Falling for Los Angeles (and why I travel with kids)

My soul is made of the same stuff as adventure. Trips with my family nourish the hunger that often lingers. Some call it the travel bug and I’m not sure it will ever let up (or if I want it to). But there’s something else, too: The togetherness that comes with traveling as a family. The world unfolds before us, bringing the parents to childlike wonder alongside the children. By seeing more of the earth, we feel more connected to others and also more fierce in our familial unit. We remember how much space we have to move around. We are neither trapped nor stuck. We have the privilege of freedom, which comes with the responsibility to embrace it.

Traveling with kids is hard work. It’s the kind of work that I live to do, and love to do. Every time I leave home, I come back with something new. My eyes are open and my attention is full. I don’t know exactly what traveling does for young children, but I intuit a positive impact, even if it also means missed naps and missed school days, more screen time and more french fries. In fact, a trip can be mostly hard when I’m in it, but when I look back, it’s all good.

Possibly because my kids are getting older, or because we planned more, or because we were in the flow; our trip last week to Los Angeles unfolded with grace, even while we were in it.

We hiked in the Santa Monica mountains and played in my cousin’s swimming pool. We rode bikes and dug in the sand on famous beaches. We walked through cutting-edge art museums and along enchanting canals. We ate at highly-rated restaurants, from the farmer’s market, on a roof looking at the Hollywood sign, in a celebrity’s new family-friendly restaurant, and previously frozen pizza at our Airbnb. We drove along Mulholland Drive for mile after mile, something I didn’t realize I wanted to do until the traffic made us do it.

Five days to fall in love again with the city that magnetized all five of my grandparents from other parts of the planet. As a child, I never understood why my parents left Los Angeles. (Now I know why they belong to Seattle, but that’s for another post.)

I have visited LA many times throughout my life, starting in my first year of life. But I think I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of this metropolis that sprawls across the earth with relentless determination. What follows are my subjective observations.

Starting with the root chakra: A large share of people in LA do, indeed, take pristine care of their physical bodies. They are toned and tanned and juiced. They are beautiful, everywhere. They wear mirrored sunglasses on their symmetrical faces. They have stylish hair cuts.

They smile a lot when they are paid to do so. They believe that they should believe in themselves. They hunt for pleasure. They desire beauty. They practice yoga and optimism.

Some more things I saw: In the clubhouse at my cousin’s condominium, an actor’s workshop. On every other unsuspecting corner, a hip restaurant. On Sunday, an abundant show of freshly picked produce. On the beach, people drawing crowds or trying to. In the hills, houses with windows you can’t forget. At the museums, art that captured the children, too.

The city itself feels like it is close to God, and the people, whether they’re feeling it or wanting to feel it or just faking it, will agree. It’s the city of angels. Which includes the fallen angel.

It rises from dust that is magic and tragic. It is a cauldron of everything you’ve ever idolized. It is spiritual and materialistic. Polluted and crowded, with pockets of perfect peace. A wasteland lined with well-tended palm trees. The volume of wealth staggers, like its labrynth of districts and neighborhoods.

People come to LA to create beauty. They come for the light. This light and desire merge to make things like Hollywood and Disneyland and Malibu. But LA is more than what it’s known for. It is more than traffic and smog and show business. It’s where seed meets sun and dessert meets ocean, where so many people go to feel alive.

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