Even the best-planned holidays can go awry, but it’s not all bad, writes Jessica Morris.
It was the colour grey that overwhelmed me first. Looking out the airplane window as I landed at LAX, all I could see were countless buildings, spiked up between densely packed highways filled with smoke fumes. Los Angeles was nothing like the glossy, brightly coloured images I’d seen on TV, and on my first time travelling overseas, it was a shock to the system.
I had been planning my journey to the USA for months before that moment. Working four shifts a week as a waitress, I’d scraped together enough cash for the 14-hour flight and two months of couch surfing and sightseeing across the land of Stars and Stripes. I had prepared everything, right down to the transport I was taking to my hotel. And as soon as I landed, I was ready to take on the world. I was expecting it all: new sites, new sounds, new people—an experience that exceeded all the hopes and dreams I’d imagined while I was serving people pizza and pasta.
But the moment I stepped onto the crumbling pavement of Hollywood Boulevard, I realised my trip, and indeed travel in general, isn’t as ‘romantic’ as we make it out to be. In the first few days, I managed to lose $20 to a disgruntled bus driver, get lost in downtown LA at night, was hassled by a street performer in a D-grade Spiderman costume and befriended some well-meaning but seemingly strange locals who all wanted to become the next big thing in fashion, music or film.
My two-month journey across the USA was a mess. A big, beautiful, complicated and sometimes nerve-wracking mess. I soon realised that even the best laid plans fall by the wayside when you travel alone, and learned to become resourceful with my surroundings. I began to embrace the cultural and environmental differences I walked into, and instead of trying to control them so I could have the ‘perfect’ holiday, I enjoyed the journey and let my surroundings and the people around me teach me something new.
The fact is, travel is never perfect. But that’s the beauty of it—because in the mess we find ourselves, and learn to appreciate people who are different to us. Whether you’re off for a weekend or a globe-trotting adventure, embrace the mess. In doing so you’ll truly experience everything your new destination has to offer and that’s something you’ll never forget, trust me.