Ah, Vegas. The city of sins and clubs; of debauchery and gambling your life away; of mysticism, allure and escape; the city that never sleeps.
I’ve always believed in trying everything at least once in your life, as long as it is something you want to do yourself, too.
I’ve held my own assumptions about Vegas throughout the years. As a college student, you’re constantly surrounded by people who beg to party, drink and smoke. Vegas is the city you go to as the “high of all highs.” It is the epitome of sin. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” they say. And there’s a reason they say that.
I’ve seen the pictures of girls dressed in tight dresses with cleavage showing, Fat Tuesday’s in hand as “thirsty” guys pose with them, and those drunken nights walking the strip as stripper cards are being thrown at your face.
As an individual, I’ve never been into any of those cliché Vegas parties. I’ve always known what I loved and enjoyed and never felt the need to participate in activities I never wanted to do in the first place. (Heck, I waited until my 21st for my first taste of alcohol.) But, as the end of my college career is quickly coming to a close, I wanted to let myself experience as much as I can while I was still young and in college–taste every bit that my youth had to offer, including being with good people in a place we could get away after some of the most formative years of our lives.
And so, Friday the 15th of May came. I waited for a group I could trust and feel comfortable enough to go to Vegas with, and I don’t think any other Vegas trip could equate to this one–the one where “it could’ve been worse.”
One of my friends almost got arrested; I lost my phone on the Vegas strip; a friend and I had to ‘bounce’ our way from bouncer to bouncer to get into a VIP club; and I lost my ID in Vegas.
Through each experience, it added to the emotion of every single night. It allowed me to release and let go to let myself have fun–something I don’t let myself do quite enough of. “I’m only in Vegas for this one time in my life,” I said. Might as well make the most of it.
My car and I had left for Vegas around 4pm that Friday and we arrived to our hotel at Marriott’s Grand Chateau on the Vegas strip by 9pm. I swear, there’s something about the lights and populated streets that makes you feel alive. There’s such a strong sense of allure to it. Everyone in that city is just there to have fun, and that communal feeling of good vibes and company is electric.
I haven’t been to Vegas since I was a kid, and I also came two years ago for a PACN retreat, which consisted of staying in a hotel for a whole two-and-a-half days (so, it didn’t really count).
We walked over to the Marquee Nightclub on the Strip our first night. We were a bit rushed since we just arrived by 9pm, but we got to the club by 10:30pm–and you can bet just how much we took advantage of that open bar for girls. Take one, pass it down. Take another, pass it down. Perhaps we were a little too excited, as the night ended by 12am when some of our friends (M, B, D) had a little too much and couldn’t even stand. Tumbling on the dance floor until the security had to kick us out? Yup. We dragged them back to the hotel. I somehow started taking selfies on my drunk friend’s phone. The other girl was throwing up. Another passed out. And somehow I still seemed to handle myself after tanking down some drinks (and others’ leftovers) as I ended up at the casino with the rest of us who survived. (Thank you, Earl’s Sandwich.) That was a funny night.
We were up by 8am the next day. Curly hair still intact. Curled it up a bit more. Applied some fresh “Vegas makeup” to feel good. Decided on my floral cover-up. Red lipstick, check. Summer sun out, yes. And we headed out to DAYLIGHT Beach Club by 10:30am. We took multiple cabs to get over there, as our group of 12 got a little separated. Once I stepped inside, I asked myself, “What the heck am I doing here?” Electronic music was beating. Sun was shining. Naked people clad in their swimwear everywhere, holding drinks and shades. (What is innocent Rachel doing here?!)
I have to admit, that summer sun, cool pool and feeling of elation was just lovely. I went along and bobbed my head to the music; spent some time in the pool with the group. Alesso went on as model-looking girls in their bikinis danced up on stage and took pictures with the trying-to-be-cool DJs. The entire atmosphere seemed so cliché Vegas–but it was Vegas, and there was no other excuse for it. I let the music consume me and felt the rhythm down my bones and had a good time. This was the city of debauchery, and everyone–young or old (mostly old, I have to say)–was just trying to have fun.
We were over the scene by 5pm and went to eat our first meal of the day at Nanay Gloria’s $9 Filipino buffet (thank you friends for being Vegas veterans and knowing the cool, hidden little gems in Vegas). Also, my “500 Days of Boba” friend had to go and make his boba trip, so I tasted a delicious Black Sesame Avocado Boba from No. 1 Boba. We came back to the hotel to rest up by 7 or 8pm, as I fell asleep watching X-Men. Some friends and I decided to go out and buy some Fat Tuesday’s to sip on as we walked the strip to the next club at Encore’s XS Nightclub. We all got ready by 10pm. I borrowed my friend’s dress which I felt a little too “naked” in. Re-curled my hair. Applied more makeup. Took some photos. And prepared to make the 30-minute trek (which ended up being an hour) on the Strip to XS.
This part was by far the most entertaining part of the trip. It was also the last night and, I have to admit, it was nice to experience Vegas in that way–outside, walking on the strip with my friends, Fat Tuesday’s, handles and a bag of chips in hand. I ended up dropping my phone somewhere along the Strip, so a friend (J) and I separated from the group to backtrack to find my phone. I ended up feeling hopeless as ever since we walked 10 minutes back and it was nowhere in sight (and it’s Vegas–wouldn’t you pick up a phone if you saw it on the floor?!). We went back to Encore, myself feeling distressed, and we asked Lost & Found if they had found any phones. The guy debriefed me, and a slot machine worker ended up finding my phone and turned it in just 7 minutes ago (THANK GOODNESS). Next thing we know, my friend and I had to find our way back into the club, as they wouldn’t let us in because it was a big VIP party and were already separated from our group. One guy told us to ask upfront, another guy told us to ask his friend at the other end of the club, and he had us text his friend to let us onto some other guy’s guest list, and we got into the VIP PARTY with ONE DIRECTION and ED SHEERAN (proof).
Our friends cried when they saw us (literally) because they thought we wouldn’t be able to get in. The place was packed like sardines. There was an outdoor, cool-looking bar/patio/pool area under the Vegas sky with the inner club area where David Guetta was performing. And–my God–I had no idea how fun that experience could be. I wasn’t able to move. I was being pushed by everyone. The smog machine and confetti was thrown out. The mist and laser rays shot out into the audience as the music pounded into our chests. It was so “ratchet,” I have to admit. It was insane. But I can definitely see the allure in it all–it’s such a trippy escape, and songs by David Guetta definitely made it even better. My friend forced me to get on top of his shoulders at one point and sit atop the crowd (which was so insane, I couldn’t believe myself doing it). I ended up going all the way to the front, right in front of Guetta’s face.
Being in that environment felt so wrong for some odd reason (because I’d never find myself in that environment), but, I have to admit–that night made me grow a newfound appreciation for the world of electronic music. We left the club around 3:30am, and my friend J realized he lost our IDs in the club. The bouncer wouldn’t let us back in because our stamps had run off our hands and we had no ID (doh, because they were inside). So, we ended up having to call the next morning to see (which they didn’t have). At this point, my feet were dead. Black from the pavement. Stepped all over. It was a pain to even try to wear my heels. One of my nails was broken. Some guy started to hit on me and walked away. It was 4am and the line for the taxi outside the hotel was insane–taxis lined up one after the other, taking people by the 4’s. We were led down a winding line, like waiting for a Disneyland ride. It was crazy. To be all dressed up, almost 5am in the morning, all these people, wide-awake, just trying to get a taxi home (where’s our hotel key?). It was a long day to take in. And we didn’t want the weekend to be over. Four hours of sleep in a span of two days never felt any better.
I have to say, I am surprised by how much fun I had on this trip. I never thought myself to be a “Vegas” kind of person. (I’m pretty sure everyone following my Instagram throughout the weekend was equally as shocked.) Though, I’m glad I put myself in the uncomfortable (and possibly awkward) position to go on this trip to find myself clubbing, walking the strip, and being almost everything I had despised, yet still be myself and enjoy it all.
A part of me, after returning from this trip, finally felt confident and free enough to express those parts of myself–to be a “woman,” grown-up, capable of fully experiencing these moments. I let myself be and have fun within an environment I kind of always never felt totally great about.
A friend had recently told me:
“You’re not the same person you were first-year. You’re not the same person I knew second-year. And you’re definitely not the same person you were last year. You’ve gone through so many different experiences this year. You survived Vegas with us–you survived Vegas with us–D, M, B couldn’t even hang. You’ve grown up, Rachel.”
Throughout these past four years in college, I’ve always lived with the intent of taking opportunities in order to grow as an individual. I took on new experiences in order to better know myself, and I’ve lived in a way that was most honest to myself–I never let myself do anything that my heart wasn’t fully in.
As I’ve said before, I feel as if I’ve done everything I wanted to within my first three years in college. My last year was the first year I was able to free myself from all of my obligations and expectations and let myself wholly experience college apart from all of the other involvements I’ve been a part of since my first-year. It was a little scary to leave those things at first, but a part of me feels so grateful to have done so.
I’ve really found myself. I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve established my name within the music and journalism world. I’ve made my mark within the Filipino community. And I’ve challenged, struggled, and pushed myself to be out there.
Now, I can confidently say that I am someone who feels so much more in charge and comfortable with herself–something I would have never admitted when I was a freshman entering college. I’ve learned, grown, and gotten comfortable enough with myself to even go to places like Vegas (ha!).
Sometimes, I feel like I live too blessed a life; I’ve been too lucky with all of the opportunities and experiences given me, and I’ve received so much flattering attention from others for it. I’ve been blessed with the rare opportunities to befriend individuals I’ve looked up to since I was a kid, and even have been hit on by a YouTube star. It’s all been flattering and nice, and definitely affirms what I have always believed in myself.
So, thank you college. You’ve been wonderful to me. I will definitely miss you, but to hold onto you any longer would be a detriment to any person trying to continue his or her own growth.
#RoadToGraduation #ClassOf2015 #ZotZot #OnToTheRealWorld
Because this song couldn’t be any more relevant now.
“You’ve gotta help me out, it’s all a blur last night
We need a taxi ’cause you’re hung-over and I’m broke
I lost my fake ID but you lost the motel key
Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes now
That’s what you get for waking up in Vegas”