I’ve said for a long time that the US holds very little appeal for me. I travel to feel inspired and awed by sights I’d never previously experienced back home. I travel to meet new people and learn more about cultures I’ll never fully understand. I like the struggles and the problem solving that travelling through an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar language brings.

I’d always discounted the USA because I’d seen it as being too easy. The culture was similar to back home in the UK, everybody spoke English, it was easy to get around, the food was familiar… nothing about that truly appealed to me.

However, after over a year of travelling through Southeast Asia I was desperate for a change of scene. I love Southeast Asia. I adore it. But after a year of humidity and terrible toilets and languages I had little chance of understanding? I was ready for a break.

Dave wanted to spend the summer in the US and with no better idea of where to go I agreed to go along with him. Flights to the USA are pretty cheap from Asia, and can be booked here.

However, there were aspects of the Western World that I was excited about — cheese, drinkable tap water, understanding the language, being able to eat junk food — but I wasn’t expecting to be blown away from my time in the US. I figured we’d spend three months there, visit some national parks, put on a load of weight and then leave for somewhere cheaper. I’d definitely be ready for that after three months.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles

How wrong I was.

My time in the US was incredible and wonderful and I was devastated to be leaving at the end of our three month stint. If we had been able to obtain six month visas I have a feeling we’d still be there now…

My time in the US began in California — for no other reason than the fact that the cheapest flights I could find to the US from Saigon were to Los Angeles. Dave was planning on spending a couple of weeks in Australia to get his motorbike license, so I opted to spend two weeks travelling solo through California before meeting up with him in Seattle.

Despite travelling with each other full-time, Dave and originally both started our travels alone. While I love having a travel companion and wouldn’t change it for the world, we do both recognise the benefits of having a little bit of solo travel every now and then. When I travel solo, I find myself saying yes to more experiences, and exploring places in greater depth. I meet far more people and relish the freedom that solo travel brings me. It had been over a year since I last travelled alone so I was looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles

I started my time in Los Angeles, a place I’d visited before so didn’t feel the need to head out and visit every single tourist site in the city. I had a relaxed start to my time in the US as I battled with jet lag and sunbathed on beaches. Venice and Santa Monica are my favourite areas in Los Angeles so I booked a little apartment on the beach in Venice and revisited all of my old favourite haunts.

Next up, San Francisco, a brand new city that I had been desperate to visit for years.

With hundreds of people giving me advice on what to see I decided to put my writing work to the side for five days and focus on seeing as many tourist sites as possible.

My first stop was the Golden Gate Bridge — and I had the perfect day for it! With none of the mist that San Francisco is so famous for, I was able to see it in all its glory, and then spend the rest of the day sunbathing in the grassy areas surrounding it.

Lauren at the Golden Gate Bridge

I visited Alcatraz, where the famous San Francisco mist made its first appearance and I struggled to even see the island as our ferry left the port. Alcatraz was fascinating and freezing cold, and the audio tour was one of the best I’ve experienced. It was so much better than I expected.

However, my favourite activity from my entire time in California was visiting Yosemite National Park with my good friend Gina. She was kind enough to take the day off work to drive me all the way there, and we spent our time hiking in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced.

Yosemite National Park

My two weeks in California were the perfect introduction to the US and a great start to a perfect three months in a beautiful, friendly, diverse country.

I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of my time there.

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