If you’ve been brought up with the golden guys and girls in Baywatch or The OC, you’ll understand why for my summer get-away I decided to hop on a flight to California and see what the orange county really had to offer a pale skinned Brit.
Unlike many of my friends who had chosen to backpack around remote parts of India and Asia, I was instead lured to the glamour and laid back lifestyle of Venice beach and the rural Palm Springs landscape.
As my first backpacking trip (and probably my last), I felt that I really needed to share my adventure in the hope to inspire and educate those who want to take a walk on the wild side and just see where the road takes them.
The boredom monster certainly doesn’t exist in this part of the world, as with so much going on and so many activities to choose from, the world truly feels like your oyster – as long as you’ve got the cash to pay for it!
But the beauty of this state isn’t just in its buzzing nightlife and theme parks, but the sheer beauty that can be found without having to spend a dollar.
As we were new to this part of the world we wanted to take in as much as our bank balance would let us, so as well as roller skating down Venice beach and hitting Water World, and doing all the obvious tourist attractions, we also camped out in Palm Springs and melted s’mores over a fire under a sky blanketed with stars.
Of course with the great outdoors also comes the great risks so be prepared for the creepy crawlies and snakes that like to try and make friends with the foreigners. We managed to get some tips from a guide so I’d definitely advise you take on their tips and keep yourself safe.
As we discovered they’re not as photo friendly as they appear, so leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.
The best event we managed to get caught up in had to be the Palm Springs VillageFest, which offers lots of entertainment and tasty food. It happens every Thursday night, so well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Despite the amount of walking, biking and hitchhiking, I actually managed to gain weight, which I solely put down to Baby’s Badass Burgers we seemed to gorge ourselves on.
I naively arrived in the US thinking I knew what a good burger was, but suffice to say I tested a lot of recipes before we left, and now I’m definitely somewhat of a connoisseur.
Don’t get me wrong, the restaurants certainly all seemed very civilized, but when you’re on a tight budget and on the move most days, street food was the best option and by far one of the most varied I’ve ever seen.
The UK and other parts of Europe that I’ve previously visited just doesn’t have this street food nailed yet, and it’s something I’m really starting to miss already.
Admittedly there are some that you wouldn’t touch with a stick, but use your common sense, and to be honest, it’s usually the ones with the biggest queues that are worth the wait.
California also has the biggest array of farmers markets where we picked up some of the most delicious fruit and veg at a small price.
With no money for the luxury hotels that are spread out across the state, this simply wasn’t an option, but as California is no newbie to backpackers the hostels that are available across the state are in great condition for when you want to have some shelter over your head.
We certainly did our research on this part of our trip, as personally there’s nothing worse than not being able to get a good night’s sleep. Checking Trip Advisor is definitely recommended for hostels and ensure you read more than one review, as the bad ones are usually sandwiched in between the good ones.
Admittedly we wanted to get a more rural experience for of our trip so we camped out a lot during our travels. Aside from Joshua Park, the best place actually being Goleta, as they have a really cool mobile bathroom bus, where we were able to enjoy the beach and be able to freshen up somewhere nice.
If there’s 5 tips to those of you looking to backpack around Orange County it would the following;
- Invest in a good tent and test is before you get there
- Ask advice from the locals as it’s better to be safe than sorry
- Separate your money into different hiding places
- Educate yourself on the laws, you can’t just camp anywhere
- Do your research and create an itinerary
As David Hockney once said, “California is always on my mind,” and I couldn’t agree more.