Santa Monica sunsets - our warm welcome to the USA!
Flying to LAX from Lima, Peru - we were excited to start our next three month adventure throughout North America and Canada. Instead of organising a VISA, as Australian’s we were able to instead easily apply for an ESTA online. It was a quick process which only cost $14 - after inputting our passport information and travel details we received approval via email within only 72 hours. If you’re planning on visiting the US in the future, make sure you check out the website https://www.estaform.org to make the process all the more simple - there are 38 countries that can travel here with this programme!
Upon arrival to Los Angeles we stayed a few nights in Santa Monica with a gorgeous friend Tracy (and her adorable pup Bodhi!) that we met months ago all the way back in Patagonia, Argentina. Tracy was kind enough to host us for a few nights until we sorted out purchasing our road tripping vehicle. Not only did we have our own awesome Santa Monica tour guide and a comfy bed, but Tracy was located literally one street away from the beach!
After searching on the web with Craigslist, which seems to be the place to buy/sell anything and everything online in America, we came across our perfect van. A 1999 Dodge Ram van, fully insulated to keep us toasty warm at night, and the seats in the back already all pulled out leaving us lots of room to convert it into storage, a bed, and cooking space. We bought the van dirt cheap, but knew that there were a few things needed before getting it road-trip ready. We spent over a week running to and from the mechanics, but thankfully Santa Monica was a pretty awesome spot to be based during this time to organise the next few months of our life on the road.
A popular, touristy, but beautiful walk just outside our door-step was the trail from Santa Monica to Venice Beach. With thousands of people bicycling, roller blading, skateboarding, or simply walking and running along the boardwalk, we truly got to experience the bustling beach life of the locals. We loved how active everyone was and all of the street performances along the way. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Sunday, from the afternoon until sunset is a wonderful celebration of all cultures on Venice Beach, with hundreds of world flags on the beach and dancing and music for anyone and everyone to join in on, it was a moving and beautiful circle to be a part of.
Santa Monica Pier at night was a whole another world! We sat and watched as the sunset over the ocean, and once darkness was upon us, the walk along the pier was filled with good energy, bright lights, and people of all ages enjoying the theme park rides and festivities.
Another quick stop that we made whilst in Venice Beach was the Venice Canals - white wooden bridges and lots of little walkways to explore, for about 7 blocks this area was filled with canals, little boats, and cute houses. We would recommend visiting during high-tide!
Whilst in LA, were lucky enough to meet a generous man by the name of Adrian. Adrian was a carpenter with his own little workshop - we asked him if he would mind letting us use his space and tools in order to build a mezzanine in the back of our van - with absolutely no hesitation Adrian welcomed us with open arms and we spent a couple of days transforming our van into our home. Kirk put his tradesman skills to use and before we knew it we had a loft area to store all of our belongings beneath, a mattress above, and a cooking space. With so many funky thrift shops throughout LA, we found ourselves some great bargains to make our space extra special with hand-made curtains, indian inspired blankets, and rope-weaved fairy lights.
With the car registration process in California being extremely expensive and complex for foreigners, we made a day-trip to Arizona, filled out a simple form, paid a registration fee of only $26USD, given new Arizona plates and a title, and we were finally on the road - two very very happy campers indeed!
Over the next few months we will be visiting as many National Parks that we can get to! First stops in California will include Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, a stop off in Napa Valley, and the coastal drive along Big Sur. Watch this blog space for more and join us on our road-trip through the states all the way up into Canada!