” I was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to undertake a Master of Laws at the University of Southern California. For all the praise and support I have received from friends, I am terrified. Terrified of moving to the other side of the planet, anxious of finding myself alone there, and generally wary of the unknown.As relative newcomers to LA yourselves, I was hoping that you might be able to give advice on what you found most difficult in transplanting your life to California.I look forward to meeting you during the London meetup.Yours sincerely,Michael”
LA is different than pretty much every city on the planet. This sounds like a pretty obvious statement (every city is unlike every other city), but I feel like it bears emphasis. There’s just something different about it. There are so many odd quirks of living here that it can take quite a while to get adjusted to the whole thing. The general consensus that I hear from a lot of people is that it takes two years for an out-of-towner to get accustomed to it, and that’s more of less accurate. Luckily, I interned here for a summer before officially moving back again, so I had some of an idea of what to expect. But still, moving to LA cross-country move was challenging for reasons that no one can anticipate.
This city has lost its mind, for better and for worse. There’s just a special insanity to this place. Something is ALWAYS happening here. Some times it’s a blast. Other times it’s infuriating. And if you’re not careful, it can chew you up and spit you out pretty easily (which is why I don’t buy a certain brand of underwear anymore). It helps knowing at least one person whose lived here for at least a few years, who can show you the ropes and give you a crash course on stuff you should remember. They’ll give you the basic rundown on how to navigate traffic, teach you some good spots to hit up for food and drinks, and help point you in the direction of the nearest Trader Joe’s (remember that name, it’s your new best friend). Beyond that, try to build or find a good friend group that you truly enjoy being a part of, because I feel like a lot of a person’s LA experience has to do with who they hang with, and it can make or break your time here. On those same lines, try to gravitate towards more genuine people, who, believe it or not, do exist here in the Bullshit Capitol of the World. You may have to search a little harder to find them, but they are well worth the effort.
Download the following apps on your phone: Waze, Uber and/or Lyft, Eat 24, and Yelp. The first two are going to help you find your way around, and the second two are going to help unlock the stuff that makes LA great: food and entertainment. All four will help you from feeling lost, because, as I said, there’s always shit going on and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all sometimes. That’s why it’s good to have a short list of familiar places to go to when you want to feel at home, and then embrace those urges when you’re tempted to explore something new. There’s something that you’re going to love waiting for you here, you just have to find it. Case and point: I never knew how much I love to hike. I would go down trails in Florida and they would be okay. But out here, these mountain trails make for some spectacular views. And I’m going on another hike on Wednesday that’s also going to involve lake swimming and cliff jumping, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Luckily, you’ve already got a job here, which can be a challenge when you’re from out of town. For reasons that escape me, it’s incredibly difficult to get a job or an apartment in LA until you already live in LA. It’s idiotic and paradoxical, but it’s true. That’s why there’s absolutely no shame in crashing on someone’s couch for a little bit until you can get your own place. Or, if you’re really savvy, you have a friend who already lives in town who will let you use their “local address” to apply for stuff.
Finally, it’s important that you trust yourself and your ability to adapt and survive. To me, that’s the most crucial ingredient to any huge adventure or new life experience. The unknown is absolutely terrifying, no matter how many times we face it in our lives. It’s just how we’ve evolved as a species. There’s a part of our brain that constantly assesses potential threats, and that part of our brain goes berserk any time it’s faced with circumstances that it can’t predict. But hopefully, after enough brushes with the unknown, we can at least learn to have faith in ourselves. I’ve thrust myself into quite a few unusual circumstances, very few of which I feel comfortable sharing on the Internet. But after all of that has been said and done, I’m still here. I survived. And that’s the most important lesson that I learned from all of that–I know that I can survive. It’s that one single revelation that has the potential to unlock the adventurer in all of us. Once you realize just how remarkable your survival instincts are, you learn to face the unknown with a new perspective, one that carries the potential for new and stimulating experiences that you would never expect. That’s when fear becomes excitement and invigoration, and a lot of people maintain that that’s when you’ve started to truly live your life.
Best of luck to you on all of your adventures!