It only took seven days for L.A. to make me realize that not only did I not hate it, but I loved it.
I was determined to hate Los Angeles. My perception of the city had been molded for years by the movies I watched on television, the influencers I followed, and the YouTubers I watched. I was told L.A. is vapid, it’s for spotlight-seeking money chasers with one-dimensional personalities. People of substance pursued other cities like New York or Chicago. Maybe it was this perception of L.A. that left a distaste in my mouth, or perhaps it was the fact that L.A. was the place he was leaving me for. It was the city he found himself in, rediscovered his passion for life in, and he had to return to it. He didn’t like my perception of the city “You can’t believe everything you see online or in movies” he would say, it’s so much more than what you see. I stubbornly held onto my negative regard for the place as long as I could. When he proposed I fly out to California with him, I couldn’t refuse. My “hatred” didn’t refute the fact that I had never actually been to the place and my curiosity was overwhelming.
I really tried to hate it, I spent an honest 20 minutes in the car ride back from the airport trying to pick out the little details I had filed away in my biases. Despite the effort, I didn’t hate the city. I actually really liked it.
My personal gripe had clouded my ability to see the potential in my trip, under different circumstances they could have potentially even impacted my decision to go or not. L.A. was so different from the version I had created in my head. The street lights were brighter, the palm trees were less uniform. It seemed that none two were the same in the way the leaves draped down and whispered in the wind, the air wasn’t sticky and humid – it was more peaceful, allowing space to just breathe and exist as you wish. My seven days went by and when it was time to leave, I found myself not wanting to get back on the plane. How ironic.
In my reflections of the trip and deciding what aspect of the city to cover in my article, I referenced the Jetset Times L.A. Travel Guide, trying to get an understanding of what content had been previously published. Perhaps I could write a restaurant review or name the best spots in Glendale to shop. In retrospect and upon reading Nadia Cho’s article, “How I Learned to Love L.A.” I realized the true value I took in my journey was deeply personal and changed how I will forever think about travel.
L.A. gently embraced me and reminded me to not hold onto fixed perceptions of the places I may travel to, the cultures I may experience, and the people I may encounter. Eric Fromm put it well when he said, “The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism.” I didn’t hate L.A. I hated that he loved it and I hated that it meant more to him than I did (of course in retrospect, this was a very narcissistic interpretation of the situation.) Once I stepped away from my own perception I was able to see the city for what it is and love it both with him and for him. Maintaining a sense of curiosity, innocence, and simple appreciation can vastly change the way you travel and experience the world. The lessons you receive when you create the space to learn far outweigh the negative energies you hold onto when you insist on maintaining your bias.
Remember this the next time you have the privilege of stepping on a plane or traveling somewhere new: travel is an opportunity for personal growth and change in perspective. It’s a uniquely intimate experience, a yearning that many will never be able to fulfill within themselves. The value of your travel lies not in your souvenirs or tan lines, but rather in the little hidden ways it changes you as a person.