KAABOO

BEEP BEEP.

“Enjoy your day at KAABOO!” an employee warmly greets as I enter the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Walking beneath a massive turquoise, orange and red painted archway I catch up to my fast moving friends, Jasmit and Kristen. Together, we pace down a paved road catching glimpses of vendors selling food, distributing alcohol, raffling off prizes and giving away free samples between throngs of energetic bodies. As we round a corner, music tickles our ears and a stage comes into sight. Our pace quickens as we weave between groups dancing to the beat. The song concludes, the crowd claps and the band transitions into their next hit. Over the next three days, more music and friends will factor into the equation for an amazing weekend. One that provided countless laughs, music discoveries, memorable moments and valuable lessons. Here’s a few things I learned from KAABOO.

  1. Awkward dancing (a specialty of mine) not only is incredibly fun but also fashions a necessary personal bubble amid a sardine like crowd. Do people really want to stand next to the weirdo flailing his body back and forth not in rhythm with the song (though he desperately tries)? No. Go ahead and dance awkwardly to make space for oneself. Even better, grab fellow awkward dancers to create a space so large one can inhale fresh air during that really popular set.
  2. Friends, both old and new, make one feel glad to be alive. From screaming that chorus everyone knows together to reveling in a newfound common interest to discovering that someone has changed for the better, sharing experiences, words and moments with friends ultimately validates our own existence and happiness. Take the risk of branching out to someone unknown. Be honest and open with those already in your life. Surround oneself with individuals who make you glad you’re alive.
  3. Passion is both infectious and attractive. It’s the fuel that propelled men and women to perform at KAABOO. Further, it’s the reason why thousands and thousands attended the Del Mar Fairgrounds this past weekend. For these artists, creating music and sharing it with the world is their passion. Grasping the joy these individuals receive from pursuing their life’s work as well as sharing it with others was simple. During any given set, I turned around in every direction only to see a sea of smiles. All emanating from the stage to pour over those awaiting a chance for happiness. Noticing this has been a wake up call. A chance to refocus my passions, develop them and share them with others.

Thanks Ally, Alyssa, Dylan, Jasmit, Kristen, Lauren, Marlyn, R.J., Sagar, Sarah, Shanda, and Tyler for a wonderful weekend!

San Francisco | Hospitality, Traveling Alone and Sightseeing

Hospitality

Hugs are exchanged. Kind wishes of safe travels leave lips. I throw my top-heavy pack over my shoulder and step onto the cracked sidewalk while waving goodbye to a carload of friends. For a matter of seconds, I’m alone in a city of hundreds of thousands. Turning around, this feeling washes away. A young man, my friend with whom I’ll be spending the next five days, smiles as he guides me to his second story apartment. Flurries of catch up echo off concrete walls as we climb stairs. It’s been nearly a year since we’ve seen each other. A year since he housed me last. The front door swings open, shoes come off and I nestle my pack into the corner of his room. Fortunately, I may use this space for the coming week. Hunger roars after a long day in the city and we walk to a nearby market to stock up on food to feed the beast and beer to keep it well hydrated. Coming back to his apartment, I meet three gents. Two apartment mates and one roommate. All of whom greet me with a wide smile and a series of questions about my stay in the city by the bay. As day drifts into night, so do I into sleep. Resting comfortably under the cool breeze of an open window, I take notice of what these four individuals have given me. A couch to crash on and recharge my battery, a fridge to store my food and fuel my adventures, a roof overhead to protect me from the elements and a bathroom to shower in and mask the fact I’ve been reusing t-shirts. Over the next four days, however, I discover that they provide me something much more. From Taco Tuesday feasts to nightly Netflix binges to silly arguments and thoughtful discussions, I feel welcome and at home in a city I simply am visiting.

Thanks Brandon, Derek, Delvin, Spencer, and Aaron for extending the wonderful gift of hospitality. It’s a gift I hope to return in full as ya’ll make it down to LA soon. It’s also a gift that allowed me truly to explore the city at my own pace.

Traveling Alone 

Grey hair whips to and fro as he brings the camera up to his squinting face. Finger on the shutter-release, I smile while thwarting my UCLA cap’s repeated attempts to go for a dip in the San Francisco Bay. A strong gust thrusts long silvery strands over the lens. Quickly, he readjusts while elevating the camera back into position. Then, lowers it and finally asks:

“And this is it? Nobody else?”

“Yep” I mutter, caught off guard by his question.

“OK, son.”

As he returns the camera, I thank him and ask if he’d like his own picture taken in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Passing me his phone, he walks to where I once stood and motions to a huddled group chatting among themselves. The four disband and file in rank around the older man. He stands shorter than the rest yet commands their attention. Framing SF’s icon within the shot, I snap a few photos and give his phone back. He kindly waves as he walks away with his family for the day. Surveying my surroundings, I begin to make sense of his question. Couples, families, friends and tour groups are abuzz in this area. It’s definitely a challenge spotting someone who is traveling alone. Someone who chooses to walk in the city rather than drive. Someone who chooses to get lost in the city rather than stick to a well-defined schedule. Someone who chooses to lay on the beach on the fringes of the city rather than lay on the bed of a hotel room in its heart. Someone who chooses to reflect in the city rather than get distracted by a game on the go. Scrolling through my camera, I stop on one particular photo. I spot a young man who looks happy to be traveling alone. A young man who also chose to see the sights in a different way than most.

Sightseeing 

My legs tire. I breathe harder. With each foot strike to hit asphalt on this chilly Tuesday morning, I continue running towards my final destination. Fascinated, that stride after stride on this steep ascent within the heart of San Francisco envelops me in one of the city’s most distinctive features: blankets of fog. Sharing the road with cars and cyclists alike, I’m careful to maintain a safe distance from the two- and four-wheeled vehicles whizzing uphill. Locals, I assume. Individuals who undoubtedly navigate this winding road with less visibility on a daily basis. Motivated by their efforts to reach the top, I refocus and press forward. Pushing through fog and turning around one last bend reveals a near empty parking lot. A few cyclists snack on energy bars while one couple digs out sweaters from their car. Tower viewers, none of which are in use, typically frame gorgeous vistas granted to those who reach the top of Twin Peaks. Downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge and many other notable sites stand clear from atop this high point within the city. However, on this particular morning I only see fog. And rather than gripe over the weather affecting my view, I decide to take it in stride. There will be plenty more opportunities to visit San Francisco and appreciate its beauty from this vantage point in the future. But for the moment, I enjoy seeing the sights just like a local.

On the Joy of Traveling with Friends

The following is a true event. Any similarities to actual persons are entirely purposeful.

Nina and Mike: CONTACT! 1, 2, 3…Boogatoo!

Me: No

Jason: Boogaroo

Me: Nah

Mike: Booga Booga

Me: Guys…

Jason: Boogaloo?

Me: YESSSSS

Eight hour drives involve silly word games, ice cream-fueled pit stops and off key singing. 24 hours in a beautiful city involve breathtaking hikes, mouthwatering meals, bottomless beverages, delicious delicacies and insightful conversations late into the night. Then, 36 hours after departure, traveling with others involves hitting a brick wall. A brick wall founded on lack of sleep, built high with time spent away from home and mortared together by constant social proximity. That is, usually. Break through this wall. Be in the present. Relish one’s company while traveling. In doing so, one will pave new roads to joy. Avenues that frame the beauty of discovery. Boulevards that expose similarities and differences. Circles that come back to favorite topics of discussion. Highways that satisfy a common sense of adventure. Freeways that reveal common held frustrations. Routes that connect memories to time and place. Streets that allow friends to become family, even if for just a weekend.