“I’m in Los Angeles to make it big!” I wanted to say to the customs officer but he didn’t seem to be the joking kind. In fact, I wasn’t sure if he had ever cracked a smile in his life. “I’m here for some winter training,” I blandly answered, nodding at my boxed bicycle. A few more rather blunt, practically intrusive questions later, I was granted entry in the United States of America. Like so many others before me, I had come to LA with nothing but big dreams. Okay, I had a bicycle too.
It really did feel like the movies. Within an hour of getting off the plane I was cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down (a.k.a, the windows down), the sun on my face and the ocean to my left. I had been very nervous about this move but now I was just giddy with excitement. The new adventure I had been talking about and planning for so long was finally real.
Past Hollywood and up the coast, I arrived in Ventura, my new home. The “small” surfing town was a bustling metropolis compared to the tiny European towns I was used to. Four laned main roads, giant shopping malls, and tons of people but nestled on a quiet, treed, residential street was my new apartment. Small by American standards apparently but much bigger than I was used to by far, it felt like home the minute I stepped in the door.
It took a few days to get my bearings. I rode on the wrongs streets, hopped a few fences on my run, got lost on the way to pool and in the giant shopping centre. I learned bananas were bought by the piece, you could turn right on a red light, and that garbage days were on Wednesdays. My gym was open 24 hours a day, the pool was measured in yards, and that rattlesnakes, bobcats and mountain lions were a real issue. Add in jet lag and the first few days were nothing short of overwhelming. Moving was the right thing to do but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy.
Europe to USA was huge change in country, language and lifestyle and, although I knew that going in, now it was real. Every time I was lost, did something wrong or had to figure out the USA-way of doing something, doubt seemed to creep in. I knew the movie-like fairy tale of moving to SoCal wasn’t reality but, then again, at the end of the week, I had a stocked fridge, a working cell phone, some training roads, two running routes, and lane swim times figured out. I still had many things to figure out and heaps of new experiences ahead but, with my toes in the sand as I watched the local surfers in the glow of the sunrise, it was hard to believe this new adventure in Ventura was reality.