April 18th, during a terrible day at work, I got a crazy text message - a theoretical pact I had made weeks before with my partner in crime (fitness crimes mostly), had just become a reality. We had won a trip to Los Angeles with Nike through an Instagram competition. We were leaving in a week. I had no annual leave so I had to hustle hard to work a 40 hour week in 4 days before we left, squeeze in a job interview, visa applications and to top it off, I had a nasty cold. I showed up to the job interview absolutely cooked on Codral, knowing full well I had to go straight home to pack and be on an 8am flight to Sydney the next day. Before the interviewers came into the room I blew my nose on a dirty t-shirt I had in my bag. I could barely answer the questions they had, but we laughed a lot and they sympathised with my situation.
We jumped on the plane and explored Sydney for the day where I got the worst blister of my life and I’m not sure if my toe will ever be the same again. Before I knew it, I was hopping on the longest flight of my life (little did I know, the trip back is actually longer). I was terrified, mainly because I have ADHD, mild claustrophobia and the tendency to do a fun thing my therapist called “catastrophising”. Basically, that means seeing the worst thing that could possibly happen - kind of like the movies Final Destination. I am always looking for the next threat, whether it’s rational or not. This makes for an uneasy flyer - I wouldn’t say I was scared, but I wasn’t excited. About 8 hours in, some serious deep breathing took place as the panic set in.
We arrived in LA at the crack of dawn, after being awake for about 18 hours already. We were only there for a few days, so we decided that the best way to avoid jet lag was to just ride it out. We dropped off our bags and headed straight for coffee and pizza. We began making the journey back to the hotel and saw a group of police cars, we approached cautiously and saw a naked African American woman screaming on the pavement, being restrained by a number of officers. A caucasian woman walking her dogs was filming it, she couldn’t take her eyes off the situation long enough to give us directions. It was bizarre to say the least, welcome to America, I guess.
I woke up the next morning ready to race, I’d been sick for a week and severely undertrained but surprisingly not nervous. I had nothing to prove and that was a good feeling, I tried to hold onto that. I ran the first 4K before having to stop and stretch, at the 5k mark the heat got me and we switched to walking and running - I kept reminding myself that there was nothing to prove. We made it to the finish line and it all still felt surreal, we saw Sanya Richards-Ross and run the path that Joan Benoit-Samuelson ran to win the first women’s marathon AND WE WERE IN LA. It still feels like a dream.
By the third day I was beginning to feel unsettled, I woke up early in a panic, sweating. I quickly threw on my clothes and headed to the beach, before anyone else was awake. I was quickly told that as relaxed as it is in Santa Monica, it’s actually not socially acceptable to go anywhere without shoes, not even the beach. Whatever, man. I crossed the bridge over the highway and headed down to the boardwalk. It seemed different from all the other days we had visited. The clouds were still hanging heavy over the sea, and there were tents scattered across the beach. I just sat there asking the big existential questions. Like honestly, how did I get HERE. I needed the break from the constant company, practically growing up as an only child with workaholic parents, I'm very accustomed to solitude. I knew it would be tough being around people all the time, but I didn't realise just how crippling it would be. Another lesson learned.
On the bus ride to Downtown LA we saw a street corner full of protestors - in Auckland, our protestors mostly hold signs about better working conditions for nurses, protecting our natural environment and legislation reform that better supports single mothers. At this protest, a women held a sign saying “build the damn wall”. I felt historic pain rising to the surface, all the stories my mum had told me of her growing up as a person of colour during Apartheid. I couldn’t imagine seeing that on my daily commute, something that is usually reserved for the comments section in the NZ herald was proudly on the street corner.
Next up, Skid Row, in the flesh, a place I’d read pretty extensively about. I wasn’t interested in seeing the Hollywood stars, this is what I came to see - social structures that are different to ours. What I realised was that the only major difference was scale. If anything, the situation could be better than ours. Instead of moving homeless on, hiding them, denying the problem like we do in Auckland, the problem is in full view. People are able to maintain their social bonds, creating their own communities within a larger one. It was an eye opening experience, Downtown and Dogtown were the only places I wished I could’ve stayed longer.
People have always said that you have to travel to truly experience life, but I’m still not convinced. While everyone complained that they never wanted to leave, I’ve never been more excited to go home. The trip made me so painfully aware of my privilege, and that’s definitely not a bad thing.
I'll finish with the highlights because there were some pretty incredible moments:
- Eating a vegan hotdog at the Dodgers game
- Elora's constant singing
- Purchasing a plush koala travel pillow
- The view from Runyon Canyon
- The pizza at Rose Cafe - actually all the food in LA was excellent
- Crossing the finish line of the 10k
- Finally going to a Patagonia store and it being everything I imagined and more
- Erewhon market
- Dogs are allowed in stores
- Venice beach
Thanks for the free trip Nike, eternally grateful, y’all the real MVPs.
Until next time,