“Find Your Drum”

So you’re going on another ‘Ali’ trip?” my friend asked me last week.

I chuckled. “I guess so!”

Over the last year or so, I earned a reputation for taking spontaneous solo trips around the world (aka to Israel and different parts of the United States). In the past, I spent time alone on day trips in European countries and spent many weekends in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Last summer I decided to challenge myself to increase the distance from home and intensity of these journeys. I wanted to feel more confident and I wanted to see what kinds of culture, nature and experiences lie beyond my usual horizon. While each of those adventures were full of new experiences and activities that brought me out of my comfort zone, there was still an element of ease and relief since I knew I was at home, or at least somewhere near my backyard.

In a last minute change of plans a few weeks ago, a window of opportunity opened for me to finally travel to Latin America. At first, I considered a vacation to Buenos Aires, Argentina — a destination that has been at the top of my list for years, but when I realized that one of my best friends was visiting Los Angeles from abroad, it was an obvious decision to go there instead and find a different, closer country to explore. I compared prices, flight times, safety, attractions and weather, and Quito, Ecuador called my name the loudest! Sorry, Havana, Panama, Galapagos, Peru and Chile. You’ll have to land on the next itinerary!

So after an insanely busy week (shout out to my brother, Max, for graduating from high school!), I was off to Los Angeles before the crack of dawn last Friday.

For an action-packed long weekend, I spent time with some of my most dear friends, their family, their friends and new friends we met along the way. We had a tranquil Shabbat, wandered the boardwalk at Venice Beach and encountered a small group playing rumba music as well as a crowd of over 100 drummers, guitarists and cowbellers celebrating in a perfectly harmonious cacophony of rhythms and movements representative of local, Afro and Latin culture. For some tourism, we also strolled along the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, saw the Hollywood sign from a distance, drove through Beverly Hills and rode the roller coaster at the Santa Monica Pier. To top it all off, we had a relaxing evening in Newport! All in the course of three days, with many laughs, stories, l’chaims and ‘wow’ moments in between. Parts of the experience felt like a scene from the 1980s, while others felt ahead of the times. No matter the vibe, one key to enjoying life’s experiences is to just be present.

One moment that stood out in particular was when we were dancing on the beach on Saturday afternoon. A lady who clearly found her groove approached us, shaking her arms and legs, and invited us to dance with her.

“You just have to find your drum!”

She briefly gave us a tour of the party: “You have Cuba there, then Panama, then some random sounds. They’re all competing against each other. So find one drum, and just dance!” She was right. But how can you just hone in on one, when there were literally scores of tambores, bongos, congas, bells, maracas, and hands clapping practically in unison? I tried to take her advice and got lost in the music. I really took her words to heart on a deeper level.

When the world around you seems to be chaotic, just take a second, breathe, and find one beat that you can march to. And if you can’t find one, make one yourself!

To say that Southern California is full of natural beauty is an understatement. And to have this first experience in the City of Angels with amazingly interconnected people was a privilege. (Yes, Mom, I know we went to Malibu and Santa Monica for the opening of the amusement park in 1996…but that doesn’t really count, does it?)

When the energy is high, and the scene is set just right, something magical happens. Worlds collide. Needless to say, I feel very lucky, and am happily dancing to my own beat as I embark on my South American expedition.

Best lunch with the best people in the world
Shops along Venice Beach
Perfect photo op along the bike path in Venice
Joining the action at the beach party
A night out with new friends and old
Good food, good friends, good times
About to take the plunge at the Santa Monica Pier
Nothing like a late-night dip in Newport

Recommendations:

Hotel Erwin — located on the beach in Venice, this hotel is modern, clean, and most importantly, has a rooftop bar and free bike rentals! Great rate for a last minute booking on Expedia.com.

Third Street Promenade — great for a stroll, some window shopping, and affordable parking in Santa Monica.

The Bungalow and 800 Degrees Pizza — for a fun and tasty night out.

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