downright depressing. I have walked alone in London at 2am, and never felt unsafe, but in LA we were genuinely worried to be out past sundown. We were usually out at 7am as soon as the sun came out and then back at the hotel by 7pm when the sun went down.
If any of you are from LA, please PLEASE tell me your experiences of living in LA. Am I just being cynical? Have I just gotten too used to England life and customs that anything different to that shocks me to my core? Am I sounding like a bit of a pompous cow? Obviously this was just my experience, and part of me is curious to go back during peak tourism season to see if LA is a totally different place when it is full of people. I do have some truly wonderful memories of LA and the surrounding areas, and I think LA will always hold a very special place in my heart. But I also feel like LA is best to be dreamed about, rather than lived. If reality and practicalities were no issue, I would still love to live in a little seaside apartment where I can surf every morning and jog along the beach in the evening. But unfortunately the reality is not that and the practicalities of life in LA (and America as a whole from what I have read) mean that the American Dream is something that is not, if ever, actually achievable.
If you are an American, or a LA local, please let me know your thoughts. Let me know if there are any non-tourist areas that I need to visit instead and I shall add it my travel plans! Stay safe everyone.