Last week, I spent an entire day in Santa Monica, California. Although I usually work during the week, I took off on Wednesday so that I could attend an audition for the Travel Channel. I auditioned for the Travel Channel Star, a search for an outstanding travel host that will be the face of a new five-part web series.
The past few days in Los Angeles have been cold and rainy but last Wednesday it was a very sunny day, with few clouds in the sky, and a cool ocean breeze that blew my hair flat. I took my camera to Santa Monica and headed to the pier.
I was surprised by how many people were on the pier and on the beach that day. I had assumed it would be empty because I thought most people would be at work or that their kids would be in school, but I was glad to find a mix of both visiting the beach. People make for the best photographs. I walked the pier, stopping every once in a while to take pictures of people on the beach, children playing in the ocean, interesting people walking along, or the long stretch of the beach and the pier.
It was a beautiful day to capture interesting moments and scenes in Santa Monica. I took a video of a street performer playing Beethoven’s Fur Elise on a guitar and beatboxing along with the beat. While standing near the edge of the pier, a guy next to me began to whistle. I looked down and saw a sea-lion swimming below. He playfully swam down the pier, going below water, and then resurfacing to give us what I thought was a smile.
I saw cowboys with cool hats, couples holding hands, fishermen stringing new lines, miles of greenish-blue water, the break of the surf, towels and umbrellas laid out on the beach with no one using them, bicyclists, and men and women enjoying the sun through exercise.
After an hour or two on the pier, I went to Barney’s Beanery in the Promenade, an outdoor mall, and sat outside to watch people as I ate. There was a man across the way. Maybe he was homeless, maybe he wasn’t. He had a small speaker and a piano which he played music on. At one point, he played “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.” I smiled and clapped at the right moments.
I was moved by the happiness that the street piano player was providing to everyone, or at least to me. His carefree demeanor and obvious interest in making people smile was clear. You didn’t have to be very insightful to see his kind heart.
After placing a donation in the bucket in front of him, he said to me, “You are not only very kind, you are very beautiful.” We smiled, I said thank you, and he continued to play.
As I sat watching people walk by, I began to take notice of those that came in my view. Why was that couple so interested in those outdoor reflective decorations? How cool is that ten-year old boy with his preppy blazer and thick black hipster glasses. There was something attractive about that twenty-something year old guy giving the piano player a donation. I was witnessing the moments of people’s lives that are never documented, never seen, and usually forgotten by the person themselves. But these things were sticking in my mind.
Granted, I was a voyeur, perhaps someone they briefly looked at while walking by. I was a visitor on a new adventure. They did not look at me or study me as I did them. And if one did, I look forward to reading their blog about what they saw in me that day.
My dreams would come true if I became the Travel Channel Star. In my audition, I shared with the Travel Channel that I’m a storyteller. I’m the kind of storyteller that takes pictures, gathers information, and observes people and how they behave. I want to know why people in Europe greet each other with kisses on their cheeks. Where did that come from? How did the Quechua people of Peru build Macchu Picchu in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains with such precision that it can’t be recreated by modern technology? I want to know what people in India do at funerals and the purpose of Japanese flower arrangement. My curiosity for the world isn’t something that I can contain which is how I know I am a storyteller and will always be a storyteller.
Whether I’m awarded the Travel Channel host position or not (although I really hope I am!), I will continue to be a storyteller because it’s just part of who I am. For instance, I plan to shoot more videos of myself while traveling and will begin in a few weeks when I arrive in Ireland for my Birthday Month vacation celebration.
I love the beautiful world that we live in. I’m the girl who smiles every time I see the old Armenian men who gather around the tables in the park, located across from my apartment, to play cards and chess every day. They are the coolest group of men that I’ve ever seen and I just want to jump in there and record everything they say and do. Just watching their behavior from far away is a rich and exciting experience, imagine what it looks like up close. Yes, I’m this nerdy.
I want to connect with people around the world, find their stories, get to know who they are, what they believe in, where they go when they are happy or sad, what they need help with, how they say ‘I love you,’ how they greet their friends, what they hold most dear in life, what they’ve created (ancient sites), and what they are creating. Whether it’s through writing, photography, an in-person discussion, or by video, my purpose in this world is to show others the beauty that I see in the world and I do so proudly as a traveling storyteller.