I love travelling. The new smells, the new foods, the new people. Having been born and raised in the same city you become indifferent. You’ve been there, seen that. There’s no awe.
In September, 2014 I decided I was done. I enjoyed living in my city, but I was done waiting. I had been waiting for months for someone to spend a weekend out-of-town, take a few days to go somewhere… Anywhere!
So I booked a ticket to San Francisco. A week later I was stepping into SFO – high ceilings, walls of windows, and lots of Coffee Shops. After some slight hesitation and confusion while purchasing a BART ticket, I was on my way – barreling towards the city. Coming from grey, bleak Canada it was a shock to see the green and blue of California. Green sprouting from the sidewalks, green spiraling up street lamps, green peeking over balcony walls… The city is alive and it is beautiful!
It shames me to admit how disoriented I was when I landed on Market Street, middle of traffic and shopping on Friday afternoon. I forgot every map I’d studied, every tour guide I’d read…
I was just standing with a backpack in the middle of a crowded in San Francisco.
I found my way to the hostel with the directions of a security guard from H&M. Leading me through shaded pedestrian sidewalks, crowded sidewalks, and up seven flights of stairs into my quiet room. Empty. I had no idea what to do. Absolutely, none. I wandered around a few blocks for a while, ate sushi at a small basement sushi shop, and then ended up at a beer tasting event hosted by the hostel. I was so scared. It made my stomach sink to sit in a room where everyone seemed to already know each other. Foreign languages, foreign cloths… So I sat and listened to the hostess go through the beers and the fields the wheat grew and the regions it was harvested. I chat with two girls from England who were doing a tour along the west coast, and two girls from Vancouver doing a road-trip to San Diego. I ended up tagging along and going for drinks with my fellow Canadians and they were lovely. My room-mates were adorable too – a lawyer from England and two backpackers from Switzerland!
The next morning, over fresh, organic San Francisco bagels, I realized I wasn’t scared any more. Each time I told someone that I was travelling alone they were shocked. “Brave,” they called me… My mum prefers “Crazy.” Over the next five days I wandered downtown San Francisco, eating bruschetta and drinking wine. I walked the warf from Ferry Building Aquatic Cove; rode the cable car from Market Street to North Point; stood at the top of Coit Tower… Most of it alone. And I loved it. It was relaxing, empowering, and enlightening. I met fantastic people along the way, like the London Lawyer – we went on a Wine Tasting Wine tour (I highly recommend Green Dream Tours) and sat for hours in a Wine Bar talking… We met expats from Japan and South Korea and had BLTs and big, fat steaks and beer.
That San Francisco trip was essential. It helped me realize that I really can do anything, and I can meet people and talk to strangers. Because you see, growing up I was quiet.
Despite my mothers protests, I was shy.
She worked so hard to get me into any program or activity that I wanted to do that would bring me out of my shell. My little shell, my own little world, was so comfy and so hard to come out of. Every day was a fight. As I went to High School, College, and got my first job, it was a struggle. San Francisco was another one of those moments where you just let out a big sigh (metaphorically speaking, of course) and know that you did it. The fight isn’t over but you’re over the hump and heading on a downhill roll.
And so I leave you with my favourite photos of Chinatown. So colourful and vibrant, just buzzing with excitement.
Until next time, California!