I arrived alone at Los Angeles International Airport. As a first timer, I had booked a four-star boutique hotel near the airport, primarily because it appeared modern and had airport shuttle service.
However, I never used that airport pickup service.
A friend from Orange County and a resident of LA, offered to pick me up from the airport. Perhaps he was concerned about my complete lack of knowledge about “Los Angeles.”
Friend: So what will you do when you arrive in LA?
Me: Well, I don’t have plans for the day, so I’m thinking of going to this record shop.
Friend: Will you rent a car?
Me: No, I can’t drive! lol I will take a bus from the hotel to get there, and I’ll probably visit this place since it’s only a 15-minute walk from the record shop!
Friend: Wait, are you taking a bus? Walking to the shop? in Los Angeles???
Friend: LA is different from Tokyo. You can’t just walk around everywhere. Also, I wouldn’t recommend taking a bus, especially alone. Public transportation is mainly for low-income individuals, and it’s not safe..
He’s right. It’s in 2012. There were no ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft or BIRD at the time. In car-centric Los Angeles, it was common for tourists to rent a car.
My friend went out of his way to take time off work and come to the airport to pick me up. And then he showed me around Los Angels. Such a kind friend!
I was observing Los Angeles from the car window. As he said, there were no people walking around, except in the areas with shopping malls and stylish shops.
People waiting at the bus stops seemed tired, or without a clear purpose. They were there, aimlessly.
My friend and his girlfriend took me to a great taco restaurant that I could never found by myself, and then we headed to a rooftop bar.
“LA people” were enjoying their Friday night at the stylish bar. I felt like I was in a reality show as we sipped a drink and chatted over the Los Angeles skyline.
Afterward, we strolled along Santa Monica Pier, and they dropped me off at the hotel.
The very first day in Los Angeles passed safely and perfectly, without any need for the traveler’s instinct or intuition.
I was laying on the California Kind-sized bed which is too big for a Japanese woman, and feeling grateful to my friend for allowing me to relax and enjoy myself in Los Angels for the first time. I could completely switch off my ‘Traveler mode’.
The following week passed in a flash.
On the next morning, I joined my label friends who arrived from Japan, and we participated in the Warped Tour. Based in LA, we toured three cities: Pomona, Ventura, and Chula Vista.
The drive between cities took about 1-2 hours. My friend, who is a skilled driver, was unfazed by Los Angeles drivers and drove smoothly and safely.
At the festival, we were given label passes, so we were able to watch the live shows from the side of the stage.
You might think that the largest punk rock festival in the United States, would be full of wild kids. However, the kids were mostly well-mannered and very friendly.
The same was the backstage. Even though we were clearly “outsiders,” bands and stage staff were all friendly and kind to us.
As a result, I was basically always in a “safe and comfortable circle” for the first week in LA.
And as I thought that the “unknown journey” would finally begin tomorrow, my ‘Traveler mode’ switch turned on.
“I suddenly realized that I didn’t know the full name of the person I will travel around the Grand Circle for a week together.”
“The person is supposed to pick me up at the Flagstaff airport in the evening tomorrow, but I wondered if he would really show up?”
“He said he doesn’t use his phone and will get temporary one in the US, but I don’t have his number. How are we supposed to meet up at the airport?”
“If the person didn’t show up at the airport, how would I spend a week in Arizona?”
“I brought my international driver’s license just in case of an argument and he dropped me off in the middle of the desert during the road trip. But how could I rent a car in the middle of the desert? And I can’t even drive…? Hitchhiking? I guess.. ”
When I shared those with my friend, she laughed and said, “Ah, there it is! Meg’s instant brain simulation!”
She understood my “Traveler mode” because she had traveled abroad with me several times.
That’s right. I had been able to avoid and deal with trouble in many countries.
With my “Traveler’s intuition”.
It will be fine even the unknown journey with someone I’ve met only twice and I even don’t know his full name.
Even if it didn’t work well, I think I can handle it, and will do. With that in mind, I got on the plane to Flagstaff.