los angeles

Going solo: How I took on L.A. in three days

I stayed in an amazing loft I found on AirBnB in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

I stayed in an amazing loft I found on AirBnB in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

At the last minute, I decided to get away for Mother's Day weekend. I did some quick research on where I could book a fairly cheap flight a few days before the weekend. I narrowed my choices down to Toronto, Port of Spain, Trinidad, or Los Angeles. Toronto ended up getting axed because of the weather – I wanted some sun. Housing wasn't cheap in Port of Spain at the last minute, so that was also out. 

The last time I visited L.A., I was in the seventh grade and my family and I stayed for two days. I don't remember much besides visiting Universal Studios. I was looking forward to exploring the city as an adult.

This trip was a first of many. It was my first solo trip and my first "on a whim" trip. I decided to go on a Monday, booked the flight on a Tuesday, and flew out to the West Coast the Saturday before Mother's Day. 

I took only a backpack – more on that here – hopped on an Amtrak train to BWI airport, and flew out early Saturday morning.

I didn't have a set in stone itinerary for the trip, and I didn't want to. I was fine with being a tourist. I wanted to hit the West Coast food legends like Roscoe's and In-N-Out. I wanted to stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rodeo Drive, window shopping at stores I couldn't afford.

I used the app Google Trips to coordinate my plans to maximize the time that I had. L.A. is a pretty big city, and regardless of whether you choose to drive or Uber everywhere, it takes a while to get anywhere. Google Trips showed me the distance between each place I wanted to visit and how much time I should allot at each location.

Day One

I landed around 11:30 a.m., picked up my rental car and immediately drove to In-N-Out. My West Coast friends raved about how good and cheap it was and I wanted to see if the hype was real.

It was pretty good, though not as good as Southern burger joint CookOut. The root beer float was, admittedly, amazing. 

After that pit stop, I checked into my AirBnB in downtown, or DTLA. When I opened the door, I was floored. It was a loft with high ceilings, stainless steel appliances, and lots of natural sunlight. There was a balcony that overlooked the street and huge buildings. 

After a quick shower and nap, I decided to explore the neighborhood. 

Downtown L.A. was interesting in that it wasn't what I expected. It looked like a street in midtown Manhattan. It had that same gritty feel, with lots of graffiti, old-school hip-hop and cheap jewelry stores.

I just wanted to explore, and it was still early in the day, so I parked my car in a lot and just strolled around.

I went to Grand Central Market in DTLA. It's a hipster spot that looked really similar to Union Market in D.C. There were lots of bearded guys wearing wayfarer sunglasses, young families with children and tourists. It took a while to decide on what I wanted to eat – there were so many choices. Wood-fried pizzas, Asian fusion, falafel. I decided to pick up some tacos and sat on the street, enjoying the cool weather.

I was pretty tired afterwards from traveling and decided to call it an early night.

Day Two

I got up pretty early, and wanted to get out of downtown and explore the rest of L.A. I ditched the car again and, after a quick stop for brunch, decided to Uber around. 

My first stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's pretty touristy, but I expected it. There were people in costumes and aspiring rappers trying to sell mixtapes, but it was alright. 

I decided to take a guided tour of Hollywood – and this was a mistake. It was pretty expensive and took entirely too long just to point out a couple of celebrity houses. 

By the time the tour wrapped up, the sun was beginning to set and I really wanted to hike Runyon Canyon before it got dark. It took about ten minutes to get from the base to the top and the view was worth it. I had a 360º view of the Hollywood sign and the city. I took a moment to reflect on the day and wished my grandmother a happy mother's day. It was serene and helped to clear my head.

I was starving by the end of the day and decided to make Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles my last stop before heading back to my AirBnB. This was the Roscoe's former president Barack Obama visited during his L.A. visit in 2011. According to the Los Angeles Times, he ordered the “Country Boy” – three wings with choice of waffle, potato salad or French fries. 

I ordered a two piece, two waffles and the "Eclipse" with lemonade, fruit punch and orange juice. I'm a southern girl. I swear by Waffle House, but Roscoe's gave my undying love for WaHo some stiff competition. The waffles were soft and buttery and the chicken was juicy. I didn't finish it all because I was so full, so I took a to-go box, hopped in an Uber and passed out as soon as I got back to DTLA.

Day Three

My last day in L.A. was a travel day. But before I flew back to D.C., I wanted to visit the Santa Monica pier. I drove this time and experienced the famed L.A. traffic. It took about an hour to get from DTLA to Santa Monica.

I wasn't interested in the rides. I just wanted to kick off my shoes and chill. 

I took in the sounds of squealing children and grandmothers selling mangos down by the waterfront. The wind was chilly and the waves were choppy, but I let myself go for a moment and felt at peace. Having grown up near the water, the ocean has always been my happy place. It reminds me that life, like the ocean, is a series of ebbs and flows. 

I needed this trip. I needed to decompress and get away from the hubbub of the East Coast. Since my grandmother's passing, I've often felt that I was running on auto-pilot – that is, here, but not present. I haven't really been paying attention to myself and what I need. Everyone has their own method of de-stress and self-care. Mine is immersing myself in travel. 

This trip was symbolic to me because it was my first solo trip. I've always been neutral on solo travel – I prefer to experience the world with other people. But I've never felt as relaxed as I did by myself in L.A. It was a nice way to recollect myself and spend time doing what I wanted to do.