Before reading this piece, you may like to take a look at what happened en route from Costa Rica to Los Angeles: A story of synchronicity in Mexico city. When we can break out of our perceptual prison, we can experience real magic. “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trial,” Heraclitus said that and he was right.
Magic only happens to those who can make it real in their imaginations.
I was going to Los Angeles sourcing for a sponsor for my upcoming book, Life Is Abracadabra. Unable to find a suitable room rental as the trip was planned somewhat last minute, I started Couchsurfing and Servas hopping. It was my first time doing both, plus first time in LA, a very expensive city. So I was quite nervous, unsure of what to expect. I had thought I would surely find a room rental once I got there and started meeting locals; someone would know someone who would have a room to spare for a couple of months. Well, I found myself changing hosts & homes every three days or so, and in my 2.5 months there, I ended up staying in more than 20 different houses! In the end, the discomfort of packing my big red suitcase and moving frequently was rewarded richly, and not being able to find a rental space turned out to be a real blessing, as I not only stayed for free the entire time, but also got to know wonderful people across the length & breadth of the city, when locals of all backgrounds, blacks, whites, browns, yellows, hispanics, people of Asian, European, African, American descent; Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Indian, Italian, Swedish, Mexican, North American, Nigerian, Jamaican, Haitian, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and more, opened their doors to me, and we exchanged cultures, customs, cuisines, courtesies, in a world without strangers!
Couchsurfing is an online platform that allows travelers to stay with locals in any country and Servas is an international organization that works towards world peace hosting travelers for free. So I spent nearly three months changing homes and hosts every few days as Los Angelinos greeted me with warmth and hospitality, and I returned the favor by cooking delicious Indian meals for most of them, even gifting some of my initial hosts with rich Costa Rican coffee I had taken with me on the trip.
The rosy picture
I was even picked up from LAX airport by my first host who showed me around the posh parts of the city, including the beaches, before dropping me off at my next host’s. Can beggars be choosers? Hell yeah, they can be queens if they so choose! By the time I left the city, I had more hosts than I could accommodate in my schedule, and a few hosting offers I had to decline.
I got to know the nooks and crannies of the city this way as I shared amazing moments and space with the inhabitants of LA, across San Fernando Valley, North Hollywood, Pasadena. Altadena, Downtown, Koreatown, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Torrance, Sawtelle, Long Beach, Culver City, Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, Playa Hermosa, Playa Redondo, Santa Monica Pier, Wilshire Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, UCLA, USC, nearby LACMA, Dodger’s Stadium, and more. A couple of my hosts invited me to the LA fitness center where I got a chance to work out, and went hiking into the hills with some others. One of my hosts even took me to a spa retreat he was organizing where I got a complimentary hand, foot and body massage by professional female masseurs, as I destressed and relaxed from my travels. Another host had peacocks visit her patio, and I woke up to the sound of bird pecks on the window.
Halloween & Thanksgiving: For the first time I got to celebrate real Halloween and Thanksgiving, the American way! I had a chance to attend two Thanksgiving dinners with loads of good food, desserts, wine and yes turkey with my newfound friends, and explore the cultural city of Pasadena on Halloween, reading spooky stories and partying in Amreekan style! Below are some pics from my LA trip:
I wish I had taken more pictures with each of my hosts, but I am not in the habit of clicking anymore; having lived in so many countries, I’m tired of photos. What would I do with them? Where would I store them all? I ain’t a travel blogger either. But oh well, sometimes I get lucky when others click pics and share on social media, so I can steal them later if the need arises, like now! 😉
The not-so-rosy picture
Let me tell you why it was so difficult for me to find a room rental; people were reluctant to rent out for such a short time, without a proper contract or Social Security number, plus I was on a tight budget. I even looked at student rentals, but they too wanted tenants or roomies for at least a semester. Airbnb was too expensive with poor quality accommodation especially the shared spaces, nothing like the exclusive couches I received via Couchsurfing!
But I had my share of challenges while Couchsurfing and Servas hopping, the biggest one being unable to find hosts on time, some I found last minute. It was all spontaneous and unplanned. As and when I arrived at a new host’s place, I searched for my next host. It was impossible to book hosts in advance as I had no clue where I would be the following day, and sometimes hosts cancelled last minute. But the gifts I received in the process far outweighed the challenges. For instance, when I had to go to Long Beach for a dance rehearsal, one lady had accepted to host me then suddenly fell silent without confirming the stay, putting me on a spot. With only a day left, no matter how much I searched and how many people I queried, the hosts in Long Beach just weren’t responding favorably. I had an appointment at a studio with my mentor, as I was presenting at a TEDx event there, and I even tried alternatives like youth hostels and backpackers’ lodges, but it was too last minute hence couldn’t find anything on time. But in the morning of the rehearsal as I packed my bags not sure of where to go, suddenly a host responded at the nick of time, and I was rescued! He happened to be a transformational therapist and the one who took me to the spa retreat.
Then there was this other time when I had to go to San Fernando Valley for my TEDx event. One of my former hosts who lived in the valley had offered to host me again during the event days. But last minute she fell sick and had to cancel. With only a couple of days left for my event, I was anxious, unsure of where I would go. What happened next was a miracle; I found the perfect host who was selling his house and moving to Europe to join his family in a few weeks, so he extended my stay at his place indefinitely, until he left! His house was practically empty with only basic furniture, so there was ample space for me to practice my dance before the show, on wooden floor! Hence there were hidden gems even in the most challenging moments of this grand adventure, clustered with carefully calculated cosmic coincidences! I hadn’t imagined I’d end up couchsurfing the entire time, as it was hard to find hosts many times, but halfway through the trip I actually saw the grand plan and started enjoying the ride. Below is my presentation at TEDxResedaBlvd 2019.
Is it safe?
Many have asked me if it was safe to stay with strangers like this in an unknown city. Well, it was my first time and this is what I can say from experience: it is absolutely safe! While there are no risks with Servas as you have to be a formal member to host or surf, one may face some challenges while couchsurfing. Although the website makes it clear that couchsurfing is not a dating site, one needs to choose a host or guest with some caution. People usually couchsurf to meet interesting people from all over the world. A couchsurfer’s profile can be verified by the website, such as their phone number, house address, government ID etc. so they are reliable and safe. However, verifying an account requires some money so many good hosts or guests may have unverified profiles. In that case, it is essential to look at their references. The reference section on the CS website allows for a guest and host to leave an endorsement for each other after a stay has been officially completed through the couchsurfing site. If they have a few references, you know they are genuine travelers and hosts. Stay away from the shady characters, people who have no information on their profiles, no photos, no verifications, no references, and are still wanting to connect, hang out or host. They may be good people, but if they are unwilling to share more info about themselves, it is hard for one to know whether they have hidden agendas or not. I was offered to be hosted by a few people like this, but I did not accept them. That said, if you choose your hosts carefully, especially those with references and/or verifications, you will be totally safe and have a great time interacting with them while also learning a lot. I’ve had several male hosts and no one, not a single one of them tried to cross the line, make it awkward for me, nor take advantage of my vulnerability. I did get a marriage proposal though, a decent one at that! Sometimes I’ve had couchsurfers wanting to just hang out with me, to show me around the city etc. but I was really busy with my book stuff, events, etc. so those offers I couldn’t take up. I was thinking of doing a quick trip to San Francisco and there are also car pools available at budget rates or for free, depending on the CS hosts, but in the end I didn’t have time for that either.
Although I sensed much loneliness, isolation, separation and disconnection in the inner worlds of Los Angelinos, I have chanced upon the warmth of their souls and magic in their hearts. I made many meaningful connections there, but of course some were more special. For example, I became fast friends with my Korean host and we hung out quite a few times, as she even picked me up while I was at other hosts’ places and together we attended music concerts, dined at exotic restaurants, watched movies, wandered the beaches, shared long conversations, and more. She ended up hosting me thrice!
Then when I was in Long Beach, my host who was a transformational therapist and musician, took me to his retreat center where I received my spa massages, then to his music concert, then to explore an escape room along with his friends, and one of those nights we got into a spontaneous conversation about health awareness and healing modalities as we talked about alternative modes of therapy, and our conversation got so interesting that half way we decided to record it. We ended up talking all night discussing how all diseases are created in the mind and how people can heal themselves naturally. I made a video out of that conversation that anyone who listens to can find nuggets of gold in it. See below.
Then when I was in the valley, I shared many soulful conversations with my host, and ice-cream nights watching movies on Netflix. I wish I could get him a pass to my TEDx show, but it was houseful. I was amazed at how he did everything by himself with his severe Parkinson’s disease. His sister often came over to help him pack and I cooked delicious Indian meals for them, which they loved. There was also a backyard oozing with exotic fruits that I enjoyed eating everyday. I had my own private room so didn’t have to sleep on a couch, and when I needed to buy an iPhone for my video work, he actually traded in one of his old phones so I got a fat US$220 discount on my purchase, thus I actually made money there! Lol, I ended up staying at his place for three whole weeks where I could relax and recuperate from all my movements across the city, and left at the last leg of my LA trip, when he left the country to join his wife and kids in Europe.
Yet another time, when my Italian nanotechnologist host had taken me to a Digital Hollywood Conference at the Skirball Cultural Centre, he introduced me to the event organizer, Dr. Jackie who was so fascinated by this whole couchsurfing concept that she too offered to host me. Since her house was near the airport, I visited her last and left LA from there. We developed a great connection and made some interesting videos together; below is one where she interviewed me for her “Why not? Incubator”.
And my adventure did not end there. I met my final host at the LA airport! Even there something beautiful was in store for me. I had a 6-hour transit in Florida en route Costa Rica; I wished to see Florida too as I had never been there before, but there was absolutely no possibility of getting out of the airport, surely another Mexico synchronicity couldn’t recur. But to my pleasant surprise the magic happened again and this will blow your mind away! As I awaited my flight bound Costa Rica at LAX airport, a beautiful black Haitian lady smiled at me from the opposite seat and asked if I too was going to Florida. I nodded and when she found out that I was a writer she opened up and told me she was an independent filmmaker going to Florida to attend some award festivals honoring her recent film! The connection was made and we talked about doing some films together, which I am looking forward to, perhaps on my next LA visit. When our flight arrived in Florida, she rented a car and took me out of the airport, first to her hotel, then a long drive to her mother’s house where her mom greeted us with warmth, hospitality and homemade breakfast, which we cherished much after a long overnight flight. By this time, I was already in awe at how every small detail of this trip was taken care of for me by the Universe, as I was receiving a grand welcome everywhere! We rested for a bit and I took a power nap, then when it was time to leave, we got back into the car as her mom hurried out of the house with two white envelopes in her hand which she gave to both of us. I was moved to tears at this point. Her mom actually dashed me money! I use the word ‘dash’ here, because I first came across this culture in Africa, where people gift you money. And Haiti, although not in Africa, they still follow this beautiful black tradition. Can you imagine, I actually earned money on my LA trip, by doing absolutely nothing? Now, beat that! My new filmmaker friend dropped me off at the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida as I caught my connecting flight back to Costa Rica.
No amount of money, expensive hotels, or room rentals could have given me this rich experience that the Universe had planned for me. In the end, I can say that I had such a marvelous time, I now know it was all destined, supposed to be this way! I can’t imagine how it would have been otherwise, if I had actually found a room rental, I would have spent thousands of bucks just on rent, stuck at some corner of the city seeing nothing, meeting no one! But now, I not only enjoyed complimentary stays in such an expensive city as LA, my hosts even took me out, showed me around, engaged me in events, activities, games, concerts, comedy nights, invited me to their social events, took me to churches, synagogues, theaters to watch movies, hang out at the beaches, dine at exotic restaurants, walk through Hollywood and more! What more could I have asked for? And I remember how I was breaking my head prior to the trip, straining my eyes staring at the computer for hours and hours trying desperately to find a room rental, when the Universe had all this planned for me! Even in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have conceived this myself. As I took one step, the next was revealed to me. It all happened so spontaneously, worked out so beautifully that I just had to relax and enjoy the ride!
Why did I go to LA?
Synchronicity at play: Two years before my LA trip, I was in India, at an emergency ward in a local hospital, with severe breathlessness, incessant cough, asthma, anxiety and panic attacks, plugged into my oxygen cylinder, unsure of whether I would live. I asked my doctor to give me a pen and pad, and wrote down a story, which became my next book, Nrit -the dream of finding the self and also the concept for a film. The plot was inspired by my young American indigo friend with ADHD who had just died, as I was having dreams and visions of him. To top it, I kept having visits by black butterflies; the butterfly was in the doctor’s chamber, at the pharmacy where I bought my meds, in my room fleeting about, sitting on my shoulder (see proof) that I felt he was trying to communicate with me from the other side. So I channeled him through two mediums, one from Colorado, USA and the other from Belgium, and surprisingly both told me to go to California, specifically LA. At the time, I had no idea how I would get there or what I would even do there. I didn’t know a single soul in LA and I was broke. But I didn’t have to worry about money; all I had to do was trust the grand plan the Universe had laid out before me, one step at a time. Encouraged by the spirit visits, I came out of the closet and delivered a few lectures across different states in India, on esoteric topics such as what happens after death & beyond, parallel lives and alternate realities, how diseases are messengers, the illusion of time, and more, at prominent places such as UNICEF-UPGI, Theosophical Society, Alliance Française, Lion’s Club, AFUNPI. Then two years and a series of synchronicities later, I found myself in LA brushing shoulders with top Hollywood producers, exploring the possibility of turning Nrit into a feature film.
I had announced to the whole world I was going to LA without any clue whatsoever how I’d get there, to the extent that people started asking me when I would be going. The opportunity came when one day, back in Costa Rica from India, I was listening to the audio materials of an online course I had enrolled into, and found out that our teacher was organizing a 3-day sponsorship conference in LA, which was free for her students while others had to pay quite a sum. That was my cue, I had to go I knew. I got a ticket and off I flew. And I guess my deceased friend from heaven, now my spirit guide, arranged all the synchronicities on my path, the people I would meet, the help I would receive, the events I would do, and more, so I could have a gala time on my trip!
The rose 🌹
When I was lecturing in India on the topics of death & beyond, I spoke elaborately about the NDE –Near Death Experience of the renowned Anita Moorjani, best-selling author of Dying to be Me, and how she healed naturally from terminal cancer. Well, how was I to know then that I would actually get a chance to meet her face to face in LA? Toward the end of my trip, one day I was discussing something with my host, when suddenly an inner voice told me: meet Anita Moorjani! I was surprised because as far as I knew, she lived in Hong Kong. But following my intuition, I looked her up and to my amazement found an LA address on her website! I scolded myself for not having thought of this earlier and now I had only a couple of weeks left in the city. What were the chances of meeting a celebrity like her at such a short notice? Well, I still wrote to her and received no response. I did not give up; a week later I wrote again and this time got a reply that she was extremely busy so couldn’t meet me. But I persisted and after a few email exchanges, she agreed to meet me briefly. I was ecstatic!
I met Anita Moorjani and her husband Danny in the morning of my departure day at Redondo Beach, a few hours before I caught my flight back to Costa Rica that evening. We shared a long heart to heart conversation on topics of utmost importance in today’s tumultuous times. Below is our video conversation with Spanish subtitles.
Oh I could be bound in a nutshell, and count myself a queen of infinite space… the unimaginable universe!
To watch more such evolutionary videos, tune in to magicNine TV. This LA trip was magical all the way, right from my transit in Mexico to my return to CR via Florida, so magnificent that it took my own breath away. You know what they say? The best things in life are for free. Truly! As Søren Kierkegaard puts it, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”. On hindsight, I know I was not meant to find a room rental because I had to meet all these amazing people and create priceless memories with them. I thanked my stars over and over again for how perfectly it all unfolded for me. Our limited thinking cannot plan for these cosmic adventures God has in mind for us, we just must trust and let God. If we are willing, God is ready! This part of my LA journey was also featured in a local online magazine, VoyageLA.
To learn more about synchronicity, read: Understanding synchronicity on our destiny path. And if you found this story mindboggling, watch out for my upcoming book titled, Life Is Abracadabra -21 magical stories from my travels to make you look at life with new eyes, recounting true tales of hope and faith, of marvelous encounters, meaningful coincidences and miracles.
❥ Heartfelt thanks to my LA hosts; below are their names in the order I was received:
- Dennis Mogerman, Servas host
- Shannon Lane aka Shay, Couchsurfer
- Sharlene & Tony London, Servas hosts
- Imae Yoshihiro, Couchsurfer
- Eric Trules & Surya Manalu, Servas hosts
- Amy Shin, Couchsurfer
- Dean Paily, Couchsurfer
- Angana Ray, Couchsurfer
- Ananya Rakshit, Couchsurfer
- Leif Pearson, Couchsurfer
- Neeko, Couchsurfer
- Jacobo, Couchsurfer
- Lena Ostroff & Wil Weber, Servas hosts
- Deb P, Couchsurfer
- Raj Vora, Couchsurfer
- Uriel Reyes, Couchsurfer
- Midge Bongco, Couchsurfer
- Paige & Raleigh LaCombe, Servas hosts
- Marco, Couchsurfer
- Mark Johnson, Couchsurfer
- Dr. Jacqueline Sanderlin aka Dr. Jackie
- Dezmyre Volmeus aka Desire
❥ Thanks to Hannah Rosenthal from Servas for recommending potential hosts, to Heather Halperin and Nancy Brashears whose generous hosting offers I couldn’t accommodate in my schedule, and to Todd for organizing a grand Friendsgiving dinner where I met other Servas members of LA.
❥ Thanks to Maggie Gisel, President of AIESEC Life LA, who told me about Servas prior to the trip, so I joined Servas in Costa Rica before I could be hosted in LA. I had a chance to meet her at an AIESEC Alumni gathering near USC, which was fantastic. And thanks to Ana Saechao, LCP at AIESEC UCLA for her useful tips prior to the trip. AIESEC is a youth run organization through which I traveled the world and lived across different continents for several years doing foreign internships.
❥ A special mention to Lynn Matalon who I met at an NSA-National Speakers Association event and we became friends afterwards. When my host in the valley went to San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving weekend with his sisters, while letting me stay at his house (that much he trusted me), Lynn invited me to the grandest Thanksgiving dinner organized by her friends in North Hollywood, where I made more friends and later cooked an elaborate Indian meal for them, which they all cherished.
❥ Acknowledging Linda Hollander, founder at Sponsor Concierge Seminar and Nat Mundel, founder at Voyage Media.
❥ Acknowledging TEDxResedaBlvd organizer Désirée Duffy, founder at Black Château, who invited me to perform at her TEDx event, and my lovely mentor Elaine Ash.
❥ Much gratitude to Anita Moorjani and her hubby Danny, for agreeing to meet me at such a short notice and doing a wonderful video with me. The mediums mentioned here are her fans!
❥ Special thanks to the two mediums who birthed the LA dream in me, Heather Fallona and Emanuelle Mcintosh, by channeling Patrick Young, my deceased friend and spirit guide; the butterfly continues to visit me till date, in many forms! 🦋
Namaste -the god in me honors the god in you! 🙏
Wow all your stories are so interesting. Enjoy the many blessings on your path Baisakhi!! We are here with you
nice inspiring comment….
What a story !!
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Loved reading this!!!!!!
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Excellently articulated. Stay blessed
Thank you so much for sharing your travel experiences. I am so glad that you made good connections and safely returned home from this successful trip. Stay healthy, wishing you peace and continued success. We enjoyed meeting you and were glad to share a couple days of our life with you.
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Dear Sharlene, thank you so much for hosting me and taking me to the Temple Akiba of Culver City, Lions Club meeting, to a play in LA, and giving me a joyride of Culver city at night, ending up at the Irish Pub. And our Westfield shopping spree is unforgettable; I hope you are still enjoying those beautiful dresses. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay with you and all the Jewish stories you told me; it was my first time visiting a synagogue and I was lucky to have been there just when the Jewish New Year began. Big hugz, xoxo
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Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.
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dear baisakhi: i came by your post and it made me come to a full halt. i knew it deserved careful attention right from the outset and you didn’t let me down. Well done and please continue sharing your inspirations.
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Thank you Sophia for your heartfelt comment; I truly appreciate your taking out the time to pen this. God bless!
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