California Calling – Backpacker Blog

With winter in full swing in Canada, we’ve got inspiration here from backpacker, Remi, to set our sights south, to sunny California. Unlike the epic snowfall in Western Canada, Venice Beach, LA has warm days on the beach & in the skate park. If you feel California calling, visit our newest location at the Samesun Venice Beach hostel.

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Four years ago, I finished my first year of university. I had been hopeful of getting an internship during the summer like some of my friends did and I was to be within the two-thirds of the 1st year students not to get an internship that year. What would a student do in this case? Take off, of course! But I had no money, so instead I did the other thing students do in this case: catch summer classes and work, yay!

The plan was to take off with a friend early August, we’d both have enough money to travel for a month. As August was approaching, my friend decided he couldn’t go, I was out on my own and I was 19. That week I quit my job and left few days later on an epic journey through the states all the way to California.

Backpacker cycling through CaliforniaMy parents would have freaked out if I had told them I was leaving for California by myself, so instead, I told them I was going to Spain by my-self. They freaked out, I told them I’d go to California then. I worked like a charm. The fact that I had an uncle in California apparently reassured them. I never got to meet him, as was planned…
The day before I left, I was packing my life into 3 bags, plus a tent, plus a bike. I wasn’t much of a biker then and I thought the 30-year-old bike my father gave me would do just fine to get me around for cheap. A friend of mine suggested I bike from L.A to San Francisco. I checked it out. It was over 700km, no way that I’ll bike that. I’ll just tour around L.A., get to see the good spots.

On August 10th 2008, I was leaving by bus on a three-and-a-half-day ride were a guy with no home (I was to discover that later) would be my first-ever CouchSurfing host. We ended up at a drag queen show in a bar on some Los Angeles Beach with two other couchsurfers, one of which was also under-age and ended the night ”surfing” the couch of this friend of a friend. Over the few days I stayed in Los Angeles, I also ended up in a house in a slummy district and decided I was due for something better.

Lookout in Santa MonicaBy that point, the only thing I was thinking was to bike along the beach shore, enjoy the shows put on by the street artists and ultimately camp when night falls. So I packed up my bike, bought a map of California and headed north, towards Malibu Beach. I’m not really good at reading tourist guides so I knew very little of that state other than “Surf & Sun”. Malibu Beach seamed to be a good deal but the shoreline was completely bought off, only big private properties could be seen, blocking the view to the sand, the waves and the horizon. The sun was about to set and I had to find camping. But clearly all campsites on the map were out of reach before sunset. I’m thinking “This will be a hell of a start if I can figure out my first camping spot!”. I took the first right off the famous Pacific Highway 1 and started going up a steep hill. I was about to give up and U-turn when I saw this large high school. Schools are closed in early August, aren’t they? So I sneak in past the school gate, then past the football field, and then on top of the hill where I find this perfect spot overlooking the field and the school. A table was left unattended, on the empty hill covered with thigh-high yellow grass, probably for the score-keeper at the football games. I used it as a shield against the strong winds picking up aBackpacker setting up tent in Santa Monicas the evening progressed. I remember wondering if there were any wild beast in South West California, how safe would my tent be against a poisonous snake? Oh well, probably better not to know anyways.

When the campsite was finally done, I paused and looked around. I had the best view, first place, front row: The Pacific Ocean, with the Highway disappearing past the shoreline hills, just as the sun was setting. That night, I decided that I was not going back to L.A. I decided that biking was the best way to be a tourist. I decided I’d make it to San Francisco…

To be continued…..

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Thanks Remi for sharing your exciting adventures through California, and look forward to a night on us!

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