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Hello Hollywood.

My parent's get so mad every time I try to take extra time off from the restaurant. Their condescending words "another vacation" echo in my head. I try not to let their unwanted opinions bother me too much though. Once and a while I just need a break, and you know what---I deserve it. I don't like using the word vacation though, it sounds lazy. When I am lazy, I lay in bed all day. Packing my bags and jetting somewhere isn't lazy-- if anything it's ambitious. I prefer the word "trip" instead. The word "trip" has multiple yet different meanings, but for me they all connect. It can mean to go on an excursion, to strongly feel an experience, or even to prance. Traveling takes on all these meanings. I enjoy taking trips.

The world has so much to offer, and I want to experience as much as I can. I'm not going to say that you won't find me being useless at the pool or beach when traveling, you definitely will. But at the same time I try to immerse myself in whatever environment I find myself; talk to local people, eat like local people, be observant of my surroundings, and just take in how differently (or even similarly) people live life in other areas of the world. You can easily watch a movie or read an article on the internet about a particular place to gain some information, but it's different when you experience things first hand with your own eyes and senses. You form your own judgements and thoughts which others may not share. It really sticks with you. It builds character, but more importantly broadens the mind. A broad mind is a trait everyone should try encompassing.

There are so many places in this world I'm still yearning to see, but at the same time I feel lucky to say there are a lot of interesting places I have already seen. I am going to start writing about some of them and sharing my insights. I am going to start with the most recent trip I took--Hollywood, California.

When I think of Hollywood words like celebrities, dreams, glamour, and movie stars come to mind. Although I can relate little to those things, the idea of Hollywood sounds fabulous. However after speaking to many people who have been to Hollywood, I was surprised to find many unfavorable views. That didn't stop me from wanting to check it out still, I feel it's one of those places you have to go to least once. So sort of on a limb, I planned a short trip out there with a couple of friends. It didn't take long to understand why the negative feedback. Overall I had a great time, I got to see my friends, and the weather was absolutely perfect. But as one could imagine, Hollywood is not a very a humble place.

You know when you're out for a walk and you see someone walking a cute dog--if you're a dog lover like myself you instantly get drawn into a dog passing you by. You can't help but smile and make eye contact with the owner while making some sort of comment of the adorableness of the dog. Usually the owner will smile back, and sometimes will even hang around for a minute and let you pet the dog. Well in LA most people have a cute dog, and we made so many encounters with people with cute dogs. To my recollection not one of these people smiled back at us when we acknowledged them. They just hurried along totally disregarding our notion like they had somewhere very important to be on a Thursday afternoon. Ok, maybe they actually did have somewhere to be, but you can at least still smile back. People really do underestimate the power of a simple smile at times. I know this sounds like an odd observation with the dog thing, but it was a reoccurring scenario which contributed to the view I was forming of the whole Hollywood vibe.

Then there were the homeless people, EVERYWHERE. I couldn't believe it. I know there are homeless people everywhere in the world, but this was a whole other level. If I had to speculate as to why this is the case, my guess would be that Hollywood is advertised as this glamorous place where dreams come true? Or at least this is what many people are lead to believe? Everybody I encountered on this trip was a so called actor/agent/model/etc or a wannabe actor/agent/model/etc. I know a lot of people do actually make it in Hollywood, but it also seemed like a lot of people were also pretending in the meantime. And sadly for the others who didn't have the means to at least pretend, they ended up on the streets? It was intriguing that a place portrayed as one full of hope, dreams, and rich people could be filled with so many homeless people. I don't know maybe I am just over exaggerating this whole scenario, but the image of all the homeless people in this particular place was something that really stuck with me.

Then there were the restaurants we dined at, of course we chose to hit up some of the LA hot spots. It only felt right. Some places were good, some okay. A lot of the times we found ourselves just paying for the scene, not the food or service. But what they all had in common were the customers. People were dressed at their best trying to see and be seen. People were also obsessively on their phones. I admit this is something I am awfully guilty of as well, so I am not really one to judge. Curiosity then lead me to searching Instagram one night and going through the public photos of people who checked into the last restaurant we ate at. Almost all the people I clicked through had thousands and thousands of followers on Instagram. I didn't know who any of these people were, but they seemed Instagram famous? So many questions ran through my head. Were any of these people actually talented? They were all good looking people with similar photos and the title model/actor/athlete with a large following. Judging by Instagram they seemed they could be rich and famous, but were they really? What even constitutes as rich or famous these days? Was it real, was it fake? Photoshopped? Then again, why do I care? Why am I even stalking these strangers on Instagram? Why again did I also eat at this restaurant last night? To make things worse I fed into it too, I even posted a pic of myself posing outside an exclusive restaurant in Hollywood. Honestly part of me genuinely enjoys documenting the things I do to keep as memories, but the other part of me was like "Hi I look cute and I am at this cool place in LA, don't you like this picture." But then again I was just passing by, so whatever. For everyone else it appeared to be a lifestyle.

Another day we went hiking to the famous Runyon Canyon which was actually awesome. We saw the Hollywood sign from the top and pretty views of LA, along with the beautiful homes of of the celebrities. It was definitely a cool experience, but even the hike felt like some star studded event. The trails were full of good looking people with perfect outfits and perfect bodies, as if they were on their way to a high profile photoshoot. I am sure some probably were, but if they were or not I couldn't tell the difference. For a moment I even felt subconscious, but then I realized I was on a hike in 90 degree weather sweating my ass off, even if I wanted to look better the effort wasn't worth it. But I guess that's LA for you, people probably dress up to sit on their couch home alone while watching a movie, who knows.

My favorite part of the trip was venturing out to Venice beach. This place was really artsy and in my opinion it had a lot more character than Hollywood. We walked for hours down the boardwalk where we ate, shopped, and witnessed a lot of interesting characters. People here did not seem to care too much about impressing others. As I looked around I also noticed few people on their cellphones, and instead just looking fully immersed in the moment.

I tried hard not to think too much about work while on my trip, but at one point in Venice Beach I found myself in front of a gyro place with a Greek name. The gyro place obviously struck a chord with me. Naturally I had to try it out to see if their gyros were better than the one's at my restaurant. But as I went to place my order, my thoughts went beyond seeing if the gyro was good or not. My friend immediately exclaimed "talk Greek to them!" I didn't listen to her, and chose to speak English, but I did feel the need to at least mention I was Greek. It turned out the cashier was Russian, and she continued to tell me no one working in the place was actually Greek. The only Greek was the half owner who wasn't there and the other owner was Jewish. I know this wasn't a big deal, but in that brief moment I was a little disappointed. My impression of this place changed a little. Subconsciously I thought I found a piece of me in this little Greek spot at Venice Beach. But it was just a facade. There were no Greek people in sight, and like a lot of restaurants these days it was impersonal. Which again was something other places we visited also echoed. I start missing home, more specifically my restaurant. The fact we were a Greek place actually run by Greeks and not only Greeks but a Greek family. The down to earth feeling and homeliness associated with my restaurant. The personal interaction many restaurants seems to lack these days. Being part of a business that isn't only focused on fame or money. The pride that goes into our business. The cashier at the gyro place was really sweet, but chances are she was only concerned about making a dollar. Then I tried the gyro, it was alright.

I had a great time on this trip, but now I understand what people meant when they told me they weren't a fan of Hollywood. And I don't want to bash it completely because it is a place that made the dreams of many come true, and has also brought endless entertainment to our lives. So obviously it is a special place. But as a visitor passing by attempting to immerse myself, the best way I could describe it is--not very humble. And although I enjoy the occasional dose of fancy restaurants and sometimes even I act more special than I actually am, I'd like to say I am a pretty humble person who values the simple things in life.

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