A CITY AS DIVERSE, artistic, and world-renowned as Los Angeles has naturally seen it all. And based on that experience, over time it’s constructed its own vibe, its own slow chill, its own wisdom. We could all learn a few things from the City of Angels — these 12 lessons are just a start.
1. Follow your dreams.
L.A. asks — no, demands — that you chase your dreams. Follow them from as far as Bridgeport or Bangladesh or Bogotá. Follow them to Los Angeles, where dreams come to fight for a moment in the sun. Where dreams come to be realized…or not. Success isn’t guaranteed (is it ever?), but you’ll never know whether you and your dream have what it takes until you give it a shot. L.A. is a nexus for dreamers — they’re drawn here by the millions. They can’t help themselves.
2. Cultures can live side by side with grace.
Los Angeles is one of the most diverse — and thus interesting — places in the country. There are few spots on Earth where people from so many places have gathered individually and en masse to shape a city. People from 140+ countries, speaking more than 200 languages, call L.A. home. You have neighborhoods where whole cultures have transplanted themselves and live nested inside one another, such as Thai Town (California has the largest Thai population outside of Asia) and Little Armenia.
3. You can live well on street tacos alone.
Many cities tout a killer taco scene, but L.A., in its vastness and splendor, is home to a seemingly endless army of mobile taco maestros. You can’t cross more than a few blocks without chancing upon a truck slinging carnitas on the cheap, and these two-bite treats are the perfect post-anything or pre-everything snack. At 2am after drinks, they’re seriously a lifesaver.
4. A walk on the beach can make anything better.
Literally anything. A walk on one of LA’s many beaches can turn a good day great and make a bad day much, much more tolerable. A stroll on Santa Monica beach at sunset with bae is a recipe for romance, while a walk down that same stretch of shoreline can be the perfect solace for the brokenhearted. Kick off your shoes and let your toes sink into the sand as you relax, ruminate, or rollick.
5. You have great ideas.
In the spirit of “follow your dreams” comes a similar lesson we could all learn from L.A.: You have great ideas. Your ideas are awesome, original, incendiary, hilarious, groundbreaking, and worth the time and energy it takes to explore them. Sure, not all ideas are created equal; some are better than others. But in that big ol’ pile of schemes you’ve come up with, there are bound to be some winners in there. Whether it’s a script you’re working on, a clothing line you want to launch, the next big podcast, or a killer idea for an organic vegan cafe, L.A. is fertile ground for your great idea. Bring it.
6. Never be afraid to reinvent yourself.
As a child of the ’80s, I grew up watching his glistening biceps hoist fire-spitting machine guns to mow down everything from invading aliens to the minions of sleazy South American dictators. Now I recognize Schwarzenegger’s journey from Austria to Hollywood as the archetypal Los Angeles story of reinvention and dogged never-give-up determination.
As a 21-year-old bodybuilder, Arnold moved from his native Austria to Venice Beach and began pumping iron at the now-famous Gold’s Gym. Two years later, he won his first Mr. Olympia title (which he would claim from 1970-75) — around the same time he landed his first movie role. After a decade of bit parts and being told that audiences had little use for the hulking, difficult-to-understand actor, Arnold starred in the 1982 blockbuster Conan the Barbarian, followed by the career-defining The Terminator in ‘84. In 2003, after three decades as a movie star, Schwarzenegger (who’d never held public office) was elected governor of California and served until 2011. From an Austrian kid with a dream, to bodybuilder on a mission, to action-movie superstar, to political leader, take a cue from Arnie’s L.A. story and don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.
7. Chill can have hustle.
Southern California, and L.A. specifically, exudes a chilled-out sense of effortless cool that’s basically its own global brand. But don’t let the Ray-Bans and board shorts fool you — as the unofficial capital of West Coast cool, Los Angeles backs it up with legendary hustle. This is the land of work hard, play hard. Whether we’re talking studio underlings hustling to get the project greenlit, or a brand new arrival hustling to carve out a piece of the city for themselves, L.A.’s classic cool is supplemented by a healthy scoop of elbow grease.
8. Sometimes you have to open up.
Taking a cue from Bogotá’s weekly pedestrian/bicycle open-streets event known as ciclovía, where select city streets are closed to cars for the day, Los Angeles is making massive “open-streets” events a way of life. A regular day of CicLAvia sees 20k+ Angelenos show up to ride, walk, skate, and scoot through normally car-bound neighborhood streets. And L.A. Metro recently put on the massive “626 Golden Streets” open-street event that closed 17 miles of road, allowing pedestrians and families to explore the city safely in a way that’s usually not possible.
9. There’s nothing wrong with looking good.
I’m from a small town in the Pacific Northwest where a Seahawks hat and a pair of mostly clean jeans is considered dressing up. But after five years living in Hollywood, a smear of style awareness finally rubbed off on me, convincing me that much of America needs to leave the pajama pants at home and guss it up a bit more. I’m not saying we need to work the red carpet every time we run to the grocery store, but a little extra effort in looking kempt would be nice. Call me a dandy, but there’s nothing wrong with looking good.
10. Adventure is everywhere…
In L.A., you’re never more than 40 minutes from either the beach, the mountains, or the desert…or all three! Home to hidden springs, amazing trails, epic views, and the San Gabriel Mountains, the Angeles National Forest looms large to the east, a giant swath of land perfect for hiking, camping, cycling, and outdoor exploration. Farther east are the desert lands of Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and the Mojave.
If you seek a cooler, wetter avenue for adventure, head into the Pacific for a day of splashing and surfing, or cast your sights further afield and catch a ferry to Catalina and the Channel Islands for hiking, camping, and kayaking. To the immediate north you’ll find Topanga State Park and the Santa Monica Mountains, both crisscrossed with trails. In L.A., adventure is never far.
11. …especially if you spend time outside.
Blessed with an annual average of 329 days of sunshine, Angelenos relish in spending their free time outdoors without worrying over the weather. As long as the sunscreen and sunglasses are handy, all should be well. This means more picnics, more beach time, more eating at sidewalk cafes, more strolling farmers’ markets, and more hikes in Runyon Canyon. It also means more vitamin D pouring onto your skin, more feeling groovy, and less huddling indoors glued to a screen.
12. We should make time for the arts whenever possible.
Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Anyone who’s stood in a gallery, sat enthralled in a movie theater, contemplated a sculpture, or listened enraptured to music would surely agree.
From the Getty Center to the Hollywood Bowl, from the Watts Towers to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles is bursting with opportunities to indulge in art. And it’s not just big-name venues like LACMA and The Broad and Staples Center that are worth your time — there are tons of smaller theaters, galleries, music venues, and movie houses spread across the city that make it practically impossible to not catch some awesome art somewhere along the way. Consider it all a part of the wisdom of L.A.