From Trainwreck to LA Babe in Three Hours
After roughly 10 hours on the Amtrak train moving down the east coast from an intense week in San Francisco, we stepped out on the platform in Los Angeles. Sofie and I are mates from school and, after a year of working and holidaying in Canada, decided to do our own version of a west coast road trip.
The twist? No car and no housing expenses.
One day before stepping out onto the City of Angels’ glittery soil, we had no accommodation lined up and zero leads. But through the magic of Couchsurfing, a guy from Israel contacted us and said we could stay with him and his two mates in West Hollywood. Overwhelmed with relief, we gladly accepted this kind offer.
As soon as we were breathing LA air, we messaged Adi to inform him that we were on our way to his house. He was happy that we had arrived safely and only had one follow-up question for us to answer: “Do you guys wanna go to a pool party?”
Our tired but 21-year-old hearts skipped a beat. We couldn’t wait to get sucked into whatever scene LA had to offer. We were here.
After putting down our bags in Adi’s humble Hollywood home, we grabbed our bikinis and headed out to some exotic location with an exclusive guest list. Prior to this, the only guest lists we’d ever been on were the ones you stressfully sign yourself up to on the same night of the party in order to save yourself 15 precious dollars in the Stockholm club jungle.
We jumped into a messy van with a few guys we had known for approximately 15 minutes, and we were off. The car ride was spent getting to know each other, and Sofie and I were shocked to hear stories about their mandatory two-year military duty, how they had all turned into officers to serve their country and now, almost as young as us, had decided to leave their home to ”live a little”.
Feeling as privileged as ever for having lived a life only for ourselves, we indulged in deep conversations and absorbed new knowledge from both ends. The van was heavy with information and contrasts of way of life when we arrived at the entrance of a sparkly hotel.
We jump out of the van only to face a crew of high heeled, beach-wave-haired, blonde babes I had only seen before with a TV screen separating our worlds. Once inside, I gave myself one of those up-and-down looks in the floor-to-ceiling mirror. I was wearing my favourite beige cotton t-shirt, denim shorts and my not-so-summery Dr. Martin boots, coupled with a very functional sporty cap that covered my bleached hair and red, shiny nose. Comparing yourself to others is the poison of this social media-powered, never-good-enough world, sure, but in this place, I truly stood out.
Another Israeli guy walked up to us, a family friend of Adi, and greeted us with hugs and a huge smile on his sun-kissed face – partly because of his friends’ arrival and partly because of the surprise he was about to share with us.
With excitement in his voice, he told us that he had booked a room with a balcony for the weekend, but the hotel had made a mistake and overbooked their rooms. We didn’t understand his joy about this until he revealed that because of this mistake, he’d been upgraded to the penthouse.
Sofie and I looked at each other at once and awe.
”What the fuck is a penthouse?”
To our happy surprise, it turned out that a penthouse is the best room in a hotel – like a huge apartment with fancy art and furniture you barely dare to touch.
After having a few drinks with the group, we stepped out on the balcony 30 storeys up to look at the pool below, surrounded by ant-sized people.
Eventually, we tore ourselves from the penthouse and headed down to the party where a wide-shouldered man was standing in the entrance collecting money for entry. When our friend told him that we were staying in the penthouse, he stepped aside and let our group of 10 pass through. Coming from a world of getting searched, judged and fully inspected before entering any sort of party, this was a whole new scene for us.
Suddenly we were surrounded by LA babes dressed to the teeth with champagne in one hand and jewellery covering the other, guys with perfected sleek hair and shiny shades that stopped them from looking anyone fully in the eye. We got our mojitos and started mingling with all the locals and embraced this bedazzled environment.
People were nice; people were sweet. But somewhere around us, we could feel this pressure everyone else low-key seemed to be experiencing. There was a vibe of status and perfection that created a sense of needing to be someone with something valuable to show off. But maybe it was just us. Maybe this is something imprinted in our brains, a warped concept of what LA is supposed to be like.
No matter the truth, Sofie and I raised our glasses to each other and laughed at the fact that not even three hours had passed since we stepped off that train. Not even three hours of LA had been experienced, yet here we were with mojitos in hand, surrounded by locals, living a true glitter-strip experience.
I barely had time to enjoy a few sips and take in my surroundings before I was pushed into the pool by one of our newfound friends and, as the water splashed over me, so did the realisation of what had made this madness possible.
Man, I love Couchsurfing.
Cover by Marion Michele