One of my favorite aspects about going to school in LA has been the city’s proximity to a variety of fun places to explore – in my time here I’ve taken weekend trips to San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Malibu, just to name a few. This past weekend, I made what might have been my favorite weekend trip yet – visiting Joshua Tree National Park!
Not only was visiting my first national park exciting because of the break it allowed me to take from what has already begun to be a very busy semester, but it reminded me to contextualize my USC experience within the Southern California region – there is so much to do outside the so-called ‘college bubble’, and in the midst of classes, extracurriculars, and on campus social events, it can often be easy to forget that. For me, one of the biggest barriers to getting off campus for longer than a few hours a week was the sense that it was too daunting an event to plan, but once I started planning out my weekend adventures, I found that there was a lot out there to make the process easier!
If, like me, you are the type of person to lament about needing to get off campus (and then lament about how you don’t do enough to make that actually happen), here’s hoping this list of tips and tricks will help you out!
1. Utilize USC resources!
If your idea of a weekend getaway involves camping, hiking, or the great outdoors, you are in luck! USC’s Recreational Sports department offers discounted rentals of tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and a range of camping tools to make outdoor adventures as accessible and affordable as possible. In addition, USC has several programmes that offer streamlined and/or discounted car rental opportunities for students, most notably Maven and Enterprise, which can be a great way to plan weekend trips that are not easily accessible by train or public transport.
2. LA public transport is (sometimes) more useful than you’d imagine
That being said, while a car is the easiest way to take a weekend trip, it is definitely not the only way! Union Station is only a quick metro ride away from campus, and once there, the possibilities abound, from train destinations ranging from closer spots such as San Diego, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara, to more adventurous rides going all the way to Seattle and San Francisco. For more local getaways, the LA bus and metro system can be a great way to explore overnight trips at beaches (which tend to be more accessible than mountainous getaways) in the Greater LA Area.
3. Tag along to a pre-existing weekend getaway
Peaks & Professors and SCOutfitters are just two examples of what I believe to be perhaps the biggest hack to affordable and fun weekend getaways: do a trip with a USC organization! Student organization led trips are a great way to explore new places (typically at discounted costs), without the hassle of needing to book things yourself, and with the added benefit of venturing out of your comfort zone and meeting new people. Peaks & Professors organizes hikes (and occasionally overnight trips – hence the weekend getaway) with 1-2 USC faculty members, to allow students and professors to interact in a casual setting, while SCOutfitters is an outdoor organization open to students with all levels of experience! If like, me, you are an international student, the International Student Association here at USC also organizes weekend trips from time to time; this is a great way to both get away from the campus bubble and meet people from different backgrounds who share the commonality of adjusting to life here in LA.
All this is to say, it is very feasible to, every now and again, take the time to really get off campus, and spend a weekend in a new environment. Coming back from my weekend getaway in Joshua Tree, I can safely say I feel reenergized, rested, and excited to tackle the rest of the semester!