In an effort to get my blog and readers (okay, probably just my mom) up to speed on my travel journey and to where I am now for the most part, I’m going to outline some of the trips I’ve taken over the past five years and how it’s given me enough courage and experience to quit my job and travel full time.
I’ve been to other states with family and have always been one to take day trips by myself — usually within southern California — but San Francisco was my first overnight solo trip. I’d been to the City once before as a child, but all I remember is the poorly lit hotel room and my sister and I being horribly sick the entire trip. I’d been working at my first professional job for a year and finally had enough money and vacation time to go on a ‘big’ vacation instead of blowing money on clothes, Vegas, and beach days. San Francisco seemed like the perfect choice for my first two week trip: no snow (really important for a SoCal girl who wears flip flops 300 days a year); lots of stuff to see; far enough from home but close enough incase I’m hospitalized/jailed and my parents need to pick me up; and most importantly, cute guys and good beer — obviously big decision factors for a 21-year-old on her first trip. My bestin (best friend + cousin) Melissa was meeting me a few days later to take the train up to Bend, Oregon for the holidays but I had 4 days all by myself.
I took the Greyhound bus up to SF, which was a whoooole adventure on its own. If you’re familiar with California…the bus I took starts in South Central LA, comes to Bakersfield where it picks up a few recently released inmates at the prison north of town, stops at every teeny town throughout the Valley, and then goes deep into Oakland and Emeryville. Craziest.bus ride.ever.
That trip was also my first time staying at a hostel that I found browsing newly-released Airbnb, (Yes, I usually always stay at hostels. And no, I’ve never seen the movie nor will I ever; I’m the prime candidate for a lead in the horror movie.) I stayed at the Pacific Tradewinds Hostel in the Financial District/Chinatown — you have to walk through the random first-level Hunan Chinese restaurant and up three flights of stairs to get to the front desk. It was like going to college for the first time but better.
San Francisco is different from Southern California in so many ways and it prepared me for all of the international travel to come. Traveling solo to unfamiliar places, even small ones, puts you in situations that you wouldn’t be in if you were visiting a local or with others. I had to learn how to use the bus system right away when I realized a measly 7 square miles is a lot bigger than anticipated. I found I needed to talk and open up to complete strangers I met at the pub (which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot for an introvert sometimes. Plus, how often do you walk up to random people and start a conversation when you’re with a friend?). I embraced spontaneity and unexpected adventures even more so. And I learned that I really loved solo traveling and most of the others surrounding me in the hostel we’re into it, too.
It was the first time I’ve ever really felt like I was on to something big and passionate about outside of my hobbies and career. It’s not like I was some naive small town, small minded gal; I’ve had lots of friends, including a ton of online ones all over the place that I’ve met over the years. But it was sort of a paradigm shift when it turned from hanging out with friends who had the same interests that happened to live in different places to friends with completely different interests that happened to be in the same place. Whoa.
I’ve been back many times but my first trip San Francisco will always be the adventure that sparked all the other ones going forward.