I left my heart in San Francisco
On September 1 I boarded a plane to San Francisco for my first holiday since April. With a bucket list destination, rest, relaxation and a chance to meet a friend after months of encouragement across the seas I was excited. My holiday was to be perfect, but it wasn't and I loved it all the same.
The first day I woke to the American sun teaming down the art décor exteriors of San Franciscan apartments embellished with the pull down fire exits that made snuggling with a loved one seem somehow more romantic. With a bouncing stride in my step I headed towards Union Square and twirled around to see Macy's, Saks on Fifth, Tiffany's and the Westin. It was like a film of my own and on a day when all of my colleagues were hitting the books with the students..the best. This would be a holiday to remember- my first as a writer, the first where I had taken a leap of faith on myself and went all in.
The holiday hadn't started smoothly, you see I had intended to launch a book the day before I left London and I was dreaming of my JK Rowling like cashola rolling in as I hit launch and Blurb lost all of my work. Conquering your mindset would be my life mantra from the onset of my holiday instead of the words sitting on the front cover of my recently produced book. Still the first day in San Francisco couldn't be marred by the grief that came from a software mishap. San Francisco was glorious. I didn't think of my disappearing book whilst I walked the steps of the Coit Tower, made friends with several San Franciscans and saw an incredible view of Victorian houses from the top of Lombard Street. At the end of the day after clocking up about 10 kilometres of walking and enjoying a stellar ride on a costly yet thrilling cable car I was pooped and highly satisfied. Memories of London faded quickly.
San Francisco was a city of happiness, people smiled, looked at you, helped you, used manners, it was a world away from London. For the past few months with Brexit, instability in Europe and generally not feeling safe in my second home (Britain) I was super pleased that I had travelled almost 6000 miles to California.
Day two I awoke to sunshine again and completely beautiful weather. San Francisco made me feel like I had travelled to Australia in 10 hours instead of 24, a kind of feeling I haven't had before despite travelling 24 countries. With my smile, camera and cardigan in tow I ran into the day head first.
I had planned to go to the pier, do a spot of shopping and meet my friend and personal trainer Stevie who had helped make my body transformation possible. It was pretty surreal to meet someone I had shared successes and frustrations with and tour San Francisco. Of all my travels I have only done that three times, it is possibly the coolest thing about travel, meeting with someone whom you have made an effort to keep in contact with. There is just a really awesome sense of validation you get from someone else and it simply reminds you how great the world really is. I think effort like that is super important because the world likes to project a sense of negativity that can become a poison to our minds inhibiting us from doing things that are really positive.
This day I saw Golden Gate for the first time up close as well, it was impressive. Naturally I had to celebrate the moment so I headed to Fort Mason for a feed at Greens, a fairly overpriced but ridiculously tasty restaurant that overlooked Chrissy Field and Golden Gate Bridge itself. Shortly after I discovered how knowledgeable I was about the local transportation when I asked a Shell service station worker where the 'w' store was to top up my clipper card and I proceeded to Walgreens after making one random Californian man laugh outrageously. But the day didn't end here and I didn't use my clipper (travel) card. Nope, I of course couldn't find the bus stop so I randomly asked a couple walking out of a house who decided that they wouldn't leave me waiting for a bus but instead give a ride in their Uber and not charge me a cent. Funnily enough their destination lead straight to my destination and we didn't even discuss where I needed to go besides from the ambiguous mention of 'downtown'.
It was events like this that seemed fateful that continued to happen my entire trip in San Francisco and that's why when all hell broke loose a day later I was stressed but somehow still found some positivity in the chaos albeit on ocassion in a yoyo like fashion.
Day 3, it was the day that I was due to move to my Airbnb I had booked for 5 nights and relax in the comfort of a home, knowing I had saved money, had more to spend on the fun stuff and had one base, no faffing about moving from accomodation to accomodation. Then I arrived. The house wouldn't lock securely, windows were open and couldn't lock, the house raged with faecal matter smells you could not escape. I tried to lock doors securely, it wouldn't work, in fact the place was so secure you could push the 'locked' door open with 3 fingers. I tried to lock windows it wouldn't work. I looked outside- every 2 minutes it appeared that a new car would arrive and receive 'packages' from the neighbours. My fight and flight, especially my flight response was in full swing. I couldn't stay somewhere I didn't feel I wasn't going to get ridiculously sick, where I could push the locked doors open with my hands and where windows were wide open and unable to be locked away from the interesting neighbours outside. I was sad knowing that I would lose my money due to a strict cancellation policy but I had a choice, stay in a
very unfit place and not sleep a wink and get ill or leave and cut my losses, most probably. I decided to leave. It really hurt, accommodation for that night cost almost the same as the 5 nights since it was late at night I needed new accommodation but I was stuck. Unfortunately the next 5 nights though it all coming together meant that as many tours couldn't be taken and my trip didn't quite pan out as I would have liked but I still had the happiness of the people of San Francisco, plenty of sites to see and I was safe, healthy and I got my break from the violent acts that were happening in London and Europe constantly.
During the rest of my time I discovered for the first time what its like to be a traveller dealing with an awkward situation. I moved from hotel to hostel from night to night to find the cheapest deals and soon found a great appreciation for the reviews I place on Booking.com that gave me discounts for my efforts. Some nights I had bubble baths and beds I could have easily shared with 4 others and other nights I was staying in hostels where I thought I was likely to get bedbugs or everything stolen by the homeless people outside who passionately waited for their buckets to be filled under the illumination of Red District-like neon lighting. I met men and women from Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand. I taught an Asian man how to make pancakes a day after I had been taught to make them myself. I enjoyed a bar crawl with 20 random individuals who came together for drinking, dancing and laughter and who dispersed as quickly as their flights required them to check in the following day. I saw the Pacific Ocean from the Northern Hemisphere for the first time at Ocean Beach, paid next to nothing for essentially gold class seating at the cinema. got accidentally drunk on too many margaritas and went walkabout for about 10kilometres across the bay before hitchhiking a ride back into San Francisco city centre with a family who gave me the front seat, let me charge my phone and had me in stitches. I met an Uber driver who is going to buy my book, Conquering the Mindset, when it does come out and who encouraged me to write a book of jokes because he thinks 'I am hilarious'. I met a middle aged man who liked George Bush, not sure how I felt about that..honestly thought I would walk away from him or get angry about Australians following America and the UK blindly into the Afghanistan War and that I'd tell him about it but instead I simply managed to convince him that Donald Trump was the worst candidate for American President through using my Australian accent to drive through all the presidential campaign bull and so I feel my duty was done.
Lastly but certainly not least, I witnessed a very special place that had my jaw dropping- Sausalito. It made me wonder why I hadn't thought about staying outside of San Francisco for more of my travel in my almost 2 weeks of an adventure. When I drove through Sausalito as a passenger in a red Mercedes Benz, my first ever ride in such a flashy car, it was pretty incredible, not because I was incapable of winding down the window or pronouncing the place but because the village vibe hit you straight away and its views over the Bay were stunning. I was only there for a few short hours but it is definitely a highlight of my entire trip, to me that says a lot about how much of an impression a destination leaves on you. I am pretty biased, Australia is an amazing country, we have fabulous beaches and the ocean looks glorious basically 90% of the time (the other 10% we are in drought or have had mass rain and all the logs are in the ocean jumping at your ankles trying to freak you out that a shark has just said hello at
your ankles!); there aren't many views that surpass anything Australia's coastline has to offer but when you see Sausalito for yourself you'll understand why sitting in silence and soaking up the views is the most simple, lovely way to enjoy a Saturday.
Sadly, due to budget restrictions Sausalito was the last place I saw in and around San Francisco before heading to Oakland to get ready for my return to London. I didn't leave San Francisco how I would have liked or as stress free but I'm glad Sausalito was the last sight I saw and I will never forget the happiness of the Californian people, their helpful attitude (which many travellers always discussed was an incredibly lovely sight to witness) and that glorious weather. A stressful holiday it may have been but it wouldn't have led me to pub crawls with randoms, overcoming worries and doubts and learning about how good people really are. So I am putting California on notice, I have Redwoods to see, Alcatraz to visit, Headlands to hike, Napa wineries to explore and an M1 highway to drive...I am coming sometime soon and I'll be hiring a convertible, doing it in style from accommodation in and around Sausalito. If you are Californian and you want me to stop in to your business in the Marin County or surrounding areas drop me a line, I will make time to visit and promote your business.
Till next time California...till next time readers xo