My Exchange Experience – Los Angeles

They had told me that there would be an adjustment curve but I wasn’t expecting this.

January – July 2014

After spending a night in a hotel, I made my way to orientation at my host university, an institution that I will call “LA Uni” as to not to bring the university’s actual name into disrepute. I was nervous and excited but soon, I would realise that there would be no welcoming party, no orientation events, nothing to indicate that anything actually happened at this university. When I asked one of my new roommates if there were any parties at this university, he replied with a story of how he had to hide in his room after there was a small party in his campus apartment. Was this the attitude of the average student at LA Uni? I didn’t know about the other exchange students yet but I was here to party!

The reality was that this university was worse than anything I’d had seen in Australia, in terms of both academics and campus culture. I was under the naive impression that all American universities offered a similar level of social activity and education. The reality became apparent that you can’t make the same assumption of quality from American universities that was standard in my home town of Brisbane. In the U.S., colleges vary significantly in all areas of quality.

But enough of my sad story! Lucky for me, I managed to turn around the exchange and it became one of the best experiences of my life. Here’s how I did it;

Settling In

I bumped into one of my fellow exchange students that I met at the orientation on the way to class and he mentioned that a Facebook group existed for exchange students at the university. I found it later online and that weekend, I had my first night out in Hollywood with other exchange students from the group. It was a casual evening at a Gastro-Bar called Stout with a small group of German & Swedish exchange students. I felt a little out of place within the already established group of Europeans but soon, new faces showed up taking up social leadership in the Facebook group.

Chanty Flats, Arcadia

The winter quarter international students and I at a waterhole in Chanty Flats
The winter quarter international students and I at a waterhole in Chanty Flats

A few weeks into the exchange, a new face showed up on the Facebook group inviting us all on a day trip to a water hole in Chanty Flats. The girl, Amalia was well established in LA. A true citizen of the world, she was born to a Filipino mother and a Saudi father, had studied Spanish Language in Madrid and was now studying her undergraduate degree at LA Uni.

That weekend, we waited at the coffee shop on campus to be picked up by those who were driving in. A lone driver in a old Black Mustang convertible pulled into the car park, long hair tied back with black sunglasses to match. When it came time to choose which car to hop in, I chose the Mustang.

Hampus, the Brave, a nickname I gave him during our time in the US
Hampus, the Brave, a nickname I gave him during our time in the US

The driver was a Swedish exchange student called Hampus. An avid music fan, he loved the LA Lifestyle. Hampus and I would get to know each other over the next 6 months and became good friends.

After the walk back from the waterhole, Amalia invited us back to her apartment in Downtown LA (DTLA) for a few drinks and to hang out in her jacuzzi. She lived in a beautiful luxury student apartment complex called the Medici, which we would later call the ‘Hotel Medici’. We enjoyed a few beers while getting to know other students who lived in the complex before heading to a late night movie at the Regal Theatre. It was a great location and world’s away from the living conditions at LA Uni.

San Fransisco

Rainy San Fransisco
Rainy San Fransisco

I continued to hang out with the other exchange students, getting drunk at Barney’s Beanery for Superbowl, visiting the Hollywood sign and hanging out at sports bars in Long Beach. We were living out our American experience. I even spent a few weekends playing Flag Football out at Venice Beach before the 4 hour return bus journey got the better of me. Five weeks in however, there was nothing planned for the weekend and so I took the opportunity to visit a friend in San Fransisco.

That weekend in February, I flew to San Fransisco for the weekend. An old friend, had seen that I was in LA through Facebook and was nice enough to invite me to stay with her and her boyfriend in their house in the Sunset District. Her name was Vicky and we had met in Brisbane, on a bus to city years ago. She came to a few of my gigs while I was DJing locally but we hadn’t spoken for about 2 years before she messaged me on Facebook. I was surprised initially with her message but more so with her hospitality.

The loft of one of Vicky and Ian’s friends
The loft of one of Vicky and Ian’s friends

The weather was cold and rainy keeping us indoors most of the weekend however, there were a few times we ventured into the city and beyond. Vicky and her boyfriend invited me into their social lives, taking me to a nightclub in Downtown and out to dinner with friends across the bridge in Oakland. They made the effort to take me to Twin Peaks at one point but the weather was so bad, we lasted only a few minutes. I’m not one for tourist attractions, so I wasn’t bothered.

The most interesting part of my San Fransisco trip was experiencing the Marijuana culture in Northern California. Pretty much everyone I spoke to was a regular user of marijuana. From young students to middle-aged Silicon Valley execs, it seemed everyone was doing it. This was a vastly different to the public attitude surrounding the herb in my hometown of Brisbane, Australia, where marijuana is considered illegal and taboo.

Yosemite National Park

The route we were supposed to take to get to Yosemite National Park
The route we were supposed to take to get to Yosemite National Park

The next weekend, I was back with the exchange students on a trip to Yosemite National Park. It took us 10 hours to complete a usual 7 hour journey from LA to our lodge after I accidentally lead Hampus up the wrong side of the park. The awkwardness of my mistake continued as we hit late afternoon traffic just after Bakersfield. Consequently, our car arrived several hours after the others at around 10pm at night, allowing us only a few hours of drinking and talking until getting up for the next day.

The Yosemite gang
The Yosemite gang at one of most picturesque views at the National Park

The next day we hoped in our cars and drove around the park, stopping at various locations for sightseeing but grew tired of being tourists after lunch and went back to the lodge in the afternoon to drink beer and hang out in the Jacuzzi. At midnight Hampus made a speech and everyone wished me a Happy Birthday.

The trip was more about coming together as an international family than the park itself. For a group, usually spread out across LA, it was nice to be together in the one house. This would be a rarity for this particular group of exchange students.

Manhattan Beach

Hampus, Lars, Kevin and I in our surf suits at Manhattan Beach

Something that became more of a regularity was our surfing trips to Manhattan Beach. The drive was long out from LA Uni and sometimes the waves weren’t right but on the first occasion, the weather was perfect and the waves good. The Europeans loved it but I had already been spoiled by living in the Sunshine State back home. The Californian beaches of course had their own unique vibe and it was also my first time surfing with a wetsuit. Not to mention, it was pretty picturesque out there.

Spring Break

Although the whole exchange experience felt like a giant holiday, Spring Break was extra special. At the end of the semester I’d moved out of my crappy apartment at LA Uni and with no classes for a week and a half, I was completely free. I had no lease and little responsibility. I decided to go somewhere I had always wanted to go during spring break, Miami, FL.

As no-one else was down to fly across America to Miami for a week, I made a bold decision to travel completely alone. My plan was to meet people there and go out every night partying. It was scary at first but I managed to achieve my goal.

Miami is a whole ‘nother story. One which I may expand on later but for now let’s return to LA.

When I came back to LA I had plans to move into a room in Beverley Hills. However, when I arrived at the apartment, my roommate tried to rip me off and after I refused to pay a cash-deposit for a bond that I had already secured through AirBnB, I was told to leave. I grabbed my things and checked in at a Hollywood hostel for the next two nights.

Las Vegas II

While I was looking for new places to live for the last three months, Hampus called me and invited me to Vegas for the weekend with his Swedish friends Joakim and Tove. I was paying nightly at the hostel so might as well share a room in Vegas, right?

Joakim sipping on vodka while I watch UMF2014 on my Ipad
Joakim sipping on vodka while I watch UMF2014 on my Ipad

We arrived at the Mandalay Bay late on Friday with no plans for the weekend but to go to a day party at Encore Beach Club (EBC) the next day. I was careful with my drinking the first night as I was saving myself for EBC however, Hampus and Joakim had no such intentions. By 1am, they were both wasted and decided last minute to pay $50 each to go to the nightclub in our hotel. Hampus hadn’t gone away for Spring Break, so this was like his Spring Break vacation. Hence, the heavy drinking. After a few rounds of craps, Tove and I waited at the entrance of the nightclub for the guys, who stumbled out wasted after 3am. They would pay for their over-drinking when we woke up for the EBC party in a few hours.

Hampus 'modelling' at Encore Beach Club, Las Vegas
Hampus ‘modelling’ at Encore Beach Club, Las Vegas

The party at EBC was super fun. Encore Beach Club is probably the best day club in Vegas which comes as no surprise given the reputation of the hotel, Encore at the Wynn. We danced in the water holding our cash in the air and our belongings in lockers as Tommy Trash took to the decks. Despite the fact that he didn’t look anything like him, Hampus was mistaken for the Australian DJ superstar and took photos and shook hands with fans. At the end of the day, I walked out of the club to meet the rest of the guys holding with me Hampus’ passport, iPhone, room key and shirt but they were nowhere to be found. After waiting for some time, I decided to head back to the hotel and wait for everyone there. When I arrived home, I thought the apartment was empty but then I heard a noise from the bathroom. Hampus was in the bathtub recovering after walking home half-naked from the Wynn. Taxis wouldn’t take him being shirtless but he was lucky enough that the hotel staff let him back into the room. We laughed about the situation while waiting for the others to return.

It wasn’t my first trip to Vegas during the exchange but it was probably the best. Hampus and Joakim were absolute party animals, which is what you need when travelling to Vegas. This wasn’t my last trip to Vegas either. I would be back in Sin City three more times during my exchange.

Moving into Hollywood

After Vegas, I was still without a home, so I set myself up at a hostel in Downtown and continued to search Craiglist and AirBnB. Many of the places I liked the look of didn’t want me as my lease commitment was either too long or too short. I was getting desperate, even considering buying a car and living in it [a pretty stupid idea in hindsight] but on Tuesday,  a property showed up that was perfect.

6829 De Longpre, the Share-House I lived in Hollywood
6829 De Longpre, the Share-House I lived in Hollywood

I arrived at what would be my new Hollywood home on that Tuesday night in April and although the room was a little more weathered than in the picture it was still perfect. I booked the room through AirBnB instantly with the landlord and went back to the hostel to grab my stuff.

When I returned with my stuff and walked into the living room, my new room mates looked at me stunned. The landlord hadn’t told them I was moving in. I introduced myself and hung out with them for the rest of the night. I was more than happy with the room and the housemates and now the fall out with the Beverly Hills apartment felt like an absolute blessing in disguise.

Discovering the Not-so-Secret Society of the Pickup artists

My goal for the exchange had always been to maximise my LA and American experience and now that I was living in Hollywood, I suddenly had access to much more of LA than I had had living on the Eastside. One of the most exiting things about living in Hollywood is the nightlife and now that I was living there, I wanted to be out almost every night. I also decided that I wanted to meet more locals as the majority of my social life had been hanging out with other foreigners to this point. I felt the need to have a uniquely LA experience, a Hollywood experience, so I went on and found the RSD Inner Circle.

The RSD Inner Circle were a self-development and pickup society whose members would frequently go out and socialise with women that they hadn’t met before in places such as bars and clubs. Being a fan of Self-Development, single and looking to go out most nights, I decided to attend one of their meetups. Three months later, I had experienced the LA Nightlife, made numerous new friends and improved my confidence.

Deltopia (Isla Vista, CA)
During my first week in Hollywood, I discovered an event called Deltopia, a massive street party put on by UC Santa Barbra students in Isla Vista, 20mins from downtown Santa Barbra. For those of you who don’t know, UCSB is considered one of the craziest party schools in the country and so, this was definitely a party that I did not want to miss.

I called up Hampus and suggested we go together but he told me he already had plans with some Swedish exchange students living in Isla Vista to go to their house on the beachside strip. Luckily, the night before Deltopia, I was visited by my friend A

Del Playa Drive during Deltopia 2014
Del Playa Drive during Deltopia 2014

keem who I’d met in Miami during Music Week. He told me he was already staying with a mutual friend, Nadal (another guy I met in Miami) in Santa Barbra that weekend. I showed him some videos and convinced him to accompany me to Isla Vista. Nadal was nice enough to allow me to stay with him also and when Hampus agreed to give us a ride down, we were good to go!

We arrived in Santa Barbra, greeted Nadal and left our bags in his apartment before heading out to downtown to find a cab. Unfortunately, it seemed all taxi drivers were busy and Uber was crashing due to too much traffic. We were so close to Isla Vista, yet stranded without a car. We walked around asking locals for advice until Akeem came across a man with a similar ‘rasta’ appearance to him. The rasta man asked us why we were going to Isla Vista and when we told him about Deltopia, he agreed to drive us there himself. Here I was driving into Isla Vista with a German who I’d met in Miami and a random rasta man who wanted to join the party, such is travelling.

The streets were filled with young drunk college students as we drove into the center of Isla Vista. After finding a park, we made our way to the beachside road, Del Playa Drive, the epicenter of the Deltopia street party. Although you could call the event a ‘street’ party, the real partying happened within the houses on and surrounding Del Playa Drive.

As we walked down the drive, I recognised one of Hampus’ Swedish friends and despite accidentally calling out the wrong name, I got her attention. She was just about to leave a party on the drive after the police shut it down and invited us to chill with her and some friends at another house just off Del Playa.

Deltopia Party Goers having a rest after drinking since mid-morning
Deltopia Party Goers having a rest after drinking since mid-morning

On arrival at the house, we began to realise that despite it being early afternoon, the party was already winding down. Most of the party goers had come from parties that had been shut-down by police and many were passing out after drinking since mid-morning. We did however, get to meet more of Hampus’ Swedish friends and share a few drinks.

The next day, I went on a walk around Santa Barbra with Nadal and checked out the beach while I waited for Hampus to drive back to LA.

San Diego

I was hanging out at Redondo Beach with a group of exchange friends when Hampus called, inviting me on a last minute trip to San Diego with him and Joakim. By the time I was back at home and ready to go, it was past 8pm. We stuffed our faces with some fast food and drove into the night, checking in close to midnight at our San Diego hotel. We wasted no time getting ready once in our room and took off to the Gaslamp District, San Diego’s nightlife and dining hub.

The American flag at Full Tilt on top of The Wood in San Diego's Pacific Beach
The American flag at Full Tilt on top of The Wood in San Diego’s Pacific Beach

The next day, we feeling a little worse-for-wear but headed to Pacific Beach for some sun and drinks at The Wood, a rooftop bar right on the beach. That night we would be out again in Downtown San Diego at a club called Bassmnt for a gig by Progressive House DJ, Audien.

The sunset somewhere between San Diego and LA
The sunset somewhere between San Diego and LA

Hampus took the long way home from San Deigo, attempting to keep as close to coast as possible on the way back to LA. The coastal space between the two Californian cities is some of the most picturesque views I have ever seen. With the spring air blowing through my hair in the backseat of the Mustang, I looked out into the sea views of La Jolla, Del Mar, Encintas, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.

I had heard many good things about San Diego prior to arriving  for the first time in 2014 and while the city is clean and modern, I think it is San Diego’s beaches that make it such a popular destination.

Dallas, TX

Frank Haro, speaking to a small crowd about his success techniques
Frank Haro, speaking to a small crowd about his success techniques

It was week 7 of the my last semester at LA Uni when I was invited to a seminar in Hollywood on planning and visualisation, run by a former assistant at RSD by name of Frank. The seminar involved writing down tasks and motivations on white boards in order to keep motivated. I agreed to try out the method and went down to Staples to buy some of my own. Frank told the group he’d personally come help people with their boards and he wasn’t lying. Two days later he was at my house helping me with what to write however what was more unexpected was what happened next.

Hours after leaving my house, I got a call from Frank inviting me to come with him and two others from the RSD community to an RSD Seminar in Dallas, Texas. The plan was to drive 24 hours from LA to Dallas for the weekend and return on Monday and they had an extra seat in the car. It sounded like a crazy idea but I was down for the experience. We got together the next day and began driving non-stop for Texas.

The Dallas Marriott Center where the seminar was held
The Dallas Marriott Center where the seminar was held

We set ourselves up at a cheap motel just a ten minute drive to the Marriott, where the seminar was being held and got ready for our first night out in Dallas. We hit up Concrete Cowboy, a uniquely texan bar complete with sports screens and girls dancing on bar tops. Enjoying the music and having a chat with the locals, we soon realised Frank had already left with a woman from the bar. This guy was serious.

Frank was an absolute commando when it came to women. He was supremely confident and seemed to know exactly what he was talking about. He pushed us to approach and move it forward with the ladies at the bar and was constantly listening to motivational audio snippets through the car radio whenever we were driving. Going to the seminar with Frank was an experience in itself and a further look into the American pickup community. I found that being in his world for two days was highly energising and motivating.

We left Dallas late on Sunday and drove through the night stopping only in Phoenix for food the next day (apart from the occasional fuel stop). The whole trip was incredibly economical. We shared the motel room, the fuel costs and spent zero on both nights we spent out in Dallas. I came back from Dallas feeling inspired. The next week I would cross the border again for the Grand Canyon and Vegas.

Grand Canyon and Vegas III

An American holiday to the  West Coast would not be complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon and fortunately, the rest of the exchange students were down for the journey. We stationed ourselves in Flagstaff, Arizona, a quaint village about an hours drive from the canyon and the next day, we drove into the national park.

Friends and I gather at the edge of the canyon whilst one of us takes photos.
Friends and I gather at the edge of the canyon whilst one of us takes photos.

Once inside the national park, we elected to take a bus that stopped at various viewing points. At first sight, the canyon is obviously impressive but as we continued to view it for more angles, the novelty wore off. By about the 5th stop, we had taken numerous photos and were ready to head back to the car and onwards to Vegas.

I spent the first two nights in Vegas with some friends I’d met through RSD at the Trump Hotel. Unfortunately, it was Memorial Day weekend and it was insanely busy in the Sin City. We spent the first night at Marquee for Benny Benassi but with the massive crowd surrounding the dance floor we couldn’t get anywhere close to the headliner. It was the same the next night at XS for David Guetta but at least there was plenty of room outside by the pool. I bumped into a few other friends from RSD as well including my good friend Joe who was swing dancing with random girls around the pool.

My first sight, walking into the hotel room at the Excalibur
My first sight, walking into the hotel room at the Excalibur

On Sunday, I was ready for a change of pace and moved over from the Trump to Excalibur and in with the exchange group. As I arrived at the tacky hotel and casino, I was greeted by my friend Ismail and taken into the room where everyone was staying. It was an absolute pigsty but I didn’t care. That night I would be back at the worlds highest grossing nightclub, XS for a special Memorial Day edition of Nightswim with Avicii behind the decks.

Vegas is home to the most extravagant club events and venues and this event was no exception. Dancing in a pool in a luxury hotel with music playing live from Avicii while drinking cocktails is an experience that is uniquely Vegas. This was a club where the most wealthy would consistently spend thousands of dollars on a table but this was as super busy weekend. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of money that would have been spent at the club over the weekend. The tickets alone were close to $100 per person for men and around $40 for women (in places like Vegas & Miami, sexist pricing is prevalent).

Ismail, Audrey and I making new friends by the pool at the Cosmopolitan
Ismail, Audrey and I making new friends by the pool at the Cosmopolitan

The next day, we went shopping at the outlets north of strip and headed home. I was spent from the long weekend. While Vegas is exciting, three days of high intensity clubbing is perhaps too much for me.

UCLA Undie Run (Westwood, CA)

It was the day of my final my exam and luckily, the end of my time at LA Uni coincided with the famous Undie Run at UCLA. (For those who don’t know, UCLA is one of the top universities in the country and the Undie Run is an event to celebrate the end of semester).

I caught an Uber from home after my exam and met my friend Chase at his apartment in Westwood. Chase was a final year student at UCLA and had run in the event before. We had some drinks and caught up at his before beginning our run to the start line. I wasn’t sure what was going on but before I could even get undressed, the mass of students waiting outside of UCLA began running.

When the run finished on top of the stairs of at UCLA, I thought to myself, ‘what now?’. I asked Chase what was next and he said, “that’s it, now we find the party”. It turned out that while the run was fun, the main course was yet to come.

Chase revelling at the top of the stairs at UCLA
Chase revelling at the top of the stairs at UCLA

I began talking to the students asking where they were headed and inviting them to an address that Chase had for a party. Turns out, everyone else was looking to party as well and before I knew it, I had a bunch of random numbers texting me.

Chase lead me into a random fraternity house that had transformed itself into a somewhat of an underground club but after he did not find what he was looking for, we went to another house and drunk red wine while I DJed on someones laptop. My memory of the night continued to fade as we continued drinking into the late evening.

The next day I said goodbye to Chase, who was leaving for Eurotrip and took the bus home.

New York City

My final semester had ended and after my last solo journey to the East Coast proved so rewarding, I decided to do it again, this time in New York City. I planned the first few nights to coincide with an RSD seminar and used the opportunity to meet some locals to hang out with over my week in NYC.

New friends and I in Times Square
New friends and I in Times Square

The first night after the seminar, a friend of Frank’s who I met in Dallas came down from Connecticut and joined a group of us going to the Ava Lounge at the Dream Hotel. To make it in, we pretended to be a part of a birthday party group but once inside, we were all over the place, taking to random locals and sharing beers. One guy we met invited us out after for his birthday but we declined to go to another club. Unfortunately, most of the group were out-of-towners and after failing to find another club in the area, we decided to just hang out in Times Square.

The second night, I walked across the road from the Marriott where the seminar was being held and found a group hanging out having a late street-food dinner. It was there that I met an usual Croatian character called Rodjo. All I can remember was that he had winey voice and a highly unusual outfit that included a bright cycling jersey.  He had formed a following around him in the courtyard and was instructing them all to approach everyone who came past. We later laughed about his accent and his catch-phrase, “Approach, Approach”. Not surprisingly, he was the only one approaching nearly everyone who walked past. Fortunately, it was a good talking point to start a conversation with some of the others eating dinner in the courtyard and soon, I had formed a group with some of the more mentally sane guys in the courtyard called Kevin, Umair and John and hopped in a car for the lower east side. I had no idea where to go out on a Sunday in NYC but the others were local and knew a venue called Pianos which was apparently busy on Sunday nights.

Myself with self-proclaimed Pickup guru, Bobby
Myself with self-proclaimed Pickup guru, Bobby
The dimly-lit trading floor of the NYC Bitcoin Center
The dimly-lit trading floor of the NYC Bitcoin Center

Although it was quiet inside Pianos, we enjoyed some interesting conversations outside the venue. One of the most interesting characters we met was Bobby, a self proclaimed Guru of pickup who preached to us that when talking to women, you should never ask questions and scolded us publicly for making the mistake. Testament to the level of multi-culturalism in NYC, we met people from all around the world including some Swedish girls and a brother and sister from Ethiopia. Kevin’s interactions with the people outside Pianos were particularly hilarious. I was continue to use Kevin’s advice on where to go in New York over the coming days.

The third night, I found out about a Bitcoin event with a free tab and food at the Bitcoin Center in Wall Street. The event included streaming of the Ghana-USA FIFA world cup match following by a live exchange of bitcoins for currency or pretty much anything else. At the beginning of the proceedings, a man stood up on the platform and announced an offer, 150 BTC for a Maserati. Some commented on how amazing it was the Bitcoin had shot up from close to 1 USD value to 600 USD value at the time. While I was there, I thought that I would get involved and exchanged $60 cash for 0.1 BTC. As I write this, that $60 has dropped more than 50% of its value. Lucky for me, I only bought $60 worth.

The next night, I had run out of events to go to but I challenged myself to hit up some NYC nightlife by myself. I got a text from John but we didn’t end up catching up. Instead, I followed a series of unexpected turns into a nightclub in the the Meatpacking district and back to an apartment on the upper-east of Manhattan.

I was waiting at the Brass Monkey for John and his friend but after inspecting the venue, I decided to look around the rest of the area. Outside, I bumped into some Kuwait girls that I had met two nights before at Pianos. Following them, I entered Le Bain Rooftop Bar.

The Jacuzzi at Le Bain Rooftop (Courtesy of Best Travel Sites)
The Jacuzzi at Le Bain Rooftop (Courtesy of Best Travel Sites)

The venue was an interesting rooftop bar with stunning views of Manhattan and the Hudson River, a crepe-house and a jacuzzi in the middle of the dance floor. As I noticed a number of people dressed in drag, I realised I had walked into a gay and lesbian event and before I knew it, I had lost the girls that had come up with me. Scoping the venue, I noticed a couple who seemed to be as surprised as I was and started a conversation. They were super friendly, got me a drink and sat with me on the sofa beds looking out into the view. Suddenly, an Australian guy heard my accent and asked me if I was Australian. I think he was interested in me, judging by the next question, ‘are you gay or straight?’. Unfortunately for him, I was as straight as a steel ruler however, he was still nice enough to introduce me to his friends, both male and female. Throughout the night, I would hang out with Troy and his friends and accepted their peer pressure to go into the Jacuzzi with them. It was a surreal experience. Here I was sitting in a Jacuzzi, next to a dancefloor, looking out into NYC surrounded by half-naked men. I made sure I stayed close to one of Troy’s female friends, Taylor as to avoid getting caught up in any mischief happening below the water.

The next night I had planned to go to Atlantic city with a friend I had met on my first night but he didn’t end up returning my calls. I did get an offer from Troy inviting me to a Jock-strap party however, after finding what that actually meant, I declined. I decided to head back to the Meatpacking District again under Kevin’s advice to a bar called the VIP Room but this time, I was alone and without a booking. I was declined entry.

As plans continued to fall through over the next few days, I spend the next few days exploring the city by myself. I was soon ready to return home and was looking forward to what I had planned for my arrival back in LA.

Electronic Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas, NV)

After a 6am flight from JFK, including an hour stop-over in Phoenix, I landed at Burbank airport at midday local time where I would be picked up by good friends Joe and Alan and driven to Las Vegas for the Electronic Daisy Carnival. We had bought no tickets and booked no hotel room. All we had was an esky, a few drinks, salad and some sandwich ingredients. Alan was convinced that we could sneak into the festival unnoticed and since plans with the hotel had fallen through, they had decided that we’d just sleep in the car.

Our 'Restaurant' in Boot of Joe's car
Our ‘Restaurant’ in Boot of Joe’s car

The traffic from the Las Vegas strip to the speedway was immense and we ended up arriving a few hours after it was scheduled to begin at 7pm. We parked our car, went up to the gate and watched Alan size up the entry points. Suddenly, he said he was going and walked between two entry lines and straight into the festival. Joe and I followed suit and chased Alan into the stands.

Looking out into the view, we were ecstatic. Joe and Alan were looking forward to this for so long and I was excited for my first festival experience in America. I saw some of my favourite artists including Steve Angello and Diplo and was dancing till 5:30am at the Techno stage before the festival finished for the day. Unlike music festivals in Australia, EDC ran through the night and into early morning. I had been up since 4am NYC time and by the time we got back to the car, I had been up for well over 24 hours. Sleeping in the car wasn’t exactly easy either and at around 10am, I woke up sweltering in the Las Vegas heat. By then the carpark was empty and unable to return to sleep, we went to the Venetian pool to cool off.

The view from the stands after the day had ended
The view from the stands after the day had ended

Joe and Alan would continue to hit up the festival for the remaining three days but I was spent. I hadn’t slept in my own bed for over a week and was ready to head home. I took a bus to downtown Las Vegas and got on the Greyhound for LA. I was in need of some recuperation and rest for my next trip to Palm Springs.

Palm Springs, CA

After hearing stories from the exchange girls about their trip to Palm Springs, we became very interested in the desert resort town and a week after semester, it was the boys turn.

Making new friends at the Hard Rock Hotel
Making new friends at the Hard Rock Hotel

We arrived mid-week in June and checked in at the Hard Rock Hotel. We must have been the only group of young guys in Palm Springs because we seemed to be getting attention everywhere we went. Our mid-week holiday consisted mainly of hanging out and drinking by the pool and although that may sound a little monotonous, it was anything but.

It was quiet at Park Springs however, the guests that were staying there during the same time as us seemed to have the same relaxed mentality and so, it was no challenge meeting people. Hanging out by the pool was like being in a nightclub and each day we were sharing drinks and conversations with fresh faces, some with whom we went out with later in the evening.

Palm Springs is a strange place. I’d never been to a resort town in the desert before and had to remind myself that there wasn’t a beach for hundred miles. That being said though, I had the time of my life. I was hanging out with some of the coolest guys I had ever met and living like kings. With our exchange officially over for the semester, we had no responsibilities and in the words of Wiz Khalifa, we were living young wild and free.

Los Angeles, CA and Saying Goodbye

Living it up at the Hotel Medici
Living it up at the Hotel Medici

With little over a week remaining in my exchange experience, it was time to be a tourist in a city that had been my home for the last 6 months.  It was also a time to hang out with friends for the last time and say goodbye. My exchange friends who had been living on campus were now staying at Amalia’s beautiful apartment building and spending most days hanging by the pool and most nights going out in Hollywood. On Saturday, my German friend Ismail took me and mutual campus roommate, Guilherme to Long Beach just to visit and on Sunday, I hung out with my good friend Leon who showed me around Malibu, Santa Monica and Century City. Monday, I went out with my American friends for the last time.

I planned a final dinner with my American friends at the California Pizza Kitchen for Tuesday night. My very first night in LA, I had eaten here alone and now on my final night in LA, I was surrounded by friends, some of which are still good friends today. While all did not decide to come out to Nightswim at the Roosevelt after, I enjoyed a great final evening with the ones that did. As I lay in an inflatable pool toy, I looked up into the sky and thanked god for a brilliant 6 months.

When the night had ended, my friend Moses drove us to pick up a friend of Joe’s who took us into an illegal underground bar. In California, it was illegal to serve alcohol past 2am and so bars like this existed to serve drinks past 2am as well as facilitate the use of illegal drugs. It was a dingy make-shift bar to the east of Hollywood and while it was interesting to see into a bar like this, it wasn’t necessarily my scene. I remember being gobsmacked as people were casually taking ‘bumps’ of cocaine around me. I called an Uber, thanked Joe for the night and went home.

My last photo of the exchange with good friend, Joe
My last photo of the exchange with good friend, Joe

The next day, Joe picked me up from Amalia’s, took me to dinner and to the airport. It was finally time to say goodbye to LA and America, a phenomenal place to spend 6 months abroad and an experience that I will remember forever.

For now, it was back to Brisbane for my second-last semester of university. All play and no work had left me in debt and it was well and truly time to get back to work.

For advice about going on your own study abroad adventure, check out: Four Things I Learned about Study Abroad while on Exchange

Until next time,

Christopher R Dodd